Archive for February, 2008

Friday, February 29th, 2008
Giveaways and Interviews and Getaways

I’m going to send you off in various directions today. I was interviewed over at Much Cheaper Than Therapy. Drop by if you can and ignore the gosh awful photo. Although at least I’d gotten some sun in that picture. 🙂

PBW is giving away a basket of Blazes. Mine, OFF LIMITS, is included in that lovely group. Stephanie at Writeminded is giving away her Blaze, BEYOND HIS CONTROL and her single title, UNLEASHING THE STORM.

I mailed in my manuscript yesterday. Just waiting to hear that my editor received it. In celebration, I’m giving away two copies of OFF LIMITS. In order to win, you have to tell me why you want the book. Be creative.(wg)

Dh and I have been daydreaming about getting away from it all. We’ve decided this might be the place to go. Welcome to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. Sigh. Can we go now?

Book Giveaway Winners: Caryn and Sandy! Congratulations ladies! Please send me your snail mail addresses privately and I’ll mail out those books. Thank you to everyone who entered and particularly to those who planned to buy the book or who already picked it up. 🙂

Thursday, February 28th, 2008
It’s Who You Know-or Is It?

I was reading a blog yesterday that was written by an unpublished author. This author had gone to a lot of trouble to build a readership and get a quote for her unpublished work. One thing in one the posts really caught my eye. It had to do with connections in publishing. I read the comments and several referred to needing connections in one form or another in order to get published. This got me thinking about how different people approach publishing and the myth of the secret handshake.

When I first started writing seriously around 2001/2002, I never thought much about connections within the industry. I realized that it was a good thing to meet editors if you could, but I also knew that it wouldn’t guarantee you anything. The only thing it did was get you read a little faster…maybe.

So I was a little surprised about the emphasis on connections in the comments. Does having connections help? Sure. Do they get you published? No, not in my experience. If you’re not famous, it always comes down to the book, timing, market needs, etc. I’ve met a lot of editors over the years. I’ve had drinks with some, exchanged business cards with others. I received invitations to submit my work, which was great. But never did I EVER expect a sale to come from socializing.

Now maybe I’m completely talking out my arse. Wouldn’t be the first time and I doubt it’ll be the last. *ggg* Maybe there are writers out there who received their deals strictly from their connections. I mean I’ve heard the stories about Angela Knight having her work passed on by a friend, but if I’m not mistaken, she’d already been published in various arenas by then. She wasn’t an unpublished author when Berkley called.

So my question to you all is, do you know of any unpublished authors who’ve received book deals because they’re friends with the editors?

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008
Bread and Injustice

I’m fuming right now because I was almost finished with my entry and my &$#% program ate the damn thing. It wouldn’t be a big deal, but I was working in a draft form, so it should’ve saved it. AHHHH!!! Kicks desk because I can’t reach the computer.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program. I finished my first round of edits last night a little after midnight. I’m going to go through my critique partner’s comments, then hopefully send it in by tomorrow. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. (Yeah, I hope it’s not a train too.;)

I found out that the Preditor and Editor site is being sued. If you’re a writer and haven’t managed to make it over to this site yet, then go now. I’ve visited this site a lot because it’s one of the rare places that you can actually get the truth about people and things in the publishing industry. They’re taking donations through PayPal in order to fight the lawsuit. If you have a little extra, please contribute. I know I will be.

Now onto the bread. 🙂 There are too many varieties of breads to list here on my blog. If you go into the grocery store, you’ll get a small taste of just how many types of breads there are on the planet. I don’t have a lot of notes for the bread class because most related to the individual recipes we were making. The menu last night consisted of Brazilian Cheese Rolls, Sausage Bread, Cheesy Herbed Popovers, Gruyere Popovers, Cheddar-Parmesan Crackers, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Bulgur (flat) Breads, and Orange Glazed Blueberry Scones. And yes, the latter tasted as good as it sounds. 😀

I’m just going to throw out the random notes that I took. If you’re confused about anything, just drop me a note in the comments. Here they are in no particular order: All Purpose Flour can be bleached or unbleached. You normally don’t use bleached flour when you make bread. You also don’t tend to use eggs in making bread. They add too much internal moisture. That said, if you’d like your bread to be softer, then add more water to the recipes. Most recipes call for warm water, room temperature beer or milk. You don’t ever want to use hot water when making bread because it starts the cooking process (and ruins the bread). Steam is what makes bread crunchy. If you don’t own a steam oven, you can create steam by using a squirt bottle. You squirt water into the bottom of your oven (once it reaches the preferred temperature) to cause steam. Do this twice before you put the bread inside. Space it out by a few minutes. Once the bread is baking, then squirt the bottom of the oven once. This should give you a nice crunchy crust. (Note: If you have an electric oven, do NOT squirt the coils.) To test whether your bread is done, knock on the outside of the crust. If it sounds hollow, then the bread is done. If it sounds solid, then it needs more time in the oven. If you don’t have time to allow your bread to rise naturally, then turn your dishwasher on high until it gets the water nice and hot. Once it reaches a good hot temperature, turn your dishwasher off and place your bread (which should be inside a boil covered with flour brushed cling wrap) into your dishwasher and close the door. The steam will speed the rising (yeast production) process.

A couple of random tips: When making popovers, be prepared to eat them right away. They don’t freeze nor do they reheat well. Flat breads work best if they’re cooked on an oven stone. You can buy those at most kitchen stores. If you roll blueberries in flour before you put them into the scone mix, it’ll keep them from dropping to the bottom of the scones during baking.

Here is a quick recipe from our Brazilian chef, Patricia. These Brazilian Cheese Rolls can be frozen so that you can use them any time. Just freeze them ‘raw’ on a cookie sheet. Once they’re frozen, remove them from the cookie sheet and drop them into a freezer baggie. They’ll be there ready to use when you want them. Also, you can use any hard cheese in this recipe. Soft cheeses will NOT work. Now to the quick, easy recipe, which will break many of the rules that I mentioned above *ggg*: 1lb of tapioca starch, 1/2 cup of hot water, 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil (can substitute canola or olive, but note that the olive will change the taste of the roll), 2 to 3 cups of Romano cheese or Farmer’s cheese, and salt to taste. (I suggest adding a pinch of salt.) Prehead the oven to 400 degrees (or 200 I believe in the UK). In a bowl, mix the tapioca starch with hot water. Set aside to cool. When cool, add the egg and milk and mix well, and then add the cheese. The dough is good when it does not stick to your fingers. Make small balls (use an ice cream scoop), set on a greased sheet pan (cookie sheet) and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 300/325 and finish baking, about 10 minutes longer or until light golden brown. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well it is. 🙂 Patricia’s recipe was used by a chef who was competing for the James Beard award. So you know they’re good. Two things to note, is that the rolls are supposed to be soft AND chewy. And that it may take more water than the recipe calls for. Don’t be afraid to add more water if you need it. The girl who made it last night said she ended up adding almost a cup more to her recipe. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 24th, 2008
Spotted My Book-WOO HOO!

Yep, it’s official, I’ve spotted OFF LIMITS in one of my local bookstores (Borders if you want to know which one.). It hasn’t hit the grocery stores yet. At least not the ones that I frequent, but I plan to keep looking. We took some photos because that’s what you do at these occasions. It still such an odd thing seeing a book on the shelves that you wrote. Truly surreal. I can’t imagine what I’m going to be like when RED hits the shelves. My guess is much tears and shouting will ensue. Not necessarily in that order. 😉

The editing is coming along slowly. I only managed twenty pages today. I really must push that ball faster, if I want to get this book turned in by Friday. And yes, I will have it turned in ontime, even if I have to pull all-nighters toward the end. I hope it doesn’t come to that though. :-O

The new website is coming along nicely. I’ve seen some teaser pages and really like what she’s done. Can’t wait to see the whole thing.

I’m looking forward to cooking class this Tuesday because we’re making bread. Yes, I’ll be rolling out the door in a carb coma for sure. *g*

I’m still a little bummed about cancelling RT because it’s turning out that I won’t get to see many of my friends this year because of it. We writers spend so much time alone that the occasional conference is all the socializing we get to do. So when it’s not there, it really hurts.

I picked up Mark Henry’s Happy Hour of the Damned today. Couldn’t resist a zombie story. Currently I’m reading Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis. Really enjoying the book so far. It’s got a real dark tone to it that I love.

Friday, February 22nd, 2008
Edits, Websites and Conference Cancellations

As you might imagine, I’m still working on edits. I’m surprised that you all haven’t heard the screams. LOL! 😉 My new website is coming along nicely. I saw some of the book pages today. It’s going to be such a change from the old site.

I decided to cancel my registration for the Romantic Times Conference. In the end, it just proved to be too close to my Novelist Inc. conference. I’m trying to decide now whether to attend my local chapter’s conference. I just don’t know. The savings could be put toward advertising. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

Thursday, February 21st, 2008
Sad at Casa Summers

Dh’s folks just left so we’re a bit down now. It seems so quiet without them and they aren’t noisy people. I think it just brings home how far away we are from all our family. We’re trying to figure out how to remedy that now. (No, we’re not thinking about moving.) We are just trying to figure out how to spend more time away.

Bernard told me yesterday that my Blaze, OFF LIMITS is officially shipping. YAY!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Cooking Class: Potato, Pasta and Rice

I honestly didn’t think I was going to care for this class. In the first place, I’d forgotten that the class included rice and potatoes. Secondly, I’m not a big pasta fan. Used to love it, but my tastes run more along the sushi route now. So it was a nice surprise to see a variety of items on the menu.

Last night’s class included: Wild Rice and Chanterelle Salad with Dried Fruit, Goat Cheese and Walnuts, Risotto with Spinach, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese, Homemade Flat Pasta with Shrimp and Zucchini, Goat Cheese Ravioli with Creamy Walnut Sauce, Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce, Mushroom, Asparagus and Potato Cake, and Portuguese Rice Pudding.

Now onto the tips/tricks: Fresh pasta can be frozen. Lay the pasta flat and freeze on a pan. Once it’s frozen you can take it out and put it in a baggie. If you try to freeze it in a baggie first, then it’ll stick together. The same goes for fresh gnocchi. When using fresh (frozen) pasta, don’t bother to thaw it. Just throw it into the pot of boiling water and cook normally. Gnocchi float when they’re done. Always salt your pasta water AFTER it’s boiling. Also save a half a cup or so of the pasta water (after you’ve cooked your pasta) to add to whatever sauce you’re making. It adds to the flavor. One bag of pasta is normally for four people if you’re serving it as a meal. If you’re making homemade pasta (like we did last night) always fold it like a book (or flyer) before feeding it through the pasta machine. In this instance, we used a manual machine. Semolina makes the best pasta. Always buy Italian or Chinese pasta because they make the best. If you’re cooking pasta long before serving time, cook it and leave it a little raw. That way later you can stick it back into boiling water to finish cooking it before serving.

There are many different types of rice you can cook with: Brown, White, Converted, Basmati, Wild, Glutinous, Arborio/Vialone, Black, and Sushi. Converted rice is best when you’re trying to stuff things like cabbage or grape leaves. Arborio rice is great for risotto and paella. Sushi rice has a lot of starch, that’s why it sticks together. The sticker the rice, the more starch it has. You can saute your rice in olive oil or butter before boiling it. It adds to the flavor. When cooking rice, always use one cup of rice to two cups of water. (ie two cups of rice=four cups of water, etc.) When making risotto, the base is always the same (ie olive oil, butter and chicken broth with Arborio rice). Add whatever else you want to the risotto toward the end of cooking. So if you want meat in your risotto, cook your meat first, dice it, then cook your risotto. When the risotto is almost done, add the meat. Same goes for veggies. The only things that get added after the extras (ie veggies and meat) are butter and cheese. ALWAYS add them last when making risotto because it makes the risotto shiny and sets it.

And finally potatoes: Bigger potatoes have more starch than the littler ones. New potatoes, Bliss, and Fingerlings have the least amount of starch. Red potatoes are good for salads, puree, soups and oven roasting. Russet/Idaho are good for baking and frying. Yukon gold/Yellow Finn are good for baked, mashed casseroles and salads. New potatoes/Bliss are good for steaming and oven-roasting with herbs. Sweet/Yam are good for roasting, boiling, mashed, casseroles and soups. Always cook your potatoes in cold water because if you cook them in warm, the outside will cook and the inside won’t. When making gnocchi (ie potato dumblings), score the edges with a fork to help them absorb more sauce.

I think that about covers everything. For a quick basic pasta dough mix 3 eggs with 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 cup of semolina, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1 TBSP of olive oil. Put it all in a food processor to mix. While you’re mixing add 2 to 3 TBSP of water. Once the mixture forms a ball, remove dough from food processor and knead it slightly until the dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. That’s it. You can use the dough in a pasta machine or roll it out by hand. Happy eating. 🙂