Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Memorable Books I've Read This Year (Good...and Bad)

13 Memorable Books I've Read This Year

(Good...and Bad)

Okay, so I'm probably about to alienate a few people. But...hey! We don't all have the same taste. And what works for me might not work for another reader. And by the same token, what works for another reader might not necessarily work for me. So, here they are. Thirteen books I've read this year that made an impression, some because they wowed me; some because they left dents in my wall where I threw 'em.

1. The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe: A major winner! So much so that I intend her sequel, The Dream Thief, to be my first TBR in the New Year. If you haven't read it, do so. Rich in history and sensuality, this book breathed new life into my interest in both historicals and paranormals.

2. You've Been Warned by James Patterson: Okay, so now you've been warned! This is a morality play gone bizarre and I have to wonder if Mr. Patterson even read it before signing his name to it as co-author. The heroine is unsympathetic, the plot line is muddled and unrealistic, and I'm amazed I kept going 'til I reached the end, hoping for some kind of reasonable conclusion. Skip it.

3. Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: SEP's back in a big way with this chuckle-fest! I loved Dean Robillard in Match Me if You Can, and he's now found his own match in the ornery, feisty, and all too human Blue. A perfect follow up to the Chicago Stars stories.

4. Weekend Warriors by Fern Michaels: Where do I begin with the faults I found in this book? Take a great plot (a group of women screwed by the justice system banding together to get their revenge), add stupid characters and poor research. Mix well. What makes this train wreck worse is that it's part of a series. And optimistic sucker that I am, I will probably check out the second in the series, just to see if it gets better. Wish me luck.

5. Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay: Need I remind you of my love for this quirky serial killer with a razor wit and a few sharp cutting instruments? The second book in the series left me gasping almost as often as the season finale on Showtime did. And strangely, the two stories are entirely different!

6. The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner: I really wanted to like this group of short stories about women dealing with life and love after tragedy. But, I found these tales unfinished and disjointed, with heroines who were like bad imitations of Cinderella. Pass.

7. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore: I waited a year to read this book. Mainly because I made the mistake of letting my daughter read it first. After she devoured it on a trip to Hilton Head last year, she lost it somewhere in the Black Hole she calls a bedroom. Definitely worth the wait. A dark romp in the land of Death somewhere in San Francisco.

8. True Evil by Greg Iles: My first book by this author, but definitely not my last. The ending went on a little too long, but the plot (murder by natural causes) was intriguing and kept me hooked all the way through.

9. High Noon by Nora Roberts: I always said I loved J.D. Robb books more than Nora Roberts books because Nora doesn't write kick-ass heroines like J.D.'s Eve Dallas. Well, Phoebe MacNamara comes close enough. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

10. Just Like Heaven by Barbara Bretton: I might have liked this book...if I'd been warned in advance that the hero was a recovering alcoholic reverend. Unfortunately, the back blurb only mentioned a guy in a Grateful Dead t-shirt. (Imagine my surprise!) Since I wasn't prepared for gospel with my romance, it just left a bad taste in my mouth. Sorry.

11. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie: My fourth and final attempt to read a Crusie book. I don't know. Maybe it's me. I mean, it must be me. I love her as a public speaker, but just cannot get into her writing. Problem is, I don't like her characters. They do things I wouldn't do, say things I wouldn't say (and no one I know would do or say) so I find it hard to connect with them. And if I don't like the characters, I can't like the book.

12. Born in Death by J.D. Robb: At last! Mavis and Leonardo have their baby. Complete with everyone's favorite cop and her uber-studly hero in the delivery room for the blessed event. Sigh!

13. Shoe Addicts Anonymous by Beth Harbison: Another story I really wanted to like. But, for me, the characters weren't sympathetic (one who's in major debt but still buys expensive designer shoes, another who attempts to shoplift expensive designer shoes when her husband denies her credit card...) and a too-pat ending left me empty.

There you have it. Please don't throw tomatoes if you disagree. The reason there are so many books in a store is so that we can all find our favorites! What stuck with you this year?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Roar for Powerful Words

With thanks to Chumplet for awarding me the above honor from The Shameless Lions Writing Circle. It means that someone reads the drivel I post here. So, in accordance with the rules, I have to list three things necessary to make writing good and powerful, followed by awarding five writers whom I admire for their powerful words. Ho-kay. Here we go...

1. A NEED TO SAY SOMETHING: Self-explanatory, yes? If you've got nothing to say, you've got no reason to write. 'Nuff said.

2. COURAGE: Despite the wisdom of those who've come before me, I don't see writing as little drops of blood on your forehead or draining your vein onto a page. For me, writing is my brain stealing pieces of my heart, placing them in a public venue, and waiting for the reviews. It's hard, scary, and oftentimes devastating. But it's also exhilirating, cathartic, and as necessary to me as oxygen. Starting my first story set me on an adventure that I now can never quit. If I didn't write for a publisher, I'd still write for me and my friends.

3. A LOVE OF THE WRITTEN WORD: You can't do justice to anything you don't love wholeheartedly. Before I wrote, I loved words and played word games or puzzles all the time. And I was always pretty darn good at 'em. (The family is constantly trying to stump me at Hangman. So far, they've had no luck. Even when dh cheats by using coworkers' very ethnic names!) With writing though, I've taken my love to a new level, a place of neverending plots, storylines, and characters. It's my world. That old saying, "I live in my own world, but it's okay. They know me here." Yup. Too true.

And now, the harder part. Between Chumplet and the RWU crew, lots of people have already been tagged. But how about Tempest, Heather, Dawn, Adelle, and Babe. Congratulations, ladies of the plume! I dub thee all WRITERS OF POWERFUL WORDS!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday 13: Thirteen Writing Quotes

13 Writing Quotes
Between the holidays and my last round of edits on "A Little Slice of Heaven," (yay!) I don't have time for a full-out Thursday 13 words of wisdom written by me. So enjoy these bits of sagacity from other writers:
1. "I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper."--Steve Martin
2. "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."--Richard Bach
3. "Pen, paper, perseverance, and proficiency."--Duane Alan Hahn
4. "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."--Jack London
5. "What I like in a good author isn't what he says, but what he whispers."--Logan Pearsall Smith
6. "When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it's a wonderful way to spend one's life."--Erica Jong
7. "If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."--Kingsley Amis
8. "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."--Benjamin Franklin
9. "To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author."--Charles Caleb Colton
10. "The first draft of anything is sh*t."--Ernest Hemingway
11. "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork."--Peter De Vries
12. "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."--Rudyard Kipling
13. "I was once being interviewed by Barbara Walters in three segments, all at once, though they were to be run on three separate days. In between two of the segments, she asked me how many books I had written, and I told her. She said, "Don't you ever want to do anything but write?""No," I said."Don't you want to go hunting? Fishing? Dancing? Hiking?"And I said, "No! No! No! and No!"She said, "But what would you do if the doctor gave you only six months to live?"I said, "Type faster."--Isaac Asimov

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Product Placement?

We all know that advertisers pay movie producers to get their products on the big screen. But what about in the pages of a book?

Recently, I finished a story (don't ask...I won't tell) wherein a character shops for a new car. Now, most authors do try to choose a car that reflects the character's personality. Lots of heroines buy Miatas for some reason while heroes gravitate toward the big SUV, truck, or high-end, high-speed engine revvers. That in itself doesn't bother me. But in this particular case, the car's make, model, and special features were mentioned time and time again. For no real reason. Paragraphs like (and I'm paraphrasing protect the innocent): "He drove the xxx, with its xxx of trunk space and roomy leather seats to the meeting place. The whole family loved riding in the xxx. It was roomier than a sedan and smoother than an SUV..." Now, one scene like this I can handle, especially while the character is shopping. But a dozen? Throughout the course of the book? The book began to read more like a brochure for this particular car company than a story.

Has this particular author sold out? Or am I behind the latest craze--marketing your story with a product? Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Addiction Known as Dexter

Umm...yeah. I'm a huge fan of Dexter, both the books and the Showtime series. After last week's episode, I couldn't sleep for two days, wondering what would happen next. Last night, Tori and I took up our usual spots on the couch at nine p.m. to indulge our addiction known as Dexter. For fifty minutes we sat enthralled, sometimes gasping, sometimes squirming, sometimes afraid to do more than breathe for fear we'd miss some subtle nuance. And was over. 'Til next week. But we got a sneak peek at the coming episode, which left us breathless, along with the voiceover reminder that there are only three episodes left 'til the end of the season.

Three?! Three?! Oh, my God! Tori turned to me and said, "Mom, how are they going to tie up all the loose ends in three episodes?"

"They're not," I replied, much wiser in the way of television producers. "They're going to leave us hanging 'til next season on a few things."

Ah, the unfairness of it all. Is it too soon to wait for next September when the madness begins all over again?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Vote for Tori!

Tori's friend, Jessica, entered her in a prettiest eyes contest on the Web. Why not stop by and give her a vote or two? You can vote once every hour!

Find my baby's photo here

And thanks to Sandra Cormier aka Chumplet for "tagging" me for my earliest memory. Wow! This one took me a while because some memories aren't memories at all, but stories I've heard about my childhood from my parents or siblings. But here goes: I distinctly recall jumping on my brother's bed at the age of 3, maybe 4. I came from a large family: I was the 5th of 7 kids and we only had a three bedroom/one bath house. So for the first several years, my two younger sisters and I slept on the pullout couch in the living room. My two older sisters had one bedroom, my two older brothers had another, and my parents the last room. Anyhoos, I remember jumping on my brother's bed while he quizzed me on the pictures of his favorite football players at the time. The only one I can remember vividly now is Bart Starr. I'll be checking Sandra's other tags to read theirs as well!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday 13: ON HIATUS

Sorry, folks! But with the Thanksgiving holiday and an editorial deadline both looming, I'll be taking a break from the Thursday 13 over the next two weeks. In the meantime, please visit the Thursday Thirteeners listed in my LINKS section for fun and games from those more organized than Yours Truly.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Another Football Season Comes to an End

Sad, but true. Today was the last game for this year's Three Village Wildcats Youth Football League. For my son's team, this was not a stellar season. We finished the year with an abysmal record of 2 and 8, with many games going scoreless on our end. Still, there were lessons learned, good times had, and we'll look forward to the 2008 season as that glistening land of hope far off on the horizon.

What did we learn? We learned that sometimes, even adults can act like kids and need to be reined in. We learned that this is a team effort and no matter how good one individual is, if his teammates don't bring their A game, a win is never guaranteed. But we also learned that family isn't always defined as people with shared blood and genes. And that as long as there's time on the clock, it's not too late to make that touchdown run.

We'll be back next year. Because despite any minor annoyances, we're a family on that field. And there's always a new day, a new opponent, a new game waiting for us.

Next up...LACROSSE.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: NaNoWriMo Essentials

Today is the beginning of NanoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month, wherein authors attempt to complete a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. In honor of my first year participating, I came up with the following scenario. The ideal place to accomplish NaNo would be on a deserted island with no distractions or interruptions. So...if you were to volunteer to participate in NaNo by being dropped on a deserted island, what essentials would you bring with you to achieve your goal?

A few conditions: this fictional island will have no electricity so don't bother bringing your I-pod or laptop. Food will be dropped three times a day by Jenny Craig or Wolfgang Puck or your local Mickey D's, if that's what floats your boat. Health and beauty care essentials: soap, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. are provided for you. You'll also have an endless supply of tropical fruit, sunscreen, bug spray, and water. Now what would you bring? Here's my list:

1. A supply of different colored pens

2. Lots of notebooks

3. Chocolate

4. My favorite how-to books: Stephen King's On Writing and Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages

5. My favorite read-for-pleasure books so I can see how the masters accomplish it: Any J.D. Robb, Bertrice Small, or Susan Elizabeth Phillips books will do.

6. Index cards

7. White Out (if I don't have the benefit of backspace, delete, and CTRL + V and/or X, I'll need to edit the old-fashioned way. Yes, I know, you're not supposed to edit while in NaNo, but some habits are hard to break.)

8. Highlighters

9. Photographs of my characters to refer to

10. A comfy chair

11. Rum, tequila, or some other spirit that mixes well with fruit juice

12. Water additives (you know, that 5 calorie powder stuff to make the taste better?)

13. A stable full of cabana boys:

Care to add to the list?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday 13: 13 Reasons I'm Excited Dexter's Back

13 Reasons I'm Excited Dexter's Back
Everyone's favorite serial killer, Dexter Morgan from the Darkly Dreaming Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay, is back on Showtime for another season. Here are some reasons why the family and I snuggle up on the couch to watch every Sunday night.

1. Michael C. Hall is creepy and sexy at the same time.

2. Even my die-hard football fans will forego the big game for one hour with Dexter.
3. The Ice Truck Killer still makes appearances, which is pretty neat when you consider he died at the end of Season One.

4. Poor Debra: engaged to a serial killer last year, hunting a new killer this year. And this one's her brother!

5. A serial killer in a program for addicts? Oh, my God, how much fun is that?!

6. Keith Carradine has joined the cast as star FBI Agent Lundy.

7. Will Sgt. Doakes ever figure out
Dexter's secret? Or does he think he knows it already?

8. Being a true fan of the books, I have to know how far the series will take the characters.
9. While Lt. Pascal is falling apart, Lt. LaGuerta is showing great strength of character. She's a lady to admire!

10. This week, Dexter began to consider (with the help of one of his victims) the possibility he might actually love his girlfriend, Rita. A serial killer with a warm, gushy side. What's not to like?

11. Dexter's bowling shirt: "Bowl 'Til You Bleed."
12. God, the writing is so clever! I aspire...
13. The first season's available on DVD. If you haven't seen it yet, put it on your Netflix queue, or rent it from your favorite place. I guarantee you'll be hooked, too!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm In...How About You?

It's that time of year again. November 1st is just a couple of weeks away. And while November 1st ushers in the holiday season, it also ushers in NaNoWriMo 2007. What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? National Novel Writing Month, of course! I, along with thousands of other suckers, have promised to write a 50,000 word novel in one month, beginning on November 1, tracking my progress and commiserating with other writers who've temporarily lost sanity and decided to give this challenge a try. Thinking about it? Look for me there; I'm listed as GinVix. Be my buddy and we'll pull through together!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Movies I Should Be Ashamed to Admit I Love

13 Movies I Should Be Ashamed to Admit I Love

(But I Really Do Love Them...)

You know those movies you watch when there's no one else around and nothing else on television? Those movies you've seen a dozen or a hundred times and still watch? The ones you know are Godawful, but you love 'em anyway? The ones that critics panned? The ones your friends claim are just plain stupid, gross, or downright bizarre?

Here are a few of mine:

1. Drop Dead Fred: When Lizzie's (Phoebe Cates) life starts to unravel, her childhood imaginary friend Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall) appears to make things better. Don't ask me why, but it's like a train wreck I can't turn away from. Favorite scene: The gaggle of imaginary friends in the psychologist's office.

2. Eurotrip: It's crude, it's rude, it's obnoxious and I cannot get enough of this movie. After breaking up with his Internet girlfriend, Scott (Scott Mechlowicz) heads to Europe to win her back--with the help of his friends. Favorite scene: Too many to count, but maybe...Cooper's sexual escapade in Amsterdam. Or Scott imitating the robot outside the Louvre. Or the nude beach. Take your pick.

3. Ice Princess: Talk about extremes! Michele Trachtenberg of Eurotrip does Disney in this story about Casey, a physics nerd with a passion for figure skating. Sucker that I am, I get weepy every time I watch it. Favorite scene: Casey's final performance at Sectionals.

4. Good Advice: A very unknown film starring Charlie Sheen as a weasel of a guy who loses his job and girlfriend in one fell swoop. In an effort to stay financially afloat, he takes over his ex's job as an advice columnist and learns to be a better man in the process. Favorite scene: Cindy's press conference.

5. Dodgeball: The ultimate true underdog story about gym owner, Peter (Vince Vaughn), and a group of misfits entering a dodgeball competition to keep their fitness club afloat. Favorite scene: Patches O'Houlihan training the guys with wrenches.

6. Accepted: On the heels of Dodgeball, Justin Long stars as Bartleby Gaines, who inadvertently starts his own university when he's rejected by every college he applies to. Favorite scene: Bartleby listing the courses he's taking while on the phone with his parents.

7. John Tucker Must Die: New girl in town, Kate (Brittany Snow) hooks up with three girls who've been jilted by the school heart-throb to teach him a lesson. Favorite scene: The g-string. Oh, God, the g-string!

8. What a Girl Wants: Rambunctious American (Amanda Bynes) heads to London to find her father, who's in the middle of a campaign run for Parliament. Okay, so Colin Firth plays her father. Do you need another reason to watch? He wears leather pants in one scene. Favorite scene: Colin Firth in leather pants, dancing to Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo.

9. Addams Family Values: The rare case of a sequel being better than the original has the Addams clan hiring a new nanny (Joan Cusack) who woos Uncle Fester for his fortune. Favorite scene: The First Thanksgiving play.

10. White Chicks: Two FBI agents (Shawn and Marlon Wayans) go waaay undercover, becoming the blond, white Wilson sisters to avert a planned kidnapping. Of course it's ridiculous, but it's also funny and never takes itself seriously. Favorite scene: The dance-off in the nightclub.

11. Freaky Friday: The 2003 version pairs Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan as the mother/daughter who wind up switching bodies until they can learn to appreciate each other for who they truly are. Favorite scene: The parent teacher conference always makes me cry. (I know; I'm way too sentimental for my own good.)

12. The Brady Bunch Movie/A Very Brady Sequel: The cast is amazing, nailing each of their characters to perfection! And the sequel is equally funny. Go figya. Favorite scene: In BBM, when Jan and Marcia try to become fashion models to earn money. In AVBS, Carol going to a new hairstylist.

13. Legally Blonde: Fashion major Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) heads to Harvard Law School to regain the heart of her ex-boyfriend. Favorite scene: Elle's friends showing up to see her first trial.

I could go on and on, but really...that's enough to get you started. Maybe I'll do another list next week. How many of these are on your list? How many have you never seen? How many would you not be caught dead watching? (It's okay, you can tell me.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wanna Be a Published Author?

According to the email I received from Writers Digest, all I need is the price of a cup of coffee. Of course, that money is going not for java, but for a subscription to Writers Digest. Well, no offense to Writers Digest, but in my humble opinion, it takes a lot more than a subscription to reach "published author" status. You need a good story, an inordinate amount of faith in yourself, buckets full of patience, and the drive to keep trying when the rejections pour in (and they do pour in!)
Now, Writers Digest might help by providing information, but the subscription is simply that: payment toward a periodical that will regularly give you tools to build your dream. The building, however, is up to you. So if you've got the great story, the faith in yourself, the patience, and the drive, go ahead. Sign up for your subscription. Just remember: it's only a magazine, not a publishing house.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Sandra's Big Day

Another author friend, Sandra Cormier, is celebrating her print release today. Stop on by The Wild Rose Press and pick up your copy of The Space Between. I'm so proud! Another "baby" in the world.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Favorite Fall Recipes

13 Favorite Fall Recipes

It's Autumn--a time for football, pumpkin picking, and raking leaves. It's also when I pull out the unusual spices and flavors that keep the family's hungry tummies satisfied. Here are some of my favorite recipes for those cooler days and nights!

1. Cranberry Pork Roast:

Place 1 boneless rolled pork loin (approx. 2-1/2 to 3 lbs) in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mash one 16 oz. can of jellied cranberry sauce, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cranberry juice, 1 tsp dry mustard and 1/4 tsp ground cloves. Pour over roast. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

For gravy, remove roast and keep warm. Skim fat from juices, measure 2 cups, and pour into saucepan. Combine 2 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp water to make a thick paste. Stir into gravy. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.

2. Cinnamon Fried Chicken:

Using a skillet at least 12 inches in diameter (with a good-fitting cover!), add enough oil to the pan to come up about 1/2 inch and set on medium-high heat. In a plastic zipper bag, mix together 2 cups flour, 1 tbsp coarse salt, 2 tbsp ground cinnamon and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Toss one cut-up chicken into bag, a few pieces at a time, until all pieces are well coated. Slowly add chicken pieces to hot oil in skillet. Cover and cook for 7 minutes. Uncover, turn chicken, continue to cook about 5 minutes more until all pieces are golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet and drain on paper towels.

3. Green Bean Casserole (not the kind your mother made!):

Steam approximately 1-1/2 lbs of fresh green beans or use 3 cups canned or frozen green beans. Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat one 10-3/4 oz can of cream of mushroom soup, undiluted. When heated through, add 1/2 cup of shredded sharp white cheddar cheese. Mix thoroughly until cheese melts in soup. In a greased casserole dish, combine beans and soup mixture. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of grated sharp white cheddar and dust with dry breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and bubbling--approximately 30 minutes.

4. Linguine with White Clam Sauce:

Boil 12 oz linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile in a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic and cook 'til fragrant. Pour the liquid drained from two 10 oz cans of whole baby clams into garlic and oil. Add 1/4 cup white wine and one grated carrot. Simmer until liquid decreases by about 1/3. Add 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp parsley and the clams from the two drained cans. Stir until heated through. Toss over cooked pasta.

5. Greek Lemon Soup:

Bring 3 c chicken stock to boil over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup orzo and reduce heat to low-medium. Cook 15-20 minutes. Add the meat of one boneless chicken breast, diced. In separate bowl, whisk 3 eggs one at a time. Slowly pour in 1/3 cup lemon juice. Slowly pour 1 ladleful of hot stock into egg mixture. Reduce heat on stock to low. While whisking stock, add egg mixture. Season to taste.

6. Quick Stromboli:

Unroll a 13.2 oz can of Pillsbury Italian Loaf (or French bread) and spread out flat. Layer an assortment of cold cuts and cheeses (ham, pepperoni, and shredded mozzarella; turkey, chicken, and shredded cheddar; etc.) evenly across flattened loaf. Roll jelly-roll style and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.

7. Simmer All Day Chicken Soup (pairs great with the quick stromboli for a speedy meal!):

Place one whole rotisserie chicken in stock pot along with 1 gallon of water and 6 bouillon cubes. Simmer on low for 4-6 hours. Remove chicken, let cool, and strip meat off frame. Place all stripped meat into simmering broth along with several carrots, sliced; chopped celery stalks; one whole onion, chopped; 2 tbsp grated Parmesan; and a dash of sage. (Additional spices and vegetables may be added to taste.) Simmer until vegetables are tender. Store in refrigerator and/or freezer in sealed containers. When ready to serve add cooked noodles, pasta or rice to heated soup.

8. English Beef:

Place 1-1/2 lbs stew beef cut into bite sized pieces into slow cooker. Add one medium onion, chopped. Stir to combine. In a bowl, combine one 10-3/4 oz can beef broth, 1 tbsp steak sauce, 1 tbsp ketchup, 1 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Pour over meat and onion. Cover and cook on high for 4-1/2 - 5 hours or on low for 9-10 hours, until meat is tender. In another small bowl, stir 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tbsp prepared horseradish, and 1-1/2 tbsp cornstarch. Stir into liquid around meat. Cover and cook on high for an additional 15 minutes or until thickened. Serve over cooked noodles with parsley and/or chopped chives.

9. Break-the-rules Apple Pie (Since most pies call for Granny Smith apples and lemon juice, I broke the rules when I started using this recipe, which requires neither!):

Spread one ready crust into a deep dish pie plate. Peel and thinly slice approximately eight medium apples (for best flavor, use different varieties of apples.) Pour slices into large bowl. Add 1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp flour, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 ground nutmeg, and 3 tbsp heavy cream. Stir well, then pour into prepared crust. Top with second crust, cutting slits in top to allow steam to escape. Brush crust with an additional 1 tbsp heavy cream. Bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes until juice bubbles through slits and crust is golden brown.

10. Mulled Cider:

Pour one gallon apple cider into crock pot. Stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar. Combine 1 tsp whole cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, and the zest of one orange in a cheesecloth. Tie cloth to form a small bag (bouquet garni). Add to cider. Cook for 3-4 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low. Remove garni before serving.

11. Orange Glazed Carrots:

Slice 1 lb of carrots into coin-sized pieces. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter with 3 tbsp brown sugar. Stir in 1/3 cup orange juice, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Add carrots, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

12. Black Bean Soup:

Soak one pound dry black beans overnight or use "quick soak" method on package. In slow cooker, combine beans; 2 onions, chopped; 4 garlic cloves, minced; 3/4 cup cubed ham; 1 tbsp oil; 1 tbsp cumin; 2 tbsp hot pepper sauce; and 3 cups water. Stir well. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low 8-10 hours. One hour prior to completion, remove 1-1/2 cups bean mixture. Allow to cool slightly, then puree until smooth in blender. Return to slow cooker for remainder of cooking time, along with 6 carrots, sliced thin. Hot sauce can be adjusted to taste.

13. Fudgy Mint Brownies:

In small bowl, combine 1-1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside. In medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, and 3 tbsp water. Bring to a boil. Add 10 oz of mint chocolate chips and 1-1/2 tsp vanilla. Stir until chips melt and mixture is smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Spread into greased 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool; cut into squares.

Want more? Check out the recipes section of my website for a few other favorites! Have a few of your own? I'd love to read about them.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is the Writing Bug Hereditary?

I wonder because today my son was given the option to do anything he liked during free time at school. He chose to write a story. And not just any story: a story where he dies and comes back to life as The Grim Reaper.

I swear, I didn't put any ideas in his head! 'Cuz if I had, he'd have come back as some kind of handsome prince who swept the love of his life away to the heavens... Nah, forget it. The kid just might be on to something. Who am I to critique his story?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Make It Stop!

The use of old rock songs in commercials goes back a ways. I still remember the uproar when Nike first used The Beatles' Revolution in a sneaker commercial. It was bad enough watching Paul McCartney strolling down the street singing for I-Pod. But at least, he was responsible for that crime against humanity. Now, it's completely out of hand. In the last few days, I've been treated to a commercial for a birth control pill that uses Twisted Sister's classic, We're Not Gonna Take It; a commercial for a Nintendo game that uses Sublime's Santeria, and another Twisted Sister classic, I Wanna Rock, pimping Avis car rentals.

The music and bands of my teenage years, years filled with anti-establishment attitude, is now mainstream.

If you'll excuse me, I think I need to lie down before my head explodes...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday 13: Thirteen Unlikely Names for Romance Heroes

13 Unlikely Names for Romance Heroes

You knew it was coming after last week. we go.
1. Irving
2. Sheldon
3. Egbert
4. Guido
5. Stanley
6. Finster
7. Melvin
8. Seymour
9. Herman
10. Oscar
11. Hiram
12. Ichabod
13. Lester

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Paisley's Big Day!

Indulge me. Today is Release Day for my very good friend, Paisley Scott. Her erotic short story, The Pirate and the Pussycat, is available from The Wild Rose Press. Since I was in on the creation of this story, I feel a little like a midwife. It ain't my baby, all I did was help in the delivery. Still, I announce this little one's arrival with oodles of pride and would pass out cigars that say, "It's a story!" if they sold 'em.

Congratulations, Paisley! I knew you could do it!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Strange Things You Find Surfin' the Blogosphere

Your home is a

Daylight Magnate's Hideout

Your kitchen is someplace you never go, because you "have people for that." There's a Chocolatessen, which is rapidly becoming your favorite room of the house. Having one is also becoming a trend among your wealthy neighbors. Your master bedroom is the size of a small barn, with carpet thick enough to reach your ankles. Your study has hardback editions of every classic ever written, plus a special edition of Rich Dad, Poor Dad with the parts you ghost-authored highlighted. One of your garages holds your collection of ferraris, and is measured in acreage.

Your home also includes a guest wing and private quarters for your servants. Outside is your hedge maze and gardens, meticulously tended by a team of world-class botanists.

And, you have a pet -- a doberman pincer named "Warren".

Below is a snippet of the blueprints:

Build YOUR Dream House!

OOH! I have a Chocolatessen! Come on over! We'll make s'mores...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Another Fine Mess I've Gotten Myself Into

Well, I've really done it now. Sent in my application for the 2008 RITA Awards. As soon as editor-to-the-stars, Erin Cartwright Niumata of Avalon Books, ships them to me, five copies of The Bonds of Matri-money will be winging their way to Texas for consideration in the categories of Best Contemporary Romance and Best First Book. Part of me is terrified, but another part of me remembers all the excitement at previous RWA Nationals regarding the Golden Heart and RITA Awards. That's the part I'm clinging to, the part that says these authors once did what I just did: filled out a form and promised to send their work to anonymous judges for consideration in RWA's answer to the Oscars and Emmys.

It's going to be a looooooong wait until next July when the winners are announced!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday 13: Thirteen Unlikely Names for Romance Heroines

13 Unlikely Names for Romance Heroines

1. Ethel

2. Bertha

3. Agatha

4. Shirley

5. Edna

6. Prunella

7. Griselda

8. Mildred

9. Fifi

10. Maude

11. Gertrude

12. Bernice

13. Zsa-zsa

Love a challenge? Prove me wrong! Write your next story, using one of these names for your heroine. Or...add to the list.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why I Find My Son's Football Games So Inspiring...

This past Sunday, our Three Village Wildcats took on their biggest rivals, the Riverhead Giants. Over the years, the Riverhead team has always beaten our little guys, with the exception of one memorable game last year where we tied. Oddly enough, my son considers himself the Tony Robbins of his team. At the end of every Friday night practice (and again at halftime during the Sunday game), Nick calls the team together to give them some kind of "pep talk."
This past Friday, before their toughest competition, Nick outlined their history against the Giants. "They've kicked our butts every time we've played them. Except last time. Last time, we tied. This week, we've got the momentum to WIN!"
And guess what? They did!
For every little guy who's ever been knocked down by the competition, for every writer who's received another rejection from their dream editor or agent, I say, "Dare to dream. Dream big. Only if we continue to try can we achieve success."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thursday 13: Thirteen Hairstyles I've Worn Thru the Years

13 Hairstyles I've Worn Thru the Years (With Photos and Everything!)

I really should have my head examined for sharing these. It's a testament to my courage and devotion to the Thursday 13 that I'm willing to put myself up for the ridicule that I know will ensue. What can I say? It was the 60's (and the 70's and the 80's...)

According to my mother, I was born with a full head of hair. It's been an uphill battle ever since. Observe:

1.I think I was about five when this photo was taken. (And yes...I know I still have the same face. It just took me forty years to grow into it.)

2. My first communion. Note I'm still showing off that fabulous forehead!

3. The pinnacle of forehead: fifth grade. Hmm...does anyone else see a resemblance to Marcia Brady here?

4. High school graduation. Still flashing the forehead, but at least now I'm not pulling all the hair off my face to accentuate the expanse.

5. Dh calls this my "Robert Plant look." But hey! At least I finally started to hide the movie screen above my eyebrows.

6. My wedding day (21 years ago today!) The very 80's bi-level was in. If you don't know what I'm talking about, rent The Wedding Singer starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (one of my favorite movies--I wonder why?) Still hiding the forehead behind a mess of curls though.

7. Finally got tired of trying to keep up the blond look and my hairdresser convinced me to bring out the red that was so prevalent in my hair. I struggled with it for years, never sure I didn't look like Lucille Ball stuck in an electrical storm.

8. Ditched the curls and the red for a softer style and a golden blonde. Nice, but too much upkeep with a little one (who is now 16!)

9. The hair compromise. Less body wave, more red. So long as the forehead's not quite so noticeable, I'm a happy camper. In looking at this photo now, I think this is when my thyroid started to go bonkers. Look how little flesh is left in my face: definitely not a healthy look for me.

10. I turned forty and had to cut my hair short. (I think it's the law.) Kept the red to rebel against the whole soccer mom mentality. And look! The forehead's back!

11. Kept the color and updated to a bob. A little longer, only a bit of forehead peeking out. All in all, not a terrible look.

12. Dh has this thing about long hair on a woman. Color's a nice rich red that I love, the forehead's back, but let's face it. That forehead is who I am! Why fight it?

13. In a moment of weakness I let my daughter streak my hair pink.(Remember that little girl sleeping in photo 8? That's her on the right, all growed up!) She keeps asking to do it again, but I think I've done my Good Mommy deed in trusting her the first time.

Okay, I'm ready. Let the laughter begin!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

To Cut Or Not to Cut...That is the Question

The edit process between author and editor is a delicate balancing act. Each party has the same goal: to make the story the strongest it can be. Yet we approach the goal from different angles. I've heard tales of authors who refuse to let editors change a single word of their work since, real or imagined, their prose is sheer genius and shouldn't be "messed with." On the opposite end of the spectrum are authors who expect an editor to fix every misspelled word, every loose thread in the plotline, etc.
Most of us, though, fall into a middle category. We know our editor is on our side, and we work together. An author must choose her battles wisely: sometimes giving in, sometimes standing her ground. Often, we mourn those scenes we're forced to delete, those scintillating bits of prose that for whatever reason don't work as well as we'd hoped. For me, nowhere does this scenario bear more truth than when a joke or humorous scene fails to gain the right reaction. Stand up comedians often talk about how they hone their craft, night after night. They'll gauge reactions from an early evening show and make improvements or adjustments in a later show that same night. For them, it's about rhythm, about word choice, and about gaining the biggest laugh with the quickest punch.

Writers, however, don't have the luxury of a truly live audience so that if the joke doesn't work in the eight o'clock show, we can't tweak it before the ten o'clock show. We have one chance to get it right. And most of the time, our preview audience consists of a few close friends (who are often too close to the joke) and an editor. So what happens when your editor doesn't get the joke? Should you stand your ground and insist it stays as is because a wider audience might pick up on the humor? Well, you could--if you're like those authors I mention who believe their own press. But sometimes it's better to take a different tack.
Basically, you have two options. The first is to make the joke stronger. Sometimes a new word choice, a quicker journey to the punch, or a new way to tell the same old cliche works. When it does, zing! Pure magic occurs. doesn't. And when that happens, you're left with Option #2: ditch the joke or scene.
It's a painful decision. But ultimately, they're just words. And if they're not making magic on every page, your reader will walk away unimpressed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Another Question From the Pile

Today's question comes from Judy Leger:

"I recently blogged about a dream that inspired me. What inspires you when writing?"

In a nutshell, LIFE. Anyone I like or anything I enjoy can provide inspiration.

Take, for example, my soon-to-be-released story, A Little Slice of Heaven, which takes place in a pizzeria on Long Island. Why a pizzeria? Because the guys at one of our family's frequent haunts, Via Pizza in East Setauket, asked. Nick, in particular, wondered why no one has ever written a romance that took place in a pizzeria. I promised him I would. But then I had to find the right story out of the catalog in my head.

Enter a book of short stories by a famous British author. One story told of a wealthy woman who wanted to test whether her family's love would survive a financial downturn. Hmm... Here was something I could work with.

Now, to put the characters into place. I chose two dear friends (who don't know each other) as inspiration for the hero and heroine. Their personalities came over to the written page intact; their looks were borrowed from Hollywood. And then I set them onstage and let them direct their story to a satisfying ending. I hope you'll like the results as much as I do.

Another example would be my current WIP, Nobody's Perfect. Once again, I thank an acquaintance for placing the germ of an idea in my head. While on the practice field for my son's football team one evening, one of the moms said, "You should write about what goes on here. Think of the fun you could have!" Hmm...

The cycle begins again. My characters are in place, the stage is set. The rest is up to them. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Hooray to my good friend, Debora, for finally moving into her new home. May you share love and prosperity within its walls for decades to come!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Maxine-isms

13 Maxine-isms
You all know Maxine, right? That cranky old lady pictured above who graces greeting cards, calendars, and coffee mugs. Here are some of my favorite sayings from the Old Girl.

1. "I can't use the cell phone in the car. I have to keep my hands free for making gestures."

2. "The key to a nice-looking lawn is a good mower. I recommend one who is muscular and shirtless."

3. "All I'm looking for is a guy who'll do what I want, when I want, for as long as I want, and then go away. Or wait nearby, like a Dust Buster, charged up and ready when needed."

4. "I do my housework in the nude. It gives me an incentive to clean the mirrors as quickly as possible."

5. "I find it helps to organize chores into categories: Things I Won't Do Now, Things I Won't Do Later, Things I'll Never Do..."

6. "My idea of rebooting is kicking somebody in the butt twice."

7. "Ever notice how people who tell you to calm down...are the ones who got you mad in the first place?"

8. "I don't make snowmen. If I'd wanted to hang around with a cold man with slush for brains, I'd still be married."

9. "I wouldn't say my love life is bad, but the last guy I turned on was Mr. Coffee."

10. "The trouble with bucket seats is that not everybody has the same size bucket."

11. "If you woke up breathing, congratulations. You have another chance."

12. "Take every birthday with a grain of salt. This works much better if the salt accompanies a margarita."

13. "Money can't buy happiness, but somehow it's more comfortable to cry in a Porsche than a Kia."

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The End

For a writer, there are few sweeter words. "We want to buy your manuscript," and "We'd like to turn your book into a movie" might be sweeter, but they don't take away from the feeling of satisfaction a writer gets from typing (or thinking since most of us don't actually type those two words) The End.

As a romance writer, the event is even more joyous. Why? Because your characters have come through their turmoils with love on their sides. They will now live happily ever after. And so there is a quiet celebration in ensuring your "babies" the ending they deserve.

Today, I reached that quiet celebration moment on Two For the Money, the sequel to the soon-to-be published, A Little Slice of Heaven. Now, they'll slumber on my computer for a week or two while I reconnect with family, friends, and life. Then, I'll awaken them slowly and begin the Final Edit process before sending them off to my editor for consideration.

Ain't love grand?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday 13: Thirteen Depressing or Just Plain Creepy Songs I Can't Get Enough Of

They're the guiltiest of pleasures: those depressing and creepy songs that, for whatever reason, reach right through to your heart time and time again. And while you never figure out why, you always find yourself singing along. How many of these are on your list?

1. Cup of Coffee- Garbage. How pathetic are these lyrics?: "Hangin' round bars at night wishing I had never been born, I give myself to anyone who wants to take me home..."

2. I'll Follow You Into the Dark- Death Cab For Cutie. The masters of matching super-dark lyrics with a happy tune: "Love of mine, someday you will die, But I'll be close behind. I'll follow you into the dark..."

3. Spanish Doll- Poe. Written about her father: "And I love you still, no matter how the story will unfold. You know I always will, have part of you here in this souvenir..."

4. Nan's Song- Robbie Williams. Even for those who don't believe the dead watch over us, this song could convince you: "There's a strange kind of light, in my bedroom tonight. Pray, silence my fears, She is near, bringing heaven down here..."

5. The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get- Morrissey. Just what the world needs: another stalker theme song! "When you sleep I will creep into your thoughts like a bad debt that you can't pay. Take the easy way and give in. And let me in..."

6. Everybody Hurts- REM. Is there anyone who isn't touched by those lyrics? "When the day is long and the night, The night is yours alone. When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well, hang on."

7. The Freshmen- Verve Pipe. Talk about depressing! "My best friend took a week's vacation to forget her. His girl took a week's worth of Valium and slept..."

8. Nothing Compares 2 U- Sinead O'Connor. A haunting voice, haunting melody. "I put my arms around every boy I see. They only remind me of you..."

9. I Burn For You- Sting and the Police. Oooh, major creepy when you've seen the movie, Brimstone and Treacle. This is from the soundtrack. "Now that I have found you in the coolth of your evening smile, The shade of your parasol. And your love flows through me. Though I drink at your pool, I burn for you..."

10. Vampires of New York- Marcy Playground. Do you need more than this? "And all the whores on Bleecker Street, they wear the blissful grins, Caused by the drugs they take to relieve them of their sins..."

11. Safer Hands- Olive. Another ode to Daddy. "The day you left no warning came. I was sleeping. Maybe it was your undying love. You didn't wake me, didn't take me."

12. Cry- Angie Aparo. Ah, the bitterness of spurned love. "If your love could be caged, honey, I would hold the key. And conceal it underneath that pile of lies you handed me."

13. Lullaby- The Cure. Eek! Robert Smith goes into creep overdrive for this one. "On candystripe legs, the spiderman comes, softly through the shadow of the evening sun. Stealing past the windows of the blissfully dead, looking for the victim shivering in bed."