Friday, April 29, 2016

An Early Birdie Gets The Manuscript Done

This is kind of laughable right now since I am woefully behind in finishing my current work in progress, but it's not for lack of trying. But that's a whole 'nother blog topic.

I'm an early bird. Unless I'm not feeling well or am unusually tired, I get up between 5 and 5:30 every morning during the week without setting an alarm.  Even when my dear Raffi was alive, I was often awake before he hopped on the bed and commenced chewing my hair, demanding his breakfast.

When folks ask how I'm able to get so much writing done while juggling a day job, I point to this habit first thing. I write in the morning, after I feed my other cat B, clean her box, and brew my coffee. I take a few minutes to do some social media chores and posts, then it's all about the writing for a couple of hours. Between 8 and 8:30 I break to do my exercise, then shower and it's off to the day job. Sometimes I even write during my lunch hour.

On weekends, I'm up fairly early, usually by 7 or 7:30. When on vacation, I'm usually writing by 7 am at the hotel or cottage, or wherever I'm hanging my hat.

There is seldom a day in the year when I don't put my fingers to the key board in the morning. Yes, there are some, like when I'm ill or experiencing burnout or my focus must be directed elsewhere, but not very many.

Not all writers are morning people. A lot of my writer friends write at night, after their family has turned in and the house is quiet. Some have the luxury of not working a day job so can write during the day and for a much longer block of time. I know of a few who only write for long stints on weekends,

There is no right way to write when it comes to when and where. Through trial and error, and sometimes circumstances, a dedicated author will find what works best for them. Some work in coffee shops with people around them. Some, like me, prefer the privacy and the comfort of my home. Some write with a playlist, others, again like me, prefer no music in the background. But we all spend time writing.

The only thing that is a MUST is making a commitment to a schedule, whatever it may be personally, and sticking to it.  If you only write on weekends, then make sure you do it. If you only have an hour a day, then make that hour a priority.

Frankly, it pisses me off when wannabe writers tell me they have a great idea for a book but no time to write it.  To that I say BULLSHIT! If you really want to write, then put your ass in a chair and write, even if it's only for 30 minutes a day. Put the TV remote down and get to a computer! If you don't, then you really don't want to write, because writing is compulsory for a writer.

TIP: You can't write a book by rubbing a magic lamp or 
wishing on a star while turning around three times.

I write in the early morning because it's the best time I have to get in a quality block of time. At night after work I'm tired and not as focused. I have conditioned myself to go to bed at a decent hour so I can get up early to get it done, because there is no other time that works as well for me. I don't whine about it. I just do it.

I know women who crank out book after book while raising children, cooking meals, and driving carpool.

Now doesn't that put all those sorry ass excuses to shame?

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Writer On The Road

For about a year, I've been thinking about what I want to do when I retire. Well, not exactly do. I know that once I retire from my career as a paralegal I want to focus full time on my writing. The real question is where?

Staying in California wasn't looking good as an option because it is simply too damn expensive to live here. My retirement budget will not allow it if I want to eat and not live under an overpass. Unless, of course, I want to move to some really out of the way place in Cali, but what fun is that? I just don't want to move somewhere and wait for the Grim Reaper. Wherever I land, it has to enhance my life.

On my list of places under consideration are: Massachusetts, where I'm from and where my family lives, Oregon, where many friends live and love living there, and Nevada because of the low cost of living and close proximity to California and other friends. Arizona? Meh, been there, done that, didn't like it. 

A while back I wrote about having an attack of wanderlust.  I know I want to travel when I retire and visit friends and family scattered all over this great country. Then the thought hit me. Why not live full-time on the road?

Yeah! I could do that! I know I could. After all, I can write anywhere.

The more I thought about this option, the more it felt right, like something I'd not only enjoy but would enjoy a lot. First, I thought about simply climbing into my car and hitting the road, visiting all the people and places I want to see, living carefree out of a suitcase, my next stop wherever I fancy going. 

Then I thought, why not an RV? Why not join the hoards of retirees who live on the open road, taking their home with them, state to state, experiencing nature, avoiding bad weather by snowbirding in the winter. It seems so cliche, but why not? So I did what any good paralegal or crime writer would do: I started researching the possibility, looking into financial needs, vehicles, safety issues, and the logistics of living mostly off the grid full-time. I've watched dozens of videos, and read blogs of full-time RV'ers (BTW, there are tons of them, including many women who are on the road solo), which contain incredibly helpful information on all aspects of the lifestyle.


BINGO! I have found my retirement plan! 


Susan, one of my BFFs who is retired, has always said that when I find the retirement place for me, I'd know it in my gut. Susan, my dear, you were right. As soon as I saw this possibility, it clicked in my very soul.

I'm not worried about being lonely. I'll be visiting friends and family, and I'll make new friends along the way. I'll even be able to visit many readers for the first time. I've discovered that there are all kinds of full-timer clubs and communities online. And I'll have the internet to stay in touch.  I'm also not adverse to being alone. Alone is not the same thing as being lonely.  I've been painfully lonely in a crowd of people and even while in relationships. And although I'm very outgoing, I'm basically a loner, always have been, even as a kid. I've already logged quite a few solo travel miles and prefer to travel that way most of the time. Maybe I'll even get myself a small dog, since B will most likely be gone by then.
I could live here!

I'm also not concerned about living in such tight quarters. I once lived in a tiny studio apartment for 4 years and it never bothered me. I know how to live small and compact if I have to, and today's RVs are super convenient and well planned, even the small van-style ones, which I'm considering. In fact, have you seen these things lately? They are incredible! I think this lifestyle will fit me like a glove.

I'd hit the road NOW, if I could, but alas, I'm not quite there. So for the next few years, I'll be purging my stuff, saving money, and making plans, with hitting the road as my goal after I say goodbye to the day job. It's my brass ring. The golden ticket for my golden years. 

And, as I've said before, time has a way of going by in the blink of an eye.

When I told another friend about this plan, she was very excited and asked how long I planned on doing it - 6 months, a year, a couple of years? My response was:

Until it stops being fun!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cashew - Gesundheit!

A Half-Assed Vegan Post

I am allergic to pecans and walnuts, both of which I like. When I eat them, often my lips and tongue will tingle and swell and sometimes go numb, like I've just had a shot of Novocain. Needless to say, I avoid the little buggers, which is particularly difficult when it comes to walnuts since they seem to be in EVERYTHING! So far I haven't experienced anaphylactic shock from eating them, but I really don't want to push my luck.

Fortunately for me my favorite nuts are almonds and cashews. Even more fortunate for me is that so far I have experienced no adverse reactions to either.  Which is great since a lot of vegan cooking uses both.

I'm sure most of you have heard how good nuts are for us. And they are! They are chock full of protein, vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. A few almonds can boost your energy and satisfy the crunch craving. Although nuts can be high in calories, these are far from empty calories. And almonds and cashews can also be made into wonderful butters and can be tossed into stir frys and salads.

And here is a very interesting article about the health benefits of cashews and how they can help depression.  Who knew???

Cashews also have another great feature. They can be made into a cream sauce that can rival most high fat butter and cream sauces in taste, and surpass them hands down when it comes to healthy eating. It's true!

I love cream sauces on pasta and in casseroles.  LOVE THEM! So when I had to remove diary from my diet, I mourned the loss of these yummy comfort foods.  Then I discovered cashew cream through many of the new recipes I was trying.

Hooray for cashew cream!

Recently I made creamy mushroom and asparagus pasta from Minimalist Baker. While the recipe called for vegan cream cheese (which I dislike), I substituted it for 3/4 cup of soaked cashews and increased the almond milk to 1 cup. I followed the rest of the recipe as written and was rewarded with a very yummy comfort food dish that was creamy, lemony, and cheesy (this last part thanks to nutritional yeast, another great vegan discovery).

BTW, I've gotten a lot of my non-vegan and non-vegetarian friends following Minimalist Baker and you should too! Dana and John also do a lot of gluten free recipes, if you need to go that route. I have a lot of great vegan blogs that I follow but this one is hands-down my favorite. Check them out!

Mushroom Asparagus Pasta
Another favorite recipe of mine is tofu and mushroom stroganoff from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbook Isa Does It, and which can also be found here.  This dish is incredibly satisfying on many levels.  Hmmm, it's been awhile since I've made it...

Isa has a acronym in her cookbook - ABS, which stands for always be soaking.  A lot of recipes using cashews as a cream base will reference this step.  Cashews make the best and smoothest cream if they are soaked in water for several hours or overnight. Just put the amount of cashews the recipe calls for in a bowl, cover with water, and stick it in the fridge. It will even last a few days. Soaking causes the cashews to swell and soften so that when you put them in a blender with your plant-based milk, veggie broth, or water, the sauces will be smooth and creamy.  If you have a high speed blender, you might be able to skip this step.  I do have a very powerful blender, but I find that the soaking step does make a better sauce.

BTW, cashew cream is made with RAW cashews, not roasted, salted cashews.  I buy mine at Trader Joe's and buy the bags of pieces, which are a lot cheaper than whole or half cashews.  Nuts don't need to be pretty to be whirred around in a blender, so why pay for whole cashews?


Go Nuts For Nuts!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I Ain't Afraid of No Needle

Typewriter tattoo on  writer Christa Faust
I've decided to get a tattoo.

This is not a sudden decision. I've wanted one for years, at least 15-20 years. I just didn't know what kind of tattoo I wanted. I didn't want something silly or meaningless. No Chinese characters for me. No Winnie the Pooh, or portrait of my cat. I wanted a tat that I could be proud of and inspired by every time I saw it. Something that displayed who I am.

For the past month I've given this a lot of thought and now I know EXACTLY what kind of tattoo I want and where. I then went to friends asking for referrals and looked at dozens of tattoo artists and their work until I found one I believe will do a kick-ass job. His name is Adam Parrot at Rabble Rouser Tattoo, which is very close to where I live.

Hard Case logo on wrist
This is happening sometime in May, after my current WIP is turned in and I have some time to relax.

I won't tell you what kind of tattoo I'm getting, but will say that it will be related to my writing.  However, I won't be throwing my entire body into it like pal Christa Faust. Christa has a vintage typewriter with wings on her belly, amongst other things, and even her publisher's logo on her wrist.

Christa is hard-ass.

I'm more fat ass.

And, no, my first tattoo is NOT going on my ass or anywhere near it.

As Rachel Maddow often says on her news show: 

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wanderlust In Waiting

I've been bitten by the wanderlust bug. Bitten bad. All I can think about is getting in my car and setting out on a road trip.

Somewhere.

Anywhere.

More and more I'm thinking that maybe when I retire, I'll get rid of most of my stuff, put the rest in storage, and hit the road. 

Seriously. 

That's the direction my mind is going as I contemplate my golden years without the good ole day job. After all, I can write anywhere. 

I've been to most of the states in the US, but I'd love to see them all. The only states I haven't been to are Alaska, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. I've even been to Puerto Rico.

It could be fun. I'll just gas up the car and hit the highway, visiting friends, family, readers, historical sites, Waffle Houses, and the world's largest ball of twine. Which, by the way, is located in Cawker City, Kansas. If I like a place, maybe I settle in for a few days.

The closer I get to retirement, the more I understand why so many retirees hit the road in RVs. It's our last chance to see the stuff we've been missing while punching a time clock.

According to the count down app on my phone, I have at least 993 days until I retire.

Yes, they have an app for that.

That doesn't mean I'll retire in exactly 993 days, but that is the soonest I will be able to do the deed.

It's going to go by in the blink of an eye... I'd better gas up the car.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Spring Time is Festival of Books Time!


Every April for one weekend, authors, publishers, entertainers, and people of all ages pilgrimage to the USC Campus in Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

I am always surprised when I run into people who say they have never attended this annual event. In the past 12 years I've missed it once and only once, and that was because I had a bad injury to my leg and it was difficult to get around. A few years ago I attended even though I had an abscessed tooth!

But you're an author, you say. You need to be there. 

True, it is a place where I am able to connect personally with readers of my work and introduce myself to new readers. But if only authors attended, there would be no reason to have the event.

There is something for everyone at the LA Times Festival of Books, no matter your age or interest. If you have kids, this is a grand place to bring them. Admission is FREE! And there is an entire children's section complete with people dressed up as their favorite book characters. There's music. Food trucks. Panels with interesting folks. 

And BOOKS!!!  Let's not forget books!

There is also lots of parking on site, but I take the Metro when I go. It saves me a lot of time, money and stress.

Here is my schedule for the LA Times Festival of Books for 2016. All booths below are located in the 300 section, in Founders Park by Bovard Auditorium. 

Saturday, April 9, 3-4 pm, So Cal MWA booth

Saturday, April 9, 4-6 pm, Sisters In Crime/LA booth

Sunday, April 10, 12-1 pm Mystery Ink Bookstore booth

Sunday, April 10, 2-3 pm, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore booth

Come on by and say hello!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Fat Woman Biking


Back in January I wrote a blog called Fat Woman Walking. In it I explained how several friends and I challenged ourselves to walk (or bike or run or swim) 2016 miles in 2016.

The first three months are now in the hopper and here are my stats:

Miles to date: 249.31

I incurred deficits in both January and February as I got ramped up. Figuring on about 168 miles per month average to meet the 2016 mile goal, I'm about 254 miles in the hole.  But in March I was just shy of my monthly quota and from here on out I should be able to whack off the deficit over time and be right on track.

Most of these miles were accrued on my recumbent bike as I have an arthritic right knee. As I increased my walking in January and February, my knee started protesting. A few years back my doctor told me to either bike or swim to help my knee. But did I? Once in a while, but only on days with the letter P in them. Now I'm pedaling 7-10 miles almost every day, pushing to go faster and further and my knee is feeling pretty good.  The doc was right. Imagine that? I'm still getting in some walking. A lot of days, my combined miles are somewhere between 7-10 miles. I allow myself one day a week for a rest day.

It's not easy. Some days I piss and moan like a whiny little kid about getting my big ole butt on the bike, but I do it because I'm determined to reach my goal of 2016 miles. The first few miles each day are tough. Usually I watch TV while I pedal and it helps the time fly. I was reading while working out, but as I go faster and get sweatier, I find it tougher to concentrate on the reading.

3 months down, 9 months to go.

249.31 miles down, 1766.69 to go.

I got this!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Zombies Threatened My Cat

And, as usual, I'm very late to the party.

Although The Walking Dead is about to end its 6th season, and I've been hearing nothing but raves about it from friends, I hadn't seen a single episode until this past Saturday.  It's true. I enjoy stories about ghosts. I like some stuff about vampires. Zombies, though, meh.  I really don't see the attraction to things that are dead and decaying. At least most vampires are sexy and alluring. And ghosts can be fun (insert plug for my Ghost of Granny Apples mystery series here).

But zombies?????

Foul. Ugly. Incoherent. Pieces missing or falling off.

Oh yeah, I can totally picture a zombie hunk doing a bump and grind in the next Magic Mike movie! NOT!

Still, I wanted to see what all the hullabaloo was about. So Saturday afternoon after a very pleasant lunch with friends, I sat down in front of the TV, called up Netflix, and started with episode 1, season 1.

First thing I see is Andrew Lincoln in a sheriff's outfit.  I loved Lincoln in the movie Love Actually, so I was off to a good start. Next I see dead bodies and Lincoln, playing Rick Grimes, shoot a girl zombie in the head. Okay...  not totally unexpected.

By the end of the episode, I was hiding my eyes and fighting back my lunch as both the living and the dead were butchered with glorious graphic gore and squishy sound.

I swore I'd never watch another ...

Later that evening, after some chores and writing, I sat down in front of the TV to watch something fun. Before I knew it, I was starting up episode 2 of The Walking Dead. It was like the remote had a mind of its own. Forces beyond my control were pushing me closer to the zombies. I was helpless. A lamb to the slaughter.

By 1 am - yes, 1 am - I had watched the entire season 1 of the show. At some point, I had a quick bite of dinner and was truly thankful that I eat mostly vegan, because The Walking Dead will make a vegetarian/vegan out of anyone.

I swore that on Sunday I would NOT watch the damn show. I even did a pinkie swear with myself. There would be NO ZOMBIES on Sunday. As usual, I had coffee and breakfast while watching Face The Nation. After, I went to my computer to write. It was a normal Sunday in my world.

Until ...

"Sue Ann," the zombies called from the living room.

"Sue Ann, we're right here, waiting for you."

"Just pick up the clicker. You know you want to."

Yes, I know that zombies don't talk, but they did to me. If I'm lying, I'm dying... (By the way, that's just a figure of speech. Don't go getting all excited and put a bullet in my brain just yet.)

I held firm and kept plugging away at my manuscript for the 11th book in my Odelia Grey series, due in just a few weeks. I had work to do, and some laundry.

What's really disturbing is this looks like B!

"Sue Ann," I heard again in raspy zombie grunts. "Come watch us or we'll eat your cat."

HUH?! 

Being somewhat of a zombie novice, I wasn't sure if that meant B would become a zombie too. Would I be sharing my home and bed with a zombie cat?

Hours later, I finally tore myself away from the TV, just 2 episodes away from the end of season 2. B was safe and sound, snoring next to me on the couch, without a clue about how close she'd come to becoming undead herself.

So far this week, I've managed to stave off my craving for the show. B's not in danger though, because I promised the zombies a date this weekend.

I hope that damn cat knows the sacrifices I'm making for her.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Are We There Yet?

I'm on another deadline. So what else is new, right? This is my last one for a while but getting there feels like a long trip down a dry and dusty road.

I'm not having trouble with the story. I know exactly where I need to go and I like the story. It's just that I've been working on the same scene for four days now and I want it to be OVER. I want to move on to the next scene. More importantly, I want to be heading closer manuscript-wise to hitting my deadline.

The thing is, it's a very important scene that started with a lot of action but also contains a lot of information that needs to be given to the reader and the protagonist without sounding like a data dump.

What's a data dump, you ask?

In my paralegal world, data dump means when the other side of a deal inundates you with boxes and boxes of documents needed to be reviewed for due diligence. At least in the not so far off past it was boxes and boxes. Now everything is digitally stored in an online data room. Still, unless the files that have been uploaded by the other side have been properly filed and titled, it's still a data dump that can take hours of valuable time to sort through to determine what's important and what isn't, and what needs to be downloaded and reviewed.

In the writing world a data dump is when an author stuffs a lot of important information into a scene to make sure it gets transmitted to the reader. It can be back story, clues, or character information. Somehow all that information has to be relayed in a smooth and entertaining way so that the reader can't tell it's a data dump. It has to be woven into the dialogue or story seamlessly, naturally, so that the reader can consider it without feeling burdened or bored.

Putting the information on the page isn't what is taking me so long. It's putting it on the page in a such a way that the reader can't tell it's a data dump.

And that is the issue I've been dealing with ... for four long writing sessions. And there were be several more of these along the way. [insert groan here]

Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be out of this scene and on to the next action in the book. I've got some pretty fun stuff coming up and I really want to get to it. Like I said, a long dusty trip, but at the end is the reward of a fun destination.  Kind of like fighting So Cal traffic to get to Disneyland.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Mean and Nasty ... The New Normal?

The new normal???
Recently someone said something really nasty and accusatory to me. It made me angry, especially because it was in a supposedly professional setting and I wasn't able to defend myself. When I told a couple of people, the response was dutifully sympathetic, but all shrugged it off with "you know how they are" or "they do that to everyone."

WTF!

So that makes it okay?

Isn't that how bullies flourish?

Isn't that turning a blind eye to and/or rewarding bad behavior?

And the thing is, this is happening more and more in my daily experiences. Not necessarily always aimed at me, but if not, I certainly witness it a lot more.

Donald Trump spouts uncivilized, hateful attacks almost hourly and it's splashed all over the media, no matter where: TV, Internet, social.  He and his poison are everywhere, but instead of turning away, people are flocking to him. But this isn't about The Donald. He's just a glaring example of how far we've fallen in our responsibility as human beings to be kind and civilized to one another.

Joan Rivers and comedians like her turned personal attacks into entertainment and big bucks.  But what is funny on stage, is not so funny when those attacks become part of  everyday life slung like poisoned arrows or a scatter shot of lethal bullets at everyday people just going about their business.

I've stopped watching certain TV shows because they are just too mean spirited, especially a lot of sitcoms. Yet shows like the Real Wives of [fill in blank], and other shows where people tune in hoping to see snarling cat fights, flourish.

Whatever happened to making the world a better place?  When did that train not only leave the station but derail into a fiery ball of self-hatred that engulfs everyone in its path? Because I truly believe that people who attack others are really in truth attacking the things they hate in themselves, but are too dumb or self-absorbed to realize it.

You know the saying: "If Momma ain't happy, nobody's happy." There's a whole lot of people out there living that dream these days. If they aren't happy, everyone in their path is going down with them.

To that I say 

BULL SHIT!

and

TAKE YOUR MEDS!


Because the rest of us just want to get on with our lives 
and make the world a better place if we can.



Friday, March 04, 2016

A Day of Double Fun

Today is a two-fer of good things:


1. I turned in THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW to my publisher. This book will be released December 2016 and is the 9th book in my very popular Ghost of Granny Apples series.  It is available for preorder in both print and e-book.

2. Today I visit my friends over at Criminal Minds where I'm talking about what book(s) inspired me to be a writer.

So, come on over to Criminal Minds and say hello, and learn why it Takes A Village ... of Books to make a writer.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Incredible Edible ... Aquafaba?!

I'm putting on my half-assed vegan hat today to talk about eggs, or rather life without them. For various reasons a lot of people cannot eat eggs. They might be vegan, or allergic, or have to watch their cholesterol.

Like my half-assed vegan status, I'm half-assed off eggs. Once in a while I will order them when I'm out for breakfast, but I have cut my egg consumption down to almost nothing. It's kind of like what happened when I started cutting back on eating meat, I started losing my taste for it. And with a diary allergy, I have to watch how they are prepared.

Tofu quiche with hash brown crust
There are lots of premade egg substitutes out there, but did you know you already have egg replacements in your pantry? It's true. Applesauce, banana, and cornstarch can all be used to replace eggs in cooking depending on the recipe.

Looking for an egg-free scramble or omelet,? Look no further than tofu. I make a lot of tofu based scrambles, frittatas and quiches. All yummy and pretty much identical in taste to the egg-made counterparts. And tofu based dishes like this reheat better than the same items made with eggs.

The trick with a lot of these tofu "egg" dishes is to use some turmeric, which makes it look like eggs. After all, we eat with our eyes first. Next is to season it well. Some tofu scrambles have you make a sauce which you then stir into the cooked veggies and tofu for seasoning, and some have you blend the tofu and seasonings in a blender until its a chunky batter, then cook it. I've done both and both work. It depends on what your making. If I'm just looking to make a scramble, I prefer adding the sauce separately near the end of cooking. The Internet is filled with tofu based traditional egg dishes.

As far as baking goes, most vegans use flax eggs in place of real eggs. A flax egg is 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed combined with 3 tablespoons of water. Stir well and let rest for 5-15 minutes until it becomes a sticky egg-like consistency. You can also do this with ground chia seeds.

But if you're like me, you don't have ground flax or chia seeds hanging around. I might if I baked more, but I don't. And this brings us to the fun portion of this program:

The Amazing Aquafaba!

I'll bet you think this is some kind of fancy prepackaged egg substitute, 

Bzzzz - Wrong!

Aquafaba is something that is sweeping vegan baking and it's something most of us have right in our pantry. You see, aquafaba is just a fancy word for garbanzo/chickpea juice or liquid. That's right, the stuff you pour down the drain when you open a can of garbanzo beans!  Trust me, a lot of vegans and half-assed vegans are now saving that stuff and using it in baking. You can even freeze it.

I use a lot of garbanzo beans. It's one of my favorite proteins in my vegan cooking and there's almost nothing you can't do with or to them, but even I was surprised when I learned this.

Generally, 3 tablespoons of aquafaba replaces 1 egg. If the liquid from canned garbanzo beans seems too watery, it can be reduced down slightly until it is a little thicker and the consistency of a raw egg. I reduce mine down a little, cool it, then freeze it for later use.

I have used aquafaba as an egg replacement in pancakes and baked goods with great success. It's not something you can scramble up like real eggs or tofu, but it has a gazillion uses. And you can't even taste it in these recipes.
  • Raw: Fluffs, whips, nice creams, and drink and pie toppings
  • Baked: Meringues, macaroons, and pavlovas
  • Confectionery: nougat, marshmallows, fudge and icing
  • Savory: cakes, waffles, cookies, mayo, burgers, cheese, butter, breads, etc
Garbanzo juice - who knew?!

Meringue made with aquafaba
The official aquafaba site FAQ

And there are a couple of groups on Facebook where you can learn more:
Vegan Meringue (vegan use/discussion only)
Aquafaba Everything

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Serial Not Cereal

I confess I'm a serial writer, as opposed to a serial killer, which I might be too, considering how many bodies I've killed to date between the pages of books. I once started adding up all the bodies trailing behind my computer keyboard, but as the numbers piled up and headed toward triple digits, I became increasingly alarmed.

That many? Really? Who knew?!

But when it comes to writing stories, with or without bodies, I am a serial writer. I love writing stories about characters that don't end at the end of a book, but continue over many books, with the characters changing, developing, and growing as they face the same challenges we all face in our daily lives. Minus the string of dead bodies, of course. I also love to read serial fiction.

When I first started writing my Odelia Grey mysteries, I knew it it had potential to be a long series, if given a chance. I saw the arc of Odelia's life spanning lots of pages and time, and was very fortunate that my publisher, Midnight Ink, saw that too and purchased twelve books in the series. I'm currently writing RHYTHM & CLUES, the 11th book. It has been a very long, bumpy road for both Odelia and me.

When my Ghost of Granny Apples series began, I never saw it as going beyond three books. Really I didn't. But here I am now writing the 9th! Once THE GHOSTS OF MISTY HOLLOW is done, I will have penned six full-length novels and three novellas in this series. Again, who knew?!

2nd in series Available Here!
So when I started writing the Winnie Wilde romance novellas under the pen name of Meg Chambers, it was no surprise to me that I saw Winnie's journey of self-discovery extending over a series of short fiction instead of containing it all in one long book.

I love writing these short digital novellas filled with humor, sexy adventure, and family drama. Somewhere between a short story and a novel, they give me, the author, time to create a full story, condensed and distilled into a hundred pages or so, and leave the reader wanting more. While some earlier reviewers weren't sure about my use of this format, I think it's a perfect fit. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to write, or read, 350 pages of bed hopping, but this way each short novel can focus on another segment of Winnie's life, keeping on hand a core group of supporting characters, as in my mysteries series, while allowing other characters to come and go within just one book.

And sometimes the reverse happens. Years ago I started a series of short stories, the Holidays From Hell series, in which I played out a dysfunctional family's crisis against the backdrop of holidays. There are currently four short stories in this series available on Amazon. I stopped writing them a couple of years because as I developed the story of the Bowen family, especially Zelda Bowen, I realized that this story arc should be taking place within the pages of a full novel. Unfortunately, with all my other writing obligations, it has taken me quite a while to finish this book, but it is about 3/4 done and I hope to finish it up by the end of 2016. The working title is STUCK IN THE MIDDLE.  So stay tuned on the progress of that book.

But back to Winnie. A week ago the 2nd novella in this series, WILDE WOMEN, was released. The plan is to have the 3rd, WILDE AT HEART, out later this year, followed by WILDE THYME after that. I have notes on at least six books, and already can see how the series will end. Hopefully readers will be biting at the bit for each one.

After Winnie, my alter ego Meg Chambers has another romance series up her sleeve. One with a lot more possibilities. So stay tuned!

But just as someone cannot live off cereal all the time, neither can a writer live off of serials. Although born of a series, STUCK IN THE MIDDLE will be a stand alone novel, and I'm currently jotting down notes on a stand alone thriller. I also have several stand alone short stories available on Amazon for just 99 cents, and another partially completed.

Reading is a lot like eating. Sometimes we need a snack, sometimes we need a quick soup and sandwich, and sometimes we need a three course dinner.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Straight Outta The News


This weekend I watched the movie Straight Outta Compton. I'd been wanting to see this movie since it came out. I was NOT disappointed. I was glued to my screen. The acting was excellent. The story compelling. And it was real.

Straight Outta Compton chronicles the rise of rap, specifically the group N.W.A. and the music icons that came out of it, such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Easy-E. It starts in the late eighties. Rap at that time was controversial on its own, but N.W.A. took it to new heights of performance and newsworthiness as their songs talked about life in the hood, poverty, and police brutality. It was dangerous music, in that it incited people to take a stand. And in this fat old white lady's opinion, it was poetry at its finest.

Yes, the music of N.W.A. was/is poetry. I went back and played some of the songs over after the movie ended.  The words and emotions are raw and real. It was the poetry of people living with injustice and surrounded by crime, and looking for a way out.

Up front, I'm not a big rap fan, although I do like and have bought some over the years. But I am a music bio-pic lover. I love knowing the stories behind the music and music makers, Hollywood-ized or not. Some of my favorites include:

Walk the Line (Johnny Cash)
What's Love Got To Do With It (Tina Turner)
8 Mile (Eminem)
Ray (Ray Charles)

These songwriters and musicians all faced their own demons and hardships as they struggled to do what they love. Just as many writers like myself do the same. Behind almost every artistic endeavor is a rawness and personal experience just waiting to bust out. When writers write words, whether books, poetry or songs, they are "bleeding on the page." Even a painting is someone's life on a canvas.

But back to Straight Outta Compton. I was in my late thirties when N.W.A was hitting big on the charts. I remember well the controversy over their music. It was a volatile time for Los Angeles that included the Rodney King beating and riots that followed. All over the nation, N.W.A. was demonized by main stream America for their music.

BTW - one of my favorite scenes/lines from the movie was when N.W.A. was watching a group of people destroying their albums.

Ice Cube: [watching a crowd destroy their records] Ain't that some shit? Speak a little truth and people lose their minds.

Eazy-E: See, the truth is, they can do whatever they want with them. They bought them motherfuckers.

Main stream America is pretty fickle and often far from open minded about things they don't understand or want to see. Often during the movie I was reminded of a big song from a monster hit musical. Here are the words from Do You Hear The People Sing, from Les Miserables, a musical that main stream America flocked to in record numbers, the same people who thirty years ago were burning and destroying N.W.A.'s records:

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes.

Those are pretty stirring words, but wrapping them in a big glitzy musical production about the French Revolution, sung predominately by white people, and charging a fortune for reserved orchestra seats made them acceptable. If N.W.A. had penned these words, they would have been condemned.

Finally, one of the most heartbreaking things for me about viewing Straight Outta Compton was realizing that while these events took place in the late eighties and early nineties, not much has changed in our society in thirty years.



SHAME ON US!