I’m Sad, I’m Sorry, I’m Tired … and I Heart Brownies

I’ve been feeling out of sorts today mainly because I acquired  another rejection slip today. A wonderful one: “I like your voice, the story elements, the plot BUT …” I know, I know, it’s all part of the process but rejection hurts, and if you’re anything like me chocolate helps. I’m thinking brownies today, and this is hands down the best brownie recipe I’ve ever tasted. I’ve made these twice for my husband. The first time he ate one he danced around the kitchen  a little. I’m not kidding. They are that good.

Without further delay, I present to you Knock You Naked Brownies from The Pioneer Woman:

1 stick of butter

1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup of evaporated milk

18.5 oz. box of German chocolate cake mix

1 cup of finely chopped pecans

60 caramel candies, unwrapped

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9×9 inch baking pan. Pour your heart and 1/3 cup evaporated milk into a bowl with the cake mix. Add melted butter and chopped pecans and mix together – it’s going to be very thick, kind of like the skin you are developing. Divide the dough in half and press it down into the bottom of the baking pan. Bake until slightly set, 8 to 10 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside, like your bitterness.

In a double boiler, combine the caramels and remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Stir occasionally until caramels are totally melted, like your resolve. Pour the mixture over the first half of the brownie mix in the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Next, on a clean surface or wax paper press the remaining half of dough into a square shape a bit smaller than the size of the pan. Carefully set the second layer of dough on top of the chocolate chips. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Cover the pan and refrigerate the brownies for a few hours to let them “set”. Or you can be like me and skip this step and start eating them as soon  as they are cool enough not to burn your tongue.

Ah yes, chocolate makes everything better.

brownies 4

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Social Media – Oh My!

To Friend.  Or Not To Friend.  thinkWhat a question!

Do you Tweet?  Am I your FB friend?  Are we LinkedIn?

Have you pinned to Pinterest? Did you snapped a photo to Instagram?

There are so many ways to connect and be seen. How do you choose?

And – even with smartphone technology, who really has the time for all this?

Besides that quefoodstion, I ask myself whether I really want to know what everyone else is having for dinner tonight?

Or, I wonder if “Sally” really meant to broadcast that snarky argument with her sister “Sue” to the entire UNIVERSE?

When is too much, just TOO MUCH?

Or when is ENOUGH, enough?

No offense, but I don’t want to see a photo of someone’s food, unless there’s a recipe attached to it.

Also, I really don’t want to know how much someone hates a particular political candidate.  Really?  We all got the hint 15 posts before the word “scumbag” was used.

But, what about the meaningful posts? You know, those updates to friends and family showing them you finally got up enough nerve to go parasailing on vacation.

Or gradgraduateuated with honors.

Or got married. bride

Then, there’s the inevitable business element -

Are you “friends” with your boss?  Have you ever gossiped about a work-related issues on social media?

Oh, and just how many of your wild party pix will potential employers see when they Google your name?

party

Yikes!

What if you are trying to start or grow a business?  The experts recommend that all of your social media consistently bear your “brand.”

Brand isn’t just a product line name anymore. It’s the whole marketing package of the people who make the product or deliver the service.charlie And it shows in every tiny byte of cyberspace you touch.

What’s your brand?  It’s hard to pin down, isn’t it!  I think I know what mine is or at least what it’s starting to look like.

Now the hard question – which social media tools (besides this blog, of course) am I really ready to embrace?  Which is your preferred social media tool?

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Filed under Blog, brand, Dreams, Facebook, Family, fiction, Fitness, Food, Goals, Inspiration, Motivation, Social Media, Twitter, Writing, Writing Workshops

Raising your Book

stork
So my last blog was on birthing a book. This blog is on the trials of raising your book. First, just let me say congratulations on getting that baby kicking and screaming out onto the paper. I know the labor pains of writing that book from beginning to end, was full of sweat and tears. But at last you have succeeded where so many others have failed. So now what?

Now you put everything you have left into raising your baby up to be the best possible book it can be, one you can be proud to send off into the world. Editing and revising your book is similar to raising your child well. Pay attention to every emotion, every action, and every reaction on the page. Make sure the words on the page are acting appropriately for the situation they find themselves in. It is exhausting and trying at times corralling your little one into behaving properly. There will be days when you throw your hands up in the air and say “I just can’t do this! Why won’t my characters do what it is supposed to do?” Take a deep breath and walk away if you have to. Trying to force the words or characters on the page at that point will do little more than lead to more difficulties down the road. Take that hot bubble bath, go for a walk, or take a drive. I don’t know if it is true for everyone, but I am always amazed at the ideas that crop up while driving. Similar to taking a drive with your child, it is always amazing the information that comes to light.

1066769-Cartoon-Bee-Pointing-Up-Poster-Art-Print    The various stages of childhood can be compared to the scenes and chapters in your book. Is the reader learning everything they need to about your characters and their background at the proper point in the book? It is possible to give to much information to soon or too late to make the lasting impact you are hoping for. Remember you would not have a talk about the birds and the bees with a four year old, but neither would you wait to talk contraception until your child is almost grown either. Choose your moments wisely and be sure to recheck and make sure it had the impression you were aiming for. If not have another go at it.

Treat your book as you would your child. As you would check to make sure your child is suitably dressed and clean before going out in public, do the same with your book. Have you layered in the setting? Have you cleaned up all the typos and spelling errors? All these things are imperative in sending you baby out into the world without you and making the best impression possible.

We all know there is more to raising a child then can be put on a single page. There is also more to raising your book to the point where it will stand out and make you proud and as with every parent, every writer has different ideas in how to reach that stage. But one of the best speakers I have heard on editing is Margie Lawson -   http://www.margielawson.com/

Please share your ideas or sites you have visited on the best way to raise your book to adulthood without losing your mind!

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Character Inspirations

About a month or so ago, right in the middle of some revisions from hell, I got stuck. I think what drove me crazy was the fact that I knew exactly what I needed to fix. I just didn’t know how to do it. Or anything I’d write sounded awful as I read it back, over and over, until I scrapped most of my new words and started again.

Then, while “researching” online as we all do, I came across Polyvore. That’s when I felt it. A flutter of excitement starting in my chest, spreading out until I couldn’t scroll through the options fast enough. The reason I became stuck in the first place was because I couldn’t figure out my heroine’s next step. On this website, I took a minute to revisit Alyssa. I guess it was kind of like filling out those character questionnaires before starting your story.

First Date - Alyssa and Max

Only this time, I woke up with my character in the morning. Decided how she might dress. How would she style her hair. What colours would she choose?

I know this all seems really superficial, but it’s not. For example, here’s a character sketch I created for Alyssa and Max’s first real date. Every choice I made helped me piece together Alyssa bit by bit.

Her blouse and camisole are sheer and sexy but at the same time relatively modest. No plunging necklines or skintight top for my heroine, she’s still a little unsure about letting him back into her life and she’s not too sure how this night will play out. Not to mention the cardigan in case she gets cold. Wouldn’t want to ask Max for his jacket in case she got cold.

So then I thought, “Hm. I can do this with all my characters, even the secondary ones.”

Next came Emma.Time to Make the Chocolates! - Emma Goes to WorkAnd then Elaine.

Missing You - Elaine

It’s surprising where inspiration hides from you sometimes. I hope you can always find yours.

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First Line Fun

I’d love to talk about first lines today. We’re often told that we need to grab the attention of the reader/editor/agent immediately. By the first line. Okay, that’s a lot of pressure, but at least by the first paragraph, right? First chapter? Ahem.

Let’s face it, unpublished authors have it a bit tougher. I read plenty of beautiful books by best selling authors that don’t start with earth shattering, what-the-hell-just-happened first lines. But, as luck would have it, unpublished authors have to step it up. Who said life was fair? It isn’t. Pull up your big girl panties and deal with it, right?

So I’m practicing on my first lines, and I’d love to share a sample with you today.

This is from my current WIP (and this is first draft so I’m amazed I’m sharing, but this is ALL I’m sharing):

“Emily Parker never had so much fun at a cemetery.”

Now, mind you, this isn’t a thriller or a mystery. In the next few lines that becomes clear, but I hope I’ve made you wonder why my heroine is having so much fun at a cemetery. Of course, if the rest of the paragraph or chapter falls flat then it won’t matter how much I tantalized you with the first line. So forgive me if I don’t share the rest with you just yet. It is suffering from “first draftitis”.

From my contemporary romance Loving the Enemy:

“Ivey, hand me that pencil. I’ve got an itch again.” Aunt Lucy squirmed and wriggled on her Italian leather couch.

There is a bit of disagreement on the topic of whether it is good practice to start off with dialogue, but this worked for me. I’ve seen dialogue openings work for other authors. Example? Shannon Stacey’s first line from Exclusively Yours: The Kowalskis from Carina Press.

I would now love to turn over the floor to your “first lines”. What is your favorite first line and why?

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Filed under Carina Press, fiction, Goals, Inspiration, Motivation, Romance, Writing

Life is Short….

Life is Short.  Make it Sweet!

My scheduled blog post for today was delayed due to endless interruptions and chronic over scheduling. Ironically, the topic I planned was about “fitting it all in.”  I was nearly ready to hit the publish button around lunch time, but thought I’d take one more look at my post after work today.

News of today’s tragedy in Boston hit moments after the explosions mid afternoon. As a fellow runner and wanna-be Boston qualifier, this hit me hard. I think of all the races I’ve run and the family members cheering me on as I cross the Finish Line.  It made me think of all those injured and killed today.  My heart aches for them and their loved ones.

A tongue-in-cheek post on juggling all that we choose to cram into daily life will rest for now.  Some things are more important. Today let’s all remember that life is short. Hug your loved ones. Pray for those who’ve lost.

And, don’t be afraid to go after your dreams, no matter what they are – whether it is running a marathon or writing a novel – or both.  This is what life is all about.

boston

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Filed under Dreams, Family, fiction, Fitness, Goals, Inspiration, Motivation, Music, Romance, Saturday Night Date Night, Travel, Writing

Birthing a Book

royalty-free-pregnancy-clipart-illustration-39042This is the first excerpt in a 3 blog series from the birth of your book to seeing it raised.

If you have ever thought that writing a book is a little like birthing a baby: well you’d be right.

A story starts as the germ of an idea in your head, just like the idea of having a baby. It’s exciting and scary and all you can think about. Then comes the big decision, you are going to do it. You are going to write that book. And just like when you’re pregnant you go out and buy every book on parenting you can get your hands on. ‘How to write a compelling story’, ‘The plot whisperer’, and ‘First draft in 30 days’. (Yeah like that last one’s gonna happen!)

Before long you are writing like a crazy person. Every bit of your energy gets sucked into producing a strong, healthy, bouncing, book: One that you have tremendous hopes and dreams for.

The first trimester flows without a hitch, and before you know it you have reached the midpoint and you’re thinking, ‘Hey I am golden. I can do this. No problem.’ But then you hit the third trimester, you should be in the home stretch right? Wrong. The growing pains start and doubts assail you. Soon you are having nightmares, day mares, and everything in between. What were you thinking? What on earth made you think for a moment you could give birth to a book that an editor would want?

The thing is when you’re actually pregnant, that baby is going to come regardless of how you worry and fret over being a good parent. But when you’re giving birth to a book these fears can stop you dead in your tracks. Don’t let the doubting vultures circling overhead take away your dream of having a beautiful book all your own. Sure it won’t be perfect and you’ll make mistakes, but don’t let that deprive you of giving birth to your baby. Because isn’t that how we all view our stories, as our babies?growing pains

No, yours won’t be exactly like anyone else’s, and that is what will make it special. It is a part of you after all. Treat writing your book like pregnancy. There will be good days when the words flow out and onto the paper with little or no effort at all. And there will be days you can’t seem to write a good sentence to save your life. Treat those days like you would when are pregnant and you wake up and have to roll your way out of bed and can no longer paint your toe nails. Push through it. Call a friend or a critique partner to help you get past this bump in the road.

Most of all, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Learn to love every stage of the process. After all, this is only the beginning. And this is the only time in your life you will ever write this particular book.dep_2147805-Cartoon-books-in-various-positions

Soon you will be hearing cheers and ‘Congratulations it’s a book!’ Who knows how many you could give birth to once you get through that first pregnancy.

Feel free to share your aches and pains of birthing your book. I am all ears.

 

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