3.29.2012

#ThursYumYum - Sweet Potato Pie

1/3 C butter softened
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 C evaporated milk
2 C cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
9" unbaked pie shell

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix until well blended. Add milk, sweet potatoes, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Mix well. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake 35-40 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

3.28.2012

Review of The House on Tradd Street

The House on Tradd Street (Tradd Street, #1)The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first in a series of books. The main character, Melanie Middleton, sees ghosts and doesn't want anyone to know it. In fact, she's been denying her gift for years. That's why she hates old houses and antiques. So inheriting an old house South of Broad in Charleston, SC, filled with ghosts is not on her things-to-do-before-I-die list.

When I first started reading this book, I felt pretty certain I would give it two or three stars. The main character's personality is not pleasing in the least. She's whiney, immature, and prickly. I think perhaps my aversion to Melanie comes from her repeated insistence that she hates old houses. She tells this to anyone who will listen over and over again. After the first couple of mentions, I got the hint. It took awhile longer for Melanie to let the reader know WHY she hates old houses. As the reader, I wouldn't have minded knowing this sooner, since Melanie knew it from before the beginning of the book. I'm not opposed to a less than likable heroine, except when it comes to romance. And this book definitely can be classified in a subgenre of romance.

Ms. Middleton is pursued by two men, Jack and Marc. It doesn't take long for the reader to realize that Marc is not a very nice guy and his intentions are not honest. On the contrary, Jack, although not always honest, at least means well and is truly attracted to Melanie (who knows why?). Melanie's determination to date Marc long after the reader knows she shouldn't is not credible. Jack details Marc's questionable business dealings and shady history to her, yet she still dates Marc even while she imagines it's Jack she's kissing! Her reason for this is thin. I won't spoil it by detailing why. This makes me think Melanie isn't very bright. I like heroines to have a modicum of common sense. How else is the heroine going to overcome her problems otherwise?

This book suffered from the need for a better edit. The text had so many typos, omitted words, and misspellings that it was distracting. I had a hard time getting past the first page. The word house was used seven times in the first seven sentences. Further into the chapter the word room was repeated several times in a close space. The redundancy interrupted the flow of the chapter. The pacing of the first few chapters read very choppy.

So why did I give the book four stars? The premise and the plot line were interesting. Once I got past the earlier chapters and got into the story, the pace picked up and smoothed out. By the time I was half-way through the book, I was in love with Jack and wanted desperately for Melanie to see he was the guy for her. Call me a hopeless romantic. The mystery surrounding the house Melanie inherited was unraveled at a pleasing rate. The suspense kept me turning the pages.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. I'll be checking out the next book in this series.

View all my reviews

#MyPOV - 0002 - Lake near Port Angeles, WA


This lake near Port Angeles, WA inspired the setting for my current WIP.

3.27.2012

In the Moment


watching her
caught in the moment
oblivious
a transforming smile
rising up from the
depths of her soul
bubbling over
real joy gurgling from
a deep well
spring of living water
laughter, refreshing and pure
flowing freely
covering those around her
caught in the moment
of watching her
share her joy
in the moment
Read more Theme Thursday at http://www.theme-thursday.com/
.

3.26.2012

The Long Journey to Publication, Part III


If you missed last week’s installment, you can find it at this link.

Okay, by now, it was December 2008, and I was beginning to get a wee bit discouraged. This writing thing wasn’t as easy as it looked. Still I had the urge to write, so I continued to churn out manuscripts. My next series was five books set in New Orleans. There followed two books set in South Carolina and a four book series set in Arkansas. Yes, there is a pattern. I can’t let go of my characters. I have to write more so I can find out what happens to them next.

Meanwhile, I hadn’t given up on the Colorado series. What I needed was an agent. Yeah, that would get me in the door of a major publisher. Right? I edited my manuscripts, fine-tuned my query letter, and received rejection after rejection without explanation. No, the agents didn’t have plenty to say. Rejection can be so…polite.

Lesson #4. Rejections do not vary considerably among agents. There is a standard format for politely rejecting your baby.

The two that follow are NOT the norm:

The best rejection I’ve ever gotten from an agent: Thank you for your query. While your project certainly has merit, I'm just not wild enough about the concept to ask to see more. As I'm sure you know, it's important that your agent be totally excited by/committed to /passionate about your material, and I'm sorry to say that didn't happen here. But, opinions vary considerably in this business, and mine is just one. I'm sure you'll find others who feel differently. I hope so!

The worst rejection I’ve ever gotten from an agent: Pass but may God bless.

I love that last one. Her reply came not even an hour after I e-mailed my query.

Publication with a major house requires going through a very small agent representation funnel. Your story might have the potential to be a best seller and then be made into a major motion picture, but if you can’t get an agent excited about the premise, well…enough said.

3.25.2012

Author, Author Interview

Today I'm being interviewed over at Krista Ames' blog. Please stop by and find out a bit more about me and my pending April release. You can find the interview at A Passion for Romance.

3.23.2012

Some Friday Stuff About Me #4

Each week, Hilary lists four statements with a blank for you to fill in on your own blogs. If you want to join the fun and come up with four fill in’s of your own, please email them to her at feelingbeachie@gmail.com. If she uses them, she will add you as co-host to the hop! This week’s co-host is Nani from The Chronicles of Nani. She came up with the last two statements.
She would LOVE it if you could please help her spread the word about this hop…. So, please tweet, FaceBook share, and add the linky to your post…

This week’s statements:

1. I love _Starbucks coffee frappuccinos__ when I need a pick me up.

2. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t _resist Snickers bars. (Well, true confessions time...I don't try to resist them.)

3. _Hugging both of my children at the same time______ makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

4. I can’t resist a sale on __shoes. Duh!______.

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3.22.2012

#ThursYumYum - Cheesy Garlic Grits

4 C water, salted
1 C grits
1 stick butter, sliced in pieces
1/4 tsp garlic powder
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco
1 6oz. garlic cheese roll
1 C grated cheese (I prefer Colby/Jack)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 short cup of warm milk

Put grits in boiling water for 3 mins. Add butter, garlic powder, Worcestershire and Tabasco, garlic cheese, and grated cheese. Boil on medium heat until cheese melts, stirring constantly.

Put egg in measuring cup, add warm milk to make 1 C. Add to cheese and grits mix. Pour into greased, shallow casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.

If you would like to contribute a favorite local recipe as a guest post, please let me know at dmoncrief161@att.net.

3.19.2012

The Long Journey to Publication, Part II


If you missed last week's installment, here's the link.

With much excitement, I sent my first query letter to a publisher. The publisher was kind enough to give me feedback, something I’ve come to understand is out of the norm, and he had plenty to say.

Lesson #2. Don’t imagine you know all there is to know about writing simply because you’ve read a kajillion books. The publisher gave me some great advice. He suggested attending a writer’s conference so I might learn more about the craft of writing. So I did. There I was introduced to numerous useful resources that help the writer hone her writing skills. Most importantly, I discovered the concepts of head hopping and fish heading. Two things of which I was seriously guilty in my manuscripts.

Head hopping: Switching between different points of view within a scene.

Fish heading: Dumping the back story in the first chapter (or prologue).

With renewed energy, I focused on rewriting my manuscripts, all four of them, based on these new tools in my arsenal. Satisfied that I had mastered point of view and chopped all the fish heads off my manuscripts, I sent a query for the first book in the series to a publisher of romance novels. The premise was intriguing enough the publisher wanted to see a full manuscript. Imagine me happy dancing. Then, my bubble burst. The publisher had plenty to say.

Lesson #3. Don’t break the scene and hop between the heroine’s point of view and the hero’s point of view at the moment he/she divulges their deepest, darkest secret, their feelings, or their fear of their past. And don’t do this so many times it becomes distracting. This makes the flow of the story read very, very choppy. Breaking the scene in the middle of dialogue so the writer can show multiple points of view is not a “new and innovative writing technique.” It irritates the reader, especially if the reader is an acquisitions editor.

Corollary to this lesson: Unpublished writers are not allowed to break or bend The Unbendable, Unbreakable Writing Rules For First Time Authors. Once you’ve had a minimum of four best selling novels on the hallowed New York list, you can do what you want as long as it sells.

3.18.2012

The Wait




Wanted a child to hold in my arms
A baby boy, a baby girl
No, the gender mattered not
Mother's day came and went
Miracle denied
for many years
My girl was
worth the
wait

Read more One Single Impression at



3.17.2012

#SatRehash - Favorite Posts WE03-17-12


Over the past few weeks, I've made some wonderful new blogging/twitter/triberr friends. I wanted to share a few of my favorite blog posts from around the blogosphere this week.

Kimberly T Matthew @KimberlysTips


This is a very amusing blog post about Kimberly's love/hate relationship with junk food. I think a lot of us, especially women, have cheated with junk food. She's promised to renew her relationship with real food. I think I will, too.


Greta van der Rol @GretavdR


Greta blogs about the difficulty writers sometimes have when rereading a favorite book after taking writing classes and participating in critique groups. Is writing in the omniscient point of view really so bad? If you are a writer, can you read a book with obvious head hopping and not cringe?


Shay Fabbro @ShayFabbro


Shay loves the new Star Trek movie, and so do I.  As a unapologetic Trekkie, I was prepared to dislike the new Star Trek, but I loved it! I can't wait for the sequel. And I have a crush on Chris Pine.


Hilary @feelingbeachie


I have new friend. This week I discovered Hilary and I have a lot in common. She has a fabulous blog hop that she hosts every Friday. Please check it out. Every week she posts four questions and invites hoppers to answer them. It's a great way to get to know other bloggers.

That's this week's Saturday Rehash. See you around the blogosphere!

3.16.2012

Some Friday Stuff About Me #3


Each week, Feeling Beachie lists four statements with a blank for you to fill in on your own blogs. If you want to join the fun and come up with four fill in’s of your own, please email them to feelingbeachie@gmail.com. If she uses them, she will add you as co-host to the hop! This week’s co-host is Susi from Boca Frau. She came up with the last two statements. She could really use co-hosts, so please send some statements her way….
She would LOVE it if you could please help her spread the word about this hop…. So, please tweet, FaceBook share, and add the linky to your post…

This week’s statements:

1. I get my best ideas__when I least expect it___

2. When I am _sleepy__ I _am very grouchy. Must have coffee to resemble a human.__

3. When I have a cold, I like to__sleep. (Do you see a pattern here?)___

4. Watching a __progress bar on a computer download__ move, can be ___hypnotic___.



3.15.2012

#ThursYumYum - Seafood Gumbo

Okay, I started this series on Fridays, but because of scheduling, I'm going to move it to Thursdays. Here is this week's recipe.

Medium brown roux
2 med onions, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 bell peppers, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
3 to 4 Tbsp Creole seasoning
1 lb frozen okra
1 1/2 tsp file powder
2 C chicken broth
2 C water
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb crabmeat or fresh fish fillets
Hot cooked rice

I always start this off with a nice thick, medium brown roux. To make a roux, heat 1/2 C cooking oil. Gradually add 1/2 C flour. Stir on low heat until mixture is the color of coffee with light cream. This might take 15 to 30 mins. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a large stock pot over medium to low heat, saute onions, celery, and peppers in oil about 15 - 20 mins until vegetables are tender but not too mushy. Add roux, diced tomatoes, and creole seasoning. Cook on medium to low heat about 10 mins.

Add okra and file powder, cook about 5 mins. Add chicken broth, water, shrimp, and crabmeat or fish. Simmer 15 to 20 mins or until seafood is cooked through.

Serve over hot cooked rice. Add more file powder to taste.

To get that slimy sheen off the okra before adding to mix, stir fry okra in a hot, dry skillet, stirring constantly. Be careful not to burn the okra!

If you would like to guest post your favorite local recipe, please let me know. dmoncrief161@att.net



3.13.2012

Inspiration, Where Are You?

In search of that elusive thing called inspiration. What sparks the imagination? Sometimes a tidbit of conversation catches my attention and starts the what ifs. Once, a comment on a news report started a plot line spinning in my head. Usually, I find it in the most obscure places, like a mountain road in Arkansas. I took a picture of an abandoned house there and a book jumped out of the scene. Occasionally, I resort to a writing prompt.


My family has ceased asking me about my odd looks.


"Are you mad, Momma?"
"No, I'm writing in my head."


"Honey, what are you smiling about?"
"Oh, just something I'm writing in my head."


"Mom, are you listening?"
"Sorry, son, I'm writing in my head."


Now...


"Are you writing in your head again?"


So here's my creative timeline...
Inspiration
Rumination
Typing chapter one
Inspiration
Rumination
Typing chapter two
Editing
Rumination
Typing chapter three
Editing chapter one
Editing chapter two
Typing chapter four
Editing chapter one
Editing...


You get the picture. I woke up this morning with a new plot line spinning in my head. My family will think I'm a zombie again!


So what sparks your imagination?



3.12.2012

The Long Journey to Publication, Part I

Good morning, blogosphere. This is the first in a series I'll post on Monday mornings. I'll be sharing a few of the lessons I've learned on my way to publication. I'd love to hear some of your stories as well. If you have something you'd like to share, let me know. I am open to blogging guest posts. So here goes...



Confessions of a romance addict. When I was in high school, my best friend and I devoured Harlequins. So in a fit of inspiration, I decided I could write romance. My first attempt was seventeen pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last Harlequin I’d read. Since then my love for romance hasn’t diminished. Even when I read other genres, I really appreciate a good romantic sub-plot.

I’ve always had a vivid imagination. Daydreaming is my thing. I’ve wondered often what it would be like to live a different life in a different place with different people. My daydreaming made me feel guilty until I got the brilliant idea to write it instead of dream it.

So in the spring of 2005, I hunkered over my old IBM desktop and started writing. My first manuscript was the story of a has-been country singer and a brand new best selling author. I had an enormous crush on my hero. Jack was based on a real person, and I wrote him maybe a little too real. And who couldn’t see me in my heroine Sara? After all, what did I want to become? I got my first dose of constructive criticism when I gave the finished manuscript to my mother-in-law to read. As a former editor with a magazine and a voracious reader of romance, she had plenty to say.

Lesson #1. If you’re going to make your heroine even remotely resemble yourself, don’t write her doing anything spiteful, selfish, or just plain uncool. Readers of romance need to like the heroine, especially if the reader is your mother-in-law.

So with that vital lesson behind me, I tossed that manuscript into the dustbin of my hard drive and set out to create a heroine that didn’t resemble me in the least. My next manuscript had a great group of characters, the nucleus of an ensemble cast. I was so enamored with these characters I wrote a four book series set in Colorado. My mother-in-law liked these characters much better than Jack and Sara.

Do you remember your first manuscript? Who were the main characters? What lesson did you learn from your first experience with the world of publishing?

3.11.2012

Libation of Sorrow



Accident or purpose
Mars the heart
Trouble bunches around ankles
Pushed down the frame
With insistent charged fingers
Full of plenty
Confused and torn
Ask the question
What was sacrificed
A toll was taken
Handle the consequences
Settle for the result
Imbibe libation of sorrow




See more Sunday Whirl at www.sundaywhirl.wordpress.com

3.10.2012

Review of Bloodroot

BloodrootBloodroot by Amy Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, my, what can I say about Bloodroot? I have so many impressions, and the sad thing is they seem to be disconnected and disjointed. Maybe that’s the best way to describe Amy Greene’s book. In a somewhat patched together manner, the book follows the life of Myra (Lamb) Mayes Odom. Even her name presents an inconsistency. Her father’s name was Mayes but the characters called her Myra Lamb.

Myra is a wild child. The woods and the trees and the hills and the animals and the (fill in the blank) inhabit her spirit. Ms. Greene relates this aspect of Myra’s essence to the reader repeatedly. Myra was one with nature, a free spirit. I love great narrative descriptions of setting, especially natural scenery, but I think a good fifty percent or more of this book was descriptions of the natural surroundings. Perhaps Ms. Greene was trying to suggest the deep love for the land and the mountain. Okay, after the first few narrative descriptions, I got it. With very little dialogue, I felt like I had to wade through mountain streams and climb wooded hills to get to the plot of this story. It was like digging out the bloodroots for which the book and the mountain were named.

The book flip-flops between three generations of Lamb descendants--people in Myra’s life, told in first person with multiple points of view, and not in chronological order. The story begins with section one as told by Myra’s grandmother and Myra’s best friend, a boy who loves her with a deep abiding unrequited love. The story continues in section two told by Myra’s twins as they approach adulthood with no grounding in the finer nuances of living in a structured society. Section three backtracks in time and is told by Myra as she struggles with adjusting to life with a man whose violent nature finally overcomes his passionate love for her and then as she tries to hide her twins from his violent and vindictive family. And finally, the epilogue is told my Myra’s husband, years later after he’s been missing for nearly twenty years.

Myra’s grandmother suggests a curse was put on the Lamb family. And certainly, this family had more than its share of tragedy and dysfunction. The story is textured with the definition of poverty, ignorance, and double standards. Girls had few choices for the future and invariably married young. Men held their women under their thumb simply because they had the economic and physical power to do so. Unfortunately, poverty and ignorance often go hand in hand. Not until the fourth generation did anyone in the family have the means to overcome poverty.

Greene finishes the book from John Odom’s point of view. His explanations for his abusive behavior are rooted in the dysfunction in the Odom family. When Myra’s dysfunction and John’s dysfunction combined, the result was disastrous for everyone concerned. His life is a testimony to the truth that an abused child will often become an abuser, yet I still had a difficult time developing any sympathy for his character, despite the uneasy feeling that Greene wanted me to do so. Ending the story from his point of view left a bitter aftertaste.
I gave this a solid four stars. Despite the disjointed plot line and the repetitive narration, I couldn’t put this book down. I think because I wanted this family to overcome its past and find redemption in the triumph of surviving.


View all my reviews

3.09.2012

#FridayYumYum Tijuana Pie

This recipe came to me courtesy of my good friend, Maxine.


Tijuana Pie

2 lbs ground hamburger meat (cooked and drained, salt and pepper to taste)
2 can Pinto beans with jalapenos (undrained)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips
2 C Cheddar Cheese
2 C Mozzarella Cheese

Cook meat. Add canned ingredients. Cook until bubbly. Layer crushed tortilla chips on bottom of casserole (med size rectangular). Layer in the following order: Meat, cheese, meat, cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly. When serving, top with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream or guacamole.

Each Friday, I'm posting recipes with local flavor. If you'd like you and your recipe spotlighted here, e-mail me at dmoncrief161@att.net.

3.08.2012

Itchy Mind


IBloodroot by Amy Greene, Byrdie Lamb says, “The soles of my feet used to itch at night and Myrtle claimed it meant my feet would walk one day on foreign ground.” When I was young, my feet would itch like crazy. I didn’t know why then, but I’ve come to understand my allergies had a lot to do with it. Though as a metaphor, the thought works. I guess I’ve always had the itch to go places I’ve never been.

I’ve been on foreign soil three times in my life. My husband and I went to Ixtapa, Mexico on our honeymoon. That was many, many years ago. A hurricane blew through there a few years after we married and cracked the resort we stayed in right down the middle. I haven’t had the itch to go back there again.

Then, a few years later, we took a cruise. The only port of call was Nassau in the Bahamas. This should have been a nice, little duty-free adventure, but our timing was priceless as usual, and the good shops were closed for Good Friday. Funny, I’ve never had the urge to go back there either.

When I was just a little thing, I had a Viewmaster. It looked a lot like a pair of binoculars. There were slides that you pushed into a slot and a lever that turned the slide, so you could view different pictures through the eyeholes. My favorite slide was one of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State. Perhaps my second favorite was one of Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada. A few years ago, my family flew to the Pacific Northwest and then we took a ferry to Victoria. It was a dream come true, because I always wanted to see those scenes that were on my Viewmaster. I cried. Yeah, I want to go back to Mt. Rainier.

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live somewhere else with another life, different circumstances. My daydreams have been awesome. I guess that’s why I write, to get all that daydreaming about other places and other situations out of my system. Don’t get me wrong. I love my life, right where I’m at with the people I’m with. But writing gives me an outlet for my overactive imagination.

I think it’s no coincidence my first published story is set in Washington State. Snow White and the Seven Dogs is set in the heart of apple country near Yakima. Yeah, I went back there in my mind. Maybe it’s not itchy feet, but an itchy mind I have.

3.04.2012

The Agony of Defeat


The cliff wall called to Mike, just one more siren beckoning him in his search for release from the pain. It towered above him, immovable and implacable. If he could conquer that huge rock, he could conquer the terrible empty feeling Joy left behind. He drove the piton into the face, dropped the mallet, backed away, and accepted defeat.

Read more Sunday Scribblings at http://sundayscribblings.blogspot.com/
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