"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Granola Helps Me Do My Job

I know it's a stretch, but hear me out. If not for granola, many (more) of my days would be wasted procrastinating by playing online and whatnot. We all have days when we simply can't focus. There's too much running through our minds; we're disorganized; we can't decide which job to tackle first. You know the drill. Heck, I'm procrastinating right now, just by writing this post. (Yes, it needs to get done, but I sh/could have waited until my editing work was finished for the day.)

Anyhow, most of the time, just by writing a to do list, I get a handle on my priorities and am able to rein in my overactive mind. But there are some days when "overwhelmed" doesn't even begin to describe it. Those are the days when I tell myself, "It's time to make granola."

It's not always granola. Sometimes it's whatever crock pot concotion I come up with when I realize the day is getting away from me, or I have too much to do in a short amount of time. You see, the crock pot becomes my timer, my count-down clock. It's a race to the finish. I know what I want to accomplish and I have an alarm that will go off when my day is done. No overtime; no excuses; no goofing off.

But granola is my secret weapon. When there's a batch of oats and nuts roasting in the slow cooker, I am forced to take breaks at certain intervals. I'm also forced to work in the living/dining room instead of at my desk. Why? Because the batch has to be stirred every thirty minutes, give or take, or it will burn. Just the change of scenery makes me more productive.

To make it easier, I work close to the kitchen. I get up when the alarm goes off, stretch my legs, stir the pot, reset the timer, then go back to work. I have yet to burn a batch. This gives me a quick stretch break, and gives my brain a rest for a minute or two. My recovery time is minimal because this practice does not afford me the opportunity to get caught up in a vacuum of social media.

Sure, an easy remedy would be to disconnect from the web altogether when I'm working, but I need access to online resources such as style guides, dictionaries, and various other searchable tools that allow me to verify grammar rules and research facts.

The granola timer also helps on days when there are household chores to do in addition to work. Yesterday, I edited about seventy pages, washed dishes (twice), dished out dinner for three (msg-free lo mein), prepped today's lunch, made three quarts of chicken stock, AND cooked up a big batch of Almond Joy-type granola (just enough chocolate chips to add some sweet, almonds, and a ton of coconut). Will you hate me if I mention I went to bed with a clean kitchen and did not work a minute past 6:00 p.m.?

Of course, now it's getting late and I think I'm going to have to throw some ingredients into the slow cooker just so I can feel I've accomplished more than a blog post today.


Happy Crock Potting!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pinterest Has Me Cooking Again!

Okay, truth be told, I never stopped. I just didn't have the time for posting about it. Some months, it's difficult enough for me to maintain my weekly schedule, let alone trying to post semi-weekly. Anyhow, I chose to take over Sunday's post for Pinterest recipes this week because the two I made this week were yummilicious and I had to share.

I'm going to begin with dessert since I make this one first, and well, dessert . . .



I really hope the blogger doesn't mind me borrowing her picture because this one didn't last long enough to take one. (I think that's a theme around here.) It was outstanding, and my roommates absolutely loved it. I, however, think it needed more oats, so I'll probably double the oats the next time I make it. Still, simple, delish, and by putting it together before dinner, I could throw it into the oven to bake while we ate. Perfect timing never tasted so good.


This is another with no picture. Sorry gang, but yesterday morning, when I made it for dinner, I couldn't predict I'd be out of the house when the hordes descended upon the slow cooker.

I have to admit, I took a few liberties with this one. First, it desperately needed pepper, so I added some at the end. Cooking pepper makes the flavor expand and you run the risk of making a dish too spicy, especially in the crock pot. Second, I used homemade chicken stock that I had in the freezer. It was left over from another Pinterest recipe that I will probably share my thoughts on at a later date.

But here's the kicker: By the time I got home, it was GONE! I walked into the kitchen around 2:00 a.m. to find nothing left of my chicken and dumplings but the broth. So I ladeled some into a mug and had an early morning snack. It was excellent.

Later, I found out the one of my roomies was wise enough to fill a dish and tuck it away so I could taste the fruits of my labor. It was even better when I had it for lunch this afternoon. And the rest of the leftover broth? We've been taking turns heating it up in mugs to stave off this unseasonably chilly weather.

So there you go, two tested Pinterest recipes that are definitely worth a try.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm Polish, of Course I Like Cabbage!

Every time I see cabbage on sale at the grocery store, I fondly remember my grandmother who slaved over a hot stove every day to feed a horde of family members. Since that side of my family was Polish, and descended from farmers, the food was simple.

Babcie's cooking rarely utilized complex seasoning and layers of flavor. It was plain, peasant food prepared with few ingredients. Often fruits and vegetables had been picked from my grandfather's garden earlier that day and that freshness made all the difference. When produce is that fresh, it doesn't need layers. This is the best time of year to raid your own garden, or head to the local farm stand. You won't regret it.

This was a staple in my grandmother's kitchen, but is not exclusively Eastern European. If you're Irish, you've probably had a similar dish.


Just Cabbage

1 stick of butter (real butter, not that processed oil crap)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped into chunks
4 ounces of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium to large head of cabbage, chopped into chunks (discard harder parts of the core)
salt and pepper

Melt butter over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients
Add garlic and onions and heat until the onions begin to get translucent
Add cabbage and mushrooms and heat, uncovered, stirring about every 10 minutes
Allow to cook over medium heat until the mushrooms and cabbage have cooked down and the cabbage is al dente
Taste and season throughout cooking time, but go easy on the pepper as it expands the longer you heat it

Notes:
The prep time of this dish is only about 15 minutes, but it takes about an hour to cook.
Babcie would sometimes slice kielbasa (Polish sausage) and throw it in to cook with the cabbage

Admittedly, this dish isn't for everyone, but I made it for friends a couple of weeks ago and there weren't any leftovers to take pictures of. 

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

He's at It Again!

As my most prolific client (and very dear friend) Tony Healey releases the latest installment of his Far From Home series, he is also working on the next step in his newer series The Fallen Crown, among other things. Therefore, I've invited him back to talk a bit about writing in installments and his current projects.

He's also got a giveaway brewing, so read down for information on that.

I've had phenomenal success with my sci-fi adventure series, Far From Home. I always envisioned it spanning three series, told through a mixture of serial-style episodes and short novels. And thrilling as it was to start plotting the third series out, I realised I would now have time (and energy!) to write the fantasy series I'd daydreamed about for over ten years.

My first attempt at the opening chapter fell flat and I deleted it. I started again. And again. And again. It took many attempts to get the voice right, to find my rhythm. But once it was there, boy was the book a blast to write. I took my time, enjoyed the process, and by all accounts had a real hoot writing The Bloody North. I truly believed it was my best work, and I sent it off to Laurie with my fingers crossed. Was I just deluding myself? Would the manuscript come back to me criss-crossed with furious red pen?

No.

Laurie loved it and proclaimed it the best thing I'd ever written. I have some other projects to do before I can get on to the second book, The Rising Fire. But the story is right there, at the back of my mind, bugging me. I can't wait until I can sit down and continue the story I've started, widen our view of the world in which The Fallen Crown series takes place. Introduce and explore more and more characters.

From the get-go I didn't want to be writing massive tomes, dealing with multiple characters. I wanted to tell the story in shorter chunks of 200-250 pages, each one dealing with either one main character or perhaps two to three at the same time. What I've wanted to write about for over a decade cannot be told in a simple trilogy. It will take many books, spanning many years in our characters' lives, before there's anything close to an ending. Eventually, I will be finished writing the final fifteen installments of Far From Home. The Fallen Crown will then get my full, undivided attention, and I foresee readers getting a new book every two months. But until then, I really want The Bloody North to reach as wide an audience as possible, which is why I'm asking for your assistance. In return, you could win signed goodies. All you have to do is visit my site, www.tonyhealey.com – everything you need to know is right there.

Don't get me wrong, The Bloody North is doing REALLY well, both in terms of sales and reviews. 90% of feedback is extremely positive. The Rising Fire will come out at the end of this year, and readers who have enjoyed The Bloody North will be thrilled with what's in store. Of course it will feature the same gritty action as Book 1 (that goes without saying!) and tease more of what is to come whilst, at the same time, being its own self-contained story.

I'm hijacking Laurie's blog today, to get you interested in The Bloody North because I truly believe in it. It really is my very best work so far, and I want you to read it. I want you to get a chance at owning a sexy signed paperback edition (and a chapbook of a free short story, "A Man With Purpose," that acts as a prequel). I think it's rocky ground for a writer to shout from the rooftops about his own work.

But, damn it, this one deserves the added attention.

The Bloody North is also available on Amazon

I second that. Thank you, Tony.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Blast from the Past, Dreams of the Future

Three years ago this week, Bernard Schaffer and I came together to begin the Kindle All Stars. Hand in hand, we produced an anthology (Resistance Front) with the intent of paving the way for new, independent authors to find a place to showcase their work. Some have continued to write and enjoy much success; others have chosen to take different paths.

Many of us who continue to work in publishing, be it as writers, editors, or small scale publishers, also continue to keep in touch via social media. One of those writers, possibly the most impressive, is Natasha Whearity.

When I read Natasha's submission to the Resistance Front* project, I demanded that Bernard find a way to use her short story. She was a seventeen-year-old high school student from the UK whose talent, in my opinion, surpassed every other writer whose work I'd seen. There were other brilliant, creative minds who also became part of the group and have thrived, but Natasha stood out as the youngest.

So how could I not invite her to talk to you about Amazon and its affect on her as a young writer as well as her own anthology compiled for charity? This is how the Kindle All-Stars pay it forward.

We Are Such Stuff . . . is available on Amazon

You hear a lot of negative things about independent publishing platforms such as Amazon. A lot of people believe that it is ruining the publishing industry because anyone can publish anything they want to. But for me, Kindle Direct Publishing is a fantastic platform for writers, especially emerging ones, such as myself. What is great about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is that it gives aspiring writers and editors the opportunity to say that they have been published.

I’m not saying that publishing houses aren’t fantastic at what they do, because they are brilliant. But there is nothing wrong with Amazon allowing writers the freedom to publish their own work themselves – which is something they might not be able to do through a publishing house if their work is tossed onto a pile of no’s.

If it weren't for Amazon, I would never have had my first short story, "Endgame" published in the Kindle All Stars anthology: Resistance Front, which raised money for a charity supporting missing and exploited children. If it weren't for Amazon and that opportunity, I would never have been able to publish We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On, which is the anthology of work I have just published.

Through publishing We Are Such Stuff, I have had the opportunity of not only raising money for a charity extremely close to my heart (all the proceeds made from the anthology are going to the charity Epilepsy Action UK) but I have been able to use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing as a platform for my writing, editing, formatting and publishing skills.

If it weren't for Amazon and the opportunity I was given by Bernard, Laurie, and the Kindle All-Stars, I would never have been able to publish work, not only by myself, but by some really fantastic and innovative writers. I have learned so much from publishing this anthology, not just about how important it is to support emerging writers, but how much I love creating and making books. I hope that this project is the first of many.

You can buy a copy of We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On for only £1.53 (or $2.57) and all of the proceeds go to Epilepsy Action. Not only will you support an amazing charity, but the work of some brilliant and blossoming writers.

*Resistance Front and its successor, Carnival of Cryptids, are both still available on Amazon. All proceeds benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Happy Reading!



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Catfight and Hell Kitten . . . Really? Really!

Hey y'all! I'm beginning to think there may be a lot of writers in my life (and I will confess that sometimes it seems as though there are too many, but I love them all). I'm fortunate enough to call many of them my friends. I'm also fortunate that when I don't have time to put together a quality blog post for you all to read, they seem to have projects they want to talk about.

So, cutting to the chase, Joshua Unruh has an amazing new project in the works that I will be editing, but he's asking for help from readers of all ages, shapes, sizes, and any other distinction you can imagine. I'll let him tell you the rest while I go work on that project that's been back burnered for far too long.

Oh, and while you're here, check out the artwork he sent me to show off a couple of new characters. Also, stay tuned to the end of this post for last-minute info Josh gave me regarding a contest!

Meet Catfight.
So here’s the deal: I love superheroes and have for most of my life. I will not apologize for this. I know that some of you are wondering why I’d have to apologize. If that’s you wondering, it’s probably because you are very young.

I mean, sure, these days superheroes are making bajillions of dollars on screens across America every summer. But back in the day, I got ridiculed when I had them folded in half and stuffed in my back pocket.

Right now you don’t believe me. And you shouldn’t because that statement was a lie.

Because I would NEVER fold a comic and put it in my back pocket! You keep those damn things in Mylar bags with cardboard backs so they don’t get wrinkled and tell yourself they’re going to finance your college education one day.

Anyway, I love superheroes. But they haven’t stayed as lovable as I’d like. I once read a quote on the internet that went something like, “comics used to be for above average kids, but now they’re for below average adults.”

That statement isn’t entirely true, but it hits close enough to sting. It’s not that there’s too much sex, it’s that there’s too much sexism. And it’s not that there’s too much violence, it’s that the tearing off of arms is celebrated. And it isn’t that all the characters are white…well, actually, it is that all the characters are white. Or all the ones you can name, anyway.

So I’ve decided to do something about it. Now, I can’t draw for crap, but I can write my ass off. So my plan is to serialize prose superhero stories, one a month just like comic books. These stories will star heroes who are women and maybe even (gasp) not white. The stories will be appropriate for all-ages, which is totally different than “for kids.” And if you can’t tell the difference, then you’re the one with the problem.

Most of all these stories will be about heroes.

Somewhere along the line, it became cool to be cynical. Like cynicism is the most reality based way to see the world. Like how you’re na├»ve or simple or childish if you see the good in people.

Well screw that. Cynicism is the easy way out. Looking for the good in people? Seeing the hopeful possibilities for the future? That is HARD. Damned hard. And we need more examples of it, even fictional ones. So I’m going to write some. And every kid who needs reminded of how worthwhile selflessness and optimism are should see somebody who looks like them making it so.

Say hi to Hell Kitten.
So that’s my grandiose plan. But I’m a working writer. I have to eat. So to make this plan work, I’m using Patreon. Patreon is like an ongoing Kickstarter. You pledge a certain amount of money, and you get dinged for it whenever I publish a story. You can set a limit, though, if I start getting too prolific.

And then, you know the best part? I release that story into the wild for anyone to read for free whether they were a patron or not. Why? Two reasons. First, because I’ve already been paid. Second, because I want people who need to see heroes that look like they do to read my stories. Giving the stories away seems a good way to make that happen.

If you think that sounds worthwhile, then please visit me at www.patreon.com/pulpdictionpress. There are goals to add new things into every story, which are like rewards for my readers. And there are rewards for those who patronize as well.

Superheroes are ordinary people who use their gifts to do the extraordinary. You can be that for me with a click of the pledge button. The cape and tights are optional.

Here's that last-minute contest information I promised you: Josh has a few copies of his already released teen female superhero book, TEEN Agents in the Plundered Parent Protocol, that he has pledged to sign. So here's what you do . . .

If you choose to pledge to Josh's Patreon project, simply return here and leave a comment saying you did so. Your name will be entered into a drawing to win a paperback of the TEEN AGENTS book in addition to receiving the new comics as they are released. He doesn't have a ton to go around for this blog tour, so your chances of winning are obviously based on how many participants there are.

Thank you, Josh, and Happy Reading everyone!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Writers Go Marching Two by Two

I have just finished editing a book that I hope to be a huge seller. I mean, I always hope they do well, but this one in particular hooked me. It wasn't so much the story, which is terrific, unpredictable, and sometimes a bit depressing; it was more the writing team with whom I worked. You see, Nathan and Derek Howe are two of the most endearing writers I've met.

They have gained my utmost respect for a few reasons. I won't go into the hows and the whys now; I'll save that for a future post. Just know that they, and their new novel, Aiden, have wheedled their way into my heart. And I've invited Nathan to join us today to tell us about his experience writing with his brother. He'll tell you . . . after you check out this cool cover:

Buy Aiden for Kindle on Amazon.com


Writing is generally a solitary art, and for me this is mostly true. I sit at home with headphones on, listening to music, blocking the world out. However, I don’t write alone; I co-write with my brother Derek. We’ve both tried to write stories on our own but never made it past a few chapters (in my brother's case, never made it past the first page). We both love to read and always wanted to write a book, but neither of us actually thought we'd finish one. 

About a year and a half ago, my brother came up with an idea that I really liked. He comes up with ideas for books all the time, some good, some bad, and some just weird. The idea he came up with stuck with me this time. As soon as he said it, I could see a story form in my head. I knew what I wanted to do with it. So as soon as I could, I wrote the first chapter. I sent it to him to see if he liked it. He made some edits, added some lines, and sent it back to me. Later we talked about the book and where I was planning to go with it. It wasn’t long before we were both knee deep in the book writing. 

A lot of people seem to have trouble writing with others; one seems to do all the work or they just fight over how they want the story to go. We’ve never had that problem, well maybe a little fight here and there, but nothing too serious. 

The reason co-writing works so well with us is we can play off of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Derek is good at coming up with ideas and outlining. I’m good taking those ideas and outlines and putting them to paper. Because I know Derek is going to go over what I write and add what he thinks needs to be added, I gained a freedom I didn’t have before. I don’t have to worry about missing parts, or forgetting certain details, because I know Derek will find them and make it work. And if he can’t, well, we can talk about it and figure it out together. 

Before, if I got stuck on something, I would give up. With my brother, I know he is there to help me. We both push each other to become better writers. In the past year we have improved a lot and plan to continue the process. That is one of the best parts: we can challenge each other to become better. 

I could talk on and on about why co-writing works so well for us, but I won’t. I will give you the most important reason: we have fun. It is that simple. We love to see what the other one has added to the story and see what the other can do. If we didn’t have fun, we would have never finished Aiden. 

I've talked a lot about what works for us. All the advantages we gain from working together. But not all is perfect. I mentioned it can lead to some disagreements about where, or how, parts of the story should go. But that has been rare for us. Another problem we run into is that I write a lot. At such a pace that my brother can't always keep up. At times that can be frustrating for me, and for him as well. But it can be a good thing for us, too. It allows Derek to pick my best work, my best stories, to work on. 

I would like to thank Laurie for her great work on Aiden, and letting me guest blog. She put a lot into Aiden, making it a book that we are proud of, and I hope that you, the reader, will enjoy.

Happy Reading!