"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 25, 2011

What's Up Doc? (recipe)

I love carrots. Heck, I'll eat just about any kind of crunchy vegetable, but carrots could replace candy forever as far as I'm concerned. There's an urban legend that if you eat too many carrots your skin will start to turn orange. Yeah, that one's true. How do I know? It happened to me. I used to buy the one pound bags of pre-cut baby carrots by the cart full. They were my snack of choice. At one point, I was going through eight ounces or more each day. One afternoon, I looked at my palms and they were literally carrot orange. NO LIE! [Insert Oompa Loompa joke here.] After that I started traveling with more variety and cutting back on my carrot intake. Still I love them and, thankfully, it's one vegetable that appeals to everyone in this house.

The kids love Daddy's candied carrots. I don't know where his version came from. It's probably one of those that have been handed down through the years. My own mother makes a killer glazed carrot recipe, but that came from a cookbook, so it's proprietary. I took the elements of flavor that I liked best about the two of them and created my own. (Don't tell Dad. He thinks I do it the way he does.)

My Favorite Candied Carrots

Warning: This recipe is SO not low fat.

1 lb carrots, washed, peeled, sliced, cooked, and drained
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp onion powder

If you boiled or steamed your carrots on top of the stove, just use the same pan. If not, pull out a 2 quart saucepan and melt the butter in it over medium low heat.
Add brown sugar and onion powder and stir until the sugar is melted and incorporated into the butter.
Add carrots and toss to coat them in the glaze. If they've cooled, let them remain in the pan on low heat stirring gently until they come back to temp.

A few notes:

Quite frankly, I prefer to buy the frozen baby carrots and boil them because it's quick and easy, but they retain more nutrients if you steam them either from fresh or frozen. Mom always used fresh and sliced them into disks.
It's okay to use the canned carrots, just heat them before you add them to the glaze. You'll want two regular sized cans.
Please do not brown your butter. Heat it just long enough to get it melted then get your remaining ingredients into the pan. Watch out because the whole glaze only takes about three minutes.

What to do with the leftovers:

These reheat pretty well, so you could just reheat them in the microwave and leave it at that.
BUT you could also reheat them and serve them on a bed of plain rice or rice pilaf with some sauteed sliced chicken or beef.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Sneak Peek at Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front

An Ode to Print, from One Bent on Destroying It

This much is certain, everything changes.  Systems collapse, governments fall, sovereign boundaries shift and always, new things rise up in their place.  Empires are not safe.

The publishing industry, in itself an Empire, is right at this very moment on the brink of collapse.  Borders Bookstores has fallen.  I wonder, as I write this, how much longer Barnes and Noble really has. 

People love to ask me about print books.  They want to know if I am for the death of words which are bound and glued. 

I think they must be sniffing some of that glue.                

Any writer worth even a plug nickel is first and foremost a rabid reader.  From our earliest days, we have cherished the beauty and music of prose.  It is how we learned our craft.  There isn’t a professional writer alive today who grew up on eBooks.  They simply haven’t been around that long.  And if you turn on the thing that made you what you are, then I really have no use for you anyway.  

I spent my youth perusing used book stores, seeking out lost treasures.  This was before the days of Amazon or Ebay, when tracking down an out-of-print paperback by some beloved author meant more than the kids of today will ever know.  Unearthing those wonders on your own, or seeking the sagely advice of the store’s owner for something new, was treasure hunting at its finest. 

Every book I own is dog-eared and cracked along the spines.  If you look at any book in my library you will know that they were enjoyed.  They were loved.  They were read.  I was never a bookmarker.  I was always a page-bender.  If I could make the top corner of a Kindle bend, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  

There is no animosity in my heart for printed books, and I’d hope there is none in yours whether you are a reader or writer.  But the publishing industry, well, that’s a whole other story.  That is a system I will gladly watch shuffle off its mortal coil and collapse to the earth in pieces.   

Whole generations of authors have been lost to us because they could not penetrate the murky swamps of corporate publishing.  I imagine all the works of art that we’ll never know of, simply because the vicious cycle of query-letter, agent, synopsis, publisher, book-seller, and eventual consumer did not work out for that individual. 

When an industry coins a phrase like “Slush Pile” to reflect their opinion of where your work belongs, you get a pretty clear idea of your place in their world. 

So, to the vanity presses and subsidized publishing contracts, the agents who charge fees or don’t bother to answer carefully crafted query letters from unknowns, the writer’s marketplace guides and all of the parasitic industries that thrived while propping up that rickety machine of traditional publishing, I say, “Farewell.”

I’ll bear witness when you wheeze and gasp, when your last cog is thrown and black smoke escapes from your rusted hull.  I do not say this with pride.  I say it simply as an observer of history who knows that everything changes.  Systems collapse.  Empires are not safe.  

You folks had a good run. 

Now get out of our way.

               -- Bernard J. Schaffer

All proceeds from Kindle All-Stars Presents:  Resistance Front will benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  For more information about this groundbreaking project, please visit our official information page here.  (Direct donations are welcome in any denomination to help pay production costs. You'll find a link at the top of the page.)
KAS logo created by Tony Lee Healey (independent) and Glendon Haddix of Streetlight Graphics.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Was at Work

We tell the same stories every year. The firefighters who responded first and felt the towers crash around them, trapping some, killing many. The police officers covered in dust as they braved thick clouds in an effort to keep civilians safe. The hundreds, thousands, who walked home because public transportation had shut down. The newscasters openly weeping on-air unable to control their emotions. 
We recall where we were when we first heard the news. How we felt: our shock, our horror, our disbelief, our anger. 
We remember watching planes hit over and over for days unsure how to proceed, when to proceed, whether to proceed with business as usual. 
We still grieve, but we persevere. We still hurt, but we still heal. We still fight because we are Americans and that's what we do. We say, "Let's roll" and we act. We don't lay down and surrender. 
We pray for the many souls lost that day in New York, in D.C., in Pennsylvania. And we thank God, or Allah, or Buddha, or Fate for sparing those who lived. 
No matter what we do or where we go from here, we must never forget.
Kittaning, PA photo courtesy of Valerie Lapcevich
Family folklore suggests that my name came into being during the French revolution. My ancestors were part of the resistance. (That explains a LOT if you're familiar with my personality.) They were named LaLiberte for their contribution. 
I have borne the moniker "Laliberte" like a cross my entire life. Nobody spells it right. Nobody says it correctly. They all want to say Liberty, or LAL-iberty, or Libertay; it's LA-liberty. They want to spell it Liberty, or Laliberti (to which I used to reply, "I'm French, not Italian"). 
In my twenties, I worked with a group of men from the Middle East who all spoke beautiful fluent French tinged with the most elegant accent that belied their North African descent. They taught me to love my name. First, because they spoke it so exquisitely. Second, because they so appreciated it's meaning:  Freedom. They truly understood what we take for granted. 
It wasn't until ten years ago today that I fully comprehended their reaction to my name. Now, I embrace it. Now, when someone misspells or mispronounces my surname, I politely correct them with a smile rather than a scowl. Now, I get it. 
Here's to freedom.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What prompted you to take on this project?

Heh, I keep asking myself the same question, but this post really isn't about me. Still, I want to share some exciting news with my readers. On February 16, 2011, I posted a short story called "Prey." On August 15, I pulled it. Here's why:  Author Bernard J. Schaffer (@ApiarySociety on twitter) tweeted something about the Kindle All Stars Project and that he was looking for short stories from anyone who wanted to submit one. He was assembling an anthology for which he would act as editor. He said he would accept any stories that made the cut regardless of the author's level of status or experience. I checked out his website and his Goodreads author page, then I sent him an email. Within 24 hours, I pulled "Prey," cleaned it up a bit, renamed it, and emailed it to him. Now here I am, just over two weeks later, acting as the coordinator for the book's social networking promotion. 
Yes, "Prey," in its newly renamed and vastly improved condition, will be in the book. So there's my big news.

But this post isn't supposed to be about me. It's about a man with the vision and the drive to take this wild idea and turn it into something, dare I say, Noble? I have quickly learned that Bernard doesn't do anything half way. He released this idea into twitterland on August 15th, and by the 17th he had already secured the blessing of, and a quote from, the man who inspired it, Harlan Ellison*. He's currently running himself ragged in an effort to get the book out in time for Christmas shopping. AND he's having to deal with some challenges along the way that are, at the very least, comedic. I'll let him tell you more in his own words. On August 29, Bernard sat down for me and answered a few questions about the Kindle All Stars Project.

LL:  What prompted you to take on this project?
BJS:  It was a fit of madness.  I released a book in May, a book in June, have a book in editing right now with Karen The Angry Hatchet, and was halfway through the first draft of another book when it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to be doing more.  Insanity.
By the time I realized that this is a project that only a babbling lunatic would attempt, I’d already opened my big mouth and it took on a life of its own. 
That being said, I am happiest when caught in the thrall of a whirling dervish.  To me, it’s fun.  Even when it isn’t.    

LL:  You didn't initially set out to make this a charity project. What affected your decision to donate the proceeds to charity?
BJS:  The idea was never to make money with the book.  It was always to promote the literary proficiency of authors working in the Kindle format and try to expose one another to our own audiences.  My first thoughts were of seeing if anyone was actually interested.  Once I realized they were, and how big the project could be, it just made sense to donate the money rather than trying to divvy up .99 per book between a dozen authors. 
Incidentally, it only took me a single day to make that realization.  I thought of the idea for the project on 8/15 and committed to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on 8/16.

LL:  How were the responses from your authors when you made that switch?
BJS:  Mostly positive.  Truthfully, if anyone had balked at the idea I’d have played whack-a-mole with their head.

LL:  Why did this particular charity end up on your radar?
BJS:  I’ve had professional dealings with the Center, and they are absolutely badass.  They fight child pornography all over the world and really are a living light against one of the most insidious horrors afflicting us today. 

LL:  How are you finding the duties of working as the editor?
BJS:  It is infinitely harder than I thought it would be.  Karen (The Angry Hatchet) has yelled at me multiple times over the years about staying in an “active voice” and “show don’t tell.”   I find myself constantly scolding authors for not doing those exact things.  It’s like she’s my Mom and her curse has come true that she prays all my kids turn out as rotten as I am. 
Then again, I’ve read some great stories from truly inspiring writers.  It’s very fulfilling to help someone reach their fullest potential.  I’ve gotten some heartwarming letters from authors whose gratitude makes it all worth it. 

LL:  How quickly did you begin receiving responses/manuscripts?
BJS:  Hours after the announcement. 

LL:  How many are you juggling right now?
BJS:  5 stories are done.  16 are in review.  3 are waiting for responses to my editing suggestions.    1 is waiting for actual, official, bonafide permission to include.  And then there’s mine, which is halfway done in first draft form.

LL:  How many stories do you expect to have for the finished project?
BJS:  As many that live up to the quality of work everyone is putting forward.

LL:  Is the project living up to your initial expectations?
BJS:  It’s far, far exceeding them.  If you’d asked me two weeks ago to place a bet on whether I’d be in contact with Alan Dean Foster or Harlan Ellison anytime soon, I’d have laughed at you.  Yet, it has come to pass.

LL:  You're obviously very passionate about your writing. Are you feeling that same passion coming from your authors?
BJS:  Anybody willing to put up with me as an editor is clearly devoted to writing.  I’m used to engaging in mortal combat with Karen, so I have to remind myself that not everybody takes kindly to being told they screwed the pooch on something.

LL:  You've been able to get at least one big name attached to the project. Can you tell us who?
BJS:  Of course I can.  But I won’t.  Not yet. 

LL:  When do you expect to be able to get the finished project out and available?
BJS:  The deadline is September 15th for submissions.  I’m hoping to have all of them edited and finalized by the end of October.  That leaves November for formatting and a cover.  I’d like to have the book available between Thanksgiving and Christmas for people. 

LL:  Other than the obvious, Amazon, where do you expect to make the book available?
BJS:  The book will be available for Kindle and in print.  My goal is to show people who are still committed to print books that there is a quality of work going on in the digital world that they are missing out on. 

LL:  The mantra in the publishing industry these days seems to be, "anthologies don't sell." How are you maintaining your determination to make this a success?
BJS:  Anthologies don’t sell.  Neither do young adult, horror, non-fiction, or any other “category.”
Good writing sells.  Personable authors with a clear message who can connect with their audience sell. 
I wrote a Sherlock Holmes book that has everybody saying the “F-word” and it’s the Number One Sherlock Holmes book on Kindle right now.  If I can sell that, we can sell this.  And even if it only makes a few bucks, it’s money for a good cause. 
Plus, Harlan Ellison called me his pal, so what the hell.

*In 1967, Harlan Ellison released a collection of short stories entitled Dangerous Visions. Thanks to Bernard  Schaffer, we have Ellison's blessing and we intend to prove we deserve it.