"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, October 28, 2012

Not Quite Top Chef

My BFF will be the first to tell you she's not the best cook in the world, but it's not because she's incapable. She's just not one of those people who can open the door to the pantry, grab a few items, and throw together a whole new creation.

What she IS good at, however, is finding quick and easy recipes that taste amazing. So I thought I'd share with you the latest. My personal goal (one of these days) is to remake this one from scratch so I have complete control over ingredients. Meanwhile, I'll make it once in a while with the gluten-free pre-breaded goodies from Perdue.

I could gladly eat chicken tenders for every meal.
Give me a side of onion rings and I'm a happy camper.
*Mom's Breaded Barbecue Chicken

1 package pre-breaded chicken of your choice
bottled barbecue sauce of your choice

Lay chicken pieces out on ungreased baking sheet.
Sparingly drop barbecue sauce on chicken. (The goal here is not to douse the chicken in the sauce but to add some flavor by getting the breading to absorb the sauce.)
Repeat on other side.
Bake according to package directions.

I'm not kidding. It's really that simple. And how does it taste? Would I share a recipe with you I didn't love? This is definitely one of those dishes to throw together when there's literally zero time to cook.

Happy Cooking!

*I call my BFF "Mom" online to protect her anonymity.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Feed Me, Pinterest

Okay, I realize I just recently posted about my budding affection for Pinterest. Since then, my recipe board (titled Feed Me) has gotten a bit out of hand. It currently weighs in at well over 1000 recipes, many of them for the slow cooker/crock pot. So I've decided to sort through them in a somewhat unique way.

I've begun another board for recipes I really want to try and a third that contains recipes for which I've purchased the ingredients and will be testing soon. I figure once I've tested the recipe, I'll decide whether to categorize it, so I can find it again, or delete it.

One recipe that is on the "purchased" list is one I've had several times and I already know I love it. It came to me courtesy of my BFF and it's like Thanksgiving dinner in the Crock Pot. I swear it's my favorite slow cooker recipe ever. Who doesn't love the combination of turkey, cranberries, and stuffing? If only it had mashed potatoes, it would be perfect. By the way, if you intend to try this recipe on my recommendation, remember one rule: once you've turned on the slow cooker, do not lift the lid. It needs to cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4. Resist the temptation to check it until the lower time has elapsed otherwise your stuffing will come out hard and uncooked.

I think I'm going to take the same approach with all those great craft ideas I've pinned as well. If I don't stay organized I'll have a terrible mess on my hands. And that, my friends, would defeat the entire purpose for me joining Pinterest in the first place. So keep an eye on the blog and I'll provide as many recipe reviews as I can without getting too repetitive. Or follow me on Pinterest and get the scoop there.

Meanwhile, if there's a recipe you see on my pinboard that you'd like to nominate, drop the link in the comments below and I'll put it on the list. I mean I wouldn't have pinned it if I had no intention of trying it anyway, right?

Happy Pinning!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How I Got Infected (Book Review)

I was working on the Kindle All-Stars Project (I had been for about a month at that point) when one night I received a cc on an email welcoming this kid, William Vitka, to the team. I thought our fearless leader, Bernard Schaffer, was going to pee himself. He seemed so excited because B's a tough editor and this short story was the first submission that Bernard had deemed publication-ready with no editing. I was all, "dude must be really good." Little did I know... 
Anyhow, I sent Vitka the whole welcome packet that we sent to every new author accepted to the project and the standard "welcome to the team" email (which, by the way, is a personalized email, not just a form letter). Next thing I knew, I was emailing back and forth with this guy for like an hour. None of my other authors had done that. It actually kind of became a thing. You see, I'm a night owl and V's day job is actually a night job, so we were both online at the same time. We quickly became close friends.
By the way . . . I usually address my dear friend William Vitka as "Vitka" or "V" rather than "William" or "Will" because his twitter handle is @vitka. I've simply gotten use to thinking of him by his last name rather than his first.
I was thrilled when he sent me Infected to read. I knew it wasn't perfect. He was still in the process of editing the manuscript and would welcome my feedback. I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into it. 
As is my curse, I found a few typos in pages I knew he'd already edited. (I can't help it; I can't turn off my proofreading machine.) I told him I'd send him a list of what to look for and where to find it when I was done reading the manuscript. I ended up making a couple of minor editorial suggestions, which V loved. I also ended up doing the final proofread.
You'd have thought I had saved his life! At the time I didn't realize that Infected was Vitka's first novel because it was so well written. He already had a well developed style which is pretty rare in a first-time novelist. In fact, when another author was struggling with "voice," I sent that writer (with permission) a copy of the Infected manuscript as an outstanding example of an author using a voice that suits the character rather than himself. To contrast that and show how the same author can use vastly different voices in vastly different narratives, I also told him to read "In a Mind" which was Vitka's contribution to the Kindle All-Stars first anthology, Resistance Front
Anyhow, those minor suggestions led to V's asking me to edit his second novel, Emergence (a title I suggested, by the way). I was all over that because by that point, I was quite confident in my ability as a fiction editor and I couldn't wait to read Vitka's next novel. 
So there you have it, the story behind the story. 

And here's my official review:

cover art by sean vitka
reproduced by permission
My rating:  (R) for language, violence, gore
Almost perfect *****

While reading this book, I've been in the midst of the most challenging proofread of my life! It's a 526-page anthology involving 39 pieces by 32 authors from 6 different countries. Infected was the brain candy that helped keep me sane through the first half of it.

I needed to read about zombies taking over New York.

Actually, calling this piece "brain candy" cheapens it. It's not that at all. It's an easy enough read to keep you entertained if that's all you want, but William Vitka gives you enough to think about if you're looking for more.

Funny, Vitka's treatment of the Church as state reminds me of Voltaire (Candide) and his disdain for Church and State.

Vitka's main character is a young, cynical, pissed off atheist living in a porn-obsessed, media-saturated, over-churched New York City. It's the worst of all possible worlds.

I think what I like best about the cast of characters he's assembled is they're not perfect. They're not heroes. They're just trying to survive against all odds.

From page one I was hooked. I really love the way Vitka writes. His smartass, sarcastic, ironic sense of humor takes you on an adrenaline- and alcohol-fueled roller coaster ride that could almost happen. 

I've read little pulp and I haven't read horror, real horror, in about 20 years, but I am so happy I grabbed this book. I can't wait to attack his next one. 

Infected is well worth your time and so worth every one of those five stars.

Happy Reading!

[Added in the wee hours of 10/15/12] My apologies, gang. This post was pre-programmed because the book was supposed to be live this week. It will be available through Amazon in both ebook and print format as well as other outlets. While I have not been given an exact date, I've been told it will be before the end of October and I will post links when it is live. In the meantime, you'll find a bit of William Vitka's work on Amazon and his serialized novel, Kulture Vultures, at Curiosity Quills.

[Added 10/28/12] We have a sighting! Infected is now available, in print, directly through Graveside Books. I will let you know when other sources become available.

[Added 11/12/12] The electronic version of Infected is now available through Amazon!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Far From Home

For more details about the Far From Home
series, including a timetable for upcoming
releases, visit Tony's website.
You're all used to this by now. I post a quick little story about a book I've worked on, then tell you to go buy it. In this case, I'm going to tell you to go download it for free.

Tony Healey's latest project is a ship-based sci-fi adventure that he and I (okay, more me than him) are having way too much fun with. It's camp. It's pulp. It's a bit old school. It's a lot of homage to the numerous TV series that influenced both of us as kids. It's the many Star Treks, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, and Battlestar Galacticas. It's a fun romp through 1970s and 1980s television (and movies) with just a touch of the 1990s thrown in for good measure.

The first volume, Legend, is free on Amazon and Smashwords. The second, Commander, is available in both locations for a mere $1.99. The third, Hero, is currently in the works and should be hitting my desk any day now in time to be edited for its October release. The remaining nine installments will be spread across the next thirteen months, then the entire saga will be released in December 2013 as one large volume.

That's the plan anyway.

Follow us as we travel, won't you? But be prepared. We'll be straying Far From Home.

Happy Reading!

(By the way, as a personal favor, once you've read this terrific adventure, please consider leaving a review on Amazon and/or Smashwords. Reviews are like gold to indie authors. Good reviews are like platinum.)