Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's Cooking Wednesday - 7 Bone Steak

If ever there was a cut of meat with the "wrong" name, this has to be it. First, there's only 1 bone, not 7. The name comes from the fact that it's shaped like the numeral 7. And, although the butcher cut it into 1 inch thick pieces and called it a steak, it's really more like a chuck roast, filled with the connective tissues that cry out for long, slow, moist cooking. I fear grilling it without some massive tenderizing efforts would result in leather.

At any rate, despite the 'steak' designation on the package, I opted for my slow cooker. The recipe uses pantry staples and you could even skip the browning step if you're in a hurry.

Easy Crock Pot Seven Bone "Steak"


2 T oil
1 7 bone steak (although you can use any sort of pot/chuck roast, and I'm sure it would be great.
Carrots, peeled and sliced (I just used a package of baby carrots)
2 Onions, quartered
1 can (undiluted) golden mushroom soup
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 c water
1 c red wine (or broth, stock, or just more water if you're not into wine)
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste (I also used seasoned salt)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Strategies for Procrastinating Writers

Today I welcome Shelley Munro to Terry’s Place. Shelley lives in New Zealand and has been published since 2004. Her current releases are Cat Burglar in Training, available from Carina Press and Eye on the Ball, which is available exclusively from All Romance ebooks.

Change procrastination to productivity.

Does this sound like something you need? Yes? I have to admit there are times when I’m a champion procrastinator. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes attacking the ironing pile seems like way more fun than sitting down to write. On days like this it can take me hours to pound out my target number of words, and each one is dragged from me kicking and screaming.

2011 was a bad writing year for me, and after months of writing nothing new, I had to do something drastic. I don’t believe in writers’ block, so my lack of writing came down to a combination of procrastination/laziness and plain fear because my confidence was at an all-time low. Once I admitted this, it was easier to formulate a plain.

Here are some strategies I used for dealing with my procrastination.

Monday, February 27, 2012

If Only I Had More Time

What I'm reading: Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism, by Temple Grandin (book club)

A common enough lament: If only I had more time. What if someone gave you an entire extra day?

On Wednesday, we're all getting that gift. Is it going to be just another day for you, or are you going to embrace the extra time?

I know my editor promised to have my manuscript back to me today. I'm obligated to have it published no later than March 14th. In effect, I've been given an extra day to work on editing, formatting, and making sure it's perfect before I hit that "upload" button at Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Updates

Check the Deals & Steals tab for a discount coupon for FINDING SARAH - expires Feb. 29th.

Also, there's a link to enter a drawing for an ARC (Advance Review Copy) of ROOTED IN DANGER.

And, if you're a newsletter subscriber, I had a contest for another ARC of ROOTED IN DANGER. I'll be picking the winner next week, so if you haven't entered, do so right away.

And if you're not a newsletter subscriber, you're missing out on insider information and contests only available there. Sign up on my website home page.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Field Trip - Aspen Valley Ranch

First -- It's my birthday and I'm giving the gifts. In anticipation of my 3rd Pine Hills Police romantic suspense, I've got a 50% off Smashwords coupon for the first book in the series. Look in the Deals and Steals tab for the code. This offer is good only through Feb. 29th (Happy Leap Year Day), so don't delay.

Last Sunday, we went down the road a piece to the Aspen Valley Ranch, which is 300+ acres of open space. Our daughter, Nicole Drummer is on their advisory board, and she invited us to check things out. It was a special "open house" sponsored by  UpaDowna  which promotes outdoor activities. So, we were outdoors, and we were active.

It was windy, and not very sunny, but I did take some pictures to share with you.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creating A Cover

A short time ago, I put forth a plea for input on titles and covers for my upcoming Pine Hills Police novel. A quick recap: It's Book 3 in a series, so both title and cover had to fit with the others (there's also a short story anthology, so that makes 4 covers/titles that have to coordinate.)

After taking the input provided by you, I finally had to make the commitment. A lot of factors played into the decision.

Finding Daylight, my #1 choice for a title didn't work out for several reasons. That would have put 3 of 4 books with "Finding" in the title, making poor "Hidden Fire" the odd man out. Also, when I did a quick search on Finding Daylight at Amazon, I found self help and religious books, which are a far cry from my book.

Then, we looked at how the title would lay out on the cover. The one that fit both the theme of the book and the requisite cover art ended up being "Saving Scott."

During this process I worked closely with my cover artist, Dave Fymbo. I asked Dave to share his process, and this is what he said:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's Cooking Wednesday - Curry Seared Turkey Breast

Thanks to Holli for yesterday's post, and her tips for avoiding cliched and stereotypical characters.

When we lived in Miami, we had two huge mango trees and enjoyed their bounty in the summertime. It might be winter now, and fresh mangoes hard to come by, but here's something to look forward to. The turkey is fine without the relish. Or you could try frozen mango. Or peaches, or nectarines. Summer will be here soon enough, and you'll be ready.

Curry Seared Turkey Breast with Mango Mint Relish
3-4 servings

For the turkey

1 t curry powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 turkey breast tenderloin, ~ 1 lb
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 T seasoned rice vinegar

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stereotypically Me

Today, I welcome Holli Castillo to Terry's Place. Holli is a Louisiana Appellate Public Defender and a former New Orleans Prosecutor. She has written two award winning novels, Gumbo Justice and Jambalaya Justice, and is currently working on the third in her Crescent City Mystery Series, Chocolate City Justice.

And while Holli is hosting Terry's Place for me, it's my day at The Blood-Red Pencil, where the theme is "love" and my topic is "Men Aren't Women With Chest Hair."

I have three things on my mind today. The first is that today is Mardi Gras, and once again I am spending it inside of my house, away from the crazy crowds, loud bands, and elaborate floats that most locals have come to cherish. How they can overlook the occasional nudity, fist fights and gunshots I’m not quite sure. Not that I’m the Grinch who Stole Carnival, but as middle age approaches I’m a lot more comfortable watching the revelry on my TV from the comfort of my sofa, with a cup of coffee and my pets– a sweet dog and a deaf cat– nuzzled against me.

But sitting here watching the typical Mardi Gras day on TV brings to mind two other things, cliches and settings, and what can happen when you juxtapose the two.

One thing I learned in writing classes in college is that stereotypes and cliches are bad. It was drilled into nearly every lesson. (Hollywood has obviously not taken Fiction Writing One from Professor Stelly, because they keep insisting on putting really bad Mardi Gras scenes in nearly every movie set in New Orleans.) The thing about stereotypes, though, is that the only reason they are stereotypes in the first place is because most of them are based in truth.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Choosing Character Names

What I'm reading: Sleep Tight, by Anne Frasier (Nook), Gun Games, by Faye Kellerman

I was reading a book recently that inspired this post revisiting my character naming strategies. This book was by a well-known, award-winning author, and is someone I respect. I'm not trying to single her out, because it's a common enough "problem" in books I've read. And for the sake of anonymity, I'm not going to show the names of the characters.

I counted 32 named characters. That gave me 32 first names, but not quite as many last names, because some were related, so they had the same last name. For this post, I'm not separating first or last names. I just put them all in a single list, alphabetized them, and then counted repeats of the same initials.

What I found:
B: 3
C: 8
D: 8
H: 2
J: 7
K: 1
L: 3
M: 6
P: 5
R: 6
S: 5
T: 1
V: 1
W: 2
Z: 1

Also, there one character had the same first and last initials as the heroine.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

And the Winners Are ...

Colleen Collins has announced her winners for copies of The Zen Man. And they are:

Maryann Miller and Jenyfer Matthews.

Email Colleen at writingprivateinvestigators2 at gmail dot com to claim your prizes.

Congratulations, and thanks to everyone who left a comment.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Field Trip - Morning on the Deck

We had a cold snap recently, and I awoke to frost on our aspens. Since nobody else has volunteered any pictures, that's what you're stuck with today.

And, belated birthday wishes to my mom. I'd have said something yesterday, but I know she only checks my blog on Fridays. Happy Birthday!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's In A Title? Help Wanted

What I'm reading: The Lost (anthology--bike) by J.D. Robb, Patricia Gaffney, Mary Blayney, and Ruth Ryan Langan.

First – don't forget you have until tomorrow to leave a comment on Colleen Collins' Tuesday post to be entered in the drawing for a free copy of her book.

Also - I've got features for two different books today. FINDING SARAH is at Rock Bottom Reads, and DEADLY SECRETS is at Nook Lovers. I hope you'll point people that way.

A short while back, I asked for help with ideas for cover art and titles for my new Pine Hills book.  I'm participating in a Barnes & Noble program, which means I have to have everything ready to go in early March. I've sent the preliminary ideas to my cover artist, and my editor is working on the manuscript. But I need a title NOW.

There were some good suggestions, both via the blog and sent to me via email. The monkey-wrench in the decision is that since the book is part of a series, the titles should have the same feel. Also, they should, if at all possible, work "visually" with the others.

I've created a short survey where you can vote for your favorite, or suggest one of your own. Although most have "Scott" in the title, it's not required. I hope you'll give me some feedback, because when you're publishing an indie title, you don't have the luxury of wandering down the hall to a meeting of a marketing department. OK, I can wander down the hall, but there's never anybody there but me when I try to hold a meeting.

Click here to take the survey


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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What's Cooking Wednesday - Spicy Aztec Chocolate Drops

What I'm reading: Taken, by Robert Crais

First, thanks to Colleen for sharing a great Valentine's Day post yesterday. Don't forget you can win her book by leaving a comment. You have until Friday to leave a comment, and remember to check back over the weekend to see if you won.

One of the things I'm planning with my new book, since the heroine is trying to open a new bakery, is to include recipes. Her shop is called Confections by Ashley, and if you're not all "chocolated" out after Valentine's Day, here's one of the recipes that will be in the book. And an unedited snippet to go with it.

"If it's all right, I need to get this batch of cookies going." Ashley gestured to the cooling rack where her earlier cookies waited. "Help yourself. Those are a new recipe, and I'd appreciate an outside opinion."

She scraped the softened butter into her mixer and began creaming it with the sugar, keeping an eye on Scott as he sampled one of her cookies. First, he broke the ball in two, studying the two halves. The chunk of bittersweet chocolate she'd placed inside the dough oozed enough to tempt, not enough to drip. He popped one half into his mouth.

He chewed, then his eyes widened. He coughed. "Whoa. These have some kick."

"Too much? I call them my spicy Aztec chocolate drops, and I've been playing with the amounts of cayenne and black peppers."

Were his eyes watering? She grabbed one from the rack and sampled it. The bittersweet richness of the chocolate and the sugary topping were rapidly replaced by a strong burn on her tongue. She strode to the fridge and got a carton of milk. Pouring two glasses, she said, "Definitely a bit heavy on the cayenne. Drink some of this, and if you're willing, try one of the others. It's a milder batch."

Like Ashley, you can adjust the recipe to suit your own tastes for heat. And here's the recipe. Credit goes to my brother, former pastry chef extraordinaire.

Spicy Aztec Chocolate Cookies

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lust, Ethics and the Private Eye

Today, when thoughts are turning to love, my guest is Colleen Collins who's going to share some ideas about the pros and cons of private investigators. Colleen is also going to give away TWO e-copies of her mystery novel, The Zen Man. Leave a comment by Friday, and you're entered in the drawing. You'll have to check back over the weekend to see if you're a winner, and how to claim your prize.

Being a private investigator as well as a writer, and that it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss the pros and cons of private investigators and their chosen love interests. We read about these entanglements in stories all the time -- from Sam Spade falling into the sack with a wide variety of dames to private eyes conducting more serious affairs with police detectives, clients, even other PIs. Although there aren’t always legal restrictions, there are often ethical ones in such romantic liaisons.

Let’s first look at the implications of a private investigator getting involved with a law enforcement officer.

Romance with a Law Enforcement Officer

I recently finished a wonderful private eye novel by Jeff Shelby (Liquid Smoke) that features a private eye whose girlfriend is a police detective. Although the police-detective-girlfriend was interested in her boyfriend-PI’s case, she knew better than to get overly involved because her participation in the case had the potential to undermine a legal proceeding. Besides, her department had already assigned other detectives (and the department, knowing about her involvement with the PI, had purposefully not assigned her to work the case as well).

Why were the department and girlfriend-detective being cautious? Because if a romantically involved PI and officer are on different sides of a case, and share--or even appear to share--case information, it can compromise the integrity of both the defense and the prosecution in the trial judge’s eyes. More important, the defendant, after learning that the prosecution and defense investigators were bed partners, could file for a new trial.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A True Prince Holds Your Purse

What I'm reading: Contest #8 of 8; Space in his Heart, by Roxanne St. Claire.

A brief promo moment. I've just made Deadly Secrets available in print, for those who prefer that format. You can buy it here. And, there's another outlet for Danger in Deer Ridge as well. You can find it here

Also, for you, my loyal blog readers, I'm giving you advance notice that I'm opening up guest slots for April - June. If you'd like a slot, check the sidebar.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and while the media bombards us with ways to spend money to prove our love, I think most of us would rather have it spread out over time, and not be a budget breaker. I've spoken many times about why a Swiss Army Knife was one of the most romantic gifts I've ever received. And why I wasn't "offended" at the electronic tire pressure gauge I got one year. The first showed that Hubster had actually listened to me, and I wasn't even talking to him at the time. The second showed that he's concerned for my safety. (And as proof, I think he used it a LOT more than I did to make sure my tires were okay.)

When I was at the Emerald City conference, Sarah Wendell (more widely known for her "Smart Bitches" blog) gave everyone a copy of her book, "Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels." One section struck a deep chord, and I'm reprinting it with her permission.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Watch Your Back...Story

What I'm reading: Contest entry #7 of 8

I've been reading books for a contest lately. A fair number of the books I've been given are part of a series, or at least connected books, which is the most common in romance. This means they'll have characters who have appeared in previous books, but aren't the "stars" of this one.

Most of what I write falls into this category. The only exception is Hidden Fire, which is a true sequel to Finding Sarah. Randy and Sarah are the protagonists of both books. On the other hand, the new book (still untitled, but I'm working on it. Ideas still welcome!) is set in the same town, with many of the characters readers met in the first two books, but the hero and heroine are brand new. They've never appeared before. This is unusual in series/connected romance books, too. (Have I ever mentioned that I didn't know the "rules" when I wrote Finding Sarah and Hidden Fire, so I didn't really set things up for a series.)

I did take one secondary character from Finding Sarah and give her a book of her own, but then when I got the rights back and switched publishers, I had to sever her ties to Pine Hills. So, although Colleen from Nowhere to Hide actually started out in Pine Hills, through the magic of fiction, she sprang forth with a new place of origin. (If I decide to request the rights back, I just might change the book and give her back her history with Randy and Sarah.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

What's Cooking Wednesday - Oven BBQ Pork

What I'm reading: Liars, Cheaters and Thieves, by L.J. Sellers

Thanks to Rebecca J. Clark for yesterday's post. I hope we're all treating ourselves more kindly.

I found this recipe under the label of a pork butt (which is really a shoulder of the pig, not the actual "butt"—but who cares?). I'd originally had other plans for the meat, but this looked worth a try. I'm glad I did. I did alter the cooking somewhat, but what else is new?

Oven BBQ Pork


1 pork shoulder butt roast or fresh picnic shoulder, ~ 8 pounds (serves 12-10)
3 T brown sugar
3 T paprika (I used 2 T 'regular' and 1 T smoked)
1 ½ t salt
1 ½ T ground black pepper
1 ½ T garlic powder
½ c Dijon mustard.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Be Kind to Yourself

Today I welcome romance author, Rebecca J. Clark. Rebecca’s second novel, Her One-Night Prince, is available now, and her next book, Deliver the Moon, releases in June.

Because it’s the new year and because I’m a personal trainer when I’m not writing, I’ve been doing a lot of talking and reading about goal-setting lately. I’m reading a fabulous book, PUSH by Chalene Johnson. She maintains that the best goals will be waylaid by negative self talk.

I think many of us spend far too much time every day saying mean things to ourselves. “You’re too fat.” “You’re too thin.” (Okay, I’ve never said THAT to myself). “You suck as a writer.” “You’ll never be able to finish this book.” Etc, etc.

Would you ever speak that way to your best friend? I don’t think so. Would you ever tolerate anyone speaking that way to your children or to you? I don’t think so. So why do you tolerate it from yourself?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Welcome to the Art Department

What I'm reading: Man Law, by Adrienne Giordano (Nook); Explosive Eighteen, by Janet Evanovich (Library) Contest book #6 of 8

First – check the sidebar and/or the Deals and Steals tab. Amazon has cut the price of WHERE DANGER HIDES in half. Don't know why, don't know for how long. But it's definitely a bargain price for a hard cover.

The manuscript for my third Pine Hills Police book is done. At least my part for round one. It's now in the hands of my editor. Because the book is the third in a previously published series, I knew there would be no chance that a traditional publisher would want to pick it up, so it's an Indie job from start to finish.

Now, if I did have a traditional publisher, at this point, they'd be working on a cover. They'd be deciding whether my working title actually worked. There might be some give and take, but ultimately, those decisions are theirs.

But I have to be my own marketing department, and my own art department. With a publisher, I'd have filled out a cover request form summarizing the plot, describing the characters, suggesting "looks" I liked or didn't like. Then, some time down the road, they'd send me the image and say, "This is your cover." And, for the record, it's unusual for them to make changes unless they've spelled your name wrong, or you can convince them that your book is set in Oregon, and cactus on the cover won't work.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Life is a First Draft

Hop on over to "Life is a First Draft" blog where I'm part of Rebecca J Clark's "Friday Firsts"

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Friday Field Trip - Colorado Evenings

Last week it was sunrises. How about some sunsets for this week? Most of these are Hubster's, but a couple are mine. (I still want you to share pictures, so contact me if you've got some.)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Happy Groundhog Day

Since I'm working to get through edits and revisions of my next Pine Hills Police book, and because today is a special occasion in our household, I'm repeating a very slightly modified version of last year's Groundhog Day post.

Groundhog Day isn't a major holiday for most folks. When I lived in Florida, I always thought six more weeks of winter (our kind of winter) would be nice. Very nice. Our first winter in Colorado was very mild, and so far our second hasn't been much different, so if we're getting six more weeks of the same, I can deal with it. But, significant or not, it's a special holiday for me and the Hubster.

Forty-three years ago, in the parking lot behind the Biology building at UCLA, he proposed. Now, I'm not sure if the one-knee thing was because I was sitting in my car and that was the only way he could make decent eye contact, but he asked. I said, "Yes." We even went to my parents' house and he did the formal, "I'd like to marry your daughter," thing. Survived the third degree -- "How will you support her?" (Remember, 43 years ago things were different--women were just beginning to be 'liberated.) He explained he had $2000 in a savings account, tied up as collateral for the loan on his truck, but he could pay off the truck at any time and untie the funds. And that was good enough for my dad. Then again, the dollar wasn't the same then, either.

I hadn't known him long--we'd met the first day of class when he was the lab TA for a course I had to take for part of my teaching certification. There were 2 other females in the lab section. One was engaged, and the other had a steady boyfriend. Then there was me. Our first "date" was a threesome. He was going to have to lead a field trip to the tidal flats and he wanted to scope it out first (being a non-California guy, he wasn't familiar with the inhabitants of the shore). He invited me and the girl with the steady boyfriend to tag along. I'm still not sure he knew about the guy at this point, but it was anything but a formal date. He dropped her off first. And there it began.

So, met in October, engaged in February, and married in August. Forty-three years ago. Happy Groundhog Day, Hubster. Wanna try for eighty-three?

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

What's Cooking Wednesday - Molasses Peanut Butter Cookies

What I'm reading: Contest entry #5 of 8

First - a request: My POV workshop will be cancelled if I don't get some more people signed up. If you know anyone who might benefit from some the workshop, I'd appreciate it if you'd send them in this direction. If the class is a "go" it'll most likely be small enough to permit some one-on-one help.

Thanks to Shelley Bell for sharing the trials and tribulations of book promotion.

A while back, someone on Google+ asked for recipes using molasses. I used to make this one for my kids (and since I don't like peanut butter it meant I wasn't tempted to eat them all--and because the kids aren't around anymore, I didn't bake them to take a picture for the blog.)

Molasses Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes 4 dozen

Preheat oven to 375
½ c. shortening
½ c. sugar
½ c. light molasses
½ c. chunky peanut butter
1 egg
2 c. flour
¼ t baking soda
¼ t baking powder
¼ t salt

In mixing bowl, cream shortening & sugar; beat in molasses, peanut butter, and egg. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir into peanut butter mixture. Mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten dough slightly with tines of a fork.

Bake 8 minutes, or until done.

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