Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Last Post in 2010

First and most important is that Graham Best has generously sent me copies of his wonderfully illustrated and beautifully written book, The Tightrope Walker's Dream

I featured his book earlier this year, but because it's Christmas I wanted to offer another visitor a chance to win Graham's book. It probably won't come in time for Christmas, but you can start your new year by winning and enjoying his story.

Just leave a comment about what dream has turned into reality after you let your heart lead the way. 

Merry Christmas all. I look forward to seeing you here and at your own special places in the blogosphere in 2011.

C. Lee

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Catch Up

Hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday season. First I have to give a gift today and that should put me into the holiday spirit! Natasha, the judges said your story won, so you'll be receiving the signed copy of Shooting Kabul. Congratulations. Contact me and send me your snail mail address.

Now that that's done. Let's think about what the season is really about. Gifts, of course, but the idea behind those gifts. The wrapping up at the end of the year, looking back to be grateful, looking ahead to the possibilities in the new year.

What are you looking back to in 2010? What are you looking forward to in 2011? Hopes? Dreams? Good health? Knitting together rifts or reaching out to new friends?

I'm remembering 2010 as a great year. My mom is still with me, even though she's had some illnesses that were deeply troubling. My family survived the economic downturn. My yoga brought me closer to my goal of being"accepting" instead of "judgmental." I have book two out as of the fifteenth. 

As for 2011, I'm looking forward to a wonderful year of writing--submitting my third book, developing my fourth, sharing with writers whenever possible and keeping close ties with my friends and family.
Oh, yes and lots of persimmon things. My neighbor's tree was prolific this year and I have a freezer full of persimmon pulp just waiting to go into cookies and puddings.  Having persimmons ensures that I will have a lot of guests. I think they smell when I'm baking and just happen to drop by! Lovely.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Giving Gifts to Writers

InkSpells (Susan Kaye Quinn) and Catherine Stein at her  Idea City have come up with some super gift ideas for writers at Christmas. I'm very partial to these: The Chocolate Keyboard and the Telephone Book Dress--recycling at its best.

The gift of time ain't bad either. Someone suggested writers could use more of that than anything. If you have some please don't hesitate to wrap it up for me. 

What I'd like to give is a gift of books this season. My family already has theirs under the tree, but I'm also giving some away here to my readers and good friends who write. So, if you want a book in time for Christmas all you have to do is tell me story. I love those that are heartwarming, have a sweet surprise, or make me laugh, so any of these would win a prize. 

This week's book is a signed copy of Shooting Kabul. It's a wonderful story with all the characteristics I've listed above.  Here are the rules :-) Gots to have rules!

1) In your comment tell me a story with at least one of those great in 100 words or less. 
2) Tell the world you just wrote the prize-winning story by TWEETING it or writing a NOTE on FACEBOOK and tagging 10 friends.  (Include me in your tags, okay?)

3) Be sure to leave me your email just in case you win and I'll send the book off by Dec. 13th. 

I'm looking forward to your stories.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Literary Dialect

In my last post before I took a break, I wrote about Literary Dialect and gave some examples of how a writer can capture in print the way a character sounds.  I stopped before I got into the issue of "respelling." 

You know,  gonna instead of "going to," hafta instead of "have to." This technique has stirred some controversy among linguists as well as writers, so I thought it would be interesting to present the opposing views here, and then ask for your opinions.

Dr. Dennis Preston, distinguished professor of linguistics at MSU has presented strong objections to respelling. He's even given it a special name--Eye Dialect--referring to how the prose looks on the page Here's why he objects to using it.

All speakers of English reduce vowels and cluster words in normal conversation. How many people, including yourself, say, "I have to go now."? If I wrote what I'd hear it would look like this. "I hafta go now." So if you single out one group to misspell or mark as different, Dr. Preston believes you are devaluing that dialect.

He also says that writing dialect phonetically may distract readers, so they pay more attention to how something's being said than what's being said. He gives an excerpt from Uncle Tom's Cabin as an example: 

"But, Aunt Chloe, I'm getting mighty hungry," said George. "Isn't that cake in the skillet almost done?" "Mose done, Mas'r George," said Aunt Chloe, lifting the lid and peeping in, -- "browning beautiful -- a real lovely brown. Ah! let me alone for dat. Missis let Sally try to make some cake, t' other day, jes to larn her, she said. 'O, go way, Missis,' said I; 'it really hurts my feelin's, now, to see good vittles spilt dat ar way! Cake ris all to one side -- no shape at all; no more than my shoe; go way!"

Harriet Beecher Stow didn’t set out to devalue the black dialect, but Dr. Preston believes that even though this devaluing is unintentional it is inappropriate. In her blog  Anne Sibley O’Brien writes,

“Being a dominant group member is like having a free pass that members of out-groups don’t have, but with no awareness of having it. Given such conditioning, developing White Mind is pretty much inescapable.”

So she and Dr. Preston say that respelling one group’s language may reveal more about authors and their assumptions/biases than about the characters they’re creating.

In contrast the Folklorist, Dr. Elizabeth Fine says this is an expression of appreciation for the characters and their dialects. The author is using an effective way of letting the reader “hear” the voice. Eye dialect translates performance (how a character sounds) into print.

When you read Eye Dialect, what is your reaction? Is it distracting or does it help you "hear" the characters' voices? If you're a writer, do you use Eye Dialect? How much? I'd love to hear from you and find out what you think about this technique.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NCTE and Me

I'll be taking a break from the Write Game from Nov. 13th to Dec. 2nd.  This will give me time to do a presentation at NCTE in Orlando on Nov. 19th, and then stuff a turkey for the following Thursday. Why does everything happen at the same time?

I thought that since most of my readers are writers I'd give you a bit of preview of the presentation.

The title is Why Ain't and Gotta Gotta be in Today's Books for Kids and Teens and I'll be chairing the session which will include: 

Cheryl Herbsman (Breathing)

Erin Dionne (Models Don't Eat Chocolate & The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet)

Cynthea Liu ( Paris Pan Takes the Dare & The Great Call of China) 

Kurtis Scaletta (Mudville & Mamba Point)

Carrie Ryan (Forest of Hands and Teeth & Dead Tossed Waves). 

Am I in good company or what?

I took on the job of chair because of my background in linguistics, so I'll be establishing the framework for this session about Literary Dialect.

So what is literary dialect anyway? It's a way of speaking that marks regional, cultural, ethnic and social differences among characters in your books. In other words: accent, word choice, and grammatical usage. And there are many ways to approach capturing performance and putting it on paper.

In my latest WIP I wanted to characterize a character from Texas, but I didn't want to clutter the page with the typical y'alls, so I used standard spelling, but in the attribute I described the character's speech. Since this book will be in first person pov, it will be the protagonist who comments on the Texas accent. Here's one example:

Texas character."So what do you say?"
POV character. Dad's question comes out in slow Texan.

I like this technique because readers can hear whatever Texas accent they want.

In Sliding on the Edge I had a non-native speaking Vietnamese character and to capture his voice I omitted unstressed words that a native speaker of English would never omit. "The" is often barely noticed, but since it's a morpheme (a unit in our language that carries meaning) if it's missing we know. I chose to omit the for another reason as well. "th" is a rare sound in the languages of the world and often difficult for second language learners to articulate. Here's how Tuan sounds in my story.

"Las Vegas!" He spits into the gutter. "Hoodlums do this. All time."

In The Princess of Las Pulgas I have a feisty character, named K.T., with attitude as her middle name. Here she is giving my poor MC a dose of that attitude.

"There you go again, thinking I'm stupid. I heard all that scratchin' your pencil did and I seen those pages full of writing."

K.T. isn't stupid, but she likes to break as many rules as possible, including grammar. Here she mangles standard English by using the past participle, seen, instead of the simple past, saw. It doesn't make the meaning unclear, but characterizes her perfectly.

 If you noticed, the word, scratchin', is respelled and that will be the technique I'll go into more at the conference. When I start blogging again in December I'll go into it here as well. It's an interesting technique that's often used, but it's controversial among linguists as well as writers.  So come back in Dec. and I'll share what I know about respelling.

Well, that's enough. Happy Thanksgiving. Come back to visit when you're full of good food and holiday memories. I look forward to your visit.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I'm a member and moderator at YaLitChat. If you haven't heard of us take a look because within one year (as of last Tuesday) we have over 1800 members. Many are published, many are seeking publication, but all are there to support and learn and produce the best writing for YA and MG readers as they can.

For the month of November we're hosting a great contest for writers who have taken on the NaNoWriMo challenge. If you're a YaLitChat member you can enter to win:

*A 20 page critique by a leading industry Agent or Editor (We have wonderful agents/editors who have joined our YAlitchat family)
*A bookpack of Rampant by Diana Peterfreund plus 2 books from Harper


"The winner meets their 50K goal or has the highest count of all contestants. As well as posting a snippet of writing daily (25 words of your writing for the day) and the word count for the day that you post. The winner would have posted at least 10 times during the month of November their word count and snippet for that day. Please provide your screen name and buddy all of the contestants." YaLitChat Forum

To enter:
-  JoinYalitchat
-  Join Contest Forum
-  Post Introduction to include (nanowrimo login name, title of nanowork, current words completed, 5 sentence synopsis of book you are writing)
-   Post Daily or weekly (word count, 25 word snippet of what your wrote during the recent session)
-   Win if yours is the highest recorded word count of all contestants. You may need to present a draft to prove your word count.)

Is there any reason you wouldn't want to enter?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Job Opening-Description Follows

The holidays are officially launched. Halloween is the harbinger of Thanksgiving which means, unless you're Macy's, Christmas will come in another month. This is the time of year I'm most likely to panic. It's also the time I grow nostalgic. Anyone with me here? 

What I need most is a touch of humor to get me though November and December. So here's my humble attempt at making myself laugh. It's "groundling"humor, but I love it. And I hope you'll laugh a bit along with me.

Job Description: Long-term worker needed for challenging, permanent work in chaotic environment. Applicants must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work evenings and weekends and frequent 24-hour shifts. There is some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in faraway cities. Travel expenses are not reimbursed.


Must keep this job for the rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule. Must be willing to tackle stimulating technical challenges such as small gadget repair, sluggish toilets, and stuck zippers. Must handle assembly and product safety testing, as well as floor maintenance and other janitorial work. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and levels of mentality. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute and an embarrassment the next. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.

Advancement and Promotion: 

There is no possibility of either. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining constantly retraining and updating your skills so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

Previous Experience: 

None required, but on-the-job training is offered on a continually exhausting basis.


Are you kidding?  In fact, you must pay those in your charge, offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 and attend college. When you die you give them whatever income you have left.


*Laughing here.* There is no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options. However the job offers limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life.

So if you haven't already taken on this challenging occupation, are you interested? Consult your nearest parent before applying.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Ghostly Halloween

It's the time of year to pull those pumpkin vines, bundle the corn stalks and put away the outdoor furniture. Fall is for coming to the hearth with a good book and a hot cup of cocoa-a time to look inward and reminisce about spring and summer days that warmed the garden and brought forth the crops for harvest.

The sudden shift of light, the clouds with hints of a storm bundled inside, the night that comes more quickly . . . all of these are October, and there's a slight charge in the air as the old myths stir within our memory.

Persephone once again returns to Hades as she was bound to do. Demeter bemoans the loss of her daughter and the earth goes silent and infertile for the months they are separated.

Now is the time for ghosts to walk among us, while our minds grow quiet in the long chilled nights.

I haven't written a ghost story in a few years, but I had a couple published a while ago in Crow Toes Quarterly, so I thought to celebrate the season, I'd share this one. It's written for middle grade readers, so I hope you'll print it and read it or give it to a young reader who would like to be a tad scared by the THE GHOSTLY DOUBLE.

photo by sgrunt

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Visit from Beth Fehlbaum

I'm so excited to have a fellow WestSide author, BETH FEHLBAUM visit me this week. Here are some of the things Beth has to say about her books, HOPE IN PATIENCE and COURAGE IN PATIENCE. She tells us a bit about herself and shares some advice for writers. Welcome, Beth.

What triggered the idea for your books, Hope in Patience and Courage in Patience?

I had been in therapy for a little over a year. I was sexually abused from the age of 8 to 15 and emotionally abused much longer than that. I was writing stories and poems as a way of processing my grief, disbelief, and rage, and sharing them with my therapist.  One day, he suggested that I try writing a novel.  I tried for about four months but I kept ending up in the same place of trying to figure out why I had been abused and why my mom turned her back on me when I asked for help as a teen, and again when I told her I was struggling with what happened in my childhood.  

One day I realized that I was getting nowhere and decided to try telling a story of recovery from the point of view of a 15 year old girl who was a recent transplant to the Piney Woods of East Texas.  That’s how Ashley Nicole Asher, age 15, and the tiny East Texas town of Patience came to be. 

In my own life, I longed for a father since I had never really known my biological father, and my stepfather was my perpetrator, so I gave Ashley a very strong father figure in David.  

I guess you could say that what triggered the Patience series was my own longing to understand and move past my own pain. 

Is there a favorite line or two from either of your books that you'd like to share with us?

The sentence that serves as the preface for Courage in Patience is, “Courage is not so much avoiding danger but is conquering it.” And the sentence that prefaces Hope in Patience is, “Hope is the opposite of fear.”  Both of those are credited to “A wise person”—and that wise person is my (now-former) therapist.  

Are you working on another book? Can you give us a sneak preview?

I am working on Truth in Patience, the third and probably last book in the Patience series. It opens with Ashley making out with her boyfriend, Joshua, who we meet in Hope in Patience—and she’s struggling with something that’s very common to survivors of sexual abuse—the desire to be close to someone she loves, conflicting with this screaming, freaking out inner voice that is basically setting off sirens in her head because it’s so, so difficult to be physically close with someone when the only “version” of that the victim has previously had was in the context of molestation or rape.  I’m about four chapters in so far, and I plan on finishing the first draft the summer of 2011. 

What's been the most exciting/daunting part of becoming a published author?

It’s very exciting to be nominated for an award: Hope in Patience was nominated for a 2011 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  It’s exciting to be a more public person, and also somewhat daunting.  I’m starting to be asked to speak at things like luncheons and crime victim support group meetings, and that’s both exciting and a little nerve-wracking.  One thing I’ve learned from my life experiences is to compare things that make me nervous to the worst things that I’ve ever been through.  It really helps put it in perspective!  Even though it’s not always easy for me to “come out” as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I really want people to know that there is hope for recovery.  It’s a very hard road to travel, but it can be done. 

Is there anything you can share with hopeful writers that might help them-- something about writing or seeking representation or preparing for publication.

I would encourage them to “just write.”  Write for the joy that it brings you or the feeling it gives you inside, and write the very best manuscript you can for yourself…THEN worry about finding an agent and selling your work.  Believe in yourself and never give up.

As far as preparing for publication, it’s a lot of hard work.  Publicists are great, and I do have one for the launch of Hope in Patience, but writers need to be aware that to get your book “out there”, it takes an enormous amount of self-promotion.  If you just sit back and wait for your books to become known, it probably won’t happen. 

I invite readers to stop by my WEBSITE, and check out Chapter previews for both Hope in Patience and Courage in Patience! 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some Drac Facts

He look pretty suave to me.
I hadn't read Dracula in a long while, so I checked out a copy of the latest edition and found a fascinating introduction by Joan Acocella (American journalist and dance critic for the New Yorker.) She shared so many interesting facts that I'd either forgotten or never heard of, and, since they heightened my appreciation of this iconic novel, I thought I'd share some with you to celebrate this dark season.

First, as you probably know the lovely idea of the living dead wasn't orignial with Bram Stoker. These creatures had been around in European folklore for a long time before Stoker created the sensual count and captured the imagination of the reading public. "Captured the imagination" is another way of saying "lured them with the forbidden." 

"I love those taboos," and so say all of us.
The idea of the suave, enticing male figure didn't originate with Stoker. It was Lord Byron's personal physician, John Pilidori,  who wrote The Vampyre: A Tale and published it in 1819. He might even have crafted his undead character after the handsome Byron himself and used an outline of a story Bryon had started. By all accounts, The Vampyre was an erotic tale, luring readers with innocent virgins and an irresistible fiend. Wowzer! No wonder it was a hit. Remember, in last week's post I suggested writers could keep readers hooked by exploring taboos; the good doctor must have known that.  

Here's something I had never read before. Mary Gowin was a guest of Lord Byron's good friend and neighbor,  Percy Bysshe Shelley, during a summer stay at Lake Geneva. As a game several of the guests wrote or started to write ghost stories. While Polidore worked on his Vampyre story, eighteen-year-old Gowin began writing Frankenstein. This was in 1816. I would say that there were some significant ghostly vibes around that Swiss lake that year.

There have been more than 150 movies made about Dracula. The first one was a silent film titled Nosferatu and came out in 1922.

Bella Lugosi began playing Count Dracula on stage in 1927 and became the count on screen for most of his career. It wasn't what he wanted, but in the end it made him famous. Ms. Acocella writes, "[Lugosi] was buried in his Dracula cloak."

Bram Stoker was born outside of Dublin in 1847. He was very ill  and bedridden until he was seven, and mentioned how that time alone, turned him into an introspective person whose thoughts during those early years became books in his later ones.

About 1871 he turned to acting, but didn't do very well. Next he became a drama critic (sounds like revenge to me) and started to write short stories. His first novel, The Snake's Pass was published in in1890. He publishes Dracula in 1897.
Bram Stoker
So what other facts are there about our famous writer and his famous book, Dracula? Can you share them here? Thanks.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Write Good and Spooky

I was thinking about all the books that I've read that were really spooky. You know the ones you can't read after dark when your home alone? My top hit when I was a kid was Dracula or anything vampyrish. I went back to the original Bram Stoker book the other day and started reading it again. It still "got to me" enough that 1) I kept reading and 2) I tried to warn those characters about the dude with the weird eyes.

So why did this story grab me and scare me . . . again? Here's what I came up with and here's what I think I, as a writer, have to master. See what you think and let me know what else I need to add to this list of strategies.

Strategy #1 Keep 'em guessing--the characters, that is. What one character knows, the other(s) shouldn't, but the reader should. That will drive the reader "bats," and he'll keep urging each character to wake up, turn around, pay attention!

Strategy #2 Take your time cluing those characters into what's afoot. Make the character very slooow to discover what the reader knows.

Jonathan Harker Knows He's Dracula's Prisoner
Strategy #3 Let the characters understand and have control in their world, but show that they ain't dealing with their world as they know it. All the time these characters are doing what they know is right or logical and that has worked in the past, mysterious events continue around them and that evil dude is doing people in--maybe getting ready to do in those oblivious characters too.

Strategy #4 Never make the the bad guy all bad and good guy all good. It's really tantalizing when the bad guy is handsome, kind of sweet, but deadly. A little avarice, cowardice or greed in the good guy makes it a little harder to root for him at times, so the reader is conflicted: pull for the hero or his enemy who is totally awesome and exciting?

Strategy #5 Give your female characters some backbone, yet keep them vulnerable and feminine, witty, sometimes wise and sometimes (especially when it comes to that evil guy) foolish.

Strategy #6 Get into some of those cultural taboos and show how the characters really feel about them, The forbidden is always enticing and should be for those people in your book as well as those reading it.

So what else can a writer do to hook the reader and keep him hooked until The End?

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's October and Some Vampyres are Loose

Welcome debut author, ELIZABETH KOLOSZIEJ who's kicking off my new series dedicated to October.
 VAMPYRE KISSES is a great way to start this month that's all about stories of the dead or the undead, those spirits who feast on the living. And look at her cover! Eye-catching, isn't it? But wait! There's super contest as well. Check it out here.

Thanks for stopping in and for answering all my questions, Elizabeth.

 My first one is how do you pronounce your last name? It's an intriguing set of consonants and vowels, but if I ever meet you in person I'll mess it up.

It’s funny; I have only had a handful of people capable of pronouncing it correctly the first time around. Most of those people are Polish though, which is the origin of the name. It is pronounced, KO-LA-G. People ask why I didn’t use a pen name and I simply tell them, it is because I want people to learn how to pronounce it and spell it. That way I don’t have to go through the: K O L O D (as in David) Z (as in Zerbra) I E J (as in Jack). Hehe.

What drew you to writing about vampires?

I always explain to people that it is my mother’s fault and it really is. Because of her I grew up with vampires and the supernatural around me because she was interested in it. She watched Buffy, read Ann Rice, and even play The Masquerade. She is one of my greatest resources to go to when I am having a vampire dilemma.
Since it was around me I grew to love it too and it just interested me to no end. There is so much controversy around the subject of vampires and their abilities and such. It really just felt natural to write about it. Like falling in love you don’t understand what it always is about that person but you are in love with them and no one else. Same thing goes for why I write about the supernatural.

Besides your book, do you have a favorite classic and/or a favorite contemporary vampire story?

It is so difficult to pick just one vampire story I love. It really depends on the time and what is around. At this moment, I have fallen for Jeaniene Frost’s books, which tell the story of Cat and Bones. The writing is phenomenal.
But no, I don’t have just one favorite. I draw inspiration and get influenced by every story I read. Each one does something for me in a different way.

Every book is unique in some way, but there are thousands of vampire stories. How does your book stand out from the rest? What will the readers

Readers are actually finding that Vampyre Kisses is really different from the more popular books out there. Most of the uniqueness comes from the Greek Mythology mixed with Folklore and my own imagination. You get to actually see the gods in my book and hear them speak. Along with this, there is a great in depth history on vampires and how they came to be. Finally, I have included a witch, which (haha) is something not a lot of people include in a vampire story. I know Kim Harrison does but her world is very different from mine.
Tell us a bit about your MC. She sounds like an amazing character with a legacy of witchcraft and a quest to take on. If this is turned into a movie who would you select to play her? And how about Trent? In your trailer, he's got the "eyes."
When I think of Faith the first thing that comes to mind is how determined of a person she is. Even though she has her breaking points in the book she still manages to get to her feet and keep going. She is more intelligent than some female leads but it does take her a little while to understand everything clearly. But to me that just says that she likes to know all the perspectives and understand the situation perfectly before coming up with a solution. Faith is a loving and caring woman who would do just about anything for anyone.
Trent is a vampire I really love; mostly because he really loves being a vampire and drinking blood. I personally get tired of reading about vampires who hate being vampires and such. I always think, ok go stand out in the sun and die then if it’s THAT bad. But Trent is a vampire that is extremely protective of Faith and would do anything to save her. Sometimes he feels like she doesn’t need him though because she is showing that she can do so much on her own. Trent will learn that she does need him, more than he realizes.   
If Vampyre Kisses were turned into a movie I would actually want “no-bodies” to play the parts. It is really difficult for me to see Faith and Trent and so far no one in Hollywood has struck me. I think it would be hard for me to pick out my characters because I am so attached to them and see them as something unique.  
That was great, Elizabeth. Here are the places you can find Vampyre Kisses, so for a great October read buy now.

Barnes & Noble

Be sure to visit Elizabeth on facebook and Twitter. She'd appreciate your friendship and your follow.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's Eat! Part v

Well, this is the last post in my writing paired with food series--the last one until next harvest season, that is. And this week I'm really excited to welcome another good friend.

L.K. MADIGAN writes good, very good, EXCELLENT books. Her latest, THE MERMAID'S MIRROR is no exception.  Here's what another very fine author says about this book: "A poignant, enchanting story about a girl's search for her true self. I love L. K. Madigan's dreamy, fairy-tale-like underwater world." Malinda Lo.

And you will too. Here's a slightly salty taste of what's in store when you open The Mermaid's Mirror and read. 

     "She was too tired to struggle to the surface again. She was not even sure which direction was up. She knew she should try to remain relaxed in order to surface. Now it felt strangely comforting to relax and allow the boiling waters to toss her. Black dots danced at the edge ofher vision.
     I wonder if I'm going to die, she thought, but there was no longer a sense of panic to the ida. This is where Dad almost died.

     At that moment, Lena felt something touch her arm, then a hard object was pushed into her hand. She clamped her fingers around it automatically.
     Before she even had time to wonder about the object, Lena felt two small hands grasp her beneath the arms and pull her out the the deadly grip of the Cauldron." 


Below is quick snapshot of L.K and me last year at her debut book signing for FLASH BURNOUT at Books Inc. in San Francisco.  This book won her the William Morris Award. Congratulations again and your fans are looking forward to that next super book.

So now about this food thing . . . What else would go with The Mermaid's Mirror if not a tasty fish of some sort. Here's one of my favorites

Grilled Snapper with Salsa

Make this salsa a day ahead:
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
2 lg. tomatoes, chopped
1/2 med. onion, chopped (I like sweet whites.)
I'm no Snapper!
3 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp. salt (I like Kosher.)
1/2 cumin

Roast whole peppers either on barbecue or center rack of 400 degree oven.About 10 min. Skin should be blackened or split so it peels easily. Let cool. Cut in half, seed and stem. In food processor puree all ingredients to a sauce. Chill overnight.

Rub fish with salt, pepper and lime juice. Barbecue or broil until flaky. Top with warmed salsa. I usually have enough to use cold on chilled cooked shrimp. Yummm.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's Eat! IV

I'm excited to feature KIMBERLY DERTING in my series where I pair good writing and good food to celebrate both at this harvest season. 

I read THE BODY FINDER this month and truly enjoyed how Kimberly wove a wonderful love story with a tense mystery. It didn't take me long to finish because setting the book aside wasn't an option. I had to know how it ended. You will too.  

Here's a small taste of what you'll find: "She heard her father gasp at the same time she recognized what she had uncovered. She felt his strong hands reaching for her from behind, pulling her firmly by the shoulders away from the fresh dirt and gathering her into his strong, safe arms . . . away from the sound that was calling to her . . .
     . . . and away from the girl's face staring up at her from beneath the soil. "

Chilling, right? But then there are some soft and beautifully written scenes that show a friendship slowly ripening into romance.  And there's humor that serves to heighten the tense parts. I stumbled on Hilary Wagner's post about writing funny in dark moments and thought I'd link to that post for those of you who write. Adding a minor character or giving humorous dialog to your MC is a great way to involve your reader more deeply in your life and death scenes. To see how that's done, read Kimberly's story. She manages it very nicely.

Now, let's eat. 

Since The Body Finder is such a layered, light and dark story I started searching for layered food to pair with it.  Here's what I came up with. What do you think?

Bruschetta  With Black Olive Pesto, Ricotta, and Basil

1 loaf country bread with thick crust, sliced into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
1/2 medium garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium clove, minced
1/2 C. pitted kalamata olives (Here's your dark stuff.)
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 small shallot, minched
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 ricotta (Here's your light stuff.)
ground black pepper
2 tbs basil leaves, finely shredded

Place bread on grill or foil-lined baking sheet. Grill or broil until deep golden, 1-2 minutes. Flip and repeat. Lightly rub 1 side with garlic, brush with olive oil, and season with salt.

Process garlic, olives, olive oil, shallot and lemon juice in food processor until uniform pasta forms about 10 seconds, scraping bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Combine ricotta, salt, and pepper to taste in small bowl. Divide  pesto on toast. Spread to edges. Top with ricotta and carefully spread over pesto. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with basil. Makes 8-10 Buon Appetito!

I'm making this for dinner guests and telling them to get their copy of The Body Finder. Let me know if you try the bruschetta and really be sure to tell me what you think of Kimberly Derting's book. Did I do good at the pairing this week?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's Eat, Part III

It's the Belle Époque, a last period of elegant dress and luxurious dining before WWI. Into this world of privilege steps Lia Milthorpe and her twin sister, Alice, to do battle--one each knows will end in death, but for which one? Will Lia find the meaning of the prophecy and save the world?  Only MICHELLE ZINC, author of the trilogy, knows.

I don't do reviews. There are already so many well-qualified reviewers online that I prefer to "feature" authors I enjoy reading. I love how Michelle has managed to capture the language and flavor of the period without making the prose seem contrived or difficult. I feel that this is one the greatest strengths of her both GUARDIAN OF THE GATE  and PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS, the first book in her trilogy. She manages to pull me in that world of beautifully dressed men and women who dine, rather than eat and who carry themselves with grace even when confronting evil. Doesn't that whet your appetite?

Here's a quick peek at the story if my description hasn't grabbed you.

"Sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy that has divided her family for generations, her twin sister, Alice, works to hone the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the the only thing she wants. There's also Lia's beloved James." Guardian of the Gate

Be sure to stop by her PROPHECY WEBSITE to read excerpts and listen to the great play list. You might also want to read some the  * * * * * REVIEWS readers have posted about Guardian. 

So we've got a fight to the death between twin sisters, a mysterious prophecy to grapple with AND love all presented in some beautiful prose. What more does a reader need?

The only thing I can think of is some suitably paired Belle Époque cuisine. My palate immediately demanded Pheasant, so I went to my shelf, which bows a bit from hefty books about preparing food. I've only made this dish once. It's labor intensive and bagging the pheasant took days--actually I can't shoot anything except my foot. I'm not a hunter, so I did my "pheasant bagging" at a market. My guests said this dish was fab, so I'm passing it on as the food I'd select to compliment this lovely novel.

Breast of Pheasant Sous Cloche (Under Glass)
From Roy Alciatore of Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans (circa 1940), found in A Treasury of Great Recipes, by Mary and Vincent Price 
2 pheasants
1/2 lemon
4 Tbsp plus 2 Tbsp butter
2-1/2 cups brown sauce
2 Tbsp truffles, minced
1/4 cup Madeira
4 slices bread
For the Pheasant:

1. Preheat oven to moderate (350°F; 175°C).
2. Rub the cavities and skin of 2 ready-to-cook pheasants with the cut side of 1/2 lemon. Season inside and out with salt and pepper.
3. In a heavy pan melt: 4 tablespoons butter. Brown the birds on all sides.
4. Place pan in the oven. Baste birds with pan juices every 10 minutes and roast about 30 minutes for average-sized pheasants. Remove and keep warm.
For the Sauce:
In a saucepan heat: 2-1/2 cups brown sauce. Let it simmer until it has reduced about one-quarter. Add: 1/4 cup Madeira and 2 tablespoons minced truffles. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the Presentation:
1. Cut into rounds: 4 slices bread and toast them.
2. Sauté: the 2 pheasant livers gently in 2 tablespoons butter. Mash well and spread liver and butter on the toast rounds.
3. Carve pheasants so you have 4 breasts.
4. Place a roasted breast of pheasant on each round of toast. Cover with the sauce and place glass bell over each dish. Serve at once.
Yield: Serves 4

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's EAT! Part II

During this harvest season my blog is going to be all about food and how it combines with reading and writing. If you have some food/literary metaphors share them here or if you're blogging about something that's similar, please let me know. I love to link to other blogs with similar themes. And speaking of that, my favorite Canine Couch Potato, Buddy, just alerted me to his interesting "foodie" brain teasers. Pop over for a visit and find out how your brain's working. When you've enjoyed his wonderful site please stop in at 
Sunny Room Studio and read about the Prairie Cook. So lovely.

Next week: I start pairing food I love with books I love, so pop in, have a bite and read along. My good friend and great writer, Michelle Zinc, The Guardian of the Gate will be here.

But this week it's all about . . . 

My Great Tomato Saga

It all began with a tiny seeds back in April. I put them into planting mix, added water to keep them moist and

by June I had sprouts . . . lots of sprouts.
By July I had bushes . . .  way too many. 

August came and so did round green, juicy fruit . . . more than I'd expected.

Last week I harvested of twenty pounds of tomatoes with the promise of more to come. How many ways can you eat a tomato? As of today my count is 1,342.

What we couldn't eat went into jars. I'll love having these pre-seasoned veggies come mid-winter when soup sounds like the best idea for dinner, or I have a stew craving and I have to go to a book signing for some wonderful writer I adore.  

While I was peeling, slicing, and preparing the tomatoes I couldn't let my writer's brain sleep. I kept thinking how much this process reminded me of writing a story.

Two years ago I wrote this. "What would happen to an affluent, happy family if they lost everything?" That was the seed for my second book, The Princess of Las Pulgas. In the first year I didn't match my tomatoes' success. I had one huge dud of a rough draft. The book didn't start in the right place, it sort of sagged in the middle, and who would even care about the end? Back I went to that seed stage again. 

I kept asking myself that "what if" question I'd first written, and finally the answers started to come. Fruit set this time around, so that at least the book started where it should and the middle got me to the end and at last readers actually cared what happened to my poor characters. Still this story wasn't growing the way I wanted it to, so hew, hack, cultivate and . . .  rewrite. 

Three drafts later I got it. Three drafts later my editor liked it. Three drafts later I went back to cooking comfort food. Mine happens to be Chicken Paprika--a simple dish that you can assemble and leave to simmer. There's only one drawback. It doesn't require tomatoes. Here's the recipe anyway, just in case you're hungry, and really need some time to write that scene that finally has settled into your head.

Chicken Paprika

1/8 lb. sweet butter
3 chopped onions
1broiler chicken, cut into serving pieces
Hungarian paprika
Salt and pepper

Brown the onions in butter. Add the chicken and brown about 4-5 each side. Add salt, pepper to taste and the paprika until the chicken has reddish color. Cover. Set timer and return to desk to write for 45 minutes. You should be able to create a great first draft of that scene you've just been inspired to write while you added the seasoning. Remove chicken and add a pint of sweet cream to liquid and onions in pan. Stir to blend. Serve over rice. Sit down and reread that scene while you savor your chicken.

Does anyone know how to say Buen Provecho in Hungarian?