Monday, March 30, 2009

MUCH TOO SWEET

Friday night I had guests for dinner and committed a cardinal sin: I made a recipe without testing it first.

The recipe was for peach crisp. Apple crisp is an old favorite of mine, but did I use my tried and true recipe and just substitute peaches? Nooooooooooo! Instead, I took this one from a 1997 Taste of Home annual. Now, granted, food from the heartland isn't known for being the most healthy -- but peaches, for goodness sake! They're good for you.

As I was making the dessert, I frowned at the amounts of sugar the recipe called for. In fact, I used one quarter less sugar in the filling, and a quarter Peach crispless in the topping (1/2 cup less sugar in the whole recipe), and since the filling called for the syrup from the canned peaches (and I made the mistake of buying peaches in heavy syrup, I dumped half of said syrup down the drain and substituted water. The result -- a dessert that was still far too sweet for me to really enjoy.

Mind, you, I LOVE dessert -- and it shows. (I've got a conference to go to in a month, and starting today, I've hit the treadmill in an effort to lose a few pounds.) The truth is, we rarely eat dessert just because we eat too much of everything else. (And, in fact, my favorite "dessert" is actually a graham cracker.)

It's doubtful I'll ever make this recipe again. But if I should -- I'd knock out at least another 1/2 cup of the sugar -- and ditch the heavy (made lighter) syrup. No wonder there's a diabetes epidemic in this country.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--Pity the poor apostrophe!

Today's guest is Jeffrey Cohen, the award-winning author of the Double Feature Mystery Series.

I absolutely despair over the decline in apostrophe Apostropheuse in America (and, I'm betting, all other English-speaking nations). An innocuous little piece of punctuation, the apostrophe is always willing to help, contracting phrases like "it is" into "it's" or, just to show off its versatility (notice how I did NOT use an apostrophe in that last "its?"), making a possessive out of just about any proper noun. All with one keystroke or a little swipe of the pen. Unassuming, eager to please. The apostrophe.

I teach a writing class at a major university when I'm not trying desperately to get people to read my novels, and even sometimes when I am. So I get to see the punctuation of college-level students whose parents are shelling out major bucks for them to learn, at least in part, writing. And I can tell you that the apostrophe is as endangered a species as the polar bear, and even Al Gore isn't crusading against the laziness that places it in jeopardy.

Personally, I blame text messaging. The need to be brief (or suffer thumb injuries, I assume) has Text messaging
given everyone license to write as if life were the title of a Prince song: "RU Ready 4 me?" Stuff like that. Try and find an apostrophe in a text message. But also, I don't think English teachers at the elementary and secondary levels are bothering with punctuation anymore. People are using apostrophes in words like "hers," where they're not needed, and not using them in words like "you're," where they are.

Pity the poor apostrophe. All it wanted was to help.

And what's bugging YOU today?
------------------------------------
Night at the operation
Jeffrey Cohen is the award-winning author of the Double Feature Mystery series. His current book, A Night At The Operation, is third in the series and available on April 7th. Check out Jeff's website. Jeff also blogs on Mondays at Hey,There's A Dead Guy In The Living Room (Mystery Publishing from Idea to Bookshelf).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Up To My Ears In Wires

Yesterday, I pulled all the entertainment centers apart and hooked them all up again.

What's with that?

Well, our CD player died about two weeks ago. We've been listening to Happy Hour music on a boom box I got for 75 cents at a church sale. A great deal, huh? Well, someone blew the speakers out (no doubt blaring the bass at maximum decibels), so it wasn't a treat to hear our favorite music. So, off we went in search of a new CD player.

We already knew that CD players are hard to come by. (Hell, boom boxes are hard to come by, too--why do you think I bought one at a church sale?) As it happens, PLACES to buy CD players are just as rare. Now that Circuit City is gone, the only "chain" appliance store in the area is Best Buys. Only, when we got there, the shelves were strangely empty. They had floor models of two Sony CD players, but a check with the computer told us they had none in stock and didn't plan to stock them, even though both models won't be discontinued until 2010. "Wanna buy the floor model?" No. "Okay, you can order it online." And pay for shipping. Hmm.

Then we remembered The Stereo Shop. As it happens, we both bought our very first CD players from the Stereo Shop. CD player2They had one of the same Sony CD players in stock -- didn't plan to order any more. ("Not a hot item. Most people use their DVD players.") What the heck, we took it. (And $2 cheaper than Best Buy with no shipping charges. To quote my friend Krista from her Diva Dishes blog, "Five Cupcakes!") We bought locally, left a smaller carbon footprint, and had a good product by a good company. (Did I mention my 30 year-old Sony Trititron TV still has a great picture?)

We also had a bad (naughty) DVD player. It doesn't like us. You can fart around for five or more minutes just trying to convince the thing to play a DVD. The only reason to keep it is because it also has a VHS player in it, which plays beautifully. Too bad we play more DVDs than tapes, eh? As it happens, Aldi had a little DVD player on sale for $25. Aha! The answer to all our DVD problems. And, as it's soooooo tiny, I could put it on top of the CD player in my office (the one I bought from The Stereo Shop over 20 years ago and is still going strong). So I unhooked the JVC DVD in my office, opened the box to the new one (I asked the girl at Aldi, "Is this a good brand?" She shrugged and said, "Ya got me, but it's flying outta here like crazy") and hooked it up. (BTW, I never read directions. Why bother?) The thing worked like a charm.

Next up, the new CD Player and moving the JVC DVD player to the living room. But first, I had to Wires
unhook the old CD player (which was actually a DVD player--and one we hated from day one), and rescue the five CDs it had been holding hostage since it died two weeks before. Next, plug in the wires to the amplifier. Couldn't be easier. Next, hook up the DVD player. Only the cord was too short. Down to the basement to search for a strip plug. Back to the living room. The plug won't stay in the wall. Back to the basement to find another strip plug. Back up to the living room. Unplug the TV and lamp and plug into the strip cord. Back to the DVD Player. Find Harry Potter DVD in back of TV, which has been missing for two years. Hook up yellow, white, and red wires to back of TV (also a Sony). Loop DVD cord out the back. Too short. Back to the basement for an extension cord. Only it's a fire hazard to "daisy chain" an extension cord to a strip plug. Unplug the strip plug, plug the TV and lamp back into the wall. Move to the other side of the wall-length entertainment center; unplug the CD and tape players, plug into the strip plug, plug strip plug into the wall. Can't reach the extension cord. Haul out step ladder, climb onto top of Entertainment Center, using husband's cane (from newly installed full knee replacement) to hook the extension cord, haul it over to the side and plug into wall. Turn on all appliances: Yea -- they work.

Put Harry Potter DVD in DVD player, hit play. Nothing happens. Pull TV back out, make sure cords are in all the way; put TV back. Hit play. Nothing happens. Walk to office, call brother on phone. He's not home. Call back in five minutes. Call back. He's now at Sam's Club. Too noisy to talk. Will call back. Five minutes later, he calls back. Explain situation. He gives advice and says call back if it doesn't work. Go back to TV. Check wires again. Flip channels looking for an AUX channel around 90. No AUX channel, but discover we have the Hallmark Channel on our basic cable -- only it's on Channel 78. We have never flipped that high. (Do we NEED the Hallmark Channel? Will we ever watch it?)

Sit in front of TV pondering problem while Harry Potter-Gobletlistening to Dr. Oz explain how to grow a new bladder. Punch all buttons on remote. Suddenly, Harry Potter appears! Oh-oh! Forgot, when plugging directly into TV with DVR, must turn off TV button--switching to video! Yea! Back in business.

And that's why I didn't write a single sentence yesterday afternoon.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SPRING CLEANING

Saturday, I decided to clean my office. Mostly, that meant going through my closet to make room for the stuff that's been sitting on my floor for months on end.

I found all kinds of wonderful and not-so-wonderful stuff. I found a huge pile of rejection letters for books that are either out of print or contracted to be published. I found a rejection from my current agent for my first published book. (I'm glad to see she liked it.) I found old critiques. I found encouraging letters from a published author who has now fallen on hard times and has been unable to sell more books. (Always a fear once you get published.)

I found lost jewelry. I found many tubes of chapstick Woman cleaningand gluestick. I vacuumed. I dusted. I spent about five hours just working on this one room . . . and it's still not where I want it to be. Mostly, it's my desk that's still a mess. (Although I still have yet another pile of papers to go through and file/toss.)

Sunday, I did another kind of clean-up job: my mailing lists. I worked on that for about 7 hours. Checking e-mail addresses that don't work. Looking up missing zip codes, etc.

Of course, now as I look around the rest of the house, I feel pressured to start tossing more magazines, and put away some of the books. There's a lot to be said for living a tidy life. Now if I could just do it on a regular basis.

Have you started your spring cleaning yet?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

TIME'S RUNNING OUT!

Have you signed up yet for the contest book giveaway I'm in with my friend, author J.B. Stanley?

The battered bodyJ.B. is offering up a Battered Body Gift Basket (that will include a signed copy of her latest book, THE BATTERED BODY, a buttercream-scented candle, gourmet cake mix, and other edible goodies) and while I'm contributing a signed copy of BOOKMARKED FOR DEATH!

Bookmarked.smTo enter: Send an E-MAIL (foodfiction@gmail.com) by APRIL 1st with the subject line MARCH CONTEST and tell us about your favorite baked goods! Recipes, stories...all are welcome! Again, the grand prize winner will be chosen at random, but who knows...? There might just bonus winners. : )

One entry per person and U.S. mailing addresses only, please. Please include your mailing address so we can send you your prize! You will be signed up for both my and J.B.'s newsletters and the Food Fiction newsletter, if not already. (You can always opt out!)

The contest is being hosted by Jessica Conant-Park, co-author of the Gourmet Girls Mysteries, author Michele Scott, of the Wine Lovers Mystery Series, through their Food Fiction newsletter.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Promo in the oddest places

Tooth5I'm always amazed at the oddball places you can find promo opportunities. Just the other day, I got an e-mail from a dental hygienist. She writes a column for a dental journal and she wanted to know why I had made so many dental references in BOOKMARKED FOR DEATH. I didn't realize I had, but she pointed out each and every one of them. Not only that, but she asked if she could interview me for an upcoming column.

Could she? You bet!

As it happens, at least one of the women in my current dentist's office has bought my books, and my former hygienist from my last dentist's office has as well. Who knew my work could be so popular with this segment of the population?

Will being mentioned in a dental journal find me lots of new readers? I don't know -- but I figure it sure can't hurt!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--Is Spelling Dead?

My guest today is mystery author Meredith Cole, author of Posed For Murder.

As a novelist, words are my business. Although it can SpeedLumpSignseem trivial, the spelling of words reveals their origin and their meaning. I feel sorry for non-native speakers who have to deal with the strangeness of the English language and conquer such words as “Wednesday,” and “Business.” But I’m
going to rant anyway, because a misspelled word on a sign stops me in my tracks. So I have to ask--does anyone know how to spell anymore? And how can kids learn how to spell if nothing around them is spelled right?

On a trip out to Arizona, I decided I was too high strung to live away from the east coast. Menu typoEvery menu spelled “potato” and “steak” in strange and creative ways, and apparently no one had access to spell check. I suddenly had the urge to walk around with a pen correcting everything. I had to remind myself to instead look at the beautiful scenery and mellow out. But I was really shocked when I saw “February” misspelled on the chyron on the news. It seemed like everyone was lazy. Or worse, no one cared.

But honestly, my neighborhood in New York is no better. You would think if you were a business owner that, in between planning what to put on your awning and having it printed, someone might actually proofread their message. But apparently not. I’ve seen words like “beverages” spelled at least three different ways. And one of the signs at our supermarket reads “Aisle 4: Soda, beer and watar.” Watar? My husband says that’s how the word sounds with a Brooklyn accent, but I don’t think that’s the whole story.

And don’t even get me started on deliberately cute misspellings (Krazy Kuts!) or on texting. I have to admit I’ve been allowing several texting “words” to enter my emails. “BTW” for “by the way,” and “IMHO” for “in my humble opinion,” but I’ve decided there are several lines I simply will not cross. “RU 4 reel? LOL!”

And what's bugging YOU?
--------------------------------------
Posed for MurderMeredith Cole won the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery contest with Posed For Murder, which is now available. To find out more about Meredith and her work, check out her website. She also posts on the Debutant Ball blog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm a sucker for a lunch invitation

Yesterday I did a library talk with the Stoney-Clover Book Club. I expected to talk to only four or five people, but was extremely pleased when nine ladies showed up to talk about Dead In Red.

Open book
As usually happens, the thing we talked about the least was the book in question. But apparently a good time was had by all. In fact, eight of them went out to lunch afterwards, and invited me to join them.

That was cool. They were extremely interesting people, and they took me to an old (we're talking been on that location since the mid-1700s) restaurant (okay, this particular building was built in the 1860s) with tin ceilings and the possibly the world's biggest urinal. (I am NOT making this up. I got the guided tour. Egg salad sandwich Too bad I didn't have my camera, eh?) I ordered a bowl of soup and an egg-and-olive sandwich on rye bread. Imagine my shock to learn that this was the world's biggest egg-and-olive sandwich, as well! (I had to bring half of it home.)

In all, I was away from home for five hours, so no real work got done. (I did manage to do a load of laundry--wash before/dry after.) But what a fun way to spend a day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Signings and talks and that there stuff

I did a signing on Saturday that went very well. I sold a LOT of books, saw a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a while (Hi, Bill, Jane, Gina, Dan, Lou, and Judy!), and met new people who hadn't read my work before but read about me in the newspaper (first time that's ever happened), and people from my mailing list who actually showed up.

Wow! I are impressed.

Oddly enough, the four people who assured me they would show up -- didn't.

That kind of bummed me, because I was looking forward to seeing them, but two of them had a good excuse: sitting in the ER for hours and hours on end. Whoa! Take care of yourself -- and don't worry about me. The other two ... hmmm....

Having a good "event" feels really good. Having a bad event feels really BAD. It stays with you for days. It keeps you from working, or at least accomplishing much. (At least for me.)

This week (and next) I'll be meeting with reader groups. Oddly enough, it's not the new book(s) they want to talk/hear about. Tomorrow I'll be talking about Dead In Red. Next Monday, I'll be talking about Murder on the Mind. Go figure! I don't care -- I'm game. Actually, I care very deeply. I want to keep that series alive. Hard to do when one of the books is out of print. I still haven't heard about the third book in the series and I have very few nails left to bite.

That said, I'm looking forward to talking to the reader groups. I'll be meeting new people who'll hopefully try my other books.
Crossed fingers
At least, I'm crossing my fingers they will.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

REMINDER: FOOD FICTION CONTEST

Just a reminder: I'm teaming up with my friend, author J.B. Stanley, with a contest giveaway.

The battered bodyJ.B. is offering up a Battered Body Gift Basket (that will include a signed copy of THE BATTERED BODY, a buttercream-scented candle, gourmet cake mix, and other edible goodies) and while I'm contributing a signed copy of BOOKMARKED FOR DEATH!

Bookmarked.smTo enter: Send an E-MAIL (foodfiction@gmail.com) by APRIL 1st with the subject line MARCH CONTEST and tell us about your favorite baked goods! Recipes, stories...all are welcome! Again, the grand prize winner will be chosen at random, but who knows...? There might just bonus winners. : )

One entry per person and U.S. mailing addresses only, please. Please include your mailing address so we can send you your prize! You will be signed up for both my and J.B.'s newsletters and the Food Fiction newsletter, if not already. (You can always opt out!)

The contest is being hosted by Jessica Conant-Park, co-author of the Gourmet Girls Mysteries, author Michele Scott, of the Wine Lovers Mystery Series, through their Food Fiction newsletter.

Friday, March 13, 2009

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD?

For the last couple of weeks, I've been opening up my copy of Photoshop and trying to do more than just crop and resize a photo. And ya know what? I haven't got a clue what I'm doing.

So yesterday I went a Googling. I found an online set of tutorials, signed up, and actually went through six or seven of them. I know about red eye, and sizing, and channels, and layers, and all sorts of other stuff, but the one thing I don't know is how to actually open a project and get to work.

This set of tutorials promised me I'd be able to do just about anything in just two hours. And they went through some pretty complicated stuff. But I still can't open a document and go to work.

What is it I want to do?

I'm not exactly sure, but I've been looking at a lot of web sites and a lot of blog sites with lots of graphic elements in them. One of them is known as Shabby Creations, and here's one of the blog banner's the owner done (for an incredibly reasonable price, I might add):

Harmony hill graphicThere're at least 14 graphic elements in this blog banner -- and ain't it grand? I want to be able to do that kind of stuff. I have no plans to market graphics, I just want to be able to do something like this for my own promotional activities--and as a creative outlet.

Before I can do that, I still have to figure out how to open a document, and isolate all those images. (And I just bought a boatload of Dover (copyright free) publications to experiment with.)

Anybody have some Photoshop tips they can share?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY--The past is prologue

Today my guest is Jeri Westerson, author of VEIL OF LIES, a medieval noir mystery.

When Lorna asked me to be a guest blogger for her Pet Peeve Thursday (which is a brilliant idea, by the way), my biggest problem was narrowing down my list. But since I’m trying to keep on point with promoting my medieval mystery VEIL OF LIES, I suppose one of my big pet peeves is our lack of knowledge of history. Now I know it’s not your fault. Somewhere back in grade school you had a lousy history teacher who thought memorizing dates was more important than bringing history alive. I was one of the lucky ones. Not only was I blessed with interesting history teachers, but I was also surrounded by it at home, and to me, history was always something vibrant and exciting.

AztecMost of us have so many erroneous ideas about certain time periods and find it hard to even place events on a timeline (for instance, in the 1200’s, the Inca empire in Peru was growing by leaps and bounds as was the Aztec empire in Mexico. In Europe, knights were heading off for the 4th crusade, and in China, the empire was ruled by the Sung Dynasty. Not only were we taught boring history, but Eurocentric history). There is the old saying by early 20th century philosopher George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." If one looks back at history, we see that this is true, from great battles to determine borders, from simple acts between peoples that grow into great tragedies.

But that is more about deep thinking and philosophies and big stuff like that. Today, I’m just talking about simple things like: People didn’t bathe in the Middle Ages. Sure because everyone had a higher tolerance for stink back then.

Wash bucket
Are you kidding me? Of course they bathed! Not in steamy tubs of hot water. Not the majority of people, anyway. Spit baths from buckets of water, rivers, even bath houses (men and women together!) The city of Bath in England is, after all, a natural hot springs and people have been bathing there since pre-historical times. It was considered a holy place by the early Celtic peoples. Think about it. It’s England, it’s cold and rainy, and hot water is coming out of the ground! Hallelujah! If you were wealthy, you could afford your slew of servants to heat water and fill a tub, but even that wasn’t done too often. I believe there are people within living memory who recall the Saturday Night Bath, that is, a bath taken once a week: hot water in a tub that each successive person in the household would partake of, the last little kid getting the unfortunate lukewarm and decidedly murkiest of bathes.

And then there is the vision of eating at a feast and tossing the bones over the shoulder for the hounds to fight over (it’s Charles Laughton’s fault when he made “The Private Life of Henry VIII” in 1933. Everyone remembers that scene for some reason).

Bg-logoThe Middle Ages was a very formal time. There were rules by which everyone lived. How would you treat someone of a higher rank than you; how did the noble treat the lower classes, the middle classes; rules of etiquette at table. True, the fork was not yet part of the table setting. Its use later was much resisted, in fact, as gauche. You cooked with a fork, after all. You didn’t eat with it! You washed your hands before you ate. You were to make sure you swallowed all your food first before partaking of your shared goblet of wine. Nobody likes backwash. Don’t wipe your mouth on your sleeve. What do you think the tablecloth is for, cretin! And you definitely did not throw bones on the floor. You could feed the dogs scraps if you will, but everyone knew what maggots were and nobody wanted them crawling around, especially the servants who more than likely slept in that very same great hall once the feasting was done and the tables were put away.

Yes, history is an interesting animal. I like to serve up a little mystery with my history. I take what I Monklearn of the past and weave it into tales. When I was a reporter, I dabbled with the idea of writing nonfiction books, but I was once told by a wise monk (no, really) that I should stick to writing fiction. “There is much truth in mythology,” he said. “The truth reaches more people that way.” Though I would ad a caveat to that: Don’t get your history from novels, movies, or—God help us—the History Channel. Get a flavor for it in those venues, certainly. But if it’s history you crave, real history, go to history books. But if you’d just like to play for a while in, say, 14th century London with a dark and brooding protagonist, then by all means stop by VEIL OF LIES.

And what's bugging YOU today?
------------------------------------
Veil of lies coverJeri's spine-tingling debut novel is VEIL OF LIES. Be sure to visit Jeri's web site or check out her blog Getting Medieval or visit my character’s blog (everyone has one these days) Crispin Guest.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

HUNGER STRIKE

When mealtime comes for our cats, they eagerly mill around the kitchen, waiting for the sound of the lid being ripped from the can. Two, if not three of them show up, wanting to lick the lid. Three of the four eagerly sit up. (Chester looks like a little prairie dog when he sits up.)

But then three of the four cats sniff their food, glare at me, and walk away.

Grrrrrr.

Classic pateHey, this is Friskies. And it's not like we feed 'em the same gunk every day. Supposedly, we're giving them 10-15 different flavors. We buy it in case lots -- usually 15-20 cases at a time. Then I painstakingly separate them so that they get a different flavor for every meal. They don't seem to like the "classic pate."

It used to be that none of our cats liked any form of tuna/fish. But suddenly, it's only the tuna that immediately gets scarfed down. And oddly enough, some times the food that was so repugnant in the morning, is totally gone in the evening. (And, uh-oh, wouldn't you know, the tuna combinations seems to be absent from the web site. That does NOT bode well.)

Lately, I've tossed out more food than they've eaten. In fact, I've come to ask them, "Should I save time and just throw this away now?"

They glare at me.

TunaThe problem is, you never know what flavor of food will be available when you hit the store. We usually buy the food at PetSmart. Sometimes they have LOTS of variations of tuna -- last time we only managed to find one kind. (See above comment.) Foolishly, we only bought one case. The cats have let us know their disapproval.

I had a couple of coupons for Friskees Select cat food, and boy did they like it. It disappeared in minutes. The only problem is, that cat food is double the price of the regular Friskees.

I know, I know--we really shouldn't be feeding our cats commercial cat food, especially after what happened with tainted pet food. But our cats don't like "real" food. Okay, Bonnie and Betsy will eat a piece of cheese here and a piece of ham there, but offer them chicken or any other kind of meat, and they act as if they're being offered poison.

Anybody else bugged by your pet's eating habits?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

RAIN, RAIN -- GO AWAY?

During the past week, it has rained. I'mDryA LOT. It has misted, spit, drizzled, pounded, thundered and lightning'd, and just plain rained. It has been extremely gloomy, too.

So why I am smiling?

BECAUSE IT'S NOT SNOWING!!!

If the temps had been lower, we probably would've had several feet of snow on the ground. Instead, it's been "unseasonably warm," -- warm being a relative term. In the 40s and (gosh!) low fifties. Heck, even if it's only a degree or two above 32, you'll get rain instead of snow, so I've been crossing fingers and toes that the temps would stay above freezing.

Spring is still officially ten days away. The daffodils don't know that. I keep looking for signs of the snowdrops and crocuses.

The end of winter is at hand.

YEA!!!

(P.S. That's my cat Fred up above.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

I tend to goof off a lot. It's a habit I've picked up since I lost my day job three years ago. And it's sooooo easy to goof off on the computer for hours and hours on end.

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time surfing the Yellow dollar signWeb looking at neat web sites. Yes, it's time to do a revamp. (In fact, probably past time.) I'm trying to get a fix on what I like. And it turns out what I like is VERY EXPENSIVE--and do I want to spend that kind of money?

The truth is, making the New York Times bestsellers list does not mean you automatically have made a lot of money. The Times list is a reflection of sales for a short period of time. When your book is fresh off the press, it might sell like hotcakes for the first couple of weeks -- then it dribbles off. And, authors often don't see any money for six to nine months AFTER the book shows up on such a list. Why? Because authors only get paid twice a year.

It's true. Publishers issue royalty statements in March and September. In September, they account for sales from January 1st until June 30th. In March, they account for sales from July 1st until December 31st. Let me tell you, the months between payments can be pretty damn L-O-N-G. And, they have a clause called "reserves against returns." That means there'll be a whole lot of books sitting on shelves that haven't been bought yet. Until the publisher gets paid for them -- the author doesn't get paid. (And then you have to worry about the books themselves getting stripped. Instead of returning books to the publisher, stores strip off the front covers and return them for credit -- tossing the books themselves into the nearest Dumpster.)

But, as usual, I digress.

Since the Jeff Resnick series is in limbo until the next book is contracted, that site will pretty much stay stagnant. The Lorna site badly needs an upgrade. But I'm not sure what I want. (Okay, I do -- but as mentioned above, no got those kind 'o bucks.)

The girly side of me is pushing for all kinds of neat stuff. 3 small pink roses
Roses, and chocolates, and cool vintage graphics. Too bad Tricia isn't girly. Ah, but I've got more up my sleeve than just a hairy arm. (More on that in another post.)

I guess for the meanwhile I'll just keep looking around and collecting ideas and images. (And feel very impatient.)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

FOOD FICTION CONTEST

Good news--I'm teaming up with my friend J.B. Stanley with a contest giveaway.
The battered body
J.B. is offering up a Battered Body Gift Basket (that will include a signed copy of THE BATTERED BODY, a buttercream-scented candle, gourmet cake mix, and other edible goodies) and while I'm contributing a signed copy of BOOKMARKED FOR DEATH!

Bookmarked.smTo enter: Send an E-MAIL ( foodfiction AT gmail.com ) by APRIL 1st with the subject line MARCH CONTEST and tell us about your favorite baked goods! Recipes, stories...all are welcome! Again, the grand prize winner will be chosen at random, but who knows...? There might just bonus winners. : )

One entry per person and U.S. mailing addresses only, please. Please
include your mailing address so we can send you your prize! You will be
signed up for both my and J.B.'s newsletters and the Food Fiction
newsletter, if not already. (You can always opt out!)

AMENDED TO ADD: The contest is being hosted by Jessica Conant-Park co-author of the Gourmet Girls Mysteries, and author Michele Scott of the Wine Lovers Mystery Series, through their Food Fiction newsletter.

Friday, March 6, 2009

EATING HEALTHY

A member of my family was recently diagnosed with "pre-diabetes" and told to lose weight and eat healthy. That got me thinking about how we eat, which isn't healthy enough.

SkilletFor the past year, I've been trying to make changes. First up, I've pitched several of our non-stick pans. I'll be looking to replace them with Revereware or Farberware. (I've already replaced the pots--now to get another skillet or two.)

But what about food?

Dried beansWe eat far too much processed food. I've been switching over to lower fat and lower sodium soups, etc., and when I went to look for a can of black beans yesterday morning, I realized I'd used the last one up. It was time to break out the bag of real, dried beans.

According to the Idaho Bean Commission:

  • Each half-cup serving of dry beans provides six to seven grams of protein, meets at least 10% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein, yet costs about 20 cents per serving.

  • A single half-cup serving of cooked dry beans counts as one, one-ounce serving of lean meat in the USDA Food Pyramid Meat and Beans group, and as a full serving of vegetables in the Vegetables group. (And there are LOTS of other fascinating facts up there, too.)

Crock potI've never cooked dried beans before. Who has time to watch a pot on the stove? Instead, I rinsed and picked through the beans, like the package said, and tossed them into a girl's best friend: my crockpot.

Once the beans were cooked (on high for about three hours), I figured I was ready to go. Now to make them palatable--and that means curry paste. Okay, that's processed, too, but there's no added sodium, and I know exactly what's in today's lunch.

We need to eat more real fruits and vegetables. That would be easy for me -- not so easy for my husband. But he's agreed to try.

It's a start.

P.S. Anybody got a good black bean recipe?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

PET PEEVE THURSDAY -- Public Restrooms

My guest today is Deb Baker, author of the Dolls to Die For and Yooper mystery series.

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, so I’m going to launch on one of my biggest on-the-road pet peeves. RestroomPublic restroom stalls. Who designs this stuff? Usually the stall is about the size of an upended coffin. Not only that, the door swings inward. I’m forced to go through this whole acrobatic thing to get the door closed. I end up straddling the toilet. The whole situation is even worse if I’m in an airport and have carry-on luggage with me.

Sometimes, though, I have a spacious stall. In this case, guaranteed, the door always swings outward. And has a weak lock just waiting for me to get in position before malfunctioning and swinging open. Talk about embarrassing!

Don’t even getting me started on those automatic paper-covered seat thingees or faucets that don’t work after I’ve soaped up my hands.

Next time, I’m holding it until I get home.

And what's bugging you today?
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Ding Dong Dead
Deb Baker's latest book is Ding Dong Dead, fourth in her Dolls To Die For Mystery Series. Deb is also the Vice President for the newly formed Wisconsin Chapter of Sisters In Crime. Deb posts on The Cozy Chicks every Wednesday. And feel free to check out Deb's website, too.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Arachnophobia

It's no secret that I don't like bugs. Of any kind, but the bug that strikes to most terror in my heart is spiders. I hate them.

Spider in webMuch as I love our family cottage, the thing I hate most about it is the spiders. (In the fall it seems to be spider haven.) Spiders LOVE to live near water. My friend Brenda, who lives on a big pond, told me that they spray a couple of times a year to keep the spiders at bay. I worked with MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) for years, so I'm not fond of poisonous chemicals and what they do to people -- so spraying isn't an option in my book. I'm very grateful for Mr. Fly Swat, and I use him often.

It really annoys me to walk into a room in my home and see a web hanging from one of the track lights and attached to the armoire/entertainment center. Grrrrr. I hate looking at my collection of knick-knacks and seeing cobwebs attached to them. Didn't I just dust them a week ago and now they're back???

Before I go to sleep, I do my nightly bug watch. Check the corners of the ceiling and work my way to the middle. Any spider up there had better be prepared for death, because I'm not going to sleep with one in my bedroom.

I remember one morning waking up and reaching for a tissue and there, sitting on my nightstand was a spider. AHHHHHHHRRRRRGGGGG!!!

Last night, I couldn't sleep. So I got up to check my e-mail. (Doesn't everyone?) And there, smack-dab in the middle of the screen, was a SPIDER. Usually I'd let out a little scream -- but as everyone was sleeping (especially my cat Fred, and I don't want to wake him up, because then NOBODY sleeps) I had to stifle my scream and just squish Mr. Spider.

My Aunt Michele wouldn't approve of this wanton killing spree. I know spiders are good. They eat other bugs. But they could live Long and Happy Lives if they didn't enter my living space. It's that simple.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

This Long, L-O-N-G Winter

I know it's not just me. Everyone I know is complaining about Thermometer2this really long, boring, cold, miserable winter. We got a LOT of snow early on -- not so much right now, but it seems like it's been really, REALLY cold for a long time.

I don't know about you, but I'm FED UP!

Personally, I'll take the cold over snow. We had a bit of a thaw a while back and the snow that's fallen hasn't hung around. The sun now melts it on the driveway, which is wonderful. And every day we're creeping closer and closer to spring.

I've got two "events" scheduled for this month--and many more next month, but I'm not worried about those. Scheduling anything in winter is iffy. Will it snow? Will we have an ice storm? If it snows will people come out anyway because they've got cabin fever, or because of the economic slump, is supporting a local author the farthest thing from their minds? (It sure helps that I'm pushing a paperback, and not a hardcover this time out. My hardcover signing last fall was brutal.)

I have a big window in my office, an although my view of the sky is pretty much obliterated by the 25' Ugh winterarborvitae that ring the yard, I can see a small section of sky. As I write this, there're big fluffy clouds in a gorgeous blue sky. When it's clear like this, it's cold--ten degrees, with a wind chill of -5. It's garbage day and I had to haul out the two cans and the two recycle bins, and let me tell you, I was a Popsicle when I came back in the house.

Spring is now 17 days away.

It can't come soon enough for me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

TREATING MYSELF

I got paid last week. (Yea! Bells ring, confetti falls.) I don't get checks all that often (and this one was for Bookplate Special, which comes out in December), so I decided to hold back a few bucks and really treat myself to something nice. In fact, more than one something nice.

The problem is ... I don't know what a treat is any longer.

On Saturday I had to run an errand and stopped at K-Mart. Once inside, Wastebasket1I immediately made a bee-line for the household section where I secured something I've been dreaming of for weeks: a kitchen waste basket with a foot pedal. Yee-ha! I will never have to touch the garbage can again. (Or at least for the life of this waste basket.) Then I sauntered over to the kitchen towel section and treated myself to 25 kitchen dish cloths. Ha! I will overcome my compulsion to pull a piece of Bounty from the roll to mop up a spill.

Kitty
And my last stop? A.C. Moore -- where I bought a package of kitty stickers. (I put them on the outside of envelopes for people who request a bookmark.) Total amount of my fabulous shopping spree? $24.78.

Wow--so this is the glamorous life of a New York Times bestseller. (I are impressed.)

The reality is that the bulk of my income this year will pay taxes (to the Feds, the State, and the County (for property taxes)) and my dentist.

But say I suddenly had a few thousand to blow, what the heck would I buy? I'm kind of surprised that I can't think of anything I really want. Okay, maybe a few more books and CDs ... but nothing big.

What I would like is to suddenly become organized. Or find the interest and energy to clean and do laundry. I guess that's just something money can't buy.