Now that the Thanksgiving feast is over, it's time to start thinking about Christmas and all the wonderful food that goes with it.
Okay, maybe not a hot dog -- but for me there are a number of things that are a must during the holiday season, and oddly enough, chocolate chip cookies are among them. (It's the only time of year I make them.)
So, what's my favorite cc recipe? Why the Nestles toll house recipe, of course.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnut nuts (optional)
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.
SLICE AND BAKE COOKIE VARIATION:
PREPARE dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.
* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks (like that's likely to happen).
When I first decided to write about my characters having a baby, I knew it would be a little girl. And then I saw the ad....
Let me back up for a second. Two of my characters in the Jeff Resnick Mysteries are in an interracial marriage: Brenda Stanley and Richard Alpert. These pictures were drawn by a friend of mine (Pam Loomis) to illustrate a story I wrote way back when that featured the two of them. (I was writing about these characters years before I wrote Jeff's story.) The original hangs over my desk. (Pam was into comic book style at the time, and she really was good at it. That's not zipatone, that stippling was all hand-done. Um, Brenda is actually a LOT shorter than Richard.)
Because it's taken so long for the series to get out there, Poor Brenda has been pregnant for a l-o-n-g time. And finally in Dark Waters, she has their baby: Betsy Ruth (named after Richard's mother (Elizabeth) and Brenda's deceased twin sister (Ruth)).
Back in the early 1990s (tells you how long I'd been planning this), I saw the same ad over and over again in "country" magazines for a doll by Ann Timmerman; Cherry Pie, from the Portraits of a Perfect Wold Collection.
As soon as I saw it, I knew I'd found Betsy Ruth. And ... I bought her. Betsy (and her adirondack chair with her little bowl of cherries) lives in a glass box in my library (so she doesn't get dusty. Isn't she just darling?!).
Of course, I already have a short story in mind starring Betsy and Jeff ... and it's not a mystery. I've actually been planning it for about ... oh, a decade. And one of these days I'm going to write it.
So, what do you think about Betsy Ruth? (Besides, whoa! Big pictures.)
Okay, getting a call from someone who misdials is not the end of the world. We get them all the time. A local pediatrician's office is one number different from ours. I can't tell you how many times we get calls about 8 am when parents with sick kids try to call in and get an appointment or a prescription called in.
If we're not by the phone, the answering machine takes it. Now, you'd think if you were calling for something as important as a sick kid, you might listen to the recorded message which does NOT say: So-And-So Pediatrics, or Dr. So-And-Sos office. Nooooooo! They go right ahead and leave a message giving their name (but usually no return number) asking for a call back. Ain't gonna happen.
And then there's the SCARY wrong number. The one that comes in the middle of the night, or way too early in the morning when you know it ain't going to be Mr. L's sister or my brother calling. That's the call you don't want. That someone is ill or dying. (Been there, done that. Will never recover from it.) The false alarm is just as jarring.
The other day, we got a call at 6:14 am. Normally I'm up at that time. On that morning, I'd been awake half the night, and had finally dropped off to sleep less than an hour earlier. After being jarred awake, I fumbled to find the phone, picked it up and, yup--it was for the pediatrician's office--only this time it was a doctor from one of the local hospitals looking to track down a patient's primary care physician.
No going back to sleep for me, but I found myself still shaking from that rude (scary) awakening for another five minutes.
Last month I got an email from my agent asking: "Did we know the Booktown Mysteries had been sold to a Japanese publisher?"
No, we didn't. Why? Because when it comes to these things, the author is ALWAYS the last to know. (And apparently her agent, too.) We only found out about it on the Royalty Statement.
Despite that negativity, the cover for the book is actually very cute. In some ways, it's better than some of the covers my primary publisher has been giving me. (See last week's semi rant.) It's sort of Manga, but very true to the description of Haven't Got a Clue. Miss Marple better resembles the cat in the book. (It was only when I contacted the artist for my US covers and gave her pictures of Miss Marple that she has been portrayed correctly, and she's done a marvelous job considering the very few good pictures I have of my dear girl Cori.) Mind you, I have no problem with the quality of the art on my original covers. I'm lucky to have the supremely talented Teresa Fasolino do them. Unfortunately, she MUST do what the Marketing Department tells her to do. (Including garish colors.)
I'm actually quite thrilled to say a book of mine has been translated into another language. And Japanese books are so cool. They read from right to left and in columns--so different than us westerners.
I'm pretty sure that the Japanese publisher came to us and not the other way around. After all, the series has been around since 2008 and and this is the first foreign sale. (Do you think Janet Evanovich waits that long?) I'd much rather be able to say "Translated into 20 languages" than "Translated into ONE language."
I just hope more foreign publishers find the series and say, "I'd love to bring this series to our readers."
By Guest Blogger E.J. Copperman
In explaining why my new book would not be reviewed by a specific venue recently, I was told that the venue in question “only reviews crime fiction,” and so mine did not qualify.
Now, keep in mind that we’re talking about a novel in which there are two murders, and the bulk of the pages are spent investigating those incidents and bringing the perpetrator(s) to justice. I didn’t ask why the reviewer I was conversing with didn’t classify such a story as “crime fiction,” because I really didn’t need to ask. I knew why.
Some of the characters in my series are ghosts. That’s why.
There are times that being classified as one type of story or another can actually be helpful to a book in finding readers. Some people, I’m sure, read my first Haunted Guesthouse novel NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEEDbecause it has ghost characters.
And on another occasion recently, I was asked what kind of series the Haunted Guesthouse books might represent. Without thinking, I gave the stock answer; “paranormal humorous cozy,” I said, although I don’t see how talking like that is going to solve anything. The person asking lit up, “Cool!” And wrote down the name of the book for future reference.
So it doesn’t have to be a bad thing to be defined by sub-sub-genre.
Amazon, which is not the de facto arbiter of all things that can be sold legally in the United States (and many other places) classifies THE THRILL OF THE HAUNT in the following manner: Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror > Ghosts. Of course.
On those rare occasions when I think of my books as anything but stories that I hope people will like, I would probably classify them as comedy mysteries. The fact that two of the continuing are deceased really doesn’t enter into it for me.
I write Paul and Maxie. I write them as people who are able to float around, move through solid objects, contact other beings like themselves through a form of telepathy, and generally make my first-person narrator’s life miserable, which is exactly what they are intended to do. As my friend Ian Abrams says, “Nobody wants to watch your character have a nice day.”
Yeah, they’re ghosts. Of course they are; I designed them to be from the beginning. That was the idea. Does the fact that there’s an element of the “paranormal” in the books negate the whole rest of the story? I don’t think so.
It’s a reviewer’s prerogative to comment or not comment on any book ever written, and I respect that. But there are times when I bristle a little at the concept of being shoehorned into one little box or another because others don’t see past the accepted definitions.
Luckily, Lorraine offers the chance to let off a little steam.
What's bugging you today?
--------------------------------------------------------------------- E.J. Copperman writes the Haunted Guesthouse series, whose latest installment THE THRILL OF THE HAUNT was published on November 5. You can classify it any way you want. Next year, E.J. will team with Jeff Cohen to write a series about a sleuth with Asperger’s Syndrome for Midnight Ink. And there’ll be another Haunted Guesthouse book. Thank goodness there’s just no getting rid of some people.
Have you ever wondered what makes some of your favorite characters the people they are in books and movies?
I got my writing start wondering just that. First I played with the original Star Trek characters. Then I moved on to other TV shows and movies. Then Mr. L said, "Hey, why are you wasting your time doing that when you could go pro?" Eleven years later, I finally sold my first novel, Murder On The Mind, the first Jeff Resnick Mystery (which, incidentally is STILL FREE for all e formats).
Writing the first four books in that series was a learning experience--and it was mostly learning who these characters were. I was writing those four books similtaneously, so that if something happened in the 4th book, I could go back to the first to lay the groundwork. (You probably wondered what I was doing during those 11 years, eh?) I tried to understand why Jeff did some of the (rather odd) things he did. I was very unsure of myself as a storyteller, and a number of published writers in my local writing group were generous with their critiques. One of them really stood out. While reading Cheated by Death, I was asked, "How long has this man had an eating disorder?" A what?
And then she went on to point out several areas in the book where clearly Jeff's relationship with food is at odds. It was then I realized it was a thread through the previous books as well--something I hadn't even noticed. The idea fascinated me, and I wrote a short story to explore the issue. I wrote short stories to explore other areas of his past, too. I've told a number of readers about the stories, and they've encouraged me to publish them.
The stories are not mysteries. They're about a boy struggling to grow up, and the very rocky relationship he has with his older brother. They help explain why the two were estranged for eighteen years, and hopefully contain the seeds of their fierce friendship to come.
As I write this, I'm still polishing some of the stories I'd left unfinished. Here are the (tentative) titles and here is the cover (does it make you want to read the stories?):
Leaving On A Jet Plane
The book will be available on Christmas Day. I hope to have a pre-sale button available by December 1st. I'll keep you posted.
Don't forget, tomorrow my writer pal E.J. Copperman regales us with another of his Pet Peeves. Don't miss it!
Yesterday I showed you my latest cover from my NY publisher. How about my latest cover from my favorite publisher -- me!
It's a new title. Well, the title is new, but the stories inside this collection of stories may not be new to some of you. If cost has been an issue for you NOT to read my short stories, fear not. Now you can read 7 for the price of 3. (Such a deal!)
This one comes out under my Lorraine and LL Bartlett names because ... well, there're stories from both those names. The tome is called LOVE & MURDER and I'd be very happy if you'd give it a try.
Why LOVE & MURDER? Because the stories are mostly sweet romances or murder mysteries. Read the story descriptions and see if they don't light your fire.
Abused: A Daughter’s Story: Emily Miller knew her life was about to change forever the day her mother said, "I'm pregnant." She'd hear those words again and again--and with every pregnancy Emily's father changed from bad to worse. For years the Miller family suffered through his rages. It took a terrible loss for the family to regroup, and all the love Emily can muster to save her siblings.
Cold Case . . . the short story that inspired the 4th Jeff Resnick book, BOUND BY SUGGESTION. Psychic Jeff Resnick has no expectations when investigating the disappearance of a four-year-old, until he confronts the mind responsible--a shattering experience for all involved.
An Unconditional Love: A one-night stand changes Leslie Turner's life forever when she discovers she's pregnant. Keeping the child means losing her business. Even more devastating, the baby is born with a disfiguring birth defect. Her carefully planned life falls apart . . . until years later when she once again meets her baby's father. Can they ever be a family?
We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert: The Nichols family is all in a tizzy when it's discovered their penny-pinching Uncle Albert is worth millions, and decide he has overstayed his worldly welcome. But can they bump off the old man and get away with it?
Love Heals: It's the most romantic night of the year and Diana Mason is alone. She broke up with her boyfriend because he wanted a playmate not a soul mate, but it's someone else who haunts her thoughts on the most romantic of holidays. Is there a chance he's thinking of her, too?
Prisoner of Love: Rhonda Roberts went looking for love in all the wrong places, and found it through an ad in the personals section of her local newspaper. Family and friends think she's crazy when she becomes engaged to a convicted felon, and the lengths she'll go to see him set free.
Blue Christmas: Christmas used to be a joyous time for Judi Straub, but that was before her parents passed away and her siblings became too busy to socialize with their old maid sister. Holidays spent with friends were a nightmare. Then one late December Judi won an all-expense-paid trip to Puerto Rico where Harry Powell swept her off her feet. But her fantasy of happily-ever-after was quickly derailed. Would Judi always have a Blue Christmas?
Should you be eager to purchase this delightful box set (not in a box) you can find it:
Whew! I was out of town for three weeks and it's taken me nearly two to catch up. But I'm back, writing, thinking about the holidays ... and hoping I will find more things to blog about in the near future.
First up, a while back my editor sent me the cover for Book Clubbed, which is the 8th Booktown Mystery and scheduled to be released on July 1, 2014.
Oh, dear. That was my first reaction.
And then, Oh, NO!!!
My eyes! That wall is blinding me!!!
Needless to say, I was not happy about the cover, After much discussion with my editor and agent, the Marketing Department came up with this revision (which I did not see for another month).
It's better, but ...
At any rate, I promise the book is better than its cover. Should you wish to pre-order you can do so: Amazon | Kindle and apparently not anywhere else ... yet. But stay tuned!
And speaking of which, tomorrow and Wednesday, I'll unveil some covers that I truly DO love. And on Pet Peeve Thursday, my very good friend E.J. Copperman will visit to delight us with something else that gets under his skin.