Monday, September 26, 2016

"Classic Ginger" My Cooking Journey #prepackaged dinners


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I'm really good at minimizing the time I spend in the kitchen.  I prefer to consider my husband the chef, because, quite frankly, I suck at cooking.  Can you believe it's already almost October 1st? I certainly don't want be lax in my wifely duties...already lacking in most, so I'm turning my thoughts to plans for the holiday.

Thanksgiving always presents a problem, ever since I prepared my first…and last turkey and failed to remove the bag of giblets and neck so neatly hidden inside.  Shouldn’t the packaging holding the bird come with a big notice or roadmap of where to find these things?  And what a horrid death.  It's bad enough to have someone chop of your head, but then to cram your neck up your butt?????

 I’ve managed to get through a few holiday meals, but I’ve relied on Butterball’s self-basting turkeys or those great hams that come already cooked and spiral-sliced with an easy-prepare packet of glaze I can understand.   Of course, my hams never look like the picture because I don't decorate my food.  

To say my family grew up on take-out is not a lie, and it pains me that I’ve never owned an apron.  Well, pained might be an overstatement.  Maybe embarrassed is a better word. J

It’s really sad when you submit a recipe for “how to boil water,” but I’ve done that recently and it’s really a foolproof method.  I never want anyone to say, "she can't even boil water."   I can, and I have a foolproof way of creating bubbles.

 With Thanksgiving only a short time away, you’d think I’d be in a tizzy, but I’ve discovered the secret every woman needs to now—complete precooked, heat and serve meals of your choice direct from Kroger.  If you don’t have a Kroger near you, rest assured other chains 
offer this same service.  For a mere $39.99, on the Wednesday before the holiday, I’ll be picking up a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry relish, green bean supreme, rolls and a pumpkin pie.  The directions are simply, heat and serve, time required approximately 2 ½ to 3 hours.  Oh, and I’ve of course by purchasing Cool Whip for the pie, I'll be prepared.

Thankfully, I write much better than I cook.  Sarah’s Heart & Passion is much more interesting than mine.  Here’s the blurb and cover so you can meet Sarah Collins and share a little of her story:

When Sarah Collins set her sights on California for a new beginning, she never figured a war party would attack her wagon train. After her friend Molly succumbs to her injuries, Sarah is the sole survivor, left alone to find her way back to civilization. Stampeding buffalo, the black prairie nights and eerie noises,just when she believes she's faced the worst, a rattlesnake bite threatens to accomplish what the Indians failed. Is it her time to die, or does Sarah have a purpose yet to accomplish?

Here's an eating scene from the book.  I could never cook anything in the wild, but luckily, Sarah's captor can.



EXCERPT:


Fire burned brightly within the circled stones, sparking higher with each drip of juice from the skewered fish suspended on two forked sticks. The enticing aroma made Sarah’s stomach grumble even more.
 Wolf crouched at the water’s edge, washing the blood from his knife, while Sarah mused over the powerful muscles encased in the sleeves of his fringed shirt. She hadn’t dared pay this much attention to him when he was practically naked. His long braids struck a familiar note… and the headband. Was it possible he was the same person she left unaided beneath the tree where she’d sought refuge? Her pondering ended when he stood and strode back to the fire.
“These should be about done.” He indicated the nearly blackened fish. “I’m sorry I don’t have anything to put them on, or utensils. You’ll have to resort to using your fingers if you really want to eat.”
“No matter, as hungry as I am, I could gnaw bark off a tree.”
 “I think the fish will be a little easier to manage.” He laughed, sheathing his knife in a beaded pouch tied just below his hip.
 The firelight dancing in his hazel eye made Sarah’s stomach flutter again, only this time she suspected it had nothing to do with hunger. This was her first time being alone with a man, and he was definitely a fine looking one. A million questions twirled through her mind, but right now, she wanted to eat. He might not feed her if he realized she’d left him for dead.
Wolf handed her the fish, wood skewer and all, and she gingerly nipped at it, daring not burn her lips. Recalling what her mother did when her oatmeal was too hot, Sarah blew to cool the crispy skin then gnawed into the meat. Juice dripped from her chin, and she wiped the wetness on the back of her hand and took another bite, taking care to watch for tiny bones. She paused between swallows. “This is delicious. My stomach thought my throat was cut.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, she sobered, recalling how close she came to actually dying in that manner. She flashed a half grin at Wolf. “That saying was something my father always used when hungry.” A noisy sigh whooshed past her lips. “I don’t find it quite so funny anymore.”
Wolf nodded. “I understand why the humor has faded, but you’re safe here.” He took another bite of fish. His black hair glistened in the firelight, and his high cheekbones became more prominent as he chewed. Caught in a shroud of doubt, Sarah worried. As nice as he seemed, Wolf was still part Indian. Could she really trust him?
 He finished his fish before she’d gotten through half of hers, put another piece of wood on the fire, and then using a large boulder as a backrest, he leaned against it, crossed his ankles and patted his stomach. “That was mighty tasty. Tell me Sarah…may I call you Sarah?”
She nodded and kept munching on her fish feast.



You can see all my available books and stores at http://www.amazon.com/author/gingersimpson

P.S.  Good news...the follow-up to Sarah's story is available now...Sarah's Hope.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What Eccentric Writing Habits Have I Never Mentioned? By Connie Vines

When you mention that you are a writer, people often take a step back and give you that 'once over' inspection. This reaction used to make me uncomfortable.  Now I only smile.  I don't know exactly what I'm expected to look like--Stephen King, perhaps?  Joan Wilder?  Charlotte Bronte?

When I am asked about my writing methods, schedule, inspiration--I respond truthfully.  However, I never tell people every little thing.

Most authors, of course, have personal eccentric writing practices. Fueled, no doubt by his or her personal muse.  Agatha Christie munched on apples in the bathtub while pondering murder plots, Flannery O’Connor crunched vanilla wafers, and Vladimir Nabokov fueled his “prefatory glow” with molasses.

Then there was the color-coding of the muses:  Alexandre Dumas, for decades, he penned all of his fiction on a particular shade of blue paper, his poetry on yellow, and his articles on pink; on one occasion, while traveling in Europe, he ran out of his precious blue paper and was forced to write on a cream-colored pad, which he was convinced made his fiction suffer. Charles Dickens was partial to blue ink, but not for superstitious reasons — because it dried faster than other colors, it allowed him to pen his fiction and letters without the drudgery of blotting. Virginia Woolf used different-colored inks in her pens — greens, blues, and purples. Purple was her favorite, reserved for letters (including her love letters to Vita Sackville-West, diary entries, and manuscript drafts. Lewis Carroll also preferred purple ink, but for much more pragmatic reasons: During his years teaching mathematics at Oxford, teachers were expected to use purple ink to correct students’ work — a habit that carried over to Carroll’s fiction.

So how do my little eccentric (or never before mentioned) writing practices measure up?  Is my personal muse quirky, dull, or out of control?

Since my quirks are normal for me, I had to think about this for a bit.

I always drink coffee that is part of my current ‘setting’.  When my setting is New Orleans I mail order my coffee from my favorite spot .CafĂ© du Monde.  I have my cup and saucer, and a portable mug when I writing outdoors.   I have a blue coffee pot and matching tin cup when I writing westerns (yes, the coffee is VERY strong and black).  And of course, a Starbucks cup or a Disneyland mug when my novels take place in So.Cal.




My music and my menu planning also is linked to my settings.  All within the range of normal.  Though I have more than my fair share of coffee mugs and cups.

I listen to diction videos on YouTube so that I am not relying on my memory for the sound of a Cajun accent, Texan’s drawl, etc.

I visit areas on Google Earth and Zillow.  Even if I have lived or vacationed there, I may have forgotten an interesting ‘something’ I can insert into dialogue, or find a way to describe a scene.

I talk to myself.  Or not simple little sentences.  I’m talking about a two- way conversation: “Do you think that might work?”  “No.  No one is that stupid!”  “How about. . .”  This is the time my husband walks by to find out who’s on the phone, or if I’m asking him a question.  The dog even pokes her head in to see what’s going on.  I’m thinking this is a bit outside of the ‘normal’ range.

When I write I have to make certain my work space in in perfect order.  I have colored folders/pens/notebooks that match and are exclusive to the story I’m working on at the moment.

I never enroll in an online class when I’m writing—it’s guaranteed writers’ block.  I never talk about my WIP because I mentally clock that as writing time and lose interest in the story before it’s completed.

Whatever story I’m am working on is my favorite.

I survive on 3 hours sleep when I am deep in a story.  I know I drink coffee, but seem to run the story in my mind when I sleep too.

I also pick up the quirks of my heroines.  I have several friends who are in theater and said it’s a bit like ‘method acting’. Fortunately, I’m back to my state of normal a couple of weeks after typing THE END.

I think all of this part of a writer’s voice.  It is what we, as readers, look for in a story.  Hopefully, it is what my readers, enjoy about the novels, short-stories and novellas that I write too.

Visit my Amazon webpage for my book trailers, teasers, and ebooks and paperbacks.

Happy Reading!

Connie

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Are You Waiting For? Date a Cowboy by Connie Vines

Since many of my romance and historical novels have Western settings, And my hero and heroine, of course, are both single.  I pondered the dating dilemma of modern day cowboys and cowgirls; ranchers and the like.

During a vacation in South Dakota I realized it was often 60 miles from a ranch to any hope of  a place I would even title a 'mini' city.

That has to make for a pretty shallow dating pool.  Yes there is church, social events, and community members.  But that has an 'arranged marriage' feel to it.  I am looking for danger, mystery, and the great unknown for my contemporary romance.  I'm thinking it's something I won't find in a small ranch town. Because let's face it, small towns are big on letting 'bad-boys' hang around and marry the 'women folk'.

I'd didn't want the expected. . .a former black sheep returns home. . .she runs off with the town's bad boy.

Where you are sitting with a cup of coffee, staring into the great unknown, you realize that there is always a television commercial ad for some service.  Is particular evening, sandwiched between an Atkins and Marie Osmond  NutriSystem commercial, was a  Match.com, E-Harmony commercial.

There are numerous other online sites.  Some sites are specialized, some are not- over 50, Christian, with kids, etc.  Is there a site for cowboys and cowgirls, I wondered?

After a few minutes of Internet surfing I discovered there is indeed a site for cowboys and cowgirls. A surprising number of dating sites, in fact.

Here are the website blurbs (mind you this is not an endorsement on my part--only for research purposes.):

Thousands of singles join Western Match every day looking for dates, friendships, long lasting relationships, or marriage. If you are looking to date a cowboy or cowgirl, meet country singles, farmers, or ranchers, this is the dating site for you. Sign up today and see why Western Match is the best cowboy dating site on the net and the real deal since 2002.

This site brags that it's mobile friendly.

Welcome to Cowboy Cowgirl  Come build relationships with people who share your appreciation for the country way of life, so create a profile and start exploring. Online dating has never been easier! Connecting cowboys and cowgirls since 1999.

The one I found the catchiest was: What are you Waiting for?  Date a Cowboy.  

Yep, that one hooked me--ah, I mean my heroine.


Believe it or not there is even a dating site for Rodeo Cowboys!  Where Rodeo Meets Romance.

Unfortunately, there isn't a site to match cowboys with city girls. . . but I won't letting a little thing like that stop me!

Ideas?  Don't be afraid to share them with me :-),

See you on Saturday,
Connie









How Effective are Book Give-a-ways or Contests? by Connie Vines

1. How effective do you think book giveaways or contests are?

The key: forethought (know your audience). Careful planning, media blitzing, and a gimmick are the elements of a very successful contest. By gimmick, I mean a creative approach, one that is not a usual contest pitch.  Am I going to give you any never fail rule/a road map to success?
No--I wish it was only that easy.

You can Google names of media savvy authors.  Or Google my name and look at my website (novelsbyconnievines.com) read my interviews, my archived contest info (the links are still on Google/ Bing, some are available on my web site).  This is not a do-what-you-see-others-do, it more of fact gathering tour.  You know your story/series, and you are the best judge of what will appeal to your fan base.

After all, what is a successfully contest for me, may not spell success for you. If you write historical novels featuring a lineage page (I do enjoy researching genealogy but. . .) your readers would probably adore winning a book of Sonnets.  While my fan base (me included) are happy with a Starbucks gift card and an autographed copy of my latest eBook.

Be creative. Have fun.  If you don’t enjoy your contest, no one else will either.

2. Do you think all the free books through Amazon and the library offered to prime members affect your efforts?

I believe the free reads and lending through Amazon (for prime members) has a positive effect on my efforts in promotion.  I’m willing to try a new author or genre because of the free read offers.  I have purchase 6 books this month as of this Amazon feature.  Since I do not participate in the lending feature, I have no comment.

3. What are the best promotions you've participated in?

I find that interviews generate the most exposure for me. Contests run as a group (with your publisher, online reader/writer group etc.) is second. Guest blogging (see I’m here!), and all of my combined online presence, is third.  I am visible in my community. I judge local and national writing contests, offer workshops and guest speaking engagement.  As for book signings—in the past this was a wonderful way to ‘meet and greet’ readers.  Signing 75 books during a 4-hour event was the norm, now appearances aren’t a sure-fired way to draw readers.

The online shopping experience, or read a book at your local library and purchase it for your book shelf, seems to be the new norm.

I believe to survive in this very completive field, contests, giveaways, and name branding is a must.
After all, a loyal readership is the key to success.  Write that ‘must read’ story that your readers love and keep your name out there!

Readers what's you take on the subject?
Happy Reading,  (remember my novels are part of the Kindle Count Down this month)

See you on Saturday!  I'm going to being trying out a podcast for the blog, too.

Connie









Monday, September 19, 2016

"Classic Ginger" More from the Dynamic Class Given by Cheryl St. John #writingtips

It's not writer's block, per se...

Today I've going to address the middle of your book...you know the time when you avoid continuing?  As Cheryl said in her handouts, "You make excuses for not going to your desk  You read email and do research.  You might even be compelled to clean the garage or paint the kitchen.  Your desk needs to be clean before you sit.  The laundry needs to be folded or else you can't concentrate.  When you actually stop and think about your story, you're confused or discouraged.  Oh my gosh, is this ever a panic mode.  Your synopsis was so good.  You've been totally stoked about this story from the get-go.  You love these characters, but now...you look at your synopsis or your note cards and tally your page count and the only thing a sane person could do is panic."

What exactly is the middle of your book?  "The middle follows the part where your character's motivations were established, their goals were set in place, and where your character decided to go after what he/she wanted or to fight some something he/she believed in...to reach a destination or prevent something from happening."

I've eliminated a few words for conciseness, but the meaning is still Cheryl's. In other words, "The middle is simple a series of events that gets your character from the beginning of the book to the end."

People who plot have it over those of us who don't.  Most use plot points (an event that takes place and forces the character, willing or not, into new circumstances or direction.  Things like:

The villain appears.
A letter arrives.
Someone dies.
A love scene,
An accident.

You're usually halfway when your character's goals change.  Whatever your main character started out wanting should have changed direction by now, or he/she has come up with a new plan to get what they want.  A complication makes it look like they will never achieve their goal.  Don't make the mistake of not being mean enough to your character.  Conflict is good, but remember,  a delay in reaching a goal is NOT conflict.

Help yourself by making a list of 25 things that could happen and review when need be.
Make sure to keep the tension strong and heighten it when necessary.

Keep the outcome in doubt.  Use a time limitation, but give the reader flashes of hope.
 Change POV and leave your main character's fate hanging (a suspense technique), or add an action scene, but make sure you intersperse action with scenes of less tension for pacing's sake.

End every charter with a hook, to keep the reader turning pages.
Question the purpose of every scene.  Is it really needed to move the story forward?
Make sure you haven't revealed too much about your characters.
Can the reader identify?  Are you making the story believable?
Is the conflict escalating?  Things should be worse than they were to start with.
Don't let your story become predictable.
Have you paid attention to pacing?
Is the sexual tension still high?  If not, punch it up.
A good example comes from the movie, "Shrek."  Characters are like onions...reveal them one layer at a time.  If in reviewing your work, create a use later file, cut and paste into it to prevent telling too much too soon.

These are just a few suggestions from Cheryl's book.  I urge you to check it out on Amazon.  I don't plot, but I still found this an enormous help.

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