Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why We Write What We Write

When I first started writing romance five years ago, I had an idea for a nice, sweet romance and I sat down at the computer to write it. By page three there was someone lurking in the shadows and I knew my heroine was in danger. By page twenty, two people were dead. I was smart enough to go with it, and 250 pages later I’d completed a romantic suspense.
I’ve often wondered why I write about stalkers, kill­ers, kidnappers, criminals and bad things happening to good people. I think it’s because I’ve led a charmed, happy life and to keep my writing exciting, I need to write about extraordinary events. But there’s a deeper reason too. I truly believe that bad guys will get what’s coming to them and good guys will prevail. What goes around comes around. And writing a novel where that happens again and again feels good.
However, writing romantic suspense leaves me with a dilemma. We’re told to write what we know. How can I write about police procedures, forensics and prisons when I don’t know anything about those things?
Thank goodness for experts! I’ll be heading out on a police ride-along this month with my local county po­lice department to experience a shift on the force. And experts in the field of forensics and law enforcement have been very generous with information and are only a phone call or email away. I’ve also attended some great workshops (my favorite was the MRW workshop with Dana Kollmann, forensics expert and author of “Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand.”)
What I’m learning is that “write what you know” can really be “write what comes out, then learn as you go.” Don’t shy away from a genre because it’s not something you know a lot about—if you sit down to write, and keep an open mind, who knows what might turn up on the pages!
In an effort to find out more about why people write what they write, I’ve asked some romance authors of dif­ferent genres for their opinions on the subject.
Loree Lough—Romance Genre: Inspirational
“I write what I write because I cannot NOT write it. I’ve tried fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, even some steamier stuff within the confines of the romance genre, and while most of it has sold fairly well, the end results just don’t make me proud, don’t fulfill me, don’t satisfy my ‘What am I contributing to the writing world?’ drive. Inspira­tional fiction, in a word, DOES. Hundreds of letters let me know that the themes I’m threading through the nov­els are resonating with readers. They share their own personal stories because what’s happening to my char­acters is similar to what’s going on in their own lives. I can count on one hand (and have fingers left over!) the number of letters that DON’T say “I identified with your heroine” or “My husband is just like your hero!” So I guess you’d say another reason I write what I write is because my readers have asked me to. And I refuse to let them down.”
Upcoming releases: “Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska,” (October 2009) “Be Still and Let Your Nail Polish Dry!” (A devotional w/A. Boeshaar, S. Bricker, D. Mayne, 2009) “Midnight Frolic” (2009) “Love’s Sweet Attack” (2009), “Love Finds You in Folly Beach, South Carolina” (2010) and five other novels coming out 2010/2011.
Susan Gable—Romance Genre: Contemporary
“The need for a Happy Ending goes without saying. I want my beloved characters intact when I get to the end of a story.
There’s a Chinese saying: May you live in interesting times. I think it’s actually more a curse than a blessing. But I think we do live in interesting times, and I like writing books that give me opportunities to explore the emotional ramifications of the “stuff” of our times. I’ve written about a surrogate mom who kidnapped the baby in-utero, exploring what defines a mother in this day and age. My recent book explored the impact on a family when a child witnessed one parent kill the other. We live in messy, messy times. Writing my books helps me try to make some sense of it all.”
Available now: “A Kid to the Rescue” –Harlequin Su­perromance (Feb 2009, still available in eBook format). Upcoming release:“A Family Recipe” – Harlequin Superromance (August 2010)
Sharon Buchbinder—Romance Genre: Suspense
“I like a character driven romance, and enjoy the thrill of a good chase. I love all the CSI type shows, and can use my medical/healthcare background to inform my writing. I DO enjoy the HEA, but in my latest completed MS, the Villainess gets I can bring her back in the sequel, of course! Plus, I liked her too much to lock her up or kill her off. She changed over the course of the story, too, because of the power of love. Isn’t that what we’re about?”
Upcoming releases: “Moral Inventory,” being pitched at agents and editors everywhere!
Jenna Petersen—Romance Genre: Historical Romance
“This is where I get my ideas and where my ideas re­ally excite me! I love the rules of Society, I love breaking them, I love everything about my time period (Regency) and all the fun ways I can play with it. The moment the ideas stop coming or stop thrilling me, I’ll switch to something else. But until then I’m a historical girl!”Available now: “Her Notorious Viscount” (April 2009). Upcoming release:“What the Duke Desires” (November 2009).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Easy, Fast and Tasty Slow Cooker Recipes

I don’t know about your household, but spring doesn’t just bring singing birds, beautiful flowers and sunny days with it around here; it also brings a very hectic family schedule! Between sports, school plays, yard work, and daily duties it’s hard for me to find time to shop for groceries, no less turn those groceries into a meal!

Slow cooker to the rescue! Besides being a great way to have a hot meal ready at various times, crock pot creations are a delicious treat to take along to cookouts and parties too. So here are some fast (throw in the ingredients, stir, run out the door, return hours later to a finished product!) recipes.

Get outside, enjoy spring and let the slow cooker do the work for you…but remember…you should still take all the credit when everyone praises the meal!

Tangy Meatballs
1 2-lb. bag frozen meatballs
1 jar of jelly, 12 oz. (any flavor)
1 jar chili sauce, 12 oz. (found in grocery store near ketchup)
Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours. Never fails—when I take these meatballs to a party, at least three people ask for the recipe. I tell them it’s a secret. No…just kidding…I tell them the recipe and they are always surprised at how simple it is.

Pulled Pork (or beef)
3-4 pound pork loin (or beef) cut up into huge chunks
1 bottle barbeque sauce, 16 oz.
Two ingredients for this recipe! The trick is to “pull” the pork/beef as it cooks. Cook on high for 3 hours, then cook on low for 3-4 hours. In the last two hours of cooking time, use two forks to pull the meat pieces apart—it’s so tender that this job is very easy. Serve on buns.
The longer this cooks, the tastier it is!

Beef Stew
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 onion, diced
1 lb. beef, cubed (more than 1 lb. if you like a lot of meat)
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups string beans, cut into pieces
1 large can V8 juice
Pour olive oil into bottom of crock pot; add garlic, onion and cubes of beef. Cook on high setting for one hour (you can cook the beef/garlic/onion on the stovetop instead if you’re running out the door for the day.) Add remaining ingredients. Cook on low setting for 6-7 hours.
The V8 is my mother’s trick—it gives the stew a nice flavor and really seeps into the ingredients. Remember to cut the potatoes into small pieces so they won’t be crunchy. Add some rolls and you’ve got a very hearty meal!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Growing Veggies from Seeds

There is something special about eating a vegetable that started out in your fingers as a tiny seed. I’ve been gardening for over 20 years, but I am always amazed to witness the growth cycle. Transplanting store-bought plants is certainly easier than growing from seed, but seeing those first green sprouts peek out from the dirt is a lot more fun!

Our last frost date in Maryland is officially May 15th, so any plants vulnerable to freezing temperatures can’t be planted outside until after this date. But because Maryland has a short growing season (about 3 months,) we can’t just plop a seed in the ground outside—it needs to be a full-grown, hardened-off plant by May 15th.

March is the month I get to go to the store, buy packets of Burpee seeds: tomato, jalapeno pepper, sweet pepper, cucumbers, zucchini squash, yellow squash, string beans, peas and corn.

So as I prepare to get my hands dirty, I thought I’d share the best way I’ve found to start these seedlings using Styrofoam cups, potting soil and a plastic tray that holds about ½ inch of water.

Punch 4-5 drainage holes in the bottom of each Styrofoam cup. Fill about ½ way with potting soil.
Fill plastic tray with ½ inch of warm water, line your soil-filled cups up in the bin. After about an hour, the soil will have “sucked up” a lot of the water.
Put 2-3 seeds in each cup (read package directions to be sure you plant seeds at proper depth.)
Use a permanent marker on the outside of cup to label the plant.
Pour in more water if needed.
Cover with loosely with plastic wrap and place in a sunny window.
After about a week, you’ll notice seedlings popping up—take off the plastic wrap. Turn the seedlings every day or every other day so the plant doesn’t lean one way (as it reaches for the sunshine.) After about 2 weeks, pull the weaker seedlings out and discard—this keeps the strong seedlings able to get all the nourishment they need.
If you keep water in the bottom of the tray, there should be no need to water from the top (that way you won’t stress the plant.) The roots get plenty of water and send it up to the plant.
After about 6-7 weeks (depending on weather) harden-off the plants. To do this, take them outside for about an hour the first day; three hours the next day; five hours the next day, etc. until they are outside all day long. Then just bring them in at night. Then the next day, leave them out all day and all night. Now they are used to the weather elements and are ready to be transplanted into the garden.

Enjoy your fresh veggies and if you have any good ideas about keeping away deer, moles, or rabbits, let me know via a blog post or email. I’m getting a little tired of “sharing” my produce with them! Happy gardening! :)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Taking a Guilt-free Day Off

Have you ever heard the expression “need something done, ask a busy person?”
I’m usually that busy person who gets asked.
I am happiest when I’m so busy that I run from task to task (can’t the puppy pee any faster…can’t the computer hurry up and load that program?) Sometimes I feel like my family thinks they are watching a human version of the Road Runner. Beep Beep. Lucky for me, my friends are just like I am, so we move fast together.


I am the first to admit that a day off is one of the best ways to stay motivated, energized and excited about work.

My most productive days have often followed a day off for fun. And fun doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. A hike in that park that you’ve driven past a hundred times, lunch with an old friend you keep meaning to make time for, or even a whole day to read the newest bestseller.

Trust me. Just do it. If you need to take baby steps, then do something just for you, just for fun, for one hour. Notice how refreshed you feel. You’ll find yourself coming back to your tasks with a renewed energy and accomplishing more than ever because you gave into that much-needed break.

Don’t feel guilty—think of time off as homework if you want—because to keep moving forward, sometimes you need to pause.