Friday, June 28, 2013

Mrs. Makin's Marmalade

After a few technical glitches, I give you Fun Friday. At last.



Mrs. Makin’s Marmalade
Mrs. Makin is the cook at the rectory in A HEART DECEIVED. Miri loves it when Mrs. Makin whips up her specialty of sunshine in a bowl. Feel free to whip up some of your own, or if you’re short on time, it’s okay to run to the store and buy a jar.

1 pound ripe oranges (about 4 small/medium – not navel)
¾ cup sugar
½ cup honey
¼ tsp. cardamom
Wash and dry the oranges. With a vegetable peeler, remove the zest, making sure to leave behind ALL the white pith beneath. Chop the zest – bigger pieces for chunkier marmalade, strips for a more spreadable result. Set zest aside.
Cut the ends off the zested oranges and then cut off all the white pith from around each orange. Slide the knife down the sides of the orange, cutting just the thin layer of pith off, exposing the fruit. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, hold the peeled orange and cut out each section from the membrane holding the sections together.
Drape a piece of cheesecloth over a bowl and set the membrane and any seeds on it. The pectin in these parts will help “set” the marmalade later.
Place the cup of water, sugar, honey and cardamom into a heavy pot. Add the juice/fruit mixture and the zest. Bring to a rolling boil. Tie up the cheesecloth/pectin bag and add it to the pot.
Keep marmalade at a rolling boil for 15 minutes then remove from heat. Remove the cheesecloth and squeeze over pot (be careful…it’s hot!), then throw away. Let sit 5 minutes.

Stir marmalade and spoon into a clean jar. Store in fridge.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How To Be Happy

I found out the other day that Big Name Author is reading my book. Talk about instant sweat stains under my armpits. What if Big Name doesn't like A Heart Deceived, thinks it's a steaming pile of literary manure, and kicks it to the curb like a sorry-faced rummy of an ex-boyfriend?

Game over. Shut off the lights. Career ended.

Okay, so that's a little dramatic, but that's what goes on inside a writerly head. This isn't just about writers, though. Even the monkey cage mucker at the zoo wonders what the giraffe droppings fella thinks of him. It's human nature, this comparison thing.

And it's really stupid.

God didn't make you the giraffe pooper scooper or the Big Name Author or whoever else it is that you think is higher up on the food chain. The grass might be greener over there in So-and-So's life, but if you look closely, you'll see just as much Creeping Charlie as you've got in your own lawn.

"But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast 
will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor."
Galations 6:4

Take that to heart and you will be a happy camper...unless, of course, sleeping bags make you claustrophobic and you hate waking up with your face mashed against the damp nylon side of the tent.

But that's a whole other blog post.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Writers Best Friend

You know those annoying timers, the kind that each tick sounds like someone's whapping your skull with a baseball bat, and then when the buzzer goes off, you jump out of your skin because it's so loud? Yeah. I wish I had one. Why?


5 Reasons You (And I) Need A Timer

1. The ticking noise is an audible reminder that you're on task, whether that task is writing, playing the hammered dulcimer, or digging a 6' hole in your front yard...not even kidding.

2. As irritating as the little bugger can be, it is a light at the end of the tunnel. A timer gives hope that you'll get a beverage-of-your-choice break soon.

3. It's a challenge. Just how many words can you write before the dinger dings? How many socks can you match? How many hedgehogs can you tame? Just saying.

4. A timer holds you accountable, like a prison warden wielding a taser. Work, thrall! WORK!

5. When friends come over and you're playing a game, and your doggone kids have lost the cutesey sand in the glass dealio, voila! Pull out your hand cranked beast and let the fun begin!

Sure, I could cough up the cash and get me an iPhone with an app, but there's something about one of these old school timers that reminds me of a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies about to come out of the oven. Which brings me to the point of the title of today's post...you didn't seriously think I was going to say a freaking plastic timer is a writers best friend, did you?

Nope. It's chocolate chip cookies.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Your Mission, Sans Self Destruction

You know that feeling after a party ends? When the streamers are half dangling from the ceiling. Cake crumbs and frosting are mashed into the carpet. Half empty glasses spread around the room like a scene from Signs, and all that's left of the happy chatter is your own quiet breathing. Yeah. That's how it feels after a book is launched and the falderal dies down.

I confess. All the hoopla of getting a book published is entirely addictive. I'm a writerly meth addict, eager for my next contract hit. Oh, my teeth aren't falling out and my skin isn't all janky with open sores or anything, but I'm every bit as pathetic as a crackhead.

What's up with that? The obvious: it's great to be acknowledged. It grows warm fuzz on the heart and tingles in a nicer way than when you bite on aluminum foil.

The truth is that whenever you come down off a mountain peak, be it a published book or sales award at work or a freaking Mother of the Year badge of honor, it's always hard to transition back to the real world of cleaning the toilet and doing the dishes. It's like that for everyone.

So, here's my challenge...

Encourage someone today. You never know what kind of peak they might be hiking down, how sweaty their armpits are or banged up their shins. The bonus is that when you're busy looking for ways to uplift someone else, your focus is off yourself. This isn't just a silly suggestion of mine. It's a command.

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up."
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Lest you think this is a solicitation to shower me with "Aww, poor thing" or "Suck it up and move on" types of sentiments, think again. Yes, it was a fun Launch Week Party last week, but I'm already on to the next story, too busy to sit in a corner and weep.

Besides which, I've got to find me someone to encourage!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Winners for the Launch Week Extravaganza

Drum roll, please. Announcing the Grand Prize Winners for A HEART DECEIVED Launch Week Extravaganza...

Congratulations winners! I'll be contacting via email to get your snail mail address.

And a HUGE THANKS to everyone who played. I really had a lot of fun with this and hope you did too!

Friday, June 21, 2013

No Lie: A Box O' Books!

Here's your big chance to pick out the last lie for A HEART DECEIVED's Launch Week Extravaganza. The answer will be on my website on Monday morning, plus you can also find out the answer to yesterday's lie at the same place right now.

Don't forget you can earn extra entries for each Tweet of a tweetable or post one of my blog entries on your blog.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

LAUNCH DAY for A HEART DECEIVED

Hey...do you hear that? Pause and listen. Yes indeedy, it IS the Hallelujah Chorus accompanied by crazed shrieking. Don't worry. You're not going nutty-nuts. It's just me whoopin' it up big time because today is the day A HEART DECEIVED comes out. That's book birth #3 for me and I am one super-freaking-excited mama!

Now then, on to the next round of 2 Truths & a Lie. By now you know the routine...which statement is the lie?


1. The first thing I ever got published was a poem.

2. The first manuscript I wrote took 5 years before it was accepted by a publisher.

3. I am an introvert. I'd much rather be shut in a room with pretend characters than hanging out with real humanoids.

Don't forget: you can rack up extra entries by Tweeting a tweetable or hosting one of my guest posts on your blog.

This has really been a fun game so far. Thanks for playing! It would've been really pathetic if I'd had to play it alone.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Becoming Your New BFF

You think you and you soulmate are close? Shoot. By the end of this contest, you ought to know my shoe size, blood type, and if I prefer zombies over vampires or vise-versa.

Hungry for more? Let's do this thing. One of the following statements isn't completely true. Which one?

1. Just like hero Ethan Goodwin in A HEART DECEIVED, I can juggle rocks, or oranges, or pretty much anything except bowling balls or butcher knifes.

2. I'm cutthroat at Bananagrams. Really. You try to make up a word and I will shame you until you whimper over to your dog dish.

3. In a manuscript I recently finished (about the Bow Street Runners), the heroine has a pet pug because I LOVE me a scrunched up puggy face.

Leave your answer in the comment section, email me, or write on my Facebook wall. And to find out yesterday's lie, click here.

And don't forget, you can earn extra entries by tweeting one of these Tweetables or by posting one of my guest entries on your blog.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Can You Spot the Lie?

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Did you figure out yesterday's lie? Click here to see if you were right. Now then...on to another round!

Simply pick out the lie in the following 3 statements. Tell me what you think it is in the comment section, and if you're correct (you'll find out tomorrow on my website), you'll get another entry tossed into the hat.

1. I wrote A HEART DECEIVED with a Gothic flair because Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, is my favorite classic.

2. When I was in 8th grade, every Friday night I would make an open-faced tuna sandwich and toodle off to my room with a Nancy Drew book to read the whole thing in one evening.

3. My ideal writing retreat would be at a log cabin in the woods with no one around for miles and miles.

Well? Which one is a lie? Happy guessing!

Monday, June 17, 2013

2 Truths & A Lie: Round 2

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To discover the lie from Friday's vlog, click here to check it out on my website. For those who are ready to play round two...here goes!

Which of the following statements is a lie?

1. With the exception of apples, I hate fruit. Yes, even strawberries.

2. Even though my stories are set in England, I've never actually been there.

3. The only movie I've ever liked better than the book is The Count of Monte Cristo.

Guess your best and answer in my comment section or email me directly. The answer for today's statements will be on my website tomorrow.

And here's no lie... A HEART DECEIVED comes out on Thursday. Woot-woot!

Don't forget you can earn more entries into the prize drawing by posting one of the Tweetables or featuring one of my posts on your blog. Thanks for helping me get out the word about A HEART DECEIVED!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Two Truths & A Lie


Can you figure out what that the lie is? Let me know, and I'll enter you into the A HEART DECEIVED giveaway contest!

LAUNCH WEEK EXTRAVAGANZA

What better way to celebrate a new book than a contest? Yeah, a trip to England would be better, but this is way cheaper, and you'll get to participate! Read on for details for the A HEART DECEIVED LAUNCH WEEK EXTRAVAGANZA

2 Truths & A Lie Contest Rules:

For the next week, I’ll be posting 3 statements. Two will be truth, one will be a lie. It’s your job to figure out what the lie is.

For each lie you guess correctly, your name will be put into a drawing for 1 of 3 prizes. Post your guess on my blog comments, on my Facebook page, or email me directly at michellegriep@gmail

You can get extra entries into the contest by:
            Tweeting one of the Tweetables
            Using one of my Guest Posts on your blog
            Posting a review of A HEART DECEIVED anywhere you like
            Liking my author page on Facebook
            Any other creative way you’ve got up your sleeve to promote A HEART DECEIVED

After you complete any of these options, contact me, let me know what you did, and I’ll stick another entry in the hat for you. Do one. Do them all. The sky’s the limit!

Prizes:
Third Place ~
A signed Copy of A Heart Deceived plus my favorite chocolate bar

Second Place ~
A signed Copy of A Heart Deceived plus a $5 gift card to Starbucks

FIRST PLACE ~
A signed Copy of A Heart Deceived plus one of my favorite CD’s…Overcome by David Nevue

Truths & Lies will be posted on Writer Off the Leash & my Facebook page. Answers will be on my website the day after.


The winners will be announced on 
MONDAY, JUNE 24th

Ready to play? The first truths & lies are embedded in my Fun Friday Vlog. Play often and play safe, kids!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pop or Soda?

So you know that creepy crawly miniature lobster creature that you can find in lakes and streams, usually under or near rocks? What would you call that (besides gross)...
A. Crawfish
B. Crayfish
C. Crawdad
D. You've never heard of this crustacean and you think I'm on crack

How you answer gives away what part of the country you're from. I would've said it's a crayfish--after I screamed for someone to come kill it first--and that's what most Northerners would say. If I were writing a story down in Louisiana, there would be no freaking out, it would be called a crawfish, and you'd most likely find the thing in a boiling pot of water just before it's served up for din din.

Eew.

The point is not that this particular cuisine triggers my gag reflex, but that culture and dialogue must be reflected accurately if you want your stories to be believable. Do your research first.

And whether you're currently researching out American linguistic variations or not, here's a fun website to check out...

22 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English Totally Differently From Each Other

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Out With The Old ~ In With The New


Want to take my new website out for a spin? It's sleek, fast, and shiny. Go ahead. Give it a whirl...just don't get pulled over. I don't have any connections at City Hall, and I'm not paying your ticket.

Check it out HERE.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

That Crazed Guinea Pig Feeling

"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much."
~ Mother Theresa

Other than blog posts and grocery lists, I've written jack squat since April. I know. Horrifying admission from a writer, eh? Sometimes life deals out a hand that has just too many cards to hold onto. Something's got to give, and for me, it was writing.

Life is still busy, but I'm ready to swing my leg up into the authorly saddle again. I need to. It's either kill off some characters or commit a felony. And jail time kind of mucks up the ol' schedule, know what I mean?

The tricky part is getting back into the story that I started. It had a lot of twisty plot turns and intricate characters. The thing is...it's kind of like trying to gather up a flipped over crate of guinea pigs who are all making a run for the border. I don't have a guinea pig net, they're not all headed for the same border, and oh, did I mention the handicap of wearing oven mitts just to make it more of a challenge? Yeah. I'm talking overwhelming.

But not impossible. Sometimes tough jobs require a little elbow grease and perseverance, but mostly perseverance. So here's a reminder for us all: Keep at it. Plug away. Eat that elephant one bite at a time.

Because you will fail if you don't try.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Deal Breakers

I was zipping through Barnes & Noble the other day...yes, really. Not dawdling, drooling or running my index finger along the spines of books. I swear I was only going from point A to B, and the fastest way to get there was through the bookstore. And if you don't believe me, just ask the NSA.

Anyhoo, doggone if there wasn't a table with brand spankin' shiny new inspirational novels 20 steps from the door. Not even kidding.

Still, I was determined. No time. No money. And...wait a minute...is that a new Regency with a gorgeous cover? A peek wouldn't hurt, right? Just a quickie.

Surprisingly, it was. I flipped to the first page. The opening sentence was okay, nothing stellar, but not a turn-off, either. But as I continued to scan the entire paragraph, whoa baby. Did somebody hit a great sale on adjectives, or what? I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt, though, so I flipped to the middle of the book to see if the overuse of adjectives slacked off any. Nope.

Deal breaker!

I set the book down and went on my merry way. Now, that's a good thing for my pocket book and for the woefully sagging bookshelves in my family room. It's not so great, though, for the author and the publisher. And it got me to thinking...

What's a deal breaker for you? What makes you set a book down? Go ahead, be honest. Authors want to know what readers think.

Friday, June 7, 2013

End Result of a Pathetic Excuse For a Camera: A Passable Author Video

Remember the freezing cold barn I holed up in for Memorial Weekend to shoot an author video? Yep.  Here's the final result...



Thursday, June 6, 2013

What Do You Think About Giveaways?

I've got this snarly ball of thought wadded up in a corner of my brain, kind of like the horking gob of Christmas lights when you pull 'em out of storage. Let's unravel it and see what we find. I apologize in advance if it happens to be mouse droppings.

All the trendy kids are doing giveaways lately. Even my editor asked if I wanted to do one. Of course I said yes. If my publisher wanted me to ride a pony backwards through Times Square in a bikini, I would (sorry for the visual), but honestly, I'm not super convinced giveaways are effective. Oh, they're fun and sparkle like disco balls, but how much bang for the buck does an author really get?

That's assuming, of course, that the giveaway is of value. No one really wants to win my grandmother's dentures, even if they are signed by Johnny Depp. So...

What constitutes a valuable giveaway?

Recently I won a Nook from a blog giveaway. Wowzer. Value city, dude! I certainly struck the jackpot. But not everyone can afford to deal out electronics like candy. In researching the giveaway trend, I came across some basics that should go into choosing a geegaw to award a lucky winner:

  • Branding (item should reinforce the author's niche)
  • Worth (don't stick the recipient with something stupid you pulled out of a junk drawer)
  • Unique (in a positive way...something they're excited to tell others about)
  • Memorable (long lasting & durable to remind recipient of you/your books)

Do giveaways sell more books?

From what I've read, the answer is no. So why do a freakin' giveaway in the first place? Because it's a way to get your name out there in the public realm, more so than if you don't do a giveaway. And if your name is seen on Twitter, Facebook, the inscription on the cover of your book sitting on somebody's coffee table who won it, the more chances a victim person will eventually want to find out what the hype about you is and they'll finally buy a book. So it's not necessarily the giveaway in and of itself that will sell you, but the cumulative name recognition.

So yes, I will do a launch week giveaway, but you'll have to stay tuned for what it is. In keeping with the theme of my book, my only ideas thus far are:

  • a set of shackles
  • hypodermic needles (don't worry...they'll be sterile)
  • marmalade
  • a recording of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Amazing Grace
  • little monster erasers (nothing to do with the book, but doggone they're fun!)

Yeah. That knot in my head? I think I just made it bigger.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Young is a State of Mind

"I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I’ve discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that’s filled with masterpieces I’ve never heard of."

Yes, yes, and YES! You don't have to be young. You don't have to be an adult. It's probably a bonus if you're a homo sapien, but honestly, you just need to be able to read to pick up a YA book. And summer is the best time to do it, when you're theoretically kicking back and soaking up some rays.

Why YA? Well, besides why not, the best thing about these types of novels is that the  story 'rules' aren't as restrictive. Authors are allowed to roam outside the fence of the usual genre restraints, making for some outside-the-box great reads.

Check out some of my favorite authors:
Travis Thrasher's Solitary Tales series
Lisa T. Bergren's River of Time series

And if that's not enough, here's an entire list of authors over at Family Fiction.

Summer Challenge: Read at least 1 YA book.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Little 'G' Complex

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Every morning I time my French Press coffee for 5 minutes exactly before I pour it into my cup. In the afternoon, Darjeeling tea for 3.5. My flower pots are spaced out every two paces along the side of the garage. Socks are matched and folded in the top right drawer--for heaven's sake not the left. And don't even think about messing with the cleaning supply arrangement beneath the bathroom sink. The Scrubbing Bubbles have to be next to the toilet cleaner or we're talking a Cherynobyl meltdown. Sound like I'm a control freak? You'd be right.

But I'm not the only one. Pretty much every writer I know wears a CF badge like a scarlet letter. Okay, that's technically two letters, but the point is...what's up with that?

Here's the deal. Writers control every aspect of their stories. What their characters eat, wear, think, say, or smoke (unless it's a Christian novel, mind you). They choose the hero's deodorant, shoe size, and whether he splits his Oreos apart before he eats them or pops a whole one in his mouth. In storyland, the writer is god, wielding pure, raw power. It's intoxicating. Exhilarating. Fan-flippity-tastic awesome!

And very, very short lived.

Because in the real word, writers do not get to choose their covers, control their advances, decide on endcap bookstore placement, or sway Ted Dekker to endorse their book (seriously, don't even try).

So next time you see a writer counting the sesame seeds on top of their Big Mac to make sure there are 380 (not kidding), just pat the poor little buddy on the head as you pass by and tell them everything will be just fine.

Ultimately, God is in control.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sneak Peak: Bleeding Heart by Amber Stokes

Sally Clay’s livelihood has been snatched away, but in its place arises an opportunity to escape from her sordid past and an unrelenting, unwanted suitor. Boarding a train with a heartsick rancher and an enigmatic miner, she leaves Virginia City behind and heads to Northern California, waiting for the chance to make right what went wrong three long years before.

But the road to revenge is far from smooth. Sally soon learns that the jagged pieces of a broken heart can far too easily wound the hearts of others – and hers isn’t the only heart that’s broken. Tragedy and fear dog her steps as she flees from the redwood forests to the high desert and back again. Will her bleeding heart ever find a way and a place to heal?

A desperate soiled dove. Three men who come to care for her. One man determined to claim her.

All on a journey that will show them what true love really involves.

Sound interesting? You'll have to wait until August to snatch up your copy. Keep updated at The Bleeding Heart Blog.

Things Writers Have To Deal With

When I tell people I'm a writer, I immediately get "the look". Not just one, actually. Make that a parade of emotions marching across the listener's face, like clown after clown climbing out of a Smart Car.

First comes the raised brows when they assume, "Oh, you're one of those..." Those meaning you're a slacker who probably still lives in your mother's basement watching reruns of Lassie in your underwear.

Which is followed by a twitch along the jawline, a cue they've moved on to thinking, "Writing isn't a job; it's a freakin' hobby." Right. Because we all know that a real job consists of clocking 8.5 hours in a cube farm where everyone gives off a dead-fish glow from basking in the florescent lights.

Then their eyes narrow as they give you a quick once over and wonder how a starving artist can sport such a paunchy gut and double chin. I won't even mention the upper arm jiggle. Oops. Just did.

And right before they smile and say, "Oh, that's nice!" A ticker-tape runs at high speed across the frontal lobe of their grey matter with "What a loser...are you on welfare...that's what's wrong with this country...wonder if they can help me get published?"

Yeah. Writers lead a charmed life.

 
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