Monthly Archives: August 2009

Win a Copy of Another Time Around!

September 1st is my birthday, but I’m giving you the present. ATA ThumbYou can win a e-book copy of Another Time Around. Just send an email to with the subject line “ATA Giveaway”. The winner will be chosen at random by a highly technical process involving throwing names in a hat. One entry per person, please.

Winner to be announced Tuesday, September 1st.

So get your copy a week before it’s released! Enter now!


Filed under Contests

Good Writing – Does it Supersede Genre?

Most readers have their favorite genre, be it romance or mystery or sci fi or…whatever. But I think most of us have crossed the line at some point and found a book we absolutely love in a genre we never read. For example, I read a lot of non-fiction and mystery as a kid, but my father put me onto a fantasy series (the MYTH books by Robert Asprin). The writing was so amazing, and the stories so vivid and amusing that it led me to read other fantasy stories. None of which I cared for.

I’m in the midst of this phenomenon right now, but it’s as a TV viewer. True Blood. I’m not too keen on vampire stories, and Twilight makes me yawn. Yes, I know that’s sacrilege.  But it’s true – I’m just not that into vampires, sparkling or not. Shapeshiters? Meh. But True Blood? I am tuning in every week, just for the sheer talent of their writing staff, who can take Sookie and Bill and all their crazy buddies, put them in impossible situations, and still get them out of it believably. Well, believably for a world where there are vampires and shapeshifters, anyway. (There’s a new shapeshifter book coming out soon, by the way, that has maybe just changed my mind about shapeshifting books, but I digress.)

Some could argue that it’s less about the writing and more about the story. (WARNING: more sacrilege to come) J.K. Rowling is a perfect example of this. Some people can tolerate her waffling along for hundreds of unnecessary pages each book and breaking the rules of her own world (Harry and the thestrals? Anyone?), but I lose patience with her. But still, I forge through the dreck because the stories are amazing! I come out of a Harry Potter book wondering why there isn’t really a Hogwarts and why can’t I go there?

So in the end, what attracts us to a book, a movie, or a TV program? Is it the genre? Is it the writing? Or is it the story? If we’re really lucky, I think we get all three. Then again, I’m not closing myself off to anything, because my favorite could be something new I’ve never seen before.

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Filed under Craft

Recipe of the Week – Pumpkin Muffins

Okay, I’ll be honest here. This is a cheater recipe – totally simple and totally stolen. A friend of mine told me about it, and I’m sure it’s been published somewhere, but it’s like Amish Friendship Bread at this point. It just spreads like wildfire. And the best part? Two ingredients. Seriously.


1 package cake mix (any flavor)

1 can pumpkin (note: NOT pumpkin pie filling)

Mix together cake mix and pumpkin. It will look like it won’t come together, but it will. Drop into muffin tins 1/2 to 3/4 full, and bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12-18 regular-sized muffins.

See? Total cheater recipe. But if you make it with chocolate cake especially, kids won’t even know the pumpkin is there. Great way to get veggies into little ones, and the muffins are amazingly moist.


Filed under Recipes

Chapter One

Start where the trouble starts. That’s a simple rule of writing -or, I should say, it sounds simple. The first scene in a book is always the most difficult to bash into shape. You have about a paragraph to get the reader hooked. In fact, most of the time, you have one line, so it had better be good.

Assuming you can hook the reader with line one, it must be backed up with a bang-up first scene. She needs to finish that scene wanting to know what happens next. To get the reader to pick up the book again, she needs to care about the characters, be invested in them. All in the first scene.

I went through about five opening scenes for Let’s Dish. I couldn’t get it right. I got lucky with Another Time Around. My first scene was fine once I added a few tweaks and a brief intro-scene. But currently I’m working on the first scene for two books, Happy Medium and Guys and Dogs. Both scenes start where the trouble starts, and yet… not. There’s a delicate balance to be maintained, between revealing the characters and the dreaded “info dump” where the author over-shares. If you know me, you know I’m all about over-sharing.

Another problem with my first scenes – they tend to be too long. That’s right, I can’t waffle on for ten pages and expect the reader to hang in there with me. I need to reveal the characters, put them in a no-win situation, and get out all in about five pages.

Is it any wonder writers are insane?

My solution? Move on. Yes, I am throwing in the towel, fixing the rest of the book, and then going back to the beginning. I am what is called a “pantser”. I go into a story with a basic plot in mind, but I let my fingers do the plotting. The story leads me, not the other way around. So on a first draft, I don’t really get into the book myself until about a quarter of the way through. When editing, it’s the same issue. So if I can polish the rest of the book and make it sparkle, I should know where I need to start. Right?

Yeah. I’ll keep telling myself that.

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Filed under Craft

Recipe of the Week – Pork Chops and Stuffing

This is a recipe my sister asked for not long ago, and one I’d forgotten about. Used to be one of my stand-bys and my kids loved it, but then as I sought new and different dishes, it fell out of my repertoire. Fair warning, it contains canned soup. The only reason I mention that is because of the irksome character on Food Network’s Chopped who said that canned soup was only for people who couldn’t cook. And then he proceeded to put salt in his cake batter instead of sugar.  And I can’t cook? If you’re really gung ho, you can make your own sauce for the stuffing.


4-6 pork chops

1 can cream of celery soup

1 cup milk (can substiture chicken or vegetable broth)

1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed

1/2 onion, finely diced

salt and pepper to taste

Season chops with salt and pepper and brown in a skillet until just seared (1 minute or so per side).  In a bowl, combine crushed saltines, milk, and onion. Pour into a 9 x 12 pan, place chops on top of stuffing mixture, and bake at 400 degrees until chops are done (1/2 hour to an hour, depending on thickness).

If you have thick chops, you can butterfly and stuff them, but honestly, who has time?

By the way, if you have a recipe you’d like to share, email me at and I might feature it as a recipe of the week!  And I might feature it in my dining room, too. Always looking for new ideas.  Aren’t we all?

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Filed under Recipes

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Since tomorrow marks my return to the day job for the school year, I thought I’d do a post in homage to all those back-to-school essay assignments of days gone by. We’d had a lot planned for this summer, including a trip to the Omaha Zoo, Cub Scout camping in Minnesota, and a trip to Cheyenne to visit my folks and go to my 20-year high school reunion.

None of that happened.

Instead, we went to doctors’ offices, attended a billion Little League games, and watched my husband’s hair fall out, thanks to his chemo. But there was some fun to be had, including baseball. We went to the local water park a lot, Boys in their Suits and even managed a quick day trip to Watertown. We went to the small but quite fun zoo, the Mellette House, the museum, and the Redlin Art Center. We packed a lot into one day, and the kids had a blast.  I was exhausted, but had a great time. Boys at the Watertown Zoo

And summer’s not quite done just yet. We still have a couple weeks of water park fun, and we’ll be doing a small local camp out with Cub Scouts. Yeah, I’m a little less excited about that one, but it should be fun.

Oh, there’s something else I worked on this summer. And you can buy it in September.


Filed under Just for Fun, Life? You Mean I Have To Have A Life?

20 Years? No Way!

So tonight, the East High School class of 1989 begins their 20-year high school reunion. I won’t be there. I was planning on it, but then the husband got sick, so all our plans were put on hold, including a trip back to see the old crew.

I went to our 10-year, and had a really wonderful time. Despite being pregnant, that is. I anticipated having a little better time this year, if you know what I mean. (Drink!) But that’s life, and the good news is thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter, I’ve gotten in contact with a lot of friends from way back when.East

Life has changed a lot since I was a very naive 17-year-old. (Yes, I graduated young.) But times like this always make me wonder what have I done, anyway. Well, for those of you who care (and really, who does), here are a few highlights:

1. I went to college to earn a completely useless degree in music education.

2. Taught for one whole year before I realized life was too short to teach music for a living.

3. But not before marrying the only other single teacher in town.

4. Got married, moved, and proceeded to have three boys.

5. Who give me grey hair from countless hospital and ER visits.

6. Taught music lessons and ran a daycare for four years.

7. Realized I hate kids, and quit the daycare. Took a “brain dead” job, which turned into a huge commitment within two short years.

8. In the last ten years, I have written five novels, hundreds of psychological evaluations, and a few dozen absolutely torturous freelance articles for magazines, anthologies and websites.

9. Have sold two novels, and am working on marketing a third. (Gotta edit or write it first, depending on what project I finally decide on.)

10. Well, ten seems like a nice round number, but I can’t remember anything specific I’ve done that’s worth mentioning, so I will go for the honest choice: I got fat. Gained a short ton with the boys, and have been trying to get rid of it ever since. There you go. Ten.

So how boring am I?  Hey! Wake up over there!

Happy anniversary, class of 1989. Have a drink for me.

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Filed under Life? You Mean I Have To Have A Life?