Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Author in the Kitchen: Wild-West Texas Banana Nut Bread Recipe

Banana Nut Bread
Pumpkin bread (left), Banana Nut bread (right)
During this season of thanksgiving, as I've paused to give thought and thanks, it occurred to me that in a perfect world it would be great to sit down with my readers and share a slice of my favorite banana nut bread (or pumpkin bread, coming later) and tea, and talk about books and life.
Since I can't serve up a warm slice direct from the oven, I thought I'd do the next best thing, which is to share an old family recipes. My great grandmother, Nannie Brittain, from Jacksonville, Texas, used to make this, presumably in between assisting her husband, the doc, in tending to gunshot victims on the kitchen table of their grand Victorian home -- it was latter part of the 1800s, and Texas was still the fairly wild west. I can just imagine the pair saving lives with the aroma of banana nut bread wafting from the oven. Perhaps that's my next saga...
Anyway, I digress, back to the bread... My mother and grandmother Bebe could recite this recipe by heart. I've found I can adapt it in countless ways for health and variety, so it's a darn good base, and has never let me down. It's a gift from my heart to you and yours.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Support Among The Writing Community-- A Sneak Peek Of LAMENTATION

As many of you know my friend and author Joe Clifford has a new book out. LAMENTATION is making its rounds. Joe is hitting the pavement, a city by city book tour. There are even talks of a movie deal! No, this is not one of those boring promotional posts-- so keep reading.
To get you as excited about this book as I am I'm going to give you a little taste instead.
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You can click on the cover to buy Lamentation, now available as an e-book, too.
First, let me back up here.  Joe is an extremely talented writer.  He possesses that star quality we all strive for, that it factor.  Let me tell you, no one deserves success more than Joe. He has an incredible work ethic and gives back to the writing community in so many ways-- helping other writers, teaching classes, coaching, editing, I could go on and on.  And he's one hell of a nice guy beneath his tattoos.
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This is Joe Clifford. Look at that smile!
Don't take my word for it, that LAMENTATION is so good I wish I wrote it. See for yourself... Drum roll, please...
Without further ado, here is the first chapter of LAMENTATION. Enjoy!
CHAPTER ONE
I ducked inside the pantry to see what else we could sell when I tripped over a cord of wood and snared the back of my work coat on an old, rusty nail. The sharp point tore through the thick padding and ripped a hole in my long johns, all the way through my undershirt. I hurried to the sink and peeled off the layers. Just a surface cut. Thankfully, unlike the heat and power, the water was still on. I began dabbing the wound. Last thing I needed was lockjaw. I hadn’t had a tetanus shot in twelve years. The estate clearing business was big in Ashton, and my boss Tom Gable a good guy, but it’s not like the gig comes with health insurance.
All afternoon I’d been up at Ben Saunders’s place, a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in the foothills, cherry picking through the dead man’s belongings, loading the U-Haul for trips to flea markets and swap shops in Southern New England. Saunders had lived alone and was a packrat. The cancer finally got him around Thanksgiving. Most of his stuff was junk. A dumpster sat in the snow-covered driveway overflowing with waterlogged pads of fiberglass, chunks of splintered wood, jagged shards of glass, trash bags jam-packed with leftovers that didn’t quite translate to dollars and cents. I was almost done, and I’d be glad for the day to end. If I wrapped up soon enough, I’d have time to shoot across town to catch Jenny before she put our son to bed. I hadn’t seen him all week.
Out the kitchen window, thick, black storm clouds roiled over Lamentation Mountain, churning like the gears to a violent machine, steamrolling the summit and sucking all light from the landscape, vast pastures and encasing stonewalls shrouded in dense fields of leaden smoke. Cold winds rustled through broken windows. The flapping insulation sounded like a plastic bag held out a speeding car on the highway.
The big, empty farmhouse smelled of abandon. Night was settling, and the snow began to fall heavier. It had been one of the worst winters on record. Certainly the worst since the accident.
Twenty years had passed but my parents’ crash felt closer to last week. I stared in the direction of Lamentation Bridge, even though I couldn’t see much through the evening gloam, freezing my ass off, making no effort to get redressed. I knew that somewhere in the dark lie the exact spot where their brakes failed, and they plunged into the frigid grey water of Echo Lake; the night everything changed for my older brother Chris and me. I could feel death’s presence lurking the entire week I’d been working there, a pall hanging over the place. It was the monkey on my back. The elephant in the room. The crazy little bird chirping in my ear....
The headlights from Tom’s truck fanned up the tortuous gravel drive, slicing through snowy pines and shining into my eyes.
I pulled my ripped shirt over my head and bundled back up, then headed outside to greet him.
Tom climbed down from the cab and lumbered up the drive, broad shoulders curled, hands jammed in pockets, head ducked into the furred collar of his coat. I could hear my untied work boots crunching frozen dirt and snow as harsh winds raced through the valley.
“Just about done,” I shouted above the din of engine and storm, nodding back at the old farmhouse. “Maybe one and a half, two hours left.”
Tom gestured for me to follow him back to his idling Ford F-350, which rumbled like a washing machine stuck with an uneven load. We hoisted ourselves into the warm cab, feeling the hot air blasting through the vents.
I pulled the Marlboros from my coat and cupped my hands to light one. The radio softly hummed. The Allman Brothers, “Sweet Melissa.” That song had been playing the first time I kissed Jenny in Steve Ryba’s basement back in high school. It always hit me hard. Tom offered me the other half of a ham and cheese from the Gas ’n’ Go, but I shook him off. Last time I made the mistake of eating a gas station sandwich I spent half the night with my face stuck in the toilet.
Tom reached in his coat and passed along an envelope.
By its heft I could tell that there had to be at least a grand in there.
Tom was a good boss and treated me well. But the nature of estate clearing meant nothing was permanent, and the brutal winters often made it difficult to transport merchandise. Which frequently spelled downtime for me—downtime I didn’t want. A thousand bucks said we were looking at another one of those times.
“That should hold you over a few,” he said.
“If it doesn’t,” I said, tucking the envelope into my coat, “that’s not your problem.”
“Yeah, it is. You’re the best guy I got, Jay. I hate doing this to you, but everything slows down this time of year, you know that.”
I nodded.
“Might have another place up in Berlin. But that won’t be for at least three weeks. Finding somewhere to sell the shit, that’s another matter.” He forced a laugh. “Helluva place to run antiques.” His frost-burned cheeks winced a grin through the bushy beard that covered two-thirds of his face.
I gazed out the window. Distant lights flickered on the range like fireflies in a jar in the summer, as families retreated safely inside to batten down hatches and weather the latest storm.
I made for the handle. “Still a few things inside I have to pack. I’ve got a pair of floodlights in my truck I can use. I want to wrap this for you today.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Tom said. “I’ll take care of it.”
I didn’t like the way he looked when he said that. Because I knew what was coming next. I’d been getting that look since my mom and dad died, ever since my brother had turned into what he’d become. It spelled a long night of aggravation.
“Turley’s looking for you,” he said.  
He didn’t need to add the next part, but he did anyway. “They got Chris down at the station.”
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What did I tell you? Wait until you dig deeper through the pages. I can sum it up in one word: Incredible.  And with a twist you'll never see coming.
Now comes the part where I ask you to help make Joe's dreams come true. Heck, it's every writer's dream to hit The New York Times' Bestsellers List. If we support one another we can ALL achieve our goals. I truly believe that.  But it takes a village, so why not take a minute, share this post on your favorite social media site and buy Lamentation here. I promise, you will not be sorry.
Sue Coletta is the author of four novels, MARRED, Timber Point, Silent Betrayal and A Strangled Rose. She's a proud member of Sisters In Crime and Crime Space. You can find her at http:www.crimewriterblog.com. Or on a few of her social media sites: facebook.com/SueColetta1, Goodreads, Twitter @SueColetta1. And yes, she follows/friends/likes back.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Top 10 Things Writers Have to be Thankful About



10.          There are people who not only still read books, they live for books. They have books stacked next to their sofa, books covering their dining room table, books in lieu of a boxspring under their bed. These people are likely to also be hoarders, but damn it, they read!





Book Tour

It's been a while since I posted on Pros & Cons. Apologies to my follow convicts. Been busy. My new novel, Lamentation, came out in October. When you're starting out writing, you believe that is the endgame. Publication. All that's left to do is sit back and watch the cash roll in. After your first book comes out, you realize you can do that. But you'll be waiting for a long, long time.

Here's me thinking deep thoughts on a panel.
The reality of publishing today--or, hell, maybe it's always been like that--is that the onus is on you, the author, to get the world out. Small and mid-size houses don't have the resources to pimp you endlessly. Even the Big Five can't do it. Unless your name is "King" or "Rowling," you are on your own.

Like I did with the release of Junkie Love a couple years back, I embarked on a book tour to promote my latest work. A reader/fan/friend asked me the other day if the publisher helps set this stuff up. And the answer is yes. Sort of. Making the leap to a mid-size (Oceanview) has been terrific. I now have something I've never had before: a publicist. David sets up readings, arranges to have books at the venue, helps advertise. (I don't have to show up at a reading toting my own books like a hobo.) But a good chunk of the work still falls on my shoulders; and certainly I am footing the bill.

It's tough to quantify these things, how much your investment is paying off. Tax write-offs aside, I have noticed a correlation between these tours and immediate sales. The number one way to sell a book is still word of mouth. Despite all the technological advances and complex SEO algorithms, recommendations still matter. And this process is interconnected. The more people who know about you and your work, the better the chance they will like it and tell a friend.

But a book tour isn't cheap. And you need to get creative to make such an investment economically feasible. For one, you are not staying in swanky hotels. (Although Tom Pitts and I did get to stay at the Westin for Bouchercon.) By the time I rolled (solo) to Miami for the International Book Fair, I needed to couch surf (thanks, Mike Creeden). And frequent flyer miles are your friend. Being away from the family these last two weeks hasn't been easy. I've tried to cram in as many work-related events--panels, readings, talks--as possible. Even though these rarely come with stipends or honorariums (though they do sometimes), the real benefit is in the exposure. The more your name is out there, the better the chance someone recognizes it when they are perusing options at the bookstore or surfing the web.

I read somewhere the other day that in the 1950s around 8,000 ISBNs were issued; last year that number was 1.4 million. Just writing the book, getting an agent, securing a book deal is no longer enough. That's if, like I said, it ever was. As much as we authors enjoy (embrace?) the anonymity and seclusion of solitary writing, when it comes to securing sales, nothing beats ol' fashion pounding the pavement.

(For those of you in the Miami area, I will be speaking at the Miami International Book Fair this weekend. Hope to see you there.)


Joe Clifford is editor for Gutter Books and The Flash Fiction Offensive, and producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw” reading series in Oakland, CA. Joe is the author of four books (Choice Cuts, Junkie Love, Wake the Undertaker, and Lamentation), as well as editor of Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Stories Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen. Find him at www.joeclifford.com.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

________ is the virtue writers need the most.



Blog #2 of 5 Blogs to Agented

If you have ever been to a Writer's conference, you have seen the long lines in front of the Meet the Agent tables, the writers tripping over themselves trying to be the first person to buy drinks for the agents in the bar (Ok, so that was me) and the--really desperate--few agent-seekers hanging out in the bathroom waiting for those Gin and Tonics to hit the exit ramp. (Thankfully, not me.) Why? It's simple really--a writer wants to be signed by an agent. And for good reason. (For the six major reasons why a writer wants to be signed by a literary agent, check out this thread on Wattpad.)


The problem is, when the writer is trying to find an agent, it often feels like the agent would rather develop explosive diarrhea than offer the writer representation. I feel like something of an expert in this department, having spent nearly five years querying, submitting, revising, resubmitting, etc, before I got that contract in the mail. (And on great stationary as well.)  I tell you this because I am trying to make a point: You are not going to get your dream agent with your first query--and there is a very good reason for that.

The reason is that the writer sending out her first query is no where close to being signable--I made that word up but you get the idea.  Wait a minute, didn't I say 'Agents want to sign Writers as much as Writers want to be signed by Agents?' Yes, I did, but what I didn't mention is that Agents want writers who are ready to be published, and the odds are that the sender of her first query letter (good writer though she may be) is not ready by a long shot.



The 64K dollar question is, then: What makes a querying writer ready to be published? Well, the writing obviously, but it only starts there. Having said that, the writer's journey to being published starts with good writing and it ends without good writing. Yet there are many good writers who never get that coveted offer of representation: Why not?

The answer goes back to what I was saying about the poor chances that the writer's first query letter will attract an agent. Why won't it? The agent is looking for MORE than just good writing. The agent is looking for three other things and I am just going to tell you what they are:

1) Patience: I am here to tell you that signing an offer of representation--albeit gratifying--is not the end of your hard work and toil. It is, in fact, just the beginning. An agent offers a writer representation because she thinks the writer's manuscript has the potential to sell--which is not the same thing as being sellable. This is where patience comes in. As a writer, I had already put in years of work to get to that signable level, and I was ready emotionally to get to the next level, the publishable level. But I was not there as a writer yet. So I had to be patient, and give myself time to improve. Fortunately, on the short list of my personal assets Patience was right there on the top (thanks, Dad), and rather than throw in the towel I bellied up to my keyboard and made the needed improvements. Am I there? I truly think so, although only time will tell. But that isn't the point I am trying to make.

The point I am trying to make is that since patience is so necessary agents are looking for good writers who are also patient. This is one of the reasons why the process of getting an agent takes so long. (It is by design.) Send three query letters. Wait. Get three rejections. Send three more. Wait. Get a request for a partial manuscript. <Happy Dance> Submit partial. Wait. Get rejection. Send three queries. Wait. Get three more rejections. Revise query letter. Send three revised queries. Wait. Get request for full manuscript. Wait. Wait more. Never here back from agent. Keep sending queries. Keep waiting. Keep getting requests for partials and fulls. Keep getting rejections. (Finally) get some interest. <Happy Dance> (I might be interested in this manuscript if.....) Revise manuscript. Resubmit manuscript. Wait...... Wait.... Wait....
(On the left, Liz Kracht, my fabulous agent, with Kimberley Cameron, the founder of KC&A.)


I think you get the point. A lot of writers are going to give up and satisfy their lifelong desire to play Canasta (my mother has a group if anyone is interested). And that's good; if you don't have the patience that is required, you may as well find out as early as possible and start putting up the card table. Many other writers, on the other hand, will have the patience to keep going, and I hope that is you. In my next post I will give you some hints on how to stay patient, and tell you the two other assets you need to be signable.

ps If you made it to the end of this post, I have good news for you: you've got plenty of patience. I am also happy to announce that The Intern, the serialized novella I am writing on Wattpad, has been chosen to be on the Featured list. Click on the link and check out and what my mother and her Canasta group have been all abuzz about.

In case you missed the post #1 of 5 Blogs to Agented, here it is for you: How to get an agent without the indiscriminate use of duct tape.

 Before I let you go, for any #nanowrimo peeps: great news. Fiction Writers Anonymous is sponsoring a #bestfirstparagraph contest for #nanowrimo2014 participants. The contest is free, and the only entrance criteria is to join the Fiction Writers Anonymous community on Google+. Entrees open December 1, 2014 and close December 31, 2014. Winners will be announced January 25, 2015. To enter, simply paste your first paragraph onto our feed along with your e-mail address. You may include a one sentence pitch if you want. Please do not submit any links: the judges will determine the winners from the first paragraph only. Make it count. The top twelve writers will be featured on the Prose&Cons blog, one winner every month for all of 2015. Judging will be done by the staff of the Prose&Cons blog, a group of published authors, editors, writing coaches, literary agents, and book reviewers. (http://www.auniqueandportablemagic.blogspot.com).

Please share this with any  peeps, and on social media sites devoted to writing and reading. And keep on writing, November is slipping away. Good luck.

Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous), and LinkedIn (Tweets, Novels and Blogs); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's All in the Name

All major and minor characters have names (said Captain Obvious.)

But what many don't know, is that specifically chosen names can effect how the reader perceives the characters, consciously or subconsciously.

Famous Characters and their Names' Hidden Meanings




Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games Series.
Katniss, as described in the books, is named after a plant that's called Arrowhead or Sagittaria. It shares a name with the Zodiac constellation that is also referred to as The Archer. Fitting, considering our heroine's talent.













The main character from Disney's The Lion King is Simba. In Swahili the name literally means Lion.
I might name my next character Human, just to make sure people don't confuse her with a Water Buffalo.
















The antagonist from George Lucas's Star Wars is Darth Vader. Darth means Dark and Vader, Father. Had Luke known that the name of the enemy meant Dark Father, he may not have been as surprised at the delivery of the famous line.














Harry Potter's archenemy is Lord Voldemort, a man with obvious good-looks and a breathing problem. His deep desire for immortality is displayed in his name. Vol de mort in French, means Flight of Death.


For the Sapphire Dubois book series, I often use names to show how the characters relate to each other. For example...

STALKING SAPPHIRE
Sapphire Dubois is a Beverly Hills heiress who hunts and traps serial killers. I chose the name because it was different and wildly un-liked. I wanted to use the name to empower the view she has of her rich society. She dislikes her own name which represents the life she was born into, but does not want.

My main male character--and Sapphire's love interest--Aston Ridder, has a name people can't get right. He, in turn, dislikes his first name because it has caused him grief over the years.
His last name, Ridder, is a manipulation of "Riddare" the Swedish word for Knight. A foreshadowing to the fact that he often shows up to rescue Sapphire.

So, why did I opt for both of my main characters to have the same issues with their names?
Through their common problem, the reader gets a subconscious message that Aston and Sapphire belong together and that their similarities bind them, without me ever having to say it.

Other times, I use the names to show what function a character has to my main character.


For instance, lacking a proper parental figure in her life, Sapphire goes to a priest, her confidant, to get advice and guidance.
                                                                                                              
The priest's name is Father O'Riley.
At first glance it describes his job, but my reason was always to display his role as a father figure in Sapphire's life.

There are a million different ways to use names: hidden meanings, on-the-nose, foreshadowing, symbolically, metaphorically...

As the evidence above states, I'm far from the first writer to do this, and I can guarantee I won't be the last.



Mia Thompson is the author of an internationally bestselling New Adult Thriller series.  Her first two novels, STALKING SAPPHIRE and SILENCING SAPPHIRE, were published by Diversion Books in 2013.
mia-thompson.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Being Authentic on Facebook - So Wrong, It's Right

For this post I thought I’d share yesterday’s events that led to challenge myself and my understanding of what it means to be 100% authentic - no matter what.

The Huffington Post contacted me last week and asked if I’d like to be interviewed as an expert of the psychological effects of social media for an upcoming article. Um…? Of course! I’d LOVE to be interviewed!  What a thrill for any writer!

I did the interview and everything went great. On the topic of validation-seeking behavior, I shared a story of how, a few years back, I posted a Facebook update about how I was having the “worst hair day of my life.” Shortly after I posted this, one of my friends challenged me to post a photograph of my bad hair day. Given that most of my friends tend to do silly things like me, I took a Selfie at that moment and posted it. My friends shared a good laugh with me. The columnist liked my story and concluded the interview by saying that the article should post soon. I couldn’t wait for it to come out!

And then…I got the phone call.

The Huffington Post columnist called to ask if I’d be willing to share my “bad hair day” pic so they could post it in the article. She explained that, in the spirit of practicing what I preach, (she phrased it differently) that it would be great if I could model how to be more genuine on Facebook, by sharing a screen shot of me posting the epic-bad-hair day pic on my professional Facebook wall.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

How Many Friends Does A Friend-Whore Make?

by Dr. Suzana E. Flores

“Friending” wasn’t a verb before social networks like MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook existed. As if our daily social interactions weren’t already complicated enough, Facebook has created a space where we’re forced to redefine social terms that previously felt very stable. Before social media, most of us met our friends through shared common interests or through introductions made by mutual friends. The depth of our connections rested on what information we shared and how often we shared it. While most of our casual acquaintances knew some things about us, access into the most private aspects of our lives was typically reserved for our best friends. But has the friending concept present in most forms of social media radically altered our views on friendship? In a digitial world, how do you handle friendship and friending?