Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013


Best Wishes for a Warm and Wonderful Holiday Season!
This year has been a "learning experience" for me since I made the move to retire from my "day job" and become a full-time writer.

 I've been busy with new Regency mysteries as well as contemporary mysteries set in my home state of North Carolina. The nice folks at Highland Press have accepted two novellas from me and I hope they will be out soon. The first is a Regency romance, The Thief, and the second is a western romance, The Lady and the Cowboy. I really hope folks enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them. They are novellas, which means they are a little shorter than my usual novels, but around the holiday season, everyone is so busy that maybe the shorter length will be good.

The rough drafts for several other manuscripts are going through the editing phase, including a contemporary mystery, a Regency mystery, and even a horror story.  It's not the "blood and gore" type of horror story--it's more of a southern ghost story. Writing a horror story was a change of pace for me, but probably a natural progression because of my love of gothics/gothic mysteries.

Speaking of gothics, if you are interested, you can sign up for my mailing list. (There is a link in the sidebar to this blog.) Folks who sign up this month will get a Smashwords code to enable you to download a copy of my holiday gothic Regency, Christmas Spirit: Stranded by a blizzard, Eve and her mother seek shelter at a nearby manor, little knowing a murderer has struck once and lies in wait for the next victim.

When I'm not writing, I've been busy kayaking around Nelson Bay with my Jack Russell Terrier, Daisy. She seems to love it as much as I do and was absolutely fascinated this summer by a pair of Osprey that nested on one of the channel markers.

We also now have a greenhouse that my husband built over our water pump when the pump house fell apart. This week, I'll be ordering some lettuce and radishes so that we can have salads this winter. I'm also going to put in a few pots of herbs so I can have fresh basil, parsley and other herbs to add to our food since I've been doing a lot more cooking lately.

Your gardening catalogs are probably starting to arrive already and I'd love to know what you are planning on planting this year! In addition to my green house crops, I'm hoping to plant tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash and basil at a minimum. I'm always curious to know what interesting things others are growing and how they are doing.

As for the holidays -- if you're looking for a relatively inexpensive, thoughtful, and tasty holiday gift, you might try fruitcake. I'm a fan of Alton Brown's (from Good Eats) although many of his recipes don't work too well for us. He does have an absolutely fabulous recipe for fruitcake, though, that may make you love it even if you've had "bad fruitcake" experiences in the past. It's really easy and I actually got all of the ingredients at our super Wal-Mart, which tells you that there are no weird ingredients included that you can't find anywhere. Except for the booze (rum and brandy) of course. :)

If you are interested, here is a link to his recipe: Free Range Fruitcake. I highly recommend it. Oh--I should mention that I did not have a 10" loaf pan as suggested in the recipe, so I used a bundt cake pan and it came out beautifully, so that is an option. It even bakes in about the same time as the loaf would have, so it's all good, as they say.

Have a wonderful holiday and best wishes for the New Year!

Amy

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Another day, another recipe

Writing Life
As most of you already realize, there was a delay in the release of The Dead Man's View, the sequel to The Vital Principle, featuring Prudence Barnard and Knighton Gaunt. This time, it's not Pru is not searching to exonerate herself, she's trying to exonerate her dead cousin. She's convinced he did not kill himself and doesn't deserve to have his body beheaded and buried at the crossroads as a suicide. So she calls on her dear friend, Knighton Gaunt, to help her expose the murderer.

While the book's release is late (now set at the first week of October), I
hope it will be well worth the wait.

On to Yummy Stuff
Are any of you trying to reduce carbs? I know I am, simply because as I age, it is getting harder and harder for me to eat them without getting an upset stomach. Since I also have problems with legumes like soy and beans, it can sometimes be a challenge.

But, I've developed a relatively quick breakfast which gives me energy to tackle the morning and is filling enough to get me through to dinnertime with perhaps just a bit of smoked trout to make it past 2:00PM when I start to feel hungry.

I keep a bag of mixed veggies in the freezer and all I do is:
Microwave a cup of mixed veggies for about 4 minutes while I chop up about 1/4 c. of onion.
Saute the onion in olive oil until the veggies are "nuked" and then dump the veggies into the pan.

Take an egg (or two if you're really hungry, but there will probably be enough to share...) and scramble it and then add it to the pan. When it's done, turn off the heat and add about 1/2 c. of shredded cheddar cheese. Mix until the cheese is melted and then dump it out on your plate.

I love topping it with a few spoonfuls of salsa, too. Where's the picture, you ask? Well...it's not the most beautiful concoction on earth so you'll have to use your imagination. :)

Of course, you can really vary this. If I have brown rice or quinoa left over, I add that to the veggies in the pan and don't use any cheese and then sprinkle in some soy sauce. It makes a "quickie" fried rice that is delicious for breakfast.

However, that's really not the recipe I wanted to share today. We've pretty much given up beef (except for the occasional hamburger) and replaced it with venison. I find it more digestible and much more delicate in flavor with a lot less fat. The lack of fat, however, does mean it can be tough if you don't know how to cook it.

Here is a terrific recipe for venison, and if you prefer beef, I bet it would work for that, too! In fact, I think it would work for a lot of different meats and particularly those that are tough.

Roast Venison
 Clean up a venison roast to remove any silver skin or fat. Rub it with a bit of pepper. (I don't use salt, but if you do, you can also add about 1/4 tsp of salt and rub that in.)

Wrap the roast in bacon strips, making sure that all the meat is covered. (You'll remove the bacon to serve.)

Slip the bacon-wrapped roast into an oven bag and place in a shallow backing pan.

Pour red wine (we like Burgundy, but Bordeaux is good, too) into the bag so that it covers the meat until it is about 1/2 to 3/4 covered.

Add 2 bay leaves, 5 cloves (whole cloves), 4-6 black pepper corns, and 4-5 juniper berries.

Close the bag with the tie and cut 2 or 3 tiny holes into the bag on top to let it vent a bit.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 3 hours (or until the meat is very tender).

When the meat done...

Melt 3 TBSP butter in a pan. Add one minced onion and cook until the onion is golden. Add cleaned, cut up mushrooms (I use about 1 - 2 cups) and saute until the mushrooms are almost cooked (about 10 minutes).

Remove the meat from the oven and pour the contents of the bag through a strainer into the pan with the onions and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Mix a few tsp. of cornstarch into about 1/2 c. of red wine and add that to thicken the onion/mushroom sauce. It will take about 2 - 3 minutes over med/med-high heat.

Serve the meat with mashed potatoes and the sauce. A side salad goes very well with this to make a very easy and yet elegant dinner!

Bon appetite!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Cadence of Gypsies




THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES

By
Barbara Casey

BLURB:  

Three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina's purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus located in Raleigh, North Carolina, so they can't cause any more problems ("expressions of creativity") for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted – a search that will take them into the mystical world of gypsy tradition and magic, more exciting and dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES – Excerpt

"Ouch!  You're standing on my fingers!"  This from the petite girl with a long, blond ponytail, wearing a nightgown, most of which was pulled up between her legs and tied into a knot at her waist to keep it from getting tangled on the limb where she was perched.   Somewhere above her the sound of a saw and splintering wood filled the darkness followed by a stream of profanity repeated in several foreign languages for emphasis.

"It doesn't look right.  It's supposed to have a rim and a dent."  Clinging to a 12-foot ladder as she pointed the flashlight first this way and then that, the heavy-set girl wearing a nightshirt buttoned at the neck offered this with a slight lisp.

The girl with the blond ponytail giggled.

"What do you mean--dent?!  Let me see that picture."  The tall black girl completely hidden aimed her flashlight toward the magazine that was being thrust upwards through the thick branches in her direction.

"And the top is supposed to be rounded--like a button mushroom," the girl in the nightshirt added, the word "mushroom" sounding more like "muthroom."

"That's because it's circumcised," supplied the girl with the ponytail, from which she removed a small twig and a handful of leaves.

"Shekoo, baboo!”  More profanity.  “Okay.  I know what to do."  The tall black girl disappeared back into the upper-most branches of the tall plant that was more tree than bush.  After several additional minutes, the sawing, crunching, and clipping sounds finally gave way to the more gentle sounds of tiny snips.  And then, silence.

"That's it; everybody down."

The petite girl, with the magazine that had been overlooked in the last confiscation and now wedged firmly under her armpit, started the perilous descent first since she was nearest to the ground, followed by the tall girl.  The girl in the nightshirt eased her way down the ladder juggling pruning shears, a hand saw, and scissors.  Once on the ground, the three girls stood back to admire their work.

"That is one honkin' Peni erecti," said the tall girl causing a fresh explosion of giggles.  "Let's get out of here."  After quickly rolling down the legs of her pajama bottoms, the tall girl grabbed one end of the ladder and, along with her two friends, lugged it and the other tools back to the shed that housed lawn maintenance equipment.  Task accomplished, they returned to their rooms, and to their individual beds, careful not to disturb the other dorm residents, the floor monitors, their suitemates and, most importantly, their slumbering dorm mother, Ms. Larkins.  Within minutes, they fell into a deep, peaceful sleep--the sleep of innocent angels.


It would soon be light; and Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women would start another day.


 AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and North Carolina Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. Since that time her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in several publications including the AMERICAN POETRY ANTHOLOGY, the SPARROWGRASS POETRY FORUM, THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF POETRY (Editor’s Choice Award), the NORTH CAROLINA CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE MAGAZINE, THE NEW EAST MAGAZINE, the RALEIGH (NC) NEWS AND OBSERVER, the ROCKY MOUNT (NC) SUNDAY TELEGRAM, DOG FANCY, BYLINE, TRUE STORY and THE CHRISTIAN RECORD. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ms. Casey's award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in THE COSMIC UNICORN and CROSS TIME short story anthologies. Her essays, also written for adults, appear in THE CHRYSALIS READER, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, and A CUP OF COMFORT ANTHOLOGY by the Adams Media Corporation.

Her two middle-grade/young adult novels, LEILANI ZAN and GRANDMA JOCK AND CHRISTABELLE (James C. Winston Publishing Co.) were nominated for awards of excellence by the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the National Association of University Women Literary Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary AwardSHYLA'S INITIATIVE (Crossquarter Publishing Group, 2002), a contemporary adult novel of fiction, received the 2003 Independent Publisher Book Award and received special recognition for literary merit by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. Ms. Casey’s novel THE COACH’S WIFE (ArcheBooks Publishing), a contemporary mystery, was listed as a Publisher’s Best Seller and was semifinalist of the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel. In 2007 her novel, THE HOUSE OF KANE (ArcheBooks Publishing), also a contemporary mystery, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination, and in December 2009 her novel, JUST LIKE FAMILY (Wandering Sage Publications), was launched by the
7-Eleven stores in St. Louis, Missouri. Her young adult novel, THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES (Gauthier Publications), was released in March 2011 and considered for the Smithsonian’s Most Notable 2011 Books.  It has also been selected by Amazon for its 2013 List of Best Books.  THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY (Strategic Media Books), a novel for adults, was released in March 2013 and received an IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction.  It has also been listed as a “2013 Best Summer Read” by Conversations Live Radio and has been placed in nomination for a Pulitzer Award.

Ms. Casey is a frequent guest speaker at writers’ conferences and universities throughout the United States. She is former director, guest author, and panelist of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida; and for thirteen years she served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Florida.  She held the position of Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 to 2003.

Ms. Casey is president of the Barbara Casey Agency. She represents clients nationally and internationally in fiction and nonfiction for adults. Her past and present professional associations are numerous and include being editorial consultant for The Jamaican Writers Circle in affiliation with the University of West Indies and Mico Teachers College in Kingston. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories.

LINKS

 PRIZE

Barbara will be awarding a $25 Amazon or BN.com gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, so be sure to leave a comment! If you follow the blog tour and leave comments at each stop, your chances of winning will increase.





Sunday, August 25, 2013

Long and Short Reviews 6th Anniversary Bash


Long and Short Reviews (LASR) is having a huge 6th Anniversary Bash!

LASR is celebrating its 6th anniversary with authors from all kinds of genres including romance and mystery/suspense. The bash will run from August 26 – 30, 2013 and there are all kinds of fun things as well as fantastic prizes, so I hope you'll check it out.

In addition to books, author swag, LASR promo items and various publisher gift certificates, LASR will be giving away four $100 Amazon/BN Gift Cards, and several smaller Amazon/BN Gift Cards. 

I'm one of the participating authors, along with nearly 100 others, so I really hope you will participate. LASR grilled the authors with all kinds of questions and there are all kinds of blog posts featuring our answers. Many are downright hilarious, so you may get a laugh or two as well as the opportunity to win a fabulous gift card. 

To participate:
Any time from Aug 26 - 30, 2013, you can click on this link:   http://www.longandshortreviews.com/category/guest-blogs/

 

Don't forget to have fun. You might even discover a new favorite author.
Enjoy!
Amy
http://www.amycorwin.com 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Tweaking Tweets for Your Books

Most authors know that when they have a new book or other promotion to do, tweeting about it can really help to get the news out. Of course, we are all assuming that you know better than to do nothing BUT tweet "buy this book" constantly. You don't want to annoy people and there is nothing worse than someone whose tweets consist solely of requests to buy their book (or whatever product they are selling). Bleh.

But if you have a new book coming out or are running a contest, you can use Twitter as part of your
promotional arsenal. This entire blog is really about a single tip. A very obvious tip and one I should have thought of YEARS ago, but I didn't. And I suspect that a lot of you have not thought about it either.

The Tip
When you compose your tip, use your website for your link, not the actual buy link at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, or wherever.

Why would you do that? Easy.

But let me digress for a moment.

Your Website
This sidebar is just to say that on your website, you should have a page for each of your books. On that page, you should have the following information:

  • The cover of your book (just 'cause it looks nice)
  • A blurb about your book
  • A teaser or excerpt, or even a link to the entire first chapter
  • Links to all the places where your book can be purchased

The item in red is why I digressed for a moment.

Back to Tweaking your Tweet
So...when you tweet about your book, you use that book's webpage from your website for the link, not a specific vendor.

That way, a single tweet will work for everyone versus having to do a tweet for each vendor's buy link or worse, trying to squeeze all the links into a tweet.

Remember, you don't want to flood the tweetverse with dozens of tweets just to be able to include links for all the places where a reader can find your book. You'll just annoy your audience. Worse, if the reader has a Nook and you are constantly sending out Amazon Kindle links, that reader may just decide not to follow you because s/he doesn't feel like weeding through the morass of tweets you send out, searching for the one that has the link for the Nook.

Your goal is to give folks helpful and fun info, not aggravate them.

That's it. Now go out and work it, baby!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Vigilante by Jacqui Morrison


The Vigilante
by Jacqui Morrison

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB:

It isn’t safe for men who work in the porn business in the city of Toronto.

When porn producer Sal Turbit is found dead in his apartment, no one seems to care. No one, that is, except Detective Lynette Wilton. Lynette has been a homicide detective for only three months, and has yet to earn her stripes.

Murder is murder no matter who the victim is—and Lynette is out to catch a killer. 

Could the killer be Wanda Chambers, a mentally ill woman who hates the “scumbags” who prey on the vulnerable? Wanda’s beloved sister, Cathy, was one such woman. Cathy became a porn actress and then took her own life when her sleazy manager/boyfriend, Gil Lee, wouldn’t let her go.

Lynette’s sergeant doesn’t think it’s possible. Wanda has a debilitating illness. But Lynette believes that Wanda’s hatred and harsh childhood make her a prime suspect, and she proves it by catching Wanda in the act of attempting to shoot Lee.

Renowned defense lawyer Maxine Swayman takes on Wanda’s case; Maxine has a different view of the accused. She wants to help Wanda get the help that she needs, and it’s not going to happen in a prison cell.

As the trial proceeds, will Maxine prevail and save Wanda, or will Lynette be able to tie Wanda to Turbit’s murder as well? 


"Morrison knows how to create suspense! She brings readers on a roller-coaster ride that leaves you breathless from start to finish!" —Trey Anthony, star and producer “Da Kink in Da Hair”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Excerpt:

Chapter 1
“Hey,” Sal said, “come on in. You’re right on time. Good to meet ya.” He left the visitor in the living room of his shabby apartment in a grungy, low-rent building, and slipped into the kitchen.
The metallic pop of a beer bottle opening echoed in the other room. Then another.

Six empty beer bottles, a heaping ashtray, and assorted marijuana paraphernalia were already strewn across his table. The grandfather clock struck four times. Sal stumbled back into the room. “I got you a beer.”

Glassy-eyed, Sal said, “I’ve got lots of great products for you to move today.” He showed the visitor the cover of a DVD. “This one is new. It’ll sell out. She’s a real sweet thing. Told me she was eighteen ’n had the ID to prove it. Likely just some little tramp from nowhere-ville. Came to the big, bad city for excitement––”

The metal felt cool as the visitor pulled out a gun.

“What the hell?” Sal screamed, just before the bullet penetrated his skull.

He fell onto the sofa, blood oozing out the back of his head. His face was contorted, almost angry looking. Certainly surprised.

The spent cartridge from the handgun ricocheted against a metal garbage can––reminiscent of the pop of a beer cap––and then landed on the carpet.

The murderer studied the victim’s splayed body, feeling a sense of elation and satisfaction. Out came a Swiss Army knife, and the killer wordlessly hacked off a section of Sal’s hair, stuffed it into a small plastic bag, and then threw it into a knapsack. The killer then picked up the half-spilled beer that Sal had been handing over when the shot was fired. Perfect. Grinning, the murderer chugged the beer, retrieved the spent cartridge, and smugly looked at Sal Turbit’s still body, now surrounded by pooling blood.

Still wearing leather gloves, the murderer put the beer bottle and hot metal bullet charge into a knapsack and fled, smiling, into the dense night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Giveaway
Jacqui will be awarding Loose Tea and Chipnuts to two randomly drawn commenters during this tour and the Virtual Reviews Tour, combined. Please follow the tour and leave comments to get a chance at winning. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

I am Jacqui Morrison. I started writing poems and short stories as a child. I also enjoyed public speaking in elementary school and at University. In High School, a great teacher, Lenore Hawley, inspired me and in 1995 I pursued my life-long passion for writing.


My career is a complicated web and includes: owning an ice cream parlour and fine food shop, teaching life-skills management to adults, teaching computer applications, social service work and marketing.

From 1994 to 2003, I assisted survivors of domestic violence in both criminal and family court as a support worker. I’ve always had a strong interest in law and justice.

I love to write and I am happiest writing or encouraging others to fulfill their writing dreams. I facilitate writing seminars for Canadore College and various agencies.

I live in northern Ontario, Canada with my daughter Alison, my husband Wayne, and a three-legged dog named Willow. Our daughter has convinced us to adopt four cats so Felix, Sasha, Nikke and Angel round out our family. Angel, at four-months-of-age was abandoned by its owner and we rescued her in -15 degree weather.

Alison has a future in politics, animal rescue work or sales … because I’m not really a cat person and she’s persuaded me to adopt four.

My parents are the late Drs John and Irene Morrison. Mom was a family physician and a competitive swimmer. My father worked for the Provincial Parole Board. Dad enjoyed to write fictional stories in his spare time. He was my mentor, my editor and my hero. I have one sister named Trish. She is a competitive swimming coach. Trish resides in southern Ontario with her husband, four children, two dogs and a cat.

In our spare time we like to cruise Georgian Bay on our boat or spend quality family time.




~~~~~~~~~~
Thank you for taking the time to join us today, Jacqui. Your book sounds fascinating and I hope folks will enjoy the excerpt and check it out! Also, be sure to leave a comment to get a chance at winning the awesome giveaway mentioned above.

Amy

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writing Mindfully


It always surprises me how many lessons you learn at one job "translate" successfully to other areas of endeavor. And how often your parents really are right. :) Long, long ago (in a galaxy not that far away) my mother told me that it was important to set goals. All fine and well, but like a lot of other people, I found it hard to set goals when I didn't really know what I wanted or wanted to accomplish. So I sort of ignored that advice.

Then, as I got a "real job" (as opposed to my fiddling around with writing for one or two lifetimes) I was able to translate Mom's advice into something useful to me. I didn't set goals so much as figure out what I needed to accomplish. It sounds like a trivial difference, but it was an important difference to me. You see, "goals" felt like hard things that I probably couldn't accomplish while saying "this is just something I need to get done"  felt much more do-able.

And so life went on with some successes, some failures, and a lot of "what the heck am I doing" moments. Then, about 15 years ago, I seriously started writing again. I'd piddled with it off and on, but I finally realized that if I ever wanted to be a writer, then I needed to put on my big girl panties and get down to work.

My first few, aw heck, first FIVE manuscripts were a mess. I thought you could just write and your brain would work it all out and you'd create a masterpiece. Sure, I did some elementary plotting and kept track of character names and bios--all the usual stuff--but I didn't think too much about the whole thing. I just wrote. Which was fine as an exercise, but after a few more disastrous manuscripts, the metaphorical light bulb went off. I needed to decide what I wanted to get done.

That simple decision is what makes the difference between a manuscript that is, quite simply, a mess and one that is a real story fit for an audience. And it's not just figuring out the plot, although that is part of it.

Before I forget, let me digress for a moment and mention that I believe this is true whether you are a "plotter" or a "pantster." What are plotters and pantsters? Writers who either create meticulous outlines of their plots before they write (plotters) or writers who just sit down and...write by the seat of their pants (pantsters). I happen to be an unholy alliance of the two. I sort of plot but then halfway through, the characters have revolted, taken over the plot, and all bets are off.

Anyway, so what the heck do I really mean by "decide what needs to get done?"

You need to decide what you are writing. That sounds simple, but it's really not. Let's say you know in a broad way that you want to write mysteries. Okay, that's part of it. But you also have to decide if you want the story to be dark and gritty or light and humorous. Atmospheric or well, whatever the opposite of atmospheric might be. What feelings are you trying to dredge up out of the depths of the reader's psyche?

That goes for each scene, too. As you are writing, you need to keep an eye on what you are trying to do with that scene, and hopefully it will serve multiple purposes. Maybe you need to drop a specific clue for a mystery and you also need to reveal some critical aspect of your hero's personality and push the plot forward. Add a twist. Whatever.

For pantsters, the "does this serve my purpose?" evaluation may come later, but it's still critical. If you don't know what emotions you were trying to evoke or what the scene needed to accomplish as far as plot and characterization, then how do you know if the scene is successful? If you should keep it or cut it? Sadly, many of my scenes--usually the "best" ones in terms of snappy dialog--wind up terminated with extreme prejudice because they don't accomplish what they needed to in order to drive the story forward. It kills me to delete them, but...it is what it is.

Every element in a book: plot, characterization, dialog, setting, descriptions, etc, must be there for a reason for a story to be successful.

So that's my thought for today on writing. I'm still working on perfecting my craft--my reach always exceeds my grasp. Or to put it another way: a wise man is one who realizes that it is not what he knows that makes him wise, it is the recognition of how much he doesn't know that makes him wise. (I must be very, very wise at this point because I feel like I don't know anything.)

For the incurably curious

I'm working on the edits for my next contemporary cozy mystery and I hope to send it to my editor at Five Star soon. Maybe even by the end of August! I can't quite decide on a title, though. I am terrible with titles, but I'm thinking along the lines of "The Missing Body." Who knows. I just hope she likes it and Five Star is willing to pick it up.

Very soon (within the next few weeks, in fact) the next Pru and Knighton mystery will be out: The Dead
Man's View. My wonderfully talented cover artist is working on the cover and I can't wait to release it early in August. I've got another Pru and Knighton mystery up my sleeve, A Honeymoon with Death, where Pru is once more dragged into a mystery during her honeymoon in Europe with Knighton. Pru and Knighton are asked to debunk a haunting, only to stumble into murder instead. I can't wait to get to it, but I've already started another Second Sons Inquiry Agency mystery featuring a new inquiry agent, an embittered Napoleonic war veteran, who is requested to investigate the murder of an earl in The Illusion of Desire. I've gotten the first five chapters written and I hope to finish that during the winter.

Oh, and did I mention that I have a new cover for Pru and Knighton's first book, The Vital Principle? My cover artist (Amber Shah) did a great job and I'll be re-releasing that book with the new cover at the end of the month.

Finally, I'm trying something a little different and will probably have it published under a slightly different pen name as it is a contemporary crime/horror story about revenge. In fact, it's called Revenge. It's crime, black humor, and a bit of paranormal horror all rolled into one biting manuscript. Because it has some dark moments, I'm thinking it may be too dark for the traditional Amy Corwin fans, hence my thought that maybe another pseudonym may be in order. I used to be totally against multiple names for one author because I figured readers were smart enough to read the blurbs and know if the book was something they wanted to read or not, but then I realized the usefulness if you happen to write different genres. It makes it a lot easier for folks to know that if they buy an "Amy Corwin" there won't be a lot of explicit, well, stuff, in them, with the exception of my series of paranormal romances like A Fall of Silver which have a few love scenes.

I've got a lot more "on the burner" as far as writing and I hope that later this summer, the fruits of all my labors will finally be available.
Enjoy and Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gardening and Writing

Gardening

Oops, someone forgot to pick the veggies for a while. Sigh. But I did manage to harvest almost 2 quarts of garlic (2 qts of cleaned garlic cloves, to be exact) and a whole BUNCH of zucchini. As you can see in the background, I ended up using a lot of it for pickles. Then I took some more and made flour-less zucchini muffins.

I'm very pleased with the pickles. We are trying to cut out sugar and this particular recipe has no sugar at all in it. It's a spicy pickle with hot pepper flakes and garlic and we've already eaten one jar. What makes it even better is that you don't have to go through that long hot water bath canning process. You clean the jars (fill with boiling water until ready to use), prepare the zucchini and while you're doing that, boil the vinegar with the spices for 5 minutes. Then fill the jars and pour in the boiling vinegar. Of course you have to store them in the refrigerator, but that's okay with us. I got the recipe from Eatsy at this link.
 For the zucchinis I did not use for pickles (I made 12 pints of pickles) I made zucchini bread with almond flour. Okay, actually, I turned this into zucchini muffins because we like them for breakfast.

I got the recipe for that from comfybelly.com at this link. Of course, I modified it just a wee bit to add a little more spice because we really like our spices, but the basic recipe was from comfybelly.

So, if you are overrun with zucchini or squash, you might look into making either pickles or bread. My sister likes to make zucchini cake, but as I mentioned, we are trying to cut down on sugar and gluten, so we're not doing the cake thing. However, if you make those muffins, they are like mini carrot cakes and are absolutely wonderful for breakfast with a dollop of cream cheese. In fact, I almost prefer them to most cakes at this point.

Writing

I've been working extra hard on my writing lately and for those who are interested, I'm still taking my net proceeds from The Vital Principle and donating them to the Red Cross for the tornado victims. I haven't earned as much as I would like (I'd at least like to give $500) but every little bit helps.

For my fans, the second Prudence Barnard/Knighton Gaunt mystery, The Dead Man's View, is in the final stages and should be out in August. Pru and Knighton were first introduced to readers in The Vital Principle, and I hope folks will enjoy their continuing adventures. In The Dead Man's View, Pru discovers she has a second cousin and goes to visit him, only to have him die within a week of her arrival. The coroner believes her cousin committed suicide, but Pru finds clues that lead her to believe otherwise and she writes to Knighton to gain his assistance in proving her cousin was murdered. 

The wonderful cover artist, Amber Shah, is working on the cover for The Dead Man's View and has even done a new one for The Vital Principle to give it a "make over." Here is a "proof" of the newly redesigned cover for The Vital Principle. It is not final yet, but it will give you an idea and show her wonderful work.

I'm torn at the moment between two of her designs for The Dead Man's View, but hopefully I'll have a new cover to show folks soon!

Next year, I hope there will be a third Pru and Knighton mystery as they are going to go on a trip to Europe and once more, they are going to stumble upon a dead body during their travels...

In the meantime, the Second Sons Inquiry Agency is getting a new detective and I'm writing chapter five even as we speak. It's tentatively called: The Illusion of Desire and like The Vital Principle, it deals with some difficult topics but there are dashes of black humor that I hope readers will enjoy.

For readers of my contemporary mystery, Whacked!, I'm editing a second manuscript (I don't have a title yet) in preparation to sending it to my editor at Five Star. The new one is also set in the small town of Peyton, NC, and features Kelly Harmony. Kelly is suspected of killing her roommate and then torching the apartment to cover up the crime and it doesn't help matters when she finds a stranger's dead body in her new home. This is the first of what will be several mysteries featuring the Harmony family in Peyton, so cross your fingers that my editor likes it.

On the novella front, I wrote a sweet Regency novella last spring and submitted it to my editor at Highland Press, as well as my first sweet Western romance novella. I hope she likes at least one of them and decides to include it in one of the upcoming Highland Press anthologies.

Finally, my paranormal romance, A Fall of Silver, is on sale for one more week at $.99 so if you are interested, you might want to jump on it now before it goes back to its normal price.

That's all the news and I hope to write another blog soon on the craft of writing, as well as keeping up better on my progress with the art of writing.

Enjoy the summer!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Gospel According to Prissy Blog Tour




THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY
By
Barbara Casey

BLURB:  
 Three Army veteran misfits, a college dropout, an unmotivated high school graduate accused of murder, a controversial warden of a women's prison, and a little girl with the gift of prophesy – these are the people 31-year-old Lara Kruger invites into her life after suffering a miscarriage, a divorce from an abusive husband, and unemployment.

EXCERPT:  
Miriam walked away from her desk and paused in front of the unframed full-length mirror she had salvaged from the recent renovations in the women’s shower rooms.  The edges were chipped and blackened, and there was a fairly large crack that ran vertically from one corner to the other.  The condition of the mirror was the result, no doubt, of one of many displays of frustration and anger within the prison walls before she took over.  Still, the mirror served its purpose.  On those rare occasions when Warden Miriam Temple of the Braden Women’s Correctional Institution needed to be sure she looked her best, at least she could do so in the privacy of her own office.

Studying her reflection, she saw a tall, aging fifty-nine-year-old woman with dark hair streaked with gray cut in a simple shag, myopic brown eyes made evident by the wire-framed glasses, and a raw-boned body that could be considered well-proportioned if it weren’t for the fact that it was about twenty pounds on the heavy side, fifteen of which had settled around her thighs and buttocks.  “Pear shaped, as opposed to apple shaped,” she frequently reminded herself, “so that means at least I won’t die of a heart attack.”  The fact that her ear lobes were also plump and didn’t have the diagonal creases indicating some type of heart disease seemed to confirm that fact.  She didn’t know if these old-wives’ tales she had grown up with were really true, but she liked to keep an open mind, especially when they worked to her benefit.

She normally didn’t wear make-up, but this morning before leaving for work, she had dug out her small tapestry bag that held what few cosmetics she owned and applied a little blush and a touch of lipstick.  She rubbed one cheek with her hand now, thinking that maybe she shouldn’t have bothered.  She didn’t need to impress anyone.  Even if there had been the awkwardness that sometimes comes with being a large woman, it had been replaced years ago by the confidence born from a privileged background and the level of acceptance and comfort from which she viewed herself.

Her dark gray suit and crisp white blouse were clean and unwrinkled, thanks to the prison laundry facilities.  The plain black pumps she wore looked both practical and appropriate to complete the over-all appearance of discipline, control, strength, and above all, a positive attitude.  It was the attitude within the prison that Miriam had worked the hardest on when she took over as head warden six years earlier.  There had been a stifling wave of hopelessness and despair among the female inmates so thick it made it difficult to breathe.  This was manifested daily in brawls, food fights, and a behavior of non-compliance in general.  “Animals get treated better than we do,” had been the mantra at the prison.

For six years Miriam had been working fourteen-hour days, overseeing the operations of the facility, staying on top of problems, writing reports, and talking to every person she could reach about helping to set up programs for “her girls” as she referred to them.  Each of Miriam’s programs offered something to a few of her girls, but not to all, something she struggled with daily.  She constantly researched what other correctional institutions were doing not only in this country but other countries as well, trying to come up with new ways to stimulate her girls and help them feel enthusiastic about their lives.

 It had worked.  She started getting noticed after the first year of her tenure.  Complaints from the prisoners dropped, a State audit confirmed that for the first time in over a decade the prison budget would be in the black, and the over-all appearance of the facility was vastly improved.  Government officials who previously had been reluctant to show interest now started to open doors for this hard-working, persistent, and obviously dedicated woman. 

And then Prissy had been born.

AUTHOR INFORMATION:
 Barbara Casey is president of the Barbara Casey Agency, representing adult fiction and nonfiction for authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, and Japan.  She is also the author of numerous articles, poems, and short stories.  Her award-winning novels have received national recognition, including the Independent Publishers Book Award, the Dana Award for Best Novel, and the Publisher’s Best Seller Award.  Her novel, The House of Kane, released in 2008, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination, and her novel Just Like Family received special recognition by the 7-Eleven Corporation.  Her latest young adult novel, The Cadence of Gypsies, was reviewed by the Smithsonian for its list of 2011 Best Books. The Gospel According to Prissy, a contemporary adult novel, was released in the spring of 2013.

In addition to being a frequent guest lecturer at universities and writers’ conferences, Ms. Casey served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Florida, and was the Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 through 2003. 

 LINKS:


www.barnesandnoble.com
PRIZE 

Be sure to follow Barbara's blog tour. She will be giving away a $25 Amazon or BN.com gift card to one randomly chosen person who leaves comments during the tour. You can follow the tour by checking out the stops at:  http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2013/03/blurb-blitz-tour-gospel-according-to.html .

Thank you for joining us today, Barbara, and good luck with your book. It sounds fascinating!




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gardening and Enjoying Nelson Bay

This year might be a good year for gardening, after all :). I checked the veggie garden after returning from an all-too-short vacation at Nelson Bay and everything is looking good.

We've got green tomatoes on most of the tomato plants and with luck, they will start to ripen in June and we can get our first fresh tomatoes of the season.

The squash and cucumbers are also doing very, very well and I picked our first zucchini today. We'll have it sauteed in olive oil and onions tonight and I can't wait. It looks like we're going to have quite a few varieties of squash and when the basil gets a little taller, I'll make one of my favorite dishes: Mac-and-Cheese and Squash.

It's really simple to make: Saute the squash (yellow or zucchini or a mixture of the two) with mushrooms. While they are cooking, make macaroni and cheese with your favorite box or homemade variety. When they are done to your taste (I like them a little underdone so they are not mushy), add a handful of fresh, chopped basil. Then mix the veggies in with the mac-and-cheese and serve!

My mom used to make this and it was one of the last things I ate at her house before she passed away, so every time I make it, I think of her. It's a memory and recipe I really treasure.

 One of the things that is really helping out in the garden this year is a tangled ball of Venetian blind cord. One of our neighbors got rid of some old Venetian blinds and salvaged the cord. He decided he didn't have any use for it and gave it to us.

I discovered that it is just about perfect for tying up tomato plants and giving your cucumbers something to twine their tendrils around. It seems fairly weather resistant and so far isn't causing abrasions on my plants.

As you can see, we are sort of pack rats here and try not to let anything go to waste. My garden is full of odds and ends of PVC pipes that work as tomato and veggie supports as well as the Venetian blind cords to hold them up.

 As they say--it's all good!

And I just have to add a few pictures from our mini-vacation on Nelson Bay. We had a wonderful time and took the dogs out in our boat. Daisy, the Jack Russell terrier, is still a puppy so it was the first time she'd ever been out in a boat and she seemed to love it. She pals around with our Chesapeake Bay retriever, Molly, and the two of them stayed busy swimming and chasing the small mullets that hugged the shore.

We saw hermit crabs, as well, and our martin house is fully occupied with nesting martins, which means 12 pairs of birds.

On our boat ride, we saw several Osprey nests on channel markers and they seemed to be doing well. We also saw a Spotted Sandpiper on Salter's Creek, as well as dozens of Red-Winged Blackbirds, Laughing Gulls, and pelicans. We even have a pair of Barn Swallows nesting under our pier!

The Killdeer have already hatched one brood and there are chicks running around in the large, grassy areas and they are cute as can be.

This is such a great time of year and I really hope everyone has a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather, their friends and most of all, time with their families.

On a last note, I hope everyone will consider donating to the Red Cross to assist in the relief efforts for the tornado victims in OK. I am donating all my proceeds from my historical mystery, The Vital Principle, for both May and June (I decided to extend it to June) to the Red Cross to assist in this effort. I may extend it again for July--I will see how it goes. The families are in desperate need there and even the smallest donations will help. I hope you will consider giving to this or to your favorite charity.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Help for OK Tornado Victims

After watching the news and seeing the heart-wrenching tragedy in Oklahoma from the recent tornado, I've decided to donate the net earnings from my book, The Vital Principle, to the Red Cross to help survivors. Glued to the TV, I could not help but be touched, horrified and yet inspired by those brave folks working to rescue victims and try to recover.

I was appalled the first day and could not help but worry about people who had lost everything. I kept worrying about:

  • Where will they sleep tonight and future nights when their homes have been reduced to rubble?
  • What will they wear for clothing?
  • Do they have food and water?
  • Where are their family members and pets?
  • What about all of their precious things like photos, books and all the myriad belongings we all take for granted as being within an arm's reach?
And the problems aren't just for one night or a week--they are for months in the future. Homes, schools, stores, and entire communities will have to be rebuilt. People will have to essentially start from scratch to rebuild their lives and their neighborhoods.

Given that, at least for the months of May and June, I will be donating anything I earn from The Vital Principle to the areas hit by the tornado. It won't be much, but I feel it is important to help these folks recover and if all goes well, I'll continue to donate in the future. As I said, it may well be a year or more before Moore and other devastated communities are back on their feet.

I hope everyone will consider helping.
And folks in Oklahoma, please know that our hearts and thoughts are with you. We pray that more survivors will be found and families reunited.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gardening with Veggies

Gardening is always trial and error, at least for me, and often tends to be more "error" than anything else. However, this year I have a new plan to defeat weeds--a checkerboard. My idea is this:

 Put down landscape fabric, then put square (or round if you prefer) pavers on top of that in a checkerboard pattern

Then cut X's in the exposed fabric so you can plant your veggies (or whatever plant you're planting).

This year, I have squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers planted between the pavers.

My hope is that I can use the pavers as places to stand to weed and harvest and they also ensure that I don't plant things too closely together.

For supports, we stuck together some old PVC in various odd configurations so I can tie the tomatoes and cucumbers to those as they get taller.

So far, so good. :) I've actually got some green tomatoes on one of the larger plants (the one on the right in the pictures) and I've got a combination of small veggies that I started from seeds and some larger plants that I purchased. We should get a good variety, since I have all different kinds of varieties including a mix of modern hybrids and old fashioned heirloom plants that I grew from seeds.

In the past, I've found that it is best to have plants at various stages of growth for a number of reasons: it extends the harvest; and if pests or disease get into the plants, it may affect only the ones at a specific age so you will still have a chance at a harvest from the plants at a different stage.

While I was whacking weeds this morning, I also noticed some volunteer tomato plants in a spot where I had tomatoes last year. I'm going to let them grow and see what they produce (if anything). Since the tomatoes I had there were hybrids, it is anyone's guess what they will produce, but it will be fun to see.

This morning I also noticed that the tops of my crop of garlic are going brown, which means it is almost time to dig up the heads and dry them. Since we have a LOT of garlic, what we don't use immediately will be frozen. As it turns out, garlic heads freeze very well and once they are frozen, it is super easy to remove the papery husks when you're ready to use them and the cloves still states fresh (albeit a little soft) and are excellent for cooking. This crop this is almost ready for harvest should provide us with enough garlic to last until next season, or at least that's my hope. Then, this fall, I'll lay in another crop, along with lettuce which really only grows well here in autumn/winter/spring.

Hope everyone is enjoying the spring (it's more like summer, here in NC) weather and looking forward to a wonderful season of fresh veggies!

Enjoy!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Malice Domestic 2013

I recently returned from the Malice Domestic 25 conference in Bethesda, MD, and I had a super time. My sister and I both love mysteries, so we can get a chance to visit, do a little sight-seeing around the Virginia, Maryland, DC area, and generally have a good time. One of the best features, of course, is that we each get a bag full of books, many of which are from authors new to us so we get to sample new authors while going to interesting talks and generally schmoozing with the authors. If you haven't gone, I highly recommend this conference as it is on the small side and everyone is fantastically nice.

Harlan Coben and yours truly, Amy Corwin
In fact, during the author signing, Harlan Coben came over and spoke to several of us, which was really sweet of him considering that I (in particular) am generally unknown in the Mystery Author Stars firmament.

Exotic Locales Session with Dina Willner (moderator), Lucy Burdette, Aaron Elkins, Marie Moore, and Michael Stanley
One of the best sessions was about the use of exotic locales in fiction and all four authors were fascinating in their views of how the locale influences the book. I picked up several new books where the stories are set in distant lands since I have always loved to read stores set in other places. One of the authors, Aaron Elkins, really drew in the crowds and I loved to hear him talk about his process. He visits the places where he sets his stories and takes notes on everything, including local eateries (including their menus) and street views. I almost asked him if he had any relatives in NC since we are friends with a family with the last name and there is even a crossroads (Elkton) named after the Elkins. It would be really funny if they were related (I really don't think they are).
Maria Hudgins (Left)

I also got to catch up with several of my friends, including fellow Five Star author, Maria Hudgins, and Sandra Parshall who was the main editor of the Fairfax Audubon Society newsletter where I was a "grunt" typist eons ago.

Sandra Parshall (right)
While at the conference, I got to participate in the fun (but exhausting) Malice-Go-Round, which was like speed dating for authors. There were twenty tables set up with ten or so folks at each table and we authors got to run around to each table and "pitch" our books for 2.5 minutes. Whew. By the time I reached table 18, I was pretty well "voice-less" but I certainly got my pitch for my latest mystery, Whacked!, down-pat. (An overworked gal goes to house-sit for her aunt and uncle, only to find her uncle sharing a smoke with a dead man. It's up to her to prove her uncle is not crazy and did not kill the man at the bottom of the garden. LOL) Right now, Whacked! is only out in hardcover, but there should be an ebook version out next year (crossing fingers).

Liz Lipperman (right)
For fans of my historical mysteries, the second Pru & Knighton book (Second Sons Inquiry Agency mystery series) should be out by the end of June or early July. I still don't have a title for it, but it's coming! If you want to catch up on the first book where Pru Barnard is accused of murdering her host at a seance, you can grab a copy of The Vital Principle.

I hope mystery fans will check out Malice Domestic and maybe make a trip next year for the conference. It really was a lot of fun and there is so much to do in that neck of the woods. It is well worth the trip!



Aaron Elkins at book signing

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lightning Strike

You know how your parents always warned you not to stand under a tree during a storm? You know how you always scoffed? Well, it turns out, they were right. You should never be anywhere NEAR a tree during a storm and I have proof. If you read this blog and look at the pictures and still run to shelter beneath the spreading branches of a tree during a storm, well...you're an idiot.

About a week ago, we had a terrible storm during the night. At 4:00AM we heard a loud boom that rattled the entire house. We live in a log home and have actually weathered hurricanes and trees hitting the house with only the merest thump. This time, the house really did shake so we knew there had to have been an explosion of some kind. We figured lightning had struck somewhere close, very close, and were afraid it was our power line. Thankfully, this was not so.

The next day, we checked the trees around the house to make sure none of them had been struck for fear the tree would die and then come crashing down on the house. All the trees in the immediate vicinity appeared fine, however.

Then today, we were taking the dogs for a walk through our woods and found the lightning strike. The sight was awesome in the sense of "awe inspiring." I had never seen anything like it in my life. A huge tree had been struck and literally exploded into fragments, some of which were littered as far away as 100 feet. Many of the jagged, spear-like fragments were stuck in the ground and you can only imagine what would have happened had you been foolish enough to be within 100 feet of that tree when it exploded.

From examining it, we saw the charred area about four feet off the ground where the lightning hit. The heat of the strike immediately boiled the moisture in the tree and the steam created so much pressure that it blew the tree apart, as if the tree had been a pressure cooker without a safety valve. It looked like someone had stuck an explosive into the tree and set it off. The thick trunk was split to the ground and the top was blown completely off and landed next to what remained of the stump, still upright and leaning against the shredded remains of the trunk.

So the next time you even THINK about taking shelter anywhere near a tree, I encourage you to think again. Most experts tell you to take shelter in a building or a car (cars have rubber tires, after all) and I think that's pretty darn good advice at this point.

The really amazing thing to me is how a previously healthy, mature tree was so completely split apart into matchsticks. (Okay, they are giant matchsticks, for sure, but the fragments scattered everywhere in the woods did look like matchsticks.)

I am also pleased that this happened before birds started nesting this spring. We did not find any "bodies" of any critters, which was a relief to me (although evidently a disappointment to the dogs).

One must never forget the power of nature. Lightning is obviously nothing to "fool around with."


On a cheerful note, I'm watching my latest book, The Unwanted Heiress, creep up the Amazon ebook charts and it looks like it is a success to me. :) That will give me some bucks to do some planting and I think a few more trees may be in order.