2 Blondes, 1 Redhead & a Reviewer

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Kitchen elves and their tools…

Catchy huh?

I used to love to cook but after 34 years, I’m so done.  If someone makes a choice, I’m happy.  If they cook it and serve me, I’m all over it.  When I do go all out, ‘I call it Zalla Gah Doola’ moments and that means stand back, I’m being Sicilian and enjoying it.  Your taste buds are going to have a party!

I have a mandolin slicer and a Slap Chop, yes the one on TV.  It works great  and great for speed chopping small ammounts.  Any gadget I prefer Stainless Steel because it lasts and cleans well.  My husband has a Batter Pro for frying fish but its a huge pain to clean.  SO much that I groan when I see that thing.  We have more appliances that gadgets and I will state that I have 5 coffee makers and use them all.  I complained about a crock pot for Christmas but its a great one. 3 temp levels and a timer that will turn it on for you as well as off.   My favorite is my over head vent for the stove.   who knew, huh?  But is secreted in a cabinet so all you see is a black bar the width of the stove.  It pulls out and turns on, lights up, and is super easy to clean those vents.  Being short, I used to hit my forehead on the hood. The men in my house are tall so they had to stand back to see under it.  You don’t know its there and yes, its was expensive.  Nearly $650 but my husband is the one who wanted it. =)  Sometimes there is advantages to taking the spouse on a shopping trip, as long as its in Lowes or Home Depot that is.

I’m off to write a historical…Amy


Favorite Kitchen Gadget :(

I don’t like the kitchen, lol. Unless I’m there to pour wine…and it’s not like I have the fancy wine opener either. It’s way too complicated, and I don’t need if for the box, lol

I tossed the toaster, never replaced the coffee maker the last time the carafe broke, and dont use a toaster oven. The idea of a food processor makes me crazy. All those parts? I can’t even be responible for keeping the tupperware lids together.

I have a favorite pan that I use, and a pot for boiling noodles. A strainer.  I don’t make waffles or smoothies, so those things aren’t necessary. Geez. I guess after all of this, the coolest thing to be found in my kitchen is the dry erase board that people, mainly my college aged children, draw cartoon porn on.

I’m just not a gadget girl – but hey, on another note, Diary of  a Bad Boy is free for the next two days if you want to head over to amazon

Diary of a Bad Boy is a coming of age story about a kid who has had a few rough knocks, and his journey on getting his life back together. Enjoy!!



Kitchen Fun

My favorite gadget?  My pasta maker.  It’s a simple dump and go system, just add the ingredients, it does all the mixing and kneading, then extrudes the pasta in any of 12 shapes.  And there is a difference between fresh and dry pasta.  The fresh is so much nicer.  And it is fun to play with since it comes with recipes for spinach pasta, sun dried tomato pasta and some decent sauce recipes.

I sorry, I can’t pick just one.  I have the best refrigerator ever.  It has French doors, so I actually can fit platters and whatever inside without battling the side-by-side issues.  It also has all sorts of compartments and fun stuff like a beverage drawer and yogurt slots (which can also accommodate cans of soda) and just about everything you could want in a fridge.  Technically it isn’t a gadget but I adore it all the same.

My knives are sacred as well.  No one is allowed to use my knives.  Mainly because they’d probably cut off a finger.  To keep them sharp enough to slice paper, I have them mounted on a magnet in my kitchen so there’s no blade-dulling block to mess up the edge.  But I’ll admit, they are pricey knives.  Most of them are $100.00 or more but they’re worth it IMHO.  I haven’t gotten out my mandolin in years.  Probably sitting in a box someplace in my garage.  Good knives make easy work of things and a sharp knife will not bruise a tomato or smash a loaf of fresh bread.

So what makes your kitchen life easier?

Taking out the trash

Yes, there comes a time, regardless of where you are in your career, that you have to admit the story just isn’t working.  You’ve edited, rewritten, polished and pondered the book, trying to force it to be something different. So what do you do?

Toss it.  Delete it.  Put it on a thumb drive, then put that drive in a drawer.  Do whatever it takes to free yourself from a project that just isn’t going anywhere even after your months (or years) of TLC.  I’ve tossed a 200+ manuscript because it fell apart at the end.  Did it hurt?  You bet it did.  I felt like I was deleting a kidney.

What are some of the signs that it’s time to throw in the towel?

  1. You dread going to your computer;
  2. You’ve rewritten the same thing more than twice;
  3. You lie in bed trying to think of a way to write your way out of the abyss;
  4. You haven’t finished the manuscript in 6 months;
  5. You kid yourself into thinking all rewrites are just polishing;
  6. It’s been weeks and you still don’t know where to start the scene;
  7. You use the excuse that you’re a pantser so you’re waiting for your muse;
  8. You have an idea that isn’t complex enough to sustain a whole book;
  9. You can’t figure out what to do after the cute meet or the murder or whatever;
  10. You’re depending on your critique partner/group to save you from yourself;
  11. You feverishly enter contests, but only ones that want three chapters or less;
  12. You don’t have the idea for your next book in your brain.

Trying to fix something is hard work.  It only makes it harder if you’re in love with your own words.  The two things I hear most often are A) I’m on my tenth (or whatever) draft and B) My critique group loves it.

As to item A – you need to learn how to plot before you start to write.  You need a roadmap so you don’t end up circling the globe in search of some way to turn your book into a complex and cohesive story.  BTW, that’s the definition of a pantser.  I have never personally met a pantser that doesn’t do drafts.  I’m of the opinion that doing a draft is like giving yourself permission to write shit.  And that wastes time, a precious commodity in this tight publishing climate.

As to item B – I’m a huge proponent of having a critique partner/group.  A second pair of eyes is a good thing SO LONG AS THAT PERSON WRITES AT OR ABOVE YOUR LEVEL.  Exceptions for reviewers & voracious readers of your genre, they normally have their respective fingers on the pulse of what’s out there.  Most importantly, your critique group doesn’t find you an agent or offer you a publishing contract.  Chances are they’re your friends, so they can’t be as tough as an agent or editor will be when you submit.  Years ago I was in a critique group and all I wanted to do was sell a Silhouette Desire.  I worked on one for about a month and took my five chapters to critique group.  When I finished,  one dear, dear friend said, “You’re action and dialogue are great but everything else sucks.  Ever think of writing romantic suspense?”  It was my light bulb moment.  I took her advice and in four months (with a fulltime job and a preschooler at home) I finished the manuscript and two months after that, I sold it to Harlequin Intrigue.  I will forever be grateful for that friend’s honesty.  She was spot on and didn’t sugarcoat anything.  That’s what you need from a critique buddy.

That isn’t to say your critique buddy can’t dislike what you’re writing.  Maybe he/she doesn’t like mysteries or romance or westerns or whatever.  But he/she should still be able to tell you if the story structure, pacing, plot and characterization are on the page.

In these days, it’s impossible for many authors to sell on a partial, so you’ve got to finish the book and make sure it is in the best shape ever.  Three good chapters do not a book make.

When to trash that story idea that’s going no where….

When?   Let’s see… when I waste a year on it.

This has happened to me more times than I’d like to admit.  An idea you want to write but just isn’t working. I have file cabinets full.  I almost trashed Damage Control and started over because the plot would not come together.  At present my idea for Max’s story caved on me and after reworking it several times, that got tucked in a box and purged from my mental hard drive. =) It’s still creeping in but it has to vanish before I can start over with a fresh idea.


You’ve worked on the plot for longer than a month.  Yes a month.  I reworked plot for a year so that’s chopping the ‘revision factor’ down.  My difficulty was tying up a series I’d no intention of tying up when I started it.

Your critique group is tired of hearing it and fellow writers stop commenting on it.   Ask yourself. am I ignoring advice that would change this plot and move it forward?

You can’t explain the plot in a couple sentences.  Goal, motive and of course.  That’s the pitch, people.  The best one I’ve heard was 2 words, “Jurassic Shark.”

YOU are sick of it.  If it’s a chore to work then it’s not you, it’s the story.  If you can’t see the end of the tunnel, neither will the editor. Writers have to feel the characters and story and want to write it.

Or like me, the rarity that my editor passed away and her replacement considers me unworthy of her attention.  That’s actually when I gave it up.

You have other stories you want to write but feel obligated to finish the last one.  Unless you are under contract for it, don’t.  Why waste time? and believe me if you don’t like it, the reader will know in spades.

If you’ve been writing one story for longer than a year(or like some I know, 15 years and never finishing) either trash the story, rework it to a new plot, or go back to writing classes because  you don’t have the skills to know what the problem is exactly.

Not exactly sage advice but honest.  I’ve been there and trust me, Being unemployed writer stinks.





Of all the books I’ve loved before…

As a writer there is nothing scarier, yet more exciting, than the beginning of a new book.  There’s a blank screen. A blinking cursor. And so many possibilities going around in your head that it’s really difficult to know where to start.

I happen to be a plotter when it comes to writing – well, mostly a plotter. A plotter with lots of wiggle room. I love to answer the “what happens if?” question, so there aren’t many books I gave up on, just books that lost their steam. That magical oomph that made the journey worth while. I keep them all because I know that the story lines work, it’s the characterization that requires spark – and when I am writing to a deadline for a book that is sold, I don’t want to spin my wheels with a book that isn’t.

My tweltfth book comes out in April, and my thirteenth comes out in May. I have 2 completed novels that are not agented and not sold…I have four manuscripts with a minimum of 100 pages completed that are not sold or contracted, and I have three completed manuscripts with my agent. I have four sixty page partials that are connected to other books. You never know when those might come in handy, lol. Ideas are plenty, it’s the time to finish the books that I am running low on. But if an editor were to ask me for a book, or a book idea, I have a little bit of something to choose from. I don’t ever trash anything, just carry the ideas from flash drive to flash drive as computers are switched out, lol

I’ve had story lines change, or plots change, but I keep the originals too. 

What about you? Can you throw an idea away?



Me and Stephen King….

What book changed your world?   For me, it was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.  It scared the heck out of me and it was the first time I realized the power of words.  Mind you, I’d have been grounded for a month for reading King at 13, but I hid what I was reading from my parents.  Once I was in the back of the car under a blanket reading that book and has to close it because I was so frightened. Yet I kept reading the story. I can still visualize the creepy devil guy in my mind.  That was 42 years ago. 42!  OMG I just realized that.

This was not the start of a writing career but becoming and avid reader…like my mother.

So readers… what’s your life changing book?

Forever Books

Books on my forever shelf…Auntie Mame, by Dennis Patrick. This one is a favorite, and one I read to my stepfather out loud when he was dying. All of Anne Rice’s Lestat series, and the Witching Hour, too. I have my worn copy of Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux, and a much loved copy of Erma Bombeck’s  The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. Christopher Moore’s Lamb is a keeper, as is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  Stephen King’s It.

I love humorous historical romances, action packed, please, with lots of laughs.  Johanna Lindsey delivers, as does Christina Dodd. Catherine Coulter’s historical novels rock. Bernard Cornwell’s Arthur trilogy is a great way to spend a weekend reading. Wilbur Smith and Jack Whyte are also some of my historical heroes.  

My goal as a writer is to be designated “keeper shelf” status – a story brought out when someone wants a feel good happy ever after adventure J

Not to play favorites, but if you are looking for great authors, check out the FRW website – we have Heather Graham, Linda Conrad, Nancy Cohen, Bonnie Vanak, Kathleen Pickering, Allison Chase, Rhonda Pollero and so many more to choose from that I can’t list them all! I promise you can’t go wrong. For a sampling of these stories, check out Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies, oh my!  Available for purchase on Amazon, or go to . Don’t be afraid to try up and coming authors like Patrice Wilton, Joan Afman, Mary Ricksen, or Michael Meeke. First and foremost, I love to read – I was a reader and I still am a reader – so come on and share!

What are your favorite books?

 I am already wishing I could add more authors…lolol Leanne Banks, Cherry Adair, Amy Fetzer, Tim Dorsey…the great and fabulous Nora Roberts…so many wonderful stories and only twenty four hours in the day!


Books that changed my life


The books that changed my life  . . .

Gone With the Wind.  I discovered it when I was about twelve and I just couldn’t put it down.  I was completely mesmerized by Katie Scarlett O’Hara (which explains why my daughter’s name is Katie Scarlett).  She was the first flawed and imperfect heroine I’d seen to that point in my reading world.  The book is actually different from the movie – Scarlett has a baby with her first husband named Beau but in the film, that’s Melanie’s son.  Little things like that.  Now that doesn’t mean I don’t watch the movie regularly, in fact, I’ve blown through a tape and two DVDs so far.  And who can forget Rhett?  He’s heroic and flawed all at once but you find his flaws sexy as the story progresses.  And his deep love for Scarlett just makes him all the more appealing.

The second keeper on my shelves that I read regularly is Jane Eyre.  It was my introduction to romantic suspense.  Yes, it had some creepy in it but the interplay between   Jane may be the earliest feminist out there.  She was vulnerable but never scared of Mr. Rochester and she took matters into her own hands.  She walked away from true love not as a victim, but as a strong, independent woman who wouldn’t compromise on her principles.  Of course it has a happy ending.  But that’s what romantic suspense is all about.

So what are your favorite reads?


What the Editors had to say at Sleuthfest

The Sleuthfest Editors:

First – roll call

Deni Dietz-Five Star; Robert Gussin, Oceanview Publishing; Annette Rogers, Poisoned Pen Press; Abby Zidle, Senior editor Pocket/Galley books – imprints of Simon & Schuster

The first thing I noticed was that two of the editors wrote for their own lines.  Call me crazy but this bothers me.  I don’t want to have to compete with my editor for a slot.

  1. Most of the editors were interested in acquiring eBook originals.
  2. All of the editors stressed the importance of checking their guidelines because many publish only mysteries and some focused on anthologies and/or short stories.
  3. Poisoned Pen Press is currently running a contest with a $1,000.00 prize – more info on their website.  But they don’t take thrillers – only mystery.  They are specifically looking for books set in Iraq and Afghanistan, thought they don’t want it to be about the political strife in those countries.  And no WWII.  They stressed really good villains and a unique voice.
  4. Abby Zidle indicated that she acquired for many different imprints, so she was looking for everything from cozies to trade to hard cover.  She did want to make it clear that they’re looking more toward hard covers and trade than original mass market.  S&S uses the agency model, so the books are released in print and eBook format on the same day.  Most editors were looking for a unique voice and a memorable character.  They stressed that a reader should be able to read a snippet and recognize the author immediately.  They cited Lee Child as a good example.  You read a passage and know immediately it’s a Reacher book.
  5. The biggest mistake they see is too much telling and not enough showing.  They advised authors to start in the middle of the conflict instead of writing the lead-up.  Just jump right in.
  6. Play fair for the reader – give them character, voice and pacing, especially in mystery.
  7. Your voice is why/how you put your words together.
  8. Edgier stuff is seeing improvement in the marketplace.
  9. If you have a niche book, go ePublishing or small press.  They are often more willing to buy and market those books.
  10. Got the usual “write what you know” lecture.
  11. Oceanview has now branched out into audiobooks as well as Hard Cover, trade, and eBook.

So see – I learned a lot from this group.  It’s tough out there right now, so these insights were really helpful.  Oh, and they also had nothing wonderful to say about Goodreads.  Focus on a Twitter and Facebook presence.

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