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Archive for March, 2013

This easy-to-make casserole is great for a family dinner (serves 4). Double the recipe, and make 2 casserole dishes-worth for a tasty meal for guests, or for a wonderful addition to a book club or readers’ group get-together or any other pitch-in. Like my last recipe, Drop Sugar Cookies, Oven Baked Chicken Bruschetta usually gets rave reviews.

Oven Baked Chicken Bruschetta

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup Newmans (or other brand) Sundried Tomato Dressing

2 tomatoes chopped

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 teaspoon dried basil OR 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions:

1-Place chicken in zip lock bag, add dressing, seal tightly, then turn bag several times until coated.

2-Refrigerate 10 minutes, or marinate all day.

3-Pre-heat oven to 350°F and spray a 9×13 casserole dish with vegetable cooking spray (like Pam).

4-Remove chicken from bag and place in casserole dish. Then, bake for 30 minutes.

5-Meanwhile, combine chopped tomatoes and basil. Set aside.

6-Take chicken out of oven after 30 minutes, top with tomato mixture, and then sprinkle with cheese.

7-Put casserole back in the oven. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is done.

Notes:

1-When I’m taking this casserole to a pitch-in dinner, after baking, I usually slice the breasts in half. This makes the portion size smaller, and doubles the number of guests able to have a generous taste of the scrumptious chicken.

2-Add a salad and hearty bread (or rolls) to Oven Baked Chicken Bruschetta for a delicious meal.

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from Maryland writer, Patricia Valdata, author of several books including The Other Sister.

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Hooray! The Enchanted Skean is now available from Amazon.  The 7-year journey from first words jotted on paper to completed novel has finally yielded a published book!  And I hope you like the cover using my painting and the art director skills of Jamie Johnson. Below is the cover blurb:

Skean copy “The Enchanted Skean – Book I of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir is a YA coming-of-age adventure novel filled with magic, miracles, and mystery. 14-year old Beck Conleth is living a quiet life in the seaside town of Queen’s Weather when his grandmother sends him on a journey to Ulfwood to retrieve his father’s bones and a family skean (dagger). After reaching Ulfwood, Beck discovers the skean is magical, and that it answers only to him. Soon the enchanted skean and its owner attract the attention of dark mages, goblins, and worse. Helped on his journey home by Wisewomen, warriors, shape-changers, and the other good folk of Lifthrasir, Beck faces death, danger, and the theft of his skean.

Accompanied by his best friend, Beck stows away on a ship, takes back his skean, befriends a dragon, and escapes with a troop of thieves. After reaching a dock in West Arnora, the company heads for the fortress of Ravens Haunt. As Beck and his companions face a hideous Skullsoul and an army of ogerhunches, he realizes there is a developing confrontation between good and evil, and he and his enchanted skean have a role to play.”

Thank you to Mockingbird Lane Press & Editor Regina Williams for not only believing in my novel, but helping me make it a better book with their invaluable input. And thanks to friends, family, and fans who’ve helped me on this journey.

Now, the success of The Enchanted Skean rests with you – the readers. So if you enjoy adventure tales filled with magic and epic fantasy, please visit Amazon,  “Like” The Enchanted Skean – Book I of the Chronicles of Lifthrasir, buy a copy, and post a review. If you’re on Goodreads, please post a review there, also. Thanks so much. – Vonnie

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Thanks to author, Jaleta Clegg for stopping by and reminding us of our need for storytellers. Enjoy!

The Need for Storytellers by Jaleta Clegg

biosmall Humans are storytellers. Look at our history. Stories have been handed down for ages. We have stories to warn and teach. We have stories to amuse. We have stories to help us remember. We even have stories about storytellers. Scherezade saved her life and the kingdom with her storytelling. Allan A’Dale recorded Robin Hood’s exploits and by doing so, became part of his legend.

Everyone of us is a storyteller to some degree. Remember when you were little and got caught with your hand in the cookie jar? “I didn’t eat the cookies, mom, honest. It was the giant gorilla who lives under the couch. He ate the cookies.” Or your imaginary friend who used to play with you. Or when you played make-believe. All of us have a need to tell stories. It’s part of being human.

Galaxy Quest brought up an interesting alien race. They had no concept of fiction or stories. It led to some very funny situations in the movie, but think if that were true. How would our society change if we had no concept of fiction or make-believe or lying? Everything we said, every story we told, would have to be completely true. I have a hard time imagining such a world.

Some people have predicted that we will no longer need storytellers because technology is making the paper book obsolete. But the paper book, and popular fiction as we know it today, have only been around a little more than a hundred years. We’ve had storytellers for thousands. The medium may change, but we will always need storytellers.

Think of your favorite game. I bet it tells a story. Think of your favorite movies. Someone had to create the story for those. Think of tv shows, music, art–all of these tell stories in their own way.

poisonpawn I started writing my stories after reading a lot of very disappointing books. I was frustrated by characters I didn’t like and endings that left me with a bad taste. I couldn’t find books with the type of stories I wanted to read. I love adventure, action, explosions, good guys who are mostly good, and bad guys who might as well wear a black hat to advertise their badness. I love a bit of romance mixed in. I love books that end with a positive note. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but that’s the kind of story I love. That’s what I set out to create.

I’m addicted to storytelling now. I can’t stop myself. I’ve always loved it. So be warned, once you let your inner child loose with your imagination, you won’t be able to stop. But who would want to? We humans love a good yarn.”

Jaleta Clegg loves playing with words, stringing them into new worlds and spinning yarns about the people and creatures who populate those worlds. Her stories range from science fiction adventure to silly horror to everything in between. You can find more about her at www.jaletac.com and about her science fiction series at www.altairanempire.com You can follow her blog, The Far Edge of Normal at http://jaletaclegg.blogspot.com (and for fans of recipes, Jaleta also posts them on her blog). To buy her books, including the soon-to-be released Poisoned Pawn: http://tinyurl.com/jaleta-clegg-amazon

Thanks again to Jaleta Clegg for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a magical day!– Vonnie

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Thanks to speculative author Phoebe Wray for stopping by and sharing her journey as she steps into the unfamiliar shoes of a mystery writer.

Writing My First Mystery-Thriller by Phoebe Wray

WRAY INFORMAL HEADSHOT “In Adam’s Fall, a mystery-thriller just released from Wolfsinger Publishing, is my first attempt at this genre. I’ve been writing futurist-dystopian action-adventure novels and stories for the last six years (pardon the plethora of hyphens) usually classed as science fiction. I had this itch of a story that kept interrupting my thoughts. I wanted to explore what happens in an ordinary, pleasant, small town when the curse of our times – bigotry, racial profiling, and senseless violence — interrupts the birdsong.

I wasn’t sure I could write a mystery. Didn’t it have to have red herrings, complicated villains, and a plot full of twists and turns? Well, yes, but so does science fiction. Police procedure? Again yes, at least some. I had taken an online course on that years ago, and dug out my notes. They weren’t very helpful. I decided to just write the story and then figure out what it was.

Someone murders a beautiful young Muslim woman and leaves the body next to the dumpster in Nikki, my heroine’s, back yard. She stumbles over it early in the morning on a beautiful April day. That’s the start of the sled-ride it becomes.

I worked for many years as a journalist and reporter and the old newspaper mantra is drummed into my brain: Who? What? When? Where? Why? And sometimes, “How?” In this case, mostly “why?” That litany was useful for a mystery. Above all, I believe a mystery-thriller has to make sense, the pieces must finally come together with some logic, even if that logic is hateful.

IAFCover In this novel, the anger, the madness, in the killer escalates, not just with gun violence, but with his hateful racist messages. The bad guy has the severe case of tunnel vision that racists possess and because Nikki is a history teacher with old New England roots, he believes she will agree with his anti-Arab, “take back America” rhetoric. When she doesn’t, he focuses on her, stalking her and attacking the town itself. He sets fire to the local church, sprays racist graffiti on the school, takes pot-shots at the FBI, his acts more random and finally deadly.

In a sense, In Adam’s Fall is a stalking novel but its themes and ideas reflect what we hear on every o’clock news. How do we understand those? How do we confront them? Do we forgive them? The novel was written before the horror of New Town and Colorado. Nikki struggles to understand and to cope with the terror and with the sudden unwelcome celebrity that such incidents bring in their wake.

IAFBackCover(1) I made up the little town where Nikki lives, but it looks suspiciously like the one I live in, as it was when I moved here in 1976. We’ve spiffed up since then, with a new firehouse and police station, but I used the old ones. I manipulated the geography a little, too, but used our street names. Who could resist a heroine who lives on Snake Hill Road?”

For more information on Phoebe Wray, visit her at: http://jemma7729.blogspot.com Her books can be purchase through her publishers: Wolfsinger Publications: http://wolfsingerpubs.com/Intro.html and Dark Quest, LLC: http://darkquestbooks.com and at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/Phoebe-Wray-Amazon

Thanks again to Phoebe Wray for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a try-something-new day!– Vonnie

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Before I get to the recipe, here’s the link to a Book Giveaway that’s expiring in a few hours. Please make a comment and maybe win a copy of Beth Barany’s book!

These easy-to-make, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies vanish quickly from the cookie jar every season of year. The recipe makes a large batch, so cutting it in half is a possibility for those less enthusiastic about crispy, crunchy, sugary treats! Like last week’s Baked Caramel Popcorn, Drop Sugar Cookies work well for a book club or readers’ group get-together, kids’ party, or any other fun gathering.

Drop Sugar Cookies

Step #1: Make cookies.

Cookie Ingredients:

1 cup softened margarine (or butter, if you prefer)

1 cup powdered confectioner’s sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4-1/4 cups flour

Directions:

1-Cream margarine and sugars together in a large mixing bowl.

2-Beat in eggs.

3-Add oil, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix well.

4-Combine cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and flour in another bowl. Then, add the dry ingredients to the liquidy dough. Mix well until cookie dough forms.

5-Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours (or over-night).

Step #2: Make & Bake the cookies:

1-Preheat oven to 325°F and spray cookie sheets with vegetable cooking spray (like Pam).

2-Place about 1/2 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl. Find a flat-bottomed glass, and place beside the bowl with the sugar. (Add more sugar to the bowl as needed).

2-Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place on a cookie sheet allowing a couple of inches between dough balls.

3-Flatten the dough balls with the flat-bottomed glass. Here’s how: Dip the glass’s bottom in sugar, then press a dough ball flat. Re-dip the glass’s bottom in the sugar, then flatten another dough ball. You’ll probably need to re-dip after each cookie.

4-Once cookies are flattened, sprinkle lightly (remember you’ve already added a bit of sugar when flattening the cookies) with colored sugar or sprinkles.

5-Bake in oven (about 8 minutes, but it depends on how thick you’ve made your cookies) until cookies are lightly browned at the edges.

6-Using a pancake-flipper, remove cookies immediately from cookie sheet to a cooling rack.

7-Repeat steps 1 through 6 until dough is gone.

8-Serve when cooled or store in an air-tight container until ready to eat. Enjoy!

Notes:

1-You’ll get a “rhythm” going when making these cookies, so after the 1st sheet, the flattening process will go quickly.

2-I put the cookie dough back in the refrigerator between batches to keep it firm and easy to handle.

3-A trick I use to cool my cookies and not have to deal with cookie racks: Place a layer of heavy brown paper (the kind you wrap packages with) on the counter. Place cooked cookies, hot from the oven, on the brown paper rather than on racks. The paper absorbs any extra vegetable spray or other grease. Plus, when you’re done, just fold the paper up and toss it away – crumbs and all!

4-These cookies freeze well. Once cooled, they can be put in a tightly-sealed container and stored in the freezer for several months.

5-By the way, I press the dough balls out so my cookies are thin, and therefore extra crisp. I have to watch the baking cookies carefully so they don’t burn. If you make your cookies thicker, and therefore softer, they burn less quickly. But still keep a close eye on your Drop Sugar Cookies.

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from speculative writer Phoebe Wray, author of the mystery-thriller, In Adam’s Fall..

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The Enchanted Skean – Book I of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir, my Young Adult coming-of-age adventure novel filled with magic, miracles, and mystery, is finally in the hands of the printer. Hooray! Now, here’s Part I of the journey from a jumble of ideas to a published book:

The Enchanted Skean was begun in Feb. 2006, 1st draft completed in June 2006, novel signed with a reputable NY agent in Sept. 2006, 1st major revision 2007, 2nd major revision 2008, literary agency closed in 2009 without warning after doing little for me or my book. Sigh. Luckily, I’d continued to write short stories, two of which won Honorable Mentions in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contests.

So, in August 2009, I set aside The Enchanted Skean, and focused on writing short stories – 3 of which were published as ebooks by Echelon Press. Still focused on short fiction, I wrote, revised, and had multiple stories published in 2010, and I pulled a collection of fantasy tales together, titled the book The Greener Forest, and sent the manuscript to a new publisher. After revising the manuscript according the the editor’s suggestions and adding illustrations, the book was published in spring 2011 by Cold Moon Press.

The Greener Forest 300 dpi cover With the publication of The Greener Forest, I decided to pull out and dust off my Young Adult novel. Unwilling to put all my eggs in one basket, I also wrote and found publishers for short stories. For a year, I sent query letters off to agents and publishers alike looking for a home for The Enchanted Skean. I came close twice to finding a publisher, but at the last minute, they decided to go with someone else’s book. Still, I never lost faith in my writing or the quality of my YA fantasy novel.

In spring 2011, Mockingbird Lane Press responded to my query with a requested to see sample chapters and a synopsis. I’d been through this before, so with only the smallest pinch of hope, I sent off the requested materials. A few days later, I got a letter from Mockingbird Lane Press asking for the complete manuscript. Again, this wasn’t something new – several other publishers had requested the full manuscript only to say, “Sorry.”

Two weeks later, the acceptance letter arrived: “We want to publish The Enchanted Skean.” Whoot! My journey had finally come to an end. Wait a minute – not so fast. My journey from a few scribbled pages to a printed book had only just begun.

First lesson learned from my Novel’s Tale: Faith in the quality of your manuscript is one of the most important things a writer can have.

Stop by this weekend for another Reader’s & Writer’s Recipe, Monday for a guest author, and next week for Part II of my Novel’s Tale.

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Beth-Barany_360by270-cropped Thanks to author Beth Barany for stopping by and chatting about virtual book club appearances. Both authors and readers can learn something from her post.

How to Prepare for a Virtual Book Club Appearance by Beth Barany

Many authors are looking for ways to connect with their readers, sell books, and most importantly, build a group of fans who are waiting for your next book.

Book Clubs are a great way to do this.

But how do you get a book club to have you as their featured author? Well, you can make it easy for people to consider you for a book club by having excerpts on your site, list your buy links, and have a contact form or contact information on your site. If you’d like to you can also have a page on you site that lets people know you’re available for book clubs.

Through my awesome assistant in my book coaching business, Michelle C. Geary, I got my first book club experience. Her son Alex was enthusiastic about my YA fantasy novel, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, and got his high school book club excited too! I made a Skype appearance to chat with them back in January 2013.

Now what do you do once a book club contacts you?

Preparation for your Book Club Appearance

1. Help them get your book, at a discount if you can.

Independent authors can often ship books from their printer directly at a discount for the book club members — I was able to do this. Traditionally published authors: check with your publisher to see if they can provide books at a discount.

2. Provide a Q&A of suggested questions or ask if the group has their own.

Patty, the book club organizer, eagerly sent me questions, that I’ve now adapted and posted on my site. http://author.bethbarany.com.

3. Set up a time and a place.

Here’s where I have to give a plug to the wonders of technology. Place no longer has to be a limitation. You can be a guest via Skype, or another webinar tool. I think Skype is the easiest and most affordable — free! — tool at this point.  I used Skpye to chat with the Marengo, Iowa middle school/high school book club, since I live in California.

4. Promote your upcoming appearance via your site and social media.

I mentioned my upcoming appearance on Twitter, my favorite broadcast medium.

During Your Book Club Appearance

Henrietta-FullCover7.indd 1. Come prepared to your book club. Have your book blurb hand, the list of questions and answers, and even props.

I rehearsed my answers, and had a copy of my book in hand. I also had my dragons next to me in case I’d have an opportunity to show them.

2. Make sure people know how to stay connected with you and see if they’d like special early notification of your next book.

I invited people to sign up for my newsletter at http://author.bethbarany.com.

3. If it seems appropriate, ask them if they know of any other book club that would like you as a guest.

4. Lastly, offer a special giveaway if you have one.

A digital trading card is popular in some genres. Here’s a how-to article on that: http://www.ehow.com/how_5821932_create-trading-cards-digital-photos.html  I haven’t created such cards, yet!

After Your Book Club Appearance

1. Thank your book club host and all the attendees.

2. Mention them in a post as a public shout out. I did that here: http://author.bethbarany.com/2013/01/23/news-from-ya-fantasy-author-beth-barany/

3. Make notes on what worked and what you would do differently next time.

That’s it! Let me know if you’ve done any in-person or virtual book club appearances. What did you like about it? Any advice that you’d like to share?

Bonus Offer: I’ll give away an ebook copy of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer to one of the commentors, and will pick a winner at random seven days after this post goes live. Good luck!”

Beth Barany is the award-winning author of the YA fantasy, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer. For more information about Beth’s fiction, and to sign up for her somewhat monthly newsletter, go to http://author.bethbarany.com

Thanks again to Beth Barany for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a book-filled day.– Vonnie

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