Saturday, August 9, 2014

Creme of Coconut Spritzer


Thanks to a gift of a manual carbonated water maker from a lovely relative. I have enjoyed various juice spritzers.

Actually, I make a spritzer out of just about anything including tea. So, this time I tried a dollop of Creme of Coconut and made a great Coconut Spritzer.

I recommend an ice-old fruit or other flavored spritzer on these hot summer days.









P.S. I got lucky there's a restaurant supplier on Paseo de Montejo that sells the carbonation cartridges.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Few Cooked Rice Desserts

I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth using what I had on hand. I had already eaten all my sweets, so that meant innovation.

A search of Cooks.com for a rice dessert, found Bibingka (Coconut Rice Dessert) which called for a special rice, coconut milk, brown sugar and milk. Other recipes suggested other additions.

All I had was milk, cream, and Creme of Coconut, raisins, honey, vanilla and cinnamon.

So, here is what I cooked:

1 cup rice
1 cup Creme of Coconut
1 cup water

Add all ingredients to a skillet. Mix all ingredients together. Cover. Cook at simmer until rice has absorbed the liquid (about 20 minutes).

Variation: use 2 cups of milk instead of Creme of Coconut and water.

Additions and toppings

First, I cooked the rice. It was good just as it was but I went on to make a few combinations.

No. 1 Rice mixed with a few raisins topped with a dollop of honey.

No. 2 Rice mixed with vanilla flavoring with cinnamon sprinkled on top. (This was my favorite.)

No. 3 Rice mixed with cream topped with a dollop of honey. (Truly creamy taste.)

Also, it tastes good cold.







Thursday, August 7, 2014

Answers to Mystery Writer, Jenny Crusie's Questions on Mystery Stories


Jenny Crusie's website Argh Link came up in a Google Alert on Mystery Writers. I enjoyed her August 5, 2014 post, Howdunit: Writing Mysteries, about her personal experiences trying to write a mystery.

She’s funny…using mental duct tape to patch holes in her story really captures her struggles with her story. I could empathize.

I was surprised when she talked about her TV binge of watching mystery shows. Yet, her details about the writing, characterization, mood, and setting illustrate the structure of good mystery writing.

Jenny knows of what she speaks, her master’s thesis was on women’s roles in early mystery fiction.

While her blog is chock full of useful info, it was the questions she asked her readers at the end that captured my attention. Below are my responses to her questions

Questions:

What are some mystery titles–books and film–that you think are stellar?

Sadly, I have a poor memory so I can’t immediately recall from the mass of movies and books I have consumed which ones stand out.

But Mary Stewart (Madam Will You Talk) and Dorothy L. Sayers (The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club) are my favorite mystery writers because of the quality of their writing that includes excellent plotting and characterization. Mary Stewart subtly injected poetry, history, geology, and more into her stories which piqued my interest and stimulated my life-long love of learning. It was Sayers’ sentence structure that spurred me to want to write.

Based on some recent viewings, I like BBC’s 2005  State of Play. I have watched it probably 30 times. It is such a lesson in writing a “mystery/action adventure.” I was amazed at the use of foreshadowing in the dialogue where little bits about the character are revealed and later played a role in the plot. The acting was great. Watching the characters evolve from lack of information and preconceived notions about the crime into persistence, to deception, to disbelief, and to revelation.

Another reason I liked BBC’s State of Play was that every character was well acted and added to the story. For example, the mother and brother of the young man who was killed may not be in many scenes but when they are on screen, they have a huge screen presence. They add energy and realism to the story in very human ways.

I have gobbled up tons books and movies, mysteries, science-fiction and more. There are many other excellent stories. But, one in particular that stands out is Who Rides a Tiger? by Doris Miles Disney. For some reason, the way she cast the story and characters made the story believable and surprising. I guess because the twist held a final irony is what made it memorable.

What annoys the hell out of you about some mysteries?

I do not think I have ever figured out “who done it” in any mystery. When I reread the mysteries looking for the clues, I can see where I missed the clue but sometimes I think authors get a little too “fancy” trying to hide a unique or obscure clue.

Plus, sometimes, the plot seems to get convoluted just to make it confusing not because it adds to the story.

Are there any unbreakable rules to mystery writing?

Again, while I have never solved a mystery, I do think that upon rereading the story, the reader should be able to see all the clues.

Most of all, what makes a good mystery?

Besides the obvious, plotting and characterizations, for me, what makes a good mystery is not the crime but the mystery of the characters involved, the mystery of human nature and how it is expressed. Also, I have to have sympathy for key characters.

Another reason I like Dorothy L. Sayers is that intertwined in her stories is also the story of British culture and history, and her settings as well as her characters embody or reflect these elements.

Subtle humor and descriptive settings also add a great deal to stories.

========

To find Jenny Crusie's website Argh Link go to: http://www.arghink.com/2014/08/05/howdunit-writing-mysteries/


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sidetracked, Swamped, Astounded, and Distracted

Ok, the bad news is production of another volume of Recipes from the Kitchen of a Frugal Non-Cook has been suspended. The project got sidetracked by health issues including food allergies.

The good news is El Sueño de Gina (the Spanish version of Gina's Dream) is in progress at the publisher, theWritePlace (.biz). Projected publication date is late November.



Some of the things I learned while writing Gina's Dream is I need alot more practice writing action scenes, plotting, and developing characters. I just could not make my bad guy mean enough to scare anyone. Plus, I learned that while I thought I could write some "steamy" sex scenes, I could not let the public read them, especially my family and friends, just could not do it.

For a brief moment, I thought I could write a "romance", instead, I wrote a cookbook, the first volume of Recipes from the Kitchen of a Frugal Non-Cook.

And I am astounded by the depth and breadth of the marketing efforts needed to promote a book. I have spent almost a year pursuing various marketing efforts for Gina's Dream including: holding a book launch party; trying promotions; writing articles for other websites; tweeting; emailing select "contacts" to introduce Gina's Dream; writing and rewriting press releases; joining various "book/writers" websites; contacting relevant media; going to science-fiction conventions; researching reader demographics; and more. Every day I wake up and realize there are 100 new outlets to contact.

More good news, Mocktails, a short collection of recipes for non-alcoholic cocktails, is with a few beta-readers and will be printed locally by November 2014. But, unless I figure it out, because Mocktails is image-intensive, I will not be able to publish Mocktails on Smashwords.

Also, I found a Mac expert at ComuniMac  and he solved some major problems I was having with my devices. What a relief!

Ok, the good news/bad news is I am swamped with ideas to research and articles to write.

Plus, I am distracted by my need to inject some other kinds of "fun" into my life, liking going to the beach, or a concert, or a play. The good news is I am back to taking walks and exploring more areas of town.

Along the way, I met many wonderful people. My beta readers are fantastic. The authors and writers I met online and in-person inspire me. 
I continue to learn and appreciate something new everyday.




Thursday, June 26, 2014

Look at my Dinosaur earrings from Balticon 2014

I am enjoying my Dinosaur earrings from Janet Kofoed of Janet Kofoed Jewelry.

She made these custom earrings for me. I just got them and this just extends the enjoyment I had attending Balticon 2014.



Monday, May 26, 2014

Balticon 2014: Why is Romance 53% of the Market?

Panelists: Reesa Herberth, L. Jagi Lamplighter, P.J. Schnyder, Stephanie Burke

The short answer to the panel's question is: Romance readers buy 2-3 dozen stories a month versus other genre readers who may buy 1-2 stories a year.

The modified short answer is: a romance story is about 'the relationship' and a romance story has a guaranteed outcome - a happy ending. Readers consume romance stories like a drug to experience the "high" of a happy ending. The 'romance' is the plot.

Long answer: The panel of romance writers write in various 'Romance' genres where the romance occurs in various settings like: sci-fi, western, mystery, fantasy, paranormal, suspense, and more.

Romance stories are also categorized by 'Heat Level.' Some romance stories have no 'sex', some have 'sweet, innocent, sensual contact', some have light to heavy sex, but if the sex is categorized outside of these labels it may be labeled erotica. All publishers have their own definitions of 'Heat Level' and readers learn to trust publishers' categorizations.

If the story contains a romance but the romance does not drive the plot, then it is not a romance.

The panelists advised writers to build up a backlog of romance stories set in various sub-genres or different settings to prepare for the ebb and flow of what is popular. Zombies, Magical stories, and Dystopias are beginning to lose their appeal. In a nutshell, the market for these types of stories is getting saturated. So, what will be the next popular sub-genre?

You are writing for a market of competing desires: the desires of the readers, the desires of the editors and the desires of writers which are always in a state of flux. Each group is seeking something familiar or something new.

Some Marketing Romance Tips:
  • Use social media.
  • Use teaser quotes in social, print and electronic media.
  • Use Google hangout for interviews or parties.
  • Use taglines to help the reader determine if it will fit their needs. For example, highlight unusual aspects that may make the romance unique.
Author, Stephanie Burke made an interesting observation -- movie producers and publishers often look at the 'stories' being used in popular video games for inspiration for new stories.

Burke also noted, if you can be a diversified writer and have a strong voice, publishers may advise you of upcoming markets.



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Balticon 2014: Steps to Successful Self-Publishing

Panel members: Alessia Brio, Lauren Harris, Brand Gambin, Brian Rathbone

Quick breakdown of steps:
  • Write a good novel.
  • Share it with Beta Readers.
  • Get the final draft edited.
  • Get good cover art.
  • Select publishing method -- ebook, audiobook, print-on-demand
  • Be prepared to pay for some services.
  • Market your novel.
  • Start work on your next novel.
Write a good novel
Some panelists said just write your story ideas down first without regard to grammar. Others said they take care as they write.

Share it with Beta Readers/Get the final draft edited/Get good cover art
Network, go to writing forums or other social media to find possible beta readers, editors and book cover artists. Once you have selected a cover, have the artist create it in various versions for the web, for ebook publishing and print.

Try to get your cover art in vector graphics because it is easier to resize.

One author gets a painter to create his covers. He uses the image for various forms of publication and then frames the painting to hang on his wall.

Select your publishing method
Will need to get over the learning curve regarding formatting your book for publication. Read the specs for the publishing outlet you select. One caution, graphics can make it hard to format your novel for ebook publication due to software limitations. Plus, graphics can increase the file size of your novel and therefore increase your costs for distribution.

Many authors also published audiobooks of their novels not only for promotional use but as another revenue stream.

Be repared to pay for some services/Market your novel.
During the publishing process, you may need to seek professional services like editing, cover art, audiobook recordings or production of book trailers. Again, balance your expenses with potential revenues and your time investment. Watch your pennies.

Know your audience, find your audience. Create a mailing list. Engage with your readers. Have a website. Go to where your audience goes like science fiction, romance or western conventions but again, balance your marketing time with your writing time -- you are a writer.

Write your next novel
While you market your previous novels.