Monday, September 16, 2013

All In The Details: Write Awesome Opening Paragraphs

Yesterday, I was reading Taken by Robert Crais and I was very impressed by the opening paragraph of his book. So, I thought, hey, do a blog post about opening paragraphs and how it is all in the details.

Whether you are beginning the book or a new chapter, how you begin is important. In fact, it is vital you create an opening that works to capture your reader's interest and orients him to what is going on in the scene. Remember your reader's mind is like a blank movie screen and your words have to put a picture on that screen. Work on finding the right details to convey time, place, setting, mood, and POV. 

Here is the opening paragraph Robert Crais wrote. It is only 2 sentences and they do everything a good opening paragraph should do with the use of great detail.    

Jack Berman wrapped his arms around his girlfriend, Krista Morales, and watched his breath fog in the cold desert air. Twenty minutes after midnight, fourteen miles south of Rancho Mirage in the otherwise impenetrable darkness of the Anza-Borrego Desert, Jack and Krista were lit in the harsh purple glare of the lights that blossomed from Danny Trehorn's truck, Jack so much in love with this girl his heart beat with hers. 

The reader is immediately introduced to the characters and the setting. By the end of the paragraph, we have an image of a young couple. (Krista is referred to as his girlfriend.) They are standing outside (His breath fogs) It is cold and they are in the desert. It is late. (After midnight.) And there is complete darkness except for the headlights of Danny's truck. And this sets up who the POV character will be. Jack. 

Details like cold desert air, impenetrable darkness, harsh purple glare establish a suspenseful tone and the reader senses the young couple is in a dangerous place. I definitely kept reading to see what was going to happen to them. Plus this book has Elvis Cole, Joe Pike and Jon Stone in it. I'm a huge fan of those bad-ass guys!

I think every time you open a new chapter or a scene where you are changing the setting and POV, you need to make sure your first few sentences have enough details to orient the reader to the new location and point-of-view. 

Details are not difficult and they make a lot of difference in the picture your words project in the mind of a reader. I will be doing another blog post soon on details and how to come up with them.

Have a great week! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Making Butter

Maybe I should turn this into a cooking blog or something. At the request of a friend, I am blogging about making butter, which I did for the first time ever yesterday.  

What got me interested was a video I saw online where a guy made butter in a jar. So I did some searching and found some website where butter had been made using a mixer. To me, that sounded simpler than shaking a jar. 

While I was at Kroger Friday evening, buying some milk, I noticed the containers of heavy cream. The half-pint was on sale for $1.09, I think.  Anyway, I decided to go for it. 

Saturday was my first time making butter. What can I say? It was easy and the taste was so good! It is actually seemed to have a better flavor than the butter you buy. I usually get Land of Lakes butter and I have been using butter for years. I quit margarine years ago. Just look at the ingredients label. What is that stuff?  I much prefer what our ancestors used. 

You won't save any money by making your own butter because cream is expensive, but making your own butter and knowing exactly what is in it, plus the flavor has great merit.  

Briefly, here's how I made it. Total preparation time was about 10 minutes. I was baking biscuits at the same time.

Pour cream into large bowl. I used the ultra-pasteurized because that was the only kind available and it works fine for making butter. I used my hand mixer with the whisk tool. It might have been faster with the regular beaters. I'll try that next time. 

Turn mixer on high and beat cream.  After a few minutes, it will develop peaks and become whipped cream. Like Cool Whip. Keep beating a few more minutes. Soon, it will begin to separate. There will be clumps and liquid. Once your butter has formed, you need to strain it. Use your kitchen strainer and let the buttermilk run into a bowl. You can use that milk in other dishes. 

Mash butter against bowl with spatula. You need to get all the milk out of it. After straining again, it is time to wash the butter with iced water. This will help preserve. Pour iced water in bowl with butter. Mash butter to get out excess milk and water. Drain water and repeat a couple of times until water looks clear. 

Now you have butter! Spread on hot bread and enjoy! You can freeze it as well.  For more detailed information and photos of the process, go to this blog:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cake in a Cup: The Three Minute Dessert

Do you like hot fudge cake?  Or pineapple upside-down cake? Or any flavor for that matter? Would you like to make a super-easy dessert to go with your meal in less than three minutes? If so, follow these directions.

You will need 1 box of angel food cake mix and 1 box of regular cake mix (any flavor). For this post, I am using dark chocolate cake mix as well as pineapple.  You need to blend the dry contents of the angel food cake mix with the regular cake mix. Store this mix in a plastic container or bag. It is ready-to-use.

Next, you will need a round dish or coffee mug.  I use the red mug in the picture. DO NOT use any cooking spray or Crisco in cup.

To make hot fudge cake, I squirted fudge syrup in the bottom of the cup. For pineapple upside-down cake, I sprinkled brown sugar in the bottom of cup and topped with pineapple tidbits. You can make just plain cake and top it with fruit or whatever you want after cooking.

You mix 3 tablespoons of dry cake mix and 2 tablespoons water together. Stir and pour the mix into the cup. I poured the mix over the chocolate syrup.

Microwave for 1 minute!  That's it!

 Flip cup over onto plate. The fudge syrup will be hot and run all over the cake. So top with a scoop of ice cream and a strawberry.  It is delicious. See photo for pineapple upside-down cake. Tastes just as good as anything from a bakery. I was totally shocked by this when I first tried it.

Very easy and quick. You'll have enough mix to make dozens of these. If you don't add a topping to your cake, there is very few calories in it.  I have strawberry cake mix that I am going to try with no topping in the cup. Then, add fresh strawberries on top afterward the cake is cooked.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Sunshine Award

The Sunshine Award is a fun award that bloggers give to other bloggers "who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere."  It was passed onto me by Lorraine Paton, who has her first book, Devin's Second Chance, coming out in June!

The rules of the Sunshine Award are as follows: 

Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post - Thank you,Lorraine!
Answer the questions below
Pass the award to a bunch of deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs (The rules actually say 10-12 people, but I chose 6)

So, here are the questions: 

Favorite Color: I love all colors, especially warm autumn tones.

Favorite Animal: Horses. I like to look at them.

Favorite Number: 911…J

Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: Sweet tea!

Facebook or Twitter:  Twitter by a long shot!

Your Passion: Writing!  

Giving or Getting Presents: Love both.

Favorite Flower: Daisy and Roses.

 And now, I'd like to pass this award on to: 

Patricia Bradley
Katherine Bone
Taryn Kincaid
Cindy Nord
Austyn Faulkner
Jason Bourne

Hope everyone has a terrific Tuesday!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I did wear some green today! I would have loved to find a four-leaf clover but I had no time to look for one. I did take a photo of my forsythia bush, which is always the first thing to bloom in my yard. It is like the first sign of spring and it's in full bloom now.

 What I did get done was my taxes. They are filed via Turbo Tax and have been accepted by the IRS. So, that is out of the way for this year. Yay!!!

The WIP is stalled. I've got to do a major overhaul of the upcoming scene and I will need some time to think through exactly how to play it out. Such is the problems that come up when you make major changes in a story. It has a ripple effect all the way through the book. My goal this week is to figure out how to rewrite the scene, outline it and hopefully get to write it next weekend.

Right now, I am having to recover from watching Walking Dead. This episode was even more suspenseful than last week. I'm eager to see how things are going to end up this season. The writers are doing a great job!  They know how to make you hold your breath!  A friend who sends me text messages during the show sent me one saying she was having chest pain. Me, too!  Every writer should strive to get such an emotional reaction to a story. I'll have to do a post on that someday.

I always hate this time of the week because tomorrow is Monday and I have to go to a job that pays the bills but is one of the most depressing places ever. I think if someone told me I never had to go back there, I would wail with complete joy.  Have you ever been stuck in a place like that?

Well, frankly my dear, it could be worse. That's what I tell myself every day and it does help!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stuff Needs To Go

Today was a wonderful warm spring day and I've tried to get a ton of stuff done. I plan to clear out the storage shed and I've been compiling stuff in the dining room for a yard sale. Maybe. I haven't had a yard sale in years and I know I won't be having one like my characters in The Yard Sale. But, it is time to part with some things that I no longer need or use.

I am now a believer in getting rid of your stuff before you die. I didn't realize what a sad job it is to go through a person's belongings after they passed away. Now I know what that is like. There is no way to get rid of everything you have and I don't think you should get rid of anything that is special to you, but don't hold on to it for future generations. They already have stuff themselves and chances are they will have no room or desire for family heirlooms. A woman I worked with decided to sell the china and crystal which had been in her family for years because she was downsizing to an apartment and her kids didn't want it.

It is easier to keep "less" clean, too. I am also going to downsize the writing stuff I have accumulated. I have already done some of that, but I have more to do. I have a feeling this may be a Good Will summer!

Besides the chores, I also worked on my WIP revisions. I have some thinking to do on the upcoming black moments. Some changes will have to be made and I hope to work on that tomorrow.

I also changed up my blog this past week. I decided to make the blog more of a journal and a blog that reflects my opinions rather than some sort of marketing site. I surely have never been an essay writer and really I want to spend my writing time on my fiction. Maybe, years from now, I'll look back on this journal and smile and remember (if I still can) what fun I had.

Frankly, my dear, that is as good as it gets.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Eye Strain and Anti-glare Monitor Filters

I recently purchased an anti-glare filter for my new LCD monitor. I am planning to use this monitor for writing and that means long hours in front of it so I wanted to eliminate screen glare.  I have always used glare filters on my other monitors to cut glare and prevent eye strain.

Anti-glare filters aren't inexpensive. However, it is cheaper to buy one that is just anti-glare rather than privacy as well. The privacy filters, which block other people from seeing what is on your screen, are very expensive and I don't see any point in getting one for use at home. You need to be sure to search for "anti-glare" filter if you want the less-expensive filter that has an anti-reflective coating and also protects your LCD surface.

Since this was my first purchase of a filter for an LCD monitor, I wasn't certain of the outcome. I bought a Kantek filter for widescreen monitor from Amazon. So far, I am very pleased with the product.  I like how it enriches the tone and cuts out the brightness. If you consider ordering one, be sure you get the right size. Measure your monitor height and width and match to the filter size. I am including some photos I took of the monitor and filter so you can get an idea of the difference.

Also, other ways to reduce eye strain is to take eye breaks. Close your eyes a few seconds. Look at something in the distance for a few seconds. Also, uses light-blocking blinds on windows. Do not have a window behind or in front of a monitor if possible. The best position is for the window to be at the side of the monitor to reduce glare and eye strain. Use flat paint/muted colors on the walls which will absorb light. The eye doctor gave me lubricant eye drops to use and they help as well as glasses made for computer use.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

From My Old Recipe Box: Chocolate Gravy

Who doesn't love chocolate gravy poured over hot biscuits in the winter?  Has there ever been a better comfort food. Not for me. Loved it all my life!

I've never actually used a recipe to make it.

I mix together equal amounts of sugar and dry cocoa.  Most of the time I used about 2 tablespoons of chocolate and the same of sugar. I taste a bit to see if the chocolate tastes sweet enough. If not, you can add a little more sugar. Then, I add flour. I like my chocolate gravy thick so I'll use 2-3 tablespoons flour. Mix. Add a pinch of salt.
I heat about a half-cup of milk and add chocolate mix. Cook on med-high, stirring constantly until thickens as desired. You can always add more milk to thin gravy. Remove from heat. I always add a slice of butter and let it melt over the top.

Grab you some hot biscuits and enjoy this treat!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Who's Watching You? Webcam Hacking

If your laptop has a webcam, it can be hacked. In fact, according to some sources, it is simple for a hackers to access your webcam once your computer is infected. So, the number one rule is do not open ANY email or attachments from anyone you don't know no matter what.

Once your webcam is hacked, the hacker can use to view your family, your activities, your children. The hacked webcam feeds back to the hacker. This can be done as long as your webcam has a visual. You won't be aware that you are being watched or filmed for that matter.

A few things you can do to prevent spying is close the lid of your laptop when not in use, tape a piece of felt or something opaque over the lens, make sure you unplug a portable webcam when not in use.

This link will take you to a report on webcam predators shown on the Today Show: Click:

Also from the tech guys at Hellbound Bloggers, here is an entertaining how-to post on the subject:

Actually, I don't have a webcam attached to my computer, but I figured if I did and it got hacked, the first thing the hacker would say, "Oh, hell, let me turn this off!"  :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Spotlight: FROST by Taryn Kincaid

This Saturday's Spotlight features an upcoming release by Taryn Kincaid. This is the third book in her Sleepy Hollow Series. Genre: Sexy Paranormal Romance  Length: Novella  Available: February 1st.  For more info on this series, go to Taryn's homepage:

Dagney Night, a sought-after succubus, is no stranger to blazing hot sex. But as Valentine’s Day approaches, she longs for something more. When oddly erotic paintings arrive for display at her art gallery, arousing everyone who views them, she wonders about the mysterious artist who created the works. Maxwell Raines, a fire-sex demon, lives a life of solitude and seclusion behind the walls of his compound at Sleepy Hollow, channeling his lustful impulses into his art—until his muse deserts him and his temperature rises past the danger point. He needs sex. Now. When Madame Evangeline arranges a torrid Valentine’s 1Night Stand for them, will the flames of their encounter be too hot to handle?

Dagney followed her sister’s glance, and her heart flipped like a gymnast unable to nail a vault. Darkness swathed the gallery with the exception of the lights above or below each of the paintings. The large man emerging from the shadows held her rapt. Waves of pure, unadulterated lust smacked her with such force she didn’t even see Lily and Campbell leave. The blast of raw desire crumpled her to the floor. Her gaze remained riveted on the tall hunk of ferocious male stalking toward her, radiating undiluted carnality. He set something carefully on the floor and grasped her by the elbows, his touch surprisingly gentle when he lifted her to her feet.
“I’m Maxwell Raines.”
Yeah. No kidding. Who else could a guy so hot, so studly, possibly be?
She told herself not to swoon. Ordered herself not to swoon. But, Goddess, that rumbling voice. More potent than a train barreling over the tracks. And he smelled so good. Sinfully masculine. A bit of musk, a bite of pine, an essence of dark, smoky nights. Sexy scents. Reminiscent of tangled satin sheets that had been given a good work-out.
Her legs turned to rubber, and she doubted they’d support her on their own. She’d be mortified if he’d have to scrape her puddled body up again. But he hadn’t yet relaxed his grip. Could she bullshit her way through the meeting without collapsing? “You’re late,” she said.
“I’m never late.”
“Well, the party’s over, Mr. Raines.” She waved a hand around the empty room.
“Depends on your perspective.”
“You’re big on perspective, are you?”
“I’m a painter.” A brief shrug accompanied his blunt words. “Obvious connection.”
“Right. But as you can see, everyone’s left.”
“You haven’t.” He gazed down at her, a black brow flaring. “And you’re what I’m here for.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

From My Old Recipe Box: Cornflake Cookies

I decided to weed through an old recipe box of mine and post some of the recipes on my blog. This week I'm posting an easy recipe for cookies that kids will love.

Cornflake Cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 cups corn flakes

Heat syrup, stir in sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and butter. Stir. Pour over cornflakes in large bowl and mix. Drop by large spoonfuls on wax paper and let cool. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

3 Minute Movie Review: Les Miserables

This is a LONG musical (do they ever make short ones?) set in France in the 1800's. I love the time period/location.

Plot: The main character was imprisoned for years for stealing bread. He breaks parole and the movie is about his avoiding capture after he finds religion/repents and becomes saintly in his dealings with others. No more stealing bread. An obsessed policeman want to put him back in prison. It is a plot any first-grader could follow. 

It is beautifully filmed. Loved the costumes and sets. The actors did the best they could acting and singing live at the same time. 

If you love musicals, you will enjoy this one. But you REALLY need to love musicals where they sing the entire time, otherwise you are wasting time and money. This movie is not a movie with dialogue scenes and some musical numbers like The Wizard of Oz. I think this movie would have benefited from more spoken dialogue. 

The actors sing to each other and they sing solos highlighting their angst. At one point, I was thinking this is like reading a book full of internal monologue. I never made any connection to this story or characters.

It is a long movie. Almost 3 hours long. Yes, I was in tears at the end because I was so happy when it was finally over. I'm not a huge fan of musicals and if you are not all up into musicals, wait for the DVD and you can skip through big chunks of it if you get bored. 

Overall rating: A for presentation  C for entertainment  
Would I go see it again or buy it?  No

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Comparing My Kindles (there is no comparison)

Are you considering buying a new Kindle or interested in learning more about the new Kindle Fire HD 8.9 as a reader? If so, I am presenting a comparison of my two Kindles, old and new. My photos are not that great because of the lighting in this room but you will get the general idea.

My older Kindle is about 2 years old and it is the model with keyboard. The new one is the Kindle Fire 8.9. 

As you can see in picture #1, you have color! Yay! Plus Kindle Fire 8.9 is much larger overall. On the old Kindle, the screen is 5 X 31/2. The Kindle Fire is 8 X 41/2. 

The text display can be altered to suit your needs as can the screen. I have left mine on white/black because I like it and to me, it looks more like a book. Vertically, the screen displays much more text on the Kindle Fire than on the old Kindle. Also the Kindle Fire can be flipped horizontally and you will be able to read the same text as 2 pages.

Okay, so what I LOVE most is the touch screen. No more clicking little buttons to change pages or punching home and menu. I never really liked reading on my Kindle because I thought it was such a pain to have to go to that stupid menu screen.  No more of that on the Kindle Fire. Just tap the screen for the menu stuff. You see the orange percentage bar at the bottom? All you have to do is tap it wherever you want to go and you are there!  I was like OMG! Also on the right hand corner is  "Home". Just tap there to go to your book cloud. The color covers look great and just tap on a cover to open the book.  Also if the book has a table of contents, all you do is tap on the chapter number to go there and to change the page, just swipe and keep reading.

Of course, the Kindle Fire HD is a tablet. You can check your email, Tweet and watch movies. I watched some of Thor the other night and it does have a great picture. No problems with the streaming. But I will primarily use it as a reader, I think. The speed is fantastic.

Price-wise, it is more expensive. There is a 7" Kindle Fire HD that is very nice. I have seen that model. There is about a $100 price difference and I think the screen size of the 8.9 is worth the price difference. It is like reading a trade-size book. I like the larger screen. I did get a bundle package which included a bubble-free screen protector and a case. 

If you are considering buying a Kindle, I would say to go with one of the Kindle Fire models. I think you will be a lot happier with the product. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My First Attempt At Making Beignets

This past Saturday I made beignets. During my trip to New Orleans, I was sitting on a bench in Jackson Square early one morning and a nice gentleman offered me a beignet. He and his wife had bought a sack full of beignets from Cafe Du Monde. They had far more than they could eat, so I took one. OMG! I became an instant beignet lover.

Beignets are French donuts. I was told beignet means small pillow in French. They are puffy, square pastries rolled in powdered sugar. They must be eaten while they are hot. Cold ones really won't do. While I was in New Orleans, I bought a box of beignet mix. (You can also find the Cafe Du Monde beignet mix at Kroger.)

Finally, this weekend, I decided to try to make a batch. I doubted I would have any success. This is how I proceeded and what I learned.

I mixed a cup of the mix and 31/2 ounces of water. Formed a ball of dough and rolled out on floured wax paper.
I rolled the dough too thin. The second picture illustrates the size you need. 

Next, I used a cast iron skillet for cooking. I love cast iron because it holds and distributes heat so well. You need to keep the oil a constant temperature and I don't have an electric skillet but I figured the iron skillet would work. It did an amazing job! I kept it on med-high.

When you drop the squares of dough in the oil, they puff up like little pillows! I was enthralled. Beignets are very easy to cook. After they had become puffy, I used a slotted spoon to turn them in the oil. It only took a few minutes, not more than 5 minutes, for them to turn a golden brown. 

Then roll them in confectioner's sugar and eat immediately. This is one yummy treat! Bon App├ętit!
Tweets appreciated!