March Madness!

Well, would you look at that? We’ve moved on from February and find ourselves at the bright beginning of a brand new month! I’ve always like March, mostly because my birthday’s toward the end of it, and my anniversary with my wonderful boyfriend is at the beginning of it. And, because I’m sure she’ll mention it, it’s also the month of my mom‘s birthday. It’s also the month where minds turn toward spring, even if there’s still snow falling out my window as I type this. With each month, I want to do a post where I sort of sit down with my goals and decide what needs to be accomplished for the next thirty-one days.

Of course, a new month also means a new Featured Story from World Unknown Review. This month, it’s the psychological and atmospheric “A Splash of Red” from Shan Jeniah Burton. Check it out, and consider checking out Shan or the rest of the stories in the review if you like what you see.

Speaking of which, another goal I have in mind is to at least sell one book each month. Ambitious, I know! But sales have been pretty abysmal all around, so I figure if one new book goes out at least once a month, that’s still not too bad. Of course, I’ll be happy with more, but expect a bit of promotion from me until I reach that one-book benchmark. Or some kind soul could kick the month off right by finally adding one of these fine books to their TBR pile. Or share a review. Or spread the love on social media. Or make me slog through my own promotion and not rely on luck to help me out, ha.

March is also going to be the month where I finally get the first draft for the next installment of The Slayer Saga finished. Keep an eye out for the end of the month, when I’ll likely be looking for beta readers for Heartless. Having read Soulless is not a requirement; in fact, I’d love to have some perspective from someone who hasn’t read the first book as well, as I’m a big believer in books that don’t have to be read in sequential order to be enjoyed, even if a sequential order is established. But of course, more on that later. I’ve got some more writing and transcribing and my own first edits to take care of first!

I’ve been focusing a lot of getting my short work out lately, sending out a story practically every day (though I’m running short on material again as I wait to hear back). I’m also waiting on my copy of The Maine Review to arrive, since apparently I’ll be in that one, the one shiny acceptance through the constant churning river of rejection. Still, I figure, by the time 2017 comes around, when I won’t have a Slayer Saga book to release, I’ll have more than enough for another anthology to publish myself.

Half-way through February, I also embarked on a mission to get healthier and finally lose all this extra weight I’ve been carrying around since college, so I’m likely to make a few posts regarding that. The first step has been to restrict calories and being mindful of exactly how much I am eating, and the second step has been to be more active, which has lead to really great three or four mile walks on the days that aren’t so bitter cold around here. Really, there are a lot of beautiful homes and places where I live, and I can’t wait for warmer weather because the Chicago suburbs has some pretty swank forest preserves. The next step, once my tax refund arrives (which should be ANY DAY NOW) is to get a scale and tape measure to actually get some hard data on my progress (we have a scale, but I want one that isn’t battery powered. One of my cats keeps falling asleep on the battery powered one and subsequently kills the battery) and a membership at a local gym. I really freaking miss ellipticals.

So, yes, lots of great things going into March for me, and I’m stoked to see where I’ll be in April. What are your own goals for March? Any particular things about the month that you enjoy? What do you really want to see happen come April?

Happy writing!

Promotion Friday on a Saturday (Again!)

Hey, everyone! Once again, my opening shift yesterday left me down for the count (in addition to recovering from a heck of a cold and a bizarre, bizarre encounter with a potential publisher that seemed a little off from the get-go and then suddenly got downright brash when I disagreed with one detail of his edits…may have dodged a bullet there, I suppose), so I didn’t get around to my Promotion Friday post. Besides that, I haven’t had much time to delve into the wonderful Intrawebz lately, either, so I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to promote this week. But then it was Friday, and a trip to Facebook reminded me of one of the other things I look forward to on Friday other than pay day…

Pocket Princesses!!

This definitely falls into the category of Totally Girly Guilty Pleasure, but Pocket Princesses is a wonderfully cute weekly comic by the talented Amy Mebberson that never fails to bring a smile to my face. Sometimes, the jokes aren’t really that funny…sometimes I don’t entirely get them, either…but there’s no denying the appeal of t the brief peeks into the lives of the Disney Princesses (and the occasional other Disney character) if they all lived together and were friends and had sleepovers and birthday parties and holidays together. Mebberson’s depictions of the princesses are A-FREAKING-DORABLE, with a really lovely art style that translates really well. Sometimes, I forget it’s Friday (it happens when you have a shift work job that requires most weekends), and the new one shows up on my Facebook feed and my day literally gets way better because of it. It’s a nice little slice of cute that I’m glad to have discovered.

Not for everyone, maybe, but I have absolutely no shame in my love for reinventing classic and timeless icons (and more obscure gems for the truly well-versed) like this.

Also, in case you missed it, last week, Lauralynn Elliott put in a great recommendation for Black Opal by Catie Rodes. I’m definitely going to check out the first book…eventually. My Kindle TBR list is waaaay too long.

What’ve you got to share this week? What have you been reading or working on or discovering this week? The floor is yours, dear readers, use it to your heart’s conent!

Review: “Fear Street Saga #1: The Betrayal” by R.L. Stine

Before we get to the review, I just want to throw in one little disclaimer about it being “a day late.” Shift work is really great as a secondary job for an author. Typically, it’s not too demanding on the psyche and leaves plenty of room for writing. Unfortunately, it makes it next to nearly impossible to keep a set schedule for things like a blog no matter how hard I try. As soon as I set something, my shift schedule changes on me, and things get all out of whack. So the three weekly posts I’ve set up (Recipe, Review, Promotion) are going to be a bit more…fluid. One of each every week, but it might be Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, or it might be Monday, Tuesday, Friday, or whatever. If I try to restructure it, my shift schedule will change again, so we’ll just keep it night and loose from here on in…

Anyway, I owe you a review:

“The odd sound repeated in a rhythm with the shadow.
Then she raised her eyes and saw what was casting the shadow – and started to scream.”


The Fear Street Saga #1: The Betrayal by R.L. Stine

You’d be pretty hard pressed to find someone from my generation who didn’t recognize the name R.L. Stine. His Goosebumps series was practically the Harry Potter of the 1990s, pulpy tales of cheesy terror eagerly gobbled up even by kids who didn’t read much, the stars of any Scholastic book fair, but for those of us a bit older or advance, there was also the Fear Street series, marketed toward teens with a great scary slasher movie tilt that sometimes bordered on the supernatural. While I definitely ate up a lot of the Fear Street books myself, I was really more into fantasy at that stage in my life, especially since I’d discovered DragonLance and Wheel of Time, which gave me more than enough material. But when the Fear Street Saga came out, a trilogy of books that told the dark history of the curse that lead to all the terrifying events around Fear Street, I fell utterly in love. This series, in conjunction with the video game Phantasmagoria, inspired in me an idea for my own cursed tragic horror story spanning generations, which has stuck with me even today in the form of my WIP Rosewood Manor.

So discovering all three books of the trilogy in a Half-Price Books not too long ago brought out the bookish teenage delight of reading them years ago, and I just had to have them, and set to the task of devouring the first of the series. Oh, man. What a blast from the past. It’s no surprise these were considered my “light” reading, as the prose is incredibly simple, and at time absolutely ridiculous, but isn’t that part of the fun? It has the same level of “shock value” as a B horror flick…and who doesn’t love a good B horror flick every once in a while?

The Fear Street Saga has the added bonus of a little history, which is why it appealed to me with particular strength. The first book, The Betrayal starts back in the 1600s, in a small Massachusetts colony where the Fier family has swindled everyone out of their money and left two innocent women to burn as witches. The husband and father of these women has sworn vengeance on the Fier family, sparking the centuries long feud that carries on all the way to present day, though the story is framed in the telling of Nora Goode, a descendant of the burned women and the “latest” victim of the curse in 1900. We get to witness the first effects of the curse through the next generation, with a hint of what terror is to come in the generation that follows.

Since the book is mostly establishing the curse, the reader doesn’t encounter any real gory terror until past the middle mark, but even my older self who vaguely remembered the book was still pleasantly pleased when we got to “the good stuff.” Still, it’s pretty tame considering it was written for younger teens, but surprisingly satisfying all the same. The book isn’t literary gold by any means, and I love it for the nostalgia factor more than anything else, but I still enjoyed it and cannot wait for the next books, because I remember liking them even more, and it’s also where I started my spark of love for New Orleans, which was then cemented in a little later when I discovered Anne Rice.

Books read: 005/100.

Recipe: Roasted Chickpeas.

This Meatless Monday’s recipe is going to be a short and sweet one, as well as muuuuch later than usual. I’ve been on a really weird, more-hours-than-I’d-like work schedule these past few weeks, so I haven’t had much time to play around with a lot of recipes. I have one in my pocket, but I want to work on it a little bit because I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. So, today, I’m going to give you probably one of the easiest ones in my wheelhouse, one I really need to start doing more because it makes a wonderful, delicious, protein-packed and filling snack that doesn’t need refrigeration and is easy to transport. They’re also highly adaptable, so season them as you will! I think with my next batch, I might try a sugar-and-cinnamon combination rather than the spices I usually go for.

Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Seasonings of your choice (I like salt, pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes, tumeric, cumin, and parsley best)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, coat chickpeas with olive oil and seasonings. Mix until well covered.
3. Spread over parchment paper on a baking sheet, leaving lots of room. Bake 30-40 minutes, until chickpeas are crispy and brown.
4. Enjoy!

And that’s seriously it, and they’re delicious, and I’m hoping to get in the habit of making a batch every week for delicious snaking. Even better, if you separate the batch into 4 servings, they’re only about 165 calories per serving, and a lot better for you than most of the snacks out there.

Happy eating!

Promotion Friday on a Saturday!

My apologies to anyone who was looking forward to a Promotion Friday post yesterday and didn’t get one. Work has been a little loopy thanks to our department’s unofficial boss being on vacation, so I really didn’t have the chance to get to it. But I somehow managed to snag a Saturday off (a rare and blissful event when you work in the service industry!), so I figured, we’ll have have Promotion Friday on Saturday instead.

Last week, I fluffed my feathers a little bit talking about my story’s acceptance into The Maine Review (which still hasn’t arrived, ugh, I’m going crazy with anticipation here!), while Lauralynn Elliott shared the new Bride by Design anthology and we got to meet Salem the Cat via ArcaneHalloween to celebrate 1000 likes.

This week, I don’t have a whole lot to promote. I’m sort of on the cusp of a few things going to happen that aren’t quite there yet, so I figured I’d share something that’s been really helpful these last few weeks. Two Tuesdays ago, I was suddenly struck with that awesome burst of inspiration to really buckle down and do something I’ve been meaning to do, which is get in better shape and drop some LBs. This lead me to discover My Fitness Pal, which has been absolutely indispensable. I’m one of those person who like to get down and dirty with numbers, so I’m a little bit addicted to their calorie logging feature. It also has a scanner so you can just scan a product and it pulls up the nutritional information, and what I really, really really love is the recipe feature, so I can enter in my ingredients and serving sizes, and it not only calculates the calories for me, but saves it so that the next time I want to make it, I can just pull it up and log it with ease. If you haven’t already got a fitness/calorie counting app and have been thinking about looking into one, I definitely recommend MFP. I’ve been loving it so far.

So, your turn. What have you been loving lately? Any new releases, blog posts, websites, apps, or anything else to share with the world? Give me and my new readers something to look into on this fine rare Saturday off!

Review: The Planet Savers and The Waterfall by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

“Humans sometimes penetrated the lower forests in search of the Trailmen. It was one-way traffic. The Trailmen never came in search of them.”


The Planet Savers featuring “The Waterfall” by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

The world of Darkover is in trouble. Every 48 years, a disease crops up to decimate the native population of the planet (how fittings to read this now with all the measles floating about out there). The only ones immune are the Terrans who came to Darkover from another world and the reclusive Trailmen, who contract the disease as youngsters and recover quickly. It is believed that Trailmen genetics hold the key to unlocking a cure for the Darkovians, but there is only one man who could possibly penetrate into their society and stand a chance of appealing for their help. Too bad Dr. Jay Allison has turned into a cold, heartless, bigoted fellow far removed from his unique childhood orphaned among the Trailmen! So a unique process is developed to appeal to Dr. Allison’s younger self, the more impulsive and passionate Jason, quelled so long ago when Jay embarked on his medical career, and so begins a journey into the deep wilderness of both Darkover and the human soul.

The Planet Savers is a really intriguing little novella, especially from a writer’s perspective, because Bradley jumps right in, which I really like. She does an excellent job of portraying these completely opposite personalities and how they conflict with each other within the same man. She also makes a good job at making sure they’re both “imperfect:” Jason is technically the hero of our tale, and you start out thinking he is the better one and Jay is a stone cold bitch, but you realize that they’re both flawed, and that’s the point. They represent extremes, when what we should strive for is balance. There was a little romance that was completely predictable and unnecessary, and potentially another romance that might have been born out of my pure speculation that I liked much better, but, overall, a solid little yarn of classic ’60s sci-fi. Maybe a little on the obvious side of things, but that’s to be expected with this era and these pulpy type books.

My copy also included a short story from Bradley, entitled “The Waterfall,” which I thought was a little dull at first, but then it hits you with a wallop at the end, the kind you should have expected but somehow didn’t, and so it left me with a pleased disposition wanting to read more.

Books read: 004/100.

Recipe: Ultimate Veggie Soup.

The thing with soup is that I’ve never really felt it was something that warranted a recipe. You mostly just throw things together and, voila! You have soup, and it’s really, really hard to mess it up. Since I’ve been hunkered down to an awful lot of work lately (tomorrow is finally my day off and I cannot wait!), soup is kind of all I’ve been having. Last week, I also decided to start making a conscious effort to watch and restrict my calorie intake, so I’ve been paying a lot of attention to how much of what goes into something. The soup that follows for today’s Meatless Monday recipe (alas, no pictures this week!) has been a great meal to have to bring to work. It’s filling, nutritious, and, most importantly, really freaking delicious. The follow recipe creates 2 meals for me, at less that 300 calories a serving. And I’m always stuffed after I eat it. Perfect.

Of course, soup recipes are really, really open to interpretation, too. These veggies have been the ones consistently available to me, but it’s pretty easy to take something out or add something in. Next week, I’m thinking of getting spinach and kale to add to the mix, for extra leafy green goodness.

L.S.’s Ultimate Veggie Soup

Ingredients

3 Cups vegetable broth (I love to make my own with my vegetable scraps, which really creates a rich flavorful broth so good I’ll eat it on its own at times)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 7″ long carrots, sliced
1 cup (85g) cauliflower florets
4 “Baby Bella” cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup (85g) broccoli florets
1 large (50g) radish, sliced
1/2 cup (90g) sweet corn
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Seasonings of your choice (I personally use a little salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin, tumeric, cayenne pepper, and parsley flakes)

Method:

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large saucepan.
2. Add vegetables, one at a time, stirring to mix with oil in between. I like to cook each vegetable for about a minute before adding the next, in the following order: garlic, onion, carrot, cauliflower, mushroom, broccoli, radish, and corn. This allows for a lot of flavor to develop, a little bit of “sear” to get on each vegetable, and the tenderness will wind up being about the same for all of them at the end. Also, I use frozen corn, so that last addition releases some water and “steams” the other veggies nicely.
3. Once the oil and liquid of the veggies is almost completely absorbed, add apple cider vinegar to “deglaze” the pot.
4. Add the seasonings of your choice. Be sure to mix them in well with the vegetables. I like to add the seasonings now because then the flavors stick to the veggies instead of dispersing and diluting through the broth. It really makes the vegetables pop.
5. Add broth, stir in, adjust seasoning as desired. Cook until broth begins to boil. I like to leave it boil for just a few minutes before I turn down the heat. You can let it simmer longer, though the vegetables will get softer the longer they simmer, so I just like to stop it there to enjoy or let cool down to pack away for later.

Happy eating!

Promotion Friday!

Happy Friday, everyone! You know, even though I usually work on the weekends, there’s still something about Friday that’s thrilling and exciting and a relief. Oh, right. Payday. And the opportunity for people to share with me what they’ve accomplished recently, what they’ve been inspired by, what tools they’ve been utilizing, what books they’ve been loving, or anything at all, really. It’s the day for you to talk about yourself or your friends or anything at all, really.

Personally, I’m happy to announce that my short story “Flesh and Feathers” (which is also one of the tales in my anthology Bowlful of Bunnies) has been accepted for publication in the Winter Issue of the Maine Review. I entered it for a contest of theirs and, while it didn’t win, it had enough staying power to stick around. I’m stoked, because this is the first review I’ve published in since 2007, I think, and it helps take some of the sting off the constant flow of rejection letters that arrive in my inbox. The Review isn’t “officially” out until “late February,” but you can pre-order a copy and get a preview (my story isn’t in the preview, alas) here. I’ve already ordered my copy, which means I’m doing the wiggly dance of anticipation every time I check my stoop for a package when I get home. They’ll also be accepting work for their Summer issue in March, as well as holding another contest, so maybe keep them in mind if you’ve got some of your own work to send. They’ve been fantastic to work with so far.

Now it’s your turn! What’s going on in your life? Any new successes or publications or websites to check out? What do you want to promote today?

Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams–not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.”


by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

One of the funny things about my experience with classic literature is that, for a long time, I hadn’t read a lot of it. Pretty strange for someone who studied English for five years of her life, but I was going to school at a time when a lot of the professors were trying to break away from what was considered the traditional canon and focus on other avenues. This was even a little true in grade school and high school, so I never actually read The Great Gatsby, a high school English class staple, until about six years ago. It’s astonishing how well I remember reading it, fascinated during the down town between guests at the pool where I worked, particularly captivated because I had recently been to Newport, filled with the lush mansions of the Gilded Age that provides a background for this great American classic.

I had really liked it back then, but I was surprised to find out how much I loved it on this second reading. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t distracted as I was the first go-around, but what struck me straight from page one was the incredible beauty of the prose and the complete tragedy of Jay Gatsby’s all-encompassing infatuation with Daisy Buchanan. Not only is the writing absolutely breathtaking, but the theme of the book hits you like a (spoiler alert!) yellow speedster going down the road much too fast. What I particularly love about it is that it seems to me to have sparked a bit of a genre, while at the same time, completely subverting what it was to become nearly one hundred years after its inception. Daisy is not the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl (I’m sure we can dig deep and find plenty of examples of the recurring trope well before the 1920s), but, in a way, she epitomizes it, in an era that ushered the sprightly, cheeky modern woman into the 20th century. But it’s all just a facade, a vaneer, and Fitzgerald does such a heartbreakingly good job at showing us the cracks in these idealized passions, the tension of reality never quite reaching expectations, and the needs to constantly have someone (usually in the form of Nick Carraway, our narrator) there because you’re too afraid to face things without an audience, backstage, when there’s nobody watching.

The fact that this book still resonates, and we’re only a decade away from marking its 100 year anniversary is a true testament to the strength of Fitzgerald’s writing as he captures a classic tale of false perceptions, the self-made-man, and the fantasies we build so high that they’re forever out of reach, even when we finally get what we think we want. I feel that the end is a little bit of a let-down, almost as if Fitzgerald didn’t quite know how to end it, but it’s still a gorgeous, moving novel. And, of course, now that I’ve refreshed myself on it, it’s time to finally get around to watching the Baz Lurhmann film, which, if it’s anything like Moulin Rouge! or his Romeo + Juliet adaptation, might make me explode from pure sumptuous happiness.

Books read: 003/100.

Recipe: Marinated Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes.

Happy Monday, everyone! Before we all trudge forward into the beginning of a new week, let’s take a moment for the weekly Meatless Monday recipe! Today’s feature is one that’s quickly becoming a staple in my household; I’ve actually got a batch in the oven as I type this up to bring with me to work later. Let’s begin!


Marinated Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes, as observed in its natural habitat along side a bowl of delicious tofu noodle soup.

Marinated Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash, cut and cubed
1 sweet potato, cut and cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Orange Juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Mix the marinade. Combine OJ, EVOO, red wine vinegar, basil, parsley, cayenne, and a little salt and pepper into a large bowl. Whisk together until blended. Season according to taste.


Just look at that saaaaaaaase.

2. Place the cubed squash and potato in a large freezer bag; add garlic and marinade. Seal the bag nice and night, rub marinated around until everything’s good and covered.


I like to cube things myself, although these can be pretty helpful, too!

3. Marinade for at least an hour, up to overnight in the fridge.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and empty the contents of the bag onto the sheet. Spread it out evenly, sprinkle with salt (I always forget this step for some reason!), roast until golden and tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

5. Enjoy! So far, I’ve enjoyed this one with soup, or even just by itself, though it makes a great pairing with a lot of things.

Happy eating, everyone!

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