Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crock Pot Comfort Food - Can It Get Any Better?

I was on the hunt for a new crock pot friendly recipe and came across this one.  My husband and sons loved it so I thought I'd share it with you.  

Found in a cookbook called Slow Cooker Recipes.  It was submitted by Marge Dicton of Bartonsville, PA.

Easy Special Pot Roast

10 3/4 oz. can Cheddar cheese soup
10 3/4 oz. can golden mushroon soup
10 3/4 oz. can French onion soup
3-lb. beef chuck roast

Mix soups in a slow cooker; top with roast.  Cover and cook on low setting for 8 - 9 hours, turning roast halfway through cooking time if possible.  Makes 6 servings.

**The gravy is delicious on noodles, mashed potatoes or rice.**

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Coffee House

I love those pictures of Paris—you know, the ones with the little tables outside of the bistro.   It just looks so... European.  And that probably explains my fascination with the Coffee House.  It's become my Saturday morning ritual.  I sit at a little bistro table, nibble on a croissant, sip my coffee and watch the town-folk.   

It's amazing really—the things a person can see.   Just this morning, Bill (he looks like a Bill to me) ordered a latte and flirted shamelessly with the barista.  He leaned across the counter, lowered his voice, and slid a five dollar tip underneath her fingers.  The barista giggled, he laughed and I stifled the urge to clear my throat. 

I walked to my favorite table and I noticed Bill was seated close by.  As was my custom, I decided to invent a life for Bill.  I imagined he was a successful surgeon, who at any moment would receive an urgent call, prompting him to abandon his morning coffee and hurry to the hospital.  Of course, being a world renowned surgeon left little time for a social life, which in turn, explained his attraction to the young barista.  Surrounded by such intense pressure, pulling patients back from the brink of death—the barista's youth must have been intoxicating…

Except that wasn't the truth.  

I watched as she approached Bill's table, pushing a stroller.  I couldn't hear what she said as she bent down, placing a quick kiss on his check but Bill looked resigned.  Hmmm.  Obviously, she is Bill's wife.  I think I'll call her Natalie.  Natalie could use a fashion pointer or two—like the importance of brushing her hair. 

I glance back at Bill.  Gone is the flirt.  He's now deflated, slumping in his chair, a hand on the stroller.  It's sad really, the things you can learn by just watching the people around you.  Very sad indeed.  I look at Bill and wonder if he wishes he was a surgeon.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Importance of a Well Written Desciption

Descriptions are important - they help set the stage for pivotal events by connecting the reader to specific places and times.  It is easy to fall back on generic representations. Example:  The night was dark.  The night was quiet.  But living in a rural area, nothing is further from the truth.  A summer night in the south is teaming with activity.  

Sitting on my deck, I was amazed at how noisy silence can be.  I was surrounding by a veritable symphony of sound:  crickets chirping,  frogs croaking, mosquitoes buzzing and dogs barking.  Lightening bugs were darting near the wood line, flashing their bottoms, hoping to attract a mate.  Bats were swooping overhead, their bodies looking like dark shadows against the waning light as they searched for dinner among a buffet of flying insects. Kit-Kat had sidled up beside me, stretched her body then rubbed against my leg before disappearing into the darkness.  See what I mean?  There's a lot going on out there in the dark...

Let's think about the air.  Is it heavy with humidity?  Or does it offer cooling relief from a hectic day?  Is the wind a gentle breeze? Or do you hear it howling in the treetops? Maybe the wind isn't blowing at all...  

How about the smell?  Is the scent of honeysuckle hanging in the air?  No? Maybe it's the smell of the steaks the neighbor is cooking, making your character dread the leftover pizza in the refrigerator or reminding him/her of how alone they feel...

By taking the time to immerse ourselves into our characters' experiences, our scenes will feel more authentic which will allow our readers to connect with our stories.

A Crock Pot Can Be A Writer's Best Friend

It's Sunday and that means we're one day away from Monday...  That's kinda depressing...  The work week begins again.  If you're like me, your day is something similar to this:  At work by 8:00.  Off by 5:00.  And then, you go to work again - but this time it's at home - laundry, dinner, dishes, kids...  The time between 5:00 and lights out - goes by too fast - and there's not a lot of time left to write.  So, I thought I'd share a Crock Pot Recipe that I found from Fix-It and Forget-It.  Maybe it will help free up a little time for you to work on your story!

Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 lb. deli-sliced cooked ham
1/2 lb. baby Swiss cheese, sliced
10 3/4 can cream of chicken soup
1 oz. dry stuffing mix, prepared according to box direction

1.  Layer all ingredients in the order they are listed into your slow cooker.
2.  Cover and cook on Low 6-8 hours, or until chicken is tender but not dry.

Happy Eating!  Happy Writing!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tomato, Tomahto - It's All In Your Perspective (What Makes a Female Character Strong/Weak)

For the past couple of weeks, I have wrestled with the idea of this post.  And as I type this, I'm still questioning myself..  But the thing is, it's been eating at me...

You see, I'm a forty-something woman.  I was just a kid during the 1970's when women were fighting for equal rights.  I remember the controversy, the anger, the demand for equality.  And while I didn't have to protest, I am part of a generation that received the benefits of the movement.  That being said, I've still experienced my fair share of narrowmindedness.  For several years, my family owned a small business.  As co-owner of a marina, it never ceased to amaze me that some of the salesmen would try to talk to my brother instead of me. To get the same respect, I had to "prove" my knowledge.  It was nothing short of frustrating and demeaning.  Being seen as an equal, being respected for my work - these are things that are important to me.

At this point, let me clarify:  

The following isn't intended as an attack on the writer or the writer's work.  I didn't read the novel. In fact, I don't even remember the author's name or the title of the book. I only read the little promotional blurb and it most definitely caught my attention as a well written blurb should.   

So, back to my post...

When I stumbled across a New Adult romance and found that the heroine was a cash strapped college graduate, who in her desperation, decides that she will become a rich man's play thing, I cringed.   What was the point in getting an education, etc. if she was just going to lift her skirt.  I mean, I guess she couldn't meet her "knight in shining armor" as she worked her second job.  Nope.  The college loan payments must have been atrocious - because prostituting herself was the solution. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are many women who have made this choice and are good with it.  And as for the story, like I said, I didn't read it - and maybe the heroine had tried to find a second job, maybe she had resigned herself to eating Romen Noodles dinners...  Obviously, the heroine was trying to be honest - I mean, she really wanted to make her payments...  Maybe she should have decided that her credit was just going to have to suffer - at least until a better paying job came along...   But for me-when I read the blurb-I failed to see the romance and I certainly hated seeing a young woman portrayed in such a weak manner.  

It's Just a Story

I totally get that this story was a work of fiction and I'm sure there are readers who loved it. But with so many women and children being sexually exploited, portraying a "pay for sex" agreement as the beginning of a healthy relationship feels all sorts of wrong to me. Yeah, I know - It's just a story and I can lick the red right off a lollipop. 

Maybe It's Me

At some point, I wondered if maybe my feelings were due to my age? I sought the opinions of a younger crowd.  I am the mother of three sons so I presented the scenario to them.  They looked at me as if to say, "Really?"  But being the good mother that I am, I didn't let them off the hook.  Finally, one of them said, "Maybe her bills were really stressing her..."  Another nodded in agreement.  So then I asked, "Would you be good with dating someone who had made this decision?"  They looked at me.  The twenty-one year old said, "Look, just because I can maybe understand doesn't mean I agree... so no, I couldn't see myself dating her."  My seventeen year old said -  "If it was only the one time, then maybe... but that's just dating. I mean, it's not like I'd wife her up."


By now, you might be thinking that I'm a bit uptight and definitely judgemental.  You'd be wrong.  At nineteen, I was a single mother so I know all about making hard choices.  And maybe, that's why the premise of this story bothered me so much.  Because in the real world, the decisions we make follow us and most of the time, women who choose to sell themselves, don't end up with the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I was a single mother, working two jobs when I met my Marine.  Twenty four years later, he's still got my back.


I realize that there are women who have found themselves between a rock and a hard place, with no where to turn.  Their children need a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.  While I have never found myself in this position, I recognize that some women have.   Because of their circumstances, they may feel as though prostitution is their only option.  I'm certainly not casting judgement on the decisions they have made.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review of Jack and the Fountain of Youth

Amazon's Book Description:  Jack Ponsi Dileonardo Thomas is eighteen years old. At least, that’s what he tells everyone. He doesn’t like to lie. But he has to, because he celebrated his real eighteenth birthday five centuries ago.

Some people say the Fountain of Youth is a myth. Jack knows better. He drank from the fabled fuente in 1513. Over the five hundred years since, he’s given up believing his life will ever again be normal–and that he’ll ever rediscover the magical spring. But when he learns the Fountain is located on the property of Nessa Owens, Jack takes up the search once more. And when Nessa captures his heart, his quest acquires new urgency.

Caught in the midst of a hurricane, surrounded by centuries-old memories and present day mysteries, Jack must risk all for a future with Nessa.

Will love prove more powerful than the enchanted waters of the Fountain of Youth?

What I Thought:  HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter writing team who mixes a little history, mystery, a tad bit of mythology and some present day romance in Jack and The Fountain of Youth. The authors did a wonderful job creating a tale that captivated my imagination. The story moved at a quick pace. The cast of characters were well developed - and Jack - was divine! Unlike a lot of NA romances, there wasn't any intense sexual situations. Instead, the authors kept the romance sweet - making this suitable for younger ages as well.

Review of The Misadventures of Me and My Uterus

A while back, I received a copy of Laurie WJN's book - The Misadventures of Me and My Uterus.  I had a lot going on at the time promoting my own novel and Misadventures was put in the to be read pile.  

Fast-forward three months and OH MY GOSH - I had the period that wouldn't end.  The frustration was incredible.  And then I remembered Laurie and her book...

Amazon Book Description:  From delivering babies to uterine biopsies, this book shares how being a woman can be tough, but laughter is always the best medicine. Topics ranging from Spring-Loaded Uterus (and other forms of birth control), Nothing says fun like a transvaginal ultrasound, and Ablation – its electric, share the personal struggle of one peri-menopausal woman through the maze of women’s health challenges. With humor and understanding, this book offers insight into the uniquely feminine perspective of women’s health care as you enter menopause. This laugh out loud memoir is relatable to any woman who has ever felt cursed by having a uterus.

What I Thought:  Laurie WJN has shined a light on a subject most of us (women) prefer to ignore.   Going through the "change" is nothing short of challenging.  Laurie candidly shared her experiences.   At times I was laughing out loud - and trust me - the battle going on within my body has been anything but funny.  Still,  I found myself feeling a sort of sisterhood with the author because finally someone had put into words what I was feeling and experiencing.   

If you are dealing with the stress of peri-menopause, then do yourself a favor - get this book! It's like sitting down with a girlfriend who's been through it all and now she's sharing her experience.

Amazon Purchase Link

 Novel Notions is thrilled to welcome 
S.M. Pace, author of Wings of the Butterfly!
YA Fantasy
Date Published: August 15, 2014

Three nations teeter on the brink of war, and caught in the middle, a brother and sister find themselves surrounded by dangers they never imagined. 

Adopted by the Yurha, Toby still struggles to properly fit in.  Hunting in the forest, he stumbles across a jeweled cuff that attaches to his wrist and won’t come off.  Afraid at first, he is soon thrilled to discover the cuff carries powerful magic.  But as he tries to control it, he realizes the cuff is still linked to its original owner - an owner who will go to cruel lengths to get his magic back.

Miles away, Toby’s twin sister Ora struggles with life in a strange city.  She and family have fled Yois for Nietza, where Ora will not be arrested for possessing magic.  However, Nietza is not the magical paradise Ora had imagined.  Despite her new friends, she can’t feel safe in a country where women are little more than pawns. 

Secrets, brutal murders and war edging ever closer drive both siblings from their safe places.  Failure to stop those who pursue them will mean a fate worse than death. 

                         S. M. Pace

S. M. Pace lives with her husband in the wilds of Virginia, along with a pond full of fish, a turtle and too many squirrels.  When she's not writing, she's wrangling a dozen pre-schoolers, learning a new recipe or reading.

Follow her:

Twitter: @StephMPace
Blog: smpace.com
S. M. Pace's Fantasy World Post - Sign up to Fantasy World Post and get worldbuilding snippets, short fiction and behind the scenes peeks at my current WIP.  All free, just for signing up. 


Toby worked at the wrist cuff, but it hardly budged.  It had become something like a piece of his arm.
Leaves shuddered overhead.  A pair of squirrels raced over the branches, chittering.  Toby sat alone against the bole of a tree, a half mile or so from the settlement.  No sign of an oversized hawk, but he had a better idea than scanning the branches.  He’d ended up inside the hawk’s mind before.  He thought he could do it again.
He stripped away his leggings and loin cloth and laid them beside him.  Naked, he shivered, despite the unusual heat of the mid-autumn day.  A thrill of fear coursed through him at the other part of his plan.  The memory of pale fur sprouting across his arm stuck hard in Toby’s head.  If it means what I think it means, the thought drifted as Toby steadied his breathing.  He pressed his back against the rough bark and sank into the wrist cuff.    
The wellspring of magic nearly swallowed him.  He tried to imitate what Kyat had done, pushing his awareness away from the crystals, and into the metal.  A different power, with the taste of metal, stung him. 
Blackness swallowed him.  He fought to stay aware.  Everything shifted, spun, and someone else’s mind swept over and around him.  He glimpsed scaled claws and dark feathers.  The hawk.
He watched through the creature’s eyes, and felt what it felt.  Spasms wracked its body. One claw flattened, flexed, the scales melting away to reveal a misshapen foot.  Toby cried out at the pain of even that small success.  Then the foot twitched and turned back into a claw, and with a strangled cry, the hawk took flight.
Toby was thrown back into his body.  He knew the hawk hid somewhere at the north-eastern edge of the pack’s territory, where the hills began to give way to mountains.  He’d also learned something else; the feel of a type of magic he’d never experienced before.  He sent his mind back into the wrist cuff. 
He pushed away the bits of his magic, and other magics he couldn’t name.  In the midst of those, the cuff held a bundle of power that curled and writhed.  Shifting magic. 
To wear fur and run on all fours.  To howl and tumble with his brothers.  To run with the pack during full moon hunts, and take down a deer with his teeth.  To be a wolf, like his family.  To be truly one of them.
Toby willed every ounce of those thoughts into the magic and spread it through his body.
A cramp struck his lower belly and doubled him over, then dropped him to his knees.  His chest tightened and, for a moment, panic seized him, and he wanted to shove the magic away.
He breathed slowly while spasms wracked his body.  The bones in his legs cracked first, shifting, and forcing him to stand awkwardly on his hands and feet.  Then his arms and back twisted.  His face crunched, stretched.  His shoulders popped.  Fur grew, like tiny pins bursting out of his skin.  The whine of an animal spilled from his throat. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Avoiding Continuity Problems

Writing a novel takes time-it's not accomplished overnight.  For many of us, it may take several months and this can lead to problems in the storyline. To put it simply - we forget the little stuff. The lack of continuity can ruin a good story simply because the inconsistent details become a distraction too big to ignore.  
Ex: The heroine was walking to her car - however, when she arrives - it has become a truck.  It's a little thing but it takes the reader out of the moment.

While each of us has a different writing process, there are things we can do to minimize the lack of continuity in our stories.

1.  Besides outlining or storyboarding, consider a timeline.  Timelines are a great way to "see" the story as it unfolds.  Although, there are timeline creators available for download, I prefer to make my own. I tend to get pretty detailed - time/dates, character introductions & events (major and minor).  For quick reference, I add things like daily schedules on the side.

2.  Know the setting.  Whether your setting is fictional or not, you must familiarize yourself with the layout of the town, spaceship, etc.  Take the time to draw a map - labeling streets, buildings, corridors, etc.

3.  Know the characters.  Create a character biography sheet detailing
everything:  physical description, birthday, likes/dislikes, hobbies, family/friends, quirks, and important events that have impacted the character's life.

4.  Know your objects.  If your character has an iPhone at the beginning of the story, he needs to be an iPhone in chapter 5.

5.  Keep track of time:  Make sure that the weather matches the time of year. 
6.  Read & Revise.  A story is fluid - taking shape as it progresses.  There will be times when ideas & characters appear and BAM! the story takes an unforeseen turn.  Don't just insert the idea/character and move on.  Look at your timeline, outline, storyboard, lists, etc. -  then fix the problem. 

By taking the time to create reference lists, we can minimize the occurrence of story inconsistencies.