Monday, December 28, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When I Knew

When I was seven, my brother, who was eight, told me he had seen the Easter Bunny. He smiled enthusiastically and I believed every word he said. Then I turned eight and Christmas came around. I wanted a doll house that year. I woke up during the night and heard my mother and father talking. I listened--and from what they said, I knew my father was following the instructions for putting together a doll house. At that point, I realized Santa Claus was a myth.

When and how did you stop believing in Santa Claus?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Converting Old Videos

video

I took a movie making course in college back when Super 8 film was the standard. I had a Super 8 camera and I had a great time using up rolls of film. Then video camcorders arrived on the scene. Super 8 film became very expensive, but VHS tapes were cheap. So I bought a huge camcorder and filmed everything from piano recitals, to confirmations, to graduations, and even weddings. My camcorder was huge--not like the smaller models that came later. 

When digital technology arrived on the scene, everything changed. I had a video/DVD recorder and converted many of my VHS tapes into DVDs--but I could not share them on Facebook or Blogger because they were .vob files. 

Then I found Free Video Converter. I could convert all my old .vob files into .mp4 files, which are perfect for sharing everywhere on social media. Now I can add videos to my Throwback Thursdays and my family can relive all those special moments. :-)


Monday, December 14, 2015

Goodreads Giveaway for FALLING IN LOVE


Take a chance on being one of five lucky winners who will receive print editions of FALLING IN LOVE! This little book is guaranteed to warm your heart and life your spirits. You won't find it difficult to find time to read these sweet, short romances despite your busy schedule. Sign up at Goodreads now!


Goodreads Book Giveaway


Falling in Love by Penelope Marzec

Falling in Love

by Penelope Marzec


Giveaway ends December 28, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter Giveaway

Friday, December 11, 2015

Peace--Someday


My daughters and I went hiking on a trail in Sandy Hook the day after Thanksgiving and came upon this huge peace sign. Fashioned of driftwood, shells, and even horseshoe crabs, it lay on the easternmost tip of Sandy Hook, directly opposite New York City. As the sun sank lower on the horizon, we turned our attention to NYC, across the bay, which suddenly turned into a shining city that appeared to be made of gold.


We were dazzled by the sight and took one photo after another. It was a stroke of luck arriving at exactly the right time--for after a few minutes the magic was gone. And yet, as brilliant as that sunset was, I have spend more time thinking about that large, handcrafted peace sign. Who made it? Was it someone who lost a relative in the Twin Towers? Was it a veteran? Or simply someone--like me--who longs for an end to the constant bitter division in this world? In this country?

I grew up during the 1960s and I still love and sing all the anti-war protest songs, but singing songs hasn't stopped any shooting or carnage or hate. In fact, hate is apparently doing very well in this world and increasing every day. Everyone hates somebody.

It's almost Christmas, which is a celebration of how much God loves us. His love is shining on us all the time--just like those golden rays of the sun. He certainly has a lot of faith in us. Can't we reflect some of that faith toward each other? Can't we put aside the labels we give to each other that separate us?

Please pray for peace.

(For those interested in the origin of the peace sign go to http://www.fastcodesign.com/3036540/the-untold-story-of-the-peace-sign.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

A Contract for OUTSIDE BLESSINGS




On the day before Thanksgiving, I received a contract from New Concepts Publishing for my YA paranormal romance, OUTSIDE BLESSINGS. NCP has published many of my books.

Some of the inspiration for the book came from seeing the harbor seals enjoying the winter along a sandbar at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The seals spend the winter there and leave in the spring for cooler waters.

There are Irish and Scottish legends of seals who can shift into human form. There are those who believe they are the fallen angels. According to legend, some of the fallen angels fell on land and became fairies, but those who fell into the water became selkies.

I decided some of the selkies could visit New Jersey, just as the harbor seals do every winter.  (They are so cute!)

Here's the blurb:
Neema is sixteen. She's a halfling, half selkie and half human. She shifts into her human form to seek the answers to her sister’s death. Officials in the town of Blessings, New Jersey, claim her sister committed suicide and in 1896, suicides were not buried in hallowed ground. Neema is certain her sister was murdered. 
While keeping her origins a secret, she feels drawn to a young surfman even though he killed a selkie. When she learns of the selkies’ plot for revenge against him, she cannot tell him for she knows he won’t believe her. Then he stumbles upon the reality of what she is and she is crushed. Certain he can never love her, she vows to save him anyway, although it is doubtful whether she can save herself.

Inspiration for any of my books usually comes from more than one source. For Outside Blessings, in addition to seeing the harbor seals lolling about on their sandbar, I also visited the Centennial Cottage in Ocean Grove. It was there I learned that very often seamstresses were hired in the summertime to sew trousseaus for the brides in a family. After hearing that, my heroine became a seamstress for a wealthy family. :-)

I had so much fun writing this book! I can't wait until it's released.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Oat Shortbread for Lazy Cookie Bakers

It's that time of year when many people turn to baking cookies. I'm a lazy cookie baker. Life and writing leave me very little time for dropping teaspoons of cookie dough on a baking sheet. I found this recipe in The New York Times New Natural Foods Cookbook. However, I changed one thing. Rather than use 3/4 cup of butter, I used 1/2 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of Canola oil. It worked.

This is a terrific recipe. It's quick, there aren't many ingredients, and it's delicious. :-)

3 1/2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and work thoroughly together with both hands.

3. Press mixture into a greased 13x9 pan.

4. Bake for 30 minutes.

5. Cool for 10 minutes.

6. Cut into squares.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Christmas Project



In addition to preparing the Thanksgiving feast and serving it to eleven hungry people, I spent last week working intensely on a family history book. Two family members initiated the project by asking questions. My nephew wanted to know how my paternal grandparents met. Nobody knew the answer. We still don't, despite questioning several sources. In addition, my younger sister evidently had no clue that my father's brother who died in World War II was a Marine. Obviously, there were some knowledge gaps among the younger family members concerning our family's past.

This prompted my father to start writing down what we know about our predecessors. I was delegated the task of being Dad's collaborator and editing the project. I also uploaded the contents to an online photo site. (I used Snapfish.com because they offered a huge discount.)

Many of the photos I scanned for the project are very old and very small--the size of today's typical business card. Our predecessors didn't take many photos, so the ones we have are rather precious. I don't know how clear they will be in the finished product.

Yesterday, I put the finishing touches on the book and ordered enough copies so that each of my father's grandchildren will have a copy (which is why the huge discount was important). I also ordered copies for my sisters, my uncle, my cousin, me, and Dad, too.  If any family members read this blog they will know what they're getting as a Christmas gift, but it's definitely better than another gift card.

What gifts will you be handing out this holiday season? Anything special?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wishing You a Joyful, Happy Thanksgiving!

A Kids History: The First Thanksgiving (from History)
This is adorable! 

The video below reminds me of all the Thanksgiving shows I used to put together with the preschoolers, but the children in this video are older and do a great job. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Make the World More Beautiful



One of the best homilies I ever heard at Mass was given by Father Griswold at St. Mary's church in Colts Neck, N.J. on the Sunday after the horrible shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Instead of standing at the pulpit, Father Griswold asked all the children to come up to the front and sit around him. 

Then he read a children's picture book, Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney. 

The children listened attentively to the beautiful story and a sense of calm fell over everyone. As an early childhood educator, I have always appreciated picture books for their simple, but focused messages. In the wake of the Columbine tragedy, the story of Miss Rumphius transcended the horror and offered a positive path. 

Since Columbine, our country has gone through many mass shootings, as well as the World Trade Center attacks. And now there are terrorists in Paris. And young children fleeing from Syria. 

Like Miss Rumphius in the story, all of us can do something to make the world more beautiful. We just have to give it some thought. 


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Show Me Your Bookshelf


I own many books. This is half of one shelf. On the left, I have several books about pirates, which I used as references when I was writing my pirate/time travel book, The Pirate's Wraith. The tattered book in the center is Grimm's Fairy Tales, the scary, odd, unadulterated version. Next to it is The Scarlet Letter, then Pride and Prejudice, Tales by Poe, The House of the Seven Gables, Waterwitch, the Rubaiyat, and  Shakespeare--all wonderful classics. At least, I think so. 

Take a photo and post a section of one of your bookshelves. This could be fun! Let's see what you've got. :-)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Em Dash Abuse

I am an em dash abuser. I tend to use the quick symbol all over the place. I type in em dashes wherever a comma would suffice. Sigh.

In The Elements of Style, Strunk and White said, "A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses."

I think my em dash habit is due--in part--to the way I speak. I speak in em dashes!

I have a few examples from The Keeper's Promise below. You see how I originally typed each phrase and how I fixed them.

This was why Bryce loved Shucker's Point--why he had stayed here when many others had left.

It now reads:

This was why Bryce loved Shucker's Point, and why he had stayed here when many others had left.

Sometimes I didn't really need the em dash at all.

that she wasn't a vicious killer--or a psychopath.

Just one simple conjunction works fine:

that she wasn't a vicious killer or a psychopath.

Everyone needs an editor. I have been very grateful for mine.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Sergeants from the Fifth Bomber Command

There's my dad, in the back row, to the right of the sergeant with the glasses. I found this photo on a great site PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF BOMBER COMMAND STATION LIFE
PREPARED BY MAJOR BERNHARDT L. MORTENSEN.


My dad is mentioned in the memoir as one of the men who organized "The Bomb Bay Review." After the war, Dad worked for the Jersey Journal. I guess writing is simply part of my genes.

For Veteran's Day, I give my thanks to all who have served our country. To those who are serving now, I offer my prayers.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

What novel were you forced to read in high school?

One of my daughters read Ethan Frome in high school because it was a class assignment. She hated the book. Ethan Frome was written by Edith Wharton and published way back in 1911. Wharton was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1920 for a later novel, The Age of Innocence. I have not read The Age of Innocence, but I read Ethan Frome--because my daughter hated it. It is a depressing story. However, it is well written--and short, which is probably one of the reasons it was assigned to the students in high school. Nevertheless, I am glad I was not forced to read it at a young age. Well-written novels are often foisted upon tender minds before they are ready to understand them. Worse, the books are then picked apart--piece by piece--until the students are completely sick of them.

I was forced to read The Scarlet Letter, The Call of the Wild, and The Old Man and the Sea when I was in high school. I appreciated The Scarlet Letter most. I later read--on my own--The House of the Seven Gables, which was also written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I could not appreciate The Call of the Wild. I am sure that a dog has a point of view, but I am also sure it is not quite that literate. Nevertheless, I read The Sea Wolf recently, which was also written by Jack London. I liked it. It has romance. It is also about people--not dogs.

The Old Man and the Sea was one of those books my high school teacher made into a torturous experience. Every bit of symbolism was pointed out. Yes, it is well-written--but tragic. Why do teachers insist on tragic, unhappy stories?

Maybe part of the reason some young people do not read today is due to the fact that they've been forced to read depressing books about sad, miserable people.

Why can't English teachers in high school assign happy, upbeat romances? Not all romances are jam-packed with sex. The main ingredient for a romance is a happy ending. Romances are uplifting and not depressing.

Please stop picking the books apart piece by piece. Let the young people enjoy them. Maybe they'll pick up another romance and get hooked on reading for life.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Get Your FREE Download of IRONS IN THE FIRE


Hurry and download this book now! This promotion, through Ereader News Today, will end on November 4, 2015. Afterward, the price will return to $2.99.

Friday, October 30, 2015

When You Come to the End of a Chapter Jump Off the Cliff


An author must make many decisions in the course of writing a fiction novel. One very important choice is how the end of every chapter is handled. There should be a hook at the close of a chapter that intrigues the reader enough to turn the page. In other words, jump off the cliff. Most times, this suggestion should be handled figuratively, not literally, since too much tension might wear the reader out. Often, revealing a new secret or a new character will do the trick, deepening the crisis for the protagonist.

In my book, PATRIOT'S PRIDE, released in June of this year, the first chapter ends with the hero threatening to put the heroine in the brig. The second chapter ends with the hero wondering what new sickness has come over him. At the end of the third chapter, the heroine shows her mettle and takes over the care of an emotionally disturbed young woman despite the hero's warning. Nobody jumps off a cliff, but emotional leaps are perilous as well.

There's a wonderful blog post on the topic at The Editor's Blog that's worth reading. Jami Gold's post, Cliffhangers: Not Just for the End of a Book, offers good suggestions, too.

How about your book? How did you end the first, second, and the third chapters in your book? Tell me in a comment below and then give a link to the book.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Miracles


I took this photo last week in the park. I am forever trying to get pictures with rays of sunlight streaming out of the clouds. I like the quote attributed to Jon Bon Jovi because I think it's true. Miracles are perceived by those receiving them. To someone else, a specific incident might mean nothing.

For instance, last week when hubby and I entertained the seniors, I went behind the piano to borrow the bench. I looked up at the songbook and saw it was open to "Moon River," a song which brings back some fond memories. (You can read about it HERE.) So I sat for a minute and played the song. Was it simply chance that the book was open to that page? I suppose it could be, but I think it was a little hello.

So keep your eyes open. Miracles are everywhere.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Brick By Brick


There's me on my wedding day posing outside the house where I grew up with Mom and Dad, my sisters and sister-in-law. My father built most of the house. It was a mere shell when my parents purchased it. It had plywood on the outside, which was painted pink. Inside there were 2x4s, but no walls. It was intended as a summer bungelow, but with the addition of a heater, it was converted to a year-round residence.

My father, a journalist, with no experience in carpentry became a do-it-yourself expert. He stapled insulation against the exterior walls. He put up sheetrock. He framed in the porch and made it into two bedrooms.

Eventually, he dug out a cellar, poured a concrete floor and put up cinder block walls. He did this all little by little, a section at a time, and it took many years.

Since the original porch became bedrooms, my father made an entrance facing the street with a small, wooden porch. However, there was a brick factory in Cliffwood, N.J., and Dad decided to make a nice brick porch. He bought one hundred bricks and loaded them into our Ramber station wagon. One hundred bricks weigh a lot. The back end of the wagon came awfully close to the ground, but Dad happily unloaded all those bricks and started his project.

He soon had to return and buy more bricks. Again he purchased one hundred bricks and loaded them into the back of the old Ramber. That still wasn't enough bricks. He returned again and again to the brick factory until finally the porch was complete. It had flower boxes and was large enough for a few chairs and a small table. In the summertime, when the flowers were blooming it was quaint and charming.

For a journalist with no previous experience in masonry, it was an amazing feat. Dad proved to me that you can do just about anything if you set your mind to it, which is probably one of the reasons I'm still writing. :-)

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Memorable Interview

I've been interviewed many times. I've been interviewed for jobs. I've met with editors and agents. I've even been in the newspaper several times. While it's nice to be the center of attention for a little while, it can also be unsettling. After all, much depends on the attitude of the interviewer and the questions asked.

But when Danele Rotharmel asked to interview me for a blog post, I felt completely at ease. Some of her questions were tough and required considerable thought, but she didn't rush me. Her positive attitude shows in everything she does, whether it's writing a review or a blog post.

I am very pleased with the results. You can read the full interview at her blog https://dragonflydanele.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/penelope-marzec-author-interviw/

Stop by and you'll learn a few things about me that most people don't know. :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Strange Tale

When I taught first grade in a NJ public school, the teachers were given a few days off in November, allowing them to attend the teachers' convention in Atlantic City. It was a two-hour drive from where I lived at the time. I had stayed in a hotel with other teachers several times over the years, but one year I decided just to drive down for the day and come home in the evening.

I got into my trusty six-cylinder 1971 Chevy Nova (no air-conditioning, plastic upholstery, and a stick shift) and headed south. However, it began to rain--a lot. It became a deluge and turned out to be a horrible day for driving. The rain came down in sheets. For safety, I drove slower. New Jersey was a lot less developed in those days. Once I passed the Asbury Park tolls there wasn't much to see. Besides, the dismal weather kept most people home.

As I rounded a curve, I saw a man on the side of the road. He was rather tall and wore a trench coat. He did not have an umbrella or even a hat on his head--despite the flood pouring from the sky. He also did not have a car. He was waving his arms in a strange manner, but he wasn't looking at me. He seemed to be looking at the opposite side of the road--where there wasn't anything to see.

It was very, very odd. I had mixed feelings about stopping--so I didn't. But my conscience bothered me, so I slowed down further and glanced in the rear-view mirror.

He wasn't there anymore. That was chilling.

It wasn't until years later I figured out I must have seen the Parkway Phantom. Yipes!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Advertise With Memes

This was one of hubby's ideas. We happened to find a baby snapping turtle in the yard and hubby happened to have a can of snapper soup. I was the one who added the little speech bubble. It's the closest I've come to creating a usable meme--although this one is an advertisement for soup. However, I need to advertise my books.

For an author, memes can be a terrific means of free promotion. I should have added my URL to the image on the right because the best memes are shared over and over on the internet.









I love to take photographs. I take lots and lots of them. Sometimes I get one that reminds me of a scene from one of my books. Then I add a short quote from that book to a photograph--just as I did in the photograph on the left. As much fun as I have doing this, just adding a short quote does not make a good meme--unless the quote is attributed to someone already famous and it highlights one of those life truths everyone understands.






The image on the right was one of my more successful memes, but too heavy-handed to go viral. Brainy Quote offers many similar images with well-known quotes--and they are popular.


Nevertheless, the best memes are funny, short, and simple--more like an editorial cartoon or a brief comic strip.



If you are interested in putting together memes, read more about using them to help you promote your books at http://www.fromthewriteangle.com/2013/06/authors-create-meme-books.html

In the old days, it was said a picture is worth a thousand words. Now we can combine both and create something with an indelible impact--if we're very clever. :-)

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Sign Up Now!



This is my newsletter, published on an erratic basis and usually short. It features news about upcoming books, special deals, and sometimes contests.

You can receive your own personal copy by email if you sign up at my website:

http://penelopemarzec.weebly.com/sign-up.html

Go ahead and do it now before you forget.

Hoping to hear from you soon. :-)

Monday, October 05, 2015

In Defense of Art


Hubby and I were intrigued when we read an article in the Asbury Park Press, 'Shorehenge': Is Sandy monument tribute or eyesore? Highlands, New Jersey, a very small town, was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. The storm damaged 1,250 out of 1,500 homes. The monument pictured above was donated to the town and placed on the site where a gazebo once stood.

Some people in the town don't like it and have dubbed it Shorehenge, which is one of the reasons why we felt compelled to see it for ourselves.

I like it. Hubby thought it was fine, too. It's different, but it is art. The openings in the roof lend a spiritual effect. It would be a natural place for meditation--a place to remember what once was.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

My Grandma

That's my grandmother on the left and my mother on the right in a photo taken somewhere in the 1960s. Today would have been my grandma's 114th birthday, but she died at the age of 90. She was feisty, but sweet. She always had plenty of time to talk with her grandchildren--or anybody else for that matter--and she always cooked enough food for an army. She was a force to be reckoned with.

She was funny. She put ketchup on Oreos just to freak out her grandchildren. All the kids called her Grandma--even if she wasn't their own grandma. She was soft--some people would call her fat--but maybe they didn't know how good it felt to snuggle up to her plumpness.

At sixteen, she fell in love with an immigrant, but her mother told her she was too young to marry. He went away to war and became a US citizen. Three years later, he returned and they were married. They had seven children.

My grandmother had cervical cancer and survived. She had her gall bladder taken out. She worked hard raising children. She grew tons of vegetables and canned them. She didn't complain.

When my grandfather refused to buy her a new stove, she went on strike. After two weeks, he bought her a new stove.

She was the best grandmother ever.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

October Special!


If you're someone who likes stories of ghosts, goblins, and things that go bump in the night, you're in for a special bargain. The price of THE COMPANY YOU KEEP is now reduced to $0.99 for the entire month of October. All fans of Halloween should love this story. Diane Tugman of The Romance Studio said, "With each chapter you'll be drawn into a tangled web of the supernatural. Anastasia Castella-Young of Mind Fog Reviews said, "I highly recommend this paranormal romance to those interested in demons, spirits, adventure and love. Penelope Marzec hits the mark dead on!"

This special price is only available on the Kindle Editon at http://amzn.com/B00WQ77NSW

Download it now so you have something to read on a cold, dark night when the moon is full and you hear the wind whistling through the trees. :-o

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Four Birthdays, One Party


Happy Birthday to us! My father, two of my daughters, and I celebrate our birthdays within the span of one week's time every year. So I throw a big birthday bash and invite the rest of the family. This year there were eighteen of us altogether. I tossed a whole bunch of chicken in the Crockpot, added Ragu's Roasted Garlic and Parmesan sauce and let it simmer forever. (It comes out very, very tender.) There were noodles and veggies to accompany the chicken. Daughter #3 and her hunny brought salad and home-canned pickles. My sister brought an assortment of her home-canned pickles. (Seems we have farmers in the family.) At any rate, there were leftovers, which is always a good thing.

My sister and her gang brought their own bedding, which makes my life easier. There were hours and hours of talking. No television. No internet.

No writing either, but that's fine. It's wonderful to have the family gathered for a happy occasion. We're all a little older, but we've enjoyed many blessings.

Sto Lat!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

When Do You Read?


In the late afternoon when I'm tired and a cup of tea seems like a good idea, I usually open up a book. My brief respite from the world may not last long, but it does refresh me.

Most nights, before I close my eyes I read a novel. I have found this practice usually chases away any nightmares. At least, it works for me.

When do you read? What was the last book you read? Do you read novels, or only non-fiction?

Reading novels is a good habit to develop. Several studies prove this. The following article offers a good overview of the results you can expect from reading fiction.


So open up a novel today. It'll do you good. :-)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

MEGA BOOK SALE!



Prism Book Group is celebrating autumn by giving away FREE books, offering others at fantastic discounts, and handing out prizes. To be part of the fun and excitement LIKE Prism Book Group's Facebook page:



If you haven't purchased PATRIOT'S PRIDE yet, on Monday, September 21, 2015, you can buy it for only $0.99!














On Thursday, September 24, 2015, DADDY WANTED will be available for only $0.99.














The prizes offered are awesome! In addition to plenty of Amazon gift cards, there will be jewelry, special Alaska Wild Berry Chocolates, luggage tags, and more! This is an event you won't want to miss. Go LIKE the Facebook page now and sign up for the event.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

One Week Sale

If you want a great read at a small price, now is the time to buy Irons in the Fire. It will be $0.99 until September 23, 2015.

This book has a special place in my heart. I love all my books, in the same way I love all my children--but each one is unique. Irons in the Fire was the first book I finished. It received the most rejections, but it gained some especially nice recognition when it was finally published.

Originally published by New Concepts Publishing, it was later reissued by Crescent Moon Press. The rights now belong to me once more and the book  is available in both print and digital editions. 

It was a nominee for Best Small Press Paranormal in Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award and has received excellent reviews.

Long and Short Reviews gave it 4 1/2 Stars and said, "The twists in this one were totally unexpected. There are surprises all along the way to the final revelation of who was behind all of the evil in the town. I did not expect some of this at all. I like that in a mystery--not knowing is the best kind of plot.

The romance builds slowly, and for each step these two take toward each other, they take two steps back. I loved it when they finally acknowledged their feeling were real, and the passion they finally let loose was wonderful." 

You can find the book at Amazon: http://amzn.com/B0112J0KIE
Hurry and download it now before the sale ends!

Monday, September 14, 2015

I wish...


I wish I could write faster. Some authors churn out books at an incredible speed. I plod along in comparison--although under pressure I can get down one thousand words a day. However, for me that's a big struggle and things like laundry and supper may not happen under those conditions.

Most of the time, I am a seat-of-the-pants writer, though not completely because I do start with an outline. The problem is that sometimes my characters veer off from my carefully made plans. If they happen to have a good explanation for their actions, I will allow them to go their own way and then adjust my outline.

I do write everyday whenever possible, but sometimes that's unrealistic. I also like to sleep regular hours. I am not one of those writers who stays up until dawn.

I don't watch television, except for the news or some special shows. I had hoped that when I retired there would be more time for writing. Ha! I didn't think about how elderly relatives would impact my writing schedule. Still, there are plenty of other authors with real, full-time jobs who put out three books or more a year.

And I cannot imagine how they do it.

Still, I have a good time writing and I am not going to give it up any time soon.

So my fans will just have to be patient with me. :^)

How fast do you write?

Friday, September 11, 2015

I Need Reviews



In the world of Amazon, more reviews guarantee books better placement in ads. It's tough enough to get people to buy or read books. It seems to be nearly impossible to get anyone (even relatives or very dear friends!) to place a review on Amazon.

A review does not need to be a book report like the kind you had to write in the fifth grade. It should simply tell if you liked the book and why.

For tips on writing reviews please read 12 Things Everybody and His Grandmother Needs to Know.

Remember that writing a review is the best thing you can do for an author.

I suggest you turn off the television. You don't need to binge watch every episode of an ancient TV series. Pick up a book and open the pages. Exercise your mind. :-)

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Chocolate Cherry Cake


I have too many cookbooks. When I first buy one, I study all the recipes, try a few, find a couple favorites, and then move on to another cookbook. I recently rediscovered an interesting cookbook, The RV & Camping Gourmet, from U-Haul. I bought the book because we used to go camping when our daughters were young.

We haven't gone camping in a long, long time. However, recently Daughter #1 bought her boyfriend a set of camping recipe cards. It was then I remembered my own camping cookbook. I took it off the shelf and started browsing through it. Many of the one-pot meals would have been handy when we had no electricity for eight days after Hurricane Sandy hit. At that time, since we had no refrigeration, I cooked up many meals using canned meat. The RV & Camping Gourmet has several one-pot recipes which used canned meat.

But there are desserts, too. :-)

Daughter #1 tried one the other day. It's not too sweet, but quite a pleasant end to a meal. It uses no eggs or milk. It's quick, simple, and good.

CHOCOLATE CHERRY CAKE

1  21-ounce can cherry pie filling
2 1/4  cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2  cups sugar
3/4  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2  teaspoons baking soda
3/4  teaspoon salt
1 1/2  cups water
1/2  cup cooking oil
1/4  cup vinegar
1 1/2  teaspoons vanilla

Spread the cherry pie filling evenly over the bottom of a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt. In another bowl combine water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Add liquid ingredients to flour mixture all at once; stir just to moisten. Pour batter evenly over cherry pie filling. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or till cake tests done. Cool 10 minutes in pan; invert and cool

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

It's rather nice with whipped cream, too.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Goodbye Summer


I took this photo last week at Ocean Grove. We went to the last summer band concert in the pavilion on the boardwalk as the sun set and the moon rose. For many, many years the end of summer for me meant heading back into the classroom to teach a brand new group of students. Since I retired, I don't have the sense of anticipation I used to have when September rolled around. I don't have to put up an eye-catching new bulletin board, I don't have to memorize names, and I don't have to plan my lessons.

For me now, summer just flows into fall. The leaves litter the driveway. The weather turns cooler. I watch over my father and my mother-in-law, keeping track of doctor's visits, taking them on outings, filling up their pill boxes, and paying their bills.

When I can, I sit down and write.

The summer things I always miss are the outdoor cultural events, like the band concerts. But I miss the amusement parks and the carnivals, too. I even miss sitting outside and eating in our own backyard.

What will you miss when summer is gone?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Romance With a Motorboat


There's a very old, well-known writer's adage which says, "Write what you know." Some writing authorities don't consider it a valid piece of advice. Some do. I believe real life winds up in every novel in some shape or form--because that's what makes the writing feel real.

In my book, Irons in the Fire, the hero owns a motorboat. Not surprisingly, my first date with hubby involved a ride in his motorboat. That's him in the photo standing in the boat while unhooking his lines. The boat was sixteen feet long and had a sixty-five horsepower Johnson outboard motor on the back. We went up the river and down the river and then we went out for pizza.

I had a good time. We went on more dates. We went up and down the river, sometimes we ventured into the Shrewsbury River, and occasionally we would drop anchor in Horseshoe Cove along Sandy Hook. We never went far into the bay because the boat was rather small and the waves in the bay can get rather large at times.

I packed picnic lunches, which we ate in the boat. We also dined at restaurants if they had docks along the river where we could tie up the boat.

We hopped into the boat to watch the Fourth of July fireworks. We got stuck on sandbars. We towed sailboats under the bridge. We helped to right sailboats when they toppled over.

We used up a lot of gasoline, but it was far less expensive in those days.

Love blossomed between us and by the following summer we were married.

Eventually, after baby #1 came along, we moved to a larger home five miles inland and sold the boat. It had been fun but we had other things to do.

When I wrote Irons in the Fire, all those rides up and down the river came back to haunt me--and I put them into the book. The plot is an invention, but the boat rides are not.

So if you'd like to spend a few evenings going for a virtual cruise up and down the river, I recommend Irons in the Fire.


But it now at AMAZON!



Friday, August 28, 2015

Do You Suffer From Writer's Guilt?


When I decided to become an author, I also made a conscious decision to quit feeling guilty for not having an immaculate house, not keeping up with the latest television shows, not dressing in the height of fashion, limiting my attendance at social events, and not driving the flashiest car.

However, I did not abandon my family, they have always come first. Eventually, my near and dear came to accept my decision. I will admit it took longer for some of them to understand, but others were with me from the very beginning.

Getting rid of guilt is important for creativity because guilt kills imagination.

I found an excellent blog post on the topic of writer's guilt. If you suffer from this malady go to:

http://www.writingandwellness.com/2015/07/21/10-ways-to-kick-writers-guilt-to-the-curb/


Read it, and then get back to writing. :-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hidden In The Reeds


There's a small lake in Thompson Park named Marlu Lake. Sometimes hubby and I take his mother and my father to the lake just to sit for a while and watch the scenery. Sometimes there are Canadian geese floating around on the lake. Last week, we saw a whole family of swans. Often, there are kayakers paddling along on the water. 

There were some very tall reeds growing at the edge on one side, but recently the reeds were cut down and I saw the white flowers pictured above. I didn't know what they were, but I am always curious to learn the names of things I don't know. After all, I might be able to use it in a story.

From what I gather, the plant is called Arrowhead. You can find more information about it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagittaria_latifolia

Another site (http://www.gpnc.org/arrowhea.htm) stated, "The corms were harvested by Native Americans (usually the women) in the fall.  They would feel around with their toes to locate and dislodge the tubers, which would float to the surface where they could be gathered.  Bitter when raw, they become quite tasty after cooking. For long periods of time when they were following the lower Columbia River in present-day Oregon, the Lewis and Clark expedition lived mainly on elk meat (which they killed themselves) and wapato purchased from the local tribes."

So if I was going to send a character off into the wilderness, I might have them eat the tubers of the arrowhead. :-)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mental Health and Hearing Aids


Each of us have five senses. Why would anyone dismiss one of those as being negligible? Yet, many people do when it comes to hearing. They don't want to wear a hearing aid because they are vain--or they don't want to pay for one because it's expensive. Of course, Medicare doesn't cover the expense. Obviously, the government thinks the loss of hearing isn't tragic. 

But it is. A Johns Hopkins News Release stated, "The findings add to a growing list of health consequences associated with hearing loss, including increased risk of dementia, falls, hospitalizations, and diminished physical and mental health overall."

Read more about it here: Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss

I have lived with hearing impaired people all my life. My father can't hear a thing without his hearing aid. His father, my grandfather also needed a hearing aid. My husband wears two hearing aids--but he is far better at figuring out songs by ear than I am. :-) 

As some of our friends are aging, their hearing has diminished. Yet, they refuse to get hearing aids. Hubby was talking to one of his friends the other day. He asked his friend a question, but his friend didn't answer him. That's because he didn't hear the question, but he doesn't believe he has a problem and he doesn't want to get a hearing aid. :-(

And that is sad. He will miss more than one question as the years go by. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sometimes Even Editors Should Use a Dictionary

At the writers' meeting last Saturday, I chatted with some authors whose editors ask them to change words in their stories because those editors didn't know the word. I've had that happen to me. I have spent most of my life near water. Once an editor judging a contest complained about my use of the word bulkhead. 

"What is that?" she wrote on the manuscript. (This was back in the old days of paper manuscripts.) This upset me because the word is in the dictionary and it's a very important word to know if you're living by an ocean or a river--where you will see a lot of bulkheads. 

In the discussion on Saturday, one author noted that using the proper terminology is important to the book and especially pertinent to the setting of the book. The main characters would be aware of the names of things and places proper to that place--the vocabulary of the area.

When I wrote Daddy Wanted, my editor questioned me about my use of the word DUMBO. The book is set in New York City and everyone in New York City knows where DUMBO is. I've been to DUMBO. Wikipedia says, "Dumbo, also known as DUMBO, is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. 'Dumbo' is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass."

My editor lives in Canada, but she's a very good and reasonable editor. When I explained that DUMBO is the well-known name of a specific area in NYC, she allowed me to keep the word in the book. 

Any editor has a tough job, which I don't envy. If there are 80,000 words in a book, the editor has to pore over each and every one of those words.

But sometimes, just like the rest of us, if an editor sees a word she doesn't know, she should look it up in the dictionary or on the internet. If the word is part of the jargon of a particular place, the word should stay in the book. At least, that's my opinion. :-)



What do you think?

Friday, August 14, 2015

I Signed a New Contract!


Prism Book Group is planning a new series based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Each author is going to be responsible for illustrating one part of the verse. I proposed an idea for Love Always Hopes--and yesterday I received the contract. :-)

My story will be titled Hoping for Joy. The series will begin in February. I am so excited to be part of this new venture and I can't wait to read the other authors' stories, too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sweet and Short and Just Right


Need a dose of sweetness? You'll find it in this collection of short stories. I've gathered seven of my compact romances into a small ebook. Right now, this anthology is exclusive to Kindle and free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. For everyone else the price is $0.99, which should buy you a lighter heart and a smile. 

You can find the book at http://amzn.com/B013OAMBSG

Friday, August 07, 2015

Thirty-Nine Years!


Thirty-nine years ago we were toasting our wedding at Diamond Jim's in Matawan. That reception hall is now gone, but we still make a good team. I hardly ate any of the prime rib we had chosen for our wedding feast. Actually, hubby was the one who favored the prime rib. Or was it Diamond Jim? He had a way of convincing us to get the most expensive things on the menu--like the cherry filling in the wedding cake. I would have been happy with lemon filling, but Diamond Jim assured me the guests would be horrified. I should put him in a novel somewhere. :-)

Actually, we hardly had any time to enjoy the party. The photographer was always ordering us around to pose here and there. The time flew.

But I remember our first dance. We swayed to Colour My World.


Then it was all over and we were off on our honeymoon. After that, it was thirty-nine very busy years of working, raising children, and now caring for elderly parents. Oh yes, and writing books and making music, too. It's been a blast!