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Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Jersey Romance Writers' Conference 2017


Writers' conferences are amazing! As you can see above, I received a bunch of free books at the New Jersey Romance Writers' Conference this weekend. I actually could have gotten more, but I didn't want to be too greedy. 😇 

However, there's more to a writers' conference than free books. There's enthusiasm and encouragement along with a heaping dose of helpful, practical information about the business of writing and marketing books. The workshops at NJRW's conference ran the gamut from a beginner's class on point of view to round table discussions with other published authors concerning the state of the industry.


My top tip this weekend concerned Amazon ads. I had tried signing up for an Amazon ad more than a year ago, but my ad did not seem to work for me. As it turns out, other authors have found the ads successful by using their own extensive and exhaustive lists of keywords. 


One of my favorite workshops was given by Eileen Dreyer titled "His Brain/Her Brain: Why It Took Moses 40 Years to Get out of the Desert." Ms. Dreyer put together all the facts concerning the differences in men's brains and women's brains. As soon as I returned home, I showed my notes home to my husband. He studied them with some bemusement. I don't know if he'll understand me any better, but I believe I'll understand him far more now that I know the facts. 😂


I was looking forward to Tracey Lyons talk titled "Keeping the Sexy in Sweet," but unfortunately Ms. Lyons didn't show. Still, I did get a copy of her book The Heart of an Agent, and I've already started to read it. (It's GOOD!)


Of course, the best thing about a writers' conference is simply being with other writers and meeting authors from all over the country. As romance writers, we are invested in hope. Our stories have happy endings and sometimes a happy ending is all you need to BELIEVE. 

Monday, October 09, 2017

My Swedish Meat Balls


A long time ago, I was the bride-to-be in an age where bridal registries were not what they are today. Among my many gifts I received at my bridal shower were three slow cookers. I gave one to my mother and kept the other two.

At first, I rarely used the gadgets, but as time went on I found their usefulness went beyond stew. For instance, they were excellent for keeping mulled cider hot at a party.

Still, a recipe my family and I enjoyed early on was one for Swedish meat balls from a booklet that came with one of the slow cookers.
These meat balls are not like the famed Swedish meat balls served at IKEA. What I like in particular about this recipe is the addition of dill in the sauce.

Give this one a try--and double the recipe so you'll have plenty of leftovers.



SWEDISH MEAT BALLS
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons shortening
1 can beef broth
3/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Soak bread crumbs in milk for 5 minutes.

2. Combine crumb mixture with meat, eggs, and next four ingredients. Shape into balls about an inch in diameter.

3. Heat shortening in skillet and brown meat balls.

4. Place meat balls in cooker and add broth, dill weed and pepper.

5. Cook on low 4 hours.

Yield: 3 dozen meat balls.



Wednesday, October 04, 2017

In Life and In Books #ActionsSpeakLouderThanWords

For my parents' sixtieth wedding anniversary in 2007, we celebrated with a backyard party. Dad put a garter on my mother's ankle. Everyone donned flower leis and there was a bit of champagne as well. It was a small affair--just family. Two years later my mother died and last year my father passed away. They were good people and I was blessed to have them as parents.

Everyone in our family--and in our extended family has been rather loquacious. They have all loved to talk. Any gathering was guaranteed to be boisterous, but fun and always memorable.

While all my parents' words have faded away, there are many things they did that remain embedded in my memory. My father never failed to tip his hat when he passed a church. Dad spent forty years working for the Jersey Journal and took pains to get the stories right. He was unfailingly honest. Whenever my parents argued, my father bought flowers. He bought flowers for other occasions, too. There was never any doubt that he loved my mother.

When one of the neighbor's children became ill, my mother made a huge batch of cream puffs and gave them to the family. When another neighbor needed a ride to the train station, my mother drove her. If someone was hungry, Mom gave them food. One mentally disabled young man often came to the door for cookies and my parents bought cookies just so they would have them for him.

My parents treated everyone with respect. They were the good guys.

When I'm writing a book, I know there will be times the characters may say something they don't mean. Talk is--after all--cheap. But a protagonist must do the right thing, no matter what. The protagonist will go out of their way to help someone in need. Of course, the antagonist may play along and say the right thing, but he or she will invariably do the wrong thing.

This may sound rather simplistic, but to put it another way a leopard can't change his spots. Most folks behave in a certain manner all the time--like that aging uncle who invariably hands out a lecture on the same topic every time you see him. He's a good man, but he can't remember where he left his car. A detail like that conveys more than pages of description. It doesn't take much to paint an accurate picture readers won't forget.

Actions do speak louder than words, in life and in books. I know the good guys goof up sometimes, but they always learn from their mistakes and when the time comes for the hero or heroine to show their true mettle, they do. I write fiction, but in many ways it's not that far from the truth.