How I Write – Guilty Pleasures

The subject: Name a guilty pleasure – one that is writing related and one in real life

Writing Guilty Pleasures

One of my biggest guilty pleasures when it comes to writing is world building, synopsis and emotions.

I like writing character emotions. Delving in deep into the inner workings of the characters, building tension with the emotions and showcasing the different emotional ups and downs in relationships. And it’s one of the things I actually one of my strengths. Often times, the characters will take me in places where I hadn’t anticipated which is frustrating but fun. It usually adds to the stories, character growth and makes for some interesting scenes and dialogue.

I do a lot of world building. Even in my contemporaries. If there is a restaurant, home, motorcycle club, club house, etc I make sure I know the design and layout. I have the restaurants, kitchens, jazz club, houses, strip club and even the banquet space layout done.

I have spreadsheets on the characters. I have my plot sheets. And a bunch of other tools I may or may not use (it depends on the story). Remind me to share some of them someday. And of course I do a blurb which I expand into a mini-synopsis (1 page). The synopsis is basic and helps to keep me on track. And I know it’s strange but I started it as a form of positive thinking instead of dreading the synopsis I decided to approach it as a learning tool and make it fun. And I found out that I liked writing synopses.

Real Life Guilty Pleasures

My real life guilty pleasures are Better Made Potato Chips and Vernors Ginger Ale.

I usually mix a bag of plain and bbq chips together. And I’ve even been known to crush the bbq ones up and eat it with pizza.

Deliciously different!

Vernors is what my mom used to serve us to settle our stomachs when we were sick as kids. Either warmed up, room temp or left out to weaken a bit. When I’m in the mood for a ginger ale it’s my go to drink. I remember going to the factory when I was growing up for a tour.

VERNORS DETROIT

Boston Cooler’s anyone?

A Boston Cooler is a Vernors float. It has nothing to do with the state of Massachusetts or city of Boston. It’s so named because Fred Sanders (from the Sanders Ice Cream Empire – and side note: another happy childhood memory I will share later) invented it at his ice cream shop which was located on Boston Boulevard in Detroit.

My sister when she lived out of town used to have my mom ship them to her along with some Faygo Rock and Rye (check out the flavor line-up.) I’ll have to talk about some of my favorite Detroit and Michigan centered food snacks another time.

Recipe:

    • 8 oz ginger ale – I use Vernors of course
    • 1 large scoop of vanilla ice cream

Pour ginger ale into a large glass. Add in ice cream. Or vice versa. It’s going to foam and you can add more ice cream or ginger ale if you like.

And I have a culinary guilty pleasure. I love making up spice blends, experimenting with recipes and creating recipes on my own. But the biggest is the creating my own spice blends. The other to is just secondary off shoots that are products of the spice blend creation.

Side note: Writing this post has made me realize how many food related happy memories I have that correspond to my childhood. And not just consumption but making and learning about. It’s a wonder that I turned out to be a foodie and a chef.

If you want to check out how a few of my writing friends write:

* Alexia Reed * Emma G. Delaney * Kimberly Farris *Kristen Koster *

Recipe of the Week: Lemon Vinaigrette

This is the vinaigrette I used for my composed salad for my A la Carte finale for my final practical for school. Chef loved my salad and said the vinaigrette rocked.

I did a composed salad of chopped romaine and chopped grilled romaine with marinated tomato concassé (marinated in a bit of the vinaigrette for flavor) as well as grilled squash to add a bit of height and a toasted almonds for garnish for crunch.

1/4c olive oil
2T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t dijon mustard
1 minced garlic clove
salt and black pepper

I was originally going to use fresh minced thyme or parsley or chives or even tarragon but I didn’t want to go against my thyme by having to go to the garden to pick the herbs. I played with the flavors until I was happy. I added a bit of the lemon zest and sherry vinegar as well as a touch of sugar to balance out the acidity.

The main thing is that this is a starter recipe. You can make it your own by adding what you want.

A great way to test the vinaigrette before you add it to a salad is to test it with one of the leafs of the salad greens. That way you can get a taste for how it will be on the salad. It is a truer way to taste than if you just use a spoon.

Definitions:

Composed Salad – A type of salad prepared with a number of ingredients that are all arranged neatly and symmetrically on the plate instead of being tossed together. Usually there is a main or centerpiece item. It can feature contrasting colors, textures (Crisp/Soft, Lean/Fatty), flavors (Spicy/Cool, Sweet/Sour) and temperatures (Hot/Cold). Each ingredient is capable of standing alone but enhanced by the other ingredients.

Concassé – It is a diced tomato that has been peeled and the seeds removed. Fresh tomatoes are scored on the bottom with a T or a X and blanched for no more than a minute, ideally no more than 30 seconds because you do not want the tomatoes to be mushy. The tomato should be firm but soft enough that the skin loosens. The length of time depends on the size of the tomato. It is then shocked. Remove the tough part of the stem by using the tip of a paring knife to carve a the small cone-shaped piece out of the stem. This can be done before blanching or after. You can also do this by slicing the tomato in half and cutting of the stem in a small V shape. Then proceed to remove the seeds. To remove the seeds, cut the tomato in half and either squeeze or scoop out the seeds with your fingers or a spoon. For each tomato, remove the tough part where the stem used to be by using the tip of a paring knife to carve a small cone-shaped piece out of the stem end.

Recipe of the week: Chicken Pot Pie

Double Crust aka Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie

As you can tell, my family ate/eats a lot of chicken. Again I am going to provide the old-fashioned recipe and the update recipe.

Old fashioned recipe:

This is the basic Betty Crocker®/Bisquick® version of the recipe. The original recipe was meant to be something quick and easy. Something housewives or women could put together fast and not have to stand over a hot stove and watch.

  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed or 1 can mixed vegetables, drained
  • 1 cup cut-up cooked chicken
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken, cream of potato or cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup Original Bisquick® mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg

1. Heat oven to 350ºF.
2. Mix everything but Bisquick, milk and egg in greased casserole dish.
3. Mix Bisquick, milk and egg til blended. Pour over casserole.
4. Bake 35-45 minutes or til golden brown.

Alternate:

Instead of using Bisquick®, milk and egg you can top with biscuits or pie crusts.

* If using biscuits, heat ingredients through and then pour into casserole dish. Then top with biscuits (homemade or store bought) and cook until biscuits are golden brown about 15 or 20 minutes.

* If using pie crusts, combine ingredients. Place one pie crust on bottom and then pour in ingredients, top with other pie crust. Crimp together edges. Cut slits for steam. Bake until crusts are golden about 25 – 30 minutes.

My version:

The basis for my chicken pot pie is a creamed chicken and veggies. Of course the key to this recipe (and any recipe really) is mise en place, which means to have everything prepped and ready to go ahead of time. Also, this is just a basis, you can substitute different vegetables (parsnips, leeks or broccoli for example), or eliminate some (take the mushrooms or potatoes out if you don’t want them)

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups cooked and cubed chicken (store bought rotisserie chicken or mix of breast and thighs)
  • 2 Tbsp dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • lemon juice
  • salt and white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 carrots, cut into rounds
  • 2-3 large baking potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup, fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 celery, diced
  • 1 package of frozen peas thawed
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 2 pie crusts

1. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Combine with flower. Let cook for minute til it is a blond or very light beige. Add in chicken broth off heat and whisk until smooth.
2. Return to heat and whisk in milk and heavy cream. Bring to a simmer.
3. Take off heat and whisk to make sure it is free of lumps.
4. Return to a low heat and in wine. Cook for a minute. Add in chicken and rest of seasonings.
5. While chicken is cooking, sautee vegetables (except peas and parsley) in remaining 2T of butter in a seperate pan, 3-5 minutes. Once done, stir into chicken mixture.
6. Taste for seasoning and add additional seasoning if necessary.
7. Roll out pie crust and transfer to baking dish. Pour in filling. Top with remaining crust. Trim, crimp and seal edges of crusts together. Cut slits for steam.
8. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes

Basic Pie Crust aka 3-2-1 Dough:

For the crust you can either make from scratch or use store bought – what I use depends on my mood. It is a very versatile crust and can be used for making pies. It can even be frozen to use later. This is a very basic pie crust recipe.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup, 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces. If you use salted butter, eliminate salt in recipe.
  • 1/2 cup ice water (about 8T)

Directions:

1. Combine flour, salt and sugar and stir until blended. Cut together flour mix and butter. It should be crumbly and resemble small peas. You can use your hands, two forks or a pastry blender if you have it. (I prefer to use my hands.) The pieces should be small and yellowish in color. It can take between 3-5 minutes.
2. Drizzle in ice water 2T (about 1/8 of a cup) at a time. Mix just until dough comes together. Add last tablespoon or two of ice water if necessary. Be careful not to overwork or your dough will be tough.
3. Divide dough into 2 disks. Shape dough into a flat disk, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  When ready, roll out into a square or circle (whichever shape is best to fit you casserole dish).  For an 8-9 inch square dish. I usually roll into a 10-12 inch square for the bottom. And a 9 inch square for the top.

Note: You can also top with biscuits, puff pastry or even phyllo dough.

How I Write – Reader Pet Peeves

The question is:

List your top 3-5 pet peeves as a reader that you’ve caught yourself doing in your writing.

Answer:

1. This is the only one I’ve caught myself doing when I write. But it tends to be in the rough/first draft stage. Sometimes I tend to show rather than tell. I’ve noticed I do this more when I write faster or am struggling with a scene. So I have to remember to make a note to go back and change it.

2. I hate wandering body parts. It makes me stop reading. I used to do this a lot when I first started writing. Eyes do not wander up a body, gazes do. There are others but this is one that I noticed in a book I was reading. The image it produces in my head is a pair of eyes popping out of someone’s head and rolling on the floor and up a person’s body. I am a very visual reader and writer.

3. Stereotypes – This should go without saying. But it doesn’t take that long or rather, isn’t that hard to do a bit of research. Especially in today’s digital age. If you have a question about a particular culture or heritage then ask. I have found people very willing to help out. My biggest peeve is having the token African American friend who is always neck rolling, hands on hips and lip smacking. Or to show the person is African American they speak slang or broken English and they are supposed to be working in a professional environment. The thing that pulls me out the quickest though when encountering stereotypes in books is me questioning whether or not the author bothered to do research.

4. The other pet peeve (though this is a minor one). I have read these stories where the heroine does not annoy me and is written in a way that makes me want to read. But I hate the “rich -itch” type of heroine. I understand the woman being strong, independent, hard working, confidant, ambitious, goal 0riented or even blunt but why does she have to be a “-itch”.

5. Constrained endings – I don’t know what else to call this. But those endings where everything is wrapped up with a question, proposal or conversation. I think this goes also to having a weak black moment but that’s something else. I don’t like those endings where I’m left thinking – Huh? That was it? That’s how it’s going to end. Note: this also works with those cliff hanger endings that authors sometimes do to let readers know there is another book coming and to make or try to entice readers to read the next book to see what happens. I call this the “Dallas” or “Who shot JR?” ending.

If you want to check out how a few of my writing friends write:

* Alexia Reed * Emma G. Delaney * Kimberly Farris *Kristen Koster *

Recipe of the Week: Chicken & Dumplings Redone

Everyone knows I am a cook as well as a writer. One thing I also get asked is what’s my signature dish. I always say chicken and dumplings. It’s one of the first things I remember making. Now there are thousands of Chicken and Dumplings recipes to be found on the internet. This is one that has been in my family for a while.

Chicken N Dumpmlins

I put my changes in parenthesis. It is modified and updated from my families version. The original version is included down below.

Ingredients:

  • 3 teaspoons vegetable oil (You can use canola oil, olive oil, or one of the blended oils)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (you can use white pepper if you prefer)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut in de-boned, cut in pieces (you can use boneless chicken breasts and thighs, chopped in pieces)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped in a small or medium dice (Or 1 onion and 1 leek. For the leeks use white and light green parts sliced thin)
  • 1 bunch of celery, cut into a small or  medium dice (I use 1/2 a bunch usually 3 or 4 ribs.)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into rounds (roughly 1/2 inch thick) or diced
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, finely minced (this is optional)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or sherry
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 springs thyme (leaves only), chopped

Dumplings:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of white pepper
  • 1 cup milk

Note: My changes/additions to the dumplings. I usually do one or the other.:

  • 2 teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped/minced
  • 2 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped/minced
  • 2 teaspoon fresh chives, finely chopped/minced

For chicken stew/soup:

1. Lightly season chicken with seasoned salt and pepper.
2. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1 1/2 teaspoon of oil over medium high heat. Add in chicken in a single layer. You may have to cook in batches to ensure even cooking. Let the chicken cook, flipping once, until the outsides are browned and the center is almost or just cooked through.
3. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
4. Once all the chicken is cooked, add rest of oil.  Add in vegetables and cook til soft about 5 to 7 minutes. If using garlic, add in and cook for one minute.
5. Add in flour and stir until vegetables are coated. Cook 1 minute. Add in liquids and herbs (wine, broth, milk, thyme and bay leaf).
6. Cook for a few minutes and add back in chicken pieces. You can chop the chicken up into smaller bites or shred depending on your on personal preference.
7. Stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for 30 to 35 minutes. Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
8. After 30 minutes, uncover and taste. Add in additional seasonings if desired.

For Dumplings:

1. Mix egg and oil
2. Mix dry ingredients except herbs.
3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until mixture is crumbly.
4. Add milk to crumbly dough mixture a small bit (1 to 2 Tablespoons) at a time til sticky. Add in herbs.
5. Portion out dumplings with a scoop, spoon or hand. (The following is how I make my dumplings – see notes/recipe below) Or knead dough. Roll into a square on floured surface. Cut into small or medium squares. Add dumplings to the stew/soup and turn heat to low.
6. Cover and continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes. Dumplings should be puffy, doubled and floating. Stir to dunk and coat dumplings and serve.

Of course this recipe is vastly different from the Good Old-Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings. So you can compare. This is how the recipe started out in my family.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • salt and pepper
  • enough water to cover (a quart or two)
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 bunch celery chopped
  • 2 carrots chopped

For Dumplings:

  • 2 cups flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk

1. Rinse chicken. Season
2. Add everything into a large pot.
3. Add chicken, breast side down.
4. Add more water to cover chicken if needed or as necessary.
5. Bring to boil. Skim surface for scum and foam.
6. Reduce heat and simmer covered til tender. Usually 2.5 to 3 hours.
7. Remove chicken. Keep liquid on a low simmer. Skim off fat and reserve about 1/2 cup.
8. Cool chicken and fat roughly 30 to 45 minutes.
9. De-bone and shred chicken. Return to pot.
10. Mix cooled reserved fat with milk. If fat to hot, mix with 1 or 2 ice cubes. Add flour to make dough. Dough will be stiff.
11. Knead dough. Roll out into 1/2 inch thick square. Cut dough with sharp knife. Usually makes 20 to 30 dumplings depending on size of cutting.
12. Taste simmering liquid. Season if desired. Add dumplings to simmering pot. Cover. Simmer for additional 15 to 20 minutes.
13. Serve in bowls. Garnish with green onions or chopped parsley.

I still make my dumplings this way.

Dramas

What’s your favorite book?

Is it filled with action and drama?

Does it have romance? Or romantic elements?

Or does it focus on the relationships of the people (characters) in the book?

I’ve been thinking about drama lately.

How we love it in books, movies and on t.v. shows? But in real life, not so much.

How some are quick to put a book down because it has not enough drama? But what if a book has too much drama?

So much drama that’s it’s overwhelming and makes you actually (dare I say it…) put the book down?

Is there such a thing as too much drama?

Story Spark – Love

Here are a few story sparks for one of the stories I’m currently working on

Cupid

Can you guess what’s it about?

Love

How about now?

Aphrodite

The title is tentatively called – Hearts & Arrows. It’s a light paranormal, women’s fiction story.

How I Write – Genres

The question is:

Why do you write in a particular genre? What attracted you to it? Do you like to read a genre you don’t or can’t write? Why? Would you like to try a different genre than you current write?

Here’s the breakdown:

I write in a variety of genre’s. But the ones I am drawn to most are paranormal, fantasy and contemporary. The most common element is romance.

I like paranormal and fantasy because I like to create worlds and languages and rules for magic. It is fun to create histories. It is fun to make up magic. Some of the first books that grabbed my attention were the fantasies and sci-fi books. What attracted me to the paranormal and fantasy book is the magic.

The thought of how the world would be different if magical creatures exist, if magic existed. And then the what if’s start. What if humans knew about it? What if they didn’t? What if…

I like to read psychological thrillers and mysteries but don’t know if I can quite do them justice. There is a lot of minute details and information and intrigue that goes on. And I think it takes special skill to blend everything that goes on in the story together.

I think Alfred Hitchcock also has something to do with it. I love how the creates the story and builds the tempo and adds in different elements and then nothing happens. And then bam – someone is offed or poisoned.

And I don’t think the question is “Would you like to try a different genre than you current write?” but “Will I try a different genre?”. The answer to that question is most definitely, probably, yes.

Mid Feb – Goals Checkup

Well I learned a lot in the short time we’ve been in the year 2012.

So I started working on Entrapped. Then I had a big computer crash.

I lost a few of my world building books/notebooks. I lost a lot of my music and videos and pictures. And I lost 22K on Entrapped. I started over last week and have made a bit of progress.

Recipe is going to be temporarily hiatused. I realize I’m starting in the wrong place. And this is going to be a series centered around this one restaurant/couple. I was actually writing book 2. So I’m going to do a bit of restructuring and…..

Plotting.

While I’m restructuring and reworking Recipe I’m going to work on my light paranormal story – Hearts and Arrows.

So the rest of my goals for the month are:

1. Get to 20% done on Hearts and Arrows.

2. Get 40% done on Entrapped.

3. Restructure Recipe

4. Transfer my worldbuilding info for my stories to a personal wiki.

5. Read 2 books

6. Continue working on my crafting projects.

 

Goals – EOM Update – January

Here’s how the goals have come along this month:

  • I wanted to finish Recipe for Love  and have it ready for submission by January 31st (today). – I ran into a few problems story wise and am still struggling with a few parts of the relationship dynamics of the story but I am making progress. Plus this story isn’t going to be as short as I had originally anticipated.
  • I wanted to have  Entrapped sketched and outlined completely by the end of the month. – This is actually on step. I plan on starting working on this story next week.
  • I wanted to eat healthier at work for at least 2 meal a week and work up to 3 meals a week. I work in a deli where this is a lot of temptations food wise – I am actually on track with this goal as well. I have 4 go to healthier choice meals.
  • I planned on reading 2 books. – I read 3 books 11/22/63 by Stephen King, The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (this was a gift from a co-worker) and Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I have started on Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt as part of my books for February.
  • I wanted to start on the blanket for Preemie Project set (booties, hats, blankets). – I have started on the blanket I am about a quarter-way through. It is a small blanket but I am working on another crafting project as well so that is also occupying my time.

How did you do on your January goals? What were the hits and misses? What surprised you? What goal or goals did you rethink or defer or remove , if any?