Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Release Day: THE PREDATOR: Hunters And Hunted (Official Movie Prequel)

It's a very special release day here in which Jim adds to the canon of The Predator franchise with the release of this thrilling prequel to the movie!


THE PREDATOR: HUNTERS AND HUNTED
The official prequel leading directly into THE PREDATOR. Introduces key concepts that will explode onto the screen in the movie. 

For centuries Earth has been visited by warlike creatures that stalk mankind's finest warriors. Their goals unknown, these deadly hunters kill their prey and depart as invisibly as they arrived, leaving no trace other than a trail of bodies.

When Roger Elliott faced such a creature during the Vietnam War, he didn't expect to survive. Nor did he expect that, decades later, he would train the Reavers, a clandestine strike force attached to Project Stargazer. Their mission: to capture one of the creatures, thus proving its existence, disassembling its tech, and balancing the odds between the HUNTERS AND HUNTED.

The Predator, Alien, and Aliens TM & © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

BUY IT NOW:
Amazon   |  Barnes & Noble  |   BAM!  |  Indiebound

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Strategy Games and Martial Arts in SFF Worldbuilding

When I was in Denver for the RWA National Conference, my friend and writing buddy, Darynda Jones, and I took a lunch break at Ship Tavern in the Brown Palace Hotel. While there, I spotted this guy and snapped a pic. It seemed like a good omen, because I finished THE ORCHID THRONE during our mini-writing retreat there, and now (finally!) am going back to THE ARROWS OF THE HEART. This image is highly relevant to the story, for those of you who've studied the cover. 

Once I finish this blog post, I'm diving back into THE ARROWS OF THE HEART. It gave my own heart a little stab to see I haven't opened the document since March 20, 2018. That's over four months ago. A third of a year! Where has it gone??? I have no idea. 

Anyway, our topic this week at the SFF Seven is: If you had to invent a sport or game for your novels (or ever have), what would it be?

It's probably telling about me personally that I've invented several games, and a couple of martial arts systems, for my books - but never any sports. I'm so not a sports girl. If I were to invent a sport, it would probably be something forced on children where they're forced to deal with objects flying at them at speeds as fast as the scorn of their peers is scathing.

Not that I'm scarred or anything.

Despite my early clumsiness in all things Phys Ed, I later discovered Chinese martial arts - and studied with a school for over fifteen years. I drew on that practice in Tai Chi Ch'uan, Pakua Chang, Hsing-I, Shaolin Temple Boxing, and others, to build the martial system that's part of the worship of Danu in The Twelve Kingdoms, The Uncharted Realms, and even in The Chronicles of Dasnaria. (Fun fact: Jenna's dance, the ducerse, is a modification of a Pakua form that can be performed as a slow dance with saucers of water or lit candles.)

Invented martial systems are a terrific way to flesh out a world in SFF. Many draw on religious or philosophical tenets (as mine do), along with the physical training and more aggressive applications. A character devoted to a martial practice like these will have their entire worldview and choices informed by that. 

I've also invented a few strategy games, such as kiauo in THE PAGES OF THE MIND. That game serves several purposes in the story. The shape of the game board and the pieces give important clues to the culture and what they hold sacred. The game itself allows communication between two people who don't speak the same language - and they build an understanding of each other through it. Also, a strategy game gives character insight in the same way martial systems do. Strategic thinking occurs in more places than on a battlefield. 

Sports can do this, too - JK Rowling's famous sport of Quidditch being a prime example. Come to think of it, it IS a way to torture children and subject them to the scorn of their peers, isn't it? TOLD YOU. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Flipping the Topic


The topic this week was expressed as something along the lines of ‘how to make a kid hate reading.” Well, nothing on Earth has the power to make me hate reading and if a child likes books to begin with, a few bad or laborious or boring or centuries old books won’t put them off the entire concept of reading for the rest of their lives!

By the time I encountered Charles Dickens (my personal least favorite author in the entire world) and Leo Tolstoy because somebody somewhere decided I needed to read these doorstopper tomes in order to be a complete and well-rounded student (yeah, right), my love for reading what I wanted to read was well established and had already survived my mother’s disdain for comic books (hello Magnus Robot Fighter and Brothers of the Spear). I read voraciously, I always have and I plan to keep doing that as long as Iive.

No one’s going to come after my high school diploma if I admit right now to only skimming Little Dorrit and Bleak House and Anna Karenina, right? Because I may have written book reports based on reading the first chapter and the last chapter and a few things in between. (We didn’t have Cliff Notes in my day.) I was wayyyy ahead of my time on the whole DNF thing.

And then I’m sure I went right back to reading my endless supply of Trixie Belden books and Andre Norton science fiction adventures and more.

I don’t like Shakespeare either. So sue me. And pass me a book with a nice satisfying Happy Ever After.

I read all of The Aeneid and The Odyssey in translation. I read Last Days of Pompeii (although I suspect the erupting volcano was a big part of the allure – I love my disaster stories), which was published in 1834…I read The Three Musketeers endless times. I can read classics if I find them interesting on a personal level.

(Which reminds me of that line from ‘Cutting Edge’ where D. B. Sweeney’s character says sarcastically, “Doug can read.” Yup, me too. Can we talk movies now instead of huge, boring books???)

I like ‘Scrooged’ and “The Muppet Christmas Carol”… just not the source material.

Returning now to my gigantic To Be Read List...


Note: All photos from DepositPhoto

Friday, July 27, 2018

What I Hate: How Long You Got?

Holy horse feathers. Whose idea was it to make me think back to high school AP English? That class taught by the dude wearing suits from the year I was born. That teacher who liked to get aggressive and tell me I wasn't the best writer in his class. That class where it was all I could do to not shout back that so long as I stayed in his class I'd never get any better as a writer, either.

Woo. O_o This will not be a pretty stroll down memory lane, y'all. So you know how Vivien doesn't have time for hate? S'okay. I picked up what she set down and I have ALL the detestation and loathing. Not for individual books. Much. I mean to this day I don't see the point of Catcher in the Rye or the book about the idjit kid who shoves his best friend out of a tree. On the other hand, there were books I really, really liked. The Plague. A Clockwork Orange. I still have a soft spot for The Most Dangerous Game and The Lottery.

No, here's my hate-rant.

We were instructed to read privileged, long dead white male authors. As if there were no other perspectives on earth. No other views of the world or how we exist within it. How do I know the authors were privileged? It's all in their bios. They all went to college, which in the time(s) most of them were writing meant privilege. I don't mean to say we shouldn't have read some of these guys. Some of them were brilliant writers. Give me Mark Twain any day. But why not Harriet Tubman? Would it have killed anyone to ask us to read a black woman's words? To let us catch the most fleeting and horrifying glimpse of her world? Would anyone have been scarred forever to learn that the white, European male perspective isn't the only one on earth? Apparently it would have because books by women or people of color weren't even offered as options on the alternate reading list.

It took until I got to Evergreen State College for someone to begin pointing me at literature by people who didn't look like me. The Color Purple by Alice Walker is still etched into my head. So are some of the really contentious discussions we had around the themes of the story.

Here's the interesting thing. The discussions in AP English classes were boring. No one got heated. In fact, there was actually precious little 'discussion'. Yeah, yeah, here's what the book was about. Sure, cool imagery, bro, but a sentence with 123 words? Really? Isn't there a drug to help with that? But once discussion turned to something like The Color Purple  in college - those discussions were ANIMATED. No one was bored. I think it was because our worlds and our perspectives had been challenged and we were unsettled by it. We had to talk it out. That, to me, is what makes great literature. If a book can shake you up *just* enough - then the book won.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Looking Back To The "Classics"-- Rereading my Problematic Fave

So, here's a thing that's been happening on my Twitter the past couple weeks:
At what point does something become a "classic", and how do we bestow that honor?  And when a book has a generation between when it came out and now, how does it read in the present?

These are questions I've asked myself as I've dug into a re-read of The Belgariada series that was very influential to me in my youth, but I hadn't read in years.  And how does it hold up?  How does it not?  How problematic is my problematic fave?  I've been digging into this as I re-read and livetweet the re-read.  Sometimes you have to tear down a classic, even one you love.

You can follow along with the #Belgariad hashtag, or here's a threadreader roll-up of everything so far.   Right now I'm about midway through the third book, and I've been going along at about a book a week.  (Though expect me to get a bit behind next week, because Many Things Are Happening.) 

It's all been a very interesting and enlightening process.  A lot to unpack in it all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ain't got time for hate

This week at the SFF Seven party-in-a-blog, we're talking about books that we loathed, specifically those classics that teachers or mentors forced upon us and threatened us on pain of Fs until we read them.

I studied literature in college, so yeah, I read quite a few things that I didn't especially dig. But I was also a stubborn and spiteful child, so fairly often I'd choose to write papers on the worst fictional offenders, the books I initially loathed. Which meant I had to read them again. And again.

And you know what happened sometimes (most times)? On about the third reading, I'd crack the bitter nut, peer inside to the meat, and realize the deep parts of that book were actually delicious.

I remember specifically that happening with a a half dozen Russian tragedies (hello, Anna Karenina), everything I had to read by Goethe, and E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News. The thing about literary classics that suck superficially is that there is subtext. So if you dig deep enough, you will find something else, especially if the author has done a good enough job layering to have a book join the literary canon.

These days, no one is forcing me to read, so I read what I want to. Sometimes it's layered, high-protein, literary nuttiness. Sometimes it's deep-dish genre pizza. Sometimes it's birthday cake fluff consisting mostly of icing and sugar flowers. Sometimes it's just a snack, a cookie, a lollipop, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get confectioner's sugar joy ride.

Because these days? I don't have time to read a book twice or thrice before I see its beauty. And I sure don't have time for hate.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Release Day! The Captured Spy by @KAKrantz

Dear Readers, I am thrilled to present the third book in my Immortal Spy Urban Fantasy series, with the fabulous cover by Gene Mollica Studios.


THE CAPTURED SPY
Immortal Spy: Book 3

Sometimes the Fates give you a do-over.

Ten years ago, Bix and her team of Dark Ops agents had a mission to rescue one of their own. The mission went pear-shaped; her team died, she was exiled, and the package was never retrieved. The guilt for that failure is a weight Bix can’t shake…until she receives news that the agent is still alive and in possession of technology that could destroy the Mid Worlds. All Bix has to do is break the captured spy out of a top-secret supermax facility and destroy the tech before enemy forces beat her to the punch.

Unfortunately, a prison built of potent magic to contain the Mids’ worst deviants isn’t on any map or radar. To get the necessary intel, Bix will resurrect a menacing identity and reach deep into the criminal underbelly where her legacy is far from forgotten. Old enemies lurk in the shadows, swift to strike. Even the darkness can betray her. As her allies fall, Bix will have to rely on the aid of adversaries to complete her mission. But supermax does strange things to the mind, and some things cannot be undone.

Gods will perish when madness descends upon a captured spy.

Available Now!
in eBook and Paperback
Amazon   |  iBooks   |  B&N   |  Kobo  |  Overdrive (for libraries)

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Old Man and the Sea

I have to say, I absolutely loathed that book.

Why? Because nothing happens and there's no cast. There is virtually no interactions between characters and the pacing is, well, to be kind, glacial.

I get it, lots of symbolism.

Din't care. It might be a masterpiece but I hated it. I'd rather read a hundred pulps than one more book like The Old Man And The Sea. I rather liked some of Hemingway's other works, despite being forced to read them, but I have not even the faintest affection for the novel in question.

That's all the time I have this week. I've just gotten married and I'm rather busy adoring my new wife.

Keep smiling,

Jim




It took  us a while....but we got there. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

How to Teach a Kid to Hate Reading

Here's me and RITA Finalist Darynda Jones at the RITA ceremonies at RWA 2018. A fabulous evening!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Which “Classic” Author’s Work Do You Loathe and Why?

Mine? THE DEERSLAYER, by James Fenimore Cooper.

Yes, I read it in 5th or 6th grade - because I was forced to - but the scars remain. I had been pushed into some sort of advanced reading pod with other unsuspecting dolphins book lovers, and told that we had to read this book.

It was the first time IN MY LIFE that I DIDN'T ENJOY READING.

I mean, my mother read to me every night, until I started reading over her shoulder and correcting her mistakes. At which point, she threw up her hands and just handed me the books. I think I was about six. I was allowed to check out five books a week from the library and it was an effort to make them last. Once I had allowance money, I spent it on books. I read books in class, on the playground, at home, in the car. I even invited my friends to come over and read.

I was that kid.

Probably a lot of you were, too.

So to make me hate reading took a lot of effort. I still remember the woman who insisted I should like this book. When I told her I didn't want to read it, she said I had to.

I loathed everything about it and her.

Many years later I found the Mark Twain essay, Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses, which made me feel at least validated in my loathing. But really, at ten or eleven, I wasn't thinking about all those excellent points Twain makes. I hated reading about this guy who was boring and hateful at once, about women being scalped and raped, and about things I had zero interest in.

This kind of thing is how we teach kids to hate reading. I know things have gotten better and I celebrate those teachers and librarians out there putting books into kids' hands, helping them find books to LOVE.

That's what reading should be about.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Projects I Have Abandoned

DepositPhoto

Do I ever abandon projects? Crafts projects, yes. I used to have an entire sewing room full of bins of fabric and patterns. I was always way more ambitious than my skills actually allowed for. I only just got rid of two fabric turkeys that had been sitting half done for maybe twenty years. In fairness to myself, I did finish two of said turkeys at the time in the 1990’s and OMG were they a LOT of work. I had a needlepoint kit my late husband bought me right after we were married (because I wanted to try it) that sat for even longer than the turkeys, with a few stitches and the threaded needle jabbed into the canvas, until I eventually sold it on eBay because it was a vintage pattern by that time.

I completed a ton of projects in the same time frame – doll clothes, doll quilts, elaborate Halloween costumes, frilly nightgowns for my daughters and their dolls, ornamental pillows, appliqued Christmas tree skirts, all my own clothes in college, pinch pleat fully lined drapes for the bedroom, etc. But for many other projects, the thought of the task and buying the necessary supplies were as far as I got. Either I wasn’t patient enough, my skills weren’t up to the task and the item wasn’t going to look remotely like the photo on the pattern cover, there wasn’t time, I lost interest, newer and shinier stuff came along…

Yeah, our project was MUCH teenier in scope than this!
DepositPhoto
In the day job, we abandoned projects on occasion, usually because the government failed to continue funding them. One I still remember fondly was for a miniature airplane to explore Mars. It would have been an early precursor of a drone, although controlled by its own computer, since the lag time between Earth and Mars wouldn’t have allowed for human control. The group I supervised at the time had been assigned to handle all the contracts in the developmental phase and we loved ‘owning’ it and working so closely with the scientists. But alas.

In the writing world? No, I don’t abandon projects. If an idea gets far enough with me that I’m putting words on the page, I’ll finish the book. The fact I’m working on it means I was excited enough about the characters and the plot to need to tell the story and my Muse is fully engaged. I may set a book aside if another book comes to me overnight full-fledged and demanding to be written, like Star Cruise: Marooned did, or Jadrian, but then I return to whatever I had been working on previously and finish it.

Shrug. Everyone works differently and fortunately there’s no one ‘right way’ to be an author or to pursue a writing career!

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Lost

This is going to be short because both my Surface and my Alienware laptops have been possessed by demons and are refusing to function correctly. Let's see if I can beat the weird on this box before it nails shut my digital coffin.

Projects. Do I abandon them? Yes. All the time.

Lots of ideas. ALL THE TIME with the ideas. But I have a strict rule. If I'm working on another book, the idea takes a number and stands in line. This means a page or two of notes and/or character information to remind me what caught my attention in the first place. Then it gets stuck in a file. When I finish a book and want another project, I rifle through my idea folders and see what jumps out at me. Some ideas were never that great to begin with and they die right there. And I will say that 90% of projects that get abandoned are abandon at the idea stage when they have very little invested in them.

But we're really asking about books. Not ideas. And yes. I do have books that I've abandoned. Completed books that will never see the light of day simply because they represent learning curve. It's painfully obvious when you look at them that I had no idea what I was doing - or that I was in the messy process of figuring out what I was doing. Maybe. We've talked about them before.

I have a book that's finished and sitting - not quite abandoned - it's stewing, I think, because it had a flaw in the telling of the story that I believe I now know how to solve. No problem. I'm just in the middle of finishing a series. It gets priority.

So while I won't say 'never' - I will say that I haven't yet abandoned a book in progress since I got published. But the temptation to do so right about now is REAL. I'm at that whiny 'but this is haaaaaaard' stage of composition and that's the point when historically, things have broken free for me in figuring out the last bits. I'm counting on that.

Assuming that at least one of the computers will cooperate. That I've made it this far without incident (the Surface likes to random close what I'm working on for reasons as yet unknown) I suspect I have a heat issue on this box. Heat death. It took my gaming box and now it's coming for my writing box.

I might as well go for a swim in the gator pond.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Putting Projects on the Backburner

If you go up to a writer and say, "I've got this idea for a book", if they're being honest, they will probably say something along the lines of "I don't need ideas, I need time."

Ideas are pretty easy.  Manifesting them is the tough part.

I rarely truly abandon projects.  I have a few "terminal cases", projects that I really have no intention to get back to any time in the near future, but are they truly "abandoned"? Or are they in a wood-lined cask, aging and ripening until they're ready? 

Not sure.

At this point, it's more a matter of priorities.  Which projects need to be done now (because, say, they're under contract), and which are for somewhere down the road.
Speaking of Down The Road, THE WAY OF THE SHIELD is out soon, and you have two possible chances to win an ARC before it comes out.  One is to come to ArmadilloCon, where I'll be teaching the writers workshop and appearing on panels.  The first person to come up to me an make a decent attempt at reciting the Tarian Oath will get one ARC:

“With Shield on arm and sword in hand
I will not yield, but hold and stand,
As I draw breath, I’ll allow no harm,
And fight back death, with shield on arm.”

Now, what if you can't come to Austin, I fully understand.  Here's the other way: below I’m going to put eight hints for the titles of eight prospective Maradaine Phase II Novels. And so we’re on the same page, these titles each would represent Book Four and Five of the four respective series, but I’ve mixed up the order so it’s not completely obvious what’s what.

Email your guesses to me before AUGUST 1st, 2018.  The entry that is the most correct (or, barring that, most entertaining in incorrectness) will win an ARC (limited to mailing in US and Canada).  Sound good?  Here goes:
The Q_____ G_____
The A_____ of C_____
The S_____ of the C_____
An U_____ of U_____ M_____
The C_____ of the C_____
A P_____ of P_____
The N_____ K_____ of R_____ S_____
A_____ and D_____

Happy guessing!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

As Elsa would say, let that stuff go.

52.

I have 52 manuscripts in my Just Writing dropbox folder. Some are complete, some have a couple of filled-in scenes and then basically a synopsis to remind me how I meant the story to go. None of them are sellable or even readable.

Not sure about all authors, but I get ideas a lot. I'll think, whoa, I'd really like to read a paranormal romance where the heroine hooks up with a not-as-evil-as-he-seems anti-Christ sort of dude. So I go off and write 60k (so, so dodgy) words because I'm so into the idea... and then I stumble across a book on a shelf somewhere that has already dealt with the topic. Brilliantly. Perfectly. (Thank you, Darynda Jones. Your version is the one the world needed.)

So anyway, my answer to this week's question -- do you ever abandon a project, and if so why? -- is yes, and because sharing the story isn't necessary. It was enough to have written it to settle my own brain.

See, thing is, not every idea that bubbles up in a writer's brain is going to work for actual readers. And not every writer is capable of writing every idea they have.

It's okay to put that first manuscript in a drawer. It's okay to say, you know what, there just isn't room in the market for another Harry Potter clone. (Inner voice says, "Yeah, but ours is with fresh-out-of-high-school new adults learning magic as a profession and how to adult and ..." and I say, "Shut up, inner voice. Seriously, just shut up.") It's okay to realize you've grown as a writer since you started working on that space opera that, let's be honest, was just a Deep Space Nine fanfic with substituted names.

It's okay to write those for-pleasure idea bursts. It's even okay to love them.

And it's also okay to let them go. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

5 Reasons Projects Are Abandoned

No one likes to say "I give up." We're taught from a young age that quitting is a horrible character flaw. On the other hand, the older we get, the more we understand we can't do everything. Our time, energy, and resources are limited.

Therefore, here are 5 Reasons I Abandon Projects:

1) Don't fit the schedule
My analytical project manager brain always assigns priorities, rankings if you will, to projects. A leftover from my dot-com days that says if dates slip then features drop. Features, in this case, could be a free short story to include in a newsletter or a perma-free novella told from an alternate POV to boost sales to a series.

2) No longer the right solution to a goal
When planning projects for the next year to 18 months, things change. ~gasp~ Meanwhile, I'm learning more about the business through classes, shared best practices, or trial and error. What was once the best strategy has to be revised. If my goal is to increase sales by 8% over 6 months, how I get there can absolutely result in me dumping one strategy if a less resource-demanding solution comes along.

3) Increase in price
Inflation is real. Budgets are necessary. P&Ls are good business practices. Market changes happen. That awesome resource that was affordable in the planning stages but has since increased its fees so its now out of budget? That kills a project toot sweet. Then are the projects for which I budgeted X but didn't properly account for all the inputs, so it should never have been in my plans in the first place. ~doh!~

4) Unnecessary
It was a genius concept when it was hatched, but it had a window of opportunity that closed, the strategy was trashed in favor of something else, or a third-party stepped up to provide the service/solution/alternative means (aka I'm not the one who has to do the work anymore, woot!).


5) Sailing A Sinking Ship
If it's a group project and key players are flaking out--barring a legal or financial cost of non-delivery--I'm not going to stick around to salvage the project. I spent a lot of my corporate days being the fixer, the catcher, the patcher, and the cleaner. If I'm not being paid handsomely to play those parts, I am not assuming ownership of someone else's failures. Similarly, if it's a group project and it comes to light that asshats abound, I will bail. It's not worth having my brand/reputation dragged through the mud on a crap product associated with crappier people. Harsh? Maybe. Too damn old to care. 
Note: It's not to say I'll run away if things get complicated; I take my commitments very seriously. However, I've been in this game long enough to recognize collaborative and creative abuse.

There's no shame in reevaluating a project for its usefulness, its cost (opportunity and financial), or its ROI. That's just smart living. Needs evolve. Strategies evolve. Projects are dumped while others are picked up. If it's not the right project for the goal you want to achieve, then kill it and move on.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Quitters, Inc?

So this weeks topic is When do you quit a project, or do you?

the answer is, of course, you don't. Unless you are forced to.

Let me explain. I don't like quitting a project, I might set it on a back burner for a while, but I seldom if ever actually QUIT a project. To do so is to admit defeat, and I am as stubborn as they come when I want to be. I always want to be stubborn when it comes to my writing projects.

If that sounds like bragging, it isn't meant to.  I think stubborn comes with the  territory when it comes to being a successful writer. No one is ever successful who surrenders to the whims of fate or to publishing.

Okay, time for one of my favorite Harlan Ellison quotes (May he rest in peace, and I'm paraphrasing.) Basically w hat Harlan said was that to be a writer requires a certain amount of arrogance. First, to believe that anyone would want to read what you have written and second to presume that anyone would want to PAY for the privilege.

I don't think he''s wrong. But it's more than that, i think if you're serious about this business, then you have to be willing to dig in yoru heels and make something work, even when it fights you.

So, a few years back I decided I wanted to write a supernatural noir thriller.  Just sounded like something I'd like, so I sat down and started writing. roughly 45, 000 words into the project I turned to my friend Tom Piccirilli and said, "Tom, does this suck?" Tom and I started off around the same time. the differences are numerous but among them are the following: My shortest novel is fifteen thousand words longer than his longest novel. He was the one that pointed that out, by the way. I am words faster than Tom was at his very best speed, and oh, yeah, he won volumes of literary awards and I have been nominated a few times. 

Tom is another soul lost to us these days and he is missed and if you have nto read his words, you should rectify that as quickly as possible, because he was an amazing writer in addition to being an amazing man.

I asked Tom for a favor and he did it for me. he read my 45,000 words of noir/crime/horror fiction and then he gently, carefully, wrapped the brass knuckles around his fists and tuned my ass up.  he was gentle, but he was brutal and he was honest. Turns out that maybe, just maybe, you should READ some of the genre's you'd like to write about. The kindest thing he said was that what I had written read like it was done by someone who had only ever seen the worst noir movies and thought that gave a good understanding of the genre.

He was not wrong. Currently, for kicks, I'm reading through the file and cringing a lot, because, really you should torture yourself when the ego considered getting out of hand. There is nothing technically wring with the writing. The story is fine.but there adept skill required to deliver the take is not there.

The good news? I now understand the genres involved a lot better and there are parts of this story I can use.  Most of it, really.  Surgery is required, but we can save this poor, misbegotten wretch. there might be scars, but it's salvageable as bits and pieces of something else. I'm already working the bloody thing out in my head.

There has been exactly one project I have abandoned. I was writing a sequel to my novel FIREWORKS and plugging merrily away when my computer decided to crash. When I say crash I mean epic failure. Complete devastation. The hard drive was a ruin.

I had not backed up my 40,000 words of work.

I looked through every disc I had, checked to see if I had emailed myself etc. Nothing. nada.

A little over 40,000 words. roughly 250 typed, double pages of work were lost.  even now, well over a decade later, when I think about the loss part of me just withers. I keep telling myself, maybe someday, but let's be honest here: No, it ain't gonna happen.

But bits and pieces of what I'd planned to do have been incorporated into another novel in progress.

So, no, I don't believe in quitting a project if I can help it.

You want to be a quitter? Maybe writing isn't the field fo expertise you should aim for.

Just saying.

Keep smiling,

Jim




Sunday, July 15, 2018

Fish or Cut Bait?

I'm in Denver for the #RWA18 National Conference. I think this sculpture of the dancing ladies is particularly appropriate.

This week's topic at the SFF Seven is Why do you abandon a project? What would make you (or let you) finish it?


I’m not much for abandoning projects. I don’t ever dramatically burn pages or delete documents. Now, some have gone into the equivalent of purgatory, languishing (possibly forever) in a file folder I may or may not be able to find. Some projects have been organ donors, giving up vital sections so another story may live. Those get laid to rest with reverence and celebration.

But why do I abandon projects? Usually it has to do with being able to sell them. That’s not the be-all and end-all, as I’ve certainly self-published some projects that were difficult to sell. But if the people who support me aren’t enthusiastic about a project, there’s usually a good reason for it.

As for what it would take for me to finish it, the first and most important reagent in this chemical equation is time. I’d need to be not working on something else. But that’s an oversimplification, because “time” in this sense is truly determined by priorities. In other words, devoting the time to finishing that would have to be more important than working on something else. Often that something else is more immediately marketable, so that would have to alter.

But I can totally see a day when I’ve finished some of my current series and one of these back-burner projects becomes relevant again.

Here’s three projects I abandoned and why – and what it would take for me to pick it up again:

1.     A narrative nonfiction book about my college sorority

My editor said I wasn’t ready to write it and to put it in a drawer for a year. That was 2005 or thereabouts, so 13 years ago. That one could still happen, if I get a yen to go back to nonfiction.

2.     A memoir about my grandparents and their scandalous marriage.

This is something I worked on for my Ucross Foundation Fellowship, a LONG time ago. I’m not entirely sure I know why I put it down. It felt massive at the time and it could be I didn’t have the chops to write it. Same as above.

3.     A twisty shamanistic magic tale

That’s an overly simple way of describing a complex story that would be a lengthy series, if I can get it right. I’ve written the first book twice in one genre – and massively revised several times – and did 100 pages in another. The first time I wrote it, I definitely didn’t have the chops to pull it off. Maybe even the next few times. It will get picked up again, when I feel I can do it justice.

In today’s podcast, I mention the reading Darynda Jones and I did at the SFF Reading Series at Denver’s BookBar last night, and how we discussed the importance of finishing writing projects. It IS critically important for newbie writers to learn to finish a novel or story. But there’s also no shame in realizing you don’t yet have the skills to execute it. The trick, of course and always, is being able to tell the difference. Thus it’s always better to finish it. At least write it and tie it off. Then, if you have to set it aside and write something else to hone your craft, then do that.

Abandoned projects aren’t dead, just sleeping. They’ll wait for you to be ready.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Amorphous To Be Read list

My To Be Read List and I have a somewhat amorphous relationship.

In the old days, pre-kindle, I used to go to the bookstore at least once a week and spend delicious time in the stacks. I’d come home with a pile of books to add to my already existing pile of books waiting their turn. I never did get to the bottom of the pile either, because newer and shinier titles would get released, or new books from my autobuy authors would come out. Of course in those days such authors only released new titles once a year, giving me plenty of time to read other people too.

I never did spreadsheets or tracking of any kind BTW. Not my thing. Books in, books out, some onto my keeper shelves and some to the Goodwill bin for someone else to enjoy.

Part of my sentimental collection of Andre Norton
As I moved more and more into the ebook realm of reading, I stopped buying hard cover or paperback books at all. So no more visible TBR on a shelf somewhere. I hardly have any physical books in my home any more, other than stacks of tomes for my ancient Egyptian research and some sentimental favorites.

Certain authors are still autobuy for me – Nalini Singh, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, our Jeffe Kennedy, Anne Bishop The Others series.

I’ve added a few scifi romance authors like Anna Hackett, Cynthia Sax, Pauline B Jones, Emmy Chandler, Anna Carven, Michelle Diener, Tiffany Roberts.
(I’m undoubtedly forgetting some names, not enough caffeine today yet…apologies)

These are people for whom I stop everything else for the day, even working on my own novels, and just sit and read the new book.

I devote a chunk of time every week to creating my New Releases (NR) post for new titles in scifi romance, paranormal romance and fantasy romance. (Here’s a link to a recent one if you’d like to see. Which golly gee, happens to have my own new release included! But about 48 weeks of the year I’m not releasing anything new myself.) I do limited curating of the list and I don’t even pretend to include every single new book in all 3 genres every week. What human can do that? And especially limit the time spent on creating the NR post so I can still write my own books?

 Anyway, I have a Process and in the process of discovering new books every week to share with people on my blog, I find a lot of books to read.

Some I one click right away.  No question must have that book! The books in that category I typically read within a week or two of buying them.

Some I put onto kind of a mental TBR, but I also know I can look back at my previous NR posts to refresh my mind about books I was intrigued by but might never actually have time to read.

The underlying thing for me is that I’m literally writing and talking about SFR all the time, in several FB groups, for USA Today/HEA, Amazing Stories, Love In Panels and sometimes other sites as well. I need to stay current on authors, books, and trends in SFR to be able to create interesting, relevant posts for all those places. So I ‘have to’ read. Such a hard life, right? I read very fast, which helps. I have an empty nest except for the demanding Jake the Cat and I’m full time at this writing gig.
Jake the Cat because who doesn't love a cat photo
So the jump for a book from Amazon to my kindle to me actually reading it is probably only going to be two weeks at the most. But very few books get put on that nebulous form of TBR.

The other titles I have an interest in reading sit on my archived NR posts on my blog (because I always put a note in the post of which ones I one-clicked or put on my TBR) and occasionally make it to the kindle and get read.

So that's my tale of how I manage my TBR List. Works for me!


Friday, July 13, 2018

A Book Problem

Uhm. Hi.
My name is Marcella. And I have a book problem. Maybe more than one book problem. I mean. Look. It was one thing being a book addict when buying books mostly meant going into a bookstore, right? After walking out with more books than three people could carry and vowing to never set foot into a bookstore again without someone - ya know - responsible along, I could control the addiction.

But then E-readers, amIright? It's like the Universe conspired to hand book addicts a new improved way to sneak binge their substance. Even if e-reading isn't the quite the same tactile experience as the much harder to conceal dead tree versions. So there's that.

Add into it that I can't tell you how big my TBR pile is anymore. It - uhm - escaped me. No, I have a good excuse! Hush. You know about the living on the boat thing - and that while that happened all of my books went into storage. Yeah. They're still there. In boxes. The boxes are actually in my bedroom now, but I can't take the books out and pile them up in teetering TBR towers cause we're in temporary housing, right? So I sneak out one at a time, read it and then tuck it back in. All while adding new books to my digital TBR pile, AND when my B-day and the holidays roll around, clearing out my book wishlist with dead tree formats, well. I have no idea how big the TBR pile is. I don't even track the books I read on GoodReads any more. I found it was changing how I invested in a book knowing I had to write up something about it.

Yeah. Still a book addict. There's one cracked open beside me while I type. Craft book, but a book nevertheless.

My goal for the coming year (our lease on this place is up in November and we'll be looking for a longer term lease option in less of a cliff-dwelling type arrangement) is to actually unpack and sort my physical TBRs.

Dunno that there's any help for the digital ones. Kindle seems resistant to file organization. At least on my dinosaur of a Kindle.

But yeah. That's my story. I have a book problem.

PS: Happy Friday the 13th! Remember to superstition safely! Also, fewer than 100 days until Halloween, y'all. Break out the spooky.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

My To-Be-Read List

My to-be-read list is shamefully large.  I have SO MANY books on my shelf that I have every intention of reading.  I really do.  But I haven't done it yet.

This is why I'm completely understanding whenever someone tells me that Thorn or Murder or Holver Alley is on their TBR list but they haven't gotten to it yet.  I get it.  This is how we all operate.  We have to make choices with our time, and for me right now, that involves drafting Shield of the People, going over the final proofs of Way of the Shieldreading and critiquing the pieces for the ArmadilloCon Writers Workshop, and also taking care of the rest of my life so I don't collapse in a heap of unhealthiness.

(My knee went out on me last week, which made life challenging.  Back up to snuff now, though.)

That said, I am currently re-reading.  Namely, I'm re-reading The Belgariadas I haven't read it in almost a decade, and diving deep into it on Twitter with the #BelgariadRead hashtag.  Come check it out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"How big is your... to-be-read list?" she innuendoed.

"So, how big is it?"

It's not like I'm blushing or anything, but did you really ask that question? I mean, this is personal. But here we are, and you did ask. I struggle to answer.

"I mean, it's sizable."

You raise eyebrows.

"Biggish, then. Biggish and not showing any signs of shrinking." To my shame. "It just grows, and I can't seem to stop it."

Okay, you can giggle here, note that warning about calling a doctor if these things go on longer than four hours, and float off in a puff of innuendo. Go ahead. 

Except no, you're still here. Waiting.

Fine.

My to-be-read list is how big? SO big that ...

... clocking in at 702 ebooks on my Kindle queue alone, if those were holdable, sniffable books I had to store, I would no longer have a kitchen. Possibly would not have a house and would be relegated to a she-shack in the back yard. (With a reading nook, naturally.)

... even with all those titles offloaded to digital, the paperback stacks collapsed the shelves in my closet. (Poor closet.)

... I no longer remember which were loaners, which were freebies, and which I bought. So, if you loaned me a "you have to read this book!" book, forgive me. (And remind me of the title. I'm sure I'm getting to it!)

And the worst, most difficult confession of all:

... if I've read about ten pages and am not completely and absolutely invested in a book, I'm probably not going to finish it. That's the sad truth. It's probably going right back into the "maybe later" aka TBR pile.

I guess this is why folks say a book's opening page has to be gripping. There are just too many options out there now for entertainment. Such is the embarrassment of riches for a reader these days.

Of course, then I wonder what my own opening pages look like, and finally -- finally! are you happy now? -- I blush scarlet. 

Because I get the punchline to this very unfunny joke: My next book best start off with a dead body in a car chase, because I'm not alone in having more books than eyeball time. Snagging a reader's attention and holding it is the only way any book is going to move from TBR to keeper shelf.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

TBR Piles: Not Yet A Hoarder

Art by: Isabelle Gedigk, @isasketchbook on Instagram
How long is my TBR list?

Um...

~opens door to den~
~hears growling~
~closes door~
~slinks away~

5 shelves stacked double-deep and iced. There's a stack atop the paper cutter. One beside the printer, and one on the printer. Two cubbies partially full. Probably twenty on my kindle. For the most part, I have my TBR contained to one room. So, yeah, I, um, I have some books I need to read. I haven't kicked into hoarder mode yet, so I keep adding to the pile. Somebody has to keep the dragon happy, right?


Monday, July 9, 2018

The Cityscape that is my TBR list

Heh heh heh

So this week's topic is "how big is your To Be read list?"

I don't know that words can properly express, really. Still, as a writer, I must try.

Okay, so let's go with a little history. Long before I was a writer I was a voracious reader. Back in the day I could knock out  book a day on top of after school jobs and school itself Not homework, let's not be crazy here). I mean I read a LOT. And somehow, deep in the recesses of my brain, my mind kept up with the assumption that as soon as I got a hang of the writing thing I could do it again.

When I started writing I did interviews for White Wolf Magazine (now long gone, sadly) and one of the people I interviewed was best selling author Rick Hautala. Rick was a very well read and very talented man and one of the questions that I normally asked was "What do you like best and east about being a writer?" His response was, to paraphrase, "I Like being my own boss. I also hate that, because I'm a dick when it comes to being an employer and I make a lot of demands of myself." He paused fro a moment and said, "Really, what I hate the most is I never have time to read anymore."

I thought that was the silliest thing I'd ever heard, and more than a little sad. i mean, how could anyone not have time to read? Am I right? What a tragic concept!


Yeah....

So I've moved many, many times in my life. For the longest time I moved at least once a year. I went to seventeen schools before I graduated high school and after that my family moved a few more times before I went my own way and had my own life. I stayed stationary for most of twenty years and then, after my wife passed and my world changed again, I moved on.

I rented a four bedroom house in Georgia to accommodate my books. Most of them had either been read before or were waiting their turn. Okay, at some point the house also took in two family members and one of the rooms became my office. Eventually my landlord wanter the place back for personal reasons and I decided to move on. When I chose to move to New England I had a lot of furniture and a ton of books.  I gave away a lot of the books I'd read before, when I finally decided that, after a decade of not even being removed from their boxes, I had to accept I wasn't likely to get around to reading them.

Next house? Four bedrooms over two stories. The second story was supposed to eventually become my library. I never got around to buying bookshelves, so, that didn't work. Landlord decides to sell and I move again. The Salvation Army got more books. Enter the new place: Lots of storage room and a whack-job of a landlord.  Four months later Im moving again, and still more books are carved away. It hurt, because some of them I had only recently acquired. Now I'm in two bedrooms and I have a wonderful lady as  roommate.

And so I tightened the book belt again. But, hey, I bought bookshelves!

y current  To Be Read pile is only around 600 physical books. That's down almost three hundred. They are stacked in front of my printer stand, in front of my bookshelves on my bookshelves and in my car. My office overflows with books.

My Kindle has around 400 more books.

I lament that there is never enough time to read these days. Rick nailed it on the head, as it were. The busier I am as a writer (and working thirty or so hours a week), the less time I have for the simple, joyous, act of reading.

I remain an optimist. They stay until I read them.

Even if I die first.

What I really need is a vast, sprawling mansion. Most if it would be converted into a library, just as soon as I got around to buying shelves.




Sunday, July 8, 2018

The TBR -How Do You Deal?

Our topic at SFF Seven this week is How long is your TBR list? The answer for me is easy to give:

299

The "TBR" is the To-Be-Read list. I know exactly how many books are on mine because in the fall of 2015, I started a spreadsheet to keep track of it. A brilliantly conceived effort, my spreadsheet tracks format (paper, ebook or audible), date acquired, WHY I thought I wanted to read it, and even assigns a  priority.

Like many brilliantly conceived plans, it works moderately well.

It does help me to know if I already own a book - one of the primary purposes of the list, as I'd found I had books in both paper and digital format - and I use it to keep track of high priority reads. I use it A LOT to recall how something ended up in my possession and why I wanted to read it - except for the occasional book that I forget to log in. This is particular bad when I buy books on my phone in the bar during conversations that I don't remember weeks later.

The other way the list doesn't work is that it never goes down. I'd had this grand idea that I wouldn't acquire ANY new books until I read the ones I already have.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Instead, I started out with 298 books on the list when I first cataloged them all. Today it's at 299. The list hangs around 300 most of the time, fluctuating up and down. It's not because I'm not reading. I've read 80 books so far this year - I keep track of that, too, moving them off the TBR onto the read spreadsheet once I start them - and last year I read 107.

Clearly I read pretty much at the rate I acquire. Likely I should clear out a bunch of these books that have languished in the pile since October of 2015. Do you all do that - eventually give up on books that never escape the TBR pile?

Also, I've started a podcast! First Cup of Coffee. Just me, sharing my first cup of coffee of the day along with various thoughts on writing and life. They're short and informal. Here's the first one. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Rubber Band Boat Races


Given that this week’s topic is recipes we make for parties, I can only laugh and say “Round Table pizza” or “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” I do not cook and especially not for parties.

We used to have some pretty fantastic parties in our ‘starter’ house, which came with an old swimming pool. My late husband was an engineer and so were most of his close friends, so he hit upon the idea of holding an annual rubber band powered boat regatta. There was a LOT of intense rivalry, let me tell you, and people held practice runs and trials leading up to the event every year. My spouse published a detailed series of rules and specifications and the designs grew more sophisticated over time. We also did pool volleyball and had other fun and a good time was had by all.
Two of the entries
We made sure to give trophies for other categories than just the fastest boat. Memory fails me at the moment but we probably did things like ‘Best Looking’ and ‘First to Sink’. Designing a rubber band powered boat is a lot more complicated than you might think! And the rubber band quality was important to success. And of course vast quantities of beer were consumed during the event.

I think we did the parties for three or four years and then we moved to a place with no pool. The first year in the new house, which was in the foothills, we had a bottle rocket powered car race, the 'Carnival of Speed', but it just wasn’t as much fun, the home built wooden track required seemed to have built in factors which made whoever was in a certain lane always the winner and oh yes, there was a brush fire danger we’d failed to factor in but quickly realized as the first heats were underway, rockets sparking like mad. Water hoses at the ready! I believe we only did this for two years (it was a long time ago, folks) and then we stopped. Just not as much fun, not as much participation, all good things must come to an end.
The rocket cars 
Switching subjects, I have a new release! Book four in my Sectors New Allies Series, DARIK.

The blurb: Nicolle James is far from her home in the human Sectors, kidnapped by alien scientists to be the subject of horrifying experiments.  Her only hope might be a mysterious soldier she’d glimpsed outside the laboratory fence. She’d managed to sneak a few words of conversation with him when her captors weren’t watching but now the aliens were taking her inside the lab to begin the experiments.

Darik, a warrior of the genetically engineered Badari pack, is on a solo recon mission to check out a mysterious new lab high in the mountains. His orders are strict – do not engage. But when he has a chance meeting with the woman who might be his mate, he vows not to abandon her, orders or no orders.

Can he get inside an underground lab, find Nicolle and rescue her without getting captured himself? And when he learns the lab’s deadly secrets, can he get word to his pack about the new dangers?

Because the ruthless alien scientist running the experiments wants to get her hands on him too and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

Buy Links: Amazon    iBooks    Nook      Google     Kobo

NOTE: Photos are Author's Own. Book cover by Fiona Jayde.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Bringing the "No Way Am I Turning On the Stove" Party Food

Florida has utterly changed my definition of 'party food'. If you can't throw it on a grill or eat it raw, I am NOT standing over a hot stove, much less adding to the AC load by adding heat to the living arrangement. Not to mention that I transitioned to a whole food/plant based diet AND there's celiac in the family so I don't eat gluten. Most of what I take to a party is what I can eat so no one else has to worry about what I can and can't have. (Why? Hereditary super high cholesterol. Can't take the statins. This dropped my numbers by 50 points without meds. The MD has stopped trying to shove pills at me. Pass the plants. Woo.)

So. How about a colorful, refreshing Asian-inspired salad?

Cucumber-Carrot Salad

Peel and slice 2 carrots thin. (Spiralize or grate if you like.)
Peel and thinly slice a cucumber. (Spiralize if you prefer - don't grate. It turns to mush.)
Clean and slice 2 green onions
Throw these all in the same bowl. You can add other veggies that suit you, too, just slice them as thin as possible.

ADD:
3 TBSP Rice Vinegar
2 TBSP Mirin
1/8 tsp garlic salt (or to taste)
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes - this is to your taste

Toss your veggie salad and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. If you're really ambitious and you want this at it's best, make it the day before you mean to serve it. The recipe leaves me with a lovely subtle burn in my mouth, so adjust the pepper flakes and the amount of green onion to your taste.

You can eat it as is, or top a nice green salad with this and pour over a little of the dressing. Either way, this is cooling and refreshing and addictive. Have a great, fabulous holiday!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Dishes to Bring to the Party

This week at SFFSeven, we're talking about things to bring to a party.  As it happens, I'm going to one tonight, for Austin SFF Writer Amanda Downum.  So, what am I bringing?  I'm making a cochinita pibil.  It's a slow cooked pork in an achiote marinade.  It's SO good.
Here's how you make the achiote marinade:
achiote paste
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of white vinegar
1 cup of orange juice
¼ cup of water
all spice (8 to 10 balls)
black pepper to taste
pinch of cumin
Blend all that into a thick marinade.  Marinate pork, cut into one-inch chunks, with that good stuff overnight.  Then slow cook it in a low temperature (the hardcore way is to wrap it in banana leaves), or in a sous vide.    Meanwhile, also make pickled purple onions:
3 purple onions
vinegar
Salt
Pepper
Put a pot of water to boil. Slice the onions into thin slices and blanch in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Move to another container, cover with vinegar, and add salt and water to taste.
This makes for delicious tacos, or served with black beans and rice. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Don't let me near a stove. Or grill. Or microwave.

Good morning, blogland! Today people here in the U.S. are building up steam to grill food, wear obnoxious red-white-n-blue clothing, and blow stuff up. Little tiny stuff, for the most part -- fireworks -- but still, boom. This is how my country celebrates its independence.

Remember what I said about food and the cooking of it? People do that! And they do it well.

I am not one of those people.

I don't have a go-to cookout recipe to share. If called upon in such a situation, I typically bring a six-pack of the unofficial beer of Texas, Shiner Bock. (Best American beer. Fight me.)

If I really like the party I'll bring a plastic bowl of pre-cubed watermelon. (Mmmmm, watermelon.)

If I really really like the party -- and it will probably include kids -- I'll bring something like this:


Happy day, folks, no matter what you're celebrating (yeah, sorry about that rebellion thing, England, but a case can be made for you lot celebrating the heck out of today, too). Stay cool!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Party Recipe: Salmon & Green Bean Salad

Not the finished dish, just some green beans
Everybody ready for the 4th? Menus planned? Last minute grocery run ordered online for pick up on the way home?  Book and wine slushies prepped?

If you're having or attending a party, here's a pretty simple yet not overly common dish to throw together:

Salmon & Green Bean Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 6oz Salmon Filet Baked & Flaked
    • (if you don't like fish, substitute chopped ham or corned beef sliced into ribbons, or omit entirely)
  • 1 Steamer Bag of Green Beans, cut into bite sizes
    • (chopped, haricot verts, wax beans, any type is fine, it's the texture that matters so skip the canned beans) 
  • 4oz Dry or 2 cups cooked of Favorite Pasta, Cooked & Drained
    • (Orzo, bowtie, fusilli, dinosaurs, semolina, wheat, veggie, rice, whatever makes you happy)
  • 1/2 cup dried (pitted) cherries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup (ish) of your favorite vinaigrette
  • Shaved asiago or parmesan for topping (optional)
Directions:

Mix in large bowl. Top with shaved cheese. Can be served chilled or warm.





Monday, July 2, 2018

Favorite Recipes to bring to a party

Our theme for the week is favorite recipes to bring to a party. I have two for you. first a simple one and second a recipe that's a bit more complex.


So a friend of mine introduced me to one of the best ever party dips He and his beloved call it "crack Dip," because once you've had it, you'll be addicted.

They aren't really wrong.

Crack Dip is amazingly easy. 1 part cream cheese. 1 part your favorite salsa.

Allow cream cheese to reach room temperature, mix with sals. until thoroughly blended. Serve with your favorite chips, though I always had it with Fritos corn chips.

The other, slightly more complex offering is stuffed jalepenos

Stuffing: cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic powder, black pepper, Old Bay seafood seasoning and panko bread crumps with either a) real or fake crab meat or b) salad shrimp.

Mix all of the stuffing ingredients together. 1 part cream cheese, 1 part cheddar cheese, seasonings to taste and a half cup of panko bread crumbs to help stick everything together. Once again the cream cheese should be room temperature to make it easier to mix. Add in the seafood of your choice.

Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator while you take a good dozen or so jalepenos and cut them in half. Take the time to scrape out at least the majority of the white flesh and the seeds, as those hold all of the heat. Even with them removed, you'll get a lot of flavor and some peppery bite.

Once the peppers have been cleaned, wash your hands thoroughly with warm soap water, thus allowing you to uses your hands without risking rubbing your eye unconsciously and wishing that your eye would stop catching on fire.

Now that we have THAT out of the way, spoon the stuffing into the jalepenos and once agains et them in he refrigerator for around fifteen minutes to let them set up.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees, set the peppers on a nonstick surface and bake for 20 minutes. Serve when ready.

There. That's two for ya.

Keep smiling and have a great 4th of July.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

New Orleans Picnic Sandwich for the Cooler

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is a "recipe for your favorite dish to bring to a party/cookout." Which is a pretty easy topic - and I would've had mine up sooner if we hadn't been out at the lake all day!

I've had this recipe forever. Like, it's still the yellowed column I tore out of the newspaper something like 20 years ago. But it's a great sandwich that feeds six people easily, and it's even better for marinating in the cooler for a few hours.

Here 'tis!

Muffuletta-Style Picnic Loak

Ingredients

One 16-inch loaf French bread
2 c thinly sliced zucchini or yellow summer squash
Italian salad dressing
8 oz sliced salami, cut into strips
6 oz sliced provolone or mozzarella cheese
3 T sliced pitted ripe olives
1/2 alfalfa sprouts
2 med tomatoes, thinly sliced

Slice bread in half horizontally. Hollow out bottom half and give what you dig out to the birds and squirrels. Brush both halves with Italian salad dressing. Put zucchini/squash in a bowl and toss with 1/3 c Italian salad dressing and let sit. Place salami strips on bottom half of bread. Top with cheese, zucchini/squash, olives, sprouts and tomatoes. Drizzle with Italian salad dressing and top with other half of loaf. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in cooler. Slice to serve.

Let me know what you all think!