Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day Memories and a New Recipe Book with Old Fashioned Recipes

A Virtual Bouquet for Memorial Day

Memorial Day, a perfect time to remember...and here's one of my favorite memories and the recipe that came from it!

My mom was raised during the Great Depression by her British-born mom. So growing up, I got used to many of her recipes being from cheap ingredients. And quick and easy to prepare, as my mom worked full time and then some in our art gallery, the first in Sun Valley. Slumgullion, the Scots-Irish word for mixed up leftovers, was my mom’s favorite dish to prepare, despite inedible disaster often being a result. She hated to “waste” food, no matter what the state the food happened to be in, including that of waste. This is why my dad always said that nothing ever came out of our refrigerator unless it crawled out on its own. In self defense, I learned very early on how to cook and bake. Nowadays I often thank Mom for her terrible cooking.
            One of the things I learned early on is that there are several ways to make slumgullion without it tasting (and immediately being) garbage. If you just follow a few simple rules then you might find yourself making a delicious slumgullion often and well! And saving food, time and money!

Dear Readers, what are your Memorial Day memories?

Yummy Slumguillion!


Think of like with like and ingredients you'd use together in dishes. For example, I often take leftover chili (steak, chili sauce, and tomatoes), leftover Mexican casserole (hamburger, corn, chilies and carrots) and leftover pasta and combine. I promise it’s yummy, although may look illustrated above.

If you have a lot of one leftover and a little of another, but not quite enough to make a meal, consider another item that would combine well with your ingredients. I might add beans or some spaghetti squash to the recipe above. Or add a side dish too, a salad perhaps.

Avoid mixing too strong of flavors, sweets and sours, for example. If my character from my Starke Dead mystery series, Aunt Maddie, was making the chili/Mexican/pasta slumgullion above, she'd add apple pie! Okay, an extreme example, but Aunt Maddie is pretty extreme herself. Also avoid too many different added spices. Both these mistakes will make the food taste strange and murky and possibly not like food at all.

If you have "simple" leftovers, such as cooked vegetables and chicken, consider which spices to use and try different ones for a "refreshed" dish. (I might use coriander, thyme and pepper for the vegetables and chicken, for example.)

Avoid mixing tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice with peas, green beans and/or broccoli as the green vegetables will turn brown and bitter.

One last trick: You can always pour gravy over everything, yum, or use the gravy as a base for a refreshed slumgullion soup, yum!

Readers, questions, suggestions, tales of culinary disaster?

A flyer for a booksigning of Family Recipes from the Snake River Plain, which includes my slumguillion recipe and other great recipes from great cooks, fry sauce, dream cake, zucchini rounds, but you can get a copy today here! Enjoy!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Leave Politics, Agendas and Rants Out of Your Public Social Media: A Rant

All proceeds from sales of Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing go to libraries!

The newest publication I'm in, Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing, inspired me to this rant.

Nowadays if you're an author selling titles you have to be on social media. But there are some guidelines if you want to have a good effect, i.e. have people buy your books, when you are using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.

A major one: be professional and share only content that would be interesting/funny/informative to your public audience. Or at least not annoying.

Or to put it another way: if you are using social media in an "I'm an author" public way then no proselytizing of any kind about politics, religion or any agenda. No rants, she says ranting.

There's one simple reason for this. It turns potential readers off.

How can you know what the impact of any post will be? It turns readers off quickly if they don't agree with whatever. You're assuming your audience agrees with you in all ways. Or that you can change their minds by floggings by social media--which almost never if ever happens.

The surprising thing is that it turns potential readers off even if they agree with whatever it is you're ranting about. This is because of several things. The first is that there's a certain air of smugness, an "everybody thinks/believes as I do because I'm right and I know it" about those sort of posts. There's also sometimes an implied mild threat of "you'd better hop on board with this or else..." Or else what? You won't let them read your work?

Most of all, writers with an agenda can push that agenda to all exclusion of everything else, including good writing. Readers know this. Sure it's possible to write a powerful, award winning agenda driven manuscript, but it's very difficult to do. Most are rants.

If you have Facebook or Pinterest or whatever just for family and friends then go ahead and post those rabid political cartoons, get into a comment fight with your granddaughter about some news item, or whatever. It's a personal page and therefore limited, not an author page with a public persona.

There's one sorta/kinda exception and that is if the issue is part and piecemeal of what you write. For example, if you have a character who struggles with a disability, than news items about something particular to that disability might be okay to post. Or personal stories around the issue. Same might be true around a subject in your nonfiction titles, new nutrition facts if you write cookbooks--if you keep it specific and/or personal. The line between okay and annoying is thin.

So, dear readers, do you agree? Disagree? Rant away in the comments!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Truth Doesn't Suspend Disbelief, A Writer's Tip

On Tuesday, May 5th, I'm teaching another of my one night classes on Navigating the New Publishing World which will be held through Boise Community Education at Since the last class went over for 45 minutes! I'm writing a few blog posts about questions that come up often in my classes and workshops that are not really on topic but that many new authors struggle with.

New author when told that her fiction is unbelievable: "But it's a true story that I wrote as fiction! It really happened! That person really did that! That coincidence was real!" Etc.

Here's the hard, awful truth when writing fiction: Truth doesn't suspend disbelief, ever. Unbelievable things happen all the time. Huge coincidences occur constantly. If you are writing nonfiction, no problem. With fiction it doesn't matter if  it's true, it only matters if it's believable.  If a reader doesn't suspend disbelief, even for the tiniest true detail, it's all over for the piece of fiction. Bumping a reader out of a story, even for an instant, is the kiss of death.

Now, I hear you all saying that we authors take inspiration from real life all the time. There's the rub. Inspiration only, not the true event/coincidence/whatever that is unbelievable.

Readers, do you have any examples of when you stopped reading because it was "Oh come on" moment?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dirty Secrets Self Published Authors and Publishers Never Tell, a Taste of My New Class

Reading my award winning flash fiction.

This coming Tuesday, March 10th, from 7:30 to 8:30 I'll be teaching a one night class in Navigating the New Publishing World for the Boise Community Schools. It will be at Timberline High School in Boise, Idaho. The fee is $8.95, cheap! Details and sign up here: Navigating the New Publishing World.

So this is a bit of a teaser for the class, but also two of the main secrets new authors need know while path finding a way through this amazing new biz of publishing. 

First secret: The huge majority of well-selling self-published authors are those authors who already have name recognition, a distinct brand, a platform and a large fan base. Such an author may have been traditionally published, popular in another media, or excellent at marketing, or in a very few cases, just plain lucky. But for almost all new self-published authors the way to sales is a difficult path.

Second secret: If you have sold your manuscript to a publisher, you have lost much of your control of that manuscript. The publisher is the one who edits to their standards, provides a cover and publication date, and sets price, including when/what and where to have the title on sale. True, many small indie publishers now allow authors to have a lot of input on much of this, but it's not the same as having total control. 
Though these two "secrets"  may be discouraging, the truth is that authors have more opportunities than ever before for success. We'll talk about those in class.

Now, I suspect that some of my author friends may be of a differing opinion, or may want to add to what I've said here. Please comment away!

A Character Interview from Black Cats and Ballet Slippers

Black Cats and Ballet Slippers, a Fun Middle Grade Supernatural Mystery!

Today we have Gemma Mayfield here from Black Cats and Ballet Slippers. Great to have you here, Gemma! Can you please tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

Gemma: Hi guys! Thanks for having me! Well, to start off with, I go to Middleton Middle School. My best friend Izzie and I do A LOT of dance. I love ballet! I wish I could dance everywhere I go. Now that I think about it, sometimes I do! Anyways, one thing that really stands out about me is that I’m SUPER tall. I’m taller than Trevor Davis, who I have a huge crush on. I also keep having bad hair days, which doesn’t help the situation. It’s hard to explain these things to my parents or my little sister. Only my cat, Mungo, seems to understand me. Or maybe he just doesn’t say stuff because he can’t talk.

What type of conflict are you up against in Black Cats and Ballet Slippers?

Gemma: Everyone who’s been to middle school knows that it’s pretty weird. I mean, boys are from Mars! They are so strange. But I think something REALLY weird is going on at Middleton. I think that my teacher, Ms. Pruett, is a witch! She’s been casting spells on people, including Trevor! I just don’t want anyone else to get hurt, and I think it’s up to me to figure out how to save our school.

Wow, that seems super scary! You do a really great job writing down all of your adventures in your diary. When did you get your first diary?

I just LOVE my diary! I used to think that diaries were for silly people. Izzie gave me my first diary for my birthday. Now I write in it all the time. If you don’t have a diary, you gotta get one! Just make sure that no one steals it from you when you’re in math class. If some of the stuff I wrote about got out… sheesh! Especially the stuff about Ms. Pruett and her witchy shenanigans. And then, of course, the List of Cutest Boys is in there, too. Now THAT would be embarrassing to pass around!

Do you have a goal that you have recently set for yourself?

Well, I’d really like to get along better with Demonica… er, Monica. She’s this girl at my school. She is pure EVIL, but I’m wondering if maybe I’m just not giving her a chance. Maybe she’s a nice person underneath it all! I think there’s truly a possibility for goodness in all of us. Argh. Who am I kidding? She really is a demon in disguise!

Okay, so here’s a fun question to wrap things up: Name five things right now that are in your backpack.

Yay! This is sort of a fun question. Let me take a quick look…

1.     A hair scrunchie. This is an absolute necessity! You never know when you are going to have a bad hair day and your hair looks like a broom. It’s best to just put it back in a ponytail.
2.     My math homework. I actually finished this in class yesterday. Math… so easy! But I don’t really like saying that out loud—it’s not good for the popularity status. Which I need to work on, by the way.
3.     An extra pair of ballet slippers. These could come in handy at any time.
4.     My Bubblegum Bliss lip gloss. It’s supposed to make your lips look more pouty. Unfortunately, Trevor never seems to notice.
5.     Aha! Mungo’s cat collar! Now how did THAT get in here? Weird.

Thanks again, Gemma, for visiting today. Hopefully Mungo will be happy to get his cat collar back. It’s been great getting to know a bit more about you!

Iva Valentino lives in Arizona with her husband and their dog, Lupo. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Education. She loves living year-round in the warm desert.

Iva spent many years as a middle school teacher, where she enjoyed teaching her students all about science. She currently works as a science editor at an educational publishing company. She loves travel, yoga, and photography. There is nothing that brings her more happiness than a good dance class!

You can visit Iva at the following sites:

Purchasing links for Black Cats and Ballet Slippers:

Conda here. Thanks for being on my blog, Iva (and Gemma too). It was a delight to find out more about a character in Black Cats and Ballet Slippers. Readers, questions for Iva or Gemma?


Thursday, February 26, 2015

In Honor of Tell A Fairy Tale Day today, a FREE book with Fairy Tales and Recipes!

FREE today and full of fun stories and recipes!

It's Tell A Fairy Tale Day! What better than The Mall Fairies Sweet Tooth Cookbook, full of tales of my Mall Fairies? And to give you a taste, here's a story and a recipe from the cookbook, with our heroine, Swoop. Enjoy!


Now, I don’t like humans. Overall, they’re not a good thing for fairies. Overall, they’re dangerous for fairies. Overall, they’re fatal for fairies. Yeah, sure, we fairies live in the attic of a shopping mall that is full of humans, but they don’t know we’re here. If they manage to spot us, they think we’re birds or, ugh, bats. And that includes the Cookie Lady. We sure know the Cookie Lady exists, though. Her store in the mall’s Food Court is our favorite. Or it was. A couple of weeks ago, a sign showed up in her window saying the Cookie Lady would close soon.
We fairies panicked. No more snickerdoodles (my favorite), chocolate toffee squares or even the chocolate peanut butter no-bake oatmeal cookies? Unthinkable. So I snuck into the air conditioning vent to spy. And while almost freezing to death, I discovered that the Cookie Lady’s sales had fallen way off. The stupid humans had gotten bored with her selection. Who could get bored with snickerdoodles?
At first, I believed we were doomed to be cookie-less forever more, but then when I spotted the Cookie Lady working on the her computer and leaving it up and running, I got a great idea. It took three hours of me surfing the Internet by jumping up and down on the keys (I’m only five and a half inches tall) but I found a great new recipe for the Cookie Lady to try. I added directions for a “cookie launch” and left the printout where she’d be sure to find it. She took the idea and added more new cookie selections including mine, and now all the fairies and humans are gaining weight from eating all her cookies. And the Cookie Lady’s store is saved!
Here’s the recipe I found:



1/2 cup walnuts                                    
1 cup white flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, or baking margarine, room temperature, plus more for pan
1/2 cup chocolate bits (mini baking choc. bits work best, but any chocolate is great)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Pulse walnuts in grinder until finely ground. Transfer to bowl, add flour & stir thoroughly. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, add flour mix and beat until combined. Stir in chocolate bits. Butter 8 inch round cake pan, place dough in pan, cover with plastic wrap and press until dough is spread evenly in pan. Cut with sharp knife into eight wedges, prick all over with fork. Bake until golden and firm in center, 30-35 minutes. Re-cut into wedges and prick again. Done!

VARIATIONS: This works well with other nuts, especially pecans. But cashews, Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts may be used. Be sure the nuts are unsalted and not roasted and check the shortbread often to make sure it's not getting overdone. May also substitute coconut oil for the butter.

If you've enjoyed this story, check out my 3 in 1 book bundle, The Mall Fairies and save a bundle on these two novels and stand alone short story!

And to my readers, what's your favorite shortbread recipe? Mine is the one above, as it's simple and easy, two of my favorites!