Sunday, April 29, 2012

About to be released!

When Characters Take Over
(And Mama Chin’s Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls Recipe)

 Today is about one of writers’ occasional but major frustrations: when characters in a novel draft suddenly appear in a book and take over, sometimes a scene, sometimes a plot, sometimes the whole book. This happens to me at least once in a novel, sometimes more. Somebody pops up and says, “Here I am. I’m saying this and doing that, deal with it already.” Then I, the author, get up, stomp around the room, curse, hopefully colorfully, and realize that often the character is a great gift. A gift that requires the writer, me, to do some more work, sigh. But usually the new character has something to say/do/change that improves the book.

Here’s one of my favorite characters that popped up and took over, darn and bless her, and a recipe from her restaurant, Mama Chin’s Save On Café. For more of Mama Chin, read Starke Naked Dead, my mystery novel out in May!

And writer readers, does this happen to you, too?

Mama Chin’s Quick and Easy Cinnamon Rolls

For the rolls:
2 cups flour
(Mama Chin uses unbleached when she wants a bit of fluff, or whole wheat when she wants a nuttier flavor, or half and half when she’s in an indecisive mood. Note: whole wheat will make these rolls a touch drier and more crumbly and people will use their fingers to catch every crumb.)
½ tsp. salt (may be omitted)
¾ cup milk (soy and rice milk also work)
2 generous tsp. baking powder
4 tbs. butter or margarine or Crisco
(But Mama Chin only uses butter and would slap your wrist if you suggested anything else. She thinks she’s being wild and crazy using whole wheat flour. Okay, she’s a traditionalist, but the Save On has been in business for almost a hundred years with the same family owning the café, so sometimes tradition works!)
1 generous cup walnuts or other nuts (may be omitted)
(You can also add 1 cup raisins or other dried fruits, but don’t tell Mama Chin as she hates raisins. She thinks they look and taste like rabbit pellets and she’s not talking about rabbit food.)

For the filling:
4 tbs. butter softened
(Again with the butter, Mama Chin buys it by the caseload.)
½ cup brown sugar
(And Mama Chin buys almost as much brown sugar.)
2 tsp. cinnamon (or more if you like cinnamon)
1 tsp. vanilla

For the topping:
4 tbs. butter
4 tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (or more)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Topping: Melt the 4 tbs. butter in an 8-9 inch round cake pan. Remove from heat. Add the 4 tbs. brown sugar and 2 tsp. cinnamon. Mix well and create a thin layer over the bottom of the pan.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.

Sift dry ingredients together. Blend in shortening. Add milk until dough forms. Roll to ¼” thickness, in more or less a rectangle. (Mama Chin always says that imperfection shows it’s homemade.)  Spread the filling in a thin layer with a spatula. Now is the time to add walnuts or dried fruit on top of the filling. Roll like a jelly roll tucking the ends as you go. Then cut into six rolls (for HUGE rolls) or 1” slices. Place rolls in pan and bake at 425 for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 325 for another 15 minutes. Done. Eat!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Multimedia is Necessary, What's an Author to Do? Write!

 My new "teaser" video for my new release THE MALL FAIRIES: EXILE

It's hard to keep up, I know. Or even figure out what there is to keep up on. But more and more, it seems authors need to go multimedia all the way. And one way to go is book trailers. Why? Because it's a way to cross market a lot. It's a way to appeal to a larger audience--people love to watch, and if a trailer catches their attention... A book trailer can be put on your Amazon author page and might be the tiny push for a buy.

Now, I'm fortunate in that I'm a film editor, so making book trailers is easy and fun for me. But it's also easy and fun for everyone. How to make one? Well, if you can't take my workshop Book Trailers Sell, April 28th in Meridian, Idaho, you can Google book trailers and there's a wealth of info out there. Most computers now possess a video editing program. Take a look at mine and you can see how easy they can be to do. It's all in the writing. Write a great script for a book trailer, have a great trailer.

Which is one reason why the Idaho Writers & Readers Rendezvous Conference, May 3-5, has two well known and successful screenwriters, Dave Trottier and Daniel Manus, doing great workshops on screenwriting. I now believe that every writer should learn about script writing, and not to just write book trailer. We have become a visual and action oriented society and writing scripts teaches how to write with great visuals, action and of course dialog.

What do you think? Is it necessary or even wanted to do all this social media? Do you think one form of social media wins out? (And shouldn't we all concentrate on the writing first and foremost?)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!

Why happy? Because superstitions are very useful for a writer. Think how many different superstitions are truly tropes in fiction--where would werewolves and other monthly lunacy be without the superstitions around the full moon, for example. And of course they differ from culture to culture.

Can you, dear reader, think of a way you used a superstition in your writing? Mine is that I wrote a short story about a ghost sheriff--and sold it to an anthology a couple of weeks ago--I love superstitions! Except for those that I believe in, knock wood.



Saturday, April 7, 2012

An Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe for Easter

Our Easter Table

This recipe is amazing quick and easy to make, very forgiving, and makes a lot of cookies, which is never a problem for long.This recipe comes from my grandmother, who worked as a nurse and who didn't have time for "foolin' around" when it came to food.

2 eggs
2/3 cup cooking oil (I use canola, my grandmother used lard. Don't use lard, because ... it's lard.)
2 tsp vanilla (or more if you love vanilla)
1 tsp grated lemon rind (or 1/4 tsp lemon extract)
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour (I sometimes use 1 cup unbleached flour and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. This makes the cookies crumbly but I love cookie crumbles.Use only unbleached flour if making sandwich cookies.)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (can be omitted)

Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the cooking oil, vanilla, lemon extract and eggs and mix well (easy to mix). Mixture will be oily. Pat a palm sized amount into the shape of a cookie and place on a baking sheet 3" apart. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. 

These cookies make a great base for all sorts of sandwich cookies because they are all close to the same size. So fill with frosting, marshmallow, ice cream, whipped cream or my favorite, peanut butter and jam.Yum.

So dear readers, do you have a favorite recipe from a favorite relative?

And here's hoping everyone has a delicious and fun