Friday, December 26, 2014

Leftovers? An Easy, Money Saving, Healthy Recipe, Plus a Cookbook Free Today!

Slumgullion is one featured recipe in Starke Deadly Delicious Recipes, FREE today!

 Don't know what to do with all those lovely leftovers? Slumguillion to the rescue! 

My of-Scots-descent mom always made slumgullion for Sunday Dinner because it was always different and always delicious. What is slumgullion, you ask? Simple: mixed up leftovers. Not so simple, because if you mix up the wrong leftovers you get ... cooked garbage. Aunt Maddie does this when she makes this dish in my Starke Dead mystery series. But if you follow a few simple rules, slumgullion will become a Sunday Dinner staple in your home too!


Think of like with like and ingredients you'd use together in dishes. In the example pictured above, I took leftover chili (steak, chili sauce, tomatoes), leftover Mexican casserole (hamburger, corn, chilis and carrots) and leftover pasta and combined. Yum!

If you have a lot of one leftover and a little of another, and 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 Aunt Maddie was making the recipe 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.

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! My favorite gravy recipe follows this recipe in Starke Deadly Delicious Recipes.

Sirens on Death Starke Blvd, another money saver with five authors and four books!

And my mom would be cross if I didn't mention another great deal, the first novel in my Starke Dead series, Starke Naked Dead, is in a book bundle right now! Sirens on Death Starke Blvd has five authors and four books for $1.99, for a limited time. So if you enjoy the free today Starke Deadly Delicious Recipes, head on over to get this bundle and read more of Dora Starke and her ongoing problems, one of which is named Aunt Maddie!

So dear readers, got any leftover recipes for us?


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Great Writer's Advice, a Book Sale, and a Granola Recipe too!

Havoc overtakes a peaceful North Idaho town when feuding brothers combat a proposed safari camp. Mustard's Last Stand is the first in the Havoc in Hancock humorous suspense series.

Creating Believable Lies … and Granola

Thanks so much to Conda for inviting me to guest blog today! My post is about making fiction (and lies) seem real. I hope you will love the recipe that follows as much as I do. And that's no lie.
My novel, Mustard's Last Stand, is on sale today as part of an Amazon Countdown. Only 99 cents for a humorous suspense Kindle book that retails for $3.99. It's also available in audio format

In a recent conversation with my spouse, I said, "People will believe almost anything if it is told with conviction." We actually weren't discussing writing, but birding. Never an ornithologist, my dh proposed coming up with his own "life list," of birds observed, naming them whatever he chose. Today's was the Guatemalan Junko. Don't ask what it really was. Neither of us has a clue.

At any rate, the comment about belief in statements told with conviction transfers easily to writing: create a believable setting with strong characters, and readers will believe it exists. I was finishing up a mystery novel last night, set no doubt in a fictional town. The protagonist went to a cafĂ© that served food so appealing that I considered trying it on my next visit to Pennsylvania. Then I remembered I was reading a story! The details made it come alive … the smell and taste of the food, the aromas abounding in the room, the personality of the server, the feel of the chair cushion beneath the character's (ample) butt. Add a sprung wire in the cushion, if you wish. Or a cranky host. Read a great sci fi novel, and soon you'll be looking for some of the inventions that made up daily life in the story world.

That is the result we're seeking when writing, and one way is to add flaws: perfection, even if it exists, doesn't seem real. 

Just this week, a reader posted a review of my novel on Amazon, and said, "What I liked most about this story was the very realistic and fascinating characters. By 'real' I mean that they did stupid things; they did wise and courageous things." 

It is cool when a reviewer makes your point for you. 

Are you a good liar, or do you stretch the truth only in fiction? What do you do in your writing to make it seem real? 

The recipe I'm including today makes a great hostess or last minute Christmas gift, and as granola goes, comes close to perfection. I tell you this in all sincerity. Believe me. Or try it and believe. With many Merry Christmas wishes, everyone.

Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Granola

Servings: Makes about 5 cups (large batch: 15 cups)

           3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (large batch: 2 1/4 cups)
           1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (large batch: 1 1/2 cups)
           2 Tbsp. canola oil or olive oil (large batch: 6 Tbsp.)
           1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (large batch: 3 Tbsp.)
           2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (large batch: 6 tsp.)
           1 tsp. ground cardamom (large batch: 3 tsp.)
           1 tsp. kosher salt (large batch: 3 tsp.)
           3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (large batch: 9 cups)
           1 cup roughly chopped pecans (large batch: 3 cups)
           1 cup pistachios (optional; large batch: 3 cups)
           1 cup golden raisins (large batch: 3 cups)
           1 cup dried cranberries (optional; large batch: 3 cups)

Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Preheat oven to 325°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, cardamom, and salt. Add oats, pecans, and pistachios (if using), and toss to coat. Spread evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Stir in raisins and cranberries (if using), and continue baking until oats are just crisp, about 15 minutes more. Stir one last time, then set aside to cool completely. When hard, break into chunks and store in an airtight container.

Kathy McIntosh, a recent voluntary transplant from Boise, Idaho, to Tucson, Arizona, is enjoying the change in scenery from cottonwoods to cactus. She often sees javelinas, coyotes and roadrunners strolling through her neighborhood. She assures her concerned readers that she can still write about Havoc in Hancock, her humorous suspense series set in North Idaho, and will finish book two, Foul Wind, as soon as she rappels from the stack of moving boxes! Read more at and visit her blog today for a delightful, easy Cinnamon Pecan recipe, just in time for the holidays!
Thank you, Kathy, for this delightful blog post and recipe! And dear readers do you have your own believable lies to tell in the comments? And/or a recipe to share?
And don't forget to pick up a copy of Mustard's Last Stand while it's on sale!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Three Reasons To Bundle Books For Author Success! (One you'll never think of until you do it!)

Tis the season, when authors are working maniacally hard to promote/sell their titles. One useful instrument is the eBook boxed set or bundle. Why? Read on.

1. You will expand your readership.

Because they love to read, readers are always looking for a bargain. Book bundles provide that bargain. For example, the book bundle above provides the first two novels in my Mall Fairies series, plus a stand alone short story, for an estimated 602 pages of reading, all for $1.99!

They are also looking to discover new authors with little risk. Bundles provide that, whether with a single author as above or with several other authors as in another bundle I'm in, Sirens on Death Starke Blvd. 

With five authors and four mysteries, and 825 pages for $1.99, why not?

I know this is all true because as a reader, I often buy bundles.

2. You will add to your brand.

Book bundles are one strong way of promoting your brand, especially when you have a one author (you) bundle. It's another way of having the readers find you. It sends out the message that you are not a one book wonder and can be trusted to provide more reads, always important to readers.

If you are in a bundle with other authors, your brand is strengthened by association with those authors' brands. For example in Sirens on Death Starke Blvd., it is obviously a mystery genre bundle, and if you like one book, you'll like another. It brands me as a mystery author.

3. And least thought of: Oddly enough, bundling my books led me to more story ideas! I never expected that. But seeing three of my Mall Fairies books together reminded me of what the whole series was about...and what the next could be about, or wait, here's an idea for another short story. Sometimes revisiting the prior work provides inspiration.

So dear readers, do you buy book bundles? If you're an author who has a book bundle out? If so, provide a link in the comments!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Welcome author Joan C. Curtis with great writing tips for having pets in your stories!

Just released! The Clock Strikes Midnight by Joan C. Curtis

Tips for Using Animals in Your Stories

I love to read about characters who have pets. Whenever there is a cat or a dog in a book, my interest peaks. I do not, however, like it when animals do things that are superhuman. I don't like for the animals to talk nor do I like it when they solve crimes. The one exception for me was the fascinating book, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The author wrote the entire book from the dog's point of view. He did a great job of getting into the mind of the dog. The dog couldn't do super-dog things, but he did see things from a dog's perspective.
What I don't like is to see animals hurt. When an author uses an animal to demonstrate a character's cruelness, I consider that a cheap method. I loved The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, but I hated when Stieg Larsson killed a cat. After experiencing what this killer did to women, why kill a cat? It was unnecessary.

 Joan's cat Caramella
To contrast this misuse of animals with a great demonstration of how to use an animal to show a character's humanity, William Boyd in Ordinary Thunderstorms created a sociopathic villain with a dog. As the book progressed, it became clear that the dog jeopardized the killer's life. He had to kill it. I skipped ahead because I couldn't experience him shooting the dog. I’m a total wimp as far as animals and children are concerned. Once I skipped ahead, however, I realized the dog was still alive. The villain couldn't kill the dog. He did abandon him, but at a home where he knew the dog would be cared for. What an amazing thing for Boyd to do! Although I disliked the killer, the author showed a bit of humanity that still remained in this villain--a multidimensional character. That's awesome writing.
In my own books, my characters have animals. In The Clock Strikes Midnight both main characters have pets. Janie has a yellow lab named Charlie and Marlene has a cat named Nellie. Neither play prominent parts, but both demonstrate each character’s compassion for their four-legged creatures.
To all the authors out there, I say, please don't kill your animals to make a point. Find a better way to do it!

Dr. Joan Curtis is an award winning writer who has published 5 books and numerous stories.

"There is a feeling of the great southern author, Fannie Flagg in The Clock Strikes Midnight," said the Rabid Reviewer. "Curtis beautifully highlights the complexity of relationships when mental illness is a player. She, in a move nothing short of brilliant, introduces us to the mother as a teen. Eloise's internal dialogue is fascinating. Her development shows how a young girl spirals out of control...

Thank you, Joan, for being on my blog today with your great post! Readers, any questions for Joan or tales of stories with animals gone horribly--or wonderfully?