Good Crockpot Recipe

Wednesday nights are just insane around here.  I usually have to go pick Princess up from writer’s guild after school, and somehow manage to feed the two youngest by 5:15 so they can go to basketball practice (they won’t get home until after 8).  I can’t make anything too spicy or weird because they’re going to be running.

I’d gotten in the (lazy) habit of doing something like fish sticks and tater tots because they’re fast and easy, but not the healthiest.  (Plus I hate that kind of processed crap.)

Then I found this recipe for easy Korean Beef in the crockpot.  What attracted me to this recipe is that it uses hamburger — and even better, you don’t have to brown it first.  My hamburger wasn’t even completely thawed, so I threw it in on high for 1-2 hours first, and then chopped it up and added the rest of the ingredients.  I doubled it, left off the green onions (do any kids like green onions?!?), and used ground ginger rather than fresh.  I cooked it on low the rest of the afternoon and it turned out really well.  I added a package of broccoli slaw for a quick veggie (just cooked it 15 mins or so) and cooked some basmati brown rice.

I loved this recipe.  I could eat it for lunch for days.  Middle wouldn’t even try it.  She’s not big on anything Asian, though I think if she’d tried it, she might have been able to eat it.  She had a sandwich instead.  So I guess I can’t put it on our regular rotation, but it was definitely good enough to mention and I’ll make it for myself!

Privacy and Trust

I like to run giveaways.  I like to shop for just the right prize to celebrate a new release, and then ship it to someone who loves books and presents as much as I do.  I love to mail out ARCs of that freshly printed book with a hand-written note inside.  I collected stuff at RT last year for the sole purpose of mailing out goodies to all of you who love bookmarks and trinkets like that, along with some free books.

I’ve made some incredible online friends and I’ve gotten a thrill from sending packages to the Netherlands, France, Mexico, Germany, Australia, India… you name it.

But in light of privacy concerns arising after Kathleen Hale’s stalking of an online reviewer (I’m not going to give her any traffic via links, but if you want more details, search her name on Twitter), I’m going to be much more careful about running giveaways–especially when I ask for a snail mail address–in the future.

First things first:  I’ve never knowingly misused anyone’s address, whether email or snail.  I’m so careful about contacting people uninvited that I’ve probably missed a bunch of reviews, even if you liked my book in the past, because I don’t want to spam you each time a new book comes out (even if you follow me on Twitter!).  After sending a package in the mail, I often delete the email with your address in it – but not always.  I went through my email this weekend and deleted anything that had “giveaway” and “address” in it to be safe.

Even if I’ve sent a dozen packages to you over the years, I no longer have your address.  If I do have a prize to mail to you, I will ask for your address and then confirm deletion of that address once the prize is shipped.  Of course you have to trust that I’m true to my word, but hopefully you’re not entering my contests and such if you don’t have that trust in me in the first place.

Privacy is important to me.  I have kids that I never mention by their real names.  I have a husband who never claims my author persona on Facebook and many family members who choose not to connect my real life to my author life.  So I value YOUR privacy as much as mine.

  • I will never share or sell your email address.
  • I will never add you to my newsletter because you contacted me about something else.
  • I will never keep your snail mail address and will use it for the sole purpose of sending a giveaway prize to you.
  • This shouldn’t be required to mention, but I WILL NEVER SHOW UP AT YOUR DOOR UNINVITED.
  • I will never share your snail mail address with another party, for any reason.
  • If my email is ever hacked, the only addresses they might easily find is any current snail mail prize waiting to be mailed out.  All other addresses have been deleted to the best of my ability given that I have thousands sent/received in my account.

In the future, expect more gift certificate type giveaways from me and fewer prizes that must be mailed.  I love to mail physical books out (even if it sometimes takes me way too long to get to the post office), but I do understand people’s reluctance to share that information despite my privacy statements.  So I’ll always offer a digital equivalent to any giveaway.

If you’re interesting in reviewing my book(s), PLEASE do email or tweet me.  I’m going to err on the side of caution and not blindly contact people who might be interested.  I’m considering setting up a form so that interested people can contact me that way for review purposes, or tag your email subject so I know it’s okay to contact you in the future.

Reviewers, bloggers, and readers:  thank you for all you do to share your love of books online.  I promise to do my part in protecting your privacy as much as is in my power.

Charlie’s Puzzle

It’s been a long time since I talked about Charlie.  I originally started his story for a Christmas anthology call.  And while I did finish a “novella” at 34K in time for that deadline, I sat on it.  Because I wasn’t happy with it.  The story wasn’t right.  Something was missing.

Something wasn’t right with Charlie.

I should have known when the story started off so strongly in first person.  Why?  First person let’s the OTHER characters keep their secrets.  It becomes a gigantic mystery trying to ferret out those details, because I only hear what the main character hears.  Ranay’s voice I heard loud and clear.  I was in her head, living her thoughts and feelings on the page.  But Charlie was an enigma.

For awhile, I let him remain a mystery.  In fact, that’s what he wanted.  He played with Ranay–and me–by dropping bits and hints but never really telling me what I needed to know.  I wrote some powerful sex scenes and STILL didn’t really know what was up with him.  Every time I looked at him on the page, there was a flutter of something just out of sight, out of the corner of my eyes.  A bit of magic and shadow that taunted me.  Something told me not to look.  It was going to be ugly and probably bloody.

Did I dare investigate further?  Or would I keep it safe and gentle on the page?

Ha.  Well.  You guys know that I can’t resist a challenge.  Of course I had to go and investigate that shadow he was tempting me with.  I found more of Gregar in those shadows than I ever expected.

Charlie can be safe and gentle.  But he can also be as lethal as the Shadowed Blood.

Yes, Charlie’s a killer.  My sweet tousled curly hero with the gigantic well-trained dog.  Who’s patient enough to lure Ranay out of her shell over the course of a year.  He’s an unapologetic cold-blooded killer.

I got you now, Charlie.  Your puzzle is laid out in my head in perfect majesty.  I know what you fear.  I know what you want.  And I’m going to make it all happen in gory detail.  *rubs hands together with wicked glee*

Oh, and his name?  It really is Charlie, because he never lies, and he told Ranay that’s what his mom called him (although that’s not his real name, for reasons).  He wishes he could always be Charlie.  But he can’t be Charlie all the time.  Even for Ranay.

Sometimes he’s…

Ha.  You thought I’d tell all his secrets?  The truth will all be revealed in his story.

On a Roll

I had a super productive weekend.  Felt good to get caught up!

I finished Mama C’s edits and sent them back in.  A few of them were a little tricky.  It seems like such a minor thing to make a character two years older, but there has to be a REASON.  I had to think about the whys and wherefores for a few days before I was actually ready to dig in and make the changes real.

Then I filled out the cover art and blurb forms for Billionaire #2.

And… then I started thinking about what’s next.  I have three books in progress that are vying for attention.  Plus three proposals I need to work up for Samhain.

Yeah, just a few things to do.

My goal right now is to work on plotting and planning for the rest of this month and think about NaNoWriMo.  I haven’t won the last few years but I’d really like to get another book done before the end of the year.  So my best bet will be one that’s already in progress.

No promises about which one that will be yet, but I did have a nice breakthrough on Charlie’s story.  *wicked grin*

Ding, Dong, the Book is Done

Some books are a fast, headlong rush on a straight, level highway through the night with no distractions, fog, or turns to worry about.  Other books are a slow progress up a towering mountain.  The air is fine and thin.  Sometimes it’s hard to breathe.  But you keep pushing forward, even if you can’t tell that you moved at all.

Billionaire #2 was the latter.  I’ve been slowly whittling away at it for months.  But I never had the huge glorious word counts until the last two weeks.  For whatever reason, the book was a slow one.  It made for a few crazy big days, but I finally finished the book over lunch today, and completed my first read thru tonight while the Chiefs played.  I’d already edited the first 100+ pages or so.  I just had to finish, first, and then go back and smooth all the edges together.

So tomorrow I’ll try and read thru again, make sure all my eyes are dotted and my tees crossed, and then Diana and Jackson will be off to my editor.  I’ve got edits due back on Mama C, so I’ll grind through them and ship them back quickly too.

Now, for a snippet, since I don’t think I’ve shared much, if any, of this book.

~ * ~

Jackson Montgomery Warring hesitated before passing the stack of documents over to his client.  “As both your personal and corporate attorney for more than a decade, I strongly advise you against this.”

Donovan Morgan, CEO of Morgan Industries, leaned back in his chair and smiled at his old friend.  They’d known each other since Harvard, and though Jackson had gone on to work for one of the country’s largest law firms, he still handled Donovan’s business personally.  “I know what I’m doing.”

Shaking his head, Jackson handed him the stack of documents.  “As you wish.  At least you’re keeping me as your executor.  If anything happens to you, one Lilly Harrison—”

“Soon to be Mrs. Morgan,” Donovan clarified.

“Will be the sole inheritor of your entire estate, regardless of your married status at your death.  There aren’t any provisions to keep her from taking you to the proverbial cleaners if you divorce before that time, either, regardless of the cause for separation.”

Donovan signed and initialed each page quickly without reading any of it.

“Does she know you’re doing this for her?”

“No.  But I’d greatly appreciate it if you could drop a hint or two about it at dinner.”  Just thinking about her fury—and the resulting punishment she’d dole out for giving her literally every single dime he had—made him shiver.  “The results will be spectacular”

Jackson checked his watch and took the papers back.  “Sorry, Donovan, but I’m due back in Chicago.”

“Dinner,” Donovan insisted.  “I haven’t seen you other than a quick sign here and here in months.  Aren’t you even going to meet Lilly and offer your congratulations in person?”

His friend sighed without answering, shuffling through his briefcase.  Jackson always looked tired.  Who wouldn’t after working at least eighty hours a week for most of his life?  But there was an edge to him that had Donovan worried.  Although not a single hair or thread was out of place, grim lines bracketed Jackson’s bloodshot eyes and he’d hardly met his gaze all afternoon.  It was just a gut feeling, something he’d suspected for a long time.  Ever since I realized what kept me on the edge, so hard and miserable and alone.

“It’s not a good time for me to be out of the office.”

“Want to talk about it?”

Jackson smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes.  “I’m sure you’re dying to hear about all the office back stabbing and shark-infested waters at Larsen & Montgomery.”

“Sure.  Even better if you tell both Lilly and me.  She’s much more devious than I am.”

A tiny spark fired in Jackson’s eyes.  “More devious than you?  I find that hard to imagine.”

Standing, Donovan gathered his own briefcase.  “Absolutely.  Though I ought to warn you that she does tend to curse quite a lot.  Come on, man, we haven’t just sat and drank a few beers and talked in years.  You owe me.”

“How’s that?”

He lead the way to the elevator, pausing at his secretary’s desk to get Monday’s meeting schedule she’d already prepared.  Rachel Addison was proving herself to be imminently more qualified to be his personal assistant than the last woman he’d hired.  She’d tried to blackmail him with a few lewd pictures.  Luckily Lilly had found Miss Addison herself and he couldn’t be more pleased.  And no, his fiancee hadn’t gone out in search of the homeliest woman she could find.  Miss Addison was quite easy on the male persuasion’s eyes and she didn’t quake if Donovan raised his voice.  In fact, he was pretty sure she’d promised to call Lilly each time he lost his temper and he’d sorely pay for that loss of control later.  He made a mental note to see if he could earn some punishment next week.  If Jack would come to dinner and admit why he was in town, Donovan would be covered for a week.  At least.  In bruises.

It was all he could do not to race for the elevator doors and leave his friend to flirt with his assistant.  She was a beautiful, intelligent woman but she didn’t do a thing for Donovan.  She wouldn’t have made him blink an eye even before Lilly.  She didn’t have the kind of power he craved.

“Look how easy I’m making your job in handling my estate,” he said.  “I’m not even asking you to write up a lengthy pre-nup.”

“Haven’t I taught you anything about being attorney yet?  It’s all about the billing, and you’re doing me no favors by making my job easy.”

“At this point in your very lucrative career I don’t think missing out on a few hours of billing is going to hurt your bottom dollar.”  Donovan turned his attention to his secretary.  “Is Mr. Warring’s hotel room taken care of?”

“Of course, Mr. Morgan.”  She didn’t even glance at her boss—she was too busy making starry eyes at Jackson.  She rose up out of her chair and slid an envelope containing the room card toward him, flirtatiously keeping her finger on it.  Her clothes were more office appropriate than the killer heels and short leather skirt that Lilly had once worn in to make him drool, but the silk blouse was low cut enough to give Jackson a good look at her cleavage.  If he was paying attention.  “I’ve booked the best suite for him the entire weekend at the Saint Paul Hotel as you asked.”

 Jackson didn’t even notice.  He must be sick or nearly dead.  After the years he’d seen Jackson with the ladies back in college, he knew damned well his friend was straight.  So maybe he’s no longer into vanilla women, either.  There was only one way to find out.  He’d have to see if he could get Lilly to give a small—extremely modest—demonstration and then watch Jack to see how he reacted.

“I can’t do the whole weekend.  Maybe dinner, assuming there’s a later flight out, but you’ll owe me a ride to the airport.”

Donovan picked up the envelope for him and slipped it inside his coat.  “Gladly, as long as its Sunday afternoon at the earliest.”

“Donnie—”

Ignoring his protests, Donovan took the skyway toward his parking ramp.  “I’m seriously worried about you, Jack.”

“Why?”

“My secretary would give her right arm to have you smile at her and you didn’t even know she was alive, let alone notice the double Ds she tried to show you.  Since when does Hollywood Warring miss out on a pretty girl?”

Jackson let out a startled laugh that was more genuine than anything Donovan had heard from him all afternoon.  “Hollywood?”

“Isn’t that what they used to call you in your frat house?  All that golden boy charm and slick tongue.  You had all the ladies standing in line.”

“I haven’t heard that in a long, long time.”  Jackson smiled but it was tinged with sadness.  “Those were the good old days, Donnie and Jack running amok on campus.”  When Donovan took him to his car, Jackson paused, eyes narrowed.  “I thought you lived in downtown St. Paul.”

“Not any longer.  Get in.  It’s just a short drive.”  While he waited for his friend to get settled, Donovan called home.  “Is Lilly there yet?”

“No, sir,” Chris replied over the car speakers.  “Jacob is already waiting for her at the warehouse, though.  Should I send him in to bring her home?”

“Yes.  I’m on my way with guest in tow.”  Donovan hung up and caught his friend studying him.  “What?”

“Your fiancee is at a warehouse and you have to send someone in to get her?  Sounds weird, my friend.”

“Jacob’s her driver.”

“She needs a babysitter?  What kind of woman are you marrying?”

Backing the car out and heading for the ramp exit, Donovan snorted.  “Don’t you dare tell her that on top of the other reason you’re in town or I’ll be in big trouble.”  I probably wouldn’t be able to sit for a month.  “She’s working on a stained glass project I commissioned back in July and she gets very involved in her work.”

“So involved she needs a driver.  And you have a…what, butler?  At home?”

“She doesn’t drive and she doesn’t cook.”

“What does she do?”

Donovan had to swallow, his hands gripping the wheel firmly. You have no idea, my friend. You couldn’t possibly imagine what she does for me.  “She loves me.  That’s all I need.”

Deadline Mode

Sorry for the long absence lately!  We’ve been crazy busy with back to school and Princess’s non-stop band practices.  Starting this weekend, she has something every single Sat. through the end of October, plus every home football game.  Several trips later in Oct will require an overnight stay in St. Louis.  Plus Middle is hoping to make the Jr. High basketball team, and Littlest just made honor choir.

Which means our after-school pick up routines are CRAZY.

But the real stressor going on right now is the upcoming deadline.  I’m deep into the next Billionaire book, due by 9/30, and it’ll be a push all the way through.  I’m really happy with most of what I have so far since I’ve revised quite a bit as I went.  My speed has been really slow, but steady, shooting for 1K a day.  As I slide into the home stretch, I have a feeling that pace will go up considerably, but then I’ll have more editing I need to do.

To make sure I have plenty of time, I took off this Monday and the following Monday from the Evil Day Job.  Short sprints have been working well for me.  With all the craziness going on, my mind has a hard time focusing for long.  15-30 mins, and then take a break.

If I can get 5K tomorrow, I’ll be extremely happy!

Oh, the title for the next Billionaire book?  At least pending final approval.  THE BILLIONAIRE’S INK MISTRESS.

Dreaming Story

In the beginning, before I called myself a writer, I would set a story in my head before I fell asleep at night.  I’d lie awake, watching it play out as long as I could, until I fell asleep.  Sometimes, I’d continue to dream the story, and if I was especially lucky, I’d even remember it the next morning.  So then when I went to bed that night, I’d start the reel there and see where else the story would go.

Some stories I dreamed for a long time (The Shanhasson series).  Some I’ve started to write down, but never really saw through to the end.  Sometimes I had a powerful dream that I remembered…but never chose to re-watch in my head or write down.  Some of them are maybe closer to nightmare than dream.  Or I just couldn’t accept or understand what needed to be done.

Last night, the kids and I stayed up late watching Gravity.  I went to bed and an old story dream popped into my head.  No, it had nothing to do with space or SF in any way.  I really don’t know why this dream came back, but it did.  It came back with a vengeance.  And I couldn’t ignore it.

5,700 words later….

Yeah.  I wish every story was like this, especially the two I’ve been working on all month, but it is what it is.  I don’t know if I’ll finish this story.  It might be something just for me.

At least until I dream some more.

Harris-Cox Plantation: Part 2

plantationIn this picture, the first floor to the left is where the original log cabin is.  Of course it’s covered over by the same gray clapboard as the rest, now.  In fact, the only place you can really tell it was a log cabin is where they built a hallway in between the old and new additions (I’ll share a picture of that shortly).

The fireplace on the far left end is supposedly original to the 1830 cabin.  Unfortunately, someone who lived there awhile back thought it’d be a good idea to turn the oldest part of the plantation into a garage.  They installed two big garage doors and loaded up the area with junk.

photo 1 (14)photo 2 (14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to see, but that circle up by the ceiling is where the old chimney/flue is, and the red brick/stone is the original fireplace.  There was too much stuff in the way for us to get back there for a closer look.  It was also dark (I’m not sure if anyone ever added electricity to that area), but the ceiling was covered in thin planks of wood almost like a wood floor.  The walls were plastered over.

In one corner, there’s an old cabinet that Mr. Naylor thought was also original to the 1830 cabin.  Again, I couldn’t get any closer to it because of the junk in the way, but it does look rather old.

photo 2 photo 4 (13) photo 5 (13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beside the old garage was a more “modern” kitchen.  I’m not sure when it was redone, but Mr. Naylor described how parts were salvaged from all over everywhere.  Frosted glass was found in the basement of a church.  There were also a few nice antiques, including the stove which was his wife’s grandmother’s.

This clock belonged to a man named Chilson, called Challie by his friends and family.  Molly and I looked at each other and our eyes lit up.  What a cool name!  We’re definitely using it in the book!

More to come…

 

Harris-Cox Plantation, Part 1

plantation2A little background about the Harris-Cox Plantation.

I never knew its real name until I started doing research for our story.  I always called it “the old plantation.”  It’s also called “slave manor” by the locals.

Of course everyone says it’s haunted.  If you dare spend the night within its walls, you might hear the slaves rattling chains in the dungeon.  (There is no dungeon.)  The creepy graveyard you can see from the road is where the slaves are buried (nope, it’s family and friends of the family.  Sadly, lots of infant graves.)

In all honesty, I figured that it wasn’t a “real” plantation – that it had probably been built more recently to look like a real 1800s-era plantation.  In fact, part of the house was a log cabin built in the 1830s.  The two-story front addition was added around the Civil War.

Molly has a personal story about what happened when she and a bunch of her friends snuck onto the property at night.  I’ll let her share if she wants to.

My Mom told me a story once that she stayed there with a distant cousin and in the middle of the night, her dead brother came in and sat at the foot of her bed.  He died in a car crash when she was thirteen.  Why would he be at the old plantation?  No idea.

I never got to see the inside.  I just drove by it morning and night on the way to town.  It’s not really much to look at.  Old gray siding.  The roof is sagging in.  No one lives there any more.  I wasn’t even sure who owned it.

Luckily Papa knew and he contacted the current owner to see if we could get in.  Even better, Mr. Naylor (in his seventies!) met us at the house and shared all the history that he knew.  It was incredible.  He could describe the various phases of construction and had a story for all the old antiques that are still inside.  He knew where the glass for the cabinets came from (the basement of a church) and who owned the ancient hickory rocking chair.

boxcarHe even knew that the wood on the walls in the second floor addition above the original log cabin was probably from boxcars.  When the railroad quit coming through nearby Vista, MO, many people bought boxcars for the lumber.  It was so cool to see the old faded numbers on the walls!

If you’re a history buff, I’ll be sharing lots more pictures, so stay tuned!

Our Writers’ Retreat

buggyWow, we had a terrific weekend!

The first two days it was just me and the kids with Papa.  I wrote in brief 500-word stints and got about 5K in two days on Billionaire #2.  I helped cook meals and did clean up duty while the kids rode horses.  They rode about ten miles a day, believe it or not.  We also took a super nice buggy ride.

That brown horse, Smoke, might look narrow and skinny, but that little fellow can PULL.  He hauled five of us and two dogs at times (there’s a huge Great Dane that gave us a little trouble, and KoKoKoNa hurt her pad–she’s not used to gravel roads) without pause.  One hill had him digging in, sparks flying, and he wasn’t even breathing hard when we got back.

The weather was perfect and so very rare for the middle of July.  Not too hot, not too humid, a very nice breeze on the back deck while I worked.

Molly arrived Friday night and we talked and talked and talked with Dad and Princess on the back deck.  Saturday morning we got up early (which is super rare for us!) so we could have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity:  a personal tour of the Harris-Cox Plantation, which is in our home town.

plantationI drove by that plantation every day until I left home and always loved that house.  I made up stories about it in my head and ate up all the gossip about “Slave Manor” as locals called it.

I never dreamed I’d actually get inside it.

Molly and I are co-writing a incredible story about this plantation.  Part fact…but mostly twisted legend and made up fantasy that we absolutely love.  This is our story.  Every crazy wonderful thing we both love.

I’ll share more about this plantation with lots of pictures and lore in the days to come.