Category Archives: Food

Pre-orders, giveaways, and box sets

Riley swim classNovember…the time to give thanks! PJ Sharon here, and it’s been a crazy busy month–what with editing HEALING WATERS, finishing up my Christmas novella, and taking my sweetpea to baby swim classes. Have I mentioned that I LOVE being a grammy?

The good news is that everything is coming together. HEALING WATERS, book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, is now available for pre-order and set for release December 23rd!

For those of you who can’t wait for this final installment, I’m offering a Goodreads Giveaway of three signed copies (Giveaway starts tonight at midnight). Enter below between Nov. 13-Dec. 15th, or pre-order it now to make sure you have the ebook before Christmas!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Healing Waters by P.J. Sharon

Healing Waters

by P.J. Sharon

Giveaway ends December 15, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Box set coverSpeaking of Christmas, I’m putting together this nifty box set. Sami’s Christmas Wish List (a brand spankin’ new 30k novella) ties together all the characters from Heaven is for Heroes, On Thin Ice, and Pieces of Love in one heartwarming Christmas story. Since all the girls hale from the same fictitious CT lake town, the box set is aptly named The Girls of Thompson Lake. I’ll be sure to let you know when it will be on sale!

I guess that’s it for now. Back to work. But don’t think I won’t be enjoying the Thanksgiving pie this month. I’m grateful for countless blessings, as always…family time and pie nearing the top of the list.

What’s your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You

Suze here, wishing you the happiest of St. Patrick’s Days.  Am I Irish? Yup. Some of the names in my family tree are Higgins, McBath, Kearns, and Morrison.  But of course it doesn’t really matter. No matter your background, St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating with the ones you love–even if it means drinking green beer!

Beltany Stone Circle, photo courtesy of www.pdphoto.org.
Beltany Stone Circle, photo courtesy of http://www.pdphoto.org.

So today, in honor of Ireland’s most famous little round thing that grows underground, I thought I’d share a recipe with you. Enjoy!

Suze’s Mashed Potatoes

  • 6 Medium Size Potatoes–My favorite is Yukon Gold, and yes, the type of potato really does make a difference. You want a waxy potato, not a baking potato like a russet.
  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or cream cheese (lite versions are fine, but don’t use the fat free stuff–yuck!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and quarter potatoes, rinse with cold water, and place in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover with fresh cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until fork tender. This will probably take around twenty minutes, but keep checking them. Drain the potatoes immediately–don’t leave them sitting in the hot water or they’ll turn to mush.

Return potatoes to hot saucepan (off the heat). Mash the potatoes with your favorite mashing tool, then add the remaining ingredients, starting with 1/4 cup of milk that you’ve warmed in the microwave along with the butter. Mash everything together, adding more warm milk if necessary to make a creamy consistency.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with more butter and gravy if you have it. This ain’t lo-cal. Get over it, LOL!

Variations:

  • Add a cup of grated cheddar cheese during the hot mashing process
  • Sprinkle cooked potatoes with crumbled bacon and chopped scallions (Bacon? Did somebody say bacon?)
  • Drain a can of corn and mix into potatoes along with ground beef or turkey that has been browned with some finely chopped onion and drained. Place mixture into a casserole dish, cover with shredded cheese, and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Leftover potatoes? Place in a saucepan the next day and stir in chicken broth until your desired soup consistency is reached. Season with a bit of thyme and some more freshly ground pepper.

How will you be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? I’ll leave you with a classic Irish Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields  and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

And may you all find your pots of gold!

Devilishly Delicious

Hey, all, Suze here. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for you in case you need to bring something to a holiday potluck–Deviled Eggs. They might seem a little bit old-fashioned, but people love them. Bonus? They’re very inexpensive to make. (Let somebody else bring the shrimp, LOL!) This recipe can be easily halved if you don’t have a big crowd. Sorry there’s no picture, but here’s how I do it:

Suze’s Deviled Eggs

  • 1 dozen medium or large eggs (tip: buy your eggs at least a week in advance and of course keep in the fridge–super-fresh eggs are difficult to peel)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard (whatever you have on hand–but I like a spicy brown mustard like Gulden’s)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I like the kind that’s made with olive oil, such as Hellman’s)
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (dill pickle relish is also delicious, for a different taste)
  • Pinch each of salt and pepper

First, boil the eggs. Here’s how to do it to get a perfectly yellow yolk, with no ugly green ring (that comes from overcooking). Place your eggs in a large saucepan (I use a Dutch oven) and cover with cold water. Turn on the heat, cover the pot, and bring the water up to a boil. Now set a kitchen timer and allow the eggs to boil for 4 minutes (medium eggs) or 6 minutes (large eggs). Remove the pot from the burner, keep the lid on, and leave the eggs sitting in the hot water for 7 minutes (medium eggs) or 9 minutes (large eggs). Do not walk away and forget them! Immediately plunge the eggs into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. At this point you can let them cool in the fridge until you are ready to assemble them.

Peel the eggs. To do this, hopefully without damaging the whites, give the egg a firm but gentle tap on the counter to crack the shell. Roll it around in your hand to further break and loosen the shell, then begin to carefully peel the egg. Give the denuded egg a rinse to remove any stray bits of shell, and set it on a paper towel to drain/dry. Repeat till all the eggs are finished.

Slice the eggs. Using a sharp knife, slice the eggs in half lengthwise, popping the yolk out into a separate bowl. Wipe the knife with a paper towel in between to keep your whites looking nice.

Mix the filling. Using a fork, mash up the yolks into a fine crumble. Add the mustard, pickle relish, salt, pepper. Add the mayonnaise, starting with the smallest amount and adding more as needed–you can always add more, but you can’t take it out! Don’t make the mixture too runny, otherwise it won’t stay in the egg. Mix up and taste for seasoning.

Stuff it! Now comes the fun part. Using a decorator doohickey (I have one from Pampered Chef) or a teaspoon and a knife (same way you would make a drop cookie), fill each egg. Not too full, or you may run out of filling before you get to all the eggs. You can always go back and add more at the end.

Decorate. If you want to get extra fancy, you can add a tiny decoration to each egg. Some suggestions are: little sweet gherkin pickles sliced into rounds; sliced pimiento-stuffed olives; a wee sprig of fresh dill; a few (well-drained) capers; an itty-bitty slice of roasted red pepper. Some people like to sprinkle paprika over the eggs for color, but I don’t really care for the raw paprika taste so I don’t do this.

That’s it! What appetizers always make an appearance on your holiday table?

Book Signing Success

PJ here, just off a long weekend at the Granville Harvest Fair. I’ve done many such book signing events over the past couple of years, but this one was by far my favorite. For one thing, I live ten minutes up the road, so it’s close, and I inevitably saw lots of familiar faces. Thousands of folks ambled by my booth, many stopping to chat–whether they were teens or simply teens at heart. The fact that I was a local author was also a big draw. Putting a face to someone local who has achieved what so many others only dream about, seems to be an instant conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to—young and old—who said that they write in one form or another, and that it was nice to meet someone who has actually published their stories. It was lovely to be a source of encouragement and inspiration.

I’ve said in the past, that book signings have netted me little profit in the monetary sense and I’ve wondered whether they were really worth my time, but this event has changed my mind. In addition to making a modest profit from book sales, I gained a couple of dozen names for my newsletter list, and made many potential connections–including school teachers, librarians, mental health professionals, and teens interested in finding me on social media or purchasing my e-books for their e-readers after the fair. All in all, a great success. I thought I would share some tips that I found helpful. I hope you’ll share yours in the comments section below, so others may benefit from your experience.

harvest fair pic 11) THINGS TO BRING-A sturdy, 10×10 easy-up tent, a comfy chair, a couple of tables with table cloths (I have a six foot and a four foot table), books in plastic totes (don’t forget to take inventory and keep track of your sales), swag (bookmarks, post cards, etc.), tape, scissors, pens, plastic bags (recycle those plastic grocery bags and carry them in an empty tissue box for convenience), or have some nice bags made up with your name, website, and logo if you want to make an impression. You might reserve those for people who buy several books. Don’t forget a cash lock box, business cards, and candy (no chocolate on hot days) or a treat.

2) SIGNAGE-Invest in a nice banner, which you can have printed up through Vista Print. I have yet to do this, but I made do with a homemade banner. Plastic stand-up sign holders from Staples work great for specific table top signs. You can make whatever signs you want on your computer to fit the 8×11 frames. “Local Author of Teen Books,” “Sign up for my newsletter and enter to win…,” “Follow me on FB, Twitter, etc.” and pricing signs, are just a few ideas. Be creative.

3) PRESENTATION-Consider your brand, your audience, and your space. Create a visually appealing stage for your books. harvest fair pic 3Use color wisely to catch attention of passersby and don’t overcrowd your space. Too much to look at can be a deterrent.

4) SELLING-You can offer book sets with special pricing/discounts, you could sell merchandise related to your books (cups, tee shirts, or in my case, wooden whistles which I also offer as a free gift to those who purchase both book one and book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy).

5) SALES PITCH-This is an opportunity to hone your sales pitch. Have a one liner to pull people in. Keep it simple. “Feel free to take a bookmark.” Keep it real and fun. “This is the glamorous life of an author.” This last phrase spoken as I used duct tape to secure my tent signage or while I peeled tape residue off my tent poles. I got lots of smiles with this one. Pitch to your audience. “I write books for teens…and teens at heart,” when speaking to adults and elderly folks who actually might enjoy reading my books. I describe my contemporary YA novels as the kind of books that would make great Lifetime Network or Hallmark movies, and note when I’m speaking to parents of teens that I write books that I wish had been available when I was a teenager. I mention accolades and awards, my million plus reads of SAVAGE CINDERELLA on Wattpad (which made that particular book sell very well all weekend), and try to hone in on what might appeal to the demographic to which I’m presenting. “The book is about a girl who is kidnapped as a child, left for dead in the high country of North Georgia and survives in the wild.” One sentence grabbers are essential! Comparisons also work well as in “Savage Cinderella is like Law and Order SVU meets Nell.” Of course this only works for people old enough to remember the movie with Jodie Foster, LOL. With teens, I might compare The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael to the TV show, Revolution, or books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, but not quite as grim and gritty. As time goes on throughout the event, you’ll find what works best. It’s excellent practice for agent/editor elevator pitches at conferences. You never know who you’ll meet, so always have a professional and friendly demeanor.

6) GIVEAWAYS-Book signings are a great place to expand your newsletter mailing list. Offer entry in a prize giveaway, a FREE download, or some incentive to get people to sign up. Reassure them that your newsletters aren’t spammy and that their information will not be used for any other reason. Be prepared to offer something for free. You can be generous without giving away the store or breaking the bank. It costs me nothing to give away a free download of ON THIN ICE (I get a coupon code through Smashwords, and have cards printed up through Vista Print with my cover on the front and instructions and the download code on the back. I can usually get 250 cards printed up for free or next to nothing when I’m ordering other items through Vista Print).

Most importantly, have FUN! Try to stay engaged with people and don’t stick your nose in a book or hide behind your computer screen. Fortunately, we had a dry and beautiful weekend with a great turnout. I met some amazing people! I also had some fabulous apple pie with Granville cheddar cheese…yum! And yes, I even sold a good number of books.

Any other ideas or things I missed?

Harvest Fair is Here!

PJ Sharon here. After record breaking temps the past week here in New England, followed by a rainy, wet and seasonably chilly weekend, I’m hoping for something in between for next weekend’s Granville Harvest Fair. If you’ve never been, it’s a wonderful time. The leaf peeping is superior this year and will be in full show this coming week. You won’t want to miss it.

Granville, Massachusetts is one of those idyllic little towns in the foothills of the Berkshires, the perfect place to celebrate autumn and harvest time. Granville Country storeCentered in front of the Granville Country Store—world famous for their outstanding homemade cheeses—several hundred vendors set up tents and show their wares. This is one of the best fall fairs in New England in my opinion. There’s everything from crafts and pottery, to hand crafted jewelry and woodworking. They have face painting for the kids, a pumpkin contest, and a free bus ride up to the top of the hill where you can enjoy apple cider and baked goods at the orchard, and see the magnificent quilts hanging up at the Old Town Meeting House. The little ones love the scarecrow and tractor display, and there’s nothing like a piece of warm apple pie with a slice of Granville country cheddar cheese on top and a cup of cider. My mouth is watering already!

As for me, I’ll be sharing a tent with J Monkeys, and signing books down in front of the library, right across from the country store.  You have to try some of their homemade pies and cheese bread…yum! I hope if you’re in the area, you’ll stop by and say hello. I’ll need someone to bring me a piece of pie.

Anyone in the area going? Are there other harvest fairs you’ve been to? Traditions you love this time of year?

Writer’s Cave or Fortress of Solitude?

Tuesday’s Scribe PJ Sharon here. I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday weekend, didn’t eat too much “bad” stuff, and remembered to take a moment to relax. For me, the weekend was about two things: Entertaining family and friends, and reaching my goal of 40,000 words on my work in progress. As I write this post on Monday evening, I’m tired, full, and happy to report relative success on both counts. Hi Mom!

That’s my mother-in-law on the left, my youngest son on the right and the happy crew in the back is my best friend and her family. Great food, Good times!Labor day Dinner pic

As for my word count goal, I began the month of August with about 12,000 words written on a book called PIECES OF LOVE. It’s a contemporary YA romance that I had shelved last year to work on the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. Since I’m planning to write book three of the trilogy in the coming year, I knew that if I wanted to write Ali’s story, I would have to do it quickly and get back to work finishing the trilogy. I’m pleased to say, that although I didn’t quite reach my goal, I’m pretty darn close at 37,500 words. I suspect I’ll get to the 40k mark tomorrow. So how did I do it, you ask? And even if you didn’t, I’m going to let you in on some secrets—because that’s what we Scribes are all about.

For some writers, 30,000 words in a month is a doable goal. All you have to do is write a thousand words a day. About three pages daily, right? Easy? Um…not really. What happens to having a day off? What if i get stuck on a plot point, need to do some research, or can’t figure out where the story is going? What about when family barges in and expects food and clean clothes for school? Or if you’re like me, you have that thing called a day job that consumes hours a day that you could be writing and by the time you get home, you can barely manage an Amy’s frozen black bean burrito (delicious and nutritious by the way).

If you are a perfectly disciplined writer, then 30k in a month is just about the right pace to finish a first draft in two—maybe two and a half—months. But how many of us are perfectly disciplined writers? I almost want to say that those words are a bit of an oxymoron. Perfectly neurotic—maybe. Perfectly disciplined—not likely. So how does a writer on a deadline do it?

Word count goals are a must, but how rigid do we have to be? Do we really need to lock ourselves away to get the job done? Some people talk about the “writer’s cave.” The place where writers go to hole up, be left alone, and don’t come out until the work is finished. I knew that this would never work for me. Number one, I’m claustrophobic, so even the thought of being forced into a cave makes me want to run screaming into the night. Secondly, it sounds like punishment. I’m picturing Jamie Fraser (for Outlander fans) hiding out in a tiny cave in the hills of Scotland for a year, surviving on rats and roots, in fear for his life and that of his family if he is found out. And then there’s the bats…eeek! No caves for me, thank you.

I’m a big believer in perspective. There is real power in words and thoughts. I think people can say just about anything to anyone if they say it with kindness and positive intention. I also believe that a person can accomplish anything they set their minds to if they are given the right tools and have the right attitude. Call it “spin,” “attitude,” or “perspective.” With the right mindset, a person can accomplish great things. I’ve seen it too many times in my life to discount it as theory.

But when I think about the task of writing an entire book in two months, the magnitude of it seems overwhelming. I know myself well enough to know that if I try to force myself to do anything, it will immediately create resistance within me. Also, giving myself an impossible daily word count that doesn’t allow me flexibility or a day off would make me nuts and constantly reinforce a sense of failure—a sure recipe for burnout and not the way for me to be productive.

I find I do much better with a weekly word count of 7-8,000 words. I might be able to do that in a day if I have uninterrupted time and the story is flowing. Or I might not be able to get any writing done for a full week. I don’t beat myself up for that. Instead, I try to put it in perspective. I look at how far I’ve come, appreciate how hard I work in my everyday life, and cut myself some slack for not meeting a particular goal. I also remind myself how much I love my story. I WANT to write it, to see it completed and in print ASAP. Now that is motivating. It’s why I keep showing up at my computer every day.
One of the best tricks I’ve found for making my writing a happier experience and less of a demand is to re-frame how I think about it and my work space. It’s not my writer’s cave, it is my Fortress of Solitude. It’s not a deadline (which makes me think of a hangman’s noose), it’s a finish line (which for us competitive types invokes visions of ticker tape and a celebration).

I have come to love the Fortress of Solitude metaphor. You know, the place where Superman goes to re-energize, reflect on his journey, and find the courage to take the next step toward his ultimate goal. That feels much more inviting to me than a cave. It also allows me to include others in looking at my writing in a more positive way. My husband is awesomely supportive, but even he has his limits. If he thought I was “hiding” from him, I think he would be less inclined to be so helpful. But knowing that I am on an important mission—something that is meaningful and satisfying to me, and working at a job that has the potential to make us a nice retirement nest egg, he feels like he is part of the process—part of making my dreams come true.

So when your family is driving you crazy and interfering with your writing time or keeping you from meeting a “deadline,” instead of telling them you need to be in your “cave,” put up a sign on your desk that says “Fortress of Solitude”.
When you are there, they need to understand the importance of what it is that you are doing–like Superhero important. Also, let them in now and then to make them feel like they are part of your superhero’s journey. You might find they are much more supportive in helping you meet those word count goals.

So how are you all doing these days with your writing? Are you happy with your progress? Loving your story? Carving out time for family and friends as well as meeting those word count goals? Let’s chat fellow Scribers.

Go Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July, my lovelies! Suze here, wishing you a wonderful day full of family, friends, food, and fireworks.

You can ring my be-e-e-e-ll, ring my bell. Just not this one!
You can ring my be-e-e-e-ll, ring my bell. Just not this one!

Here’s a link to some interesting factoids about Independence Day (click here). Did you know that three presidents died on July 4? (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe–Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other in 1826) How about that President Coolidge and first daughter Malia Obama are both Yankee Doodle Dandies, born on the Fourth of July? Or that the Liberty Bell, which cannot be rung for fear of cracking it further, is tapped thirteen times on July 4 to signal that other bells across the country can be rung?

So what will I be doing today? I didn’t get invited to any barbeques, and I’ve been way too busy to plan my own, so the family and I are staying home. I’ll probably work on my manuscript, read a little, throw some burgers and dogs on the grill, and go to the fireworks display in a nearby city tonight. Or I may crash my neighbor’s party (pretty sure they won’t mind, they have a pool, and the food is a lot better than it would be at my house!)

Tomorrow, we’re headed up to Vermont to spend a couple of days. Can I make a travel suggestion? The Fairlee Motel in Fairlee, VT is a roadside motel with a bonus–behind the motel is a drive-in movie theater. Each of the motel rooms has a large picture window facing the screen, as well as speakers. So you can watch the double feature from the bugless comfort of your room, or bring lawn chairs and sit outside. They have a superior snack bar too! This mom-and-pop shop has a problem, though. Beginning next year, they will unable to get films on 35mm and so their current projector will be obsolete. A new digital projector costs $70,000, so fundraising efforts are underway. You can help by visiting the drive-in, buying a cool poster or tee shirt, or just sending a few bucks. (Click here)

Some other exciting news: This weekend, I’ll be doing my first ever public author event! The Enfield, Connecticut July 4th celebration takes place this weekend. More than twenty local authors will be represented on Saturday and Sunday, July 6 and 7. I’ll be there most of the day on Sunday, so please stop by and say hello!  I won’t have a book to sign for you, unfortunately, but I’d love to see some friendly faces. Here’s a link to the event. Hope to see you there!

What are you doing to celebrate Independence Day?