Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just Desserts

Why was she stuck with this job? When she signed on with Pie Eyed, she was assured the company only took jobs to protest issues affecting society. Pieing an ex-boyfriend for being a jerk really didn't qualify as politically or socially relevant in the grand scheme of things.

Sharon adjusted her business suit and looked at the innocuous box which held the fated lemon meringue pie. She took a deep breath and studied herself in the bathroom mirror. She picked up the box and started her long walk to the conference room. Her target, the ex-boyfriend, was inside.

Of course Sharon knew why her boss, Alan took this job. The client put her very nice rack on display for him to drool over when she came in to purchase their services. Miss Laura Holmes strutted in with her fake D-cups and tight short skirt and Alan was mush. He rolled over with his tongue lolling out like a mindless puppy dog then he'd ordered Sharon to deliver the Pie Eyed coup de grace to Mr. William Cole in the middle of a business meeting.

She'd protested. Suggested a different locale. A different time. All to no avail. She should have quit, but her rent was due Friday and pay day was tomorrow. She knew if she didn't do the job, her boss would fire her and out of spite he'd hold up her paycheck for weeks.

She looked up and down the hall, surprised at the lack of people considering this was early Wednesday afternoon. Sharon walked to her destination as though she had ever right to be there. As if she was expected.

As she neared the conference room, she felt uncertain. Was she in the right place? Yes, the conference room was full of suits so this had to be the place. She opened the door and smiled with fake friendliness when all heads turned her way.

She sucked in a breath when she met the gaze of the target. He was stunning. Over six foot tall, dark eyes, with full lips and a fierce expression. Yeah, she could see him banging Laura (D-cup) Holmes and dumping her when she bored him. Guys like this deserved a take-down and today, she was the representative of every dumped girlfriend in the universe. Even the ones that looked like Laura. Sharon walked toward him, holding her pleasant smile in spite of his scowl.

"This is a private meeting. Who is your supervisor?" he barked.

"I was told you required a delivery immediately, so I've brought it for you. You are Mr. Cole, aren't you?" As she grew closer with her lemon bomb, he growled and gave her an abrupt nod. "Good. I want to make sure the right person gets this."

Sharon felt like she was in danger as she moved into range. He threw off heat-intense as a lava flow. Without flinching, she maintained her smile. With brisk efficiency, she pulled the pie from the box and planted it in his handsome face.

One of her favorite things about the job was the complete shock on the face of the recipient. And he'd looked more than shocked, he'd looked ticked. She gave the pie a twist for good measure then released, letting the aluminum tin fall onto the table.

"Mr. William Cole, you've been pied courtesy of Pie Eyed. Have a nice day."

She stepped back but not before he manacled her wrist in his huge hands. "I'm not William and you're in deep trouble."

"Oh, crap." She closed her eyes. This was probably her last day on this job. Before she left though, she would hit Alan with a big old key lime pie.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Beloved Pie

"It’s a what?"

"A Beloved Pie."

Marcie Rannick studied the round, delicious smelling dessert currently occupying the center area on her kitchen table. "Looks like pecan to me."

Aunt Ruth chuckled. "It does have pecans in it, but it also has a secret ingredient."

"What’s that?"

"Well, if I told you it wouldn’t be a secret now, would it?"

Her tall, exquisitely dressed aunt pulled a knife, forks, and two dessert plates out of Marcie’s cabinets and set to dishing out the pie.

A deep, uneasy suspicion twirled inside her as she poked a fork at the dessert in front of her.

Don’t you dare tell me you’re counting calories or something. You’re too dang thin as it is." Aunt Ruth gave her a narrow-eyed glare.

That was debatable, but she knew better than to argue with her mother’s beloved sister. "What’s the catch?"

"Catch? What are you talking about?"

Marcie studied a face that was looking just a little too innocent. "You know exactly what I mean. What are you up to?"

Her aunt sat in one of the chairs and indicated for Marcie to occupy the other. "Can I not bring my favorite niece a pie?"

"I’m your only niece, and absolutely. I love your cooking. I just have a feeling there’s something strange going on."

Aunt Ruth shoved a dish closer to Marcie. "Go on, see if you like it."

Ulterior motive or not, Ruth O’Brian’s cooking was to die for. Marcie took a bite of the confection—and all but did the Meg Ryan cafĂ© scene. "It’s wonderful!"

"Thank you." Aunt Ruth took a bite of her own slice. A smug grin pulling at her beautiful face.

Marcie at the pie, figuring that her aunt was probably trying to fatten her up or something. She’d stop at one piece, no matter what.

They finished eating the slices, and Marcie quickly put her dish and fork in the sink. "That was wonderful." When she turned, she was surprised to see her aunt putting the remainder of the pie back into the carrying container. Well good, now she wouldn’t have to argue about eating another slice. She could give the rest of the pie to old Mr. Martian down stairs.

But Aunt Ruth took the pie with her as she headed toward the door. Relieved, but wondering what the older woman was up to, Marcie walked her to the door. "Thank you so much, Aunt Ruth."

The older woman’s smile held a touch of mischievousness. "You’ll have to pay me back by inviting me to the wedding."

Well, that explained things. Her aunt had gone over the edge. "Um…I’m not even dating seriously right now. But, of course, if I did decide to get married—"

"The pie will lead you to your future beloved."

"It’ll what?"

Aunt Ruth laughed a musical, happy tune. "It’s a Beloved Pie, I told you. You’ll dream of your beloved tonight, then you’ll meet him within the next twenty-four hours. You’ll be drawn together and move quickly toward marriage." With that she turned and headed out the door.

"But you ate a piece."

This time a grin pulled at her aunt’s face. "If you’re already with your beloved, it just makes things more…well…interesting. Your uncle loves it when I eat a slice. Just can’t eat ‘em very often. We’re not as young as we once were." With that she turned and headed toward her Toyota. "Gotta go, I promised my hairdresser that I’d bring her some.

The little brown car headed down the road, and Marcie stood and watched it go. "How very strange," she muttered, then turned and headed back inside.


The next morning Marcie woke with a smile on her face. Vivid dreams had made her night the most interesting one she’d ever had. "Amazing, that power of suggestion thing," she told her image in the bathroom mirror. Then she laughed. She’d dreamed of a man all right, but not a tall, dark, and handsome fellow as she would have thought. This dude was red-headed, and average height. He was good looking, though not classically handsome, but he did have the most amazing blue eyes she’d ever seen on a man. And the things he’d done to her in those dreams—both to her body and to her heart. She felt half in love with this man who wasn’t even real.

"I’m going to get Aunt Ruth back for this," she muttered, as she got into her Lexus and headed to the office where she worked as a psychologist.

She was just getting ready to leave for lunch, when Betty, her secretary, peeked in her office door. "Sorry to bother you, but there’s a man here to see you. I told him he needed an appointment, but he's insisting."

Marcie bit back the frustrated desire to snap at Betty. "Please tell this person that he will need to make—"

A head stuck in the door near where Betty was standing. "I’m really sorry, but I need to see you now. It’ll only take a couple of minutes. I promise."

Marcie felt her back bump the back of her chair as her body went limp. It was HIM, the man from her weird dreams. "Let him in, Betty," she heard herself saying. She seriously wanted to meet this person and try to figure out why she'd dreamed about him in such vivid fashion.

"I’m really sorry to bother you." He took the few steps toward her desk and held out his hand. "I’m Steve Malone."

Her hand moved to shake his, and a visible spark shot from the point of contact. She pulled her hand back and rubbed the spot that was still stinging slightly.

"I’m so sorry about that," he said. "I must have picked up static electricity from your carpet."

"Can you tell me what it is you need?"

Steve looked sort of blank for a moment, then she saw his throat move in a convulsive swallow. "I think I’m going crazy."

With effort, Marcie pulled herself out of the stupor she seemed to have fallen into. "Are you having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else?"

He blinked, as if he was pulling out of his own stupor. "No, nothing like that."

Clearly she’d seen this man somewhere and had transferred his face into her dreams. "Why don’t you speak with Betty and we’ll set you up with an appointment—"

"I dreamed about you last night. Several dreams, actually. And I’ve never seen you before in my life."

Okay, this was getting seriously weird. "I’m sorry, Mr. Malone, but I’m really not sure if I can help you."

He closed his eyes for a moment before he met her gaze again. "I saw your picture in the newspaper this morning, and I had to come and talk to you."

The article where she had chaired the comittee to build a new psychology center at a local hospital. "I appreciate that you support our efforts—"

"No, that's not what I mean. I HAD to come and talk to you, and not about the center. This was an obsession. I tried to go to work, but I found myself driving down this street. Then I found myself in your building. I didn’t even know where your office was, but I was in the lobby and saw your name. Then I felt I had to come up here." He put a hand on his forehead as if he was suffering the mother of all migraines. "I’m so sorry, this is ridiculous." He turned and started toward the door.

"Have you had lunch?"

He looked at her as if he couldn’t believe she’d said that. "No."

"Let’s go." She grabbed her purse. "I’ll bet you like Italian."

His eyes narrowed and he leaned slightly toward her, as if trying to see if she were a figment of his imagination. "How did you know that?"

"Because we were having lasagna in my dream," she told him.

"At Poe’s." A smile pulled at his full lips, and she realized he was the handsomest man she’d ever seen.

"What do you do for a living, Steve?"

"I’m a pediatrician."

She grinned. "Mom’s gonna be thrilled, she always said she wanted me to marry a doctor."

Oddly, her words didn’t seem to surprise him at all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thirteen Plus Books with Pie in the Title

Drum Roll, please. In the spirit of National Pie Day I offer you a selection of pie-themed reads—Thirteen Plus Books with Pie in the Title.

1. How to Make a Cherry Pie and see the U.S.A, 1st ed. Priceman, Marjorie.

2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Shaffer, Mary Ann.

3. Nobody Stole the Pie ,1st ed. Levitin, Sonia, 1934-

4. Key Lime Pie Murder : a Hannah Swensen Mystery with recipes - and Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, Fluke, Joanne, 1943-

5. The Apple Pie that Papa Baked, Thompson, Lauren.

6. All for Pie, Pie for All, Martin, David, 1944-

7. Miss American Pie : a diary of love, secrets, and growing up in the 1970s, 1st U.S. ed. Sartor, Margaret.

8. Humble Pie : musings on what lies beneath the crust, Dimock, Anne.

9. Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie, Sonnenblick, Jordan.

10. Cassie's Sweet Berry Pie : a Civil War Story, Winnick, Karen B.

11. Apple Pie : an American story, Edge, John T.

12. Death by Deep Dish Pie, Short, Sharon Gwyn.

13. Piggie Pie, Palatini, Margie

Piggie Pie is actually my favorite in this list because it combines a hungry, zany witch with many of my favorite fairy tales.

Do you know a book with pie in the title? Would you recommend it?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pie Vs. Cake

Pie or cake, cake or pie. It's a tough choice, even when you're telling someone to hush up. Both "Shut your pie hole!" and "Shut your cake hole!" trip off the tongue in a satisfying fashion, with "pie" having the slight edge for me because it's easier to aspirate the "h" in hole after saying pie than it is after saying "cake".

(BTW, I've seen it written pie hole, pie-hole and piehole, so I'll use it interchangeably in this short essay so as to drive everyone nuts.)

So, where does this term come from? According to internet research, the easiest and least reliable kind, "cake hole" came first and was coined in the 40's by British airmen ( It was used most until about 1970. The earliest textual reference to pie-hole, on the other hand, occurred in the 1980's ( although Merriam-Webster online has the piehole entry dated 1993 (

If you search IMDB, characters have been told to shut their pie holes on Frasier, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Riches, Supernatural, Titus, Anger Management, The Angry Beavers, Christine, Dead Rising (movie) and GingerDead Man. All 80's or later. People were told to shut their cake holes in Are You Being Served? (70s) and, again, Supernatural. (Dean Winchester obviously enjoys both pie AND cake.) And those are just the quotes that came up with IMDB's quote search engine, which certainly isn't the entire script. I'm sure it showed up a lot in movies from the 40's-70's but those movies aren't as well known to IMDB audiences.

Apparantly piehole can also be a verb that means curtailing opposing viewpoints on loops or blogs:

Why did those British servicemen choose cake (and later we Americans add pie) instead of any of the other foods in the world one could shove into one's mouth? I would presume it's because pies and cakes are round like an open mouth. They are also sweet and fattening, implying the person you're shushing not only blabs too much but makes poor dietary choices.

And besides. Do you really want to tell people to shut their vegetable hole?

In the nicest possible way, here's my question for visitors -- what new "hole", used in the "shut your" sense, might be fun to add to the slang dictionaries of tomorrow?

Jody W.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pie What If…

What if the hero is a shape shifter? What if he shape shifts into a black bird? What if the story takes place in the Middle Ages? What if your heroine is a baker? What if she bakes him in a pie? Dang it, she cooked the hero. Not good. OK, so the birds are supposed to survive the “baking” process but the hero will still not be a happy camper when he breaks free of that crust. Moral of this story . . . be careful who you bake in a pie, you could end up eating love of your life. *G*

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Four and twenty blackbirds ...

I love blackberries, even in the dead of winter, and we are lucky we can buy fruit that was picked fresh this summer and frozen. When I make blackberry pies, I remember the warmth of summer and the lush grass and cool water and everything renewed from the cold earth.

The beginning of each year leads to resolutions and the hope of bigger and better things. Writing gives us a way to make things grow and become, to make us better people and make the world a better place.

I want to share my favorite recipe with you. The original called for making your own pie crust, which I'm not very good at, so I adapted it to suit myself. I use wonton wrappers, scoop a spoonful of filling in and either bake (with egg wash) or deep fry, then sprinkle with powdered sugar. So basically, all you need is the filling to go inside :)

Blackberry Filling:

* 1/4 all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 4 cups fresh blackberries
* 1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Combine ingredients and stir gently until evenly coated. Spoon onto wonton wrapper and fold over, moistening the edges with water or butter. Drop into hot oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm.

Give these a try. They're a perfect bite for appetizers or to snack on while you're working on that writing you're supposed to be doing right now!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Medieval Pies - Mushroom Onion Tarte

Everyone here may not be aware of it, but I've been active in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) since 1997. I live in the Kingdom of Calontir.

To give you some background, when I was a kid I was a painfully picky eater. I mean if it wasn't white or sweet, I probably didn't eat it. However, when I joined the SCA my taste buds experienced some major culture shock. In the SCA, you learn to adapt or you starve. I adapted. In fact, there's a saying. If you go home from an SCA feast hungry, it's your own fault. Which means food is plentiful!

I'm very glad I learned to adapt because I've had some very good food. In fact, some I've sampled has been incredible. Of course there is still stuff I don't like and that's what the "gak" bowl is for. If you don't like it, put it in the "gak" bowl to be tossed later.

In Calontir, there are any number of truly extraordinary cooks. One of them is Mistress Catherine Anne Applebee. She redacts recipes and does all kinds of magical things with food. Today's recipe is MY version of one of her recipes. My version isn't period (which means they wouldn't have used these incredients in the Middle Ages, but I love it anyway).

Mushroom Onion Tart (a la Francesca)

I start with a pre-made pie crust and blind bake it at 425F until just done - don't brown it.

Next cook the following in a skillet:

Heat olive oil.

Then add:

1 medium to large sweet onion, diced.
1 pkg button or baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped. I leave off the stems.
salt and pepper to taste
minced garlic to taste
desired spices ** (more about these later)

Cook the entire tasty mess until tender and the onions are translucent. Let cool.

In a bowl mix:
3/4 c. sour cream
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 scant teaspoon nutmeg
minced garlic to taste (yes, I LIKE garlic)
1 T chives (or other herb**) to taste
1 8 oz. pkg of grated cheddar cheese (I prefer sharp or extra sharp)
salt and pepper

Mix together the sour cream, eggs, herbs, nutmeg, salt & pepper. Combine with the cooled mushroom and onion mixture. Add the cheese last. (Yes, I said nutmeg. It makes the dish. Really!)

Pour into the pie crust and bake for 20-30 minutes at 425F until set and lightly brown. The middle should NOT jiggle like Jello.

What emerges is a tart fit for a King. Queen. Lady. Or just me.

**Note: I discovered the most AMAZING ready to use herb...stuff. It is called Gourmet Garden Italian Seasoning Herb Blend. It squeezes like green toothpaste and looks less than appetizing but it smells like heaven! And it tastes like it too!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Pie of Life

The subject of pies scared me a little right from the beginning. Then, when my coworkers posted yummy recipes, I seriously considered panic. Not that I don’t cook, mind you. I do. The thing is, I write by the seat of my pants, and I tend to cook the same way. I sort of figured posting a recipe for apple cobbler that started, "take a bunch of apples, core, chop, cook with some sugar and cinnamon until soft…" well, you get it. Not too helpful.

Then I realized there was another "pie" I’d worked with just a couple of weeks ago: The Pie of Life. I’ll bet you’re wondering what the heck a pie of life is, so I’ll explain. I’m taking a class called "Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors: Allow Writing Productivity and Creativity to Soar" from Margie Lawson. One of the exercises she assigned to us is a pie of life. Take a circle, make twenty-four equal slices, fill in the hours you sleep, work at the day job, write, eat, do housework, watch television, etc. I tend to be visual, so making this pie was a real learning experience. What did I learn? That television was my downfall.

Before I go any further, I have to put in a good word for the amazing Margie Lawson. Her classes have already changed my writing for the better. This month, with the Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors class, she’s changing my life. I can’t recommend her highly enough.

Now, back to revelations due to pie. I knew I watched too much TV, but I didn’t realize just how big a percentage of my day I spent in front of the thing. I’m easily fatigued, and I tend to just want to sit and stare. Even reading can seem like more than I can handle. I’m picky about what I watch, but several hours every day is still too much.

What did I do? First, I just plain don’t turn the television on. Before, I would flip on the set "just to see what’s on later" or to listen to the music channels. Within a few minutes I’d be watching something I just "had" to watch. Three hours later, I’d be feeling guilty I hadn’t hit my word count. So I make a point of leaving the dang thing alone.

Second, I pulled out the crochet projects that I never seemed to have time to do. If I’m going to sit there, I might as well do something constructive.

Third, I keep a notebook or my Alphasmart beside me a lot of times. During commercials, I can jot down ideas, write a couple of sentences or a paragraph, or brainstorm names for characters or subjects for an article or blog post.

These three steps have been helpful, but by far the most effective way to keep me away from the TV has been to take Margie’s advice and make "winner" and "super star" lists every day and use the DUH plan. This way I’m working toward a doable goal that I know will advance my career. If I miss something on TV, oh well.

I’d rather be writing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Scoop on Pie

Are you like most Americans -- a pie-eater? I’m a charter member. My favorite is a chicken pot pie. I plan to make one in celebration of National Pie Day (Jan. 23). But before that, I want to share some interesting tidbits I learned about pies, thanks to the fountain of information available on the Internet.

Here are my 13 offerings:

1. The Free Online Dictionary defines a pie as “baked food composed of a pastry shell filled with fruit, meat, cheese or other ingredients -- and usually covered with a pastry crust.” All right, we’re on our way. …
2. Pies go by many names. “Pie,” of course, is most familiar. Other names include pastry, tart, patty, pastie, turnover, cobbler, crumble, streusel and piraski.
3. Pies once were eaten for breakfast. (Some of us do sneak one in first thing in the morning, but, of course, dinner is the conventional time.)
4. Where were the first pies made? In Rome and Greece.
5. And how did pie making and eating spread? It followed the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire.
6. In the middle ages you could take a bird such as a chicken or goose to a bake shop and have the meat baked into a pie. This puts a whole new spin on the “Sing a Song of Sixpence” nursery rhyme in which a pie with four and twenty blackbirds was set before the king and the birds began to sing.
Blackbird pie from:

7. Crisco’s fun facts on pies state that “the average American eats six slices of pie per year.” Did you meet your quota in 2008?
8-12. According to a survey of 800 people conducted by Kelton Research in January 2004 for Crisco and the American Pie Council, the most popular pie was … apple
Second was pumpkin or sweet potato
Third was chocolate
Fourth was lemon meringue
Fifth was cherry.
13. Another fact gleaned from those surveyed was that MOST people like their pie “naked.” In other words, without toppings such as whipped cream or ice cream. (My oldest son would disagree.)
So, how do you like your pie? What’s your favorite? Please take part in our survey and/or leave a comment. We enjoy having you drop by.

For further tasty information on pies, National Pie Day or other foods, check out:

Freaky Deaky Caramel Pie

There are 3 kinds of basic caramel pie in this world. Okay, 4 kinds.

1) The kind you buy at a store or restaurant.
2) The kind you make from scratch, with butter, sugar, milk and eggs.
3) The kind you make from melted caramel candies.
4) The kind that freaks you out while it's cooking but tastes so darn good you don't want to share it.

I think you can guess which kind I'm going to talk about!

The recipe is simple but a bit time consuming. Here's what you need:

2 cans Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 ready made graham cracker or Oreo pie crust
whipped cream topping

Here's what you do with your ingredients:

Boil the cans of sweetened condensed milk in pot for three hours. Make sure the water always covers both cans. After three hours take cans out of pan. Use tongs! Let them cool a bit, about thirty minutes. Open cans and pour/spoon into pie crust. Top with whipped cream. You can also sprinkle mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or Oreo crumbs on there if you want to get fancy.

A trick to remember: if you open the cans right when you get them out of the water, they may spew. If you let them cool for too long, the caramel will get pretty hard in the can and you'll have to scoop the caramel out, resulting in a lumpy pie.

My husband is the one in our family who makes this pie. Man, it's good. It's so sweet it hurts your mouth, but in a good way.

And seriously. That's how you do it, you just boil the cans! This is a great one to make when you have company and they've never seen caramel made this way. When you start boiling those cans without even opening them... Yeah, it's pretty funny.


Jody W.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pizza! Pizza!

When we at the diner began talking up pies, I wasn't thinking apple, pumpkin or pecan but...PIZZA!

That's right! Pizza besides being delish and nutrish has been around in one incarnation or another for a very long time. Although associated with Italy,you can trace it's roots back to Greece and even further. But the more modern version of this ancient food dates back to 1889 when Queen Margherita toured her country and saw locals Napolitanos (people from the city of Naples) munching down the local cuisine of flat bread rubbed with olive oil and herbs. When the queen requested a taste, she loved it! And who wouldn't?

Local pizza chef, Rafaelle Esposito, was summoned to court where he concocted the first "modern" pizza, topping the dough with tomatoes, mozerella cheese and basil leaves representing the colors of the Italian flag. Brava! Fantastica!

Pizza migrated to the new world with great immigration of Italians who entered this country at the turn of the 20th century but the foodstuff entered the American culture after World War II. All those hungry American soldiers who brought their stomachs to Italy when they liberated it, brought back to America their yearning for pizza.

Today, on average, Americans eat 23 lbs of pizza per person, per year. That's a lotta Pizza! Pizza! There is even a National Pizza Day celebrated on February 9th. In my town, Valentine's Day is a huge pizza day where a local pizzeria offers a balloon and heart-shaped pies to patrons.

So, are you a thick or thin crust lover? Meat or veggie? Regular or white?


Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomato Pie

So this week the gals here at the diner are divulging their favorite pie recipes. I have to tell ya, I'm not a waitress on the staff for nothing. I can't cook worth beans. If it doesn't have 3 ingredients or less, I usually don't attempt it. But I do have a wonderful recipe I love to make when the garden is bursting with fresh tomatoes. Here goes...

Tomato Pie

1 pie shell, baked and cooled
1 cup Miracle Whip
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 ripe tomatoes, sliced thick
1 teaspoon basil (sweet)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
salt & pepper to taste

Fill pie shell with tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil and chives. Mix mayo with cheese and spread over tomatoes. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Now let the age old debate begin: is this a fruit pie or a vegetable pie? Who cares?! It's to die for.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

When accomplishments hit snags...

It has been ten days since my book was released by Ellora's Cave. At first I was all floaty and happy, then I visited my page and discovered someone had rated the book and left a comment. Now, on the face of it that's great. Someone cared enough to leave me a message. However, this wasn't a particularly good rating or positive comment.

I was really bummed out. My first thought is how the heck they'd gotten a novel of 120,000 words read on the day the book was released and still managed to leave a comment. My second thought was...damn - that's on my BUY page. Any reader visiting this page is going to see that rating and they might reconsider buying my book.

I posted to one of the RWA chapters to which I belong asking for advice, and the ladies there came up trumps! First, there was commiseration. All the "how dare they" comments you want to hear from friends. Then came, the "well, you know this kind of thing will happen. This is business" comments. Then came the some really cool stuff... The "when the universe gives you lemons, make lemonade" comments.

What fell into the last category? Well, things like having a friend read the book and leave an honest (not coerced) and genuinely positive comment. Then someone suggested I go to my personal blog and challenge my readers. Write a post admitting to the bad comment and challenge readers to go see for themselves. Buy the book, read it, and comment on it.

So that's what I did. You know what? I've since had two really positive comments on my buy page. Not all the ratings are high, but it feels good to have a mix there. I figure it will encourage readers to go past the comments and ratings of other readers to decide for themselves. And really, that's all any author wants. Read the book and decide for yourself if you like it or not.

Has anyone else experienced negative reviews? How did you deal with them? Did you make lemonade from the lemons you were given? Share it in the comments section. I'd really like to know!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Goal Planning

Last week, I wrote about making a formal plan for your writing business. Today I would like to go into some ways to use this plan to set goals. Like last week, the three sections we’ll discuss are the Purpose Statement, Marketing Information, and the Financial Statement. We’ll start with longer-term and work down to weekly and daily goals.

Long term goals: If you wrote that Purpose Statement then you’ve already done this part. Mine was to write 2-4 marketable novel length, marketable paranormal and contemporary romance manuscripts. What is yours? Got it? Okay now we know where we’re going, so how do we get there?

Yearly Goals: To fulfill my Purpose Statement, I need to figure out the pages I’ll need to write in the 365 days of a year. Assuming approximately 100,000 words per manuscript, that’s 200,000 to 400,000 words per year; or 17000-34000 words per month, plus time for revision/polishing. Don’t forget that "marketable" part either. Time has to be built into the schedule for online classes, conferences, reading craft books and articles, writers groups, critique groups or buddies (and time to critique their work in return).

Now let’s look at how Marketing Information relates to your yearly goals. Making your work the best it can be with all the classes and study time mentioned above is one thing you can do to make your work more marketable. Also reading books in your genre/sub-genre to see what’s selling tells you what your competition is—and how you can make your work unique and competitive. In my case, paranormals are hot, BUT erotic paranormals are what’s selling. Mine are not erotic. So I’ll need to find something else to make my work special enough to sell. Contemporary generally isn’t selling well right now, but my research tells me that there are publishers who are looking for contemporaries. Those publishers are my market, and I need to figure out the best way to fit into that niche. To do that, I’ll likely need an agent, so I’ll need to research and query agents. That needs to be worked into my schedule. (I’m not even touching on the marketing of published books to the general public. However, that too must be worked into the schedule if you’ve at that stage of your career.)

Then there is the Financial Information. How many conferences can you afford to go to? How many online classes? Magazines, craft books, books in your genre can you afford to buy? How much time does your day job, family, and other responsibilities allow you to write? Taking all this into consideration can help you make better choices. For example, if see a conference blurb you think sounds good, but you really want to go to another one in the fall. Can you afford both? What about the time cost? Would going to both actually help you reach your long-term goals better than just one or the other? But don’t feel guilty about spending money on your business!

Monthly goals: Divide your yearly goals into 12 sections. (For example, my word count should be 3900-7700 words per month just for first draft.) Remember to include revision, and study, and critique groups, and all the other things I mentioned earlier.

Keep in mind, these don’t have to be equal sections. Maybe some months will be better for you than others. For example, most people don’t get as much done in November and December. Maybe you have a seasonally intense job. Or maybe the kids being out in the summer slows you down. Take that into consideration when you plan your goals. But do try to do SOMETHING every month, every week, and most days. If you don’t, you’ll lose momentum and make things harder on yourself. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

Weekly and daily goals: When you get to weekly and daily goals, you’ll need to keep in mind specifically what it is you need to do that particular month and break that down into doable goals. Just don’t make your "to do" list too long. Focus! Two solid goals will get you farther than ten things you feel you "should" do. Get your word count done if nothing else. That’s THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. If you don’t write, you can’t be a writer. The rest has to fit in between those writing sessions.

And don’t forget to do things to make your muse happy (also known as "filling the well"). We can’t be creative without playing sometimes. But then, my muse is a dragon. Quill will breathe fire on me if I cross her.

Good writing!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Numbers 1-13 and Me

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I saw this on Grace’s blog Sandier Pastures. She used it for her Thursday Thirteen on 12/18/2008 and I thought I really must try this idea.

Here are numbers and their corresponding association with me:

1 - I have one camera, which I love to use. One husband, one car, one house and one mailbox.

2 – I have 2 sons that I think are wonderful. And 2 suitcases because I like to travel.

3 – The number of cats in my house.

4 – The number of cats my sons are trying to talk me into. Also it’s the years I’ve tried to grow the raspberry bushes that are finally producing berries.

5 – The number of years my teaching license is good for.

6 – We have six trees in our yard, but the birch outside my bedroom window is my favorite.

7 – The neighbors who have asked for raspberries should the bushes really take off and I need to give away berries.

8 - The letters in my first and middle name added together.

(These fawns were under my willow this summer.)

9 – The herd/ group of deer my husband and I saw in our backyard last week.

10 – My collection of seed/ flower catalogs and the number of books I should get back to the library.

11 – The number of rose bushes I have.

12. This is how many cousins my children have as well as the count of books I've stacked in my to-read pile.

13 –Ha! This is the number of my favorite blogs to write. I love Thursday Thirteens.

Do you enjoy Thursday Thirteens? Give a holler or leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday Links

These past 2 weeks at the Diner, we've been talking about how to make resolutions and goals and how to keep them. Tonight I thought I'd share some New Year's Resolution jokes from around the internet, plus links to see more.

From A Cat's New Year's Resolutions:

* I will not swat my human's head repeatedly when she's on the family room floor trying to do sit ups.

* When it rains, it will be raining on all sides of the house. It is not necessary to check every door.
* I will not stand on the bathroom counter, stare down the hall, and growl at NOTHING after my human has finished watching The X-Files.

From 10 Funny Jokes about New Year's Resolutions:

Getting in shape:
A friend of mine had resisted efforts to get him to run with our jogging group until his doctor told him he had to exercise. Soon thereafter, he reluctantly joined us for our 5:30 a.m. jogs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

After a month of running, we decided that my friend might be hooked, especially when he said he had discovered what "runner's euphoria" was. "Runner's euphoria," he explained, "is what I feel at 5:30 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays." -- Neil P. Budge

From Aha! Jokes about New Year's Resolutions:

1999: I will read at least 20 good books a year.
2000: I will read at least 10 books a year.
2001: I will read 5 books a year.
2002: I will finish The Pelican Brief
2003: I will read some articles in the newspaper this year.
2004: I will read at least one article this year.
2005: I will try and finish the comics section this year.


Jody W. w/a Ellie Marvel
Megan's Choice -- Choose Your Adventure! *

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chipping Away...

So, we're well into the new year and I must say that I've actually done pretty well. My simplify mantra has been used and I managed to clean out TWO cabinets where various items would jump out whenever you opened a door. I also signed up for TWO workshops to stretch my creativity and help me shore up my new story.

And I have completed chapter one!

Of course, I also thought of something BETTER for chapter one, but er...I'm not going back. Nope. Nope. Nope. The whole idea is to PUSH ON with this draft and though I am ITCHING to rewrite...that will have to wait.

Did I mention I'm not good with waiting?

How about you? Do you tweak as you go along? Or vomit out a draft and clean it up later?


Monday, January 12, 2009

The Best Laid Plans – Not

When I left you last week, my big goal for 2009 was to speed up my writing productivity. I wanted to type 1000 words or more per day (whether they ended up manuscript-worthy or not), 5 days a week. So how did I do?

*hangs head in shame* I tried. I really tried. The kids were back in school after a 2 week Christmas break, the parents and other various visiting relations were gone, and the hubby was back at work after a week of vacation. I finally had the house to myself and armed with the best of intentions, I met my goal for Monday. Yeah! Then life got in the way--in the 5’9” form of my husband.

You see, the love of my life--who’s idea of exercise is 18 holes of golf every Sunday--forgot that he’s 46 and not 26 and tried to play racquetball for the first time since our 9 year old daughter was born with 2 guys who play regularly every week. The result? He comes limping in Monday night and the words “I think I tore my Achilles tendon” tumbled from his mouth. Visions of surgery and weeks of recuperation and physical therapy blew my writing plans right out of the water. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to be that bad after all, just a really bad calf pull. But Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were filled with chauffeuring him to doctor visits, alternating ice packs and heating pads, fetching meds, not to mention “I’m hungry, can you get me a snack?” “Hey babe, can you get me a beer?” Or “I’m chilly, can you bring in a load of wood and start a fire?” He’s like having a third child.

So he’s back a work now (thank heavens), still hobbling on crutches. Here’s hoping this week will be more productive and less injury-prone than last week. *sigh*

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Year means New Beginnings

Every year, I think about beginnings - new beginnings, whether it be relationships, jobs or, more particularly, writing.

One of my favorite book openings is from Jim Butcher's BLOOD RITES - "The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault."

With a good beginning, or hook, you have the first building block of a good book. It's a foundation to build on, to keep your readers (or editor) turning pages as you live up to the promise of that fantastic opening.

One thing some writers don't seem to understand, though, is the hook isn't just for the first chapter. Every chapter should begin with a hook to keep your reader wanting more, wanting to find out what happens next. And the end of each chapter should end with a cliffhanger, just like the ones they leave us with at the season ending of our favorite shows. I know I can't wait to find out what happens to Dean and Sam Winchester when Supernatural begins this coming Thursday.

So beginnings - and New Years - are important. They are important in your life, and important in your writing. Let go of last year, rejections, writers block, whatever's holding you back, and begin your writing year with a bang!

And keep writing!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mission Completed: Book Thongs

I had a challenge for 2008 I completed (part of) in early 2009 -- to find ways to maintain my career while actively parenting. And by actively parenting, I mean, things I could do while one or both kids were up in my space, stuck to my heiney, yelling in the background, and so on and so forth.

This afternoon, I completed my first test set of book thongs. Bookthongs, for the few who might not know, are bookmarks constructed of a piece of string meant to go between the pages of a paper book with items on one or both ends that dangle out when the book is closed. I like to provide a little something extra when I do reader giveaways, and bookthongs seemed to be a worthy addition to my arsenal of reusable gift bags and crocheted gnomes.

I began this project over a month ago, when I figured out how to crochet with cotton thread and a teeny tiny hook. This involved much cursing and removing of glasses on my part, because I apparently need bifocals. Maybe. I mean, I'm not 40 yet. Exactly. But I perservered and now I can do this:

However, cotton thread is soft, so I tracked down an organically pleasing medium to stiffen the crocheted ends. I have tried both spray starch and school glue so far, and the school glue works best. Plus, nontoxic, cheap and already in my house, no shopping required!

Then came the beading part. In December, my local RWA chapter handed out accomplishment awards to its attending members at the holiday party, and everyone was encouraged to use the awards (little silver charms) to make bookmarks. Beader and writer Cherie Denis carted in a lot of her loot, and we all got a quick lesson in how to bead. I happened to have a bunch of random beads already (long story), so at least I didn't need to buy any when I settled in to make my own bookthongs. Not that I got off shopping-free -- I did need crimp beads, needlenose pliars, crochet thread, stuff like that.

Once I started beading, I realized I seriously, for real, need bifocals (OMG no! I thought it was a fluke!) as well as a lot of patience. Beads often have v. small holes, and the types of thread I was using (cotton crochet thread, thin hemp stuff) was not as cooperative as I would have liked. I can see the appeal of beading on wire and fishing line, since the thin, rigid material would much more easily slip through the holes. I did purchase a beading needle, but I lost it (with the kids' help) the first day I did any intense beading. Beading also requires a steady hand (due to the small holes), and I was often unsteady because a child was next to me, grabbing stuff, bumping my work surface or otherwise demanding attention.

But at long last, I did produce a number of bookthongs, which are going out to my lucky beta testers next week. Here are some of them:

What this has to do with goal setting--goals can be amorphous, big things that are hard to accomplish. It's good to set some goals easily within reach and have them be projects with obvious "start" and "finish" points. Your self-confidence will thank you!

Now that I'm done, I feel a pleasant sense of accomplishment, little inclination to bead for awhile, frustration with my failing eyesight, and a fear of walking barefoot through my kitchen in case that's how I locate that missing needle.

If you would like more information about bookthongs:

* Here is the simplest pattern for a bookthong I have seen:

* Here is one using fishing line by an author:

* Here is a more complex one that involves a little crocheting and a tassel:

* Here is an adorable crocheted bookworm thong:

* Here's one where they used ribbon:

And I'm sure I'll be giving them away myself periodically, so you can also try that avenue. In fact, maybe I'll be giving one away as early as next week. Right now at my blog I'm asking visitors what I should provide along with a download of my latest release, which is a "choose your own adventure" style novella from Red Sage Publishing:
I'd love for you to hop over and click the poll button! You have a few more days to make your preferences known.

Jody Wallace w/a Ellie Marvel
Megan's Choice -- Choose Your Adventure! *

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Business of Writing

Did you know that if you’re writing seriously and with the aim of publication you’re an entrepreneur? It’s true. You own your own business—a writing business. Since you own a business, you should consider writing a business plan.
Businesses from the tiny Mom and Pop store next door to Fortune 500 companies use formal planning. As you’re setting your goals for this new year, you might consider following this established example and use your own business plan as a guide. There are many places to find examples or templates of business plans. You can check with your local Small Business Association, or just search the Internet. Keep in mind, it is a challenge to convert a standard plan to fit a creative business like writing, but use some of that writing creativity and you’ll be fine.

Some categories seem to be standard in a business plan template. I’m going to touch on three of them that I feel may benefit those of us who write. The Purpose Statement, Marketing Information, and Financial Information.
Purpose Statement: What is it you want from your writing? For me, it was to produce 2-4 marketable novel length romance manuscripts per year in a mix of paranormal and contemporary subgenres. For you it may be different. But making the effort to put the words on the page, you solidify what it is you want from your career. Not just to "be a writer" or "to write a book someday." This statement should be concrete and as specific as you can make it. To write one category romance novel every six months. To write one literary novel every two years. To write a mystery novel every year.

Marketing Information: What portion of the overall market is the type of book you want to write? What publishers publish what you want to write and in what quantity? What are their advances, royalties? What information can you gather about how they treat their authors? How much marketing do they do for their company? For their books and authors? What agents take on clients who write what you want to write (good to have an idea, even if you don’t feel you need an agent now)? Do these agents have a good sales record in your genre/subgenre? What do they do for an author? Most importantly, make sure any publisher or agent you’re thinking about is legitimate!

Who are your competitors? (These are other writers, both published and unpublished.) What are their strengths and weaknesses (for example: less experience, more money)? What are your strengths and weaknesses? (examples: maturity, connections, college degree, know agents, taken writing classes, good with description, bad with dialogue etc.) What can you bring to the table that they can’t? (What makes your work uniquely yours?)

Financial Information: How are you going to support your business financially? How much of your personal funds can you afford to/are you willing to funnel into your business? Know that it may be years before you make a profit, even after you sell (you’ll still have overhead). Prepare for this and you’ll be better able to hang in there for the long term.

This is just a quick and dirty overall look at the subject, but there’s a lot of information out there if you’re interested.

Back in 2005 I wrote a formal business plan. It was an eye-opening experience, but I’m really glad I did. A good business plan can pull you away from the personal aspect of writing and force you to look at the realities of the business side of the picture. Writing a plan can also help you see where you need to focus your efforts. After writing the plan, it was easier for me to identify and say no to things that didn’t fit in with my vision—and to grab opportunities that did.
I encourage you to give writing a business plan—or at least a partial one—a try.

Next week I’ll talk about using the business plan information to write goals.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Resolutions for the Resolute

Welcome 2009! It’s a whole new year with lots of possibilities for change and new opportunities to explore.

Of course, many people use the New Year to make resolutions. The Free Dictionary ( defines resolutions as: “A course of action determined or decided on.”

I think of resolutions as goals for change or improvement.

Are you like me and do you make resolutions? Is there something you badly want to change? Or new endeavors to attempt? Perhaps to lose a few pounds? Or to begin a new career? Maybe to start your own blog?
In the process, do you wonder what others are hoping to change this year? I did a Web search looking for that very answer and found 13 common resolutions at and

Thirteen Resolutions for the Resolute

1. Lose Weight
2. Get out of Debt
3. Get Better Organized
4. Find a Better Job
5. Save Money
6. Learn Something New
7. Eat Right
8. Get Fit
9. Spend more Time with Family and Friends
10. Quit Smoking
11. Reduce Stress
12. Take a Trip or Vacation
13. Help Others

OK, I’m curious: Did you make any 2009 resolutions? Did they involve the Big Thirteen or something else?
What about me? Well, I plan to make sure I take a “Me Day” now and then, an idea I found at (
Woman’s Day has some excellent suggestions it touts as 20 “feel-good resolutions” you can actually keep. Just the kind I’m looking for. Other resolutions the Website lists include: swapping CDs with your teen. And make your kids laugh.

I’d love to hear what resolutions you’ve made -- or whether you make resolutions at all. I’m listening. …

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Goals Achieved: Today is Release Day!

One year ago today, my partial was in the hands of an editor at Ellora's Cave. I hadn't yet heard whether they would even want to read the whole thing, let alone that they might offer a contract. What a difference a year makes!

My goals last year included contracting Protect and Defend, but it was still a dream. I am proof positive that dreams made and goals set CAN happen. Now, I'm not saying I have the key to this stuff. Not even close. This year I have the same goal as sell my manuscript to a publisher. Different manuscript, same publisher. Keep your fingers crossed.

Today almost feels surreal...until I go to the new Ellora's Cave web site. On the front page, my book is listed as "Just released in e-book" and when you click on my book, there is a BUY button on the page. Wow. I mean

I'm excited and happy that my book is available to the public. It proved to me that persistance pays off. I'd about exhausted my avenues with P&D, sure that nothing would happen. I was feeling discouraged. Then I had the request for a full in late January. Suddenly, the excitement returned. Excitement about my writing. About the future. About pretty much everything.

What I've learned in 2008 is that goals are only half the battle. Persistance is the other half. You have to work and hope and believe in order to make things happen. I thought I knew that last year, but those rejections start to wear on you. Tough things happen in life. You feel down. I know I did.

One thing that really helped me was when I attended the RWA National writers conference in July 2007. I attended a PRO workshop and heard Sherrilyn Kenyon speak. She is one of my all time heroines. I love her books and after meeting her and hearing her story, I love her too. She told the story of her bumpy ride to publication and I was inspired. So when you find yourself feeling low, go to her Web site to read her story. I reread it before posting here and just like usual it made me cry, but it gave me hope too. Just remember fellow writers, Ms. Kenyon is a multi-published best selling author now. It can happen to any of us.

And I also want to say, when I grow up I want to be just like her!

Happy release day everyone!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2009: Simplify

Now is the time of year when people dust off or drag out those tired resolutions and swear to lose 20 lbs., write every day, be a kinder, gentler mother, daughter, co-worker or human being. Now, I'm not dissing any of those noble intentions but I've learned that resolutions don't work for me. Life is too fluid to have something like a RESOLUTION hanging over my head. It makes me feel like I'm walking under baby grand piano that's being lifted to a second story apartment. And you know how that ends--SPLAT!

Too messy for me. And my world is messy enough, thank you. So my sincere hope this year is to simplify.

That's it.

I've realized at this late stage that I don't need it all. And I certainly can't do it all, so I am recycling, reorganizing, donating and yes...dumping stuff. Old stuff that I never used. New stuff that I thought I might need but don't. Oh, I had good intentions. I did! But the road to hell isn't paved with intentions people, it's paved with stuff!! George Carlin had it right all along!!!

I meant to become the queen of scrapebooking right after I learned to knit, started (and finished) that quilt, and conquered the art of making homemade bread from scratch. (No breadmachine for this lady.)

It's time to get over it.

Many things are worth keeping--things like friendships, a positive attitude, hugs and kisses. But beanie babies? Mismatched gloves? Old textbooks from college?

With a little bit of luck, I might be able to finally get my linen closet closed!

So got any tips for me? Post them! Cause I'm all ears!


Monday, January 5, 2009

2009 Goals ala Lori

So we’re talking about goals this week. I hate goals, ‘cuz I rarely keep them if they’re just for me. If I muck it up, I’m the only one who cares.

But I think it’s safe to assume that all of us as writers will have some of the same goals:

*To land a high-powered agent who gets us a 6-figure deal on our next book.

*To have that book go to auction and come back with a 5 book contract because the editor loves your writing so much, they don’t want you to ever leave them.

*To have that book hit the New York Times and USA Today best seller lists the first week it’s released.

*To win the RITA.

*To have the book optioned for a blockbuster movie starting Hugh Jackman and Sandra Bullock. (I like older heroines and since I write humorous paranormals, she has to be beautiful and quirky too.)

OK, time to wake up now, Lori. Let’s focus on something that is actually within your power (and within the realm of reality).

My goal for 2009 is to be a faster writer. To be successful in this biz, you need to be. No editor or agent wants an author who takes 2 years or more to write each book -- which seems to be my track record judging by how long it took me to write my last 2 books. Did you just see that snail whiz by me? Yep, the sad truth is I’m the slowest writer alive. My very first book, which I wrote before I knew ANYTHING, took me 9 months to write, so I know I CAN write faster if I try (of course, that was pre-kids). So my goal for 2009 is to be faster without sacrificing quality. To sit my but in my chair and get the words on the page. Consider it my own personal NaNoWriMo.

And like NaNo, I’ve decided to do it by word count and not by page count. I know me. If I get only one word on page 3, I’ll count it as a page for the day. Nope, computer word count is going to keep me accountable (and honest). And I’m going to be realistic about it, too. 1700 words a day, 7 days a week like it would require to do 50K for NaNo is not realistic for me. Weekends bring family demands and I rarely get much writing done then. Starting today, I’m going to go for 1000 words a day (3 pages in TNR for me), 5 days a week. At that rate, I can have the first draft of a 100K novel done in 20 weeks. Much better than 2 years, don’t you think?

So with a goal like this, do I want to end up being as prolific as Nora? To be honest, no. I think my head would explode if I even tried. No, if you factor in revisions and polishing, I'd be happy with one book a year. If I can do one every 9 months like my first book, I -- and hopefully my future editor and agent -- will be ecstatic.

I’ll post again next week and let you know how I did.