Less Time Cooking, More time Writing!

I’d rather write, or read, than cook. Love my computer. My oven, stovetop, mixer, etc., not so much. But computer games and kitchen gadgets rank about the same on my LIKE LIST.

No. 1       INSTANT POT

A kitchen gadget, the INSTANT POT just hit the top spot on my LIKE LIST. I was suspicious at first. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of scary tales about pressure cookers. But the reviews on the Instant Pot made it sound pretty much like a magic. I ordered one and let it sit on the counter about a week… Remember those scary tales? Then I tried it, and fell in love. It’s wonderful. Put the food in, follow the instructions, press the button, go away. After the allotted time (or more) has passed, open the pot and serve. This puts food preparation on my schedule. I put the food in when I take a break, and then we eat when we’re ready. It’s great! And easy to clean. Don’t take my word for it, go to Amazon and read the reviews. (By the way, the Instant Pot sears, makes yogurt, and does non-pressure slow cooking as well as pressure fast cooking.)

No. 2      CUISINART GRIDDLER ELITE

And there’s another gadget that resides near the top of my list. It’s the Cuisinart Griddler Elite Grill. We aren’t that interested in outdoor grilling now that we live in windy Oklahoma. We like grilled food but waiting for a calm day to grill… well you have to live here to understand. But, with the Griddler, we can have grilled food anytime. And after the griddler is hot, it’s two minutes to sear a couple of steaks on both sides and then cook for two to five minutes more. If you did the math, you see that cooking time is four to seven minutes. This fits my schedule well. More time writing and less time cooking. I think this works best for empty nesters, It works really well for the two of us. And, It’s easier to clean than the outdoor grill, plus I don’t have to spend time getting Dan motivated!

No. 3      CUISINART FOOD PROCESSOR

And, there is one more item near the top of my list, my Cuisinart Food Processor. It’s the workhorse of my kitchen (when we aren’t eating out). Like the barker at the fair shouts, “it slices, it dices, it mixes, it blends… etc.” It does all that, but mostly for us, it makes cookies. Toss the ingredients in the bowl, press the button, and the flour, sugar, and eggs, etc. turn into cookie dough. I store the dough in the fridge, bake six cookies at a time, and we have cookies fresh from the oven every day if we want. We like it!

One more good thing! I don’t have to hunt for room to store these three items. I found space for them when I threw out the appliances they replace. My old slow cooker, outta here.  Gave the indoor rotisserie away. The outdoor grill has been retired – could be reinstated for a family meal on a still day. And the big mixer is outta here. Other things could be on their way out. If they aren’t fast and don’t work to my writing schedule, their days are numbered!

 

 

Gettin’ in the Zone

Me Coloring 2

Some days writing comes easy. Other days, not so much.

Some of my writing friends wait for the muse to appear. But I need to be in the zone. That’s the place where my creativity dwells and imagination soars. It isn’t a place where I can decide to go, I have to get there. Some days I pull my WIP on the screen, place my hands on the keyboard, scroll to the last sentence, and I’m there. My characters greet me and pick up exactly where they left off. It isn’t magic, but it is something just as amazing.

But, what about those other days? The ones where I place my hands on the keyboard, scroll to the last sentence, and nothing happens. My characters ignore me as though they are hiding in another dimension. I guess they are, and I have to find my way to them.

I have found that artistic creative activity leads me to the zone.

I take my hands off the keyboard, turn around, open a grown-up color book, and choose my colors. Right away, I’m creating and pretty soon my characters are… well, I think they are wondering how I can be in creative mode without them. Next thing I know, they’re leaning over my shoulder vying for my attention. Pretty soon, they’re talking to me, I’m listening, and the story picks where we left off.

Maybe my tactic will work for you. Want to try it? Here’s what you do:

Choose a color book — Amazon has a bunch! These struck my fancy. (A click on the images will zip you to Amazon for more information.)

I like colored pencils because – no smears and no mess! Crayola colored pencils are good to start. But if you don’t want to feel like a kid, go for a more expensive set.

Than add a manual pencil sharpener plus a sack of candy and your good to go!

(I can’t eat chocolate so these caramels are the next best thing)

Enjoy!

Earth Angel Rescue – 1947

Scan-6I’ve been scanning old photos this weekend and this photo triggered a flood of memories. I’m about seven here, heading into second grade in the fall. Our yard is fenced; see the gate at the edge on the left. There is no fence separating the pasture from the driveway and there is livestock grazing in the distance. Looking to the north, there was a fence separating the pasture from the distant field. This sets the scene for my first memory of an Earth angel.

I’ve never known how it happened. Mama was very watchful and but that day something must have distracted her when it was time for the school bus to bring me home. I think she usually met me at the gate at the end of the driveway, about a quarter mile from our house. But this day, I got off the bus and she wasn’t there. So, I crawled through the barbed wire and headed home.

Way in the distance, a horse raised his head and looked toward me. He took off on a gallop as thought he’d been spooked, making a beeline for me. I knew he was danger on four hoofs. So, I hid behind a mesquite bush that was little taller than me and offered no protection. There was nothing else around and the horse was closing in.

The next thing I knew, there as a large high-school boy by my side. The horse had been diverted, and I was safe.

Here’s the rest of the story:

Daddy hired a couple of high-school boys to help him with the plowing.  As I remember, my Earth angel was Hilbert Hammock. He was plowing the cotton field across the pasture to the east of the house. He was about a quarter mile from the house, and ready to make the turn. I guess he saw me about the time he spotted that horse. Somehow, he stopped the tractor, jumped off, hurdled the barbed wire fence that kept the livestock out of the cotton field, and reached me in time.

Mama saw it all from the house. She told me how frightened she was as she watched me hide in that small bush as the horse galloped toward me. There was nothing she could do but pray. I’m sure she did. Then Hilbert jumped off the tractor and no one knew he could run so fast. But I’m sure God whispered in his ear and gave him the strength he needed as my mother watched as an Earth angel rescue her child.

As for me, I couldn’t imagine that many, many years later, I would be an author writing stories woven around people who are in the right place, at the right time, willing to help someone in trouble. They’re God’s boots on the ground and I call them Earth angels.

It’s a Magic Pot and Writer’s Friend!


I discovered the Instant Pot quite by accident. It’s a little crazy that it grabbed my attention since as far as cooking goes, I consider myself “retired.” But I do like kitchen gadgets and appliances. Once I started reading about the Instant Pot, I kept reading and the Amazon Customer Comments made me want to try it even though… a pot couldn’t be all that! Could it?

So, I ordered the product pictured above, and after I read the instructions, it took me a couple of days to work up the nerve to try it. Fear of failure at work I guess. My recent cooking history has an shameful number failures. It is a pressure cooker, and I haven’t used one for years and years. But it has safety features that make me comfortable.

It can be used as a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, for sautéing, and several other things including yogurt making! (No, I don’t plan to make yogurt, but I may toss my Crockpot out!)

After I cooked a pot roast in 35 minutes, I was liking this pot. But when I popped in a few frozen chicken tenders and some barbeque sauce with the recommended amount of water… and they were done in fifteen minutes I was liking this pot even more.

When I discovered how easy it is to clean and that I could put my meal in the pot, cook it the allotted time, and let it sit until time to eat… well, I LOVE this pot! There is more to like and more to love. But you have to see for yourself, I’m still in discovery mode. Some of the best appliances were never in my grandmother’s wildest dreams. But, a pot couldn’t be all that, could it? Yes!

And, what about the  magic? Well, anything that can draw me out of kitchen retirement must be some sort of magic – I like to eat out. But this works for me. I can put something in the pot whenever I decide to take a break from writing, lock the lid, and press the button. I can let it vent naturally and open it when we’re ready to eat. Time is not of the essence in my kitchen when the instant pot is making dinner. I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner, or where we’re going, I just go back to work. You call it what you want but I think it’s magic!

Reader/Writer Dilemma

Quail's Run_edited-1

QUAIL’S RUN, Book Two in The Phoenix Connection is still in the shadows…

I’ve been facing a dilemma for about a week. I’m nearing the end of the first draft of QUAIL’S RUN, the second book in The Phoenix Connection Series, and I don’t know who did it. I’ve intentionally kept the identity of the villain secret from my future readers, and now I find that I’ve kept the secret too well.

So, I’ve struggled, going over the storyline time and time again, searching for clues. I left some along with a few red herrings. But, sorting the red herrings from the clues makes my eyes water and my brain hurt.

And then the scary thoughts come drifting out of the shadows.

What if I publish this book and then realize the villain identified in the last chapter was proven innocent in chapter fifteen?

Oh, my… What a fix I’ve created for myself…When I put my brain in high-gear, sleep doesn’t come easy with all the buzzing in my head.

Son had a simple solution – No brainer, the butler did it. Husband isn’t offering any advice after hearing my response to Son.

So, in the wee hours this morning I consulted my Ultimate Advisor as I have almost every morning for as long as I can remember. And, His answer floated into my mind. Stop stalling! You’re the author. You decide.

So simple.

I’m a reader and a writer, two activities I enjoy and should be true to each. Somehow I slipped into reader mode this past week, trying to figure things out from the storyline I’d read. However, I’m the author. I can choose the villain and rewrite the clues and red herrings as needed.

Whew! I hate to admit how simple everything is once I see the path I should follow.

The general truth is even simpler, and it’s the advice I’ve given others: Take it to the Lord in prayer and wait with a quiet mind and a patient heart. The answer will come in His own time.

 

First Advice

“Tween Us Gals – I wrote this weekly column 2 1/2 years. It was my beginning.

I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I was one.

How did this happen?

I overheard a weekly newspaper editor say he needed a fresh new column for his paper. I thought, “I can do that,” and I did. When I saw my first column in print… Well, it was love at first sight.

My first editor was an old newspaper man ready for retirement. He had learned a lot over the years and, well, he was the only person in the publishing business I knew. So, I listened to his advice and felt honored to learn from him.

The first thing he told me: Don’t use the words very, really, or that. So, I marked those words out of my manuscripts before I gave them to him. (Later on, when I wrote for another editor, she went through my manuscript and added a that here and here. But, I’ve never had an editor add really or very.)

That old editor of the local weekly also told me: Never write anything that will hurt anyone.

A friend of his told me I would have to write a million words before I would sell a story. I started writing. I had young children, so I wrote in stolen moments. By the way, a million words is 4,000 double-spaced typed pages with one inch margins. That’s eight reams of paper.

I joined a creative writing class at a local Methodist church. The advice I remember from there was: have faith in your story. If you believe in it, don’t let anyone discourage you. When you receive a critique, only make changes you think will make your story better. It’s your story. Critiques from fellow writers are merely suggestions (edits from an editor, not so much).

Other advice:

Write, write, write. Read, Read, Read.

Write every day.

Learn your craft.

Get rid of the Be words (You have to use some).

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end.

Follow your dream.

When I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher, I didn’t use the words that, really, or very. My story had a beginning, middle, and end. I believed in it although my creative writing teacher said it was unbelievable. I sold LITTLE MISTAKE to Highlights for Children long before I wrote a million words. It was published May, 1973 (about a year after it was accepted), and I’ve been following my dream ever since…

Tips for Writing an Amazon Customer Review

me-and-reviews

Authors love reviews. And, many of us are avid readers who write reviews when we read a good book. Most of us have forgotten our first time and assume everyone knows how to post a customer review on Amazon.com.

Everything is easy once you have the know-how. But, none of us have the know-how the first time. It’s acquired. And, the first time is always scary!

So, here’s a tip sheet for posting a Customer Review on Amazon.com:

Gather your thoughts. Some people write reviews that are similar to a book report. You don’t have to do that. Just imagine having coffee with a friend, tell her (or him) what you liked about the book. Writing a customer review is simple as that – share some thoughts to let a reader friend know you enjoyed the book. What did you like about the book that others might like too?

Go to Amazon.com and search for the book’s page.

When you reach the page, scroll down to CUSTOMER REVIEWS.

On some pages, you’ll see “Share your thoughts with other customers.” Just below that, click on the WRITE A REVIEW button. On other pages, the WRITE A REVIEW button is located below the existing Customer Reviews… Keep looking. You’ll find it.)

A new screen will open with a row of stars, a box for the title of your review, and a box for the thoughts you want to share.

Follow the steps – first step, click on the stars to rate the book. (Authors love four star reviews and adore five stars.)

After you write your review, below the box you’ll see PREVIEW AND EDIT. Click that and check your review.

If you like it, click PUBISH and you’re good to go.

A short time later, you will receive a message that your review is live on Amazon.

And some time after that, the author will see your review and do the happy dance, rain or sunshine. Maybe he or she will take a bow and prepare for an encore. Want to encourage an author to write another book? Post a review.

 

Myrtle Hill — Where is it?

[amazon_image id=”1481167367″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Wren’s Nest[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B008VTNT2S” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Rogue Trust (Ordinary Days in Myrtle Hill)[/amazon_image]

Rogue Trust, Wren’s Nest, and Lucy’s Mansion (coming soon) are stories about the residents of Myrtle Hill, Oklahoma.  You won’t find the small town on any map and probably can’t pinpoint the location if you try. It’s all a figment of my imagination and not to scale.

I chose the name for a couple of reasons. My grandmother’s name was Myrtle, and, Crepe Myrtle’s grow well in the area and give summer a blast of color. Also, the general area is a mix of rolling hill pastureland and wooded areas. So, Myrtle Hill just seemed right.

My books are about a community and the people who live there… All sorts of folk living in a small town where you never know what might happen to change an ordinary day into a memory or a headline. A history teacher becomes heir to a fortune. A retired cop and his buddies spring into action to prevent crime. And a twelve-year-old, exceptional and wise beyond her years, adds flair and flavor while she stirs the conflict. There’s romance and a little humor, suspense and a little mystery, and people I hope you’ll love facing some unsavory characters displaying behaviors to hate. And… Uh… Pray for. (This is Christian fiction.) Rogue Trust is romance with a little suspense and mystery. Wren’s Nest follows chronologically while the romance is on hold and strangers bring suspense to Myrtle Hill along with a touch of romance. Lucy’s Mansion continues the romance as Becca and J.T. join forces to fight City Hall and save the women’s shelter. Future editions, with residents of Myrtle Hill waiting in line to tell their stories, will be a mix of romance, suspense, and mystery but not always in that order. I will write the chapters of the books as the characters tell me their stories. Anything can happen on an Ordinary Day in Myrtle Hill.

The ages of my core characters range from Amy K (12) to Jim Harrison (a wealthy CEO of a restaurant chain coming to the end of his days). However, there is a newborn passing through town in Wren’s Nest and a romance in Rogue Trust and Lucy’s Mansion that might result in marriage and expand the population in a future book.

I hope you’ll love my characters as much as I do and enjoy their stories. If you like my books, please help me spread the word. Tell a friend on FaceBook or Twitter. And write a review on Amazon.com and Goodreads. Not only will I love you forever, but I’ll be inspired to write another book.

So You Want to be a Writer

I received a reply to one of my Tweets. “@DeanneDurrett, follow me back, I want to ask about writing.” I visited his Twitter page and found a young man who wants to be a writer. We exchanged a few tweets about writing. But there is so much to tell a young aspiring writer. Tweets of less than 140 spaces are not enough to even begin. So, @Leorachadian, this is for you. I’m passing on some advice I received when I was a young woman who wanted to be a writer.

1. You have to read to learn to write. Read. Read. Read.

2. You have to write to learn to write. Write. Write. Write. (I was told I would have to write a million words before I could expect to be published, so I started writing my million words.)

3. Learn your craft. Learn grammar and put it in practice. Every aspect of it. Spelling, punctuation, and the rules of grammar.

4. In the beginning, write what you know. Later you can learn what you want to write.

5. Writing is rewriting. To create a publishable piece requires many revisions. Keep revising until you reach the point where you can’t find anything to change that would make your writing better.

6. Join a critique group. Listen and learn from the critiques. Some criticism of your work will hurt. Develop a thick skin. Only make changes when the change will make your work better. Make sure your work remains your work. All changes should be your decision.

7. If you are writing fiction, learn the basics of creating plot, characters, dialogue, scenery, and environment. Do your research, be sure your facts are correct.

8. If you choose to write non-fiction. Learn the elements of an article. Do your research. Make sure your sources are reliable and you writing is in your words but remains true to the source.

9. Wait to submit your work to an editor until you’re sure it’s ready. As near perfect as you can make it. (It won’t be perfect in any editor’s eyes, even one that accepts it.)

10. For most, not all, the road to publication is a long journey with steep hills, sharp curves, and some places where the bridge has been washed out. FOLLOW YOUR DREAM. The want-a-be writers who get published are the ones who don’t quit. If you want it bad enough, work hard enough, and overcome discouragement, you’ll reach your goal.

 

Ten Small Nuggets to Make an Author’s Day Special

When you finish reading a good book, the curtain comes down but there’s no applause for the entertainer. The author doesn’t see your smile or hear your sigh. He or she will never know you appreciate the time, effort, and imagination that created the hours of reading pleasure… Unless you say so. The best way, to express your appreciation and encourage the author, is to leave a review or reader comment at an online book stores.

It looks a little scary when you glance at the other reviewer comments and see three paragraph book reports. Lengthy reports are appreciated and treasured by the author and readers (unless they give away too much of the plot). But, two sentence comments that tell other readers what you liked about the book are like gold nuggets. A few words of encouragement make any author’s day special.

Don’t save your review comments for the best book you ever read, that’s a once in a life-time experience. Comment on the ones you enjoy. Kindle Fire makes it easy to post your review comment when you finish the book, but you still have to think of the words to write. It’s not that hard, once you get started.  Here are ten phrases you might mix and match to make your own review comment about a book you’ve read and liked:

1.  Kept me up past my bedtime

2. Romance (mystery or suspense) with twists and turns

3. Very well written

4. Loved the characters

5. Hated the villain

6. Kept my interest from start to finish

7. The characters seemed so real I thought of them as friends

8. I just couldn’t quit reading until I found out what happened next

9. My kind of book; had it all —  romance, mystery, and suspense.

10. I highly recommend this book

Let these phrases start you thinking. Write a few kind words from your reader heart, we don’t expect perfection. 🙂