Monday, February 23, 2015

Stars - what do they mean?

No, I'm not referring to the Oscars last night.
My science fiction group, The Minnows Literary Group, now has four anthologies that benefit Doctors Without Borders (Out of Time, In A Land Far Away, Centauri Station, and Still Out of Time), and the combination of the four sell around 100 copies per week. We appreciate that people leave reviews, but, occasionally, the stars given don't seem to match the reviews.

Amber over at WANATribe once posted a blog post about the rating system difference between Amazon and Goodreads, but I can't seem to find her post. So, I thought I'd give a quick recap here.

On Amazon:
1 star = I hate it
2 stars = I don't like it
3 stars = It's okay
4 stars = I like it
5 stars = I love it

On Goodreads:
1 star = did not like it
2 stars = it was okay
3 stars = liked it
4 stars = really liked it
5 stars = it was amazing

As you can see, Amazon's scale is more extreme on the Dislike end, while Goodreads allows for a more extreme Like rating. Therefore, 5 Stars on Amazon is really more like 4 Stars on Goodreads. Keep that in mind when I love your book but only give it 4 stars on Goodreads. ;)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Magnificent Julie Rowan-Zoch

Through the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, I have met many talented illustrators, some of whom became good friends (and two of those are also my wonderful critique group mates!). Julie Rowan-Zoch is one of good friends who constantly inspires me.

We exchanged postcards one day recently - that's fun! I need to exchange with my artist/illustrator friends more often - and I was so taken by them, I had to share with the world (or at least the small percentage of the world that reads my blog).

Here are Julie's business card and promotional postcard:
This is the front of the promotional postcard. It's brilliant the way she tied the front and the back together around the central characters.
One of the things I admire most about Julie's work is how she can make a piece look so simple and yet convey such emotions and narrative at the same time.
Is this darling, or what? Reminds me of the fun time I spent in the Netherlands...but much cuter.
 In addition to being super talented, Julie is also generous. She created illustrations to celebrate all her Facebook friends' birthdays. Here's one she made for me the first year I "met" her:
 And this is the one for last year:
a little frog must have told her I've owned chickens for about 12 years
Julie's talent has now been recognized far and wide and she's been signed by the prestigious Wernick & Pratt literary agency. Check out Julie's success story at Julie Hedlund's site.

Hope you'll go look at some of Julie's art at her website and Facebook page. You'll be glad you did!

p.s. following advice from my very wise friend, Sylvia Liu, I am changing comments back to being always open

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators NYC Conference

Because I'd spent the previous week preparing for the conference and then most of the week away for the actual conference, I don't really have a post today. Therefore, I'm going to post a few doodles I did while I was listening to the speakers at the SCBWI Conference, and a bit of rambling and call it a day. 

Not only was it an inspiring conference, I also got to meet a whole bunch of online friends for the first time: Douglas Florian with whom my friend Elaine and I spent a lovely half-day with,
he signed a bunch of books for me
my Penguin Posse critique group friends and Minnows Literary Group friends. I am pretty sure I have new best friends for life, partly because we shared some scrumptious meals. When you break bread (or sushi) together, you are bonded in friendship!
tapas, Japanese-style
scallops at Cognac, NYC
I hope to have a very cool post about a very cool friend for next week or the following week. Stay tuned!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, February 02, 2015

Happy Birthday, Phyllis!

It's Groundhog Day again...and this year, it is also Punxsutawney Phyllis's 10th birthday! Phyllis is author, and super nice person, Susanna Hill's literary baby.

In honor of this lovable little groundhog, I've penned a (quick...sorry, Phyllis; didn't have much time) ditty. :)

There once was a groundhog named Phyllis
Whose birthday calls for parades and floatillas.
But she wanted something worse:
Birthday wishes penned in verse!
If it doesn't make us stronger, it'll kill us...

Do I hear collective groans? Thank you; thank you very much!
Have a lovely week, hopefully free of bad limericks after today!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Love Blog Hop

I've agreed to do a rare blog hop because it's about books, and because the lovely Cathy Ballou Mealey asked. :)
The idea is the brainchild of Carrie Finison and it's to highlight books that you think deserve more recognition than they're getting. Participants are to:
"Post reviews for the books you chose on Amazon/social media. The reviews can be brief - even a short review on Amazon helps. Posting on Goodreads or Shelfari is great, too, or Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc." and link back to Carrie's blog.

I would like to highlight four of my favorite books:
Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams - the rather depressing topic of species going extinct is covered by Adams in his characteristic droll British style
The Cosmic Code by Heinz Pagels - a very well written book for the lay person on quantum physics; my only beef is that there are virtually no equations in it
Half Magic by Edward Eager - Eager was inspired by the tales of E. Nesbit to write tales that are equally magical and fun for the upper elementary set. I find his writing more accessible than Nesbit's
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham - not nearly as well-known as Day of the Trifid by Wyndham, this book is a memorable post-apocalyptic story that has a hopeful ending

I want to point out here something that some of you may not realize, which is that a 5-star rating on Amazon is equivalent to a 4-star rating on Goodreads.

If you'd like to play along, please let me know as I'd like to check out your choices. Also, if you're not already friends with me on Goodreads, please friend me! I like to see what others are reading. I think my moniker is "writer64" there.

Have a great week!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, January 19, 2015

Recipe time!

Tastier than hammer time (whatever that even means). I'll bet you've been waiting eagerly for the first recipe of the year.  Or, not.

I tried a new recipe. I'd gotten it off of almost exactly 4 years ago and had never made it. Why not? Well, because we rarely have dried cherries in the house. But, our wonderful friends, Carol and David, gave us a gift box of dried fruits from Bella Viva Orchards and I finally had dried cherries to bake with.
It turned out dense but super chocolatey and quite tasty.

Black Forest Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart online
makes 36

1 C AP flour, spooned and leveled
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used chocolate chips)
1/2 C unsalted utter, cut into small pieces
1/2 C granulated sugar (I used 1/4 C)
1/4 C dark-brown sugar (I usually whatever brown sugar I have on hand that's opened)
2 large eggs
1 pkg (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chunks (I used cappuccino chips)
1 1/2 C dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper (I only needed 2...I have large baking sheets), set aside. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place chopped chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. (I have used the microwave for this step before in making other things that require melting butter and chocolate together.) Remove from heat; whisk in sugars, then eggs, until smooth.

Whisk in dry ingreds just until combined (do not overmix). Fold in chocolate chunks and dried cherries. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of dough and refrigerate until firm, 30-40 minutes. (I left it in the fridge for 35 minutes and it was way too hard to handle; next time, I'll only put it in for maybe 15 minutes.)

Drop mounds of dough (about 2 level tablespoons) about 2 inches apart onto prepared sheets. Bake until edges are firm (but not if you could tell; I know I couldn't), 11-13 minutes. Cool on sheets for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, January 12, 2015

Learning already

It's only been a week and a half into the new year, and I'm already learning things! Things like:

1) It is coooold in January even when you go as far south as Patagonia, Arizona. But we had a nice trip anyway.
the dry desolation of southeast Arizona
Yes, that's snow on the ground.
outside our cabin window at Ramsey Canyon Inn
2) I should have kept in touch with the professional artists who thought very highly of my art skills because they would have made me feel guilty for mostly wasting the last 25 years of my life and not working harder at honing my skills (yes, I'm thinking of you, Bill Mammarella and Rick Ortwein).

3) Root veggies like kohlrabi and rutabaga are versatile, tasty, and keep well.

There are a few more things, but I won't bore you with my list. How about you? Learn anything new or deep in the first week plus of January?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, January 05, 2015

Happy 2015!

I've not been able to shut down comments without deleting my Disqus account (which, then, deletes all the wonderful comments I've gotten from all of you, and I can't bear to do that). I'll see if I can have the commenting option shut down a day after the post appears, so people can just come peruse and not have to leave a comment.

I thought I had a post ready for today, but it was not meant to be. So I'm just going to go with a bit of news and a promise to be less lame for my next post. :)

Firstly, it's the First Birthday of KidLit411, the brainchild of my genius picture book critique buddy, Elaine Kiely Kearns, along with her partner in crime, and also my PB critique buddy, Sylvia Liu. To celebrate, they are having an awesome bash, offering tons of great prizes. Go check them out!

Secondly, The Minnows Literary Group is pleased to announced our fourth e-anthology in support of Doctors Without Borders. Centauri Station is a collection of stories about the adventures and perils of space travel. At 99 cents, it is a bargain and goes toward a great cause.
Now, go forth and have a great week!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, December 22, 2014

Times they are a-changing

I could also sing another song, "Ch-ch-ch-changes..." but enough about my music flashback problems.

What changes are afoot? The obvious, of course, we're about to change from 2014 to 2015. But there are some others:

1) For starters, I was going to do one more post for 2014 next Monday, but I'm going to let this be the last post of the year and take a break next week instead.

2) My Science Fiction Group, The Minnows Literary Group, has a new e-anthology (Still Out Of Time), joining Out of Time and In A Land Far Away. As with all our anthologies, all profits from all sales and loans go toward Doctors Without Borders. To date, we have donated a bit over $2,140 $3,440 (Russell James, my critique group leader reminded me that $2,140 was just this year and that last year, we donated $1,300, which raises the total to $3,440), thanks to each of you who bought our books.
Coming soon is Centauri Station.
3) I'm also going to make a slight change to this blog. I know it's hard for people to find time to come over to visit -- thanks to everyone who do so -- let alone take a few extra minutes to post a comment. I know myself how much more time that takes up, especially with my slow internet. On top of that, with some blogs, they not only ask you to fill out a captcha, but, also, if you happen to do it incorrectly, does not bring you back to your comment to redo the captcha. There is nothing more frustrating than having my 5+ sentence-comment obliterated and have to start again; it's bad enough re-doing just the captcha.

So, to make it easy for readers, and me too because I try to always reply to my commenters, I am getting rid of the comments option. I put in a "contact me" widget in case you feel absolutely compelled to get in touch with me.

I will, however, stick with the Monday schedule and will still vary my posts with topics of homesteading, writing, art, and whatever catches my fancy because I don't want to be known as a one-trick pony. I don't know that I'll do any video posts, at least not on a regular basis.

4) I've also mind about some people. And I will leave that there.

5) I want to make changes to myself too. This coming year, I want to use fewer exclamation marks (or at least no multiple ones at the end of a single sentence...e.g. Like this!!! <--stop it; bad Teresa) and smiley faces. I want to, nay, need to, curb my enthusiasm. My natural inclination is to be bubbly and effervescent. I must suppress that personality. At least on Facebook. I might let her live here.

Hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful holiday season, no matter what you celebrate this time of year! May 2015 be a good year, or a better year, for all of us!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, December 15, 2014

Doodle Day December

We're half-way through the month and almost done with the year...I believe it's time to panic about all the things I haven't finished yet for the year.

I'm doing Doodle Day (started by the lovely Alison Hertz) again this month - at least the first half of the month; I don't know if I'll have time to continue in the second half of the month because I have other art I need to work on.

The theme for the month is holiday words which we can interpret as we like. Enjoy!

12/1: light
12/2: peace
12/3: tree
12/4: bell
12/5: star
I liked this so much, I made it my profile pic. Sometimes, a drawing just falls into place without too much effort. This was one of those times.
12/6: flame
12/7: life
12/8: oil
12/9: presents
12/10: snowflake
12/11: skates or skating
12/12: frosty
I ran out of time and could only manage this rough sketch
12/13: boots
12/14: family
Yellow-billed Cuckoo on left, Smooth-billed Ani on right: same family, different genus and species
Hope you're having a not-too-stressful December so far!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, December 08, 2014

Coconut Cake

Yes, you may sing that to the tune of Porcupine Pie (which makes me sound so old).

For Son2's birthday, I made a coconut cake, which turned out pretty tasty. I will also admit here, to the entire world, that I am a bad mom and completely forgot about his birthday and forgot to plan a cake for him. Luckily, Facebook notifications reminded me of the day, and my son, then, reminded me that I hadn't made him a cake. Oh, the comedies of aging and having a bad memory.

I figured some of you coconut lovers might want this recipe too. 
Coconut Cake (a.k.a. "I forgot about my own son's birthday" cake)

adapted from Elegant White Cake in King Arthur Flour's The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook

8 T butter, softened
½ C vegetable shortening
1 T baking powder
1 (to 1¾…I only used 1) C superfine or granulated sugar
¾ t salt
2 t vanilla extract
1 t coconut extract/flavor
5 large egg whites
2¾ C cake flour
1 C milk
1 C (plus maybe 1/8 more for decoration) toasted coconut - I used shredded but I guess you can use flake if you like chunky pieces

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt and extracts until fluffy and light, approx. 5 minutes depending on the power of your mixer. Add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir 1/3 of the flour into the mixture, then half the milk, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the milk, and then the last of the flour, scraping down bowl occasionally. Add 1 C of the toasted coconut, stirring until just combined.

Pour batter into 2 greased and floured or parchment-lined 8” or 9” round pans, 3 8” round pans, or a 9x13” pan. Bake the cakes for 23-26 minutes (for the 8” pans), 25-30 minutes (for the 9” pans), or about 35 minutes (for the 9x13” pan). Remove cakes from oven and cool completely on racks before frosting.

Use your favorite frosting recipe, adding 1 t of coconut extract into it. Sprinkle the frosting with the remaining ¼ C of toasted coconut to garnish.

Enjoy with or without guilt and a candle!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, December 01, 2014

My Favorite Scene - Powers of Ten

Welcome to the last video of the year, and possibly the last My Favorite Scene video, period.
Because this is a longer video than I normally make, it exceeded Blogger's video size limit of 100mb (it's 108.9mb), so I had to upload to YouTube and give you a link to it here instead.

I hadn't realized the banana tree behind me was trying to attack me while I was recording - it did an amazing job of messing up my hair - but maybe it'll give you a good laugh, like it did me when I watched it.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to watch me babbling my way through another My Favorite Scene segment. Please join me next week when I have a recipe post next week...and no banana trees!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, November 24, 2014

Things that make me happy

Like most of you, I have an assortment of things that make me happy - little snakes, down comforters, whipped cream flavored vodka, hangnails that pull out cleanly without bleeding all over the couch I'm sitting on. One of the less weird things that make me smile is Bead Style magazine.
I'm obsessed by jewelry making. It's so weird because I don't wear a whole lot of jewelry, usually just my wedding ring. But, when I look at jewelry making books and magazines, I get a stupid happy grin on my face, the same stupid smile on your dog when you come home and he thinks you have a bacon treat for him.

I'd let my subscription to Bead Style lapse because I was purging magazines for a while, but I missed it. So, when my agent's daughter started fund-raising for her Girl Scout troop and I saw that this was one of the magazines they offered, I leaped at the chance to subscribe again. Leaped...across the get my credit card...

I need counseling.

If you love jewelry-making like I do, or are in the market for a magazine to fill that void in your life, you might want to head to this website to help support the Girl Scouts organization. (**note: apparently the fundraising is over, so I don't know if the links still work)

Or if you prefer chocolates and other confectionery goods instead of magazines, since that will really, literally, fill a void in your life, specifically your stomach, you can get those through the Girl Scouts too.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, November 17, 2014

RETRASH - a book review

If you know me, you'd probably know that I am loathed to do a number of things: drive, exercise, do interviews, and do book reviews. Oh, and I hate to leave the house too, but let us talk about my serious neuroses some other post.

So, you may have fallen off your chair when you saw "a book review" in my blog title. It's a lot easier to fall off the chair if you're sitting on a therapy ball, by the way.

But, yes! You read right - no need to keep rubbing your eyes or wonder if the mushrooms you ate last night were hallucinogenic - this is really a book review. It's a pretty short book review, but it is an actual one.

I recently won an e-version of an usual but über cool book.

The book, written by Nathan Devine, is cleverly titled, retrash: Upcycle, Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle. As Nathan says in the forward, "This book represents a small part of the solution to our growing problem of waste..." and features the work of indie artists and crafters who created stunning new things out of old materials that would otherwise have cluttered landfills.

Divided into twelve chapters - fabric/fashion, timber, electronics, linoleum, paper/cardboard, kitchenware, billboards, metal, glass, mixed materials, jewelry, plastic - each section is full of gorgeous color photos along with the artists' descriptions of how they came to make what they do, what inspires them, and more. Their Etsy addresses are given in case anyone wanted to order their products, which I know you will find irresistible. Or, if you're the creative sort yourself, their creations will spark your own ideas of what to do with the materials around you that would usually be thrown out. 
an example of the extraordinary art in the book
However it moves you, and I promise it will, you will leave this book never looking looking at trash, or art, the same way again.

To get a discount coupon and for info on how to order the book, go to the retrash Facebook page. It would make a great gift for those on your list who are environmentally-minded or have an artistic soul. And, you know, the holidays are coming up!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams