Firsthand Experience

Today I am hosting fellow Fire and Ice author,Martha Deeringer. Nothing warms my heart more than to see other teachers find their inner writer! Martha  tells us about the setting that inspired her to write, Speak of the Tiger.

Here is what she has to say:

Nothing makes a book come alive for me like the feeling that I’m there with the characters in a real place that I can see, touch, hear and smell. So when I’m planning a book, I choose a location that speaks to me.  I want to make it come to life for my readers like it did for me.

When I wrote Speak of the Tiger, this was simplicity itself. During my teaching career, I accompanied busloads of sixth graders to the famous YO Ranch near Mountain Home, Texas every year for a three day leadership course where we hiked, camped out under the stars, rode the ranch’s famous horses, swayed in the tops of trees on a ropes course and got close-up experience with exotic wildlife.

The setting of Speak of the Tiger is nearly as important to the story as the characters. Without an intimate knowledge of the YO Ranch it wouldn’t have been the same book; the dust, the Texas heat, the shallow river and the spines of the prickly pear are an integral part of the story.

My next book, Orphans’ Inn,  (out in October) is historical fiction, and while I can’t go back to see the setting in the 1840s, visiting the modern location (Austin, Texas) and studying historic photos of the area have made it easier to get inside the head of the main character, Charity Bullock, an orphan who travels across the Texas plains to Austin to live with a great-uncle whom she has never met.

I’ve also written many history articles for magazines, and have found the same truths in these shorter stories. Writing about the US Camel Corps at Ft. Lancaster wouldn’t be the same without visiting the Caprock canyons of west Texas.  To make settings come alive—go there!

Martha Deeringer Find it here at Amazon – Speak of the Tiger

and at Fire and Ice Young Adult books – Speak of the Tiger

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Comfort Food 102

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Winter storms are headed for the Eastern coast of the U.S. Two feet of snow are predicted. I hope my good author friend, Tara Fox Hall, is making her favorite comfort food recipe in preparation for the bad weather!

Salt-Rising Bread, Tara-Fox-Hall-style

Step 1:

  • Cook 12-20 potatoes in a large pot in unsalted water until tender. Use the potatoes to make something else, like potato salad or mashed potatoes. What you want is the potato water.
  • Measure out how much you have into measuring cups. Don’t worry about potato-y remnants floating in the water – that’s a good thing. For each recipe of bread you will make, you will need 5 cups of potato water, total. You can add some plain water to make additional recipes (like adding two cups if you have only eight, so you can do a double recipe). You can also freeze this water if you need the potatoes now but don’t have time to make the bread.

Ingredient list:

5 C potato water (see Step #1 above)

2 packages active dry yeast or equivalent                              2 Tb + 1/2 C sugar

7-8 ½ C flour                                                                                  ¼ cup cooking oil

2 tsp salt

Step 2:

  • Combine 1 C of the potato water, the yeast, the 2Tb sugar, and ½ cup flour in a bowl and let stand covered. Within a half hour, the mixture should be bubbly and have a nice “head” on it, like a mug of beer. This step depends on how many potatoes you use.*
  • Stir in the rest of the potato water (4 C) and ½ C sugar. Let stand again for another half hour, until the same thing happens – a nice head of foamy yeastiness.
  • Mix oil, flour, and salt ingredients together with yeast mixture to make a moderately stiff dough.
  • Let rise until double, but be careful it does not spill over the edges!.
  • Punch dough down. Pour into bread loaf pans or a cake pan, or whatever is handy (original recipe says to use a large 12 x 5 ½” metal dishpan. I have tried all ways, including making rolls, and it does not affect the taste – its up to you how you intend to serve it!)
  • Bake 50-55 min. at 375 deg. or until done (this is for normal bread pans – please adjust depending on what container you are using. Rolls will be more like 20 min, and a huge pan more like 6-70 min.) .
  • 1 recipe will make 4-5 med. loaves. This bread will freeze well, also.

*This is a variation on the original recipe, as I neither like to wait 24 hrs. for the dough’s initial rise, nor feel the need to keep starter in the fridge J But this bread can be made with only 4 potatoes, just bear in mind that the resulting potato water will be much less rich, and need to rise with the yeast overnight, minimum.

tarafoxhall Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.

Find Tara here – Melange Books

And here new short story – AmazonThe Oath - Caroline

I thought Tara’s bread would go great with my “Light” Pumpkin Soup recipe.

Gingered Pumpkin Soup

Yield: 8 servings
Recipe adapted from Midwest Living

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp light butter
  • 2 (15 oz) cans pumpkin
  • 2 (14 oz) cans low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pepitas and brown sugar, as garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir in pumpkin, chicken broth, milk, maple syrup and ginger.
  2. Bring pumpkin mixture just to a boil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Garnish with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and a sprinkling of brown sugar, enjoy!

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

Serving Size: 1 cup • Calories: 85 • Fat: 0.9 g • Carbs: 16.6 g • Fiber: 3.5 g • Protein: 1.9 g • WW Points+: 2 pts

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Love historical romance? This stand alone Waiting for Dusk novel is soon to be released.

Release day – January 29. Preorder now!

Amazon

Fire and Ice

Edits and Craft Shows

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I’m in the middle of edits for my new book. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. I learn so much with each new editor. I always feel I finally have the editing process mastered. But, I don’t. (A side note to authors: No matter how you publish your book, you need a good editor!) Thankfully my publisher provides them and I am so grateful for that.

I know I write for only a small group of readers, and question why I keep doing it. Well, I do know why, I can’t stop writing. But sometimes it feels like a thankless job.

A few weeks ago, I set up shop at a craft fair. Before the doors opened, a young girl, who seemed to be about fifteen, strolled down the aisle. She stopped in front of my table and studied the books. She told me she loved to read and might come back and read mine. I thanked her and smiled while inwardly did a happy dance.

Fifteen minutes later she came back and asked if she could read some of the book. I told her to go for it. I sat and watched her read, set the book down and walk away. The earlier dance party in my head melted away.

Next thing I knew, she was back. Money in hand, she bought the first book of the series. She said if she liked it, she’d come back for the other two. She was a fast reader she informed me. Again, I nodded and smiled, but inside my heart raced. My mind was all over the place, “What if she doesn’t like it? Please like it. How long did she say it takes her to read a book?”

She helped her mom at a table further down the row. My niece, who kindly volunteered to sit at the table with me, spotted her reading. I couldn’t look. “Is she still reading?” I’d ask every now and then. “She has her head down, so yeah,” was the answer.

It was sweaty palms time. Would she be back? Would she buy the next two? I didn’t care about the money. I wanted her to like the book. Halfway through the craft fair, the girl made her next appearance. “I finished,” she said.

Heart pounding, I wanted to grab her and say, “Tell me everything! What did you like?” My niece calmly asked, “Who was your favorite character?” “Lindsey,” she replied. “Oh, interesting choice,” my niece answered.

Lindsey is my main character’s best friend. She is a good choice. Strong, determined, loyal.

Again, she walked away. My heart was now in my throat. Five minutes later, she was back, money in hand. “I want to buy the other two books.” The happy dance was back. She liked it. She really liked it.

We had a good conversation. I feel I can add her to my tens of fans. (That’s not a typo.) So thank you, fifteen year old girl from the craft fair. I will continue to write and hope someday more readers like you will find my books

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

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I just finished reading a young adult book that will remain nameless. It was released by one of the big publishers, has lots of reviews and is very popular. I wanted to read it because that’s what authors do. Read their genre. Get familiar with the competition.

Let’s just say, it was an okay book. The writing was surprisingly basic. Descriptions were sparse. No real suspenseful moments. I went to Goodreads to log the novel into my “Books I Have Read”. While there, I couldn’t resist reading some reviews.

According to the ratings (stars), the book had good reviews, but also quite a few low scores. There were thousands upon thousands of them… something I can only dream of. I scrolled down the first review page and was surprised how many one and two stars write-ups appeared. I started to skim through and had to stop and read a few. They summed up exactly how I felt about the book. The reviewers’ comments were well thought out and factual. After reading the book, I agreed with them.

As an author I could never give a one star review. I think I wouldn’t write one at all. Just leave it be. You know the old saying–If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I know how hard it is to write and complete a book, let alone get it published. I also know how it feels when you get your first one star review. It’s a little like a knife through the heart. I know reviewers would say to toughen up and take the hit. It’s their right to review. I totally agree.

As I stated before, I’d give anything for all those reviews, good and bad. People are arguing over the character, plot and descriptions. They are talking about the book. They are reading the book…regardless, to see if everyone’s right. That author should be thrilled. I hope she is.

One thing for sure, she doesn’t have to worry about a one star review from me. I’ll leave that to the tougher critics. As a reader, I am on their side. As a writer, I’d say walk a mile in my shoes.

 

 

 

Free!

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Free. We tend to see that word more and more these days in the book world. Self-published authors offer up their books for free in order to capture attention. I subscribe to Book Bub and they send me a daily list of free to low cost books. The books can be from top selling authors to self-published.

How does an author make a living on their books? I don’t think they can anymore with all the choices out there. Maybe the top 1% can, but not the rest of us. But the reason we write is not to make money. The story just has to get out there. The ideas are swirling in our heads. The characters are pounding on the door begging to get out.

Today I have the privilege of releasing a free short story. I love my publisher. She had the confidence in my series to create a cover, format the story and get it out there for free.

I never thought I’d be so excited about giving something away for free. But here is the link for “Taking Chances”, a short story from the Waiting for Dusk series. You didn’t have to  read the series to enjoy the story. The POV is from my male main character, Andrew. The reader will follow his day, the day he met the love of his life, Kate. Enjoy!

Find it here!

Taking Chances

Summer Writing Series: Change is Good

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Today my guest is Donna Driver, a Fire and Ice young adult author. I’m sure every writer can agree that we hope for someone to quote us or think our writing stands out from the rest! Thank goodness for editors and authors who listen to them. Kudos to Donna! As writers we have to be open to suggestions, revisions and anything else that will make our writing better. I really enjoyed this post. Hope you do, too.

A Great 1st Line (For Chapter Two) – by D. G. Driver

“No good calls ever came at two o’clock in the morning. Only ones that wipe out any hope of having a normal day. On this particular morning, it wiped out hope of anything ever being “normal” again.”

This was supposed to be the opening line of my novel Cry of the Sea. I was so proud of it. So proud! Yes, I envisioned its brilliance being quoted as one of the great opening lines of YA literature at many a writer’s conference for years to come. I loved it so much that no matter what I felt about the rest of the chapter, I was determined to keep that first line.

Why was I so sure? Or stubborn? I have attended so many writing workshops and read so many books and articles about the craft of writing novels. Several things have been drummed into my head. “Have a great opening line.” “Hook your reader from the first moment.” “Start where the action is.” “Start your novel where the protagonist’s life changes from its normal routine.” “Start on the day that is different.” And my favorite? “Get to the main point of the plot before page 30.”

So, I had this idea for a story about a girl who discovers mermaids caught in an oil spill. Based on everything I’ve learned, that meant she had to find the mermaids before page thirty. I also felt strongly that the story needed to start in the moments just before finding those mermaids. How best to do this? I thought it would be exciting to have her wake up to the alarming news of the oil spill and have her rushing out the door with her environmentalist father to get to the beach.

There were some problems with my idea. I had to somehow very quickly introduce my main character and her father, their relationship, and the reason they were going to an oil spill. There was a lot of information to share to have the story make any sense. I thought I’d be clever and get some of that out with a little flashback to the night before in order to explain a few things. Only, that flashback grew from a few paragraphs to a dozen pages before coming back to the big rush to the beach. More important writing advice haunted me: “Don’t have a big flashback in the opening chapter.”  “Don’t info dump.” “Show don’t tell.”

Oh, poo on all of that.  I had an awesome opening line!  It had to stay this way.

Well… I sent my first chapter to a few agents and editors. No one sent me back praise for my glorious first line. No one requested more pages either. I grew frustrated. Yet, I didn’t revise. I’d already revised the book over and over, and I didn’t know how to do it again. Not without ruining my opening line. The writing advice I knew conflicted in my brain.

Bless the team at Fire and Ice, though. They stumbled past my opening chapter and read on to find the story that followed it.  They offered to publish the book and sent Megan Orsini, my editor, to help me out. Her very first note to me:

“I think the flashback in the opening chapter is too long. I forgot it was a flashback. Why don’t you make that the opening chapter and put the phone call and oil spill scene in chapter two.”

But… but… That would put my opening line in chapter two.  Do you hear me whining?

I knew Megan was right, and I followed her advice. I wound up completely rewriting the whole opening to my book. With her guidance, I actually revised the opening chapter six times and the first page an additional two after that. Now my opening line is: “You ready to see how the next big change in your life is going to look?” as asked by June’s father. No, this won’t put me in any lists of great opening lines, but it works. The book works better too.  And guess what? We still meet mermaids on page 22.  Yay!

So, friends, what I’ve learned: don’t marry your words and do trust your editor. With a sly wink, however, I’m happy to announce that a woman who recently reviewed Cry of the Sea on her blog included a quote from my book. Which of my words did she use?  My opening line – of Chapter Two.

                                                            cryofthesea4 (2)

 

Find Donna here:

Fire and Ice YA

Website: www.dgdriver.com

 

 

 

Summer Writing Series: Write What You Love

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Okay, Pat had me at she’s a lifelong teacher. We are two peas in a pod. Teachers are exposed to so many books we have to pick up some pointers along the way.

Read another young adult author’s view on what type of stories she writes and why. Today my guest is Pat Gilkerson, author of The Horse Rescuer Series. I love her main character’s name, Piper Jones. 

How Do I Decide What to Write About?

Sometimes people ask me how I decide what to write about. The short answer is that I write about things I’m interested in or passionate about. The long answers are much more detailed.

Why do I write children’s books?

As a lifelong teacher, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the books that are out there for kids. On one hand, there are some that are so good, it’s intimidating. Who would dare compete with them for readership? On the other hand, some are so bad and so obviously created to sell a cartoon character that I always thought, “I could do better than this any day!” When my urge to write got strong enough, children’s books were the natural outlet for my creativity.

Why did I write horse stories?

I’ve always loved animals, but growing up in Kentucky solidified my love of horses at an early age. I read every horse book I could find in my small town library. My father completely frustrated me by not seeing the need for me to have a horse of my own. I selected my college (first two years) by the fact that I could take riding lessons there. I think my father always believed I married my husband Jim because he was a veterinarian and would get me a horse. Well, he did. I got my first horse after I had both of my children and have had horses ever since. Currently I care for three horses, although I don’t ride anymore. My daughter lives nearby and comes out to ride whenever her job and family allow. When I began writing my first children’s book, it was a YA story about a girl who desperately wanted a horse. Every child wants a pony, just like every child wants a puppy. And, like puppies, the reality of taking care of a horse or pony is much more involved than any kid dreams. I thought it would be good to give children an idea of exactly what is involved in taking on the responsibility of a horse. In my Horse Rescuers series, Piper Jones rescues a pony, which then needs feeding, watering, exercising, veterinary care, shelter and acres of land. She and her best friend, Addie, have to tend the pony daily. It helps that her father is a veterinarian, so he is frequently on hand to diagnose health problems that crop up. As of this writing, the Horse Rescuers have saved three horses, with three more books to go in the series. We have The Penny Pony, Nickel-Bred, and Turn on a Dime. Following will be titles involving a quarter, half-dollar and dollar.

Why am I currently writing a YA fantasy book?

A huge influence on me was a book I read in 5th grade called The Unicorn with Silver Shoes. It captured my imagination long before unicorns were a common theme for little girls. The book was set in Ireland, had pookas, leprechauns, and many other kinds of faerie creatures, and I always remembered it. In fact, I found it online about five years ago and was thrilled to be able to purchase a copy.  That book began a lifelong fascination with fairy lore. As an adult, I became interested in Irish music, history and how it related to my family. So when I began a story about a boy who meets a green man and is taken into the Land of Faerie, it was natural that I would include a lot of Irish references, Irish music and Irish mythical creatures. Writers know that interesting coincidences sometimes happen as you work on a book. I finished writing the fantasy while on a trip to Ireland with my husband. Waiting in the Dublin airport for our plane, I noticed a restaurant named the Oak Cafe . A sign explained that in Celtic lore, oak trees were doors to the Other World, in the same way that airports are portals to other worlds. A light went on, and I changed my story to reflect oaks being doorways to Faerie. The Great Forest of Shee will be released in the spring of 2015.

What will I write about next?

When I’m done writing the three more Horse Rescuers adventures, I have some ideas. Having taught preschool for many years and loving Irish pubs–why not a main character who teaches preschool and works in a pub at night? I have the character ready to go, but need a plot line. A mystery/romance mash-up? Possibly. I like both genres. Then again, I love scuba diving and the island of Cozumel, so something could happen with that. I’m also really intrigued lately by magical realism, so who knows? There are lots of possibilities out there and it’s exciting to think about where I could go next!

HorseRescuers

 

You can find Pat here –

Fire and Ice YA books