Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Break = Spring Cleaning

Guess what time it is? That's right--Spring Break! And though the weather is iffy at best, we haven't made plans to go anywhere. Aw shucks. That means we have plenty of time to sort through closets, toss out old or broken toys, reorganize the pantry, the basement, the office . . . well shoot! We might as well go through the whole heaping pile of junk that has become our house!

Don't worry, this is my usual reaction to spring. As soon as the trees and flowers start to bud my thoughts get all sunny, but then I look at the pigsty I've been living in all winter and I get a little depressed thinking how much work it will take to clean up. Then I get frustrated. Then I call in the troops. Then I grab my rubber gloves and we kick some cleaning butt.

So far we've folded four loads of laundry, thrown out three hefty bags of trash and filled two large boxes with outgrown toys and clothes. We might need a dumpster next; I haven't even started my room. So, while we're busy cleaning, enjoy these recent pictures of Jason's pinewood derby car (the camera battery gave out just before the race) and the party to celebrate the end of basketball season. Gee, aren't our lives exciting? Be glad you don't get the day by day account.

You win some, you lose some, which is exactly how Jason's car performed. He couldn't decide what color he wanted his car. Can you tell?

Basketball cheerleaders? Yeah, we're in the big time here. Basketball is the Indiana state sport.

Fire eating and three different sizes of unicycles. That's a class of entertainment that's almost as good as the monster truck show we saw a couple years ago. Almost. Leave it to the Midwest for a good time.
Man, I can't wait until summer for a good game of Cornhole. What? You've never heard of Cornhole? This is serious stuff. Where have you been, Cal-i-for-ni-a? We like to poke fun at ourselves here. Think of this game as Hillbilly Horseshoes with bean bags and wood cutouts instead of metal stakes and . . . horseshoes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Check It Out

Looking for some humor on a Monday? Aren't we all.

Check out my first writing gig. www.leelofland.com/wordpress/ You may have to page down or check older entries if you're trying to access this after Monday.

Lee Lofland's website is The Graveyard Shift, a guide to all things law enforcement, particularly for authors. I sent him a funny story about my police station tour in February with the Cub Scouts, and he asked me to be a guest blogger today. What luck. You can skip the author biography. We all know I had nothing to list there. But now I'm sure to be famous, thanks to Lee's generosity.

Have a good laugh and Happy Monday!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring has Sprung

As you've probably noticed, I've given a lot of blog time to the awful temperatures this winter. Not today! This week has been gorgeous! Okay, maybe today isn't that great at forty-five degrees, but we've almost hit seventy a couple times this week and it has been wonderful! My faith has been restored. The world isn't stuck in a deep freeze. The days are getting longer, and spring is officially here! Who wants to write a blog on such a splendid day? I'm leaving the computer and heading out to the sun. Have a great weekend. More news later.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Next Step

After six months of intense writing, a couple weeks letting it stew, a couple more weeks of major revision, a couple weeks of test readers, and another couple weeks of major revision, the new book is ready to take the next step, out of obscurity and into the light of the publishing world. It's time to put a query letter together and start approaching agents.

This is the part I hate most about being a novelist. Forget about getting published for now; without an agent you won't have a publisher (unless you pay a vanity press to do it for you, no thanks). A query letter is like a resume for your book, stating the premise and themes in an enticing way to make the agent want more. It's a one page make-or-break deal that often brings to mind Stephen King's Pet Sematary.

How does writing a letter mimic a horror novel? I can think of so many ways . . . . Maybe it's more like a boomerang: you throw this great novel out there for the whole world to enjoy, but it flies back and whacks you in the head (or another body part that might seem much more hilarious). Ha! That'll teach you to think you can write the Great American Novel--you and everyone else on the planet. But seriously, sometimes after an agent's rejection, the novel might look the same, but it's somehow different. It doesn't make you as happy anymore, it stares at you funny, it laughs condescendingly from its file on the desktop, and sometimes it can kill the will to write again. Murderer. Voila--Pet Sematary metaphore.

Sending out query letters means persevering through mountains of rejection until you find the one agent who believes in your project. With the first novel I stopped after 10 letters because I saw the flaws the first book presented and decided to fix them before turning every agent against me (you can't resubmit a manuscript to an agent who has refused you, even if you've rewritten the whole entire book--publishing law). This time I'm more confident in my work and have decided to stay in the battle until every agent gets a whack from my boomerang. And if that rejected book flies back to torment me? Well, I've already started on the next project, and it's going to be bigger, badder, and more formidable than anything crawling back from the grave. You agents want a piece of me? Here I come.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pumpkin-Bean Soup

Here's the soup recipe for all who commented on it, courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens:

1 15-oz. can pumpkin
1 14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans (I used regular food storage white beans), drained and rinsed
1 14-oz. can vegetable broth
1 tsp. dried leaf sage, crushed
Salt and ground black pepper
Cracked black peppercorns (optional)
Fresh lime slices (optional)

1. In medium saucepan combine pumpkin, coconut milk, beans, broth, and sage. Heat through.
2. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with black peppercorns. Drizzle with lime.
Serves 4

Each Serving:
285 cal, 19 g fat (17 g sat. fat), 0 mg chol, 729 mg sodium, 28 g carbo, 8 g fiber, 9 g pro. Daily Values: 335% vit. A, 7% vit. C, 6 % calcium, 21 % iron.

Okay, maybe it's not so healthy, but the family liked it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What's Cookin'?

For years I've been clipping healthy recipes from magazines, intending to incorporate them into the family diet, only to have them overflow my nightstand drawer, while we continue feasting on our pre-packaged, overly processed American diet. As one of my resolutions, I decided this year to put a little more effort (think baby steps) into healthy eating.
I'm not a dieter. I don't count calories, I don't read labels, and I admit freely that I don't understand a lot beyond basic nutrition. I love my carbs, and because I've stayed the same weight for over five years now, even with a moderate workout five days a week, I don't feel the need to make drastic changes. I think my body likes this weight. I'm comfortable with it too. And with what I've read about body types, mine needs a carb kick (I'm short on serotonin) to keep my brain working optimally. But I know I could do better in my choices.
This year I decided to cut back--a lot--on packaged items, starting with snack foods, frozen pizza, and Heaven Forbid! Hamburger Helper. For those who don't know, Erik once worked for General Mills and was once quoted as saying, "As long as it's free, you'll eat it." Well, it aint free anymore so it's moved to the chopping block. Sorry, Honey.
Instead, we've been trying out that drawer full of culinary creations for dinner. Things like olive medley pinwheel sandwiches, fried rice, and Czech-style lentils. Big hits were whole-wheat pancakes, mango chicken, grape leaves stuffed with rice and beef, porkchops glazed with apple butter, and--surprise--pumpkin bean soup. Who would have thought that a combination of pumpkin, white beans and unsweetened coconut milk would find a place in our family? Amazing.
There's been a definite change around the dinner table. Now when we call everyone to eat, they wonder what the night's specialty will be, occasionally with trepidation. Erik says it's like taking an international trip every night without having to leave home. Ha, he won't keep me from Sweden that easily.
It's actually been fun to try the new foods and hear the kids' responses. But there are some things you just can't mess with. Look down on me if you must, but peanut butter and jelly will always taste best on sinfully white bread. Happy eating.

What's for dinner? Sounds great!