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Archive for September, 2010

Chocolate Cake

I love chocolate cake and tried this new recipe last week. It was moist and delicious, and I was very pleased with the final result.

Chocolate Cake

1 Tablespoon instant coffee granules
¾ cup water
2 cups white sugar
1 ¾ cup plain flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups milk
½ cup sunflower or soya oil

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F. Grease and line a 23 – 25 cm cake tin with baking powder. Dissolve the coffee granules in water, then place all ingredients into a food processor and process until well combined and smooth. Pour mixture into the cake tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and frost with your favoring icing/frosting.

Shelley’s notes:
The mixture is really runny but don’t panic. All turns out well in the end.
I didn’t have sunflower oil and used olive oil instead.
I mixed my cake by hand rather than using the food processor.
My oven is a fan bake one, which lessens the cooking time. I cooked my cake for 45 minutes.

Source: Taste Magazine/Chelsea Sugar

Oh, Give Me a Home Where The Buffalo Roam!

Camera Critters

I took this photo of bison in Yellowstone National Park. They’re very big up close and dangerous, yet many of the tourists we saw were busy stalking them with digital cameras.


To view more animal photos visit Camera Critters

Reflections on Three Weeks as a Published Author by Susanna Fraser

My special guest today is Carina Press author, Susanna Fraser. Her recent release The Sergeant’s Lady is garnering excellent reviews, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a great book – go and buy it now. :smile: Over to Susanna…

The Sergeant's LadyIn the last month or two before The Sergeant’s Lady came out, each Monday I’d count the weeks remaining till my Aug. 23 release date and think, “OK. Five more weeks. As long as Carina stays in business and I don’t die, I’ll be an author in five more weeks.” You see, I’m a bit superstitious about counting chickens before they’re hatched and running around the barnyard on their little chicken legs, clucking merrily away. So I decided I wasn’t REALLY an author until my book was actually out there to buy and read. Merely having a contract and the book’s being available for preorder weren’t enough.

Needless to say, Carina is still here, and I made it to Aug. 23 and beyond without succumbing to a car crash, an earthquake, a tsunami (could’ve happened! we vacationed on the Oregon coast and there were tsunami warning signs everywhere!), a rogue tornado, or a premature encounter with the heart attack or stroke family history suggests has my name on it in another four decades or so.

What have I learned, in my three weeks as Really, Truly An Author?

1) You don’t know how your book is going to be received till it’s out there. To prepare myself for the possibility of negative reviews, I made a mental list of all the issues I could imagine a reviewer having with The Sergeant’s Lady. And I’m not going to tell you what those issues were…because not a single one of them has come up yet. Others have, but not the ones I anticipated.

2) You can’t control the process. My book got a mini-flurry of publicity in the week before it released because the humorous last-minute website my husband designed for me went viral (full story here) and because an author in a different genre who’d released a Sergeant’s Lady of his own in 2003 started a discussion thread at Amazon complaining about my book’s title. I didn’t plan either of those things, and it was a bit overwhelming at the time to have so much discussion AROUND my book rather than ABOUT it. Looking back, I’m glad to have gotten the free publicity–and a reminder to stop being such a control freak.

3) You won’t know what your Amazon sales ranking means. This will not stop you from checking it regularly.

4) As thrilling as good reviews and emails from readers who loved your book are, the greatest joy comes from the book you’re writing now and the one you’re planning next. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to finally have an audience beyond my critique partners. But I don’t want to rest on my laurels. Do you love The Sergeant’s Lady? Thanks! So do I–and wait till you see what story I have to tell you next!

Your turn: Writers, what have been the most surprising lessons you’ve learned at each stage of the process? Readers, have you ever been taken by surprise by the reality of a long-dreamed-for goal? One commenter wins a $10 gift card to your choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books on Board.

Visit Susanna’s website or blog.
Purchase The Sergeant’s Lady

Baking Soda – The Must Have Kitchen Item!

Thursday Thirteen

Baking soda is one of the most useful things to have in the pantry. It’s also known as sodium bicarbonate and its chemical compound is NaHCO3

Thirteen Uses for Baking Soda

1. As an ingredient in cakes such as carrot cake or chocolate cake. Yum!

2. Sprinkle baking soda and spray over white vinegar to clean kitchen sinks.

3. Clean and whiten teeth – wet brush and dip in baking soda. Sprinkle over a little lemon juice and brush teeth as normal. You can use baking soda without the lemon juice, but I like the taste.

4. Add baking soda to the bath to relieve itchiness from chicken pox or measles.

5. Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with your shampoo to remove product buildup in your hair.

6. Clean a burnt pot with a mixture of baking soda and water. Soak overnight.

7. Use a little baking soda on a damp cloth to clean and deodorize your fridge.

8. Sprinkle on carpet and vacuum up to deodorize.

9. Mix some with a little oatmeal and use as a facial scrub.

10. Remove strong odors from your hands by washing with baking soda and water.

11. Put a small container of baking soda in the fridge to absorb odors.

12. Put a small container of baking soda and add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil to use as a room freshener.

13. Sprinkle some in your cat litter boxes to help absorb the odor

I use baking soda all the time in my cleaning and cooking.

Do you use baking soda often? Do you have any added uses for baking soda?

Top Pick! First Review for The Spurned Viscountess

I was delighted with this review I received from Night Owl Romances. It’s actually my very first review for The Spurned Viscountess. I’m glad it’s a good one.

“Shelley Munro’s revised story is a beautiful, adventurous tale of the strength of love and forgiveness. Set in 1720 England, the landscape is so well defined that the reader is immediately drawn back to the past. With hints of a gothic story, the tale moves along at a quick pace with hints of mystery and a very satisfying romance. The characters are evocative with the reader quickly sympathizing with Rosalind and Lucien, though troubled by the past, is definitely a hero of the first order.” TOP PICK.

Here’s the link to the entire review at NOR

Plotus Interuptus with Christine Price

My special guest today is fellow Carina Press author, Christine Price. Here’s Christine’s official bio – Christine Price lives in Edmonton, AB, with her husband, two cats and a slightly idiotic Anatolian shepherd. Though she probably wouldn’t consider herself a “girly girl,” Christine is in love with cooking and baking, and she has recently tried her hand at cake decorating. As a public service, she’d like to warn people about the potential threat posed by twenty pounds of rolled fondant and a slightly inebriated best friend. In her free time, Christine enjoys wine, good movies and even better books. Her first work, Soul Bond, was released in April 2010.

Today, Christine is talking about her adventures in writing…

In Darkness Bound In Darkness Bound is my first novel-length publication. And I learned a lot from writing it. For example, the importance of fully developing a climax and the “Great Ah-hah Moment.” Actually, the first draft of IDB was at least 20,000 words shorter than the finished manuscript and missed a lot in the way of character development. Overall, the novel is waaaaay better for the revisions. But I also learned something that never would have struck me before now. Instead of going into the lengthy summation of the discovery, or doing an interpretive dance (which would be a little difficult without the use of a webcam and YouTube) allow me to provide a brief script:

Me: So?

Beta Reader: Okay, I liked x, y and z. But I don’t get what’s going on with w.

Me: Well, here’s the plot point.

Beta Reader: Huh… you should probably put that in somewhere.

Me: I did. It was on page 120.

Beta Reader: OH! … … But that’s the sex scene.

Me: Yeah.

Beta Reader: You may want to rethink that.

What my Beta Reader didn’t come right out and say was that a major plot point in a sex scene isn’t always a great idea. This was a realization I had to come to myself.

So why is it? Well…when people read romance, they want to lose themselves in the romance. The erotic passages are especially important. They establish the intimacy between the characters and heightening the sensuality in the relationship. Readers—myself included—use their imaginations during these scenes. There are also readers who prefer to read for the plot, and tend to skim the sex scenes entirely.

See where I’m going with this? No matter what the motivation for reading, I think that there’s a chance that if you include important plot points in a sex scene they’re going to be missed. This by no means goes for everyone who’s ever read a romance novel. But I’ll admit I’ve done it. In my favourite romance book of all times, I skimmed through each sex scene because I wanted to get on with the plot. When I went back and read it over (for the second, third, fourth, fifth and twentieth times) then I appreciated the sex scenes. If there’d been any important developments during those flitting pages of eroticism, however, I totally would have missed them.

I guess there’s not really a moral to my story. (Well, not to anyone other than me anyway). My novel helped me with several key points in the development of my writing. One of them just happened to be this one. As I continue writing, it’s one that will stick with me.


Contest: What are your thoughts? Plot in a sex scene – yes or no? Are you a skimmer? A “lose yourself in”-er? Or neither? Post an answer to Christine’s questions in the comments section and go into a draw to win a download of In Darkness Bound

Here’s the blurb for In Darkness Bound:

Data Collection by Dalhousie, Dr. Donna L.

Patient 331

New, confused. His powers unknown.

Patient 289

No longer viable in the test pool, he remains in isolation.

Patient 77

Reclassified to staff status. Useful, malleable.
Confined in a sterile research facility and treated like a lab rat, Chris is alone and terrified. His special powers are his only escape, allowing him to psychically connect with other patients.

Alone in his cell for longer than he can remember, Vance is hungry. When newcomer Chris makes a mental connection, Vance is intrigued and soon wants more than just conversation.

Chris and Vance seek comfort with each other, and with Simon—the only staff member who’s shown them a hint of compassion. Their relationships develop during stolen moments, and they turn their thoughts to escape. But as Dr. Dalhousie’s madness spirals, more than cell walls threaten to keep them apart…

Purchase from Carina Press

You can visit Christine at her website or chat to her on twitter.

I’m Shy. You Didn’t See Me.

Camera Critters

We came across this deer while walking in Mt Rainier National Park.


To see more animal photos visit Camera Critters

Puffins: The Clowns of the Sea

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve always been interested in puffins. I think it’s because they’re so cute with their bright bills. I have seen puffins in the wild during our trips to Britain, but I haven’t had a close encounter so they’re still on my list of things to see one day.

Thirteen Facts About Puffins

Puffin and Fish

1. Puffins spend most of their time at sea, only returning to land to breed during spring.

2. Puffins are known for their distinctive black and white coloring and their bright orange beak. The beak is actually gray while they’re at sea and turns orange when it’s time to return to land. They’re the cutest thing.

3. Puffins are strong swimmers and can dive to 200 feet. They don’t stay underwater for long.

4. Puffins eat small fish e.g. herrings.

5. On land, they live in colonies.

6. Birds usually mate for life.

7. The females lay a single egg.

8. The parents take turns feeding the chick

9. Over 60% of the puffins are in Iceland.

10. They supplement their meals by drinking seawater.

11. Puffins choose a partner when they’re around 3 – 5 years old.

12. When a couple reunite they knock their bills together. This is called billing.

13. The puffins nest in burrows and return to the same one each year.

Source: National Geographic http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/atlantic-puffin/
Puffin with Fish © Paul Edwards | Dreamstime.com

Have you seen a puffin before?

Forbidden Party Starts Today!

To help celebrate the release of Forbidden, Christina Phillips’s debut Roman/Druid Ancient Historical Romance from Berkley Heat, she’s holding a launch party with lots of amazing authors and fabulous giveaways! In addition, Christina’s giving away a signed copy of Forbidden to one lucky person who helps spread the love. All you have to do is mention the party (you can copy and paste this blurb), being held from 1st to 6th September at http://christinaphillips.blogspot.com. You can Tweet about it, blog, Facebook, MySpace or anything! And then drop her an email at ChristinapPh @ gmail dot com (no spaces) to let her know. Please put Forbidden Launch Party (or something similar) in the subject line. The winner will be drawn for that on Monday 6th September.

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