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Archive for January, 2014

Super Easy Scone Recipe

I’ve posted several scone recipes during the last six months. My favorite recipes – Blueberry scones and Date and Orange Scones are easy to make. The fat content is the cream and it’s poured into the dry ingredients. Traditional scones require the rubbing of butter into the flour and I’m always too impatient to do it properly.

Then I found the following recipe on Baking Makes Things Better and it simplifies the entire process. I like a simple process.

Easy Scones

Easy Scones

50 grams (1  3/4 oz) butter

3/4 cup of milk

2 cups self-raising flour

1 teaspoon salt

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 210C (410F)

2. Melt the button and add the milk.

3. Place the flour and salt in a bowl and stir.

4. Wait until your oven reaches the required temperature then add the milk and butter mix. If you want to make savory scones add grated cheese or cubes of ham or fresh chopped herbs at this stage. Combine. The mix will be slightly wet.

5. Knead to shape and roll out but don’t handle dough too much.

6. Cut into shapes. I used a round cutter.

7. Line a tray with baking paper and place on your scones.

8. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes until golden..

Shelley’s Notes:

1. I added cheese to mine. You could also add dates or sultanas or herbs or just leave them plain.

2. They’re best eaten straight from the oven or when still warm.

3. I served mine with jam and thick greek yoghurt since I didn’t have cream. Whipped cream would be delicious.

13 Mistakes I made on the way to publication by Martha O’Sullivan

I’d like to welcome a special guest today – Martha O’Sullivan. Like me, she is a writer, and today she’s talking about mistakes she made on the road to publication. I’ve made some of the same mistakes. Have you? Over to Martha…

Thursday Thirteen

13 Mistakes I made on the way to publication by Martha O’Sullivan

1. I thought I needed an agent.

2. I thought I had to go through traditional publishing and print channels.

3. I thought Harlequin ruled the world.

4. I should have brought The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglist before I wrote my first book instead of when I was editing my second.

5. I underestimated how generous, supportive and welcoming writers were.

6. I should have gone to RWA Nationals the year I started writing. I should have joined TARA from the get-go.

7. I should have kept reading. I started writing at night instead of reading.

8. I should always write the last chapter first. I should have known this since I find myself reading the last few pages of a book midway through chapter two.

9. I should have joined a critique group.

10. I should have shouted that I was writing from the rooftops instead of keeping it to myself.

11. I should have known the last rejection hurts just as much as the first one.

12. I should have known that writing the book was the easy part.

13. I knew how bad I wanted it, so I should have known I would do it.

But the one thing I did right? I never gave up! And here I am!

Have you made any mistakes during your writing journey? Are there things you would have done differently?

The Chances Trilogy by Martha O’Sullivan

Second Chance Chance Encounter last chance cov

Second Chance, the Chances trilogy opener, is a reunion/love triangle romance that keeps the shores of Lake Tahoe blazing hot long after the sultry summer sun has set. Chance Encounter, the trilogy’s second installment, heats up San Francisco’s chilly days and blustery nights with white-hot passion and pulse-pounding suspense. And in Last Chance, the conclusion of the trilogy, the snow-packed Sierras melt into lust-fueled puddles despite the single-digit temperatures of the Lake Tahoe winter.

Please visit Martha’s web site at www.marthaosullivan26.wix.com/marthaosullivan for excerpts, reviews and more.

The Chances trilogy by Martha O’Sullivan (http://twitter.com/@m_osullivan26)  available at: www.marthaosullivan26.wix.com/marthaosullivan

http://eredsage.com/store/OSULLIVAN_MARTHA.html Also available on: Amazon, BN.com, AllRomanceEbooks, Kobo Books and Bookstrand

BIO:

Martha O’Sullivan has loved reading romance novels for as long as she can remember. So much so that she would continue the story in her head long after the last chapter was read. Writing her own novels is the realization of a lifelong dream for this stay-at-home mom. Martha writes contemporary and erotic romances with traditional couples and happy endings. She is the author of the Chances trilogy available now from Red Sage Publishing. Her current work-in-progress is a sweet and steamy Christmas novel set in Florida. A native Chicagoan, she lives her own happy ending in Tampa with her husband and two daughters.

Ballet and Pas De Death

I’ve been thinking about ballet recently, which is peculiar since I have never been a ballerina and know nothing about ballet. My one experience of ballet was when we lived in London. A customer of the pub where we worked gave us two tickets to attend the ballet at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. It was a programme of short dances, and we enjoyed the show even though we didn’t understand a lot of what we were seeing. The thing I remember most was how noisy their shoes were since the sound of shoes scraping across the floor was easy to hear from our seats.

PasDeDeath-210x300

Pas De Death (The Dani Spevak Mystery Series)

A side note: I was looking for a ballet picture to illustrate my post and remembered fellow Romance Diva Amanda Brice has a mystery series featuring a ballet dancer. I thought I’d use the cover from her latest release and give her series a shout-out. The first book in her series is called Codename: Dancer. If your teenager is a reader and a ballet fan, you should definitely check out this series.

Now back to the reason for my post. One of our holiday stops in August will be at St. Petersburg in Russia. Since we have the opportunity to attend the ballet we’re grabbing it with both hands. After all, the Russians are very good at ballet. I believe we’ll be seeing Swan Lake.

I decided to do a little research about the history of ballet. Here are a few highlights:

1. Ballet seems to have originated in the Italian Renaissance courts during the 15th century.

2. The nobility learned the steps and danced in the performances.

3. King Louis XIV was responsible for making ballet even more popular and standardizing the dances. It’s said his passion took ballet from a hobby or interest for amateurs to entertainment carried out by professionals.

4. Until the 1730s ballet was performed mainly by men. They were able to wear tights while the women were restricted by long skirts.

5. No one is sure when pointe shoes were first used, but historians credit Marie Taglioni with dancing on pointe in the 19th century. She certainly developed the technique.

6. 18th century Marie Camargo was the first dancer to dance with shortened skirts. The audience could see her ankles and were scandalized, although they appreciated the skill of her footwork, which they could now see clearly. Tights were in common use during the late 18th century.

Sources: www.dancer.com and www.histclo.com

Are you a ballet fan? Did you learn ballet as a child? Please tell all.

Recipe: Delicious and Fluffy Raspberry Souffle

Hubby and I are trying to eat healthily at the moment and I grabbed a copy of 100 Great Low-Fat Recipes by Rosemary Conley from the library. We’ve tried a few recipes from this book, and they’ve been very successful. Last night Mr Munro made a raspberry soufflé. It was quick and easy and best of all, it tasted great!

souffle

Ingredients:

225 grams (8 oz) frozen berries e.g. blackberries, raspberries

25 grams (1 oz) caster sugar

3 egg whites

150 grams (5 oz) caster sugar

fresh fruit to decorate

Method:

1. Cook the berries and 25 grams of caster sugar in a small saucepan. Gently simmer for 10 – 15 minutes until the fruit reduces to a thick paste. Pour into a mixing bowl and cool.

2. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F)

3. In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites along with a pinch of your caster sugar. When the egg whites start to peak, gradually add the rest of the sugar 1 dessertspoon at a time. Allow about 10 seconds between each addition of sugar. Continue until you’ve added all the sugar.

4. Place a dessertspoon of fruit mixture into four greased ramekins. Gently fold the egg whites into the remaining fruit mixture. Smooth the top.

5. Place in the oven and bake for 5 – 6 minutes.

6. Serve the soufflés straight away since they’ll collapse once they come out of the oven.

Shelley’s notes:

1. While I really liked these I found them a little sweet. When we make them again we’ll fiddle with the amount of sugar.

2. Our ramekins were a little big. The mixture should rise a little above the top of the ramekin.

3. We used only raspberries, but I think they’d be nice with a mixture of berries.

4. We cooked ours for six minutes in a fan-bake oven and felt this was perfect.

5. Each soufflé is 187 calories and this recipe serves four.

Have you made a soufflé before?

Holidays and History

In around six months we’re off on holiday. This time we’re flying to London and catching a cruise ship from Southampton. Part of the joy of traveling is the research, the deciding where to stay and what to do. We have long discussions about various alternatives, and recent topics have included the New Forest, transport in and around Southampton, and places to stay in Southampton and also things to see in Winchester.

We’ve decided to stay at an old hotel in Southampton called the Dolphin. It’s said that the earliest references to the hotel were found in 1454. During Elizabethan times it was frequented by foreign merchants and seaman. Guests were entertained by minstrels and other entertainers.

The hotel is said to have six resident ghosts, and I’m looking forward to learning more about them. One of the ghosts named Molly walks down the corridors with only part of her body showing because she’s walking on the original medieval timbers.

Jane Austen lived in Southampton for part of her life (1806–1809) and she celebrated her 18th birthday at the hotel.

The hotel was also a coaching inn and was used for winter assemblies. The writer William Makepeace Thackary wrote part of his novel Pendennis at the hotel. He used to sit in the large bow windows and write.

While much of Southampton was destroyed by bombing during WWII, the Dolphin escaped destruction, and it recently underwent a 4 million redevelopment. Mr Munro says just as well since that means we won’t need to use chamber pots.

Since the Dolphin is an old building some of the floors are on a bit of a slant—according to the reviews.  It all adds to the charm, and I can’t wait for our stay.

Do you enjoy planning trips or are you a more of the spur of the moment traveler?

13 Facts About Color Therapy

Thursday Thirteen

I like color in my life, and if I’m ever feeling down, something colorful always cheers me up. Some people swear by color therapy, so I thought I’d do a little research into the subject.

Thirteen Facts About Color Therapy

1. Color therapists believe that each of the seven colors of the rainbow relate to a chakra in the human body.

2. Light moves in waves and each wave varies in length. Because each color has a different wave length, we humans can discern the range of colors.

3. The color therapist looks at a person’s health and their mood and treats the corresponding chakra. i.e. where the ailment is located.

4. The treatment can consist of colored lights, which are beamed onto the afflicted part of the body.

5. Or sometimes colored silks are worn instead of using the colored lights.

6. In 1958, US scientist Robert Gerard conducted a study and concluded that red stimulates and makes us anxious, while blue promotes calm.

7. He also showed that colour could affect the appetite, blood pressure and have a bearing on aggression.

8. Ancient Egyptian scrolls tell of using color therapy to cure various ailments. Also ancient Chinese texts have mentioned color therapy.

9. During the 20th century color therapy came into its own. The Swiss psychologist Dr Max Lüscher developed the Lüscher-Colour-Diagnostic test. The recipient selects eight coloured bottles in order of preference. The results are said to reveal your worries and their solution.

10. Color treatment is safe because it’s non evasive and is able to be used on any age group.

11. After a session, the recipients are said to feel empowered and full of life.

12. The long winters in the Northern hemisphere often make people feel depressed and the use of lights is a proven cure.

13. Darkness results in the production of melatonin which is conducive to healing and a long life. If the melatonin production does not cease with the introduction of light then lethargy and depression can occur.

Source: International Association of Color

While a part of me remains skeptical, the use of color and light does make my mood lift. I like wearing my bright red shoes or my turquoise moccasins, and I like getting outside into the daylight at least once a day. Staying indoors makes me start to feel antsy.

Have you tried color therapy? Does color lift your mood?

The Beautiful Lotus

Lotus flower

Lotus pots

The lotus flower:

1. They grow in humid and warm climates such as Asia.

2. The roots of the plant grow in water, usually a shallow river or pond and the leaves float on the water (as a rule). The flowers grow above the water and have a thick stalk.

3. The petals range from white to vibrant pink.

4. The plants spread out and cover several feet of water.

5. The flower is edible and are used as garnishes and in herbal medicines and teas.

6. The leaves are also edible and used as a wrap for other dishes.

7. The lotus is an important part of both Buddhism and Hinduism and some of the deities are drawn with the lotus flower. It’s also found in Egyptian records.

8. A lotus flower is a symbol of purity since it rises above the muddy water in which it grows.

9. The lotus flower represents long life, health, honor and good luck.

10. The rock band Radiohead had a song called The Lotus Flower.

I remember when we went to China we were served lotus root as part of our dinner one night. I didn’t like it very much, but as the sole vegetarian on the trip, I ate a large variety of stalks and stems. I revolted after a while and foisted off the stalks and stems on the carnivores.

Has anyone tried lotus root or flowers?

One Man, Two Men. Three Men, More!

Visit any Asian country, and you’ll soon see lots of scooters or motorbikes. They’re the favored method of transport and there are lots of them. Trying to cross a road is hair-raising stuff and not for the fainthearted.

Hubby and I like to play spot the most riders. During our trip to Vietnam late last year we took these photos.

One Motorbike One Rider.

Two Motorbike

Two riders.

Three Motorcycle

Three riders.

We didn’t get a good shot of four riders, but we did see a few.

Five Motorcycle

And this one actually has five riders (two adults and three children).

Along with people there were bikes with all sorts of heavy loads.

Motorcyle Load

One wondered how the person managed to fit on the bike!

How many people do you think would fit safely on a motorbike?

The Origin of Hen’s Night

Hen’s night, stagette, bachelorette party. They’re all terms for the same thing—the last party that a bride has with her female friends before she gets married.

The stag or bachelor party has origins long ago in history. Stag parties were held back in Henry VII’s time, and it’s said that they could even date back to Spartan times when the bachelor about to get married would have a meal and drinks with his friends the day before the marriage.

dreamstimefree_1407470

The Hen’s night is a lot more recent—around the 1960s, (some say it’s even later) according to my research, and they began as a kind of equality thing with the male stag party.

However, Cleopatra had a party with her friends before marrying Mark Anthony. It’s also said that the term could come from the word henna. In countries such as India, North Africa and the Middle East they have a ceremony the night before the wedding where the bride’s hands are painted with henna designs.

These days anything goes for a hen party. They can range from elegant dinners to down and raunchy nights at a strip club and everything in between.

Here are a few suggestions for a hen’s party night:

1. Organize a fancy dress theme and go out and party.

2. Do special T-shirts.

3. Organize a spa day or weekend.

4. There’s the stripper thing

5. A sex toy party

6. Something unique like a photo shoot, a cocktail or chocolate making course or a course in something that interests the bride.

7. Have dinner at a themed restaurant.

8. Attend a special concert

9. Have a high tea or afternoon tea at a hotel.

10. Tell embarrassing stories about the bride.

11. Organize a scavenger hunt.

12. Hire a bus and go on a wine tour.

I’m off to a hen’s party at the beginning of March. I’m not sure what we’re doing but I’m looking forward to both the party and the wedding.

Did you have a hen’s party? What did you do? Have you attended a hen’s party recently?

The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers

Today my special guest Amy Denim is doing my Thursday Thirteen for me. I know—score! She’s here to tell us about business plans and her new release The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Writers. Check out her easy 13 point plan below.

Oh, and Amy is giving away a copy of her book, so make sure you leave a comment below.

Welcome, Amy!

Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans by Amy Denim

Thirteen Questions to Build Yourself a Business Plan or The Thirteen Minute Business Plan

Have you thought about putting together a business plan? But, oh, it’s such a long and complicated process. Ugh. Why bother, when you could spend your valuable time writing. But, wait, what’s this? A guide to help authors write a business plan on coffee breaks?

Okay, so I find when things get boring and staid that some humor and creativity makes it all much more fun. And let’s admit that a traditional business plan is anything but fun. But having one can be an important part of taking control of your writing career. To get you started I’ve created a quick and easy set of questions that hit all the main parts of a plan and it really should only take you about a coffee break to complete it.

Okay, put your thinking cap/top hat/beanie with the helicopter rotor /tiara on. It’s time to think about what you really want from your writing career.

These questions are to get you started thinking about your goals, but don’t go crazy and spend hours making lists and/or daydreaming about your success as a writer, I want you to do these on a coffee break.

I call this the Coffee Break Business Plan. This is all about basic goals, which you can expand on to create a full-blown business plan, so spend only a few minutes thinking about each of these questions. Write a couple of sentences to answer them or make yourself a nice bullet-point list. If you’d like a template to print out to help you with this exercise, you can download one at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com/Books/Resources.

Grab a cup of coffee and a pen

Write down the answers to these questions.

1. How many books do you plan to write? In what genre?

2. What’s your projected word count?

3. When will you finish each project? Or, how much time will you need to complete each project? (Don’t forget to build in time for critiques, beta readers, editing, and all those other activities… besides actually writing the book.)

4. How will you publish these books? Traditionally, self-published, a hybrid approach?

5. If you’re self-publishing, what services will you need and how much will you spend on those?

6. Who is your competition? Who else writes books like yours?

7. How will you sell and market your books?

8. How much money will it cost you to publish and market? What services might you pay for to help you do that?

9. How much money do you plan to make, and when will you see that revenue?

10. When do you plan to achieve these goals?

11. What resources do you need (like a budget template, word count tracker, a reference book about business plans) to complete your plan?

12. When can you review your goals to see what you’ve accomplished and what you need to revise?

13. What rewards can you set up for yourself to say “Job well done!”

There you go. You just created a basic business plan. For real. Laminate that sucker and put it up big and pretty in front of your computer. Every time you sit down to write, take a look and focus on writing to achieve those goals. If the IRS comes knocking, you can wave it in their faces.

If you’d like assistance expanding your business plan I can help with that too. Leave a comment on the blog today, ask questions about business plans or anything else you’d like and one lucky commenter will win a copy my new book The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Authors: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career. But, if you can’t wait to win it, it’s available now on Amazon.

Amy DenimAmy Denim writes business books for writers and contemporary romance. She loves hot heroes (like chefs and cowboys) and curvy intelligent heroines (like chefs and cowgirls.)

She’s been a franchise sales coordinator, a lifeguard, a personal shopper, and a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. But now she spends her days reading and writing at her local library or in her book cave.

Amy started out her writer’s life scared out of her wits because she didn’t have a business plan, hadn’t yet created an online platform, wasn’t on Twitter, didn’t have a Facebook fanpage and had never even heard of Goodreads. She just wrote books. So she spent a year becoming a publishing industry information fiend and now does consulting for creatives on how to use take control of their writing careers. She started Coffee Break Social Media to help writers and artists learn to use SM platforms effectively (without the scare tactics) but still have time to create. She believes business plans and social media can be every writer’s friend, sometimes they just need an introduction.

Visit Amy on her author website at www.AmyDenim.com or for tips and tricks on the writing business at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com.



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