Monday, December 26, 2011

Mechanical Hearts & Fairytales

This morning I'm enjoying some strawberries and homemade whipped cream. Yum. For some reason it had me thinking about fairy tales.

I love writing fairy tales. I love the concepts involved in steampunk stories. And I love melding the two into storytelling. In "The Forever Heart," Valentina Peacock is a hearthealer, she is someone who is skilled at mending broken hearts. A heart, be it human or mechanical is a very fragile thing--sort of like clockwork, it takes a very steady, firm, yet delicate hand to tune such a complicated instrument. In "The Forever Heart," there is also a bit of mystery surrounding Valentina's past. There are those who fear for her, who love her enough to want to protect her from painful memories.

I like my happily ever afters, too. And "The Forever Heart" is a happily ever after fairy tale that involve the human heart and the mechanical heart. Two men, one woman, a mystery, and love and possibilities.

Valentina Peacock of the Kingdom of Hartfall is a hearthealer guilder; her lover, Flavio, is an automated man with a ruby heart. Valentina's past is lost to her and her craft of mending broken hearts and her lover at her side are all she needs or wants. Suddenly her calm, well-ordered world is shattered when Flavio brings her a summons from the heart-king--it is a royal command to attend his court. Will a journey to court bring back her memories of a passionate forgotten love? Or will it shatter her finally and forever?

ISBN: 978-1-60272-641-3

An Excerpt:

“I would say you’re working at optimum levels,” she said as she slowly unwound her legs from around his body. Her bare feet met the hard, cold surface of the cobbled red slate floor of her workroom. She stepped away from him and then straightened the folds of her skirt to cover her nakedness.

Yet he was still bare, hard, rippling muscle, fashioned perfect and handsome. Not a line misplaced. His was a body that it seemed she had known forever, fashioned to conform perfectly to her. She reached up to stroke his thick, wavy hair. He caught her hand and brought it to his lips, crushing a kiss to the palm.

“What is it?” she asking, sensing things were amiss. She knew there was something he had to tell her.

Releasing her hand, he walked across the room to his long, blue woolen coat that hung on the heart-shaped hook beneath the narrow window. As Valentina watched he removed a white envelope, then he turned back to her.

“From the newly crowned king,” he said as he held it out.

Something nudged at the back of her mind. She didn’t want to know the contents of the envelope. But she found herself reaching out to take it. Then she looked at Flavio.

“He means to take you from me, doesn’t he?”

He didn’t answer her, and somewhere in the vicinity of her golden heart, a sharp pain twisted and then shafted through her chest, bright and fierce as being struck by a lightning bolt. It wasn’t possible, of course. That type of pain was only a memory from when within her chest had nestled a truly human heart. It was only remembered pain of loss, not something she could truly experience with her gold heart.

Her fingers whitened as she gripped the white envelope emblazoned with the regal gold seal. She looked down at the small square of bright white etched with a bold hand.

Flavio turned his back to her and began dressing, offering her some privacy in which to peruse the missive. She wanted to have Flavio again—to forget the majestic monarch who had written the note encased inside the envelope.

Her heart ticked faster. She smoothed her fingers across the flap, then broke the seal and opened it.

Read another excerpt at my website.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mixing It Up

Recently, to help out my granddaughter to work toward her Brownie badge, I ordered several new-to-me magazines. The first one, which started to arrive last month, was "Whole Living," an interesting healthy living sort of magazine. Apparently you can find them on Twitter at @wholeliving.

So nearing the end as I browse through the issue I received today, and it being just before dinnertime after a nicely productive writing day, I'm glancing through a short article, "Character of Your Content," more or less about shaking up the brain pans. Nice to know someone agrees with sort of my thoughts on things when it comes to types of reading material and stuff to watch to keep the creative juices flowing.

Such as --

--when it comes to apps and newsletters, rather than toughing it out because you think you "should" read them, so they hang around for no good reason, or you sign up out of some sort of duty-thing, it's time to pass on it and let it go when you dread the thought having to read it. Re-energize your brain with sort of what excites it, not bores it.

--Expose yourself to new books and magazines - [and I really like this and follow it - who knew it was a really good idea in like this general sense of things? As a writer, I guess it's just something I do] - shake it up - different words and ideas get the brain moving and - and this is what I love - encourages creative thinking, Yes, thank you, ma'am. Gina Rudan, author of Practical Genius, says, "You don't know where your next project or idea will come from, and you may find it where you least expect it." You betcha!

--And when it comes to the television and DVRing - shake that prime-time rut up. Don't keep on the same hamster-wheel programming. Mix it up. Jump-start the brain, don't keep using the TV as a mindless time filler. [Personally, I don't watch a lot of regular programming, though I will say I'm enjoying "Once Upon a Time," and "Grimm." And I love "The Good Wife" -- that show just keeps getting better. I digress. I try not to be religious about it. Like last weekend I surfed around and found some cool stuff on the Discovery Channel. And believe it or not, it really was in line with a story I'd just finished writing. Now that caught my attention.]

Anyway, think I'm going to be checking out the book, "Practical Genius" by Gina Rudan.

And that article I read? It's on page 113 of "Whole Living." Did I mention this is a new-to-me magazine? Yeah, love when I feel like I'm running a little ahead of the game. That's cool.

And by the way, there's a very nice article on p. 116 entitled, "What's the Best Way to Give Criticism?" Three folks responded to that question -- A Buddhist, a Career Coach, a Writing Instructor. Interesting stuff.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pumpkin Walnut Bread Recipe

I did some baking this weekend and though I'd share the recipe for my pumpkin bread. I love my orange veggies-pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash. I made some sweet potato soup several weeks ago that came out very good, and it's not a cream-based soup. Lots of flavor. Today I'll share the pumpkin bread recipe, perhaps you'll find it useful.

"Pumpkin, nutmeg, and walnuts combine to yield a moist, tangy and slightly sweet bread with an indescribably good flavor. Serve partnered with meats or cheese, or simply lightly buttered." I tend to leave out the walnuts. I'm fond of the buttered slice and a cup of coffee perhaps flavored with eggnog. Sitting in the dark, the house quiet, thinking about the progression of the next story I'm working on perhaps. How would my protagonist spend Christmas?

This recipe adapted from "The Cook's Encyclopedia of Bread" by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter.


1 1/2 cups pumpkin
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup walnuts chopped (optional)

1. Grease and neatly line a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 d F. (I don't line the pan)

2. If using fresh pumpkin (use 1 1/4 lbs. pumpkin, peel, seeded, and cut into chunks), place the pumpkin in a saucepan, add water to cover by about 2 inches, then bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is very tender. Drain well, then puree in a food processor or blender. Let cool.

3. Place 1 1/4 cups of the puree in a large bowl. Add the sugar, nutmet, melted butter and eggs to the puree and mix together. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a large bowl and make a well in the center.

4. Add the pumpkin mixture to the center of the flour and stir until smooth. Mix in the walnuts.

5. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until golden and starting to shrink from the sides of the pan. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

(If fresh pumpkin is not in season, canned pureed pumpkin in the same quanity makes a fine substitute. (I use 1 small can of Libby's pumpkin).

Christmas Eve will find baked ziti, garlic bread, merlot wine, chocolate pie with homemade whipped cream. Perhaps a bit of anisette in the coffee.

Christmas morn is when you'll find the pumpkin bread on our table, along with strawberry omelets, bacon, orange juice, cinnemon rolls, and coffee.

I hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday.