Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Proposal in the Desert Botanical Gardens

It all started with a tweet.

Well, that's not true. It started several years ago, when I first heard about a one-page contest for Harlequin Heartwarming books. I sent in the first page of my current WIP, and it was good enough to move to the second stage: three chapters and a synopsis. That was AFTER THE FIREWEED, which is now up for nomination on Kindle Scout. Turns out the mystery/romance ratio was a little high for Harlequin, but the encouragement I received got me excited about the possibility of writing for Harlequin Heartwarming.

Several rejections later, I felt like I was honing in on what they wanted. My agent was highly encouraging after reading my latest stories. She submitted them to Harlequin. I knew Victoria had my manuscripts, and that's where the tweet comes in. 

When I saw it Friday, my heart started racing. My daughter and mother-in-law were here for the weekend, and I read it aloud, assuring them it probably wasn't me she was talking about. Still, I emailed my agent to let her know we'd be out sightseeing for the next few days, but she could reach me on my cell phone, just in case.

Thank goodness we had guests to keep me distracted or it would have been a really long weekend. Monday morning, my husband and I put his mother on the plane in Phoenix and decided to take the opportunity to tour the Desert Botanical Gardens. We were admiring the prickly pears when the call came through. My knees were shaking, and it wasn't because of the heat.

A two-book deal. Both are set in Anchorage. One takes place in summer, the other at Christmas. 

Now I get to discover what takes place behind the curtain. Editing, cover selection, scheduling, marketing -- I can hardly wait.

I'm so appreciative of all the people who've helped and encouraged me to keep trying. The writing community is made up of some of the most generous people I've ever met. Also, my family never lost faith, even when I did.  

Thank you. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Peach Pie: A Summer Classic

I grew up on peach pie. Thanks to the foresight of my grandparents, we had a peach trees that yielded bushels and bushels of juicy, delicious fruit. If you’ve never had a tree-ripened peach, you don’t know what you’re missing. They bear only the slightest resemblance to the peaches you get at the grocery store. 

My mother used to give away grocery sacks full, but there were still plenty left to fill the freezer and use in ice cream and pie. So, in honor of the end of summer, I decided to bake a peach pie, homemade crust and all. I did have to use grocery store peaches. We actually have a peach tree in Arizona that blooms profusely, but thanks to late frosts, we’ve never harvested a peach.  The pie wasn’t quite as good as my mother’s, but maybe that’s just fond memories of childhood. It was still pretty darn good. The recipe is below.

So what are you eating these days? Are you still enjoying summer fruits or have you moved on to pumpkin lattes and apple pie? What's your favorite seasonal dessert?

Summer’s End Peach Pie

(For an easier crust, try Oil Pastry or use pre-made crust)

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening (I like butter-flavored Crisco)
6-8 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and salt. Add shortening and cut together with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle a tablespoon of water on top, and use the pastry blender to mix with the top layer of flour mixture and scrape aside. Sprinkle another tablespoon of water onto the next layer and mix. Continue until you’ve added six tablespoons, then mix it all together. If pastry doesn’t stick together, add another tablespoon and mix, up to eight tablespoons. The less water you use and the less you work the dough, the more tender and flaky the crust will be.

Divide dough in half and roll out the first half between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. Remove paper and press crust into pie pan without stretching. Add filling. Then roll out the other half of pastry and top pie. Pinch the two crusts together by pressing thumb and forefinger together on one hand and using the thumb of the other hand to form a scalloped edge on the pie. Cut slits in top crust. Bake as directed.

Peach Filling

6-8 peaches
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450 ᵒ. Peel and slice peaches. The easiest way to peel peaches is to blanch them by pouring boiling water over them and letting them set for a few minutes to loosen the skin, but it’s not necessary. Put peach slices in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix cinnamon, sugar, flour, and salt, then stir into peaches.

Pour peach filling into prepared crust. Top with another crust and seal edges as described. Cut several slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake at 450 ᵒ for ten minutes. Reduce heat to 350 ᵒ and bake for about thirty to thirty-five more minutes until crust is brown and filling bubbles up through crust. If the edges are getting too brown, you can cover them with foil about half-way through cooking. 

Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kindle Scout Campaign

AFTER THE FIREWEED is up for nomination on Kindle Scout. 

It’s a romantic mystery, or maybe a mysterious romance. Anyway, it’s sweet and cozy, and a fun read.  And it takes place in my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska.

Fireweed is that pink flower on the cover. It blooms in spikes, starting at the bottom and working its way up the stem. Local legend has it that when the blooms reach the top, summer is over. And in this story, summer's end means the heroine has to leave Alaska and go back to her real life.  But if she does, an innocent man be be convicted of murder.

If you’re not familiar with Kindle Scout, it’s a program where readers can read excerpts from books and nominate their favorites. If any of the stories you nominate is selected to be published by Amazon under the Scout program, you’ll get a free advance copy of the e-book. Anyone with an Amazon account can nominate a book, and you can have up to three nominations active at any time. More nominations mean it’s more likely to be chosen for publication.

Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can read Amazon books on your phone, computer, iPad, or tablet by downloading a free Kindle App.

The campaign for AFTER THE FIREWEED will run September 10 through October 10, and I’ll be forever grateful if you check it out. Just click on this link and it will take you to the book on Kindle Scout. Or if you’d rather, paste this into your browser

Thank you!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Everyday Miracles

Lately, I've been thinking about miracles. Not the big ones, like a building collapsing around someone, but a beam falls in such a way that they're somehow protected. Not even the medium ones, like the odds of my future husband's college roommate happening to be a friend of my college roommate. I've been thinking about the ordinary miracles we see everyday, if we take the time to notice.

Like the beautiful berries on the mountain ash trees in Anchorage this year. A warm summer coupled with lots of rain in August mean lots of berries for the cedar waxwings to feast on this winter.

Or there's this view of the Little Su during a sunny break on an August day. Every year, salmon hatch here, and eventually make their way to the ocean. They'll spend their lives there, but eventually something sends them home, where they'll fight their way up this river in order to lay and fertilize eggs, and the cycle starts again. Isn't that amazing?

On the flight from Anchorage to Phoenix, I snapped this photo of a glacier. Just like salmon, the snow falls and accumulates on the mountains and compressing into rivers of ice, which ever so slowly run down the mountains to the sea. And like the salmon, the water in the ocean evaporates, forms clouds, and eventually drops in the form of snow to start the process again. 

Zucchini are another miracle. If you've ever grown a healthy zucchini, you know it produces more fruit than anyone could eat. Of course, if you neglect it, the zucchini grow big, and eventually get woody. In this case, woody enough to create a zucchini sculpture. I'm calling it a swan, although my husband says it's a penguin. What do you think?

And of course when we talk of miracles, there's my favorite little miracle of all. Hummingbirds. I love the sound they make as they buzz past on their way to the feeder. How can any bird move their wings fast enough to hover? And those tiny little wings are strong enough to migrate, too. 

What everyday miracles are happening in your life right now? I'd love to hear about them.