Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's Wednesday. So What's Cooking?

Sloppy Joes and More Easy Goodies

It’s that time of year to be outside, enjoying the beautiful weather and dining al fresco. The menu below can be prepared on your stove, or better yet, give your grill a good workout. Gas grill directions are noted with **.

Sloppy Joes
Baked Beans
Sweet Corn on the Grill
Snazzy Sliced Tomatoes
Crusty buns
Rose Wine or Cold Beer

Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef
½ medium onion chopped fine
1 celery rib chopped fine
3 tbsp. dried mustard
½ tbsp. molasses
3 tbsp. ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock – plus more if required
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Brown ground beef in a medium sized frying pan. Be sure to break up any chunks. Add onion and celery. Continue to fry until beef is nicely browned. Drain in a colander.

In a medium sized saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients to taste, then add the beef and vegetables. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Monitor closely and add more chicken stock if sauce gets dry.

**It’s easy to cook Sloppy Joes on the grill. Follow the recipe above, just be sure to use heavy pans and stir frequently.

Serve on crusty buns.

Baked Beans
1 small can Bush’s Honey Baked Beans
1 small can Bush’s Homestyle Baked Beans
2 tbsp. dried mustard
2 tbsp. maple syrup - optional
2 strips bacon

Preheat oven to 325°.

Pour beans into a metal loaf pan or oven safe dish. Stir in mustard and syrup. Lay bacon strips on top. Bake in the center of the oven 45 minutes or until desired consistency.

**Set grill temperature to medium. Only use a metal pan if you cook the beans on the grill. Prepare as above, then place pan on top rack. Cook about 25 minutes or until desired consistency.

To serve – discard bacon.

Sweet Corn on the Grill
1 ear fresh corn per person – do not remove husk
Butter or margarine

Pour cool water into a container large enough to hold the sweet corn. Soak corn still in its husk at least 1 hour, but no more than 2 hours.

Set grill on medium high. Remove corn from the water and lay the ears on the grill. Roast until the husk is brown on that side, then turn and repeat the process. Total cooking time is about 20 – 25 minutes.

To serve - peel back the husks. Roll the ears in butter or margarine, then sprinkle on a touch of salt, and enjoy!

Snazzy Sliced Tomatoes
1 tomato per two people
Red wine vinegar
Garlic powder or fresh garlic minced
Fresh or dried chives

Prepare this dish about an hour or so before serving.

Slice tomatoes ½” thick and arrange on a serving plate.

Drizzle vinegar over the tomatoes, then dust with garlic powder or fresh garlic. Sprinkle plenty of chives across the top.

Set on the counter away from sun or heat to flavor through.

As always, I'm happy to have your input. Please feel free to comment.

Sloane Taylor

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Since I'm majorly challenged when it comes to computers, this is an experiment to have my cover available for blogging. Wish me well.:)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

On This Memorial Day Weekend

To celebrate the USA Armed Forces, Musa Publishing is offering a free copy of Penumbra eMag to every service person in the States and overseas.

Please go to Penumbra eMag to send the free PDF and for your opportunity to win a copy of the Love Notes anthology.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!

Sloane Taylor

Friday, May 25, 2012

Squeeze Your Readers Thighs


The enraptured sigh, the long staring gaze, or a quick hop in the sack to test multiple positions is not what writing sexual tension is all about. For each type of romance there must be a draw between your lead characters. If you don’t have the tension, you don't have a sale-able romance.

Sexual tension can be broken down into the explicit meaning of each word.

SEXUAL: of or involving sex which equates to wanting it.

TENSION: mental or emotional strain which equates to not being able to get it.

So what you have here is a great emotional strain to have sex with a specific person, but it’s not happening.

Consider sexual tension a form of reader foreplay. This is what you must create between the lead characters in your story. The longer you delay the actual act, and increase the attraction, the better readers will love your book.

How do you build Sexual Tension? In one word - awareness. Each of your leads needs to notice small things about the other.

Sure Cassie can appreciate the bulge in Clive’s jeans while he’s admiring her breasts, but it’s not all tits and ass.

You must tease your reader while your characters slowly become more aware of each other. Such as;

Cassie glanced down and was startled by the bulge in his jeans. Her eyes widened in admiration. Clive tweaked a smile, knowing what she appreciated, though she wouldn’t admit it, even to herself.

It’s more than body parts. You also need to write more than the physical. Each character must be aware of the others values, good and bad;

A warmth spread through Clive as Cassie clasped the tiny hand of the lost child.

Cassie’s lips tightened when Clive cursed at the driver who had successfully run them off the road.

Our couple has become more aware of each other and therefore we have successfully drawn them closer.

Think of it this way – Do you remember when you first fell in love? Did you notice everything about this new person all at once? Or did the scent, strength, and mannerisms dribble into your conscientiousness a drop at a time? More than likely the nature and character of your other half slowly made itself known to you.

This is how you need to write sexual tension, a bit at a time. As your story progresses the awareness increases. It may go on for pages, even chapters, until Clive and Cassie are so attuned they have to make love.

Another important key is that by now your reader is begging for Clive and Cassie to make love and live the happily ever after. It’s up to you, the author and the genre you write, to decide how explicit the love scene will be.

If you’re shy, or a private person, you can bring your couple to the location – bed, couch, floor – then write a few lines before the door closes and provides them with the privacy they deserve. Or you can write it all, leaving nothing to the reader’s imagination. Either way, it must be fulfilling to the characters and more importantly, to your reader.

Do not cheat your reader. They have invested both their hard earned money to buy your book and their valuable time to read it. As the author, you are obligated to provide your reader with their desired afterglow.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day. I'll be back Wednesday with a new menu. Until then...

Happy Writing!

Sloane Taylor

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's Wednesday. So What's Cooking?

Mock Chicken Legs and all the Fixings

Today we have an elegant dinner with marvelous flavors that’s easy to prepare. On a tight schedule? Most of this meal can be assembled in advanced. Look for the ** in the instructions to see the stopping point, then continue cooking on the day you serve it.

Mock Chicken Legs
Twice Baked Potatoes
Blanched Fresh Green Beans
Sautéed Mushrooms
Crescent Rolls – Pillsbury tend to be the flakiest
Dry White Wine – Chardonnay or Riesling

Mock Chicken Legs
Use equal amounts of the three meats. If you are anti-veal, the beef and pork alone are still great.
1 lb. veal shoulder cut into 2” cubes
1 lb. pork tenderloin cut into 2” cubes
1 lb. beef Eye of Round, or other high quality roast, cut into 2” cubes
3 eggs
1 ½ cups seasoned bread crumbs
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Olive oil
Skewers about 6” – 7” in length

Alternate the meat cubes as you skewer them. Set aside on waxed paper. I suggest you make extras and freeze them for future use.

** Stop here. Lay the skewers on a cookie sheet. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate.

On the day of serving, combine eggs and pepper in a flat bowl. Dip the skewers, one at a time, into the mixture. Roll in the bread crumbs then set them back onto the waxed paper.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat ½” olive oil in a frying pan. When the oil shimmers, carefully put in a few of the skewers and brown well on all sides. As they are cooked set them into a baking dish, stacking the skewers is fine.
Cover the dish and bake for 1-1 ½ hours or until fork tender.

Do NOT add any liquid to the meat. It will produce its own fantastic sauce.

Twice Baked Potatoes
Baking potatoes 1 per person
Cheddar cheese grated – I prefer Sargento’s Extra Sharp Cheddar
Olive oil
Sour cream

The amounts of the ingredients are left up to your taste, but don’t be sparing if you want great flavor.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Wash potatoes under cool water. Rub the skins with a little olive oil, then make a small slit across their tops. Lay on a cookie sheet. Bake about an hour or until a toothpick can be easily inserted.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the butter, cheddar cheese and sour cream.

When potatoes are tender, slice them in half, then scoop out the pulp onto the above mixture. Be careful not to rip the skins. Whip the mixture well.

Refill the shells and set them back on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a little paprika for color.

**Stop here. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for the next day. Remove from the refrigerator at least one hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 325°. Discard cling wrap and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

Blanched Fresh Green Beans
3 lbs. green string beans, trimmed
6 quarts water
3 tbsp. butter
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring the water to a full boil in a large pot. Drop the beans in by the handful. Return water to a boil, reduce the heat to moderate and boil the beans uncovered for 8 to 12 minutes or until they are just tender. Drain in a colander.

If the beans are to be served immediately, melt the butter in the cooking pot and toss the beans for a minute or two. Season with pepper, then transfer the beans to a heated dish and serve.

**If serving the beans later, refresh them after draining by plunging the colander into a large pot of cold water for a minute or two. Drain thoroughly, cover and set aside. Refrigerate if they are to be used the next day. When ready to serve, melt the butter, toss beans, and warm them over moderate heat.

Sautéed Mushrooms
1 lb. Baby Portobello mushrooms
Olive oil
Small onion sliced thin
2 tbs. Butter
Dry vermouth or white wine
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Slice in half if medium, cut into thirds if large.

Over medium heat dribble a small amount of olive oil into a medium sized frying pan and add the butter. Toss in the sliced onions and mushrooms. Sauté until almost tender.

Pour a small amount of vermouth or white wine over the mushrooms and continue to heat.

To serve, grind pepper across the top and spoon into a warm serving dish.

This dish is best cooked and served on the same day.

I'll be back Friday with more writing tips. Until then...

Bon Appetite!

Sloane Taylor

Monday, May 21, 2012


The Psycohouser knows your fears and takes you one step farther into the darkness. This eerie person looks deep into your soul and has the ability to control all your emotions.

Who is he?

A talented author that knows how to grab and hold his readers until the very end of each of his well written novels, the spell-binding Cornell DeVille

here to thrill and chill you with LOST IN THE BAYOU, an awesome YA story that captivates readers of all ages.

Not familiar with Cornell and his work? DeVille considers himself an Imagination Director. A member of the Baby Boomer generation, he was influenced by the state-of-the-art technology of the fifties—television. He was influenced by the great storytellers of the day, including Hollywood icons like Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling. Rather than spend his summer days outside playing baseball, Deville preferred the world he could find within the covers of a good book. At an early age, he fell in love with the works of Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and H.G. Wells.

Early memories remained with him throughout the years and continue to influence his writing today. A lover of adventure, mystery, and fantasy, DeVille’s writing leads the reader on a journey that allows them to escape the real world and venture into a special realm where anything can happen.

DeVille grew up in the Kansas City area, where he lives today with his wife Rosie, their bichon-poodle Hannah, and a Himalayan Persian cat named Billy.

Cornell DeVille
ISBN: 978-61937-080-7
Musa Publishing
Euterpe - Young Adult

The bayou is a risky option. But becoming alligator seems a lot less terrifying than what’s waiting in the cellar.

Musa Publishing
Barnes & Noble

People disappear in the bayou. And that’s exactly what fourteen-year-old Robin Sherwood needs to do — before her Uncle Conrad snips her toes off with his rusty garden nippers.

When her parents’ private plane disappears in the Voodoo Swamp, Robin’s uncle moves into the multi-million dollar Sherwood Estate as her guardian. It doesn’t take Robin long to figure out there’s something not quite right about Uncle Conrad — besides having a metal claw where his left hand used to be.

Weird changes to crazy when he explains the bizarre game he has planned — a game that will leave Robin dead and Uncle Conrad the sole heir to the Sherwood fortune. In order to escape his devious plan and its deadly consequences, the bayou may be Robin’s only chance. It’s a risky choice, but becoming alligator bait seems a lot less terrifying right now than what’s waiting for her in the cellar.

In Louisiana, summer wraps around you like molasses. Thick and sticky. July is hot and humid. Always. August is worse. And the summer of 1963 has been a record breaker so far.

This morning, the sky is cloudless. It’s muggy, and there’s no hint of a breeze to blow away the pestering flies or the lingering stench of whatever crawled under the porch and died a few days ago. The only possible relief in sight is a dark bank of clouds in the south over the bayou. If it holds together, we may get a storm later tonight to cool things off. I hope so.

The rhythmic buzz of locusts fills the air, but it stops suddenly as a deep rumble comes up the road. My heart races as the sound rolls across the terrace and toward the covered veranda where we’re waiting.

There’s an uncertain look in Andy’s eyes when he glances up at me, and his voice is thin as water when he speaks.
“He’s coming.”

“It’s going to be all right.” I squeeze my younger brother’s narrow shoulders and give him a reassuring smile while trying to hide my own fear of what’s heading toward us. Since our house is quite a distance from the wrought-iron entrance gates of our estate, we have a minute or so before the car gets here.

When I turn around and glance at my reflection in the window for one final check, the awkward image staring back at me is disappointing, as usual. Being fourteen is frustrating. Honestly. I’m all knees and elbows, and the white dress makes my freckles show up too much. The permanent made my hair way too kinky. And my eyes are puffy from crying all night.

But I’m stuck with it for now. That’s another bad part about being fourteen: You can’t change anything. And there’s nothing I can change now before the car carrying our visitor gets here—including the fact that the court has appointed him our new guardian.

Andy stares down the long driveway toward the entrance, waiting and watching. When I spin him around to adjust his necktie, big-eyed smiling frogs stare back at me. Frog neckties must be the rage with eleven-year-old boys this summer. Actually, I don’t know why I’m even bothering. His tie is a clip-on. There’s nothing to adjust.

My fingers scratch through his scruffy blond hair to make it look as if someone combed it. A quick swipe of my hand wipes away the tiny beads of sweat glistening on his pink forehead. If Mom were here, she’d open her purse and pull out a Kleenex, lick it, and scrub some dirt from our faces—that special dirt only mothers can see. It always embarrassed me when she did that, but I wish she were here to do it now.

The sound is getting louder. And closer. The locusts have gotten used to it and started buzzing again, their cadence in time with the seconds ticking by. Andy and I stand side by side at the porch railing, waiting to face whatever the future has in store for us.

Musa Publishing
Barnes & Noble

Learn more about Cornell DeVille on his website and blog. Keep in step with him on facebook and Twitter.

I’ll be back Wednesday with a new menu. Until then…

Happy Reading!

Sloane Taylor
Sweet as Honey...Hotter than Hell

Friday, May 18, 2012

Are You Having Fun Yet?

Writing is your chosen profession and you need to make it fun. Flip on the stereo, dress up your writing space, do anything to bring out your creativity and keep you planted in your chair for hours on end.

Read your calendar to determine when you’ll have blocks of time to write. I need blocks of time, hours, or I get confused. I can’t work well with ten minutes here or thirty minutes there unless I’m editing. For me short spells are good for editing, otherwise I lose my critical eye. Write your schedule on the calendar, in red. You’ll feel more committed and will spot in an instant when you can work.

Maybe you have a full time job. It’s not so easy then. Author Judy Powell used to eat her lunch in her car, just to get away from her desk, and write. She had a kitchen timer set for her return time and was never late.

Judy’s habit may not work for you. If that’s the case then set your writing time, at least an hour, in the morning before you head out. Only do it if you’re a morning person otherwise you’ll have wasted an hour’s sleep. Maybe evenings are your creative time but you’re too tired and hungry after work. Eat a light dinner, clean up, and grab a short nap. Better yet skip the nap, it’ll only add unwanted pounds.

Look, everyone has a real life with doctor appointments, grocery shopping, cooking, family, friends, and lovers. You don’t want to aggravate or alienate, but you do have to put your career in prospective. Some things just have to wait. As an FYI, so can house cleaning and most laundry. In regard to friends, they can probably live without you for two weeks. Explain what you’re doing and why. Inform them you and your phone are out of commission for two weeks, unless they die. You love them dearly, but you must be selfish and think of yourself. Spread out your socializing until after the fourth week of dedicated writing. If they are your friends they’ll understand. If they don’t…

Appointments, groceries, cooking, family, and lovers are another matter. Let’s discuss them individually.

Appointments - Either schedule them as far apart as possible or cram them into one day. Remember, you have the ability to grant yourself blocks of time to write.

Groceries – Stock up! Write a concise list and do one giant splurge. Yes, you may blow the budget but it will even up down the road when you don’t have to do an emergency run for toilet paper.

– Easy, either buy frozen ready made food, fresh with a far out expiration date, or cook up a storm during your first week, and freeze the extras.

Family – If you have children at home you’re time is going to be occupied with a gazillion things. All you can do is make a serious attempt to carve out blocks of time around their schedules. It’s okay if you take longer than ten weeks to get your novel written. You have the ability to grant yourself that permission. Use it. If your children have moved out, tell them to get a life and leave yours alone for two weeks unless there is a grave situation. Make that a grave situation in your opinion – not theirs.

Lovers – Not so easy. It’s important to keep them included in your life and not make them feel like they’re a bother. Studly’s cool on this. When we’re watching TV, I have my work on hard copy and do what’s necessary. This way we’re together during the evening and I can ask a question at halftime or intermission. Sometimes, he’ll bring up a short subject. Neither of us gets into anything deep, those topics are reserved for dinner. Not only are we together, but we’re each doing what we enjoy. A huge Thank You to my Brazen Hussy pals for their insight on this area.

Now to the real fun.

Have your notebook with the outline and characterization list at hand. Remember you’ve written in the daily log section how many words you wanted to write? Go for it.

Turn on your computer, block out the world, and type. Don’t think about spelling, grammar, paragraphs, or anything else, just think about your novel. Consider this the outline your freshman English teacher would have hated. Pound it out. Let your words flow. Later, you’ll concern yourself with editing. Commit three weeks strictly for writing. You’ll be surprised at how much more you accomplish in laying down your story when you kill your Internal Editor.

If you get stumped or tired, get up and walk around, grab a bottle of water, or a snack. Do not sit there and stare at your monitor. Maybe you need music, a break, exercise, and unless you want to turn into Waddling Wilma you’d better exercise. On a 9-5 job you’d have two breaks and a lunch time. Do the same with you’re writing. Hello! It’s your job.

And since it’s your job, you will know and must adhere to quitting time. If you don’t, you’ll burn out. Nothing worse than a writer with nothing left to write.

Extra tips;
1. Keep pen and paper scattered throughout the house and car to write down those ideas/phrases popping in your head.

2. Revitalize your creativity by reading outside your genre, walking, a movie, or my all time favorite – eavesdropping at a restaurant.

3. Sit outside, anywhere, and commune with nature and your higher being. It may not be a bad idea to thank him/her for your success.

As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re not comfortable posting a comment here or prefer to talk privately, email me. I’m happy to spend time with you.

I'll be back Monday with Donna Del Oro and her latest release, The Delphi Bloodline. Until then...

Happy Writing!

Sloane Taylor

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's Wednesday. So What's Cooking?

Chicken Cacciatore with Roasted Potatoes

Do you like to cook without specific measurements? Or are you a hard and fast type cook? If garlic is your thing toss in another clove, or maybe you aren’t fond of oregano so hold back on the amount suggested. Make this and any other recipe work your way. You might decide to use an herb that’s not listed. Go for it! Some of the greatest recipes were developed when a jar accidentally spilled into the pot.

The big tip for today – don’t use Pompeiian Olive Oil. It’s too strong, lacking the subtlety to create a good dish.

Chicken Cacciatore with Roasted Potatoes*
Fresh Hard Rolls or a loaf of Italian bread
Crisp Dry White Wine like one of the Soave's

Chicken Cacciatore with Roasted Potatoes*
1 whole chicken cut up
Oregano to taste
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium red pepper sliced
4 medium peeled & quartered russet potatoes
1 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion quartered
Handful of baby bella mushrooms cleaned

Early in the morning, or the night before, drop a handful of salt into a glass bowl. Add just enough water to dissolve the salt. Drop in your cut up chicken, add more water to cover the meat, and set into the fridge until ready to use. This can be done up to two days in advance of cooking the chicken.

Preheat oven to 350f degrees.

Dry the chicken pieces well with paper towels. Heat a 10-12 inch skillet on medium-high. Pour in oil and heat until a haze form over it. Add the chicken and brown. After its browned, lay the chicken into a baking dish large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably.

In the same frying pan, add the potatoes and onion, sprinkle with oregano. Brown well then lay over and around the chicken.

Sauté the red peppers in the frying pan with all it’s accumulated juices until almost tender. Add the butter and the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are coated well and warmed through. Pour this mixture over the potatoes and chicken scraping the pan to get all the browned pieces.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour.

*Egg noodles may be substituted for potatoes as shown in the above photo. Prepare the noodles according to package directions. To serve, spoon noodles into a bowl, lay chicken on top, then ladle with pan juices.

Tomato & Garlic Sauce
½ tbsp. olive oil
1 medium glove garlic crushed
1 small can tomato sauce
¼ cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 teas dried basil
Pinch sugar

Use the same skillet from the chicken, add oil and sauté the garlic for a few seconds over moderate heat. Pour in the tomato sauce. Add the chicken stock to the tomato sauce can, swirl around to collect any residue, and pour into the pan. Toss in the bay leaf, basil, and sugar. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

After the chicken and potatoes have baked for 1 hour, test the potatoes with a toothpick. If, and only if, they’re done ladle the sauce on top and bake another 15 minutes.

Now you could buy the bagged stuff, or maybe it’s time to try something different. If you’re in an adventurous mood the following isn’t hard at all and the quantities are definitely up to you.

Head lettuce
Red leaf lettuce washed well
Zucchini scraped and sliced
Cucumber scraped and sliced
Yellow onion or green onions sliced
Tomato quartered

Toss your desired quantities well and chill in the fridge until dinner. Grab your favorite Paul Newman dressing or try:

Oil & Vinegar Dressing
¼ C. red wine vinegar
Pinch of basil
½ cup olive oil
Pinch of oregano
Freshly ground pepper to taste

The amounts will have to be adjusted based on the number of people you are serving.

Just before serving sprinkle the red wine vinegar onto the salad and toss well. Pour the olive oil on a little at a time so the salad is not saturated and toss well. Lace the mixture with the basil, oregano, toss well, and store the salad in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

I'll return Friday with new writing tips. Until then...

Mangiar Bene!

Sloane Taylor

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Write What You Know

is the advice given to all new authors. SS Hampton, Sr. took this to heart when he began his writing career and has created gut-wrenching military novels. One of his latest releases, THE SENTINELS, is a perfect example of his talent and ability to immerse the reader into the action.

For those of you who aren't familiar with SS Hampton, Sr., he is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). He continues to serve in the Army National Guard, where he holds the rank of staff sergeant.

Hampton is also a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and is studying for a degree in anthropology. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from MUSA Publishing, Melange Books (Intimate Journeys; R.U.S.H.; Christmas Collectibles 2010; and Hearts of Tomorrow), Ravenous Romance (Back Door Lover), and Dark Opus Press (In Poe’s Shadow), and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. In 2012 he has another story forthcoming in an anthology from Edge SF & Fantasy (Danse Macabre), as well as a stand-alone story releasing from MuseItUp Publishing.

As of December 2011, Hampton became the latest homeless Iraq war veteran in Las Vegas, Nevada.

SS Hampton, Sr.
ISBN: 978-1-61937-144-6
MUSA Publishing


December, 1941, and fresh Siberian troops from the Soviet Far East have launched savage counter-attacks against the German invaders. The Eastern Front is torn open with German units driven back, overwhelmed, or isolated. An exhausted Waffen SS infantry platoon outside of Moscow needs to know what the Siberians, hidden in a dark forest before them, are up to. A small patrol is sent into the snowy, otherworldly forest…

A little more than a dozen snow encrusted German soldiers, remnants of a once strong motorized infantry platoon, grimly surveyed their surroundings. The frozen winter sun cast a feeble light across their outpost on a small rise overlooking a snowy road that bordered the forest before Moscow. Above them gray clouds painted with broad pastel strokes of reds, yellows, and purples drifted across the twilight sky.

"The sun's going down," Josef Frank said to no one in particular as he adjusted his leather 'Y' straps on which to attach his field gear. He carefully checked his 9mm MP 38 sub-machine gun. In the savage cold their weapons and ammunition were scraped clean of lubricating oils because the oils froze and jammed the weapons. Even then, successful operation was no guarantee. His weapon sometimes fired only one to two rounds at a time. Then he checked the leather magazine pouches fastened to his belt - three magazines, 30 rounds per magazine, 90 rounds, and one 'potato masher' stick grenade tucked in his belt. That was all he had left to face the fresh Siberian troops lurking somewhere within the dark forest before them - the last barrier that hid the suburbs of Moscow...


I’ll be back Wednesday with a new menu. Until then…

Happy Reading!

Sloane Taylor

Monday, May 14, 2012

With a Lot of Help from a Friend

Mondays are slated for posts on author friends and their new releases or a terrific book from their backlist, but after a horrid Sunday, I must make an exception.

As you and every person on this planet know, I am not a computer whiz. There’s something about the technology that turns my brain to mush. Probably because it’s technology.

Yesterday morning, I signed in to schedule a post by SS Hampton, Sr. for today’s blog. It was with great terror that I found my blog had disappeared, scooped into oblivion by whatever evil demons linger behind the technical scenes of blogs and all mind blowing things related.

After many unsuccessful attempts to salvage my blog, sanity, and the handfuls of unnaturally blonde hair I’d ripped from my scalp, I emailed computer wizard Kelly Shorten for help.

Kelly is the guru of technology, all its mystery, and a high priestess at Musa Publishing. God love this woman and her talent, but especially her ability to take pity on me.

A short time later, that required zip on my part, Kelly had me back up and running without a hitch.

I am forever grateful to Kelly. The woman is a saint.

Sloane Taylor

Friday, May 11, 2012

It’s the Time, BUT is it the Place?

Chapter Setting

What the hell is that and where does this woman come up with these phrases?

Well, this woman has been around the block more times than most authors and will tell you what it’s not. The chapter is not endless pages of a well written book that doesn’t allow the reader to rest. The setting is not the quaint coffee shop where you display all your grace and charm as you lay your manuscript into yet another unsuspecting friend’s hands.

Chapter Setting is where you break the chapter with a cliffhanger and determine its best location within your manuscript.

As you well know, every book has chapters. You, as the author, get to decide how many there will be, how they begin and end, and the placement of each. You, as the writer, have to create such an impact on your reader that they want to turn the page.

I had one chapter in my first book that had 8,843 good, edited, words. My critique partners listened patiently as I read every single one of those words. Did I mention their eyes glazed over about half way through the diatribe?

“Too long?” asked I.
“Aahh,” they muttered between yawns and stretches.

I didn’t need Beth Anderson’s infamous 2x4 to get the hint.

We went through that longer than life chapter, line by line, scene by scene, to determine the best point to end it and create a new one. It turned out to be a logical scene where the chapter went from one point of view to another. Simple enough, but there’s more to chapter setting.

Every chapter ending must make the reader want to continue, excite them enough to want to find out what happens to your hero and heroine.

Here’s a little sample;

Gina was tormented with indecision. She tossed and turned, twisting the sheets into a knot, until she finally rolled over and fell asleep.

Make you want to turn the page? Not hardly. Why should your reader go any further? Gina slept. End of story. The reader will probably toss your hard work into the fire and bitch about the $5.00 they wasted. Will they buy another book written by you? Not likely.

End every chapter with a cliff-hanger. You can’t? You’re going to let chapter fifteen slide? Guess you don’t want to be published, let alone aim for the best seller list.

How about a slight alteration to our example?

Gina was tormented with indecision. She tossed and turned, twisting the sheets into knots.

Better, not great, but at least it’s heading in the right direction.

In my humble opinion, the best ending is;

Gina tossed and turned, twisting the sheets into knots, tormented with indecision.

Now your reader wants to find out what the indecision is and how Gina handled it.

Tease your reader. They’ll flip the page with the hope of discovering the resolution.

Surprise! You’ve taunted them again by inserting a chapter that doesn’t give the conclusion. Instead it’s a new chapter, in another character’s point of view, about a totally different phase of the book. The reader may have to continue for another forty pages to discover Gina’s outcome. And they’ll love you for it.

You must withhold the information from the reader. It’s the old carrot and horse thing. You can’t let go of the carrot until the timing is right.

This is the time in your novel writing to go through your manuscript and make sure;

• chapters are ended in the correct spot
• each chapter is a cliff-hanger
• chapter placement is timely to your story

I’ll be back Monday with Paul Stansfield, an author who pens gripping mysteries. Until then…

Happy writing!

Sloane Taylor

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

It's Wednesday, so What's Cooking? Chop Suey with a Kick.

It gripes me to no end to see chop suey meat in the grocery store hovering close to $4.00 a pound. These fatty chunks are scraps the butcher carved off who knows what, or when, and lumped into a package for us consumers to blithely purchase.

Don't do it!

Over the years, I have learned it is best, and cheaper, to buy small roasts on sale. At least I know what meat I’m actually getting.

Eggs Rolls
Chop Suey with a Kick
Hot Tea, Saki, Chardonnay Wine or Cabernet Sauvignon

Eggs Rolls
Many grocery stores sell egg rolls in the deli. If you go this route, reheat them at 350F for 15 – 20 minutes.

The other day my store was out of them so I used Tai Pei Mini Vegetable Spring Rolls, found in the freezer section. The bag holds 15 rolls and 2 sauce packets. No MSG is added and they have zero trans fat. They baked up crisp in 12 minutes at 450F. The taste and texture were wonderful!

Serve the egg rolls as an appetizer just before the rest of your meal is done cooking.

Chop Suey with a Kick
2 pounds boneless beef roast trimmed of fat and connective tissue
1 pound boneless pork roast trimmed of fat and connective tissue
3 celery ribs chopped
1 cup large onion chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil – more may be required
2 tbsp. butter
14 oz. beef stock
4 tbsp. corn starch
2 tbsp. bead molasses
3 tbsp. soya sauce
1 can bean sprouts drained
1 can sliced water chestnuts drained
1 tsp. crushed red pepper – the more you add, the bigger the kick
1 glove garlic pressed
Fresh mushroom sliced thick - optional
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the meats into 2 inch cubes.

Over medium high heat, combine the oil and butter in a large pot. When the foam subsides, brown the meat in batches. Be sure not to overcrowd the pot. When the batch is browned, remove to a bowl and continue until the meat is complete.

Add celery and onions, sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.

Lower heat to medium. Return meat to the pot. Blend beef stock and corn starch, then stir into pot. Add in bead molasses and soya sauce. Stir well.

Mix in bean sprouts, water chestnuts, crushed red pepper, and garlic. Cover pot and simmer 1 hour.

Add mushrooms and black pepper 10 minutes before the chop suey is finished.

Serve over rice.

Your favorite brand
Chicken stock

Prepare rice following the package directions, but exchange ½ the water required with chicken stock.

The chop suey freezes well for future meals.

I'll be back Friday with more writing tips. Until then...

Happy Cooking!

Sloane Taylor

Monday, May 07, 2012


Today we have Patricia Yager Delagrange with her latest contemporary release MOON OVER ALCATRAZ. This outstanding novel is an emotional read that triggers it all. It is a powerful story that refuses to let go.

Not familiar with Patricia’s work? Let me tell you, she is fascinated by broken-hearted couples and atypical families. She weaves engaging tales of men and women who create cohesive families where love reigns supreme. Her books are sprinkled with intriguing characters who struggle to find balance in life after tragedy. Whether an unwed teenager, desperate widow, abandoned father, or a couple who stray from their marital vows, her characters form relationships impacted by their desire to create a family. And Patricia does is with heart.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Patricia attended St. Mary’s College, studied her junior year at the University of Madrid, received a B.A. in Spanish at UC Santa Barbara then went on to get her Master’s degree in Education at Oregon State University.

She lives with her husband and two teenage children in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, along with two very large chocolate labs, Annabella and her son Jack. Her horse lives in the Oakland hills in a stall with a million dollar view.

Patricia Yager Delagrange
ISBN 978-1-61937-104-0
Musa Publishing
Terpsichore - Contemporary

Musa Publishing
Barnes & Noble

Following the death of their baby during a difficult birth, Brandy and Weston Chambers are grief-stricken and withdraw from each other, both seeking solace outside of their marriage; however, they vow to work through their painful disloyalty. But when the man Brandy slept with moves back to their hometown, three lives are forever changed by his return.

Three days later we were standing at the edge of a hole in the ground at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Hayward, the silence so thick, the insides of my ears buzzed like a distant swarm of angry bees. Mr. Peralta and another gentleman stood off to the side while Weston and I held hands next to a tiny casket.

Weston had chosen a simple mahogany box with gold handles, a bouquet of white lilies graced the top of the small box. I knelt down and laid a kiss on the smooth wood then wiped off the tears that had fallen on top. Weston joined me, placing a single red rose in the middle of the lilies.

He helped me up and we stood side-by-side in silence, my guilt over her death like a stone in my empty belly. I missed everything I’d dreamed would be happening right now, yearned for all that could have been.

Weston nodded at the man standing next to Mr. Peralta and our baby was slowly lowered into the gaping maw. She reached the bottom, and a bird landed on the rich brown dirt piled next to the grave. It pecked around, chirping a little song then flew off - as if saying goodbye. My heart squeezed inside my chest.

I picked up a small handful of soft dirt. “Goodbye, Christine,” I whispered, throwing it on top of her casket.

Weston wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me in close to his side. Why her? Why my baby? Was this supposed to make sense? And, if so, to whom?

We drove home in silence. No words existed to express my grief.

Musa Publishing
Barnes & Noble

Learn more about Patricia Yagar Delagrange on her website and blog. Keep in step with her on facebook and Twitter.

I’ll be back Wednesday with a new menu. Until then…

Happy Reading!

Sloane Taylor

Friday, May 04, 2012

To Comma, or not to Comma? That is the Question

Webster defines a comma as a punctuation mark, used especially as a mark of separation within a sentence. Doesn’t that definition just clear it all up for you? If so, you’re lucky because it never did for me. Back to my Writer’s Bible, “The Elements of Style”.

Here’s the skinny; there are seven comma rules. We’ll take them out of order for simplicity.

1 – Dates are written as;

• Jan. 24, 2006.
• 24 Jan. 2006.
In the second example no comma is used.

2 – In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, the commas are placed as follows;

• I enjoy tennis, skiing, and books.
• Jason, Fred, and Esther went to the farm.

You can’t drop the last comma. I don’t know, maybe the Punctuation Police force you to repeat English 101 for eternity if you do.

The exception is if you’re writing a business name. The last comma is omitted.

• Jefferson, Clemmons, Blake and Company

3 – Use a comma before and/or after a proper name or place;

• “Hi, John.”
• “Hey, John, did you see the dog?”
• Munich, Germany

4 - A comma is inserted before a conjunction introducing an independent clause;

• She was in a situation which should have scared the hell out of her, but didn’t.
• In no time the airplane landed, and the passengers clapped with joy.

5 – Don’t use a comma to join independent clauses. If the clauses are grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, it’s the semicolon’s time to come out and play.

• It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.

6 – Don’t break sentences in two. Meaning, don’t use periods when you should use a comma. “The Elements of Style” have the best examples;

• I met them on a Cunard liner many years ago. Coming home from Liverpool.
• She was an interesting talker. A woman who had traveled all over the world and lived in half a dozen countries.

The sentences don’t make sense as written. In both examples a comma should replace the first period.

If you want more dramatic effect in your sentence do the following;

• He yanked the cell phone from his pocket and punched in the number. The phone rang. No one answered.

Don’t use the above example often in your story, it has a choppy effect and the editor won’t like it, let alone the reader. Clipped sentences, as the above example, are more often used in dialogue.

7 – Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas. A parenthetic expression is a word, phrase, or sentence inserted in a passage to explain or modify the thought. Again from “The Elements of Style”;

• The best way to see the country, unless you are pressed for time, is to travel on foot.

In a nutshell here’s how it works for the author;

• The eight rules are standard and must be followed so you look like a professional writer.
• My guru Beth Anderson taught me to listen to the flow of the words. Use the commas when you need the reader to pause and give them a little time to prepare for what’s next.
• Use common sense. As you apply the rules they will become second nature.

Have a terrific weekend. I'll be back Monday with Cornell DeVille, author of chilling young adult books. Be sure to stop in. Until then...

Happy Writing!

Sloane Taylor

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

It's Wednesday, so What's Cooking? Italian!

Tomato and Garlic Sauce
Italian Sausage
Parmesan Cheese
Italian Bread
Red Wine – Ruffino Chianti or Bella Sera Pinto Noir

Tomato and Garlic Sauce
Makes about 3½ cups

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup onion finely chopped
1 tbsp. garlic pressed or finely chopped
3 cans 14.5oz. each diced tomatoes – Red Gold is my favorite
1 can 6oz. tomato paste – Contadina is my favorite
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ cup or less red wine
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. dried basil
2 medium – large bay leafs
1 ½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

In a 3-4 quart saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, but not brown. This will take 5 – 8 minutes. Stir frequently. Add in the garlic and stir constantly for 1 or 2 minutes. Again, make sure nothing browns or the sauce will be bitter. Blend in the tomatoes and their liquid and all the other ingredients. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 – 1 ½ hours.

The sauce should be thick and fairly smooth when finished. Remove the bay leafs. If you prefer a smoother texture, puree in a food processor.

Italian Sausage
5 Italian sausage links – mild or hot
½ cup chicken stock
Red and/or yellow peppers cleaned and cut into strips
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F

Pour the chicken stock in a baking dish. Nestle the sausage in the stock. Bake for 30 minutes.

Turn the sausage, then lay the pepper strips on top. Sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cook for 30 minutes.
Leftover sausage freezes well. Later, use them for sandwiches on crusty rolls and smothered in the tomato sauce. Serve with French fries for an easy meal.

Select your favorite brand. Mine is Barilla and I prefer rigatoni for this meal.

Cook according to package directions. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the cooking water to help the pasta not stick together.

Make sure the pasta is al dente and not too soft. Drain well.

To serve, empty into a bowl with the Parmesan cheese on the side.

¼ olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice – Minute Maid makes frozen lemon juice that keeps for 8 weeks in the fridge. It’s cheaper than fresh lemons and just as good.
Coarse salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lettuce - Romaine and Red Leaf make a wonderful combination
1 tomato quartered then cut into pieces
2 green onions cleaned and
10 black olives
4 Pepperoncini

Beat the oil, vinegar, and lemon juice together. Season with salt and pepper.

Tear lettuce into bite size pieces. Add tomato and onion. Gently toss with the dressing.

Spoon the salad into a glass bowl. Lay the olives and Pepperoncini. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

I'll be back Friday with more writing tips. Until then...

Happy Cooking!

Sloane Taylor