Feb 27, 2012

Bragging on My Brother

It's no wonder I can't take slapdash e-covers. Hard to settle for slapped-together when you've got hands-on experience with quality artwork.

Feb 26, 2012

Bread pr0n

I am a big fan of the cinnamon raisin swirl breads, so decided to see how it would go with the sourdough recipe I've been using.

I don't add more sugar to the recipe, just the cinnamon and the raisins. I really should stop making it because every time I'm hungry my little brain says...THERE'S MORE RAISIN BREAD!
Now I can't stop wondering wondering what else I can add to the (basic) bread to make other interesting breads. Cheese? Spinach?  Some kind of dried meaty goodness? Whatever it is, I doubt it will be quite this pretty with melty butter.

Maybe I should ditch this writing malarkey and just make bread. Forever! Or till I get bored...like with all non-writing hobbies.

Feb 22, 2012

Speaking of Medicals...

Another debut Medical author, Louisa George, is sharing her call story and giving away her debut over at the Pink Heart Society.

North American Medical Romance releases are a month behind, and this is a March release overseas, so no link to Harlequin, but Book Depository does ship everywhere for free once the book's available!

Feb 20, 2012

Medical Romance and North America

In March, Harlequin is doing a Spotlight on Medical Romance in their forums. In the UK and Australia, there's nothing new about Medical Romances, they are actually available in stories on other continents, but here in North America you can only buy them online. And if someone doesn't frequent Harlequin.com, what are the chances they'll even be introduced to them?

So, I'm making 2012 my year to introduce North American romance lovers to the awesome that is Medical Romance. If you live on this Medical Romance-deprived continent with me, get your MedRom fix in paperback so you can join me in donating your gently used copies to your local library. If your library is like mine, they'll shelve pretty much anything donated, and if we can get those books on shelves--the North American romance-loving public can be introduced to them without having to take the initiative to seek out books they've never heard of. It might be scheming big, but it'd be awesome to one day see these fantastic stories alongside their other category counterparts on shelves in my neighborhood.

If you've never read a medical romance, here's my top five reasons to give them a try:
  1. Over the past year especially, there's been a distinct trend toward young voices. These are not your mother's medical romances. 
  2. Drama, baybay. These stories are high octane, packed with emotion. Not just life and death situations, either. Medicals aren't afraid to tackle the darker, grittier subjects often considered verboten in category romance. 
  3. Variety in sensuality. Some are tender and sweet, and others will Set Your eReader on fire(like Wendy S. Marcus's Once a Good Girl)
  4. More variety! Big city, small village GP, or on a hospital boat sailing down the Amazon(like Tina Beckett's debut shown at the top of the page) -- these stories can take you anywhere.
  5. What's more heroic than people who devote their lives to saving others? Don't they deserve some Happily Ever After?

If you want to join me, I'd love to keep track of what's going on where. Leave me a comment, or email me: amalieberlin at gmail dot com. If you like and read medical romance and want to share a favorite author/title/theme/whatever, I'd love to know.

Or, hey, if you write for HMB Medical Romance and want to donate some books to NA libraries, I'd be happy to help anyway I can -- either by finding addresses of the libraries or locating folks willing to deliver to their local repositories for all human knowledge :)

I refuse to believe that a country that craves doctor dramas on TV doesn't have a place for it on the book shelves, too.

Feb 15, 2012

Following the Voices

For most people, writing the first three chapters of a new novel is super-happy fun time. I am not most people. The first three chapters are my hardest. The middle? That's my happy place, where I'm comfortable with the characters and I've thrown out enough plot threads I can relax and happily weave. Wacky hijinx ensue.

I haven't written enough books for me to say this will always be the case, but it is the case right now. Part of the trouble is finding the voices of my main characters. I write romance, so I have two protagonists. One of them has always come with the story idea, fully formed and yapping in my ear. The other voice can be elusive. Makes those first chapters grueling writing.

The past week I've been struggling with this. I knew who the hero was, his goals/motivation/conflict. In fact, Wyatt was that character who materialized with the story idea. But he came without a voice. My heroine, whom I had to root around for, had a voice the instant I settled on her background and personality. But Wyatt's been giving me fits.

A few days of grumbling, watching shows/movies starring the actor I've cast in the part, and I still had nothing. Character questionnaires do nothing for me, so that was out. I went whining to a friend for advice, and that helped. Writing a short background in first person helped, too. Gave me a few more insights, helped me figure out what I didn't like about the scenes I'd written, let me fix them(I think).

But I like having a system for settling problems: Do X, Y, and Z and you can overcome _____ in three easy steps! It's comforting. It helps me keep believing I can do this writing thing. I've vanquished this problem. I found this zombie's off-switch by shooting it in a bunch of places, and when the next one comes groaning and shuffling my way, I can just shoot it in the head and move on. No problem! You know, the kind of delusional thinking that lets you keep writing.

What do you do when a character refuses to talk? Do you slog it out in the manuscript? Don't worry about voice differences until editing? Know any easy solutions? I'm all ears.

Oh, and because I'm still baking(to wean us off store-bought bread), look: slits!-->

Feb 8, 2012

4th Time's a Charm

As promised, pictures of attempt #4!

Went with one long loaf instead of two small round, followed the same recipe as #3, but changed the process a bit to give more time to ferment. AP flour and starter.
  • I like a medium sourness to my sourdough, so I threw in 1/4 teaspoon of Rapid Rise yeast. I know, that is not pure sourdough, but it makes it rise fast enough to avoid a 12 hour rise/ferment and reduces the sourness without negating it. 
  • It also went into the oven about 2 inches tall after about 90 minutes of 2nd rise, and in the first 10 minutes of baking shot up to about 6 inches! This loaf is rather massive. I have no idea why it expanded like that. Was it the tiny bit of Rapid Rise yeast going haywire in the steamy oven, or just the steam? I like the puffiness.
  • I bake about 35 minutes and in that time do 4 oven/bread mistings with water bottle. Nice chewy crust came of it. After super hard crust(#2), I greatly prefer soft crust.
  • I need to learn how to do those slits on the top of the bread. They're supposed to expand and be all fancy-pantsy, but mine didn't. I think I didn't cut deeply enough. It just looks like I wanted to paint lines on it. Oh well, still considering this loaf a success. Even if the end of it looks like it's got butt cleavage!

Feb 6, 2012

Bready Update

As it turns out, sourdough bread is a lot harder to make well than the sourdough starter.

First batch, when I thought I could just wing the measurements: Horrifyingly sour

Second batch: Working from actual recipe, good taste, crust so hard that I couldn't even cut it with one of those zippy electric knives you bust out once a year to carve the turkey. But like a TootsiePop, once I got to the center, what I found inside was tasty.

Third batch: Good crust, but bread didn't taste like sourdough! It very was pretty though. Glossy and stuff. Like someone had varnished it for a photo shoot.

Fourth batch: Coming soon, probably Tuesday. Will take pictures next time, I swear. Just gotta figure out where I stuck my camera. . .

Attempts 1 thru 3 have been with whole wheat starter and the loaves were about half whole wheat and half all-purpose. Making an all-purpose starter now to see if the not-as-good-for-you white sourdough has any flavor at all. It's a mystery!

Note: Working on a new story while being on this bread kick ... well, I think my bread got hard because I kind of forgot I was baking something for a while. I don't know if it's forgetfulness or just being easily distracted. I walked away from the oven, forgot the bread. La la la. Started carrying one of those ridiculous old clangy kitchen timers with me to keep me misting the bread and oven with water! (Something I never knew anyone ever had to do. Had to buy a squirt bottle to make soft crust. I really wish I had gone fun instead and got a squirt gun, but they don't mist, and when they do it takes all the fun out of it. Mists don't go very far. Whoever wanted a mist gun? Well, er, me. Just now. Then I could wear it in a holster when I'm baking, and occasionally rip the oven door open and shoot into it while making whoosh noises. Bang-bang doesn't seem to fit in the mental image I'm gettin...)

Feb 3, 2012

7 x 7 Blog Award

First, thanks to AmyMarie and AimeeDuffy for the awards! This is what Amy's post says the rules are, copying here for ease of reference:
  • Share something about yourself others don’t know.
  • Link seven posts from your blog that you think are worthy.
  • Nominate seven other blogs for the award that haven’t received it yet.
I am kind of a blogging moron still, so bear with me. I doubt I have 7 posts worthy of linking to, but I'll give it a shot!

Share something about yourself that others don't know.
    I think everyone here knows I'm dyslexic, I've mentioned it a few times. I didn't really learn to read in anything approaching ease until about third grade. I still don't read out loud for anyone -- it's like word salad when I do. Sequence means nothing to me! But recently, I discovered I can read out loud... If I read with an accent! What accent? Well, a kind of accent succotash: like everything I've heard on the BBC + Portuguese in-laws English + being raised among people who shun the word knew in favor of its much-maligned cousin: knowed. I have several theories on why this works, and they largely involve synapses firing through the right brain to make use of creativity. I still sound nutty, but the laughter induced isn't so much of the OMG She can't read! reaction to the... OMG What's she been smoking!? reaction.

Seven posts. . . of spotty quality...
  1. The Art of Critique
  2. Writing Lingo for New Writers 
  3. Book Review: Writing for Emotional Impact
  4. Messed Up Dreams  (I told you I didn't have 7 worthy posts!)
  5. Proactive Characters (Eh, there may be something worthy here, past the whining)
  6. Dreaming Stories (I talk dreams a lot. Sleep is fun. Whee!)
  7. Maximum Overdrive (Sorry, this movie is awesome. Horrifying. Cheesy. Awesome.)
Nominees! (Om nom nom -- I hope they haven't already received. I have no idea how to tell.)

Kiwibird aka Faye/Serenity -- 2011 was Kiwi's year. She shot into the spotlight with several ePubs, dishes out fantastic advice, and still has time to do some hand-holding for those times when the doubt ravens are pecking at your eyeballs. Yes, I upgraded my doubt crows to the more awesomely Poe-ish versions that eat your eyeballs. And your SOUL.

Ju Dimello -- Newly sold author and buddy! Her blog ranges from tales from the writing trenches to blog tours in support of other authors.

Jolley Old Time -- A New Voices 2011 entrant who has also recently been snatched up by a publisher. Not a lot of posts there yet, but she has a lovely voice and she is also from the other side of the equator/international date line to me, so she uses language I don't understand and I DIG THAT about her :D

Libby Mercer -- Another NV 2011 entrant who shot right into publication. Lovely voice, funny, a little off the wall(I love that) and she sent me a book! Obviously, you should visit Libby :D

Aspiring Romance Writers -- A rockin new hangout for writers of romance, complete with blogs, tips, and a forum for sharing info and support. Definitely worth checking out.

Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares -- Okay, so I don't really comment there(When people get hundreds of followers, I get stage fright). But I read every post and so should everybody else. Does that count?

Three Chapters and a Synopsis -- Started by an entrant in New Voices 2010, Nadia works both nonfiction and fiction, and her posts have a delightful wry quality to them that makes me grin.