Thinking about my husband

Sometimes there comes along a song that I hear, and it makes me think of my husband. And I smile. Right now, there are two songs on the radio that do that for me.

The first one is especially poignant for me because my mom passed away when I was 17, so she never met Josh. But I know she’d have liked him. This song is so him.

And this one, well… Josh is my best friend. This week we have the week to ourselves while Brianna stays with my in-laws. And it is always an incredible amount of fun to spend time with just the two of us. Because we really do like and enjoy each other. I adore that about him, about us. So there’s no way this song could not remind me of him.

(as a side note, this video cracks me up. And also? Jennifer Nettles is too adorable for words. It’s just not fair!)

Ask an editor: Story Killer #askeditor

Months ago, I asked people if they had editor questions. I found this one in my drafts and decided to post it.

Today’s was from @patrickdoris who asked: does a bad first sentence doom a manuscript?

Not at all. I know authors agonize over the first sentence, wanting it to be perfect. And certainly it’s fun to run those first sentence contests (I’ve run a few myself) and see some of the intriguing first sentences, and first five sentences, but the truth is, no editor or agent is likely to stop at the first sentence. Will we stop at the first page? Yeah, definitely. But, for the most part, unless you catch us on a really bad day, or have a first sentence that’s a signal we’re reading complete and utter gibberish, we’re going to keep reading that first page. I will note that a few months ago, Agent Kristin Nelson blogged that 90% of queries don’t get more than 2 pages read! But that’s not normally because of the first sentence. It could be because of the first paragraph though, if it’s really (really) bad.

Does a good first sentence make a difference? Well, sure, first impressions are important. But most of us form our first impressions based on the first few lines or paragraphs, not just one. And we all are especially interested in what comes after the first three chapters (the most polished chapters of any manuscript, and the point at which most promising manuscripts fall apart).

So when you’re stressing over writing your book, or polishing your manuscript, don’t get hung up on the first sentence. Concern yourself instead with the overall structure of the book, the strength of the story and the arc of the characters.

Cooking the Books: Lemonade Pie from Editor Mallory Braus

Sometimes you just want a simple, easy, delicious dessert that you can whip up. Freelance editor Mallory Braus shared this one with the Carina Press editors recently.

I bestow upon you the fabulous recipe for Lemonade Pie:

1- graham cracker crust
1- 8oz container of lowfat coolwhip
1- 0.23 oz packet of lemon or lime koolaid
¾- 14oz sweetened lowfat/nofat condensed milk

Mix coolwhip/koolaid/condensed milk together until smooth and blended. Pour mixture into the graham cracker crust. Put in freezer overnight. Then enjoy!

It’s quick to make, delish, and best of all, it’s low fat/low calorie. A slice is about 2 points on the weight watchers scale…

Mallory has always had a passion for reading romance. But she never considered that the books she loved could lead to a future career. Until one fateful day she was offered an internship with a fabulous literary agent. A position as reader for a romance editor at St. Martin’s Press soon followed. She graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a BA in English. After a brief stay in New York, in which it was discovered that city life did not agree with her, she returned to California and feels so blessed to have found a home with Carina Press and a job that lets her work with her one true love—romance.

When she’s not editing, Mallory also works part-time as a PR Associate for authors. You can follow her on Twitter @MalloryCates

Cooking App review (and giveaway): Paprika!

Weeks ago, I was reading a review of a list of cooking apps and two iPad apps that I hadn’t heard of drew my eye. One was Pepperplate and the other Paprika. After reading the iTunes store reviews, I decided to try Paprika (side note: I hate that you can’t sample apps, especially when we get over the $5 price range. I might still like Pepperplate but now that I have Paprika, it gets even more expensive to try Pepperplate).

I must admit, I’m a sucker for cooking apps. I guess maybe it’s my love of cookbooks transferring itself to my love of gadgets and the iPad? I did thin out my cookbooks recently, for the first time in years, because I’ve found myself relying more and more on recipes found on the internet, where I can get reviews and suggested revisions. And this is where Paprika is full of awesome and comes into play.

The Paprika developer page describes Paprika as a recipe management app that “lets you manage *your* recipes”.

And it does do that, and does it quite well (with two quibbles on my end that I’ll discuss later). I’m going to walk you through some of my favorite features, with tons of screenshots.

First, the initial beauty of this app, as you compile your recipes, is tied into having wifi access, so it’s not an app that you would use immediately offline. You need to first start importing your recipes from various websites and browsers. For me, this meant opening the browser within the app and then navigating to my favorite recipe sites (of which I have many).The browser comes pre-populated with some cooking sites pre-bookmarked. You can then add your own bookmarks. I added my own site (since I have a separate recipe page I often access for my own use), Allrecipes.com, Pioneer Woman, Serious Eats, King Arthur’s Flour, Fine Cooking and a few other blogs and foodie sites I like to grab recipes from. Once I had these bookmarked, I knew I could download a bunch of recipes I use often immediately into Paprika.

So there are two options for importing your recipes (and the missing third is one of my quibbles). First, you can navigate to the website and hit the “Save Recipe” button in the upper right corner. If the website you’re on is one of the sites recognized by Paprika, it will automatically save and import the recipe, complete with ingredients, directions, picture and details into your Paprika library.

And it will end up looking like this:

The other option, if the site is not one recognized by Paprika (you can email to request a site be added. They make it easy to do) is to help Paprika define the parts and create the recipe. This is lovely because it’s all just highlighting and tapping a button. No typing required. For example, Paprika doesn’t recognize my site as one of its main sites (of course) so to import my own recipes, I simply highlight first the name, then the ingredients, then the directions and last a picture, after I highlight each section, I tap “Copy Name/Ingredient/Directions” (see below) and it saves that part

If you want to save an image to go with the recipe, you simply click on that image and it gives you the option of copying it (for insertion into the recipe) or saving it to your photo library. Once you have all of the parts copied, as you can see in the bottom area the arrows are pointing to in the photo below, you hit “Create Recipe”

Once you’ve done that, it shows up in your recipe file looking like this (plus an image if you’ve saved one. I didn’t because I didn’t have a photo of it on my site)

One of the things I like about creating a recipe within Paprika is that it saves the URL of where you got the recipe and once you’re in the recipe, you actually have the option of viewing it online again, in case you want to read the comments/reviews.

Once you have your recipe(s) saved into Paprika manager, there’s a lot you can do to organize, sort, categorize and use them. First, you can add as many custom categories as you want, and add each recipe to as many of those as you’d like, so when you’re browsing your recipes, you can browse by a specific category.Or by browsing your favorites.

In addition, you can easily edit every recipe once it’s imported, to change the recipe, ingredients, directions or to update the prep time, cook time, servings and additional information. You can also add notes to your recipes that you don’t want to appear within the recipe itself, but rather as side notes:

Not only that, but you can create a daily or weekly menu, and from that menu create a grocery list. Or, alternately, if you don’t want to create a menu, but want to add a recipe’s ingredients to a grocery list, you can do that as well. Or email yourself a meal plan. The grocery list also has some options, so you can manage that list, email it, print it, etc.

If you look at every recipe, both in a list and individually, you see they all have symbols under them. From left to right those symbols allow you to: add to menu, add a note, favorite, add to grocery list, email and delete. Tapping add to menu, favorite, add to grocery list again will remove them from those lists. And as you can see below, you can also search your recipes not just by name, but also by ingredient.

In addition to emailing yourself the meal plan, you can also email recipes from within the app. So maybe your friend Sarah is asking for your Sausage and Lentil Soup, you can email it to her!

Last, one very cool feature that I can’t screenshot, but can only tell you about, is that Paprika overrides your iPad’s normal screen lock settings. So if you’re in the middle of cutting up raw meat and have messy hands, your iPad won’t suddenly go dark because the screen lock settings have kicked in. As long as you’re viewing a recipe in Paprika, your iPad stays on. Love. This. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to swipe my screen with the back of my knuckles while cooking, because screen lock had kicked in.

There are some other random settings you can utilize, including the font size of the recipes (up to EXTRA LARGE) and doing a manual backup.

I mentioned there’s two quibbles I have with Paprika. One is a method of saving that I think is missing from Paprika, and that’s importing recipes that you’ve saved off the websites. I have a large collection of recipes I’ve saved to my computer that I’d love to import into Paprika. This missing feature is what makes Paprika a four star instead of five star app for me, because recipe management is dependent on my recipes either being on the web, to import, or me typing them in by hand (blech).

The second quibble is their cloud syncing option. In order to sync to the cloud, you have to spend another $10/year for this feature, and you don’t even get to sync to the cloud of your choice (like Dropbox or SugarSync) but their own Paprika cloud. I’d like to be able to sync to my own account on Dropbox, please, and not have to pay to do so since I already paid $10 for the app.

Regardless, despite these two quibbles, I do give Paprika 4 of 5 stars, and would change that to 5 stars in a heartbeat if I could more easily import recipes from offline. And if you’re someone who finds themselves hoarding recipes from online (as I do) I heartily recommend this iPad-only app even at the current price tag of $9.99. For interest’s sake, I’ll point out that this app gets an average 4 1/2 star rating so I’m not the only one who loves it.

Thanks to the developers of Paprika, Hindsight Labs LLC, I have a code to give away for a free download of Paprika, a $9.99 value. All you have to do to enter is tell me your favorite online recipe or foodie blog/source/forum/site. I’ll draw the winner via random.org on Friday, February 25th. Please be sure to use a valid email address when leaving your comment, because I’ll use that to notify you that you’ve won. Giveaway is open to everyone, even if you’ve won something here before. And if you don’t win, I hope you’ll consider buying because this is one awesome recipe manager app.

Cooking the Books: Perfect Fried Rice from Heather Osborn

After I posted Sasha’s Tortilla Soup recipe last week, I started thinking it would be fun to post a recipe from a different publishing/industry professional each week. I thought, with Tuesday being the main release day in publishing, that would be the appropriate day for it. So Cooking the Books is born (with a nod to Shannon Stacey and Sarah Wendell for combining efforts to come up with the name). If there’s an industry professional you want to see share a recipe, let me know and I’ll nag ask them. (and if, you know, you happen to know someone who’s a good hand with whipping up a graphic I could use for something like this, that would be good too)

Early in January I was on Twitter (as I often am) bemoaning my ability to make good fried rice at home and Heather Osborn, executive editor at Samhain, popped up to say she had an awesome recipe. The perfect recipe, she said. I nagged her to send it to me and she agreed. Unfortunately, because I’ve been gone more than I’ve been home (and I’m gone again as this posts) I haven’t had a chance to test this out myself, but it’s on my menu for when I return! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Heather’s fried rice.

As you can see from the recipe below, I improvise quite a bit! Feel free to modify to your own tastes — as long as you follow the basic proportions, you should have some great fried rice! This recipe is really flexible and simple, so feel free to experiment with what you like best! Heather

INGREDIENTS:

Rice (2-4 cups, cooked and at least one day old. Fresh rice makes awful fried rice! It should be a bit dry. I usually use a medium grain Asian white rice, but a long grain would probably work okay as well.)

Meat (About 6 to 8 ounces, minimum, chopped small – maybe ¼ inch cubes?)

Onions/Green Onions (About ½ medium onion, diced same size as meat, or 3 to 4 green onions, chopped)

Oil (1-2 Tablespoons, or enough to coat the bottom of the pan)

Eggs (Depending on how much rice, between 2 to 4)

Soy Sauce (to taste)

Peas/Carrots (to taste – maybe 1-2 cups?)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat either wok or non-stick skillet on medium heat

(1), use enough oil to coat bottom of pan – 1-2 Tablespoons should be enough. When oil is hot, add meat and onion

(2). Saute until onion softens a bit – you don’t want to brown the onion, just make it translucent. Add rice and stir together. Now, let it cook for a couple minutes without stirring

(3). After a few minutes, stir the rice and let it sit for a few more minutes without stirring. Once you start seeing some of it crisp up a little bit and get a little color, add the soy sauce

(4). This is purely to taste. I tend to like my fried rice a bit salty, so I probably use close to a third of a cup, total. I suggest adding a few tablespoons, stirring and then tasting. You can always add more soy sauce when it’s done, so try not to go overboard now!

(5)Now for the eggs. Some people beat the eggs and then add them raw into the rice and stir to combine, which distributes the eggs throughout the rice. I prefer to scramble them in a separate pan and then add them to the rice already cooked. This makes for larger pieces of eggs, which I like. However you decide to do it, add your eggs now and stir to combine.

(6)Finally, add your peas and carrots. I use a bag of frozen peas or frozen peas & carrots. The heat of the fried rice will warm these up very quickly, so all you need to do is add them, stir to combine, and then after a minute or two, turn off the heat. Voila! Fried rice. Yum!

TIPS:

1. I just use a non-stick skillet – I don’t own a wok!

2. My mom used to add almost any sort of meat to this – left over chicken, pork, ribs, steak, etc. It’s a great way to re-use leftovers! The true Guamanian style fried rice uses Spam (1 can). That’s how I make it when I am craving it!

3. This part is super hard, because you really really want to stir! But resist! With a non-stick skillet, sticking shouldn’t be a problem, and you really want some of the rice to get crispy and lightly browned. Only some of it though – there’s no need to fry it to death!

4. For normal brands, I highly recommend Kikkoman. Good quality and taste. No LaChoy! Oh, and I don’t like the low sodium versions – I think it gives it a funny aftertaste. I’d rather just use less of the regular stuff.

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