A few safety reminders for attending conferences or #rwa12

I travel a lot for Harlequin and I stay in a lot of hotels. I also go to a lot of conferences, and I see attendees doing some unsafe things, probably without even knowing, at every single one of these conferences. So as you prep for #rwa12, please keep these things in mind

1) After you get your room keys, do not, under any circumstances, keep them in the package that has your room number on it. Once you get to your room, throw that little envelope away in your hotel room bin (don’t toss it in a trash in the lobby, just to be on the safe side, either). It’s so easy to lose this envelope, or if you have your purse or bag stolen (god forbid) you don’t also want to give the thief free access to all of the possessions in your room. Memorize your room number and keep your room keys somewhere else in your purse or pocket. Not in the envelope.

2) As soon as you know you’re leaving the hotel, take off your name badge. There are a variety of reasons behind doing this, but all of them are meant to keep you safe and from being a target. Gently remind the people with you to take theirs off as well.

3) Know where the stairs are in case of a fire alarm. Yes, it’s a running joke that the fire alarm seems to always go off at RWA, but even so, there is always the very real possibility that it’s a genuine fire. Don’t get caught not knowing which direction to go. If you’re not sure, there’s a map on the back of your hotel room door, but scope it out ahead of time. It only takes a minute and it could literally save your life.

4) Keep your valuables in the safe in your hotel room. Jewelry, ereaders, cash, small laptops. Anything you’re leaving in the room while you’re not there. And even if you decline housekeeping, don’t assume no one will be coming into your room. You’d be shocked at how often hotel employees may have reason to enter your room (checking air conditioning filters, restocking the minibar, maintenance issues, etc.) there are also other people who might enter your room (see #5)

5) And on that note, when you ARE in your room, put the security bar (you know, the one you always forget to take off before you open the door. Or is that just me?) on. As I said, hotel employees often have reason to enter your room, and it’s my experience that they rarely actually give you enough time to get to the door after they knock. You don’t want them walking in on you at any time, though especially while in the bathroom, changing, napping or doing other, er, more intimate things. Not only that but hotels often mistakenly assign rooms more than once so it’s entirely possible they could give someone the key to your room–and your possessions. I have twice been given the wrong room and I know others have as well. Never assume your room is a totally safe haven, free from others entering, because it is not.

6) This is common sense but…if you’re leaving the conference hotel to go drinking, please have at least one person who’s staying relatively sober, who can make good decisions for getting everyone safely back to the hotel, keep an eye on everyone while they’re drinking, and basically make sure nothing tragic can happen. The same things that can happen to us at the bars at home can happen at the bars in the conference city.

7) and on that practical note, here’s another that every college-age girl knows: whether at the bar in the hotel, at the bar somewhere else, do not, under any circumstances, leave your drink or drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers. It should come direct from the bar staff, bartender or one of your friends. If a stranger hands you a drink, decline politely. If you all want to go dance, finish your drinks and get fresh ones when you get back, or leave someone to guard them. You guys know this, but I see people treat their time at conferences like it’s life in a bubble, not the real world. Don’t do that.

8 ) Last, be cautious about sharing your room number. Of course you can tell your conference buddies where to meet you. Just don’t shout it across the bar, okay?

I know I’m forgetting some important tips but I’ve covered some of the key things I’ve noticed at conferences. Please share your conference or travel safety tips in the comments.

The 3 most important things to know about #rwa12 (or any conference)

I see anxiety ramping up for RWA Nationals and it’s enough to make ME nervous for all those people who are letting their nerves get the best of them. Nationals can be a frantic, fast-paced conference for some but it can also be not only a lot of fun, but an incredible source of energy that will help you remember why you love writing and give you a ton of motivation to get back to your keyboard and get back to work. But in all the things people are talking about doing for preparing for #rwa12, the manicures, the visits to the salon, the party dresses and the right shoes, there’s a few key things that you should remember about this conference, and any other.

1) When next week is over, and we’re all back doing a postmortem of the conference, nobody will remember if you had your nails or hair done, or if your shoes perfectly matched your dress. But they will remember if you got completely trashed and made a fool of yourself. This is a fun conference, but it’s also a professional conference. Don’t let the heady excitement of being out with your peers and away from the husband and kids make you forget that you’re still at a professional conference, and you don’t want anyone’s most vivid memory of you to be puking in a trash can, stumbling to your room, or screaming at the barstaff for not getting your next drink to you quickly enough (I’ve witnessed all of these things at conferences). Moderation. If you drink, do it in moderation, pace yourself, drink things that aren’t 3 shots of alcohol at once, drink lots of water in between and at all times, be sensible!

2) You’ll get out of the conference what you put into it. You’d be surprised at how many people you’re jealous of for having a great time, holding avid conversations with others or seeming to be everywhere at once are really closet introverts. Many of them are putting themselves way beyond their comfort zone in order to get the most out of the conference and you may have to do that as well. Introduce yourself to people, attend lots of workshops–not only are they amazing in helping grow your writing, but you can make contacts just by chatting up the person next to you in the workshop before and after! Get out of your room, ask the people you do know to introduce you to people you don’t know, sit at the bar by yourself (I meet a LOT of people this way) and chat up the person next to you if they’re wearing an RWA badge and don’t seem to be engaged in doing anything else. There are so many things you can do to make this experience not only fun, but professionally worthwhile. But only you can make yourself do these things. Now is not the time to let shyness or lack of confidence get the best of you.

3) Editors and agents are just people too. We’re not mythical creatures. We don’t hold the sum total of your career in our hands. We’re not all powerful or all knowing or all anything (sorry to bust through any illusions!) We’re just people. So if you have a pitch appointment, it’s okay to be nervous, but not so nervous that you make yourself sick. Look, the worst you’re going to hear is no, but you’re likely to hear it pretty kindly. And no, while not what you want to hear, doesn’t mean your career is over, it just means you move on to the next choice, work harder, keep networking, attend the workshops to grow your craft and hey, keep moving forward because you will be published! In addition to all that, even if you don’t have pitch appointments, it’s okay to talk to us (just don’t talk at us). If you like our books, our blog, our Twitter, if you just want to say thanks for a personal rejection, or introduce yourself because you’ll be submitting in the future…those are all perfectly okay as long as you don’t a) do it in the bathroom (I’ve actually had people wait for me outside the bathroom so they don’t do it in the bathroom, lolol) and b) interrupt a 1:1 conversation. Don’t interrupt a one-on-one conversation. But if it looks like we’re in a big group at the bar, just chatting, it’s generally okay to just approach for a quick intro or minute or two of convo. It’s actually hard to find us when we’re not in convo, eh?

And even though I said it was only 3, there’s one last thing I want you to remember as you proceed to Nationals: Voices carry. Stories travel. People remember. Don’t say or do anything while you’re with a friend, at the conference hotel, at a local restaurant, or even at Disneyland, that you wouldn’t want everyone to hear. Be discreet, because you never know who’s sitting next to you, walking by your hotel room (hey, you really can hear conversations through the door!) or standing in line behind you. And not only that, be polite. The “anonymous” person you’re rude to might be the managing editor of the publisher you just signed with (yeah, that’s happened too! Not to me but…remember how I said stories travel?)

So there you have it, my tips for the most important things (okay, what I think are the most important things) to remember as you make your way to conference. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you now, because you’re going to have an amazing time & you’ll wonder later why you worked yourself up so much!

If you have other tips that you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments. I’d love to hear them. There’s always something more to learn about getting the most out of conference!

 

How do I put this politely…remind me who you are, please?

Ah, RWA Nationals, right around the corner, eh? When several thousand authors, editors, agents, publishers and other people in the industry descend on a hotel to talk about the thing we all love the most…money books.

I’ve attended a rather obscene number of conferences in the past few years, but I do have a special fondness for Nationals. Not because I gain 5 lbs from the ridiculous number of meals I eat, but because of the sheer number of people to talk to, the frenetic energy, the parties, the conversations and, yeah, admit it, the gossip.

But there’s one thing that happens to me every year…someone stops to talk to me and carries on the conversation as though we’ve met before. The truth is, we probably have, maybe even more than once, but I may not remember. I mentioned in the previous paragraph that I attend a lot of conferences and it follows that I meet a LOT of people. Many of whom are lovely enough to remember me. Unfortunately, though my memory isn’t too bad, it’s pretty impossible for me to similarly remember each of you/them. Those meetings are important to me, and I enjoy them, but I simply meet too many people to remember the specifics of each meeting or each person’s name, what they write, etc.

So as you’re enjoying RWA Nationals this year (or any conference in the future) take a moment to reintroduce yourself when you stop someone for a conversation. Not just me, and not just editors and agents, but your fellow authors as well. It’s a good opportunity for you to remind them of not just your pen name (and who knows, this time it might stick!) but of what you write, where you met, etc. It’s a valuable part of building your brand and helping others get the most out of your presence at the conference!

Attending RWA Nationals? Win breakfast w/me & 2 other editors

This past spring, several of the Carina Press freelance editors and myself donated critiques to the Brenda Novak auction. With the critiques was also the opportunity to have breakfast with the three of us. Unfortunately, one of the winners cannot attend RWA Nationals, so we’ve decided to pass the opportunity on to someone else, since it was all for charity anyway.

On Thursday, July 26th at 8am (yes, that’s early for some people!) in Anaheim, California, I’ll be hosting breakfast along with editors Mallory Braus and Rhonda Helms. We’ll be joined at breakfast by 4 authors via the Brenda Novak auction, and we’d like to invite one of you to join us. You can be a new author, aspiring author, self-published author, multi-published author or not even an author at all! Readers, bloggers, reviewers, editors…anyone who has the ability to attend the breakfast at that time and date is welcome to enter to win! (well, maybe not creepy old men looking to just have breakfast with some hot young chicks–that’s us. You guys shouldn’t enter, mmkay?)

This is your opportunity to pick our brains about books, editing, the publishing industry, Carina, our love lives, Harlequin or to just hang out and chat!

To enter, simply paste the first sentence of your book, work in progress,  current favorite book, or a book you loved in the comments below. Make sure to include your name and when you fill out the comment form, a valid email address (no need to leave it in the comment box, I can see it in the dashboard). And please make sure you’re able and willing to attend on Thursday the 26th.

We’ll draw a winner next Wednesday morning, so you have time to plan. The drawing is random–the posting of first lines is just for our entertainment since we’re giving the breakfast away. If we get more than 50 entries, we’ll pick 2 entrants to join us (we feel this is a safe offer, since we don’t think there are 50 people out there who want to get up for breakfast at 8am. Have breakfast with us? Maybe. Get up that early? Haha, no!)

One for the Money movie thoughts

(what follows isn’t any official type of review of the movie, but more a mish-mash of my thoughts as they relate to both the movie and the books.)

I probably wouldn’t have gone to see this in the theatre, but Groupon ran a deal last week for tickets for $6. Since I knew I had a 4-day weekend (because of all the recent travel) this weekend, I decided to buy a $6 ticket and take myself to see it. I went today and I’m sure you can imagine the theatre wasn’t too busy, but I was surprised that there were still at least 20 other people in the theatre with me on a Monday afternoon.

Before I get into talking about the movie, I have to say a few things about the trailers before the movie. First, the DisneyNature trailer for Chimpanzee made me absolutely sniffly. This looks like a movie Brianna might like, because she adores these animal movies. Second, watching the trailer for the new Nicholas Sparks’ movie The Lucky One, I had a few thoughts: primarily that there’s no way in hell I’ll watch it because we all know how EVERY Sparks’ movie/book ends (someone dies). Apparently, Sparks has something against people being happy for more than temporarily. But I couldn’t help but ogle the lead actor in the movie, because they show him in a pretty sexual light in this trailer, and there’s a lot of sexy times hinted at. And then. And then they put up the actors’ names and I realized…I was ogling Zac Efron. Zac Efron, people. Isn’t he like twelve? I officially feel like a dirty old woman.

Two more trailers caught my attention. Hunger Games, a book I did read and while I thought it was good, I didn’t LOVE it and never felt compelled to read the other two in the trilogy. But the trailer was actually pretty amazing. I think I might like to see that movie (probably not in the theatre, but all the same, the fact that I might want to see a movie of a book I just liked impressed me). The last trailer was for Cabin in the Woods. A horror/thriller type movie that normally might not be my thing, but the trailer showcased some kind of awesome tongue-in-cheek snark. And the movie is produced by Joss Whedon who kind of excels at tongue-in-cheek snark so maybe his brand of awesome is imprinted on the movie. I’ll look for it to rent.

Now, on to One for the Money. I went into it a bit skeptical. I should note that I don’t consider myself a FAN of the books, though I’ve read the whole series twice. I can still remember the summer, at least 12 years ago, that I discovered the series. I think only 6 were out. I was on a vacation with my ex-husband (well, he was my husband then), in a cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan. He spent his whole time fishing on a boat in Lake Michigan, and I get horrible (horrible) water sickness, so I spent my vacation on the beach. Reading Janet Evanovich (frankly, reading on a beach is my perfect vacation). I’d checked out books 1-5 in hardcover from the library, and carted them (and a suitcase of other books) on vacation with me. Yes, I love having a digital library of books to cart with me now. Much lighter!  I tore through the first five and didn’t have the sixth, but knew it had been released. We were staying near small town Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin, and I looked in both the small local bookstore and the Walmart. Neither had Book Six because the series (and Evanovich) hadn’t quite hit it big yet (there’s a lesson here about the longtail of series, books and publishing). But oh man, they were the perfect beach reads. I continued to faithfully buy each book every June when it released for probably 6 years and then I got a bit weary and jaded. Nothing ever changed, no one ever grew, Stephanie never chose between Morelli and Ranger (I believe Evanovich has since done an interview where she said she never intends for Stephanie to choose. Yes, never. How…depressing).

Anyway. Last year I did a back-to-back re-read of the JD Robb In Death series and I thought it would be interesting to then do a back-to-back reread of the Stephanie Plum series, and see how the two compared in terms of character growth, story ARC, plot, etc over the course of extended series. Though there’s twice as many In Death books as there are Plum books. So I’ve read most of the Plum books twice, with the exception of the most recent, which I haven’t read (with the exception of the Amazon reviewes, which are quite scathing). So I went into the movie with more than a conversant knowledge of the books and characters, but no rabid love, and some rather mixed-bag emotions on the books overall.

That said, what I didn’t really go into the movie with was strong feelings about the actors/actresses chosen for the roles. I know a lot of people went apeshit WTF when Katherine Heigl was cast as Stephanie Plum (which makes sense to me since she freakin’ produced the movie) but I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy and I don’t recall any other movie I’ve ever seen her in (I’m not much of a TV or movie watcher. I like books) so I didn’t have any negative OMG NOOOO connotations associated with her. Likewise the rest of the casting. I think the strongest emotion I had was of Debbie Reynolds cast as Grandma Mazur. I picture Grandma Mazur as super old, super tiny and kind of decrepit and wrinkly. Debbie Reynolds is just a bit too…robust for me to really buy into her as Grandma Mazur. Both when I saw she’d been cast and now that I’ve seen the movie.

What I liked about the casting: I love love loved the casting of Connie and Vinnie. The actress and actor chosen for these roles were absolutely perfect. I wish they’d have been in the movie even more, though their appearances were about commiserate with their appearance in the book. Ditto Lula. The actress who played her pulled her off very well. It’s really a shame Lula’s role isn’t a major one until later books. I also liked John Leguizamo cast as Benito Ramirez’s scummy “manager” Jimmy Alpha. But honestly, has Leguizamo ever not been good in a role?

But what about the main characters? I actually thought Heigl did a pretty decent Stephanie Plum, with one small exception. She came across as quite charming (though a bit skinnier than I’ve always pictured Stephanie, as I’ve always thought of her as having a bit of a muffin top, possibly) and spunky. I did think Stephanie in the movie came across as even more too stupid to live than Stephanie in the books, but I think this had more to do with the translation of her idiocy to the big screen, rather than Heigl’s acting. Honestly, I think Heigl did a much better job with the role than all of the hystrionics suggested she would. I’ll get to the small exception in a bit…

Morelli and Ranger. I was…meh on the casting. I mean, I think both guys are hot, though maybe the actor who played Ranger, Daniel Sunjata has lips that are bit too full and made him look a little more feminine than I think of RangerBut I’m not honestly sure who the actor is that would personify the Ranger in my head. The actor who played Morelli, Jason O’Mara, wasn’t quite…Italian? Dark-haired/dark-eyed? enough for my mental picture, but he was plenty hot. My problem with the movie here comes with the fact that both of these characters came off as not at all charming. Not even a little. They instead come across, both of them, as arrogant and at times a bit alpha-holish (TM @jane_l). I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy about either character, really, in a hero-type role. And here’s where my small exception of Heigl’s portrayal of Stephanie Plum comes in–she had absolutely no sexual chemistry or sexual tension with either actor. None. Not a bit. Nothing. And if you’ve read the first few books in this series, you’ll know that one thing Evanovich, despite any quibbles I might have with the books, does well is the sexual tension between Stephanie and Morelli and Stephanie and Ranger. Evanovich leads you to really imagine the sizzle and steam between these characters and none of that was translated on screen. And I think that’s the movie’s main downfall: there’s no chemistry.

The other thing I noticed didn’t translate as well to the screen was the undertones of humor that are one of the keystones of Evanovich’s writing. I purposely stayed cognizant of whether people were laughing during the movie and the answer was…not so much. There were only 3 main points were the audience really laughed, and one of those was when Grandma Mazur shot the turkey (a scene in the book that nearly had me peeing my pants but on screen only garnered a few seconds of laughter). But I guess I’m not really that surprised, as humor can be difficult to translate from one medium to another.

Overall, the movie was a fun diversion. I think it’s interesting to note that in both One for the Money the book and the movie, we do see character growth in Stephanie. While she remains somewhat idiotic and too stupid too live, she does carry her gun…and learn how to shoot it. When I re-read the books back-t0-back last year, what stood out most starkly to me in that reading was that Stephanie actually regresses from book one to book two…as in she unlearns skills (like shooting a gun) and general self-defense that she shows in book one (and in the movie). So in the movie, we do get the satisfaction, especially at the action climax of the movie, but also in other scenes, of seeing Stephanie do things that show her growth/learning. In the series, for some reason the author seems determined to make Stephanie Plum progressively dumber and I don’t see movie audiences being appreciative of this (if future movies ever get the chance to be made) so this might be a case where we often see books and movies parting ways and being different in script than manuscript.

Do I regret spending a few hours in the theatre watching it? Not at all. I’ve seen movies where I bemoan the time I’ll never get back. With this movie, I was glad for a few hours away from the computer, to keep me from doing work-type things on my day off. I enjoyed the movie enough to be diverted for a few hours. However, I will say that I’m glad I only paid $6 for it, rather than full movie prices. $6 was the perfect price as an excuse to sit in the theatre and inhale buttered-popcorn calories. A

Would I recommend it? Um…gah. The answer isn’t yes, it’s not no. I guess if I were rating it, I’d give it a 5 of 10 (which somehow sounds nicer than 2.5 out of 5, doesn’t it?) Incidentally, this is the same rating it gets on IMDB and I think “in the middle” is a good rating for this. I can’t say how people who have absolutely no association with the books will feel about it. If you’re an extreme fan of the books, yes, by all means, you should definitely go see it. If you’re a casual fan of the books, wait for video. If you hate Katherine Heigl, well, you probably won’t enjoy it no matter how you feel about the books. As I said earlier, I think she did a pretty good job pulling off Stephanie Plum.

All in all, this is not, by far, the worst book-to-movie translation I’ve ever seen and I’d actually like to see a second movie made, if only to see if they can improve on the sexual chemistry, move Morelli and Ranger to the roles of charming, likeable hero material, and to see Lula, Connie and Vinnie get more screen time. They were just that well cast.

Haven’t read the book? Buy it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

Cranberry lemon white chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

Cranberry lemon white chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

Cranberry Lemon White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie on wire rackI decided I needed to bake today, because I haven’t done much baking these past few months, even over the holidays. On Twitter, someone suggested I bake oatmeal cookies w/cranberries and lemon zest added. I took this idea a few steps farther. I couldn’t find a recipe, so I adapted an oatmeal raisin recipe and made it my own. They smelled amazing while baking and turned out ridiculously delicious. I didn’t expect them to taste so good, but man, these are going in my regular cookie rotation!

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In stand mixer (or using hand mixer), cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon extract.*

Combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon; stir into the butter mixture.

Stir in the oats, cranberries and white chocolate chips. Cranberry Lemon White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie on plate

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately 4 dozen

*You could also make these cranberry orange cookies and substitute orange zest and orange extract for the lemon.

I used lemon zest and lemon oil from King Arthur flour. I highly recommend their products, but you could use fresh lemon zest, and lemon extract purchased at your local store. Also, if you use the lemon oil from KA, theoretically you could use a bit more and use no lemon zest (on the KA website, it says it’s meant to be a substitute for zest). Hey, if you bought the set of oils, you’d have orange as well, and you could try these as cranberry orange instead!

Steven Spielberg, reviews & the thrill of seeing things differently

I’ve been thinking a lot about reviews, as have many of us, thanks to all the debate that’s been raging between authors, readers, bloggers, etc. I’ve edited over 300 books, trust me, I’ve had some bad reviews directed specifically at me, the editor. Sometimes they sting. Sometimes they make me angry. But I have to admit… through it all, through years of being online & years before that of reading RT Magazine…I love reviews. Love them.  Not just of things I’ve worked on, but of books I’ve read, books I want to read, and books I have no intention of ever reading. And I love being able to review and share my opinion. Because of what I do, I try to be careful about sharing my opinion, but, you know, if you know me you’re rolling on the floor at the thought of me never sharing my opinion.

For me, the last decade of being on the internet and getting to experience this amazing sharing of the reading experience has made my love of books so much more fun. I adore reading other people’s opinions on what they’re reading. I love that people are reading. I love that they care enough about what they read to share their thoughts. I love the exchange of ideas and information and passion about books. Seriously effing adore it. I’m not trying to sound all Pollyanna or goody two shoes here, it’s just honestly how I feel. I can’t imagine my reading life without book talk on blogs, twitter, Goodreads, my moms’ board, and in my email. It would be weird. And kind of sad. And not quite as much fun, I’m guessing. Because I think books are meant to be shared, and how can you share a book without telling someone what you think about it? And isn’t part of the fun then comparing notes later?

While I was traveling this past weekend, I was reading an interview in Entertainment Weekly with Steven Spielberg. At the very end of the article, the interviewer is telling Steven Spielberg about one of his own experiences with one of Steven’s movies and then goes on to say “You must hear these things a lot.” In reply, Spielberg says:

“I hear amazing stories. The most amazing thing for me is that every single person who sees a movie, not necessarily one of my movies, brings a whole set of unique experiences. Now, through careful manipulation and good storytelling, you can get everybody to clap at the same time, to hopefully laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time. But you can’t get everybody to interpret the result in the same way. And that’s thrilling to know–that everybody will see it differently.”

Right on, Mr. Spielberg.

For your holiday cooking: An awesome dinner roll recipe

A few weeks ago I was looking for a bread recipe to make in my bread machine. I turned, as I so often do, to Twitter, and as a result, ended up with this completely awesome dinner roll recipe, compliments of Bree, one half of the Moira Rogers writing duo. Normally, when I make rolls or bread, my family doesn’t eat more than once piece or roll. So I made this full recipe and then followed the directions in the comments for freezing a portion. I baked only 6 rolls. Umm, big mistake. These rolls were a huge hit with my family. So much so that I’ve made them two batches, and the second batch I made, I doubled, so I could freeze even more.

I didn’t adapt the actual recipe itself from the recipe on AllRecipes, but I did make smaller rolls, and I also didn’t bake them all at once, but froze some for easy baking on weeknights. So I’m including all of those directions.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry milk powder
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

Directions

  1. Place the bread flour, sugar, salt, milk powder, water, butter, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (this is generally liquid first, and then the dry ingredients, with the yeast coming in last, to keep the liquids and yeast apart until the machine starts mixing). Set on Dough cycle; press Start.
  2. Remove risen dough from the machine, deflate, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into eighteen equal pieces (original recipe calls for 12 but I like reasonable sized dinner rolls), and form into rounds. Place the rounds on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes to an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) during final stages of rising.Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown.
  4. Take 1/4 stick of butter and rub over the top of fresh-out-of-oven rolls to make them shiny (and taste good!)
Some tips I picked up from the reviews:
Don’t scoop the flour out of your flour bag with your measuring cup. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup (keeps you from getting too much flour because scooping compacts into the measuring cup)
You can add dried herbs or well chopped fresh herbs to the rolls to make them a bit different. I like rosemary, oregano and basil.
If you don’t want to back the whole batch of rolls, separate what you want (I do 6-8 rolls at a time) and let only that amount rise for 40 minutes. Take the other 12 or so rolls and place them on a cookie sheet and into freezer, covered w/plastic wrap. Don’t let them rise first! Once they’re frozen, you can throw them in a freezer bag and take out the portions you want when you’re ready. Thaw them in the microwave for about 30 seconds (more if they’re still frozen after 30 seconds. The time depends on your microwave wattage). Then let them rise for 40 minutes to an hour.

Submission call from me! (something I rarely do anymore)

So Carina Press keeps me pretty busy on the admin (and travel, omg, the travel!) side of things and it doesn’t leave me a lot of time for editing. I still do some editing, but it’s generally not much more than one or two novels a year, and then the holiday novella collections. I almost never acquire from slush anymore but…

I’m looking to acquire a few things for my own schedule for Fall 2012.

Here’s what I’m specifically looking for:

A contemporary romance trilogy or series. I love editing Shannon Stacey’s books and I want to edit more contemporary romance, so I’m looking to acquire an author who has a contemporary romance trilogy or series planned. Any heat level considered! I’m specifically looking for contemporary romance novels (over 70k) but will consider a novella series (for novellas, even better if they’re erotic, but not necessary)

A new paranormal romance (or urban fantasy w/romantic elements) series. The good news for you is that I’ll consider all manner of paranormal, including vampires, shifters, etc. I’m not wore out on paranormal, so hit me with your A-game, even if it’s a vampire series! Again, any heat level considered.

A very, very hot erotic romance series. Smokin’ hot. Any subgenre, any length. Can be BDSM or m/m. Just looking for smokin’ hot erotic romance (not erotica, please).

So the trend here is that I’m looking for an author/authors I can build within a series in these particular genres. I’m not looking for standalone novels or novellas for this particular submissions call for myself (though Carina Press is always willing to and does acquire standalones).

If you have something now, or in the coming weeks/months that fits the bill, please follow the submissions guidelines here, and send to the submissions address. However, please note in the body of your query letter that you’re responding to my specific call for submissions (many subs come in addressed to me, so I won’t know, just based on that, that you’re responding to this call).

Edit: I’ve had some questions about subbing an idea or partial. Carina Press submission guidelines require a full manuscript and so do I, unless we’ve worked together before, or you have an established history of publishing quality work, and you have an established author brand, in which case, I’d consider a proposal/partial w/thorough synopsis.

Easy Christmas “Cookie”–Cracker Candy (w/gluten free option!)

2012 update: Thanks to the power of Twitter and a recommendation from Mary Ann Vadnais, this recipe now has a gluten-free option. To make gluten free, substitute the saltine crackers with Yehuda Matzo Style Squares. I’ve been told since from several people who tried this, that it worked very, very well!

2011 note: I originally posted this recipe nearly 2 years ago in 2009. It’s probably the single most popular post on this website, and I still get people asking me about this recipe, sharing the link and talking about making the cracker candy. It’s just that easy to make and just that good. So I decided to pull it back to the top for all of you who never saw it the first time. In the comments are discussions for variations, and I’ve tried them all, including the club crackers, adding crushed candy canes, etc. Honestly, my favorite cracker candy is still the kind that’s just the saltines and chocolate, not even any nuts on top. But this is a forgiving recipe, so experiment and find your own favorite way!

I think most of you are going “uh…what?”. I had never heard of cracker candy until about 3 or 4 years ago, when we did our first cookie exchange for our playgroup. My friend Jennifer did this for the exchange and I fell so madly in love with it. It’s probably just about the easiest Christmas cookie you can make (it took me twice as long to write this post as it did to make the actual candy) and super tasty.I have, in the past, made these and sent them to people who think I’m crazy when I talk about them. But the combination of the salty cracker and the butter/sugar that turns into a toffee, with the sweetness of the chocolate is so addictive! Here’s how to do it, complete with (bad) photos.

Spread out your crackers in on a jelly roll/cookie sheet pan. One with edges that you’ve lined completely with foil. Trust me on this, line the pan with foil. I decided to do a mix of soda crackers and club crackers, because I thought the buttery taste of the club crackers might be divine in this recipe.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and bring to a boil for at least three minutes. It may take a bit longer, but you’ll see it thicken and get a bit more gooey. I think there’s an official candy-making term for this. Soft ball stage? I don’t know, I’m totally making crap up now.

Warning!! Do NOT walk away from your pot. You must stand and stir the entire time or you’ll end up with a huge mess on your stove and probably burnt butter and sugar.

Pour the butter mixture over the crackers. All over the crackers. You won’t be able to get them all coated just by pouring, you’re going to have to pour it as evenly as you can (I didn’t do that and made it a little harder on myself) and then go back and spread it out with a spoon.

It should look like this, all cracker surfaces covered with butter goo. Now put the crackers in the oven on 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Set a timer. You’ll be ticked if you leave them in too long and burn them. And that can happen.

While your crackers are in the oven, grab your commercial-size can of cashews–what do you mean you don’t have one? Everyone has one, right? Well, anyway, at this stage, if you’re going to use nuts like pecans, walnuts or cashews, even peanuts, you’re going to want to chop them up.

Like this. I used my handy countertop Black and Decker chopper. You’ll see this featured a lot in my cooking posts. I just chopped the cashews until they were appropriate for topping. I use cashews because I like them best, but you can use whatever you want. A cup of cashews unchopped resulted in enough chopped cashews for the entire pan of cracker candy.

Here’s a shot of the crackers in the oven. This was longer than five minutes because I had to run upstairs and tuck Brianna in.

I pulled them out of the oven, see how they look kind of brown? That’s not bad, but you don’t really want them to get any darker than that. Don’t try to go for any particular color. Just bake them for five minutes and pull them out.

Now sprinkle the chocolate chips over as soon as you pull them from the oven. I also had an industrial size bag of dark chocolate chips (hey, I shop at Sam’s Club) so I had to guess at how many to put on, but it’s hard to have too much chocolate. I use dark because it’s my favorite. The chips will begin to melt immediately, but get them sprinkled on and then worry about spreading. You have lots of time. I spread one side out, the other side looks like they’re still formed but really they’re melted too. Spread the chocolate evenly. I had to move some around because I had a bare spot after I was done.

Look to see if anyone is around.

Lick the spatula. You’re done with it, it’s okay. Now put it in the sink and wipe the chocolate off the corner of your mouth. Be glad no one saw you.

At this point, you can just leave your cracker candy naked. You don’t have to do anything more to it if you don’t want. You can be done now.

I added cashews to only half, because I do like naked cracker candy too. Instead of adding nuts, this year Jennifer added Christmas color candy sprinkles to hers. I almost put some fancy sea salt on one corner of this, because dark chocolate and sea salt? Yum. But I didn’t want to get the salt out (I’m lazy).

Now the hard part. Waiting. Let it cool in the fridge or freezer. Possibly overnight on the counter if it’s cool in your house, but you might need to stash it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up. You don’t want the chocolate to be soft at all. You want it totally set. Now break it apart. You can be anal and break it into the cracker squares, or you can just break it into random pieces. It really doesn’t matter. It all tastes the same. Addictive. Oh, and next time? I’m making them all with club crackers. The extra buttery taste made them insane!

Cracker Candy

35-40 Saltines
2 sticks of salted butter -do NOT use margarine
1/4 cup sugar (I use white but some people use brown. Your call!)
1 bag of milk (or semi or dark) chocolate morsels
Sliced almonds or any other nuts

Line cookie sheet with foil (sides too). Lay saltines side by side in one layer, sides touching. Melt butter, add sugar and boil 3 minutes. Drizzle over crackers, (keep crackers together). Bake 5 minutes @ 400°. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate over baked crackers. They will start to melt – spread over crackers. Sprinkle top with nuts. Refrigerate until cold, even overnight. Break into pieces.

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