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New Year’s Eve Goal Review December 31, 2010

Every year I set new goals for myself and for my writing. I posted my writing goals for 2010 on this blog along with my focus statement and my Top Five Priority List. You’ll see that again in the New Year. But for now, I want to check my list to see how well I did in 2010. 
My Writing Goals for 2010
*finish 4th book revision, possibly make it a single title DONE
*enter 4 contests at a minimum with 4th MS, including the MAGGIES and GH DONE
*start fifth first draft of story plotted loosely during a writing workshop DONE
*work on fifth first draft during TOUR DE FORCE in February STARTED IN NOVEMBER 
*write every day except for high days DONE
*continue querying agents and editors with 3rd MS DONE
*send partial request and synopsis to agent for 4th MS DONE
*maintain daily blog REVISED TO 3X A WEEK
*continue guest blogging on Romance Magicians DONE
*judge writing contests DONE — judged 3 that I can remember
*attend Moonlight and Magnolias Writing Conference DONE
*attend RWA National Conference DONE
*pitch 4th book at both conferences DONE
*help with PRO Retreat DONE
*continue learning and growing in my craft with online courses and craft books DONE
*read for fun DONE but would like to increase time spent reading for pleasure
*get a domain name DONE 
*coordinate online workshops for the Heart of Dixie DONE
*find a co-chair for the online workshop coordination DONE
*work on YA idea over the summer Played with the YA idea on Scrivener
*realize that life happens and enjoy the detours Yup, done!
*set top 5 priority list and review it regularly to maintain my focus DONE
*be courageous, strong and focused on my dreams and goals DONE

Wow, I accomplished almost everything I asked myself to do this year. I love this list. And I love all the DONEs. These were reasonable and attainable goals. I can’t wait to see what my list looks like in the new year after I sit down and think about 2011. I’m excited about all the upcoming possibilities and new directions I will go as a writer. 

What goals did you set for the year? Did you revisit them? If you haven’t set goals yet, I encourage you to write them down and post them somewhere (publicly or privately). Share your victories and celebrate your successes. 

Focus on what you have accomplished this year and reward yourself for all your hard work.

And now it’s time to usher in another new year with some champagne and dark chocolate.


Seekerville Goal Setting Post
Word Wenches Procrastination Post

 

I’m Not an Expert, but I Play One in Real Life December 17, 2010

A very important part of accomplishing our goals and achieving our dreams is realizing that our way may work for us, but might not work for everyone else. This realization will stop us from believing that our way is the only way that will work. And this realization will keep us humble and open to new ways of doing the things we think we know how to do.

Think about this for a moment. Absorb it. Then walk into a bookstore or go online and you’ll see a lot of people have made money selling their way of doing things as “the way.” Sure, it worked for them. And maybe it will work for you. But don’t believe that every “expert opinion” is the answer and final solution to how you need to accomplish your goals.

In my writing life I have been to many conferences, workshops and chapter meetings that cover the craft of writing. I’ve also read a lot of books about how to approach my writing and how to craft “the book.” As a new writer, I eagerly followed the first bits of advice to the letter. I figured if I could master the other person’s way of writing a book then I could be successful, too. But the truth is, I had to develop my own approach. And I’ve learned that every book and every idea requires a different approach.

That’s my way. I have to dig into the writing in my own way while utilizing the bits and pieces of information that I’ve gathered throughout the years as tools to building my stories.

The same is true for any person pursuing any goal. It’s true for parents, too. Oh, as a parent I could go on and on about the expert advice I have received from other parents who had it all figured out for themselves. Oh, they were all too eager to make sure I understood their methods were “the methods” for raising my darling daughter.

I’m sure their judgement… oops, did I mean to say that? To some extent, I did. Because there is a fine line between giving information if asked versus someone coming in and saying “you should do it this way because I know it works the best.” There is a veiled judgment implied in that the person is actually looking at what you’re doing and they disagree with your methods so they feel compelled to tell you how to do it “right.”

There is no one “right way” to raise a child, process a move, clean a house, workout, diet, or write a book. Trust me. If there was just one “right way” to do anything, life would be pretty boring. We’d all be the same. And I don’t think we want to be cookie cutter people. I know I don’t want to be a cookie cutter person. Do you?

So the next time someone offers you unsolicited advice, even me, ask yourself what you can realistically use and toss the rest. And the next time you get ready to tell someone how well you know how to do something, ask yourself if you are actually judging that person’s methods.

Question your motives. This will take you a long way. And remember to be compassionate in your views of how others approach life. This will take you even further than you can possibly imagine. Be receptive, be understanding, and act like an apprentice instead of an expert. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn as a result.

 

Let Me Entertain You December 15, 2010

My current series in progress is set in a small town and one of my characters is a culinary wizard/lifestyle guru. She teaches her students how to cook, entertain, and decorate. Why did she pop into my brain? I guess it’s my secret desire to be Nigella Lawson or the Barefoot Contessa that spurred my creativity. Really. I want to be them. I want to eat luscious food, go shopping in quaint shops, and host fabulous dinner parties. And even better I don’t ever have to worry about being a size 4 or 6 or 8 again.

Nope. I’ll get paid to look voluptuous and enjoy doing it.

Of course, given my shellfish allergy I doubt I will ever have a career as a television cooking/lifestyle hostess. This is why I create characters who can live my dream for me. However, being a romance novel heroine, my character will be a respectable size 8 because this is a fictional piece of work.

Again, I’m just fulfilling another personal fantasy here. Cook, eat as much as I like, and be skinny, too. It’s a wonderful ideal for me and love to imagine this alternate world.

The truth is that I do love entertaining, but not at the level that some famous entertainers go for it. There aren’t catered events at my house. COSTCO is a place where I can get some mighty fine platters of goodies. And Pilsbury crescent rolls are featured in many of my appetizers. The point of entertaining isn’t to impress people, it is to bring them together and create a memory.

Over the years, I believe I’ve learned how to do this quite nicely.

When I was growing up, this wasn’t true at all. My mother would invite people over to dinner. She’d stress out about the house and we minions would be forced to clean all day. This cleaning usually involved polishing her silverware (ugh), and her ranting about the cleanliness in general of the house. She wasn’t the best housekeeper so I believe she invited people over just to force the house into a state of order again.

In addition to the stress of cleaning the house, she also had great anxiety about the menu. Experiments were held on us, and we were forced to eat many culinary dishes that were not fit for human consumption. I could possibly blame this fact for my shellfish allergy. I won’t. But I want to. Finally a menu would be established. And she’d be okay for a bit.

We’d set the table, put on our best manners and act as if it was seamlessly pulled off. I didn’t mind this too much during the year, but I truly resented this effort ON CHRISTMAS DAY! Yes, my mother would host this type of event on Christmas Day. And let me tell you, it’s no fun polishing silver on Christmas Day.

I swore that when I grew up I would not subject my family to this kind of stress. At least I wouldn’t do it to them on Christmas Day. Besides, that’s my day, too. Don’t get me wrong. I want to break bread. But I’m not polishing silver or breaking my back cleaning the house. In fact, I’m pretty much of that mind all the time when it comes to hosting parties at my house. Or dinners, for that matter.

A lot of people don’t entertain because they believe it will be the stressful event I’ve described from my childhood. I’m here to say it doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. It is about bringing people together and having fun. It is about making memories.

I remember when I was a poor young woman living in a one bedroom apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia. I hosted more dinners around that little table than I can count. I was a wizard with a can of cream of mushroom soup, garlic and onions. If I had that, and a bit of white wine, I could make a sauce that my friends enjoyed and pour it over pasta. During that same era, I also hosted many interesting dinner parties with another friend. We’d ask each of our friends for $5 then we’d devise a menu based on the money we pooled together, go shopping and prepare a meal. We had fondues, clambakes (before the shellfish allergy came to light), barbecues and more. And it only cost us $5.

One year, the year we did the fondue, we took a plank of wood, two of them, and put them on top of upturned milk crates. Then we covered them with a tablecloth. We tossed pillows on the floor and seated 12 around that makeshift table. No one complained as they stuffed their mouths full of cheese, oil and chocolate fondues. What a great night!

In the years I’ve been married, I’ve hosted dinners and parties with varying levels of decor and degrees of  difficulty. One thing my mother’s experiments taught me was that I loved to host parties. I loved the people part and the pulling together of the various elements. Sometimes my parties are BYOB and a side dish. Other times, I make a meal for 8 and we sit around the table. The size and volume varies. I have scaled back on the number of people I’ll host only because I want to socialize, too.

Tonight I am hosting a soiree for my hubby’s Scotch Working Wednesday Crew. I decided not to ask them to bring anything as they all work during the day, and I wanted to have fun with the menu. I’m providing 3 hot appetizers, two of which are hearty, and 3 cold appetizers along with an antipasto platter filled with cheeses, olives, interesting crackers and more. Most likely I’ll try to do something fun with the breakfast nook table (no one goes around the dining room table so I’ll just light some candles in there and leave it at that) and make it festive. But that’s because I love doing that kind of stuff.

And no, it won’t look like Martha Stewart’s elaborate decorations. I tend to go the Rachel Raye way of entertaining. If you are squeamish about hosting gatherings, here are some tips from an entertaining road warrior:

1) Don’t go crazy cleaning your entire house. Throw crap into baskets and hide them if you must. A candle lit house doesn’t show dust. I do a light mopping to at best.

2) Homemade is great, but store bought is great, too. If you have something you want to highlight, then make it and serve it with pride. Surround it with goodies you enjoy or foods that are easy to pull together or pre-made. No one will care.

3) Bring the outdoors inside. If you don’t have a lot of decorative stuff, then go clip some branches from your outdoor hollies or evergreens in the winter. In the summer you can clip flowering bushes, etch. Put them into every day containers that are unique. I have used soup tureens and trifle bowls for these kind of things. Really, who uses a soup tureen for soup? Not me.

3) Paper plates and plastic forks are great. Today I’m mixing and matching paper products with real mccoy stuff. That’s because it is a small group and I have tons of glass plates I can use that will be perfect.

4) If someone offers to help you, say yes! Unless you want to control the menu (today I did so I didn’t ask people to bring anything), if someone offers to bring food, say yes! You never know. You might get a new recipe for your recipe book. That’s one of the best things that came out of our Happy Hours at the townhouse in Fairfax, VA. Of course, my darling teen called them Happy Nights as they lasted a lot longer than an hour LOL.

5) Don’t apologize for the food. If something isn’t quite right, who cares? Julia Child’s said it best: never apologize. Period.

6) Don’t worry about everything matching. I have gathered a lot of silver platters and white platters over the years so I just coordinate the seasonal colors to match them. I do have a passion for dishes so I have Christmas plates which I’ll trot out, but that’s the only set I have that is “seasonal.”

7) Make a list of what you will do and plan ahead. I do make a list of the goodies I will make along with the number of people who are coming. I prep my grocery list based on the ingredients (unless they are store bought appies), then I shop for them. I make a list on the day of the event to make sure I don’t forget anything. I start with prepping the stuff that needs to be chilled (can be done day before), then move to the stuff that has to be cooked the day of the party. I pull my serving platters and use a trick I learned from a friend — I label with post its what is going where… helps me be on top of things.

8) I set up the stage–table–eating area–drink area, then give myself time to relax before everyone arrives. I usually have one thing in the oven when people get to the house. Most of our parties end up in the kitchen so I may as well wait to cook it all.

What are your holiday plans? Do you entertain often? Are you a control freak or a go with the flow kind of entertainer? And what is the best party you’ve thrown for the least amount of money?

 

Secret Recipe Revealed December 13, 2010

Filed under: baking,christine glover,cooking,eggnog,elves,recipes,sambuca,secret recipe,writer — christineglover @ 1:16 pm

Ah, Christmas time is the season of blustery cold winds and bustling elves in the kitchen at the Glover house. This weekend we made Oreo Truffles, Praline Pecans, Mini Eggnog Muffins and loaves, Spicy Pecans, and *drum roll* my favorite cookie recipe: Chocolate Sambuca Cookies. 

Oh let the yumminess begin.
Early morning Christmas Baking Elf


Darling Teen had a function to attend on Saturday so we got up early to work on the truffles. We had many truffles to make because she gives them away to her friends. The list grows yearly. I may have to take orders next year. We made over 100 truffles. In addition to the truffles, I made Praline Pecans and Spicy Pecans as well as the batter for the Chocolate Sambuca Cookies. The batter is runny and has to set up overnight before you can make the cookies. 

The cute mini loaf pan. It has Christmas Imprints in it.

On Sunday morning Darling Teen and I had to buy new pants for Church choir and so off to Kohls we went despite the biting cold winds and unusually freezing temperature. Frankly, if this is what global warming feels like, I’m not impressed. Brrr! We found the dreaded khakis (who looks good in these pants? No one but the dudes in the advertisements), a few more presents for her Dad, and then we hurried home. DT had more musical stuff to head to in the afternoon, Darling Husband had football to watch, and I had cookies and muffins to bake. As you can see there is quite a lot to do when one is making the mini eggnog loaves. I love my new mixing bowls from my DT and DH which are brightly colored and they don’t slip on the counter when you mix the batter. And they seem to do well in the dishwasher, too. Whew. Cause I don’t relish washing them by hand. 

 The imprints are super cute. There are candy canes, trees, a santa, and bells. I’ll sprinkle these with powdered sugar then wrap them in cellophane before I give them away.

I had a lot of cute mini cupcake papers with Christmas themes on them so I thought I’d use them to make mini muffins.

The chocolate sambuca batter is ready to be rolled into balls.
After I made the Mini Eggnog Loaves, I used my Pampered Chef small scoop to fill the paper cups and bake the mini muffins. They are adorable! I will give them away and serve them at a gathering I’m hosting on Wednesday evening. Oh, the mini muffins do look great. And they taste even better. Yes, sampling does occur in the Glover house because we must do quality control checks. I’m considering trying out an experimental icing recipe which might incorporate the nutmeg as part of the recipe. I think topping a few with icing will be nice for the gathering. And for those of you who already have the recipe, I cooked these for 20-25 minutes which is less time than the loaves. After I cooked the mini loaves, I prepped my work station for the final recipe. 

Flour for the hands and the sugar mix ready to dip the balls into for the cookies.

The balls of cookie dough are ready to bake at 350 degrees.
Sheer Yumminess is all I can say.

After a wee break, and a bit of wine, I began making the Chocolate Sambuca Cookies. Now these aren’t clean cookies. These cookies require getting your hands good and dirty in batter, flour and a concoction of icing sugar mixed with regular sugar. Not for the faint of heart. But there is something about me that enjoys the whole process–like making really yummy mud pies that we can eat afterward.

After a wee break, and a bit of wine, I began making the Chocolate Sambuca Cookies. Now these aren’t clean cookies. These cookies require getting your hands good and dirty in batter, flour and a concoction of icing sugar mixed with regular sugar. Not for the faint of heart. But there is something about me that enjoys the whole process–like making really yummy mud pies that we can eat afterward. 
And now, without further ado, here is the recipe.

Just kidding. I can barely read the words myself. So here is the recipe, which I have hoarded for years, for all of my blog friends to try. 
Chocolate Sambuca Cookies 
(original recipe given to me by Lori)
12 oz. dark chocolate (I use Hersheys)
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup of Sambuca
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds
2/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Melt chocolate and butter in a microwaveable bowl and set aside to cool slightly. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sambuca, 1/2 cup sugar. Add chocolate slowly and continue whisking till incorporated. Mix in almonds, flour and baking soda till well blended. The batter will be runny. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight. 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix icing sugar and regular sugar together. 
With floured hands, take one tablespoon batter and roll into a balls. Coat balls in sugar mixture and place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cook for 12 minutes. Cool for 1 minute, then remove from sheet with a metal spatula. Cool on rack.
I dare you to get your hands dirty and try this recipe. It’s worth the work and the effort. Ask the elves. They know.

 

To Be or Not To Be & Other Editing Quandaries: Heart of Dixie Online Workshop December 10, 2010

I’m shamelessly plugging the Heart of Dixie’s online workshops because I am the online workshop coordinator. The line up for 2011 is on my HOD Online Workshop Page and you can get to it by clicking the link at the top of the page. I love online workshops because I can control when I do the work and when I contribute my work to the group as a whole. So I don’t just coordinate the workshops for my writing chapter, I also take online courses with them (as the coordinator) and with other organizations. If you have time constraints and other obligations, it is so easy to save the files and look at them later, too. Not everyone posts their issues, problems, “homework” answers which is fine. However, I’ve discovered that the more I post, the greater benefits there are to me as a writer. 
Please join me and my HOD writing chapter for January’s online workshop:
To Be or Not to Be & Other Editing Quandaries
Instructor: Cindy VallarFreelance editor and Associate Editor of Industry for Solander magazine and a historical novelist (http://www.cindyvallar.com/)
January 3-28
Cost: $20
Workshop Description: Authors are told to write the best book we can, but in today’s competitive market that’s not always enough. We could follow Mark Twain’s advice: Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. In reality, though, the writer has to make the changes. While not all of us are adept at putting on an editor’s hat, there are some simple steps to take to tighten the writing and polish the manuscript.
This workshop provides tips on what an author can look for to improve your chances at getting past the initial query. We’ll cover passive vs. active sentence construction, redundancy, weak vs. strong verbs, stating the obvious, synonyms, cause and effect, dangling modifiers, clarity of pronouns, author intrusion, speaker identification tags, adverbs and adjectives, head hopping, and more. The list may seem daunting, but if you know what to look for, you can easily make corrections that may increase your chances of getting a request to see your entire manuscript.
Presenter Bio: A retired librarian, Cindy Vallar is a freelance editor and the Associate Editor of Industry for Solander, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. She writes “The Red Pencil,” a column that compares a selection from author’s published historical novel with an early draft of that work. She is also the Editor of Pirates and Privateers, and a content editor for Pyrates Way magazine. Aside from presenting workshops, Cindy writes historical novels and articles on maritime piracy, reviews books, and maintains her award-winning web site, Thistles & Pirates (http://www.cindyvallar.com/), which she invites you to visit.
As a special bonus, if you mention this blog as your reason for attending the workshop, I will put your name into a drawing for a special prize to be announced at the time of the class.
See you in the virtual classroom!
 

Upended Traditions and Why I love A CHRISTMAS STORY December 8, 2010

Filed under: christine glover,writer — christineglover @ 10:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

One of my favorite Christmas movies is A CHRISTMAS STORY. I’m not sure how many of my followers have seen the movie, but it if you haven’t seen it, I might spoil it with this blog. It is set in the fifties and is about this boy, Ralphie, who desperately wants a BB Gun for Christmas. Everyone tells him he’ll shoot his eye out, even Santa. But he persists in his petitions to receive the BB Gun. Meanwhile, the movie is chock full of adventures, boy adventures, with bullies and snow and double dog dares. The parents are baffled, befuddled, but loving. The Dad (as played by Darren McGavin) is fabulous–especially when he receives his prize from a company: a lamp in the shape of a lady’s leg. Very fun. The entire movie just makes you root for Ralphie and it is heartwarming. I think the reason it works is that this is not a picture perfect family with all its ducks in a row. Martha Stewart traditions don’t prevail. In the end, even the best traditions get upended by the dogs. Their Christmas dinner is destroyed and stolen. What do they do? They go out for Chinese and they have a good time.

http://www.youtube.com/v/46WcFObgYhI?fs=1&hl=en_US

And this is how traditions become different for every family. For we all want to have the comfort of the same and the tried and true traditions as we approach the holiday season. But the truth is, traditions get upended all the time because of health problems, family problems, money problems, and the list goes on. Last year we traveled to Texas just before Christmas because my father-in-law was ill, and we wanted to see him one more time. I remember another year when my daughter was in pre-school and her teacher said her mom was so sick that year that they didn’t shop at all for Christmas. They clipped money to the tree, made a big pot of chili and hung out in their PJs. Then they went out the day after Christmas and spent their money at all the sales. A new tradition was born out of a serious necessity. This year I know a friend, my neighbor, who has ill parents on both sides of the family. They’ve got three young children. They won’t be home for Christmas because they’re traveling 14 hours to two different sets of parents to support them during this holiday season. Together we brainstormed how to create a solution and a “new” tradition for this year. One that would be fun for the kids and would take the pressure off the parents as they cope with their ailing ones.

See, that is why A Christmas Story works. Because it shows that it is in how we respond to the winds of change that we recreate new bonds and forge new traditions. So this year, as we head into the holiday season, my wish for all of my readers is that they kick back, lift off as many of the “shoulds” from their shoulders, and create new traditions in the face of any setback.

Happy Holidays and for Your Reading Pleasure click the links below to learn about other folks and how they cope with the holidays!

A Christmas Story
Bits and Pieces
 

Goodness Me It Is Goodie Making Time! December 6, 2010

December is here! It’s time to make some goodies. And I’ve got some retro blogs with some of my favorite receipes for the holidays in them. First up? Oreo Truffles thanks to my Heart of Dixie friends at The Writing Playground.

Next? My fabulous friend Lori’s mini eggnog loaf cakes. Here is the recipe:

Lori’s Eggnog Mini Loaves
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp rum extract (I couldn’t find any so I used imitation and it was fine)
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, eggnog, butter and extracts. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until moistened. Pour into three greased 5 3/4 by 3 inch by 2 inch loaf pans (I used eight smaller cute pans with neat Christmas imprints at the bottom–and they turned out great!–planning cupcakes next). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes till a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing and putting on wire racks.
Yield’s 3 loaves, or 8 mini mini loaves.

I’d love some more fun and easy recipes. What do you make every year that gives your family happy hearts?