Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Skip the ready meals; cooking is good for the soul

I'm a little miffed. Mostly because of the many ready meals you can get in the supermarkets nowadays and that people take so much advantage on them being there. If you visit my blog regularly, you'd know I'm a keen cook and enjoy my time in the kitchen. I love eating and I love to know what goes in my food. When I see all those obese people in the supermarket, their trolleys packed to the rim with ready-made food, frozen pizza and sodas, their equally fat children waddling at their side, I have to bite my tongue. It's bad enough for adults to that to themselves, but feeding children that rubbish, to me, is child abuse. I know a woman whose daughter becomes fatter and fatter. I've known her for about four years and that girl was fat already back then. The mother keeps banging on about losing weight, but every time I see her, she has some take away in her hands and her daughter is now about twice as much as she was. I'm really disgusted by that. You see, I can't stand children, but that gets to me. You are not allowed to discipline your kid, but you are allowed to slowly kill it. That's just brilliant.It seems people have lost their abilities to cook and taste buds seem to degenerate. I'm not surprised given the many parents who stuff their children's faces at fast food chains. Those kids don't even know how a tomato grows or, in even worse cases, how it looks as a whole fruit. And their parents are blissfully unaware of what they're doing to their children.
Don't get me wrong. I love a cheeseburger or chicken nuggets from the big M, but I may have that every other month as a 'treat'. You will hardly see me go and buy a ready meal as I detest them. Far too much sugar, too much salt and preservatives. Thanks, but no thanks. Okay, I have some jars in my cupboard for when I really need something quick, but they're mostly pasta sauces.
Cooking is so much fun and it's really not that difficult to be honest. Take pizza, for example: if you do it at the weekend with either family or friends, everyone can chip in. The only bit that takes a little time is the dough, because it needs to rest, but that's something you can do between cleaning the bathroom and doing some shopping. But later, everyone can choose their own topping, and you can make a massive pizza to share. And it'll taste better, too.
Today, I bought a ready meal by accident. I thought it was a marinated chicken breast, ready to barbecue, which surprised me anyway, because you can't find any great marinated meat as I used to get in Germany during the summer season. Even though I admit it was lazy. I normally do the marinades myself, too. So chicken in tomato-basil sauce sounded too nice and was perfect to go with my salad. It turned out all it needed was whacking it into the microwave. I wasn't amused. Should have looked at the label. Change of plan, I thought. The meat was already dry before I lightly heated it to put on the salad. Since I hate throwing things away, I ate it and kept the sauce to go with pasta as it isn't bad. But it has me wondering: Do people really enjoy such a meal? Where's the fun in whacking a plastic container into the microwave and toss it on a plate? I prefer to get my vegetables from the market and cook from scratch. Tomorrow, I'll have my friend around and I'll do fresh fish with a home made marinade and Thai Yasmin rice. He's often said that my food is easily of restaurant standard, something you can only achieve if you don't just open a packet. I put all my heart and soul into every meal I'm cooking, even if it's only a simple pasta sauce. Anyone who's ever eaten at my place, can confirm that. And what better compliment can you get than clean plates and happy faces?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How the opinion differs: readers' perceptions

I recently sent out Candlelight Sinner for reviews and found it interesting that, while both readers liked the book a lot, one reader prefers the sequel, the other one prefers No Wings Attached. One is more into the paranormal, one more into romance.It shows that it's all a matter of perception. Both would like to see a third book. Oh dear. :-)  But please see for yourself:

Review 1:
Candlelight Sinner is the sequel to No Wings Attached (Branded)by Stella Deleuze. The story follows 32 year old Celia who has angel powers that could be both good and bad, and Tom, an angel wish consultant. Tom and Celia are working through the issues that came up at the end of No Wings Attached and learning to be together as a couple. Celia meets someone from the bad side and he makes a bargain with her. He said he will help train her to get control over her powers if she decides to help him save his best friend, who is also Celia's long lost twin brother. By doing so Celia could lose everything she's come to gain.

The book follows the main characters from the previous book, and one or two new characters are included. Celia, Tom and the side characters are as likeable and easy to relate to as they were before and watching Tom and Celia have troubles like any normal couple in a new relationship made them even more realistic. I especially appreciated Celia's independence in this book. My favourite character in this book has to be Sam! I think I have a new crush! He has the whole sexy, bad boy trying to be good charm down to perfection! I really would like to see more of him in the future!

The book also takes us abroad to Lanzarote. This was a refreshing change and something different. Even though I've never been to Lanzarote, Stella sets the scene so it is realistic and personally I quite liked reading about somewhere I've never been before!

The issue I had with No Wings Attached was the paranormal aspect did not seem to fit in the story too well for me. However in this book this seems to have been rectified and I enjoyed the book much more. There are more action scenes in this book and because of the introduction of Sam we get more information on the "bad side" and the "good side" as well. It was really enjoyable seeing Celia gain control over her powers, finding out what she could do and seeing her gain confidence in her abilities.

This book was a book I could not put down! It made me feel a multiple of emotions, most of them good! It was a real roller coaster reading this book because it made me feel sad, happy, tearful and giggly all at the same time!

If you've never read anything by this author then I would definitely recommend reading No Wings Attached. It contains lots of information about Celia and Tom's background story, as I think that starting with this book some people may feel a bit lost. I am so looking forward to reading more from this author and I look forward to rereading Celia and Tom's story while we wait for the next instalment!

Review 2:
I was given this copy by author free for review, but as always on the basis that my opinion is honestly held, and whether paid for or free my views are not influenced by that. Integrity is important to me and gushing false reviews do neither author or reader any favours. As always my views are what I honestly feel about this book.

This is a follow up novel to No Wings Attached and continues the story of Human Celia and Supernatural wish consultant Tom. Like the first book its a paranormal romance but not heavy on vampires or werewolves, simple a flexing of some supernatural muscle at times so its suitable for all romance lovers.

Tom and Celia have been given permission from Above to be together but are on trial. Tom still has his powers limited and Celia is banned form using any of hers. They are in live but as ever the course of true love never runs smoothly - well if it did we'd be stuck for a good book wouldn't we :) Tom's new case involves a beautiful would be model who makes it clear she's interested on Tom and of course Celia's insecurities about how she's ended up with such a fantastic man and her history of being let down means there are sparks about to fly. Celia gets drawn in to a plan to rescue her brother from the dark side by a friend of his - the lovely, lovely Sam. Sam undertakes to train her in using her powers in secret and she can't let Tom know. Its secrets secrets all the way and of course a hot bed for jealousy and suspicion.

Like the first book this is well written and edited and a good length for the money, and a great way to while away a few hours. Its light-hearted and easy to read - I love an in-depth deep book but sometimes just want something light that doesn't need too much concentration but just something to enjoy without taxing the brain as to who is who and what has been happening. I compared Stella's writing to that of Sophie Kinsella in the first book and again this one has the same feel - Sophie's books are ones I turn to when I want something gentle and easy to read and amuse me. Again chapters alternate from viewpoint of both Celia and Tom so we can not only see what the results of their actions are but understand why they did things and what the other person thinks about them. I really enjoyed that part - seeing an issue form different sides makes it so much clearer to understand why characters act in the way they do.

Candlelight Sinner had times when it made me laugh, times when it made me cry and times when I could scream at Celia " you stupid woman, what the hell are you doing!!" and that is good, as it shows how "into " and involved in the characters I'd become. I don't like to feel an onlooker when reading but want to be totally immersed. Again it has some surprising turns I didn't foresee and that's good - no one wants to read a book where the plots are obvious. However I didn't enjoy this quite as much as I did the first one, it's close but somehow it didn't grip me in quite the same way. I'm not sure why though, maybe its that the first book had the charm of a new and forbidden romance perhaps, and stuff like that always gets to me? Anyway its still an excellent read, one teens and adults, paranormal and non paranormal readers can enjoy and value for money at just �2.31 for a 533kb book. There's an opening for a third book too in the way the story ends, and as we've learned more about some of the characters and how they related it would be interesting to read further stories about them.

Stars - Once again 4 stars - good story, well written and edited and value for money.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Quick and easy garlic and chard pasta

The good thing about growing your own food is that you need to harvest regularly and therefore always have to make up your mind about what to eat. Recently, I brought home a bag full of chard and tonight I used it to make an easy vegetarian pasta dish.

You need: 
Cherry tomatoes
Red chili
Pine nuts (roasted)
Thyme and Oregano
A tbs of cream

Cook the pasta.
In the meantime, cut the cherry tomatoes in halves, and the chard in thin stripes, then chop the garlic, chili and herbs.
When the pasta is ready, drain and put the pan with a tablespoon of olive oil back on the heat.
Add the garlic, chili and herbs, stir for 30 seconds, then add the chard and pine nuts. Stir for a minute. Turn the heat off.
Add the cream, pasta and pinch of salt.
Serve with Parmesan shavings.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tip of the week: editing services, spot the unprofessional

I'm really pissed off. Yes, you gathered, this is a half-rant, turning into a tip. I just read the opening of a book which apparently has been edited by an editing & proofreading service. Now, I've seen post of the person behind that editing service who regularly leaves out the commas before names when addressing another person, which lead me to conclude the person doesn't know that there belongs a comma. And promptly, in said book, there are no commas before names in dialogue. That book also has an overuse on italics, almost every paragraph contained one -- to emphasise words, which is not wrong, but unnecessary and an editor should know that. I also found an incident of  'Running down the stairs, she pulled on her jeans.' Other situation, same principle. An editor should pick up on that and correct it. In addition to that I came across a lower case letter in direct speech when it should have been upper case, etc. Not happy, I'm not happy at all. You know why?
Because people have their doubts about my being able to edit their ms because I'm not an English native, while that editor is an English native and does it wrongly! I don't offer copy editing and proofing for that reason, I'm still learning, but I'm a damn good editor when it comes to story line and characters. And I know all the things listed above! There! I said it.

As you know I've been criticising self-published authors/books for a while because of the poor quality. A good quality book has everything correct: the characterisation, the story line, the pace and the grammar -- and that with consistency. With all the complaints left, right and centre from readers, authors finally realised they have to work harder and get outside help. But what use is an outside help if they just can't do the job properly? It doesn't help the reputation of self-published book either. The problem is, that everyone can call themselves an editor or proofreader. I did it, too. Editor, that is. But I know my limits and will not go beyond them. Others do and will announce they're proofreaders when in fact, they only spot some typos, but are clueless regarding the real proofreader's job. It angers me that those people take advantage of authors who don't know better.

My advice: learn as much as you can yourself. Let someone knowledgeable check the editor/proofreader, if they have done a good job. Or even better: test them beforehand. They should be able to correct all the things I've listed in the first paragraph. I have a feeling that most authors are just too lazy to learn the tools themselves, shrug it off, saying, but that's why I hire an editor/proofreader. To me, that's not the right way to go about it. The problem is that if you don't know how it's done right, you'll walk into the trap of paying money to an unprofessional. Plus, the more you know, the less an editor/proofreader has to do. Especially the latter should mainly pick up on a few typos or other errors you've made. The basics should be learned by the author and come as naturally as breathing while writing.

Here are some post I did in the past for you to learn the basics every author should know. That would sort out half the complaints readers make:

A rant about the impossible, authors, editors...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

From idiots to the more pleasant

I know, I know, I have neglected my blog and readers for longer than intended. I was busy 'defending' myself, once again and also with writing.
You probably remember the guy who went about accusing me of tagging his book with inappropriate tags? Well, he was on it again, this time, he accused me of slating his book, referring to a post where I said I had sent out the beginning of a book to a friend and it came back with the comment that it has more a chick lit feel to it rather than literary, despite the second person (which referred to the POV). I had a chat with someone else about that particular book, and slagged it off (mock style) as to how future reviewers will see it.
What that guy didn't 'get' was that I was talking about my own book, an unpublished novel, which I sent to a friend to get a 'feel' for it.
So I found that particular comment and posted it to prove to my 'stalker' that he got it wrong. Do you think he'd apologise? Nope, instead he carried on to insult me and others who dared to not side with him. It's the third time he derailed a thread of mine, a discussion I started, which, of course, was about to get heated due to the subject matter (I questioned the quality of self-published books), but he had to come and call me a liar and disgusting; he 'offered' me to turn me into wurst, etc. He then admitted, by accident, I think, to have self-reviewed his book (though he claims it was his friend/wife/partner -- the one who called me stupid, by the way), and not him. When people picked him up on that, he whined that people accuse him of something he didn't do. Sound familiar? Yes. He got to taste a bit of his own medicine, just that he openly admitted what he did, for all to see, and I didn't do anything of what he claimed I had done. I only shook my head as he continued to make an idiot of himself. I reported this issue to Amazon, who deleted some of his posts, but the insults are still there. Not very helpful of them.

Anyway, I've also been writing on my thriller and am sending every finished chapter to my friend Piddi, who now threatened to become a fan of that novel.Who would have thought? Not her genre normally. But I also secured a lovely beta reader who indeed reads mainly thrillers and horror and therefore is a perfect fit to read mine, including the gory scenes. Now I  just have to finish it, which means about 30k by end of July. No pressure, then.

Other good news on the writing front: Someone who read No Wings Attached, recently said she had no clue that I was self-published. She only read two self-published books and one was mine. So she thought my novel was traditionally published and I guess you know that I grew at least two inches after that statement. Shows that hard work pays off. On the downside: another reader found about 35 errors, which have been corrected since then, but had me embarrassed once again.

And I've been in the garden, picking lots of lettuce, which provided me with lovely salads. It is coming along really nice. The poppies are flowering beautifully, the courgettes have little flowers and the tomato plants grow stronger from week to week. It's a pleasure to go up and potter around. Gave the mint, lemon balm and sage a massive haircut, cut everything back so the new leaves can grow back healthily.

Tonight, I went to watch Prometheus in 3D with friends and can say that even someone like me, who can't stand horror and all the gory bits, watched it without even having to blink. It's good, but nothing to get overly excited about and some things made me shake my head, re believability and some funny glitches we discussed later. It felt a bit like a remake of Alien in parts. Still, I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I couldn't hold myself back anymore

For days I had the longing for a massive creamy cake or anything that contained whipped cream. Normally I have this craving every six months. Don't ask me why, but I then can't go past anything fat and unhealthy, stuff my face with it and are healed for the next six months.
I had resisted the urge for the past few days, but today, I thought: Sod it! I need some cream! and went to buy waffles, one of those sweet creams in a can and cherries in a glass.

 The absolutely incredible and indulgent result

Man, you won't believe how it felt to eat it. Let me tell you, it was wonderful. Well, for that kind of session I'll have to work a few hours in the garden tomorrow, but I don't mind. It was worth it.
Tonight, I'll have Spaghetti Carbonara (home made, of course) and that'll be enough cream in one day.

After that I'll have to sit down and write, because I seem to have overcome another hurdle. Half way into the Thriller, I yesterday realised, that from now on it's going to be all the brutal violent scenes, which means a lot of fun to write. The pace is picking up, too. To be honest, I can't wait to finish the book and send it out to the beta-readers for feedback.

I also wonder if anyone would recognise my 'voice' when it's out under a pseudonym. I have a name already, as well as a title (which my friend loves a lot, by the way).

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lost in senses

Don't you just want to ruffle through the thyme and stick your nose in it? I do that every time when I'm on the roof. The aroma is delicious and it looks pretty with its lilac flowers. Just the ruffling will please four of my five senses: looking at it, feeling it, hearing it and smelling it. If I'd had a nibble, I could even taste it. The moment I step in the garden, I am greeted by beautiful, vibrant colours: the red poppies, the orange calendulas, the almost blue violas, the deep red of the black nasturtium, white and lilac pansies, the yellow of the courgette flowers, the red strawberries, the lush green of the herbs -- everything captures my eyes. I regularly rub the herbs to smell them, as well as I do pick lemon balm, spearmint or peppermint to make a tea to enjoy while I'm looking after the garden. Since we have plenty of lettuce, I pick some leaves in between to snack on, as well as some of the flowers.

You can eat both of the nasturtium. My iguana loves them and has decided that they, mustard greens and Pak Choi are his choice of the month. Iguanas, by the way, have mainly three senses that guide them: they have a superb eyesight, pretty good smell and taste. They can hear, too, but don't rely too much on it.
Back to me and my gardening; I love being up there, getting my hands dirty, discovering earthworms, new flowers, new fruit, another seedling poking its tender green leaves through the soil in search for the sun. There is so much to do and to learn. If we have a session with our gardener Alex, I can be sure I'll see things I've never seen before. Yesterday, she showed me a beautiful piece of art by nature, albeit not wanted in our garden: skeletons of a few leaves that had been eating by tiny grubs. I bet their taste buds jubilated.

But not everyone is able to use all their senses. We have one in our group who lost her sense of smell and has adapted to it, but I keep wondering how it would be to not be able to smell. I admit to have given her some black peppermint and asked her to have a sniff. Needless to say, that I ending up being mortified to have asked her. Although I know more people being blind or with a hearing impairment/mute, I only know two people who can't smell anything.
Not being able to smell often means it has an impact on taste, too. For me, being a keen cook and savourer of food, it would be devastating; not being able to sniff a good glass of wine before having a sip, letting it swirl around my mouth to unfold its full aroma, the pleasure of tasting the slight hint of tarragon in a sauce...

We take our and others' senses for granted, but I think we should celebrate our senses. Be aware of them, use them as much as we can, be grateful for them. Speaking of it: I cooked a meal with our home grown aquadulce beans (broad beans) and it was delicious.

Here is the very easy recipe:
Broad beans
Smoked bacon (copped or in fine stripes)
Small onion  (chopped finely)
Summer savory (a rare herb to enhance the flavour of the beans)
Fry the onions and bacon in a little bit of oil until brown, add the beans and cover with water. Season with salt, pepper and the summer savoury and let it simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Thicken the sauce with cornflower (best to mix it first with a bit of water in a cup). Serve with either, mashed or boiled potatoes.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

10 things I hate about Indies

These are a few observations I've made over time, some are more recent than others. As usual, I use the universal term Indie authors, but there are plenty of wonderful people -- the exceptions to the rule -- who I converse, discuss, exchange and am friends with. Those of you, I cherish.

#  1 Indies don't care about me, they only want my 'vote'.
I have a few new followers daily. Mostly writers. As soon as they realise I don't follow back, they'll unfollow me quickly. Many still haven't grasped that other writers/authors are not their target audience. Networking with plenty of authors will not result in the sales they hope for. It may improve your knowledge and writing, though, so use networking for that.

#  2 Indies seem to have forgotten how to read.
Pose a question and you can be sure to get a reply that won't answer your question. Totally unrelated and from their point of view, making it about their books and their writing, self-absorbed and unnecessary. Particularly on fora where authors mingle.
#  3 Indies are worse than every sales person I've ever met.
No matter where you go: Twitter, Facebook, writer fora, you always have those who would blatantly disrespect other people's discussions and dumb a link to their book smack bang in the middle of it. Or they will ask you to retweet their books, like their Facebook page, take a look and follow their blogs, ask for comments, share or whatnot. No! Go away!

#  4 Indies can't take criticism.
Despite negative comments on their books from real readers that the characters and story line are flat, they only cherish the positive comments, disregarding any negative comment. Or worse: they will talk back.

#  5 Indies think readers are stupid.
Even if that may be the case for a few, the majority of readers is rather switched on. So they will spot that the author had family, friends and their dog to write reviews or recommend their books on the forum. Writing fake reviews, bribing independent reviewers backfires to those who go about the business with honesty.

#  6 Indies are the biggest arse-kissers I've ever come across.
I can't even tell you how many times I've heard 'I loved your book, can't wait for the sequel to come out'. They'll be all over you with only one aim: to get you to buy their books and review it. In most cases you will never hear from them again. It all a lot of hot air.
#  7 Indies constantly refer to rubbish traditionally published books with errors in it.
Yes, there's a lot of rubbish, but it's normally well-edited rubbish with a minimum on errors and typos and often just a matter of taste. Since I'm deleting so many Indie books due to terrible character and story building, as well as wrongly used dialogue attributes, I'm not convinced that both compare. I have read only a few which compared to the quality standard of traditionally published books, yet, they were still a far cry from the book that made me sit up and say: better than any traditionally published book I've ever read.

#  8 Indies claim that we have to support each other.
Er, no. I don't have to. If I want to support someone, I'll do that. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for helping if someone gets stuck with their writing, to cast an eye over it and help to clear the blockage. I'll even shout it from the roof tops if I find a book worth recommending, but I won't do that just because 'We Indies have to stick together.' Which leads me to number nine.

#  9  Indies say we are not competitors.
We are not? Interesting how quickly the perception changes if one has a bit more success than the other. There's so much bullying and bitching going on behind the scenes, it makes me sick. Writers love to help each other, but as soon as they're published, they are competitors. Like it or not, it's a fact.

# 10 Indies think they are the next big thing.
Most of us are not. Not even close. So you are an author, fine, but to be the next big thing, you need sales and without sales you're just an unsuccessful author. 10k free downloads doesn't count. Better quit the 'bestselling author' in your bio. I've not heard of you, and I assume, nor has the world, so you are most likely not a bestselling author.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A happy ending of a shite day

Anyone want my day? Because it doesn't feel like it belongs to me. I'm mightily pissed off. No particular reason, apart from being really knackered and in pain. Last night I wished I could throw far enough to stop those helicopters from circling above my house. Can't they do that by day? Do they have to do it at night and for hours? And this morning I awoke earlier than I wanted to due to my bladder about to burst. After that I couldn't sleep anymore and decided to could get up anyway.
The day has started shite and evil grinned at me as I forgot to take out the butter, the bread crumbed between my fingers and the soap slipped more than once out of my hand.
When I wanted to refill the pressure sprayer for to spray the vivarium, a thingy broke, which only didn't make it useless for my DIY skills. Glad I didn't chop off my finger, considering what a wonderful hour I already had to look back to. Quickly dipped out to send my friend her headset which she forgot and didn't see the single bubble wrap envelops, thought they didn't sell them and bought a pack of ten instead. Something I probably never use again. In the post office, just one person before me, but it took ages. Yes, how much I love waiting!
On my way to the garden, the damn roads were packed with idiots who drove in my way, or obviously thought my home grown airbags (tits and arse) would be enough protection in case they knocked me off my bike! Never mind, I only have terrible back pain today, after the 40 times back and forth with two watering cans hanging from both of my arms. In addition to that I banged several of my body parts against visible obstacles -- a favourite hobby of mine -- and therefore will end up looking green and blue.

On the roof, the guy I brought some home made meat balls and pasta salad saw me working and didn't come up to say hello or report how good the food was until much later, which I found rather ungrateful. And when opening our tool box, I hurt my hand where the iguana bit me. You know this sort of pain, when it knocks the air out of you first, then sends tears shooting into your eyes and you swear the heftiest words only people with Tourette would say? Yes, exactly that sort of pain jolted through my right arm. Didn't really lift my mood. Somehow I ran around like a headless chicken and couldn't find a proper system to work, which drove me mad, I filled the kettle with water and forgot to switch it on, left my secateurs in a bed and had to search for it, couldn't find a place for the lettuce to got, etc.

Stopped at the supermarket. I a great idea for a home made sandwich with humus and falafel or chicken -- When I finally bit into it, the chicken sandwich didn't rise to my expectations. I hate it when that happens. And because I'm far too tired to write and I feel terribly guilty when I don't write I'll now have a bottle of wine. At least I'll have a good night's sleep, or so I hope.