Wednesday, January 20, 2021

When you get the urge to quit

You know those days when you want to pack it all in and call it a day? 

Every time I finish writing a book, I ask myself why I do this. Sometimes, I'm ready to call it quits. Sometimes I can't wait to dive into the next project. 

We're living in a time when it's difficult to get motivated. Life is exhausting all by itself. I've found moments of respite in my writing time, moments of joy. I write because I love to write. It gives my imagination free rein, but make no mistake. It's hard work.

I've just finish writing the fourth installment in the Hillendale series (Yay! Whoop-whoop), which means I need to decide "what comes next." I have room to continue this series if I so choose, or I can move on to the next project/series. There are always ideas at the ready, and yet in the moments after the story is born, I need to rest and recover. A period of post-partum, if you will. I need to move on to cleaning up mistakes, checking for continuity, fine-tuning grammatical construction. Chipping away at overused words and words that flat out don't belong there. It's a discouraging time during which many authors have to "kill their darlings" -- words or phrases that were so fun to write, so cool to invent, words that have no place in the story. By the time that process is finished, I fall back into the "why do I bother?" phase. And then I read the finished product one last time. Most times, I fall in love with the story all over again, and that's motivation enough to continue.

And then there are the times when I doubt my ability to write "like that" again. Where to start? That can be a daunting task. Starting a writing project rarely begins in the proper place. It can take several chapters before you realize you've gotten it all wrong and have to start over, or you've spent those three chapters spouting information that doesn't belong, but which is necessary to the story in dribs and drabs sprinkled throughout.

Post partum depression.

Many times I'll delay writing a new book, caught in a web of writers' angst. These are some of the things that spur me on.
  1. I get impatient. My dreams become more vivid without the outlet for my imagination. Writing is a part of who I am, to the core. At the end of the day, I have to be who I was meant to be.

  2. "Practice makes perfect." In the beginning, when I was still learning the craft, I also had a day job that dominated my life--especially during peak business times. My first three books were years apart. People always tell you to write something every day, and I learned during the course of those three books how important that is. As with anything else, if you don't practice your art, you get rusty. Filler words creep back into my manuscript, I miss those places where I repeat words, and my sentence structure starts to look shaky. Run-on sentences. Comma splices. I keep going so I don't "forget" how to write, even if what I write is nonsensical.

  3. I read a book. I'm often inspired by other authors, either the quality of their writing or their storytelling ability. Even if the book is "bad" (reading is subjective), I find things to avoid in my own writing.

What do you do to "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again?"

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

On Trying New Things

Life changes during the pandemic for a variety of reasons. Disruptions to routine. Different ways of thinking. During these moments, it's good to try new things, or fall back on old standards. 

For an author (and I've heard this from a large number of my colleagues), we're living in a world where making stuff up isn't keeping pace with the unreal happenings of everyday life. Truly, you can't make this stuff up. No one would believe it, or suspend disbelief were we to write it down. Current events are extremely disruptive to the creative process.

When I was young, lo those many years ago, the holidays meant putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Sitting at a table with my dad and/or my sisters. It was a time of peace and togetherness. Sitting still. Together. I got two puzzles for Christmas this year. What a great reminder of quieting my mind and concentrating on one thing for a period of time. Best thing I did this winter so far.

Being "inside" also meant trying new and different things. While I had been trying to write my next book, all the outside distractions made it extremely difficult to focus. So I returned to an old manuscript that I had tucked away because 1) it was different than what I usually write and 2) sometimes its easier to edit than to make up stuff in a world that defies logic. Lessons I've learned: Editing isn't much easier than writing when the world is taking a dump. In fact, I got more comments from my editor on the "old" story than I've had on any of the other sixteen books we've worked together on. Never one to back away from a challenge, I soldiered on.

Which brings me to RELEASE DAY! Please welcome into the world, COYOTE LEGACY, A Canyon Legends Fantasy. Yes, it's a diversion from my normal fare, but I hope you'll find it interesting. Inspired by the beautiful scenery of Utah and Arizona, I gave my imagination free rein, tapping into the legends of the Canyonlands.

If you're of the opinion I should stick to my usual storytelling, never fear. The fourth installment in the Hillendale novels, INTERRUPTED MAGIC,  is coming in March! 

In the meantime, I'd like to invite you along on my flight of imagination. Want a recommendation? One of my beta readers had this to say:

"I am completely blown away!  That is one of the best books I’ve ever read!  Your writing is exceptional…your imagination is magical…you’re a great storyteller…I don’t know how this book could get any better than what I’ve just read.  I was completely captivated!"

You can get your copy here.

Maybe a little over the top, but it sure made me feel good! And maybe you’ll like it, too!

Available in ebook and paperback.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Happy New Year - a sneak peek at the new release

Happy New Year! 🎉🥳

I have a new release coming out on Tuesday. Make sure you're signed up for my newsletter for a special offer!

Here's a snippet.

You can buy it here!
Devin slouched in the deck chair behind his ranch house, listening to crickets sing in the still night air. He’d traded in his pilot’s uniform for a pair of shorts. The cool night raised gooseflesh on his skin. A pounding, like a second heartbeat, pulsed in his chest. His grandmother never talked of the old ways, but she did say one day his heritage would speak to him, a comment that never made sense.
Maybe Nascha had unlocked an ancient form of Morse code. 
Where had Nascha come from? People didn’t just show up at the airport with no luggage and no money. Devin thought about Mrs. Mendenhall’s comment that there’d been someone sitting on his wing. He’d never seen a gremlin, but if they existed, he doubted they had lovely russet colored hair or skin the color of the Arizona desert. 
He took another sip of his tea—the same tea he’d offered Nascha—and stared at the bottle. He tapped his leg, still wondering if he should have called security, but Marty hadn’t seen her. Had he imagined the conversation? It had been a tough trip over the mountains. Devin wasn’t sure if his mind was playing tricks on him. The whole episode defied logic. 
Eyes closed, he exhaled a sigh and let his iced tea drop the last three inches from his hand to the wooden deck floor with a clunk where it landed upright. The night was perfect, warm and clear beneath a vast, limitless sky. Devin knew he should go inside, but he was comfortable. He credited the Native American in his soul for his preference to sleep under the stars—or Grandma Coco’s tales. His spirit guide was more likely to find him outside. 
He laughed. His imagination was getting the best of him. There’d been no gremlin on the wing. He couldn’t explain the Indian princess, but he’d go to the airport tomorrow to make sure she wasn’t a security risk—if she really existed. But that didn’t explain the frightened look in her eyes when he’d tried to calm her, when he’d held her hand—the static electricity in her touch. 
That’s when the pounding in his chest had started. He sat up straight in the chair and gazed to the North, the direction of the airport. The pulse had started when he’d touched Nascha, like an ancient tribal tattoo. 
“I need sleep,” he said out loud. He picked up his iced tea and headed into the house. The turbulence obviously shook something loose in his brain. Nothing a good night’s rest wouldn’t cure.
He walked through the living room and down the hallway to his bedroom. The moon provided the only light. Devin passed the bed and stood before the window, the pulsing in his chest relentless. It didn’t hurt, so there was no point in going the pain reliever route. He threw open the window and sat cross-legged in a nest of blankets on the floor, wrapping himself in the comfort of coarse wool.
The fabric made him think of Nascha again, the feel of her skin. She wasn’t slippery smooth, like most women. Her skin had texture—the kind you wanted to touch again and again to explore all the different sensations. More proof he must have imagined her.
Devin squeezed his eyes shut and took several deep breaths to clear his head. In a matter of minutes, he fell asleep.

He’d had the same dream since he was a child. He body-surfed across the sky, dipping in and out of the jet stream, arms extended, his feet—like rudders—controlling his direction. But this time the dream was different. He wasn’t flying alone. 

What do you think?


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The paperback is how much!?!?!

I was checking my books at Amazon the other day, updating some of the information, when something jumped out at me. The cost of a paperback of COOKIE THERAPY was $2,000+ That's not right! When I first opened the link to the selling page, the OEM price wasn't even listed. It only showed me the crazy, expensive options. 

The paperback sells for $9.99

What the heck? So I glanced at a couple other books. $809?? Again I say, What the heck?


Now, I know this information is wrong, but I also know that Amazon frequently shows after-market products. As an author, it's terrifying to think that someone looking for a paperback of one of my books thinks they have to pay a thousand dollars for one. It's hard enough to reach an audience when you're competitively priced. When these gougers show up on a search page, I want to ask Amazon how they think that's a good way to sell product.




So, public service announcement. Please know that for those of my books that are available in paperback, they are all under $15. If you can't find them, drop me a line. You can also buy them directly from me by filling out this form.

And as the Bartles & James guys used to say, thank you for your support.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

My Christmas gift to you. The Q-TIP principle

We're living in difficult times when, some days, hope and happiness can be a struggle. On those days, I'm reminded of one of the most helpful seminars I took during my working career, the Q-TIP principle. Q-TIP stands for Quit Taking It Personally.



There are so many examples of this that I can share, beginning with a coworker who thought everything that happened somehow revolved around her. Instead of celebrating someone else's successes, she could only see how she'd been slighted as a result, which was never the case. She took EVERYTHING personally.

Years ago, I was asked to videotape "insights" at a family reunion. I'm an introvert by nature, even at a family reunion. I'm a "one-on-one" type of person, so approaching everyone, even family, wasn't necessarily inside my comfort zone, but hey, it was family. So I did. At the end of the day, I said something along the lines of "I think I got everyone." I hadn't. What I should have said, maybe, was "did I get everyone?" The one person I missed was one of the people I've always been closest to. That person was offended. I wasn't keeping a tally of the 50 or so people I'd been circulating among, and that one person thought I'd intentionally overlooked them. Rather than saying, "Hey, you missed me," that person said "I'd like to say something," and proceeded to add not one taped comment, but two (and maybe three, I don't remember now--I was mortified by what they said. On tape). I didn't know how to respond. How could that person think I'd intentionally overlooked them? Our relationship hasn't been the same since. I feel bad about that, and I don't know how to fix it. It wasn't intentional, it wasn't personal, and yet that person had taken it as such.

I make mistakes.

I sent out a Christmas letter and apparently missed stuffing one of the envelopes. Got a call from my sister-in-law who asked how come her sister got a letter and she didn't. Heck if I know! But the point here is she asked about it rather than choosing to be offended that she'd been overlooked. I MEANT to send her a letter, but obviously I goofed. I hate it when that happens! She DIDN'T take it personally (for which I am grateful).

I recently got some good news, but in this day of COVID, I was momentarily taken aback about how it was presented. I'm not one to speak up, so I "suffered in silence" and reminded myself this wasn't about me. I talked to someone else who had been present at the time and took the most round about way I could to ask if this wasn't "odd." The interpretation from that person helped me put things in perspective, along with the Q-TIP principle. With an "outside" view of what happened, I stopped taking it personally. I can rejoin the celebration.

We have a lot of things to fret about in the world these days without adding hurt feelings to the mix, feelings that most likely weren't intentionally trod upon. Sometimes people are having a bad day and they lash out - it has nothing to do with you, but with their bad day. As my mother once told me, sometimes people don't react the way you want them to or expect them to. Sometimes people make mistakes (*raises hand*). All right, sometimes it is intentional, so the question you need to ask yourself is "why would they intentionally do that?" If the answer is, "I don't know," then chances are good that whatever happened wasn't meant to offend.

We could go deep into the psychology of all of this, the triggers and catalysts and all of that, but at the end of the day, our response is what matters. In a world where some people are only seeing how everything affects them (WEAR A MASK), my advice is to remember the Q-TIP principle. Quit taking it personally. We're all in this life together, and if we have some empathy for what other people are going through, we stand a better chance of holding onto hope and happiness.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Ho Ho Ho: Another Holiday Recipe

My Christmas present for you today.

I took French classes, starting in high school. That included French Christmas carols and French recipes. Among my favorites was one for a Bûche de Noël. I loved baking, a skill handed down from my mother, and she was always game for a new recipe.

A bûche is pretty on the table and decadent to eat. I decorated mine with gumdrop leaves and berries (some people use cranberries and mint leaves) and meringue mushrooms. So, if you need a project and want something delicious to eat, here's my recipe for you today.

What's your favorite food "centerpiece?"

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log Cake)

THE CAKE

Cooking spray
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 c. granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar or unsweetened cocoa to roll the cake

creamy rum FILLING
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup milk
2 egg yoks, slightly beaten
2 tbsp. rum
RICH FUDGE FROSTING
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 ounces)
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 tbsp. corn oil margarine 
GARNISH OPTIONS

Chocolate curls

Cranberries

Small rosemary sprigs

Meringue mushrooms

G

umdrops 
Mint leaves
This ingredient shopping module is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content on their web site.
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment or waxed paper and grease with cooking spray. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs whites at high speed until soft peaks forms. Beating constantly, add 4 tablespoons of the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. 
  3. In small mixing bowl, beat egg yolks at high speed until well mixed. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat about 4 minutes or until thick and light in color. With mixer at low speed beat in cocoa and vanilla until well mixed. Gently fold cocoa mixture into egg whites until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes or until cake springs back lightly when touched.
  4. Immediately turn cake out onto cloth dusted with confectioners' sugar or unsweetened cocoa. Remove parchment or waxed paper. Roll cake from short side in cloth. Cool on wire rack.
  5. Make filling: In a 1 quart saucepan, stir together sugar and corn starch. Gradually stir in milk until smooth. Stir in egg yolks. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in rum until well blended. Turn into medium bowl. Cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap. Cool slightly (no longer than 1 hour). Gently fold in whipped cream. 
  1. Make frosting: In top of a double boiler over simmering water, stir together chocolate chips, water, corn syrup and margarine. Stirring constantly, cook about 5 minutes or until melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Fill bottom of double boiler with ice. With wooden spoon, beat chocolate mixture over ice for about 5 minutes or until mixture is spreadable consistency. Remove from ice.
  1. Diagonally slice about a 1-1/2 inch portion off each end of the cake. Reserve about 1/3 cup frosting for the cut portions and spread cake with remaining frosting. Using a fork, make ridges in cake to resemble bark. Place reserved pieces of cake against frosted log to resemble knots. Frost knots with reserved frosting and chill.
Meringue Mushrooms
3/4 cup sugar 
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Unsweetened cocoa
1 square (1 ounce) semi-sweet chocolate
  1. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment or brown paper. In small saucepan, bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. In large mixing bowl, beat egg whites at high speak until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar and salt. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Still in vanilla. Beating constantly, pour in hot syrup in a thin steady stream. Continue beating until mixture becomes stiff and glossy.
  2. To form mushroom stems, fit a large pastry bag with 1/2 inch plain, round tip. Fill with 1/3 of meringue mixture. Holding pastry bag vertically over baking sheet, push out meringue slowly while raising the bag straight up. Form stems about 1 inch high, with base slightly wider. Cut the meringue away from the tube with a small knife. To form mushroom caps, fill pastry bag with remaining 2/3 meringue. Press out rounds. 1 inch apart on sheet, 1-1/2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inches high. Sharply twist bag to avoid leaving a peak on top. If desired, sprinkle lightly with unsweetened cocoa. Bake at 250 for 1 hour. 
  3. Turn oven off. Open door and leave meringues in over 1 hour to dry. In a small saucepan, melt chocolate. 
  4. With a small, sharp knife, make a small hole in the flat side of each meringue round. Dip stem end in melted chocolate. Insert in cap. Store mushroom in airtight container.

  5. You can find more of the French traditions I learned about in
    WHILE WE WERE SHOPPING

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Confessions of a Cookieholic 🍪

 It’s Christmas. Cookies are as much a part of the holiday as trees and snowmen and Santa for me. After all, Santa is a cookieholic, too. Think of all the plates of cookies he gets every Christmas Eve.

As for the confession, it all started last December. When someone is taken from you so quickly, you realize how short life is. My mantra? Life is short. Eat the cookie. And with all the Christmas cookies to choose from... well, that was only the beginning. Then, 2020 hit. Who knew? 

Hi. My name is Karla, and I'm a cookieholic.

Which brings us to today. Cookie baking season. I'm back on the wagon again.

This will be the first year I don’t make several batches of cookies. In fact, one of the only years I don’t make my signature cookie, because I spent too many days of 2020 “eating the cookies.” It isn't safe to give the cookies away this year because, well, 2020. And I certainly shouldn’t eat several more batches when its just the Big Guy and me. I’ve resolved to make one batch for him (he likes pecan fingers), because it isn’t Christmas without some Christmas cookies. 

For the rest of you, I’m sharing my recipe for pinwheels, my signature cookie, with hopes they bring you some holiday cheer!

What is your favorite Christmas cookie?

And now I have to get back to writing so you have that new Hillendale book in the spring! 

Pinwheels 


Tasty, and pretty on the plate
Yield: 8 dozen

1-¾ cup flour
1-½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons milk
1 square unsweetened chocolate, melted

Combine flour, soda and salt and set aside.  Cream butter, adding sugar gradually.  Blend in egg yolks and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the milk.

Divide dough into equal portions.  Add chocolate to one portion.  Refrigerate dough until easy to handle.

Roll each portion separately 1/8 inch thick between sheets of waxed paper so that they are the same size. If the dough is still sticky, return to refrigerator until it peels easily off the wax paper.  Remove one layer of wax paper from each portion of the dough and lay the dough on top of the other portion.  Remove the top layer of wax paper and roll the dough together. Wrap the rolled dough in the bottom layer of wax paper and refrigerate overnight.

Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 8 minutes.

Find more cookies at www.karlabrandenburg.com/cookies
or www.pinterest.com/klblang/cookies