Cooking with Cloris – Guest Post with a Spanish Chef

spanish-potato-tortillaFrom Tapas to seafood with fabulous stops for jamon (cured ham) and chorizo (sausage), Spain is a delightful culinary adventure. You’ve undoubtedly tasted gazpacho and paella but when chef Alex Montoya and vintner Sofia Pincelli make magic with Malbec grapes, Alex envisioned a hearty Spanish Ragout. Ragout is a wonderful cold weather dish, so for the summer, Alex recommended one of the many tapas served at his restaurant. Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Potato Tortilla) is always a favorite with his customers, working equally well for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack—along with a glass of your favorite wine. For dinner or tapas, I pair this dish with a cabernet sauvignon. Novelty Hill makes a lovely medium-bodied red with soft, fruity flavors.

Alex is a secondary character in So About the Money, the first in the Holly Price/So About…series. Alex may have been a bit volatile in that story. His fiery temper clashed with Holly’s saner approach to life. He simply needed the right woman to help him become the adult he’s capable of being. A bit of nagging from his character led me to write his story—MALBEC MAYHEM. With all the fabulous wineries located in eastern Washington, choosing a rising star vintner to challenge him seemed a natural fit. Alex and Sofia understand the importance of family—including the joys and challenges associated with running a family business. They simply have to figure out a way to make their hot-blooded nature work for them.

Tortilla Espanola

  • 1 cups vegetable oil for frying (Plain olive oil is MUCH better than canola. A great extra-virgin olive oil isn’t required)
  • 1-3/4 lb. (about 5 medium) low- to medium-starch potatoes (Yukon Gold, rather than a russet) peeled
  • 12 to 14 oz. onions (2 to 3 medium), diced
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, very coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 6 large eggs
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare potatoes and onions: Peel the potatoes and onion and slice them very thin. A mandolin works best, but you can use the slicing blade of a food processor, or slice them by hand. If the potatoes are on the large side, first cut them in a half lengthwise so the slices will be in half-moons.

Cook potatoes and onions: Heat oil in an 8- to 10-inch skillet, ideally nonstick, over medium-high until very hot, about 3 minutes. When the oil is very hot (a potato slice will sizzle vigorously around the edges without browning), gently slip the potatoes into the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon. Add potatoes and onions (and garlic if using) in even layers and reduce heat to medium-low.

Cook for 10 – 15 minutes, flipping and nudging potatoes around to ensure they cook evenly. Potatoes are done when they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. They should not get brown or fall apart in flipping (unless you like your tortillas with softer, more broken-up potatoes, as some do).

Drain potatoes and onions: Transfer potatoes and onion to a colander/sieve set over a bowl and drain them.* Season potatoes and onion with salt and pepper and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. (Seriously, drain the potatoes in the sieve. Most of the oil is removed by doing that. If you don’t have a sieve, use a lot of paper towels in a shallow bowl to absorb the excess oil.)

Drain the oil from the skillet*, reserve at least 1 Tbs., and wipe out the pan with a paper towel so it’s clean. Scrape out any stuck-on bits, if necessary.

Make the tortilla batter: In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs with about ¼ tsp. salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in drained potatoes and onions. If you have 10 minutes, definitely let them soak together for that long; it makes a difference in how well the final tortilla stays together. If you’re in a rush, it’s not going to ruin the dish if you skip that step.

Cook the tortilla: Add 1 tablespoon of the drained cooking oil* (back to the skillet over medium-high heat. Let the pan and oil get very hot (important so the eggs don’t stick), and then pour potato mixture into the skillet. Flatten the potatoes with a spatula until they’re mostly even. Cook for 1 minute and then lower the heat to medium-low.

Cook, moving and shaking the skillet and nudging the egg around (so it runs underneath) for a minute before letting the tortilla cook undisturbed until the eggs are completely set at the edges, halfway set in the center, and the tortilla easily slips around in the pan when you give it a shake, 8 to 10 minutes.

Loosen the tortilla with a spatula then slide it onto a large dinner plate. (Use a flat, rimless plate that’s at least as wide as the skillet.) With your hands in potholders, invert the skillet over the plate, take a deep breath, and flip it back into the skillet. Once the tortilla is back in the pan, tuck the edges in and under (to neaten the sides).

Return the skillet to the stove and cook tortilla to your desired doneness, another 2 to 3 minutes if you like an ever-so-slightly loose center; 4 to 5 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean) for full doneness.

Serve: Transfer the tortilla to a serving platter and let cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature, or slightly cool. Cut into wedges or small squares, sticking a toothpick in each square if serving as an appetizer. Add a dusting of smoked paprika and/or squiggle of aioli or mayo if desired.

* Save the rest of the cooking oil in the refrigerator for future tortillas, or eggs, or potatoes, or anything you want to cook with a faint onion infusion flavor. (Think about the $20 bottle of infused oil you saw at the specialty shop!)

Originally posted with Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers

 

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So About the Wine

This post originally appeared at Just Romantic Suspense blog – a fun place for all things RS.

Thanks so much for joining me today on Just Romantic Suspense while I share MALBEC MAYHEM’s release week. I had so much fun writing this racy novella and hope you enjoy reading it.

Alex Montoya is a secondary character in So About the Money, the first in the Holly Price/So About…series. Alex may have been a bit volatile in that book, but he simply needs the right woman to help him become the adult he’s capable of being. A bit of nagging from his character led me to write his story—MALBEC MAYHEM.

The “Malbec” in the title refers to the wonderful varietal grape that’s growing in popularity as people discover this spicy, easy to enjoy, red wine. Sofia Pincelli’s family has turned Malbec into the winery’s signature wine, and she needs Alex’s crop of Malbec grapes to show her father she has what it takes to make award-winning wine—and save the reputation and finances of the Pincelli winery. In the following excerpt, Sofia has just confronted Alex about the missing grapes.

Excerpt

“If that’s how you feel about me.” Alex stalked to a file cabinet, jerked open the top drawer and grabbed a scrap of black lace. He threw the panties at Sofia. “You might want these ‘delivered’ too. You left them here the other night.”

“Oh for God’s sake, be serious.” She rolled her eyes and thrust her fingers into her hair.

“Why?” He tried to ignore the way her upraised arms pushed her chest forward. “You’re the one who wanted a ‘fun’ relationship.”

“I’m talking about business. Business is serious.”

“What? You like the sex, but not me?” The file cabinet drawer slammed with a satisfying whack. “What is it with you women?”

“It isn’t ‘us women’. It seems to me, it’s you. You have a problem with intelligent women.”

“Bullshit. I prefer intelligent women.”

For a long moment, she studied him. Then she plucked the panties off the floor and stepped toward him. A smile hovered around the corners of her mouth.

“What?” He narrowed his eyes, glaring, more to keep her on-guard than to warn her off. Usually he liked not knowing what she’d pull next, but she loved a challenge—and to win—as much as he did.

She also liked make-up sex as much as he did.

“Nice shirt.” She trailed a finger inside his collar and paused at the first button. “You should wear this color more often. It sets off those gorgeous brown eyes of yours.”

She worked open the button. “Your olive skin…”

Desire rippled down his spine. “Thanks,” he managed. He eyed the open door behind them. Not that he cared who walked in.

She leaned closer. Her full breasts brushed his chest. Warm breath tickled his ear and sent a message straight to his groin. A cool scrap of fabric slid into his palm and her fingers closed his around the silk. “You might want to keep these.”

“Oh?” He managed to keep his tone merely interested while heat flamed through his body. If she kept this up, he could sweep all the papers off his desk. Or there were the chairs. The floor. Up against the wall…

“You keep up that crappy attitude though.”

His brain recalibrated. Problem, problem…

Soft lips brushed a series of kisses against his jaw. “And it’ll be a while before you see a new pair.”

Blurb:

Successful restaurateur Alex Montoya’s charmed life has hit a snag. His trusted business partner turned out to be not exactly trustworthy, and Alex could be facing jail time over some of his partner’s shady financial deals. As if that weren’t bad enough, creditors are calling in loans he didn’t know he had and he’s desperate to prove his innocence before all his businesses are repossessed.

After a career-building stint in Napa Valley, Sofia Pincelli has returned home to eastern Washington to take over the family’s winery. Running the family business, however, means dealing with her ailing father’s continued micro-management—and his disapproval of Alex. Her father’s condemnation of Alex’s rumored involvement in his business partner’s schemes runs so deep, it threatens Alex and Sofia’s blossoming romance…along with the Pincelli family’s signature red wine. Sofia needs Alex’s crop of Malbec grapes to show her father she has what it takes to make award-winning wine—and save the reputation and finances of the Pincelli winery.

When the Malbec grapes go missing, Alex and Sofia must join forces to find the fruit before it spoils—or risk destroying both of their businesses and their hearts.

Amazon          amzn.to/2134Gmd

 

Since I’m “reposting” this, I put Malbec Mayhem on sale! Get your copy today!

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Genre Switching — Or Is It Simply Writing Outside The Box?

Is writing the same genre starting to weigh you down? That sounds like one of those late night television commercials, doesn’t it? Can’t you see it: Writing leaving you tired? Still committed to your genre, but tempted by something new? Loving your characters but wishing they could be on another planet / in another time / in love with werewolves?

We’ve all know the importance of creating our brand and maintaining consistent quality on our books, but there are times you just think… not another XYZ… Your Muse has packed up and gone on vacation without you. And your chin is propped on your hand as you stare at the blank screen and blinking curser.

What if you could write anything you wanted? Try something different? Why not give it a chance? Who decreed you could only write in the genre you publish? This doesn’t have to be anything to do with your publishing career—although maybe it can…

choices

What can you do differently? Dabble in another genre. Revisit that manuscript you hid under the bed. The one you’ve had for years where the coalminers meet the wood fairies. Follow a picture prompt from the net. Indulge in some fanfic, like you did in the old days. Use the excuse of a seasonal theme to revisit existing characters – but change it up. Write a scene from a different character’s POV. Move the setting to the place you’re dying to go for vacation—and pretend you’re there!

This past winter when the weather turned gloomy, I decided to mash up my genre is a new way. Rather than write mysteries with a romance element, I wondered, what if I write a romance with a touch of mystery? And rather than write a true romance, why not make it a “women’s fiction” but apply the transformation to a guy? It was a lot of fun watching this novella take shape and having Alex Montoya grow as a character from “rather an ass,” as one early reader labeled him, into a man who can fully appreciate the woman in his life.

Of course, now that Malbec Mayhem is releasing, I’m terrified my readers will wonder what on earth I was thinking, but I hope they enjoy Alex and Sofia’s story. And I’m newly recharged and can’t wait to start my next mystery—which will definitely have a relationship element.

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A Toast to Summer Reading

This summer is shaping up to be great for readers. I keep finding lots of interesting new books that I want to read. Today’s book that’s in our spotlight sounds like a real winner. My guest in My Writing Corner is Cathy Perkins, an author who caught my interest with her newest release, Malbec Mayhem.  She combines two of my favorites, a Northwest setting and a good red wine!

Cathy tells me that she started writing when recurring characters and dialogue populated her commuting daydreams. Fortunately, that first novel lives under the bed but she was hooked on the joy of creating stories. With four romantic mysteries published and two more in the process, she’s looking forward to leaving her full time financial job and writing full time.

framed-mm-250x375When not writing, she can be found doing battle with the beavers over the pond height or setting off on another travel adventure. Born and raised in South Carolina, the setting for CYPHER, HONOR CODE and THE PROFESSOR, she now lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.
Her latest story, MALBEC MAYHEM, is a novella featuring a secondary character from SO ABOUT THE MONEY.
Alex Montoya wanted his own happily ever after, but needed a strong woman who could go toe-to-toe with him over careers, while sharing his fiery, passionate approach to life.
Here’s the blurb:
Successful restaurateur Alex Montoya’s charmed life has hit a snag. His trust business partner turned out to be not exactly trustworthy, and Alex could be facing jail time over some of his partner’s shady financial deals. As if that weren’t bad enough, creditors are calling loans he didn’t know he had and he’s desperate to prove his innocence before all his businesses are repossessed.
After a career-building stint in Napa Valley, Sofia Pincelli has returned home to eastern Washington to take over the family’s winery. Running the family business, however, means dealing with her ailing father’s continued micro-management–and his disapproval of Alex.
Her father’s condemnation of Alex’s rumored involvement in his business partner’s schemes runs so deep it threatens Alex and Sofia’s blossoming romance… along with the Pincelli family’s signature red wine. Sofia needs Alex’s crop of Malbec grapes to show her father she has what it takes to make award-winning wine–and save the reputation and finances of the Pincelli winery.

When the Malbec grapes go missing, Alex and Sofia must join forces to find the fruit before it spoils–or risk destroying both of their businesses and their hearts.

Let’s get an excerpt:
“If that’s how you feel about me.” Alex stalked to a file cabinet, jerked open the top drawer and grabbed a scrap of black lace. He threw the panties at Sofia. “You might want these ‘delivered’ too. You left them here the other night.”
“Oh for God’s sake, be serious.” She rolled her eyes and thrust her fingers into her hair.
“Why?” He tried to ignore the way her upraised arms pushed her chest forward. “You’re the one who wanted a ‘fun’ relationship.”
“I’m talking about business. Business is serious.”
“What? You like the sex, but not me?” The file cabinet drawer slammed with a satisfying whack. “What is it with you women?”
“It isn’t ‘us women’. It seems to me, it’s you. You have a problem with intelligent women.”
“Bullshit. I prefer intelligent women.”
For a long moment, she studied him. Then she plucked the panties off the floor and stepped toward him. A smile hovered around the corners of her mouth.
“What?” He narrowed his eyes, glaring, more to keep her on-guard than to warn her off. Usually he liked not knowing what she’d pull next, but she loved a challenge—and to win—as much as he did.
She also liked make-up sex as much as he did.
“Nice shirt.” She trailed a finger inside his collar and paused at the first button. “You should wear this color more often. It sets off those gorgeous brown eyes of yours.”
She worked open the button. “Your olive skin…”
Desire rippled down his spine. “Thanks,” he managed. He eyed the open door behind them. Not that he cared who walked in.
She leaned closer. Her full breasts brushed his chest. Warm breath tickled his ear and sent a message straight to his groin. A cool scrap of fabric slid into his palm and her fingers closed his around the silk. “You might want to keep these.”
“Oh?” He managed to keep his tone merely interested while heat flamed through his body. If she kept this up, he could sweep all the papers off his desk. Or there were the chairs. The floor. Up against the wall…
“You keep up that crappy attitude though.”
His brain recalibrated. Problem, problem…
Soft lips brushed a series of kisses against his jaw. “And it’ll be a while before you see a new pair.”
Cathy’s book is out at Amazon ~ at a special release week price!

Cathy says:   “I love to chat with readers. They can sign up for my email list on my website (https://cperkinswrites.com) or through my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCathyPerkins).

Guest Spotlight at Rebecca Grace’s blogspot – My Writing Corner

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The Unseen (Forget Unsung) Heroines

I had this great post planned. 

notesBethany inspired me so much with her “How I organize my corner of the universe,” I intended to admit to uhm… less organization.

And no spreadsheets.

I even took photos of the messy pile of notes and ideas stacked up on my desk (and the bedside table, the countertop, the…err…you get the picture). Really, all those snippets do turn into a first draft. Then there’s the tri-fold board with color coded Post-its (aren’t Post-it’s the best?), broken out by Act and Turning Point. (Surely I have a picture of it somewhere…)

daphneInstead of creating that awesome post, every spare moment has been dedicated to the Daphne. That’s the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense contest sponsored by the Kiss of Death. Great contest. Wonderful entries/contestants and judges.

I’m all for volunteering but clearly I had no idea what I’d agreed to do. You see, coordinators are the unseen people behind the scenes who make sure the entries meet the requirements and work with the judges to get the score-sheets and manuscripts turned back in. They keep lots and lots of records and cross check everything. Basically it’s a paper chase, or these days, an electronic chase spread across four desktop screens.

But the best part of being a coordinator will come in a few weeks when I have the privilege of calling the finalists. There’s nothing like telling someone how much strangers enjoyed their stories and that their manuscript was voted “best in the group.”

Bring on the coffee and the spreadsheets. I have entries to manage.

 

Originally posted to my group blog, The Stiletto Gang

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Walked Right Through That Restraining Order…

Have you listened to the lyrics of “Redneck Crazy” by Tyler Farr? It details the horrid stalking behavior the singer plans—and of course, he blames the woman for his behavior, because she broke up with him.

I hate that song.

I lived it—right up to and including the truck on the lawn and the beer cans thrown at the window.

The Nation Center for Victims of Crime has a section on stalking. It defines stalking as a pattern of behavior that makes you feel afraid, nervous, harassed, or in danger. A stalker repeatedly contacts you, follows you, sends you things, talks to you when you don’t want them to, or threatens you.

Stalking behaviors can include:

  • • Knowing your schedule.
    • Showing up at places you go.
    • Sending mail, e-mail, and pictures.
    • Calling or texting repeatedly.
    • Contacting you or posting about you on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
    • Writing letters.
    • Damaging your property.
    • Creating a Web site about you.
    • Sending gifts.
    • Any other actions to contact, harass, track, or frighten you.

It all sounds so benign, even the hundreds of daily calls and texts, until you get to that last point—actions to harass, track and frighten you.

Stalking is obsession. It’s about power and control. It’s a crime.

The problem is states are just now getting on board and adding laws criminalizing stalking. Like far too many crimes against women, it’s difficult for law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office to develop a case they think they can take to court—and win. They prefer something less nebulous—did the stalker break into your house? Hit you? Hurt you? Those are tangible—yes or no. Forensic evidence supports it. Showing up everywhere you go? Coincidence, the stalker claims.

The statistics on women who are killed by an intimate partner are even more sobering. The victims reported stalking and abuse—to friends and the police—who were often as helpless as the victim to do anything about it.

So what to do with these depressing statistics?

I decided to put a human face on them. As the layers of So About the Money are revealed, the reader finds stalking in the backgrounds of both Marcy, the murder victim, and Holly Price, the amateur sleuth heroine. Surviving the ordeal deepens the bond between the women and drives Holly to find out not just who killed Marcy, but why was she murdered?

That, to me, is the beauty of an amateur sleuth or cozy. The author can build depth into the characters and plot without climbing onto a soap box.

Now of course I would never recommend you poison your obsessive, violent partner’s black-eyed peas, but I rather liked “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks (written by Dennis Lynde) as an alternative theme song.

Originally published as a guest post for Leslie Budewitz blog

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Left Coast Crime – The Great Cactus Caper

left-coast-crime-2016-2Phoenix (and warm sunny weather) are on my schedule for next week!

Left Coast Crime kicks off the Great Cactus Caper on February 25 and runs through the weekend. I’m really looking forward to it. I have my panel assignment – Romance Under the Gun, on Friday at 3 PM. Come join me! – volunteer assignment, and books arranged for the store.

Still have to pack…

balancing-rocksLeft Coast Crime is a reader/author event so the focus is on books rather than sessions for craft, marketing or business. (I might’ve had a fan girl moment or two at past events. 😉 ) It’s a great chance to meet and talk with readers and to catch up with writing friends. Since this year’s event is right around the corner, I shared a few scenes from Monterey and Portland, host cities for the last two years.

Readers – have you attended a reader oriented event? Likes? Dislikes?

Authors – same question, plus how to you think it compares to strictly writing conference event?

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Rocking the Day Job

Waving from warm, sunny Orlando today. Quite a change from last month’s endless snow.

I wish I could say I’m on vacation. Instead, I’m img_2473rocking the day job, teaching at my firm’s management school and taking a (shh! really boring) mandatory class made bearable by my peers (who also have to take it).

This week made me think about careers and balancing. I know authors who have ditched their day job to write full time. Many others are like me—working full-time at a job that pays the bills and offers health insurance. Since it’s the season to count your blessings and make plans for the new year, I’ll start with gratitude. I have an interesting job that sends me money twice a month. 

Layer in writing, volunteer gigs and the rest of my life, however, and it’s a lot of balls to keep in the air. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a number of blog posts talking about time management and work/life balance. Consistently, the best advice I’ve received is write every day. Even if it’s only a line or two, put those words on the page first thing in the morning. Otherwise, the day’s demands catch up (and often overwhelm) leaving you exhausted at the end of the day with no creative energy. I find if I get out of the “habit” of writing, days or weeks can slide past.

What about you? Are you rocking the day job? Writing full time? Balancing other commitments? What’s your best advice for maintaining balance or finding time to write?

Oh. And the deer came over to welcome me home to the snow.

the-deer-welcomed-me-home

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Marketing

For most authors, marketing is the least favorite part of publishing. Several weeks ago, on my mystery author loop, someone asked for suggestions about running a promotion campaign. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but since I had an upcoming new release, I volunteered to share my experience.

Many of my friends write romance and I wondered whether their sales strategy would translate to mysteries. I also didn’t want to drive myself insane with marketing/promo. 

So-About-the-Money-2-1563x2500 copySo About the Money released two weeks ago. 

I set up the following as a “plan”

1) I stacked a series of ads for release week: 

BKnights at fiverr was a complete bust. (Romance seems to work pretty well with him.) It was the only day during release week that sales decreased. He claims he will give you a refund if you don’t get a positive result. I requested a refund which he has so far ignored. 

ENT – $45; my best results. I popped up to around 2000 overall at Amazon and into the upper levels on the three genre lists.

Kindle Nation Daily & Book Gorilla slide-over – a major disappointment. This was my most expensive ad ($100) and usually the BG slide over is a day or two later. They ran them the same day. 

Free Kindle Books – at only $25, this produced the same number of sales as the more expensive KND ad.


I tried a new site this week (week 2), attempting to gain some exposure on the international sites: ebook bargains uk; only about $10 but pretty much a non-event.

I saw nice daily bumps from:
Book Release Daily
eBookstage
HBS Mystery Readers Circle
These three spots were free – they do pick and chose which books to feature.

Robin Reads turned me down and several of the ad sites aren’t available to new releases unless you rounded up a lot of reviews with ARCs. My bad. I didn’t do this. 

2) I did a daily meme post to a Facebook group, twitter and G+ community

Note – ONE post a day at each site. Do not turn into a spammer! 

This was actually a lot of fun and I love Canva.com. While doing my final read through of the book prior to release, I made a list of snippets which reflected some aspect of the story. I created a daily meme with a picture supporting one of these snippets. Friends and strangers (A BIG thank you to all of the people who shared it!) retweeted, liked and commented. By using a bit.ly shortener I could see which posts got click throughs. 

Takeaway? 

At the end of two weeks, with the second using only the daily posts, So About the Money is still sitting around 4-5000 at Amazon overall and is still in the top 100 of the genre lists. 

A series of ads for visibility is awesome for building traction. Having a social media presence without being a complete pain is great for keeping the ball rolling. 

Friends had told me promo was a waste of time until I had at least 4 books released. As usual, my more experienced friends were right. As we slide into week 3 post-release, all of my other books are showing upticks in sales. 

Hope this is helpful

 

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