Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Synopsis Stuff

After a reply Tweet from a friend, I realized something big has changed:

I'm no longer afraid of writing synopses.

This might be because I've written seven in the last year, at least.  After about two or three, my attitude changed.  I started worrying less and focused more on "knocking it out," telling myself I'd change things later.

You know, like you're supposed to when writing.

So there you go.  My success tip for synopses.  Write them really fast.  Don't overthink them - all you need is to basically sketch out how the book follows a basic three-act structure.  Don't worry about all of the crucial information you're leaving out (hint: you'd be surprised how much you don't really need).  Don't worry about going to long or two short.

And remind yourself that everything - especially the book you're summarizing - can be changed.  Just because something is in your synopsis, doesn't mean it has to be in the book.

The caveat to that is that the synopsis is what your publisher uses to write catalogue copy, possibly before you're done.  So if you change things up, let them know.  I was waffling about whether or not Sara went to visit her sister Rebecca for a while.  The catalogue release sewed that one up.

So there you go. Happy synopsis writing!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Panini Post

I've written about my lunch-related angst before. At long last, I seem to have made a breakthrough.

Hello Panini.  Let's be friends.

Paninis solve several problems.  First, the bread is grilled, so you're unlikely to get icky bits of bread stuck in your teeth, which I hate.  Also, the grilling is pretty forgiving. You can use somewhat stale-ish bread, and it's okay.

I mean, I wouldn't serve it that way if I ran a restaurant.  But this is me, in my kitchen, at lunchtime.  I'm good with stale-ish bread.

Also, there is almost always cheese.  I love cheese.

And the pressing method warms the sandwich through, so you can put all sorts of veggies inside (ones more nutritious, say, than the requisite lettuce leaf).

Did I mention there are hundreds of variations?  This one is a variation on one of my signature sandwiches (I used ham and provolone instead of prosciutto and fontina), and I'm dying to try this one (with less bread, though, the one pictured is a bit overwhelming.

What's also great is that Danny enjoys them too.  We had dinner at Frost Me Sweet here in Richland, and while he was a bit wary going in (the seafoam green exterior paint and girly writing on the sign doesn't really connote manfood within), their Italian panini won him over.

Also, they had french fries.

But back to the panini.  It's pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, mozzarella and marinara sauce - very approachable for the red-blooded American male.  Also very easy to recreate at home.

(Side note - the salted caramel cupcake at Frost Me Sweet? Very good.)

So we bought a panini press.  You can spend a lot of money on them (one at TJ Maxx was going for $80), but I opted for the Hamilton Beach model.  Large enough to accommodate two sandwiches, a nice swivel-y top (so the top presses straight down, not from an awkward acute angle), but not particularly expensive.  Also, fits nicely on top of our mini-convection oven.

Here are some panini ideas in case you're feeling adventurous...

~ Southwestern (kind of) Panini ~

Inspired by the one at Starbucks, not available in Tri-Cities or the city of Memphis.

Flatbread if you have it, ciabatta, or sliced sourdough if you don't
Salsa
Sour Cream (I use light)
Monterey Jack cheese
Deli roasted chicken
Red and green bell peppers
Olive oil

Brush the outer slices of bread (i.e. the bread that will wind up on the outside) with olive oil, or spray if you have a spritzer or Pam-type olive oil spray), lay out on cutting board.  Mix the salsa with the sour cream in equal portions, spread onto bread.  Add some cheese to one side, then chicken, peppers, and more cheese on top (helps everything to stick together).  Grill until golden.

Note: Cheese will ooze.  Lost cheese is sad, so keep your cheese towards the middle.  Don't worry, it'll spread to the edges on its own.

~ Pear and Brie Panini ~

Inspired by a sandwich at Cafe Eclectic, by far one of the best places to eat (sans BBQ) in Memphis.

Brie
Thin-sliced Ripe Pear
Ciabatta Bread
Honey
Honey-Dijon mustard (optional)
Arugula

Slice Ciabatta in half, hollow it out a bit.  Feed the leftover bits of bread to the dog.  Brush the outsides with olive oil.  Mix some mustard and the honey together in a very small container (measuring cup works well), spread onto inside of bread.  Stack thin-sliced brie, pear, and arugula on the inside.  Press until golden and the brie is completely melted.

~ Italian Panini ~

Bread of Choice (sliced sourdough, ciabatta, Italian - really can't go wrong here)
Pizza sauce of choice (I like Boboli; use a pizza sauce rather than jarred marinara - less watery, less likely to soak the bread and get grossly soggy on the inside.  Which isn't what happened at Frost Me Sweet, but has happened elsewhere)
Salami of choice (I use Genoa)
Prosciutto
Pepperoni (I decline, but Danny likes it)
Roasted Red Peppers (optional)
Arugula (optional)
Mozarella cheese (aged or fresh)

Spray/brush bread with olive oil.  Stack ingredients. Cook. Enjoy.

~ Sweet Potato Fries ~

Partly inspired by Frost Me Sweet, who bake their fries with minced garlic, parsley, and shaved Parmesan cheese, and partly inspired by the idea that sweet potato fries are better for you but not quite *there* yet.

Frozen Sweet Potato Fries (make your own fresh and fry them yourself, but this is faster. This is lunch, people)
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh OR freeze-dried (thank you, Lighthouse!) Parsley
Olive Oil
Garlic, minced
Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Parmesan, grated or shaved

Pour some olive oil into a medium-ish bowl.  Add spices and garlic, let them sit for a few minutes to infuse a bit.  Toss in frozen fries, throw them around with your hands until they're adequately coated. Dump them onto a foil-lined pan; top with sea salt and a couple twists of cracked pepper.  Bake according to the package instructions.  Top with cheese once they're out of the oven; serve when cheese has melted.

Those are my food obsessions - what are you eating and enjoying right now?

BTW, booked my hotel room for ACFW. Who all is St. Louis-bound?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Kindle Reads

I promise I really will announce the winners of the PW contest; I need to get my husband to pick a random number - all about fairness here!

Productivity has come to a screeching halt since I came down with a cold over the weekend.  I don't do mild colds.  When they happen, they're big and gross and frankly it's just best to stay home and remain in a fetal position.  Thankfully I only tend to get sick twice per year.

Anyway (sorry, totally burying the lead here), know that Amazon has a bunch of Kindle books on sale for summer.  This was well-timed in my case, since I was in need of something to read between sneezes.  My recommendations?

(Though you should note that I haven't read all of these books, but the ones I'm posting I've either read or would very much like to)


Eva Marie Everson's This Fine Life, currently free,


Julie Carobini's Fade to Blue, on sale for $1.99,


Denise Hildreth's Savannah from Savannah,


Sara Evans' and Rachel Hauck's The Sweet By and By


Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz (always a classic),


...and James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure, for the writerly-minded, all listed for $1.99.


For $2.99, take a look at Mary Ellis's A Widow's Hope,


Helen Hollick's The Forever Queen (reading this now, so far very interesting),


Susanna Kearsley's Winter Sea,


....and hello there, familiar faces! It's my first-born, Plain Jayne.

Happy reading!