Category Archives: Vegan

Giving Thanks

Here in the US, our annual mid-fall feast of Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November. Things are a bit weird here in good old USA right now, as most of the world knows. Nevertheless, I have many blessings to be thankful for, and being able to provide a wonderful meal for my family is certainly not the least of them.

I am cooking for the family this year. I cook a turkey, even though I am vegan. But I also prepare a Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry en Croute holiday roast. It’s plant-based protein, delicious, smells amazing while it cooks, and is divine with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Regardless of the protein we choose, I always feel like the side dishes are the best part of the meal. I always go a little wild on the vegan cheese tray. Miyoko’s Kitchen makes the most amazing spreadable cheese, and it’s all plant-based. It’s quite expensive, but for a special occasion, it is so worth it.

I don’t even bother to make the icky green bean casserole that no one eats, but everyone makes anyway. Other than that, I am making all the usual sides and have included the links to the recipes below:

Roasted Ruby Sweet Potatoes

Maple and Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Cranberry sauce

Vegan Cranberry Pecan Stuffing

Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe

Vegan Gluten Free Gravy recipe

Vegan Mashed Potatoes recipe

Miyoko’s Kitchen|Artisan Cultured Vegan Cheese

Fruit Salad

Green Salad

We will have plenty of pies and sweets and lots of savory finger foods. So, today I am doing the prep, getting a lot of the cooking out of the way. I have bread to bake, and even though I have a feast to prepare, I will get my daily wordcount by using the small increments of downtime while things are cooking.

That is how I cook any big holiday dinner for my extended family—I start prepping food two days ahead, and by writing whenever I have a ten or fifteen minute pause in the preparations, I don’t fall behind.

This also allows me to enjoy my family on Thanksgiving Day because most of the work is already done.

After all, it may be a national holiday here in the US, but it’s still NaNoWriMo, and while I have officially “won” as of the 20th, getting that badge for updating every day is my next goal, and doesn’t happen until the last day of the month. Besides, I haven’t written all the stories on my list of prompts yet, although I have made good headway in creating my backlog of short stories.

On Friday, my husband and I will rest up, enjoy leftovers, and think about decorating the outside of the house for Christmas.

This world can be a hard place for some people to live. I am fortunate to be safe and well-fed, luxuries I thank God for every day. Where ever you are in this big world, I hope you have plenty to give thanks for.

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The Summer Retreat #amwriting #amvegan

This week I’m traveling, visiting my favorite summer retreat, Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s about a four hour drive from my home, but we make a longer trip because we like to stop in Astoria.

I live all year for this week of rest and restoration. We join other members of our family there and reconnect over food, kite-flying, and long strolls on the beach.

The sunshine and occasionally stormy waters, the seabirds–this place inspires me and clears my head like no other place. I write whenever the muse seizes me. Our little condo is one we regularly rent. The owners have come to know us, and it’s perfectly situated, just steps from the beach but also in the middle of town. More importantly for us, it comes with a fully outfitted kitchen. As always, I cook many meals for my family, and my sister-in-law also cooks, so we don’t starve.

I know it seems odd to many people, but being vegan means, I eat nothing that came from an animal. No cheese, no meat, no eggs. People immediately think “how complicated!” but it’s not complicated at all if you know what to use instead. It’s simply a diet that celebrates vegetables and grains and all the many ways to eat them. Vegans consume nothing from animals, vegetarians may or may not eat dairy or eggs.

People can be inadvertently rude  when they hear I am vegan, but I realize it’s just ignorance speaking. I never engage in words with these people, as they have already pigeonholed me as a “looney fad dieter,” simply because I admit to my dirty little habit of not consuming other living creatures.

In case this worries you, we all know that humans do need a certain amount of protein as part of their balanced diet, and it is easy to get that nutrition from plants. In fact, even vegans eat far more grams of protein daily than the minimum daily requirements.

In a post for the website, Forks over Knives, Dr. Michael Greger answers the question that vegans and vegetarians hear all the time: “Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?”

The average recommended intake of protein is 42 grams a day.

Non-vegetarians eat way more than that (almost 80 grams), but so does everyone else.

Vegetarians and vegans actually average 70% more protein than they need every day (over 70 grams).

When a person changes to a completely different cuisine, we need to learn how to prepare the new-to-us ingredients, and we want to keep the same flavors and textures we are used to. My favorite comfort food recipes adapted easily to vegan. My food is simple to make and inexpensive. I make my own staples usually, from recipes found in my three favorite cookbooks.

The first book that has been worn out in my kitchen is The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples, by Miyoko Schinner.

The Blurb:

A guide to creating vegan versions of pantry staples–from dairy and meat substitutes such as vegan yogurt, mayo, bacon, and cheese, to dressings, sauces, cookies, and more.

Kitchen crafters know the pleasure of making their own staples and specialty foods, whether it’s cultured sour cream or a stellar soup stock. It’s a fresher, healthier, more natural approach to eating and living. Now vegans who are sick of buying over-processed, over-packaged products can finally join the homemade revolution.

Studded with full-color photos, The Homemade Vegan Pantry celebrates beautiful, handcrafted foods that don’t take a ton of time, from ice cream and pizza dough, to granola and breakfast sausage. Miyoko Schinner guides readers through the techniques for making French-style buttercreams, roasted tomatoes, and pasta without special equipment. Her easy methods make “slow food” fast, and full of flavor.

The Homemade Vegan Pantry raises the bar on plant-based cuisine, not only for vegans and vegetarians, but also for the growing number of Americans looking to eat lighter and healthier, and anyone interested in a handcrafted approach to food.

The next book that is a wonderful idea generator for me is Robin Robertson’s Veganize It!

The Blurb:

Vegan pantry staples plus enticing recipes in which to use them

This is the ultimate DIY pantry book, doing double duty with recipes for vegan staples, plus ideas on how to use them as building blocks in both new and classic recipes. Many cooks prefer to make their own basics rather than buy expensive store versions, which are often loaded with additives and preservatives. These easy recipes make it easy to stock a home pantry. Enjoy milks, cheeses, bacon, burgers, sausages, butter, and vegan Worcestershire sauce in your favorite dishes, and then try delicious recipes using the staples. Sample Bahn Mi, Sausage Biscuits, Meaty-Cheesy Pizza, Milk Shakes, Jambalaya–even Jerky and Lemon Meringue Pie. With more than 150 recipes and 50 color photos, this will become an indispensable cookbook for vegans–and everyone else who enjoys animal-free food.

I like to get fancy with my meals sometimes, especially during holidays. Seattle-based chef, Tommy McDonald’s Field Roast: 101 Artisan Vegan Meat Recipes to Cook, Share, and Savor is my best friend when I want to prepare something fancy that will impress folks. This cookbook has the recipes that fine restaurants should have but don’t.

The Blurb:

Hailed as 2015’s Company of the Year by VegNews Magazine, the Field Roast Grain Meat Co. offers their first cookbook, with over 100 delicious, satisfying vegan recipes.

In Field Roast, Chef Tommy McDonald shares fundamental techniques and tips that will enable you to make your own vegan meats at home–for everyday (sandwiches, burgers, meatloaf) to holiday (stuffed roast, anyone?), as well as recipes for using them in every meal from breakfast through dinner. The 100 recipes are flexible: want to make your own plant-based meats? Great! Want to use Field Roast products instead? That will work too. All you need are grains, veggies, and spices–easy-to-find whole food ingredients for authentic, hearty taste. With basics such as cutlets and sausages, along with dishes like Burnt Ends Biscuit Sandwich, Chicken Fried Field Roast and Waffles, Pastrami on Rye, Tuscan Shepherd’s Pie, Curry Katsu, (and even some favorite desserts), Field Roast brings new meaning to plant-based meat.

I prefer a hardbound cookbook to an online site when I am cooking. They get a bit messy, but that’s because they are well-used. I can write my notes and adjustments in them. When I became vegan, these three books were all I needed to learn how to keep the grand kids and carnivores in my family loving my cooking. I give these books as gifts to friends who choose to embrace vegan cuisine.

Rest assured, our vacation always involves both eating well and enjoying the company of my favorite people—and there is plenty of writing as that part of my life never stops for long. The many moods of the North Pacific never fail to inspire me!


Credits and Attributions:

Forks Over Knives, Do Vegetarians and Vegans Eat Enough Protein? © 2015 by Naomi Imatome-Yun, https://www.forksoverknives.com/do-vegetarians-and-vegans-eat-enough-protein/ (Accessed August 16, 2018)

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#amwriting: The Vegan Road Trip

tacos and burritosI had planned to be out of town this week, babysitting one of the youngest of my grandchildren (13 months old), but alas! The four-year-old has a cold, and Grandma is not interested in having another bout of pleurisy — last fall’s episode was enough, thank you very much.

It’s a busy week, here at La Casa Del Jasperson. On Tuesday we will hosting a guest for a few days, an adult granddaughter who will be up from Los Angeles for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

For me, traveling out of town for any overnight stay involves a lot of logistics, as I am vegan.  My daughters aren’t vegan, but all three have been in the past and know I’m not difficult to cook for. Bake me a potato, offer me some guacamole to dress it up, and finish it off with a salad dressed with oil and vinegar, and I’m a happy camper.

I know it seems odd to many people, but being vegan means I eat nothing that came from an animal. No cheese, no meat, no eggs. People immediately think “how complicated!” but it’s not complicated at all. It’s simply a diet that celebrates vegetables and grains and all the many ways to eat them. Vegans consume nothing from animals, vegetarians may or may not eat dairy or eggs.

So, what do I eat and how do I flavor it? Beans, rice, any vegetable, or grain. I do like certain tempeh dishes, as tempeh is made from soybeans, but differs from tofu (which I love for curries) in that it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh has ‘tooth.’ As in everything, how you marinate the protein, tofu or tempeh, before you cook it is what will make it tasty, whereas just plain tofu or tempeh is too bland. That blandness is that is what gives them the bad reputation among new vegetarians who don’t understand how to prepare them.

A great source of simple recipes for creating flavorful tofu and tempeh can be found at Veg Girl Rd .Com.

But you don’t have to cook these things for me. I’m happy with rice and veggies.

Flavor for gravies, pilafs, and soups comes from vegetable broth. There are two ways to get good rich flavor using vegetable broth, but my go-to store bought product for use at home is the reliable kitchen staple, Better Than Bouillion Vegetable Base. Otherwise, I make my own veggie broth base, using the recipe I found here: Homemade Vegetable Soup Base. It’s quick and simple, and is one of those shortcuts to great flavor that I regularly employ.

Other than that, I eat regular vegetables, just sautéed in olive (or any other organic vegetable oil) rather than in butter, which comes from cows. I use almond milk or coconut milk,  Tofutti brand Better Than Sour Cream, and also their Better Than Cream Cheese, two dairy-free and delicious products. I also use an egg-free mayonnaise, Veganaise, which tastes just like Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman’s if you are from the East Coast) but is made with no animal products.

bread machineThe great thing about being vegan is how little it costs to eat well. Going sans meat is the lazy person’s dream diet. It’s amazing how quickly you can get a meal on the table, and when you are making beans from scratch, the crockpot is your best friend. I even make my own bread from several different recipes using my bread machine, which takes less than five minutes to assemble the ingredients. It hardest part for me is remembering to push the button to start baking. (I laugh, but it is a problem.)

I would far rather spend my time writing than cooking, but meals in our household are celebrated. Our time at the table is where we come together and talk about the day and things that are important to us, and good food makes our mealtime cozy and comforting.

So, in honor of that family tradition, I offer one hour a day to the cooking gods, and try to be as creative as the fresh vegetables in the grocery store will allow. On the housekeeping front, I may spend 20 minutes a day tidying the house (or not), but the rest of the day is mine to do as I want, which is writing or reading. And, since I don’t spend a lot of time cooking for me, I don’t expect anyone else to either.

Portland, Oregon is paradise for vegans and vegetarians. The city and  surrounding suburbs are full of restaurants catering to those of us who are of the vegan persuasion, and so this road trip will be both full of family events and delicious.

Food is central to a region’s culture, and the West Coast, Portland and Seattle in particular, are great places for vegans and vegetarians to travel and dine when on the road. Fortunately for me, this area is where I do most of my traveling.

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#amwriting: #gratitude

gravy_1The best thing about the Thanksgiving meal is the gravy.

Just saying.

And for this vegan, mashed taters and mushroom gravy are heaven on a plate.

To be vegan means I only eat plants and foods made from plants. I don’t eat meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. Unlike some people, I’m not evangelical about my dietary choice. I simply bring my own food wherever I go.

I choose this diet because I have an autoimmune form of arthritis triggered by dairy and animal proteins. I have been pain-free since adopting this lifestyle in 2012. In terms of money, it’s far less expensive, as beans are my go-to protein source, and a variety of vegetables are relatively inexpensive. Other family members have more ethical reasons for not eating animals–if you are curious as to the many reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle, click here.

We’re going to daughter number two’s house this year. I am bringing vegan foods, as there will be several vegans there besides me. I make my mashed potatoes with lots of Earth Balance margarine (100% plant-based, unlike most margarines) and I also throw in a heft dollop of Sour Supreme (Tofutti’s brand of vegan sour cream). We don’t make mashed potatoes very often, as we are careful about the amount of fat we normally consume, but this is a special meal.

This year I am making everything gluten free that I can, because my daughter’s mother-in-law has celiac disease, and anything with gluten will make her terribly ill. I found an amazing recipe for that most delicious of comfort foods, gluten-free mushroom gravy as created by Molly Katzen. I’m also making a crustless pumpkin custard–the vegan pumpkin pie filling in custard dishes rather than in a pie shell. Wheat flour is the natural source of gluten, so there will be no wheat in anything I make and bring to this event.

I am not a fan of that well-known holiday staple, the Tofurkey, although many vegans are. I prefer to just eat the side-dishes and I do go a little wild on the vegan cheese tray. Miyoko’s Kitchen makes the most amazing spreadable cheese, and it’s all plant-based. It’s quite expensive, but for a special occasion it is so worth it.

I’m playing around with the idea of stuffed squash boats, using a savory wild-rice pilaf to stuff them with, if I can find the perfect squash. Or perhaps I’ll stuff the pilaf into those colorful little mini-peppers.

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Regardless, it will be a famdamily free-for-all as four of our five children will be there along with their extended families. The grandchildren will be running wild, our daughter’s kitchen will be packed, seven conversations will be occurring at once, and the noise level will approach that of a space-shuttle launch.

No longer the main cooks, my husband and I and the other older people will keep the grandparental eye on the littlest grandkids so their parents can get the meal ready to be served. When the tables are set, and the prayer is said, we old people will be thankful for our many, many blessings.

Here in the US, Thanksgiving “traditionally” marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, but I tell you this now: Being in the company of our children and their children, and sharing this meal with our children’s in-laws is a gift more precious than anything that could arrive wrapped in tissue paper.

The dinner will be loud, and not always polite as the youngest are still learning manners. There will be the lovingly waged war between the vegans and the carnivores. We will find common ground in the mashed potatoes and the two different kinds of gravy. But chaotic and messy though it will be, it will be a table full of love and that is a dish no one can pass up. This large, noisy, sometimes dysfunctional family we have blended from so many disparate pieces is the only real treasure we have. My husband and I are filled with gratitude for every minute we have in their company, grateful in ways that can’t be expressed with mere words.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe here

Vegan Gluten Free Gravy recipe here

Vegan Mashed Potatoes recipe here

Miyoko’s Kitchen|Artisan Cultured Vegan Cheese

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Fluff and Nonsense

storagecontainersI have parties for the same reason I have editors. Having a party forces me to get rid of the ‘fluff and nonsense’ that we acquire as part of modern living.

Consider the plastic container. I think of them the way I do the word ‘that’ — in other words, they have their place, but too many is just too many! Despite my best efforts they enter the house in insidious ways.

They arrive wrapped around butter (or vegan margarine,) I pick up a few to use to send leftovers home with loved ones, but more always arrive than are used–and the ones in the cupboard are never the size I need.

Then there are the glass jars–I go on binges of saving them because I don’t like plastic. But they are never the right size, and the lids get lost, and my favorite one always is full.

But lets talk about coffee cups.

coffee cupsHow the heck many does a household with two old people need? And where do these things keep coming from? But they’re like adjectives–I have far more in cupboard than are ever really needed. Some of these go with the two sets of dishes we need for when we have the family over, and this one was a gift, and this one fits perfectly in my minivan’s cup-holder….

At least maybe I can get rid of the chipped ones. But this is the one Mama liked….

Sigh.

But at least I can declutter the spare room where my grand-kids can play. Now that is an editing job worthy of a medal–the room has become my overflow room for stuff that won’t fit in the Room of Shame. The Room of Shame is my office, but it is also a warehouse for ‘mathoms’ (bear with me–I am a Tolkien freak)  Mathom is a word invented by Tolkien, constructed from an obsolete Old English word máðm “treasure, precious thing.”

Oh dear. My whole house is a warehouse for mathoms.

VasesVases–who needs twenty vases? And why am I driven to buy vases when I have more than funeral home could ever need? (Again like a favorite word–how many times  can I repeat this word before folks realize I have no imagination?) But they’re so pretty, sitting on this closet shelf where no one ever sees them….

Big family winter party=grandma cleaning house.

Grandma cleaning house is a boon to the recycling community–a van full of fluff and nonsense will go to be recycled back into the community. And on Sunday, the house will look so good, until the party starts. After the family begins to arrive, all bets are off as to how long it will take to clean up afterward.

 

 

 

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Winter Blues

The strange, dark days of winter have closed in on us. Sunrise won’t happen today until 7:43 a.m., and sunset will fall on us at 4:43 p.m.

That is 16 more minutes of daylight than on the 1st of January, but who’s counting?

This eternal darkness colors my general attitude, making me feel more like staying in bed than getting up and doing things. But then, I get involved in a project and forget how depressing the weather is.

bread machineI think I’ll make rosemary-bread today–I love it toasted. Being vegan, I usually make my own  in my bread machine. My family is used to homemade bread, and look forward to it when they come back to visit. One of my daughters commented that she missed the kind of bread we always had when she was growing up–I didn’t have a bread machine in those days-I just made it by hand. When I didn’t have time to make bread I made biscuits, which we still all love.

Today I am also making granola–another thing that is better when you make it yourself.

I do use locally sourced honey for my granola, which makes it not-vegan, but I am not a purist–honey is a good, natural sweetener and no bees are harmed in the process! For a change-up I use maple syrup. I’m not on the stevia or agave bandwagon, as I don’t really use a lot of sweeteners, and I’ve seen a lot of fads come and go.

My recipe for granola is as follows:

granolaHOMEMADE GRANOLA

BASIC INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup locally sourced honey or maple syrup
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 2 cups sliced almonds (or 1 cup sliced almonds and 1 cup chopped walnuts)

 

IDEAS FOR ADD INS (Mix and match–Use your imagination—Go wild!)

  • 1 1/2 cups small diced dried apricots
  • 1 cup banana chips (dried banana)
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup small diced dried figs
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries–I’m from where these are a locally grown product, so I use these most often.
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup dried chopped mango

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the oats, and coconut and almonds/walnuts together in a large bowl. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated.

Pour onto a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 45 minutes. I set the timer so that I am called to the kitchen to stir the granola every 8 minutes–if I forget that step, our granola may be a bit dark and crispy.

Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the dried fruits. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container

 http://ohmyveggies.com/recipe-creamy-wild-rice-mushroom-soup/


http://ohmyveggies.com/recipe-creamy-wild-rice-mushroom-soup/ (replace dairy with almond or coconut milk & Toffutti better-than-sour-cream)

Maybe I’ll make a crock pot soup too, something hearty and comforting. Then, once the house is in order I’m going to write for a while–it’s that sort of day.

Maybe the long dark days aren’t so bad–maybe they’re cozy and comforting in a way. Certainly life is simpler, and the really important things gain a sharper focus–family, friends, and food–the three ‘f’s of a full life.

Tomorrow there will be four more minutes of daylight, and the day after that, four more. Soon we will be at the summer solstice, where the sun rises at 4:11 a.m. and sets at 8:11 p.m.  (5:11 a.m. and 9:11 p.m. PDT)  How good it is to know we are on the ‘getting brighter’ side of the calendar!

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Talking with Erika M. Szabo

Field Roast holiday roast croppedWe survived another Christmas! The refrigerator is bursting with leftovers, and we had a wonderful dinner with one of our sons, and one of my brothers. Life is good! The carnivores said the turkey was good, but surprisingly to me, given the amount of teasing I endure at their hands, the Hazelnut Cranberry Holiday Roast en Croute was the star of show, with little of it being left over. The world did not stop in its orbit as the vegan meal was consumed with gusto, and no one left the table hungry!

I’m always intrigued by the way other authors think, and today, Erika M Szabo, author of The Ancestors’s Secrets series, has consented to answer a few questions for us.

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

ES: I became an avid reader at a very early age, thanks to my dad who introduced me to many great books. I started writing educational books twelve years ago when I received my PhD in Alternative Medicine. I love animals, therefore I created the Read for Animals anthology series and published two books with authors and poets to help animals. The story idea for Ancestor’s Secrets series came from my Hun heritage, from the legends and history. I created a magical, fantasy world using bits of real historical facts and incorporating real life events from my years of working as a trauma nurse into the story.

CJJ: I love that you are able to draw on your heritage for your work. Tell us about your most recent book.

ES:  In the Ancestor’s Secrets series, present and past blends into a paranormal fantasy tale with intriguing clan secrets, magical heritage, love triangle and Ilona’s exciting and dangerous life in a secret society. Ilona is a young doctor settled into a world of logic and reason. She inherits a world of traditions, well-kept secrets and magical powers, and is left to piece together her clan’s past, using nursery rhymes taught to her by her mother. Learning some of the secrets not only confuses her, but places her in mortal danger.  When a sinister man appears, Ilona connects his presence to a series of mysterious deaths. He can influence others to kill her, but why can’t he touch her? There are clues around every corner, and the elusive answers draw her further into the hidden world of her people.  As if the mysteries aren’t enough, her life becomes more complicated when she meets a dashing stranger. Although he saves her life by putting his own life in danger, she senses evil in him. The first book of The Ancestor’s Secrets series raises questions such as: what if there is a secret society exists hidden among us with its strict rules and fiercely enforced laws, and certain members come to possess magical powers? What if finding love, despite the obstacles thrown our way, is possible? What if we could have the power to visit the ancestors in the past and create our own future?

CJJ: That sounds intriguing! How did you come to write this novel?

ES: On a rainy afternoon I couldn’t find any new book to read. I was moping around, browsing my bookshelves, mumbling to myself. After a while my daughter had enough and snapped at me, “Mom, stop whining! If you haven’t a book to read, then write one.” Her challenge shocked me, but I started playing with the idea. I’ve never excelled in following rules or formulas, so I discarded the instructions I found in “how to write fiction” books, and made up my personal rules. At first, I started playing with the story just for my own enjoyment, I thought, writing the swirling ideas in my head was far better than being haunted by them. I kept writing for months, and soon I realized that I never had so much fun doing anything in my life before.

CJJ: I always wonder, and my reader do too, do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

ES:  When I started writing the novel series, I only had a vague outline of the story in my mind, and I kind of let the story develop on its own. Some parts are totally different now than I had originally planned.

CJJ: Many of us write fantasy, but how does your work differ from others of its genre?

ES: The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series written mostly in diary style with paranormal magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel.

CJJ: We each write for our own reasons, but why do you write what you do?

ES:  My favorite genre to read I love to read is magical realism/fantasy stories, therefore it is my favorite genre to write as well.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

ES: The first edition of my novel series was published by a traditional publisher. I was not satisfied with the editing, book cover, formatting, as well as the full control they had on the story. I decided to break the contract, form my own publishing company and edit, format and publish the story the way I like it.

CJJ: I had a similar experience! What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

ES:  Both have advantages and disadvantages. If your book is accepted by a traditional publisher, read the fine lines of the contract and if it doesn’t suit you, then go indie.

I so agree with you, Erika!  Thank you for visiting today, and I can’t wait to read these books!

erika szabo protectedbythefalconebookBook 1, Protected By The Falcon

Ilona is a doctor and is ruled by logic, yet when she starts to develop unusual powers, her beliefs change and she’s thrown into a world of mysteries, traditions and secrets. Nursery rhymes taught by her mother lead her to discover her clan’s past, which still exist with its fiercely enforced laws. A dangerous dark man stalks Ilona who is unexpectedly rescued by a handsome stranger, Zoltan. As their relationship grows, her feelings for best friend, Bela, starts to fade. When her life and the future of her people become threatened, she must gather all her courage and use her inherited powers to fight back. Infused with Hungarian legend, the twisting plot keeps the reader turning the pages of this extraordinary fantasy story. The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series with magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel that is a great read for fantasy lovers and also suitable for young adults.

http://www.amazon.com/Protected-Falcon-Ancestors-Secrets-Book-ebook/dp/B00LNBSKIY

erika m szabo ChosenbytheSwordebook (2)Book 2, Chosen By The Sword

In book one, Protected By The Falcon, Ilona is thrust from her easy and steady life and forced to face the unknown, which prompts her to discover the ancient tribal secrets. The rules of her ancient Hun clan that still exist with strict laws suffocate her, but she is resourceful and daring. She discovers secrets and obtains unimaginable powers to protect her sister, who bears the next leader of the clan. If she does not succeed, the fate of her people is at stake. She must sort through her own feelings about the men in her life. Will she choose Bela, her best friend, or the handsome and noble Zoltan? From the time when her people were nomads, the castles of the 14th century to the present, travel through time with Ilona as she struggles to overcome the obstacles placed in her path by ruthless individuals who want to inflict their rule on the Hun clan. The Ancestors’ Secret series is an epic fantasy, heroic romance series with paranormal magical powers, ancient legends, love triangle and time travel that is also suitable for young adults.

http://www.amazon.com/Chosen-Sword-Ancestors-Secrets-Book-ebook/dp/B00RAGLWVI

Short Bio of Erika M. Szabo:

ErikaMSzabo I became an avid reader at a very early age, thanks to my dad who introduced me to many great books. The writing bug bit me much later, on a rainy afternoon, when I couldn’t find any new book to read. My daughter had enough of my moping around and snapped at me, “Mom, stop whining! If you haven’t a book to read, then write one.” Her challenge shocked me, but I started playing with the idea. What if there is a secret society with strict rules and laws exist hidden among us? What if certain members come to possess magical powers? What if those abilities could be used to do good or evil? I’ve never excelled in following rules or formulas, so I discarded the instructions I found in “how to write fiction” books, and made up my personal rules. At first, I started playing with the story just for my own enjoyment, I thought, writing the swirling ideas in my head was far better than being haunted by them. I kept writing for months, and soon I realized that I never had so much fun doing anything in my life before.

If you are interested in seeing more of Erika’s work, here are her links:

WEBSITE: http://www.authorerikamszabo.com  

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Erika.M.Szabo.ND.Author

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/ErikaMSzabo

LINKEDIN: http://www.lnkd.in/N64qzw

GOOGLE: https://plus.google.com/112402888400847638099/posts   

PINTEREST http://www.pinterest.com/erikamszabo/

SMASHWORDS https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/GoldenBoxBooks

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The Queen of Bags

father-christmas-saint-02I love the sights and scents of the holiday season. Cookies baking, houses on our street with lighted displays–you don’t have to go wild to make a huge impression. My dear hubby always puts a few decorations out, little trees made of white lights and lighted candy-canes.

All up and down our neighborhood, homes are decorated for the season. Anyone driving through our little valley will see some ambitious displays. Our home is really quite simple in its holiday decorating–a tree, candles, a cute centerpiece for the table. We keep it simple because we have to tear it down and put it all away over New Year’s day, and that rapidly becomes a bore.  It’s work, and I don’t like anything that falls into the category of labor. But I love looking at other people’s efforts!

christmas-gift-bagsWrapping the presents is also a bore, but I am now the queen of bags! I love that all I have to do is remove the price-tag, fold a little tissue around it and stuff it in a bag. Jam a little tissue in the top and voila! Christmas is served! No more tape sticking to the wrong place, and no more hunting for the scissors I just set down.

Just lazy me, blowing through wrapping the pile of presents like a sleigh through snow!

We have a lot of grand-kids. We’ll make sure their gifts arrive at their houses before the big day. It’s sad when their presents are out from under our tree and under the trees in their homes because our tree looks a bit lonely. But not for long–we’ll soon have a few bags under there, just a little something for the two old people to enjoy on their quiet Christmas morning.

Field Roast holiday roastIt doesn’t take a lot to make the place feel festive. A little here and there, and the house feels warmer, cozier. An atmosphere of peace and well-being. I will roast a turkey breast for my hubby because he is a carnivore, but I will make a vegan entrée for me, a Hazelnut-Cranberry Roast made by the Seattle-based Field Roast Company. Everything I cook will be vegan except Greg’s turkey, and it will be delicious.

I make all the traditional dishes, substituting Earth Balance vegan margarine and almond or rice milk for the dairy. I use vegetable broth to make the cranberry-walnut stuffing. Anyone can eat well, if they choose to, and it’s not anymore expensive than eating junk-food, cheaper if you want to know the truth.

This is my recipe for:

onion and mushroom gravyONION AND MUSHROOM GRAVY

Ingredients:

  •  3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme and marjoram)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: 

In a large skillet, melt the vegan margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Sauté for just a minute or two over high heat.

Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.

santa in snow stormI love this time of year. Great food, all the Christmas lights and decorations–I kind of go nuts. When we take the presents round to our children’s homes I feel a sense of having succeeded–they have new traditions for their children, combined some from our past. I feel a sense of continuity–We’re the grandparents now, the old-fashioned ones, the ones who always have time for a cuddle and never deny a grandchild a cookie when he wants one.

We’re always there, slightly in the way of Mom getting things done, but trying not to be. We’re happy to be mauled, sat on, have our hair brushed, even our toe-nails painted if that’s what makes a child happy. We’ll play Legos with them until the cows come home, so their parents can get the real work of the holidays done.

When their parents were small, our parents were there for them, being the old, wise people who loved our children as unconditionally as we love our grandchildren. 

In this holiday dance, the circle is complete.

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NaNoWriMo: The Final Push

edgar allen poe quoteI’ve been talking a lot about NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. My friends are curious and ask if it’s a contest.

The answer is yes, in a way, but no.

It is a contest in the sense that if you write 50,000 words and have them validated through the national website you ‘win.’ But it is not a contest in the sense that it is a month that is solely dedicated to the act of writing a novel.

Now lets face it–a novel that is only 50,000 words long is not a very long novel. That falls more into the line of a long novella and is only half a novel, in my opinion. But a dedicated author can get the basic structure and story-line of a novel down in those thirty days simply by sitting down for an hour or two each day and writing a minimum of 1667 words per day.

That is not a lot. Most authors, when they are in the zone, double or triple that.

And again, we must face an ugly fact: Just because you can sit in front of a computer and spew words does not mean you can write anything that others want to read. Over the next few months there will be many books emerging that will testify to this fundamental truth.

But also, over the next few months many people will realize they enjoy writing; that for them this month of madness was not about getting a certain number of words written by a certain date. This was about writing and completing a novel they had wanted to write for years, something that had been in the back of their minds for the longest time. These people will join writing groups and begin the long journey of learning the craft of writing.

neil gaiman quote 2They are the real winners.

These authors will take the time and make the effort to learn writing conventions, they will attend seminars, they will develop the skills needed to take a story and make it a novel with a proper beginning, a great middle and an incredible end.

They will properly polish and edit their work and run it past critique groups before they publish it.

These are books I will want to read.

It’s not easy. Sometimes what we hear back from our readers and editors is not what we wanted to hear. The smart authors haul themselves to a corner, lick their wounds, and rewrite the damned thing so it’s more readable. They will be successful, for a variety of reasons, all of them revolving around dedication and perseverance.

But when we write something that a reader loves–that is a feeling that can’t be described.

Success as an author these days can’t be measured in cash. It can only be measured in what satisfaction you as an author get out of your work. Traditionally published authors see less of their royalties than indies, but they sell more books. It is a conundrum, and one many new authors will be considering in the new year.

But if you don’t write that book, you aren’t an author, and you won’t have to worry about it. NaNoWriMo will jump-start many discussions about this very issue. At this writing there are 3 days counting today left for many writers to get their 50,000 words and earn that certificate. Some of us have completed our first draft, and some of us still have a ways to go.

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileMy book has a beginning, a middle and an end, but will not become a novel for two or more years..  It is, instead, a rough draft sitting in the pile of other rough drafts, waiting to be rewritten when that flash of inspiration takes me over and I am driven to make it real. Huw the Bard began life in NaNoWriMo 2011, under the working title, The Bard’s Tale. He was published in 2014, and his story makes a darned good novel, if I do say so myself. (Shameless, I know.)

But although he was written in 30 days, he was then rewritten over the course of the following year, and edited over the course of the year after that. The life of a book from concept to publishing is a process. Some are quicker at negotiating this process than others, but having once rushed to publish with unhappy results,  I now take a more leisurely path.

 

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Mmmm…chocolate…

halloween kisses

Kisses of Death by artist Andrew Bell

I’ve always thought that if you really wanted to do something creepy for Halloween, you should hand out little mini-packs of chocolate covered ants, or something. I  just feel there is nothing scary about a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, and to do the most sinister night of the year justice, we should serve evil treats.

Halloween is the most important day of the year for many reasons–not the least of which is the annual midnight write in at Shari’s Restaurant for those intrepid heroes who can’t wait a minute longer to start their November Novel!

HTB New Front Cover with gold frameI wrote Huw the Bard in 2011 as my NaNoWriMo Novel–it had a different working title. In 2014 it was published, and the changes it went through in those two years was amazing. Fortunately I have a supportive husband who  regularly allows me to neglect him.

This year I am writing a novel that begins in the old west of northern New Mexico, where a journey to take a holy relic to be melted down at the smelters in Durango takes a terrifying turn into a world between the worlds. The first plan I had for this story was to co-write it with indie author Aura Burrows, but that didn’t pan out as various commitments made it impossible for us to get together on it, and she is unable to do it. But I fell in love with my main character, William Two Cats, and I am going to tell his story.

I have a working title, I have designed a placeholder book cover, I know who and what I am writing about, and tonight at midnight I am off to the races. On the National Novel Writing Month website I am Dragon_Fangirl, and you can see my book page and follow my progress here.

William Two Cats is a man of two worlds, the white-man’s world and the world of the A’shiwi–the people we call the Zuni Pueblo Indians,and yet he is a man of neither. His white mother insisted he be educated him in both cultures, and his Zuni father agreed. The tribal elders know he is destined to be firmly centered between the two worlds, and ensure he takes the path of the shaman. When we meet William, he has left the pueblo.

I can’t wait to get started on this new novel, counting down the hours to midnight…counting…counting….

Oh, look! We still have chocolate covered ants left! Yum!

What? They’re not vegan?

Curses….

ants

 

 

 

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