Tag Archives: vegan lifestyle

#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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#amblogging: why authors should blog, take 3: the vegan

avacado dinner salad

my favorite avocado dinner salad

One of the things I love most about writing is this blog. I have made so many friends though this little place on the internet. Blogging offers me the opportunity to riff for several hundred words on any subject I’m interested in, without interruption. Of course, I’m usually only interested in writing-craft, but this is where I come to discuss it.

Nothing improves your writing chops more than writing every day. Deadlines can be daunting but say what you will about not being able to write under pressure—I think that is when I do my best work.

And, today I don’t feel like talking about writing. I want to discuss food! As many know, I am vegan, but my descent into veganism was (sadly) not motivated by any high moral prohibition against animal cruelty. There is a certain amount of that, but it was always there in the the way I purchased food for my family. During the 1980s, much of our meat we raised ourselves, cage free, free range chickens, and sheep raised in traditional farming methods.

However, I have developed an auto-immune variety of arthritis that is triggered by meat and dairy–all forms of it. Whenever I go off my diet (and cheese is the big draw) I pay the price. So, I stay on my vegan diet and I feel good.

I have discovered a wonderful resource for amazing, healthy, vegan food: the internet.

I know! It’s not just for Facebook and online gaming.

There is information out there, and it’s all in blogs. One of the best sites for me is called The Minimalist Baker. Today the main picture on their site is a gorgeous image of peppers stuffed with cauliflower rice. That image is eye candy. I will definitely be making some form of this recipe.

Oh my gosh! That website, and the recipes Dana and John have put together are just amazing. I use more of their recipes as the basis of my own cooking than from any other website or book.

Changing your diet is difficult, because you have to change your habits. Sometimes you have to change the flavors you love, and learn to like new ones.

And if you are just starting out and can’t afford to buy cookbooks, the internet offers an incredible wealth of free information, and much of it in the form of blogs by people like me.

I love to eat as much as I love to read, and I could easily talk for hours on either subject. If you are passionate about a particular subject, a blog is a great place to talk about it. It brings together people with similar interests, and for a writer, blogging is crucial, as it gets your name out there. Blogging shows people you can write well, and blogging regularly forces you to be creative.

If you want to know more about getting your own blog up and running, see my post of December 14, 2015, Blogging is Writing TooThis post talks about how to use the new default system here at WordPress so that you can insert pictures and make a nice looking post.

  • Keep it down to about 1000 words more or less.
  • Use the spellchecker tool to look for obvious errors.
  • Write in draft form and don’t publish it right away–come back and read it over again, and make corrections.
  • If you use information found elsewhere, quote it and credit the author
  • Use images that are either public domain, or that you have the right to use
  • Put links to other informative sites in the text
chocolate chip cookies, vegan

chocolate chip cookies, vegan and yummy

Rule number one: be consistent. I began by blogging once a week on a now defunct site—but my actual posts were more often made only once or twice a month. I dreaded it and didn’t want to do it. My blog stats were in the tank because I wasn’t applying myself to it.

It’s a commitment, and authors are procrastinators, but we can write to deadlines when we have to, and it’s good for us.  Now I am writing three posts a week on this blog, and at least one post a week for each of several other venues. I spend Sundays putting my blog posts together, which I couldn’t do if I was still raising children, but you only need to blog once a week to keep your content fresh. Writing this post took me about 45 minutes, so that is a small time commitment.

But just like a healthy diet and a walk in the fresh air, a change of writing scenery is good for you.

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Vegans #GiveThanks too: The Famdamily Feast

1024px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Peasant_Dance_-_1526-1530 to 1569I make no secret that I am vegan. It confuses my friends, and my family tolerates it. They worry what to feed me. I always say, “Vegetables.”

I like food that is
– made with Non GMO ingredients
– 100% meat and dairy free (vegan) made from ingredients with words I understand and can pronounce.

I don’t really care for the traditional vegan staple, the Tofurkey roast, although many vegans do enjoy that particular product. I LOVE Tofurkey brand’s tempeh products, and use them all the time.  I even like their 100% meat free hot dogs.

Field Roast celebrations roastI prefer Field Roast products, when it comes to getting my protein in a vegetable form. Thus, while I am roasting an actual organic, free-range turkey for my sadly carnivorous family, I will also make myself a Field Roast brand Celebration roast, with a cranberry glaze.

All of the traditional side dishes will be there but they will have no animal product in them–and there will be no  lack of Thanksgiving flavor at my table!

I will make the traditional sweet-potatoes, using Dandies vegan marshmallows.

There will be chips and salsa and guacamole, and  tea-bread and  chocolate chip cookies. No one but me will know they are vegan, because there are many great recipes that don’t require butter or eggs.

I will make mashed potatoes, using Earth Balance margarine (100% vegan, has no lactose in it) and almond milk:

  • 5 to 6 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp vegan margarine optional
  • 1 cup Almond milk, warmed (rice milk if allergic to nuts)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

My mashed potatoes will pass the taste test–Courtney, the pickiest eater ever, will love them.

I will make Balsamic Roasted Vegetables with this glaze:

1/3 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

homemade croutons image © connie jasperson

homemade croutons

I will also make a tasty Vegan Stuffing, using croutons made from homemade bread: Made like garlic bread, cubed, and seasoned with my own poultry seasoning. Baked at 350 for 25 minutes, stir half way through.

  • 10 cups 1/2 inch bread cubes from 1 lb firm wh wheat or other sandwich bread
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic (2 – 3 cloves)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1+1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaf
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 – 3 cups vegetable stock OR 3 c. water + veggie BetterThanBoullion to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large shallow casserole dish

  1. Toast bread cubes in a large baking sheet in the oven until golden brown. Set aside in a large bowl
  2. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Sauté onions, garlic, and celery until soft
  4. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the veggie mixture to the bowl of bread crumbs
  5. Add parsley, sage, thyme, optional salt, and pepper
  6. Optional: Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil into the mixture
  7. Stir until until everything is well mixed
  8. Add 2 cups vegetable stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Add more stock as needed so that the mixture is moist and clumping together, but not soggy
  9. Bake in a covered shallow casserole or baking dish for 25 minutes
  10. Optional: Uncover and bake another 15 minutes to form a crusty top
onion and mushroom gravy

picture via google images

But the best part will be the ONION AND MUSHROOM GRAVY

  • 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
  1. In a large skillet, melt the vegan margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Sauté for just a minute or two over high heat.
  2. 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.
  3. Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.

And–there will be pumpkin pie and cherry pie, with coconut whipped cream, all made with all-vegetable ingredients.

Vegan pumpkin pie–for the recipe, click here: Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

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R & R for the soul

the goonies posterAs of this week I am on vacation. Yay for the burning heat or foggy chill of the Oregon Coast! As always we are in Cannon Beach, where the weather is random and as many of our large family as can make it come to kick off our shoes and play in the surf. This year several great-grandchildren I have never met are visiting from the east coast.

We are engineers and designers as well as artists and musicians–we will build a monument to sandcastles!

Or hang out at grandma’s condo and assemble a jigsaw-puzzle if it should suddenly turn cold and rainy.

Or we’ll watch TV on my son-in-law’s portable outdoor theater, which I find intriguing–I rarely watch TV at home. But we have to watch The Goonies, since we are in Cannon Beach–it’s a family tradition and a rule.

Tenth_of_DecemberFor reading material, I have my kindle loaded with Tenth of December by George Saunders. I listened to the Audible book, and I was so impressed with Saunders’ narration that I have to read it with my own eyes. Yep–this will be an awesome, relaxing reading-for-pleasure kind of vacation.

By virtue of past experience with Cannon Beach cuisine, I know I can eat in several cafes that offer vegan/vegetarian options–they are good, but limited.

But we always rent a condo, and I am doing most of my own cooking, as no one really gets that vegans eat vegetables–go figure! (oh god, a vegan–what will I cook?) I am the queen of barbecue tofu sliders, and all food homemade, not just vegan.

We always stay down by Ecola, and love that end of the beach. Watching the grand-kids and great-grand-kids play in the sun and surf is awesome. Making vegan smores is a total treat. The others are not vegan but I use vegan chocolate and if I can’t find any Dandies, I just won’t eat the marshmallows. The simplicity of sitting around the fire at night listening to my kids talk about their work, their ambitions, and their parenting lives inspires a sense of pride in me that is hard to explain.

The little ones are building memories that will bind them closer together, cousins with a common history of one particular place they went, a week-long family party, and a summer that seemed endless.

Amaranthus and Savvy at the needles by haystack rock cannon beach 2012Kite-flying is my big down-time hobby. I keep it simple, and have found through experience that flying a kite in the fog is not always as easy as it sounds. In many ways writing is a lot like flying a kite–it takes a little effort, but wow, once you’re aloft it’s mesmerizing.

I always return completely revitalized, and ready to get back into publishing and writing. Who knows what amazing revelations regarding my work will have occurred to me while I am enjoying the views and salt-sea air that Ursula K. Le Guin frequently enjoys?

Le Guin’s work was one of the many that inspired me to think I might be able to write–her way of telling a story was so compelling I couldn’t get enough of it. The first book of hers that I read,  A Wizard of Earthsea is set in the fictional archipelago of Earthsea. I loved how she painted that world with words, and brought it to life in my mind. And it was just my cup of tea–the story follows the education of a young mage named Ged who joins a school of wizardry—and is my favorite fantasy book of all time. She knows how to write great prose, and how to keep it moving so that even picky-wannabe-critics forget they are reading great prose.

Now, if only some of that  gift for word-bending will rub off on me while I am building sandcastles and flying kites in her old stomping grounds!

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Norwescon 2015

NorWesCon 2015 - 1This weekend I am at Norwescon in Seattle, Washington, along with fellow Myrddin Publishing Group author, Lee French. This is where I get to do both the work and the fun stuff that goes along with being an author–AND Huw the Bard will be offered on the NIWA table!  How cool is that?

Norwescon is a gamer-scifi-fantasy addict’s paradise.  The guests of honor are George R. R. Martin (Author), Julie Dillon (Artist), Amy Mainzer (Science), and Random House (Spotlight Publisher) represented by Anne Groell and Tricia Narwani.

Plus, there will be a large number number of seminars and special events: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night each feature a DJ’d dance in the grand ballrooms, and Lazer Tag and many other games. Friday features an 18-and-over special event. And, don’t forget the Masquerade, complete with Children’s Masquerade. Holy cosplay!

Michael Tinker Pearce came by our booth on Thursday,  and I have to say I loved his work, Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman. I really enjoyed meeting him–he’s a charming man.

000510Of course, food is tricky–the vegan must provide for herself while on the road. One can only hope that the room she ordered at her hotel that is within walking distance of the event will have the kitchenette as she had requested. Otherwise she will be downstairs at the breakfast area using the microwave at all hours.

Feeding myself at these events is always a challenge, even at conventions where they claim to provide for “special” dietary needs.  How hard is it to bake a damned potato and garnish it with a little guacamole, and some veggies sauteed in olive oil?  Apparently impossible, as proven by my annual PNWA conference dietary fiasco at the Hilton. I look forward to seeing how they manage to screw up “special” needs every year. Last year I was literally the last person to be served at the banquet, and the food arrived cold and inedible–and my table mates had long since finished theirs when mine was delivered.

Being glared at by the servers for wistfully hoping to eventually see a plate of food was also to be expected–after all, “special dietary needs” are a selfish fad designed to draw attention to ones self, don’t you know.

But Norwescon will be different. It’s far less expensive to attend, less than 1/5 the cost of PNWA (indies pay their own way, you know) and they proved snacks but you aren’t tied to their menu.

The difference is this: PNWA is a writer-focused event with seminars, agent, and editors attending and presenting seminars. I’ve found the writers who give the seminars there to be really entertaining and THAT is why I attend. It is an awesome, inspiring conference that recharges me.

Julie Dillon will be speaking at Norwescon, and as a wannabe artist myself, I’m quite intrigued by her work. The covers art she does for mainstream fantasy authors is just as high a quality as that of the legendary Michael Whelan.

George R. R. Martin photoSo I get to hang out in the dealers area with my friends from NIWA, buy a new T shirt or two designed by some crazy-gifted people, and I will get to hear George R.R. Martin speak on Sunday morning. Don’t love his work, but I adore him as a man and as a speaker.

If I am really crafty, I can get my pristine, barely-been-read first edition of A Game of Thrones signed during one of George’s 3 scheduled signing events–wowsers.

During the hippie era, of which I was a late entry to, most hippies did not refer to themselves as hippies as that was really term used when our parents were complaining about us. Mostly we referred to ourselves as freaks, since the mainstream society considered our willful desire for world peace to be aberrant. But out of that culture grew some of the best scifi and fantasy authors and artists of all time.

And so I say, it’s good to be a freak in a land where freaks really know how to freak! Norwescon will be an adventure for sure!

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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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Virtual unreality

midnight-new-years-champagneWhat are your New Years traditions? Normally my hubby and I do something a little fun to celebrate, but this year we were pretty low-key. I’ve been suffering from a flu-like virus, and I was finally fairly mobile, enough to go out to dinner at the local Mexican restaurant we like so much.

Then we spent New Year’s eve at an all-night party with friends from all over the world. I love the virtual reality of the internet universe. You’re never alone unless you log off Facebook.

canapes (1)My publisher, Myrddin Publishing threw a great virtual New Year’s party on Facebook where the authors and readers got to meet and have a rollicking time in the virtual universe. For a short time (until Sunday Jan 4th 2015) kindle downloads of Huw the Bard and Tales From The Dreamtime are on sale for .99 cents.

breakfastThe party is still going on today, with a virtual breakfast being served, and people popping in and out. I’ve had a lot of fun with that, despite being under the weather. And this morning on New Years Day, I actually feel good.

So what are my goals for this new year that looms fresh and untrammeled before us?

My goal is to create and implement a marketing plan for my books.  This is something I have attempted, but have always become side-tracked by life, and never got back to it. From what I’ve read on the internet this involves a combination of things:

1. During January I’m going to create a plan-of-action, and map out my strategy. Once I know the answers to the next two questions I will be able to develop a plan of attack.

2. I will identify my audience.  This is hard–I write for my own amazement, so I’m not sure what my audience is! But I will spend some  time figuring that out, and I will blog about the process.

2. I will figure out what makes my books different from all the other books out there, aside from their obvious, amazing wonderfulness. This is also difficult! I wrote these things while in a trance, apparently, as the minute someone asks me about them, my mind goes blank and I have no idea how they got here, or what they’re about. I will probably blog about that process too.

3. I will budget $$ for Google ads and Goodreads ads, and see how they perform. My Goodreads ad seems to get a lot of clicks, but I’m not sure it translates into sales. I haven’t done a Google ad yet.

Possibilites copyI’m pretty lousy at blatant self-promotion. But I intend to make this a good year for honing my marketing skills in such a way that I can sell a few books without annoying my friends!

It’s a brand new beginning, with endless possibilities. In completing and publishing my books, I’ve already achieved dreams I never thought possible, and now a new year lies before me. How wonderful to know that anything can happen!

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Editing the Closets

Alas, my closets are out of control. I have far too many possessions for the size of my home. Thus the ever-popular winter occupation of Editing the Closets is now upon us. Let me clarify that–it’s really more of a gut job than editing.

I have successfully turned the strangely placed closet in my dining room into a pantry, adding shelves and taking four bags of coats, a box of random household appliances, and several over-sized roasting-pans to be recycled back into the community. This monumental task gave me a proper place to store the crockpots and other largish objects that once lived in the void between the top of my kitchen cabinets and the ceiling, shoved out of the way in a place where I couldn’t get to them easily.

Also, I now have an entire shelf dedicated to storing bulk baking supplies. Being vegan, I bake my own bread, and make my own granola, so I always have a lot of bulk staples on hand.

The room my grandchildren play in is next. It has become a dumping ground for extra blankets and empty amazon boxes, and that’s not acceptable. The closet shall be emptied of the random boxes of strange things we’ve never looked at since we moved here in 2005. Those will be emptied and recycled into the community. All our off season clothes will be stored there–what an odd thought!  Clothes in the closet!

the way I workAfter that–perhaps the Room of Shame. Only the Universe knows what lurks in there–but I need to able to work in a tidy environment, and this office is most definitely not that.

In the meantime I’m fighting off a virus, swollen glands and scratchy throat. A sniffy nose, too. Perhaps I will nap the rest of the day.  I’ should put on a crockpot full of black-bean chili. I have my PS3 and my kindle–the two things that will make my sick-day a lot more pleasant!

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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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