Deep Edits and Black Bean Soup

Cleveland Immersion Class, 2017

For the last several months, I’ve been looking forward to the first week in September. I hosted an immersion master class with the incomparable Margie Lawson and eight of my NEORWA friends. We followed the immersion with Margie presenting at NEORWA’s Cleveland Rocks Romance Conference. I learned how to use power words, have memorized rhetorical devices, and can deep edit like a boss.

Now that it’s over, I’m feeling energized and ready to take on the literary world by storm. Okay, maybe not–I’m still too tired and Margie would give me a frowny face for the cliche–but I certainly now have more tools to polish my manuscript.

If you’ve never done an immersion class or attended one of Margie’s workshops or online classes, I do hope you will. And in the meantime, here’s my recipe for vegan black bean soup (we ate a lot of soup), modified from Jonathan Waxman’s original meatier version (which is divine and which you can find in his book, A Great American Cook, on page 62):

Immersion Black Bean Soup
Serves about 8 hungry writers, or 10 less hungry ones

3 cups dried black beans
1 red onion, minced
cloves from 1 head garlic, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 to 2 tablespoons canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced (remove seeds from chile if you prefer less heat)
3/4 cup fresh cilantro (including stems), chopped, reserving a couple tablespoons of the chopped leaves for garnish
8 cups vegetable broth
freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt
1-2 limes, cut into wedges
Tortilla chips
Creme fraiche or sour cream, Greek yogurt, or coconut milk yogurt

Rinse beans and soak overnight in a large pot of cold water. (You can also use the quick soak method–boil beans in a large pot of water for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let cool for an hour.) Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, and saute until onions are golden. Stir in the soaked beans, chipotle, cilantro, pepper (don’t add the salt yet!), and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until beans are very tender. If soup is too thin, simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes. If soup is too thick, add more broth or water.

Discard the bay leaf and add salt to taste. Use an immersion blender to coarsely puree the soup (if you don’t have an immersion blender, you should get one, but in the meantime, you can puree the soup in small batches in a regular blender, then return to the pot). Reheat.

Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt or creme and the reserved cilantro. (Unless you’re me, and you forget the cilantro.) Serve with a lime wedge and tortilla chips.

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Book Blast Friday: Romance on the High Seas

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a book blast, so I am pleased to get back in the game with the new boxed set featuring my friend and NEORWA sister, Chloe Flowers. Just released, Romance on the High Seas is a fabulous collection of pirate stories by best-selling authors. Chloe will also give a pirate bandana and signed book to a randomly selected commenter. You can also win a Regal gift card so you can keep the pirate spirit alive with the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Men Tell No Tales, which releases May 26.

ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS

The Pirate’s Debt by National Best-selling Author Katherine Bone: An earl-turned pirate is ordered by his benefactor to find an adventurous young runaway and return her home.To do so, he must retrieve her without being discovered by the most ruthless pirate hunter on the seas: her brother.

Dead Man’s Kiss by Award Winning Author Jennifer Bray-Weber: Eight weeks. That’s all pirate captain Valeryn Barone has to escort a tempting naturalist untouched across the Caribbean or face the gallows. Can he resist the beauty who’s fallen for him? Does a dead man walking even have a chance?

The Black Morass by USA Today Bestselling Author Barbara Devlin: In exchange for a chance at redemption and pardons for his crew, Jean Marc Cavalier accepts a pact that could result in liberty or death, if only he can survive the terms, but at least he will be free.

Pirate Heiress by Award Winning Author Chloe Flowers: Captain Conal O’Brien has already lost control of his ship to the most unlikely band of pirates sailing the seas. If he’s not careful, he’s going to lose his heart to a notorious lady pirate determined to destroy both.

My Lady Pirate by NY Times Bestselling Author Danelle Harmon: The sea delivers a handsome castaway to Pirate Queen Maeve Merrick’s island. But her handsome prisoner harbors secrets dark enough to change the fates of nations and threatens their new found love.

Captivated by the Captain by USA Today Bestselling Author Amanda Mariel: What happens when an American shipping company heiress crosses paths with a pirate? Can two people whose life paths are at odds find common ground?

Carried Away by Kamery Solomon: After falling through time and being forced to join a pirate crew, Mark Bell falls in love with his fellow time traveler, Samantha. She’s a woman he can’t have, though. Will their presence in the past alter the future they know and love?

To learn more about any of the authors and their stories, click on their names above or check out the High Seas Facebook page. And to buy Romance on the High Seas, visit these retailers:

Amazon * B&N * iBooks Kobo 

Although I’d love to post excerpts from all of them, this post would get crazy long. Since I know Chloe the best, I’ll post this delicious excerpt from Pirate Heiress:

Stevie swallowed and gripped the pistol handle more firmly. Her arm was beginning to tire from holding it for so long, but she didn’t dare lower it. The mountain of a man in the tub looked as if he could crush her head like a grape with one hand, and her young cousin’s with the other one. More often than not, she could look an average man straight in the eye. However, with this one, she doubted her head would reach his nose.

The man in the tub cocked his brows, then his eyes narrowed before sliding down to her soft doeskin boots and back up again. She should have stayed more in the shadows; she might have appeared a bit more intimidating that way.

“Relinquish your freedom and possessions,” she said, barely able to keep the tremor from her voice. Her gaze paused at the gold ring on the man’s finger. If they were going to become pirates, she might as well start acting like one. She took a deep breath and drew her shoulders back a little.

“Beginning with your ring,” she said, holding out her hand. The man’s jaw clenched and the knuckles gripping the tub’s edge whitened. What thoughts were flying around in his head? He was contemplating his chances of overpowering her and taking her pistol; she could see that in the way his gaze shifted back and forth between her and her cousin, Remi. If he had a weapon, and if it had been a one-on-one situation instead of one against two (with guns), he likely wouldn’t have paused to contemplate it this long. He would have defended himself by attacking them. And he’d have won. Even now, she sensed he was still calculating his odds.

She eased a step back, careful to keep her pistol well within a lethal range. “Please don’ t try it,” she said. “I’ d prefer to save my shot.” She was far from her cozy little room off the kitchens of her brother’s gaming house. Uncle Bernard had given her a brief lesson on managing a pistol, but it still terrified her to hold it.

His eyes widened and his brows raised in surprise. She’ d been right in her assumptions, then. She usually was. Her intuition annoyed her brothers no small amount, and they always avoided her when they wished their thoughts to remain…theirs. Only one of them could hide from her, but he was a gambler and so it was expected, otherwise he wouldn’t be a very good gambler, would he?

The man twisted the ring from his finger and tossed it to her. She caught it and placed it on the only finger it would fit—her thumb. “Get dressed,” she said, with as much authority as she could muster.

He slowly stood with the oily movement of a cat as he reached for a linen rag. Stevie felt her eyes widen. She was wrong. Very wrong. The top of her head would barely reach his chin, let alone his nose. Wide, thick shoulders took up most of the space in the galley. The muscles across his shoulders rippled as he moved. A long scar trailed from the top of his shoulder to the middle of his rib cage. A fighting man. A very strong, very muscular, very handsome, very naked, fighting man.

 

Winter Blog Hop, Day 11 – Singing Silver Bells with Judy Ann Davis

Welcome to Day 11–only two weeks to Christmas! Today’s guest is fellow Wild Rose author Judy Ann Davis.  Did you ever wonder how the classic holiday song Silver Bells was created? Visit Judy’s blog and learn the history of this timeless carol.

4-book-red-xmas2

Winter Blog Hop! Day 4 – Maggie Preston

Welcome to Day 4! Today’s guest is an all-around lovely person I’m happy to call a friend. Maggie Preston writes steamy romance, and her first book, Sense and Insensibility, is both sexy as hell and laugh out loud hilarious.

Hop on over to A Writer’s House today for a chat about one of my favorite topics at this time of year–holiday movies.  She’s thrown in a few that may surprise you!

 

And then come back tomorrow for the first of two visits from dear friend and fellow historical author, Becky Lower.

 

 

It’s NaNovember so this will be short…

typewriter-801921_1920It’s NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month–for many of us in the writing world, that crazy time of year when we are glued to our laptops for an entire month, even more antisocial than usual, vomiting at least 1667 words per day for a total of 50,000 by November 30. I’ve spent the latter part of this week catching up to the first part–Election Day put a wee hitch in my stride–but for the first time in several years I’m reasonably close to being on target to finish (knock on wood).

Although I was planning to write a futuristic dystopian I plotted during the RNC, it was far too depressing. So I’m writing a romantic historical mystery instead, and I am completely pantsing it. Other than knowing who killed the odious Clive in the very first scene, I’m playing everything by ear. This is usually a recipe for disaster for me, and trying to do it with a mystery is likely to be incredibly stupid. But I was trying to finish the last book before this one, so I didn’t have time to plot. We shall see if I still manage to get through the middle without flying off the rails, but so far the words are flowing with minimal obstruction. (Knocking again.)

Are you trying NaNo this year? How’s it going? Words flowing? Not so much? Take a little break and share!

Author Interview: Katie O’Sullivan

Katie_OSullivanWelcome to a special Wednesday edition of the blog, as I am joined by fellow Wild Rose Press author Katie O’Sullivan to the blog. Katie has one recent release and another coming out November 11. Welcome, Katie! 

Hi, Marin, and thanks for inviting me to visit!

Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?

I live on the shores of Cape Cod with my teens, husband and two big, demanding dogs who think they still fit in my lap. (Can a Saint Bernard really fit in anyone’s lap? I don’t think so.) I’ve wanted to be a “real author” since third grade when my aunt “published” my first novel, The Mystery of the Haunted House, in a limited run of 50 copies at the printer where she worked. I was hooked and earned my BA in English, determined to find a job in publishing, but ended up in advertising, public relations, and then journalism for years. When my youngest went to full-day kindergarten, a friend dragged me to his novel writing class and I finally started writing fiction.

I love Cape Cod. It’s so pretty up there! What inspires you to write your books?

Living so close to the Atlantic Ocean inspires almost everything I write, from my YA series about the mermaids who summer in Nantucket Sound, to the Cape Cod romances like Crazy About You that I’ve published with The Wild Rose Press. My newest book, Ghosts Don’t Lie (coming November 11!), is the only one so far that doesn’t take place on the Cape, but in the small New Jersey town where I grew up.

What does your writing process look like?

I’m a pantser, but I admit I do best when I have a rough outline to start from. For the novella I wrote for an upcoming Valentine series, I actually plotted out the whole thing and finished the first draft in two weeks. Which tells me I should do that more often!

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I used to be the typical soccer mom, but my soccer player is off in college, and my middle child drives so we finally ditched the mini-van. My high school students are more into the drama department than sports, so I see a lot of plays (both with them and with them on stage), walk on the beach with the dogs, bake with my daughter… and then there’s the day job as a technical writer. I keep busy.

What are you working on now?

I’m just finishing the first round of edits for my next YA mermaid book (Defiance, scheduled for a December release from Wicked Whale Publishing) and am ready to start on another Cape Cod romance. I’ve got the main characters figured out and am trying this new “outline” method that worked so well with the novella. I’m also kicking around ideas for a sequel to Ghosts Don’t Lie.

Sounds great! Neat freak or not so much?

Oh, I wish! I tend to forget about cleaning until it NEEDS to be done. When the kids were small (like, crawling size) I scrubbed floors and wiped things down more religiously, but living with a Saint Bernard has totally lowered my standards of what’s “clean.”

LOL. I know what you mean! What’s first on your bucket list?

I really want to visit the Fiji islands and stay in one of those guest huts that’s built over the water on stilts, where you have to walk out on a rickety boardwalk to reach the hut and there’s a patch of glass built into the floor to watch the sea life swim by and a porch to sit on aimed straight at the sunset. Maybe I’ll let my husband tag along for the trip. No phones, no work. Doesn’t that sound awesome? And totally do-able….except for the airfare. And the total cost, with college expenses looming. And finding the time to get away. Other than that, I’m there.

That does sound awesome! Tell us a little about your latest releases.

perf5.000x8.000.inddCrazy About You:

Climate scientist Chase Anderson races from one project to the next, unwilling to slow down in his quest to save the world’s oceans. He has no time for family or relationships until he crashes into an impetuous blonde with a quirky sense of humor. One sizzling kiss makes him seriously reevaluate his priorities. And his sanity.

Emma Maguire left her small Cape Cod hometown years ago, seeking the fast pace and anonymity of New York City. She’s not sure what she’s searching for, but when a family crisis brings her home to Provincetown she’s caught in a crazy tangle of half-truths and mistaken identity… and falls for the handsome stranger who broke her cell phone.

Will untangling the web of lies drive them crazy, or lead to something even crazier – like love?

perf5.000x8.000.inddGhosts Don’t Lie (coming November 11):

Jillian Rogers Greene worked hard to close the doors on the psychic abilities that defined her youth. For years she pretended to be normal, ignoring the ghosts who whisper to her. When a car crash sets her on a collision course with the past, ugly secrets about her family and marriage come to light. She’s forced to reevaluate what she thought she knew…and exactly what the future holds.

Connor Sanderson might be the key to unlocking that future. The grey-eyed artist knows ghosts aren’t real, but his attraction to the beautiful psychic makes him question those beliefs. With her husband plotting to kill her, can Jillian make Connor see the truth before it’s too late?

Here’s an excerpt:

In the corner of the mirror, she saw a glitter of light. She realized Jasper was sitting on the bed, watching. “What?” she asked him, not turning around.

“Is it fun being a grown-up?” The spirit swung his legs back and forth.

Jillian fished a hair elastic from the jar on the dresser. “Fun isn’t really the word for it.”

His legs stopped swinging. “So being a grown-up stinks?”

“It doesn’t stink either, Jasper. It’s complicated. As you get older there are more choices to make and a lot more to worry about.” She was still looking at his reflection in the mirror, not turning to face him. “Some parts are really great, but there are lots of times when you wonder if you’ve made the right decision.”

“I’m glad I don’t have to find out. It sounds hard.”

Jillian took a deep breath. “What happened to you?”

“Me?” Jasper laughed. “That’s easy, I died.”

Love it! You can find information about Katie and links to her books at:

Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon Author Page

And join me today on Katie’s blog , where she has a great giveaway going on!

Grumpish about Grammar

This post is very late. I was in a super bad mood last Sunday and couldn’t think of anything I wanted to write, and I was too busy reading contest entries anyway.

Back in the spring I volunteered to serve as a first round judge in several contests. I actually love judging contests, but when I volunteered I stupidly failed to realize that all of the entries were due back in the same week. Nevertheless, I was happy to do it–it is great fun to read the entries and to help a writer (often a brand-new writer) learn a bit more about craft, and I never fail to learn something myself. Sometimes the entries are absolutely wonderful and truly a joy to read. Other times, not so much. This year, I had far more not-so-much entries than wonderful ones. Most of the entries I read had a great plot–original, interesting, and fun. Unfortunately, many of them were also riddled with errors in grammar and punctuation. Some had clearly not even been proofread, and were full of typographical errors and spelling mistakes.

As a result of this experience, I have spent the last few days wondering why writers would enter a contest without dealing with at least some of these problems. It is important to realize that a contest is, in some ways, a trial query. Most contests have agents and/or editors serving as final round judges. If you final, you get your work in front of one of them. If she likes it, she may request a partial manuscript, or even a full. And sometimes–as I can gratefully attest–an editor buys your book or an agent agrees to represent you. Why, then, would you not make your manuscript the very best it can be before submitting it? Especially because contests cost money?

Now, I will admit that the first time I entered a contest I had no idea what I was doing, and it is certainly possible that some of the writers I judged were in a similar place in their writing careers. My entry had many, many craft errors, but it had been carefully proofread. I learned a lot from the judges in that contest, and in my critiques of the entries I reviewed in the last couple of weeks, I tried to do the same for those writers.

My point here is two-fold: First, if you are an author, especially a published author, consider donating your time and expertise to juIMG_3137dge a contest. You will make a huge difference in a writer’s life, and you will learn something too.

Second, if you are a writer wishing to enter a contest, polish that manuscript! Proofread it–do not rely on spell check alone. Check your grammar. If you need to brush up on grammar rules, do so. Pick up a copy of Strunk and White. Go online–there are a lot of sites which offer help on grammar issues. For example, I like the Grammar Girl for short and sweet tips. There’s Grammarly, which scans your text for grammar and punctuation. (I’ve never used it, but it gets good reviews.) From the Write Angle has blog posts about grammar, craft, querying, and a bunch of other good stuff. Or just Google “grammar” and see what you get. Once you have these basics down, it’s much easier to focus on the craft–all those things that make you a better writer.

I’ve decided to stop whining and do something to help (hopefully). Once a month, starting next week, I’ll do a post on issues I’ve spotted in manuscripts, or things I’ve been curious about. If any of you have a grammar or craft question you’d like me to discuss, or if you’re interested in doing a guest post about your grammar pet peeve, or if you are better than I am at coming up with catchy names for my grammar posts (because honestly, who isn’t better at that than I am?), leave a comment here or drop me a line at marinmcginnis@yahoo.com.

 

My First RWA Nationals

I’m a day late with this post because I spent the last week in New York at the RWA National Conference. My very first RWA National Conference. I have been to at least a dozen national lawyer conferences, even a national librarian conference or two, and none of them quite prepared me for RWA. Here are a few thinPCers RWA15 with AMgs I took away:

 

1. Romance writers are some of the nicest, most supportive people on the planet.

 

 

2. By the end of the week your feet will hurt no matter how comfortable your shoes are, especially if you spend your down time walking all over New York City. 016bcbfc0c5ca9db72e0dc49fc8c6595e46ebb50fe

01b68a7b54a57cee1fb0e725c0a17f6b2cc9c102cf017d24e2bb51f2518c19a0fd12968493fc7c4846b1

3. Pitching to an agent is terrifying, a bit discouraging when said agent hates the book you’re pitching, but exciting when she likes the idea of a book you haven’t written yet.

4. Publishing is a crazy business. (See #3.)

5. Free books are good. And heavy.

6. Shaking hands with (or getting hugs from) your favorite authors is amazing.

7. Having 2,000 romance writers in a single room is really loud.

01d0db7b1fe5e3f798345f9bdddc52b8a0b4b25a29

 

8. I never tire of hanging out with my peeps from NEORWA.

01a0692e2fbe0f7e722639ff7e83a5d445af79ad1e

9. There will always be writers who are more successful than you (unless you’re Nora Roberts). Suck it up and keep writing.

10. I would list more but I’m too tired.

Did you go to Nationals? What did you think?

 

Five Reasons to Go to a Writers’ Conference

I spent this weekend at my RWA chapter’s Cleveland Rocks Romance Conference, which was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, I thought I’d share with you some reasons why, if you’re a writer, you should attend a writers’ conference too.

1. You meet other writers.

Writing is a solitary occupation. We spend a lot of time in our own heads, which is generally a wonderful place to be, but it does us all good to get out of there for a while and meet like-minded people. We can learn from each other’s experiences, kick ideas around, make new friends, and laugh a lot.

2. You learn some new things.

Conferences include workshops about various aspects of the writing business. Our conference, for example, included an editor/agent panel on what’s hot in romance and tips on writing an attention-grabbing first page, as well as workshops on Disorganized Organized Revisions by Hanna Martine, Using Social Media by Mindy McGinnis, and Romantic Suspense by Carla Neggers.

3. You get to hobnob with famous and not-yet-so-famous authors.

A not-so-famous author pic I shamelessly stole from Miranda Liasson

Conferences usually include at least one best-selling super-famous author who gives a keynote speech and/or teaches a workshop–our keynote speaker this year was Carla Neggers. You can meet them and talk to them. They will happily autograph a book for you, and have their picture taken with you. The not-yet-so-famous authors will eagerly do the same, mostly because we are so happy anyone is paying attention to us at all.

<— A not-yet-so-famous author pic I shamelessly stole from Miranda Liasson

4. You can sometimes relax and kick back with editors and agents.

Our conference includes a gathering in the hotel bar after the Friday evening panel. Editors and agents are not scary at all when they’ve had a couple of drinks. Although one does have to be careful not to drink more than they do, because that can get embarrassing. Or so I’ve heard…

5. You have an opportunity to pitch your books to those agents and editors, face to face.

Although the prospect is really quite terrifying for introverted writers (especially me, as I haven’t done it yet), people tell me it’s not so bad. The advantage is that you have an editor or agent’s rapt attention for 5-10 minutes to tell them what your book is about. They can ask questions about it and other things you’ve written, an opportunity not provided by a written query.

Bonus reason: Books!!

But peIMG_2587rhaps one of the best reasons to attend a writers’ conference is the books. Some free, some not so free, some autographed, some not. Conferences are an excellent way to remind ourselves why we got into this crazy writing business in the first place–because we love books.

This year’s haul —>

  • Archives