Texas Winter Storm: Getting EVERY LITTLE LIE Published

Most posts about an author's new book don't start with this plea.

Please don't buy my book until the evening of March 1.

Behind the Scenes

Against all odds, I somehow managed to turn in a final file for my latest book, but therein lies a tale

Every Little Lie was set to publish February 28. I chose that date because I knew I'd have the copyedited and proofread file back from my editor. Wrong!

The Best Laid Plans Went Astray 

If you bought this book prior to March 2, you may find some typos in it. There’s a very good reason for that. My home was one of four million households in Texas that had no power, no water, and no cell service from February 15 to February 20. That was the time slot I'd planned to use to make any changes my editor suggested and to correct typos too.

When the power came back on, I had only four days to copyedit, proofread, and generate the final manuscript file. 

The only problem with that was that my editor had never returned the corrected file before Texas went into the deep freeze.

I was forced to be copy editor and proofreader for my manuscript and began work the on February 21—after running a wet vacuum all afternoon the day before to remove water from my house. (A broken pipe outside had allowed water to enter my house through the weep holes. Fortunately, we caught it early.)

I was too exhausted physically and mentally to tackle the monumental task of editing and proofing my file. I started the next day.

Against All Odds

That song by Phill Collins was the soundtrack of the next 3 1/2 days as I put in eighteen hours a day to copy edit and proofread my manuscript. I still wasn’t finished when there were only 39 minutes left to upload the final file. I either had to upload what I had or be locked out of Amazon’s pre-release program for a year. I made the executive decision to upload it and hope for the best.

Well, that’s never a good thing, is it? 

I’ve now corrected the remaining 17 typos—many were using a period instead of a question mark—that I found after hitting the submit button.

Then I was locked out of making any change until the book published at 12:01am, Feb. 28, PST.

Deeply Apologize

I deeply apologize if you received the file with those typos. Sometimes, if you remove the download from your Kindle, power it down, then turn the power on and re-download the book, you may get the updated file.

If not, if you'd like to send me a screenshot of your time-stamped purchase, I'll send you a MOBI file of the book for your Kindle. You can reach me at JoanReeves @ outlook.com. 

Takeaway Truth 

I guess you just can't fight Mother Nature or the Texas power grid which royally screwed up.

Saturday Share: Recipe, Stovetop Chicken Casserole

During the recent winter storm in Texas, we had no power for a week.

We have a gas stove and gas logs in the fireplace so we were able to keep the temperature downstairs  at 63 degrees F.

We were also able to cook. With a gas stove, one can have heat plus the ability to cook even if the power is off.

I keep emergency food supplies in the pantry for hurricane season.  Little did I know that I'd have to break out the canned goods for a winter storm.

One thing I keep on hand are cans of Kirkland's Cooked Chicken Breast.  

Here's a recipe that can be cooked on the stove top as well as in the oven. It's delicious easy way, and it will make 6-8 servings.

I usually have some cooked frozen pasta in the freezer. (I always freeze pasta when I cook too much. It defrosts well for casseroles or soups.)

If you don't have any leftover pasta on hand, you can cook pasta on the stove in less water than is usual as long as you break the pasta into smaller pieces. You can also use less water too.

The ingredients for this dish are what most of us have on hand.

Ingredients

8 ounces egg noodles, cooked
1/2 cup chopped celery, optional
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sour cream or heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
2 (5-ounce) cans of chicken, drained and flaked. (can also cook 10 ounces of chicken if you don't have any canned chicken)
1 (4-ounce) can sliced or chopped mushrooms, drained
1 cup frozen green peas
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
  • In a saucepan, saute the celery and onion in the butter. Cook until translucent.
  • Add the drained mushrooms and green peas. Saute a few minutes.
  • Add the milk and the sour cream or heavy cream. Whisk to blend well.
  • Add the flaked chicken and cooked noodles and heat through.
  • Add the Parmesan cheese, blend well.
  • Cook over medium heat until mixture is bubbly.
  • That's it for the stovetop version.
  • For baking in the oven, preheat to 350°F.
  • Combine all ingredients except Parmesan. Pour into a 2-quart buttered casserole dish.
  • Sprinkle the Parmesan on top.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.
  • Serves 6 to 8.
Takeaway Truth

It's always good to have a food plan in case of emergencies. It's more than a matter of having good food to eat. Nothing is more heartening than a hot meal when living in extreme conditions.

Survived the Texas Winter Storm

Hello! I survived!

I started to entitle this post THE TEXAS WINTER STORM FROM HELL.

However, winter from hell is an oxymoron I guess.

Here's my winter storm survival story in a part of Texas that has never had a storm like this.

From 1am Monday,  Feb. 15 to about noon Saturday, Feb. 20, was been sheer hell! Well, make that Feb. 21 because we didn't have any water until then.

WHAT NO POWER MEANS

February 14 was the last normal day we had, and that was the last day I blogged. An hour past midnight Sunday, our power went off. We'd been told there would be rolling blackouts, but there was nothing rolling about this. It was off and did not come back on until Friday night, Feb. 19, but only for an hour. Full power was restored sometime Saturday afternoon, but by then we had no water!

No power means no heat because modern furnaces, even if they'r gas, have electronic ignition. No power means no water if the water utility is in the blackout area.

No power means the inside temperature of your house can be in the 30s if the outside temperature is well below freezing for several days.

We survived because we had a gas log fireplace and a gas stove. We ran the fireplace and stove burners 24/7 for a week. (I'm scared to see the gas bill!) We wouldn't have made it otherwise.

WATER DISASTERS

No heat means that even in well-insulated attics, water pipes can break. Yes, folks, here on the Gulf Coast where we don't have ice and snow and several days of below freezing weather, water pipes and water heaters are located in the attics of most homes.

This exceptional year saw 4 million of us in the Houston area with no power for a week and no water.

People who left town for warmer climates and who did not turn off their water at the meter box had frozen pipes that sent a flood through their homes when the water started flowing again.

OUR HOUSE CAME OUT OKAY

We had water until Thursday. Friday when the water came back on, I went into my closet to find a half inch of water. My closet is on an exterior brick wall. We had a plumber replace the outdoor faucet on that wall. In sealing the new one, he left a tiny gap at the bottom edge of where it came out of the wall. Even though the faucet had winter insulation on it, that tiny gap caused it to freeze. It burst on the outside, not the inside.

Water running down the wall from that break went into the weep holes which is how the water got in my closet. It happened right after water was restored so we were lucky to find it right away. Darling Hubby rushed out and turned the water off at the meter.

NO WATER

So the power came back on Saturday, but we had no water. People stood in long lines at any place that sold bottled water or gallon jugs of water. You were limited to buyin 2. I scored 2 on the way to my daughter's house. She had water restored but it had to be boiled before using it. I filled every container I could find and brought it home.

Sunday, Darling Hubby analyzed the break in the copper pipe and figured he could close that pipe off until the plumber could get here for a permanent repair. He and a friend bought a little copper gadget called a Shark Bite. They cut a hole in the sheetrock on the inside, pushed the copper water pipe in the wall so it would extend out further on the outside then put the Shark Bite clamp on it. Turned the water back on to check to see if it was leaking, and it was NOT.

Hurray! We had water but still had to boil it until Feb. 22, Monday. We are #1,000 something on our plumber's list for him to come out and do a permanent repair. I'm just glad it was on the outside of the house.

We  had gone to work on the carpet and carpet pad immediately with a wet vacuum. Got as much water out as possible, put it in the garage on risers to dry. The first day we had sunshine, we put it outside. So carpet and pad were dried and cleaned and had some antimicrobial treatment done to it. It's been re-installed. All is well.

HELPING COMMUNITY

Darling Hubby and a couple of friends went door to door, helping put a temporary fix where they could so people would have water. When he found water running out the door, they turned off the water at the meter box.

WHAT WAS I DOING?

I was going crazy because I had to turn my final manuscript file in to Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing on Feb. 24. I'd planned to have it copy edited and proofed by someone other than me. 

Guess what? That person was in the same no power/no water but as I. So when power was fully restored on Feb. 20 in the afternoon, I knew I had to do it myself which is never a good idea. When you write something, you know what it's supposed to say so your eyes don't pick up on wrong words or even typos.

Anyway, I dived in and started at the beginning of 100,000 word novel. I slept maybe 6 hours a day for the next 4 days. I knew I was running out of time so I cut one of the plot elements completely to speed up the process. Ended up with 85,000 word novel.

My deadline to turn it in was 6pm Wed. Feb. 24. I had emailed and asked for an extension due to NO POWER for a week, but they refused to give me an extension. 

So I got the job done. Started uploading the final file 39 minutes before deadline!

Since then I've found some typos—remember what I said that you shouldn't proof your own writing?—and I'll correct those when the book publishes on Feb. 28. I'm locked out until then.

I'll be uploading the file with those pesky typos fixed to Barnes & Noble, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords on Saturday if you prefer those retailers.

TAKEAWAY TRUTH

My new book, Every Little Lie, publishes Feb. 28. I'm still exhausted from the writing marathon. Just writing all this made me even more tired! *LOL* 

Love Has No Age Limits

Politicians, riches, and fame may come and go, but love—sustained by commitment, dedication, and, yes, work—lasts forever.

If you've ever sat vigil while someone is dying, you know intimately that at the end, love is the only thing on your mind.

That need for connection, for love, is what fuels the growing readership of romance novels. Either consciously or unconsciously, readers identify with that truth.

Gift of Indie Self-Publishing

The focus for traditional publishing of romance was a love story with a heroine in her twenties and a hero who was a few years older.

Writers who wanted to write about more mature lovers were hamstrung by editors who told them readers didn't want to imagine "old" people (meaning middle-aged people) in love and having sex.

I'm pleased to say that one of the benefits of self-publishing ebooks is that an author has the ability to write any kind of heroine and hero she wants. Is it any wonder so many authors have embraced indie self-publishing?

Forever Young

People age, but real love doesn't. It's forever young just as a person's mental image is locked at a certain age. You may look in the mirror and see wrinkles and gray hair, but the image of you inside your brain is a younger you, and that will always be true.

Ever walk down the street and catch your reflection in a store window? Did it startle you? Did you have the thought, “My God, I look just like my mother!” What you see in that reflection doesn't match the self-image embedded in your brain.

Shaking It Up

I like to write all types of characters. 

In many of my books, like The Trouble with Love, I have 3 love stories going on with 3 different generations.

I always write about two people who find each other in life. 

Regardless of their age, there will be romance, passion, and sex.

In the end, there will be love and commitment.

Grandparent Lovers?

Yes, in Still The One, the main love story was Burke and Ally. 

The secondary love story is between Burke’s grandfather and Ally’s grandmother.

They're the scheming matchmakers determined to get Burke and Ally back together. 

Guess what these seventy-something lovers have a sex life! Oh, horrors. What’s the world coming to?

There's no age limits on falling in love. Nor is there a consequence of age difference. In today's world, no one bats an eye at an older woman-younger man relationship. Older men and younger women were always accepted, and it's about time the reverse is true too.

In Old Enough to Know Better, Stormy is an older woman, and her soul mate just happens to be a younger man, Sean Butler. 

Sean has all he can do to woo Stormy who obstinately refuses to become involved with him—even though she’s half in love with him anyway.

So if you’re older than 30—or 40, 50, 60, or beyond—don’t despair.

The road of life is long and offers love and romance—and, yes, sex too—every step of the way.

Love is amazing, intense, breathtaking, and wonderful. That's true when you're young, and also true when you're old. 

Sometimes, when you’re older, those feelings are magnified. Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote in The Man in Lower Ten: “Love is like the measles. The older you get, the worse the attack.”

Takeaway Truth

No matter your age, I wish you the kind of love I write about: deep, passionate, committed love. The  Forever kind.



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Saturday Share Recipe: Chapati

Do you like flatbread? My family does. I make chapati fresh and serve it hot and delicious. 

Chapati is an unleavened flatbread that originated in the Indian subcontinent, and it's a great accompaniment to many different flavor profiles, not just Indian food.

Today, I'm using it for tacos rather than flour tortillas.

Yesterday, Darling Hubby made a pot of chili. He threw in a little of this, a little of that, some red wine that was left in a bottle we hadn't finished.

He put in everything that goes in chili: peppers, tomato sauce, ground beef, onions, and the wine. In case you're wondering, no beans.

Real chili doesn't have beans. If you like beans, go ahead and add them, but call it chili stew, not chili.

Of course, there's a lot of the thick kicked-up chili left so I'm using it for tacos for lunch.

Chapati Recipe

This recipe makes 10 chapati.

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup hot water or as much as is needed

If you don't have any whole wheat flour, use 2 cups of AP flour. I use organic unbleached white baking flour. It comes in a 10 pound size. You can find it at Amazon, Whole Foods, and Costco. You can use another brand like King Arthur's which is at most Walmarts, Krogers, etc. 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flours and the salt.
2. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the olive oil and enough water to make a soft dough that is elastic but not sticky.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and "satiny" looking in appearance.
4. Divide the dough into 10 equal parts, or fewer than 10 if you want bigger chapati.
5. Roll each piece into a ball and let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.
6. Heat an iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Grease very lightly.
7. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out the balls of dough until very thin like a tortilla.
8. When the pan starts smoking, put a chapati on it.
9. Cook until the underside has brown spots which takes about 30 seconds. Flip over and cook the other side.
10. Stack the cooked chipati on an oven-proof plate and keep in the oven on low, about 200 degrees F. to keep them warm.
11. Follow the same procedure until all the dough balls have been flattened and baked on the hot skillet.

Serve hot.

Takeaway Truth

You'll be surprised how delicious these are and how easy they are to make.

Add Authenticity to Your Writing

Why are beginning writers told to write what they know?

Because it gives authenticity to your words. Yes, even to writing fiction.

If a writer wrote only what he/she knew, there would be no genius serial killer books written, no trips to another galaxy, no vampires, and Regency novels would be confined to those books written in the nineteenth century.

What gives authenticity besides personal experience? Knowledge and Emotional Truth.

How do you gain knowledge if you don't have a degree in criminology or history or whatever is the background of your book?

Research

A good writer does research. Look it up online in more than one reference book. Read well-written nonfiction and fiction books about the subject matter. Absorb the information so you can write about it and have it be realistic and authentic to the reader.

Emotional Truth

This is something we all have inside us. It's what an author mines in order to make the characters "real" to the reader.

Believable fiction comes from getting the facts right and from finding the underlying universal truth—the emotional truth—that makes the books as real to a reader in France as it does to a reader in America. 

Emotional truth is the recognition of the emotions at work in the characters. It's recognized on a subconscious level, but it's that which makes fiction come to life. When done well, it's what makes a reader say your book "spoke" to her. It's what makes books popular.

Writing what you know—the emotions you feel when hurt, scared, lonely, angry, lustful, or happy—is even more important in fiction because without that truth, your fiction will never succeed. You can never fake emotional truth and get away with it.

Takeaway Truth

Mining your emotional truth is painful, but necessary.

Quotation Post #1

Gosh, I'm in deadline hell, but I don't want to not blog every day.

Yep, I'm resorting to short, succinct posts.

Today's is from the remarkable writing teacher, Jack Bickham.

I have several of his books on novel writing, and I was fortunate enough to meet him many years ago.

Mr. Bickham said, "The writing of fiction is deceptive. It looks easy until you try it!"

Takeaway Truth

Truer words were never spoken. If you don't believe me, try writing a book.

On deadline.