Thursday, May 27, 2010
Secondly, I am very excited to have learned this week I am a finalist in the Spring Into Romance Contest that I entered a few months ago. They announce the winners June 19. Of course I would be thrilled to win, but I have already accomplished my initial goal, and that was to get the manuscript in front of the final judge. Tessa Woodward is an editor at Avon, a publishing group under Harper Collins who is legendary in the romance genre. Nearly all of my favorite authors are published by Avon. I'll be sure to post the results of the contest when they are announced.
Have a wonderful rest of your week, and I hope to see you back on Tuesday for Part 2 of the Have Cake, Will Travel saga. The cupcake winner will be announced in that post. You have until Monday to comment on Tuesday's post to be eligible to win!
Monday, May 24, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
First of all, I am happy to say that I got Jimmy's Alabama Crimson (Velvet) Tide cupcakes off in the mail, along with a printout of the post. I hope it makes him smile :)Didn't the little chocolate Alabama "A" turn out nice? Too bad it will probably be a melted mess by the time it makes it there ;) Oh, and I tweaked the recipe again, and I think it turned out rather scrumptious. I'll make sure I can replicate the result before posting the recipe (I'm thinking early June, after the icing series).
And secondly... (Drum roll, please)... I am thrilled to announce that a short story I recently submitted will be published in True Love Magazine! I'll keep you posted as to when it will hit newsstands :)
Monday, May 17, 2010
I’ll pause here and answer the question that I am sure has popped into your mind. Beloved reader, I must confess: I have not always been a romance writer.
Shocking, I know.
It’s true. In my past, I have participated in a variety of vocations, but most notably, I was an environmental specialist for over four years.
Now, I know that you may be picturing me as the lady sipping tea at The Pump Room at the Roman Baths in England:
And you would be correct. That is indeed me, at my serene best. However, for those four years as a specialist, I pulled off a somewhat … less refined persona:
And yes, that is indeed a 3/8 inch ratcheting wrench in my hand. When the occasion called for it, I could dig a trench, rebuild a motor, and plumb a drain line with the best of them. I may have been my normal, prim self typing away at the computer and analyzing data in the office, but the moment I headed into the field, I had to roll up my sleeves and, well, get a little dirty.
So back to my driller. Jimmy is a good ol’ boy in every sense of the word. He drives an American made truck, he chews tobacco, and I have only seen him once in my life without his Alabama Red Tide ball cap on. He was in his early fifties when we met, and he was every bit as strong as an ox, and certainly could be as ornery as one. If he was fed up with his workers, he would turn to me and say, “Betchya didn’t know this was Jimmy’s Drillin’ and Daycare.”
The man could make a three syllable pronunciation out of any two letter word in the dictionary, and couldn’t give a short description to save his life (“Boy, I tell you wh-hat, it’s hotter than a $2 pistol on the Fourth of Ju-ly out here. I betchya could cook you some bar-b-que right there on the asphalt.”). Without fail, he ended every conversation, be it in person or on the phone, with a confident and succinct, "Roll Tide!"
He was everything a gruff, mule-headed, southern driller should be. But, wouldn’t you know, he had that fabled heart of gold. He once spent over four hours working by my side for not one red cent, just because he was worried about my safety working in this particular location alone. Over the years we forged a great relationship, one that I truly treasured.
Last summer, I quit my job so that I could focus on writing and baking. It was a huge decision, one that came with plenty of doubt and worry. Shortly after my last day, I came home to this message on my answering machine:
“Ah, yeah, hello, I’d like to order me a couple a cupcakes, one of them ro-mance novels, and a Miller light. Hey, Erin, I’m just kidding. I heard you was followin’ your dreams, and I wanna wish you luck, girl, in whatever you do. I hope it makes you happy.”
No name left, but then again, no name needed. It was one of the sweetest messages I have ever received. I am not ashamed to say I shed a tear or two over the sentiment.
So, why do I bring this up now?
We got a new phone this week, and my husband unplugged the old, broken one and set it aside for the garbage. When I saw it sitting there, panic seized me and I grabbed up the old unit and sprinted to the nearest outlet. Holding my breath and with shaky hands, I plugged it in and pressed the play button on the digital recording.
“Ah, yeah, hello…”
My relief was so complete, I sank to the floor in a limp heap. Silly, I know. But when you take a leap of faith as I did, quitting a perfectly lucrative job to chase my dreams, getting such sincere encouragement, especially when you can play it on demand, can mean the world to a person.
The phone may no longer work, but that answering machine sits next to me on my desk, plugged in and ready to go for the next time I need a shot of Jimmy’s kindness. I don’t think he will ever know how much that meant to me, but I believe I will go whip me up a batch of Alabama Red (Velvet) Tide cupcakes, and ship a few off to my dear friend this week. Who knows, maybe it will be a shot of encouragement to him, too. Oh, and Jimmy?
Perfect Cream Cheese Icing (Stay tuned for the Red Velvet recipe):
8 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese (1 package), softened
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I’m sure that you noticed that it is not Tuesday, but I wanted to post a quick bonus blog about the book club meeting (my very first!) that I attended yesterday.
The book was a fantastic paranormal set in Regency England titled A CERTAIN WOLFISH CHARM by Lydia Dare. The duo behind the Lydia Dare name, the fabulously talented and wonderfully entertaining Jodie and Tammy, came by for a lovely chat and, more importantly (just kidding... sort of) cupcakes!!
(Just ignore the fact I look like a jump-in-the-frame-at-the-last-second photo stalker.)
I would like to say a quick thank you to the all the ladies in the club for making me feel so welcome. I hope to join you again soon!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
When people ask me for recipes, things tend to get a little dicey. You see, I have a deep, dark, secret.
I can’t follow directions.
I know, shocking, right? No? Oh, well, I didn’t realize you knew me way back when, in which case it is not only not shocking, but laughably predictable. Ahem.
Anyhoo, I take a perfectly lovely recipe, get started tossing in the ingredients, and then… well, I’m not really sure what happens. “That couldn’t possibly be enough butter,” I think, tossing in an extra tablespoon. “That amount of milk will never make it moist enough!” In goes a dollop of Daisy. “Why is there no lemon zest? Everything is better with lemon zest!”
In short, I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants baker, otherwise known as a panster.
Interestingly enough, I am also a panster writer. When I first started writing, I tried to plot ahead, but my characters kept taking a right turn at Albuquerque and it was all I can do to keep up. Once I let my story develop organically, I think my writing became smoother and the stories more interesting. My lack of planning seems to work wonders in my writing and baking, but it may also explain why I have such dreadful organizational skills…
Back to baking. Most of the time, my little concoctions turn out, well, pretty awesome. I know, I know. Erin, you say, how could you brag like that? My only defense: because it’s true. I may suck at art, I may have taken two years of piano lessons to be able to peck out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star off key, and I may quite possibly be the worst housekeeper in the universe, but I can bake a cake that will make you cry with happiness.
So, that should be a good thing, right? Well, it is. All the way up until someone asks me for the recipe.
Now, some of you may not realize that there is a seedy, dark underbelly to the otherwise sweet world of culinary creations. There are certain people out there who take part of a rather dubious practice, and these people bring a bad name to recipe sharers everywhere. I speak of … the recipe saboteur. DA da duuuhhh…
These people bring their famous 7 and ¾ layer dip to a party, where everyone around raves of the delicious juxtaposition of jalapeño to cheese, salsa to sour cream. They bask in the glory, and are inevitably asked for the recipe. With a bright smile on their face, the recipe saboteur readily recites the ingredients and wishes the aspiring dip maker good luck. Said recipe recipient eagerly heads home, anxious to try out the Mexican goodness for the very next party they go to. They buy all the ingredients, follow the instructions to the letter, and proudly set off to the potluck with the dip snuggled in a festive stoneware container that was saved for just such an occasion.
The tortilla chips are produced, masses converge, and everyone dives in. And then… nothing. No praise. No accolades. No rapturous expressions of dip divinity. Instead, Brows wrinkle and looks are exchanged. Horrified, the dip maker plunges her own chip into the dip and freezes. Wait a second! This doesn’t taste like the glorious 7 and ¾ layer dip at the last party—it’s but a pale facsimile.
The recipe saboteur strikes again. These pitiless people are afraid someone else might get steal a bit of their glory and therefore sabotage the next person’s recipe.
*shaking head* A very cruel and underhanded tactic indeed.
I am NOT one of those people.
Well, at least not intentionally. If someone asks me for a recipe, I try to provide them with what they want. I always tell people up front that I’m a panster, but they inevitably give me that you’re just saying that so I can’t make your delicious cupcakes look that makes me feel like an evil recipe-saboteur anyway. Sigh. Recipe intuition is a blessing and a curse.
So for you, beloved reader, I have valiantly curbed my panster tendencies, and have done my best to provide you with my absolute best vanilla cupcake recipe. I promise I did my best to get the measurements right – I used teaspoons and everything (giving my best ‘look ma, no hands!’ expression). Give it a whirl, and let me know how it turns out for you.
Tune in NEXT TUESDAY … as everyone knows, the magic is in the frosting. Every Tuesday for the rest of the month I will provide a different frosting recipe. Keylime, cream cheese, decadant chocolate… oh yeah, it’s gonna be a great month!
*This recipe makes 3 dozen cupcakes, and can be halved or quartered easily*
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups self rising flour
1 cup milk plus ~1 T sour cream (a dollop about yay sized…)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. butter flavor
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cream butter and sugar for 7 minutes on medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Add 1 cup flour, then ½ of the milk/sour cream mix, then 1 cup flour, the rest of the milk/sour cream, then the final cup of flour.
Add the vanilla and butter flavor, mix.
Fill cupcake liners NO MORE than half full. For easy control and optimal neatness, place the batter in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and snip one corner with a small hole.
For 3 dozen regular size cupcakes, cook 16 minutes or until toothpick comes out cleanly. For mini cupcakes, cook ~11 minutes. Cool on rack for 5 minutes before removing from pan.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Welcome to my blog! I am looking forward to exploring my three favorite things in life: reading, writing, and cake! Okay, all baking in general, but cakes—and cupcakes in particular—are what I really excel at.
So as I was pondering what I should write for my first blog (while baking cupcakes, of course), I started thinking about what these three things had in common. There was the obvious: they will all make you fat if you don't counteract them with some good old fashioned exercise—but I didn’t want to tackle that particular topic just yet (I swear, I will do today’s workout tomorrow!). Well, then I thought about baking while reading (a bit dodgy – it is hard to get icing off of paper. It tends to leave a rather tell-tale splotch), writing while baking (even dodgier. Keyboards and flour plumes will never mix), and then the rather impossible writing while reading (unless, of course, you are the type that likes plagiarism. If that is the case, then by all means, proceed).
So I was back to the dreaded square one. And then it hit me: square one! Everything is built by a recipe, blueprints, confounded multi-lingual instructions spanning a piece of paper folded like a reject Rand McNally map… you get the picture. So there it was:
Writing a romance, or any good story, is a lot like baking.
There are certain ingredients that are absolutely essential, and simply cannot be tampered with. I once made an apple pie without the sugar, and I can promise you that will never happen again. I’m lucky my family is still speaking to me. We don’t always recognize the ingredients when they are right, but we definitely can tell when they are missing.
So let’s break it down:
There’s the flour – the building block of a story. For the Regency romances that I write, that would be the hero and heroine. These two essential elements are what the entire story is built upon. They have to be interesting and strong enough to carry the weight of the whole story.
There is the sugar – that addicting element that keeps us coming back for more. It is that certain elusive quality to a good story that sucks us in and makes us turn the page and say to ourselves at midnight, “Just one more chapter.”
Eggs are the binders – the thing that holds the story together. In a really delicious romance, it is the hero and heroine’s chemistry that keeps everything together. Without it, all of the others elements would fall apart into a big, gooey mess.
The leaveners give lift – just as humor, even the occasional witty remark, can do for a story. If the story is dealing with particularly heavy subjects, such as a family crisis or the ever-present dual, adding moments of levity within a story can prevent the reader from becoming overwhelmed.
Lastly, there is the flavoring — that extra bit of spice that makes each story unique. Be it sweet or spicy, rich or delicate, adding the flavor to a story is what keeps it interesting.
There are all genres of books out there, and there are endless varieties of baked goods. So long as the essentials are in place, the rest is just… icing on the cake :)
Since I have never been able to improve on this awesome apple pie recipe, I'll simply supply the link below. My one change is to use honeycrisp apples - c'est magnifique!
the perfect apple pie recipe at kraftfoods.com