Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

All this talk about Valentine’s Day has me thinking of my favorite romances. Sure, I enjoy a good love story with a fairytale ending, but lately, I’ve had more bittersweet novels on my mind.

Basically, I’m a sucker for star crossed lovers who fight incredible odds along a rocky, uncertain road. If an author can spin that kind of story, I’m hooked.

TAKE ME THERE certainly cast its spell on me. In the span of ten pages, Carolee Dean managed to grab me by the throat and fully invest me in her protagonist’s plight.  Sweet, slightly damaged Dylan Dawson is on the run–it’s not just the cops on his tail, there are vengeful gang members after him, too. Dylan never asked for trouble, he never wanted to be a juvie misfit. With a heart full of poetry and dreams, he longs for another life. But dyslexia and poverty keep him on the road to nowhere.

And then boy meets girl.
When Dylan encounters an extraordinary girl from the right side of the tracks, he fights to abandon old habits and bad company, but one split second decision threatens to destroy everything. When forced to run, he flees from California to Texas, his absent father’s old stomping grounds. Dylan has to face up to the fact that his dad is a convicted killer, a condemned man on death row. Dylan slowly reconciles what he’s always believed about his dad with the truth buried inside a heartbreaking, complicated knot of secrets. Dylan discovers that love is redemption, and that it’s never too late to choose a different path.

I absolutely loved this book. There are strong elements of romance and mystery layered over the brisk action. Carolee Dean weaves several compelling plot threads together, bringing Dylan’s story to a stunning, yet totally realistic conclusion. The end of the road isn’t a hollywood fade to black, but a truthful, somewhat hopeful conclusion. It just feels…right. I highly recommend TAKE ME THERE.

It’s my kind of love story.

Hungry for more? Try my oh-so-forbidden-they-can’t-be-good-for-me Rocky Road Brownies.


Rocky Road Brownies

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 and 3/4 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa (I prefer Hershey’s Dark Cocoa)

1 tsp. salt

1 cup oil

1 tsp. vanilla

5 eggs

2 cups chocolate chips (pick your fave, dark or milk)

1/2 bag of marshmallows, more or less (I prefer the jumbo kind as opposed to miniature marshmallows, but either works.)

2 cups chopped pecans (optional)

Combine all ingredients except for the choc. chips, the marshmallows, and the pecans. Stir until mixed well. Add the chips, marshmallows and pecans. Pour into greased 9 by 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for forty minutes. Let cool at least thirty minutes before serving.

Binge!

 

 

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Let’s just not talk about how I haven’t blogged lately. You and I both know only two people care, anyway. And you are NOT one of those individuals.

Let’s talk about the new adventure keeping me busy: REVISION

(Look! I’ve included random John Williams movie theme awesomeness to inspire your revisions!)

As I write this, I am slashing my way through the deep, dark jungles of revision for my agent, searching for the lost Tiki of backstory & characterization. When I finally lay hands on this ruby eyed idol, I’ll be one step closer to submitting my project.

How to get through this jungle full of Indiana Jones sized pitfalls? I definitely have strategies for coping. Here are my three tips for survival.

1.) Embrace criticism. Exploit it for all it’s worth.

The revision process is a great opportunity to grow and develop as a writer, so when your beta readers, your friends, and even your agent share feedback, really listen with an open mind. Yes, I’m talking to you, the tortured misunderstood artist. In my experience, the person giving feedback is right more often than not.

Neil Gaiman on critique:

“…when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

Bottom line: Listen, then fix it already!

2. ) Don’t just write during revisions…read, too!

If something is not working, stepping away from your work and immersing yourself in something else might be helpful. When I struggle, I always pull up a pile of great novels and read excerpts with a critical eye. I notice the different styles and elements which make the stories work. I analyze the mix of narrative vs. dialogue, description vs. action, etc.

While I would never try to imitate any other writer’s voice, I think it helps to admire the artistry of good craft. If I read good stuff, it helps me write my own good stuff.

Honestly, show me a terrible writer and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t read.

2.) Write yourself a revision letter.

Tell yourself what you’d like to see in a new draft. Lay it all out there and take yourself to task. Make specific suggestions to your writer self. Then take your own advice and whip your WIP into shape!

3.) Take your time and be strategic.

I go over my manuscript many, many times, focusing on different issues each time. One pass for the protagonist’s voice, one pass for general world-building issues, etc.

And don’t forget what my friend Rosemary Clement Moore says, do overs are allowed!

Hungry for more?

If you are busy poking around on your revisions and pouring your heart into making it better, you might enjoy this recipe for Chocolate Caramel Poke and Pour Cake.

Binge!

Are you ready to see a Rock-tastic face melting performance?

Then I suggest you iTunes  a Kings of Leon video.

Are you ready to watch Scarlet Whisper make a fool of herself?

Then look no further. I am here to amuse you. And make your ears bleed.

You’ve heard Eye of the Tiger. Now listen to EYE OF THE AGENT!

Eye of The Agent
 
Risin’ up, back in the slush,
Took my crits and I revised.
Went to workshop, and I rewrote this mush
Just a hack and her will to survive. 

So many times, it happened so fast,
An auto-reject from Bransford
Don’t lose your grip on your work in progress,
You must write just keep it alive 

It’s the eye of the agent, it’s the thrill of the slush
Risin’ up to the challenge of the query,
And the last known survivor gets a partial request,
And he’s watchin’ us all in the eye of the agent. 

Page to page, stuck in the inbox,
Hangin’ tough, keep on scribblin’
Full rejections with a scrap of feedback,
Help us kill, find the will to revise. 

It’s the eye of the agent, it’s thrill of the slush,
Risin’ up to the challenge of the query,
And the last known survivor gets a partial request
And he’s watchin’ us all in the eye of the agent. 

Risin’ up, straight to the pile,
Killed my gerunds and my adverbs.
Got some tension, now I’m not gonna stop,
Just hack and her will to survive 

The eye of the agent… 

Still Hungry?

Make like Elvis and grab a hunk o’ Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

2 sticks butter

8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, or cut up  bars

5 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

4 teaspoons flour

8 extra-large paper muffin cups (or use greased ramekins).

Melt butter and chocolate on very low heat; remove from heat. Beat eggs, sugar and salt with a hand mixer in a medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Beat egg mixture into chocolate until smooth. Combine with flour.   Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a standard-size muffin tin (1/2 cup capacity or use ramekins) with 8 extra-large muffin papers. Spray muffin papers with cooking spray. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until cakes puff but center is not set, 8 to 10 minutes. Pull papers away from cakes or lift out cakes before serving.
Binge!

This agreement made this 12th day of Never, in the 50th year of Our Lord Gaiman, by and between the peruser of the written article (henceforth referred to as THE READER) and the architect of the written article (henceforth referred to as THE WRITER).

WITNESSETH: That in consideration of mutual covenants and agreements to be kept and performed on the part of said parties, hereto, respectively as herein stated:

I. Said party of the first part (THE READER) covenants and agrees that it shall:

a. purchase, borrow, or otherwise legally obtain the written article in a manner demonstrating good faith in the power of a good story.

b. engage in the cerebral and/or emotional pursuit of the written article until such time as the written article ceases to engage THE READER.

c. discard the written article if such article contains more than an average of five metaphorical devices, cliches, and/or adverbs per page. In such case, THE READER vows to heap abuse on THE WRITER via Amazon and/or Twitter.

d. refrain from expressing an opinion of the written article in the physical presence of THE WRITER if said article induces the sentiment herewith known as “MEH.”

e. make loud and vigorous proclamation regarding the competency of THE WRITER, should the written article prove to be a string of wondrous, efficient, and/or fearsome words.

II. And Said Party of the Second Part (THE WRITER) covenants and agrees that it shall:

a. with reasonable liberality, endorse the purchase, lending, or otherwise legal means of acquisition of the written article by THE READER.

b. imbue the written article with such engaging features as non-preposterous characters and an actual plot. Additionally, THE WRITER agrees to  saturate said article with satisfactory tension and non-loathsome sentences.

c. set fire to any pre-published, embryonic musings containing more than an average of five metaphorical devices, cliches, and/or adverbs per page. Should THE WRITER allow such musings to be published, THE WRITER agrees to accept THE READER’S abuse via  Amazon and/or Twitter.

d. refrain from impuning THE READER for expressing a non-spectacular or otherwise uncomplimentary review published mechanically or distributed in the digital ether. Subclause: Should THE READER articulate a sentiment worse than “MEH” regarding said written article in the physical presence of THE WRITER, THE WRITER reserves the right to bludgeon THE READER ad mortem with said article, with impunity.

e. reward the loud and vigorous praise of THE READER by continuing to create strings of wondrous, efficient, and/or fearsome words.

THIS AGREEMENT SHALL BE BINDING UPON THE PARTIES, INCLUDING THEIR SUCCESSORS, ASSIGNS, AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES. THIS AGREEMENT SHALL BE ENFORCED UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF EX LIBRIS.

Signed the day and year first written above.

Signed in the presence of:

Scarlet Whisper

First Party:

Second Party:

Hungry for More?

Try my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies which are legally certified to be flourless yet delicious.

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup brown sugar (dark is yummier)

1 egg

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips (dark or milk)

Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips until smooth and well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet. Bake one dozen at a time for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and serve.

Binge!

Saturday night, folks from my writers’ group came over for a RockBand/Guitar Hero night.

Writers’ Rocksgiving.

I never knew we had so many headbangers and fist pumpers in our scribbler’s gang.

And of course…Scarlet Whisper made an appearance with her signature encore: Helter Skelter on Beatles RockBand.

I lose all inhibition (and dignity) wailing Helter Skelter. Imagine a tone deaf Paul McCartney in Janis Joplin drag performing a Vegas Style lounge act rendition. That kinda sums it up.

Can’t stop myself. I love that song. It’s become my writing anthem.

When I get to the bottom
I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and turn
and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again

Revision after revision after revision. You edit your manuscript until the sight of it makes you want to hurl all over your Chuck Taylors. And then you work on it some more.

Do you don’t you want me to love you
I’m coming down fast but I’m miles above you

You waver. One day, you believe you possess a glimmer of talent. The next (after your query incites a chorus of crickets), you embrace the enormity of your writing suckage.

Tell me tell me come on tell me the answer
and you may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer

You turn to your beta readers, your crit group, your spouse and your second grade teacher (or worse, your mom) to analyze what is wrong with your book.

I will you won’t you want me to make you
I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you

You put your manuscript aside. You start a new project.

Tell me tell me tell me the answer
You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer

You play the waiting game with agents. You persevere.

Look out
Helter skelter
helter skelter
helter skelter
Yeah,
Look out cause here she comes

And one golden day, you get a manuscript request (or two, or six). Maybe it’s a partial. Maybe it’s a full. You’re back on the roller coaster.

When I get to the bottom
I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and turn
and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Well will you won’t you want me to make you
I’m coming down fast but don’t let me break you

Look out
Helter skelter
helter skelter
helter skelter

Rejection? Maybe. Who knows.

She’s coming down fast
Yes she is
Yes she is
coming down fast

I can’t stop. The ride makes me hurl sometimes, but it’s too much fun to get off and walk away. Yep, I’m hopping in line again.

Here we go.

Tell me, dear ones, what’s your writing anthem?

Hungry for more? Writing junkies will enjoy my Black Magic Cake

Black Magic Cake

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter, cut into pats

3/4 chocolate syrup

8 Milky Way Bars (2.05 oz. each), cut into chunks

2 cups sugar

1 cup buttermilk (or add 1 tbsp. lemon juice to one cup regular milk)

1 tsp. vanilla

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup cocoa (dark choc. Hershey’s is best)

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 cup bundt pan. Put butter, syrup, and Milky Ways in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes, whisking once halfway through cooking time. Whisk until smooth.

Add sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, and eggs. Then add in flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.

Pour batter into bundt pan. Set bundt pan on a cookie sheet to catch any accidental spillover. Bake for one hour. Cool for 10 minutes before inverting cake from pan.

Glaze with frosting. To make frosting, melt three more Milky Way bars with 3 tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1 stick butter.

Overdose, erm…binge.

This past weekend, I picked up Another Faust, a YA novel by siblings Daniel and Dina Nayeri. I’m inhaling it late at night. I should be folding laundry instead, but this contemporary retelling of the classic deal with the devil story won’t let me go.

 Five troubled children disappear. Five years later, five gifted teens crash New York’s a list scene at Marlowe Academy, a school for the crème de la crème of Manhattan. Is their benefactor, Madame Vileroy, all she seems? What price will they pay to purchase their dreams? 

Another Faust is full of black desire, broken souls and twisted illusions.   

Oh, yeah. I’m in.

 Interested? Check out the Authors’ Web Site. They are sponsoring an Another, Another Faust writing contest. Submit your own Devil’s bargain story (3,000 words or less) and you might a win signed copy, a handwritten deleted scene, a feature interview and article, and the opportunity to get your work in the hands of publishing professionals.

If Another Faust whets your appetite, check out these sites highlighting other retellings of the classic Devil’s Bargain story.

What do Little Shop of Horrors, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, and Ghost Rider all have in common? Explore the roots and retellings of Faust at: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Faust

Old School Faust Legends: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/faust.html

Read about the granddaddy of them all: Goethe’s Faust

http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~brians/hum_303/faust.html

Hungry for more? Try my Devil’s Food Caramel Cake. No blood pact is required to bake this sweet treat.

Devil’s Food Caramel Cake

Ingredients:

1 box Devil’s Food Cake (Duncan Hines is best)

1 cup buttermilk (or add 1 tbsp. lemon juice to 1 cup regular milk)

½ vegetable oil

3 eggs

7 to 10 oz. package of milk chocolate covered turtles, chopped

1 tbsp. cocoa (I like Hershey’s Dark)

½ cup caramel topping

Your favorite chocolate frosting (homemade or from a can)

More turtle candies for garnish

 Grease two 9 in. round baking pans. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, buttermilk and oil. Add the eggs. Beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in the turtle candies and the cocoa. 

Pour batter into baking pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pans. Spread caramel between layers. Frost cake with chocolate icing and sprinkle additional turtle candy bits over the top of the cake.

Binge!

Have a short attention span?

Well, you have clicked to the right place.

Half minute horrors Just in time for Halloween, I have a giveaway of Half-Minute Horrors, a compilation of spooktacularly short stories written by a constellation of bestselling authors (Neil Gaiman, M.T. Anderson, Arthur Slade, Jerry Spinelli, Avi, Libba Bray, Melissa Marr, the list goes on and on…). Plus, I have a scrumptious recipe for time-crunched choco-holics.

Yes, you can have your book and eat cake, too. All in less than five minutes.

To win this fabulous anthology, all you have to do is read the following super short story and add one sentence to twist the ending. In a comment to this post, type your scary, sensational, or silly sentence into the comments section by midnight on October 31th.

Then a panel of impartial (but insanely witty) judges will choose a winner. After the winner is announced, he or she can contact me at mathmartin@tx.rr.com to leave a mailing address to receive Half-Minute Horrors. That’s it.

I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday, November 3rd.

And now…for the story. (BTW, the story is dark, twisted, and creepy. Also, it is FICTION and in no way resembles any person I know, alive, dead, or undead.)

Read, set, read…

Guessing Game

Let’s play a game. I’ll tell you about the people in my family and you guess which one of them is the real crazy. I know what you’re thinking. There’s all kinds of crazy, but I mean the real kind. I’m talking about the kind of nutter who needs to be locked away in a dark place.

C’mon. It’ll be fun.

For starters, there’s my mom. She’s a real piece of work. Depressed. Not bi-polar at all. Just depressed. There ain’t a pharmaceutical or clinical remedy known to mankind that can get her out of bed in daylight hours on a regular basis. I hear she used to be happy, and beautiful, and alive. Now, she just curls up in bed and stares at the wall. If you ask her why, she’ll tell you her eyes are burning.

Every once in a while, my dad would get fed up with the dishes and the smell, and he’d toss her out of bed. He didn’t let up until she’d get up and shower. She’d do a little laundry, and then rake up the trash. She might even make him dinner afterwards. She’d lie on the sofa and stare at him until he fell asleep. Mom stared, but she never cried. As soon as he was asleep, it was back to bed for her.

My aunt once told me that my Grandma Irene used to lock my mother in the cellar because she was afraid of the dark. It must have worked. She likes the dark now.

My aunt? She’s not depressed. She’s OK. Only, she hears voices sometimes.

Well, really just one voice.

She had a little girl. Amy. Amy bought it when she was five years old. She had meningitis. It was so bad they had to amputate Amy’s arms before the end. Aunt Carol still talks to Amy. Amy tells her…things. Things no one could know. Like one time, Amy told my Aunt not to let my cousin Robert get on a plane for his senior trip to Washington, D.C. Auntie Carol got so hysterical about it that Robbie missed his departure. He didn’t even make it to the gate.

The spooky thing is, the plane crashed. No one survived. So, I don’t know if you can call Aunt Carol crazy or not. She can’t see Amy or anything, she just hears her talking. Sometimes, at night, in the dark, I lie in bed and think about it. I wonder if Amy’s ghost has arms.

Now this is going to sound kinda sick, but some days I think it would’ve been better if Robbie had gotten on that plane. Like, the world might be a better place. I hate to say it, but Robbie wasn’t a very good little boy. A real bad seed.

He was a mean little son of a gun when we were kids. He used to catch stray cats and take them out to the woods behind our subdivision. He did stuff to them. I saw it once. He took a pregnant cat and stuffed her into a duffel bag. He swung an aluminum baseball bat and hit the bag. He beat the poor cat to death. The sound of that cat! It still makes me want to throw up when I hear a cat crying. I closed my eyes when I heard him unzip the bag. Ran home after that. Never went with Robbie to the woods again.

I still dream about the woods. The ground is littered with pine needles and kitty bones.

Know what you’re thinking. It’s gotta be Robbie, right? I mean, what’s worse than some kid murdering animals in the woods? He must be some kind of serial killer. I bet that’s what you’re thinking. Maybe, but I don’t think so. Robbie lives in Florida now, with his wife and three kids. I think he beats the missus. They don’t have any cats.

I’m not finished, though. I haven’t even gotten to my brother or my dad. My brother. Geez. He’s a different kind of sick puppy altogether. I say that, and I feel bad. It seems cruel. But it’s true. Somebody touched him. Somebody hurt him in the worst way. See, my cousin Robbie didn’t ever feel anything. He was numb inside. That’s why he beat those poor old cats to death. But my brother Curt, now he’s different. I know he feels bad when he hurts somebody. He can’t be around little kids. He knows it’s wrong, and he takes medicine and goes to a therapist, but he still wants to do things. I don’t want to know what he’s done.

It’s better if I don’t know. Besides, it’s really my dad’s fault, anyway.

My dad. Mr. Big Tough Man. I blame my dad for most of what happened to my mom and my brother. I can still see him sitting in his lazy boy in front of the Curtis Mathis console TV, drinking Old Milwaukee until the cans piled up like a tin sea under his feet. Some people think you’re not a real alcoholic unless you drink hard liquor. Those people never met my dad.

It’s not like he needed to drink to get angry. He was more violent when he was sober, anyway. All full of righteous indignation at how life screwed him over and saddled him with a sorry wife and witless kids. We all took turns getting a beating. He liked to kick and slap mom. He liked to hit me. With Curt, he’d close the door and use his belt. I don’t want to know what happened behind that door.

Afterwards, dad would come out and sit in the easy chair and watch reruns.  He was always good and relaxed after he’d come back out of Curt’s room. He’d be dripping with sweat. He kept a towel hanging over the headrest of the Lazyboy. There was a permanent sweat stain on it. Geez, that thing stunk. He’d watch cop shows and drink until he passed out.

When I think about it now, I wished we’d just handed him a beer when he walked in the door. Would’ve saved us all a lot of misery.

Dear Old Dad. Here’s his picture. I still carry it in my wallet. I like to take it out and look at it. Then I can spit in his sorry face. But you know what’s even better? I like to go down in the basement and stare at his head. I keep it in a jar. His face is all pruny and pickled. It makes me laugh just to think about it. Mr. Big Tough Man.

Well, that’s it, pretty much. So, what do you think? Can you guess who’s the real crazy?

Twist this ending and/or add to it in one sentence. Leave your entry in the comments below to win Half-Minute Horrors.

Hungry for more?

Then fire up your microwave and cook yourself a mugful of my Minute Chocolate Cake!

Minute Mug Chocolate Cake

Image from ehow.com

Ingredients:

1 large coffee mug (latte or soup mugs are great for this)

4 tbsp. flour

2 tbsp. cocoa

1 egg

3 tbsp. milk

3 tbsp. oil

3 tbsp. chocolate chips (optional)

Dash (or two) of salt

Splash of vanilla

Add dry ingredients to mug. Add egg. Mix well. Pour in milk and egg. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Microwave your mug for one and a half to three minutes on high. The cake will rise over the top of the mug. No worries. It’s supposed to.

Allow cake to cool. Tip out of the mug if desired. Or just gorge straight from the mug.

Binge!