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A Pet Peeve About New Recipes

My wonderful husband bought me The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime for Christmas. Have I mentioned how much I love that man? Yes, this was #1 on my Christmas list, because I just love Ree Drummond’s Food Network show, The Pioneer Woman.


The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime


Her cookbooks are much more than recipe collections. They’re full of stunning pictures, step-by-step instructions with photos and personal tidbits. Plus, her food is scrumptious!

My husband went through the book at my request to let me know which recipes looked good. I laughed when he finished. He basically told me to start at page one and work my way through. I’m on board with that!

This January I’ve tried six recipes, and they’ve all been hits. Monday I decided to attempt a Chinese dish. The only problem? I didn’t have over half the ingredients on the list. Some of them sounded quite foreign. This fact alone is a big enough pet peeve of mine that I considered skipping the recipe. However, I powered ahead and scoured the grocery store for:

  • Rice vinegar
  • Sesame oil
  • Fresh ginger
  • Sherry
  • Oyster sauce

I had no problem finding most of the items, but the last one–the oyster sauce–was nowhere to be found. Tired, I headed home and put everything away, but about an hour before I was set to start cooking, I decided to go back to the grocery store for another look.

Nope. No oyster sauce. They were all out.

Naturally, I Googled a suitable replacement. I decided to substitute the oyster sauce with hoisin sauce, but I halved it after reading that the flavor can be overpowering.

The dish, Cashew Chicken, was a big hit! I would link the recipe, but it isn’t listed on her website. I’ll definitely be making it again. And this time, I’ll already have most of the ingredients. Score!


What pet peeve keeps you from doing something?

Have a terrific weekend!!

Creating a Production Plan: Writer Wednesday

On Saturday I was blessed to speak at Maumee Valley Romance Authors, Inc. My presentation was on how to create a production plan. I came up with these steps through trial and error last year. Since implementing my plan, I’ve blown away my personal deadlines, and for the first time I’m successfully working on multiple projects at once. Why? Having a production plan cleared the mental clutter. Every day I wake up excited because I believe I can achieve my goals for this year, and I know exactly what those goals are.


Creating a Production Plan


What is a production plan?

A production plan is a twelve-month schedule a writer creates for upcoming writing projects. It lists the steps for each project and when the writer anticipates completing them.


Do you need a production plan?

  • Do you look back at the end of the year and wonder what you accomplished?
  • Do you have a list of things you’d like to write but have no idea when you’ll get them done?
  • Are you struggling to work on multiple projects at various stages of completion?
  • Do you have a nagging sense there is no way you can fit everything into your schedule?
  • Do you want to increase your productivity? Write more books in a year? Publish more books?


Where to start:

  1. List all of the books, novellas, short stories or other projects you’re interested in pursuing.
  1. Analyze the list according to brand/time/market.

– Does this project complement my brand?

– How much time will it take for me to complete this project?

– What is the market outlook for this project?

  1. What projects make the most sense to pursue in the upcoming year based on the above analysis?


Ordering Your Steps:

  1. Do you have any contracted writing projects? These are your #1 priority and everything else must be scheduled around them.
  1. Are you self-publishing any projects?

– How many books, novellas, or short stories are you releasing this year?

– Are any of these completed?
– How long does it take you to plot, write, revise, polish, have a book edited, and prepare each project for publication?

– What are the timeframes for your cover designer, editor or any other publishing contractor?

– How much time do you need to market your projects?

  1. Are you querying agents or editors with any of the books? If yes, do you have a deadline (Ex: you’re pitching at a conference in July)?


Estimating Time Frames:

  1. Based on the above information, list the projects you will tackle this year.


  1. Under the project name, jot what needs to be done (write, revise, have critiqued/edited, etc…) and how long you think each step will take.


  1. Go over the list with a critical eye. Based on your time estimates, can you realistically pursue each project? Or, on the flip side, can you add a project?


  1. Decide the order of importance for each book. Which will you work on first? When do you want to have it completed? Is this a reasonable timeframe? Will you work on other projects simultaneously (drafting one, preparing another for publication)?


The Production Plan Rough Draft:

  1. Take twelve blank pieces of paper or sticky notes. Label them January, February, March and so on.
  1. Review your Time Frame list from above.

Let’s say Project A is your most important project at this moment. You’ve written a rough draft, but it needs to be revised, critiqued, and edited. You will be pitching this book in July at the RWA conference. Project B is a novella you’ve decided to self-publish. It is just an idea in your mind at this point. Since it’s a Halloween theme, you want to release it by September 31. Project C is the second book in Project A’s series. You want to write the first three chapters by the end of the year just in case an agent or editor requests Project A and wants more.

  1. Starting with Project A (use your title), list what needs to be done on the pieces of paper in the months you anticipate working on them. Keep your calendar in front of you with any important dates (vacation, out of town wedding) to avoid overcommitting.


Ex:      January:        Project A: Revise and send to critique partner


            March:            Project A: Edit based on critique

            April:               Project A: Polish

            May:                Project A: Write synopsis, revise and polish

  1. Repeat step 3 with your remaining projects.



  1. Some months will have multiple projects on them. Review these and be honest with yourself. Are your expectations too high? It’s okay to drop one of your projects off the list or to plan on completing only part of it. That’s what this exercise is for.


  1. Combine the papers and type up a 12-month plan.

January:        Project A: Revise and send to critique partner

Project B: Brainstorm story direction

Project B: Plot, write blurb/synopsis, etc…

February:       Project B: Begin drafting the story

March:            Project A: Edit based on critique

Project B: Finish drafting story

Project B: Hire editor (who you know has two month lead time)

And so forth…


  1. Print this form out and keep it near your workspace so you can refer to it every workday. It will keep you focused on what’s most important to you for that month.


Step-by-step guide to creating a production plan – Click to Tweet

Do you create a twelve-month plan for your writing? If twelve months seems overwhelming, try a six-month plan. And feel free to play around with the concept. What worked for me might not work for you, but it might trigger another idea that will work for you!

Have a terrific day!

I Left the House!

Okay, today’s title probably seems sarcastic, kind of like the meme going around about not needing to say you see snow because we all have eyes, but for real, this isn’t snarky. I tend to hibernate in the winter. Sure, I get groceries and run an errand or two, but more often than not, I’m snuggled up in my cozy home, working on a writing project.

Yesterday I finished my to-do list early, and I knew. It was time. Time to zip up my winter coat, slip on my Isotoner gloves, and swipe some lipstick on.

I left the house!!

I’m embarrassed to admit I had no idea where to go. I knew I wanted to brainstorm story ideas. A coffee shop would be ideal. But which one? Panera, Starbucks, the cute and trendy Parker, or the also trendy The Flying Joe? Decisions, decisions. I had to drop stuff off at the Post Office first, and I still hadn’t decided where to go when I hopped back in my car.

Finally, I just started driving. Remembered Starbucks gift cards hiding in my wallet, and it was a done deal. We have a Starbucks in our Barnes & Noble, but I preferred a more intimate setting. I headed to one of the stand-alone stores. As soon as I entered, I let out a happy sigh. The lighting was just right, the big pictures on the walls and the dark wood floors gave it the vibe I was looking for.

After an hour of brainstorming, people watching, and cappuccino sipping, I packed up my stuff and left. It felt good to be out. Felt great to soak in a different location. And I got a ton of ideas for stories and books. What’s not to love about that!

Do you hibernate? Do you ever steal an hour to enjoy coffee in a shop by yourself?

Have a wonderful weekend!!

The Inside Scoop with Carla Laureano

Today Carla Laureano is  graciously answering questions about her writing life. Carla writes contemporary inspirational romance novels, and her new novella, Jilted, is available now–for free!! Don’t worry, I have all the links and book info below!

Let’s get to it.



1. How did you know you wanted to be a writer?


I’m not sure I could pinpoint the exact moment. I’ve always been a reader (and a very early one at that) so I think it was a natural extension of my interest in stories to start writing my own. The first short story I can really remember writing was when I was six or seven, and I simply never stopped—though I’ll admit I’ve gone through various genres over the years.


2. What is unique about your process?


I think every writer’s process is different, but I suppose what’s unique about mine is that every book demands a slightly different process. Some of my books, I’ve sat down and written from start to finish in a few weeks. Others have been subjected to fits and starts, where I got 25% into the book and decided to start over from scratch. Some of them get plotted ahead of time, and others are written completely by the seat of my pants. I think the only consistent factor across all of them is that I enter the writing phase with a full biographical background and character sketch for each character. Once I know how the character will react to any situation, it’s much easier to make sure their actions and reactions feel authentic.


3. What inspired your book?


Jilted came from a random idea I’d jotted down in Evernote over a year ago, originally intending it to be the first book in a category length series. When I came back to it, I decided it wasn’t a topic that I wanted to explore over the course of fifty or sixty thousand words, but it would make a perfect novella. As far as the tropical setting, when I began to write, Colorado had been subjected to a cold and gloomy stretch of weather—I must have been mentally ready for a sunny vacation, virtual or otherwise!


4. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Believe it or not, it was to study something other than creative writing! In college, my favorite professor and faculty advisor, knowing I wanted to be a professional writer, recommended that I study English literature instead of creative writing. He suggested that I develop my own voice first, while learning the principles of storytelling and characterization from great writers past and present. Then I could go back and learn to be an effective self-editor. I think it was good advice, because when I look back on my college writings, my voice is recognizably the same, even though I’ve much improved in my craft. Learning to look at my own work with a critical eye as an editor rather than a writer is probably the greatest skill I’ve acquired.



Carla, I’m fascinated that you have such different writing processes with each book. I’m guessing it makes writing an adventure! It’s taken me years to develop my critical self-editing eye, so I agree with you about it being a great skill. Now I’m curious…who are your favorite English Literature authors? Thanks so much for being my guest today!





About Jilted


Three days. Two jaded hearts. One unexpected love.

Bethany Hall is hiding out on a remote private island off the coast of Belize, creating romantic meals for the rich and the privileged. But when her client Derek Moretti’s bride jilts him at the altar, he’s left with a bitter view on love, a $30,000 a week bungalow, and for the first time in his life, nowhere else to be.

After Derek overhears his beautiful personal chef talking about how he dodged a bullet when his bridezilla left him, he begins to think that maybe she’s right. He convinces Bethany to act as his personal tour guide for the remainder of his trip, but neither expect that their purely platonic arrangement could shake their preconceptions about love.

Could Derek have been in the right place at the right time…just with the wrong woman?



Carla Laureano


About Carla


Carla Laureano is the RITA Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons.

Connect with her: Web | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest

Subscribe to Carla’s newsletter and download Jilted for free! Click HERE for more details.


The cover of Jilted makes me want to fly to Aruba and spend the week at the beach! If you could go anywhere right now, where would you go?

Have a fabulous day!



Television Recommendations Needed!

I’m in a television rut. College football is over. I don’t enjoy watching basketball, and I have no clue what to watch. The only show I’m viewing regularly is Married At First Sight, which is very entertaining. But it only comes on once a week…so what should I watch? Here’s a little tidbit if you’re interested.



I’ve watched parts of SupergirlIt’s pretty good. I need to remember when it comes on.

Oh, I like Fresh Off the Boat, but again, I’m hit or miss on when it actually airs.

You all know my obsession with Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, and I can’t wait until it comes back in August. Only eight months away! Haha!

So what shows are can’t miss for you? I’m open to suggestions. Winter gets so boring. I’d love to anticipate a good series!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund: Writer Wednesday

Undaunted Hope

Last week I had the pleasure of diving into Jody Hedlund’s latest inspirational historical romance, Undaunted Hope. It’s the third book in her Beacons of Light series, and I’ve been dying to read more about Tessa Taylor since she made a whopper of a mistake in the second book, Hearts Made Whole. I finished the book on Saturday–what a treat!

Jody Hedlund writes drama-filled, high conflict, historically fascinating, deeply romantic novels, so it’s easy to lose track of time and forget where you are when you’re reading her books. I’ll post my review below, but here are some of the highlights of Undaunted Hope.

  1. Spunky heroine unafraid to fight for equal rights for herself as a woman as well as for others less fortunate
  2. Hunky brothers fighting for her affection
  3. Sweet children Tessa falls in love with (and the reader does too!)
  4. Interesting historical details about mining and the harsh life way up north in the late 1800’s
  5. Internal conflicts regarding helping a loved one with depression, blaming an object (the lighthouse) for bad things in life, and standing up for what’s right in the face of terrible punishment

Here’s my review:

5 STARS for Undaunted Hope

I’ve been looking forward to this installment of the Beacons of Hope series ever since reading about Tessa in Hearts Made Whole. Boy, she made some big mistakes in that book! Undaunted Hope picks up five years after Tessa left home. She’s the new school teacher in a small coal mining town in upper Michigan, but she faces a mountain of obstacles, including a town leader who abuses his power, the fact only male teachers are allowed to teach in the school, rough living conditions and a pair of brothers fighting for her affection. As with all Ms. Hedlund’s books, this one is a page turner with lots of conflict and some swoonworthy moments. All is wrapped up in a supremely satisfying ending!

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own. *


Undaunted Hope


Undaunted Hope

Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won’t be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can’t help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.

Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she’s the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.


Jody Hedlund

About Jody ~

Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of nine novels, including Captured By Love, Rebellious Heart, and A Noble Groom, winner of the 2014 Carol Award and INSPYs Award. She received a bachelor’s from Taylor University and a master’s from University of Wisconsin, both in social work. Currently she makes her home in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and five busy children.


What author makes you forget where you’re at and what time it is? Please share!


Have a fab Wednesday!

And Then There Was One…Truffle

I’ve had a two pack of white peppermint Lindor truffles on my desk all week. These little delights are so delicious, you can’t help but close your eyes and black out a teeny bit while eating them. So smooth. So creamy. So full of calories and sugar. Bummer.


And Then There Was One...Truffle


Yeah, I’m in healthy mode. Not all-or-nothing  mode. Nope. I don’t do restrictive diets. I just know that a truffle a day keeps the doctor away–wait, that can’t be right. A truffle a day makes my skinny jeans go away? Sounds more realistic.


So  the candy. It stares at me. But I wink at it. And I save it for the day I really, really need it. Like on Wednesday, when 2pm rolled around and I felt that my entire body would explode if I didn’t have an ice cold can of Coke right that minute. And when I cracked that can open, I eyed the truffles. I thought, why not? The package itself says, “Irresistibly Smooth.” I can attest to that fact.


Irresistibly Smooth!


I didn’t feel guilty about eating the truffle and drinking the Coke, but it did force me to rethink my afternoon snack. Usually I have a very healthy smoothie (2 fruits, 1 vegetable–my recipe is HERE), but at just under 300 calories, I couldn’t afford the truffle and the Coke and the smoothie. So I skipped the smoothie.


Hey, it’s all about moderation. The rest of the week I made good choices. And I’m pretty excited I still have another truffle! Maybe it will be a Wednesday thing…okay, now I’m getting crazy. :)


Are you on a health kick? How is it going for you?


Have a fabulous weekend!!

Writer Wednesday Vlog: Jessica R. Patch

Jessica R. Patch

Happy new year!! What better way to kick off the blog this year than with a vlog? It’s all about one of my favorite ladies in the whole world–Jessica R. Patch!!


Fatal Reunion
But it now on Amazon!! Just click on the picture!


Jessica’s debut novel with Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense, Fatal Reunion, released yesterday! That means you can run out to the store or click on an online shopping site and buy that baby now–woohoo!!

Here’s the vlog!

Fatal Reunion by Jessica R. Patch


About Jessica:

Jessica R. Patch lives in the mid-south where she pens inspirational contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. When she’s not hunched over her laptop or going on adventurous trips in the name of research with willing friends, you can find her watching way too much Netflix with her family and collecting recipes to amazing dishes she’ll probably never cook. Her novel, Fatal Reunion, releases with Love Inspired Suspense in January, 2016. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management.


In other news, I’m biting my nails because I just started writing a new book. Don’t get me wrong, I love working on a new story, but the first couple of pages are usually tough for me. I tend to tinker with the opening lines for far too long. At least I have chocolate to get me through!

Wait…I’m supposed to be eating healthy. Hmm…

What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Have a terrific day!!

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