Tag Archives: Character Development

Snacks for Every Writing Project: Plotting Polenta Diamonds


Woo hoo, life is grand! My plan was to do comfort food recipes to help survive those rejection letters but I’m in too good a mood today!

Last week I finished a heavy duty Paranormal Romance rewrite. Of course, this doesn’t mean things are quiet and calm, not by a long shot. This week I’ve begun a number of new projects. I’m querying the finished book and researching a series of non-fiction books while plotting a new Woman’s Literature novel I’ve been antsy to write. This can make a girl exhausted and I need to keep up my strength, right?

I love wonderful homemade things that I can just pop in my mouth while working at the computer. Yes, cookies and candies are easy but sometimes I just want something savory.

This is a recipe I developed when I was a chef in a country club back east. We were looking for a substitute for fresh made crackers or bread to accompany some of our signature luncheon salads and I remembered my mom always pushing polenta on us. My siblings and I hated the stuff, we called it “mush”, but it had the starchy qualities I needed to fill the bill. Polenta is like a blank canvas too, it lends itself to any flavor profile I needed so I started making savory Polenta Diamonds and they were a hit.

Of course now that I’m no longer slaving in a hot professional kitchen and get to sit at this keyboard to create, problem solve and write all day, I like to call these my Plotting Polenta Diamonds. I make them when I’m beginning the plotting process, season them to match the genre I’m working on, and like comfort food, they instantly put me in the mood to rock and roll with a plot to die for! Hope they do the same for you!

Savory “Plotting” Polenta Diamonds

2 C Milk

1 C Water

1 ½ C Yellow Cornmeal

½ tsp Salt

½ C Parmesan Cheese

¼ tsp Garlic Powder

1 tsp Minced Fresh Rosemary

¼ C Olive Oil

Bring milk and water just to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Slowly add cornmeal, stirring constantly. Add salt and lower heat. Continue stirring until polenta thickens, (this is kinda like roasting a turkey, it can be done quickly, or take a while). Stir in the parmesan cheese, garlic powder and rosemary.  Remove from heat.

Cool for a few moments then spread mixture ½ inch thick into a baking tray with a spatula and your fingers. Chill overnight. Slice into diamonds about 1 ½ ” wide by 2 ½” long.  Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with S&P. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turning the diamonds over halfway through. YUM!

Variations

For plotting a YA adventure, Lemon Garlic Plotting Polenta Diamondssubstitute ½ tsp lemon zest for rosemary.

For plotting a Spicy Romance, Caliente Plotting Polenta Diamondssubstitute ½ tsp chili powder for the rosemary and dip the Diamonds in picante sauce.

For plotting a Romantic Comedy, Counterpoint Plotting Polenta Diamondseliminate the Parmesan and substitute ½ tsp dried tarragon for rosemary.

For plotting a Historic Romance, Mama Mia Plotting Polenta Diamondseliminate the rosemary, and add 1 minced roasted red pepper plus an additional ¼ C parmesan cheese.

For plotting a Murder Mystery, Red Herring Plotting Polenta Diamondssubstitute Old Bay Seasoning for the rosemary and sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top before baking.

Enjoy! Next week: Comfort food snacks to survive the rejections … maybe … if I’m in the mood.

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Snacks for Every Writing Project: “Sweet Success” Balls!

The trials and tribulations of going from visionary to writer to author are daunting at best but along the way, there are oh-so-many reasons to celebrate. Small successes lead to big ones and taking a moment to recognize and shout out a success, even just to yourself and the computer monitor, is very important.

You must celebrate the successes that mark your journey!

  • Realizing that you have developed a unique approach for a unique story
  • Creating a wonderful plot outline
  • Finishing your first draft
  • The ah-hah moment that comes during the critique
  • Starting your rewrite with enthusiasm and promise
  • Getting half way through the hated rewrite
  • Finishing your WIP
  • Writing the perfect query letter
  • Getting your first request for more
  • Signing with an agent
  • Signing with the perfect publisher
  • Getting your book deal
  • Selling your first international rights
  • Realizing that you’ve just developed a unique approach for a story
  • And so it goes …

There are a thousand reasons to celebrate this blessed life of a writer! And I suggest you enjoy them with a tiny sweet taste of “Sweet Success” balls! Quick and easy to make, no baking and they last as long as you can keep from scarfing them all down. Don’t miss the variations on this recipe. Oh, and don’t get drunk. It may hinder the road to your next success, LOL.

“Sweet Success” Balls (Amaretto Version)

1# Vanilla Wafers ( most boxes hold 12 oz. so you may need 2 boxes)

1 C Fine Chopped Walnuts

3 tsp Cocoa

½ C Lt Corn Syrup

¼ C Amaretto

1 C Powdered Sugar

Using a food processor, fine chop the Vanilla Wafers and pour into large bowl. Fine chop the walnuts, then add to the same bowl with the Cocoa, Corn Syrup and Amaretto. Mix by hand until completely blended and tight enough to roll into a 1” ball (if not wet enough, add a little corn syrup and/or amaretto at a time until nice balls will form. Roll each ball in powder sugar and place them into a container that seals tightly.

The “Sweet Success” balls are delicious right away but oh-so-much better if left to sit, sealed in the container for a day or two.

Variations

“Sweet Success” Rum Balls – substitute dark, Spiced Rum for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Orange Balls – substitute Grand Marnier for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Mint Balls – substitute Crème de Mint for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Hazelnut Balls – substitute Frangelico for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Mexican Balls – substitute Kahlua for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Peanut Butter Balls – substitute Peanut Butter for amaretto

“Sweet Success” Raspberry Balls – substitute Raspberry Jam for amaretto

Enjoy! Next week: Comfort food snacks to survive the rejections.


Snacks for Every Writing Project: “Rewriting” Balls

I’ve just gone through a serious rewrite, a rewrite that taught me more about writing than any brand-new-original project or how-to book ever has. It started with a mentor (wait, let me adjust that, I started with AN AMAZING MENTOR), several honest, outspoken readers and a crapload of determination. It ended in a four month struggle to open my eyes. It seemed hopeless and more than once I thought about just giving up on the book. Then suddenly, like pixie dust had sprinkled from the heavens onto my thick head … it all clicked … leading me into a frenzied re-rewrite that has truly helped this writer turn the corner. My novel now has powerful plot and character development, several twists, and a writer who actually feels completely great about it.

And if you’re a writer, you know exactly what I mean by that. We’ve all felt good about a piece of writing, we’ve even felt real good about it, but how often can you honestly say you felt completely great about it? Completely great doesn’t mean I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I’ll be discovered, fought over by several agents and catapulted into the upper echelon of successful authors. I mean, sure, it could happen, but when I say I feel completely great about this final rewrite, I mean that my personal best has jumped the wire, and that wire was set higher then ever before. I succeeded and know that this book, or the next (which by the way, I’ve already excitedly begun), or the one after that has a much higher chance of success.

The next steps? “Cold in California” will be entered into the 2010 ABNA competition next Monday, and I will be querying the novel and series over the next few weeks. Scary stuff but you know what? I really do feel completely great about it.

YAY FOR ME! I had the balls to face my writing, plotting and character development demons and during it all, I did what all writers do when they write. I ate to keep up my strength.

This blog is about snacks for every writing project, so today’s recipe is savory, to reflect the aromatic experience facing the rewrite dragons in your closet. Time to bring the tropics to your desk!

Caribbean Langostino Balls

1 lb. Cooked, Cleaned Langostinos (at the grocery store, frozen case or seafood counter)

½ C Red Peppers, small diced

1 T Scallions, thin sliced

¼ C Mayonnaise

½ tsp Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (more if you like spicy/sweet)

S&P to taste

2 Eggs, whisked with 1 T water

1 C Breadcrumbs, dry, unseasoned

Preeheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop langostinos and combine with diced red peppers, sliced scallions, mayo and Jerk seasoning. Mixture should be tight enough to form into small (1”) balls. If not, add a little dried unseasoned breadcrumbs to tighten – if mixture is not wet enough, add a little mayo. Roll balls in breadcrumbs, then egg mixture and then breadcrumbs again until well coated. Set balls on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

Langostino balls can be refrigerated and reheated for munching later. Yummy hot or cold.

Pirate Trunk Dipping Sauce

½ C Apricot Preserves

1 T Dark Rum

¼ tsp Dry Mustard

Mix and heat

Variations:

Substitute lump crab meat for langostinos.

Substitute ¼ t dried mustard, ¼ t Old Bay seasoning and a dash of cayenne pepper for Jerk Seasoning.

For even more spicy Caribbean Langostino Balls, add another ½ t jerk seasoning to the breadcrumbs for coating.

A variation on the dipping sauce is to mix equal parts Raspberry Jam with Dijon Mustard.

Enjoy! Next week: Sweet balls, for that sweet feeling of success after reaching your writing goals. After all, it’s common knowledge that it takes a lot of balls to do the job well.


Snacks for Every Writing Project: Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut …

Over the past few days, as I chatted in my favorite distraction place on earth, Twitter, I noticed a trend among January writers, editors and authors. This may be something that happens all year round, but after the Holidays it seems a little more prevalent. After all, snacks have been readily available, from Christmas cookies to candy and cheese balls with crackers, so having a bowl of munchies on your desk as you work is a natural. In fact, even without the festive goodies, I’m thinking it’s probably a really good idea to keep nutrition close at hand during long writing projects. One must keep up ones strength, right? Serving our “hunter and gatherer” nature, I’ve seen people tweet about potato chips and cold pizza, cheese cake and tim tams … and the desperate need to run out and get some if the cupboard is bare of such delicacies. They chatter about the aroma of dinner cooking in the crock pot and the excitement of grilling steaks outside in the snow. There’s no escaping it and I’m certainly one of the biggest culprits.

No, this isn’t a blog about gaining weight (I say as I look over my shoulder at my widening behind). This is a blog about staying sharp and alert while coping with that major rewrite, edit, new novel plotting, or non-fic computer research ahead. Euell Gibbons was right about one thing, it’s natural and important for humans to snack regularly, but what Euell Gibbons used to eat, I hardly recognize as food.

Writing is a creative process, so I propose we feed our bodies and minds with creative food … snacks that are easy to prepare ahead of time and perfect for refueling the mental and physical machine … refreshments that won’t make the keyboard sticky or require assembly attention. Simple, yummy, energy designed tidbits to keep your momentum high and reach your deadlines!

So, I’ve decided to do a Thursday blog to address this issue of “Writer’s Munchie Mania” and share a few of my culinary skills along the way. I promise the recipes will take little time to prepare and be ubber satisfying too. Here goes!

I thought we’d start with Caramel Coffee Nuts, as most of us are still suffering the Holiday Saber Sweet Tooth. What else does a writer need? Caramel because it’s luscious, coffee because it’s vital, and nuts because … well, just because. I see these nuts as a delicious way to remind us to put a little sweetness and humor into those antagonists, keep the bad guy interesting and then, of course, be creative. At the end of every recipe will be suggestions on how to pump it up and make it a little different.

Caramel Coffee Walnuts

1 C Brown Sugar

½ C White Sugar

½ C Sour Cream

1 T Instant Coffee

Combine and cook all above ingredients to 260 degrees or until a drop of mixture, dripped into a glass of cold water, creates a soft ball.

Remove mixture from heat and add 1 tsp. Vanilla

Fold 2 ½ C Whole Walnuts into hot mixture then distribute individual coated nuts on wax paper. Let dry for 24 hours. Store in sealed container. Caramel Coffee Walnuts will last as long as your willpower to avoid them lasts and not a minute longer.

Variations:

For Spicy version, add ½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes before cooking mixture

For Apple Pie version, add ¼ tsp. Cinnamon before cooking mixture

For Tea version, substitute Powdered Chai Mix for the instant coffee

For texture variations, use mixed nuts or your favorite nuts. Note: cashews create a unique flavor profile and pecans add even more sweetness.

Enjoy!

Next week: balls, a yummy variety of finger food for facing the dreaded rewriting projects. After all, it’s common knowledge that it takes a lot of balls to do the job well.

In the meantime, if you have a great recipe or favorite snack that gets you through a long day at the keyboard, please share. We’re all starving to hear about it!