Cook Like a Writer

With recipes, anecdotes and stories, The Book Posse brings a new twist to appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees. Check out beverages from hot coffees to cool cocktails and naughty indulgences. A special holiday recipes section will bring you new ideas for old favorites.

Together with five of my writing buddies, we came together as The Book Posse to bring you our take on cooking, author-style. Here’s one of the recipes you’ll find:

How To Make Good Coffee

Good coffee is simple to make but takes preparation. Two things are required: equipment and beans.

First, the equipment:

For the best coffee, in my opinion, try a French press. They’re not hard to find; look in the housewares section of any large store or in specialty cooking shops. They do break after a while (I’ve had three and the part that holds the screen down tends to weaken over time), so don’t feel like you have to buy the most fancy one out there.

A French press is simply a glass jar with a presser bar that has a circular metal flange, a screen and some kind of round press thingie (where it gets its name from, I suppose). When you buy it, take the lid apart. Unscrew the screen assembly from the center pole and pull it apart into its three pieces – but make sure you know what order to reassemble it. Wash everything in hot soapy water. If you buy one that can go in a dishwasher, and you have a dishwasher, run it through to sterilize it.

As for your beans, my favorites are Jamaican Blue Mountain and the New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company. Jamaican Blue Mountain is very expensive (if it’s cheap, don’t buy it because it’s not the real thing) but I recommend going to a specialty shop and trying some. It’s lovely stuff. Much more affordable is the New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company and their coffees are pure heaven; my favorite is their Chocolate Piñon whole bean. You can sometimes find it ground in canisters at Trader Joe’s; I usually buy it by the bag directly from the company.

The advantage to using whole beans is that they stay fresh longer. There’s a lot of debate about how to store the beans; do you put them in the freezer? Cabinet? Fridge? I store mine in the freezer. End of debate. (See how easy that was?) The theory is this: the oils in the beans will get stale and, over time, rancid; storing them in the freezer prevents this and keeps them fresh.

Grinders aren’t pricey; you can find good Krups grinders for about USD $20 in stores and on the internet. That’s what I like to use, but you might prefer the ease of ground beans. If you’re lucky enough to find a local store that carries them, you can buy them whole and grind them at the store. If not, the company will sell you ground beans.

How much do you use? That depends on your French press. I like the large presses; the biggest one I’ve had holds about 3 cups of coffee. Figure about a tablespoon-ish of beans per cup plus a tablespoon. (This is strong, granted; if you don’t like it that strong then use fewer beans.) Put the beans in the grinder and count to thirteen (you know, one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, etc.) while pressing the “grind” button.

Once you have your grounds, put them into the glass container of the press and pour boiling water over them. Fit the lid over the top but don’t press down yet. The purpose of the press is to move the grounds away from the liquid you drink; you want to let it steep first. Figure 3 to 5 minutes; I usually go by the color of the liquid. I like it dark.

A word to the wise: the coffee becomes more caffeinated the longer the grounds are in the water. Just because you’ve pushed them to the bottom doesn’t mean the coffee has stopped brewing. If you drink the dregs, you will be super-charged with caffeine. (Ask me how I know this? I had the misfortune of finding it out the hard way, in a meeting. One of my colleagues looked at me quizzically and asked me, “Have you had a lot of coffee today?” Since I always drink a lot of coffee, this was saying something.

Check out my compatriots’ sample recipes too for a “taste” of things to come (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun):

Cook Like a Writer Cover Debut” by Denise A. Agnew

Tasty Tuesday Cook Like a Writer” by Nancy Lauzon

Changing the World One Recipe at a Time” by Selena Robins

Cookbook a Comin’” by Kimberley Troutte

Sunday Box Talk: The Next Big Thing

For today’s offering of Sunday Box Talk, I offer you the Next Big Thing, an event where participating authors share their insights on their current in-progress novel. My agent provocatrix is Meg Allison, fellow author at Beyond the Veil and “wife, mom, and published romance writer” (love her tag line, don’t you?).

I know talking about my favorite subject, my writing, isn’t exactly about the boxes of life, but here’s how I’m thinking of it: my life centers around my writing and my family or home. I think ruminating on that for a while is a useful exercise when we’re thinking about our boxes and why they’re there.

So, without further ado, here are my Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing. Stay tuned at the bottom for links to some other participants in this event.

TNBT: What is your working title of your book?

Noony:  Our next book is called BOUND BY FIRE.

TNBT:  Where did the idea come from for the book?

Noony:  I was at my coauthor Rachel’s house and we were talking late one night. She has a print over her desk of a dragon at the portcullis of a castle and he is talking to a castle denizen. Of course, the assumption is the dragon’s there to eat the occupants, but I got to thinking, what if the dragon were an ally?

TNBT:  What genre does your book fall under?

Noony:  Fantasy M/M romance.

TNBT:  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Noony:  We actually selected models to play the two main characters, and use a lovely site called Beautiful. It’s a labor of love by two men in Europe and is one of the most professional sites on the internet for erotic male photography. If you haven’t checked it out, take a visit (not work safe and make sure you’re over 18).

TNBT:  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Noony:  Gosh. Good question! I always find these exercises tough. We struggle over the blurb for the books we write and I hope, someday, they’ll get easier. Let’s see what I can come up with for now:

Will Vanya, apprentice to an unscrupulous sorcerer, be able to free himself from a powerful binding with an elemental or will he become bait for a dragon?

TNBT:  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Noony:  Neither. We are targeting a specific house for this one, but we do not use an agency right now.

TNBT:  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Noony:  Not very long; the first draft only took a month or two. The challenging part has been the ending and bridges in the middle. I’m finding the endings are the most challenging part of any project.

TNBT:  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Noony:  Some of the elements of the MYTH ADVENTURES series by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye influenced us, as well as the early Harlequin white-covers where the romance is between two people brought together by arrangement.

TNBT:  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Noony:  My inspiration comes from many different places, especially my coauthor Rachel Wilder and the crew of Writer Zen Garden. I love you guys.

TNBT:  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Noony:  There are snakes, and bears, and sorcerers, and dragons. What more could you want? Oh, yes. The smut. Lots of lovely smex.

Be sure to check out some of the other participants in the Next Big Thing:

Kimberley Troutte’s Blog

Selena Robins Musings

Contests, and How They Help Your Writing – A Conversation with Kimberley Troutte

My friend Kimberley Troutte is up for several awards – congratulations, Kimberley!  I got to thinking, why would an author want to work on contests?  Does it help their writing process?  I mean, obviously it’s awesome to get the recognition, but how does it fit into all the other stuff that helps us write and publish and do all the stuff we’re supposed to do?

Then it hit me – ask someone who’s done some contests!  Derp!

And she didn’t even laugh when I asked to interview her.  Real peach, this one is.  Just don’t tell her I said that, or I might blush.

Come on over to the Writer’s Retreat with me and join me as I talk to Kimberley about all the stuff you’ve ever wanted to know about contests, but were afraid to ask.

Tue Cent Twosday – A Guest Post with Kimberley Troutte

Speeding Down the Road to Digital Publication

a Guest Post by Kimberley Troutte

Thank you for having me here today. Noony asked me to talk about how much digital publishing has changed the publishing industry for romance writers. Boy, where to begin?

One great place to start is at the top with RWA (the Romance Writers of America). Every summer RWA has a big conference to discuss the industry, network, eat good food…you know, regular stuff. When I went this time I was struck by how different this conference was from the first one I attended in 2006. All because of a little invention called an ebook.

A mere six years ago, there was a sense that a book not published by the traditional NY Big Six Publishers was somehow inferior. Self-published books were rarely considered by editors. Most writers needed an agent to get to the big houses and finding an agent to represent a new writer was tough. Being a budding romance writer, I dreamed of one day achieving that lofty pinnacle–publication at a big New York house. I thought it was my only road to success.

And it was a rough road full of bumps, sinkholes and heavily manned gates.

In those days (gosh, I feel like I’m talking about the Dark Ages) the journey started when a writer completed a manuscript and sent letters (by snail mail mostly) to agents and editors to try to sell the story. The wait time to hear from one of these professionals was painfully long as the writer trucked pages back and forth and paid a small fortune to the Post Office. If a writer was lucky enough to score a good agent who then sold the work, the wait was a year or two before the book hit the shelves. A year or two.

That was only six years ago–before Kindle, Nook, Facebook, Twitter, and email submissions. We’ve come a long way, baby.

At the 2012 RWA conference, all the buzz was about authors who found success by publishing through small digital-first publishers or on their own. (Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone?) The publishers heard these success stories too and, well, they freaked out a little. Imagine the big New York watching a corner of the publishing market slip through their fingers. Not only that, many already established authors were self-publishing their own works and making , gasp, more money.

New York houses are now in a rush to catch up to the Digital Age by opening Digital lines. Editors are looking for authors to fill new spots for various genres and story lengths. Some agents troll through ebook lists looking for clients to represent. Publishers look for hot-selling indie books to publish.

Wow, what a difference six years can make.

What about those long waiting periods? Well, a writer can self-publish her own book in a matter of days. Days, not years. Publishing houses have had to reduce publishing times in order to compete with Amazon and to woo authors who don’t want to wait years. In Anaheim, Kensington said that they can publish an ebook in about six months. I heard another house say 10-12 weeks! The rush to ebook publication is on.

What does this mean to writers?

Opportunity. Faster publication. Getting books into readers hands that have previously languished on a writer’s harddrive. Possibilities.

I’ll tell you what it means to me personally.

I used to suffer from stress dreams. Sometimes in my nightmares, I’d drive an out-of-control car at top speeds straight downhill. My kids screamed in the back seat while I stomped the useless brakes and tried to steer away from the ocean looming at the bottom of the road. I had that stupid dream five or six times and understood what it meant. My desire to be published was butting heads with gatekeepers who were tough about letting a genre-mixer storyteller like me through the gates. My goal to be published was as out of my control as that darn car was. What could I do?

One day Carrie Underwood sang “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” And I realized that I shouldn’t spend so much time trying to steer that car. Instead, I needed to let go of the things I couldn’t control and focus on what was important.

Writing is one of those important things. I stopped worrying about how I was going to get published and focused on writing the best books I can. Learning, growing, digging deeper, I let my passion and love fill the pages. I found pure bliss. My stories were infinitely better.

And now there are more roads to publication. My car is zipping along and whether I’ll park at a small press, Amazon, or a big house, who knows? I have more control. One way or another, my beloved stories will be read thanks to all those indie-authors who were brave enough to pave the way and to the awesome readers who buy books.

No more nightmares, only sweet dreams and well-paved roads from now on.

Biography

Kimberley Troutte has been a substitute teacher, caterer, financial analyst for a major defense contractor, aerobics instructor, real-estate broker, freelance writer, homework corrector and caregiver to all the creatures the kids/hubby/dog drag in. She lives with her husband, two sons, one dog and four snakes in Southern California.