Friday, September 27, 2013

Battered to Death Giveaway

On Tuesday, September 24, my latest book in the Daphne Martin cake decorating series--Battered to Death--was released. Yay!!!! [Kermit arms] Would you like to win a copy? Read on! [Marion, if you win, I will draw you a "fabulous CACK" (have you seen Father of the Bride?!)]

I have a funny story about a drawing of a "fabulous CACK." Once when I was asked to speak with a group of kids, I was reminded of how very precious children are. I told them how it took many people to make a book: the writer, the editor, the publisher, and the cover artists. I took a dry erase marker and did my "rendering" of the cake and the cat on the cover of Murder Takes the Cake. Some immediately said my drawing was good. Maybe it wasn't bad to a five-year-old. I showed them the real cover and said, "But this one is better, right?" A girl on the front row whispered, "A little bit." I hugged her. :D

To win a copy of Battered to Death, leave me a comment (and don't forget to add your email address) telling me the color of the frosting just before the book cover in the final frame of the trailer below. On Monday, I'll put the number of comments into the number generator and have it give us a winner! Good luck!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More Tips for School Visits

This morning, I am going to make another school visit. My group today will be made up of Pre-k students. Thus, I have more school visit tips for authors:
1) Adjust your presentation according to age/grade level.
2) Align some of your discussion to curriculum. Find out information on curriculum by talking to teachers, looking as school websites or referring to State Department of Education website.
3) Allow for questions from students. Remember asking a "question" often means making a "statement" to a young child. You may have to cut-off and redirect when the begin sharing stories instead of asking questions.
4) You probably will not have time to answer every question students want to ask. Also, some students will try and monopolize the whole time by constantly raising their hands. "I'm going to move on" and "I'm going to call on someone who hasn't asked a question" are useful phrases.
5) Show unabashed enthusiasm for writing! You are there to get them excited about writing.
6) Have fun. Kids can sense when a grownup is uncomfortable.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Importance of Presentation

I wish I could find an attribution for this quote, but it may just be one of those things "they" say: We eat with our eyes first. That means that, if we're presented with two plates of food, and we don't know what they are, and we can't smell, and we don't know who cooked them.... Okay, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Because I know people who, if I know they made the food, I don't care if it looks like Johnny Depp, I ain't havin' none of it.

BUT MY POINT IS, a nice presentation enhances food. My grandpa used to say, if he or anybody else made a dish that didn't look as nice as expected, "That don't hurt the eatin' of it." Or maybe he would say, "Messy but nourishin'."

Nevertheless, a pretty presentation is an extra bit of happy. Like this:
Ain't nothin' in the world but tomatoes and cucumbers, but it was so colorful and fresh, looking at it was a treat even before we dug into it.

So I guess we ate with our eyes first.

Marian Allen
Come visit me at my blog:
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pumpkins! by Joyce Lavene

By Joyce Lavene

I LOVE pumpkins! I love to look at them, and eat them. They are my favorite autumn food!

Since it is officially autumn now, we can start talking about cooking up some pumpkins. And eating them!

I'm sure all of you know some great pumpkin recipes.

Did you know that early settlers in this country wouldn't eat pumpkin? They used it as a vessel to cook other food and threw it away. Bad mistake. They didn't know what they were doing.

Lucky for us, we know better and there are plenty of pumpkins out there for us.

All we have to do is go out and get one!

I'm doing that right now. I'll be back next week with a great recipe.

If you don't have yours yet, here's a link you can use to help choose one:

See you next time!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Pumpkin Biscotti

I found this recipe at Spoonful and now I'm wanting pumpkin biscotti with hazelnut or vanilla coffee.

Pumpkin Biscotti

Kids love chocolate and love cookies, especially cookies made for dunking. These pumpkin spice biscotti are winners in both of those categories, and they make an especially fine gift, as well. Try wrapping them up with a bag of holiday spiced coffee for a real treat.

What you'll need

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
Notes:Yields about 20

How to make it

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade attachment.
  2. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Pulse until a rough ball forms. It will still be somewhat crumbly. Add mini chocolate chips and pulse just until combined.
  3. Remove from food processor and place on a lightly floured board. Knead for about 30 seconds.
  4. Divide dough in half. Roll or pat each half of the dough to a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch.
  5. Place on a greased cookie sheet, about 3 inches apart. Bake for 23 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  6. Using a serrated knife, slice each segment diagonally, into 1/2 inch cookies
  7. Lay cookies on their sides and bake for about 15-20 minutes more, or until somewhat firm and beginning to get golden. Cookies will continue to firm up after they are removed from the oven. Let cool completely.
  8. If desired, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips in the microwave (it takes about 1 minute), then using a spoon, carefully coat the top of each cookie with melted chocolate. Cookies can then be placed in the fridge for a few minutes to harden the chocolate, and then stored in an airtight container.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Author Visits to Schools

I have posted about doing author vists to schools before, but last week my visit was a bit different. Usually, my visits last anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending two days at a local school.
My background is in public education; so I love working in schools! If you would like to plan such a visit, here are a few tips. My advice is based on my experiences as a school employee combined with my experiences as an author:
1) Be aware that schools have limited funds. If money is available,I ask for a small appearance fee. Some schools simply do not have extra funds. I do not turn down those schools, but still sell books to teachers and students.
2) I give $1.00 from each book sold back to the school.
3) I send order forms for books to teachers before my visit. There are two options I give for ordering. I can bring and sign books on day of visit. Or, I can have students take home order forms after my visit. In that scenario I deliver books at a later date.
4) Read your book to students. As you read or after you read, point out things authors do to keep readers' interest, teach lessons, etc.
5) Be prepared! Facing a group of kids can be intimidating if you do not have a plan.
6)  Ask that teachers have the students bring paper and pencils to presentation. That way, you can have them write and share. Getting the kids involved is very important.
7) Be joyful and animated. Your goal is to get the students excited about writing

More tips next week!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Heavenly Eggplant AKA Mirza Ghassemi

I saw this recipe in the paper. Frankly, the picture didn't look very appetizing, but I'd had the dish in a restaurant and knew it tasted better than it looks, so I saved the clipping.

My ever-loving husband isn't too crazy about eggplant (I luurrrrvvvzz it), so I made this while he was away for lunch.

Oh. Em. Gee. It was even better than the restaurant's!

Here is the recipe, although I cut it way down, since the recipe is for 6 and I was eating alone.

Mirza Ghassemi 
(Persian Eggplant Casserole)
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter or shortening
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
Roast the eggplants until brown or roast in a 400-degree oven until brown on the outside and soft on the inside (test with a fork). Cool and peel. Mash the pulp.

Sauté the onions and garlic in the butter or shortening until golden brown. Stir in the turmeric.

Add the eggplant pulp and sauté briefly, stirring well.

Add the salt and pepper.

Stir tomato into the eggplant.

Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes.

Pour eggs over the eggplant. When the eggs start to solidify, stir briefly and serve.

Serves 6.

I had some puppodums I thought would be good with it, and the one I cooked turned up puffing into a bowl shape, so I plopped the doin's into it.
It's also food day at my blog. I invite you to hop on over and see what's cookin'.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blueberries by Joyce Lavene

Blueberries taste good and they are so good for you!

By Joyce Lavene

* One half cup if blueberries provides as much antioxidant as five servings of other nutritious foods such as broccoli, squash and carrots!

* They make great pies and tarts!

* One cup of blueberries repairs damage one to the brain.

* Blueberries can help prevent macular degeneration.

*Blueberries promote urinary tract  health.

* Blueberries are great fresh in salads and in cereal.

Friday, September 13, 2013


In...honor...of Friday the Thirteenth, here are some links to some pretty nasty foods:

First up from PopSugar, 13 Foods for Freaky Friday. Don't look at this if you're eating. And, by the way, I never knew what sweetbread was. If asked on a quiz show, I'd have said a sweet, yummy bread like blueberry or pumpkin bread. I know those are known as quick breads, but still...they're sweet and they're bread. I would not have dreamed it had anything to do with cow intestines! :( I'll stick with my pumpkin bread, thank you very much.

Courtesy of Cake Wrecks, here are 6 Cakes Creepier Than the Giant Olympics Baby - Forgive the untimeliness of the reference, but these cakes were too icky to pass up for a Friday the 13th post.

And, one last link: Here are some kid-friendly creepy recipes from Food Network.

Happy Friday the 13th!!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Oh Snap!

Just realized is it Wednesday. I forgot to post! I will tell you what I was doing that had me so occupied; because it was awesome.
For the past two days, I have been doing an author visit to a local k-8 school. I met with every grade, sharing BURTON THE SNEEZING COW, and doing some things to get kids excited about writing. I will share more details next week, in case any of you would like to do the same.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

From The Preacher's Mouth

Two-Ingredient Recipes

What could be better? Well, one-ingredient recipes, obviously, but that hardly constitutes a recipes, now does it? "Eat a piece of fruit" doesn't really qualify, does it? Well, does it? No, it does not.

ANYWAY, my preacher told me about this awesomesauce two-ingredient recipe she just heard about:

Pumpkin Spice Cake
1 box spice cake
1(15 oz) can pumpkin

Mix and bake according to directions on cake mix box.

Here's my favorite two-ingredient recipe:

Buckskin Bread
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup water

Mix and bake in greased pie pan at 400F for 20-30 minutes.

Oh, yeah, and my other favorite:

Bear-Whipping Sauce
equal amounts of
brown sugar

Mix and serve with fruit. As I told #4 Daughter when she was wee and reacted in shock to what I said we were having for dessert, "It's berry-dipping sauce, not bear-whipping sauce, you cuckoo-bird!" Nevertheless, you see what we still call it.

Here's a site with links to a blue million -- okay, 34 -- two-ingredient recipes, many of which I plan to try.

Quick, easy, and cheap. My favorite meal.

Marian Allen
Come visit my site:
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, September 9, 2013

Creamy Mushroom Soup by Joyce Lavene

Creamy Mushroom Soup
By Joyce Lavene 

This is one of my favorite recipes. I love cream of mushroom soup but the canned variety was too full of sodium. I found this recipe a few years ago. It’s fast and easy (otherwise you know I wouldn’t do it), and it tastes great!

To start you’ll need about two cups of sliced mushrooms. I try to use two or three different kinds. I haven’t found a mushroom yet that wasn’t good in this soup. Don’t be afraid to experiment. 

Add about one quarter cup of chopped, mild, white onions and one finely chopped clove of garlic. Set this to the side.

Dissolve vegetable bouillon cube into one cup of water.

In a large saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add garlic, onions, and mushrooms. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft. Add the bouillon to the mixture.

Stir in three tablespoons of flour and one cup of light cream. Stir continuously as mixture thickens.

Add salt or pepper to taste, if you like.


Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 60 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Visit them at

Friday, September 6, 2013

Holly Clegg's Bananas Foster

An email newsletter from Holly Clegg reminded me this morning that with fall coming, it might be time to get the crock pot back out. Okay, I never really put it up anyway, but you get my point. It's fall, use the crock pot, and when you get home from a long day your house will smell wonderful and inviting and your dinner will be ready.

But what if you were planning on picking up takeout tonight? You can still have your home smell wonderful and inviting and have your dessert ready for you. Holly provides this simple recipe for bananas foster. I'll post the recipe below, but be sure and check out her site for more!

Bananas Foster

Thanks to Lisa Guilino for this Louisiana favorite recipe.
Makes 7 (1/3 cup servings)

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 fresh bananas, cut into 1-inch slices
1/4 cup crème de banana, rum or orange juice


1. In 3 1/2-6-quart slow cooker, insert plastic liner if desired. Add butter, brown sugar and cinnamon; stir. Add in bananas and crème de banana. Cook on LOW one hour.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Can Editing be "Fun"?

"Yes" has NEVER been any author's answer! Editing and correcting is particularly painful for me, because I am terrible at catching my own mistakes. 
Still, it must be done. The process is rolling, and I have to roll with it.
I am going to ease the pain by dividing my task into manageable chunks. My plan is to go through my editors' corrections one chapter at a time. That way, I will not wind up having my eyes cross from reading for too long; but I will not have the task so fragmented that it takes months to complete.
Fatal Foodies, do you have any editing/correcting tips?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Salad Fresh For Summer

This was so good and refreshing! It's just some cucumbers from our garden, heirloom tomatoes from the farmers' market, and chopped mint and parsley from my herb pots. I think I put a lime vinaigrette over it. Just the thing for a super-hot summer day.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fresh Tomato Pie from Ellie Grant!

Fresh Tomato Pie
By Ellie Grant
From Plum Deadly

This is about the end for tomato growing season here in North Carolina. It’s been a pretty good summer for tomatoes. I always have a bunch left though, and I’m not much of a canner. So I load them into the freezer and I make a few tomato pies!

Tomato pies are really good. My mom made them a little differently than most recipes that you see. She didn’t like the Italian element, so she used garlic and onion but not any other spices. She also didn’t like mayonnaise, and added a bit more cheese.

Here it is:
You need three or four tomatoes – fresh is best - chopped.  One clove of garlic, minced, and one small white onion, minced. Add to this one cup of grated cheddar cheese and one cup of bread crumbs.

Combine all ingredients and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Put this mixture into a nine-inch pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees or until the cheese has melted.

Plum Deadly is out September 3rd!

The first book in the Pie in the Sky Mysteries will be out this week. Can't wait to share it with everyone!

There is still a chance to win a copy here at Goodreads: