Bookclub update and…PayPal censorship? Really?

Our Wine, Women & Words Book Club selection for February

We had so much fun at Book Club on Sunday, but we forgot to take a photo. Alas.

Here’s what you missed:

The Menu

~pork loin with baked apples

~green salad with honey-roasted pecans and MacIntosh apples

~vegan greens

~apple pie and ice cream

Do you detect a theme? Hint, hint. 😉Steve Jobs was a genius who changed the world. I couldn’t agree more. But, his extremely long biography was filled with a great deal of minutia that probably meant more to people who actually get into computers. Since I just purchased my first Mac two years ago, I’m a late-to-the-game convert. And, all agreed that genius or not we never could have been married to the man. LOL.

So, our big debate came over what to read next. Strange as it sounds, we picked Ray Bradbury’s  Fahrenheit 451. Why?

Well, believe it or not, this is National Read an E-Book Week! And since most of us read the Jobs book on an e-device of some kind, that got us talking about the possible demise of paper books…which got us thinking–can we live without our books in book form? I think not. But, as our hostess, Judy, demonstrated when she produced four electronic devices that can be used for reading (at least one belonged to her hubby): iPad, iPhone, Kindle and Kindle-Fire!–we also love, love, love the convenience of e-books.

My three self-published entries into the e-book world are on SALE this week. In fact, my short stories are both FREE and the biography I co-authored is HALF PRICE. That works, huh? Here’s the link: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/111878

And, I just found out that my lone single title release for Harlequin, 2005’s BETTING ON GRACE, has been released as an e-book on eHarlequin, Amazon and Google Books. I have mixed feelings about this because the book was out-of-print and I’d hoped to e-publish it myself. But that didn’t happen–and that’s not the book’s fault. It was a lovely book that I poured a lot of my soul into and it got horribly shorted when Harlequin’s distribution machine hit a rough patch. So, if you missed it (a lot of my loyal readers did!!!), here’s the eHarlequin link: http://bit.ly/zdIcHZ

Another topic of conversation that came up at Book Club was the Paypal’s request/demand that Smashwords remove all titles containing bestiality, rape, or incest from sale, otherwise they threatened to deactivate Smashword’s PayPal account, which is the main vehicle for paying all authors.

Regardless your views on any of those topics, is it really PayPal’s place to decide what can or cannot be published? That’s one dangerous, slippery slope to start down. And, as a writer and a reader, I’m not happy about it.

As Smashwords’ founder Mark Coker wrote, “All writers and their readers should stand up and voice their opposition to financial services companies censoring books.  Authors should have the freedom to publish legal fiction, and readers should have the freedom to read what they want.”

If you’d like to let the money men of corporate America know how you feel about censorship of any kind, here are some links:

Visa: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=V+Profile

American Express: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=AXP+Profile

MasterCard: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=MA+Profile

Discover: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=MA+Profile

EBay (which owns PayPal): http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=ebay+Profile

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Read well and prosper, my friends.

Deb

A Recipe for BookClub

The Wine, Women and Words Book Club met on Sunday evening–a chilly, windy, rainy evening, which, given our recent draught, was PERFECT weather. 🙂

(from the left) Caroline, Kori, Judy, Dolores, Carol, Donna, Jill and Susan

The book under discussion was THE ALPHABET VERSUS THE GODDESS by Leonard Shlain.

From the author’s website: “….Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain’s linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy’s early stages, the decline of women’s political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.”

This was not a quick, easy read. In fact, it was the kind of book that benefited from having a built-in dictionary. To facilitate a dialogue, I photocopied single pages by flipping open the book and plunking it down, then circling a paragraph to be read aloud and discussed. I figured there wasn’t a page in the book that didn’t offer some opportunity for discussion, if not hot debate. It made for an interesting discussion. 😉

Fortunately, we saved our book discussion for after dinner and we fed our right brains well with “Goddess Food”–a yummy vegetarian soup (no left-brain, spear-chucking hunters needed at our table). This was accompanied by homemade rolls and butter, salad, fruit, homemade cookies and, of course, wine.

Since I was hosting, I found a promising recipe online and made a few changes. Here’s my recipe:

Deb’s Feed-the-Goddess-Within Soup

Ingredients:

2 cups dried adzuki beans*

olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan)

2 – leeks

1- onion, chopped

4-5 cloves – garlic, minced

4-5 stalks – celery, chopped

a dozen or so – mushrooms, sliced

2 cups chopped carrots

2-3 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth

4-6 – potatoes, chopped

2 -cup, chopped – butternut squash (this is sweet and nutritious and pretty much disappears in the cooking)

1 bunch – spinach, chopped or torn in bite-size pieces

seasoning: salt and pepper, 1/2-1 teaspoon of ground cumin

optional: serve with pesto and sour cream

Directions:

Cook dry adzuki beans separately for 2 hours prior to starting soup (unless you are using canned beans). Use enough water to keep them covered by at least one-inch of water as they cook. Stir often and do not let them run out of water–they’re small and they burn easily. Once you’re brought them to boiling, reduce heat and simmer on low for two hours.

In a heavy kettle/pot, heat oil then add onion, garlic, leeks and celery. Saute until tender and slightly translucent. Add carrots and mushrooms, along with seasonings, then simmer for five minutes or so, stirring often. (I used this time to peel and chop the potatoes.) Add potatoes and butternut squash then cover with vegetable broth. Add more water if needed.

I simmered this mix on low for about two hours, stirring frequently. About an hour before I was going to serve, I added in the cooked adzuki beans, with its broth. About fifteen minutes before serving, I added in the spinach. I let everything simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, then served with sour cream and pesto, on the side. The pesto added a very aromatic and tasty punch; the sour cream made the soup taste richer. Both were very pleasing, but the soup was good on its own, as well.

*any type of bean is okay, but here’s some info about the adzuki bean, if you’re interested. They were yummy. “These are small, reddish-brown beans, rounded in shape with a point at one end. They have a strong, nutty, sweet flavour, and are much used in the macrobiotic diet, because as Eunice Farmilañt says in Macrobiotic Cooking they are “the most yang of Beans”. They probably originate from China, and are imported from China and Thailand where they are harvested in November and December. In the Orient, adzuki beans are usually cooked to a red soft consistency and served with such ingredients as coconut milk. They are also cooked with rice, their bright colour tinting the rice an attractive pink, as in the Japanese, Red-cooked Festival Rice. In the East it’s also common to find, adzuki beans sweetened with sugar and made into cakes and sweetmeats.

Next month’s reading choice is: Steve Jobs’ biography. I’m excited to read it and just uploaded it on my Kindle, but…I also just got seven Rita books in the mail. Guess I’d better get busy reading!

Deb

When a book gives you TMI…

The Wine, Women and Words book club met on Saturday. (Many thanks to our hostess–Donna!) We had a great discussion because the book we read–CUTTING FOR STONE by Abraham Verghese–was excellent. But I have to say there were moments–paragraphs–that made me squirm. I call it the “House” effect. If you’ve ever seen the television show “House,” you know what I mean. At least once per episode, they give an up-close-and-inside look at the human body to see exactly what is going wrong. These images are graphic, intense and, for some reason, I can’t look away. I’m not sure why.

I felt the same way at certain places in this book. Take for instance, the case of vesiculovaginal fistula, or “fistula” for short. I’d never heard of this syndrome. I’m not sure I wanted to know about it. I’m really not comfortable with oozing pus, dead and gangrenous tissue. But…I kept reading.

Maybe that’s the key to good storytelling. The message might not be one you want to hear, but you become so caught up in the story you keep reading anyway. And that was certainly the case in this book, for me. Although the book didn’t grab me right away, I wound up really liking it. That seemed to be the consensus of our book club, too.

Also, I can’t remember if I mentioned this, but I’ve become involved in an effort to create a Charter School to take the place of the elementary school that our county school board closed this spring. Because education is the foundation for reading and writing, I want to share with you a letter I wrote to our County Board of Supervisors. They are NOT the ones who decide whether or not we are able to open a Charter School, but they do carry influence and their support would help.

"The future of Catheys Valley starts here."
Esteemed Supervisors,
I am writing to request your support for Sierra Foothill Charter School.
My husband and I moved to Catheys Valley twenty-two years ago. We bought a five-acre parcel, built a house and enrolled our two children at Catheys Valley Elementary. We didn’t truly understand at the time how important the school was to our community. But as we became involved in the P.T.I.C. and after-school activities like 4-H, Girl Scouts, and sports, we learned that the school was the heart and soul–the hub–of our community. Fundraisers like the Sweetheart Dinner brought together not only parents of the children enrolled there, but grandparents, uncles, aunts, and residents who supported the school because they recognized how important it was to the community.
We were extremely saddened and distressed to learn the Mariposa County Unified School District was closing Catheys Valley Elementary. Two of my grandchildren would have been enrolled in CVE this fall, and my youngest granddaughter attends Catheys Valley Preschool, which was opened on the school site two years ago. The children of Catheys Valley should be able to wake up in the morning and go to school–not be forced to board a bus for a long, noisy and–at certain times of the year–hazardous drive to Mariposa. Or, if parents don’t want their five-year old mingling with high school-age children on the bus, they have to drive to and from Mariposa twice a day. The parent of an elementary-age child in Catheys Valley today has very little incentive to stay in Mariposa County–and that reality effects you as County Supervisors and every citizen, county-wide.
Luckily, we have a chance to turn this negative into something very, very positive. Thanks to a dedicated group of individuals who have donated countless hours–and generous monetary gifts–we have a real shot at making Sierra Foothill Charter School a reality. Opening a charter school is no easy task. It takes a great deal of time, effort, donations and community support. As a member of the Founders Group and as a citizen of Mariposa County, I ask for your support. I truly believe that a community without a school has no future. Please help us secure the future of Catheys Valley by adding your support to this effort.

So…is that TMI for you, dear blog readers? I hope not, because it truly is what’s happening in Debland at the moment.

Have a great week, everyone.

Deb

July Book Club

Oh, the feast! The pool! The desserts!

Wait. The book. That’s the point of this get-together, right? Well, what can I say? In The Time of The Butterflies by Julia Alvarez was a beautifully written tragedy. Her story of the four Mirabelle sisters, caught up in a moment in history that none of us had ever heard about, was interesting, sad and thought-provoking. It made us glad we don’t live in a dictatorship.

Our discussion over our eclectic spread of goodies–crab cakes, black bean and corn salad, tabouli, caprese salad, to name a few–brought up a lot of points about war, women’s roles in society and religion. Like I said, it was an intense read.

But definitely worth reading. Many thanks to Carol for suggesting it and for hosting. The pool was as delicious as the food!

Deb, Susan, Carol (our hostess), Jill, Donna, Caroline, Dolores, Karen, Kori and Martha

Next book: Cutting For Stone…another light one–NOT! Get reading everyone. Your comments are most welcome.

Deb

PS: A very special thanks to Martha’s children, the amazing Nora and Charles, for slaving over a Martha Stewart recipe all day. The six-layer frozen fruit parfait cake was out of this world. Oh, my!!! (This might be the recipe…http://www.marthastewart.com/342373/rainbow-sorbet-cake…or something similar. The chefs are keeping mum, although they did say it was a BIG job.)

This photo doesn’t do it justice, but what can I say? We were all too busy eating to worry about documenting the beauty. 😉

crookneck squash flan (left), Karen's gramma's rum cake (top) and fresh fruit parfait layer cake (bottom)

Friends!

I was looking through my cache of cards this morning to find a sympathy card to send to my sister-in-law, Connie, who recently lost her mother, and I ran across this great quote:

“Female friendships are like no other relationship: unconditional, loving, silly, safe. They are our secret weapon.” ~Beverly Lowry

So, here in Debland, we are celebrating friends today.

First, my Wine, Women and Words Book Club friends. Eight of us met at Savoury’s in Mariposa on Sunday evening to discuss The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Great food. Excellent discussion–although a couple of us, including me, hadn’t finished reading the book. (I love the author’s writing style and was grabbed by the setting and time period, but I had sooo much else going on in my life lately, reading fell by the wayside. Sigh.)

WWW BookClub at Savoury's

We are an eclectic group with diverse interests, but we share a passion for reading, friends and community. One of the topics aside from the book discussion was how to save our local elementary school, which is going to be closed this fall due to California State budget cuts. This little school is the heart and soul of our tiny rural community and it may well take the entire village to figure out a way to keep it going. A very sad state of affairs.

Also, since we carpooled to the restaurant, I was able to ride in Heather’s brand new electric car, a Leaf! Sweet, silent and emission-free!!! Very cool!  I wish I’d thought to take her photo with it. Here’s one from the Nissan website.

So, that was Sunday. On Monday, I got to have lunch with my friend Susan Crosby, who I just found out is a USA Today best-selling author- WOO-HOO! Modest and fabulous–that’s Susan! Susan has written for several Harlequin lines and is presently writing for Special Editions. We traded current releases and I can’t wait to read her two new ones:

We talked for three hours. It seemed like one, at most. It was good to compare notes on our careers and our families and the business of living. This is the kind of thing women are really good at, don’t you agree?

Friends–women friends, in particular–was the true basis for the entire “Spotlight on Sentinel Pass” series. The four friends who started the Wine, Women and Words Book Club–Libby, Becca, Kat and Char–were each other’s support group, sounding boards, nagging conscience and biggest cheerleaders. I loved each of these characters and am going to miss them, but it’s time to move on.

I’m off to work on my new story. I just realized what’s been missing…friends. 🙂

And, for those of you who are not on Facebook, here’s a photo of me and my newest pal…sorta. I let him go after the shot.  He’s a newt, by the way.

And here’s my goofy little video, too. I still don’t know how to edit the Titles, but I’m learning… Hike to Hite’s Cove

Have a lovely Easter, everyone.

Deb

Wine, Women & Words Book Club: The Help

We had a fabulous gathering last night–and were a full contingent (less Susan, who went to Idaho for Spring Break.) I know what you’re thinking. Idaho instead of us? Go figure. (Seriously, have a great trip, Susan!) But we also had two guests who might become permanent members. Welcome, Caroline and Dolores. Just look at this happy group!

Given the Southern setting of the book, our hostess, Karen, chose a book-appropriate theme for “supper”: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens, baked beans, deviled eggs (a staple at the many Bridge games in the book), cornbread. And, for dessert: Caramel Cake.

Is your mouth watering? Every bite was delicious. (And, btw, I made the collard greens–big surprise to me: they took 4 hours to cook!)

And we managed to do the whole thing without help. 😉

“In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends-view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.” ~Amazon

I really enjoyed this book. I cared about the main characters. I shook my head in anger on their behalf, hung my head in shame on their behalf, and cried at the true compassion and kindness that grew from their bravery. I knew this book would evoke a lot of discussion, but our clever hostess, Karen, printed out a list of questions–such as: How much of a person’s character do you think is shaped by the times in which they live?–to ask and answer over coffee and her oh-so yummy cake (a cake that was mentioned often in the book). These interesting questions sparked a fascinating dialogue that really got us thinking–and talking–about race relations, prejudice, parenting, humanity and the differences both generations and locations play in a person’s world view.

Thank you, Karen, for going the extra mile, PLUS, thanks for sharing your lovely home and setting such a fine, fine table. (Another aspect of the book.)

It was a memorable evening.

And the wine was excellent, too. 😉

Next month’s book is: SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon,

and RETURN TO THE BLACK HILLS by yours truly. Something tells me they’re going to be very different reads.

Please feel free to join us. 🙂

Deb

Tres Amigas

I’m so excited to be able to point you to the Superromance Authors’ Bog today. http://www.superauthors.com/

My friends and fellow Superromance Authors, Jeannie Watt and Ellen Hartman, and I are blogging over the next three days and giving away 3 – $15 gift cards at either Amazon or Starbucks, your choice. All you have to do is post a comment. We’ve even supplied some fun questions that you can answer, if you choose. Or a simple, “Hi,” works, too. I’d love for one of my friends to win.

Oh, and I promise, there are no strings attached. We don’t copy or sell or re-use your address. We don’t have the time, interest or inclination to do that. But we are competitive, so the better our numbers, the more participants we can brag about and the better excuse we have for spending time blogging instead of working. 🙂

I also promised my great-niece, Maddie, I’d include some photos of her birthday party in my “world-famous” (or not) blog–a very big deal when you’re 9.

The birthday girl
The cake girls
The old girl

Ok, now, back to my girlfriends…come play with us.

Deb

Bookclub and the Oscars

Alas, only three members of the Wine, Women and Words Book Club were able to make last night’s discussion. This happens–especially at this time of year when colds and the flu are hanging around. Jill and Karen, please get well soon. And the rest of you, we hope to see you next month when our book will be: The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I’ve started it and am really enjoying it so far. Apparently, the movie rights have been sold to Dreamworks. Cool.

But first, a quick summary of our February book: The Imperfectionists.

I enjoyed this book, but I’m the only one of the three attending that really did. The reason it worked for me and not the others is probably the fact that I used to work in the newspaper business. I could see these characters–odd and flawed but committed to a business that was as much a calling as a job (for some). The story’s Euporean setting was far removed from the newspaper where I worked, but some of the underlying elements were very much the same. A deadline is a deadline is a deadline.

Okay, enough about books. Let’s talk fashion and movies. One and the same last night, right?

The Oscars:

What they got right? The King’s Speech and Colin Firth and the screenwriter (sorry, forgot his name but applaud his work–and his acceptance speech!)

What they got wrong? Toy Story 3 vs How to Train Your Dragon; James Franco–there’s laidback, dude, and then there’s…Huh?; Best Song…really? That’s the best you can do, Hollywood? Sad.

The fashions:

What they got right:

Red is hot.

Nude is not.

What they got wrong:

Are those pop-it beads? They look like pop-it beads. And is it just me or do the yellow ones look like bird poop?

Fashion: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Same goes for book club.

See you next month.

Deb

January Book Club

Thank you, Martha, for hosting last night’s book club. Your quiche rocked. I didn’t know that traditional quiche (onion) does not include cheese. Very yummy.

Actually, all of the food was great (see my chocolate cake recipe below). And there were so many delectable choices, we decided we should add another qualifier to our name. Perhaps we could be known as the Wine, Women, Words and Wonderful Epicurian Delights Book Club? A bit much, I guess. 😉

Our book this month was Journey of Souls by Michael Newton, PhD. The book generated a lot of discussion. Some people were intrigued by the possibility of the soul’s progression through many, varied lives spent on Earth. The author presented numerous case studies that he obtained through hypnosis of patients. I found the case studies interesting but I didn’t care for the author’s writing style. At all. It was great to hear other people’s take on the book, though, and I was glad so many of our group came away with a positive reading experience. This diversity that each reader brings to a book, in my opinion, is the best part of belonging to a book club!!

Our February pick is The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. I believe this is the author’s debut novel and it’s on the Time’s best seller list at the moment. I uploaded it to my iPad last night and am finding the writing style, characters and setting very intriguing.

Okay, words aside–and it’s too early for wine–so lets get to the important stuff: the flourless chocolate cake recipe I promised.

My thanks to my daughter-in-law Ruth for giving this a try. It’s super moist and dense–face it, it’s like eating a candy bar with whipped cream. But don’t be lulled into thinking four ingredients means its a snap to make. It calls for 9 eggs–separated. We buy our lovely organic eggs locally and these country chickens produce eggs with a tough inner membrane. Cracking them neatly is no small task. Separating the yolks required a skill set I seem to have lost. But, I did it–with some cussing. And the end result was worth it.

CHOCOLATE CRACKED EARTH (flourless chocolate cake)

(adapted from the foodnetwork.com/Tyler Florence)

Ingredients:

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

(I used 1(one) 8-oz package of semi-sweet chocolate and 2(two) 3-oz 70% dark chocolate candy bars…because I failed to read the recipe before I went shopping. But, this worked. Simply use less sugar–see below.)

1 stick unsalted butter

9 large eggs, separated

3/4 cup granulated sugar , plus 1 Tablespoon (I used 1/2 cup because of the candy bars.)

2 C heavy cream (I like to whip mine with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a few drops of vanilla flavoring)

confectioners sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:

~Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 9-inch springfoam pan.

~Put chocolate and butter into the top of double boiler and heat over about 1″ of simmering water until melted.

~Whisk egg yolks with the sugar in a mixing bowl until light yellow in color. Whisk a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs. (This will keep the eggs from scrambling from the heat of the chocolate.) Then whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.

~Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture.

~Pour into prepared pan and bake until cake is set and the top starts to crack.

~Test with a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake. It should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it.

~The recipe says: 20-25 minutes; mine took 35-40 minutes.

Happy eating and happy reading! See you tomorrow.

Deb

November book club question

The Wine, Women and Words book club met last night to discuss HALF-BROKE HORSES by Jeannette Wells.

Everyone gave this book two thumbs up. Not all of us liked this author’s first book, Glass Castles, which we read last year. I, for one, approached this book with a certain degree of trepidation, but Lily Casey Smith, the protagonist of this story is a true heroine. She lived an amazing life and her granddaughter, the author, does a fabulous job of recreating a time period and mindset that ring very true. “You can because you have to” is Lily’s philosophy of life, and oh my, what she does to survive and how she makes a life for herself is pretty amazing.

For me, personally, the book brought to mind my mother and the strength of will she demonstrated all of her life. I could see Daisy doing many of the things Lily did, including hopping aboard a plane the first chance she got. My mother wanted to be a pilot but her father shot down that wish, telling her, “Girls don’t fly.” 🙁 But Lily Casey did.

Heather asked this interesting question during our wonderful Tex-Mex dinner: “What were you doing when you were fifteen? Did you have certain responsibilities or jobs?” (At 15, Lily Casey saddled up her horse and road several hundred miles ALONE to become a teacher at a small, isolated town.) Somehow, babysitting doesn’t quite compare, does it? But it was a great question and it got us thinking. (My answer, btw, was: answering the taxi phone and babysitting for my mother’s cousins and numerous neighbor kids.)

After dinner, we retired to Carol’s lovely living room for a group photo.

No book club in December, so we all pulled out our checkbooks and made our charitable donations to the Thanksgiving Basket Brigade (thanks for suggesting this, Jill) and the Mariposa High “Grizzly Stadium” fund (our bricks will read: W-3 Book Club members–thanks, Heather).

In January, we’re heading to a completely different genre. The book is: Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives by Michael Newton. Looks very interesting, Kori. See you all in January. 😉

Happy reading!

Deb