Thursday, December 27, 2012

My novel is available on Kindle!

I am super pleased to announce that my historical romance novel, The Viscount and the Vicar's Daughter, is now available for download on Kindle! HERE  It is also available in paperback from Amazon's print-on-demand affiliate, CreateSpace, HERE

This is a project that I wrote several years ago for Harlequin's Steeple Hill Historical line. When they didn't pick it up, I tucked it in archives and forgot about it until I heard about the Kindle Direct Publishing program. After much indecision, procrastination, cold feet, big talk, and some honest-to-goodness hard work, I published it!

It's a sweet and funny story inspired by my dual love of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, set in Regency England. Here's the official blurb:

As the daughter of an impoverished vicar, Sophie Bantling sees nothing in her future but rescuing her twin brothers from their endless scrapes. But her prospects brighten when the dashing Viscount of Wimberton moves into his country estate and literally sweeps Sophie off her feet, nearly running her down on one of his famous horses. Despite her better judgment, Sophie finds herself irresistibly attracted to her new neighbor and dazzled by his fashionable world. But when Wimberton's contempt for the church causes disaster on his estate, Sophie must choose between abandoning the people who desperately need her help and destroying her friendship with the man she loves.

In the following days, I'll be posting some stuff about self publishing, in particular how to format for Kindle and CreateSpace. But for now, SQUEEE!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mortimer, Who Plagiarized and Was Assassinated: A Cautionary Tale

I dedicate this poem to all great writing teachers everywhere.

Mortimer, Who Plagiarized and Was Assassinated
A Cautionary Tale

Mortimer seemed an innocuous child.
His manners were pleasant, his countenance mild.
You’d never suspect him of harboring lice,
But he had a grim failing—so vile ‘twas a vice.
And to this bad habit his demise can be traced,
For when writing an essay, he’d cut and he’d paste
Whole phrases and sentences, paragraphs, too!
And once he had got them, do you know what he’d do?
He’d forgo quotation marks! Forget citation!
Completely devoid of documentation
He’d turn in that essay and call it his own,
When really he’d got all his wording on loan.
His writing professor, so wise and so good,
Warned Mortimer gravely, she did what she could
To show him his way was pernicious and naughty!
But Mortimer stayed unrepentant and thought he
Could do as he pleased, until to his dismay,
His crimes were reported to the MLA.
Up through the committees the dreadful news spread
Until it had reached the executive head.
To punish this cutting and pasting young thief,
An assassin was sent by the scholar-in-chief.
When she came to the house, she found the young felon
just finishing up with an essay on Helen
of Troy. He was slick with glue spatters,
And beside him the Iliad lay snipped into tatters.
She knew her job well and she got right to work,
With cool eyes, steady hands, just the trace of smirk.
She first secured Mortimer, tied him up tightly
with no chance of escape, as she told him forthrightly.
She cut up the essay on Helen of Troy,
So basely contrived by that horrible boy.
With a touch that was gentle for the Iliad so wronged,
She pasted the pages back where they belonged.
And then with the scissors and bottle of glue,
She cut and she pasted Mortimer, too.
She sliced with precision, packed his joints full of paste,
Then posed him artistically—in very good taste—
To serve as a warning to others who’d cheat.
In concern for the carpet, she tried to be neat
Though glue oozed profusely from the carnage most gory,
Congealing the end of our tragical story.
But a moral is gained! For this lesson it lends:
That plagiarists come to the stickiest ends.

©HD Elliott 2008, 2012

Permission granted to re-post for cautionary purposes if you credit me as the assassin poet.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How to Cook Crispy Bacon without Burning It

Bacon. What more can I say? The very name is an ode to all that is best about breakfast. Or supper. Or sandwiches. Or those little cocktail wieners at parties.

I'm a lifelong aficionado of crispy bacon. Even as a kid (especially as a kid), I couldn't stand bacon that didn't crumble in my mouth, bacon that was chewy and slimy. Blechewgross! But I've also never had a real craving for charcoal.

When I first started cooking bacon, I managed to make my poor salted pork strips do all of these things--chewy, slimy, AND charcoaly. If you're not at this moment rolling your eyes and thinking, *Good grief, another bacon inept*...if you too have tortured your bacon to the point of inedibility, and wept at the sight (or told your frying pan in no uncertain terms what you think of it) ... if your smoke alarm goes off out of habit when it sees you pull out that package ... then this post is for you. (Yes, In days of yore I did actually set off the smoke detector every time I cooked bacon. And the house would stink for three days.)

I've got three words for you, my fellow bacon inepts:


Medium heat.

Here's the thing: you cannot cook crispy bacon quickly. I know it's hard to deal with this idea. When that craving hits, we want our bacon five minutes ago. But it takes time for all that fat to melt out all along the strip, leaving nothing but salty crisp goodness behind.

I used to cook my bacon on high heat exclusively. Why did it take me so long to figure out that all I had to do to get the perfect crispness I craved, especially when that information was probably printed on the back of the package? I don't know. I tried some complicated solutions, including baking it in a roasting pan. But nothing works as well as just turning down the heat. So here's what you do.

1. Heat frying pan over medium heat. Make sure pan is hot before putting bacon in. 
2. Put bacon in, make sure each slice lies flat, and leave it alone for a few minutes. I can't be more specific than that--exact number of minutes will vary depending on thickness of bacon, your pan, your stove, and your exact level of desired crispness. I usually cook mine about five minutes on that first side--enough time to unload half the dishwasher. The important thing is to leave it alone--don't flip, poke, or shove. Do something else for those few minutes. The bacon needs to heat all the way through and then lie still while the chewy slimy bits melt away. 
3. Flip bacon and cook for slightly less time on the second side. You may need to use a spatula to push down any fatty ends that have curled up in the heat. Hold them down until they flatten out.
4. Drain and enjoy.

May your bacon be ever crisp this holiday season!

Friday, December 7, 2012

What is magical realism? Part 2: Magical Realism (finally)

As for the radio silence of the last few months, let’s just blame it on falling in love. (:D HAPPY DANCE)

I concluded my last post by saying that science fiction succeeds because we believe in the possibilities of science. I’m now going to argue that magical realism works because we believe in the possibilities of magic. Or the supernatural. Or the paranormal. Whatever you want to call it—magical realism works because many (probably most) of us believe in the existence and interference of power that cannot be explained by our science.

Magical realism works in a way that is very similar to science fiction. By inserting an element of magic into the story and then treating that magic as having a reality that is just as legitimate as everything else in the story, it magnifies the meaning of the story, using the power of the strange to drive home its point.
Because of the functional similarities between these two genres, we could perhaps call magical realism the science fiction of the non-Western world. Here’s how I put it on my class PowerPoint (adapted from the Bedford Glossary’s definition of magical realism):
  • It is important to note that the best known magical realism literature has come out of countries once colonized by European powers (particularly in Latin America). Magical realism is a genre often concerned with finding a national literature for a country/peoples often perceived by the Western world to be without a voice. The “magical” parts aren’t simply invented, but have their roots in existing cultural beliefs.
This explains why magical realism isn’t a genre that really flourishes in the United States. We have lots of fantasy, but fantasy is a genre that acknowledges strong lines between the “real” and the “fantasy.” Our prevailing cultural narrative tends to be the scientific one—magic (or the supernatural or the paranormal) is not a part of daily life (of course, there are many individual exceptions to this). When someone claims to experience “magic” as part of their reality, the claim is usually greeted with incredulity and/or hysteria. This stands in stark contrast to large parts of the world where magic is, if not exactly taken for granted, at least accepted as part of the given reality.

A story that a pastor of mine likes to tell is useful in illustrating this point.
John (name changed) was teaching a class on Christianity in an African country. In describing the resurrection of Jesus Christ to his elderly students, he said that it was a unique event, that had opened only once in all of history. The elders gathered together in private conference, then reported back to John. “We agree with you that resurrection is a very rare event. Between us we have over two hundred years of experience, and we have witnessed only four resurrections.”

My pastor always concludes his story by saying that he had no idea how to respond. It’s a radical difference in world view, and it explains why magical realism flourishes in countries that retain cultural beliefs that involve the pervasive existence of “magic,” and also why it is very hard to write true American magical realism.