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Monday, August 27 2012

Summer is over. It's really over. Sure, the calendar says we have a few more weeks until autumn arrives, but that's a technicality. My oldest son started school last week, and my youngest is getting ready. Store shelves are stocked with long-sleeved shirts, while the short-sleeved tees have been downgraded to the clearance section. All the summer sports classes have wrapped up. This leaves me with a question: where did the summer go?


I'd swear just yesterday I was making a list of everything I wanted to do with the kids over the long break. I dug out the tablet from where it had become buried under a mound of papers and took a look. Swim classes? Done. Activity book to keep school skills sharp? Done. Putting up the tent in the backyard for an overnight campout? Well, we camped out in the living room a couple of times. We could see the backyard from where we were lying, so that's pretty close. And there's always Labor Day weekend, (yet another signal that summer has ended). Now the focus shifts from filling the days with casual play time and goofy science experiments to making sure homework is done and the kids are in bed at a decent hour.


My focus is currently shifting as well. I managed to shove all those upcoming book signings out of my head for the entire summer. I spent that time drafting and editing my third book, blissful in the knowledge that September was months away. But now it has almost arrived. I need to set aside my third draft for now and focus on my first book while I figure out what people want to hear about it and what I want to say. The first signing is less than two weeks away.


So, it's time to say farewell to summer for good. Before I know it, it'll be Christmas.

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 01:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, August 20 2012

I've seen several articles that tout the health benefits of skipping meat one day a week. The claim is that it cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Going meatless once a week seems like a fairly effortless way to improve my health.


Now, I like meat, but I don't necessarily eat it at every meal. In fact, most mornings, my breakfast consists of toast and peanut butter or Greek yogurt and granola. But other than pasta with vegetables or grilled cheese sandwiches, meatless meals occasionally stump me.


That's why I was so excited to see a portabella mushroom burger on the menu when I dined out over the weekend. I've looked at recipes for this dish before, but I find the idea of grilling a giant mushroom a little intimidating. It's not like cooking a hamburger, where the meat turns from pink to brown to let you know it's done. Instead, the mushroom starts out brown and ends up brown. How would I know when it's time to remove it from the heat?


Still, I'd wanted to try one, so as soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew that's what I would be ordering. When it arrived at the table, it looked a lot like a fancy hamburger (okay, maybe a slightly overdone fancy hamburger).


I took a bite to assess. As I'd seen mentioned in magazine articles, the mushroom had a substantial texture that really made it seem like I was chewing meat rather than a vegetable. With the tanginess of the goat cheese and the tartness of the sun-dried tomato pesto that was slathered on the bun, the "burger" part could have been red meat or a brown mushroom, and I might not have known the difference.


The next time I decide to cook a meatless meal for the family, I'll definitely keep the portabella burger in mind. Of course, I'm still not sure how to grill it myself. If only I could get someone to come over and cook the mushroom for me. Then again, I say that about a lot of my dinners. I should probably just give it a try one of these days. You can't screw up cooking a giant mushroom. Right?

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 10:44 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, August 13 2012

Receiving mail from my editor is always exciting. Sometimes he's sending me samples of a cover, sometimes a box of advanced reader copies. No matter what, opening the package always makes me giddy. This time, the envelope contained the cover for my second book, All Natural Murder.


Until I'm holding it in my hands, I never know for sure what the cover will look like. During the planning stages, my editor very generously asks me for ideas on what I think should be included, and he and the art department are always receptive. Still, the ideas I have in my head might be completely different from what the artist has envisioned.


Now I've seen the cover, and I'm delighted that Wilbur is back for the second book. He's front and center, chatting with the ducklings by the farm house.

I'm starting to think of that pig as a mascot to the Blossom Valley Mysteries. When I started writing the first book, I really only thought he'd show up in the initial chapters. I felt the scene where Dana chases him would be a good way to introduce the farm and Dana's lack of experience there.


But the pig has grown on me. As I continued writing, he became like a member of the family. I love to sneak him into the book here and there, rooting around for food or snorting at Dana. Readers seem to enjoy him as well. I've received more than one comment about how fun Wilbur is.


So, I've decided to let him stay. Gordon won't ever sell him, no matter how high the price of pork goes, and Dana will always make plenty of trips to the pigsty to check on Wilbur and his friends. I plan to keep Wilbur around for a long, long time.

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 11:01 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Monday, August 06 2012

You won't find a dedication page in my first book. I got so caught up in the excitement of having my book actually published that the dedication got lost in the whirlwind of activity. I remembered it in the beginning when Kensington first offered me a contract. Then I entered panic mode as I focused on writing my second book, All Natural Death, and forgot all about anything related to the first book. By the time I realized I'd left it out, the book was close to release and the opportunity had passed.


I didn't worry too much about it. I rarely read the dedication page in other books and wouldn't notice if they didn't have one, so I figured neither would anyone else. I should have known better. The second the box of advanced reader copies landed on my doorstep, my husband flipped through one. "Huh," he said. "Where's the dedication page?" I explained the situation and then forgot about it, reasoning that of course my husband would notice but surely no one else would.


Then I gave a copy to my mom. A dedication was the first thing she looked for. Then a third person commented. Even though all of the remarks were from friends and family, I had no idea omitting that page would garner so much interest.


Just to be on the safe side, I made sure to send an email to my editor about a dedication in the second book. Once he gave me the green light, I then had to figure out who I wanted to acknowledge and what I wanted to say. I have a hard time being pithy, especially when I know whatever I write will be permanent. Once the books are printed, it's not like I can go back and change what I've said. I flipped through other books on my bookshelf for inspiration and finally came up with a simple yet heartfelt message to my husband and kids.


Then I started to feel the guilt. Should I mention my parents? My writing group? My English teachers from my school days? My third cousin, twice-removed? The cats? There are so many people to consider! I'd love to think that I'll be writing so many books for this series that I'll run out of people to dedicate them to. Oh, what a wonderful situation that would be.

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 10:25 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email