Writer, dreamer, and story addict. Author of The Dark Earth, an upcoming gritty YA fantasy series and Alexander Hickory, a MG Victorian mystery.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Apple Pie

For years I have been making the world’s best apple pie.  No, really.  Ok, maybe it didn’t win international awards, but it did win a baking contest about thirty years ago and has been a part of my family for many many years.  

It was my aunt’s Dutch apple pie recipe.  Then my mom’s.  And finally mine.  

It was our secret, one we made for holidays and random special occasions when the moment permitted.  It was a treasure.  A special something only my family had.  

Then my mom gave it away.  

Yup, she posted it for the world on her blog

Now everyone, from here to Australia, can make our super secret special apple pie.  


The next party I attend, the one for which I would have made our little treasured recipe, will already have an apple pie.  Someone will say they found this amazing recipe online and tell me that I just have to taste it.  They’ll tell me how awesome it is and how much their family loves it.   Then they’ll look down at the apple pie in my hands and say, with a great big smile, that I must have found the same recipe.  What a coincidence!  Isn’t it great!

… um.  No.  

No, it’s not great that my little gift to the world is no longer unique.  The one thing I could actually bake has been abducted by thousands.  The one thing I had to give, the one tangible talent I possessed, is no longer mine.  

Instead, people everywhere can make it.  They’re peeling apples and discussing varieties.  They’re making it for their friends and family and telling them how wonderful it is.  Maybe they’re even sending people to my mother’s blog and showing off the recipe

…and her designs.  Maybe they’re taking one bite of that amazing sweet melt-in-your-mouth pie and smiling.  Maybe they’re sharing that with friends.  Maybe they’re laughing and sneaking just one more taste right from the pie tin before mom covers it up and puts it in the fridge…

Maybe, just maybe, that wonderful piece of hot deliciousness is the last bite of someone’s holiday and the last taste they remember before they go to sleep… 

I know that feeling.  It’s like tasting dreams.  

It’s like taking a bite of the universe and feeding your soul just when you thought nothing else could fill that void…

…it’s family.

Here it is again.  

Share away.  

Priscilla's Prize-Winning Apple Pie

Pre-heat oven to 360 degrees.
Remove a stick of butter from refrigerator for use later.  (Please use real butter here.)

Prepare pastry pie crust for 9"pie.  (Use what you like for this.)

Apples:  Use a combination of apples (approx. 14 apples per pie)
     Baking Apples:  Cortland (8), McIntosh (4), Granny Smith (2) [I personally prefer Empire to Cortland and McIntosh and toss in a Pink Lady, Honeysweet, or Winesap for good measure…but that’s me]
     Some "eating apples" will work, but use them sparingly along with the baking apples.
Peel, core and slice apples into a large bowl.

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Sprinkle over apples, coating evenly.

Turn apples into pastry-lined pie plate.  Mound them high, as they will bake down.

Now for the Dutch topping:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
5 Tbls. butter (semi-hard)

Using a table knife, cut in the butter until mixture is "crumbly."  Spread this mixture over the mounded apples.  Pat mixture down gently.

Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Lightly sprinkle sugar on pie crust edges and cover the edge with foil or pie-crust shield.

Place pie on the middle rack in 360 degree oven for 55-60 minutes.  Remove the pie crust shield after 45 minutes.

Check to see that the apples are done.

Remove from oven.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Confessions of a 12 yr-old Trekker

...although at the time I thought I was a Trekkie.  Granted, I was twelve and it was long before Comic Conventions were mainstream...LONG before. 

I wasn't very good at fitting in.  I tried, really I did.  But no matter how many times I watched the popular shows, I never really cared about Brenda or Donna or whatever other busty blond pined over her boyfriend.  Instead, I pretended to watch.  And I did it because, in addition to teaching me how to roll my jean cuffs correctly, my older sister tried her hardest to turn me into a sibling that wasn’t so prone to embarrassment.  Not to mention I was subject to certain mental anguish should I refuse to accept. 

Alright…I also did it because I couldn’t imagine how the world would treat me if they knew what I was really doing:  Waiting. 

I was waiting for my sister to retire to her room and for my parents to close themselves off from the world.  I was waiting because, at precisely 7pm, I would feed my addiction.   

I needed privacy.  I couldn't let them see.  They couldn't know. 

As 6:55 approached, I fixated on the clock and glued my finger to the remote control.  I couldn't change it early.  In the off chance that one of them would walk in and find me, I had to look like I was watching something cool. 

They couldn't know I watched Star Trek TNG. 

In the era before the internet, in an age where geeks and nerds were plankton on the social feeding pyramid, I was addicted to science fiction. 

There, I said it.  I was a Trekker.  Yeah, it's cool NOW, but I would have committed social suicide had I admitted it then.  And I wasn't all that cool to begin with so I had to hang on to everything I had.

And I watched it religiously.  Every. Single. Episode.  I was an addict. 

I sucked in every minute, relished every line and empathized with the characters in ways I seldom did with my friends.  It was better than anything.  It was home.   And at time in my life where nothing fit and no one understood me, Star Trek TNG was sometimes the only thing keeping me sane. 

I still hid my obsession through high school and when a senior girl decided to dress up as a Borg for Halloween, I may have been the only person who recognized her outfit.  I never told her, but she did an amazing job.  And I admired her courage to admit her obsession, to display her passion, and brave the consequences of being a Trekker long before the rest of the world thought it was acceptable.  Long before it was trendy. 

And I will always admire her courage for that.  Live Long and Prosper, oh brave one. 

Perhaps next time I’ll have the courage to step forth, dress up in wires and metal caps, and declare myself leader of an inferior race.  Resistance is Futile. 

In the meantime I can watch Star Trek on Netflix.  On Demand.  Whenever I want.  Every.  Single.  Episode. 


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Authenticity and the “IT” Factor

I was hungry and my mom had to pee.

We had already spent at least three hours in the car and were in the middle of Amish country, rock cliffs, and absolutely no cell phone reception. But we needed food. And a bathroom.

Per our road trip rules, all food stops had to be “authentic”. Thankfully it's easy to find authentic restaurants in rural Wisconsin – there's one in every town. Usually it's the only one in town where the owner is often the waitress and cook. And no one, not even the owner/waitress/cook, is in any hurry.

So, in the middle of western Wisconsin, we found our authentic restaurant, slid into the old wooden chairs and waited.

And waited.

Finally a quiet lady took our order and delivered water.

Then we waited some more.

All that sitting gave us a chance to absorb the scenery and admire our surroundings. A snow shovel leaned against the wall and the wallpaper dated back to the mid-70s. A nearby group of seniors shared gossip about grandchildren and pending marriages.

Feeling guilty for eavesdropping, I turned my attention to the back to the walls.

A pair of paintings from a local artist hung above our table. They were nice, systematic paintings meant to replicate portraits from the late 19th century.

They were...nice. Not great. Not inspiring. Just nice.

What was wrong with them you ask? They were missing the “it” factor. They were trying to be something they weren't. They were replicating someone else's idea of a good painting.

They needed to be ART. Wonderful, original, gorgeous art unlike anything ever created. Sure, few things are completely original, but the best artists, writers, and musicians learn the skill, practice their crafts, then find a way to make it their own.

Turns out the food had an amazing “it” factor. Homemade sausage, fresh bacon, bread, and a waffle I loved so much I wanted to wear it as a hat.

The cook/waitress/owner had mastered her craft and presented us with the best breakfast I've ever had.

So what did I learn from my two hour Midwest restaurant experience? Authenticity is essential...especially when it's edible.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Big Thanks to Author John Locke

In case you haven't heard, independent and self-published author John Locke succeeded in selling over a million ebooks on Kindle.

While this may not sound like a big deal. It is. For many many reasons.

First, not many authors have sold a million ebooks. In fact I believe that as of the date of this post, only five or so authors have achieved such success. And although ebook sales have risen exponentially over recent years, many authors still find success in paperback. Especially authors with major publishers.

Which brings me to reason number Two. It is very hard to market books as a self-published author. Very Hard. I should know, I published the middle-grade novel, Alexander Hickory, in early 2008 and have been beating down the doors of libraries, schools, local bookstores and the virtual marketplaces just to get a handful of sales. Like Locke, I paid a lot of money for online ads, press releases, and professional marketing to help generate sales. But, regardless of how much money I threw at the book, sales, even ebook sales, remained low.

There are certainly exceptions to stories like mine and Locke's, stories where self-published authors find amazing success through traditional marketing means. But, it turns out, most independently published authors fight enormous (and often expensive) obstacles when it comes to selling books and finding our audience. Obstacles that, until now, have been controlled by traditional publication.

The truth? Traditional book marketing doesn't work for self-published authors. Well, it usually doesn't work. Like I said, there are always exceptions, but for the majority of us, we have to find other means of finding our audience. This is especially true for fiction writers.

Which brings me to reason number Three. It's easy to find the target market for non-fiction. For fiction writers this is much, much more difficult. While there are certainly forums and websites for different genres of books, there are literally thousands and thousands of books on these sites and any book can get lost in the sea of fiction. And for those that write quirky stories or plots that are on the edge of genre fiction, it's even more difficult.

John Locke writes fiction, quirky, off-the-beaten-path kind of fiction that doesn't always fit into standard categories. Like the rest of us, he followed standard rules for marketing and pitching his stories. They didn't work.

So he broke the rules, followed his gut and, by using his background in sales, discovered new ways to find a target audience and attract loyal readers. As a result, John Locke, a self-published author of quirky fiction, found an enormous audience, a dedicated following, and impressive sales.

His advice goes against everything I've been told. And it's brilliant.

Authors told me “Follow the rules.”

Editors told me “Write what you know.”

My opinion? Write what you Love. And Break the rules.

Both self-published and traditionally published authors can benefit from his advice. It's not just about marketing, it's about connecting with readers and giving them something you know they'll love.

Here's a link to his book and his blog. I hope you find it as helpful as I did.