Five Things I’m giving up for a week in honor of Mental Health Month

CNN. I only started watching CNN about six months ago after I switched cable providers. It was the default channel that popped up whenever I turned my TV on. My poor Canadian brain was not equipped to handle the bombardment of this 24/7, reality TV, game show with its end-of-the-world Donald Trump stakes. There is no Canadian equivalent to CNN. It’s like comparing a cup of tea to heroin…I think. I’ve never tried tea.

Hahaha. Sorry. Old school joke. Sigh.

( Disclaimer: To the Social Justice Warriors, I apologize for making light of heroin. Please put down your steely knives. I promise to say 100 Bernie Sanders before bed tonight.)

TMZ, Radar Online, and All Other Gossip Websites. I almost didn’t write this one down because I was too embarrassed to admit to my daily Kardashian butt-looking habit, but let’s face it, half the world has fallen into the butt-trap with me, so I’m in good-ish company. That being said, I’ve thought about it, and I don’t think this ritual is making me a better person, so I’m going to let it go for this week.

Fingers crossed Bey and Jay Z work it out…or at least don’t get divorced until I’m back.

Twitter. I’m a skulker on Twitter. I admit it. I poke my head in, on a near daily basis, to watch the epic battles of the righteously enraged unfold. I do this mainly because I get torn up about all the little decisions in life, like which flavor of yogurt to eat for my morning snack, so I find all of these people so sure in their opinions compelling to say the least. That being said, I’m pretty sure all this virtual yelling is not good for my soul, so I’m willing to try life without it.

Goodreads. For me, Goodreads is a house with a 1000 doors. Sometimes I turn the knob to find a sunlit pasture filled with rainbows and unicorns…and blue birds holding up a banner with my name painted across it. Other times I stumble upon a torture chamber with readers tearing apart my heart and devouring it like a roast chicken, my words dribbling down their greasy chins. (Disclaimer: I know Goodreads is a reader-space not a writer-space, so I shouldn’t even be commenting on it. And like I said, you don’t even have to worry about it because I’m going…I said I’m going already! Jeez, you don’t have to push me out the door…)

All joking aside, though, I’m interested to see what this one does for my creativity. It’s hard to write when you’re worried about how each word will be received.

Facebook. This is a funny one because I don’t quite understand why I still visit Facebook. Seriously, most everybody has already packed up and gone home, and the majority of my feed is comprised of ads. And yet I do keep going back…like a tired old workhorse walking his route. Not this week, though.

And there you have it.

So how will I fill up all my extra time? Maybe I’ll write the Sidekick in the City short stories I’ve been thinking about.(Bremy, I just can’t quit you). Or maybe I’ll sketch out that Otter Lake Mystery novella with Erica and Freddie back in high school. Or maybe I’ll just go outside and see what all those birds are twittering about. You never know.

Here’s to you Mental Health Month!

So you don’t like Quinoa. Well, have I got a recipe for you!

First things first, you may be thinking, Why, Auralee? Why would I want to eat quinoa? Why would you want to eat quinoa? It’s weird. Yes, yes it is, but it is also one of those super-food, ancient grain, complete protein, staple thingies. Something that is pretty important if you’re a vegan.

Now, you’re thinking, My God, Auralee, are you a vegan? I thought you were so normal. I thought you saved the veganism for the wingy mother character in your books? (That’s what you were thinking, right? No…? Okay, so eating quinoa doesn’t make you a mind-reader after all? I’ll cross that off the benefits’ list.) But, as it turns out, I am not a vegan. I have been in the past, a couple of times, and I do still flirt with the dirty, green side…and it is dirty. (Seriously, I know hardcore earthy types who like a little dirt in their veggies. B vitamins. True fact. I do not endorse this, however. Especially if you grow your own veggies and have dogs…or cats…or birds flying overhead.) I still do use a lot of vegan recipes, though, and Alicia Silverstone says it’s totally okay for me to just hold hands with veganism, and, really, if the actress who played the lead role in 90s classic film, Clueless, says it’s okay for me to do this, then it’s okay, dammit! Sigh. I feel judged. By both sides. Anyway…onto the recipe!

Okay, so before we really get started, I think that maybe I should temper your expectations just a bit. I can’t turn quinoa into some chocolately, syrupy, outrageously delightful type concoction that deserves to have the word orgasm in the name – only unicorn-wizards can do that – but I can make it totally palatable.

Excited?

Mmmm, I know I am.

SUPER EASY “SHUT UP, IT’S GOOD FOR YOU” BREAKFAST QUINOA

Serves maybe 2-4 (I don’t make a lot of it because it doesn’t last in the fridge past a few days, and my kids still think it’s weird. My husband always says, Make enough for me, but he never eats it, and we’re not making throw away quinoa money. That’s like Oprah money. Seriously, quinoa’s not cheap.)

3/4 cups quinoa grains

2 chopped tart apples (I like Granny Smith)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (more if you can take it, baby)

1 3/4 cups water

Maple syrup (maybe)

Okay, so dump all of these ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I’m not sure if you are really supposed to cover it or not, so I leave the lid askew and that seems to work for me.) Turn off the heat then let it sit for fifteen, twenty minutes.

Now, here comes the important part. Toppings. Now, that I’ve been doing this for awhile, all I put on my quinoa is sweetened almond milk. (Some of you are probably thinking, Huh, why doesn’t she use unsweetened almond milk? To which I say, Why do you want me to be so sad? I thought we were friends.) BUT, if you’ve never eaten quinoa before, or you have and think it’s gross, I recommend putting some maple syrup on top. Really, maple syrup can make anything taste good, and, as time goes on, and you get used to the beauty of the quinoa, you probably won’t need it anymore.

That’s it. That’s all.

Chase thinks it’s awesome. (The pot is cool. I shouldn’t have to say that, but I don’t want any melted Chases on my conscience.)

Quinoa

(I was going to put this in a fancy bowl for you, but I’m not going to eat it right now, and I have 3 kids, so, really, we have enough dishes to do.)

Enjoy!

To Thank or Not to Thank Reviewers?

Rejection

I have spent a good portion of my life trying to find ways not to offend people. What can I say? I am a slightly introverted, slightly anxious, writerly type. I will admit, however, this can, at times, be problematic and time consuming. When I was teaching College English, I would find myself writing paragraph after paragraph in the comments on a student’s essay to break the news to said student that the paper would be receiving a “C”. In turn, the student would often look at the grade, not read the comments, and say something like, Meh.

Now that I’ve switched careers, this quirk of mine has raised its angsty head in a number of new areas. Including, as I’m sure you have gleaned by now, in that tricky, tricky area of when to thank reviewers. I read this post from Carina Press, and the comments left me even more confused.

I mean, I get that you don’t want authors intruding in a reviewer’s space. Believe me, I do NOT want to be that awkward teenager that walks up to a group of another teens who are happily chatting and say, Hey guys, only to have the entire conversation go dead. I mean, heh heh, I’ve kind of been there, done that. But sometimes you really want to tell reviewers that, you know, their words made you weep tears of happy, happy joy. Is that so wrong? Are there circumstances where author/reviewer love is not forbidden? If the reviewer tags you by social media? Maybe then? Or does that still limit their freedom to hate your next book?

I’d love to hear people’s opinions on this.

Cover Reveal – Pumpkin Picking with Murder, Aug. 30, 2016.

pumpkin picking cover

When murder strikes in the Tunnel of Love, Erica Bloom has to rock the boat to catch a killer…

For a small town like Otter Lake, New Hampshire, the annual Fall Festival is a big deal: a Ferris wheel, corn maze, caramel apples and pumpkin pies―even a Tunnel of Love. Back in her hometown, Erica Bloom is trying to enjoy herself, which includes getting better acquainted with Sheriff Grady Forrester. But when a swan boat sails out of the heart-shaped exit of the tunnel with a dead man slumped over a wing, her own romance will have to take a backseat.

PUMPKIN PICKING WITH MURDER
Speaking of love affairs, the other passenger in the boat―and only witness to the elderly Mr. Masterson’s swan song―is not his wife. It’s Erica’s beloved and feisty “aunt,” Tweety, who quickly becomes the prime suspect. Vowing to clear Tweety, Erica teams up with her sassy BFF and self-appointed security expert Freddie Ng to solve the murder―despite the objections of Grady, who’s convinced the amateurs are going overboard in their investigation. And he just may be right. But as Erica and Freddie start to dredge up long-kept small-town secrets, will they heading straight into troubled waters?

Pre-order: Amazon Barnes and Noble

KIRKUS REVIEW SKINNY DIPPING WITH MURDER

“A folksy New Hampshire town’s one straight-laced former citizen can’t dodge the murder charge someone’s trying to pin on her.

It’s been a long time since Erica Bloom has returned to her hometown of Otter Lake—maybe since the very night she left. She didn’t really mean to stay away; it’s just that her life as Chicago Erica, the stenographer, has been so much more normal than her childhood growing up the daughter of the town’s only hippie: Summer, owner of the women’s retreat center Earth, Moon, and Stars. But her mother has demanded that Erica return to help with something she refuses to discuss over the phone. When Erica arrives and hears her mother’s plans to pass Erica off as the retreat’s resident psychologist, she wants to send her mother in for counseling, since one course does not a doctorate make. As if that’s not bad enough, Erica keeps having run-ins with Grady Forrester, the boy-turned-man who ran her out of town after a clothes-stealing skinny-dipping incident. Maybe she’s having the run-ins with Grady just because he’s the local sheriff and Erica is the prime suspect in his newest murder case, but she’d rather think it’s because he finds her irresistible, not just suspicious. Among the nutty characters Wallace (Sidekick Returns, 2015, etc.) presents, the big charmer is Grady’s partner, Rhonda, whose questioning of Erica always leads to the same question: why can’t they be friends?

Time spent with the folks in Otter Lake is well worthwhile, with writing that is witty, contemporary, and winning.”

SKINNY DIPPING COVER

My thoughts:

dancing 4

Officially Old: Arguing over Music in the Mini-van

Have you ever been just driving along in your car, not thinking much of anything, just going about your day, when all of the sudden the radio begins to play one epic song after another? It’s glorious right? Like a gift from the Gods.

Well, that happened to me yesterday morning on my second trip to the hardware store to return a portion of my Christmas lights (I went 4 times! But that’s another story). There was just one little problem.

I had my kids in the car.

This is my non-official transcript of the drive.

Scene: I had just flipped stations, and what do I hear? A flute? The gently strumming of a guitar…it couldn’t be…could it?

Me: Oh! Everyone stop talking immediately. It’s Fernando!

7 year old: Who’s Fernando?

9 year old (with audible eye roll – seriously, I can hear it): Here we go.

Me: Who’s Fernando? Who’s Fernando! I have obviously failed you in your music edu–(I had to cut myself off to sing obviously)

Mere seconds pass.

7 year old: You still haven’t told me who Fernando is.

Me: Can’t talk. Singing.

7 year old: Seriously, who is Fernando?

9 year old: Her boyfriend. D’uh.

Me: It’s not just about a boyfriend. It’s —  (Chorus starts – obviously needing my accompaniment).

3 year old: Too loud!

Me: Sorry baby. I turn it down – one click

Song ends. Then to the joy of my young 80’s soul, this comes on (WARNING: This video may give you nightmares):

Thirty seconds of blissful uninterrupted singing on my part pass. Then:

7 year old: I don’t understand this song at all.

Me: You don’t have to understand it. Just feel the mus–(Chorus comes on.)

9 year old: Do you have to make that face when you sing?

Me: Yes, otherwise my clenched fist in the air would look weird.

3 year old: Too loud!

Me: Sorry, baby.

9 year old: Can we please listen to something from this decade?

Me (grumbling flips stations): Oh my God! I can’t believe this! Seriously, everybody stop talking! Mommy loves this song.

9 year old: You love every song.

Me: Every awesome song.

7 year old: I don’t understand any of these.

Me (talking hurriedly so as not to miss my singalong with the falsetto): It’s about a young man feeling like he’s a creep and a weirdo and not worthy of a beautiful girl – you know, kind of like Phantom of the Opera.

7 year old: I understood maybe half of the words you just said.

9 year old: Could we listen to something that isn’t miserable?

Me: It’s not…okay it kind of is…aaand I missed the falsetto.

7 year old: What’s a falsetto???

At this point, I grab the iPod. I know what they want to hear.

It’s what they always want to hear…

3 year old: Turn it up.

 

SIDEKICK RETURNS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!!!

Available Dec. 8th Escape Publishing…

Preorder: Amazon / iTunes / Kobo / Amazon UK / Amazon AU / Amazon CA

SidekickReturns

Bremy St James is back in a brand new adventure, mixing chaos, humour, sex, and superheroes in this fresh, funny, flirty series. It’s the superhero romance you didn’t know you needed…

 

Fresh off thwarting the crime of the century, Bremy St. James is back and more determined than ever to fight by the side of the city’s top superhero, Dark Ryder. There’s just one problem: Dark Ryder’s disappeared.

To make matters worse, Bremy’s evil billionaire father, Atticus, is taking her lack of family loyalty verypersonally, and Bremy’s last tie to her old life, her reason behind her choices – her sister – is distancing herself as well.

With Atticus plotting revenge and Dark Ryder missing in action, Bremy has to make a choice: flee the city and leave her problems behind, or stay and make her dreams of superheroism a reality  all on her own.

Who knew being awesome would be so hard?

Note: Escape is updating their NetGalley lists, and is looking to connect with reviewers and bloggers each month who might be interested in reviewing Escape titles.

If you’re interested in joining the list of reviewers, please email kcuthbert@eharlequin.com.au with your name, where you blog/review, and the email your NetGalley account is associated with.