Monday, June 27, 2011

Public Enemy #1

Back in the 1930's, the term public enemy referred to criminals such as Al Capone, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, and Ma Barker who were seen as extreme threats to society. Today I would expect Al Queda leaders to top the public enemy list.

Come to find out, Americans should be more afraid of potatoes than terrorists. Yeah, that's right...the scrumptdillicious potato is the biggest threat to the Nation. Or at least, its waist line. The US Department of Agriculture estimates the typical American woofs down 117 pounds of potatoes each year, including 41 pounds of frozen french fries.

Obviously, they didn't query me because that seems ridiculously low by my consumption standard. If I were stranded on a desert island with only one natural food source, dear god please let it be the potato and not the coconut.

A joint study between Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health found that  extra serving of potatoes contributed to an average weight gain of 1.3 pounds to 3.4 pounds over a four year period, depending on how someone preferred their spuds served. On average, that's more than the junk in the trunk packed on by drinking sodas or eating beef.  (Orlando Sentinel article, 6/24/11)
Oh, the horror.

Discovering my favorite side-dish is broadening my butt is too much bear.

Oh what a relief.

All this time, I've blamed my weight gain on the lack of exercise.  I can stop trying to fit the gym into my schedule now.

Oh, the revulsion...I can't give up potatoes. I'll give up ice cream before bed, sweet rolls for breakfast, and fried buffalo chicken sandwiches for dinner, but I will not give up potatoes.  I will harbor them in my pantry so that I can slice them and dice them, fry them, mash them, bake them and broil them.

Potatoes have been a dietary staple for thousands of years. They contain 0 fat, 0 cholesterol; have 7 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber; and are loaded with vitamins A & C, iron, and calcium. So why the bad rap?

The up to 63 grams of carbohydrates per serving is my guess.

A quick Google search on high carb foods revealed fructose, granular sugar, drink powders, hard candies, gummies, sugary cereals, dried fruits, rice cakes, low fat crackers, flour, cakes, cookies, jams and preserves have more carbs per serving than potatoes.  Woohoo! Loads of foods to give up before potatoes.

Lucky me.  I love potatoes any way you serve them, except the boxed au-gratin kind. Uck!

Professor X's favorite is red potatoes tossed in olive oil and season salt, then broiled in the toaster oven until crispy on the outside, tender on the inside.  Mmmmm.

Not to be deterred by the potato's new public enemy status, I'm on the hunt for new ways to serve 'em up. So, how do you do your spuds?

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Romantic Suspense Debut Author Raquel Byrnes Talks Killer Synopses

Today I'm excited to have debut author Raquel Byrnes visiting today. Raquel's inspirational romantic suspense Purple Knot was released June 3rd from White Rose Publishing. She's here to share tips on a subject I fear as much as the Dread Pirate Roberts--writing a synopsis, GASP!

Without further ado, here's Raquel and her advice on

How a Killer Synopsis Can Keep You from the Slush Pile

Writing a synopsis is one of the most grueling and intimidating aspects of the submission process. Query letters are easy compared to the dreaded 3-4 page synopsis that goes with your proposal. But this mini-novel is a very important part of the pitch for your manuscript. So making it the best you can possibly create is essential.

Not all agents or publishers accept the same type of synopsis. Some require a one-page, while others would like an "Extended Synopsis" of three or four pages. Check the submission requirements on their website.

A synopsis is generally written in PRESENT tense, THIRD PERSON. This is regardless of your novel's POV. Follow the voice of your book, it’s the first taste of your writing that the agent gets.

There are specific formatting guidelines. Your synopsis should be single spaced. In the top left-hand corner, the header should have your book title and your name. You may also want to add the genre and word count.

There are 3 main sections to your synopsis: The Hook, The Background, and The Stakes.

The Hook
Start with an exciting statement. What is the character's major dilemma or conflict? How might they react? You worry over the first sentence of your the same over your synopsis.

The Background
Introduce your character with just enough info to make things clear. Who is the book about? What kind of person are they? Make sure they are sympathetic to your reader. Make them care what happens.

The Stakes
These are your plot points; only list the MAJOR ones. List the public AND private stakes. Show how they escalate. Create tension.

A synopsis is NOT where you have cliff-hangers or questions. It is the whole story.

Finally, don't forget punctuation and grammar. This is a professional pitch for your product...polish it up.

The important thing to keep in mind is this represents you as an author, so take the time to make it as clear, concise, and professional as possible.

Thanks so much Raquel for sharing your tips on successful synopsis writing. And beaucoup wishes for success with Purple Knots.

A killer strikes. A love rekindled. A life-altering choice.

When her best friend, is murdered, Reyna Cruz doesn't believe the police have the whole story. An investigator by trade, she has the talent to track Summer’s killer, but when clues lead to a family connection and a vicious gang, she suddenly becomes the hunted. At the end of her rope, Reyna must decide to trust the God she believes abandoned her. 

Wanting justice for his sister’s murder, lawyer Jimmy Corbeau agrees to help Reyna—even though she’s his ex-fiancé, and their break-up devastated him. Romance is reawakened, but so are memories of their tragic undoing. Jimmy must decide if he will fight for a future with Reyna or allow their past to derail the investigation and his second chance at love.

When the investigation goes awry and Summer’s infant daughter is kidnapped, Reyna must put her life on the line. Will Jimmy and Reyna survive the desperate measures it takes to recover his niece, catch a killer, and secure a happily-ever-after for them all?

Raquel Byrnes lives in Southern, California with her husband of sixteen years and their six children. She writes romantic suspense with an edge-your-seat pace. You can visit her at her website:  and her writing blog, Edge of Your Seat Romance.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011


“{Fate} often preserves one not domed to die, if his courage is strong!”  Beowulf, line 572-573

Have you seen the 2007 CG film Beowulf? You know the one in which Angelina Jolie gives voice to the mother of the monster, Grendel?

It’s loosely (very loosely) based on the oldest surviving heroic epic poem in British literature. Believed to have been written between the 8th and early 11th century, the Beowulf manuscript housed in the British Library in London is the only one in existence, surviving the destruction of religious artifacts during the reign of Henry VIII. In the 18th century, Sir Robert Bruce Cotton counted it among his collection of medieval writings. In 1731, a fire swept through the building housing his literary treasures. Fortunately, Beowulf survived, although it did suffer damage.  Time, as with all things, continues to degrade the manuscript. Efforts to preserve the ancient document continue.

Beowulf is the tale of a Geats warrior who journeys across the sea to aid Hrothgar, King of the Scyldings, who’s Great Hall is terrorized by the monster, Grendel, believed to be a descendant of the biblical Cain, who killed his brother Abel and was cursed by God.

Grendel is an outcast, living on the moors, disturbed by the feasting and reverie within the walls of Hrothgar’s Great Hall.  When all have fallen asleep, Grendel sneaks inside and kills thirty nobles. Thus begins a twelve-year reign of terror.

Beowulf arrives at the Great Hall seeking fame and fortune. He boasts that he will kill Grendel and he does. Beowulf must then face Grendel’s mother, and eventually a dragon in Beowulf’s own kingdom many years later. These three epic battles mark the life of a Geats warrior who becomes a king.

The first printed edition of Beowulf appeared in 1815.  Over the years, many translations and reprintings followed. As did the debate of its origins.

Many believed that Germanic tradition forms the basis of the story. However, Wilhelm Grimm (yes, one-half of the Grimm Brothers) linked Beowulf to Irish traditions. Other academics supported his belief, citing the Irish Feast of Bricriu  or Táin Bó Fráech as the foundation of the tale.

Some considered the story a paganistic work with Christian influences added later by scribes; while others insisted it was a Christian historical novel with bits of paganism intersperse to add local color. JRR Tolkein was noted to have said that Beowulf was written with “too genuine a memory of Anglo-Saxon paganism to have been written more than a few generations after the events.”

Beowulf is one of my favorite legends. To me, the core of the story is a warrior’s coming of age. He matures from a proud, young adventure thrill-seeker to a respectable, noble king who is more concerned with his people’s safety and prosperity than his own fame and riches.

But, could Beowulf be more than mere legend?

Archeological excavations at Lejre, the seat of Scylding according to Scandinavian traditions, have uncovered a large building, circa mid-6th century—the time period of Beowulf. The structure contains three halls, each fifty meters long, similar to the ones described in the epic. Discoveries at the Eadgils’ mound in Uppsala, Sweden seem to support the existence of Beowulf as a real man and his sagas.  Birger Nerman—Swedish archaeologist, professor, and author, identified the barrow of Skalunda as the Beowulf’s final resting place.

Beowulf's Burial Mound: Photo Source
So, if Beowulf was real person and his adventures true events, then what about the monsters he battled? Were they real? And what were they?

In Christian medieval culture the term “monster” referred to individuals with birth defects. Their deformities often seen as an ominous sign from God signifying punishment for some transgression or a foreboding of evil to come.

Beowulf’s anonymous author describes the monster Grendel as a shadow-glider with flaming eyes, a hellish ravager, a spell-weaver who seized his victim,
“a sleeping warrior and slit him wide open,
biting into the body, drinking blood in streams,
swallowing huge mouthfuls—till soon
he had eaten the entire man’s corpse,
even feet and hands.” Beowulf, lines 741-745
When I envision Grendel, I see VAMPIRE. He comes out only at night, drinks his victims’ blood and devours their flesh. He’s super-human stronger, able to rip apart limbs with his bare hands so he has no need for weapons. Even when Beowulf defeats Grendel and finds him dead in a lair, Beowulf beheads the monster, to ensure the unholy creature never rises again.

Could the ancient manuscript of Beowulf substantiate the existence of vampires in medieval times?

If Grendel wasn’t a vampire, what do you think he might’ve been?

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