Homeless Brats and Beans for the Fourth

When you’re homeless and without your gas grill or an oven or even a crock pot, you find ways to make do.  We have a 2 electric (ugh) burner stove and a microwave in the motel. I don’t even have my cast iron pan. I do have a couple of decent Farberware pans though. But without a grill, I can’t make grilled brats. Without an oven, I can’t make baked beans. So what can I do this Fourth of July weekend? I can make Homeless Brats and Beans!

I sent Rott (aka my old man) to the grocery store. He brought me back the wrong brats. It was so noisy in the store that when I told him to get me a package of Johnsonville RAW brats, he didn’t even hear me. Well, he heard Johnsonville and brats so this is what he brought me.

bratsNow, if you know me, I’m not the type who sends the poor guy back to the store. I don’t get mad at him either. He’s trying. He’s just not a cook so he is clueless when I send him on a grocery mission. And our mission communication was a bit off since he couldn’t hear me in his earpiece due to the noise of the crowds in the store. Besides, sending him to take something back is always the wrong thing to do. He curses more than you’ve ever heard someone curse and he gets way more angry and frustrated than a normal person would. After eighteen years, I know better than to ask him to do things that I know will end up with him coming home pissed off.

chiliesnbeansBefore I start with the cooking, let me tell you about how I cook…some of this, a pinch of that, a squirt or a dash of this or the other, a handful of this…You get the picture. I don’t exactly measure anything. Being exact is what you do when you’re baking something that requires precision in measuring. Most cooking I do doesn’t require that kind of precision so don’t expect exact measurements from me on what I’m doing here.

Okay, so instead of cooking raw brats in a can of Boddingtons swiped from the fridge (ale he hasn’t been drinking anyway cause he really doesn’t drink unless he’s so pissed off he’s ready to stab someone) now I have to deal with smoked brats that are already cooked. What do I do with them? I slice them! Thick slices, cut on the diagonal. I set them aside.

brats_slicedNext, I chop up a bit of onion I had in the fridge. And I add to that some chopped green chilies. I almost had Rott get me a can of jalapenos. But I didn’t want to deal with a fresh jalapeno because you know, seeds and such. I’m lazy, especially when I don’t have a real kitchen.  I don’t even have my chef’s knife, although the small knife I have here is super sharp! I tend to keep my knives, all the knives, that way. A little something I learned from my Dad…a kitchen without a sharp knife is no kitchen.

onionsI had the stupidity to have forgotten to have Rott get me a few slices of Applewood smoked bacon. Eff. Me. What are beans without bacon? If I could get pork belly in the store I would, but I have yet to see it in Stater Bros market and I’m not sending Rott into Whole Foods Market after it. For one, it’s probably hideously expensive in Whole Foods and for another that place drives him completely bonkers. And at the motel, I don’t have a way to deep fry it anyway. If you have bacon, go ahead, dice it, cook it crisp, and then remove the bacon from the grease. Setting it on a paper towel to drain is best.Applewood-Smoked-Center-Cut-BaconWithout bacon, I have to make do. I have a bit of bacon grease stored in the fridge. I use this to cook my onions and chilies. Now, if I didn’t have a sensitive gut, I would really have made this with chopped red bell pepper and half a fresh chopped jalapeno. Feel free to make yours with those ingredients and as much jalapeno as you want. Canned jalapenos work too, but they aren’t as flavorful or hot as the fresh jalapeno. I used to be able to eat those things, but alas, no longer. So onion and mild green chilies it is. Saute them in the bacon grease until the onions are translucent and the red pepper (if you use it) is soft.  Remove the veggies. You can put them on the same paper towel as the bacon if you want.veggiesauteNow, I drop those nice chunks of bratwurst in the hot pan. Sizzle, sizzle. I cook them until they have a nice carmelization on them. (This smells especially delish if you’re using the brats cooked in beer.) Then, I dump in the bacon bits and veggies. Stir em up, just a minute will work. And into the pan goes a can of beans. Choose your favorite or make your own from scratch. There’s the old fashioned Campbell’s Pork and Beans or if you’re like me, one of the gazillion flavors of Bush’s Beans works really well.

sizzleSeason these however works best for you. Me, I dump in some sea salt, a couple twists from the pepper grinder, garlic powder or I use fresh garlic when cooking the veggies if I have it. You can also add a splash of Worcestershire Sauce, a heaping teaspoon of golden brown sugar (Bush’s Honey Baked Beans are already sweet so sugar not really needed), a squirt of mustard or a teaspoon of powered Coleman’s mustard, a squirt of ketchup, and a squirt of soy sauce. When I use raw brats, cooked in beer, I also add a dash of liquid smoke. I’ve also been known to add a dash of yellow curry once in a while, although usually, I reserve the curry for when I make over easy eggs, but that’s a recipe for another day.

bratsnbeansNow, normally, I’d do this in a cast iron skillet. I’d put some raw bacon on the top and I’d pop it into the oven for about 45 minutes, until the bacon on top is crisp. Here in the motel, I have to make the Homeless version of everything. So I stir everything together, bring to a boil, turn the temp down to simmer (a hard thing to do on an electric stove, ugh) and cover with a lid or foil. I want all the flavors to marry while I slow cook this for about 30-45 minutes.

bowlofbeansWhile it’s cooking, I slice up part of a Portuguese Linguica sausage. I fry it up and set it aside. When the beans and brats are done, I put the linguica on top, like an edible garnish, since I don’t have an oven to bake bacon on top. You can also use a mix of linguica and brats in the dish itself. Linguica is amazing sausage! It’s not traditional in the least and neither are these beans. It’s just one way to still have your baked beans when you are homeless and without the resources and things you normally have. It’s a little spicier than normal baked beans especially if you use the red pepper and jalapeno (which also makes it very colorful and pretty!), but it’s still good stuff.linguicaBefore I sign off, don’t forget, Winterheart Design has buy a book cover, get a free book trailer this 4th of July weekend. Your purchase helps keep us from living in our car and sending our cats to the pound. Also, keep a lookout for a blog post from me on what’s happening with my publishing career and what books you can expect to see from me soon.

Happy Fourth of July!

LexV_signature_sm

Drexting

I rant on occasion. Not as much as I used to, but I do. I don’t always rant about the world of publishing either. I could seriously rant about the state of the economy in Southern California where middle class people like me make double the minimum wage per hour, haven’t had a significant raise in years and can’t even get an apartment because the price is so high and the main requirement is to have 2 to 3 times the rent in income. Yeah, that’s a huge rant with me. Being homeless because of the economy sucks ass. No one will help you because you have a job.

DSC_0099Despite how much and how long I could go on about the homeless situation in Orange County, I have something else on my mind. Like being homeless, it’s on my mind daily or almost daily anyway. It’s on my mind the five days a week I venture out into traffic in the Catmobile to go to work.

Drexting. Driving while texting.

At first, it only happened once in a while. I’d glance into my rear view mirror while approaching a red light or stop sign and find the person behind me not slowing down, their head tipped down. It dawned on me that they were texting or checking their email on their smartphone and not paying attention to the road in front of them. So I started keeping a little bigger gap between me and the person in front of me in case the person behind me with their face in their phone didn’t stop.

TrafficOptimistically, I thought this sort of thing would stop happening as the police started ticketing people for using their phones while driving. Not so. Now, when I look in the rear view mirror or at the cars on either side of me, it’s the exception rather than the rule to find the drivers paying attention to the road. It seems like everyone around me has their face tipped down to their phone.

I’m an excellent driver. I’ve been to racing school twice. I know about mechanical things in my vehicle because I worked in a repair shop in college. I understand my car and the ones around me. And yet, it’s scary to drive out there with all the people who don’t get it.

Obviously, they are not thinking. They are texting. And texting while driving is not what an intelligent person does. I look at these people and many of them don’t LOOK stupid, but they are sure ACTING stupid. It reminds me of the saying “Stupid is as Stupid does.” And boy, do they does.

So many rear ender accidents from this and so many people who see the accidents, know it’s against the law to be holding your phone and using it in any manner while driving, and yet they still do it. I wonder how many times they’ve looked up from their email or text and had to slam on the brakes. Yet close calls to no deter them.

greenlightWe wonder why the traffic is so much worse these days. Think about it for a moment. How many times have you been behind a slow car and passed them only to find the driver either talking, texting or doing email on their phone? Same thing for drivers who don’t go when the light turns green. And the drivers who drift over the line? Them too. They are all part of the traffic problem because they are impeding traffic.

It’s rampant. I know it’s not just here in SoCal. It’s everywhere. And it’s also causing accidents which cause our insurance rates to go up. I wonder why the people doing this don’t realize this, especially if they’ve gotten into an accident. Rott tells me that these people know what they are doing. They know and they don’t care or think it will never happen to them because they’re such a good driver. Such utter bullshit.

I find myself using my horn far more than I ever did before. I honk at people at lights almost daily. They, of course, are busy with their phones. Many times it takes two honks to get them to go.  Rott yells at them a lot. “GO STUPID!” is probably his most frequently spoken phrase, followed by “It’s the big pedal on the right!” Nice.

DrextingAnd I can see how road rage would increase from all this drexting. I know I’m a lot more angry than I use to be when I’m driving and it’s all because of these inconsiderate drivers. I try to find a station on my satellite radio that engages me and makes me sing along so I care less about these idiots. And the one thing that keeps going through my head as I look in my rear view mirror and deal with these morons day in and day out is…don’t you want to get where you’re going? Don’t you want to get home? Because someday you’re going to be paying more attention to your phone and you’re going to run into something big in front of you and you may never go home again.

Much love to you all out there. Drive safely.

Lex_Sig

 

Lies and More Disappointment

So my Kindle Unlimited experiment is still charging along and I’m also still reading books for contests. The disappointments I found at the start of all this didn’t stop me from continuing to read. For the contests, I have to honor my commitments. I know some judges give up if they’ve had too many poor books. They just burn out and quit. I tend not to do that. I take a break and read something I really want by a favorite author and recharge myself.  After all, I made a commitment so I stick by it. I don’t think it’s fair to quit although I do see that continuing on when you’re suffering from burn out could be detrimental to fairly judging the books.

fittobetiedI’m not burned out on judging so I’ve been reading along with only a day and a half pause to read Mary Calmes’ Fit To Be Tied which downloaded to my phone’s Kindle app at 9 pm on Thursday night. Love me some Miro and Ian. I also took a break at the beginning of the week to read one of my Kindle Unlimited downloads. And here’s where I get to the point of my post title because the book I read was more than a disappointment.

Thus far, I haven’t divulged any titles or authors and my issues with books haven’t been specific enough (I hope) for anyone to figure out the titles or authors. This might change now. I’m not going to tell the name of the book or the author or the editor, but when I tell you what absolutely disgusted me with this book, you might guess. Well, you might if you know how to spell band names.

I opened up a Kindle Unlimited book that seemed like it had promise. I liked what the blurb said at any rate. I had, if not high hopes, at least moderately optimistic thoughts about this one. Then I saw the copyright credits and thought I’d throw up.

First of all, you either have to pay to search for a copyright online or you can do it for free at any Copyright Office. Most people aren’t going to pay to search these. However, many books have trademark credits, not copyright credits. You all have seen trademark credits right? Where the author acknowledges the mention of something that has a trademark. For instance, if you look up Romance Writers of America, you get this:

Word Mark ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA
Goods and Services IC 035. US 100 101 102. G & S: trade association services in connection with the promotion of high quality romance writing. FIRST USE: 19810215. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19810215
Standard Characters Claimed
Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
Serial Number 76679704
Filing Date July 19, 2007
Current Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition June 17, 2008
Registration Number 3494400
Registration Date September 2, 2008
Owner (REGISTRANT) Romance Writers of America, Inc. CORPORATION TEXAS 14615 Benfer Road Houston TEXAS 77069
Attorney of Record Janet F. Satterthwaite
Prior Registrations 1461390
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL-2(F)
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR).
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

So if you mentioned “Romance Writers of America” in your book, in the trademark credits you would note:

The author acknowledges the trademarks of the following items mentioned in this book:

Romance Writers of America – Romance Writers of America, Inc.

You can do your own search at the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS.) It is absolutely free.

Now, back to the lies part of my title.

The book I read had a copyright acknowledgement and I can unequivocally say that this author did not search for the items listed in her copyright credits. How do I know that she didn’t? For one, a bunch of them are spelled wrong. So I instantly felt as if she’d lied to me. If you had searched on what she had listed, spelled as she spelled it, you wouldn’t find it either under a copyright search or a trademark search. I know you’re wondering so I’m just going to show you the items from the copyright credits that were spelled wrong.

Scorpion
Def Leopard
Pat Benetar
The Notebook © Warner Bros 2004 Starring Ryan Gossling and Rachel McAdams

Screen-Shot-2015-01-19-at-6.48.24-PMNow, she also had Motley Crue (a US heavy metal band) on her list and it was spelled correctly on the copyright credits, but it was spelled this way in the book Motely Crue. The bands listed incorrectly in the copyright credits of the book and in the book itself are The Scorpions (a German heavy metal band), Def Leppard (a UK heavy metal band) and Pat Benatar. And of course, Ryan Gosling’s name has only one S.

Can you see why I would be turned off? She has a copyright list she never actually checked the copyrights on and she used a bunch of famous names and bands and never checked the spelling of those items. Worse than that, she used what appears to be a professional editor and the editor never checked these items or their spelling. That doesn’t seem very professional to me.

Well, after a few hours I got over my disgust and I decided to give the book a chance anyway. It didn’t disappoint. It was just as bad as the copyright credits lead me to believe. It was full of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. The characters were juvenile in speech and behavior. I actually liked the main characters. I wanted to see them together. But the entire story was so full of the fate, destiny and soulmates stuff that I expected to have vampires or werewolves or some other kind of shifter turn up. The level of “mates” stuff and coincidences happening in the book was so over the top I expected it to be a paranormal.

kindleunlimitedAnd so here I sit still disappointed in what I’m getting from Kindle Unlimited. You really can’t judge a book by it’s Reese Dante cover. She, like me, does covers for any author who can pay for one. She doesn’t discriminate between authors who can’t write and those who can. Neither do I. I don’t read most of the books I do covers for. She probably doesn’t either. So just because a book has a professional cover doesn’t mean it’s been professionally edited by an editor that knows what they are doing or that it was a decent enough manuscript to actually be published in the first place.

I feel bad for the writers out there who don’t know the craft well enough to realize they are being ripped off by editors who purport to be professional but who leave these books filled with mistakes a 6th grader could catch. Every day that I spend writing, I thank my lucky stars Mrs. Betty Hodgins who drilled grammar, usage, sentence structure and more into me in my 7th and 8th grade honors English classes. I hated her then, but my God, I love the woman to bits now because my editors are always happy with my work. (Translation, I don’t give them a lot to do. LOL)

It’s really sad that my experiment with Kindle Unlimited is going so poorly. And I’m even more disappointed by the fact that a lot of these self-pubbed books that aren’t that well written are making it into the contests I read for. It seems like if I want a decent book, I should look to who the author is and whether or not they have ever been published by a reputable house. That’s the only criteria I can find anymore that mostly guarantees I won’t be cringing over the misuse and misspelling of words every other paragraph.

Next time, I have a bone to pick about non-standalone (series) books in contests. Yeah, I won’t go there today. 😉 Happy reading everyone!

Lex_Sig

What’s New Pussycat?

I know, I know. I’m late coming back here to give away audiobooks from my New Year’s giveaway. Three people had the correct answer! Yvette, Emily W and Lee Todd win their choice of audiobook from me. Yay!

TheHardestPart_200So on to what’s new…I’m sick. Well, I was sick. All weekend, puking. Turns out it was just a reaction to adding a pain med to my already long line up of stuff I take. So they switched me to something else. It doesn’t make me puke but it does make me sleepy. Makes work a challenge. And the pain med that made me puke is one I’ve had before so it has to be the combination of stuff I was on. I think it didn’t like the hormone stuff my other doc has me on. Anyway, waiting for an insurance authorization so I can get yet another CT scan because it seems like the kidney stones are trying for a reappearance.  Just what I need when I have a full schedule. Story of my life. *sigh*

Meanwhile, on the writing front I have a sweet, hot short story just out for your reading enjoyment! It’s been in the works since August so you can see how sick I’ve been. The Hardest Part is a story of love and optimism and getting what you deserve for being positive in the face of negativity. I hope you readers like it!

I’ve also got other books out in audio format. Kissing Joan Collins is out in time for Valentine’s Day which is perfect because it’s a Valentine’s Day story! Also out is Rousing Caine which is a very sexy ghost story. Check out the covers!

 

KissingJoanCollins_audio

RousingCaine_audio300

I’ve got lots of codes for free copies of my audiobooks so look for me to be doing giveaways here and there across the net and on Facebook. Meanwhile, you can hop on over to Facebook and vote for The Hardest Part’s cover in the Love, Lust and Lipstick Stains cover contest! Your vote is much appreciated!

That’s it for me. I’m off to work. Cross your fingers I either don’t need a pain pill or that I can manage to stay awake when I take it!

Happy Tuesday!

winter-lex

 

 

Trading Opinions

I know I haven’t been around in a long while. I’ve been busy and well, tired. Really tired. But stuff has happened since the last time I took to my own personal forum here. To catch you up quickly, here’s a rundown.

BitterBonds_200New sequel to Broken Bonds released. Bitter Bonds was #1 on ARe and top ten gay romance on Amazon. Entangled was #1 free gay rom on Amazon, now still top ten. Got a contract for the revamped Insolent. It’s in edits now. Working on Out of the Pocket (sequel to Scrambling), Fire Storm (next Tales book), and Subs for Lunch (short story in the Souls in Bondage world.) Have five books now in production for audiobooks, Unbreak Me (narrated by Rebecca Roberts) and the first four Tales of the Darkworld (Shifting Winds and Hot Water by female narrator Jenny Urban, Fire Season narrated by Chip Wood, and Ride the Lightning narrated by Sarah Pamero.) In particular, Fire Season sounds soooo exciting! There’s news on the health front (perimenopause still kicking my ass) and the family front – my kid went to stay with her dad after he hadn’t spoken to her in about 5 years and my MIL has been in the hospital since the 4th of July. My hubs’ stepdad with Alzheimer’s has to go into a home now since my MIL can no longer care for him.

What can I say? Life is busy and ever changing.

EROTIC - Reviewed by LASRSo you’re probably wondering about the title of this post. Now that I’ve gotten past the what’s new with me crap, I’ll get to the subject of today’s rant. Well, maybe rant is too a strong word. Definitely, I have something to say and since I’m on my blog, I guess I think you all have the right to hear my opinion! LOL And that’s what I want to talk about…opinions.

Reviews have become a hot button these days. Giving away books in trade for an honest review. Paying for reviews. Not getting reviews unless you practically twist someone’s arm to give you one. Review places springing up everywhere. Review places only reviewing books from authors who pay for ads on their site. Review places only reviewing authors who are friends of theirs. Goodreads snark reviews. Amazon reviews of books not even read. Misinformation in reviews. Authors trading reviews.

Rated 5 cherryThe list of subjects related to reviews is a lot longer than my little list. Books I have with publishers are always sent out to the publisher’s list of sanctioned review sites. A lot of publishers carefully weed out review sites that have trashed their authors’ books and send only to those sites that seem to offer honest, positive reviews of their books. I rarely seek reviews from review sites for books I have with publishers. I don’t want to duplicate efforts. Instead, I focus my promo elsewhere.

2lipsbanner1

Now, for my self-published books, I have actively sent them out for review and lately, I’ve joined some Facebook groups where people will accept a copy of your book in exchange for an honest review or where authors trade books for review. The trade for honest reviews has been slow, but that’s okay. I don’t want or need to be one of those authors blasting across Facebook that I have 150 five star reviews. (At one time, Rainbow Award Finalist and Jessewave Top Ten Book of 2009 Fire Season had over a dozen 4.5 and 5 star reviews, but 150? Not even counting Goodreads and Amazon did it hit 150.) Frankly, I don’t believe the veracity of those claims or at least, I don’t believe all of them. I have the evil sense that they went to Fiverr and paid $5 for a bunch of 5 star reviews from people who never read the book.

RR-cir-125Now, the authors exchanging reviews thing is a little different. As a published author, and as a person with very little time to read, I don’t waste my time on books that are not my specific reading genre. So if an author of a self-help book solicits a review from me in exchange for reviewing my book, I’m going to turn him down. I don’t read self help books much and I don’t feel it would be right of me to read something I don’t really want to read. And I’m sure I don’t want to force my gay rom on a straight arrow author. I can just imagine the fiasco that review would be!

reviewertoppick2

But you know, I see all those requests for trading reviews (trading opinions really) from the self published authors on those review groups on Facebook. Once in awhile I’ll click on the link to the person’s book to see if it’s something I might want to read. Usually, it’s not. Today, however, there was one.

I clicked the link which took me to Smashwords, thinking maybe I could trade reviews with this author. I clicked the sample function to check out the book. Guess what I found? A prologue that was an info dump. A first chapter poorly written and punctuated with more info dump and a plethora of passive voice. I don’t believe it was edited. And if it was edited, the author wasted the money she paid for the edit. It was not a book I would have contracted back when I was an acquisitions editor. The author needs to hone her craft better because what she put out was entirely sub-standard.

ReviewedAtCTR

So how can I justify doing a trade of reviews with her? Yes, her book is in the genre that I read. Yes, I could give her an honest review, but that review would be hard pressed to make two stars. And if I reviewed her book and honestly said I didn’t like it and noted all the stuff I said above about the lack of quality in the writing, editing and content, would that author then be angry enough to trash my book in review? It would be her honest opinion after all except that it would be biased based on her anger at my review of her book.

And that brings me back to the whole conundrum of whether or not to participate in these review swaps. I guess I need to read the samples first before I decide to do a swap and read the other author’s reviews of other people’s books too. After all, if I can clearly see in the sample that an author needs to go back to the classroom, that’s not a book I want to be involved with even in terms of a review. And if I can see from an author’s other reviews of books that he/she is snarky and/or mean or doesn’t write an honest review where you can see that they read the book, then I don’t want that person reviewing me. I’d rather do without, thank you very much.

fourjunkiesratingsA trade of opinions, er reviews, is only good if it benefits both people. If you’re going to trade reviews, make sure you’re willing to give the book and the author a fair shake. Only do reviews of books you would normally read. Check the book sample out first so you aren’t stuck reviewing something substandard or something you can’t say anything positive about. Check out the other author first and make sure your book is something they would probably enjoy reading.

Don’t set yourself up for failure! Asking someone who is straight and doesn’t read romance to review a gay rom is asking for trouble. It’s like subbing a sexually explicit BDSM book to a Christian inspirational publisher. You’re doomed to be disappointed.

FARLogo_FiveAngel

Thus far, I haven’t engaged in any trading of reviews. The stuff I’ve been interested in is either written by someone who doesn’t read my genre or, like the book I mentioned above, has been so poorly written I know I couldn’t give it a positive review. And I won’t review something I can’t say something positive about.

So I guess my little rant about trading opinions is that you need to use caution doing this because the old saying really is true. Opinions (aka reviews) are like assholes. Everyone has one and occasionally it stinks…to someone.

Happy Saturday everyone!

winter-lex

 

PS: Yes, the graphics used in this post were all earned by my books. If you’re interested in seeing how my latest releases are doing at review sites, here’s some info:

For Bitter Bonds, 5 paddles from BDSM Book Reviews and 4.5 stars from Joyfully Jay!

4 Sweet Peas from Mrs. Condit Reads Books for Mixed Tape Vol 2 which has Save Your Love in it.

4 stars from Smile Somebody Loves You for Save Your Love and 2.5 stars from MM Good Book Reviews. (It was a positive review but the book was too sweet for the reviewer!)