Which Novel Should You Read First? Take the Quiz

The infographic craze is, well, crazy. I think it’s safe to say that I’m about as tired of infographics as I am the #IceBucketChallenge.

And yet …

Let me know your result of this quiz, would ya? I’ll psychologically analyze you later.

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The Best Margarita Recipe, Taste-Tested and Texan-Approved

tequila Margarita on the rocksWhen you’re from Texas, three of the four main food groups are lime, tequila, and salt. (The fourth is straight-up enchiladas.) Suffice it to say that I’m no stranger to the sweet-tart heaven of a margarita done right. (The main character in my novel Blue Straggler isn’t, either.)

I’ve had margaritas made with sweet-and-sour mixes. I’ve had margaritas made with Lone Star beer. I’ve had blue margaritas and strawberry margaritas and cucumber margaritas and prickly pear margaritas. I’ve enjoyed frozen margaritas, swirled-with-sangria margaritas and on-the-rocks margaritas.

And they are not all, as they say, created equal.

In honor of the two-year anniversary of the publication of Blue Straggler by 30 Day Books, I’m sharing what I consider to be the best, simple margarita recipe on the planet.

Let me know if you agree!

The Blue Straggler Margarita

Run a juicy lime wedge over the rim of a cocktail glass and dip the rim of the glass in coarse sea salt.

In a bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon light agave nectar with 1 tablespoon filtered water and 1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice.

Pour the nectar mixture, along with 1/3 cup 100-percent blue agave tequila, into a shaker. (Do not settle for cheap college-days tequila. You’re a grown up!)

Add ice and shake.

Pour liquid only over fresh ice in your salt-rimmed glass. Add a final squirt of lime on top and drop the wedge into the drink.

Sip while listening to the Marty Robbins’ song, El Paso, or Down on the Rio Grande by Johnny Rodriguez.

Good Enchiladas Are a Powerful Thing

There’s a scene in my novel, Blue Straggler, that involves Tex-Mex food, which every Texan knows that, when done right, most specifically enchiladas, can be a gift straight from heaven. Here’s an excerpt from that scene:

I convince myself to get out tonight. What I would prefer to do is curl up on the couch with a box of Godiva chocolates and Casablanca. But I promised Rudy I’d join him, so I throw on a pair of jeans and leave the house. The draw of enchiladas is a powerful thing.

The restaurant is packed. Dusty piñatas hang from the ceiling’s cedar beams, and paper-mache flowers in green and pink are gathered in Mexican pottery around the restaurant. Every table—wooden and scarred and square—holds a black, cast-iron pot of salsa and an orange plastic pitcher of beer.

Making my way through the crowd, I dodge waitresses balancing platters of sizzling beef. I can just make out Rudy’s red head in the back corner bobbing around like a fishing cork, watching for me. Next to him, his blonde-haired guest is flushed from what looks to be several pitchers down.

Wolfgang—I swear that’s his name—shouts “nice to meet you.” Mariachi music blares from speakers near the kitchen, competing with the low-octave hum of the Friday night crowd.

At this point, I don’t know if I would call Wolfgang engaging, but I decide he could be quasi-appealing, especially next to the glow of the orange pitcher.

“You look like someone I should know,” he says, and I try to block out that he’s using a Worst Pick-Up Line from a list circulating on the Internet.

“You’re from Colorado?” I ask, not all that interested. Probably because burritos are being served at the next table.

Wolfgang leans toward me, his thick brows drawing closer together as he speaks. “I’m just in town for a few days.”

I try to draw my brows together like him. But as usual, I’m reasonably sure I’ve contorted my face into some kind of scowl. Rudy laughs; he knows exactly what I’m trying to do.

“Why the scowl?” Wolfgang asks.

“I’m thirsty,” I say.

“Drink up.” He pours me the first of what I expect will be many.

“A toast to new partnerships,” Rudy holds his cup above the table. Wolfgang touches his cup to Rudy’s and looks for mine. I’m pouring myself another.

In honor of Bailey and Rudy, I’m sharing my own enchilada recipe, which I’ve been told is pretty darn good. So good, in fact, that they have an ego all their own.

Look, I’m just saying people ask me to make these. A lot.

Warning: This is not an exact science. It’s more like an art …

Kathy’s World-Famous Enchiladas

Brown 2 lbs. ground sirloin in 2 Tablespoons of oil with two medium chopped red onions, 1 green pepper (chopped), 1 red pepper (also chopped), 3 cloves of garlic (you guessed it  – chopped), ½ cup salsa (I use Pace medium chunky), a dash of Tabasco, a shit ton of cumin powder (probably 6 – 7 Tablespoons), 1 large jalapeno (chopped – add more if you’re a badass), and 1 can black beans (drained). Bonus points if your black beans have some Mexican spices in them.

Add 7-8 Tablespoons of GOOD chili powder. (Do not, I repeat, do not use Walmart Great Ffing Value chili powder.) Add 7-8 Tablespoons of water to get it all saucy and such. Do not add too much water or you will ruin EVERYTHING. No pressure.

Simmer about 30 minutes uncovered. Drink some good beer while waiting … or sip some tequila if you’re feeling like a real rebel.

Coat a white corn tortilla in the meat sauce then put in a scoop of meat sauce and some grated cheese (I suggest pepper jack, medium cheddar, or Colby jack or a combination). Then roll that sucker like dice (not really), and place in a long casserole dish. Repeat until you’ve filled up that dish with rolled tortillas full of meat and cheese goodness. You’ll be placing the filled and rolled tortillas side by side. Put a bit of meat sauce on top of them as you are adding tortillas to the dish, to keep them from coming unrolled. (There’s a marijuana joke in there somewhere, I’m sure.)

Top with remaining meat sauce and lots of grated cheese. Don’t be stingy with the cheese. This is not the time to count your Weight Watchers points.

Bake at 375 degrees until things are all bubbling and cheese is melted.

Behold, heaven on earth. Accept your applause.

Don’t Stop for Cigarettes: Or What Blue Straggler Was Almost Titled

BlueStragglerCover_b06.4 front only W555H850A lot of readers ask me how I came up with the title for my debut novel, Blue Straggler. So here’s a little story for you, including a list of what might’ve been the title of my first Amazon bestseller!

The short story that birthed the idea for Blue Straggler was actually titled Boondocks. The title hit on the main character’s feeling of isolation, along with a hint at the crazy family out in the sticks. But as the story grew into a novel, the title didn’t feel right anymore.

Then, I was in the middle of writing Blue Straggler my first year in Colorado and I was reading an astronomy book. Moving up here had made me want to learn more about these stars I felt like I could touch from the top of a mountain. I came across the term, blue straggler, and its definition:

There are stars in our galaxy that belong to a globular cluster but have an anomalous blue color and high luminosity in comparison with other cluster members. When the globular cluster is plotted, there is a distinct turn-off point on the main sequence. The stars that appear to be disconnected from the cluster’s main sequence are called Blue Stragglers.

I knew right away that was the title I was looking for. The term and its image fit the main character, Bailey, so well. She’s down on her luck. She’s a kind of straggler in life. She’s disconnected from her family. She’s at a distinct turn-off point.

My agent, who signed me based on this novel, suggested I change the title. She said it sounded too sci-fi and wouldn’t resonate with the target audience in women’s fiction.

We brainstormed other ideas, even though I felt strongly that the title shouldn’t be changed. Here are some of the top ones we considered:

  • Don’t Stop for Cigarettes
  • The Draw of a Good Enchilada Is a Powerful Thing
  • It’s Hard to Escape with Texas Plates
  • Nowhere I Want to Be
  • Therapy Is Working Wonders

Luckily, my agent eventually let this be my decision, and I stuck with Blue Straggler. So did my publisher.

What do you think?

This Serenity Break Is Brought to You by the Beauty of Colorado

5photoSo many of my friends back home always ask when I’m moving back. “Don’t you miss Texas?” they ask. And yep, I do. I miss many things about where I grew up. But here in Colorado, I can breathe. That’s the best way to explain it, and it has little to do with the air quality and everything to do with my need for this kind of beauty. (photos taken at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs last weekend).

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Comment and You Could Win! Who Is Your Favorite Character in Blue Straggler?

I recently visited with another book group that read Blue Straggler, and I always love it when I hear how animated and passionate readers are about the characters in the novel.

This particular conversation revolved around Adam and Rudy — two very different male characters in the story — and which one of the two was more likeable as a long-term romantic interest for Bailey (and for the book group members …).

And then one of the members asked me who MY favorite character in the novel is. That’s a pretty tough question. After all, I created them all and they lived in my head with me for a very long time before the story was complete and out in the world. It’s kind of like asking me which of the many dogs I’ve had in my life is my favorite. I’ve loved them all in different ways. I can’t pick. Ever.

I will say, however, that I plan to write a sequel to Blue Straggler, and Rudy will have a big part in it. Because I think I might miss him the most.

Now – your turn. If you read Blue Straggler, comment below and let me know which character in the novel was your favorite and why. I’ll choose a winner based on which comment I like the best. (I’m queen of this little world/blog, you know.)

Best part: Winner will receive a signed paperback copy of Blue Straggler – in its original 2012 cover (those are in limited supply, baby!)

Now, don’t let me down. Comment away!

Here’s a recap of the some of the characters for you:

Bailey — Directionless female protagonist approaching 30; uses self-deprecating humor to deal with life; enjoys Cool Whip and alcohol on frequent occasions; can’t keep a relationship longer than it takes milk to expire in the fridge

Rudy — Bailey’s best friend since college at Texas A&M; will kick your ass at Jeopardy; Bad at dating and financial management.

Idamarie — The third and oldest member of the friendship triangle; shells out good diner food and mostly good advice. Fourth-generation Texas woman with the hair and sass to prove it.

Adam — Moody mountain man with a beat-up Jeep and heart, plus a lot of dogs and a barn for rent.

Francis — Coffee shop owner and Bailey’s first friend in Colorado. Nice Southern accent.

Stella — Feisty mail carrier and mayor of Gold Creek, Colorado. Don’t look at her prosthetic ear.

Tuck — Tow truck driver, originally from Texas, now living in Gold Creek. Has a Jesus bobblehead on his dash.

Bailey’s Mother — Enjoys throwing backyard parties and yard sales, and berating Bailey. Co-owner of family’s fiberglass cow business.

Bailey’s Father — Rancher. Values beer, old outlaw country, gambling, and good dogs.

Lawrence — Librarian with Skills.

Weasel – Bailey’s cat she believes is out to get her.

Willie and Waylon – Bailey’s family’s dogs

WHO WILL YOU CHOOSE?

Readers’ Top 10 Blog Posts in 2012

I started this blog in early 2012, at the request of my publisher. I’ll admit I was worried about it. I’d written a weekly online column before, but that was different. This was a BLOG, something I’d resisted for years. Would I have time to blog and blog well? Would people (other than my mother) care enough about what’s going on in my head to read it? And what in the hell would I write about?

Well, I haven’t kept up with the blogging schedule I’d hoped for, but I have written a few fun pieces. Below, I’ve featured links to the 10 most popular posts, just in case you missed `em. Even I enjoyed rereading a few.

Oh, and just to recap this AMAZING year in publishing for me (because that’s what you do on New Year’s Eve-Eve) … after becoming an Amazon bestseller in the spring and summer, Blue Straggler (released as an ebook in August 2011 and in paperback in March of this year) remains in the top 30 in sales and customer ratings in comic fiction on Amazon. It hit #2 again right after Christmas and #5 in a different category (humor). Pretty cool. Or rather, a huge dream of mine come true. A Good Kind of Knowing was released in ebook in October and in paperback earlier this month. It made it to the #10 spot in its category (fiction/drama) on Amazon and remains in the top 30 in ratings. It also made the top 100 in customer ratings in literary fiction. Whew. That’s as good for this writer’s soul as crab legs, cheese biscuits and a Bahama Mama from Red Lobster.

I’m so thankful to everyone who has supported me this year and always. Having my work touch just a few people would’ve been satisfying. But this kind of success has been overwhelming. Thank you!

Now on to those posts, and here’s to 2013, y’all!

 #1  Our Dogs Are Going to Get Us Kicked out of the Neighborhood

#2  Saying Goodbye to My Dream, or the One-Year Experiment With Normal Living

#3  And This Is Why I Hate Dental People

#4  Friends Are Worried About My “Girls”

#5  What Happened When I Turned 30 …. and 40

#6  What Being a Texas Woman Means

#7  How Growing Up With Country Music Made Me a Better Writer

#8  21 Facebook Posts You’ll Never, Ever See From Me

#9  Open Letter to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

#10  Your Official Music-to-Read-By Playlist 

My First-Ever 99-Cent Sale

Today is a first for me — both of my novels are just 99 cents (ebook/Amazon Kindle version). A sale of epic proportions!

Not sure yet how I feel about it, since obviously the royalties on these sales wouldn’t even buy me a can of Dr Pepper or a scoop of Cool Whip. But the more readers, the better, right?

So there you go. This is a one-day sale on both titles, so get it while the getting’s good. (Texas translation – hurry and buy them while they are on sale.)

And thanks to every person who has read either of my novels. I’d add in a “mwah!” but that may be over the top.

 

What I’m Thankful for Right Now, in This Moment

New and old friends and family who support my writing. A six-year-old who can already cook up a mean batch of fried catfish. Sonic ice and Dr Pepper. A husband who buys me Sonic ice because he knows it makes me happy. Two furry babies who make me smile, no matter how very bad they can be. My publisher, 30 Day Books (Laura Pepper Wu and Brandon Wu) — it’s so darn awesome to know that there are good, kind people all over the world, and that I have these folks on my side. Jeremy Kron for his wonderful work on my novels’ cover and interior design. My new job with Truven Health Analytics. I’m loving the work so much. Knowing that I’ll get to see my family and taste my mama’s cooking in just a couple of weeks. My Kindle Fire. Brilliant writing by people who inspire me. The herd of deer hanging out on our road this evening. The Rocky Mountains. Fresh mountain air. Memory foam. This laptop. Friends I know will be there for me if I need them. Texas Hill Country pecans, found at a Target in Colorado, believe it or not. Cool cotton pillowcases. Good wine. Stand-up comedians. A mother- and father-in-law who adore my son and treat us all with overwhelming generosity. The good health of myself, my family and my friends. The music of Lyle Lovett. Sara Lee pies because I don’t have time to make my own. Readers out there in the universe who are reading my novels and taking the time to let me know that my words touched them somehow. Every single person who has written a review of either of my novels. My eyesight. A soft, warm blanket on a chilly night. Stars. Avocados. Dark chocolate. Ariat boots. Vacuum cleaners. Wild Orange essential oil. A massage therapist as a spouse. And the sound of my angel-son saying, “I love you, mama,” as he drifts off to sleep.

What are you thankful for right now, in this moment? (Don’t think about it deeply, just spit out what comes to mind. It’s nice sometimes to just Let. It. Out.) PS: Vacuum is a weird word, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Introducing the Cover Design for My Next Novel

I’m so pleased with how the cover art for my new novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, came out! My friend, Jeremy Kron, interactive designer extraordinaire, created this one, just like he did for Blue Straggler. And I really think he outdid himself this time. Here it is:

 

 

Imagine if Maeve Binchy grew up in Texas and wrote an old-school Larry McMurtry novel. Think Hope Floats meets High Fidelity. That’s how critics are describing A Good Kind of Knowing — from the author of the highly acclaimed and number-one Amazon bestseller, Blue Straggler.

A Good Kind of Knowing is a novel about the power of music and friendship, the relationship two-steps that go on in old Texas dancehalls, and the secret to finding just a little bit of common ground in a world full of distrust.

Sera Taylor’s store is the one place in Lakeville, Texas, where individuals from all walks of life share a universal love for music and a respect for the gypsy-like woman behind the antique glass counter. Readers get a taste of the unorthodox connection between Sera and Mack, a young local cowboy and musician, and Sera’s previously untested devotion to her husband Bill. They learn of her relationship with Ruby D., the vibrant but misguided mother of five; with Louie, the shy high school band director; with Beverly, the religious, upper-class socialite; with Antonio, a local bar owner striving to make a life for himself; with Tommy Lee, a rich and directionless gigolo; and with Wes, the only out-of-the closet gay man for miles. As Sera battles a serious illness, the characters must overcome long-held stereotypes to save Sera’s store, and in the end, large parts of themselves.

What readers are saying:

  • “Engaging, emotionally accurate, visual and funny.”
  • “My head is full of your story. It took me only two and a half days to read the book cover to cover, which means I was doing it every spare minute.”
  • “You pulled me right in.”
  • “I feel like I’m right there—I can feel the Texas heat and see the small town and the people who populate it.”
  • “The characters are diverse and interesting, and each has a unique personality that adds to the entire canvas of the story.”
  • “I know these people. What’s more, I like them, even despite their faults.”
  • “The pace is comfortable, the characters rich and colorful. The events are anything but predictable; I was always wondering what’s going to happen next.”

A Good Kind of Knowing is coming soon as an ebook — out by the end of the month! Paperbacks will be out for the holidays.

Thanks for all the support!

PS – Thanks to everyone who asked about my writing week in North Carolina. It was amazing and awesome and I got a ton of work on the third novel done. Plus, I squeezed in a few swims in the ocean (which was still warm!), one deep-sea fishing trip (my friend caught a shark!) and about 200 million meals of fried seafood. Now, back to reality.