Friday, August 27, 2010

Pesto Pasta Salad

I served this salad Thursday for a little family get together. This salad is a bit different than other pasta salads I've made, but it's good. I've made it before with basil pesto, and with the addition of spinach with equally pleasing results (meaning everyone liked it).

Pesto Pasta Salad

1 lb. box of spiral pasta

3 oz Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

8 oz Tuscan House Italian dressing

1 C. frozen peas, thawed

12 oz cherry tomatoes, halved (or two roma tomatoes diced.)

½—1 C. Sliced almonds

1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and then sliced

Goat cheese—optional

Two shakes of Cayenne pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Mix the pesto sauce, Cayenne pepper, and Italian dressing in large bowl, then combine the rest of the ingredients. Chill and serve. [In this recipe, I also added two sweet mini-peppers.]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is a book like none I’ve ever read before. To me, it seems to break several rules regarding novel writing—it doesn’t have chapters—and the main character, Santiago, is merely called “the boy” throughout the story. But, even so, the story works and it floats through your mind and heart like a whisper of wind speaking of legends and eternal truths.

Coelho writes the story as though he is in your living room telling it in person. I can almost see the group gathered around as he speaks of the shepherd boy. His face wrinkles in thought as he occasionally pauses for effect, and he strokes his beard as he talks fondly of the boy and his adventure.

The story begins with the boy settling in for the night inside the ruins of an of an old church. The boy is on his way to a town where he will sell his sheep’s wool. He was there a year ago, and the merchant’s daughter caught his eye. He is anxious to return and see if she remembers him. After awakening before dawn having had a dream that he has had before, he decides the church is haunted.

In town, he meets a gypsy who interprets his dream for him—he is to travel to the pyramids in Egypt, and near them he will find his treasure. This is his Personal Legend—or his mission in life. It sounds too bizarre to be true, but soon after, he meets an old man who says his name is Melchizedek. He gives the boy two stones, one black and one white. They are called Urim and Thummim and can help him read omens.

Melchizedek concurs with the gypsy, and this starts a long journey for the boy. Several times he is tempted to give up and go back home. But each time the road gets hard, he remembers what Melchizedek told him. “If you want something bad enough, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

The universe might have conspired, but it didn’t make the way easy. Everything the boy owns it stolen from him on three occasions. Instead of becoming bitter, he works hard and earns it back. He meets others along the way who are happily ignoring their Personal Legend, and some are even afraid of achieving it. The boy thinks that perhaps he will ignore his, too, but eventually he persists. When he falls in love, the boy is no longer interested in following his Personal Legend. But the girl is wise. She knows that he will never be happy if he doesn’t follow after his dream. She tells him to go, and if he comes back, she will be waiting.

This is a story of following your heart, and of dusting yourself off and continuing on in the face of adversity—it reminds us while we’re reading that money isn’t everything—and even love cannot make us happy when we aren't happy with ourselves. Although I enjoyed the book, I felt it had an odd little ending that left me hanging. But, the book mirrors life this way; even though we achieve our goal, we still have the rest of our life to live. Our life-story isn’t over until we meet our Great Redeemer. We gain new dreams and adventures with every day. Just don’t be afraid to take that first step and then follow through.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


That e-reader debate (my last post) made me hungry so I put my laptop aside and went to the kitchen. I ended up making a salad. It is summer, after all. This salad is a little more filling than the average tossed salad and is an impressive addition to buffets or luncheons. I made this recently for a meet-and-eat at the church. Everyone loved it and asked for the recipe.

In honor of summer and salads, this is post two of seven salads in seven weeks.

Layered Spinach Salad         

1 (9oz) pkg cheese tortellini

2 C. shredded red cabbage

6 C. torn baby spinach

2 C. cherry tomatoes, halved                                                 
½ C. sliced green onions
1 (8oz) bottle ranch dressing

8 bacon strips, cooked & crumbled (optional)

Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain & rinse with cold water; set aside. In a large glass bowl, layer cabbage, spinach, tortellini, tomatoes, and onions. Pour dressing over the top and sprinkle with the bacon. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

NOTE: While this salad looks beautiful in the proper bowl, it is also an attractive salad tossed together with the dressing and bacon served on the side.
This is the same recipe, tossed instead of layered.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kindle, e-Readers and Books

Have hard-bound books become the newest eight-track—outdated and unusable? The Kindle and the Sony e-reader etc. etc.—are they the future of books? Will we consign ourselves to the virtual reading of virtual books? Will we no longer stand in long lines to have a famous author sign the title page of his/her most recent accomplishment?

In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined such a thing happening. As a virtual author trying to get her first book published, I have to wonder if technology has rendered me obsolete. It’s a scary thought, especially in light of Barnes & Noble’s recent decision to put their company up for sale.

Yet, according to Robert Robb, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, and a die-hard real book reader who has recently discovered the benefits of e-readers, it’s not a bad thing for authors as much as it’s a bad thing for the traditional publishing world.

But, I have to wonder still—if traditional publishers go down the toilet—Will their be e-book advertising? Who will pay for it? If traditional publishers become obsolete, who will be the voice of reason and experience for readers and let them know which books merit their time?

I can see the advantage of e-readers when traveling. I could take as many books on a trip as I’d like without having to worry that my carry-on is too big, or too heavy. I could buy e-books for pennies on the dollar for what a real book costs—and rent them from the library without ever having to leave home. After purchasing ten novels (which I generally do at one writer’s conference per year), I will have paid for, or nearly so, an e-reader. They’re easy to use and read, too, from what I’ve heard.

But e-readers also have their disadvantages. They’re expensive. They’re always being upgraded. They take us one step further away from personal/human interaction. In this high-tech world where texting replaces personal conversation, where wall-sized televisions replace our desire to visit with the next-door neighbors, and computers/the Internet has made obsolete our need to leave our homes and go to the store—e-readers are taking us one more step toward this less-personal world.

Now books—they’re personal. They aren’t a big investment, and a book is always a book—no need to upgrade. We can share the books we love. We can have the author sign them. We can buy used books for pennies on the dollar compared to the price of a new book. Children can read a book in a tree without ever having to worry about dropping it and breaking it. If you get ketchup on it while you're eating, it's not too big of a deal. We don’t have to buy new batteries for a book. And … what about the millions of children worldwide who can’t afford e-readers? Will e-readers turn reading into an activity for the upper-middle class?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

AGENT IN OLD LACE, by Tristi Pinkston

Agent in Old Lace is the third novel by Tristi Pinkston, and is the best LDS/thriller/romance I’ve ever read.

You go girl!!!

Although I’ve only read two LDS/thriller/romance’s (who even knew it was a genre???), this one surpassed my expectations. It’s short length being the only disappointment—but I’ve heard that publishers are brutal toward longer novels these days. However, I strongly believe that books this good should be twice as long.

Here’s the skinny:

Shannon is a successful (single) businesswoman. She lives in the Utah Valley, as do her parents, but they aren’t natives of the area. After her father’s heart attack and lingering (and undiagnosed) illness, Shannon temporarily moves back home.

Glenn (Dad) has a wonderful and caring doctor, but neither he nor any of the specialists seem to be able to figure out what’s causing his symptoms. He comes to terms with the idea that he will die.

Mark works for an investment company that has invested money for Glenn. He’s done a marvelous job of it, and in the meantime, he and Shannon hit it off. She hopes he’s going to propose. But that’s only because she doesn’t know he’s also embezzling money on the side.

Mark wants to marry Shannon. He does. But she gets cold feet after he kidnaps her at gunpoint. It’s a scary ride up the mountain with him trying to convince Shannon that her only chance of living is to be his bride. While I read this part, I keep urging her to jump out of the vehicle—which she finally does. Luckily she lives through that ordeal—but things don’t get immediately better.

Mark hasn’t given up. The mountains around Salt Lake City are beautiful (think of thick trees and undergrowth), and Shannon is able to make her way down the hill without him catching her. He does try though, and in a thriller you never know who you can trust.

(I’m leaving out a lot here so as not to give away any tense moments.) Mark ends up in jail, and it’s time for his court date, but half way through the trial, he breaks free—and now he wants revenge. (It’s a living nightmare.)

The FBI takes over the case and at the last minute sends a guy to do a girl’s job. Now agent Rick has to dress up like Shannon’s Aunt Anita in order to give Shannon the round-the-clock protection she needs. Here’s where the romance comes in—stalkers and maniacs are seldom apprehended quickly—unfortunately for their victims. And while agent Rick busies himself saving Shannon’s life at every turn and being there during her emotional breakdowns, they grow quite fond of one another.

Shannon and agent Rick deal with rocks thrown through windows—acts of vandalism—and stalking. But when Mark kidnaps Tate (Shannon’s best friend), Shannon realizes that in order to save her friend, she’s got to offer herself up as bait.

I am waiting and hoping that Tristi writes another book soon. In the meantime, this is definately worth a second read.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Am I a Writer?

I worried some after this last rejection—maybe I shouldn’t write. Maybe writing isn’t a talent that Heavenly Father wants me to develop. Maybe I’m kidding myself, and no one will ever want to read the dribble that I write. What’s the point?

Considering my state of mind, the ANWA (American Night Writer’s Association) retreat couldn’t have come at a better time. I had paid my fee and reserved a bed back when I’d thought of myself as a writer. And, since the rejection came long after retreat refunds were being offered, I decided to go.

So, after coming home from vacation and then spending the following weeks preparing to move, and after having spent the two days prior to the retreat actually moving to a new town and a new house—and setting up that house quickly so that it could be functional to its occupants while I was away—I left for Clay Springs.

I felt like a fraud.

The drive there was a pleasant one though, thanks to the company of author Joyce DiPastena. We arrived at the cabin two hours later; I found my assigned room and promptly fell asleep on the assigned bed. When I woke up, I felt much better and ready to face my writing again. I could fake my way through the retreat. No one needed to know that I wasn't a real writer.

However, during the retreat I fell in love with my characters again and marveled at their courage. I discovered, once more, the joy of helping them tell their story and helping them figure out their lives. Will anyone ever read my books in print? I don’t know. But I do know that I’ve got to at least try.

How could I not be an author when I enjoy writing novels so much?

After being re-inspired by the retreat classes on making time to write; giving better details and description; convincing my “inner writing team” that I can be successful; starting each chapter with a hook and ending with a cliff hanger; and the importance of conflict in our stories—I have emerged.

Hello. My name is Tina Scott, and I am an unpublished author.

Although I thought my manuscript was near perfect, I decided to take a closer look. I had long ago passed the point where I could stomach reading the manuscript as a whole. It sounded like this when I read: "blah, blah, blah." I’d skim over large sections hoping this would be the last time I’d ever have to read it. Maybe first time readers had the same reaction.

Then I remembered one critiquer saying, “I fell in love with your story after Catherine boarded the ship.” I needed to coax the first part of the story into being something more. Something interesting. Readers need to care about my MC and her journey long before chapter 10.

It’s with that in mind that I’ve taken (another) fresh and more focused look at my story. Does each chapter have a cliff hanger—does each chapter start in an interesting way—can I engage my MC in dialogue where there’s only narration—and can I make the narrative scenes more lively and interesting?

I’ve already sent out my revised chapters 1-3 to another prospective publisher (YIKES!). I hope they’re good enough to warrant a look at the rest of the novel because I’ve been chiseling away at its rough, grey exterior and have found that my story is coming to life in ways I’d never considered before.

I will survive. (I hope)

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Time For Salad

Have I confessed yet, that I’m a foodie??? I love food! Except who wants to cook in the summer? Eating out gets expensive, and, if you just can’t get into the tradition of standing over a fire-hot grill in 110 degree weather, then perhaps it’s time for a good salad. (Actually this is a great accompaniment to grilled chicken, hamburgers, or steak. Salad is good with anything.)

This salad, though not my all-time favorite, is still good. It’s easy to make and is elegant enough to serve at a special gathering.

Spinach Salad

1 pkg washed, baby spinach (a mix of spinach, red lettuce, and a bit of romaine would work nicely)
¼ medium red onion, sliced thin (I also chopped the slices into little bits.)
1 lb. mushroom, washed & sliced thin
1 C. dried cranberries
½ C. sliced sugared almonds


½ C. fresh lemon juice
½ C. sugar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
2 TBSP vegetable oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine in a jar and shake well. Pour over the salad, or serve on the side.

Sugared Almonds:

Combine ¼ C. sugar & almonds in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly till sugar melts & coats nuts, and nuts are slightly toasted. Spread on foil to cool.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Literary Rejection

I finished novel one of my Danish sister novels and sent it to Covenant for their consideration in June. Unlike my other submissions, I had high hopes for this one. I’ve worked on it so long and so hard trying to meld it into a really good novel. Some of you can understand then, the heartbreak of rejection I felt when, barely a month later and just before we moved, I got my rejection email.

“Dear Ms. Scott,

Thank you for submitting Farewell, My Denmark. After careful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that it is not something that fits our publishing needs. We appreciate the skills, effort, and time that have gone into preparing your manuscript.

Best wishes in your future writing endeavors.


The Editors

Somehow, I think being rejected by email is worse than getting a letter. When I read this, I envisioned them treating my manuscript the same way that I’d treat a stinky, cloth diaper—one that’s also soaking wet. I was devastated. I cried like a three-year-old who’d just experienced the loss of a pet.

Discouragement—I’ve come to know the feeling so well. Not only in my writing life and my artistic life, but my family life as well. It’s all grown together to form a large, sticky mass surrounding me and my endeavors.

How does one relieve themselves of the anti-life-form of discouragement? Shall I be discouraged then, until someone grabs up my novel and eagerly publishes it—or until all of my children learn to be good citizens and valiant in their faith?

That would be a pointless waste of my time, and my life. I must rise above the goo.