Friday, December 21, 2012

Countdown To Christmas Giveaway Winner – Final Week


Congratulations to Jes, the winner of the Countdown to Christmas prize pack. She has been contacted and her book will be mailed shortly!

Thanks so much to all who entered throughout the contest!

Merry Christmas,

-Amanda

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cooking Edwardian Christmastide


One word best fits Christmas in Edwardian England – lavish. And nowhere was this lavishness more exhibited than in holiday cooking. Mrs. Patmore of Downton Abbey and Mrs. Bridges of Upstairs, Downstairs, was certainly glad to put her feet up and settle in for a (hopefully) quiet January and February.

Here is what Queen Victoria ordered to be prepared and served one Christmas day at Osborne, her country estate. This was for quite a large dinner party, by the way.

50 turkeys, a 140-pound baron of beef that took ten hours to roast over a spit, hundreds of pounds of lamb, dozens of geese, and crate after crate of vegetables. The vegetables had to be specially shipped from Windsor Castle.

And look at what all went into the mince pie. 82 pounds of raisins, 60 pounds of orange and lemon peel, 2 pounds of cinnamon, 330 pounds of sugar and 24 bottles of brandy.

Thankfully, the queen had more than one cook in her kitchen.

Plus, of course, the traditional deserts and biscuits, such as the time honored plum pudding, of which you will find a recipe below. I found an original recipe from Mrs. Beaton’s cookery book, but thought it looked a trifle complicated. But for all you Downton fans who would like to recreate a little holiday era festivity before season three comes out, this dessert should be just the ticket.

Plum Pudding

2 cups raisins

3 cups brandy

1 cup candied fruits

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

2 cups day-old bread crumbs

1 cup blanched almond meal

½ cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 large egg

2 teaspoons molasses

1/3 cup Guinness Stout

¼ cup orange juice

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

 

Soak raisins in brandy for at least 1 hour. Drain, reserving ½ cup brandy. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl combine raisins, candied fruit, butter, bread crumbs, almond meal, brown sugar, flour, orange zest, lemon zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, mix together egg and molasses, then add reserved brandy, Guinness, orange juice, and lemon juice. Add to fruit mixture and mix well until fruit is moist. Split batter between two greased 3 inch deep bowls, cover with waxed paper and then aluminum foil. Secure this with twine so no water can get into the bowls, then put bowls on a rack in a deep pot. Add enough boiling water to reach 2 inches up the sides of bowls. Cover pot and steam puddings in oven, replenishing water as necessary for 4 hours. Remove bowls from pot and let cool. Store puddings in cool, dry place for up to one week. This can be stored for as long as two years. Replace waxed paper before storing. To serve, reheat puddings by steaming them for up to one hour, then unmold onto platters or plates to serve.

 

There you have it. A plum pudding Tiny Tim or Queen Victoria would be proud to feast upon.

 

Happy Christmas to all,

Amanda

 

I will not be blogging again until January 7th, due to the holiday festivities (and of course the preparation of that huge feast for when Her Majesty comes for dinner.J), but I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year full of joy and blessings. I have some fun surprises in store this upcoming year, so stay tuned and I’ll see you in 2013!

 

Last Countdown to Christmas Giveaway – This week, I’m giving away a copy of The Merchants Daughter by Melanie Dickerson, plus more Christmas cards. Leave a comment with your email to be entered into the drawing and I’ll pick a winner this Friday.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winner of The Joshua Covenant!

Congratulations to Diana, the winner of The Joshua Covenant by Diane and David Munson. She has been contacted and her book will be mailed shortly!

Thanks so much to all who entered!
-Amanda

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Spellbinding Legal Suspense with - Diane and David Munson!


Can you really write a Christian legal thriller? I was somewhat skeptical of this...until I met Diane and David Munson! They write sit on the edge of your seat legal thrillers, with intriguing twists and action packed plots. They’re John Grisham meets inspirational fiction.
I’m so excited to have them with us today and look forward to learning more about their writing, characters, and experience in the legal field.

And now without further ado, here’s our special guests - Diane and David Munson.  

 If you were in danger which of your characters would you want on your side?

You pose a superb question. In some ways it feels like our three main heroes/heroines are always on our side as they are a composite of real agents we’ve worked with through the years. Our FBI agent Griff Topping is a courageous loner. His wife died too young so he’s self reliant, fearing little. A federal ICE agent, Eva Montanna is a strong role model as she balances tracking down criminals with being a wife and mother to three children. Bo Rider travels the world as a clandestine CIA agent and relies solely on his wits. His wife knows Bo works for “The Agency”, but his teens do not, which makes for interesting scenarios. So given our wonderful cast of characters, who would we choose?

We both agree that if in trouble, we’d want Eva covering us. Why? While Eva is every bit as capable as the other two, her confidence and integrity spring from her faith in Jesus Christ. She seeks God’s help in her daily challenges. We want God on our side always. In all our novels we have fun writing plots so that Griff or Bo (and sometimes both) end up collaborating with Eva to bring evildoers to justice.

Not everyone who writes legal suspense has the hands-on experience the two of you have. How has your experience been an advantage and how has it been a disadvantage?

We delight in quipping, “David nailed ’em and Diane jailed ’em.” Beyond the humor, it is our experience in enforcing the law (in David’s case) and prosecuting criminal (in Diane’s case) that gives us a deep reservoir of experience to create plots and unusual characters. That’s also why we call our novels “factional fiction.” Each one of our thrillers is seasoned with true events from our cases or history. Then we weave a novel around these, making sure to disguise the people involved to protect their privacy, and adding a spiritual dimension so that our work is honoring to the Lord. Because of our careers in the law, we’ve never experienced “writer’s block”. Rest assured we have many more exciting plots and novels in the hopper.

Disadvantages? We have so many ideas that we need to decide what are the most compelling to fill the pages. Romance and Amish books are so popular at present. With our dangerous experiences, if we tried to pen romance or an Amish book, they would be filled with too much suspense. So, we write what we know: High Velocity Suspense (laced with a dash of romance for the romantics in all of us).

 What authors have influenced your writing?

This is an interesting tale, with a surprising twist. Diane grew up with a love of reading and a desire to write. David is a natural storyteller. Together we’ve read many of the classics by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. When Diane discovered Christian fiction written by Grace Livingston Hill and George MacDonald, she craved more as a reader. One day a friend shared with us the powerful series, The Zion Chronicles and The Zion Covenant, written by Brock and Bodie Theone. Around this same time, we were reading the Biblical account of Christ’s birth and genealogy. Reflecting on God being the Author of life and how He weaves together the lives of His people compelled us to search for our ancestors. This led Diane to write historical fiction, which led to us becoming published authors of suspense. God works in mysterious ways and we strive to be open to His Spirit guiding and moving us in our lives. He often works through the written word to convict us and to propel us forward.   

What are the pros to co-writing with your spouse? What are the cons?

From a selfish perspective, the advantage of having a co-writer is that when someone is critical of our writing, we can assure ourselves it’s the fault of our co-author. Or when someone compliments our creation, each of us can assume it’s due to our sole contribution. Just kidding.

You have heard it said, “Two heads are better than one.” This is true for us. David is more lighthearted and Diane more serious, so we combine our strengths. When one lacks incentive to write, the other is disciplined to keep going. We bounce ideas off one another and give honest critiques without worrying about a wrong motive. The disadvantage is sometimes one of us has to sacrifice a “perfect” idea to the other. All in all, we are having fun on this adventure.

How do you weave a Christian element into your novels?

This is the reason for our writing. Jesus is our strength and our shield. He is our Deliverer, our Defender, and our Shepherd. We desire to make Him come alive in our writing so readers experience His power and love when reading our work. We want our novels to be realistic so we fashion plots that mirror our lives. Except for those employed in the Church or a Christian company, many of us live and work with folks who have no desire to know or serve God. Some in fact are offended by spiritual things.

That said, some of our characters are believers and live out their lives among those who are not. For example in our first novel, Facing Justice, Eva Montanna’s sister has died in the Pentagon on 9/11, which sorely tests Eva’s Christian faith. How could God allow such a terrible thing to happen? God brings Eva a chance to find justice when she receives a tip about a man funding terrorists, but she is shocked to discover her target attends her mega-church. Through these twists and turns, Eva learns to trust in God’s plans even when she does not understand them.

In The Camelot Conspiracy we examine new evidence in the JFK assassination. This contemporary story is told through the eyes of Kat Kowicki, a single TV reporter who gets help from a police detective. While romantic feelings abound, the detective is initially cool toward Kat because she doesn’t share his faith in Christ. We strive in our writing to bring glory to the King of Kings. The faith element grows stronger in more recent titles. One character in Redeeming Liberty makes a crucial spiritual decision and in The Joshua Covenant, Bo Rider’s life is dramatically influenced by a Bible prophecy teacher.

How long does it take you to write a novel? Do you find co-writing makes the process take less time?

Normally, we research and write one book each year. 2012 is an exception. We released The Joshua Covenant in February and Night Flight in September. It is really possible for us to write a novel in about six months as we each write certain scenes. Then the process is slowed by our many edits and traveling the country where we meet readers at book signings, and speak at churches and conferences.

Do you “cast” your characters/pick actors and actresses to play them?

Yes, we visualize our characters and sometimes find “famous” people that look like them. For example, Eva’s husband Scott is similar in appearance to a national news reporter. Eva is tall and a lot like Nicole Kidman. But we try to kindle readers’ imaginations as our Special Agents travel the globe fighting crime and seeking justice.

Where can we find your books?

The Joshua Covenant, which you are offering in your drawing, reveals what happens when CIA agent Bo Rider is assigned to America’s embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. He brings along his family under the cover of being a diplomat and their very lives are threatened. In Bo’s desperation, he learns for the first time about God’s plan for his life and for the people of Israel. This international thriller is right out of the headlines, and like our other novels, is available in print and eBooks.

Autographed copies are available on our website: www.dianeanddavidmunson.com. Readers can find print versions at Lifeway and other Christian stores and both print/eBook versions on Amazon, B&N.com, and Christian Book.com. Fans of NCIS will enjoy signing up for the blog on our website, where we critique the NCIS show airing each Tuesday at 8 pm. Those who sign up to receive our email newsletter can participate in contests to win books, NCIS caps, and other fun items. May God’s blessings rain down upon you and His people. Watch the book trailer for The Joshua Covenant at this link: http://goo.gl/hnQJD 

Thank you so much for that insightful interview, Diane and David! I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!

 Giveaway – After being intrigued by The Joshua Covenant, you now have an opportunity to win it. Leave a comment with your name and email address to be entered into a drawing for an autographed copy. I will draw a winner on Friday and the book will be sent by Diane and David!

 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Countdown To Christmas Giveaway Winner – Week 2


Congratulations to Merry, the winner of the Countdown to Christmas week 2 prize pack. She has been contacted and her book will be mailed shortly!

Thanks so much to all who entered!

-Amanda

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Writing Stellar First Chapters


Last writing post, we discussed the things that make a terrible first chapter. This week lets go through some things that make stellar first chapters. A boring first chapter full of errors will find me setting a book aside, but a good first chapter will definitely keep me reading. And if the book lives up to chapter one, I will probably want to read other work by that same author.

 
So without further ado, here are some “how to’s” for writing a stellar first chapter.
1 – A strong opening line – An intriguing first line is always a must and usually not very hard to come up with. Generally this line is dialog or something the character is thinking. Try to use your first line to set the tone of the entire story. If it’s a romantic comedy, make it quirky and fun. If it’s suspense, make it intriguing or action packed. If it’s historical romance, bring the reader into the era.

2 – Action/dialog on page one – I recently read a very old historical romance novel, where the author began by describing the drawing room the characters were sitting in. She went on for several paragraphs, almost a full page, about this drawing room. And after the first two or three chapters, we never again saw that drawing room. Please don’t make that mistake. Give the reader dialog and action as soon as possible. I confess, I skimmed the part about the drawing room and went to the first line of dialog. So although you want to give your reader a sense of time and place, don’t go on for more than a few sentences. Think of detail and description like powdered sugar on top of cookies. Too much and we’re choking on the sugariness. Too little and the cookie is bland.

3 – Likable Characters – Readers want characters they can identify with. Where they can look up from a page and think “I know just what he/she means, I totally get what they’re going through.” Characters we can’t like and identify with are not good characters. Even if the character has done terrible things or is not a very nice person at the beginning, find some way to make them likable or sympathetic. Bringing kids, pets, or some quirk into the picture is a great way to do this.
4 – Keep it short – Don’t write a huge first chapter. Keeping it to two or three scenes and one or two POV characters, makes the reader feel like they’re going somewhere and chapter one isn’t going to last forever. I try and keep my first chapters around 2,500 words.

5 – Creative Phrases – Make your writing sing! Don’t use the first phrase that pops into your head, but find new ways of expressing the same thought. And don’t use clich├ęs, either in plots or phrases. This should be done through the whole novel, but it’s especially important in chapter one.

These are only a few tips, but they’re ones I’ve found helpful. Hopefully, you did too. And remember, just like making cookies, practice makes perfect. J

Happy Writing,
Amanda


 
COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS- WEEK TWO!!

This week I’m giving away a copy of “Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof. Along with that three of these beautiful embossed Christmas cards with matching envelopes. So just leave a comment with your email and I will pick a winner this Friday. This would make a great read for the start of the season or a great gift too!

 
Coming Next Week .........
Next Monday, December 10th, I’m delighted to welcome David and Diane Munson for an interview and giveaway of their book “The Joshua Covenant.” Diane and David write high velocity inspirational suspense novels that combine exciting cases into factional fiction by changing the names and places. David was an NCIS Special Agent and an undercover DEA Special Agent and Diane was a Federal prosecutor, so they’re very well qualified to write these fabulous legal thrillers! I met Dave and Diane at a writers conference recently and it was so cool talking to them, I thought it would be neat to have them on my blog. So stop by next week, to check out their interview and enter the giveaway!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Countdown To Christmas Giveaway Winner – Week 1


Congratulations to Cynthia the winner of the Countdown to Christmas week 1 prize pack. She has been contacted and her book will be mailed shortly!

Thanks so much to all who entered!

-Amanda