Monday, February 18, 2008

Enough Winter - More Chocolate - Book Tip 3

Yesterday as I looked out at the frozen flower pots on the patio, I tried to remember what they had looked like last summer. Okay, you! No cracks about my memory. I bet last summer seems a long time ago to you, too.
Scrolling through my unorganized Adobe photos in search of something summery was like looking at one of those little flip books -- flip the pages and the images appear to move. My photo images moved through the seasons. There were daffodils, begonias, ornamental grasses, fall trees, snow on the pasture, all flying past. How about geraniums? A good hot weather reminder -- until the real thing appears.

I recently read an article about how to make a successful blog. One of the points was that the blogger must fulfill any promises made (to the blogee). With that in mind, I thought I better return to what I earlier promised -- Ten Things You Need to Know if You Want to Write a Book. Here is Thing Three:

What’s the point of your book? Write a one-sentence answer to this question. Practice saying it aloud. If, when asked this question, you find yourself drawing a deep breath and saying, “Well, see, . . . .,” then you need to refine your answer. The answer is often referred to as an “elevator speech.” Imagine yourself at a writers’ conference. You are in an elevator with just the editor you want to meet. The door closes, and she asks, “What is your book about?” You have until the elevator door re-opens to answer the question. Knowing the answer to this question will help you maintain focus as you write your book, and it will help you when you pitch your book to an agent or editor. As you write, you may discover your answer changes. That’s okay. Just keep a clear answer and clear focus in mind. (Here's an extra tip: Chocolate will help you focus. See below.)

Cold weather or hot. Any time is perfect for chocolate. A couple of years ago, before Rachel Ray had her own talk show, I saw her on Oprah making her "Rachel Ray's Five-Minute Fudge." The recipe is probably on the Internet or on her website, but I scribbled it onto an index card -- and I do mean scribbled. You know how fast she talks. At the time, I just hoped I had written everything. My concern was soon allayed. At the grocery store, having purchased only the ingredients for the fudge, the checker, a boy who was maybe 17, said, "Oh, are you making fudge? I make that every Christmas. It's great." With two powerful endorsements, I knew this fudge would be good -- and it was. Enjoy!

Rachel Ray's Five-Minute Fudge

Melt together over low heat:
12 0z. pkg. chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup Eagle Brand milk (You know, the thick sugary stuff.)
1 tsp. vanilla

Rachel Ray was making this for Christmas so she put the empty Eagle Brand can in the middle of a round cake pan and poured the mixture around it to decorate later as a wreath. I just put it in an 8" x 8" pan, refrigerated for 30 minutes, according to the directions, dumped it out, cut into squares, and let the good times roll.

Taking My Own Advice

After yesterday's snow (non) storm, during which most of the local television stations had a little freakout and went on full snow coverage, reporting on how to use a snow shovel and how to build a snowman, it seemed a good time to enjoy the roses my gentleman friend had delivered in time to enjoy both before and after Valentines Day. The candy in the heart-shaped box had already been deployed to the sitter part of my anatomy.

Then it seemed a good time to take a dose of my own good advice. You know how I tell writers how much writing can be accomplished in only ten minutes a day? The same ten minutes applies to any task: ten minutes of (gasp) house cleaning, ten minutes of prayer, ten minutes of watering plants. After Christmas I bought a treadmill and told myself just ten minutes a day. The old ten-minute-plan is working. I walk ten minutes, then ten minutes more. So far, I am only up to twenty minutes, but if I follow my advice, maybe I will get up to the half-hour or hour Dr. Vigorous has in mind for me.

What goal did you set for yourself this year? Maybe the ten-minute-plan will work. Give it a try. To help, here is one of my favorite recipes from my favorite cook book, given to me by my mother for Christmas in 1973 -- Southern Living Party Cookbook.

Chocolate-Pecan Meringues

2 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 (6-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate bits
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Line cookie sheets with plain white paper. (Parchment paper for baking.) Beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until frothy. Add sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in chocolate, nuts, and flavoring. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto paper. Bake at 300 degrees about 25 minutes. Remove with sharp spatula. Store in airtight container. Yield: 36: double the recipe for a tea for 40 to 50. (Tea? I doubt it. I'll be snarfing these down as I watch Oprah.)

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