Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Time Saver

While I love the summer, it's probably the least productive season for me, writing-wise. With my kids home full time, it's just impossible to get in the writing I can accomplish when they are at school all day. So I want to use every spare second I have to get some wordage in. Which means I'm always on the lookout for fast and easy recipes that I can throw together quickly so I can dive right back into my current WIP :)

One of the favorites in my house is what my mom calls Lasagna-In-A-Pot. It came about one night when she had planned to make lasagna for dinner only to realize she didn't have any lasagna noodles. She did, however, have rotini noodles (those cool corkscrew ones). So she tossed all the ingredients in the pot with the rotini noodles and ta-dah! Lasagna-In-A-Pot. It became our preferred way to eat this tasty dinner. And you can make it in half the time because it doesn't need to bake. Win!

Here's what you need (please note this recipe is never anything my mom wrote down. It's sort of an "eye-ball it" recipe so the amounts listed below are approximately what I use. Feel free to change according to your preference):


1 pound ground hamburger
1 jar spaghetti sauce
2 cups cottage cheese
shredded mozerella cheese (probably about 2 cups, though honestly I just toss it in 'til it looks good) :)
1 package rotini noodles
Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic salt, italian seasonings - to taste


Cook noodles according to directions on package; drain 

In a skillet: Brown hamburger (add seasonings to taste)
Drain and put in a pot that will be large enough to hold the entire dish
Stir in cottage cheese (this needs to be added to the meat before the sauce or it won't incorporate right)
Stir in noodles and sauce
Stir in mozerella cheese until nice and melted


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Big Riff

riff  (rɪf)   n. 1.a short, repeated line of music played by a particular performer. :  Jim just sat there and forgot his riff.  n. 2. a digression while speaking. (From sense 1.) :  If she didn't make so many riffs while she spoke, we could understand her better. - from slang dictionary on

I heard the word  "riff" not too long ago referring to writers using a similar theme or idea and twisting it up, changing it to something different to create a new story, something refreshing.

I suppose you could say we're all riffing on some original storyline.  Everything has been done before, no story is truly new.  What we do have in our writer toolbox, though, is our own psyche, our own take on the world. Made up of our own experiences, our own likes and dislikes, these experiences make up who we are as writers and thus influence our stories. No one else can create something as unique as we are. Our stories are unique to us.  And in turn we will find readers who are interested in our own riff on a story.

On that note, (pun intended) I give you my daughter's recipe for Gingerbread Waffles.  A riff off of Mark Bittman's Rich Buttermilk Waffle recipe in How to Cook Everything. I have to thank Mark for giving me a cookbook with suggestions on how to change up almost every recipe to suit one's unique taste.  These definitely suit my daughter, who has some mad love for anything gingerbread.
Photo credit: Hilde Vanstraelen. Gingerbread waffles will be significantly darker

Ana's Gingerbread Waffles

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup corn meal
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ginger

Wet Ingredients:
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup molasses
4 Tablespoons butter (melted)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl, mix wet ingredients separately, then combine.  Pour 1/4 cup into each side of waffle iron and cook for 4 minutes.
These waffles freeze well individually wrapped and toast up even better than when first made.  (Because of the molasses, these waffles are a dark brown and will also burn more easily when reheated.) ENJOY!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Denise Verrico on worldbuilding, a giveaway & a tasty Corn Salsa recipe

GIVEAWAY! Comment on this blog by July 8 to win a copy of Denise Verrico's THE ANNALS OF THE IMMORTYLS, a trio of vampire tales.

Building a World
By Denise Verrico

So how does an author go about building a world?  First off, I find inspiration doing my research, and then I let imagination take over.  Every writer should be a reader and not just in the genre in which one writes.  I’ve done research on everything from British street slang to Sanskrit mantras.  There are so many resources available on the web and in the library from which the writer can draw inspiration.  I was on a panel recently with the wonderful fantasy author, Tamora Pierce, and she said she learns a lot about a culture from reading their cookbooks.

Any subject is of value to the writer.  I studied costume history and design in college as a theater major, and I can’t tell you how valuable that knowledge has been.  An understanding of geography, politics, religion, art, and music can enrich a story and set it apart.  The important thing about creating a world in speculative fiction is sticking to the rules you create for your corner of the universe.

When I started writing my Immortyl Revolution series, I wanted my vampires to be different from other writers’, but still be recognizable as vampires.  Everyone knows about old vampire legends and the movie and pop culture clichés.  Fantasy is the realm of make-believe, and there is much room for interpretation.  The Immortyls have enhanced physical abilities, can’t go out in the sun, and can drink only human blood.  Why do vampires usually choose to operate in the dark?  There is really no reason I could find in folklore, other than it’s easier to sneak into peoples’ houses and drink their blood when they are sleeping.  Vampires didn’t destruct in the sun until the film, Nosferatu, but I wanted my supermen to have their “kryptonite”, so I created a biological reason to keep them out of the sun, more in keeping with my set of rules.

My series plot, the race to capture the secrets of immortality, was inspired by articles I’ve read on biotechnology.  I opted for no magical powers in my world, except for the magic worked by a DNA molecule.  My vampires are biologically altered, not the undead variety, so they behave a lot like mortals in many respects.

It’s fun to play around with the old myths and legends and come up with reasons behind them or find alternatives to them. 

I find it a challenge to take all kinds of information found in research and throw it into the pot to concoct a completely new culture.  In any world, there are various cultures and subcultures with distinct rituals, rules, and beliefs.  Opportunities for conflict arise when these factions clash.  The trick is to give layers of detail without overwhelming the narrative with descriptive passages.  I try to use action as much as possible to reveal custom.  The way a character wears his clothes, washes his hands, or prays can reveal a lot about that person’s cultural background and character. 

The world of Immortyl Revolution brings to together many elements of research and reading that I’ve done over the years.  I’m a bit of a history buff, and writing about vampires gives me an opportunity to throw people from different time periods together in a contemporary urban setting.  Cara Mia deals a lot with Mia, the heroine, becoming a vampire and her struggle to survive as a modern woman in an ancient culture. 

The spectrum of speculative fiction offers many opportunities for an author.  Every writer has unique experience and knowledge to share.  There are so many worlds out there yet to discover and mythologies yet to create.  I look forward to both reading and writing about them.

This is my family’s favorite salsa.  It’s great with chips or as a side dish, and you can prepare it in minutes!

One bag frozen corn (yellow or white)
One small jar red roasted peppers
1 sweet onion (I prefer Vidalia but red works well too)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
The juice of 1 lime
Thaw the corn under hot water and drain.
Chop onion and roasted peppers into small pieces
Combine the above ingredients in a bowl
Whisk together olive oil, honey and lime juice
Toss the corn mixture with the dressing.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can make the salsa hot by adding chopped jalapenos or other pepper or adding hot sauce to the dressing.  Other variations can be made by adding rinsed and drained black beans, chopped tomatoes or avocado.
SERVANT OF THE GODDESS is the fourth novel of the urban fantasy vampire series written by Denise Verrico. This installment follows up her debut novel, CARA MIA, which introduces the characters and world of Immortyl Revolution and its sequel, TWILIGHT OF THE GODS and MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY.  Set in 2001, Verrico’s MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY introduced a new vampire hero, Cedric MacKinnon, a temple dancer in service to the Goddess Kali, who learns his beauty and speed render him a lethal weapon. “My vampire society originates in India. In my third novel, MY FEARFUL SYMMETRY, I delve deeper into the origins,” says Verrico.   “In the fourth book, I unite heroine Mia Disantini and Cedric in a way that raises some sparks.  It takes place in NYC in 2001, so there will be momentous events my characters must deal with.”  As in all her novels, SERVANT OF THE GODDESS maintains a science fiction twist on the genre, action-packed thrills and a touch of romance.

Amazon Page:
Servant of the Goddess Trade PB:
Servant of the Goddess Kindle:
Barnes and Noble: Servant of the Goddess Trade PB and Nook:

About the author
Ms. Verrico is an Urban Fantasy author and New Jersey native who grew up in Western Pennsylvania. She attended Point Park College and majored in Theatre Arts. For seven seasons, she was a member of the Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC. Denise has loved vampire stories since childhood and is a fan of the Dark Shadows television series. Her books are published by L&L Dreamspell Publishing and include:
Cara Mia (Book One of the Immortyl Revolution Series), Twilight of the Gods (Book Two of the Immortyl Revolution Series), and My Fearful Symmetry (Book Three of the Immortyl Revolution Series). She currently lives in Ohio with her husband, son, and her flock of seven spoiled parrots.

For excerpts of the Immortyl Revolution Series, character profiles and the Immortyl Lexicon visit

For insider information on the series visit

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Fantastic Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July from all of us at Pots & Pens! May your pots be filled with sweet liberty, and may your pens flow with freedom's refrains.

Also, I give special thanks to my little chalk artist assistant and model. :)