Monday, August 23, 2010

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Over the weekend I tackled my downstairs powder room, which was covered in a busy floral pattern wallpaper. Hubby got involved while I was using the steamer I rented, and as a consequence I've had to use a half-tub of spackling compound to fill in all the gouges and holes he made in the drywall. Got two more sandings/fillings to go, then I can tape and paint. Almost there! And I won't be asking my man for help with that part.
Since it's still blueberry season up here and I'm picking the last of them off our blueberry bush, I wanted to share a favorite recipe with you. These blueberry cornmeal muffins are the perfect texture and not too sweet, plus the cornmeal gives them an added crunch I really like. Especially when I cut them in half and toast them before slathering butter on them. Yum!
You'll need:
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter (I suppose you could use apple sauce or oil, but it won't taste the same)
3/4 cup milk (I used Skim, so I don't feel so bad about the butter)
1 egg
zest of one lemon (if you don't like tangy things, then substitute with 2 tsps of cinnamon--I sometimes do this when I don't have a lemon handy, and they still taste amazing)
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and grease a muffin pan with 6 large cups in it.
-In a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.
-Melt butter in a microwave-proof measuring cup, then add milk to it. You should have 1 cup of liquid total. Add egg and mix.
-Add liquid to dry ingredients, then stir in zest or cinnamon (heck, or both) and the blueberries. Do not over mix. Only fold the ingredients together until the mixture is just combined and moistened.
-Divide the mixture equally into the 6 large muffin cups.
-Bake 25-30 mins, or until golden brown on the top. Let cool for about five minutes, then remove them from the tins and transfer them to a cooling rack so they don't get soggy.
Try these! You'll love 'em.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Interview With Pamela Beason

I'm at Writers Gone Wild today, introducing you to romance and mystery author, Pamela Beason. Stop by for a chance to win a copy of her debut contemporary romance, On Shaky Ground, coming from The Wild Rose Press this Friday.
Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention I talked to a couple of female AF pilots the other day at the airshow. Must have skipped my mind after my tete-a-tete with the hot Herc pilot :)
They flew a refueling tanker, which I thought was awesome (Yes, I know. I'm a geek.). I did ask them a couple questions about the process because a refueling problem comes up in my latest WIP, and it's kind of pivotal because the ensuing action depends on the refueling going disastrously wrong. They were polite, but not as interested in talking with me as the Herc pilot. Huh. I wonder why that was?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Showing My Inner Geek: Air Force Research

Had another whirlwind weekend. Friday night we went to Cirque Du Soleil, followed by dinner right on the water at False Creek. Saturday I cleaned up the house and yard to get ready for my RWA chapter summer get together on Sunday. Then a bit of a monkey wrench.

We were supposed to go to the air show just before lunch, but due to hubby having to go into the office for a few hours, that didn't happen. By the time he finished up, we had less than two hours left before the show closed. I was not impressed. I desperately wanted to see some aircraft featured in my current WIP, and I didn't want to drag two fighting kids around with me while I did so. I let my displeasure with my hubby be known, and we finally headed out to the show. The kids fell asleep on the way, so they stayed in the van with DH while I went in myself. Was I going to pass up the opportunity to see Hercs and Globemasters up close just because my family wasn't interested? Hell no. Their loss.

It was over ninety freaking degrees outside, and probably close to a hundred on the tarmac. What I didn't count on was being able to meet the air crews, and actually talk to them. It threw me. I felt like a total dork because I was all by myself with this little yellow sundress on (not exactly air show attire), but whatever. I needed to see these planes firsthand. There are plenty of Canadian military aircraft around, but I ignore all of them and head straight over to the planes stamped USAF.

First stop was the C-5 Galaxy, pictured at left. This thing is monstrous, and I have no idea how it gets off the ground. In this shot they're unloading a Pave Hawk (special ops version of the H-60 Black Hawk), but unfortunately I didn't get to see one of those at the show. Probably just as well because I would have drooled all over it :)

Next stop was the C-17 Globemaster, which was impressive in itself. Could easily park a semi in there and still have room to spare. The sides of the interior are lined with jump seats (see below), and it regularly flies with two loadmasters on the crew.

But what I really came to see was the C-130, or Hercules. It's the four-prop workhorse of the military, and it's been around a long time. The heroine of my Bagram series is the co-pilot of the souped-up heavily armed version of the Herc, known appropriately as the Spooky. There aren't many of them around, so I intended to take a close look at the 130 and imagine the rest. So, no surprise I made a beeline for the Herc sitting with its tailramp down. Trying to ignore my sudden nervousness, I approached the men from the Alaska Air Reserve standing there in their flight suits.

The back end crew were in their forties or fifties, and very sweet to me. They gave me a tour of the cargo area, politely answering all my questions about the Spooky. The loadmaster showed me where the weapons and electronics systems would be, and talked about its range, average air speed, etc. Then he called the pilot over to answer some specifics about the flight deck. This is where I got tongue tied. He was young and damn good looking and I just about completely froze. (Katie, where are you when I need you!!!)

Him: "Hi, ma'am. Can I help you with anything?"

Me: Uh...
Oh my God. I'm all sweaty and gross, and here's this gorgeous pilot in front of me.
Say something! You look like an idiot! "Um, can I see the cockpit?"

"We've closed it off because it's too hot up there, but you can take a look through the floor if you like."

I follow him forward and get my first look up at the front seats and the bank of electronics and instruments. It's so hot the backs of my knees are sweating. I can feel my dress sticking to me, and I just know my hair's gone all wild and curly.

The pilot faces me with a smile, his deep blue eyes crinkling slightly at the corners. "Ever been in a Herc before?"

"No, this is my first time." I'm absolutely not blushing because he's easy on the eyes and mildly flirtatious, I tell myself. My heart is beating hard and my face is red simply because I'm about to have heat stroke.

"Well welcome aboard."

Oh yeah. He's got that alpha-male, charismatic thing down pat. And man, he's really good looking.

Say something intelligent. "Uh...What altitude to you generally fly at?"

"Depends, but I like low and slow."

He says it with a distinct lowering of his voice. Now it's even hotter in here, and the twinkle in his eye isn't helping. Oh my God, I'm a cougar.
"In the day we can go as low as 200 feet, and at night with NVGs--You know what NVGs are?"

"I do."

Another grin. "With NVGs we can go to 500 feet."

That's pretty freaking low, especially in a place like Afghanistan, with all the sharp mountain peaks in the northeast half of the country. We chatted a bit more about the kinds of missions he flies. Air drops mostly, to resupply teams in the field, or civilians needing aid. But they can also do troop transport, medevac and recon missions. I asked if dropping from higher altitudes made for a low success rate. He said no, because the parachutes used to deploy equipment actually have GPS systems in them. Who knew? And, as it turned out, this particular reserve Captain has been to Iraq once, and 6 times to Afghanistan.

Anyone who's read my books knows how much I love talking about military action in Afghanistan. I'm practically vibrating inside.

After taking all this in, I flounder for something sensible to say. "When you fly medevac over there, are the patients transported to Landstuhl?"

"No, we take 'em to Bagram."

I open my mouth to say I meant after Bagram, wishing I'd phrased it differently so I looked like I had a clue.

"From Bagram they're transported in bigger aircraft to Landstuhl or Ramstein."

I nod, still stuck on the magic word Bagram. My heart starts beating even faster.

Here it was: the perfect opportunity to ask him everything I'd ever wanted to know about Bagram, flying in Afghanistan, and maybe find out if he knew any PJs over there. Did I ask him any of these burning quesitons? Nope. Too wound up inside. My mind's gone blank.

We chat a bit more about flying, his career, etc. Then he tilts his head and gives a little smile. "What do you do for a living, if you don't mind me asking?"

"I'm a massage therapist." Why does that suddenly have less-than-proper overtones for some reason?

His grin widens. "Just seems like you know more about all this than the average person."

"Oh, well I'm...I'm a writer." I clear my throat and glance away, up into the safety of the cockpit. It's waaay too damn hot in here, but he doesn't seem to notice. I have the impression he'd stand there and answer my questions all day. "The character in my book is a female Spooky pilot." I don't dare tell him it's a romance.

"Oh. Wow, that's really great."

I think it's great, but I'm a geek.

I asked him a few more inane questions, then someone from the air show came up to talk about his itinerary. I waited a few moments and picked my moment, thanked him quickly, wished him well on his upcoming deployment. Then I left. The second I exit the aircraft a breeze hits my sweaty skin, and thank God.


I turn around to see all three crewmen standing on the tail ramp, waving at me. My face gets even redder as I smile and wave back. Who knew I was still this self-conscious around a bunch of good-looking men? I hurried back across the baking tarmac on my way to the parking lot. As I turned the corner and glanced back, they were still standing there. They waved again; I waved back. The Snowbirds (Canada's version of the Blue Angels) were performing overhead, but I didn't much care. I was too busy kicking myself for freezing back there. When am I ever going to get the chance to talk to a 130 pilot again? There are so many things I wished I'd asked him.

Still, I'm glad I got to see the aircraft and get a feel for it, because that'll only make the scenes more vivid when I write them. But I learned an imporant lesson. Next year I'm taking a list of questions with me!

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Interview

I guess the logo is pretty self explanatory, huh? Lol.

Anyway, I'm over there talking about Relentless and the final book of the series, Absolution. Okay, and I gush a little bit about Luke too :) Gosh I hope I'm not the only one that's completely in love with him! I guess I have the advantage of knowing how his book goes, but seriously, someone's got to be aching to find out what happens to him!

In other news, I've recently sent out two more fulls on my PJ novel, and I'd appreciate all my readers crossing their fingers and toes for me. That makes four fulls out in total right now, but I've yet to hear back from any of the agents. Send out good vibes for me, okay?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I'm a Finalist!

Just got the word that both Cover of Darkness and No Turning Back are finalists in the romantic suspense category of the Heart of Excellence Readers Choice Awards (held by Ancient City Romance Writers). The contest moves into the final phase of judging now, where librarians and booksellers make the final decisions. Winners aren't announced until September, but I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Meet Victoria Gray, Civil War Author

Come on over to Writers Gone Wild today and meet Civil War romance author Victoria Gray. You know how much I looove the Civil War, and she's also written about one of the parts of the war I know best so I had to invite her over to tell us about it. Plus you know I've got that wrenching Civil War manuscript sitting in my hard drive awaiting some edits, so... Maybe this will give me the motivation to dig it out! Victoria's giving away a digital copy of Destiny to one commenter, so come on by and say hello. And feel free to give me a kick in the butt if you want to :)