Last week, I discussed the closing of Predators & Editors and the possible alternatives authors can use when investigating a potential publisher or service provider. Today, I’m going to list sources that can help indie authors educate themselves on the publishing business. After all it’s much harder to take advantage of an educated author and that’s what most scammers fear.
Authors are notorious for drawing back the curtain on the publishing industry by talking about their experiences with editors, posting their contracts, and even revealing their monthly income. This rips the veil of secrecy that kept the publishing industry mysterious while keeping authors broke. Oh sorry, I meant starving for their art.
Anyway, let’s get started…
News About The Industry
Did you know that All Romance Books and Ellora’s Cave went under in 2016? You would’ve if you had been keeping tabs on the industry. Listed below are just some of the blogs/newsletters dedicated to the publishing industry.
Book Life (Focuses on self-publishing and owned by Publisher’s Weekly.)
BookBub PartnersMainly they discuss their platform but they also share tips on book launches, marketing and self-publishing hacks.
This is just a small list of all the wonderful blogs and podcasts that indie authors can glean from. As self-publishing becomes more and more the norm, authors are going to have to make decisions about the direction of their careers. Some of these blogs and podcasts can help at least point you in the right direction. The author community is a very supportive place as you can see, we do watch each other’s back. Though losing Predators & Editors was a big blow to indie authors, it didn’t break anyone’s determination to keep on keeping on. This is the greatest thing about the author community, and I’m proud to be part of it and you should too.
If you have any suggestions for newbie authors whether it be a podcast, blog or book, let us know in the comment section.
Not long ago, the author community lost a precious resource when the Preditors & Editors website went dormant last year. For those of you not familiar with P&E, it was a site that listed and graded publishers as well as publishing services. They helped countless authors such as myself make important decisions and avoid scams.
They are currently looking for a new caretaker who will have the monumental responsibility of updating the website as well as all the information on it. For those of you actually thinking about taking on the challenge, be warned P&E comes with the burden of constant threat of lawsuits as well as harassment from the mentally disturbed. It’s no surprise that no one is rushing to pick up the torch but I know eventually someone will because it’s too important to let die.
Instead of going on about how lousey this is, I’m going to give you alternative resources that will help you avoid scammers as well as help educate you about this business.
Finding Out About Scams & Unethical Practices
Predators & Editors did not exist in a vacuum, there are two sites that I am aware of that are dedicate solely to educating authors about the sharks in the publishing waters.
However don’t stop here, there are several other ways to discover if your publisher is on the up and up.
Investigating The Quality Of Your Publisher
The golden rule for any author looking to secure the services of a publisher is to go to Google and type in the company name with the words; “scam”, “complaints”, or “reviews” and if nothing pops up, that’s a good sign however, you still have more investigating to do.
You would think the one place to look is the Better Business Bureau because it’s considered a trustworthy organization that rates businesses. However, the vanity publisher Author Solutions, has an A+ rating even though there have been numerous complaints over the years as well as a class action lawsuit in 2013. So a good rating with the BBB doesn’t carry much weight these days especially, after various media outletsreported that businesses were paying for good ratings. Just a warning, if you’re going to use the BBB as a source of information, make sure it’s not your only source.
Other Sites That Grade Businesses:
As with most review sites things can be manipulated but if you’re seeing the same complaints over and over again by different people then you may want to take heed.
Google Reviews(First make sure that you’re logged into your Google+ account and just go to Google Maps and enter the name of the company you’re investigating. You should see an address as well as a rating.
Find The Office Water Cooler
You shouldn’t just stop at what customers are saying, if things are really bad at a company like they were at Tate Publishing and Author Solutions, then their employees are talking. Fortunately for us, there are sites that allow employees to rate the companies they work at. This can be a Godsend for those who are on the lookout for things like upselling, shoddy production or terrible customer service.
CareerBliss (Be sure to use the drop down and choose “reviews” before searching the company’s name.)
If you’re not into doing all the leg work then you might want to join a professional organization that will do it for you. Many places like ALLi (The Alliance for Independent Authors) and IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) offer recommendations for services such as editors, formatters, as well as designers.
These are just some of the places that indie authors should check out if they want to investigate a publisher or service. Next time, I’ll be discussing resources for authors who want to educate themselves about indie publishing as well as publishing matters in general so stay tuned.
As we honor all of the dads around the world, I have to brag about mine, Martin Mulroy. I can not begin to tell you all of the sacrifices he has made over the years for our family, but I can describe a few.
A British Royal Marine, he learned the art of discipline at a very young age and taught all of us the same. From early morning workouts, keeping things tidy, a strong work ethic and leadership skills, the life lessons he instilled in us as children, teens, and young adults continue to be a part of our daily lives. And I can honestly say I still learn new things from this man.
As a young Marine, practically a kid himself, he sent his paycheck home to his mother to help support the family. He loved being a Marine, and like those before him, and currently, serving his country.
He moved our family all over England, each move better than the last, until a job offer, moved us to the United States. It was not a move he took lightly. He did it on behalf of our family. It was a great move so that he could provide a better life for his children. He believed in the dream, American dream, still does and taught me the same. As a family, we become American Citizens, and it was a day I will treasure since my mom (no longer with us), was so happy.
As a child, I never knew my dad worked as hard he did. It was something they (my mom and him) kept from us. An engineer by trade, this man I love so much, worked two jobs. One to pay our household bills, but the other to provide the luxuries we didn’t even realize was a sacrifice for them such as dance, music, and horse riding lessons. When he was home, they packed us up, packed a lunch, and took us all over England to the greatest lake districts, touring cities, hiking, museums, so we’d have the opportunity to see it all.
Parents often remind their children how hard they work to provide a better life for their families. I’m certain I’ve been guilty of that myself, but my dad, he never said a word. I was sixteen years old when I found out by accident how hard my dad had worked for us. My mom never mentioned it, and my dad never complained. Standing in the kitchen, while pouring a cup of tea, my mom softly asked me a question. “Amanda, why do you think he was gone so often for all of those years?” It had honestly never occurred to me that he was working a second job for our gifts of dance, music, and riding. Quite frankly I was shocked; two jobs, one for what we needed and one for things we took for granted yet enjoyed so much.
His expectations of what we were supposed to do were always delivered firmly but with love. And I wouldn’t dare defy him; even to this day. The things he taught me I still practice. Don’t be afraid of hard work; if you’re working, you’re earning. Work out regularly, stay fit; it’s good for your heart. You can have hundreds of acquaintances but real friends you can count on one hand; keep your circle small, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep it to yourself. Simple but wise words.
He’s still the only person in the world I can never say no to and will always try to please, even at my age. I still love his stories, though I’ve heard them a million times. Lately, those stories have become sweeter and more important as time seems more precious these days.
So “Happy Father’s Day” to all the dads out there, all of them, but especially mine, Martin Michael Mulroy!
To put a bookcover together you need to make a template or get one from your
print company. This is a mock-up of the one I got from my printer. The cover must extend to the
outer lines of the template in order for the book to have the trim line which gives the book its
nice neat final look. In other words, the whole area of the template must have the book’s cover color in it, back and front. The area right inside the outer line is called the Bleed area which is cut off at the second line in on the template all the way around the bookcover. That will be the actual book size when it is done.
The front of the book is on your right hand side and the back cover is on the left side.
The spine is the middle area between the back and front covers. The spine size is based on the number of pages and the paper size of the book and that is calulated by the printer.
The red lines (a 1/2 inch from the trim line) on both the covers is the area you must keep all text and graphics in.
Next I painted the front cover and top part of the back cover in Corel Painter Essentials
Then I brought the cover into Indesign CS 3 to work.
I used Indesign CS 3 to create my book and cover, though I do most of the artwork in art/graphic software.
This is a example of a text frame which using the Text Tool you put in the template and do your typing.
You use the Selection Tool to resize the Text frame when needed by grabbing any of the small squares around the frame and dragging it. You can also copy and paste your text from your word processor into the text frames.
For graphics you would go to File> Place find your picture on your computer (tif) and click Open.
The Selection Tool in Indesign will become loaded and you just click the place in your template or frame that you want the picture or graphic to go.
I rotated the cover to the left and typed in the spine text.
Adding all the items needed I created the book’s cover!
The Great Snowball Escapade, by me, JD Holiday is a chapter book for children 6 to 9 years of age. I first completed the drawings and then inked them with waterproof Indian ink artist pen. There are 3 of the 25 drawings from the process.
This is the first page.
In the story, Wilhemena Brooks,’ cousin, Bud Dumphy come to live with her family. Wil, as she likes to be called, finds her pink pencil sharpener is missing after Christmas. Wil knows Bud has it! Who else would have taken it?
Bud doesn’t like girls! In fact, Bud doesn’t like anybody. Wil tries to ignore him but he pulls her friends hair, taken over games, and when Bud is in trouble he making his “you’re going to got it” face at her.
After a snowstorm closes school, Wil and her friends go sled riding. Bud shows up and starts a snowball fight which lands Wil in her room for the rest of the day for fighting.
When her pencil sharpener is found, Right where she left it, Wil decides she has to try harder to understand her cousin and stay out of trouble. Her mother told her to be nice to Bud and to treat him like she would like to be treated. But where will that get Wil?
I wear dual hats, writer, author, and publisher. It’s not always easy, but I’ve learned and continue to acquire new knowledge in this ever-changing industry of publishing. When I write, I can’t wear my ‘work’ hat, it ruins creativity. And when I work, I can’t write. It’s not unusual for hundreds of manuscripts to end up in my inbox. If I choose to send them out for review, that will be the deciding factor if we take them on. I see a lot of pieces, and we have talented award-winning authors on our label, but I can honestly say few pieces are written as beautifully as 50 HOURS by Loree Lough, and that is the truth.
FRANCO ALLESSI is a broken, lonely man who wants nothing more than to outrun the ghosts of his past. For years, he tries to numb the pain of his wife’s death with cheap beer and whiskey. When he’s convicted of drunk driving, the judge revokes his license for six months and orders him to serve fifty hours of community service. Franco chooses Savannah Falls Hospice for his community service, for no reason other than it’s walking distance from his dilapidated house trailer.
On his first day on the job, he meets AUBREY BREWER, a woman whose time on earth is quickly ticking to a stop. Their unusual connection teaches powerful, life-changing lessons about friendship, acceptance, and the importance of appreciating that precious treasure called life.
Now, the endorsements (we have too many to list) for this book speak for themselves; I get it, it deserves every one of them. Catherine Lanigan, Author of Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, and over forty-five novels and non-fiction, said,“I defy anyone to start the beautifully written 50 Hours and to put it down or to go on with their own lives as they had before reading about the remarkable, emotional and insightful relationship between dying Aubrey and the lost Franco. As a recent widow myself, the strength, humor and respect between the main characters shot close to home, but delivered so much hope and love that even as I march forward to tomorrow, my perspective has altered—all to the positive. In her last days in this life, Aubrey finally lives out the dreams she’s been too browbeaten by her mother and ex-husband to accomplish. She can only do this with help from Franco, who risks imprisonment to see her wish come true. Emerson said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.” Aubrey and Franco succeeded. Believe me when I say, THIS IS THE KIND OF BOOK THAT WINS PULITZER PRIZES. “
The main character, Aubrey, is ill, that silent killer, cancer. Cancer destroys or touches too many families in the world, let alone our country. My mom died of cancer, too young, but once diagnosed she didn’t last long. When I read the book 50 HOURS it was inevitable, I was reminded of what she went through and what we went through as a family. But I’ve always wondered what she was thinking, secretly, when she wasn’t trying to put our minds at ease.
Aubrey, a character of strength, hope, determination and sharp wit, dares you to take her journey with her and see and feel what she’s feeling through her eyes. But not in an emotional roller-coaster draining sort of way. She is the perfect definition of courage. Fearless at times, vulnerable at others, but always positive and selfless. She helps Franco, the recovering alcoholic serving time in the form of community service, who inadvertently helps her. Together, they’re the perfect team. Knowing what I know, about cancer, having experienced it with my family, it was touching to read it through Aubrey’s point of view. To take her walk with her, the walk. Knowing the diagnosis and how Aubrey really felt at times, was insightful. I think my mom, like many sufferers, think of those around them most. I was able to ‘see and feel’ things through Aubrey’s eyes.
It is undeniable that authors often bond with their characters while creating them; after all, it takes time and energy to develop fictional beings that a mass audience can relate to in the novels. When they tackle subjects that affect millions of people daily, be it illness, death, addiction, poverty, etc., it’s not unusual for authors to conduct extensive research to ensure the accuracy of the details that they write. Back stories, depth, facts, characteristics, and ultimately the feelings that bounce of the paper and touch people, emotions, must be believable. However, it is shocking when life unexpectantly imitates art. I was stunned, but can’t even begin to imagine what Loree must have felt, when I found out that the she, the author, was diagnosed with the illness that her character had while writing the novel.
The research that she was conducting to develop her character, Loree was suddenly applying to herself. Aubrey, the character terminally ill, and now the author, Loree Lough, found themselves in the same position. Healthy when commissioned to write; diagnosed while half-way through the novel. She was living out Aubrey’s nightmare. Surely it was impossible to divide the two emotionally at times. How did that happen and why? I can’t even begin to fathom it.
Multiple Myeloma, incurable bone/marrow cancer. I can barely say the words, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine completing the novel as beautifully as she did, knowing what all she had endured. Talk about a time to write. How did she do it?! A time to write. Writing from within; seamlessly, and beautifully as one with Aubrey at times.
It is no wonder that Aubrey leaps off the pages and into your heart. Loree’s heart and soul can be found in between the lines. This novel will touch people not just because of the terminal illness, but because of the life-lessons that Aubrey teaches Franco and Franco inadvertently teaches Aubrey. Inspiring hope in the midst of despair, reminding us of what is truly important in life. I honestly believe that this novel was meant to be written and meant to be written by Loree and shared. The screenplay had been stashed for years. Pulled out. Re-filed. Why now?
Loree Lough’s 50 HOURS is a poignant story that reminds us how precious life is, especially if our world has been turned upside down by cancer. But don’t be fooled: This novel will leave readers feeling hopeful, no matter how hard the dreaded disease has hit them. ~Jack Watts, award-winning author of 16 books, including “The Moon” series and Creating Trump Nation.
Loree has graciously discussed her treatments, some experimental, some traditional, and is willing to visit openly about her diagnosis, treatment, and the development of Aubrey (character), and this novel. She can be contacted via social media, her website or right here: email@example.com
A portion of Loree’s royalties from her 100’s of best-selling novels, go toward cancer research and other charitable organizations.
So you don’t think you can write but you have thoughts that could be a story. You can imagine how a scene or two would work. Come on, we all have those times when a story could start with a thought. An imagining. A daydream or even a nightmare. So what’s holding you back?
Is it your horrible spelling, grammar and maybe it’s you lack of understanding of writing techiques.
I believe the best tool at your disposal is reading. Read what interest you. Read what you enjoy and especially read the genres you think you would like to write in.
While reading other author’s books or ones written by your favorite authors, pay attention to how the book is written. From good books you can see what you should do and what you shouldn’t. Learning the skill of writing is in the soaking up of techiques and putting that and your imagined story all into your own words. You want to learn how to show your readers your story using scenes you write so they can feel like they are there in the story with your characters.
Writers write to express who they are and to tell what they know, to teach and share the stories they see clearly in their imagination. Some write to purge unhappiness or injustices for themselves and others, to entertain themselves first, and then, those readers who find their works. Writing takes you away from your own reality, to places you create.You can forget your immeditate problem taking a brake from it when you write, or read. Use what you know from your life in your stories. If you are writing for children use your childhood and think back to it. Think like you did when you were a kid. I write out my scenes as I see them in my minds eye, and make an outline that I update as I go along.
You can always get help with spelling, punctuation and grammar. You can always pay someone to edit for you. You should invest in a good dictionary, thesaurus, and books on grammar and writing whether you find them on online sites or books that sit on your desk along side of you, or both.
So if you have a story to tell, invest some, and read a lot. Give it a go and write it. If you haven’t tried before, the whole experience might take you places you might like.
I’ve recently finished my new YA titled BITTER BETRAYAL. Like any piece that a writer completes some will love it, some hate it, some like it, some will agree with it, and some will disagree with it. Every person is entitled to their thoughts, but my hope regarding this piece is that my audience receives the important message impressed on me to share while still being entertained through the actual story line.
I have raised a son and still have teen girls living at home, fourteen nearly fifteen, and sixteen, almost seventeen. One an artist, introvert, and the other an athlete who is always surrounded by other teens. Our house is that house, the one where kids often hang out. I don’t mind that; it means I know where my kids are, and that brings me peace of mind. It also gives me a chance to talk to and listen to them. Good kids. Great families. Solid community. But the stories that I hear over and over again, from the teens and teens that I interview, are horrific. Knowing some of the parents, like me, they likely have no idea how certain things affect our kids. But listening to them as they tell the same stories/scenarios, different kids, over and over, is shocking.
As usual, a lot of it revolves around social media and the pressures that kids face daily. Surprisingly we rarely talk about how desensitized kids are today. The things that shock ordinary people don’t faze teens at all. Sending nudes to strangers, acquaintances, or boyfriends when asked, most parents think their kids would be too smart to do something so stupid; they’d be wrong. Impressionable teen girls do this on a daily basis, and when I ask them why, the answers are always the same. “Because he asked me too, and he said he wouldn’t show anyone.” I always ask the following questions. “How well did you know the boy?” And, “Did he share the pictures?” As expected the answers are heartbreaking; they often hardly know the person at all, online relationships formed through snap chat, twitter, and whatever else they’re using. Yes. The pictures had been in their words “sketched” which means shared. “Did your parents tell you about the dangers of social media and sending pictures?” And of course, they knew better and had been warned multiple times via parents, school, and what they’ve talked about amongst each other. It’s not the bad kids that get caught up in this behavior, it’s the kids you go to church with, have over for dinner, and play football or cheer, good kids, “Why did you do it?” Their answers as a parent first and foremost are disturbing and concerning, as a human being, terrifying as they often say the simplest things, “I don’t know.” Or, “Because he asked me to do it.” Or my favorite, “Everyone does it.” It’s not uncommon to find girls sending pictures unknowingly to the same boys. Being played.
Topping off this disturbing behavior is the fact these kids are often, for lack of better words, blackmailed and harrassed. Once the guilt sets in, after they’ve sent the pictures that they shouldn’t have sent, then the boy(s) often older harasses them to get more pics., often more revealing by threatening to expose the girl. The girls crumble doing one or two things: breaking down and sending more, telling their friends or someone they can trust, and blocking the person(s) until someone is suspicious and the harassment becomes public, and everyone knows who sent nude pics.
Instant communication is another factor that affects teens. I’m not a doctor by any means or a psychologist, but teens take on entirely different personalities when they’re in love (think they’re in love), and have the ability to instant communication at their fingertips. Girls and at times boys, waiting on those instant messages, conversations, snaps, has made some of them semi-obsessive. It, the social media, can make them frantic. Girls will fight with other girls publicly over boys, calling each other terrible names, and the war of words in the social media realm begins. Strangers get involved, reputations are drug through the mud. It becomes a mess of words. I’ve personally witnessed these things unfold right before my very own eyes and have had several teens discuss them openly with me and share their stories. Dangerous situations, impaired judgments, drugs, drinking, social media mistakes, obsessive behavior, all revealed in the social media realm. It’s a scary world.
What’s shocking to me is how little, we as parents, know about our kids. We think we do; every parent believes that they would know if something terrible was happening under their roof. It’s sad; the truth is, most don’t until it’s too late and once the damage is done, clean up begins. What’s the answer to the social media madness? I certainly don’t have one, but I am aware of the problem that surrounds our teens. All we can do is stick together as parents, be alert, and open to listening to what the teens are saying. The best advice that I can offer to help with awareness regarding this issue is don’t be naive; it could be your teen. It can happen under your roof. Your kid can be that teen, the one that sends the nudes, drinks too much at the party, causes the fight, starts the rumor. Teens on social media; scary stuff, be alert.
Like most writers, authors, I’ve been writing for years. But when I sit down to write a new piece, though I’ve evolved slightly over the years, my primary process has never changed. It’s kinda like my personal thing, my way of doing it, that kicks off the project and keeps me motivated and excited throughout the entire thing. It’s possible other writers use the same method, I don’t know, but it works for me.
So what is it? It starts with an idea, of course, but ends up with an entire book mapped out in my mind. Naturally, my head is often spinning, don’t get me wrong, I like it that way. This can lead to one sided conversations for those around me. Distractions during activities that I’m involved in, being there in person but not really being there, and never being as involved as I should in group projects since my mind wanders to engage in the story that I’m writing. (Certain this isn’t always easy for those around me, but don’t worry, upon release of the work all returns to normal).
Preferring to have a complete understanding of my entire storyline, the reason things will happen the way that they will, my characters, a lovely twist, and theories on ways that I could pull it all together, my mind is racing all of the time before an actual word is written. Personally, I like to visualize each scene as I write, hoping to recreate in words the things that I see in my mind. If I do this correctly, the words paint a visual picture for my audience.
For me, not all writers, this can be a slow draining process, especially when the topic is a controversial or brutal one such as bullying, cyberbullying or date rape. Each chapter can be a depleting energy experience. And if I’m not mistaken, it’s because authors want their characters to be so life life-like, that it can actually feel as if they’re experiencing some of the things that they’re writing about for their readers.
Trying to compensate for this slow process of mine, I try to write relatively clean. The results, for me, tend to be less time consuming regarding actual clean up of the final manuscript. Since each chapter can be exhausting, mentally, I’ll ensure it’s a decent chapter before moving on. By the time the manuscript is complete and reworks begin, the rewrite process isn’t as bad as dealing with raw work.
I’ve been working on my new YA, BITTER BETRAYAL, since the middle of 2016. It’s almost done; clean up, and then off to the editors (I use two editors, content and copy line). The topic is controversial but incredibly important. Each time I sit down to write the material has flowed, this is a good thing, but the nature of the topic is controversial, important and difficult to discuss. That is the reason I believe it takes me a tad longer to write these pieces. After a few chapters, a mental break is required. It’s the emotional side that’s exhausting. Characters that are so life-like they could go be anyone’s son or daughter, and that’s truly heartbreaking.
I’m excited about the release of my new piece. It’s important to me to get the word out in a delicate manner for young impressionable teens. But it’s imperative that the message is strong, and I hope that the images expressed through words that I’ve written deliver not only the entertainment factor but more importantly the message I’d hoped to share. Below is an excerpt from my new novel. What’s your ‘thing?’
“They say there are two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth; there’s no exception to this one. But whose truth will you believe?”
DTB CU there!
(Don’t text back see you there).
The message flashed across her phone, and that’s all it took. Not even a whole sentence and suddenly all she could think about was getting out of there. Payton hadn’t heard a single word the kid standing in front of the class nervously speaking had said, as her fingers frantically tapped away on her phone. Looking back, what was she thinking?!?!
Payton – Cover for me
Payton- Really? J
Aubrey – Nah
Payton – G4I
Aubrey – 182
Payton – U don’t hate me J Luv u
Five, four, three, two, and the bell finally rang. Payton shot out the door. Aubrey, her best friend since 6th grade, took her time and shoved the books she’d left behind in her backpack. Payton’s behavior though frustrating at times wasn’t surprising. She was head crazy about that boy, Reece Townsend, and it helped that Aubrey liked him as well.
With less than ten minutes to freshen up, get across campus to her car and make it to the dam in time to meet Reece, Payton didn’t have time for small talk with anyone. Dodging in and out of kids, she avoided eye contact with as many people as she possibly could. The boy’s football coach, Coach Duncan, was headed her way. His voice, undeniably recognizable, bounced off the walls and echoed through the corridor before he was physically present. When finally in view, she purposely looked at her feet and rushed passed him. No way was she making eye contact with him; questions about her brother and his playing time on the field at college would stall her.
“Whoa girl, where’s the fire?”
Coach grabbed her arm as she tried to rush past him, her whole body swung around forcing her to face him. Arm still in his grasp he shook his head. “Slow it down girl! If only my boys had moved half as fast this morning.”
Managing a slight smile, she pointed toward the bathroom. Coach raised his hands in the air shook them back and forth, stopping her from saying another single word. He wanted no part of what could pop out of that girl’s mouth. She was liable to say something for the shock value alone. He didn’t need to know, want to know, or care to know for that matter. He let her on her way, no questions asked. A healthy spritz of perfume, lip-gloss, duck-lip practice, and Payton climbed into her car.
“What took you so long?” he said.
Payton’s love of her life, well at least to a sixteen, nearly seventeen, year-old love struck teen. One look at his face with that smile and she melted. It was bad enough they attended different schools, but him a senior, narrowing down his college options meant she’d be stuck there without him. The thought of it made her cringe. She obsessed about him leaving on a daily basis, even when he asked her not to, but she couldn’t help it. Not today she told herself pushing the thoughts out of her head. The best part of his day was right then as he watched her walk toward him. He was sitting on the back of his tailgate, swinging his legs back and forth, waiting for her to join him. He tapped the cool metal, her cue to join him. She grinned. So freaking hot! He always looked that way to her, and all she wanted to do was wrap her arms around him and kiss that face of his! Her grin turned into a girlish giggle.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“Whatever!” A cute smirk crossed his face. “Something.”
She grabbed his face in her hands, laughed out loud, and kissed him before stepping aside to hop up next to him on the tailgate, but Reece playfully pulled her back toward him instead. Standing face-to-face, she brushed his sandy-brown hair to one side revealing his green eyes. She could get lost in them; they were that pretty, at least to her.
His breath hit her face. Truth be told all she wanted at that moment was for him to kiss her; really kiss her. Move Payton. Move now; she stepped back and took a deep breath.
“I’m just looking at you, that’s all. You’re kinda cute like that.”
He rolled his eyes. But Payton could tell by the boyish smirk that crossed his face that her comment had pleased him. She loved that look on his face. He looked a few years younger, like a real kid. It was sweet.
“You know I’m supposed to say that kinda stuff,” he said as seriously as he could, but it wasn’t working.
The long cotton skirt she’d chosen to wear that day wrapped around her legs as she swung them back and forth on the tailgate. Sandals, painted toes, and a T-Shirt completed her outfit. Her long dark hair with a delicate headband, complimenting her outfit, finished off her look.
“You look hot. But I know you know that, so I’m not going to tell you!”
He laughed. “Just kidding. You look amazing. Beautiful as usual!”
Payton’s face lit up. She leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips. Funny thing, though, she thought Reece was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. They’d actually argued about that statement once. Guys aren’t beautiful, he’d stated. They could be handsome. Good looking, sexy, dope, hot or even cute, but not beautiful! Men were not beautiful. But it didn’t matter what he thought. To Payton he was, and she could look at him all day long.
“Hey, you never did answer my question,” he said.
“What question was that?”
“Why were you late?”
“You idiot!” She nudged him playfully. “I’m not late; you’re early, and for the record, I’m the one who’s usually waiting for you!”
He held her by the elbows, leaned in, and kissed her quickly on the lips. She would have kissed him back, but he’d already pulled away. Just as well, she wouldn’t have wanted to stop, and that wouldn’t have been good since time wasn’t on their side.
Growing up in England, it wasn’t unusual to have the traditional Christmas cake this time of year. British Christmas cakes, the original, are complete with marzipan, spices, brandy, and royal icing. My mom used to bake them and taught me how to bake them as well. If you’ve ever had the British version of the Christmas cake, you’d know they’re usually put into the acquired taste category. This is often because the spices can be quite strong and of course, ours have liquor in them (especially home made). And since it’s added afterward, it isn’t cooked out during the baking process.
The cake is prepared and cooked two months before Christmas so that it can be stored and ‘fed’ with Brandy or Sherry, personal preference, weekly until Christmas. It contains the usual butter, flour, eggs, but also has spices (representing the wise men), black treacle, almonds and dried fruit. The marzipan rolled on top of apricot jam (helps it stick to the cake), and is then covered with Royal Icing (my favorite). This final step in the process and isn’t applied until a few days before Christmas.
The cake takes four to four and half hours to cook. Once it’s completely cooled, it’s placed in a lined tin, turned upside down where it’s skewed with holes, and put upside in a tin for storage. Each week brandy or sherry is poured into the holes keeping the cake moist and filling it with flavor. This process is called ‘feeding’ the cake. A week before Christmas the cake is covered with the apricot jam, marzipan, and icing. The icing will harden, and the cake will be ready to served throughout the holiday season with coffee or another brandy.
My mom’s Christmas cake truly was delicious, never a slice left. The year I offered to make the cake, wasn’t a good year for the famous Christmas cake. It started off well, looked like it should when I pulled it out the oven. Once cool, I placed it in the lined tin and pierced it with holes. Thus began the process of ‘feeding’ the cake by pouring brandy into the holes. I did this for two months. A whole bottle of brandy went into the cake.
When it was time to decorate the cake, I’m not kidding I could hardly lift the tin to pull down the cake from the storage shelf. I completely understood there was a bottle of brandy in there (not sure it should have been an entire bottle), but the full bottle didn’t feel as heavy as the cake did. It felt as if it had gained three times its original weight. How did that happen? (Now I understand why there are so many jokes about heavy Christmas or fruit cakes). OMG, mine! I couldn’t lift the cake by myself to deliver it to my parent’s house, took two of us. But once I got it there, I felt so proud that I had pulled off that cake, and it did look beautiful. Didn’t taste that great, but it looked gorgeous.
My mom admired the cake, complimented how it looked and praised the work that had gone into the process. My dad picked it up and burst out laughing (rightfully so). Mom gave him the stop itstare but then she tried to lift it and couldn’t help herself, burst out laughing as well. By then we were all laughing. That moment made it worth it. Cutting into the cake the brandy had kept it moist, and the icing and marzipan were delicious. It wasn’t the best tasting cake at all, in fact, it didn’t taste like mom’s, but again the brandy made it edible.
Most of it did get eaten that year, but I’m convinced that was because of the extra brandy, not the actual cake. I love these types of traditions; they bind people and families together. Mom was great at that, holding traditions together. I’d like to teach my girls how to make a cake like this or have them join in the process at least once. I know they likely won’t like the flavor, but I hope they can appreciate the process. I’ll have to find a new tradition in the kitchen for them.
If you do like Christmas cake, you must try cooking it the British way. It’s the original, the best (for that cake), and if you’ve acquired that flavor, tastes delicious.
Christmas Cake Recipe from BBC Food (bbc.co.uk) find the process on the site.
500 g Currants
350 g Glazed Cherries
3 Egg whites
3 tsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Treacle, black
675 g of Icing Sugar
250 g Muscovado sugar, light
250 g Plain Flour
1 1/2 Spices, mixed
75 g Almonds
250 g Butter
675 g Marzipan
1/4 pt brandy or sherry (thus would have been my problem) not a bottle