Laura Stone

Writer, Fangirl, Nacho Lover

Page 3 of 9

Proper Nana Puddin’ with Bonus Elvis Style Twist

So those of you who follow my Twitter and Facebook [see the sidebar] know I’d been yapping about proper old school banana pudding. When I say proper and old school, I mean basically one thing: no damn pudding mix.

banana pudding nutter butter

Nutter Butter Nana Puddin’ like the good lord (Elvis) intended

Look. Shortcuts exist for good reasons.  You want to make pudding fast? Knock your socks off! Goodness knows I’ve used shortcuts in my kitchen. But you know what I don’t  do?  Say my recipe is “homemade” or “old school” if I used a pudding mix. Charlene, my sassy-ass grandmother who didn’t put up with nonsense unless it was from her own mouth, did not make her Nana Pudding with Jell-O pudding mix.  Not company pudding, any way.

[Dibs on new band name: Company Pudding]

And neither will I.

I had a mighty need recently for my Nana’s Nana Pudding and finally found her original recipe, the one that used to be on the box of Nilla Wafers, like back in the 1940s.  CLICK ON FOR THE RECIPE! Continue reading

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The One with the No-Tell Motel (aka Pimps up, Oh my god, child get down)

This heart-felt tale is about the time when my family was almost shot up Southland-style on the highway of life because of my son disrespecting an Alabama pimp. You know, your typical family summer vacation.

Lampoons Vacation station wagon

Every summer the kids and I would go on a road trip across the south to visit friends in Florida and Alabama. The kids are seasoned road trippers. They have their books and snacks and travel games. There was plenty of space in my Mom Ride for everyone to stretch out and not argue. But 13 hours in a car is a long time for anyone, so on this particular trip, I used my points to book us a room in Birmingham at a cheap-o family-friendly hotel I’ve stayed at before: The Hampton Inn. It’s your basic road-trip joint with a Continental Breakfast, something that for whatever reason kids think is amazing. 

(Literally my children. This is literally how my children view a continental breakfast.)

The problem is that I evidently didn’t book at the Hampton Inn north of the city, but at a Days Inn on the same highway but an exit off. Eh, they both have the word “Inn.” Should be fine.  Right?

Wrong. 

Oh, what a difference that one word (and that 1.2 miles) made. Continue reading

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Meet the characters of Bitter Springs: Renaldo Valle Santos

vaquero cowboy gay Mexican

This dashing gent (this is done in pencil, can you stand it?) is Renaldo Valle Santos, youngest son of Estebán Santos.  Like most kids who come tail end in a large family, he hasn’t had expectations put on his shoulders aside from watching out for his twin sister Canadarí­a and doing what his brothers tell him.

Life is pretty easy when that’s all you have to think about. And given the isolated nature of the family’s ranch out in San Felipe Del Rio, Texas, he doesn’t have to worry much about things like finding himself a wife. (Which is good, because that’s the last thing he wants.)

A wrench gets tossed in the works in the form of that handsome fellow in the bottom left corner, Henry “Hank” Burnett.

Turns out there’s a reason why Renaldo didn’t want a wife: He’d much rather have a husband. But seeing as this is a much different time than today, (1870, to be exact) how would that even work? Continue reading

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Fun With Fictional To-Do Lists

When Bitter Springs was first released and I was on a “virtual book tour,” I was asked a really fun question that gave me a little more time to play with one of my favorite characters, Hank Burnett.

Warning! If you haven’t read the book, spoilers abound.

Give us a to-do list for one of your characters.

Well, Hank is the sort of man who appreciates order, but also has a rather droll sense of humor.  Now that he and Renaldo have gotten to a place of ease out at Bitter Springs, I like to think his “to-do list” would go a little something like this… 

Continue reading

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Indulgent personal post

The great thing about having my own website is that I get to put what I want here.  My beautiful daughter is an adult now, half-way across the country in college (and on the Dean’s list, thank you so much).  Those of you with children who are teens or older might remember those tumultuous years of eye rolling, arguing and defiance, wondering if you’re ever going to get that little body who curled up in your lap while you read their favorite book to them again.

(And you might also wonder if they’ll ever really appreciate the sacrifices, the hard work, the heartache involved in raising them.)

Yes. It all comes back.

I had a pretty nasty divorce (they’re all nasty, that’s just how it is), and one thing that I gave up to move on to a better place was our house, the house with the garden I’d carefully tended for 11 years.

roses gardening garden

Julia Child roses in bloom, and holy smokes, do these smell divine

(I’m a Master Gardener, so it was no small thing. Heirloom plants that you can’t get anymore, carefully sculpted ornamental trees, every single living plant, rock and structural support placed by my own hands.)

bluebonnets

The bluebonnets were the first sign of spring–and heralded the return of the bees

Most of the garden was ripped out as soon as I vacated the premises, and what’s left quickly fell into ruin, the trees are dying, the roses diseased, weeds where once were creeping phlox, toad lilies (much prettier than their name suggest), bluebells and ajuga and germander and the weeping Japanese maples and…

I can’t bear to see it when I go pick up my other child, but it’s what it is, as the saying goes. It seemed like the only person who actually cared about it was me. Turns out that wasn’t the case. My lovely, marvelous, magnificent girl sent me this, written for one of her Lit classes at her university.


For my mother

I used to have a big window that overlooked the street
And the lampposts that loomed beyond cars and bushes
Underneath was my mother’s garden
That’s now brown and dying
Because my father doesn’t look after it
And doesn’t care for that sort of thing anyway
I pushed my bed into the room down the hall
Where the garden can’t be seen
A year later I moved away
3000 miles where the green of leaves
Matches a puffy magic marker
If you go to a park diagonal from my school
I have a small window now
That is one two three four five stories up and above
A tennis court
It smells like burning food every morning
Because I’m technically one two three four five six stories up
If you count the restaurant my building is built on
I miss blue squared wood shutters
And cliche pots of tiny dancing flowers
On windowsills
And a pink skyline
That was so Picture Perfect it was boring after eighteen years
I guess I appreciate it now
I walked outdoors yesterday
And it smelled like it used to smell
I hope my mother
Opens her own windows sometimes
And remembers the way the birds would sing
As she dug up roots in the garden
Below my
Window

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The One With The Dead Fish

You know how a go-to episode on sitcoms of a family-flavor is when one of the kid’s pets die and the parents have to find a replacement that looks just like it? Can I just remind everyone that what happens on TV shouldn’t be emulated in real life?

My youngest child E is Miss Tenderheart. All creatures are precious. Not just your rabbits and puppies. I’m talking sharks, bugs, freaking scallops (“They’re so silly!” Uh… sure.). So here my little nugget is at three years old getting two betta fish and a crab for Christmas. (This was not a mother-approved gift and it’s because I know better.)

Right away, Mr. Crabs–I never said my children were clever, just that they love all the beasts of the earth–snaps Nemo the pink betta fish right in half. Cue my child’s horrified screams.

mr. Crabs violin sad

“They do that,” I said, rocking her. “They have to eat, too.” I had my husband clean out the floating entrails and refresh the water. Dory, the pretty blue betta, fortunately was smart enough to keep clear of Mr. Crabs. Didn’t matter in the end, because Mr. Crabs mysteriously died overnight. No, it’s actually a mystery. I didn’t give him what-for in the shadow of darkness for upsetting my child, but I would have if I’d thought about it. He just… up and died.

Emily is now positively traumatized. All creatures are precious, even sawing-the-betta-in-half-Mr. Crabs, who apparently died from the weight of his sins or possibly from being a crappy mall crab, who really knows. But two pets are down! Only one is left! These were the first pets that were just hers and not the family’s, and my tender schmusen is not going to suffer for one moment longer.

Gee dee it, Dory is going to be the oldest damn fish on the planet if I have my say. Continue reading

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Meet the characters of Bitter Springs: Tsá-cho

As they crested a small butte, Renaldo could see another stream below, the ground fecund with growth and trees. Up here, they were at the edge of the tablelands, near where the land drove up sharply into the mountains of New Mexico. As they carefully picked their way down the side, the horses managing to avoid the scree and slippery portions with grace, Renaldo could see a solitary figure below. He looked to Hank to see what he made of this and made himself relax at the sight of the huge smile blooming on his companion’s face.

“Didn’t think he’d…” Hank cut himself off, shaking his head in what looked to be happy disbelief.

“Do you know him?” Renaldo asked.

“Very well,”Hank replied, his face splitting with a wide grin. He put his fingers to his mouth and gave three sharp whistles. The man in the distance replied with a high-pitched cry.

Meet Tsá-Cho, a.k.a. The Wrench in the Love Works. (Not what the name means.)

Native American LGBT History

Mescalero Apache actor/model Rick Mora, aka my choice in casting for Tsa-Cho, should HBO come knocking. 😉

You simply can’t tell a story about Texas in the 19th Century without Native Americans (or N’Dee, Nde, or The People as they would refer to themselves) in the story. Unfortunately, Native Americans have often been cast as savages, as dutiful side-kicks, or as set dressing. The European immigrants almost destroyed them and the Nde are still feeling the devastating effects, part of which is the consistent “othering” and dehumanizing Hollywood continues with respect to these people. They’re either your spiritual guide–an object to help the white person “learn something about themselves”–or they’re illiterate, ignorant simpletons, all of which is grossly insulting. Their rich history, their massive contributions to the Americas, and their incredibly diverse and accepting cultures are often left by the wayside, or worse, aren’t even known by the general public. Continue reading

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Used Bookstores – When Authors “Lose” Money But Gain Readers

Salon had an article recently addressing the post Kristen Lamb posted (that I also referenced) about used bookstores, their effect on authors (short story: authors don’t see a dime from the sale of their book in them), and how that can have long-term implications to an author’s livelihood.

Lisa writing is hard

…not so fast. The long-term implications aren’t dire. I touched on this before and stand by that post. For those who might be click averse, the point in that second post is that getting readers is what really matters.

Someone having a copy of your book–from a library, a used bookstore, borrowed from a friend–means that someone has a copy of your book!  As a writer, you put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into those pages, and you just want someone to read it. Even better if they like it. (Gold medal if they love it, but hey, fair-to-middling emotions are just fine, too.)

From the Salon.com article:

“Used bookstores are not the end point to a reader’s journey, but often the starting point, not to mention that they are often treasure troves of out-of-print books, many of which might not exist in e-book or audiobook form.”

We readers (especially voracious readers) typically find an author we enjoy and the buy or check out of a library every book they have. When you find a writer whose style clicks with your way of reading, man, that’s the stuff. Once that book is done, you’re ready for the next one. Who cares how you find that author! Half Price Books led me to so many beloved authors, authors whose books I bought for myself, new, and still have on my shelf.

LGBT books reading animation

Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I’d like a writer’s style, so buying a partially beat up, dog-eared copy at HPB seemed less expensive of a gamble. And when it turned out that I really enjoyed it? Off to the “proper” bookstore to get my hands on everything. Sometimes. Sometimes I didn’t have the funds to get brand new, so if the library didn’t have a copy (or I didn’t want to wait for my turn to come around), I’d grab another battered copy from HPB.

To me, what’s important is that people are reading. Because if you as a writer can hook a reader, you’ll have a reader for life. I mean, it’s like the drug dealing analogy: you get them on the comeback. 😉

It’s important to remember that while yes, selling books is a business (and it’s not profitable unless you’re at the top, either in sales–your Stephen Kings, etc–or by being a big muckity-muck in the publishing world) it’s also an art. Art is meant to be shared. Books are meant to be read.

So let the readers read.

(And then readers? Reviews, mentions on social media, and shoving a copy in a friend’s hand and pointing at the words are about the best PR an author can get. We love you for it.)

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Book Recommend/Review: What It Takes, by Jude Sierra

As mentioned in my last blog post, it’s so crucial for authors not to just bang on about their own books, but to talk about the books they’re reading and the authors they admire.  And hey, I get to do both here! I was fortunate to get my hands on an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of Jude Sierra’s second novel, What It Takes. Jude has a background in poetry, and she has a lyrical writing style that I was really looking forward to reading.

LGBT literature m/m fiction

This is maybe one of the most intimate reading experiences I’ve ever had. Continue reading

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Going beyond lip-service. How to really support authors you love.

Well, lip-service is a big part of it, actually. Active lip-service?  You’ll see.

I’ve spoken before about how to support authors — reviews are key, maybe even more than just you buying a copy of their book, and WHERE you should put your reviews — but I read another writer’s post that goes into the serious nitty-gritty of the publishing world, and it just hits home so much harder.

book reviews authors readers

Guys, we’re not making a lot of money here*. If your name isn’t something like Rowling (or Kardashian or King), you’re making a small percentage of a few hundred (or hopefully a few thousand) sales. If that’s a 10,000 print first run–pretty decent for a standard Big Name publishing contract–and you sell out in a year, that author made $20,000! …before taxes. That becomes $16,000. For the year. Those are poverty level wages in the USA, if not accompanied by any other income.

Keep in mind that I just posited a Big Name publishing contract. When you talk about smaller presses, you’re in the 1000 printed copies for a first run range. Big difference, huh? Hey. It’s a business. It’s how it works.  (This doesn’t include eBooks, but the number of sales and the percentages are the same.)

What tips all of this over into a livable wage (which, anyone who writes would love to make their living writing stories. That’s the dream! Most of us have second jobs.), is when more people beyond our small social media scope begin to read our books, either through a purchase at a bookstore, online, or through a library.

writers block typewriter LGBT

 

But how do other people HEAR about such and such author? From you.

From the article by Kristen Lamb:

Reviews are more important now than ever before, especially for the indie and self-published author. The reason is that with the change in the publishing paradigm, the slush pile (unfortunately) has been dumped into the reader’s lap. There are a lot of bad books out there. But even then, that really isn’t all that big of a problem.

With the Internet and social media and the explosion of books there is SO MUCH content. This means consumers are overwhelmed with choices. Reviews help writers sell books because if readers see a book with no reviews or five reviews versus a similar title with thirty reviews? Who will they choose?

Instead of sending me an e-mail about how much my book changed your life? Put it on Amazon and change MINE! 

Readers are essential to our success beyond just the sale. If you love our books, your promotion means a thousand times more than any ad I could pay for. Ads and marketing don’t sell books. Never did and never will. Only thing that sells books is word of mouth.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful for those private messages I’ve gotten about how much you’ve enjoyed my books. I am so, so grateful for them. I keep them safe and warm and pull them out on days when I think about giving up (something that happens a lot, to be frank).

But you know what really helps? What makes me feel like maybe I can do this, maybe I can put another story out there, maybe work a little harder at this whole “being a professional writer” thing? When I see reviews out in public.

book reviews readers share

Who doesn’t love knowing that people are willing to stand by you publicly? Privately is nice, but publicly legitimizes your work in such a magnificent way. It not only means so much emotionally, but it means a lot to the bottom line, and that, my friends, is what will enable your favorite authors to continue to give you stories you love.

The sad truth is that until a book gets at least 50 reviews on Amazon, Amazon won’t advertise that particular book. But once you hit that magic number? They start promoting the hell out of it. You know when your Kindle goes into the home screen? That’s a big one.  Or when you buy a book and they do the whole “people who bought that liked” thing?  Oh, yeah. Or when you click onto Amazon and they have a book title as the banner?  [salivates and makes ungentlemanly noises]

That means more exposure for an Indie author, which means more likelihood that they’ll be able to give you more stories.

writing books typewriter vintage

It’s a symbiotic relationship. We need each other to keep this beautiful, crazy cycle going. Your reviews are crucial. They can literally make or break a book.

Reblogging and liking posts on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook is awesome. Even more awesome is going to a place like Amazon and sharing your thoughts. Talking about books you love to the general public is how people decide what to read. It’s been shown that people tend to buy books based off of trusted reviews from people they know/follow.

So you guys sharing your favorite books with the public at large? Yeah, that’s the stuff. <3

*and this doesn’t even go into the serious damage that pirated books cause. Yeah, I know, we all hate how Lars from Metallica and Taylor Swift were griping about losing money from their stuff being pirated, but those are multi-millionaires with multiple revenue streams. Authors are hundredaires. You pirate their books, and you’re seriously harming their careers to the point where they can’t afford to keep writing you books. See the difference?

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