Monday, March 25, 2013

Review of Macarons Math, Science, and Art


Today I have the pleasure of introducing my client PaulaQ’s book, Macarons Math, Science, and Art. This is one of the most fantastic and comprehensive cookbooks I’ve ever come across. The subject? Your basic macaron (not to be confused with coconut macaroons). The challenge? Create a visually and delectably perfect macaron.

These finicky treats are intensely difficult to perfect, and nearly impossible to replicate. Despite these obstacles, PaulaQ deftly takes up the challenge of creating the perfect macaron, using science and mathematics to maneuver readers through the often tricky instructions. By discussing the science behind the tools (e.g., how heat is distributed in convection versus electric ovens) and the steps (e.g., aging eggs removes moisture and less moisture equals more stable macaron cookies) Paula ensures that every reader will understand and be able to implement her instructions, regardless of how different our kitchens may be.

The truly impressive feat that PaulaQ accomplishes is describing the math and science behind the cookies in a way that aids—rather than alienates—readers. Her directions are so thoroughly explained that virtually anyone anywhere can both replicate the process and adjust different variables, depending on their kitchen. This is a must-read for anyone up for a great culinary challenge, and it’s definitely going to be a future gift for some of my family members!

Backflap

Macarons Math, Science, and Art, provides you with an unusual, though scientifically sound combination of ingredients and techniques to create the perfect macaron—ruffled feet, smooth tops, and completely filled macaron discs.

French macarons are more than just delicious, two-bite bundles of nutty meringue cookies. They are blank canvases for both the novice and the expert. But their beauty can be deceiving, as biting into one may leave you in a state of pure bliss, or complete disappointment.

The problem many have with macaron cookies is not their physical appearance, but whether or not they are filled with chewy, soft meringue. Hollow macarons are tough to beat, until now. Understanding the basic science behind the macaron ingredients and their environment is the key to making macarons that are filled to the top with baked “dough” using French or basic meringue.

This must-have book pulls out all the stops in developing a stable and low-moisture macaron batter by incorporating uncommon practices such as the use of tapioca starch, whipping the meringue for 16 minutes, a baking stone, nested baking pans, a cracked-open oven door, and even a small fan.

The first half of the book reviews the science and math behind oven heat, techniques, tools, ingredients, and the environment necessary to get you off to the best start in making macarons. The subheadings include Paula’s “Results and Recommendations” in which she shares the data collected from her nearly 20 trials to achieve the perfect macaron. The last half of the book finishes with the artsy side of making macarons like painting with melted chocolate and with white Crisco. Of course, the book has a handful of recipes including Paula’s recipe for perfect macaron cookies.

Macarons Math, Science, and Art, gives you not only the ultimate recipe for macaron cookies, but it also shows you how to manipulate your resources and environment to ensure the best success in testing or creating a new recipe.

About the Author

Paula Quinene was born and raised on Guam. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1997 with an exercise science degree, hoping to return to the island as a teacher. A resident of North Carolina for over 12 years, Paula's homesickness or "mahalangness" have resulted in her Guam cookbooks, A Taste of Guam and Remember Guam. She is an exercise scientist and a pastry-chef-at-heart, thus Macarons Math, Science, and Art, was a pure pleasure to write. Paula is working on a World War II historical romance novel based on Guam, delving into the lives of locals as well as the men in the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard. Paula writes monthly articles on health, fitness, and food, for Demand Media. Articles appear on Livestrong, AZ Central, and The Nest Woman. Her home on the web is www.paulaq.com.

In Closing
Like you just read, in addition to being a macaron guru, Paula has two other great cookbooks, A Taste of Guam and Remember Guam! On her website she also has a slew of mouth-watering recipes. Be sure to check them out here!

Lastly, if you get a chance, you must take a peek at her YouTube channel, Paula Q – The Girl From Guam. I promise you’ll be hypnotized by her delicious confections and easy-to-replicate instructions. My favorite: strawberry jalapeno jam!

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services
415.745.1764

Friday, March 22, 2013

Please, No Info Dumps


What Are Info Dumps?
Info dumps are essentially backstory that the writer informs the reader of in a dense paragraph or a few dense paragraphs. Here’s an example:

“Do you have it?”

Before I could stop it, my hand reached for my back pocket. Mark was talking about the illuminator, a rare object that allowed its user to detect lies. I had stolen it a week ago from a warehouse—and just in time too. It was about to be shipped to some wealthy collector in Saudi Arabia.

I’d also nearly lost my life that night. I was still healing from the nasty dog bites and the stray bullet that had nicked my shoulder.

Of course, the job was worth it. Within the short time I’d owned the object I'd . . .

These can go on and on. To be honest, this is not nearly the worst example I’ve seen. After all, this information is interesting and might be relevant later. There are always those info dumps that are wholly uninteresting and unnecessary.

But, if the information is necessary, then why is the info dump a problem?

Problems with Info Dumps
Essentially, info dumps are asides. My excerpt from above is a perfect example of this. Right before the main character gives the reader some backstory, someone has asked the main character a question. Depending on the surrounding text, this might be a high intensity scene.

The info dump pauses the action to fill the reader in. Because action is what generates the book’s momentum and reader excitement, pausing the action thus halts the momentum and decreases reader excitement. However, this shouldn’t be an either-or situation. You can both fill the reader in and not slow down the reader momentum. I’ll discuss this in greater detail further down.

When Do Writers Info Dump?
Writers often info dump towards the beginning and middle of books, although I’ve seen it at the end of certain novels as well.

Why Do Writers Info Dump?
Most of the time info dumps are caused by a lack of premeditated storytelling. When authors don’t plan out how and when events will unfold, they have a tendency of writing out all the important information in one section—an info dump.

Don’t worry if you have done this—sometimes it’s easier to get the words onto the paper than chance forgetting them. Just make sure that you correct them once you’ve inserted them into the manuscript.

How To Fix Info Dumps
Like I mentioned earlier, you can inform the reader and maintain reader excitement, and here’s how:

  • Locate those areas where you have clustered the backstory. (You might have to first identify what your backstory is before you do this.)
  • Once you’ve spotted a section dense with information, separate that information into individual points. Here’s a demonstration using our example above.
    • Defining what the illuminator is.
    • Discussing how and when the main character came to own it.
    • Discussing the wounds the main character sustained when he stole the object.
    • Mentioning that stealing the illuminator was a job s/he took. 
  • After you’ve broken up your backstory into a bulleted list, think about where the best place might be to insert this information. Using our example, the writer might decide to bring up the main character’s wounds while the main character is on the move. If, for instance, the main character is running from someone, and he has a limp, you can conveniently mention the wounds. Or, if while lifting a heavy object, one of these wounds begins to seep fresh blood, there’s another great segue to this backstory.
  • Once you find the perfect location, show, not tell. Info dumps drag on not only because they halt the current action, but also because they are telling the reader something that the reader would rather be shown.

By dissolving paragraphs of backstory and reinserting the information in concise clusters throughout your novel, you'll turn a crutch into leverage. Readers who would otherwise be bored while slogging through backstory might now be piqued by the strange and alluring world they’ve walked into.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services
415.745.1764

Monday, March 18, 2013

Interview with Matt Sinclair, Part II

Happy Monday everyone! I hope the beginning of your week is going well. Today I have the second half of my interview with Matt Sinclair of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. Make sure to check out this publishing house's anthologies, Spring Fevers and The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse and submit a story for the next installment in the series—click here for more information. Without further ado, here is part two:

How do you market books? (Question comes from an indie author.)

That’s a great question. The answer is ongoing and evolving. Of course, we utilize things like Twitter and Facebook and other forms of social media to help build awareness of our work and that of our writers. There’s more we can do in both those places, but I think it can get saturated, too. These are obvious forms of promotion. But marketing and promotion are not the same. We’ve been experimenting with how to position the anthologies. It’s a challenge, because I don’t want to mislead readers. I don’t want to suggest that all stories are romance, for example, because that’s far from true. But romance has been a part of what we’ve published since the beginning. So we’re trying a variety of approaches to see what works best. One thing that will help will be publishing novels. They’ll be more clear-cut in terms of genre. 

So far, the best way for us to build an audience has been involving the writers. Each writer helps to promote the collection, and this has really extended our name. Ryan Graudin, R.C. Lewis, and Mindy McGinnis have major debuts coming up in the next year, year-and-a-half. When people see those novels, we need them to also see other places where this writer has been published. So we’ll be doing what we can to help promote them as a marketing device to attract readers and customers to the EBP anthologies. We literally have published writers from all over the United States and a couple from outside the U.S. “The Last Sacrifice,” by Judy Croome, is being considered for the Caine Prize for fiction by African writers. And I will continue to submit stories – and our covers – for consideration for other prizes.

What can an author do to catch your attention?

The easy answer is to write well. But the best way to catch our attention right now is to submit a story for consideration in an anthology. We’ll decide whether it meets our standards of quality and fits the collection we’re working on. One of the things that caught our attention in The Fall was to not write the “typical” apocalyptic story. We published a few zombie stories, for example, but I’d argue that none of them depicted the “typical” zombie attack. (I can’t believe I just said that.) In Ryan Graudin’s “Hairline Cracks,” for instance, the heart of the story was the couple involved, and the zombification of the narrator was a means to address the challenges of their relationship. At least initially, we expect to draw our novelists from among the short story writers we publish.

Any advice for writers?

Know your craft and make sure your work deserves to be published. Every aspiring writer must be able to answer the simple question of why should someone pay for the work they are selling. The emergence of new tools in publishing makes it easier to see your name in print, but that still isn’t the reason for publishing. Nor is publishing simply about making some money. Elephant’s Bookshelf Press aims to help build visibility for writers of quality. For us to succeed means writers are developing and reaching their audience. We’ll help them along that path, but the quality of the writing needs to be there from the outset.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I’d like to thank you for your time and willingness to share what we’re doing – and for your great questions. I’m a staunch believer that writers, editors, and even publishers need to support each other and develop as a community. We’re all different, but our goals are essentially similar. So, thank you!

Thank you too Matt! And I agree, the writing, editing, and publishing community thrives by working together! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Interview with Matt Sinclair of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, Part I of II


Many of you writers are busy writing, editing, and querying your manuscripts. However, for many of you it is a mystery what goes on, on the other side of the curtain. How do publishing houses work? How do they pick novels? What treatment will your novel receive under their direction? 

Today I have the pleasure of lifting the curtain a little and peering into the other side of the industry. Matt Sinclair, the founder of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, has kindly answered some of our most burning questions. 

For some of you, these names might sound familiar. That’s because the Elephant’s Bookshelf has opened submissions for their summer anthology! And if you haven’t already, please check out Spring Fevers, and The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse. (FYI: Spring Fevers is free for Kindle owners, so there really is no reason to not check this out!)


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been working as a journalist since the early 1990s in a variety of contexts – internal communications at a university; reporting or editing for local, regional, and national publications; many years at a national trade journal covering the nonprofit sector; and several years editing a national online publication about philanthropy both in the United States and increasingly on an international level. Aside from my dream of playing major league baseball, writing was all I ever really wanted to do.

What inspired you to found Elephant’s Bookshelf Press?

The first anthology, Spring Fevers, came about from discussions I’d had with Cat Woods, who is one of the many writing friends I’ve met at AgentQuery Connect, which honestly has changed my writing life. It’s a supportive community of writers that aren’t blowing sunshine up each other’s backsides but instead are offering honest critiques and accurate information to point writers in the right direction. Cat and I developed the idea of an anthology. I’d long been toying with the idea of starting a literary journal or a publishing company but it seemed like an overly daunting task. After Cat and I bandied the anthology idea about, however, I realized this was my opportunity to launch a publishing company.

What are the goals of the company? Can you tell us a little bit about your mission?

Elephant’s Bookshelf Press is a traditional, albeit small publisher. I’m fortunate to have put together a team of what I call my editorial advisory board: Cat Woods, Mindy McGinnis, Robb Grindstaff, R.C. Lewis, Jean Oram, and Calista Taylor. All of us expect excellence. Sometimes I feel like I’m the weak link because I’m the only one who hasn’t had an agent or a publishing deal. Our goal at Elephant’s Bookshelf Press is to help talented writers not only earn publication but develop an audience. We aim to build long-term relationships with these writers, to complement the work that they’re already doing to advance their careers, spur them to do more to help boost themselves and build their visibility, and establish a lasting reputation for the company as a publisher of quality work. I think our writers have been impressed with our dedication to the craft of writing. I’m obviously biased, but I believe Spring Fevers and The Fall are excellent, though they’re quite different anthologies.

How do you believe Elephant’s Bookshelf Press will adapt and succeed amidst the shifts occurring in the book industry?

Initially we expected Spring Fevers to be just an electronic book, and it was after we had several inquiries about a print version that we decided to add that. I must say, I love having print copies, but I’m old school. Still, I expect that we’ll always publish electronically, and we’ll need to make decisions about new formats as they emerge. In terms of how authors are gaining greater independence, we’re already looking at how to be a writer-friendly publishing house so we can attract the type of novelists we hope to publish. There are other concerns, such as what some changes by giants like Amazon might mean for small publishers. All I can do is keep abreast of the industry and dodge and swerve as need be.

What projects are you currently working on that you can tell us about?

We’re working on our summer anthology, and since there are only four seasons in the year, we’re also thinking about what we want our winter anthology to be about. That’ll be published in early 2014, but I can’t really say more about it than that at this time. In between anthologies, we’ll be publishing our first novel. It’ll be by one of the writers we’ve met in The Fall. (No, it’s not me.) We intend to have a sample chapter included in the summer anthology as a way to start building interest in the novel among our readers.

What types of literature does Elephant’s Bookshelf Press publish now and in the future?

I’ve initiated conversations with other writers about publishing their work through Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. As we consider different writers, we’re also deciding what genres we want to expand. For example, the first novel is on the cusp of young adult and the emerging “new adult” category. I expect that we’ll have YA and NA novels going forward. I also believe we’ll consider Middle Grade fiction for younger readers. I have small children, and I’d love to be able to publish stories that they grow up with. I’ve always loved science fiction, too, and while we haven’t done a lot of it in our anthologies, I think we’ll include science fiction before too long. I also expect that we’ll publish nonfiction, although I’d be surprised if we publish that till late 2014 at the earliest. Still, promising projects might come in over the transom. We’re also discussing what route to take the anthologies after the seasons are done. We will continue to publish short fiction. Who knows, maybe we’ll do a Daylight Savings Time anthology.

Why is your company a great option for writers seeking to get traditionally published?

We’re writers ourselves. By “we” I mean not only me but also the advisors who’ve agreed to work with me – people like Calista Taylor, who’s been our cover designer for both anthologies, and R.C. Lewis, who has handled the book design for them both. Calista has been published traditionally in nonfiction and she has established a strong reputation for steampunk and niche romance novels, and R.C. will have her debut novel, Stitching Snow, published by Disney/Hyperion in 2014. One thing that our writers like about EBP is it’s an outlet for their short fiction. It’s hard to get any attention for short stories. There are fewer markets for them, especially in print. I’m not saying anthologies are an easy sell, because they’re not. But having a story in a published collection says more to me as a reader than something that’s been published on a Web site that hasn’t been updated in two years.


Watch out for Part II of the Interview!
Thank you Matt for taking the time to answer some of our burning questions! For all you readers, make sure not to miss out on part two of our interview, where Matt answers questions on marketing novels, how writers catch his attention, and more! 

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services
www.americaneditingservices.com
415.745.1764