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COOKING WITH TOFU

I’m not one for recipes and cooking, so don’t expect this to become a regular feature on this blog.

Still, this is a good one. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a tofu dish now and again. Tofu has a very subtle flavor and perfectly soaks up the aroma of the other ingredients.

My tofu salad is ridiculously healthy. “Ridiculous” because eating it actually makes me happy. When I’m writing and nothing works out, I need a boost. This salad does the trick.

“Wha-at? Are you putting chocolate in it?”

Nope. Try it out, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s quick to make, too.

The quantities don’t matter, as long as the ingredients are fresh.

Ingredients:
Tofu, reasonably firm
Fresh asparagus (white or green)
Red or orange peppers
Lettuce of some sort. (I like rocket or lamb’s lettuce, but I’ve tried iceberg lettuce and it worked.)
Ginger
Soy sauce
Lemon juice (doesn’t have to be freshly squeezed)
Garlic (optional, can be powder)

Preparation:
Cut the tofu into chunks. Peel a piece of fresh ginger and grate it (and the garlic, if you wish to include it). Do not use ginger powder. Cut the asparagus stems into thirds or quarters. With a little oil or water, fry the tofu, the asparagus and half the ginger (and garlic).

Meanwhile, combine one quantity of soy sauce (say, one spoonful), the same quantity of lemon juice (another spoonful) with two parts water (in this case two spoonfuls) in a glass. Add in the rest of the ginger (and garlic) and give it a good stir with a fork.

Arrange your chosen type of lettuce on a plate or in a bowl, cut the pepper(s) into chunks and arrange them on top of the lettuce. When the asparagus is cooked (so you can easily stick a fork in, about 5-7 minutes), deposit the contents of the frying pan on top and add the dressing.

Put on some happy music (consider Shakira’s Waka Waka) and tuck in.

Then get your butt back behind that keyboard and write.

In this series, guest bloggers spill all about their roles as gatekeepers between the two sides of the book world. They review books on blogs, websites, podcasts or booksellers’ webpages, influence buyers and connect with authors. My guest today is Kate, owner of Home.Love.Books.

Let me hand over my mic. The next voice you’ll hear will be Kate’s.

 

Hi everyone. My name is Kate and I am the owner of Home.Love.Books., a book review site, as well as a freelance book editor. I spend most of my days curled up on the couch reading books, hanging out with my six rescue dogs, or doing DIY projects on my husband and I’s new house. I have been a reader since before I can remember (thanks Mom), and thankfully my love of books only got stronger as I got older.
Home.Love.Books. (www.homelovebooks.com) is a review site that primarily reviews romance, new adult, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and the occasional mystery book. You will find mostly traditionally published books on the site, but I do accept indie books, so you will find a few indies in the mix as well. I hope you will check it out, it’s one of my favorite endeavors I have embarked on.
I want to thank Carmen for inviting me to be a guest on her site, I’m happy to be here, so without further ado, here are my answers to some fantastic questions.

 

1. Why did you start a book review site?

So Home.Love.Books. (HLB) is not my first book review site. My first site was Urban Fantasy Reviews, and I loved that site so much. It was my baby. I started the site because I was graduating from college with my bachelors degree in English Literature, and since I was going to have more time to read than I had in the past (college does tend to load you up on textbook reading assignments) and I knew I was going to miss writing about the things I was reading, a book review site seemed like the perfect fit for me. At the time I was basically an exclusive reader of urban fantasy and paranormal romance books, so I made a very genre-specific site. After two years with Urban Fantasy Reviews I realized how much I was missing out on by only reading one genre, so I needed to branch out, but my blog title kind of locked me in. And the need for a new site was born.
I decided on Home.Love.Books. as a title because those are the three most important things in my life, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. It’s a much more genre-open site than my old site, but I have to admit that lately I have been on a romance kick. Anything with romance in it is my cup of tea.

 

2. What’s the best aspect of owning a book review site?

This question is hard! I do absolutely love the free books. With the amount of books I read I can’t imagine how much money it would be to keep my book habit fed. But really I love talking about books and connecting with authors. And more than that I love helping authors find an audience. Even if I don’t like a book, I always try and include a potential audience for the book at the end of the review. I have such respect for authors, and the time and effort that goes into producing a book, that I honestly believe it’s part of my job to help them find an audience for their books, and nothing makes me happier.

 

3. What’s the worst aspect?

Giving bad reviews. Hands down the worst part. When I come across a book I genuinely don’t like and I know I am going to write a bad review, I feel so bad about it. I know how hard it is to write books. I work with authors every day as an editor, and I feel so bad when it’s time to write a bad review about a book. Also I think authors believe if their book didn’t get a 4 or 5 star review then it is a bad review, which isn’t accurate. A 3 star review is still a positive review.
I have really only had one truly bad experience with my review sites. I once wrote a review, I believe it was a 3 star review, and the author was so upset she started e-mailing me. A lot. And let’s just say she was not writing to say how much she liked me. It went on for a long time, and I was unbelievable happy when it stopped.

 

4. Why should readers check out your website?

You should check out my site (www.homelovebooks.com) because I do my best to write honest and upfront reviews, as often as possible. It’s a place where you can go and you know you will come across at least a couple of books you want to read. Also if you don’t have time to read every review, my menu makes it easy to click on reviews based on the rating they got, so if you want to see all my five star reviews, all you have to do is click “Loved It” and you will be taken to the books I completely fell in love with, so if you are short on time check it out.

 

5. Out of all the books you’ve read, which two are your top must-read recommendations?
My must-read recommendations are constantly changing. I like to update them with my most recent books that I loved. So that’s why this question is so easy! I have completely fallen in love with two books lately, One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker and Whisper to Me by Christina Lee. They are both new adult books, which is easily becoming one of my favorite genres, and the authors both have such amazing voices that it felt like I was having a conversation with an old friend as opposed to reading a book. You have to check them out if new adult is your cup of tea.

During the revision and editing phase, it is not uncommon for certain formatting errors to sneak into your manuscript. Where, for example, do these extraneous spaces at the beginning of paragraphs come from?!

You might believe you have to slog through your three hundred or so pages and correct formatting faux-pas by hand. Not so. Quite a few of them can be addressed by familiarizing yourself with “nonprinting” characters. Use this quick check list in conjunction with Word’s Find and Replace function (Ctrl+H) to blast the little buggers into oblivion.

Remember to approve each occurrence separately. If you click “Replace All,” you might be setting yourself up for trouble.

[] indicates a space (i.e. tap spacebar once)
Remove extraneous space at start of a paragraph:
Find: ^p[] (i.e. ^p followed by a space)
Replace with: ^p (i.e. ^p without a space)

Replace extraneous space before punctuation mark:
Find: []? []. [],
Replace with: ? . ,
(em dashes and ellipses may be followed by a space and punctuation mark, depending on house style, so be sure not to click “Replace All.”)

Replace en dashes (–) with em dashes (—):
Find: ^=
Replace with: ^+ or Ctrl+Alt+- (hyphen on the number pad)
(em dashes have no spaces, except at the end of the sentence, where you type —[].)

Replace hyphens (-) with em dashes (—):
Find: –
Replace with: ^+ or Ctrl+Alt+- (hyphen on the number pad)
(Depending on your publisher’s or agent’s house style, em dashes have no spaces, except at the end of the sentence, where you type —[].)

Replace dot dot dot (…) with ellipsis (…):
Find: …
Replace with: Ctrl+Alt+.
(Depending on agent or editor, ellipses have no spaces, except at the end of the sentence, where you type …[].)

Delete stray tabs at the start of a paragraph (when you should have been indenting your paragraphs):
Find: ^t
Replace with: (i.e. leave box empty)
Follow this up by highlighting the entire text, then redoing the hanging indent.

Reformatting extra large spaces between paragraphs:
Highlight all text. Click on the “paragraph” tab and tick “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style”. Then click “OK.”

Replace double space with single space:
Find: [][]
Replace with: []

You may need to carry out many more pre-submission edits (for example, replacing overused words with more exciting expressions). These can also be changed using the find/replace function, such as:

Overuse of names (e.g. Anna) in dialogue:
Find: , Anna.
Replace with: (i.e. leave box empty).
Find: , Anna?
Replace with: (i.e. leave box empty)

Overuse of “out of” when “out” will do (e.g. stares out (of) the window):
Find: []out of[]
Replace with: []out[]
(Do NOT accidentally click “Replace All.”)

Overuse of “sit down”/”stand up”/”down on” when “sit”/”stand”/”on” will do (e.g. he sat (down) on the edge of the bed):
Find: sit down
Replace with: sit

If you have any editing tips not covered here, please post a comment. I’d love to hear about new shortcuts and tricks that might speed up the editing process.

Are you a geek about IT, TV, comics, books, fantasy or sci-fi? Or do you prefer not to be categorized? However you define yourself, you cannot outrun geekdom’s influence on our culture, especially in terms of its profound effect on language.

Geeks, nerds, and those who aren’t are not all made from the same mold. Their multifarious interests have sparked entire “dialects.” So how can Annie Wan from down the street keep up?

Clearly she can’t. But wouldn’t it be nice to learn a few words that might just make you sound way hipper than you are?

The following expressions are drawn from different genres, from where they swiftly made their way into the mainstream. If you finally want to join in the conversation, read on.

Enjoy!

Meme

In 1976, Richard Dawkins coined the term ‘meme’ in his book ‘The Selfish Gene.’ You’ve seen it around, but what the heck does it mean?

Firstly, it’s pronounced meem, not me-me. The theory that pertains to memes is called ‘memetics.’ Its roots lie in the Greek word for ‘pretender, imitator.’ Dawkins used the word to describe a unit of culture which is conceived in one mind and can be transferred to other organisms, the way genes which carry vital information are transferred from generation to generation. Nowadays, pictures with a specific motive, like three people arranged like the three See No Evil monkeys, videos, acronyms, phrases or even hashtags may be memes, provided they ‘catch on.’

Linux

Outside of Canada (“Linnooks”), it would appear the correct pronunciation is “Linnex.” Linux is an open-source operating system, that is to say its source code is open to be manipulated, copied and distributed by everyone. Many avid Linux users declare war on Microsoft for their monopoly-type grasp on operating systems and associated applications.

WYSIWYG

If you run your own website, there’s a good chance you’ve come across this. It stands for ‘what you see is what you get.’ Once upon a time, the only way for Avery Wan from next door to tell a website how it should look was by way of HTML. In order to embolden a word, for example, it would be preceded by a “” and followed by a “.” Highly laborious. Today, you highlight a word and click a “B” button. Done. You no longer have to wade through funny code. Instead, you see what you get. As for pronouncing it, I’ve only ever heard it as “wizzy-wig.”

Mana

Mana, say: “Mawna,” is a term denoting a kind of currency that relates exactly to how much magic a computer game character can expend on spells etc. Research suggests the term originates from a number of Pacific languages, where it means “thunder” or “storm.”

Cosplay

A portmanteau of costume and play. The idea has been around for ages, of course, but in today’s culture it mainly relates to dressing up as characters from anime, TV, comics etc. If you believe cosplay is limited to comicons, you’re wrong. The cosplay community numbers in the millions and is highly active on the Internet. Some cosplayers have turned their hobby into lucrative businesses and can be hired for special appearances.

Lolcats

A composite word of ‘LOL’ (laugh out loud) and, well, ‘cats.’ Lolcats are photos of cats with text added, generally with bad spelling for humorous effect. One example is the now infamous I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER? I’ve also seen it used to describe people who distribute these cat/text pictures.

tl;dr

tl;dr (often simply ‘tldr’) stands for ‘too long; didn’t read.’ The appropriate comment when one of my posts veers from the mildly interesting into the inane, before I finally get to the point. Actually, it’s considered unhelpful or downright rude to comment on someone’s post this way. As with most words, it has evolved since it was first coined. While its original usage still applies, it’s now often found at the beginning, toward the end or in lieu of a long explanation/update; as a self-invoked disclaimer and to indicate a summary, if you will.

YOLO

This term was possibly first mentioned on an NBC reality show, of all places. The acronym stands for ‘You Only Live Once.’ Its main usage today is to announce an exciting event or perhaps to excuse unacceptable or irresponsible behavior, e.g. with a hashtag on Twitter. As an aside, its rampant spread through the Internet also turned this into a meme, like many of the other entries here.

Catfish

The verb ‘catfish’ relates to the creation of social media or forum accounts under a false identity, often for the purpose of forming relationships. Apparently the term stems from a Norwegian custom where fisherman added a catfish into their tank of live sardines (or whatever they were hauling) to keep the sardines moving and thus healthy.

This collection represents my interpretation of how these terms are used. I might be wrong, in which case please let me know. The list is also in no way exhaustive, so if you can think of expressions not covered here, please post them as comments. I’m sure we’d all like to know.

PS: Annie Wan (anyone) and Avery Wan (everyone) are my attempt of twisting the traditional “Joe Average.” Hope it didn’t confuse.

According to a survey by the ICM, and an earlier survey by Yougov, roughly 40% of Brits believe in angels. In the US, an AP-GfK survey reported nearly 80% of people believe in angels. Oh yes, even among non-Christians the notion angels exist is widespread. Heck, even some who do not believe in some form of god trust in angels.

Wha-at?

I’m flabbergasted the numbers are so high.

Could this be why there is so little variation on the theme in fantasy or urban fantasy books? Angels are typically portrayed as warriors locked in eternal battle with demons, and humankind might become a casualty of war. Until an angel falls in love with a human and comes to understand how wonderful we are. Even outside the romance genre the angel as warrior theme persists. At best, you’ll get guardian angels, who are a specific type of angel with their own given traits.

I’m not dissing the genre. I love angel books. Different plots, different characters, different writing styles keep the genre fresh. Ish. But where is the overhaul?

Vampires, werewolves/shifters etc. are continuously being reinvented. The way they die, the way they are made, how they survive, how they love, their jobs, their living situations, … I can’t count the variations I’ve encountered over the years.

What about angels as supernatural detectives investigating infractions of the ten commandments, especially murder? Or how about angels as bureaucrats who once a millennium descend onto Earth to ensure humankind’s morals haven’t become too corrupted?

Feel free to steal these ideas. I’d really love to read about an angelic Veronica Mars.

Hey, I look forward to being proven wrong. Seriously. If you’ve read or written a book that explodes the traditional angel mold, please, please, please let me know.

I’m surprised by how many people watch the Big Bang Theory without showing the slightest interest in science. I can’t help thinking it’s like watching the Muppet Show. Kids enjoy scenes with fuzzy puppets, while adults are treated to a “hidden,” more grown-up humor. Similarly, some viewers, often self-proclaimed geeks, are deeply engaged in shows set in space, like Star Trek, Stargate, Doctor Who, Babylon 5 or Red Dwarf, without the slightest understanding of scientific principles.

I’m not saying “geek” must equal “scientist.” Not at all. No need to rush off to get your Ph.D. Being a geek simply means allowing yourself to enjoy something others would categorize as niche. You may immerse yourself as deeply as you wish within your chosen area(s), without being judged by your fellow geeks. It’s liberating. Involve yourself in cos play, list your favorite episodes of Farscape, live your life by Seven of Nine’s wisdom. Call yourself a geek, a nerd, a fan-girl or a fan-boy, or…Dave. It makes no difference. That isn’t my issue at all.

I’m simply stunned that so many people who follow sci-fi shows are deprived of that extra layer of understanding. Why don’t schools tap into this wonderful pool of early fans?

My love of Star Trek was sparked in childhood, but I did not pursue physics at school. Truthfully, I thought all the Trekkie science was made up, so there was no connect between physics and Star Trek for me. My later studies in the field were never brought to a satisfying conclusion (i.e. after completing more than two thirds of my degree, I crapped out). But if I’d caught the bug earlier… If I’d understood then that many of those TV wonders are rooted in the truth…

Sure, much of physics requires a deep understanding of math, of which calculus is only the beginning. But even the layperson can educate him- or herself. There are many wonderful pop-sci (popular science) books that explain interesting phenomena without numbers and, importantly, without dumbing down.

David Bodanis’s E=MC 2 and The Electric Universe are both excellent reads. Richard Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces is an equally great starting point. If you’re after a lighter, more humorous approach, try Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Lawrence M. Krauss wrote a book called The Science of Star Trek, which is pretty self-explanatory, and John Gribbin’s In Search Of Schrodinger’s Cat offers a wonderful insight into quantum physics.

These books are not only informative, but they also entertain. They’re accessible to anyone who wishes to gain a deeper understanding of their surroundings.

Then again, The Big Bang Theory is pretty funny, whatever your background.

Recently I blogged about Nothing But Tea, a British company selling my two favorite teas.

There is another place on the Internet that sells wonderful loose flavored tea. Zoomdweebies. Their flavors are often not strong enough to survive the splash of milk we Brits like to add, but they stock a huge variety of wonderful, unusual types. Black, green, white and rooibos teas, whatever takes your fancy.

I don’t always put milk in my tea, and for those occasions I actually favor Zoomdweebies.

I recently tried their Turtle Cashew tea, which was gorgeous, but I also have a hankering for their Buttered Rum tea. Of great interest to Doctor Who fans might be their Weeping Angel tea. Yes, they are self-proclaimed geeks (not just when it comes to tea, it seems). When they learned Joe Hill liked their teas, they created the NOS4A2 tea.

They also sell wonderful iced teas. Each pack consists of a single humongous tea bag, large enough for one or two liters (that’s two to four pints) of iced tea. Every week (or almost every week) a new flavor is added. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. Unless they run a special, where they offer out-of-stock items for a limited time.

If you like tea as much as I do (I rarely drink anything else), check them out. They’re based in the US (with free shipping, I believe), but do ship to Europe. The prices are reasonable and shipping is lightning fast.

As always, I have no affiliation with Zoomdweebies and don’t even get a discount. Just trying to bring tea to the world…

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