Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Little Help from My Friends

Today I would like to celebrate the role of Facebook in my work and recommend it to you.

My FB friends include family and folks I have known for a long time. My list also includes professional contacts, some of whom have become real friends as well as contacts.

Two among these and whose websites, posts and FB friending I highly recommend, are Alice Osborn and Karen Chace.

Alice is a poet, speaker, and marketing maven based here in NC. She has inspired me to send my poetry out. Her poetry has provided me with enjoyable reading and lessons in writing. Her marketing tips are superb. Today her post sent me to a songwriting website that gave tips on arranging a tour and things to avoid when writing.

Songwriters/poets/short stories/ plays/ novels–all benefit from these tips.

Karen Chace is a superb story performer and gives to the art and her fellow performers through a wonderful blog on telling–her most recent super helpful piece—a list of gingerbreadman  crafts/poems/fingerplays.

She is a model of giving to other performers in one’s own profession.

Thank you both!

Do you have any FB friends who inspire, inform your art?

Share! Post their names in comments, here.

Do you share your experiences, knowledge, thoughts with others on these topics? Share here.

Sometimes you feel like a nut…

Part I  Review of Tropical Traditions 100 Percent Virgin Coconut Oil

Sorry this is being posted a day late–I simply forgot to press the publish button–I actually wrote it a day ahead!

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

I chose to write a review but not to sponsor a free giveaway.

Coconut–one of the great culinary gifts of the tropics! Recently a friend at church began touting the joys of using coconut oil in cooking. I listened and went searching for some. I found the company Tropical traditions and they offered me a full jar of coconut oil (it comes in hardened form , sort of like a soft Crisco) in a glass jar. Does not need refrigeration, even after opening but should not  be in direct sunlight.

My friend uses the oil for everything from putting it on her face to cooking with it in baked goods, well everything for which she would use an oil.

I’ve given it two tests so far. The oil scored great on one and not so great on the other. Let me explain.

I used the oil instead of butter to make the sweet potatoes with curry that I served on Thanksgiving. It seemed odd to see the little white mounds of oil on top of the potatoes when I put them in the oven, but when they came out–yum!

Yesterday I made scrambled eggs. Usually for these I use butter or olive oil. The taste of the coconut oil came through in the eggs and I did NOt like it. Not horrible, but not what I life. Full disclosure–I’m 100 percent Italian and use olive oil for almost everything, but I usually use butter in eggs, oil when I want to be healthy.

I plan to try the coconut oil in cookies before the end of the week, so consider this part one of the review of the oil. So far, I would say that in a situation where I would use what I call a neutral oil–vegetable oil (non-olive) or in a mixed product that has other spices, coconut oil is good. I have a strong taste preference for olive oil , tho in things where the taste of the oil becomes part of the dish–as in my scrambled eggs.

Here are the websites where you can go to find out more about tropical traditions products:

Review of Giulia Goes to War

This review was recorded in August 2012 on Here Women Tell by Linda Goodman. I’ve put it here so you can read it as well if you are considering buying my book!

You can go to the internet radio site for Here Women Tell and into thier archives to hear Linda read it–she is wonderful!

Legion of Honor

Book One

Giulia Goes to War

An eBook by Joan Leotta

Published by Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc.

Reviewed by Linda Goodman


            This enchanting historical romance novel, written for pre-teens and teens, has everything needed to capture a young girl’s heart: forbidden love; intrigue; and interesting historical data. Set during World War II, Giulia, its young heroine, leaves her sheltered life with her staunchly Italian family in Avocatown, Pennsylvania to support the war effort by working with her cousin Carmie and her friend Helen at a shipyard in Castle Hayne, North Carolina.

            Giulia must pass tests to get the job she wants and receives such high marks that she is assigned to a top secret project in an area called the “live wire.” This is where the intrigue comes into play – a German spy is desperately trying to infiltrate the “live wire” and steal information about the secret project. Giulia, of course, becomes the means to his end.  At least, that is his plan.

            Young ladies supporting the war effort are also expected to attend the USO dances, where they are warned not to share more than a few dances with each soldier. All three girls find love, but Giulia suffers this misfortune of falling for an American, knowing that her parents want her to “stick with her kind” and marry an Italian.

            Giulia’s love affair with John is all the more tantalizing for its chastity. Their handholding is as passionate as a kiss, their fervor all the more desperate because of the secrets they must keep.

            When I was in the sixth grade, my English teacher used to give me teen romances to read as a way to keep my overly serious mind from dwelling on somber topics. I can see Mrs. Mabry giving me a paperback copy of Giulia Goes to War (no eBooks in 1963). I can just as easily see myself taking it to bed with a flashlight, eager to find out what was going to happen next without rousing my mother in the next room.

            Leotta confesses to taking some liberties with history. Avocatown, for instance, is a fictional place similar to small coal towns near Pittsburgh. Dishes served in the book are real, however, and can be found in the Desert Breeze cookbook. The blend of history and imagination is so skillful that the reader forgets that the characters are not real. In fact, they are real enough that they linger with the reader well after the book has been read. This is the mark of a gifted writer.


No Guilt

Have been working steadily on the edit of my second book, so today without guilt, I am going shopping!

No post today!

Sometimes you feel like a nut

I know that a lot of people are allergic to nuts–sorry. I can’t have chocolate (allergy–)or msg or cilantro. The next few food blog days are going to be chock full of nuts and at the same time, track my experiments with my newest “toy”, coconut oil. Olive oil is my home “brew”, sinc eI am 100 percent Italian genetically,but I am open to adding things to my food repertoire.

Here is the best pecan pie recipe ever–from Craig Claiborne, the food editor of the New York Times for many years. Even the recipes of the august are not immune from my pen–I modified the recipe slightly over the years–my modifications are included in parentheses.

Craig Claiborne’s Pecan Pie Pastry for a one-crust pie

1 1/4 cups dark corn syrup

1 cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar (loosely packed, scant)

1/4 cup (one half stick) butter

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped or broken pecan meats (I buck i tup to 2 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use 2)

1/2 cup unbroken pecan halves-(-as many as it takes, usually 15 or so to go around the outside of the pie and a few for the center)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a 10-inch pie tin or plate with pastry. Neatly trim or flute the edge of the pastry. Prick the bottom of the pastry with the tines of a fork. Place the pie tin or plate in the freezer for 10 minutes. Do not freeze.

Line pastry with parchment paper and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully pull out waxed paper with rice or beans. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, combine the corn syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add the butter and stir until it melts.

Put the eggs in a mixing bowl and beat. Pour in the syrup mixture, stirring. Add the chopped pecan meats and vanilla extract. Stir to blend well.

Pour this filling into the partially baked pie crust. Arrange the pecan halves over the top.

Place in the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the filling is set. It will be soft and jiggly, a little bit like jello and will set as it cools (I cook it a little more)

Creating a Generous Giver

This week  we give  thanks for what we have received. Children often find receiving and saying thank you much easier than giving. Recently, a friend shared that she was having a hard time teaching her daughter to be a generous, cheerful giver. Here are some suggestions for her and all of you

To help a child learn generosity, try these simple steps that did work with my children.


  1. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give each child a spirit of generosity
  2. Model generosity
  3. Model JOY in giving, even when there is no reciprocal expected. Make purchasing for others a festive occasion. Follow a trip to Goodwill with a stop for ice cream. W
  4. Ask the child to help you plan a gift for a person the child loves, admires–grandparent or other parent and coach that person to make a huge fuss over the gift and the THOUGHTFULNESS that went into it–same with making a gift for that person
  5. When buying for siblings, if you notice your child eyeing something for him or her self, buy it secretly and then, after the sib gifts have been given out, give this as a gift to the generous person who picked out the other gifts–only do this for literal little ones, under age six. Best place to practice it is in the dollar store.

Don’t expect overnight results. Do expect progress and setbacks. I still have setbacks–donating a performance and then being upset when not given a notation in the program–I should not expect anything in return when I make the gift of time and performance, but….human nature, or at least my human nature. Continued prayer is the answer. I’m not perfect yet. If you are alive, you parents out there, you aren’t perfect either and neither is your adored little one. Time will tell.

Hugs and kisses for each and every generous impulse are a good teacher too. Never punish.




Crows at Lunch

Since watching three crows attack my lawn as a smorgasboard for bugs, some years ago, I have worked on a poem to work out the malaise I felt over their arrival and the outcome of that malaise. Writing is something you do every day if you want to be a writer, but you don’t always work on the same item day after day. sometimes a piece  needs to sit–like soup or sauce–to coalesce in your heart and mind–before undergoing another revision.

Write every day–but don’t kill yourself over a piece that is not working out. Put it aside for a few days–not our of mind, just out of sight. Work over some ideas in your head and then try them out on paper. Leave enough time in your work schedule for each piece, especially the deadlined pieces, for this creative “rest” period. Some pieces do not need it, but many do –and it is usually of great benefit.

If it is a piece that is not under contract, once you have fulfilled its needs creatively, that is the time to find a market for it–often a more difficult task than the writing!




Cooking blogs

I read other cooking blogs–after all, how will I know what is going on in the world of food to write one if I don’t chit chat with others. Best way to do that when you don’t live near enough to others who are as food oriented as you are, reading blogs is a way to do it.

Found a wonderful blog called Faith at the Kitchn (no e in kitchen)

She posts wonderful recipes and great ideas about cooking

enter www. to find her or google Faith Kitchn.

Today her blog offers a great story about the creation of a fab looking recipe, called Maple walnut blondies–how great is that! Especially nice for someone like me who can’t eat chocolate anymore (migraines)

Meet and Greet

Saw a bunch of people lined up to hear a famous band–I saw them on TV.

Meeting, not just hearing famous people can be an inspiring experience for children. My children still remember meeting Gunther Gabel Williams, best lion tamer ever, when I took them backstage at the circus (I was interviewing him for an article for a DC newspaper).

I still remember meeting Pearl Buck at a coffee  for about fifteen students on my college  campus. My cousin got to meet Corrie Ten Boom. Pivotal times.

If you can’t invite a person who excels in his or her field to your dinner table, invite them through discussion. Talk about great ideas, great people, great literature and art–even with little ones–at the dinner table. You will find great rewards later.

Michelle’s guest post for friday

I read about Michelle Lim’s book and work when she guested on my friend and fellow Desert Breeze author Naomi Musch’s blog a week ago.

Naomi put me in touch with Michelle and Michelle graciously agreed to guest here with pretty much the same post since my readers are not the same as Naomi’s.

Also, for those of you who are performers, the issues Michelle brings up for conflict in writing apply very well to the development of a performance piece.


So…. Take it away, Michelle!

Joan, thank you so much for inviting me to visit your blog.

For those of you who haven’t heard, during my Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel Tour I’m having a drawing for a Free Kindle Paperwhite. For each different blog I visit that you comment on during my tour, you get one entry. Each day I will post any new tour locations on my blog.

Brainstorming Through Writer’s Block Idea Sparking Style


Whether you are planning to write a book during NaNoWriMo, or you are working on a deadline, brainstorming is essential throughout the project.

Why? Because we all hit a wall sometimes. Because we all could use better story twists. Because we all need to jump start our minds to put words on the page.

Just like any singer will warm up their voice before a performance, so the writer should warm up their brain before they sit down to write.

In my new book Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel there are lots of tips to finding your way out of a corner, writer’s block, and a sagging middle.


In the beginning of the book I cover a few essentials of brainstorming before delving into the strategies themselves. Here are a few essentials you should brainstorm at the beginning of every scene:

*Goals – What does the character want to achieve in this scene?

*Stakes – Why does it matter to the character and reader?

*Obstacles – What stands in the way of them meeting their goal?


Sounds simple right? It’s amazing how often we forget to add in one of the elements above. The result is a lack of conflict and tension in our stories that keep readers glued to the page. Let’s try applying these steps:

Goal:  Jake needs to get past the bully in the high school hallway and still get to class on time.

Stakes: Jake could be late for class or get beat up.

Obstacles: The girl Jake likes wants to talk to him as he passes by, He drops his books making a loud noise, and the Bully is standing right next to the class doorway where he is headed.

Brainstorming these things ahead of time can make a scene much more intense. Then surrounding these three elements you can brainstorm objects and senses that will effect Jake.

For example, in this case you could play up the size of the bully, add in the clock in the hallway ticking down time, maybe the bully likes the same girl, if he gets another tardy he will have detention, etc.

What do you do to help you get started with a new scene?

Often we stare at a blank page because we are trying to think up new ideas, but with this simple brainstorming activity with goals, stakes, and obstacles we have found the framework for the scene. Then all the added details to support those elements bring the scene to life.



Michelle Lim

Idea Sparking – Brainstorming the Conflict In Your Novel

Release Date September, 2012

Romantic Suspense Author

Fisher Creek Collection

Michelle Lim is the author of the new book Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel. Also a romantic suspense author whose manuscripts have earned recognition in The Rattler Contest 2012, the Genesis Contest 2011, and the Frasier Contest in 2010. Michelle is the Brainstorm/Huddle Coach at My Book Therapy and serves as Vice President of MN N.I.C.E., a local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. Check out her blog at: and to purchase Idea Sparking:How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel