Friday FabOoolousness – Amber West on Smuggling, Scotch, Home Remedies, and The Ruth Valley Missing

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Amber West on social media last year.  We hit it off… talking about writing, watching television, and sharing general life experiences with each other.  Then, one day, Amber contacted me with one of her brilliant ideas—we should start a weekly blog series where we review television shows to help busy people know what is worth a watch and what is not.  With that, Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday was born.

Author, Photographer, Blogger, Mother, And All-Around Awesome Amber West
(photo courtesy of Jonas West Photography)

Amber and I have grown so close over the last year and a half that it seems almost impossible that we’ve never met in person.  My parents are her friends on Facebook… and they also adore her.  Her sister and I chat on Twitter… and hopefully everyone meets her soon as I’ve asked her to use her fabOoolous fashion sense to do a guest post covering my Football Sweetheart characters… but that’s later; today is all about Amber.

I cannot express how much Amber means to me.  There have been days where I have wanted to bang my head against the wall, throw my laptop out the window, and quit writing altogether.  In these moments, Amber jumps in and talks me down off the ledge.  She makes me laugh; she makes me cry (tears of joy); she makes me feel loved.  One day, we will meet face to face.  And, when we do, I will hug her like there’s no tomorrow.  Heck, I hope she’s a hugger…

For those who are unfamiliar with Amber, here is a brief bio:

Amber West is a Northeastern transplant dodging rodent sized bugs and sweltering heat in the jungles of Central Florida. When she isn’t battling the urge to pass out, she’s busy being a wife, mother, geek, photographer, and writer, in no particular order. You can read her ramblings at her website or find her on Twitter where she abuses hashtags and makes people laugh. Or at least, makes herself laugh.

The bio is in Amber’s words, but I will concur that she makes people laugh.  A lot.  Just look at this video she built for our WatchWed series:

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Before we jump into the interview, check out Amber’s blurb for her debut mystery novel, The Ruth Valley Missing.

Enjoy!

The Ruth Valley Missing:

Jameson Quinn is sick of trying to find herself in the big city. After a gallery opening ends in a trip to the ER and an argument with her self-involved boyfriend, she decides to take off for the peace and quiet of a small town — Ruth Valley.

The small town has everything Brooklyn lacked: simple people, peaceful surroundings, and a feeling of safety. Jameson even finds the perfect house to rent from the town’s most eligible bachelor, Sheriff Jack. Life is finally headed in a promising direction.

But something isn’t right. A young man is mysteriously injured, then disappears — and Jameson finds he isn’t the only person to suddenly vanish. The suspicious behavior of an abrasive nun and a creepy priest set her off on an investigation of what’s really happening. Will she figure out the secrets of Ruth Valley before she’s the next to go missing?

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

I don’t think being a bestseller was ever something I dreamed of, little or not so little. I was never the kid who had grand ideas of being rich and famous. I loved writing and acting, but never entertained either of those as a career. They were just something to do for entertainment.

Little did Toddler Amber know that her days of thievery would pay off in the end… as research for her books!
(photo courtesy of Jonas West Photography)

But, in fifth grade, the school I went to did one of those “slam books” for the entire fifth grade class. One of the questions was “what do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer: a writer. I guess that means that I just didn’t care if I made money being one.

Fifth grade was also the first time I had a work of mine published. A short story I wrote about an orphaned tiger was accepted for a Young Writers’ Anthology.

Really?  Why haven’t I read this short story, Amber?  You know I want to!

I don’t have it anywhere!  I may have to go on a little expedition in my mom’s closets…

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

I remember being on the monorail at Disney with my family when I was a kid and seeing a man looking out the window. He looked sad and alone, which seemed odd given where we were. For the rest of that day (and days after) I kept trying to work out his story.

Basically, I’ve always been a bit of a watcher. Well, that sounds creepy…like I’m some kind of peeping tom! I have a habit of watching how people interact, or the expressions on their faces, the way they stand, etc… If I see something that doesn’t quite fit, stories start popping into my head.

It’s not just people watching, though. I can be inspired by a place, too. I love photography, so even when I don’t have a camera with me, I’m always taking mental snapshots. Some of those snapshots turn into stories.

I also have really vivid dreams. Every once in a while, I wake up thinking, “That would make a great scene in a movie/story!”

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

I’m so incredibly behind in current reading, so I feel like my author list is completely antiquated. I’m a dorky Shakespeare girl, and I’ve read Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead about a million times. If it’s witty, even in the darker moments, then chances are I’ll enjoy it.

As a kid, Roald Dahl was one of my favorites, but I was a pretty voracious reader very early on, so the more I sit here and think, the more the list will grow.

Shakespeare likes to help Amber in the kitchen…
(photo courtesy of Jonas West Photography)

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

Oh, thank you! I did, actually. I wanted something that would capture the mood of the book without really giving anything away; but being broke as all-get-out, I needed to design the cover myself. As I’ve mentioned, I love photography, so I used an original image of my own and built on that.

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Jameson and why?

Oddly enough, no celebs in mind for Jameson. There aren’t too many redheaded American actresses that fit her, and I didn’t want to have the voice of an actress with an accent in my head while I wrote, so I didn’t try to have anyone in mind.

I’ve since explored someone who would fit, but still haven’t found the exact woman right for the role. When I write in first person, there’s a bit of me that feels like I’m method acting, so in some ways, I imagine myself in the role.

Granted, Jameson would be a red-haired, green-eyed, fitter version of me, but still.

I DID picture specific celebs for two other characters in the book. Taking a note from you, I may have to do a blog post on that in the future. 😉

I know exactly who you are talking about AND I can’t wait to see The Ruth Valley Missing dream cast! 

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

David Tennant. He might be occupying the role of a future character in another novel starring Jameson. Yes, after some really great feedback from readers who want more, I am considering making a series…

And I just watched The Decoy Bride, some episodes of Doctor Who, and an episode of the BBC’s QI on which he guest starred.

Personally, I loved Mr. Tennant in Fright Night. His portrayal of Peter Vincent was absolutely fabOoolous!

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your four favorite television programs airing today? 

Oh…that is a tough one. The Good Wife used to be high on the list, but now that I am without cable, I haven’t been keeping up (CBS doesn’t have a great iPad viewing option). Parenthood, Grimm, Castle, and I’ll say Downton Abbey, since here in the states we are between seasons.

Now, let’s go to the movies… what is your favorite film of all-time?

Oh, that’s a terrible question. I can’t possibly answer it. But I’ll tell you three movies I own: Emma, Ever After, and Serenity. My movie collection is nearly non-existent, so the fact that I own these speaks volumes.

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Generally, I stick to stealing a little popcorn from my neighbor (so long as I know them, of course) and either water or Cherry Coke. I can’t handle a lot of sugar, so candy snacks don’t happen often, and most movie chocolate isn’t the kind I like.

If we are being honest, I’m more likely to bring snacks in my purse than buy any. When we were kids, we rarely got to go to the movies (five kids meant a lot of creative free outings), so when we did, we were total snack smugglers.

Amber and her group of smugglers… scheming their next job.
(photo courtesy of Jonas West Photography)

Besides writing, I’ve noticed you’re quite the photographer and you love to share tons of fun home remedies and recipes…

First, name one place that you’d like to visit with your camera and why…

Right now I am on a major Scotland/Ireland kick. I know. That’s two, not one, I know. So if you are going to twist my arm, Scotland. It would be the ultimate retreat for me. I’d do nothing but take photos and write.

And eat. And drink proper beer and scotch.

It’s a good thing I plan on walking a lot on this imaginary trip.

Now, share with us the craziest home remedy that everyone should know about…

Well, for any of your readers that didn’t read about me shoving a garlic clove in my ear, that probably sounds pretty crazy.

Also, dipping your feet in raw egg yolks to bring down a fever…

WHAT??!!??  Dipping your feet in raw egg yolks will bring down a fever??  That’s nuts!  But, I’ll try it next time.  Why not?

That’s pretty much how I approach most home remedies.  If they can’t hurt me, why not try them?

And, lastly, do you have a tasty, quick, and easy recipe you’d like to share with us today? 

My parents gave me a waffle iron sometime back. It is a very cool tool to have, but I was curious to find more uses for it than just making waffles. So, I took a can of biscuits, split the biscuits open and filled them with whatever I was craving – jalapeños and cream cheese – and stuck them in the iron.

In minutes, you get stuffed biscuits. A yummy quick and easy snack!

Another quick treat that is surprisingly delicious – roasted cauliflower. Chop it up, toss it in olive oil and some salt, crumble goat cheese and crushed walnuts over the top, then toss it in the oven to roast at about 375 degrees. When it gets nice golden edges, it’s done!

Roasted Cauliflower… I may have to try this, minus the goat cheese of course.  No cheese for me!

*****

Isn’t Amber amazing AND adorable?

Need more Amber?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Loveit accounts.

Do you have a question for Amber?  Have you read The Ruth Valley Missing yet?  If so, share your thoughts here!  We’d love to hear from you! 

And, because Amber is so fabOoolous, she’s kept her Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales price live just for the Ooo Factor readers!  Be sure to click over to Amazon and buy The Ruth Valley Missing today if you haven’t already.  It’s worth it!

Friday FabOoolousness – More Football Foods

Football is here!!

That means it’s not only time to watch our favorite teams kick-off, but also time for those special foods that we make specifically for football games.  A few weeks ago, I included three of my family’s recipes: deviled eggs, queso, and sausage balls.  Today, I’m adding to that list and I’m sharing two more of our household’s must-haves… plus a few of our favorite adult beverages perfect for tailgating!

*****

Mom’s Drunken Weenies

The picture says it all… that’s all you need!

A crock pot
A package or two of party weenies
A beer of any kind, I used Bud Light this day
Any kind of BBQ sauce, although Stubb’s is might tasty

Dump, mix, cover, and cook!

Cook on high for an hour or two and then simmer.  It’s that simple!  And guys love this stuff…

*****

Easy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

One package of frozen, creamed spinach
16 oz. of drained artichoke halves, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons of jarred pesto
2 tablespoons of horseradish sauce (or mayonnaise if preferred)
1/2 cup of chopped onion
Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the creamed spinach per the instructions on the package.  Mix together with bite-size artichokes, pesto, horseradish sauce, chopped onion, and a few shakes of the cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour mixture into an oven-safe dish, cover with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for at least thirty minutes.

I saw this cooking segment with Guy Fieri years ago on Regis and Kelly, and Guy put together his spinach and artichoke dip in an aluminum baking pan covered in foil.  Of course, he used more ingredients than I do (he’s a culinary wizard, after all) and he grilled it outside!!  I haven’t tried grilling it yet, but maybe at the next tailgate…

*****

And now for our favorite quick and easy ADULT BEVERAGES.

By “adult beverage,” I mean NO ONE under the age of twenty-one should try any of the below drinks.

Margaritaville Skinny Margaritas

Just add ice!!

I love this stuff.  It is now a staple in my household and I always make sure to have a bottle in the pantry or refrigerator!

*****

Ice-Cold Beer

Chill…

Pick your favorite flavor!  I like more than what’s pictured above… but everyone gets the idea.

*****

Classic Bourbon and Coke

The BEST stuff ever!!

I’ve always enjoyed Whiskey and/or Bourbon and Coke with football.  Heck, I even knew a boy in college whom my friends and I called “Jim Beam Boy.”  Why?  Because he always kept us warm by pouring a little Jim Beam into our Cokes at the football games.  Now, that’s a good friend!

*****

Well, there you have it!

Do you make anything special during football season?  What’s your favorite tailgating beverage?  Please share!  I’d love to hear from you.

And since it’s football season, remember to check out my YA Mystery novel, Football Sweetheart… now available on Kindle and Nook!

Here are a few of my latest reviews!

This was a great mystery novel. The characters in the book are believable and it was so fun reading about them and getting to know them. As the book progressed, I could not put it down. It was mesmerizing and I could not wait to find out who the villain was. Tiffany is an excellent author. I can’t wait until her next book comes out. I will definitely be reading it. I would highly recommend this book to young and old alike. ~ Carol. R.

I have to admit, I don’t know a whole lot about football. We never had football in our school so all I knew was what I got from the movies so I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to really relate to Football Sweetheart. Tiffany White did a great job in explaining the “behind the scenes” of what all goes into a high school football team while still keeping with a good storyline.

I enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to any young adult who likes to read crime, drama and mystery. ~ Darcie S.

Friday FaBOOolousness –MarvelOoous Mashups in the New Year

Welcome to the first edition of 2012’s MarvelOoous Mashups.  We spent the last few months of the year keeping to holiday themes, but now we’re back to sharing the writing and entertainment links that stood out and provided us with great information.

A few of these posts were published months ago, but we held onto them here at the Ooo Factor because the content of these bloggers is definitely worth the wait.  Be sure to click on these fabOoolous links featured today in the January edition of MarvelOoous Mashups!

PART I: FabOoolous Writerly Posts

E-Book pricing is a heated debate right now.  We’ve seen multiple blogs discussing whether or not free is a good thing, but these publications didn’t really help the rest of us looking to self-publish who want to know exactly how to price our work.  Not until we read E-Book Pricing by Ruth Harris and another E-Book Pricing post by Dean Wesley Smith.  Finally, some food for thought.

Before writing, many of us would question whether or not writer’s block is an actual disease.  Well, maybe it’s not a disease, but it does happen.  Heidi Cohen helps writers Fight the Writing Demons with challenges we can overcome.

One demon I wouldn’t mind battling while writing…okay, so he’s not a “writing” demon.

Show, Don’t Tell.  Speak to the Reader.  These are all things important to our manuscripts that we’ve heard as writers.  But how does a writer add psychological power to his or her writing, or speak to the reader’s subconscious?  Margie Lawson tells us how and provides fabOoolous examples in her guest post over at Jenny Hansen’s Cowbell.

Feel like getting to know a New York Times Best Selling Author?  Piper Bayard takes us one-on-one with Sandra Brown in this fantastic interview.  Sixty of her books have made it onto the NYT Best Selling List!?!  Oh, to dream…

With Sandra Brown at DFWcon 2011

What makes a story a mystery? A thriller? A romance?  Genre is a very important aspect of all writing; it’s actually the first question anyone asks when we announce that we are writing a story – What are you writing?  Learn what makes up a few of the different genres here in Genre Matters by Kristen Lamb.

Another hot topic in the world of writing involves the different publishing methods available to writers today.  Will self-publishing phase out the traditional publishing houses?  What does the future have in store for us?  Lynn Kelley takes a look at her Publishing Choices and includes a couple of great blurbs and links from other writers and agents for the rest of us worried about taking that next big step.

As if the perils of writing, e-book pricing, and publishing aren’t stressful enough, where would writers be without the important step of editing – and editing correctly?  Girls with Pens (the great Marcy Kennedy and Lisa Hall-Wilson) share 6 Steps for the Final Edit and the ever important 5 Ways to Show and Not Tell.  Seriously.  Read these.

PART II: FabOoolous Recipes and Crafts

Who doesn’t like to order Bread Pudding when dining out at a nice restaurant?  Well, now we don’t have to wait for that special date night!  Instead, Amber West cooks up this homemade dessert for our very own private recipe list!

Looks good to me!

Ever enjoyed a Cupcake MartiniJillian Dodd shares this delicious recipe, including a rim of icing.  Seriously.  Yum.

Looking to fill the day with something other than work?  Why not get crafty and creative with Custom Coasters like these man-cave favorites designed by Amber West.

Amazing!

Part III: FabOoolous True Crime Stories

Comics about Jeffrey Dahmer?  Songs about Charles Manson?  Yes, they do exist.  Catie Rhodes shares a few shocking true stories about Murder and Pop Culture adaptations, including the actual crime that inspired the movie Scream.

 

We always hear about all the open cold cases that have never been solved.  We even watch television shows including A&E’s Cold Case Files and the former CBS series Cold Case to see authorities working diligently years later to find closure for these victims.  So why not celebrate a few Solved Cold Cases, courtesy of Stacy Green.

Part IV: Just Because They’re fabOoolous

There has been a lot of Buffy talk on Twitter lately, and for good reason – Buffy rocks.  Luckily for those who haven’t watched the fabOoolous vampire slayer kick some serious butt and fall in love with multiple bad boys with bite (awe, Angel and Spike – how we miss thee!), Lyn Midnight takes the time to Break Down Buffy for us.

It seems we’re always watching movies about teen rebellion.  But when Catie Rhodes mentions that Over the Edge is the 1970’s version of Rebel Without a Cause, how can we resist watching?  Better yet, Catie explains that the story is inspired by actual events AND that the Nirvana hit “Smells like Teen Spirit” was based on the tale.  Interesting, right?

 

Time for the Sci-Fi Battle Royale: Who would win – Captain Kirk or Captain Picard? Jen L. Kirchner places the two Star Trek captains side by side and offers her opinion on the matter.  Who do you think would win?

Who read the Choose Your Own Adventure stories growing up?  We did, which is only one reason why we love Zombies over at Mark Lidstone’s blog.  Each week, Mark posts another chapter in Victoria’s attempt to escape the post zombie apocalyptic world, and our votes help guide him through to the next week’s story.  Vote now!

 

What blogs have you read lately that have really stood out?  Have any good blog posts for writers regarding self-publishing or e-books that you’d like to share? How about a favorite true crime story that inspired Hollywood to make a movie?  We’d love to hear from you!

Friday FaBOOolousness – November’s MarvelOoous Thanksgiving Mashup

Preparing for Thanksgiving as a child was always so much fun.  At school, we’d dress up like the pilgrims and tell the story of the first Thanksgiving.  In arts and crafts, we’d trace our hand, making the design of a turkey and our parents would hang the holiday masterpiece on the refrigerator.

I was a better artist at five years old…

But as adults, preparing for the holiday stresses most of us out, so I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite Thanksgiving blogs to help anyone who may be looking for a bit of holiday history or that special dish.

First, Kathy Owen educates us on The History of Thanksgiving and reminds us of a few popular Thanksgiving Traditions.

Next, a few of our favorite bloggers share family (and Internet) recipes to help make our Thanksgiving absolutely delicious.

Jillian Dodd shares her quick and easy Spaghetti Corn.  Can I say, “Yummy?”  We made this dish Wednesday night, and someone in my house went back for seconds….

Kate Wood provides us with a few Easy and Yummy Thanksgiving Recipes.

Who knew that Jen L. Kirchner not only writes the very creative and thrilling Vote Your Own Adventure series, but can also cook like a gourmet chef?  Well, she can…  Check out her Sausage Stuffing Twist.

 

For those of us in the south, what meal is complete without cornbread?  With that in mind, Catie Rhodes generously shares her Mamaw’s Onion Cornbread recipe over at David N. Walker’s blog.

Don’t worry; we didn’t forget the sweets and treats!

Sonia G. Medeiros gives us a few Recipes for Oh Yeah!

Who said we can’t have Christmas Pudding at Thanksgiving?   Obviously, Tameri Etherton thinks we can.  Thanks, Tameri!

 

Who loves chocolate?  Try Kerry Meacham’s Mom’s Fudge Pie Recipe.  Notice the warning to practice before planning to serve.  To quote Kerry, “I’d hate for you to have fudge soup.”  Fudge Soup.  Doesn’t sound so bad.

What dessert round-up would be complete without cupcakes?  Cupcakes are slowly but surely growing to be a staple in our household.  Amber West knows this, therefore she shares a step by step process for making Pumpkin Cupcakes.

 

To contribute to the recipes, I’ve included my favorite Light and Fluffy Fruit Salad that is perfect for a holiday gathering:

Shopping List:

1 can cherry pie filling
1 container whipped cream
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can mandarin oranges
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup marshmallows

Action –

Now, this is the fun part.  Mix everything together in a large bowl.  Don’t worry about draining the fruit.  Just dump, mix and refrigerate.

Viola.

And when we’ve reached that point of misery where we’ve unbuttoned our pants and dropped down onto the couch afraid our stomach is going to blow, Natalie Hartford has found the perfect Hands-Free Drink Holder so we don’t also collapse due to dehydration.

Before we go, let’s remember one of the most important messages of the Thanksgiving Season – to give thanks.

Ellie Soderstrom is writing down 1,000 things she is thankful for everyday and asks that we share in the spirit and be thankful for even the smallest things in life in her blog: Thankfulness and Ode de Toilet.

Stacy Green reminds us to Cherish the Small Things in life in this very inspirational post about her brother.

Your turn – what are you thankful for?  What’s one of your favorite holiday dishes?  I’d love to hear from you!

On a personal note, I am thankful for the love of my life; my partner in every aspect of the word.  My guy is a true blessing and I thank God every day that He brought Erin into my life.  My mom always tells me that I’m not an easy person to live with; she’s not joking.

Oh, and Erin – he’s thankful for my dad….for raising such a spoiled rotten little princess.  Haha.

Back to being serious, I’m thankful for my family and friends.  I have been blessed my entire life with an impenetrable circle of strength, love, and support.  But most importantly, none of this would be possible without the Man above and the men and women dedicating their lives to keeping all of us safe.

Thank you and Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.

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