Keeping the Gluten Out of Thanksgiving

For people who do a lot of cooking, eating gluten-free at home is not exceptionally hard.  Truly, there are tons of options these days. Plus, I eat a whole lot less in the way of processed food than I used to. I do miss beer on tap, restaurant bread, great bagels and ravioli. I don’t miss the migraines at all.

But….

  • What about the holidays, when you’re trying to follow gluten-full family recipes?
  • How do you substitute?
  • Do you tell people they’re eating gluten-free, or not?

These are the dilemmas that I wrestle with as I prepare to cook a Thanksgiving meal for 10. Luckily, they’re all excited about the idea of a GF Turkey Day, but still a struggle that’s all too common in today’s environment of food allergens.

My three main bits of advice are:

  1. Start as early as you can.
  2. Experiment prior to the big day.
  3. Use products you trust.

Below are items I had to really think about for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m including this list to give you an idea of what you might be up against when you start shopping. I’ve included the watch-list items in red. You’ll need to pay attention to those.

  1. Dessert: Apple, Pecan, Pumpkin pie (pie crust, Libby’s pumpkin filling is gluten-free, as is Carnation’s evaporated milk, or you can just use a “pie pumpkin” – many stores sell them).
  2. Turkey: Check out the rub if you use one, stuffing must be gluten-free.
  3. Cranberry Fluff: all fruit is GF, but my recipe also contains marshmallows.
  4. Stuffing: Contains croutons, bread in some form, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, cornbread and vegetables like celery and onions.
  5. Sweet potatoes: they’re gluten-free. BUT many families use marshmallows on top.
  6. Mashed potatoes: Naturally GF. If you stir in chicken broth, be sure it’s gluten-free.
  7. Green Bean casserole: you must watch both the cream of mushroom soup and the fried onions.

You also have to watch out for a lot of barbecue sauces and all regular soy sauce. They are likely to contain gluten. Everything else on your menu will be gluten-free: relish trays of vegetables, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, fruit.

What I found with the list above is that many required some looking up and advanced planning on my part. Like I said, the earlier you start the better.

Believe it or not, #7 is the hardest because if you LOVE green bean casserole, you have to figure out how to make it sans gluten. Here is a recipe if you want to make the fried onions yourself. Also, you must find a GF cream of mushroom soup you like.

I’ve been cooking with the Gluten Free Cafe cream of mushroom soup because I can order it from Amazon and have it delivered right to my house. However, the consistency of the Pacific Food Cream of Mushroom soup is much better. And it’s now available from Amazon and most Wal-Marts. Someone just told me the Progresso Cream of Mushroom is GF but I haven’t verified that personally.

My go-to Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Broth!

If you use chicken broth in your recipes, you need to check your brand to be sure it’s gluten free. Many of the Swanson’s aren’t. I know for sure their beef broth is NOT. I use the 100% Natural Chicken Broth from Swanson’s because (a) it’s GF and (b) I can get it at Costco.

Stuffing wasn’t as hard to deal with as you might think. I can buy gluten-free croutons at the stores mentioned above, along with GF bread (Udi’s is my favorite).

Again, all of this can be shipped to you from Amazon but you’re running up against a time crunch at this point. But yes, you can get Udi’s from Amazon. :-) I believe their white bread will work best for stuffing.

Besides the green bean casserole, the items that gave me the most angst were the pies. I’m not worried about the ingredients, I’m worried about the crust. For the girl who always just rolled out the Pillsbury, making my own crust is a big deal. I’ve had the best luck flavor-wise with Pamela’s mix and with the pre-made crusts from Fabe’s.

Last but not least, here are the products I have found to be 100% reliable  regarding my “watch list” above:

  • Marshmallows: Jet-Puffed brand from Kraft – marshmallows are inherently GF, but many brands dust them with flour.
  • Libby’s canned pumpkin: I’ve tried this and it works great.
  • Evaporated Milk: Land o’ Lakes and Carnation/Nestle are both gluten-free.
  • Eagle Brand condensed milk is gluten-free.

My stuffing also has cornbread mix and there are many options here too. I chose Bob’s Red Mill again because it’s reliable. You could also use cornmeal (which is GF) and then use gluten-free flour instead of regular flour.

Note: Piper Bayard swears you can substitute half GF Oat flour and half Almond Meal for the regular flour in any baking recipe and it will taste moist and yummy. :-)

Are you gluten free (if so, what are your tricks)? How would you feel about someone making your Thanksgiving dinner without gluten? Should they tell you or not tell you? What is your favorite thing to eat for Thanksgiving? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~Jenny

For my American friends… Have a fantastic Thanksgiving!! I’m not sure if I’ll post again this week, so I wanted to take a moment to tell you how thankful I am for your fun and your friendship. I love a gorgeous holiday table, so please DO share your pictures with me on Twitter or Facebook!

Posted in Food & Wine, Holidays | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

WD-40 Is The Newest Marital Aid… Really?

The lovely (and naughty) Kitt Crescendo posted this ad for WD-40 on my Facebook page, and the Hubs and I have been killing ourselves over it ever since.

Boomer Bedroom AidIf this photo is real, we are seriously under-utilizing the WD-40 at my place. How about you?

Are you using the proper formula for those rusty tools of yours? What about for the tight nuts? *waggles eyebrows*

And are you using the MAN SIZE, or are you still over here with me on the girly side of the fence with the junior-sized mini spray can?

I know skippy well that my home pressure pack doesn’t stand 9″ high and 1.5 in diameter.” (Thank God.) And there isn’t any red knob on top either.

And for God’s sake, why must you keep a spare pack in your car for emergencies? Don’t we have enough distractions on our highways with cell phones and seat warmers? Must we rev up our roadways with lubrication as well??

If this ad is true, we need to stock WD-40 in every bedroom in America, don’t you think?

Note: If you’re new here, and your mind hasn’t yet fallen in the gutter like the rest of us, please don’t actually put this in your bedroom for topical use. Try some other non-lethal marital aid. We’ll all cheer for you, I swear. [End of Public Service Announcement.]

What ads have you encountered lately with a high “naughty factor” (also known as IYKWIM)? What do you use WD-40 for over at your place? Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Happy Monday, y’all!
~ Jenny

p.s. If you are interested in spooks, and writing about spies, hop on over to Writers In The Storm for Bayard & Holmes’ “Insider Tips for How the Pros ‘Bug.'”

Posted in Health, Humor | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

College Football and The Naughtiest Fans In America

Since it’s my birthday week, I get to make myself giggle as much as I want, which will certainly extend to the blog. I’ve got Debbie Herbert here today, to discuss her late-life love of college football and why her favorite cheer will always be, “Go Cocks!”

It all started a few weeks back when she cheered for her team on Facebook. I (of course) raised my virtual hand and said, “Um, excuse me?!” Tell me about this cheer… And a post was born.

Cheering for Cocks
by Debbie Herbert

 SC GameCocksIn case you can’t read the shirt:
“We love Cocks!
Oh, like you wouldn’t say that
if you had our mascot.”

Sometimes, it’s not easy being a Carolina Gamecock fan. When you scream “Go, Cocks!” you wouldn’t believe the disbelieving looks people throw your way. Or, if you’re a female, the ribald winks from men. But with a mascot like “Cocky” Sir Big Spur – what’re you gonna do?

I was born in South Carolina where my Dad was a student at USC.  Although I don’t remember it, the first few years of my life were spent in the shadow of the Columbia stadium.

[Jenny here: Hey, we have a USC here on the West Coast too! I wonder what would happen if the Trojans met up with the Cocks…you know, for an exhibition game.]

*back to Debbie*

Probably like a lot of girls, I had zero interest in football growing up and never attended a game.  All that changed when I got married and moved to Alabama. And became a devoted fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Within weeks of moving to the state, I realized I couldn’t be neutral like Switzerland when it came to football. (Here in the South, football is not a neutral topic.) If people asked if I were an Alabama or Auburn fan, I’d better have an answer.

I live with 45 miles of Auburn and tried to become an Auburn fan. It didn’t take.

If I were going to learn to love football, why not cheer for a team with the most national championships in America?  A Bama fan was born.

Still, the Gamecocks held a special place in my heart.  So when offered free tickets to an Auburn/USC game I jumped on it. Husband and nine-year-old son in tow, I attended my first game.  We had a great time, but of all the thousands of stadium seats, a group of intoxicated Carolina guys were seated behind us. 

We endured hours of ribald cheers. 

Whenever the defense took the field we heard “Stiffen up, Cocks!” It was no better when the offensive unit played.  Then we were treated to a barrage of chants such as:  “Drive it hard, Cocks!”  “Go all the way, Cocks!” and “Cocks Rock!”

But the worst was at halftime.  The drunk guys behind us cheerily informed me that their drumline was affectionately called the “Wad Squad.”

I would have found all this hilarious if my nine-year old son wasn’t listening. Avidly.  I’m pretty sure he was old enough to understand the penis references but I gamely played stupid, like I didn’t get the jokes.

But by the end of the game…all the Cocky Talk didn’t bother me anymore.  If those fresh-faced cheerleaders on the field could hold up posterboard-sized signs spelling C-O-C-K with huge grins on their faces, I could deal.

When your mascot is a chicken, and associated with a slang word for a male appendage, you’ve got to have a sense of humor.

Even opposing teams get into the spirit, as demonstrated by these two members of the Florida Gator’s Marching Band:

Notice the hand movement accompanying that cheer. I’ll bet those college kids laugh themselves silly over it. And I just know that someone at every game holds up a sign stating: “Choke the Chicken.”

So humor me.  Pretend you are a Carolina fan with plenty of Cowbell.  What are some great cheers that would be fun to wear on a game day t-shirt? (If you can’t bring yourself to cheer for my team, cheer for your own!)

Go Cocks! (And Roll Tide!)
~ Debbie

*  *  *  *  *  *

Jenny here:
I stopped short of calling this post, “Go Cocks!” But it was really, really close. I figured WordPress would banish me, but I sure laughed my butt off over it. Who knew there were such naughty football fans in the South?

Debbie is giving away a book today to one commenter, and I’ve put all the book details below. I hope y’all give her a warm welcome down in the comments section!

Siren’s Treasure 

Deep in the bayou, a strange and beautiful world of merfolk exists…

Siren'sTreasurecoverMermaid Jet Bosarge never fit in with her own kind. Her dark hair and eyes set her apart from the other merfolk. Which was why she fell for the wrong man, and why she is still paying the price. One that has made her unwilling to trust any man. Until she meets Landry Fields…

Agent Landry Fields is investigating Jet’s former boyfriend, but he knows Jet is hiding something, as well. At first he believed the beauty was involved in her ex-boyfriend’s dangerous undersea excavations. But when he realizes he is falling for a real-live mermaid, Landry’s by-the-book beliefs are rocked. Now can he save Jet and her clan from modern-day pirates to claim a future with the feisty beauty?

About Debbie

Herbert-authorphoto-228x300Debbie Herbert writes paranormal romance novels reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She’s always been fascinated by magic, romance and gothic stories.

Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team. Unlike the mermaid characters in Siren’s Secret, she loves cats and has two spoiled feline companions. When not working on her upcoming books, Debbie enjoys recumbent bicycling with her husband, as well as spending time with her two adult sons.

Find out more about Debbie at her website, or follow her online via Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Humor, More Cowbell | Tagged , , , , | 37 Comments

Country Mouse, City Mouse: A Multi-Cultural Cowbell Experience

By Piper Bayard

What happens when you put a Country Mouse and a City Mouse in the same fish bowl? Two very different perceptions of reality!

Jenny and I didn’t anticipate it, but that’s exactly what happened when Jenny visited at my home on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. I’m an intellectual redneck from the Southwest, and Jenny is from L.A. (pronounced “LaLa-Land” in these parts). The result was a multi-cultural experience with lots of laughs and a certain level of “What the hell?”

Jenny and Piper out hiking in the "country."

Jenny and Piper out hiking in the “country.”

I showed Jenny around my stomping grounds and gave her the full sales pitch, trying to convince her to break out of the madness she calls home in Southern California and move closer. One day we went driving through a stretch of houses spaced out on five and ten acre lots.

Jenny: “I think my hubby would like driving out here through the country now and then, but he wouldn’t want to live this far away from a town.”

Piper: “Umm . . . This IS town.”

Jenny: Huh.

A few of the elk we saw that day.

A few of the elk we saw that day.

Then we headed up to Estes Park and strolled through a golf course. Around fifty elk poured out of the forest, only a stone’s throw away, and a bald eagle joined the party, circling overhead.

Jenny: “Wow! I’ve never seen so many elk.”

Piper: “I wonder where the rest of them are?”

The day treated us to the sight of bulls defending their territory and sparring in preparation for the full-on rutting season. We thought we were going to get to see the blood sacrifice of tourists, as well, when two men of questionable IQ seemed to think it might be cool to stand IN THE MIDDLE of an elk herd.

[In case you don’t know, that’s a seriously bad idea, particularly around rutting season. Even Jenny knew that.]

In a role reversal moment, the City Mouse had the sense to sit in the car while this Country Mouse got the Elk Selfie. Note how I strategically kept a tourist between myself and the bull elk, as is evidenced by the leg coming out of the side of my head in the picture.

Piper's Elk Selfie

Piper’s Elk Selfie

*Jenny, off-camera in the car thinking, “She’s out of her mind.”*

Perhaps the most telling moment was the night the two of us were driving home on a dark dirt road in the back country, i.e. three hundred yards from a large subdivision. At a curve in the road, two scrubbed and primped teenagers stood beside their white Toyota, which was pointed straight into the bar ditch.

Jenny interrupting here: I saw a car, two people and a dark road with no lights. I should note, I would never drive down this road at night, unlike my partner in crime, Piper.

[Back to Piper]

To me, they were clearly suburban high schoolers out on a date. I started to slow down.

Jenny: “What are you doing? Don’t stop! Don’t stop!”

Piper thought bubble: Hmm. Jenny must need to get home and pee really bad.

I stopped and rolled down Jenny’s window.

Jenny thought bubble: We’re all gonna die.

Piper: “Do you kids need any help? Can we give you a ride or call someone for you?”

Jenny thought bubble: Holy crap! What is wrong with this woman?

Young man: “Thanks, but we have someone coming.”

Jenny: “What happened?”

Young man: “A coyote ran in front of us, and I swerved to miss it.”

Piper thought bubble: “What the hell was this kid thinking, risking their lives that way? City boy.”

Jenny to young woman: “That’s a fine young man you have there.”

Young woman: *snickers into hands*

Piper: “So you’re okay? Do you want us to stay with you until your people get here?”

Jenny thought bubble: I am not getting out of this car on this dark road with these strangers. Young people can be ax murderers too.

Young man: “No, thanks. We’ll be fine.”

Jenny to young woman: “You have a nice young man here.”

Piper to young woman: “Watch how he treats his mama. He’ll treat you the way he treats his mama.”

Young woman thought bubble: Who the hell talks like that? *hides laughter with hands*

Young man thought bubble: Crap. I’d better be nicer to my mom.

We went on our way down the dark dirt road and managed to get home in one piece, in spite of suburban coyotes and feral teens on the prowl that night.

[Jenny jabs finger at Piper: “Hey! Sarcasm works the same in both places, you know.”]

City Mouse Jenny in the "country." Note the park bench. The "country" doesn't have park benches.

City Mouse Jenny in the “country.”
Note the park bench. Who knew “the country” had park benches up on the mountain?

Overall, we had a great visit. I only hope I convinced her to come on over to the dark side and join me out here in the “country.” We’ve got peanut butter banana sandwiches to go with our cookies.

Are you a Country Mouse or a City Mouse? What experience have you had out of your geographic element? [And whose side are you on in terms of stopping on unlit back roads at night? ]

*  *  *  *  *  *

Don’t miss The Spy Bride Blogger Challenge and Giveaway!

Click HERE for details.

Bayard & Holmes have some wonderful prizes for readers to celebrate the release of our debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, in the RISKY BRIDES Bestsellers’ Collection. Sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter and be automatically entered to win a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, or a bottle of sparkling wine from Mumm Napa vineyard.

Bayard & Holmes Newsletter Link–Click Here to Enter

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover

RISKY BRIDES . . . 8 genres. 8 novels and novellas. 8 takes on what makes a RISKY BRIDE. Now on sale for a limited time at only $.99 and available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Bayard & Holmes Official PhotoPiper Bayard is a bestselling author and a recovering attorney. Her spy thriller writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , , | 36 Comments

Undie Chronicles, Vol. 27: Underwareness is Sweeping the Nation

Those of you who are new to More Cowbell might have missed The Undie Chronicles. The regular posse here knows: When the Undie-verse speaks, we will always listenI had no idea when this began that there were so many hilarious undie-based topics to discuss. Plus it’s Monday, and I like a good Monday belly laugh.

Whether you’re an astronaut, into extreme sports, or just have an overactive bladder, I thought y’all would appreciate this #Underwareness Campaign.

Their slogan? Drop Your Pants for Underwareness!

Catchy, right?

They encourage you to “join the cause” at Underwareness.com. According to them, you can show your support *smothering an IYKWIM*, get a free sample *eyebrows wiggling* and find out how to help Depend® donate up to $3 million to charity.

[Me? I’m still back there with the “Drop Your Pants” slogan. Y’all know I have the humor-meter of a middle-school boy. Plus, I always thought the adult version was called “Depends” with an “s.” Turns out I was wrong.]

Wikipedia gave me the scoop on the origin of these things.

Kimberly-Clark has been making Huggies for infants since 1978. In 1984, the Depend products were introduced for adults, pioneering the retail incontinence category in the United States. The original products were liners, available in regular and extra absorbency. 

After watching that video above, here’s what I’d love to know:

  1. What was the selection criteria for those dancing models in the video? Depend products never looked so good! I’ll bet they paid these people a lot.
  2. Where do I get one of those shirts?

If you’ve got questions after watching that video, put ‘em in the comments!

Would you “drop your pants” for charity? Have you already done so? What do you think of those models and their “underwareness party?” Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

p.s. I reserved my turkey yesterday for Thanksgiving. To hear about my turkey phobia, click here.

p.p.s. You’ll especially like the post if you’re a writer.

Posted in Humor, Undie Chronicles | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Undie Chronicles, Vol. 26: Undie-Ventures in Vegas, Oh My!

Those of you who are new to More Cowbell might have missed The Undie Chronicles. The regular posse here knows: When the Undie-verse speaks, we will always listen

I had no idea when this began that there were so many hilarious undie-based topics to discuss. Plus it’s Monday, and I like a good Monday belly laugh. Our pal, Gloria Richard, had an Undie-Venture in Vegas!

She spied…she stalked…she skulked…she strutted.

She’s here to tell you all about her “Undies Undercover” adventure. It’s epic.

Note: All photos are original and have been re-inserted, IYKWIM.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Undie-Ventures in Vegas
by Gloria Richard

There I was, I was ogling the scene in Vegas…

When who should walk by but a man in a hat

Gloria Vegas 2With a butt.

Not just any butt.

This dude had my dream butt.

CLICK!

The butt I want on my body.

Not in the sense you might think I want that butt on my body.

[To that ‘might think’ population: Shame on you! My stars! Why, I never!]

Anyhoooo. After stalking further investigation…

Gloria Vegas 3

CLICK!

I confirmed his butt had defined lift and, get this, NO HAIL DAMAGE!

Would the butt-with-the-hat mind if I asked about his exercise regimen, his lotions and potions, whether or not any Vegas surgeons did butt transplants?

My pictures of this dude?  They’re not stalking. They’re job aides for my trainer, who winces when I mention PB (Perky Butt and Boob) goals.

And, then… OMG!

Butt-with-the-hat turned around.

KA-CHING! It was an Undie-Venture waiting to happen. There was no way I would leave Freemont Street without evidence for Jenny, The Queen of the Undie-Verse.

I flip-flopped into The Golden Nugget and snagged sister Sandy at her video poker game. (No ka-ching happening there.) Cashing her out was a Random Act of Kindness.

Truly selfless.

I dragged led her outside, handed over my iPhone, and pointed out the target.

She did not share my glee.

Sandy: You aren’t serious.

Gloria: It’s an Undie-Venture for the Undie-Chronicles.

Sandy: A what for the what?

Gloria: Long story. He’s headed this way.

Sandy: Crap Goodie!

Sandy’s chatter during the photo shoot didn’t distract him because he works for tips he’s a professional.


Gloria Vegas 5Sandy
: PLEASE don’t make me do this.

Gloria: What happens in Vegas…

Sandy: Goes on a BLOG!

Gloria: Take the pictures. You’ll get good gambling Karma. I’m the one getting my picture taken.

Sandy: I’m the one looking at this.

Gloria: Just. Take. The. Picture.

CLICK!Gloria Vegas 4

WHOOOOP! Down he went into the old slip and slide.

Makes me wonder if he has socks stuffed in that G-String a big heart.

CLICK!

I blinked on the first shot and begged for another. Sandy grumbled.

CLICK!

I didn’t yet have the grand finale picture; the one I’d wanted all along.
Gloria Vegas 1I lined up with man-with-the-butt.

Sandy? What did she have to lose?

Except her pride…

Her self-esteem…

Her will to live.

CLICK!

Since my sister skedaddled before I could strike another pose, the Undie-Venture ended.

*pausing for a moment of silence to THE BUTT*

Thanks, Sandy for your help. I’m sorry that good-egg-good-gambling-karma blather was a big fat lie fib.

Thanks, Jenny, for the opportunity to strut my dream butt on More Cowbell, where the Undie-Verse thrives and no post is complete without at least one IYKWIM.

Finally, thanks, Victoria’s Secret, for support throughout. IYKWIM.

* * * * * *

Jenny here. I don’t know about the rest of you, but now I have a new resolution to add to my list: a butt with no hail damage. (<– There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.)

Gloria, my lovely, please take a bow. You deserve it for that kind of Monday entertainment. To read the other half of her “Adventures in Vegas,” click here.

Have y’all ever had a Vegas adventure? Was it an undie-venture? If you change the names to protect the innocent, can you tell us in the comments? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

Posted in More Cowbell, Undie Chronicles | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments

Little Darlings Anonymous — 12 Steps to Recovery

A Techie Tuesday gift to all my writing friends. . .

Hello. My name is Piper Bayard, and I’m a Little Darling Addict.

Piper Bayard

Meet Piper Bayard

Hi, Piper. Welcome.

Thank you. I’d like to say I’m happy to be here today, but that wouldn’t be true. The fact is, I made up a hundred excuses as to why I didn’t need this meeting. Sure, I knew I had one or two Little Darlings in my writing, but I could get rid of them any time.

And then the little voice inside me . . . You know the one . . . That little voice that calls us on our crap and keeps us from enjoying the denial we wallowed in before we first saw the light of Novel Structure . . .

That little voice told me that if I was fighting this meeting so hard, it was because this was where I needed to be. So I’m here.

*Polite clapping.*

Thank you.

This week, I want to share my Step 7 with you.

I humbly asked my editor to perform Radical Little Darling Extraction Surgery on my WIP and extract all of my Little Darlings. *shudder*

I was so proud of my manuscript.

I had colorful characters, exquisite action, and details about everything from trimming pottery to the nocturnal habits of pet mice. Every clever joke I had ever laughed at was deftly woven in and disguised as meaningful dialogue. All of my favorite people from my whole life were right there in one place.

Of course, none of that had anything to do with my plot, but it was all so sparkly and shiny.

Piper Bayard's Edit Job

Actual photo of my editor at work. (via Canstock)

I didn’t understand at first why my editor took one look at it and broke out a chainsaw. But when she placed the roaring pulverizer at the throat of one of my favorite-but-forced jokes, I fell to my knees, pleading, Noooooo. Not that one.”

At that point, she mercifully cut her engine and guided me through a process I now use to help others in Little Darlings Anonymous.

12 Steps of Little Darlings Anonymous

  1. Admit you are powerless over your imaginary friends, and that your Works In Progress have become unmanageable.
  2. Believe that an Editor greater than yourself can restore your prose to sanity.
  3. Make the decision to turn your will and your manuscripts over to your Editors, whoever you understand them to be.
  4. Undertake a searching and fearless critical inventory of all of the Little Darlings that are wholly irrelevant to your stories.
  5. Admit to your Editors, to yourself, and to your beta readers the exact nature of your self-indulgences.
  6. Become entirely ready to have your Editors remove all the Little Darlings from your Works In Progress.
  7. Humbly ask your Editors to mercilessly slaughter all of your Little Darlings when you do not have the strength to do it yourself.
  8. Make a list of all persons you have subjected to your original manuscript and be willing to make amends to each one who did not kill themselves with sporks by page fifty.
  9. You must make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when doing so would cause them to injure themselves or others at the mere memory of your manuscript.
  10. Continue to undergo edits, and, when your Editors sniff out Little Darlings, promptly submit them for termination.
  11. Seek, through study and daily word count, to improve your conscious contact with your plots, as you understand them, seeking the knowledge to distinguish between Little Darlings and actual elements of your stories.
  12. After experiencing a literary awakening as the result of these Steps, carry this message forward to other Little Darling Addicts, and practice these principles in all of your written endeavors.

I worked the first six steps for months, fruitlessly attempting to justify inappropriate violence, psychotic character behavior, and excessive verbiage that rivaled the unedited version of The Count of Monte Cristo.

But it was no good. The truth was the truth . . .

One Little Darling is too many, and a thousand are never enough.

I had to “Let Go, and Let Editor.” It got bloody fast . . . *sob*

A tissue box appears and arms embrace me.

It’s ok . . . I’m ok, now. *deep breath*

Just as I had humbly asked, my editor showed no mercy.

She hacked my cool “reminiscing over every book we own as we’re hurriedly packing them into hiding” scene. She obliterated my two whole chapters on “finding the fugitive in the hidden cave.” She even vaporized my detailed recitation of Mexican border laws in a post-apocalyptic world, just because none of the action took place at the Mexican border.

Geesh.

And I know this is going to be hard for some of you to hear . . . Believe me. It’s even harder for me to tell you . . .

She removed and autopsied 74 of my 87 main characters. Even after I named them all and shared each of their backgrounds and habits in depth!

Piper Bayard on Editing

Actual sign on my editor’s office door.                    (Photo credit via Canstock)

At first, I was stunned. I thought I was ready for that 7th Step, but when she revved that engine, I didn’t know if my career ambitions would survive.

I even considered running home to my writing group. The one that met every Saturday for fifteen years with no one ever getting published. I needed to hear them tell me, just one more time, how one day, those 587 agents and publishers who turned me down were going to be sorry.

But then, as Little Darling parts flew around me, and the scent of blood and flesh filled my nostrils, a strange transformation took place. Deep down in my gut, I realized something . . . This felt goooooood!

Before I knew it, I was right there next to my editor with a chainsaw of my own. Whacking away monologues, sniping at adverbs, and hunting down three more of those 87 characters who’d hidden in some redundant metaphors.

It wasn’t easy, and I had quite the mess to stitch up by the time we were finished, but now, I have a real plot with relevant characters in place of “tea time with my imaginary friends.”

After oceans of sweat, blood, and pain, my story was saved, and it is now FIRELANDS, a published dystopian thriller.

I’m living proof, folks. The program works when you work it.

Thank you for listening today.

The Writers Serenity Prayer

Grant me the 
serenity
to accept that things have got to change;

The courage to
 change the things I can;
And a good
 editor to help me know the difference.

Tell us about your little darlings. Do you know them when you see them? Do you enjoy the slaughter, or do the twelve steps make you want to channel your Inner Bitch Face?

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For any of you who were here yesterday, finding out about the Effit and Effoff Fairies, you’ll know that Piper has a book coming out today!

Risky Brides

Now, I’m writing spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, who is a forty-year veteran covert operative and a senior member of the intelligence community. Our debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, is in the Bestsellers’ Collection RISKY BRIDES, where we join USA Today Bestsellers Vicki Hinze, Rita Herron, Donna Fletcher, Peggy Webb, and Kathy Carmichael, and veteran authors Kimberly Llewellyn and Tara Randel to share our unique take on what it means to be a risky bride.

8 novels and novellas—8 genres—8 RISKY BRIDES. RISKY BRIDES releases today for only $.99 and is available for a limited time at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover

To celebrate our release, Holmes and I will give away one copy of RISKY BRIDES to someone who comments below. To determine the winner, I will put the names of everyone who comments below in a hat and have my daughter draw one out at random on Friday, October 24, at 9:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Holmes and I will also be giving away three prizes—a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, and a bottle of Mumm Napa sparkling wine—to three randomly selected subscribers to our newsletter on November 27. Sign up now for the Bayard & Holmes newsletter to enter.

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Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She writes spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, a forty-year veteran covert operative and a current senior member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

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