Friday, October 14, 2011

Meet Jo Ramsey, YA Author

Jo Ramsey is my hero. She's a writing machine, beginning from the time she was twelve when she finished her first book-length manuscript. Through high school and college, she continued writing (in longhand, mind you), turning out nineteen more finished manuscripts. By the time she got around to looking for a publisher, she had cranked out forty-four more. She likes to write urban fantasy, like the two books below. Both are the first in a series.

Reality Shift 1: Connection- Can Shanna Bailey trust herself enough to help her new friend Jonah Leighton banish a demon before it possesses Shanna's worst enemy?

The Dark Lines 1: The Black Bridge- Something dark has taken over the bridge beside Topher James's home. Can he stop it from destroying his friends--and him?

Below is an interview I had with Jo.

LIZ: I love your blog. Did you design it yourself?
JO: Thank you. No, I’m not that technologically advanced, unfortunately. It’s a free template that I found. A friend of mine, Lex Valentine, who has done most of my book covers as Winterheart Design, did the text in the header for me.

LIZ: I’m amazed at your output of books. Tell me about that first book you wrote when you were 12.
JO: The book I wrote when I was 12 was about a girl who was picked on at school, although the boy she had a crush on was crushing right back. She becomes friends with a new girl who turns out to be from another planet. The friend invites the main character to visit her home planet, where the two of them foil a plot to assassinate the planetary president.

LIZ: You say on your blog you weren’t writing to try to get published. What made you keep writing?
JO: I loved writing. It helped me keep my sanity during some very rough times in my life. It was both an escape and a coping mechanism.

LIZ: What are the challenges to writing fantasy that happens in the ‘real’ world?
JO: When I use real settings (which I do in all my books, even though I usually don’t name them), I have to be accurate. I might not think that my readers will know about the public library in Poland, Maine, but it’s a pretty safe bet at least one will, and will tell me if I get it wrong.

LIZ: How do you get your ideas for turning your main character’s world on its ear?
JO: I wish I knew…Ideas are fickle beasts and tend to show up whenever they choose instead of when I need them. The plots of the books in my Reality Shift series came from a series of conversations with a couple of friends; those are really the only ones I can pinpoint a source for.

LIZ: Why did you choose to write for Young Adults?
JO: I’m kind of stuck in my teen years, I guess. They weren’t very enjoyable, so I’m constantly trying to make better teen years for my characters, as I can’t go back and redo my own. Plus it’s just plain fun to write about that age group in my opinion.

LIZ: You have written several series. Is it easier to write the second in a series than the first?
JO: I think it’s harder to write the subsequent books in a series. Not only do you have to pay attention to the plot of the given book, but you also have to make sure you’re staying consistent with the book or books that came before. I keep pretty good notes from each book that I refer to for the consecutive books, but I invariably forget something that I hadn’t written down. Also, if the first book met with good reviews, as an author I’m trying to keep the subsequent books at the same level of awesome, and if the first book got poor reviews I have to improve with each subsequent book.

LIZ: Do you have a goal as a writer?
JO: My goal is to inspire teens to read—and maybe to write.

Thanks, Jo, for being my interviewee today. Readers, you can get to know Jo better by visiting her web site/blog at

Friday, October 7, 2011

Liz Adair's Tilapia Recipe

I love tilapia. I loved it even before I could pronounce it. I tried to say ta-la-PI-a instead of ta-LA-pi-a. The first time I ever heard of it was a few years ago, and now I find it everywhere. The truth is, it's been around for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians had a hieroglyph for tilapia. There were tilapia in the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked along its shores.

Why did I only just now find out about it? I guess until a few years ago there wasn't anyone telling us we needed to be eating it. It's an easily-farmed fish. In fact they have been farming it on a small scale in several countries since ancient times. Now it's being farmed on a large scale, and they need to find a market for all that fish.

I used to buy tilapia at Costco in the fresh fish cabinet, but with just Derrill and I eating it, I'd always have to freeze three quarters of what I bought. Then I found vacuum-packed, flash-frozen fillets at Wal-Mart for a great price. They are wonderful. I can't tell the any difference from the fresh, except that the Costco tilapia are larger. I don't find that a problem.

Here's one way I fix tilapia:

First, put the top rack down to the middle of your oven. Preheat to 450 degrees.

Spray the bottom of a cookie sheet with Pam. (I line it with foil first and spray the foil. It makes for easy cleanup.)

Take the fillets out of the vacuum pack and put them on a paper towel to dry.

Mix breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a 5 to 1 ration, breadcrumbs to cheese.

Put about 1/4" oil in a shallow bowl.

Dip each fillet first in the oil and then in the breadcrumb mixture and place in the pan. I put the flat side down.

When all fillets are in the pan, place it on the rack in the preheated oven. Turn the oven to BROIL.

By the time you put the fish in the oven, you should have the rest of your meal pretty much ready, because it doesn't take long for the fish to cook.

Keep an eye on it, and when the fish is brown, turn off the oven. If your fillets are large and thick, let them sit in the oven until the flesh flakes when you lift it with a fork.

Take the fish out of the oven and serve with lemon and/or tartar sauce.
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