Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide ~ An Excerpt

Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide

by Lisa Maliga, copyright 2017

My second cookbook has just been released after months of testing various chocolate cupcake and brownie recipes. It was so much fun baking these sweet treats and learning more cupcake decorating techniques. For example, I tried the swirl method and was able to come up with this:

Peppermint Swirl Cupcakes

I’ve also learned how to make my own sparkling sugar and the various ways to core cupcakes. So, if you love chocolate goodness, keep on reading!

Chapter 1 ~ About the Ingredients

Your cupcakes and brownies can look and taste better than any found in a bakery. What you put into your batch of cupcakes is up to you and your budget. Are fresh eggs and butter available to you? I’ve been able to use farm fresh eggs in many of my batches of cupcakes and brownies. Those hens are free ranging and while kept in a coop at night, during the day they amble around several acres of pasture and eat natural food from the ground as well as organic chicken feed.

Use whatever ingredients you have in your pantry, cupboards and refrigerator for your first batches of brownies and/or cupcakes. Don’t invest a lot of money in ingredients or equipment if you only plan to make the occasional dessert. But once you make brownies and cupcakes from scratch, get creative and try new brands of chocolate, butter, or any of the other ingredients to learn if you can taste a difference. Oftentimes you’ll find some sweet [I couldn’t resist that pun] deals on the ingredients at your grocery store so you’ll spend less money on finding out what you like to add to your chocolaty desserts. Baking isn’t just science–it’s also art.

As the recipes in this book are all about using the most natural ingredients, as well as the best tasting, virgin coconut oil is recommended. This tropical oil is easier to use in oil form rather than solid. Coconut oil is coconut butter at temperatures below 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the weather, I can let it sit in the sun to melt or if it’s hot enough then measuring it is always easier. Virgin coconut oil gives cupcakes natural moisture and you won’t taste the extra coconut.

As a Kindle Unlimited title, this eBook is FREE for subscribers!

Amazon Kindle: Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide

Amazon Kindle UK: Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide

Paperback edition: Baking Chocolate Cupcakes and Brownies: A Beginner’s Guide


BOOK TRAILER!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Baking French Macarons: A Beginner's Guide ~ Introduction

By Lisa Maliga,
Copyright 2016, 2017

CHAPTER 1
Introduction  


A funny thing happened when I baked my first batch of French macarons. They didn’t turn out the way I hoped they would. So I decided to make another batch. And another. And another. I wanted macarons with those ruffled edges known as feet. I wanted them to be brightly colored and light as air, and without hollows. In other words, I wanted a perfect batch of macarons. And I kept trying until I got it right.

Making a pound cake from scratch is the most advanced baking I’ve ever done. This dessert contains the most basic ingredients found in your pantry and fridge: eggs, butter, flour, sugar, vanilla extract and baking powder. As long as you have a hand or stand mixer and measure your ingredients correctly, it’s not difficult to bake.
 
Macarons also require few ingredients: two types of sugar, egg whites, almond flour, and color. That’s it as far as the cookies, a/k/a shells go. The fillings can be diverse: jam or jelly, caramel, Nutella, butterscotch, lemon curd, etc. You can make your own whether it’s buttercream, chocolate ganache, or a fruity homemade jam.
 
I’d never used a piping/pastry bag before. In fact, I thought they were only used for decorating cakes and cupcakes. It took me two dozen tries to get the perfect macaron with a smooth yet slightly rounded top, little frilly feet that are the hallmark of this delicacy, and without hollow insides. The filling was scrumptious too – lemon butter curd. What’s that? You’ll find out as I’ve included the recipe.
 
After discovering local bakeries and stores that sold macarons, I didn’t have to settle for a limited selection of colors/flavors. I didn’t even have to drive to the nearest store that sold them in their freezer section. Nope, I could have fresh macarons whenever I wanted. Well, whenever I had a few hours to spare… 

I took copious notes each time I baked a batch. I also took photos, though not always of every step. Still, for the past eleven months, I’ve learned so much and now want to share some tips and recipes with anyone who’s motivated to bake these delicacies.

Baking French Macarons: A Beginner's Guide is FREE with your Kindle Unlimited subscription. 

Here's the book trailer...


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ripping Readers Off: Kindle Unlimited Scam eBooks

Copyright 2016 by Lisa Maliga
Last April, I wrote this article: Don’t Buy or Borrow Kindle Unlimited Rip-off eBooks

What’s changed since then?
In July 2015, Amazon launched KU2, which pays authors by pages read. KU1 was a fluctuating amount of at least $1 per eBook borrow. The Amazonians have altered the system for their benefit and the amount per page is less than a penny –.0049 per page or less. If an author wants to make any money, they need to write longer books. And those books need to get read.
Or do they?
Nope, the author offers a free book or gift card or something for nothing and has that clickable link take the reader to the back of the book. Like magic, all the pages are read!
With the KU program, Amazon is like long defunct author’s sites Themestream and the Vines – pay per click companies that went belly up. While some legitimate authors are doing quite well, others are faring far worse than they were in KU1.
One of the main problems I’ve seen in the KU program, and this is in the nonfiction area, are foreign plagiarists stuffing books full of repetitive “information.” Or they upload their entire catalogue into one title. I’ve also seen books where the contents are available in a dozen different languages. Can you guess that the translation is run through an online translator resulting in hilarious errors?
What inspired this article was a review request from an author: someone who had been “University” educated, and an expert in various fields dating back to the early 90’s. A quick search revealed nothing except the author’s books in various Amazon stores. Here’s the email:
As an avid buyer and author on Amazon, I want readers to feel they are getting value for money and would recommend to their friends and family. I feel this book meets that requirement.
 I was hoping you could review a books and leave an honest review.
If you are interested I can send you the book as a gift free of charge.
 I saw that the title wasn’t unique and when looking at the author page I noticed:
“She has a passion for sharing his experience…”
Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner? Nope, someone who just didn’t care about proofreading their bio or who wasn’t too fluent in English.
There are many excellent titles in the KU program. But I’m going to point out potential rip-off titles that are often plagiarized from websites, blogs and Pinterest. By reading this article, you’ll learn how to avoid downloading or wasting your time and money on rip-offs and supporting scammers.
If you’re a reader who wants to learn how to bake cupcakes, wouldn’t you want to read a book by someone who has baked the recipes and can provide photos along with helpful tips? I want that! A few weeks ago, I mistakenly downloaded a scam book. At first I thought, oh goodie, 600 pages of cupcake recipes and information—all for 0.00. Wrong! 600 pages of drivel, NO pictures, and recipe after recipe of things I didn’t want to bake. The few cupcake recipes were so generic that one of them listed cake mix. I deleted that eBook.
Spot Those Scammy eBooks
Here are some things to look for when shopping at Amazon.
 * No author biography
If there’s no bio, there’s no way of knowing how much knowledge they have pertaining to the subject they’ve written about. There won’t be an email address, website, Etsy page or social media information such as Twitter, Pinterest or Face Book. They have no blog or newsletter.
 * Fake Author Biography
Some of the scammers have gotten smarter and include biographies and even pictures or illustrations of themselves. Read it carefully and you’ll see it’s false if no professional training is indicated. Or they might mention a school or university. How is the bio worded—in proper English or does it read as if it was translated from another language?
 * Common American Names
This is another way to lure borrowers and buyers—by using familiar surnames like Thomas, Brown, Mitchell, White, etc. It’s also how those from other countries make names seem more acceptable than their own. Authors who use several pseudonyms may do so to avoid detection. It’s also a way of using a name like a keyword – to attract more borrows and sales. 
 * Poor Translating
Foreign authors may have run the manuscript through an online translator resulting in unintentionally hilarious reading. My favorite was the one about heating your soap over a “weak fire.” Some of the faux fiction scam books have incredibly bad titles.
 * Offer FREE Bonus/Gift at the BACK of the eBook
This encourages you to click the link and get the page reads. You won’t be able to miss this offer as it’ll be shown in very large and colorful fonts. It may appear more than once.
 * Very LONG eBooks
KU1 featured scamlets of 50 pages or less. Now the less is more motto has been replaced with the more [pages] the merrier! One trick I discovered is seeing lengthy books enhanced by offering the book in a dozen different languages. You can also bet that a professional human translator doesn’t translate, as that would be very expensive and time consuming. Ultimately, no one benefits.
Another method is for the scamming “author” to take several books and rearrange the order so the book becomes bloated with excess pages. You get a bundle of books you [probably] don’t care to read.
 * LONG Titles Stuffed with Keywords
Example: Homemade Body Butter: 25 Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes To Keep Your Skin Smooth And Feeling Moisturized! (How To Body Butter, DIY Body Butter, Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes).
 * Enticing Cover Photo of the Product[s]
A rip-off will be revealed if the featured product[s] recipe and photo aren’t included inside the eBook. For example, a stack of oatmeal soap on the cover, yet there is no oatmeal soap recipe in the rip-off title. Also, most rip-off eBooks won’t contain any photos.
 * If recipes are included, they may be in a mixture of ounces, grams, tablespoons and teaspoons, which is very confusing for the reader.
 * No medical or legal disclaimer. No safety precautions.
 * The name on the cover may be spelled differently than the name on the book’s Amazon page.
In order to avoid being ripped off, please use this article as a checklist.
Also, read what author Ann Christy has written about this topic. She includes in-depth analysis along with screenshots of some flagrant examples.http://www.annchristy.com/anatomy-of-ku-scams

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Macarons of Love – Sweet Romance/Cozy Mystery Excerpt

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2016
Love, Valentine's Day, Macarons, and ... Murder?
Yolanda Carter is preparing for Valentine’s Day as romance and macarons are baking in Yolanda’s Yummery. But things take a dark turn when the body of someone she knows is found dead in a nearby dumpster.
Teaming up with Detective Winston Churchill to find the killer, some employees are suspects, including Yolanda’s boyfriend, Nigel Garvey.
A February 14 appearance on the TV show, America’s Best Bakeries, and the yummery’s upcoming first anniversary are overshadowed as she strives to run her business and help the detective.
Macarons of Love also contains recipes for French macarons and cupcakes.
THE EXCERPT
As the sun had finally shown its rays and brightened the day, she was about to return to the kitchen when the front door opened. There stood a handsome young man in his mid-twenties wearing an elegant hunter green jacket and tan corduroys. He beamed upon seeing her and she noticed that he was the one to initiate the first move by rushing across the store and behind the counter, where he greeted her with a big hug and kissed her gently on the lips. She felt the strong attraction and stared into his penetrating dark eyes. Beneath the light of the shelving units filled with bagged and boxed sweets, she saw that his natural golden brown wavy hair had more gold than brown. He had been in Miami for three days, which explained the difference.
“I missed you, Nigel,” she said as a way of greeting her boyfriend.
“Darlin’, you know I missed you. But I can’t wait to spend tomorrow night with you. There’s something very important I want to discuss with you—after we see ourselves on America’s Best Bakeries, of course!”

Amazon Kindle: Macarons of Love
Amazon UK: Macarons of Love
B&N NOOK: Macarons of Love
iTunes: Macarons of Love
Kobo: Macarons of Love
Scribd: Macarons of Love
Smashwords: Macarons of Love

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Crafty Writer

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015

I was once asked how have crafts inspired your writing? Well, I can’t sew a straight line. I can’t knit without dropping stitches. And I’m sure my signature dish of French Toast would be laughed at by Gordon Ramsay.

But I get creative in the kitchen in a different way – by making soap! Even before Lush opened their first store in Southern California, I was a huge fan of their products. I’d ordered several of their soaps from Canada and eagerly awaited the package’s delivery. I was impressed with the appealing chunks of goodness as they cut the soft soap from a large cheese-like wheel. All were nasal bliss, and did the job of cleaning and softening quite well. I’d never used glycerin soap before and back in 1997 there wasn’t that much information about it online. A few companies sold it in bulk and after making my first batch of soap with some marigold [calendula] petals on top, I was hooked.

I immersed myself in learning how to make soap and found it easy to concentrate on what I was doing. I guess I could compare it with writing. The soap base is the story. The shape of the mold is compared to the characters and their motivation, the color equals dialogue, and the fragrance corresponds with the tone of the story. Wrapping and labeling is like the sense of location[s] found in a novel. Writing involves sitting in front of the computer and staring at the monitor. In the kitchen is where I decide what type of soap to make and I concentrate on that. The creativity involved can be spontaneous…for my La Brea Tar Pits soap I used a plastic cookie liner for a mold and the name came from the nearby tar pits. Tea tree essential oil removes tar from the skin as does lavender, and it enhances the aroma. Whole oats help clean and soften the skin, and cornmeal is an exfoliant, removing excess dirt. Each element has its place.

Taking the same creativity I use when designing soap and other bath & body products, writing about soapmaking is easy. I see it as sharing the joy of a fun and crafty hobby [tho’ it was a business for me for almost five years].  I hope to make everything easier for the reader so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. The recipes I’d created over the years were all handwritten. When I wrote The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting, I actually typed them out for the first time. To this day, every product I make always involves writing down all the ingredients so I know what fragrances I’ve blended, what oils and butters I’ve used, the amounts, etc. I also remembered what it was like when I made my first batch of soap using one page of instructions. I wanted more information as I had many questions. And just like my writing, I’ve learned it all by doing. By making hundreds of batches of soap, and by writing hundreds of thousands of words.


In the above photo, I was able to put my creative skills to use by packaging some of my products in a little gift box I found at a thrift store. Learn more about wrapping soap in 

About the Author:
Lisa Maliga is an American novelist and nonfiction author of several soap crafting books. She's recently released "Organic and Sulfate Free Melt and Pour Glycerin Soap Crafting Recipes" and "Nilotica [East African] Shea Body Butter Recipes [The Whipped Shea Butter Series], Book 1." Lisa's coming of age novel set in the 1970s and 80s is a book that took more than a decade to write. A reader wrote, "Out of the Blue: A Novel is a story about a young woman's journey to emotional maturity but there is an underlying thread. That thread is the connection between intuitives which will be familiar to anyone of an introspective bent." She is also working on the fourth book of the Yolanda's Yummery Series. When not writing, Lisa reads an assortment of books, watches movies, makes soap/bath and body products, and bakes late at night. Sometimes she manages to escape to a quiet park and photograph animals, especially squirrels.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

70% of Nothing: The Reality of Indie Publishing

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2015

I barely passed basic math in seventh grade, but I’ve learned a lot about numbers, percentages and book rankings since 2010.

On October 21, I released my $2.99 novel, Notes from Nadir, which I had serialized via this blog. The price was chosen because I would earn a 70% royalty rate. I sold four copies the first month, the same number in November, and soon the book was ignored.

By February 2011, I had five novels on Amazon and a few other stores. The titles were previously published online and I had regained my full rights. Sales in the dawn of e-publishing [2000-2004] were minimal and I noticed nothing had changed, except that I was now doing all the work.

I self-published my nonfiction titles as I had extensive experience making soap and bath and body products. Over time, my eBooks were available on 12 other Amazon marketplaces like the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany, etc. I uploaded titles to B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, CreateSpace [paperbacks], iTunes, and Draft2Digital. I joined AuthorsDen, Manic Readers, Twitter, Face Book and WordPress. I’ve had my own website since 2001 and this year I launched a newsletter and offered free eBooks. I have two instructional videos and two book trailers on YouTube, and I joined Pinterest because I like photography.

When it comes to nonfiction books, I’ve discovered that it’s exceedingly difficult to get linkbacks/mentions from companies/sources that are listed. I revised one of my titles to include several photos and interview some suppliers. While I provide their links and contact information, they won’t add a link to my eBook on their website, nor mention it in a newsletter/blog.

Why are those listed suppliers unable to provide a link? I’m asking for no money and in many cases have even spent money on their product[s]! I offered them a free copy of my eBook in their preferred format.

Don’t these suppliers realize that they can make money from eBooks? Should a consumer read it and want to buy supplies, that supplier has just picked up some biz? Also, if a supplier has an Amazon or B&N affiliate link, they’ll get money for each copy sold from their website. [I realize that not all websites sell via Amazon/B&N].

Indie writers are easy to ignore. They have no agents, managers or publicists to get the word of their eBooks out there. Ironically, while many of the bath and body suppliers are fond of the term FAIR TRADE, they won’t do a simple link exchange which would actually benefit their own company!

But I kept writing until my titles increased from 1 to 32, almost evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction. Contrary to the myth that more books equal more sales, I’ve found the opposite to be true. As of August 2015, I have 7 more titles yet I’ve earned 30% less than I did in June 2014 on Amazon.

Approximately 90,000 eBooks are released on Amazon every month. The chances of any book being seen are in the league of unlikely to very unlikely.

How does a writer earn a decent living by writing eBooks? Four years ago, I saw a pattern. They wrote an eBook or two, especially a series or serial, blogged, went to other authors’ blogs and left comments. Those other authors had a larger following, so the neophyte eBook author sucked up to the “bigger authors” and dished out excellent book reviews, hoping to get the same treatment for their books. Even after that exhausting circle of writing, praising other writers, and occasionally having other writers praise you, they still hadn’t seen an increase in book sales. Others have speculated that at the start of the self-pubbing boom, some authors bought dozens of good reviews on Fiverr, thus launching their careers.  A self-published author/blogger exhorted their followers to write a book, write a second book, a third, and repeat indefinitely. Unsurprisingly, that author wrote a book about how to write and market books.

After releasing my twentieth title, I thought there would be more sales. I uploaded a horror novella that had small blocks of white spaces appearing randomly throughout the book. No one contacted me about it because I never sold a single copy of the aptly titled An Author’s Nightmare.

Since then, I’ve changed how I perceive indie publishing. Whenever I upload an eBook, or even a paperback edition, it’s not publishing, it’s uploading a manuscript. I also uploaded three freebies; hoping readers would discover my other titles. Occasionally, they did.

So, how does an “indie” author get noticed? By advertising?

Advertisers are popping up all over the place like psychedelic mushrooms. They’ll send your book’s links to the best potential customers — readers. Sometimes grand promises are made of thousands of readers willing to download or buy your book. I tried getting a $2.99 novel out to 106,000 Face Book fans. The result? Zip. I could have done that myself, as I’m a member of more than 50 book-related groups. In fact, I have. The result has been similar. With some advertisers, you’ll get a few sales or a few hundred downloads for a freebie. Then what? Not much. Your book plummets in rank, maybe you get a review or two, and the title rests in obscurity with hundreds of thousands of unread eBooks on Amazon, B&N and other online bookstores.

Getting lots of downloads of freebies is meaningless if no one buys your other titles. There’s another myth about more reviews attracting more sales. Sometimes it’s true, especially if they’re legitimate reviews by readers. Yet how many people actually read and review those freebies?

After my years in indie publishing, I’ve learned that only a few authors can make a lot of money. I’ve earned far less than I did when I was temping.

Being an author isn’t unique any more. Self-publishing is for anyone who can process some words, design a book cover or have one made for a few dollars. Many books aren’t even proofread, let alone edited. With the glut of available reading material, it’s almost impossible for an author’s book[s] to stand out. Most eBooks will plunge to the murky depths of internet bookstores far, far away from the best sellers. They’ll wind up with six or seven-digit rankings, doomed to obscurity.

Most people don’t read. Most people don’t buy eBooks or prefer downloading freebies. And most readers don’t review books.

And that’s what I’ve learned about selling eBooks [and paperbacks] for almost half a decade.

Friday, May 29, 2015

'I Almost Married a Narcissist' + Excerpt

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015
I Almost Married a Narcissist is a new and updated story about a woman who learns the man she’s dating is more than conceited and hung up on his body image – he’s a narcissist.

When I was going through some notes about a short story I’d written “Flipping Over Grigori,” I thought that exploring his personality disorder would make this a more moving story. From 12,000 words to nearly 23,000, the expanded version reveals more about both main characters and how they get to know each other. I also changed his name from Grigori to Andrei. His last name is still Antonescu, but A.A. are now his initials; it’s symbolic of him being a source of addiction to Charlotte White, the woman who falls in love with the gymnastics coach.

Briefly, here’s what I Almost Married a Narcissist is about:

Charlotte White falls in love with a younger Romanian gymnastics coach.

Andrei Antonescu is a sexy and handsome foreigner who loves to have fun and flirt with the ladies.

The more she gets to know him, the more red flags are unfurled. Once she’s able to see past his good looks and muscular body, Charlotte is unprepared for some shocking revelations.

Excerpt from Chapter Two

Three of the coaches introduced themselves to me. I liked them right away. But there was this one, a real serious looking guy, who completely ignored me. Maybe it was his dark blond curly hair and the fact that he was so tanned and muscular. His T-shirt’s sleeves were rolled up, showing off his strong arms. He was so self absorbed that he didn’t even notice me.

Later, I got to go out into the gym, and didn’t have to remove my shoes because I was a staff member. I had to give a message to Andrei, that serious coach. That was how I finally met the younger man – right next to the parallel bars. He had just dismounted from them after showing an element to his private student, a wiry adolescent boy. After handing him the message, he grabbed it with chalky hands and thanked me quickly, not even looking at me. But I was used to being treated like that.

A few days later, I was in the coach’s lounge for my afternoon break. It was a dark, depressing day and it seemed like nothing was ever going to go right. Svetlana had yelled at me that morning for taking too long to do the reports and I wondered if I’d even last the week at the job. Andrei rushed upstairs, and I thought of how young and energetic he was. He didn’t smile at me, but he lowered his sunglasses as he asked about his schedule. All I saw were his Mediterranean blue eyes.

I wanted to take the Tuesday or Thursday night adult gymnastics class he taught. I wondered how to go about asking Svetlana about it. I knew that Eastern European coaches were able to get excellent results from their students, and by taking the class, I’d get back into shape. That afternoon, I stood near the filing cabinet when Andrei walked in, went past me, and pinched my hip! There was no one else nearby. The gesture was something most American men wouldn’t do because they’d probably end up being sued for sexual harassment.


Amazon: I Almost Married a Narcissist
Amazon UK: I Almost Married a Narcissist
B&N NOOK: I Almost Married a NarcissistiTunes: I Almost Married a Narcissist
Kobo: I Almost Married a Narcissist
Scribd: I Almost Married a Narcissist
Smashwords: I Almost Married a Narcissist


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