Nick F. Stanley

Ramblings of a New Author

Eating Vegetarian for a Week

I just spent the last week eating vegetarian. I don’t have any immediate moral qualms about eating meat, though I’ve debated how I feel about eating meat. On the one hand, meat does come from living and conscious animals. On the other hand, it’s perfectly natural for animals to eat other animals in nature, and part of how we survive. Are we supposed to rise above this as people, or are we supposed to embrace it as part of who we are? Frankly, I don’t know, and that’s about as much as I’m going to wax philosophical on this one. What’s more important today is discussing how easy it was.

And let me tell you, for me, it was easy. It would be hard to do it forever; fish at Christmas is big in my family, as is pasta with meatballs and sausage, and I don’t intend to give these up. But for a week? Although meat is a major part of some meals for me, it’s not integral to every meal. There’s lots of good fruits and veggies out there, after all, and it pays to get to know them better. Plus, if we’re being honest, it’s cheap too.

So, how easy and cheap was it? Well, it was 30 dollars cheap (and would have been 20 dollars cheap if I didn’t opt to spring for some chicken substitute for a night). This covered lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots for salads. Mixed peppers, onions, mushrooms, frozen strawberries, and beans. And a few other items I may remember as I go over things.

So first thing’s first. I ate a lot of salad. Every lunch was salad, in fact. Because I love salads. Just toss the veggies together, add some italian dressing or, if you prefer, oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, and done. I also did two salads for dinner; for these, I tossed in some chick peas as well to make them a bit more filling. Can’t go to bed hungry after all.

I also cooked up some mixed veggies. Onions, peppers, and mushrooms, fried up in butter, with some salt and pepper is also easy to put together, and quite tasty.  Another night, I did brocolli, onion, and peppers, with a stir fry sauce, and it was just as easy to throw together and enjoy.

Now, I also mentioned some fake chicken above. I was craving some pasta, and I wanted something meaty, so I made a sauce with the chicken substitute, peppers, and tomatoes, and that easily hit the spot. I can’t imagine I’ll use the fake chicken again, as it would really be better to use the real deal or just go without, but it was worth trying to see how it was and stick to remaining vegetarian for the week.

You may wonder about breakfast though. To be honest, I’m terrible about eating breakfast, so I skipped it most mornings. But when I didn’t, strawberries, grapes, and oranges were my go to options.

As I said above, I wouldn’t eat like this forever. But most of these meals are easy to put together: just grab the veggies you want and mix them together. Then fry them in butter or oil, eat them raw with salad dressing, or toss them in a sauce of some kind and you have something to eat in about ten minutes. It’s definitely convenient, fills you up plenty if you remember to add beans when needed, and is cheap if you don’t splurge on the meat substitutes. It also allows you to buy a bunch of whatever vegetables are on sale and throw together what you like, so there’s plenty of variety, though it wouldn’t seem so at first.

Tomorrow though, I think I’m going to go for some orange chicken or some tacos.

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The Cookbook is #5 on Amazon in Free eBooks for Meal Cooking

I’m currently running a free promotion for The Cookbook: Easy Recipes and Cooking Tips for those who aren’t a Master Chef. Normally a steal at 99 cents, it’s even more of a steal until July 23rd for $0.00. Yes, that’s free.

What’s even cooler than that though (for me, at least) is that The Cookbook is #5 in the Meal Cooking section of Amazon’s free eBooks right now, at the time of this writing. Because let’s be real here, The Cookbook is the first eBook I published, so getting close to the top of anything feels phenomenal. I really hope everyone who has taken advantage of this promotion, as well as anyone who has purchased or chooses to purchase a copy, finds some recipes that suit their needs. Thank you to everyone who’s given this book a shot, and I hope you enjoy it.

The Shadowheart Legend Released Today (Plus a Free Sample)

I’ve been writing my next eBook, The Shadowheart Legend, since shortly after I published The Cookbook. I have to say, though it took more work to write, I had a lot more fun with The Shadowheart Legend.

And it released today, for the amazing price of free (regular price $2.99) until July 15th so you can enjoy the tale of Eclipse and Aurora Shadowheart too!

Here’s a brief summary to get you started: Aurora and Eclipse have been raised as powerful wizards since they were born. Having grown apart due to a difference in ideals, they rarely interact unless it is in opposition to each other. However, when Aurora overextends herself, she not only reveals the extent of her power, but also brings the anger of the gods upon herself and her unsuspecting brother.

And because I appreciate you guys, two more pieces of good news: The Cookbook: Easy Recipes and Cooking Tips for those who aren’t a Master Chef has been reduced to 99 cents so the price is more in line with what it offers compared to other cookbooks, and I have a free sample of The Shadowheart Legend below:

Aurora Shadowheart walked into town unannounced, dressed well below her station. Simple cotton robes indicated her as nothing more than a minor priestess, not worthy of attention. Her fire red hair was hidden beneath the hood of her robes, the tattoos of sword and flame upon her cheeks covered with makeup. What she saw pleased her. Her people were industrious, working hard, and the leaders cracking the whip when the occasional slacker appeared. All was well here.

Walking further into town, she came upon a tavern and stepped inside for a drink. She bought a watered down ale, the best that one dressed as her could likely afford. Nursing the brew, she surveyed her surroundings. A few people in for a quick lunch, a single beer, and back to the fields or the forge, exactly as expected. And the one drunk asshole that always seems to show up. She’d have to speak to the sergeants about that later, make sure they keep their men in line. For now though, said drunkard was approaching her.

“Well hello there, my fair lady,” he began. “Bet you’d like to come home with a young, handsome man like myself before going back to the temple. Have a little fun, know what I’m sayin’? I won’t tell no one if you don’t.”

“You’d best not tell anyone anything about me,” Aurora snapped back. “I wouldn’t consider entertaining conversation with you beyond telling you to sober up and get back to work!”

“Now, now, don’t be like that. Just want a little fun,” he pressed. Then he reached for her arm. Aurora knew, of course, that she could handle this if need be. But she waited. Another man darted across the room to grab the arm of the drunkard.

“The lady said no, good sir. She also suggested you do as the rest of us, and pull your damn weight around here,” the intervening man told him. “Now, leave her alone and-”

He never got to finish what he was saying, because the drunkard took a swing at him, and took him clear off his feet with punch straight between the eyes. As the room was swimming around him, the drunkard leaped atop him and landed blow after solid blow on his face and torso. Try as he might, he couldn’t mount any sort of defense against the enraged drunkard, and knew he would surely die here.

“Enough!” Aurora shouted. The drunkard disintegrated to ash. The tavern fell silent. Aurora pulled back her hood and revealed her tattoos. “I’ll not have my people behaving like savages! We have real work to do, and if you can’t control yourself with booze, you will wind up like this pile of ash at my feet! Am I clear?”

“Yes, my lady!” responded the tavern as one.

“Good. Finish your lunch and drinks, and get back to work.” Aurora then turned to the man that took a beating on her behalf. “You did the right thing today, but you are weak. If you continue on like that, you’re going to die out here.”

“Yes, milady. I understand,” he replied. “Please forgive my impertinence, but I have never been a strong man, even with training. Would you suggest a good place to start? Perhaps something I’ve missed?”

“Yes, but only on the condition you make good use of it. I will come back to check on you, and if you’re still weak, you will suffer the same fate as this man. Go speak with Commander Kaiser. Tell him I sent you. He will know it to be true. He will whip you into shape, or you’ll die trying.”

“Thank you, Lady Aurora. I will speak with him at once.” The man immediately ran off to find the commander.

***

A couple weeks later, Aurora walked past the training ground at night. She stuck to the shadows, enjoying the peace and quiet. It could be a chore keeping people in line around here, but she would do it. It was demanded of her. The sound of raspy breathing caught her attention. She stepped backward melding with the tree she had taken a moment to lean against. The man she had saved in the tavern ran past her. He did not stop running until he reached the training dummies. Here, he picked up his sword and began practicing the forms the soldiers were trained in. Aurora sat watching him for an hour. His form was terrible. She did not speak to him, but instead tugged at the ether within him to make subtle suggestions as to how he could improve his form and make more effective attacks. He, of course, had no idea she was there, but his form gradually improved as her suggestions took hold within him and became one with him. After about an hour training with the sword, he hit the ground and began doing pushups, and did not stop until he hit 50, no small feat after beating on the dummy for the past hour. After that, he began running again, back in the direction of the barracks. Aurora thought to herself that she had been right. He really would be whipped into shape or die trying.

***

“All right you maggots!” Commander Kaiser yelled. “Fall in line! You’re the sorriest bunch of new recruits I’ve seen yet! If you can’t figure out how your sword works, maybe we should send you into the mines! Might be all you’re good for! Or maybe, just maybe, you could do the drills right for a change!”

Aurora walked onto the training ground. “Having some trouble with the new recruits, are we? Perhaps I can show them how it’s done. A sword, please?”

“Of course, Lady Aurora.” Kaiser pulled a sword from the rack and handed it over to her.

“Now then, who wants to volunteer? Hmm?” Aurora looked out over the crowd, and saw the group cower. No one wanted to volunteer for this, of course. Who knew if she really was going to just show them how it’s done, or if she may actually kill the volunteer?

“I volunteer.” The man she had rescued in the tavern that day a couple weeks back stepped forward.“Very good. And pray tell this assembled group your name before we begin sparring,” Aurora asked of him.

“I have discarded my old name,” he replied. “After the training I have received, I have taken the name Yang. A new name for a new life.”

“Very well, Yang. Come at me with the intent to kill,” Aurora demanded. “If you don’t fight me seriously, I will kill you.”

Liked what you read above? Get the whole book for free before July 15th.

Working on Promotion

One of things I’m working on, aside from writing my next book (yes, I have started) is promoting my blog, and to a lesser extent, promoting my current book. Why the blog first? Because this is my primary platform to reach out to people to let them know what I have done and what I am doing. Ultimately, I want to be able to get people to my books, but to do that, they need to know I exist.

I’m not particularly comfortable with being a salesman, I’d rather people see my work then spread the word, but that can only happen later, so for now, it’s up to me to get the word out there.

There’s different ways to do this of course. I’m going with a slow and steady method that isn’t too much in people’s faces. I’m writing here things I hope people will find interesting, building networks with other blogging websites, discussing things in various forums, and joining communities across the web. Now, this isn’t something where I just hop on a forum and just tell everyone to check out my site and/or book. While it would be cool to be able to do that, most places and people don’t really want that, and I don’t intend to be that guy. So instead, I’m just participating in their communities, which will hopefully help me get better known. If it does, awesome, if it doesn’t, I’m still participating in communities that offer value to me and that I can offer some value to.

Some of my networking does involve blog directories, which is why you see links to some blog directories popping up. As a general practice, blog directories tend to trade exposure through links in what hopefully turns out to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. To be honest, I’m not sure how well that works these days with how search engines have changed, but it’s worth a shot for me for now.

You’ll also note that while some of my posts definitely push my book a bit, I’m trying to keep it in context with content that is otherwise useful to people as well. I’m not trying to just blindly push it, though there are times I’d like to do that too. When I have another book or two, I’ll likely add an actual books page to my site here, but for now, it seems unnecessary for a single book. I may reconsider that though, depending on how things go and what I can think of down the line.

I’m sure there are more direct ways I could be promoting myself, but this is something that is new for me, so I’m still learning and also figuring out what may be the most effective, as well as what exactly I can do that I’m not doing already. For me, this is a learning process, to find both what I can do, and also what I’m willing to do. For instance, I know there’s all sorts of crazy sales page designs that do nothing but throw tons of bright text and obnoxious claims at you. I’ll never do this, because I hate it. But a sales page that just lists what I can offer with a brief summary? That will happen at some point. I’m sure many other things will happen too, as time goes on and a I get a better feel for this. For now, I still need to focus on actually writing and having my next book ready to go. I just also need a way to tell people about it when I’m done.

Non-Zero Days

“Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero. You feel me?” -ryans01

As part of reaching my goals, I’ve committed to making every day a non-zero day. What does this mean? In a nutshell, I will do something everyday to bring me closer to reaching my goals. In the case of writing, it means I will write at least one new sentence, or jot down one new idea, for the book I’m currently working on. I’ll likely do more most days, but I will always do something, no matter how small it may be, because that will keep me on track to getting it done.

I first heard the concept of Non-Zero Days here: http://www.reddit.com/r/getdisciplined/comments/1q96b5/i_just_dont_care_about_myself/cdah4af

Quite awhile after that, just a couple days ago in fact, I discovered the subreddit NonZeroDay dedicated to the idea of non-zero days. For those unfamiliar with Reddit, basically, where I linked to is a subsection of the site dedicated specifically to the idea of non-zero days.

I love the idea of non-zero days, because it’s very easy to commit to doing something small everyday with no excuses. And once you start small, you often go bigger. One sentence is easy, but then why not write a few more? And before you know it, there’s another page done and out of the way. Alternatively, just do one pushup. Except, now that I’m down here on the floor, maybe I’ll just go ahead and do a few more. And if you really do stop at one sentence or one pushup? It’s still better than not doing anything at all.

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Two Recipes from The Cookbook

I thought it would be nice to give anyone reading a free taste of The Cookbook: Easy Recipes and Cooking Tips for those who aren’t a Master Chef. Of course, if we’re being honest, I’m also hoping you’ll like what you see and consider buying a copy. But even if you don’t, give these recipes a try next time you’re not sure what to do with that chicken you’re going to be cooking up.

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

1-2 pounds chicken
1-2 onions, chopped
1-2 bell peppers, any color, chopped

Tomato Sauce:
1 large can of crushed or diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped or minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
Generous use of parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Begin by slicing your chicken into bite sized pieces and chopping your onions and peppers as well.

Once this it done, set it aside for a few minutes. In a non-stick frying pan, add the oil, onion, and bell pepper and put the heat on low. Cook for about five minutes, until veggies slightly brown. Add in the garlic, and cook about a minute longer. The garlic, onions, and peppers will add flavor to the oil, which in turn will add flavor to the sauce.

Next add in your tomatoes, generously sprinkle in some parsley, and add in your salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium, and cook until sauce is warm.

From there, add in the chicken. Cook for about ten minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked through.

Explanation of Ingredient Choices and Some Variations

It’s chicken cacciatore. You have to have onions, peppers, and chicken in it. The oil, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper are all for taste. You don’t want to overdo the spices here, which is why I only chose the few that I tend to enjoy. You can definitely add some basil if that’s your thing, or even some cayenne pepper or chilli powder if you like some heat. Just be aware, the chilli powder will give this more of a chilli flavor, so make sure that’s what you want before adding it.

Normally, this alone will feed two people. However, if you’re looking to feed more, you can either make more, or cook up some pasta or rice to mix in at the end. Pasta is perhaps a bit more traditional, but if you want to try something different, adding rice will turn it more into a tasty variation of spanish rice.

If you want to make this a more traditional meat sauce for a pasta, you can replace the chicken with ground beef, and brown the beef in the pan with the vegetables before adding the rest of the ingredients and cooking the sauce as normal.

Orange Chicken

Ingredients

1-2 pounds of chicken
1 pound frozen vegetables (I get a store brand stir fry veggie blend)
1 can of mandarin oranges

Orange Sauce:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
12 ounces orange juice concentrate
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons corn starch (optional)

Instructions

Begin by chopping your chicken into bite sized pieces. Once this is done, set it aside for a few minutes. In a non-stick frying pan, combine all orange sauce ingredients except the corn starch, put the heat on low, and stir until fully blended. If you prefer a thicker and stickier sauce, add the corn starch at this point and mix well. From there, add in the chicken and adjust heat to medium. Cook for about ten minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked through. At this point, add the frozen vegetables into the mix, and cook for ten to twenty more minutes, until all vegetables are tender. At the very end, add the mandarin oranges and cook for about a minute longer.

Explanation of Ingredient Choices and Some Variations

The orange sauce has been a lot of trial and error. This is the combination of spices I’ve come to like. I do use corn starch to thicken the sauce because I like it when the sauce will stick to the chicken and vegetables. However, it does detract from the flavor a bit, and the reason I use as much sugar as I do in the recipe is to overpower the flavor of the corn starch. If you choose not to use it, you may find you can use a tablespoon or two less sugar. For those who like a little less spice, you may want to ditch the cayenne pepper, or substitute something less spicy such as black pepper. Also, I use mixed frozen vegetables for convenience. You may wish to use fresh veggies, in which case I suggest broccoli, onion, snow peas, carrots, and water chestnuts, though you are naturally welcome to pick your own favorites.

Like the above recipes? Have your own take on them you want to share? Consider letting me and everyone else reading know what you think in the comments below!

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My Thoughts on DRM

So let’s talk DRM. I don’t like it. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have it at all.

For those who don’t know, DRM is short for Digital Rights Management. Basically, it’s software whose stated purpose is to manage your digital rights for software and data you use. It does things like determine how many computers you can keep a downloaded song on, or how many devices you can have an eBook on, or sometimes how many times you will be allowed to install software before being forced to buy another copy.

Lots of content creators, publishers, and sellers are starting to come around to the point of view that DRM is undesirable, some more than others. In gaming, CDProjeckt tried out DRM in The Witcher 2, and subsequently removed it since it did no good. In music, iTunes used to use DRM, then Amazon came out with DRM free tracks, and people flocked to them. There are more than those two examples of course, but we’ll go with that for now.

So when I published my first book on Kindle, I have a confession. For a short moment, I was tempted to tick the box to use DRM. I’m honestly not sure what difference it would make. Well, let me rephrase that: I’m not sure what difference it’s supposed to make. I am sure it would make no difference at all in any good way.

The thing about DRM is that it doesn’t actually do anything useful. If someone wants to pirate a copy of something you have created, they will find a way to do it. If someone has access to something you have created in a usable format, they can make an illicit copy and distribute it. Consider the extreme example: pull out a camera, photograph each page of an eBook on the screen, scan it into the computer, and you have a crude pirated copy of an eBook. Except, this is the least technical way it can be done, which can be done by just about anyone. People with the technical know-how can intercept the information well before it reaches the screen and a camera. Even with DRM. Once one person breaks it, everyone else can get it online very easily.

So why might I have been tempted to use it then? Well, because it provides an illusion of safety. It sounds good to say you’re protecting your work. I actually had a friend who told me once, if I had created something someone wanted to take, I would want to protect it. And they are right that I do want to protect it. The implication that I would choose to use DRM to do so is wrong though, I’m happy to say, even though it was tempting for a time.

First Post, First Tweet, First Book

So this is quite obviously my first post, as you can see quite easily by looking before it and seeing there is nothing else there. Still have some heavy work to do on this site, but wanted to get some thoughts down here first.

Also just got Twitter set up. Right here at NickFStanley. Never really been a huge fan of the idea behind it, but I figure now is as good a time as any to give it another shot. They do seem like they’ve added quite a bit to make it more robust, which is definitely nice, but it’s still 140 characters or less, just enough for a soundbyte and a link.

I’ve also written my first e-book. And I have to be honest, while I think the recipes are quite tasty, it was put together quickly because this was for me to see if I could do it. Clearly, I could and did. Some parts were easier than I thought, such as submitting and publishing on Amazon being mostly quick and painless, while others were a bit harder. Who knew what a pain formatting something could be the first time you do it?

It was a good learning experience though. When I do my next book, which will likely be quite different, I’ll be much better prepared in terms of knowing what to expect. I also intend to take my time with it and make it tell the story I decide I want to tell.

Of course, I’ve mentioned my first book, but not said anything about it. If you are looking for a cookbook, you could look into The Cookbook: Easy Recipes and Cooking Tips for those who aren’t a Master Chef.

From here, I get to do more work on this site to get it looking better, then start thinking about what I want to do next.