FAQ Category: About Geri

I heard you like to bake. What is your favorite Christmas Cookie?


Geri’s Christmas Cut-Outs

This recipe is a combination of my Polish-American Grandmother’s huge cut-out cookies, and my mother’s Christmas cookies, topped with my aunt’s incredible frosting.

Sour Cream Cut-Outs

(very loosely adapted from Southern Living’s Sour Cream Cookies in their Christmas Cookies book of 1986):

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened

1 cup sugar (I like to use turbinado or raw cane but white is best for special occasions)

1 egg

1 8-oz container of sour cream

2 tsps anise flavoring (all natural is best) note: my grandmother’s original recipe says “use 39 cents worth of anise.”

4-5 cups flour (I use King Arthur Unbleached but Whole Wheat Pastry flour works fab, too)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar, add egg, anise, sour cream. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl, add to wet mix very slowly but make sure to mix well. You will need extra flour later, for rolling out dough. Divide the dough into thirds and chill for at least an hour. I usually make the dough a few days before I am ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll dough onto floured surface to ¼” and cut out in desired shapes (you can go thinner but they won’t be as scrumptious, plus you want a substantial cookie to hold the frosting). These cookies will rise and expand in the oven so leave enough room between them on the cookie sheet. Place cut-outs on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes depending upon thickness. They are done when very lightly browned. Cool on racks before frosting. Sometimes I don’t get to the frosting until the next day, that’s okay– just make sure you store in an airtight or foil-topped container.

Aunt Margie’s Frosting

½ cup milk

1 tbsp cornstarch

Mix the above 2 ingredients and cook in medium saucepan until it thickens. Stir in:

1 tsp vanilla

Cool thoroughly.

Pour into

½ c. butter (softened)

1 lb. confectioner’s sugar

Beat with a hand mixer (or stand) until creamy. Divide up as desired and color with food coloring. White with different colored sprinkles is always a hit. Frosting will set as it dries on the cookies. We set up a cookie decorating workshop and I put my family to task (since I’ve done all of the baking). They can decorate 12 dozen inside of 90 minutes!

Do you have special writing rituals to avoid writer’s block?

First, I don’t believe in writer’s block as an existential crisis. Sometimes writers need a break—after a serious illness, the death of a loved one, a protracted series of deadlines that have led to burnout. As a general rule of thumb, I try to take good care of myself to avoid the worst pitfalls of writing. This means a good night’s sleep, regular refilling of my creative well ala Julia Cameron, and the basics of good fitness and nutrition. If the words aren’t flowing then I’m procrastinating for a reason–maybe I don’t have the characters as fleshed out in my mind as I need them to be, or perhaps I haven’t figured out why these two people should be together, in love, in their own happily-ever-after or happily-ever-after-for-now. Sometimes I need to take out a pencil (and sharpener!) and brainstorm on a legal pad, or go for a long walk. When I’m putting the words down, however, I can do that anywhere–I take my iPad Pro everywhere and write in all kinds of fancy and not-so-nice coffee shops. I’ve been known to get words in while sitting in my car, waiting on a child at drama or sports practice. Now that I’m an official empty nester, I’m able to write for longer stretches at home or out and about. But it always comes back to knowing my hero and heroine (and villain if applicable) and forging ahead with the next scene.

Have you done all the super-secret things you talk about in your suspense novels?

It depends—if it’s written as top-secret in my Silver Valley PD series, for instance, it’s fictional because the super-Secret government shadow agency I invented, Trail Hikers (called this as a cover in the Appalachian Trail community, see Her Christmas Protector, book one of the series), is completely fictional. In the Whidbey Island series I drew more on my actual Navy experiences, like the prologue for Navy Rescue. I’ve never been in a P-3C or other aircraft that had to ditch (thank God!) but I have earned my own flight hours as a Naval Aviation Observer and I spoke to aircrew who’ve been involved in ditches.

What is always authentic in all of my series is emotion—because we all have those, and they’re universal, right?

You say it took six years of submissions (and rejections!) to sell your first novel. Why did you keep going?

Why not? I wish I had the “magic” formula for how long it takes to sell, to make a bestseller list, to write the best story ever. The answer is that it’s different for each and every writer. The venue, be it indie-pubbed, digital-first, paperback, etc–doesn’t matter. What matters is STORY. It will take the rest of my life to be able to make the words on the page accurately reflect the vision in my mind. That said, even if I decided to “leave” writing and enter corporate life, nothing would change–I’d still be a writer. Writers write.–

Today I keep going because it’s clear from the readers I meet and my reader mail that these stories about military characters and families are important and worth the extra effort to get them to the page. My gratitude to our vets will never be deep enough.

Where do your ideas come from?

I’ve asked my writer pals about this, and the answer is different for each of us. I have a friend who outlines her entire story before she even gets to know her hero or heroine. Another friend uses a cork board, and many make collages of their story before writing. My characters usually come to me first. They show up like snippets of films in different settings, and from there I start the hard work. Some stories find me writing like a mad woman, hour after hour, straight through the first draft. Others require months of research. My stories seem to be as varied as my friends!

What’s your favorite way to have fun?

Anything with my family–right now we enjoy watching “Modern Family” together, and sitting down at the same table for a meal. A family vacation is always great but with two adult children we have to get creative with all of our schedules. Did I mention knitting? I knit during television programs/movies, and through all vacations, and I even go on knitting retreats/workshop weekends. Our dog and parrot bring a lot of fun to the mix, too. I often post about them via social media. Not the exciting, glamorous life of an author that you expected? Me either, but I’m so grateful to be able to have a more quiet life in order to make space for the stories and characters to come down and fill up those pages!

To what do you credit your success?

Perseverance. Great mentors. Networking. Bottom line: having a saleable product. I’ve watched so many writers quit after receiving yet another rejection. This isn’t a business for anyone who needs instant gratification. My satisfaction has to come from the process of putting the story down on paper, or I’d never make it. That said, it’s sooo easy to get side-tracked by market trends, the latest way to get my story “out there,” and of course, the Goo Goo Dolls. Is that ‘Iris’ I hear?