winter

winter

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Do You Think About at the End of the Year?

The end of 2011 is approaching, and as usual this time of year, I find myself reflecting on the good and bad (or as my friend, Kris, says, "the challenges and the changes"), and I am already planning on starting off the new year on a new note.


I had my good this year. I made some new writer friends, I was elected President of my writers' group, and I've been able to do some much needed home improvements. I even stepped out of my comfort zone and learned belly dancing!


The challenges came too, as you know, if you know me or follow my blog. My mother passed away in February and I passed through my first Mother's Day, her birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving and now Christmas without her wildly cheerful inviting presence.

Hmmm...what will the new year bring? Or rather, what will I take to it?

Next year, I want to be more involved in charity work. I want to write more. I want to worry less. I want to appreciate my blessings more.

What about you? What are your year-end thoughts?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Keep a Journal

Do you keep a journal? As a writer, do you believe it is important to do so?

I have kept a journal since I was a teenager. Of course, in the teenage years my ramblings were more of a "Does that boy in English class like me" type of thing, but the point is, I was memorializing my instant thoughts and experiences. That is important for a writer to do.

There will never be another moment of clarity like the moment right now. Memories grow dim, circumstances become enmeshed with other circumstances, we forget half of what we mean to keep and so on. You get the picture.

One reason I started a serious journal several years ago was to leave my sons some idea of the people they come from. So much of my family's history, particularly on my father's side, has been lost to anquity. I can't do much about that now but I can leave them with what I know. It is important that they know their heritage.

As time goes by, I find I journal about practically everything in my life. Why and who cares? Well, I do. I suppose many people step away from journaling for fear that something they've written will be read by someone who might judge them, and that could happen, of course. But don't discard journaling due to the fear of someone else perceiving you as human. I think you might be a most unsuccessful writer if you did that!

Journaling releases tension. I no longer have to carry the turmoil of the day or the situation or the heartache with me. Once I commit it to paper, it is outside of me, sort of like a good belly-aching cry. I can then move on to more positive things.

Journaling also builds writing skills and don't think it doesn't. The more you engage in it, the higher your writing skills become. What better place to work than in your journal where you can write about anything at any time, raw, uncensored, no reservations. You can even write about writing. Journaling builds discipline, and writers need to be disciplined about the craft.

Also, within journaling, you may discover a germ of an idea, something that has legs and can breathe and explode into a successful story. There is no doubt in my mind that this is entirely possible.

These are just a few reasons why keeping a journal is important. What are the reasons you keep one?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Sweet Melody Lingers



My mother gave me a piano years ago, before son #1 was born. The piano is a beautiful antique, heavy wooden carving, real ivory keys, brass foot pedals. Once it belonged to her aunt, and my mother bought it for $50 dollars after I was born and kept it all those years.


And then she gave it to me.


My mother was a musician first, above every other role she took on during her lifetime. I can't tell you how many nights I fell asleep to her accordion or organ music swelling the house. She was part of every choir in any church she went to or belonged to. When she and her brothers were young, they formed a guitar-playing singing trio and they traveled to county fairs around Wisconsin singing gospel songs. She was an avid pianist and violinist, and played the ukulele.


She required my sister and I to take piano lessons and one other musical instrument as well. My other instrument was the flute.


Back in the day, we, as a family, mother, father, sister and brother, formed a singing group and we also did a little bit of "touring." Mostly to neighboring churches and the occasional family reunion. Nothing big, but she would have liked it to be.


I remember, after her first stroke, how she struggled to relearn the piano skills she once had, and she eventually regained every bit of skill she had always had and played her piano up until the second stroke that ultimately took her life.


About six months before she passed, she asked me, "do you play that piano anymore?"


I shamefully said, "no, I haven't played in years."


Yesterday, I saw the sheet music she liked to play ("Sonatina No. 2") still sat in the same spot, the spot where she left it last Thanksgiving when she came to my house for dinner and played her old piano. I raised the lid, and sat down to the keys and began to play for the first time in way too many years. Haltingly at first, slowly, but with a little more skill when I closed the lid again than when I started.


Sweet memories, sweet melody. Bone of my bone, heart of my heart.


My mother left me with a sweet melody, one that I will always treasure.


What are your treasured memories?








Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Importance of Social Networking

Sometimes, I feel behooved to stop and prop up a small building, in my spare time of course. Just kidding.

I've been back from the Ozarks Creative Writers' Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas now for ten days. So, I've had ten days to let it all gel, absorb it all, reflect. Eureka Springs in October is gorgeous. The view from my hotel room was of the woods, autumn leaves hanging heavy on the trees, dappled sunlight spotting the woods in the morning. I had a wonderful time, met amazing people. Ate far too much. But.

Conferences are social networking at the very least. They are a book contract and representation at the very most. Why is social networking important? Why pursue it?

Here is my take on the importance of social networking for the writer. As writers, we spend a lot of time in solitude. We spend a terrific amount of time in our own brains, moving all the boxes around. To stay on the cutting edge, to keep up on the industry, you simply must network. The best place to do that is not on Facebook. Facebook can help on a minor level but what I am talking about is the face to face, eye to eye, contact, the stimulation of a conference. It's the year after year recognition of "hey, it's you, how're you doing, what have you written since we last met?" I saw plenty of that at OCW. I should explain this was my first year there so nobody said that to me, but maybe next year.

You know, hunting enthusiasts hang out with other hunters. Surfers hang out with other surfers. Writers hang out with other writers. Isn't that a revelation? It's not weird. It's not ego-mania. It's simply making a connection that a writer won't make anywhere else. You will find it refreshes you, enthuses you, puts a new fire in your pen or your keyboard.

There is typically something for everyone at a writers' conference. Whether you are traditionally published (or wish to be), or self-published, into e-books, or some other publishing medium, there will be something for you to learn and absorb. You will learn invaluable information from your peers at these gatherings. And, you'll make some truly amazing friends. The downside? Well, eventually, you have to leave and go home.

Check into a writers' conference for 2012. Go, and come back refreshed and enthused about your craft.

Blessings!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yesteryear



My dad tells me of a time when, if you had something to discuss with someone, you simply got up on the tractor, or the horse, or got into the car if you were lucky enough to have one, and you traveled to that person and discussed your business over coffee at the kitchen table or sitting on the porch. How many deals were made under an oak tree, I wonder? How much family news was delivered at a formica table in a sunny-yellow kitchen, red-checked curtains waving in the breeze? You looked your friend in the eye in those days.



With the advent of the telephone, there was no longer any need to meet face to face. It was easy, convenient; just dial him up, have your conversation, hang up. How simple is that. It was no longer necessary to have that personal touch, to look your fellow man in the eye.



I remember reed-thin letters in envelopes with postage stamps, a voice in handwriting. Back when I could leave an unstamped envelope and eleven cents in the mailbox and the postman would affix a stamp to my missive and send it out, and then some weeks later, much to my delight, a letter would come to me from my cousin or my grandmother. Oh, those days. Yesteryear. Oh, how I miss that.



Yes, I confess. Sometimes, I long for yesteryear.



I am not a texter. I don't carry a cell phone. I would say it has been probably twenty-five years since I've recieved a handwritten letter from anyone or written one for that matter.



Aren't we missing something personal these days? Aren't we missing that special touch of humanity? Do you miss it?















What Would You Do?


Sometimes I think of the damndest things.



Monday morning, I was sitting at a stoplight, on my way to work, and an image of a suitcase came into my mind. The suitcase was one of those old, battered, brown cases with the straps and locks, cast away or maybe just lost, lying on the side of the road.




Curious.



I my mind's eye, I'm stretching out a finger to touch the lock, to caress the old leather. Ah...it's unlocked! I could open it right now, see what's inside, feel its history. My pulse skips a little bit.



Would I? Should I? What would you do?



How do you relate this to your writing? What treasures are we missing because we don't open the trove lying at the side of the road?



Friday, September 30, 2011

Come, Let's Go on Journey



Come on a journey with me. You, yes you, follow my beckoning fingers. Let's part the tree boughs to reveal the road beyond..close your eyes....come on with me....let's explore.


You as a writer know that writing is all about mental visualization, if such a term exists. You know that scenes and dialogues and plots are created in your head and once it all stirs around in there enough, the happenings find their way to the paper. The tree limbs fall away, and look, the babbling brook, or the peach-tinted sunset, is revealed. It is a thing of beauty, an entrancing story. Don't you think so?


So, as we explore this path, tell me, how do you think about your plot? How do you visualize your characters? Who do you love? Who, not so much? Why?


Why?


Well, that's why I asked you to come on this road with me in the first place. I want you, the writer, to dig deeper, go farther, push the envelope, really feel those characters, the ones you love, the ones you don't love so much. Know them. See if you can pick them out at a restaurant, at the grocery store, at a car garage, at your job. Listen, watch, absorb.


Have you ever read a story that had no dimension? I guarantee you, the characters were flat. They had no personality. There was no tension, no story arc introduced to challenge those characters, and therefore, they lay flat on the page, dull, uninspiring, not memorable. Sorta like cold steak, congealed gravy. Hunh.


Think about this the next time you sit down to write. What are these people who live in your head all about anyway? Who are they?


Wander down the road, let them meet you, really meet you. Come back and tell me what you learned.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn Equinox



And so Autumn flung her doors open and cried, "Welcome!"


I am going in. How about you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Traveling the Road of Inspiration






Inspiration. The act of moving someone intellectually or emotionally. The spirit of influence on someone else's movements.




In speaking about writing, is inspiration important? Is it necessary? Well, in my mind, a writer wouldn't be writing had they not been moved intellectually or emotionally in the first place. There would be no pounding on the keyboard til the wee hours, had there been no acceptance of inspiration on the part of the scribe. So yes, I believe the answer to the question is, yes, definitely. Inspiration nourishes you as a writer, it propels you forward. Let me share with you the wise words of Therese Walsh, co-founder of Writer Unboxed magazine, who so graciously gave me permission to quote her, when she says in a recent post:




"Some inspirations nourish more than the writer; they feed a work-in-progress by becoming a part of the story in some way, helping it to grow from germ-of-an idea to scene, from scene to chapter, from chapter to finished manuscript. They lend a book texture and authenticity." Texture and authencity. Isn't that good? Isn't that what we strive for in our writing? Ideas, growing from a germ to a finished manuscript, layer upon layer upon layer. I find inspiration just by reading that.




But what about this rush of words, the fire in the belly, the coursing through the veins, until the writer is spent and finished? Isn't that inspiration? Well, not really, while it is definitely a by-product of inspiration.




Inspiration tends to come out of the gate just a bit quieter, under the radar, behind the scenes. Think about what Therese says here:




"It's been my experience that down-to-the-bone inspirations sometimes take a while to affect a story. They sit inside of you as possibilities, and when and if the time comes to weave them into the fabric of a tale, they rise to the surface and remind you they exist. This may or may not even be conscious."




Sometimes it's so deep that you have to be reminded about why you're writing that story to begin with. Dig deep. And then dig deeper. Don't be afraid to trudge through the layers of your subconscious until your fingers light on that gem, that germ of an idea, the reason you are inspired to write.




Take some time today and give this some serious thought. What is inspiration to you? Why is it important? How does it help you develope your talent?






All quotes courtesy of Therese Walsh, co-founder and contributing writer to Writer Unboxed.




Photo courtesty of Roxanne Schuster, photographer, Mountain Grove, Missouri.










Monday, September 5, 2011

The Weave



Taking a moment to lay the foundation for this post, I digress to my childhood, growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania, and then on to southwestern Minnesota, living as the daughter of an impoverished (meaning without financial means only) pastor, living always in homes not our own, drafty, old, creeky homes, a structure bequeathed to us as our status as the Pastor's Family. We made do, and I can attest to those days as being some of the most interesting and treasured days of my life.




My mother was an excellent seamstress, and I remember all through my childhood and adolescent years, all the way up to the time I got a job and made my own money, how she would take my sister and me to the fabric store in town, and there we would choose what fabric we would wear in her next homemade creation for us.




I remember the papery smell of fabric, I remember how the clerk used to roll it out on the cutting table, all ripples and bounce, and the crisp smack-smack of her scissors as she cut the required yardage. As my mother stood waiting for her goods to be packaged, I would rummage through the Butterick and McCalls books, gazing at this fashion interpretation or that one. I didn't like to sew so much, but I loved the process of the looking, the choosing, the experiencing the dusty, textile smell of the fabric bolts, burying my face in one or two, feeling the rub on my cheeks, inhaling deeply, gazing at the weave, wondering just where this fabric really came from and who made it possible for it to come there to that store, just for us.




There is a weave in writing. Yes, there is a weave in writing.




I write fiction. You may write non-fiction, or you may be a technical writer, or a journalist. I don't think there is that much difference between us. I take my characters, you take your subject if you are not a fiction writer, and you begin working it back and forth, connecting it to this, connecting it to that, back again, and forward. Again, and again, and again. Weaving, sliding between, adjusting the threads, pulling it tight, letting it wander for a minute and then pulling it again.




Think of your mind as a great, giant loom.You are the weaver. The loom, it is sitting there, in the shadows, waiting for your hand to come and work it, to turn the cogs, to adjust the speed, to bring your thoughts, your aspirations, with layers and depth, and precision.




Go now. Pull back that curtain, put your hands on the loom, and just weave.




Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Experiment That Turned Out to be a Success

I'm sort of excited about this.

This afternoon, some kind of hunger for fettucine al fredo came over me. Now, I love pasta, and I love sauce. Al fredo? Not so much. However, and who knows why, but I wanted fettucine al fredo this afternoon.

I had no idea how to prepare it. And thus, the experiment was born.

Okay.

I chopped half an onion and two cloves of garlic. I threw 1/4 cup of butter into a sauce pan and let it melt, afterwich I threw in the onions and garlic and let it saute until glistening and limp.

In the meantime, I salted a pot of water and brought it to a boil and dropped my fettucine into that.

Once the onions and garlic were ready, I threw in 1/4 cup of flour and let it cook down.

After this, I pour in about a 1/4 c. white wine into the onions and garlic to deglaze the pan. Now, here is a note to remember if you cook with wine. I recommend using a sturdy pinot grigio for cooking. I generally say, cook with a wine you would drink. BUT. A lot of people that I know drink moscato or reislings or chardonnay. Do not cook with any of those. Reason being, they are sweet wines, more inclined for an evening on the porch watching the sun go down, than for sturdy cooking. Certainly do not use a sweet wine for this type of dish. If you don't drink, feel free to use more chicken stock, and that is fine too.

Well, tonight, I dropped the wine in, let it deglaze and then I poured in maybe another 1/4 cup of chicken stock and then a small carton of half and half. All the while, I am seasoning and reseasoning with salt, pepper, red pepper, and just a little thyme. How much of these seasons you use depends on your palate. I say that all the time but it's true.

So, now the sauce is beginning to take shape. By now the pasta should be boiling away nicely at a slightly lower temperature than full bore. It's going to take about ten minutes for the fettucine to cook.

I now pour some olive oil into a separate pan and once it is hot, I drop in boneless chicken breasts which have been seasoned with salt and pepper only. That's it. That's all. Let these chicken breasts brown and crisp up in the olive oil.

Pour, I would say, 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese into the sauce. Let it melt. Reseason to taste, with cheese or salt, pepper, whatever makes you happy. Drain the pasta, allow just a little bit, maybe 1/4 cup of the boiling water to remain. Here is the reason why. You're going to pour your sauce onto the pasta and mix it together. The pasta will absorb so much moisture that you need a bit more moisture to balance it out. Reseason with salt, pepper, and red pepper, maybe even a touch of nutmeg.

Pull it out onto heated plates and serve with hot bread, a good salad, and yes, if you wish, a good pinot grigio.

Mange, mange! Blessings to you!!



Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bring Your Passion, Bring Your Soul


I'm doing a call-out to all writers tonight, any writer within the sound of my voice as it were, all writers who need to know, who need to believe in their voice, to all writers who need to connect with the soul of writing.

Here is what I want you to do:

Go into your private place, the place where you write. Never mind what it is; it can be a handwritten tablet on the couch in front of the tv, or your typewriter set up on the dining room table, or whether you have an actual room, complete with a door, and computer keyboard. Point is, just go. Go to that place.

Sit down, get comfortable. No phones now. No tv. Absolutely no internet now. No distractions. Ask your husband/wife to get the kids a snack. Close the door now, if you're lucky enough to have a door. Tune into yourself. Turn on whatever music you need to begin the process. I've been told that Stephen King writes to hard rock, I've also been told that Mozart stimulates the creative side of the brain; no matter, turn on whatever brings you inspiration, whatever wakes your writing side up. If you prefer silence, fine. Just bring yourself into that place where you can write.

Now, write or type the first thing, the first thought that comes to your mind. Write it down, don't worry about it being physically perfect, just get it out of your brain. Let it go now, let it breath, let it take on a life of its own.

Don't think about it, don't analyze it, simply let the process begin within you. You're giving birth now. Isn't that a gas?

Write another sentence, and another and another, and allow yourself to enter into that place where you begin to flow...let go...let go...it's not scary. You can do it.

For a first time experiment, I'd say give it twenty or so minutes, although I will not tell you to watch the clock. Your internal clock will dictate. However, if you quit sooner, or if you sit all day writing, don't worry about it. Point is, get the thoughts out of your brain/heart and onto the page. See where it goes...just follow along. Don't worry about formatting. Don't worry about anything proper. Simply get those words out, drop them out of the bucket in your soul and get them on the page.

Come back and tell me what you wrote and what your experience was.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Passing It On

Thursdays are pear sandwich for lunch day in my life, at my favorite deli and pasta house, Nearly Famous, here in Springfield, MO. Today, being Thursday, I ventured over to my spot d'amour, settled in at the bar (no seats in the house, of course, standing room only), and proceeded to revel in my lunch.


As I left the restaurant, one happy camper, I noticed a book lying on a ledge in the entrance way to the restaurant and at first, I thought, well, someone's left their book here by accident, how sad. However, at closer inspection I found a tag on the book, an intriguing, mysterious, inviting tag. The book had been left there on purpose today, just minutes before I exited the building. The note told the finder to go online and let the "leaver" know that the book had been rescued, read the book, leave it elsewhere for someone else to find. What fun!!! Sort of like a treasure hunt, yes?


Pick Me Up, the note says. Report me to http://www.bookcrossing.com/.


I open up the front flap, ever so carefully, reverently even, and I find some sort of registration card taped to the inside cover. How interesting. As the rescuer of the book, I am to read and then release it back into the wild for someone else to find and enjoy.


I'm sold. It's an easy reading murder mystery, a nice light summer read I think.


Pick Me Up. Okay, I will. And I will let the rest of you know how it turns out. I'll be passing it on for sure.

Has this ever happened to you? Isn't it fun? So unexpected, yes? A nice diversion, yes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sadness

A terrible thing happened in my neighborhood this week. It was an awful, heinous, despicable happening and I am very, very sad as I write this.



A woman was murdered this past Monday, murdered in her own car, as she drove someone (we now know who) to a missed location. It may have been a lapse in judgment, or maybe a forced happening, we'll never know for certain. What we do know is that, Kristi Kimes dropped her children off at her ex-husband's home early this past Monday and one can only assume that she was going to go to work afterwards, but something awful happened, and her ex-husband, who she had a restraining order against, somehow got in the car and left with her on the last journey of her breathing life. She was found later, in the driveway of the Taco Bell on West Chestnut Expressway, throat slashed, slumped over the steering wheel. Dead. Witnesses say they saw the car swerve, heard the horn honk and then saw it pull into the Taco Bell parking lot. Was she trying to save herself or trying to make sure someone saw what had happened to her?



Witnesses say that someone got out of the passenger's side of the vehicle and walked away.



Surveillance footage later showed someone hiding in the bushes, someone hiding, watching, as the police were called. A bloody knife was found at the site. As part of the whole investigation, the ex-husband may have ingested anti-freeze prior to the incident and even told his oldest daughter to make out his will on that very morning the girls were dropped off at his house. Bloody clothing was found in his house later on.


The details are hard to take.


The fact is, a woman died in my direct focus, in my neighborhood, in my area, this week, and I am sick about it. She was 47 years old, younger than me, but what does that matter? Two daughters left behind, and now that the ex-husband has been arrested and charged with her murder, two children have now lost both parents.


Our society is simply in a mess. Plain and simple. And this writer doesn't know the answer to any of it. I wish I did and I wish I could have learned it in time that Kristi Kimes could have been spared.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Perserverance Counts


This week my colleague and friend, Julie Kibler, recieved The Call. You know, The Call, The Call we all want, The Call that will transform our lives, The Call that gives us validity, The Call that says, yes, you are a writer and you are recognized. This week Julie recieved the call from an agent, indicating interest in representing her. Not just any agent, but Elizabeth Weed.

I "met" Julie years ago, in an online writing class conducted by Barb Samuel and back then I was struck by the honesty of her writing, the depth, the beauty, the intelligence, the knowing. Have to say a little envious too. Julie's work is like a rich tapestry, bold beautiful colors embedded in silken threads. She is also one of the founders of "What Women Write," which I follow and you should too.

If anyone deserves to be recognized as a writer, it is she. Julie, to my knowledge, has had Elizabeth Weed in her sights for as long as I have known her. Julie's worked hard, she's perservered, she's risen to the call.

Congratulations, my friend. Bravo!!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Love of Books




One of my fondest memories from my childhood was the summer Dad packed us all up in the car, us being my mother, sister and brother, and drove us to Alexandria, Minnesota to a cabin on the lake. We lived in Worthington then. A retired couple from his church invited us for a weekend and so, Dad bundled us into the stationwagon and we journeyed to Alexandria to spend a weekend fishing, building campfires, singing "kum by ya" and relaxing, generally.


It was a beautiful setting. The lake was so clear I could see to the bottom of it as Dad rowed the boat around the lake, picking out colored rocks, watching the little fish scurry about. The weather was fine, the sky was a pristine blue. We caught plenty of fish and fried them over an open fire with potatoes and onions every night. The summer cabin was a square white structure with big multipaned windows (complete with window seats, I might add), a multipaned door that stepped out onto a plank walk that led down to the slip. It was a perfect summer spot.


But, about the books.


I no longer have a clear memory of the husband of the retired couple who invited us. His wife, however, I will never forget and it may be her in part who fostered my love of books and maybe a few of my eccentricities too.


It could have been her hair, the wild orange curls that flew about her head as she marched around. Her glasses, the way they were always hanging at the end of her freckled nose. Maybe it was the blue and black paisley caftan and sandals she wore for most of the weekend, or the bangles that went nearly to her elbows. Perhaps it was the idea that she had better things to do than clean house. Or maybe, it was the piles and stacks of books, magazines, newspapers, periodicals of every kind, that took up every square inch of space in that vacation home. I mean it when I say walking room only. The place was a paradise. How lucky was I to have been dropped into a virtual literary treasure trove.


The only thing she said to me about books was, "Read. Read everything." But that was enough. The image of that little white cabin, filled to the rafters with reading material, will never dim.


What brought you and books together?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's Beautiful, This Summer Solstice



I don't have a photo yet but plan to get one soon.

I grew up in a quiet God-fearing farming background. My people were agricultural, people who loved and respected and used the land for the community's good. I came from farmers. Pure and simple. And I love that, for so many reasons; maybe the first of that is because I believe in real and I believe in hard work and I do believe in America, still, even though we have our problems and challenges. I believe in working with one's hands, producing good, and I believe in sweat equity. I believe in those things.

Pure and simple is good, quiet, unchallenging, traditonal....peaceful...Okay. Get up.

Think about tables stretching long, laden with bowls of glistening orange cantelope slices, mounds of green-husked corn on the cob, perky red strawberries, crisp roast potatoes, mounds of some meat smoked and grilled...think about that.

Well, I thought about that, and I came up with the following recipe. I came up with it simply because I remember sitting with my grandmother in the summertime as she taught me how to shell peas and break green beans. I remember, when our grandfather could no longer eat corn off the cob, how Grandma Davis tenderly sliced the corn from the cob onto Grandfather's plate. What love that was, yes?

And so, here is the recipe for my corn-tomato bake, a certain summertime treat.

3-4 slices bacon, sliced and fried until crisp.
1/2 C. onion
1 bag frozen corn, a large bag.
1/4 c. butter
basil to taste
Thyme to taste
salt and pepper
2 roma tomatoes, sliced and diced

Okay, cut up the bacon into bite-sized pieces, and brown.
In another skillet, melt the butter, drop the onions in for about five minutes, and then add the frozen corn. Drop in the basil and thyme to taste (you know what you like). Let this simmer for 5-6 minutes. Spray some non-stick coating into a small casserole dish and preheat oven to 350°.

By now you should be able to mix the bacon into the corn mixture. Pour this into your casserole dish and then throw the tomatoes in and scramble it about a bit just to make sure the tomatoes are seriously represented. And then, bake at 350 for 30 Minutes and all should be well.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On the Journey and Along the Way


I feel fortunate on this writing journey that I've made some friends in the writing world along the way, and I'm talking real friends, not facebook acquaintances.

What I want to share with you today are some thoughts on an article my friend, Barb Samuel, posted to Writer Unboxed. If you, as a writer, are not connected to that magazine, you really should be. I find it invaluable. The title of Barb's article is, "So you want to be a professional writer, " and it was posted on May 25, 2011 if you'd like to find it for yourself.

The dream is to be published, but what does that dream look like? How do you visualize yourself in that life? Barb asks these questions to make us think, really think about what that dream is versus what we imagine it to be. Next, she clues us in on qualities that we will need to fall back on as professional writers.

1.Flexibility - you have to be able to shift with the times and the market. If you only write one thing (and a lot of us do), there will be dry spells. As writers, we need to hone our voice and skill to flow with the changing tides.

2. Positive thinking - Barb says the writer who persists and succeeds knows that good things might happen tomorrow.

3. A hide like a rhinoceros - well, let's face it and it's true. Not everyone is going to like your work and some are going to be quite vocal about it. Sometimes their reasoning for hating it have nothing to do with your work at all. But, like #2, good things might happen tomorrow. Don't let it break you down.

4. Animal cleverness and devotion - well, Barb says professional writers are like cats, independent and clever, making quick leaps. Professional writers are also like dogs, hungry for attention. As Barb says, why would anyone sit for hours in a room, tapping away on a keyboard if they didn't want someone to pay attention to them?

And finally, Barb states that there is a "deep bone of satisfaction" in seeing that row of books against the wall, work that would never have existed at all unless you stuck to it.

So, as writers, we need to link arms, support one another on the journey, make friends along the way, and persist. I want to feel that "deep bone of satisfaction" as I gaze across a row of books, my books. How about you?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Let's Eat

So, here we are, standing on the brink of summertime. Yes, summertime, that glorious, sundrenched, never-ending golden carefree time...summer...ahhhh, yes.

It makes me think of summertime food. Delicious, carefree, summertime food. Pork and peaches. That's what I thought about this morning. That's summertime food, no? Yes!!!


So, in keeping with my summertime thoughts, I dropped two pork loins, sufficiently rubbed with the following in the crockpot:

1/4 cup chili powder
1 TBSP cumin
1 teas. ground cloves
1/4 teas. cayenne
1/2 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. garlic powder
1/2 teas. onion powder
1 TBSP salt
1 teas. oregano

and, I also poured about 3/4 c. water and dropped two beef bouillon cubes into the mixture, let it go on low for about ten hours.

Well, after all that time, I was able to pull the pork loins out, shred them, and put it all in a bowl for others to come and dump on a toasted bun with bbq sauce, cole slaw or whatever else they pleasure in a pulled pork sandwich.

So, that was the pork. Let's get on with the peaches.

Peaches, is there no more a sweet summertime fix than those pretty, blushing pink peaches??

I don't think so.

I had a bag of peaches in my freezer from last year at farmers' market, no kidding. Not sure whether it was a quart or not, but probably pretty close, and a quart is a pretty good measurement for this recipe. At any rate, take those frozen peaches, and drop into a bowl. Let thaw. Pour about 3/4 c. sugar over, squirt out the juice from half a lemon and 5 TBSP flour. Now, dump your peach mixture into a casserole dish and cut up about two TBSP unsalted butter, drop over. Pour into your casserole dish, cover tightly with foil. Make sure oven is preheated to 400°. Bake at 400 ° for about 45 minutes. Take dish out.

Now. Gather one egg, 1/4 c. milk, 1 1/3 c. buttermilk baking mix, such as Bisquick, and take the other half of that lemon and squirt over all. Mix until smooth. Dump in spoonfulls all over the peach mixture, put back in oven for about 15 more minutes. Take out, serve warm with ice cream.

It's simple, it's doable, it's not a big chore.

And it's really nice and delicious.

Happy summertime, everyone!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lovely Food, lovely food, and yes, we have peas in it



This is easy-peasy chicken tretrazinni. Easy-peasy, those are the by-words to this whole operation.


Okay, here is what I did. You can do it too.


A deli-rotisserie chicken.

2 slices bacon, browned and diced.

1/2 a medium size onion.

1/2 cup mushrooms, diced, more or less. If you like mushrooms, add more.

6 TBSP butter.

1/2 cup flour.

1 c. Chicken stock.

3/4 c.White wine (pinot grigio, probably)

3 c. milk

parmeson cheese

16 oz. linguine, broken in half

1 bag frozen peas

Thyme

Salt

Pepper


Cook the linguine for about 7 minutes, drain.


Preheat oven to 400°. Slice and brown your bacon, drain, set your bacon on a plate. Melt your butter in a large fry pan. Throw down the onions, and mushrooms. Let that go for about five minutes, until the onions begin to become transulcent. And then, down with the flour. Slowly, pour in your milk, wine and chicken stock. Begin to season with a little thyme, salt and pepper. Burner goes to high, let it bubble, and thicken, turn your burner down, stirring constantly. Once the mixture starts to thicken, throw in about 2 cups parmesan cheese. Start trimming the chicken from the bone, throw that in as well, with the browned bacon. If your linguine is done, throw that in. Season and reseason depending on your palate. In with the peas. Dump it all into a casserole dish. Top with more parmesan cheese. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes, or until the top is browned.


Accompany with good bread, one with a crusty top and meaty insides, a salad, and a glass of wine. Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Patterns



My mother passed away this year, on February 22, 2011.


That statement, in and of itself, that my mother, the backbone of my existence, had passed away, still kicks me in the head, leaving me breathless, still on this 20th day of May, 2011.


Funny thing, something I have observed throughout the years. Even numbered years, those years are hard years for me; I don't know why, neccessarily. I lost a job in an even-numbered year; normally I make less money in even-numbered years; I get my heart broken a lot more in even-numbered years...it sounds silly, but, seriously, even-numbered years typically speaking are not stellar years for me.


Well then. 2011 should have been a good year, right? I mean, it's an odd-numbered year, right? It started out good, yes? Things, all things, should proceed according to the abundance plan of action, yes?


Uh yeah. Hunh.


Of course, yes. Well, then, my mother died, and all things changed, moving in accordance to another plan, a plan not my own, not of my making, not of my wishes. Out of my control. I didn't ask for it, wouldn't wish it, but it came anyway, that being the loss. In an odd-numbered year.


Next year, being an even-numbered year, well, it has me wondering what will befall me then. Am I borrowing trouble to wonder? I don't know...


What do you observe about your life, what do you see as patterns in your life?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tribute to the Sunny Girl







This morning I was astonished to realize that my precious Sunny- girl could no longer jump up on the bed to herald me to awakeness. Instead, she remained on the floor, peering up over the top of the bed, whining to be let out for her early morning pee, rather than jumping up and leveling my belly with her two front paws as she once did, every single Saturday and Sunday morning for years and years and years.



This new occurence tells me that I don't have too many more Mays with her, not too many springs and summers, falls and winters. She will turn 12 on July 29th, after all. That may not seem old to other dog owners but, for Sunny, I see the turning of the leaves, the orange fur turning white, the once golden snout becoming more grey, those once bright eyes becoming darker and more autumn-like as the days fly by.


I told a friend before my mother passed, that I believed my losses would go this way: my wonderful mother first, my beloved dog second, and my dear father last. I see now that, since my mother is gone (this past February), that it is now my dog, and my precious father remaining but that Sunny is no longer able or interested in defending my property against intruders. It is harder and harder for her to mount the back steps, she prefers sleeping at my feet above nearly all...she contends with Ella but she'd rather not and her protests about same amount to merely a whine sometimes.


Sunny has been my constant companion for nearly twelve years, the keeper of my secrets, the bearer of all that is me, the only being in my world who hasn't judged me for any of it. I find myself more often than not, lying down with her, spooning as it were, with my faithful friend. Even now, as Ella barks out the front window at some non-existent threat (a bird hopping about in the front yeard, maybe or just the wind blowing a branch past the front window), Sunny remains sleepy, posed on the brink of reality, tired and quiet.


When the day comes that she is no longer trotting happily by my side, when I can no longer stroke that blessed velvet head, I will be truly (again) berefit.


Have you had a pet that meant everything to you? If so, tell me about it.



Friday, May 6, 2011

Words, Images, Ideas, Inspiration



If I, as a writer, a fellow in this writing community, could inspire one thing of my fellow writers, it would be that I would say to you, the writer that you are, love words. Love imagery, love ideas, explore your senses, find inspiration in those elements. Search it out when you are taking a walk, talking on the phone to your child, eating your breakfast, drinking your coffee, listening to the car radio on your way to work. Think about words and what meaning words bring to you when you see a brilliant sunset, when you hear your baby or grandbaby cry for the first time, when you finger a delicate lace, when you smell leaves burning.


Never censor yourself. This is paramount. It's important for me to tell you this, those of us who live in the "Bible Belt" where there is a church on every corner and everyone you know goes to church and considers themselves "good," better than the next guy anyway. No, never censor yourself. If your character says, "shit" (example) then you tell the world he says "shit." Have you ever, in all your life, hammered your own thumb and said, "oh my, look at this, I hammered my own thumb." Good grief, give me a break. It's all about being real, after all. We as writers must be real above all. Above all.


Give yourself freedom. Enjoy yourself in your writing. I am never going to scream at you about formatting or using the word"was" because that word is used all the time and it is published by well published authors exactly that way. "Had been" I might shriek about, simply because it doesn't resonate well in a reader's mind, but I will not tell you to not use "was." Sometimes that is the only word you can use.


Do not feel pressure to "format." No, this is a really easy deal, if you are computer savvy at all. Simply set your margins, set your paragraph spacing, choose your font, at the beginning. There is no reason to "format as you go" unless you do not understand word processing. Don't stress about it in any case. Just get the words out of your gut and onto the page, computer or long-hand. You can revise later but it is so important to just get the words out of your head/heart/gut and get them onto a paper of some sort.


Now people, fellow writers, just know that it is the story that is important. If you have a story to tell, simply tell it. Tell it from your heart or your gut. Easy enough, right? Just let it flow and let it go.


Seriously.


What say ye?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Beautiful Fairy Tale


What a week. So many things to write about, so little space...

The Royal Wedding. Okay, so some may scoff and I also tend to make fun of it (no, I'm making fun of myself more than it), but here in the US we got a little break from the mundane, the every day grind, the fact that nobody in America is royalty, and the closest family we ever had to royalty, well, they tend to die young and tragically and leave a mess in their wake.

So.

Let's celebrate young love and hope and promise and let's just have fun with it, shall we?

I began on facebook and I said something about how I couldn't find my "good tiara," and how my butler, Jeeves, had already left me to fend for myself in searching for the wretched tiara. Not the camo one, I said, the good one. Where did the fictional Jeeves go anyway? Probably out drinking a pint at the local pub, oblivious and uncaring to my very important distress. After searching ALONE for some time, I located a tiara made from newspaper, which I decided would have to do for the royal nuptials. Well. I then planned to move forward with my diatribe about how, when Jeeves finally returned, how he had no idea how to navigate the minivan (seriously, I don't own one of these) across the Atlantic (is he not FROM there???), and how we got stranded in Ireland and although the grass was plenty green there, I was not pleased and demanded a ferry to jolly old England. The planned ending to the whole thing was that Jeeves and I arrived, albiet very, very late and no one was at the cathedral when we arrived, my newspaper tiara was in ragged wet tatters, and so.

I missed the whole damned thing. In my make believe diatribe, that was.

Well, in reality, I watched it all. Sucked it up, every single moment of it. How beautiful Catherine was, how handsome William was...the ceremony, the pomp, the tradition...the fairy tale. How, when she got into the carriage, she was so sweet to everyone around her, those arranging her train, William holding her flowers, all those wanting to make sure the new Princess was comfortable. Oh my.

What were your reactions to the Royal Wedding?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pasta and Peas

I wish I had a photo for this wonderful dish, but I don't, reason being my wonderful son ate the whole thing and I didn't get a photo. However, here is my rendition of pasta and peas: Pasta and Peas: 8 oz. of whole grain pasta, such as a fusilli frozen peas (you determine the amount but I really like peas, so...) 1 teas. extra virgin olive oil 3-4 slices bacon, chopped and browned 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 c. mushrooms, whatever you like, cremini, shantrelle, whatever, just make sure they are chopped. 1TBSP flour 2 TBSP white wine, such as a pinot grigio 1 cup. chicken broth 1/4 c. whipping cream lots of freshly ground pepper Parmeson cheese Well, cook the pasta in boiling salted water for however long the package tells you to. Drop the olive oil into the skillet, and throw down your bacon. Let it cook til nearly brown, stir in the garlic, throw down the mushrooms and let them cook til the moisture is absorbed and they let out their fragrance. Okay, now drop the flour, coat the mushroom mixture. Now for the wine, drop that in. Let your mixture begin to thicken, pour in the chicken broth and peas. If it just won't thicken, use some corn starch to get it going. Remove from heat, stir in cream and pepper, toss with pasta. Top with shaved parmesan. Whoe baby, we got a party starting. Nice.

Quiche Sunday

Yummy, yummy, yummy.
I've learned to make a quiche. Oh boy. This has been sort of an ongoing effort of mine, such as meat loaf, which I finally mastered after twenty or so years of experimenting with it. I was a miserable meatloaf master at one point. Finally got it down after probably 150 tries in however many years.


Okay. So, here we go with the quiche.


You can make a pie crust but that's not essential. I bought Pillsbury already made pie crust and arranged it nicely in my quiche pan.

Well, then.


4 eggs, beaten


1/2 c. onion, chopped


1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 milk

3 or 4 slices bacon, diced and browned

broccoli or spinach, whichever you prefer (today I used broccoli, but if you use spinach, be sure you thaw it properly and squeeze the moisture out)

Shredded cheddar cheese

A sprinkling of thyme

A pinch of cayenne pepper

salt

pepper

parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400°. Okay, chop your onion and lay it in the pie crust. Beat your eggs, sour cream, milk, salt and pepper, thyme and cayenne together. Again, I do not measure, this is all up to individual taste. Throw the browned bacon into the pie shell with the onion. Pour your egg mixture over. Throw the broccoli or spinach on top. If you use spinach, the frozen kind, be sure you drain and squeeze all the moisture out of it before hand or you will have a real mess on your hands. Throw down your cheddar cheese. Sprinkle some parmesan over top. Bake at 400° for about 45 minutes or until your wonderful quiche is brown and a fork slips through easily.


Serve with blueberry muffins, another one of my personal favorites.


Coming next is my recipe for pasta and peas, which I am certain my dear friend, Leigh, would appreciate, and which I will forward to her. I have no picture, as my son ate the whole thing before I could photograph it. Sorry. Oh.




Sunday, April 10, 2011

Searching for Inspiration

No doubt about it, writing is tough work. It is taxing, mentally and emotionally, and there are times when it is just easier to get up and walk away from it. And sometimes we should. It's not easy to stay inspired. However, here are a few tips for those times when you would rather do your taxes or go to the dentist than write anything at all, when the well's run dry, when you are just so tired of words you could burn every Thesaurus in the country. 1. Read. Read, read, read. Soak up other writers' words for awhile, follow their thought process. 2. Redfine your goals. What made you start this process in the first place? How did you feel at the beginning? What does it mean for you to be successful? Are you willing to change your goals? Remember, changing your goals does not mean that you've failed. 3. Reignite. How did you feel about your story a year ago? How have you improved your writing? Which character do you love the most? How do you want the story arc to fall? 4. Rejuvenate. Seriously. Go for a walk with your dog. Visit an art museum or a garden. Eat healthy food. Watch the sun come up or go down, or both. Allow yourself to slow down and be inspired by the little things, such as a cake display in a bakery window, or a pretty toddler in a pink dress, or seashells in a jar. Take care of your mind and spirit by thinking positive thoughts. Think the best of yourself. Don't put yourself down. Play with your writing. Make it fun again. Remember always, if you don't write your stories, who is going to?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Balancing Act

Writing is a solitary business. As writers, we spend a lot of time in our own heads, away from the real world.


Sometimes we write to process the things that happen in our real worlds. Often it's a pause behind a door, a process of digesting painful truths. Sometimes it's a distillation period, a conduit for someone else to say, "yes, I felt that too." Sometime's it's solace. Sometime's it's celebration.

How do we balance our solitude, time spent with only the words in our heads, and our real lives?

It is said that writing is examining a life worth living. Let me ask this question: can you spend your time only writing?

It's a delicate balance. How do you do it?