Thursday, December 30, 2010
We choose a book by checking out the cover, flipping to the back to read the "blurb" about the story, then, if we like what we read, we read a few sentences on the first page. A quick decision that seems to work for most of us. We know pretty fast what appeals to us and what doesn't. I know I've bypassed books that are purported to be great, but I just can't help my little biases and gut reactions, and I don't think many of us can.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
FIGGY PUDDING Serves 8 Prep Time: 30 min. Cook Time: 60-75 min.
3/4 c. dried figs
1/4 c. orange liqueur (such as Cointreau, triple sec, or Grand Marnier)
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. fine dry bread crumbs
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. chopped dates
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 c. coarsely chopped almonds
1/4 c. walnut pieces
1. Soak figs in orange liqueur at least 1 hour. In a bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar just until combined. Add flour, baking soda, salt, allspice, and pepper; beat on medium speed until bombined. Stir in undrained figs, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, dates, raisins, almonds, and walnuts until combined.
2. Butter or coat with cooking spray a 1-quart heatproof pudding mold, bowl, or casserole. Spoon batter into pudding mold and cover the top with a double layer of aluminum foil. Press foil firmly around edges of mold to seal. Place pudding mold on a rack in a deep kettle. Add boiling water to a depth of about 1 inch. Cover the kettle. Bring to a gentle boil and steam for 60 to 75 minutes or until a long wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Add more boiling water to the kettle, as needed.
3. Remove mold from kettle. Cool pudding for 10 minutes, remove pudding from mold. Serve immediately with Hard Sauce. (To store, cool 30-40 min, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store up to 2 days. To reheat, return to same bowl or mold and steam until warm.
To make Hard Sauce: In a small mixing bowl beat together powdered sigar, butter, and brandy (or vanilla) with mixer on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Cover and chill to harden - about 30 minutes.. Makes 1 cup.
1 recipe Hard Sauce:
2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
1/4 c. brandy (or 1 tsp. vanilla)
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Languages are not finite, however, and neither is writing in your own language. Now I find myself facing the same dilemma as some students. I know very well, after rewriting the book several times, rephrasing and restructuring can vastly improve your message. But see, those were my revisions. I even realize the changes the editor, Jenny Turner, has recommended will improve the work, but doggone it, it's just hard to accept.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
For a while I don't plan to go back to that twisted killer mentality. I think I'll spend a little time extending a hand to a kid I know. She's stuck in a tough situation, and maybe a hand is all she'll need to climb out. And if not, maybe she'll remember someone tried.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Whatever my motives, the training has brought me a better understanding of children who face daily problems at home. Various types of abuse, poverty, neglect, drug and alcohol abuse, and a litany of other troubles create a home life that is both depressing and dangerous for kids. Children from these families respond in as many ways as there are personalities. Often blaming themselves, their guilt and fear and anger may go in any direction. I know of kids who turn all of it inward, essentially denying themselves any happiness or success. Another response is to strike out at the people around them, feeling better, however briefly, for releasing their frustrations.
Today, we have daily shows and articles describing ways to make our children smarter, safer, cleaner, happier, and more fulfilled. The differences between these well-loved kids and those who struggle to find food each day is so profound it is difficult to consider. Maybe the lucky ones, like me, will reach out to less-fortunate children. Whether it's out of guilt, compassion, or simple kindness, I don't really care, because in my county alone there are dozens of kids in foster care who need someone to speak for them. I only hope I can do it right.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Sheriff Ike Schwartz is in it again. Some odd break-ins have occurred in the area around the town of Picketsville, Virginia. What were thieves looking for in the studio of an iconographer? Why is an unknown individual discovered dead of gunshot, but in a chair in the Picketsville clinic? Are these incidents related? And who is the mysterious woman Abe Schwartz has been squiring about?
Sparkling dialogue and a whee of a climactic scene distinguish this crime novel. It's the xxx in Ramsey's continuing saga of the home-town adventures of ex-CIA spook Isaack Schwartz. He's retired from the international scene to become the elected sheriff of the aforesaid Pickettsville, Virginia. He's bright, sharp, aware of the ways of international espionage so when he sees it, he recognizes it. As the elected sheriff he has to deal with a loose collection of varied and interesting characters. Some of them make life quite interesting; the president of the local college, Ruth XXX for instance. Others, inept contract spooks and burglars, for example, are dangerous. Schwartz and his deputies manage to keep the peace and solve crimes in interesting if not always legal ways.
They are aided, in their tasks, as are readers who find their way to this lovely novel, by carefully thought out if sometimes complicated plots, good pace, and crackling spot-on dialogue. Threaded through the cleverness and the funny bits are thoughtful musings on the state of world affairs today in which enemies become friends and friends enemies.
An excellent enjoyable novel
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The biggest part of what I am currently doing is establishing myself on the internet. Because my book will come out as an e-book, it's pretty important for readers or customers to be able to find me on the web. Even if the book was not going to initially be an e-book, the internet has become such a major factor in our daily lives, it would still be vital to have a website and to maintain memberships in various networking groups. I get it.
Even now, when my eyes are burning and my head is pounding, I understand it. When I started all this, I expected to have the usual glitches, but I thought I could use a computer well enough. Apparently, I fooled myself.
I know my publishing company, Echelon Press, probably thinks I'm not working on this stuff. No doubt, the owner and editors think I'm sitting on my hands while the other authors they've signed are burning up the web with their thousand-follower blogs, state-of-the art websites, on-line interviews, and all the rest. The trouble is when you spend two hours figuring out how to install a link between facebook and your web page, you don't get a lot accomplished.
Cross my heart, I have tried and will keep at it, but in my own defense, I come from a technology-challenged family. Nobody in my immediate family even has a computer at home. Hard to believe, I know, but my mother, father, and two brothers are all computer-illiterate. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law also do not use computers.
Whew! I just had to get all that off my chest. And, after all, it is what's going on with me today - and everyday. Do you think if I press the "escape" button, I actually could?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
After more than thirty years, having reconnected on-line, we wanted to meet in person, and were actually able to make it happen. Coming from Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia, we made our way back to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we convened for dinner. Each of us was a little older, a bit wiser, slightly weathered by the twists and turns of coping with daily life.
I never read Hillary Clinton's It Takes a Village, but I wonder if she included friends in the influences considered important to a child's formation. As I looked around the table at my childhood friends, I knew they had helped to shape my values and attitudes. Although my parents were the central figures in my upbringing, no one can deny peer pressure and opinion is one of the strongest motivators in our lives as we muddle our way through the teenage years. It wasn't hard to remembering lessons I learned from one of my friends in sharing; from another, I developed a sense of compassion; a third showed me a thing or two about humility; another taught me the importance of letting go and having some fun.
For all of these gifts, and more, I owe my friends a giant "thank-you." I was lucky, and I hope my readers were also blessed with good friends. I also hope you will check on your children or grandchildren and their pals. It's a cliche that a kid can "get in with the wrong crowd" and get into trouble; it is, however, quite true!
Saturday, June 5, 2010
When Mom is talking on the phone to a colleague, and her four year-old taps her on the shoulder over and over, Mom understands that the child wants attention. She also knows that if she doesn't deal with her son in some way, he will escalate to crying or screaming. Why then do Mom and Dad not seem to understand that if they've been working late every night of the week, their teenage son may call them at work a dozen times in an effort to connect. And like the little child ten years ago, if the parent just gets aggravated without giving the young man some time, he is likely to escalate his efforts by going out with friends without permission.
Of course, I happen to like teenagers.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Just think about the novels we read and write. If half the book doesn't entail a description of the character's childhood, the villain's evil intent is explained by a truly hideous mother and/or father. It's almost a universal requirement in every good story. Now there's a thought - if childhood was perfect, what would we write about?
Sunday, May 16, 2010
"Oh. Madame. Bonjour," he said, using his usual classroom salutation.
"Hi Mark. How are you today?" I said and reached in my purse as I prepared to pay him for my purchase. "You work here, huh?" When he didn't response I glanced up and found him staring at me. "Something wrong?" I asked.
And then I realized he was having the "out of classroom experience." The rules are teachers don't supposed to show up in other parts of your life, right? Indeed, they live in their classrooms where they do nothing but read and study in their fields. And, above all, your French teacher talks about arts and literature; she doesn't show up at the Home Depot to buy dirt.
Mark had recovered a little by then and laughed a little with me, and we talked about how we all see people in a certain context. Then as I left, just for fun, I did a little soft-shoe on my way out.
I can still see the horrified look on his face.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Alone in front of the computer keyboard, I folded my arms over my chest and drew on my inner bulldog. I bet I even growled a little, but I finally got over it. Finally I understood this would be hard work - a job - a craft. I thought I'd already figured that out, but somehow I didn't believe it.
Now, as I contemplate Snowstorm being published next year, I know the day if quickly approaching when my editor at Echelon Press is going to call about " a few changes." This time, though, I almost welcome the process, because every word I improve will make the book better, and that's what's important to me. I even think I can do it without chewing any furniture.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
For me, however, his death has reminded me once again of the fragility of life. I will remember Tony Principe with fondness for his playful personality and friendly attitude toward all of us, but more than that I will remember him for renewing my sense that I must profit from every day. Most of us fall easily into routines that allow us to take our lives for granted, but the loss of a friend or a life-threatening illness usually serves to remind us that we don't have forever here.
When I started to write my novel, I questioned whether I had waited too late to begin such a venture, and I'm so glad I didn't listen to that little voice that often tells me "you can't." I have since been able to complete the book and find a publisher. I look forward to the release of SNOWSTORM, but I am, today, simply grateful for the chance I've had to write it. It is an accomplishment for me. I have learned that "I can" do many things I never imagined I could.
I know it's an old sentiment, expressed countless times. I just think there's a reason that so many poets and philosophers tell us in so many ways to "carpe diem" or "gather ye rosebuds while you may." We just forget how important it is to "live like you were dying." Poetic words aside, here's one more reminder - one more excuse to do something today that matters to you. I'm on my way to tell someone I love him, then I'm going to write, write, write!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Some in a position to know believe the economy has affected the public's spending, but even before the current recession, industry professionals worried that consumers were finding their entertainement and information in other forms of media. I don't know if studies have actually shown younger generations to be less interested in reading, but it does seem logical given the amount of time people now spend on computers, video games, and television. Many feel that storytelling must simply adapt to the technology through the e-book phenomenon. And they may be right - e-books are showing significant growth and gradually becoming a more sustantial part of publishing.
A few weeks ago, however, one of my new colleagues at Echelon Press called my attention to a video that deals with a young person's view of books and publishing. I'm not sure the film is any kind of answer to the future of publishing, but it does, at least, present an interesting way of thinking about the field as it may be seen by teens. Just be sure to watch it all the way to the end. http://bookblips.dailyradar.com/video/the-end-of-publishing-created-by-dk-uk?
Friday, March 26, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Anybody can write. Really, it's what it took me most of my life to learn.
When I was a young girl and came to sample the great authors like Faulkner, Steinbeck, Buck, and so many others, I thought these people were the geniuses who came along once in a generation. To me they were superhuman beings who were born with the talent to compose great literature. Okay, maybe acclaimed writers like them have been blessed with special powers. On the other hand, there are hundreds of really good writers who tell compelling stories through their work in newspapers, books, magazines, e-zines, blogs, and every other form of the written and spoken word.
I was reminded by an artist friend of mine that painting demands a lot of hard work. Talent is an important element, of course, for any creative art; learning the craft and working at it is the rest of it. In my teenage years, I loved to play at writing poems and stories. Studying English and French in college allowed me to expand my understanding of language and literature, but I never imagined I might actually write something anyone else would want to read. Until, that is, I found myself able to leave a full-time career and work part-time. I decided I wanted to write. Whether anyone read it or not, writing became important to me. I dove right into that pool, never realizing how much I still had to learn. Now, more than six years later, I have somehow fooled Echelon Press into publishing my young adult novel, Snowstorm.
Snowstorm will come out in 2011, and in the intervening months I will be blogging about it. The journey thusfar has been a brain-stretching, eye-opening, head-pounding struggle, and I have loved every moment. In the next year I expect to chug slowly up the hills and slide wildly down the other side. I just hope I land on my feet.