Monday, August 18, 2014

A barbecue competition is like going to a family reunion, only you get to pick your relatives." Judy Fry, The Frying Pan

If you're not from North Carolina, you may not appreciate NC barbecue.  I lived in the Tar Heel State for about 15 years and never liked it's version of BBQ as much as Ohio's, but it is tasty.

My husband, who grew up in NC, really loves it!  And my kids, who are picky eaters, actually like this version I cooked in my crock pot the other day. If you find it strange, douse in your favorite BBQ sauce and you'll love it!

This recipe is from my Slow Cooker Recipe Book that came with my GE crock pot. Hope you like it!

North Carolina Barbecue

3 lbs boneless pork butt, shoulder or blade roast
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomato
1/2 cup vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T sugar
1 heaping T red pepper flakes
1 T salt
2 t black pepper

Combine all ingredients in crock. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Pull meat apart with fork when done.  Makes about 3 pounds of BBQ. Great Served with baked beans and cole slaw.

What's your favorite BBQ? Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!

Reprinted from April 8, 2011

Monday, August 11, 2014

Esther Williams: Fighter, Champion, Star


One of my favorite stars from Hollywood's Golden Era was the beautiful Esther Williams (August 8, 1921-June 6, 2013), a swimming star of several MGM movies known as Aqua Musicals.

Something you may not know is that Ms. Williams was a proponent of civil rights--keep reading to see how!

I love watching anything filmed underwater, and seeing Esther Williams swim in those pictures is amazing and a real treat.  If you've never heard of Esther Williams, check out this video to see what I mean!

Prior to becoming a movie star, Esther Williams set multiple national and regional swimming records while part of the Los  Angeles Athletic Club swim team during her teens.  She had wanted to compete in the 1940 Summer Olympics, but couldn't  because of the outbreak of World War II.  At that point, Ms.Williams joined Billy Rose's Aquacade, where she spent five months swimming alongside Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic swimmer and Tarzan star.

While performing at the Aquacade, Williams caught the eye of MGM talent scouts. After appearing in several small roles, Williams began making the Aqua Musicals, featuring elaborate numbers with synchronized swimming and diving.  From 1945 to 1949, Ms. Williams had at least one movie among the top 20 grossing films of the year.

Not long ago, I read her autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid.  If you do enjoy bios of the stars, don't pass this one up!  I was thoroughly impressed by her candor, zest for life and positive outlook.  She lived through experiences that might have been crushing to some of us, but made her a fighter, champion and star!

The most devastating time she endured was the repeated rape that began at age 13.  The older teen who abused  her had been charitably taken in by her family.  Orphaned and left on his own, this young man was an exceptional student and athlete.  Ms. Williams had lost an older brother years earlier who was the "golden child" of the family, and this orphaned youth filled the void in her parents' lives.

As a victim of abuse, Esther remained quiet for two years, fearing his threats.  Finally at age 15, she told her parents.  Their reaction was hurtful to her, and I almost cried when I read it.  They were in denial at first, but finally confronted him.  When he admitted the truth, her parents were more upset with him for not living up to their expectations of who'd they'd thought him to be, rather than the fact that he'd repeatedly raped their daughter for two years.

Esther listened from another room, completely demoralized.  Why hadn't her father been ready to kill the guy and kick him out?

The pool at the athletic club was her solace, and after hearing her parents' exchange with him, that's where she went.  But when she'd changed and was ready to swim, the rapist confronted her.  To his tearful apology she responded, "If you touch me again, I'll kick, I'll scream and I'll fight!" After this, he left her family's home and joined the armed services.

During Ms. Williams's days in  the Aquacade, she had fight off Johnny Weissmuller's aggressive advances and endure substandard treatment from bosses since she wouldn't "give in."

Prior to stardom, Ms. Williams survived an abusive marriage, and after stardom, the loss of her fortune through another husband's gambling.  She also lived through some near death experiences from swimming mishaps during filming.

But in addition to the painful times she shares, her story has some humorous ones as well.  Here's the civil rights anecdote I referenced earlier.  She was the mother of three children and employed the same African American babysitter for a number of years.

While performing in a live show, Ms.Williams wanted her babysitter and the sitter's husband to attend one of her performances.  However, the establishment where she'd be doing her show was segregated, but this didn't deter Ms.Williams, who thought the whole segregation system unfair.

She procured Middle Eastern garb for her guests and told the management that they were friends of hers from a royal family.  Needless to say, the sitter and her husband had the best seat in the house that night, and the last laugh!

Are you an Esther Williams fan?  Thanks for visiting!

Reprinted from March 12. 2012.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Planner or Pantster?

If you're a writer, are you a planner or a pantster?

If you're not familiar with those terms, here's a simple explanation: Planners plan their stories to the last detail and pantsters wing it, flying by the seat of their pants.

Some planners write elaborate outlines, character biographies, spread sheets, etc. Needless to say, they are detail oriented and highly organized people.

Some pantsters will have an idea for a story, and perhaps they'll know how it begins and how it ends.  However, getting from start to finish remains a mystery until the pantster starts writing.

I lack the organization and detail gene (if there is such a thing), so I'm more of a pantster. I do write a very brief outline--no more than a page--then go from there.

What about you? Plotter or pantster?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Revelation: Now Available!

Revelation: Book Three of The Unchained Trilogy is now complete and available at Amazon.com! Here's what's in store:

Light-skinned Selina Standish lives a life of emotional pain and torment. In 1906, at the tender age of eight, she is convinced by her mother, actress Lavinia Standish, the daughter of a slave, to pass as white.  Although Selina yields to her mother’s insistence to pass, she refuses to cut ties completely with her “Negro” relatives, including her twin brother, a child her mother deems too dark to pass.

However, at age seventeen, in the year 1915, Selina meets wealthy southerner Jack Cosgrove, the man of her dreams. Keeping her ancestry a secret, Selina is conflicted by Jack’s “negrophobia” and negative attitude toward her race. She must determine if happiness with him could ever be a possibility, especially if she were to reveal her bloodline.

Later, a chance encounter with Pastor Tony Manning opens Selina’s eyes to real love. Although he is a progressive thinker regarding race relations, Tony appears to draw the line at interracial marriage. In order to live as his wife, Selina decides she must completely disassociate herself from all her “colored” relatives. 

While bound to a chain of secrecy, Selina struggles to live in honesty. How true can she be to her husband, if she can never reveal the truth about herself? In 1933, Selina’s brother reappears in her life. Can she successfully hide his existence? How will her decision touch the lives of future generations to come? 

Read on for a brief sample:

Prologue
New York City
Summer, 1912

Dearest Gabe,

I hope you, Father, Aunt Olivia, and our adorable little brothers, Jason, Gregory, and Jonathan, and Grandmother and Grandfather are doing well.  I could not wait to write to you, because I can hardly contain my excitement about what I am planning to do today!  Do not think me daffy, but I cannot tell you, at least not yet, although I wish I could.

You see, if I do tell you, you might tell Father, and he might disapprove.  It is scandalous enough that I am going behind Mother’s back!  I am not doing anything particularly bad, yet it is daring, to say the least!  I will explain everything to you once I have executed the deed, and then told Mother, at which time, I will face the music!

I am fourteen now, or rather, we are fourteen, and Grandmother has often told me of the difficult times she endured while raising Mother.  I have been good, Gabriel, and I know you are aware of that!  I do, however, want to spread my wings, as they say, and see what the world has to offer! 

I will write soon to tell you all about what happened.  I send my love to you and the family!

Yours affectionately,
Selina
A gentle breeze swept through the enormous windows, filling Salina’s sizable bedroom with the scent of gasoline and soot from the automobiles and elevated trains that roared outside.  The soft wind tousled the fringe of bangs that covered her forehead.  Sitting at her Queen Anne desk, Selina folded the letter she’d written to her twin brother.  She’d lived with her mother for six years now, still in the elegant brownstone at Central Park West and Eighty-Sixth Street that had originally belonged to her father.

Selina missed Gabe, as well as the rest of her relatives in California.  Sometimes, she even wished she could live there with them.  She had such happy memories of the four years she’d lived out West, and that was before all the new siblings had arrived.  Now there were so much family—and so much love.  But Selina had to think practically, that’s what Mother always said. 

Life in New York wasn’t bad.  Selina had Brigid, her nurse since birth, and even her mother for most of the year.  Stuffing the letter into an envelope, Selina reflected that the life she’d lived here was better than the alternative Mother had explained all those years ago...

“...Don’t go back to California with your father, darling... If you do, he’ll send you off to a boarding school in France—where no one speaks English...”

That was one of three reasons Mother had used to convince Selina to stay in New York.  Another was the practical one...

“You being here, living in New York—that’s the best possible thing for you.   You may not completely understand why, but you will one day.   I promise you, Selina, your life here is better than it ever could be in California... It’s not so much the living in New York that matters.  It’s you being with me...being white... 

Hope you'll check it out, along with parts one and two!

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Famous Pseudonyms and Stage Names

Eleanor Hibbert aka Jean Plaidy,
Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, etc.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." William Shakespeare

Are you thinking about choosing a pen name? Perhaps you want something a little more sultry or adventurous sounding. If you already have something in mind, Google it to make sure no one else is using it. One writer I know of had picked a perfect name, but after doing a search found out it belonged to a porn star! Back to the drawing board.

For years, authors have been using pseudonyms for various reasons. Mary Ann Evans, aka George Eliot, used a male pen name to make sure her works were taken seriously. Eleanor Hibbert's complex literary novels produced little interest among publishers. She was told the easiest way to break in to publishing would be with romantic fiction. She chose to write contemporary romances under her maiden name Eleanor Burford, and found success. Talented and prolific, she went on to write historicals as Jean Plaidy, and Gothic romance as Victoria Holt.

Kim Novak aka Marilyn Novak... Only room
for one Marilyn in the 1950's
Nora Roberts, the most popular and prolific author of contemporary romance, shortened her real name from Eleanor Robertson, because she thought all writers used pseudonyms. Ms. Roberts writes her romantic suspense series, "In Death," under the pen name J.D. Robb.

Jayne Castle (birth name) writes futuristic paranormals. Under her married name, Jayne Ann Krentz, she writes contemporary romantic suspense, and as Amanda Quick, pens historicals.

As writers choose pen names, so actors choose stage names. Sometimes these names are used to evoke a certain image, or perhaps disassociate a sibling connection. Years ago, names deemed too ethnic were changed to more all American sounding monikers. And of course, names must be changed if already in use by someone famous. Read on for a fun list of stage names vs. real names.

  • So So to Star: Norma Jean Baker aka Marilyn Monroe, Frances Gumm aka Judy Garland, Tula Finklea aka Cyd Charisse, Archibald Leach aka Cary Grant
  • Sibling Disassociation: Peter Graves (Aurness, Mission Impossible)) and James A(u)rness (Gunsmoke), Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine (Beatty), Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine (de Havilland), Donna DeVerona and Joanna (DeVarona) Kerns
  • Ethnic to White Bread: Rita Cansino aka Rita Hayworth, David Kaminski aka Danny Kaye, Issur Danielovitch aka Kirk Douglas, Bernard Schwartz aka Tony Curtis, Dino Crocetti aka Dean Martin
  • Already Taken: Marilyn Novak aka Kim Novak (not enough room for two Marilyns during the '50s, thanks to Marilyn Monroe), Mike Douglas talk show host, Mike Douglas actor aka Michael Douglas, Michael Douglas actor aka Michael Keaton
Do you have a pen name? If not, do you plan to use one?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Republished from 7/21/10.