Monday, April 18, 2011

Moday's Writing Tip: Arrive Late, Leave Early

"Too many words..."
"Figure out what the action of the scene is going to be, or what its thrust is, and then start writing just a fraction before the action begins." Robert Masello, Robert's Rules of Writing, Rule 42: Make an Entrance

If you haven't guessed, Masello's Robert's Rules of Writing is one of my favorite craft books.  It's a small work jam packed with excellent advice!

I'm currently revising a WIP, and this rule reminds me that I don't need to fill up scenes with lots of superfluous information. 

Masello uses the example of a scene that takes place in a lecture hall.  Is it really necessary to show the students filing in, the professor straightening his notes at the podium, then clearing his throat and beginning the lecture?

Absolutely not!  If the oncoming conflict is an argument that takes place between the protagonist and the professor, that results in the protagonist getting kicked out of school, focus on that.

Masello says, "If that's what the scene is about, if that's what moves the action of your story forward, then come in just before the argument flares up and out of control.  And once the expulsion is given, end the scene...Lingering in that lecture hall will only dilute the power of the confrontation."

In closing, get to the point, and know when to quit.  Rambling and meandering is okay in a first draft, but while revising, cut what's possible so the reader won't be bored!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recipe Friday: Pork Roast with Gravy

Here's something kid tested (by my children) and mother approved by me! It's also really easy to prepare and cooks in the crock pot.

I made this just the other day and served it with mashed sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.  The recipe, from Reader's Digest, suggests serving it with mashed white potatoes. Rice would work well, too.  Hope you and your family enjoy this!

Pork Roast with Gravy

1 boneless whole pork loin, 3-4 lbs.
1 can chicken broth
1 cup julienned sweet red pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1T brown sugar
2 t Italian seasoning
1 t salt
1 t pepper
2 t cornstarch
2 t cold water

Cut roast in half, transfer to 5 qt. slow cooker.  In small bowl, combine broth, red pepper, onion, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and seasonings.  Pour over pork.  Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours, or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees and meat is tender. 

For gravy, strain cooking juices and skim fat.  Pour 1 cup into small saucepan. Combine corn starch and water until smooth.  Stir into cooking juices. Bring to a boil, cook and stir two minutes or until thickened.

Do you have a favorite pork roast recipe that your mom used to make? Thanks for visiting, and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Share Some Fascinating Trivia From the Fiction You've Read

Audrey Munson
I'm a history buff and I love research, so whenever I read something interesting in a novel that's supposedly factual, I enjoy looking it up so I can read more.

Most recently I learned about Audrey Munson,  mentioned in Linda Fairstein's Hell Gate, a novel filled with all kinds of New York City history and trivia.

The tragic life of this model and silent screen actress intrigued me, so I had to do a little research on my own to satisfy my curiosity.

Audrey Munson (June 8, 1891 – February 20, 1996) rose to fame prior to World War I.  She was  known as "Miss Manhattan," "the Exposition Girl," and "American Venus." She was the model or inspiration for more than 15 statues in New York City. 

Fountain of the Setting Sun
Ms. Munson, who posed nude and clothed, was eventually involved in a scandal. While Munson lived in a rooming house, the married owner of the house fell in love with her.  To be with Muson, he killed his wife.  Munson was never interested in this man, who was eventually convicted of murder, but the scandal ruined her career.

Munson began suffering from schizophrenia, and at age 39 was committed to a mental institution.  She remained there for the rest of her life, dying at age 104. 

As many monuments and statues that Audrey Munson posed for, it's ironic that she herself, is buried in an unmarked grave.

Do you have some interesting trivia you'd like to share that you've found in fiction?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Trying to Break in? Try Writing a Cozy Mystery!

"Cozy mysteries have become a booming business."

The publishing world becomes more competitive every day.  Breaking into romance fiction is even getting more difficult.  But have you ever considered writing a Cozy Mystery?

According to Wikipedia, Cozy Mysteries are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously. The term was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers produced work in an attempt to re-creating the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

I didn't even know what one was until I attended the OVRWA monthly meeting over the weekend.  The program featured Cozy Mystery writers Duffy Brown (aka Dianne Castell) and Heather Webber.

Duffy Brown said that if you can't keep the mystery out of your romance, and can't keep the romance out of your mystery, you should try writing a cozy mystery.  And Heather Webber mentioned that breaking into this market is easier than trying to break into romance.  In addition, you don't have to write all those explicit love scenes!

For more information on this subgenre, visit  The author of this site says:
I find that most of the cozy mysteries that I read take place in a small, picturesque town or village, with characters who I could envision having as neighbors or friends. (Of course, once I find out who the killer is, I wouldn't particularly want that person living next to me!) They are usually not zany people, although an eccentric or two might lurk here and there.  On the whole, they are usually normal, every day characters you might have known at one time in your life.  Cozies don't usually involve a lot of gory details or explicit "adult situations," either.
Does writing a Cozy Mystery sound like something you'd like to try? Thanks for visiting!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Recipe Friday: North Carolina Barbeque

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!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Heard Any Great Lines Lately?

"The new guy's an idiot...but that was a great line. I'll have to use it in my novel."

"The pen is the tongue of the mind." Miguel de Cervantes

And sometimes real life provides dialogue that our pens can have fun with incorporating into a work in progress.

What are some great lines you've heard in real life, said by a spouse, friend, child or relative? 

My favorite was said by an acquaintance at my gym. I didn't hear it first hand, but she told me after the fact. 

She'd been crudely propositioned by a military man, and her response to him from the StairMaster was as follows:

"I don't care how many battles you've fought or how many people you've killed, but if you say something like that to me again, I'm gonna get down off here and make sure you'll never be able to fight again!"

I'll have to use that in my next manuscript! Now it's your turn--share a great line and who said it!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Engage the Senses

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Robert Duvall as Colonel Bill Kilgore from Apocalypse Now

Reading isn't a sensory experience, so it's up to the writer to make it one! Remember show don't tell? This means going beyond the visual and taking full advantage of all the senses, including hearing, smell, touch and taste.

Todd Stone, in his Novelist's Boot Camp, says that how you go beyond sight can make a difference as well.

"As you use description to build that emotional connection between your reader and your story, consider carefully which sense you want to use. Some senses are more--more personal, closer, more private--than others. Using the more intimate senses can make your description more emotionally powerful." Stone goes on to explain the degree of intimacy in each sense:

Sight. The most passive of the senses. Our eyes are always open and we don't need to do anything to see an object, so there's very little involvement. And what we see remains outside the body.

Sound. More intimate than sight. Sound causes a physical change in the body--the vibration of the eardrum. It takes more effort to block out sound than sight, and sounds are also more easily remembered, especially when repeated in rhythmic fashion. Ever wonder why we remember nursery rhymes and cartoon jingles into adulthood? Sound is still rather passive. The stimulation can come from a distance.

Touch. As far as intimacy, touch falls in the center of the spectrum. Touch is easily remembered, and touch memory is stored in a different part of the brain than sight or sound. Touch can be active or passive. Characters can touch or be touched. Whatever stimulates touch must be close. And touch can be used as an intimate character marker--leathery skin, rough hands, scarred face. Touch, however, remains outside the body. So, although it's more intimate than sight or sound, it's less intimate than smell and taste.

Smell. The human brain's neural connections tie certain smells to certain primeval instincts and emotions, making it an intimate sense. Smells can produce strong, emotional reactions even when very faint. I have a friend who grew up in an alcoholic home.  To this day he hates the smell of beer because of what it reminds him of. Does the smell of oatmeal cookies remind you of your grandma's house? For a more powerful, intimate effect on the reader, use the sense of smell in your descriptions.

Taste. The most intimate of the senses. The taste buds, mouth and gums provide fast track access to the body and parts of the brain. Sensations that originate in the mouth can cause very powerful, very emotional reactions almost instantly. To activate taste, a stimulant must enter through open lips, voluntarily or involuntarily. Taste can also reflect emotion, such as the sweetness of a lover's kiss, or the coppery taste of a character's own blood. So taste is the most intimate of all.

In closing, transform your scenes from mediocre to magnificent by engaging the senses! Are you already doing this? Thanks for visiting!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Recipe Friday: Chicken and Red Tomato Curry

I love Indian food because of the extensive use of different herbs and spices.  But for the same reason I'm crazy about it, others may not like it, or even have trouble digesting it!

If you are a lover of Indian cuisine, try this easy recipe from the Cincinnati Enquirer.  It's healthy, and not too fattening.  Throw it together in one pot, serve over rice--and yum!  Hope you like it!

Lal Tamatar Murgh (Chicken and Red Tomato Curry)

3 T sunflower oil
1 medium onion
1 T ginger garlic paste *
1 1/4 lbs skinless chicken breasts, kept whole
1/2 t turmeric
1 t garam masala *
salt to taste
14 1/2 oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 T chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry onion until soft.  Add the ginger garlic paste, stir and add the chicken, stirring to seal in on all sides.  Once the chicken is sealed, stir in the turmeric, garam masala and salt.  Mix well.  Pour in tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done, adding a little water if necessary.  Serve hot, sprinkled with cilantro.  Serves 4.

*Available in the international section of most large grocery stores.

Do you love Indian food?  If so, what's your favorite dish?