Monday, May 28, 2012

Hawaiian Chicken

As we commemorate Memorial Day, I want to thank all the brave men and women who have served our country!

The Memorial Day weekend kicks off the unofficial start of summer.  And with summer comes vacation planning!

I don't know about you, but I'd love to go to Hawaii!  Unfortunately, with two kids in braces, that won't be happening any time soon. However, I can always dream, and this Hawaiian Chicken recipe makes me feel like I'm there--okay, not really, but it sure tastes good!

Hope you enjoy it, too! It's a crock pot recipe and only takes minutes to assemble, but you will need to set aside up to five hours for it to cook. It's delicious over rice!

This recipe is from my General Electric Slow Cooker Recipe Book.

Hawaiian Chicken

3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved (I use thighs)
1 16 ounce can pineapple slices, drained (I use chunks)
1 15 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in the crock. Stir well. Cover and cook on:
Low - 4 to 5 hours
High- 2 to 3 hours

Where will yo be vacationing this summer? Have you ever been to Hawaii?

Thanks for visiting! By the way, if you're looking for a summer read, give my novel The Governor's Sons a try!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Say it Like a Man!

If you’re a female writer, have you ever mistakenly made your male characters speak like women?  I have!  As women, we emote; our language tends to be a bit more flowery, as well as effusive! 

My husband says, “Verbosity is unbecoming in a man.”  So now, whenever I write a scene involving a man, or men, doing  most of the talking, I read it to hubby, and he tells me if my men sound manly enough!

Not long ago, I attended a fantastic  workshop at my OVRWA monthly meeting, presented by writers Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens of, entitled Writing Men, for Women.

The workshop provided instruction to women, on how to write their male characters more effectively.

My favorite part of the workshop encompassed dialogue.  A few tips I learned are listed below:

Men use absolutes, rather than relative language. For example, “She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” is more realistic for male dialogue, instead of “She has to be one of the most beautiful women I‘ve ever seen.”

Men will not use long sentences. I once wrote a scene where an older man talked to his long lost son, and it went something like this: “I’m just glad you’ve accepted me. For a long time, I was afraid you wouldn’t.  So now our relationship, and where it goes, is up to you.”  My husband suggested replacing all those  rambling sentences with only one: “So...where do we go from here?”

Men use simpler vocabulary with fewer modifiers.  So rather than the hardened criminal saying, “I feel as if I could easily remove that ugly face of yours,” he’d probably exclaim, “I ought to rip your face off!”

Dialogue is action and action is dialogue for men.  In general, readers don’t trust male characters who talk a lot.  We wonder what a talker is hiding.  Heroes take action rather than talk.  Instead of discussing a way to save the heroine, the hero plans and executes it.

Hope you find this advice helpful!

Do you sometimes express your men in a womanly way?

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Beethoven and The Hunger Games

Ludwig van Beethoven
Yeah, I know what you're thinking, what does Ludwig van Beethoven have to do with The Hunger Games?  Keep reading to find out!

I was trying to think of an interesting topic to write about today, and decided to post something on famous mixed race individuals through history.  Ludwig van Beethoven immediately came to mind, so I started doing a little research.

Here’s his life in a nutshell, courtesy Wikipedia:   

Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770– 26 March 1827) was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers.

Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire, Beethoven moved to Vienna in his early 20s, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. His hearing began to deteriorate in his late twenties, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after becoming completely deaf.

What's not always mentioned in some biographical accounts is Beethoven's ancestry. His mother was a Moor, that group of Muslim North Africans who conquered parts of Europe and made Spain their capital for about 800 years.  So regarding Beethoven's race, I read an interesting article at Open Salon that quoted several sources about his appearance:

Frederick Hertz, German anthropologist, used these terms to describe him: “Negroid traits, dark skin, flat, thick nose.”

Emil Ludwig, in his book “Beethoven,” says: “His face reveals no trace of the German. He was so dark that people dubbed him Spagnol [dark-skinned].”

Fanny Giannatasio del Rio, in her book “An Unrequited Love: An Episode in the Life of Beethoven,” wrote “His somewhat flat broad nose and rather wide mouth, his small piercing eyes and swarthy [dark] complexion, pockmarked into the bargain, gave him a strong resemblance to a mulatto.”
 C. Czerny stated, “His beard--he had not shaved for several days--made the lower part of his already brown face still darker.”

Following are one word descriptions of Beethoven from various writers: Grillparzer, “dark”; Bettina von Armin, “brown”; Schindler, “red and brown”; Rellstab, “brownish”; Gelinek, “short, dark.”
 Newsweek, in its Sept. 23, 1991 issue stated, “Afrocentrism ranges over the whole panorama of human history, coloring in the faces: from Australopithecus to the inventors of mathematics to the great Negro composer Beethoven.”

Amandla Stenberg as Rue from The Hunger Games
As I read through all these descriptions, I couldn’t help but think of the racist tweets about the black actors in the motion picture adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s novel The Hunger Games. Apparently these young tweeters were surprised that the characters they’d fallen in love with in the story were dark skinned individuals.  However, their appearances were clearly described in The Hunger Games.

If you missed this news like I did, when it first broke back  in March after the release of The Hunger Games movie, here’s a portion of an article from

For at least a few moviegoers, the decision to make Rue and Thresh African-American weakened the film's impact. "Why does rue have to be black not gonna lie ruined the movie," one dismayed fan tweeted. "EWW rue is black?? I'm not watching," bemoaned another. "Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn't as sad #ihatemyself." Many more tweets, some employing the "n-word," have been collected on a Tumblr page called Hunger Games Tweets, which seeks to "expose the Hunger Games fans on Twitter who dare call themselves fans yet don't know a [darn] thing about the books."

Collins clearly described them as "dark-skinned," if not specifically black. On page 45, Katniss sees Rue for the first time and describes her this way: "She has dark brown skin and eyes." Later, Katniss meets Thresh, saying that he "has the same dark skin as Rue."

Although these tweeters comprise a small minority, I found this story pretty sad, especially since those expressing their opinions were teens and young adults!  But when life gives you lemons, make lemonade and have fun writing a blog post about it!

If any of those tweeters like Beethoven (yet something tells me that even if they've heard of him, they may not be that familiar with his work), I hope they don’t see this blog post!  However, if they do, here are some examples of what might appear on Twitter from them:

Beethoven, black! I won’t listen to his music anymore!

Now I don’t feel so bad about him going deaf.

Not gonna lie, this really ruins his music for me.

Thanks for visiting with me today, and by the way, is this information about Beethoven something new to you?

Monday, May 7, 2012

How Not to Bomb

I am thrilled to have the talented Alice Osborn, from Write From the Inside Out, guest posting for me today!  She’s sharing some great advice that will help you better prepare for your next public speaking engagement. Take it away, Alice! 

Alice Osborn
Thank you so much, Maria, for allowing me a spot on your lovely blog! My name is Alice Osborn. I am a poet, speaker and editor. I live in Raleigh, NC, where I help writers become authors and better businesspeople.

When you’re nervous before a reading, open mic or a speaking event you’re that way because you don’t want to bomb . You don’t want to be humiliated and asked never to come back.  You also don’t want to let your audience down. Maybe you’ve had a less-than-ideal speaking experience and you’re afraid lightning will strike twice. I’d like to share a few tips with you on how not to bomb, or at least how to bomb less! Now, let go of your nervousness and give your best performance to the people who have come to see you!

Alice's Latest Book
Know Your Audience
If you’re an author giving a reading, know your audience! Are they familiar with your work or are they completely new to it? If they are new to it, warm them up by telling them why they’ll love your work and use humor! If you’re the first speaker, you won’t have a lot of material to riff about except complimentary stuff about the venue, the hosts and the warm crowd, but if you’re performing after an open mic segment or after another speaker, talk up the folks who have  gone before you and give them a little love. Doing so will endear you to your audience.

I had a little issue with a speaking engagement when I realized that my talk was geared towards entrepreneurs and not corporate employees. Oh, boy! I should have asked my speaking coordinator who my audience was so I could prepare. But here I was and I spoke to them about how being creative and flexible would make them more effective in their presentations—something from the entrepreneur world that they may not deal with on a daily basis.

Collect Stories             
As you go about your life, collect anecdotes that will resonate with your audience and that will help you break the tension. Just be sure that they’re relevant to you and your reading.

Show Up Early
When you show up early rather than on time you give yourself the chance to arrange the room and get a feel for the acoustics. I’ve shown up early at gigs and have rearranged the chairs to go from a classroom to a U-pattern—it’s made all of the difference!

Don’t drink too much
This applies more at a reading or an open mic, but don’t drink even if you think it’ll help you when it’s your turn at the mic. Drink plenty of water and when you’re all through, then have your favorite adult beverage.

Rehearse your talk and material ahead of time—mark your pages if you’re reading from your book so you’re not thumbing randomly. Check to see where you’re stumbling and adjust. Time your talk so you’re going over or under. Preparing is vital for success and I consider this my most important tip.

Possessing strong speaking skills as an author is vital for your continued success.  You might also consider using video to record your performances and then later see what you could have done better.

Your Turn

OK, so those are my tips on how not to bomb. What have I missed? Please feel free to add a few more suggestions in the comments for us!

Alice, thank you so much for joining me today!  You’ve given us some wonderful and very helpful tips. Public speaking may not be a part of marketing enjoyed by the introverted authors among us, but as you mentioned above, strong speaking skills are vital for continued success.  Thanks for showing us how not to bomb! 

Alice Osborn, M.A. is the author of three books of poetry, After the Steaming Stops, Unfinished Projects, and Right Lane Ends; she helps authors become business people and business people become authors. Alice teaches creative writing all over the country where she uses sensory images and road-tested prompts to stimulate her students’ best work. Her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Soundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and two children. Visit her website at