Monday, April 28, 2014

Comfort Food: Barbecued Meatloaf

There’s more than one version of barbecued meatloaf, and I believe this one is from a very old version of a Betty Crocker Slow Cooker Cookbook. The last time we visited North Carolina, my mother-in-law served it for supper and shared the recipe with me.  Everybody loved it, even my picky kids! I have since made it at home, but the kids swear Grandma’s is better—go figure! Anyway, this is very easy to throw together, it tastes great, and it’ll remind you of one of your mother’s home cooked meals. Enjoy!

Barbecued Meatloaf

2 lb. ground chuck or lean ground beef
½ cup uncooked oats (quick or old fashioned)
½ cup dry bread crumbs
2 T nonfat dry milk
½ cup water
½ cup smoky barbecue sauce
2 eggs
1 t salt
¼ t pepper
1 small onion chopped
6 potatoes, cut up

In large bowl, mix all ingredients except potatoes. Shape meat mixture into a loaf. Place potatoes in bottom of Crock-Pot. Top potatoes with meatloaf. Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours. Makes six servings.

I never liked meatloaf as a kid, but now I love it! How about you, are you a meatloaf fan?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Heating Up Your Novel

Need a little heat in your novel? I'm not referring to the heat of passion, but the kind of heat you pack! Do you know the difference between casings and cartridges, or clips and magazines, or an Uzi vs. an AK-47?

If you're going to include firearms in your story, make sure you portray them, and all of their parts, accurately.  If you don't, to those out there who know gun speak, you'll have the equivalent of "He kissed her with his knee," while wrongly identifying your weapons and their inner workings.

I stole that knee quote from Adam Firestone from his workshop Firearms and the Choreography of Direct Action.  It was amazing, and I learned quite a bit about "heat."

Adam provides technical consulting services to the literary and entertainment industries, specializing in action choreography and technical consulting on cyber and weapon technologies, their impacts, employment and tactics from both historical and modern perspectives.

Be sure to visit his blog if you have questions regarding firearms, because he addresses several issues pertaining to them in his posts. However, if you can't find an answer, drop him an email at

Not all of us are fortunate enough to know a cop or a shooting instructor to verify information about those shoot 'em up scenes we love to write, but Adam Firestone is just a click away!

Have you ever had a question about firearms and weren't sure where to turn?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

My apologies for all the re-postings that have appeared lately, as well as my lack of visiting my bloggie pals in the blogosphere. I'm coming into the closing stretch of my current novel, Revelation, and there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day to squeeze in everything I need to do! I know excuses, excuses, but all that aside, hope you've enjoyed this useful info from Adam Firestone that first appeared here in April of 2013.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Directing Your Book

This post originally appeared in October of 2010. Here are some great tips from actress/writer Leanna Renee Huber that deserve a repeat performance!

"Before I write down one word, I have to have the character in my mind through and through.  I must penetrate into the last wrinkle of his soul." Henrik Ibsen

Not long ago, I attended a workshop presented by award winning author, playwright and actress, Leanna Renee Hieber, entitled, "Direct Your Book: Theatrical Techniques Towards a Blockbuster Book."  As the title suggests, she demonstrates how you can incorporate theater techniques into your writing.

As an author, you are also a:
  • Cinematographer -  By describing the setting, as well as providing the mood and ambiance
  • Director - By setting the stage and establishing pace and viewpoint
  • Actor - By describing your characters, revealing their motivation and intent, and writing their dialogue
  • Marketing Director - By writing your "movie poster quote," your one line pitch, defining your brand and choosing best how to present you and your work.  Gone are the days when the writer could sit at his computer all day in sweats and slippers while a publicist did all the marketing!
Ms. Hieber pointed out some important questions that actors (and authors) must ask of their characters:
  • What is my motivation?
  • How am I going to get what I want? (Intention/tactics)
  • What is the conflict? (or, What's keeping me from getting what I want?)
  • What's my environment and how is it affecting me? (Context)
She emphasized the importance of never forgetting your characters, and that the environment itself is a character.  Think about (the red earth of) Tara in Gone with the Wind, or the cyclone in The Wizard of Oz.  Tara is motivation for Scarlett.  Keeping the plantation from being sold drives her to make decisions hurtful to others, such as tricking her sister's beau into marrying her so his money could pay the property taxes.  The cyclone is dangerous, yet brings Dorothy to a different world where she learns valuable lessons.

Ms. Hieber ended her workshop by touching on some viewpoints expressed by Anne Bogart, author of A Director Prepares.  While writing, consider the following nine elements and ask yourself if you can use any of them for greater dramatic advantage.

1. Spatial Relationship - What's your set up? How close or how far apart are your characters? What position would create the greatest amount of friction between them?
2. Kinesthetic Response - How can you use, for instance, a loud noise, to show a character  flinch, scream or show some other reflexive or gut reaction?
3. Repetition - Repetition creates history. The reader comes back to something he's seen before. Can be used for symbolism or foreshadowing.
4. Floor Pattern/Topography - Blocking to display mood and setting.  For example, when writing about a nervous character pacing, how can you show him moving through that space?
5. Tempo - Pacing, is it fast or slow?
6. Architecture - Physically, what does the space look like in your piece? Describe the environment.
7. Duration - How long does something last?
8. Shape - Bodies have shapes.  What do your characters look like as they sit or walk?
9. Gesture - How do your characters hold their hands? Do they have nervous or happy gestures? Is there any form of nonverbal communication between any of your characters?

Ms. Heiber recommends  A Director Prepares, as well as the following books to open up your writing and general artistic process:
Playing Shakespeare by John Barton
Audition by Michael Shurtleff

I can't say enough good things about the workshop! It was an afternoon well spent and I took away some valuable writing advice.  Hope what I've shared will be useful to you!

Have you ever realized that theater techniques could translate into writing a better novel?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Scariest Shower Ever

Over the weekend I saw the movie Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. If you love film history, I highly recommend it! Alfred Hitchcock's life is explored after he has been a well known and supremely accomplished director for over three decades.

Now in his sixties, should he consider retirement, or stick around and find a project that excites him? You guessed it--and Psycho (1960) is that project! I won't disclose anymore about Hitchcock the movie, however, I will share some fun facts from Tuner Classic Movies regarding the famous shower scene from Psycho:

The shower scene in Psycho required 78 shot set-ups and took seven days to film. The set was built so that any of the walls could be removed, allowing the camera to get in close from every angle. Although other scenes were shot with more than one camera, this one used only one cameraman.
Janet Leigh in Psycho
The shower scene was originally written to see only the knife-wielding hand of the murderer. Hitchcock suggested to Saul Bass, who was storyboarding the sequence, a number of angles that would capture screenwriter Joseph Stefano's description of "an impression of a knife slashing, as if tearing at the very screen, ripping the film."

Janet Leigh wore thin moleskin to cover the most intimate parts of her body in the shower. Hitchcock kept a closed set during the shooting of the murder. Even so, Leigh later noted, "Security was a constant source of trouble. Even though I wore the moleskin, I was still pretty much 'on display,' so to speak. I didn't want strangers lurking around, hoping to get a peek in case of any accidental mishap."

Marli Renfro was paid $400 as Leigh's body double for some shots (according to some reports, she was only used for the scene of Marion's body being wrapped in the shower curtain). Although Leigh said for many years that there was never anyone actually naked in the shower, she admitted late in her life that Renfro did some shots nude. She also mentioned in her autobiography that she was nude in some scenes as the flesh-colored moleskin was washed away from her breasts. "What to do? ...To spoil the so-far successful shot and be modest? Or get it over with and be immodest. I opted for immodesty."

Reportedly, a fast-motion reverse shot was used to give the impression that the knife actually enters Marion's abdomen.

To achieve the effect of the water coming out of the shower head and streaming down past the camera on all sides, Hitchcock had a huge shower head made to order and shot with his camera very close to it.
Mr. Hitchcock
Hitchcock has said that one reason he shot Psycho in black-and-white was because he thought the bloody murder might be too much for audiences. He used chocolate syrup as the blood swirling down the drain. Nevertheless, some audience members swore the scene was in color and that they saw red blood.

Here's a link to the actual shower scene, plus one of Janet Leigh discussing it.

Have you ever seen Psycho?  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!