Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Take a Trip Down Storyteller Road

Todd Stone
"...look around. There are stories just crying to be written." Todd Stone

Need some help with a story you 've discovered that's just crying to be written, or perhaps even your current manuscript? Take a trip to Storyteller Road and visit with Todd Stone, author of Novelist's Boot Camp.

Todd offers a variety of workshops, but if you can't attend one, his website offers some of the drills and handouts he's designed for them.  And don't hesitate to order his book. I did, and I highly recommend it! 

As you probably guessed, Todd is from a military background, and military boot camp changes how recruits see themselves, their military duty, and the world around them.

"Today's novelists," Todd says, "need this same kind of transformation in how they think about and view their writing.  And, like those who don a military uniform, writers may sometimes need a begin, pursue and complete their projects."

Novelist's Boot Camp provides techniques for success in all phases of writing a novel, as Todd gives insight, tools and instruction for making the most of a writer's writing time!

I attended Todd's Unstick Yourself Workshop and it was truly amazing!  It involved drills to improve the complete writing process, and covered plotting, character development, dialogue, action, description, revision, and much more! His workshops are geared to all writers, unpublished, as well as multipublished.

But even if you can't attend a workshop, take advantage of what Todd offers at Storyteller Road! If you've attended one of his workshops, tell me what you thought! Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Recipe Friday: Pork Chops with White Wine and Honey

"The pig is an encyclopedic animal, a meal on legs." Grimod de la Reyniere

Warm weather is just around the corner, so it's almost time to fire up the grill! One of my grilling favorites is pork. Not only is it tasty and affordable, but if moderately consumed, it's good for you!

According to Organic Facts, pork has a high mineral content of Phosphorus, Selenium, Sodium, Zinc, Potassium and Copper. The two minerals which are present in good quantities are Iron and Magnesium.

Pork is also highly enriched with Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Thiamin, Niacin, Riboflavin and Pantothenic Acid.

Calorific value of pork is 458.0 per 100 gm. This is high when compared to other animal products like chicken, but keep in mind moderate consumption.

Consumption of pork in moderate quantities is helpful in gaining energy. It's good for the skin, eyes, nervous system, bones and mental performance. Intake of pork also ensures better immunity to body due to presence of essential antioxidants.

I usually fix pork chops once a week, and this is one one of my favorite recipes from The Complete Barbecue Cookbook. The book, a British publication, refers to this dish as Pork Loin Chops With Apple Chutney. I've never made the chutney, so I'm excluding it. However, it's wonderful served with hot cinnamon apple sauce. Enjoy!

Pork Chops with White Wine and Honey

6 loin chops
2/3 cup white wine
2 T oil
2 T honey
1 1/2 t cumin
2 cloves garlic crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Trim chops of excess fat. Combine wine, oil, honey,  cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Put chops in a shallow non-metallic dish. Pour marinade over chops. Store covered with plastic in the fridge from 3-24 hours, turning occasionally.

Cook chops on hot, lightly oiled BBQ grill or flatplate for eight minutes on each side or until tender.

Are you ready for spring? And BTW, what's your favorite thing to grill? Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Hate to Part With Your Manuscript?

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." Toni Morrison

Is there a completed manuscript sitting in your drawer, or on your hard drive or thumb drive? Not only is  it completed, it's been critiqued by others, revised countless times, marinated, and revised one last time after marination.

Do you have one like that waiting to be submitted, but for some reason, you just can't part with it?  If so, what's your fear?  Is it not perfect enough? Are you afraid of rejection?

In my opinion, no matter how many times a manuscript is revised, if read yet again, it can be revised even more. I'm thankful I'm not a perfectionist! At some point revisions have to stop.

I just sent off a recently revised manuscript after a period of marination. However, if I'd read it just one more time, I'm sure I would have changed something else. But now it's in God's hands!

If you have a manuscript ready to go, but suffer from separation anxiety, can you explain why? Remember, you've written a story no one else has written that you'd like to read. And someone is out there who'll love it enough to publish it so others can enjoy it too!

Tweet me @maria_mckenzie. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Visit Angela Booth's Writing Blog

Angela Booth
"If you want to become a writer you can; the desire to write is a good indication that you can do it. If you want to become a successful writer, then the stronger the desire, the faster it will happen for you. And the more you write, the more your writing skill will develop--it's a completely natural process." Angela Booth

If you're not familiar with Angela Booth's Writing Blog, you need to visit today! Angela's blog provides help for freelance writers, writing fiction, nonfiction and copywriting.

In addition to lots of great free articles, she also sells several writing guides and manuals, such as Niche Blog Cash Explosion and Write From Home: Best Ever Money Making Tips From Angela Booth.

For first time novelists trying to break in, here's a link you'll find useful, First Steps to Write a Novel: Pick a Genre.

No matter what you write, you'll love Angela's blog! However, if your heart's in writing fiction, be sure to check out her fiction archive for wealth of information to help you write your novel!

Visit before the day is over! BTW, did you check out Harvey Chapman's site yet? Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Recipe Friday: Lazy Lasagna

"When the lasagna content in my blood gets low, I get mean." Garfield the Cat

Lasagna used to be one of those dishes I'd only make for company because it was too labor intensive! Browning meat, preparing sauce from scratch, boiling the noodles, only to have them tear--ugh! The whole process was a major pain!

But ever since I discovered the no-boil method, lasagna has become a staple in our home.  Nowadays, I use leftover sauce that I've made from scratch (see last weeks recipe), but a jarred sauce works just fine.  If using sauce from a jar, also use a pack of prepared Italian meatballs. When I do this, I run them through the food processor.

Here's a health tip:  If you're watching your carbs (like me), use eggplant in place of lasagna noodles.  I use two large eggplants. Peel them, and then slice in half inch circles. Saute in olive oil until brown. Layer the eggplant in place of noodles.  Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

For last week's recipe, substitute spaghetti squash for the spaghetti! Really tasty, and you won't miss the pasta!

Without further adieu, here's today's recipe! Make it over the weekend and enjoy!

Lazy (No Boil) Lasagna

2 26 oz jars pasta sauce
12 oz. lasagna noodles, unboiled
1 pack prepared Italian meatballs (chopped through food processor)
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese and egg.  Set aside.

Spread one cup of sauce evenly over bottom of glass baking dish. Place a layer of noodles on top. Spread half of ricotta cheese mixture over noodles, then over this, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the mozzarella.
Top with half the chopped meatballs and another cup or more of sauce.

Repeat layers. Cover and bake one hour.  Remove cover, top with remaining mozzarella, then run under broiler until cheese melts.  Makes 8 servings.

Do you have a favorite pasta? Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Thanks for visiting, and have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Blogs That Make Smiles on Faces

"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been." Mark Twain, Following the Equator

This post is wayyyy overdue! Several weeks ago, William Kedall, over at Speak of the Devil, awarded me with The Making Smiles on Faces Award!  Thank you, William!  If you're not familar with his blog, check it out! He will definitely keep you laughing!!

Now it's time to share the award!  Here are some awesome blogs that are sure to put a smile on your face:

Joanna Saint James, Bionic Writer
Old Kitty, 10 Lives and Second Chances
Ivy, The Happy Whisk
Colene Murphy, The Journey
Donea Lee, Queen of Procrastination
The Life and Literary Pursuits of Alexia Chamberlynn
Lydia Kang, The Word is My Oyster
Melissa's Through the Looking Glass
Carol, Artzicarol Rambling
Nas Dean

Be sure to visit them soon! Have you smiled today? Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Visit

Harvey Chapman
"If you believe that novel writing is beyond you, or that it's something only the clever few can succeed in, think again." Harvey Chapman

I stumbled upon an awesome site last week that I'd like to share today!  If you're not familiar with Harvey Chapman's, you need to visit!  Chapman offers all kinds of helpful advice for newcomers as well as more experienced writers who are interested in writing a novel.

Chapman has written short stories and novels, but admits that his writing career has always been sidetracked by the actual theory of how to write them.  This is like tinkering with an engine, rather than driving the car, he says.  Because of this lifelong passion for understanding the art and craft of novel writing, Harvey began teaching creative writing. 

He's received his education partly from school, as well as from years of self teaching that continues today.  In addition to his own writing, he's analyzed thousands of published novels, and read countless creative writing guides, including those out of print. 

On the site, you'll find his Essential Guide to Novel Writing availble for purchase, plus lots of free information that will put you well on your way to becoming published! 

I found his site when I was trying to determine the genre of a novel I'm working on.  Couldn't be a romance because someone died, and even though there are a lot of women in the story, it's not really women's fiction. I'd never known the exact definition of mainstream fiction, so when I Googled the term, came up as a hit.  If you need more clarification on mainstream fiction, check the link.

Hope you make time to visit with Harvey today! What are some of your favorite writing sites?  Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie.  Thanks for visiting, and have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Recipe Friday: Veggie Packed Spaghetti Sauce

"Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner." Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren: "Everything you see, I owe to Spaghetti."
 Spaghetti is a kid friendly food that's fun to eat.  What kid wouldn't want to inhale his dinner like a vacuum cleaner?

My kids are picky eaters and they hate vegetables, so I make spaghetti with meat sauce once a week to ensure that some green foods secretly invade their bodies.  Any visible flecks of green render pasta sauce inedible, according to my kids.  So to combat this reaction,  I employ a brigade of vegetables, pureed to a pulp, that become camouflaged under the blood red sauce.  Then while the boys enjoy slurping up their spaghetti, they have no idea they're eating something that's actually healthy!

At one time I used sauce from a jar, but making it from scratch is pretty easy.  Plus, it doesn't contain anything bad, like high fructose corn syrup.

I'm sharing this recipe (one I've concocted on my own) in the quantity that I make, which is rather plentiful. But you can freeze what's left, or use it to prepare another pasta entree, like lasagna.

Hope you and your kids enjoy this!

Veggie Packed Spaghetti Sauce

1 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 t salt, plus 1 t salt divided
1/2 t pepper, plus 1 t pepper divided
1 t Italian seasoning
1 t garlic powder, plus 2  garlic powder divided
1 t onion powder
1/3 cup flour
1 T dried basil
1T sugar
4 14 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2 14 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 7 oz. can tomato paste
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup red wine

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Microwave onion, carrots, green pepper and zucchini on high for 10 minutes,  then process in food processor to make a puree.

Brown meat with vegetable puree.  Season with 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1 t garlic powder, Italian seasoning and onion powder.

In a samll bowl, combine flour, sugar, basil, and remaining salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Set aside.  Once meat is browned, stir in flour mixture until well combined, and then add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese and red wine.  Bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 35 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

What's your favorite pasta? Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Giving Advice to a Novice Writer

"Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skill. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong." Jeffrey A. Carver

Has anyone ever given advice to a novice writer? Has anyone ever given advice to a novice writer who's a friend or loved one?That's what I'm doing right now.

About three nights ago, my husband announced that he's going to write a book.  Now, Mr. McKenzie has very little patience, and when he sets his mind to something, by gum, he's going to do it!  I believe his lack of patience and short temper can be attributed to his Scottish ancestry, but perhaps I shouldn't stereotype. 

Hubby can write (he wooed me with poetry), so the talent is there. He's already written the first two chapters and I'm quite impressed because it's a great story!  But Mr. McKenzie has little patience when I try to explain things like point of view, setting the scene at the beginning of a chapter, cause and effect, etc.  He's eager to listen and learn, but as I expound and give examples, he claims, "I got it, you can stop now!" Even when I suggested he  read a chapter from one of my craft books on POV, he said, "No, I understand it!"

Maybe I should explain that the writing process is a slow one--one that requires tremendous amounts of patience.  Writing a novel can take months, or even years to get it perfect/publishable.  He thinks I'm just slow.  But sooner or later he'll realize that the writing itself is slow, and that there's a lot to learn on the way. I suppose I'll have to be patient with his impatience as I guide him along! 

How are you at offering advice to a novice writer? Is it harder for you when the novice is a friend or relative? Tweet me at maria_mckenzie. Thanks for visiting!  

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Real Life Insight to Help Craft Your Tortured Hero

Dave Draveck
"My arm to me was what hands are to a concert pianist, what feet are to a marathon runner.  It's what made me valuable. What gave me worth in the eyes of the world. Then suddenly, my arm was gone." Dave Dravecky

In the June 2010 issue of Romance Writers Report, Romance Writers of America's Librarian of the year, Jennifer Lohmann, said her favorite romances involve a tortured hero. "...bring down that duke with stroke in his 30s, ruin a painter's painting arm and take away his eye...give him a stutter, have his mother abandon him, his father hate him..."

When the hero you've created is tortured, just the right woman--your heroine--can come along and pull him out of the lowly depths to which he has sunk. Regardless of the obstacles, and what your hero has suffered, your heroine can restore him to the man he once was, only better. Don't you just love happy endings?

After I read Ms. Lohmann's quote, I started thinking about some real life tortured heroes. Sometimes, the torture can be self inflicted, through lapses in judgement, such as alcohol abuse or drug use. But sometimes, unavoidable circumstances can bring about life altering change.

Michael Phelps is a star athlete and Olympic champion. We all know his story. With the world at his fingertips, Phelps made a rather pricey error in judgement. Once photos circulated of him indulging in an illegal substance, his multi-million dollar endorsements slipped right through his fingers and down the drain. Those Wheaties boxes featuring his picture were distributed to third world countries.

Ludwig van Beethoven, brilliant German composer and pianist, began to lose his hearing while still in his twenties. He ended up completely deaf, but despite this still continued to compose, conduct, and even perform. The cause of Beethoven's deafness is unknown, but it has been attributed to syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus, an auto-immune disorder, and even immersing his head in cold water to stay awake.

Lou Gherig, the great baseball player from the 1920's and '30s, is remembered for his prowess as a hitter, his consecutive games played record, and his farewell to baseball at age 36. Then he was stricken with with a fatal neurological disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, now known as "Lou Gherig's Disease." Motor function of the central nervous system is destroyed, but the mind stays in tact, and life is cut short. Gherig died at 38.

Dave Dravecky is a Christian motivational speaker. At one time, however, he was a major league baseball player. He's remembered for his battle against cancer, which ended his baseball career. After undergoing surgery to remove cancerous cells in his pitching arm, Dravecky began playing again. But the cancer returned. Eventually, his left arm and shoulder were amputated. After the first surgery Dravecky wrote a book entitled Comeback. He later wrote a follow-up, When You Can't Come Back.

While preparing this post I read Dravecky's encouraging and inspirational website.  I saw that he's written another book which examines how he coped with the amputation. As women, we don't understand that men see themselves defined by their careers. In The Worth of a Man, Dave says he felt stripped of his identity. He began to ponder many questions men ask themselves. Where does my worth come from? What creates my value and identity? Is there more to me than what was my career? After a long search, Dave discovered that his true worth could never be shaken by adversity or loss, and now he's inspiring others!

Sounds like The Worth of a Man is an awesome read that also offers insight into the soul of a real life tortured hero. A hero able to rise above adversity through faith, and his real life heroine wife, Jan.

What real life tortured heroes can inspire your writing? Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Recipe Friday: Suzie's Sloppy Joe's

"Have some sloppy joes.  I made 'em extra sloppy for yous. I know yous kids like 'em extra sloppy." The lunch lady form the movie Billy Maddison

I love Sloppy Joes, and this particular recipe is for the crock pot.  Slow cooked and luscious, this dish, also known as a loose-meat sandwich, is sure to please the pickiest eaters!

After visiting the famous Sloppy Joes bar in Key West Florida, I assumed that that's where the name for the sandwich was born. Turns out, it's hard to pinpoint the exact origin.  According to Kerry's Island Kitchen, its history is full of contradictions.

The owners of a restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa, where the lose meat sandwich is popular, claim that they had a cook once named Joe, and  the sloppy sandwich was named after him.  And of course, Sloppy Joe’s in Florida says they coined the name.

What's in a name? Taste is what's important, and I can't wait until you taste these! Throw some together this weekend and enjoy!

By the way, I don't know who Suzie is, but this recipe comes from a great book purchase I made at the dollar store called Easy Home Cooking All New Slow Cooker.

Suzie's Sloppy Joes 

3 lbs lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups ketchup
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
5 T Worcestershire sauce
4 T brown sugar
3 T perpared mustard
3 T vinegar
2 t chili powder
Hamburger buns

Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic in small saucepan. Drain fat.

Combine ketchup, bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar and chili powder in slow cooker. Stir in beef mixture. Cover and cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours. Spoon onto burger buns. Makes 8-10 servings.

I didn't know there were so many names for "the loose-meat sandwich" until I did a little research today.  For instance, in southern Illinois, it's called a Yip Yip, in Nebraska, a Yum Yum and in Northern Pennsylvania, a Wimpie.What are Sloppy Joes called where you live?

Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Wednesday Discussion: Receieved Any Interesting Rejection Letters Lately?

"...not what we're looking for."
"We have read your manuscript with boundless delight.  If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard.  And it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal.  We are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity."  A rejection from a Chinese economic journal

What are some of the most interesting rejections you've received lately?  Although I've never gotten anything so glowing as the one above, it does seem that the agents/publishers do try soften the blow a bit by offering encouragement.  I've received more than one rejection (form letters) that said many bestsellers were rejected numerous times before being selected by just the right agent.

Then I've received a few standard stock lines such as "your story just doesn't fit our needs," and "your story just doesn't move me like I thought it would."

Norma Beishir shared last week that she'd received a rejection regarding a short story she'd submitted to a magazine about a friend and her ex-husband that said, "There's no way these people could be real!"

What about you? Care to share some of your most interesting rejections?  Thanks for visiting!