Monday, July 31, 2017
Life is Stranger Than Fiction
"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn't." Mark Twain
My husband, a commercial and residential home inspector, had a rather interesting experience this week when he did a well test for a customer who was a Vietnam veteran. There were actually two veterans at the site, the owner of the property, and a friend who rented from him.
The men, both tanned, tattooed, pot bellied and shirtless, fit the stereotype of "rednecks," my husband said. He was, however, fascinated by their home, situated on several acres out in the country, and their life style of living off the land.
I realize any war vet experiences trauma, but Vietnam vets had their trauma compounded by a hostile homecoming. Perhaps some of them prefer living in isolation. Just my thoughts.
"They let their guard down with me," my husband said, "and let me into their world. They appreciated my interest in their way of life, and I learned a lot. They had wisdom to share, they were fun to be with, and they had lots of cool stuff to look at." He placed a bag on the counter. "They gave me some apples. There's a tree in front of the house. It's a deer magnet! It attracts them like crazy. As a matter of fact, the guy can just look out of his living room window--and bam! He doesn't even need to leave the house to hunt!"
"Oh..." I said. Not that I have anything against hunting, as long as it's for food, and I do like venison.
"And they taught me all about shot guns, high powered rifles, and pistols."
My eyes widened to saucer proportion.
"They do all the dressing themselves. They have a huge butcher shop and a walk-in freezer."
Well, at this point, my writer's imagination began running out of control. "So," I said, "didn't you start to wonder if there were any dead bodies buried out there, or hidden in the basement--or in that walk-in freezer?"
Now my husband took offense. "It's comments like that, that make Vietnam war vets feel like outcasts!"
"I'm sorry. If I'd been with you, I certainly wouldn't have said anything like that. And I wouldn't have been scared--unless I'd seen an ax."
"Oh," hubby said, "I saw an ax alright! Actually, it was a two handed cleaver about three feet long. You'd use it for cutting off a leg." Now I had a deer in the headlights look. "The leg of a deer! They also had a vertical band saw for cutting apart carcasses, a meat grinder for sausage, and a smoker for venison jerky."
My imagination was on fire now, but I didn't say a word. No more snarky comments from me. These were brave men who'd served our country and carried emotional scars, and probably physical ones unseen by my husband. One had done three tours of duty and wanted to serve more, but was told he'd had enough. If I hadn't seen the movie Hurt Locker, I wouldn't have understood the desire to go back again and again.
On to the apples. As I pulled them from the bag, each appeared more grotesque than the next. Some sported gray spots or deep black marks, while others were globular in shape.
"Eeew!" I exclaimed horrified. "Were these picked over by the deer and left behind?"
"No! They came right off the tree! There not gonna be perfect like what you find at a grocery store!"
Okay, call me a city girl. I'm used to pretty apples cultivated with pesticides and gussied up with wax. "Well," I said, "they'll probably taste better than what's at the store, but they're too scary looking to eat like this." I smiled. "I'll make an apple crisp." And despite how ugly the apples were, the apple crisp was delicious!
Any life stranger than fiction stories come to your mind? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Monday, July 24, 2017
Show, Don't Tell
Here's an excellent article by Erin over at Daily Writing Tips. If you're new to writing, this information will help you clearly understand how to show and not tell! By the way, I just discovered Daily Writing Tips, and it's a great place to find answers for any writing questions you may have!
Show, Dont Tell
Anyone who’s ever written a short story or taken a freshman composition course has heard the words “show, don’t tell.”
I know those words can be frustrating. You might not know exactly what “show, don’t tell” means. Or you might believe that you are showing when you’re really telling.
While “telling” can be useful, even necessary, most people don’t realize how vital “showing” is to an effective story, essay, or even a blog post. Showing allows the reader to follow the author into the moment, to see and feel and experience what the author has experienced. Using the proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting and effective.
“Okay, I get it,” you’re thinking. “But how do I do it? How do I bring more ‘showing’ into my writing?”
I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips that will help make your writing more vivid and alive for your reader.
1. Use dialogue
This is probably one of the first things I talk to my students about when I have them write personal essays. Dialogue allows the reader to experience a scene as if they were there. Instead of telling the reader your mom was angry, they can hear it for themselves:
“Justin Michael,” mom bellowed, “Get in here this instant!”
Dialogue can give your reader a great deal about character, emotion and mood.
2. Use sensory language
In order for readers to fully experience what you’re writing about, they need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around them. Try to use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.
3. Be descriptive
I’m sure everyone remembers learning to use adjectives and adverbs in elementary school. When we’re told to be more descriptive, it’s easy to go back to those things that we were taught. But being descriptive is more than just inserting a string of descriptive words. It’s carefully choosing the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning.
The following example is from a short story I wrote.
Telling: He sits on the couch holding his guitar.
There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. It gives the reader some basic information, but it doesn’t create an image. Compare that sentence with this:
Showing: His eyes are closed, and he’s cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover. It’s as if he’s trying to hold on to something that wants to let go.
The second example takes that basic information and paints a picture with it. It also uses figurative language—in this case, the simile “cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover”—to help create an image.
When using description, it’s important not to overdo it. Otherwise, you can end up with what I call “police blotter” description. For example:
He was tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a red shirt and jeans, and a brown leather jacket.
4. Be specific, not vague
This is another one I’m constantly reminding my college students about. Frequently, they will turn in essays with vague, fuzzy language. I’m not sure if they think this type of writing sounds more academic, but all it really does is frustrate the reader.
Instead of writing, “I had never felt anything like it before in my entire life,” take the time to try and describe what that feeling was, and then decide how best to convey that feeling to the reader. Your readers will thank you for it.
Hope this information from Daily Writing Tips is useful. If you're a seasoned writer, have you had to explain "show, don't tell" to a novice? If you're new to writing, have ever had questions about it?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Originally posted 10/7/13
Monday, July 17, 2017
Kalua Pork with Cabbage
In the middle of summer, who wants to spend a long time in the kitchen over a hot stove? Even with air conditioning, it can still get pretty hot in the heart of the home.
Today I'm sharing a super easy crock pot dish that my mother-in-law introduced me to a couple of years ago. It takes only minutes to prepare and my kids love it. I posted this recipe back in December of 2015, but it's certainly worth posting again!
This meal is great for a busy weeknight. Serve with hot applesauce and a salad. Enjoy!
Kalua Pork with Cabbage
7 slices bacon
1 T coarse salt
1 3-4 lb pork roast (I used a 3 lb pork loin)
1 head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 cup pineapple chunks
Place four strips of bacon in bottom of slow cooker. Salt all sides of pork roast, then place on top of bacon in slow cooker. Put the remaining bacon on top of pork roast. Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours or until meat is tender. Put cabbage and pineapple chunks on top of roast and cook an additional 1 1/4 hours, or until cabbage is tender.
Have you ever heard of this recipe? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Monday, July 10, 2017
Interracial Love: Conflict Supreme
|Guess Who's Coming to Dinner|
Talking with Denise brought this blog post to mind that I published back in November of 2010. If you missed it the first time around, hope you'll enjoy it today!
"Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Aristotle
Who doesn't enjoy a good love story? But what drives one to make it great? Conflict!
And when you throw an interracial element into the mix (pun intended) you have an intensely compelling and emotionally volatile story.
Several films address this topic including, Come See the Paradise (Japanese/white American), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (white/black American), Mississippi Masala (Asian Indian/ Black American), Something New and Jungle Fever (both white/black American).
In Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, the slave Cassie is repeatedly raped by her master Simon Legree. But she's also been in a previous relationship with her former master, who she loved. "I became his willingly, for I loved him!" Cassie says in chapter 34.
Sinclair Lewis's Kingsblood Royal tells the story of a bigoted character who discovers he has a small percentage of African blood, then falls in love with a black friend named Sophie. When he held her hand, it was "warmer than any hand he had ever known," and when she kissed him, "he had not known a kiss like that..." For more interracial love in literature, see Doug Poe's post on Interracial Sex in Classic Literature here.
Out of all multicultural combinations, perhaps the most explosive in our country is black and white. Make it a love story in the American South of the past--and POW!
After reading Essie Mae Washington Williams's memoir Dear Senator, I wrote my second novel, The Governor's Sons. Ms. Williams's memoir told of her black mother's love affair with her white father, future South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond. In my novel, a rich white law student plans to sacrifice everything and move overseas for the black woman he loves.
All through our country's history, interracial love has ignited conflict. Forbidden Fruit by Betty DeRamus and Martha Hodes's WhiteWomen, Black Men are two fascinating non-fiction accounts on the subject.
The topic of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's black mistress, was swept under the rug by history, and Jefferson's white descendants, until DNA tests revealed that her descendants, were Jefferson's as well.
Although there was an enormous amount of rape and exploitation of black women by white men in the United States (especially the South), there was also love.
If a plantation owner chose a slave as his "wife" and actually lived with her, he'd become an outcast from the community. To prevent being ostracized, some white men, assuming the facade of bachelors to friends and family, would set up separate housing and provide financially for their black "wives" and children. And then there were those white men who chose to have two families, one white and the other black, hidden away in the shadows.
Thank goodness it's a different time! Although still a touchy topic among both the black and white communities, at least as human beings we can freely love whomever we fall in love with. As the old cliche goes, "love has no color."
Do you know of an interracial love story to share?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!
Monday, July 3, 2017
Another Transformers Movie?
The cartoon used to come on one of the cable networks at 6:30 a.m. and it was a great way to get my kids out of bed for school in the mornings. "Come on," I'd say, "get up and eat your breakfast, so you can watch Transformers before we go to school." I'd watch too. And talk about amazing toys that could transform from vehicles to robots! They were great, and pretty fun to play with too. All I played with as a kid were Barbie dolls. Too bad Transformers weren't around back then. I'm not sure how many Transformers we purchased for our kids, but we accumulated quite an army!
I remember being sooooo excited when the first Transformers movie came out. It was phenomenal (I mean, if you like lots of action and explosions)! The kids sat wide-eyed through the whole thing, and so did I. The best part was watching the characters transform; very cool computer animation was used. The second
They could have stopped after one, but I feel that way about most films that have sequels. Have you ever seen a sequel that was better than the original?
Thanks for visiting and have great week!
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