Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Who Wrote Best Book of 2011? WE Decide!

It's the end of another year, time to look ahead to (hopefully) better times, more opportunities for writers (the digital revolution is well-underway), and the excitement which comes at the stroke of midnight on December 31st!  Before we raise our glasses to toast a new year,  let us reflect on the literary high notes of the passing year.

Who do you think wrote the best book of 2011?  Let me know who you believe wrote the best book of 2011 and why. 

What drew you in as a reader to the novel?  Did you feel affection or disgust for key characters? 
Was there a unique plot line?  Tell me your thoughts. 

As for me, I will be donning a red scarf, or adding a red flower to my hair, as my choice for best book is, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. 

Having toted this book around with me the last two days (yes I read the entire novel in a mere two days because it was too scrumptious to put down!), I've had a few people ask me what the book is  like or about, so I tell them this, "It's like Phantom of the Opera meets a grown up Harry Potter, except this time he falls in love with Hermoine, as it should have been." 

I was never a fan honestly of the whole Harry/Ginny faux-mance, so this is one book which finally makes sense to me, in the sense of proper matching of romantic characters. 

Fanciful, beautifully-written, she created a story world like no other, as you are beckoned to enter the black and white striped tents of the Cirque du Reve.  Rarely does a book make me shed a tear, but this one did, (for a few pages I was careful not to let any moisture hit the pages) with its' tender romance between the two main characters. 

I will not remove any magical charms nor reveal any other plot temptations, but please..relish the first few lines of the book, if you will:

(Excerpt below from The Night Circus)
"The Circus arrives without warning.

No announcements proceed it, no paper on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not."

You will be enchanted as you work your way through this story and through the circus with the turn of each page.  The sights and smells are almost tangible, palpable, and it is worth every penny! 

I say, march right into your favorite bookseller, proclaim yourself a "reveur" to any people working there, (the name the book gives for super-fans of  the Circus of Dreams, who follow the circus from city to city), and wear something with a flash of red, while you wait for them to hand you the best read of the year.  You shall feel no pain at all as you part with your hard-earned money.

Now this is totally superficial of me, but alas, it's also very much like me to say that this is a gorgeous book to acquire and place upon your shelf.  The cover art is beautiful, and the inside of the book is also well-done.  Applause and an ovation to Ms. Morgenstern on her creation, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.  Maybe it's just me..but I see a fabulous film in the works?  Maybe?  This reveur crosses her fingers and waits.

May 2012 be wonderful to both you and your family, and may all writers be blessed with great ideas, grammar, and inspiration.  I know my wish for 2012 is to become a writer with agent (emphasis on agent!).  Let's make this our best year yet, and hope and pray the Mayans got it completely wrong regarding the whole doomsday- prophecy- thing.
Happy New Year, y'all!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ultimate Re-Gift: Fruitcake from 1941!

^This fruitcake has been soaking in rum for 70 years! 1,000 proof fruitcake!

Re-gifting, the ultimate way to ding-dong-ditch your least favorite Christmas gift to unsuspecting friends, (well not those you consider close friends) has reached an all-time low!

This above, is a genuine fruitcake from 1941.  Made by supermarket giant, Kroger, it remained on one  store shelf for thirty years.  Yep, I said THIRTY years, vacuum-packed all cozy-like in a container filled with rum.

If I had to sit on a store shelf for that long, somebody better give me some rum too! 

Anyhow, it was found in 1971, a year before my sister was even born, RE-GIFTED to a friend of the grocer, and then sat on some dude's shelf at his house for another thirty years until the ULTIMATE RE-GIFTING occurred this year, when this was sold at an auction for $525 smackeroos.

I have never thought of re-gifting for profit, but hey, who knew?  Maybe I should peruse my closets and see what ghosts (a.k.a. gifts) of Christmas past might be ready for the same fate?

I can only imagine the auctioneer and his faster-than-the-old-Fed-Ex-commercial-talking-guy doing his spiel for the seventy year old, alcoholic fruitcake:

"DoIhearfivhundredten..fivehundredtenforthefruitcakeforthefruitcakewithinallofus..ten..doIhearfive-twenty?  DoIhearfive-twentyforafruitcakeHunterS.Thompsonwould'veloved....DoIhearfive-thirty..forty?Forty-fivefrontandcenter..doIhearfivefifty?Five-fiftytothescarymanintheback..doIhearfiftyfive?Five-fifty-fourtoscarymanintheback..DoIhearsixty...goingoncegoingtwice..SOLDtothescarymaninthebackwithavendettaagainst hisnextdoorneighbor."  (just read it really fast)

I'll bet this fruitcake might actually be worth the five hundred and twenty-five bucks, because it's probably the world's most alcoholic fruitcake, as it's been soaking up rum for seventy years.  It's probably got more alcohol in it than Otis Campbell did, the time he rode the cow down the street in Mayberry.
In the end, I wish everyone here a Happy Christmas Eve, and feel there's a little fruitcake in each of us, God bless us everyone!  

I wonder if Jimmy Buffett saw this article in the news today?  He sums everything up perfectly in this song:

So in closing , one last question on this Christmas Eve..  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A BookSeller Gives Back! What a Novel Idea for the Holidays!

This is a bookstore now dear to my heart.  Better World Books!  Read on and learn how you can be Santa every day by just buying something you already buy.  A book!

On my way home from work today, I stopped to get some gas, and as I was walking inside to get a Coke Zero (next to iced tea, I like a cold Coke Zero now and then), when I saw this and it stopped me in my tracks, so I snapped a few pics with my cellphone camera.

What was this green bin?  It was a book donation bin, yet on the other side, it said you could buy books at their web address?

After coming home, I researched this company, and am convinced this is one awesome book seller!  Better World Books accepts donations of your used books, resells them, and uses a portion of the profits to fund literacy programs around the world (and maybe some in your own neighborhood).  Here's a few of the wonderful organizations they support:

  • National Center for Family Literacy
  • Books for Africa
  • Invisible Children
  • Room to Read
  • Worldfund
  • Open Books
  • The Robinson Bend Community Center
  • The Prison Book Program

This wonderful company has started a campaign called Book for Book, which is truly amazing!  If you buy a book from Better World Books, they in turn, donate a book to someone in need.  What a beautiful message for the holiday season.  Give the gift of reading, and check this company out.  

By the way, they sell both new and used books!

Give those you love the gift of reading and literacy.  It can change the world!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Cryptic Cookie: Warm Christmas Wishes Edition!

And now dear friends, let us embark on another adventure with the cryptic cookie.  A cyber-romp into speculation and absurdity, where you unlock your creativity as a writer based upon the message I pry from the jaws of a fortune cookie.

This week's message is courtesy of Bob, the amazing sushi Itamae at Rice, the fabulous restaurant in Cumming, Georgia.

I gave Bob my card after we had a fun discussion about writing, and he asked if I would use his fortune cookie in my next cryptic cookie post.

 Drum roll please?  In my hand, I hold a fortune cookie.

Now I will make a small tear at the corner of the plastic packaging, and  remove the cookie, to reveal it naked in its' golden glory for all the world to see (I bet this is how Hugh Hefner opens a fortune cookie).

And the message reads..

Awesome!  "A vacation to sunny shores is soon in store for you."  Thanks Bob for giving me a cookie with a message I truly adore.

For those of you who know me best, I like to go snow skiing, but can only tolerate it for a day or two, then I want to head for warmer climates.  Like Miami or further south.  I'm an island girl, at heart.  Maybe it's because I was born in Puerto Rico, but don't let my blonde hair fool you, I wanna go where it's warm!

Enough of that, let's do some analysis of my cookie message and how it could relate to my manuscript and the characters.  But before we delve further into the message, we're going to take a short break so I can go pour myself the first cup of coffee for the day.

Enjoy Elton John's "Island Girl" while I go make my steamy cup and ponder this message for a while.  I think his fedora is fabulous.  One of the best concerts I've ever attended, incidentally.  Now these are lyrics, and they are beyond sultry and sexy.  Enjoy this amazing entertainer, and part-time Atlanta resident, as he gets fierce on the keyboard.  I just love him!  Let the lyrics get you ready to write your response to this cookie message and jolt yourself from the misery of writing malaise.

Are we ready now and in the mood to discuss the cookie message?  Are you feeling the warm breeze?  Can you smell the salty air?  Are you wishing as I am, that you could trade in your North Face jacket for a bikini?  If so, then join me in a little smidgen of fantastical fiction.

So "a vacation to sunny shores is soon in store for you" is the cookie message.  Immediately, the character of Lee Stanton comes to mind immediately because she's in for not one, but two trips to distinctly different yet equally sunny shores.  My main character, a divorcee, mom, and nuclear medicine technologist, will find herself suddenly at a medical convention on two small islands next to each other, off the coast of Georgia.  The two islands I'm talking about are St. Simon's Island and Jekyll Island.

These two little gems are off the coast, less than 90 minutes from Savannah, in what we call the Golden Isles.  The Golden Isles are magical, and are places rich in both history and romance.  Many industrial and political magnates of the early twentieth century called this area home (can we say Rockefeller?), and escaped harsh, Yankee winters.  Let me give you a taste of the Georgia's Golden Isles right now:

^St. Simon's Island with it's luxurious homes.

^St. Simon's Island lighthouse.  I took a haunted history tour of the island and let me tell you, this place
has it's own story to tell.  Somewhere on an ancient SanDisk card of mine, there's a photo that defies scientific explanation made of the lighthouse and keeper's home.  "Ghost Adventures" would kill for it.

^The King and Prince Hotel, St. Simon's Island.  Stayed here many times.  Fell in love here too.
Same guy.  He's in the other room, and I still feel as much passion for him now as I did the day during our stay in the historical wing here.  

^the natural beauty of Jekyll Island.  Yep, I did this also
when I fell in love on one faithful four day trip.

^Jekyll Island Hotel, magical place.  I have walked barefoot in front of this hotel on the 
lush, soft, green grass.  Again, part of the whole falling in love thing.  We walked around the corner, by the river, near the Crane cottage, and held hands.  

So there you have it, mental imagery and brief descriptions of the two of the more famous Golden Isles, which  are like a classic pearl necklace adorning the neck of the beautiful state of Georgia.  It's still somewhat of a secret destination, with Savannah hogging all of the attention courtesy of John Berendt, so remember to keep it just between us.
My cryptic cookie translation:

In my novel, Lee Stanton has had to go back to work, for financial reasons, and is sent to her state medical convention to catch up on some well-needed c.e.u.'s (continuing educational units), in order to remain in good standing for her medical license.  

Money is tight, and at this point in her life, she hasn't had a vacation in years, so she is thrilled to go visit a place she's never been to before.  

New to the state of Georgia, she enlists the help of her best friend, Tracy, to be her map-reader as they begin the long drive from Forsyth county (a little north of Atlanta) down to the golden sands.  Lee is also emotionally spent, having recently finalized her divorce from Mark, her cheating ex, and is so numb after all the heartbreak, she is convinced love will never find her again, and that she should simply get used to this new life as a single mother.

Her sister, Riley, offers to take her son for a week, as a favor to let her attend to the convention and be able to attend the classes without any disruption.  Riley will take Lee's three year old son,  Mason, to Rosemary Beach, on the Florida panhandle, on their family spring break vacation, so he can have loads of fun playing with his nephew (Riley's son), Sam.  

I would imagine Lee to be thrilled at the chance to even have a little getaway, and that, after getting the news from her boss at work, drive home and begin tossing about clothes left and right in her closet, looking for the perfect skirts, heels and swimsuit for the convention.  She daydreams about palm trees, shrimp and grits, and moonlight shining through trees, dripping with Spanish moss.

She hasn't had a girl's vacation, since spring break in college back in 1992, so she's excited. 

But this isn't the only trip to sunny shores Lee will take.  Oh no, she will be off to more exotic sands very soon, but this time, it won't be for fun or education.

I think the little cookie did its' job today.  It got me excited thinking again about my characters, their adventures, and what lies in store for them in the pages ahead.  That's the point of this exercise, to unlock the creativity, and make you end a writing stalemate.  Suddenly my characters have become more real, it's almost as if they are alive once more, and the drive to write the story is burning within.

With your work-in-progress, are there any characters you are writing about who might be the recipients of a vacation to a sunny shore?  A vacation perhaps?  Maybe they aren't going to venture to a sunny shore, maybe it's to a secluded mountain chalet or to an ultra-modern city like Berlin, or maybe to a centuries-old city in South America?  

Dabble here, write here, and let the creativity flow.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Moment of Silence to Remember..

An innocent smile.

Laughter and joy.

Eyes full of wonder.

Forever a boy.
~by Joey Francisco, 12/14/11

~Rest in peace, and sleep with the angels, Jonathan.  My son will always call you friend.  Our prayers are with your sweet mother and family.  Until we meet again.  Hope does have wings, and faith brings us eternal life.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Does Holiday Stress Affect Your Writing?

Do you detest what December does to your checking account balance?  Do you find yourself after work scurrying around malls or perusing the Internets for the perfect gift for that perfect someone?  Are you knee-deep in holiday ham and green bean casserole?  Too pooped to enjoy more pumpkin pie?  Do you have to attend an office party or school play?

Well my friend, you're not alone, and like many who write, you may hold down a day job and also after work during December, you might have to do all or any one of the following activities listed above.  And those things take away from the little time you might have during the day to write.

Write you say?  What is writing?  Oh I know what that is!  It's what you do, during the month of November when the personal challenge of NaNoWriMo sends you into writing overdrive.  And maybe, just maybe, NaNoWriMo and all the 50,000 written words are to make up for the lack of productivity during the month of December.  

As for me, I am at a precarious point in my novel-writing, at the doldrums, or the deathly middle, as some call it.  I know I can't stop, because if I stop too long, I'll lose all this great "stuff" in my head, and my writing mojo too.  So I can't stop.  As my beloved grandmother once told me, "Joey, you either USE IT or LOSE IT."  Dammit, she was right.  She was always right.

What seems to help preserve my commitment to write, is to take a few short breaks during the day and attempt to squeeze in either a revision or an addition.  My goal this weekend is to wake up an hour earlier each day on the weekend, and enjoy a cup of peppermint mocha coffee and listen to some holiday music and wake up and then write.  The rest of the week, I have more modest goals, to do twenty minutes of writing after taking a bit of time out for myself first.  
^Santa knows how to relax!  Umbrella drinks at the beach!

There are a few rituals I find which help me write, and de-stress.  One such ritual is a nightly bubble bath. I soak away my daily cares and try to let the plot of the novel, float about like bubbles in my head.  And guess what?  It works wonderfully!  Some of my best work has come after a warm, bubble bath.

^She needs a bubble bath!

Another ritual, which especially helps after a super stressful day at work or after running loads of holiday errands, is to sing a silly Christmas carol.  Sometimes it's the Chipmunk Song, other times it's the "Jack Frost" song I made up to the tune of Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song".  No matter what kind of holiday stress I endure, if I sing either one of these songs, it melts away.  I did this very thing yesterday, and the end result was a successful revision of 1/2 of a chapter.  The prose was flowing smoothly, like water over rocks in an icy, mountain stream, and it felt goooood!

If you feel like you can't pick up the pen or peck away at the keyboard because you simply are worn out from all the extra-added festivities, then maybe try to carve out some time to write and enjoy something indulgent.  Bring with you a cup of your favorite coffee or hot herb tea, or take ten minutes before writing to unwind and have a bubble bath.  Or you could just walk down your street, and look at all the holiday lights, while inging a totally absurd holiday song.  
^He needs to sing a silly holiday song.

You see, dear readers, it's my firm belief that you get your best writing done when you're not stressed.  It is a proven fact your creativity is stifled when under stress, so you owe it to yourself to do something a teeny bit indulgent as I said above, before you begin writing.  Start this month with thirty minutes a day, with the first ten being spent doing something to lower your stress levels.  You'd be amazed with what twenty focused minutes each day can do for your w.i.p. (work in progress)!

So tonight, before I  begin to write,  and set aside a few more moments to whittle away at my w.i.p., I'll wander outside and put the clear mini-lights on the boxwood trees outside my front door, while singing the "Jack Frost" song I made up several years ago.  Let me share it with you now:

"The Jack Frost Song" 
(Created by me, while driving home after a wild day shopping at Phipps Plaza.  It is recommended to sing this song loudly, off-key, whilst channeling the swagger of a Vegas lounge singer, to the tune of "The Christmas Song".)

Jack Frost roasting on an open fire.
Santa's elves are nipping at my toes.
Everybody knows..
Some turkey will have some mistletoe..
To help make the office party a fright.
But if you've been good and not like that guy, then Santa's on his way,
He's loaded lots of coupons and freebies on his sleigh,
and every once in a while, you will stop and you will sigh,
after noticing the money in your bank account has gone buh-bye.
And so, I'm singing to you about holiday malaise,
I'll probably feel until I'm ninety-three,
Although it's been said, to me in a holi-daze,
The best gifts at Christmas, are free.

I'll bet you feel better now, don't you?

Do you have a favorite way to reduce stress during the holidays?  Do you feel the extra activities of the season takes away from your time spent writing?  Or do you have a stupid holiday song you sing, similar to the one I made up?  Drop me a line and let me know.  Oh, bonus points for the best silly holiday song!  

You know..there could be a giveaway in the near future, before Christmas, for the best goofy made-up holiday song lyrics (winky winky!) 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Georgia Writers Association Holiday Party to Benefit Calvary Children's Home!

Join me on Saturday, December 10th, from 12 to 2 p.m. at Kennesaw State University and meet up with the Georgia Writers' Association for a holiday party to benefit the children at Calvary Children's Home.  I'll share with you a few family Christmas memories and also read  from a "certain" holiday favorite and here's a hint.."You'll shoot your eye out!"

Make the holiday season shine brighter for the children at Calvary, and visit for information on how to reserve your spot and attend!  Each guest is to bring one (or more!) of the following:

  • Gift cards to bookstores to allow children to select their own books
  • Gift cards to McDonald’s, WalMart, & Target (often used as incentives and awards
  • Gift cards to gas stations (both the Home and the college-age kids travel a lot)
  • Books for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade summer reading lists in the public schools
  • Christian books—devotional and inspirational
  • Other books as appropriate

 If you can't attend, then please consider donning your Santa Claus hat, and sending one of the items mentioned above to Calvary Children's Home.  Tis' much more fun to give than to receive.

Pssst ya'll, I am one of the featured readers at the event!  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Praise of the Sweet Potato Pie!

^those sweet potatoes she's holding will become a glorious pie!

She (or he) who bakes the pie, wears the crown!

It's almost that time of year, when we open our doors to relatives and friends and welcome them in from the cold  for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.  In the south, we have our traditions, and one holiday dessert we treasure is the sweet potato pie.

Some may say why not bake pumpkin pie?  Well I'll tell you why I prefer my southern sweet potato pie recipe over any pumpkin pie, but it's not to say that pumpkin pie isn't delicious, it's just that this is how we do it down south, and it's all about the sweet potato.  In my opinion, if you were to eat one spoonful of pumpkin pie and then sample one spoonful of sweet potato pie, you would notice the sweet potato pie has the consistency of velvet,  is smoother and richer than the pumpkin pie, and embodies the taste of the holiday season.

Just about every friend I have, who grew up in the south will swear that their grandmother made the most delicious sweet potato pie in the world, but the funny thing is, almost each recipe is identical to one another, although there can be debate as to which recipe has the right pinch of this or pinch of that added.  Sometimes the prize goes to the pie with the best crust, since the filling as I said before, is almost identical.  A warm, golden-brown flaky crust is desired, but there is no top crust over the pie, as in an apple or cherry pie. I have heard on occasion, "Yes, her pie is good, but did you try (insert name here)'s pie?  Her pie filling was divine, but her crust was so flaky and buttery, and it just melted in my mouth."  So if you want to go down in familial history as to having the best sweet potato pie ever, keep the crust in mind!  If you are busy, as I am, then do not fear, there are amazing pie crusts out there which taste almost as good as if you made it yourself.  Just remember to douse yourself with flower, and sprinkle your forehead with water (to imitate sweat and toil) and people will think you were in the kitchen for hours making that flaky, crust.  We'll be the only ones to know, and do hide the container in the trash, as soon as possible,  to cover your tracks!

There is however, one more point of contention, and that is whether or not to add real whipped cream on top.  Some say to serve the pie just as it is, in  all its' simple glory, but others choose to instead crown their sweet potato pie with whipped cream.  I'm talking old-fashioned whipped cream, not from a can, but cream you whip into shape yourself!  Again, the addition of whipped cream is optional, and it has become a source of great debate in some households at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  To make everyone happy, I think it is best to bring your fresh whipped cream and set it out in a bowl, and let each guest decide for themselves if they wish to add it or not, this way they will sing the praises of your creamy, delicious pie and crust, and have their pie just the way they want it.

Oh how we love thee, o sweet potato pie.  You are a rockstar in the dessert world, and a country star too! In fact, you're so famous,  you've become immortalized forever, in these tasty lyrics from a tune by Alabama.

"Song, song of the south.
Sweet potato pie and I shut my mouth."

History says that George Washington Carver, the man who created peanut butter and over 105 other foods using peanuts, is also attributed to touting the benefits of growing sweet potatoes, as another cash crop in the south, and is said to have made one of the first sweet potato pies. If you've never read about him before, do check out this link below.  In truth, we actually don't know who was the genius who created the first sweet potato pie, but since this gentleman inventor, the Steve Jobs of the south and the agricultural industry,  made the sweet potato famous in the south, I'd like to think he created it.  Without this man, there would be no Reese's peanut butter cups, no chocolatey, peanut-buttery goodness would we have ever experienced.  So if he could create something so sweet and good as peanut butter, and came up with a bazillion ways to use the sweet potato, then I'll believe the innuendo and give him the props and proclaim him inventor of this too.

As a writer, I have to mention to you, a fun series of books written by Jill Connor Browne, which introduce to the world the Sweet Potato Queens, a bawdy, beautiful bunch of belles from Jackson, Mississippi and it heralds their escapades and thoughts on life, love, and everything in between.  Check out any one of these books for a fun read!  I am also going to post below my fabulous sweet potato pie recipe, which is one handed down over the years, and it will taste so good, your family will crown YOU  sweet potato queen (or king) 2011!
Are you ready now to make your own sweet potato pie?  If you are, then feel free to borrow my family's recipe.  And let me tell you, mine is the best!  You can rest assured, I will enter my kitchen on Wednesday afternoon, and by five p.m., there will be two very ravenous men stalking both my upper and lower ovens, waiting for me to open them stick a knife into the pies.  These two particular men know if the knife comes out of the pie clean, then that's the signal the pie is ready to come out.  I tell them to wait, that it needs to properly cool before it's eaten, but they usually can't, and they slice large pieces, and gobble it down, with a wide smile and a glass of milk.

Joey's Sweet Potato Pie

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes (nice large ones)
  • butter
  • sugar or granular splenda (if you want it sugar free)
  • eggs
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  •  vanilla
  • can evaporated milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 packages Mrs. Smiths' or Marie Callender's frozen pie crusts (almost as good as homemade)
-peel sweet potatoes and then slice them 
-preheat oven to 400 degrees
-in pot, add sweet potatoes and add water to barely cover the top of the sliced sweet potatoes. Add pinch of salt when cooking the potatoes.  Cook until boiling, and then reduce heat.  Continue cooking sweet potatoes
until very soft.
-pour water out of pot, 
-mash sweet potatoes with 1/2 stick of butter
-add 2 eggs
-add 1/2 teaspoon of both cinnamon and nutmeg
-add t teaspoon of vanilla
-add 1 cup evaporated milk
-using hand mixer, mix the potatoes and ingredients until thin consistency.
-pour mixture into pie shells
-melt 1/2 stick butter in microwave and drizzle it over top of pie
-bake in oven for 400 degrees for 15 minutes then lower temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes until done.  
-you will know when the pie is done when you can stick a knife in the middle of it and it comes out of pie clean without mixture sticking to it.  
-add real whipped cream (or not)  and enjoy!

Maybe in honor of my pie being the best around, I'll go ahead and crown myself "Sweet Potato Pie Queen 2011 of the Household".  Yes, I actually have one of these crowns (won a few back about 20 yrs ago and 20 pounds ago), and I'm not afraid to wear it when baking my pie, as I feel it's a subtle reminder who rules the kitchen.  You feel your pie is the best?  Then don't be afraid to bake the pie and wear your crown.

Happy Thanksgiving Ya'll.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who is the Ultimate Fictional Villain?

The ultimate guide to the ditigal universe and everything (<homage to Douglas Adams) is Wikipedia.  According to wiki,  this is a villain:

"A villain (also known in film and literature as the "bad guy", "black hat", or "heavy") is an "evil" character in a story, whether a historicalnarrative or, especially, a work of fiction. The villain usually is the antagonist, the character who tends to have a negative effect on other characters. A female villain is sometimes called a villainess (often to differentiate her from a male villain). Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines villain as "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot"."--Wikipedia

In your minds' eye, who is the most fabulously evil villain in all of fiction?  I know who mine is.  He's a guy I'm writing about now, in my novel.  Somebody so sensible, caring, and cool on the surface, in fact, the kind of man everybody would like to invite to their holiday party.  He'd be the guy who can always give the perfect toast, dresses impeccably, isn't too handsome, but is nonetheless very attractive, always has the right thing to say and brings the perfect hostess gift every time.  But beneath the G.Q. exterior, lies a sociopath, a man who can compartmentalize his emotions, justify every means to every end, and has the innate ability to use people, twist them ever so delicately, that they never know anything has happened to them until it's far too late.

I'm talking about the character I have created in Frank Deveraux.  And if I had to paint you a picture of what he'd be/look/act like, it would be a combination of these men:

Most Interesting Man in the World/Dos Equis guy^

^Goldfinger, from James Bond movie of same name.  Drinking a mint julep in Kentucky.

^Gordon Gekko from "Wall Street". 

Let me hear your ideas about the perfect villain.  It could be one already created, or it could be one you've dreamed up.  

As for my character, mean ol' Frank, he's a combination of what you get if Gordon Gekko, Goldfinger, and the Interesting Guy all climbed into some sort of futuristic d.n.a. scrambling machine.  

Sad thing is..there is one person alive who is eerily similar to Frank Deveraux.  But you needn't worry about him, dear readers, for he's locked up, and the feds threw away the key (hint).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Writing is HARD, BUTT Texting in Pakistan is HARDER!

^this hamster and his cute text message would be banned in Pakistan!

Yea, that's write!  The government of Pakistan has apparently generated a list of 1,500 words deemed "offensive" and these words appearing on their list, will be words which cannot be texted.  This action is supposed to help lower or eliminate the amount of text spam sent on cell phones in the country, but some of the words the government is banning are rather innocuous, such as one word in the header of this blog entry.  You get a bonus point if you can guess which word in the title is offensive!

Now I'm a pretty traditional person, and thought I was rather tame in my use of colorful metaphors and various quips, but this is ridiculous.

If you want to learn more, the BBC news has a great piece on this.

BBC News-Pakistan Bans 1,500 Words

Here's a list of some of the banned words:

  • Budweiser
  • butt
  • tampon
  • idiot
  • headlight
  • lavender
  • mango
  • athlete's foot
  • flatulence 
But my favorite banned word(s) from the list?  My absolute wild and crazy favorite?
Wu Tang!
*maybe the gov't.  over there saw the teeny, tiny parental advisory label in the corner.  

As for me, I'm thankful I live in the United States of America, and can text and write any kind of crazy drivel I want to!  Wu-tastic!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Q: What Happens When You Write and Cook at the Same Time?

A:  You have your husband and son become members of the clean plate club!  And oh yes, I served this dish with iced tea, the beverage of the south!

There truly is a reason we call some dishes, "comfort food", and it is because the food nourishes the body and soul, reminds us of happier times surrounded by those we love, and it is a taste of home, even if your hometown is thousands of miles away.

The recipe was a hit, so give it a try!  Both my husband and son loved it, and my crock pot o' fun, is now empty.  Not even a smidgen of leftovers for tomorrow was to be found.  Oh well, it's not as if I will starve by not having any leftovers in the refrigerator.  I've lost a few pounds this year, and am rather happy about that, and as my grandmother once said, "An instant on the lips, means a lifetime on the hips."

She was a great cook, and an even greater grandmother. She warmed my soul with her amazing southern cuisine, filled my heart with joy and life with love, and cooled scorching summer days with her famous sweet tea.

In fact, I'm missing her very much right now.  She is gone from our lives, but never from our hearts or soul, and is the woman who inspired the title and spirit of my blog.  I think you'd have liked this recipe tonight, grandma.

2011 Red Clay Writers Conference Recap!

On Saturday, November 12, 2011, writers from all over Georgia gathered at Kennesaw State University for the annual Red Clay Writers Conference.  Theme for the conference was "Back to the Art and Craft of Writing" and the theme resonated throughout the day during its' many panel discussions.

The event was kicked off with a keynote address by Wendy Wax, author of Ten Beach Road, during which she encouraged us to think of our writing, and of course, coined a new word (suckalicious), which must have something to do with the literary revision process, or so I now think.  Her humor and insight into the profession was a breath of fresh air, and it set the tone for the exciting events of the day.
^My handsome son, on his way to get a giant plate of meatballs!  Yum!

^my son gets an autograph from local writer, Ronald M. Waters, author of Honor, Country, and Family:  The Memoir of WWII P.O.W. Ronald Morgan Waters

^My son with Mr. Waters, who proudly introduced his book to attendees, in honor of his father
and the recent Veteran's Day holiday.

Attending with me on Saturday was my son, who truly enjoyed the event, and can say his experience there inspired him to excel at his latest writing endeavor, a fictional writing assignment for school on the topic of "Climbing Mt. Everest", securing him a solid "A"!  ( His teacher was so pleased with his short essay, she read it aloud to all of her classes today.)

Between lectures, there were tasty refreshments for those in attendance (my son gives a thumbs' up to the chef/writer who prepared the scrumptious meatballs! ), books for sale from a local bookstore, and area artisans showcased their crafts.  

I had the opportunity to meet other local writers, and get to know them, and believe supporting fellow writers in our community is absolutely necessary, as writing is a solitary endeavor.  We must reach out, network, and encourage area writers because exploring literary works of others expands our horizons and adds to our knowledge of this craft.  Sometimes we must leave our comfort zone, our solitary spot where we jot down our thoughts and dreams on paper, to reach out so we may grow as professionals.

I attended the fiction lectures, and while each discussion panel/lecture offered wonderful insight and inspiration, I happen to agree with my son, that the most entertaining discussion was "Writing Funny:  Humor in Fiction" with authors Ray Atkins (moderator), Man Martin, and John Schulz.  We met many amazing characters as each author read an excerpt from one of their books, and laughed out loud, shamelessly.  The three amazing southern novelists held our attention, and it felt as though the lecture hall was transformed from rows of sterile chairs with swivel desktops into a country cabin with a fireplace and rocking chairs, where we were simply guests in the home of three of our favorite relatives.  As a local writer Kathryn A. Patterson  wrote, "I will never be as funny as Ray Atkins, John Schulz, or Man Martin."  And you know something, I agree with Kathryn.

I have a feeling a few books from those amazing, hilarious southern gents will soon pop up on my holiday reading list.  

By the way, if you want to read more about the conference, check out Kathryn's blog!  

How to Write and Cook at the Same Time!

What is a busy writer to do  when dinnertime is looming, and you have hungry faces staring at you, but you'd rather use that hour of cooking time to instead crank out at least 500 more words on your latest w.i.p.?  Easy,  whip out your crock pot and create something tasty and easy, a dish that allows you to write and cook at the same time, with minimal effort.

How can it be that you actually manage to write and cook at the same time?  I'll give you a hint, it's two words, is gifted many times as a wedding present, and is sometimes overlooked in the kitchen, as it was probably not even something you registered for as a wedding present.

It's the crock pot!

Here's a wonderful recipe, with southern flair, perfect for the crock pot.  This dish is great for cooler autumn evenings, and gives you that homey, stick-to-your-ribs feeling we crave every once in a while.  In fact, I am actually cooking this very dish as I blog right now, but shhhh, don't tell my husband, as I want him to think I've actually put forth a decent bit of effort on tonight's dinner.  This recipe is just that easy, friends, so dust off that crock pot, assemble these easy ingredients, and get ready to wow your family (or just wow yourself, and it's great as leftovers) with this recipe, courtesy of my friend, Tasha.

Here are some photos of this recipe cooking away in my kitchen:

Easiest Chicken & Biscuits
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (pulled apart into very small sections)
  • 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 1/2 to 2 soup cans of water 
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 container (8 pack) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
Combine the small sections of rotisserie chicken, soups, water, bouillon, vegetables, and pepper in crock pot.  

Cut biscuits into quarters, and gently stir them into the mixture.  Cover crock pot.  Cook on low for 3-5 hrs, stirring occasionally, or until done.

Voila!  You have southern comfort food on the fly!

Later tonight, when I come back to write a recap on the writing conference I attended this weekend, I will include photos of this delish dish for you to savor.