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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Killer Couscous Salad TO DIE FOR!

Okay, so I couldn't resist putting the title of my manuscript in the recipe, but what do you expect when you have a thriller writer in the kitchen?

Here's what we had for dinner tonight.  And yes, you can serve it with iced/sweet tea (of course).

Killer Couscous Salad
Kitchen Weaponry:
  • sharp knife (of course)
  • fork 
  • vegetable peeler
  • small to medium sized pot
  • hand-juicer (the old fashioned kind)
  • large bowl 
  • 2 boxes instant Parmesan couscous
  • 1 large cucumber
  • fresh basil (at least 3 tablespoons worth)
  • 2 bunches green onions
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 lb. low sodium turkey breast from deli
Make it:
  1. Before preparing veggies, begin boiling water on stove for couscous. Follow package direction. Make couscous. After preparing, let it cool then fluff it with a fork.
  2. Use peeler to peel outside of cucumber, then slice in 1/2.  De-seed. Then use knife to chop into little bits.  Put it in your bowl.
  3. Use peeler to peel carrot into super-thin curls.  Add to bowl.
  4. Open packet of fresh basil.  Smell basil.  Smells like summer, doesn't it? Now rip off the leaves & chop finely with knife. You know what's next.  Bowl.
  5. Chop the green onions finely. Yep  it's going in the bowl again.
  6. Chop the turkey breast, but if you wish, you can omit the turkey if you're vegan or want the salad a little bit lighter.  It's great either way. Add to bowl.
  7. Fold the couscous into the bowl and mix ingredients. 
  8. Slice lemons in half, juice the lemons & add the juice to the bowl, drizzling it evenly over the veggie/couscous mixture.
  9. Drizzle the olive oil over the veggie/couscous mixture evenly.
  10. Chop the turkey breast finely, but you may leave the meat out to enjoy this dish meat-free.
  11. Thoroughly mix all ingredients one last time.
  12. You can serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator to serve cool later. It's wonderful any way you decide to serve it.
It's so freakin' awesome, even Wyatt wanted a taste of couscous salad!
Nah, he didn't.  He just really wanted some turkey. Here he
is doing the "I'm cute, see me standing on my hind legs for food" dance.

Wyatt's Evil Twin

Wyatt the Wonderdog!
Some of you might remember me mentioning from time to time my hilarious havanese-Wyatt.  He's thirteen pounds of fluff and fun.  And he gripes.  If you hug someone in our house and Wyatt's not actually involved IN the hug with you, you get barked at.  Sometimes he acts like a cat, walking paw over paw across the impossibly narrow back of my armchair.

On the rare occasion  he is a watchdog, growling under his breath through the door at the dog across the street, but 99.9% of the time he's just too damned friendly.  I swear, he'd waggle his butt and lick the hand of a burglar if they smiled at him. And yea,  he actually does smile!  Geez I have to get a picture of him doing this, just so you'll believe me, but he's a smiley little dude.

And he jumps.  Oh boy does he jump!  He bounces up and down like a ball, and usually he does it whenever there's a food-ish item around that he thinks he'd enjoy. I gotta get a video of that too.

But he cracks me up the most when he's watching TV. His favorite channel is Animal Planet, and if we're watching a show and a herd of wild gazelle run across the screen, he follows them, going behind the back of the TV, looks for them and gets all confused.  Where'd they go? They disappeared! Come back here!

Here's Wyatt last year ago watching the "magic box". Well, at least that's what I think he thinks it is.

And during the school year he waits patiently at the front door for my son to get off of the school bus.

Sometimes I wonder what he'd say if he could talk. And I think I might have an answer, as I found Wyatt's evil twin on YouTube.  Apparently his name is Gryphon,  and he looks like Wyatt, except he's 1) A shih tzu  2) White-ish, whereas Wyatt is black-ish  and 3) Very very evil!!!  But I love this little guy too. And now after watching this video, it makes me wonder what Wyatt actually thinks about if he doesn't get his doggie biscuit before bed at  night.
If you liked that video, check out Toby Turner's YouTube channel. He's hilarious & has another Gryphon-themed one called "Crawlasaurus" that cracks me up, featuring Gryphon crawling on the floor.  And yea, Wyatt does that too.

Now don't laugh, one of these days I'm going to write a children's book based on Wyatt.  I've already got a working title for it-Wyatt The Whatever. You see, my little guy was born at a puppy mill where they bred designer dogs and we rescued him after the mill was shut down. When we adopted him, we just wanted to save him & could care less what breed he was, and honestly to this day, we're still not 100% sure. Our old vet said he looked like & had the fur, height, face, and body structure of a havanese, so we're sticking with that. The tale (or should I say tail?) would be about a puppy that's rescued, only to go to a dog park a few months later and meet other dogs, and then try to figure out what he is. Is he a beagle?  A poodle? A golden retriever?  What IS he?

But that's just me writing/thinking out loud here, and this idea is definitely high on my bucket list.

So tell me, does your pet do anything unusual? Do they possess superpowers? Tell me about it! And I'm going to start following my dog around more often with my phone (call me the "pup-arazzi") so I can catch him doing stunts that crack me up.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Save Your Characters With Word Economics!

Sorry for the unexpected interruption folks, but sometimes life hands you lemons and you must make a decision what to do with the sour yellow footballs. Needless to say, I grabbed a knife, hacked them in half, squeezed their juicy little innards out, and made the best damn lemonade evah!

"Lemonade-that cool refreshing drink."-Eddie Murphy
 So today we're going to enjoy a glass on my virtual front porch instead of sweet tea. And here's something else fun.  As a result of the last few weeks, I've also made a decision to leave my comfort zone and professionally move into a different realm which totally embraces my being a science geek/former biology major.  Sure, I'll still keep up my medical license and do all the continuing education requirements while keeping my lab coat in the office, but I'm excited to throw my hat back into the sales arena after a decade and a half haitus, and it's going to be great fun.

And I'll sure as heck never give a presentation like this.  But it is funny. And FWIW, I'd give them a parting gift after this presentation or a souvenir (Step Brothers humor. Pardon me. I love it.), so long as the bros didn't call me Pamm or Jodie or Ms. Lady. You may refer to their infamous job interview scene & can find it on YouTube.  I'd post that here too, but the language is a little flowery.

Gotta love black leather gloves & their R&D dept. It must've been hard to get the bees to hold still.  And for that, I salute them.

Anyhow back to the blog,  because in my private time, words rule!

And during my brief hiatus, I did something wild after editing & re-editing & re-re-editing my Evil Little Manuscript otherwise known as THE DEATH BROKERS.  I read. Yep,  I read one good thriller and began reading a whole stack o' books in different genres, but something specific stuck in my mind after having been in editing mode for so long, and that would be word economy.

It's hard to remove the editing hat once you're allowed enough time to actually read for enjoyment,  and despite my best attempt to toss off that hat, I'd still find ways to improve whatever I read.

As my eyes scanned a passage, I'd unconsciously find ways to make it read smoother, and in the thriller I read (not written by one of my friends btw) I found myself removing this or that mentally to make the action get the hell moving.

Earlier today I chatted with one of my fabulous crit partners and this topic came up. FWIW, he's one of the word economy kings, and now I'm proud to have joined the unofficial club of word-economists.  You should seriously think about joining too.  There's no annual membership fee & only thing you do as a member is use your words effectively.  We hold no meetings.  You're on your own & there's no cute  membership card to keep in your wallet.

Since I mentioned mentioned flowery earlier, let's talk even more about word economics.   It keeps you writing & staying on the plot path rather than wandering off into left field and into a literary meadow where there are purple flowery things growing.

The purple flowery prose may look beautiful, but they're really weeds!
Avoid or destroy.  
 Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wanders into the poppy field & falls asleep?  That's what happens to your readers if you give them a field of purple flowery prose or unnecessary sentences and fail to keep the action moving.
Imagine these poppies are purple.  YOUR purple flowery and/or over-written prose.

Let me further illustrate by making up a fictional paragraph ever-so-loosely based upon the really great thriller I just read. Character names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Now pretend after watching this clip, that MacGyver is Johnny in the following paragraph.  But he isn't outside fighting a drug czar with a fake moustache, he's in a warehouse and his love-interest-reporter is held captive on another floor.

"Johnny grabbed the off-white colored C4 plastic explosive putty & jammed it into the crack between the gleaming metal elevator doors. Next he pushed in the blast cap into the C4 and inserted the fuse into the  plastic explosive. 

Johnny thought of Susan, the reporter he wanted to save who was held prisoner two floors below.  She meant more to him than just a reporter who would keep their lives safe by exposing the truth; Susan was someone he cared for, with her beautiful chocolate-brown eyes and raven hair. This was the first time in Johnny's life he'd experienced love. The warehouse will blow sky-high, but he won't leave the warehouse without Susan in his arms. He lit the end of the fuse with his lighter he pulled from his ammo vest and ran several hundred feet away and ducked behind giant wooden crates."

Geesh.  What a mess.  Even his Royal Purpleness would say that's an awful waste of his favorite color. He's so bored & sleepy after reading that passage, he had to rest upon the royal couch.
Dave Chappelle channeling Prince.
My hands shook & my eyes almost bled writing that horrid example, but I want to hear from you.

How would YOU re-do this mess?  What would you delete/merge/rewrite? How would you move the action along? 

Let's make this fun! Can't wait to read your edits! Can you save Johnny?  Will he still pause to reflect on his love for Susan? Will they make it out of the warehouse? 

We'll find out when you post your replies!