Dec 26, 2009

Calling All Writers! Fun for January 2nd

No Kiss Blogfest Jan 2, 2010!

This is a chance to polish or blow the lid off your skills in writing a near-miss, an accidental faux pas, a fantasy, a real life, a sorrowful, a thankful, a scene in which the characters almost kiss, need to kiss, want to kiss, are soooooooo close to kissing- BUT don't!

January 2nd is the POST DATE.


Things You Should Do To Prepare For The Ultimate Non-Kissage Festivities!
1) Sometime between now and Jan 2, 2010 write a post about the No Kiss Blogfest to let everyone know you are participating and that they should too. Why? Because it's awesome!
2) Sign up for No Kiss Blogfest by filling in the Mr. Linky below. [on her blog page] Because Mr. Linky is awesome.

3)Tweet about No Kiss Blogfest, using the hash tag: #nokissblogfest because #hashtagsareawesome

4) After you've recovered from New Years Eve and are over the shock of not being able to write 2.0.0. for the year...but must now start all dates with 2.0.1. write a blog sharing your Almost Kiss, No Kiss Blogfest entry (either one from your WIP, one you just wrote, one from a book, movie or tv show)and post on January 2, 2010!!!

[Kate again] What a challenge! I totally missed the Kiss Festival at Writer Wannabe, another terrific blog, so I'm serious about having fun with this one!

Tweet, Facebook, blog....enter...and get your juices flowing!!

Dec 25, 2009

Christmas is a day for. . . poetry!

Arkansas is wrapped in snow this merry Christmas morning. City sounds are faint, few, a long distance away. No footprints disturb the lawn, not even those of the white mama possum who searches for cat food in the night. Like fog on "little cat feet", the snow has taken us from the South to the Artic in a few dark hours.

The sun rises, glaring, curious as to what poet has written out of place to change the greens and rusts of autumn to winter. The roads will clear later, leaving snow ripe for rolling and stacking into snow families. Soon our neighborhood band of little boys will race through the slush, kick their balls, and swagger into loaded bushes to watch the white flocking fly into the air.

Now is the moment to write poetry, while neither warm air nor visitors distract.

Merry Christmas! May your household be full of surprises.

Dec 23, 2009

How to Write the Perfect Mystery

I love the History Channel. Politics (or at least scheming for gain) are woven through historical facts to make clear a point, often fraught with mystery and controversy. Note, O ye writers, these are not the same and are the backbone of your plots.

Dionysius determined Jesus' birth in 753 of the old Roman Calendar, then rewrote the Julian Calendar to begin with the supposed date of Jesus's birth, December 25th, the Celebration of Mithra. How convenient that settling the celebration of the Christ child on the same date would accelerate the overthrow of the Mithra religion. Dionysius thus established the January 1st New Year.

But Dionysius forgot that the stories refer the reign of Herod around 4 BC. Another complication is that Herod and his advisers didn't know of the STAR of Bethlehem. Apparently only the Magi could 'see' them. He called the Magi to him and asked when he could view the Star. Perhaps it was not a comet or nova, but the conjunction of two planets to create temporarily a brighter "star." The visit of the Magi, no matter when or how many there were, no matter that Jesus may have been two years old, seems to have been a pilgrimage from Babylon (Iraq), a nation that once nearly destroyed the wandering tribes of Judea.

Is this not a Best Seller? Mystery, misdirection, vanquished on the run, conquerors on their knees. What more could a good plot need? Of course, there were terrors as when Herod heard the Magi ask about the "King who is born this day" and after murdering his own sons, sent his army to murder all make babies of ages two and under. An angel warns Mary and Joseph and they escape at the 11th hour. Your mystery may or may not have a terror this dramatic, but terror helps.

I am reminded that over and over again in the Bible there are confrontations and escapes. Daniel survived the Lion's Den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked among flames in the furnace, and the vision of Jesus appearing to Paul saved him from his life as a persecutor of Jews.

When we read and are consciously checking the language, the plot structure, the ebb and flow of energies and conflict, I suggest that we have ignored that which is most important: charisma of the main character and the dangers that befell both him/her and those other characters who are the supporting cast.

Think action, think conflict, think misleading peaceful moments before the roller coaster rises again. Perhaps the Bible, both Testaments, is a bit wordy and tends to include details that we would edit out in the Current Era, but the story is one that grips the heart, endangers the complacent, faces many characters with life and death threats, and in the end, takes from us the main character for whom all have worried, protected, and tried to advise. We would weep if we did not know the story already. And though it seems trite to say, there is the promise of a sequel. We are able to believe that the pivotal character will return, though the event of his death is described in great detail.

So that is how to write a mystery:
1. Find a character intelligent, pure of thought and heart, flawed with indecision and human foibles,
2. Set the unsuspecting hero on a quest for the benefit of others,
3. Throw him screaming into fiery furnaces, teetering from heights, dodging swords, racing from falling buildings, bumping into others who love and assist him, and generally fighting against all odds.
4. Make the breather moments short and the progress toward success or failure clear in each event.

And you'll have it.

Sometimes, the END is the reward of a great effort. END your story and know the joy. Then go back and rejoice all the way through that you have succeeded in your "great effort."

Happy New Year....there are eleven more writing days until the New Work Year takes over our lives again.

Dec 21, 2009

Watching the Old Year Slink Away

2009 is about to slink away like fried chicken grease oozing into the newspaper in a trash can. If you've never made fried chicken at home, don't worry, it's only worth the effort if you have a seasoned cast iron skillet. And for the modern calorie conscious, it's madness to contemplate. The grease is brown, filled with small bits of crusty flour and seared strips of chicken that didn't make it off the skillet. This gruesome looking sludge smells like every good Sunday dinner or holiday feast you ever had. Sage, black pepper, the near-bacon crispiness -- all are there, hidden in the congealing corn oil and chicken fat.

Is it any wonder that gravy became as important as the meat? Not only was the smell the most seductive odor since night-blooming Jasmine, the fat and seasonings lingered on the tongue as reminder of a full belly in a cold climate when food between then and spring was sure to be dried jerky and boiled vegetables slowly shriveling in a cold room under the ground.

So since I am not frying chicken, but am planning a spicy rubbed turkey breast for the holiday, let me share something that the Hankerson-McCoy-Lacy families have kept on file, long after we stopped frying chicken. I take that back, Molly still fries and savors every bite.

Remember, even if you grill or bake, one thigh fried in a 6 inch skillet will afford you the opportunity to taste the Promised Land in small doses.

Seasoned flour for the chicken (washed and dried)
    1 C flour, dash of salt, goodly amount of black pepper
    dollop of sage - leaves or ground
    smidgeon of thyme
    dash of onion powder
    whiff of chili powder (really, a whiff!)
     put it all in a brown lunch bag and shake well

    1/2 C milk
    1/2 C water
    1 egg beaten smooth
    mixed well

    Chicken is to be rolled in the liquid and shaken in the bag, one piece at a time.
    Grease (Crisco in a perfect world since lard is not to be considered, corn oil, whatever)
         1/4 to 1/2  inch deep-must be hot enough that water skitters when dropped in, but NOT smoking!
     Fry with a venting cover to protect you from popping grease and to add some pressure inside the skillet. No venting cover/bacon frying cover?  Got one of those pizza bakers with hole in them? Got an old base plate from a pressure cooker with holes in it? Got aluminum foil? Poke it with a large tyned fork.
    Turn the heat down to medium, gently turn the chicken in about 12-15 minutes. Cook about 10-15 minutes per side, depending on the size of your pieces and whether or not they have skins.
     Chicken should be golden brown, crispy and if you're worried, cut open a thigh to see if it's still pink.
     Remove the lid for the last 5 minutes.

     NOW, the GRAVY!
     Allow the mess to cool just a bit while you put the chicken into the oven to stay warm. Use a piece of bread to soak up a little oil, grease if you have dogs. Otherwise, spoon it off. While the skillet is warm, scrap the singeing bits off the pan so that the stirring can be smooth.
     If you've fried chicken for one or two, there's not much goop there, so add about 1 heaping tablespoon of flour and a dash of salt and pepper and sage directly to the warm grease. Stir until it smooths together. (roux) Heat it a little until small bubbles are starting.
    Pour in milk (1 C for two folks, more depending on your amount of sludge in the beginning) Basically 1 C of milk per spoon of flour. Stir while you're pouring. Heat until the mixture boils gently. It won't really "make gravy" without getting to the near-boil state. If it's too thin, let it cook a bit. If it's too thick, add milk and keep stirring. If you must add more flour, dissolve it in cold water in a cup and drizzle it slowly while stirring.  I also use WondraFlour and that doesn't clump like regular flour, but not everybody has it on hand. It is okay to taste the gravy and season again.  Unlike a corn starch gravy, flour based gravy thickens while it cools.

         That's it. Southern Comfort. Serve with anything on the side you feel the need for and LOVE.

         And after it's over and no one can speak for the sated pleasure of it all, sit right down and write a short story about the anticiaption, the memories of dinners past, loved ones near and far, and if none of these inspire, draw doodles on the paper (see, I meant write) until one speaks to you, and suddenly, the day is recorded for all time in faces and music and smells and tastes and words that share your life with the world. All the ups and downs of 2009 be memories in your heart, on your paper, in the forests of doodles, on your tongue as you sing in the New Year.

May a few forbidden pleasures surprise you from time to time.
Happy New Year 2010.


Dec 13, 2009

My Heart Knows What the Wild Goose Knows

The Canadian Branta is the common wild goose to America. Their honks are a beacon of changing seasons as they journey over Arkansas, and I love to listen. Here's a simple sonnet and reference to a  haunting folk song by Terry Gilkyson (1916-1999) that my mother sang for years. "Flip-flop, hurry up, take to the sky. Wish I had wings so I could fly........Wild goose, brother goose. Which is best? A wandering fool or a heart at rest?" My mother was a wanderer.

My Heart Knows…..

Sing your rough song, o wayfaring Branta
Which at grey dawn and dusk, pulls at my heart.
Far rhythmic discordant tune of patois
Pulls me up from my chair; seeking, I dart.

A patch of clear sky, wings glimpsed; stroke, move on.
In darkness of night or slick icy sleet
No iron compass guides the living chevron
From Canada's stone to wide meadow sweet.

The doors of this house, my shackles, fling wide.
I follow your trail, freedom seductive.
I sing of your courage, faith mystified.
Too swiftly you fly, I stumble, submissive.

Oh come again, wild grey feathers and song,
I shall plant new wheat and deepen the pond.

The links are Frankie Laine singing the song....though folk singers
sang it slower. And the bio for Gilkyson.