This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life
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Baking for Fun and Frustration?

  • May 30, 2017 3:13 am

 

Every now and then I decide to amaze visitors to my home with my baking skills. My Book Club members were the latest witnesses to my baking “skills.”

Now, before I relate this story, I should preface it by saying that I have been cooking since I was a little kid—around the age of 7. I remember lighting our gas stove  when I was in second grade and making eggs for my sister and me. One of my specialties back then was eggs that had “crispy” edges (read slightly burned).  To this day, my sister likes her eggs cooked really well, for which I would like to take credit.

Well, many years have passed, and I’m happy to say that I can cook eggs really well now—I make great omelets and poached eggs among other delectable dishes.

But, I have to admit that baking has never been my forte.

So—my Book Club was coming to my house for the first time recently—and I wanted to make it special. I decide that I wanted to serve artisanal cheeses, fruit and mini-quiche. Yummy!

I scoured the supermarket for those tasty frozen mini-quiches that you just pop in the oven and voila—serve your guests as they o-h-h and a-h-h. They were nowhere to be found.  Then I spied packages of fluted (fluted!!) phyllo dough mini-quiche shells. Wow! I was delighted!

I took them home and then searched for quiche recipes. (I’ve made quiche many times before—but I was looking for the “easy” version.)

The night of the meeting, I was busy mixing and stirring and filling the fluted mini shells with what I hoped would be a delectable quiche mixture.

Soon after placing them in the oven, I realized that something was wrong. When I checked their progress, I noticed that the quiche shells were flattening out and the filling was running out of them onto the pan.  Oh, I forgot to mention that I used my favorite pan—a round pizza pan with holes in it which usually produces perfect cookies. Not only was the filling running out of the previously fluted phyllo shells, it was dripping through the perforations in the pan. My hope and dreams of presenting beautiful little quiches to my new Book Club were dashed! I removed the pan from the oven, and attempted to salvage at least a few of the darling little things—only to realize that they were completely tasteless—apparently I didn’t season them enough.  Most of them were flat circles with the remnants of a bland eggy mixture.

The next day, my friend Susan called me and said that she woke up in the middle of the night and realized what I had done wrong. It seems that the adorable fluted mini-quiche shells should be baked in a mini-muffin pan—not on a flat surfaced pizza pan!

I may never be able to test that theory.

Mini-quiche and I are parting ways. It’s an amicable breakup—we just realize that we can never be friends.

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The few almost edible mini-quiche

 

 

I Think I’ll Write a Book

  • March 11, 2017 12:28 am

books

 

“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the young woman. “It will be poetry, verses about love and longing and the angst of being twenty.” That Christmas she received a suede-covered volume from her beau inscribed ‘Kate’s Scribbles.’  After he left her, she filled the parchment pages with poems and stories of love and heartbreak which were splattered with her tears. When she graduated from college, she clutched her teaching degree to her heart. Her mother’s advice echoed in her ears.

“Teaching is a good profession for a woman. You’ll be home when your children are—and you can always write in the summers when you’re off,” her mother advised.

The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.                                                                                               ***

 

“I think I’ll write a book,” said the woman.

Her husband laughed. “When will you have time for that?” he asked archly. “We have a child to raise. We can’t take chances like that, not with a mortgage and bills and obligations. Maybe someday—but not now.”

The woman nodded.

Yes, maybe someday she would take a pen in hand and write. She’d tell the story of a young couple, only in their thirties, with a child, finding their way in a sometimes hostile world.

The suede-covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.

                                                                           ***

“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the forty–something matron. Life’s lessons had etched fine lines around her mouth and eyes, and added streaks of gray to her dark hair. Children were her main concern—her own child who was struggling to find her way and the ones she taught every day. Her marriage was in tatters from the battering of life’s realities: finances, personal problems and dreams that might never be realized. The woman could not remember the last time she had written anything other than a grocery list or a note to a parent. Sometimes, she would pick up a pen and hold it in her hand, hoping that words would flow onto paper. Once in a while they did, but the words spoke of anger and frustration and mostly of lost opportunity. So she hid those words from herself.

Her mother, now dead, had advised her well. Teaching was, after all, a steady, predictable job with an income she could rely on.

The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.

 

                                                                                      ***

“I think I’ll write a book someday,” the woman said to her friends as they toasted her fiftieth birthday. She thought back to the earlier years, when the desire to write flamed in her heart. Searching everywhere, she finally found the suede bound book with poems so full of young love and loss and promise. Taking it reverently from its shelf, she blew the dust away. That night, she sat and read until her eyes grew heavy and a single tear traced its way down her cheek. And she felt like a part of her was dead.

***

“I think I’ll write a book,” said the widow, now in her sixties with hair that was more silver than black.  Sadness was her daily companion. “I’ll write about loss and loneliness, and trying to make my life new.”

Her career as a teacher was a memory—one that over time had become more distant.

The woman’s child, now grown, lived in the great northwest forest with her beloved. Days were empty and the woman wanted—no—needed to tell her stories.

So, she picked up a pen, and began to write. Words flowed like water breeching a dam. And the woman wrote a book, and another book and another book. The pages were filled with the story of her life: of the things she had put aside, the sacrifices she had made, and the joys and dreams that had been realized. She wrote of the sorrow and the searing pain of loss. As she wrote tears and sometimes even laughter were her companions.

Surveying the shelf crowded now with the suede-covered volume and many others like it, she smiled.

With words as soft as a prayer, she whispered, “Finally, I wrote my book.”

 

Antidote

  • July 13, 2016 2:47 am

 

Recently, I was talking to a friend who enjoys reading my blog. She mentioned that it had been a least a month since I updated it. There’s a reason why. When I started this blog, my main goal was to attract a following for my writing. I promised that it would not be political because I subscribed the old fashioned notion of avoiding talking about religion and politics.

But somehow, writing a blog like mine in the midst of mass shootings, including sniper attacks on police officers and the death of Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement seemed frivolous.  Every time I thought I had a good topic, another national tragedy would occur—so I decided to wait a week or so. The week turned into a month and threatened to become six months and then a year.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that especially because the news is so grim so much of the time, perhaps a blog entry that brought a smile or a nod of recognition to my followers might be cathartic.

This revelation came to me while I was perusing Face Book after the mass shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, which is the nearest big city to where I live. Even though I personally didn’t know anyone who died that horrible night, I still felt deeply saddened. Face Book was full of memes about “love winning” and posts about the night of terror. The news was brimming with stories about the perpetrator and most importantly, the victims.

Then my brother-in-law died.  It was a tsunami of sadness and shared grief.

I found myself seeking out Face Book posts showing pictures of children, dogs and kittens—and gardens, rainbows and waterfalls and—well, you get the picture. I was seeking an antidote to all of the sadness around me.rainbows-1082107__340

So, I decided that it was time to get back to the blog and writing about the sometimes silly and quirky observations about my life.

I hope you understand. See you tomorrow.

(And here’s a picture of a waterfall and a rainbow!)

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

I Love My DVR

  • May 24, 2016 2:36 am

tv3

Our lives are filled with time saving gadgets. We have dishwashers, washing machines, leaf blowers, lawn mowers we can ride, computers and printers—and my favorite, the DVR. What a great gadget! I wish I could thank the person who invented it personally.

While we’re busy living our lives, doing necessary chores like grocery shopping or more enjoyable things like attending a child’s  dance recital or graduation or just hanging out with friends, the DVR is there, making sure that we don’t miss any of our favorite TV programs. It even allows us to watch one show while it dutifully tapes another show that can be accessed later. We can even read the newspaper or a book basking in the glow of the red light that tells us that yes, our beloved TV program will be ready when we are.

I realized how much I like—no love—my DVR recently while watching a playback of a network TV show.  First of all, I was able to watch a half hour sit-com (my favorites) in 22 minutes. I was thrilled when I realized how much time I saved! I was able to skim over all of the ads which saved almost 10 minutes. That meant that I could watch almost three sitcoms in the time it would have taken to watch only two. What a time-saver!

But the best part for me was that I was not forced to watch any ads with Matthew Mc Conaguhy driving high-end luxury vehicles while talking to his dogs. That alone made using the DVR worth it.

Yes, The DVR is a great invention—easy to use, convenient and reliable. And it is my all time favorite gadget. It has saved me time and I have been released from the tyranny of Matthew McConaguhy!

Thank you, DVR.

 

Image –Pixabay

 

 

 

Tell the World You Liked It

  • October 27, 2015 2:33 am

Elvis Saves a Marriage Book

 

One of the most powerful boosts for many writers is Amazon.com. It provides a platform for unknown authors to bypass the stranglehold traditional publishing houses have on the industry. Services like Book Baby, Create Space and others support the independent writer by providing an accessible and affordable platform to bring their work to life.

There are many reasons why an author may resort to self-publishing. In my case, I made this decision after pitching my book for several years at writer’s conferences (where I paid a fee for the privilege) and sending numerous query letters to agencies. I sent the required three or whatever chapters, synopses of the book, author bio, and cover letters to agents I had investigated.

It was time consuming and ultimately fruitless—although I had at least two agents who would “have loved to promote my book if only…”

So, I turned to a small press publisher who did bring my lifelong dream of being a published author to life.

Then the hardest work began—promoting the book. I am not naturally good at self promotion.

I rely on word of mouth and whatever opportunities come my way to talk about my book and my writing.

But the one thing that all authors—including me—must have to survive is book reviews. And that’s where you, dear reader, come into the picture.

The five or ten minutes it takes you to write a few simple sentences telling other folks that, yes, you enjoyed the book you just finished are the greatest boost you can give to any writer. Just log onto Amazon.com, find the title and author of the book, and choose the option to review the book.

You don’t have to do an in-depth analysis of the plot, the nuances of character development, or compare the book to others in its genre. Just say that you liked it (or not) and why.

Easy.

And speaking for all struggling authors like me, your review will be deeply appreciated.

 

 

Chasing a Dream

  • October 9, 2015 2:48 am

dreams-not-your-life-881020_1280

It’s hard to chase a dream. Dreams are ephemeral and unpredictable. They’re illogical. They don’t follow the rules of physics.

Dreams can make you feel elated or leave you empty and confused.

When you wake from a dream, it can be a hard landing back to reality.

I feel like I am chasing a dream right now as I face the most difficult part of having my latest book, Elvis Saves a Marriage…published: trying to foster interest in it.

It’s an intricate ballet of pushing the book a little here and there and exhausting people. You don’t want your efforts at promoting the book to feel like forcing people to watch a never-ending telethon.

But it is a necessary step in being an author. Even mid-list authors have to promote their books—through personal appearances, radio interviews, and book signings. The only ones who are somewhat exempt are A-listers who are a sure sell. And they have staffs to plan their promotion campaigns—and get to travel to exciting places and be on TV interview shows.

Writers like me are the author and promoter all wrapped up into one person. It can feel daunting.

From the time I was old enough to envision a future, I knew deep in my heart that I wanted to spend my life writing. I describe myself now as a writer who was disguised as a teacher for many years.

But I am a dream chaser. And no matter how upside down, how illogical, or how difficult it is, I will continue to follow this dream.

 

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

 

They Liked It–They Really Liked It!

  • October 1, 2015 2:29 am

Well, it’s official—at least two of my readers enjoyed the stories in my new book, Elvis Saves a Marriage and Other Short Stories!Elvis Saves a Marriage Book

Having a reader –or many readers—enjoy what you write is the ultimate reward for most writers, I think.

It makes all the hours you invest in a book worth it: the nights you don’t sleep because you’re working out plot twists, the many times you rethink a character’s actions or dialog, and the agony of multiple rewrites. And, of course, the editing—the part of writing that separates the serious writer from the dabbler.

By the time a book is published, it has been scrutinized, edited, polished, read and re-read until the author can almost recite it by heart.

Writing is a solitary activity. That means that you have to be motivated to keep writing no matter what, even when self doubt rears its ugly head. Even when you can’t quite make the words say what you mean.

And when you’re finished you must be open to suggestions from others, be it a writer’s critique group, an editor, agent, or all of the aforementioned.

After you’ve gone through all of the work, the fine-tuning and fought off the self doubt and convinced yourself that people will pay to read what you have produced—you most likely will make very little money from all of your effort.

In other words, it’s not a pursuit for sissies.

So, the obvious conclusion is that writers write because they love it and feel that they have something special to share with the world.

That’s how I feel about my latest offering—a collection of short stories, Elvis Saves a Marriage and Other Short Stories, that my publisher describes as “slice of life stories that cover the gamut of human emotion” with “engaging characters and surprise endings.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living the Disorganized Life

  • August 2, 2015 1:54 am

 

I am disorganized. There, I said it. Whew! What a weight off my shoulders.

I’ve spent the better part of the last five decades promising myself that I’ll get organized–only to break that promise thousands of times.

I admire organized people: the ones who always know where stuff is, who clean their files out every year, whose desks are cleared every day. I want to be one of them, to join their club.

I don’t know what it is about me. I set up systems and within days, I’m back to my disorganized ways.

Now, it’s  not that I can’t find thing—often I can—especially when I stack them in the same place each time. chaos pixababyBut too often, I have to tear my files, (such as they are) apart, to locate some important piece of paper.

My late husband was the direct opposite. He filed everything, labeled it, and once a year cleaned out his files. After he passed away, I was so grateful for his organization because it made everything easier for me. Now I worry that when it’s my turn to ascend to the pearly gates, my daughter will go insane trying to find stuff.

So, I think I better try to at least find the urgent stuff, re-file it, and resolve to keep it where it can be found easily.

At least that’s my intention.

Now, where is that list of blog ideas?

 

 

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

 

Progress?

  • July 27, 2015 2:07 am
The Lake

The Lake

The developer here in my community continues to build new homes wherever the company can find a space that could accommodate a house, even if it’s a lot no bigger than the proverbial postage stamp.

That’s the price of living in a community that is still actively under construction.

Recently the developer has begun to clear land to build homes along my favorite space here—a linear lake that runs parallel to Solivita Boulevard.  I take my dog Sparkle for a walk there, as do many other residents. People also walk and bike along this pathway. The pathway is shaded and the view across the lake is serene and natural with a thick stand of old trees. I often stopped there to meditate.

I don’t know why I was so naive about this area. I thought that it might be a “forever green” space—but, alas, it wasn’t.

The first sign that something was afoot were stakes with red ties on them, obviously marking the boundaries of lots, which popped up one day. When I first saw them, I felt saddened. I love this path and the beautiful view of the water and the woods that frame it. The thought that the woods would be torn apart for more homes was upsetting, especially given the fact that there is plenty of land left to develop. But this particular area would be in high demand. It will command a view of the golf course and the lake.

I cringed at the thought of listening to the bulldozers as they uprooted old trees covered in Spanish moss that went back possibly a hundred years or more. I had seen the bulldozers when another nearby tract was cleared, and the crashing and crunching of trees was sickening.

I wondered if there was some way to stop this development. But I knew it would be a fool’s errand.  I imagined lying down in front of the ‘dozers as they rumbled along the road hell-bent on their mission of destruction. Then I imagined myself being scooped up with the tree debris as it was loaded onto a truck and hauled away, or worse, set afire.  After all, this is Florida—the land developers dream of because virtually anything goes.

So far the clearing of the lots has been prudent. Many of the older trees have been left standing. But I fear that that can change any day.

A thought occurred to me when Sparkle and I were out for our walk. The neighborhood I live in now probably resembled this particularly beautiful area before homes were built on it. The whole tract of land that our community was built on had been a favorite hunting ground—a virtual wilderness for many generations.

I can imagine the thick groves of trees that populated all of what is now called Rainbow Lakes. And I’m sure that the bulldozers knocked down old tress and displaced all sorts of wildlife to make neat parcels of land.  Later, young trees were planted on the plots of land and landscaping was installed. The unnatural replaced the natural.

 

So, I can hardly criticize the developer.

After all, I was happy to find a nice house in this development. I never gave a thought to what had been here before and the impact that building my home had on the environment.

Still, I can’t help wishing that some areas were “hands off” simply because of their natural beauty. Where the developer sees high priced homes on choice lots, I see a stand of woods bordering a picturesque lake. I keep telling myself to concentrate on the soothing water and the trees that border it still.

But a question keeps intruding into my thoughts.

Is this progress?

I guess it depends on your perspective.

I Am A Bookaholic!

  • August 20, 2014 2:39 am

booksIt’s true.

I looked it up on the internet, and I present these typical symptoms:

  • I will sit and read for hours at a time, sometimes until my eyes are so tired I can hardly focus on the words on the page.
  • There are stacks of books everywhere in my house—on tables, on chairs and footstools and, of course, in bookcases.
  • I have been known to not answer the phone if I am in the middle of a chapter that I find fascinating.
  • When I finish a book, I am anxious and at loose ends until I start the next one.
  • I think about the characters even when I’m not reading the book.
  • I have a Kindle and an I Pad with books loaded on them.
  • When I read a book for my book club, I can’t wait to discuss it.
  • I find it hard to give books away—even ones that I know I will never read again.
  • I love libraries and bookstores.

I’ve been like this since I was a child, so I think that my case may be hopeless.

When I was a kid, my sister complained that I read too much and wouldn’t put my book down to play. And one of my teachers thought that I might have read every book in our local library.

Friends have suggested a support group to help me deal with this addiction… but I can’t go anywhere until I’ve finished reading this chapter.

 

Picture Credit: Kathy Joyce Glascott