Thursday, September 27, 2012
The problem with my claim is that I cannot make good homemade macaroni and cheese. The dish either comes out too thick and heavy and sticky, too dry and thick , or too stringy and tasteless.
My favorite recipe that I can more often cook correctly is called "Pioneer Macaroni and Cheese" from a 1954 Betty Crocker Cook Book (the ring binder version). The best thing about this recipe is that I do not have to make a sauce, béchamel or whatever. I cook the macaroni, place it in a baking dish, dot it with cubes of sharp cheese (does these mean cheddar or Velveeta?), dot it with little blobs of butter, combine 3 cups of milk with two beaten eggs, and pour over the contents in the baking dish. Then bake.
Still, it's not creamy Macaroni and Cheese. The recipe for that kind is listed directly under this pioneer dish. (Did you know pioneers made mac-n-cheese? I didn't.) This presents a huge problem because I must make a creamy sauce to produce a dish that melts in your mouth and isn't chewy like the pioneer dish.
Sometimes I like something that's smooth and creamy and goes down easy, but sometimes I like something I can get my teeth into, something chewy and satisfying. And if I'm not extremely careful, I can't create either one.
See? The process of cooking is very similar to writing. If I'm not vigilant, my story will be too soft with no satisfying substance, or my story will be too heavy and hard to chew.
Maybe I should stick with making quiche. I can do that. My quiche is perfection, my husband loves it, and I have the knack down to a "T."
By some stroke of luck, I began writing Western Romance novellas we call 99Cent Dime Novels. I did not have the recipe for these, but my publisher, Rebecca J. Vickery did, and she encouraged me to write one. With the help and advice from the artist, the incomparable Karen Michelle Nutt, we created alluring (not too sexy) covers using Jimmy Thomas photos.
I wrote four Dime Novels, and to my surprise and delight they were highly successful. I may never write anything that gave me as much satisfaction as these have.
Now, all four Dime Novels are available in one book titled Lone Star Dreaming-A Western Romance Collection. $2.99 for the ebook, $11.95 for the print.
Barnes and Noble:
The individual 99Cent Dime Novels are:
Angel and the Cowboy
Addie and the Gunslinger
Charlotte and the Tenderfoot
Kat and the U.S. Marshal
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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Saturday, September 22, 2012
|A FEW SCRIBBLED THOUGHTS THAT TURNED INTO NOVELS|
Crystal Lake Reunion-The Stars at Night-Wish for the Moon-Heart of a Hero
If I don't have my computer nearby or even a scrap of paper, then I "write" in my head. Do you do this? No doubt, you do. My head is filled with brilliant ideas for incredibly intriguing Best Sellers.
Years ago, as we drove along a very long stretch of West Texas highway on our way home from a school reunion, the monotony of the scenery and the hum of the engine almost put me to sleep. Instead, I thought about the school reunion I'd just attended and wanted to write about it. Of course, it began in my head, and after ten minutes or so, I had to get this on paper so I wouldn't forget it. I searched my purse and every nook and cranny in the vehicle for a notepad and pen or pencil. There was nothing! Not one thing. I opened the car pocket and voila! I found a blue paper towel, the kind you use at service stations to clean the windshield. Since it was thick and tough, I could write on it...but no pen. There had to be something. My husband said he had a short pencil--the kind we use on the golf course for a scorecard--in his shaving kit. He stopped and found it for me. This taught me a lesson--never leave home without a pen and notepad.
Here are examples of two story beginnings in my files:
The ProJulie clutched her printout ticket and stood in the long snaking line as patiently as she could. Whatever happened to the adventure of flying? Everything turned into a hassle—no water bottles, liquids in 3 ounce bottles, and no more than four. Or was it three? She could never remember, so if the airline personnel decided it was too much, so be it. Discount stores were on every corner of the planet.
She could barely believe she’d snagged a seat in First-Class. She, Julie Newcastle, erstwhile lawn-mower repairman, sometimes pizza deliverer, and laid-off wedding planner assistant to the assistant had taken the offer to give up her seat in coach for the reward of sitting in First-Class on the next flight.
Another time, when she boarded an over-booked flight, she took the deal, two hundred dollars in cash. That was a real boon, enough money to pay her phone bill and stock up on groceries. This time, though, she guessed the airlines were hurting for cash just like the passengers and the rest of the country.
As she neared the security station, she hoisted her carry-on bag to her other shoulder, and reached down to remove her slip-on sandals. Walking barefoot to the conveyor belt, she was dropping the bag onto the moving carrier when someone bumped her from behind. One shoe and her shoulder bag dropped to the floor.
“Ohh,” she muttered. In the process of stooping to pick up the two items, people behind her began to grumble.
Looking over her shoulder, she said, “Okay, okay, hold your horses. I’m doing the best I can.”
The griping didn’t lessen, but someone with a deep voice said, “Let’s give the lady a chance here, what do you say, folks?”
She looked at the man in front of her. So far, she’d only seen his back, but now she saw his blinding, white smile from a pleasing, tanned face. Everyone hushed and muttered “sorry”, or “sure, thing.”
Julie wondered who he was to command such attention.
The Kings of TexasEarly Twentieth Century
He looked up at the huge sign splashed across the top of a multi-story brick building in downtown Houston. King Oil Company. Looks like big brother did it right.
With no hesitation, he walked through the enormous glass double doors in the foyer of the building. On the wall to the right was a sign behind glass listing the names of the offices, floor, and number.
It seemed his big brother occupied the entire top floor. Unimpressed, he punched the button for the electric elevator. The door slid open and he stepped in.
"Floor, sir?" The operator stood to the side as if at attention.
Lee grinned at the man in the red uniform trimmed in gold braid and the round hat that topped his head.
"Mr. King's offices?"
"Very good, sir. Now, if you will just step to the rear, we'll be off."
Since Lee had never been in an elevator, he held his breath while the car moved, leaving his stomach behind. The weightless feeling almost made him gasp. Now, that's impressive.
Directly in front of him when he stepped off, loomed the main office. Polished mahogany lined the walls, and crystal wall sconces burned softly, illuminating the hall.
Pausing, he lifted his right leg and brushed the dust off the toe of his boot. He repeated the process with the other boot. Tugging his well-worn hat down, he pushed the door open and stepped in to luxurious surroundings, fit maybe for a king. The thought caused him to chuckle.
"I need to see Dalton King," he announced to the receptionist behind the curved counter.
"Your name, sir?"
~*~Oh, yes, I have a dozen more. One day, I'll select one and give it everything I have.
When I find time to write.
Note: the banner containing book covers at the top of the post is a creation by LK Hunsaker. Contact her here: http://www.lkhunsaker.com/
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Paula Martin tagged me for the Sunshine Blog Award--thank you!
Here's the link to Paula's blog--check it out:
1. What is your favorite Christmas/festive movie?
Charlie Brown's Christmas--love that pathetic tree, and Charlie is such a sweet, wise little character.
2. What is your favorite flower?
The Bluebonnet--the Texas state flower. But if someone were to send me flowers, then I'd like pink roses.
3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic beverage?Ice water. I know--it's boring, but I like water.
4. What is your passion?
What I'm doing at the moment with every ounce of energy. So, these days...writing. It used to be golf, but I had to give that up. So, it's wonderful that my brain switched to writing.
5. What is your favorite time of year?
Fall--not that Central Texas has colorful trees--we have mostly Live Oaks, which stay green all year. But we almost always drive NE in October and we love the colors.
6. What is your favorite time of day?
5:30 pm. Sit in my recliner while my dear husband brings me a glass of wine, and he has one, too, and we prop our feet up and talk and watch NBC news.
7. What is your favorite physical activity?
I do not like physical activity. But walking is okay--have I told you how lazy I am?
8.What is your favorite vacation?
Take a foreign trip--preferably somewhere there is no violence. These days? That's not easy to do, so we stay home more.
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Friday, September 14, 2012
I'm somewhat of a collector, but I didn't know it. The word "collection" caught my attention recently when my publisher said she'd like to change the anthology she's putting together for me from "A Western Romance Anthology" to "A Western Romance Collection."
Yes, I liked that word, but I couldn't say why.
If asked, I'd say, no, I'm not a collector. To me, a "collector" is someone who has many objects that fit into a certain category, and that person displays those in some manner. I've seen some lovely collections in friend's homes, but still didn't think I fit the category. All I could think of was dusting those pieces.
For example, I do have several angel figurines, but that happened by accident. One Christmas, I displayed a small white angel that's actually a bell. A friend saw it. Next Christmas, she gave me a pretty angel figurine. It went beside the now-permanent white bell angel. Later, someone else gifted me with an angel, saying..."I noticed you collect angels."
Hmm, I didn't think I did. Today, I have several--all gifts from people who say--"this is for your collection." And I'm thinking...yes, the collection I didn't think I had.
But I do collect books--don't all authors? My book shelf holds copies--some old, some newer--of every one of LaVyrle Spencer's romances. Since I hold her in the highest esteem, I eventually bought every book and kept them. There you go...another collection.
However, I don't collect items as a general rule. That rule becomes a moot point, though, when I'm talking jewelry--especially jewelry that is in the shape of a heart or has hearts on it somewhere. This began when we started traveling after retirement. We toured many foreign countries, plus the US, and instead of buying t-shirts or postcards, I searched for a piece of jewelry from the country that was heart shaped--necklaces and earrings.
The material from which the heart was made didn't matter--an amber heart on a silver chain from Stockholm, a black plastic heart painted with tiny flowers from St. Petersburg, a nickel heart on a copper chain from Rostock, Germany, a silver heart on a silver chain from Rome...and on and on. I have a drawer full of the stuff.
In addition to heart jewelry, I searched for "the all-important refrigerator magnet." These were more difficult to find. Some countries, I suppose, don't believe in refrigerator magnets! Still I found one in Key West, Mexico, Calgary, Yellowstone, Paris, etc.
Recently, I have given up collecting. My time is consumed with writing and sorting and scanning old photos. Maybe that's still a kind of collecting--different versions of the same thing.
Are you a collector?
I'm always interested in people's homes, to see what they like and what they collect. What does the practice say about a person? Is it a human trait to hold on to artifacts?
In any case, it provides entertainment and satisfaction for the collector.
Lone Star Dreaming is a Western Romance Collection that contains the four 99 Cent Dime Novels (novellas) I wrote for Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery. I love this book, and if you haven't read these novellas, the ebook edition gives the reader all four for the price of three. Both the print and ebook are available now, on Amazon.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all details and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."
Quoted from: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, Fourth Edition.
This small book is my Bible. At times, it becomes useful, but at other times...I forget about it and begin to break all the rules.
I am a master at using useless words, sometimes called needless words.
Examples of how to avoid some useless words:
he is a man who he
in a hasty manner hastily
used for fuel purposes used for fuel
the reason why is because
the question as to whether whether
owing to the fact that since (or because)
the fact that I had arrived my arrival
I own two books that were printed in 1893. One is titled Reveries of a Bachelor. The writing is flowery and filled with useless words. And I love every one of them.
"Shall he who has been hitherto a mere observer of other men's cares and business, moving off where they made him sick of heart, approaching whenever and wherever they made him gleeful, shall he now undertake administration of just such cares and business, without qualms? Shall he, whose whole life has been but a nimble succession of escapes from trifling difficulties, now broach without doubtings, that matrimony where if difficulty beset him, there is no escape?"
Here's my attempt to rewrite the passage in 2012 language:
"Should I ignore other men's problems but eagerly participate in their partying? Should I stop playing around with women and decide if marriage is worth the effort?"
I avoided using too many useless words, but I also stripped the passage of it's poetic voice.
In Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing, he states, "Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. A rule came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words. What the writer is doing, is he's writing, perpetrating "hooptedoodle," perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll be you don't skip dialogue." (Note from Celia: count the number of useless words in this paragraph. Leonard Elmore obviously likes useless words.)
I believe Steinbeck coined the word "hooptedoodle," for two of the chapters in his "Sweet Thursday," are titled Hooptedoodle 1 and Hooptedoodle 2.
And Elmore Leonard said he read every word.
Useless words? Useless phrases?
My weakness is using prepositional phrases:
the crowing of a rooster or..the rooster's crow
a master of music or..a music master
On the other hand, I'm reading more novels with short choppy sentences, as though an editor...or the author...has studied this topic too much and cut the heart out of the voice.
The first manuscript I submitted to a publisher was rejected because "it read like a textbook." Yes, that's what I knew--how to write papers, not fiction.
Fiction needs to be concise and non-repetitive. But like Steinbeck writes, sometimes I want to write all that hooptedoodle. And I don't mind a smattering of useless words.
How do you feel about the topics?
Saturday, September 1, 2012
My Virgo Horoscope today asked me: "Consider that each player's position on a football team comes with its own responsibilities and a specific role to move the team to victory. Which is your choice position in today's 'game'?"
My dear husband and I don't watch much football, but on occasion we become interested in a team for one reason or another. I do understand the basics of the game--but the players' positions? Couldn't tell you the difference between a running back or a tight end. As a result, I do ask questions now and then, and he can tell me everything I need...or want...to know.
Other than the quarterback's role...everybody knows that!...what are some of the positions?
And how can I use this in my life of writing?
First, I want to decide if I'm an Offensive Player or a Defensive Player. Well, this is too easy. I want to be on the Offensive team. They have the ball, for heaven's sake. Why wouldn't I want to have the ball?
So, of the Offensive Players--
The QB passes or hands off the ball
The Center snaps the ball to the QB
The Guards and Tackles keep the defense at bay
The Wide Receivers catch the ball thrown by the QB
The Running Back takes the ball and runs with it
The Tight End blocks the defense and catches passes--
I believe I will be the...wait a minute. To get the ball over the goal line, more than one player must do his job. If I chose to be the Running Back, I'd need the other players to help me catch and run the ball toward the goal line.When I first began writing stories to pass the time, I was completely on my own. In a way, I had the ball and could do what I wanted with it. Then came a time when I thought someone else should read one of my manuscripts, and quickly learned I couldn't produce a good product without help.
No touchdown on my own.
Then came more work to finish the game--promotion.
Writing is relatively simple compared to getting that novel or short story published and promoted.
It takes a village? For a book, it takes a team.