Monday, January 27, 2020

Music Mantra Monday ~ You Are My Sunshine


Alrighty. It's nostalgia time.

I grew up in a house surrounded by music. I had a Godmother who was trained in classical music and was also a Mezzo-Soprano in the Manitoba Opera. My grandparents always had their stereo on and loved Classical and Jazz. My mother was a piano teacher and sang in choirs who not only exposed me to classical music that she played and taught, but she also listened to all of the "oldies but goodies" that weren't as old when I was a kid. You can imagine all of the humming, whistling or singing aloud that went on around me and I loved it.

One thing I really loved is whenever I was sick or just not feeling very happy, I was sung too. Whether it was my favorite hymn from church, a solo opera piece (in whichever language was thrown in at the time) or the Beatles (my favorite...duh) it was the best medicine I received.

I carried that on with my children. Music is a huge part of our family life and we hear every form of it around here. Today's song was one of the "medicine songs" sung to me a long, long time ago. Not only is Johnny Cash a favorite around here, but this song touches my heart in a place I've always kept just for me. Even my best friend sang it to me when times were tough or when I was sick.

So, I am sharing this with you today. Remember: You are the sunshine to at least one other person in your life.

Carry it forward.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Writing Prompt Saturday ~ Writing Contests

Although I've been writing since I was in my single digits, I didn't actually make the effort to publish my work until much later. I have always been rather self-conscious about my writing as there are so many other amazing writers out there. Even with the strongest encouragement from those closest to me, I never had the courage to let it go and allow others to read my stuff. Then, one day, one of my writing mentors sent me a link to a writing contest after reading one of my short stories. After much humming and hawing, I entered it and guess what?

I won.

And if that wasn't enough of an inspiration, the head editor of the contest wrote me a personal note to tell me to get it published. I sent it to a wonderful little magazine (Angels On Earth) that published it in the next month's issue. I guess you can say that that experience was the jump start to my publishing career.

This is just one of the reasons that writing contests are so important. Not only do they keep your skills sharp, but they also give you the chance to get your work out there for others to read even if you don't win. I've had judges contact me requesting a different story as they enjoyed my writing style. I've gotten bloggers asking me to write in a guest spot and have even gotten article offers. Good things can definitely come from the contests whether you win or not. Plus, you can build up some writing samples to try submitting to other publications or, maybe, there's even a book hidden in the short story you just wrote.

Some of the best ones to give a go are flash fiction contests. The reason these are great to try is that they train you to be as succinct as possible. They usually have much lower word count maximums (500 - 1200 words), which means you are forced to say as much as you can with fewer words. I haven't perfected these ones yet but I've gotten better.

Writing contests are everywhere. Just get online and Google different publishers, writing association sites or even sign up for writing newsletters where they have columns listing the latest contests. I have an entire folder filled with contest opportunities. So many, I can't list them all here. BUT I will make an announcement for great ones coming up over at my Facebook author page.

Just be careful when choosing them. Like in every area, there are scammers out there trying to make a buck and prey on hungry writers trying to "make it". There are usually fees involved as that's what helps pay both the judges' time as well as the prize. But don't enter ones that have exuberant fees. Even publishing companies won't charge you an entry fee so huge you need a loan to enter the contest! If you aren't sure about who is running the contest, tap into your writing mentor, editor or publisher friends' experience to see if they've heard of the place running the contest.

So, there you go. Writing contests are another way to get your work out there. Keep trying because one day you never know if you're the one who'll win big.

Happy writing!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Foodie Friday ~ Going South W/Fried Green Tomatoes

I was told that when you crave something, when you aren't pregnant and craving everything, it usually means there is an element in that food your body is low in. That makes absolute sense to me but what about when you crave something completely out of the ordinary...like fried green tomatoes?

Maybe I really just wanted something fried as I am not supposed to have deep-fried foods anymore. I'll admit to cheating from time-to-time but...tomatoes? I think, in this case, I really wanted comfort food that was both crunchy and tangy. Done right, these are the ultimate in yummy comfortness.

The best green tomatoes I've tried, aside from those right from my garden, have come from the Farmer's Market. We have one here that is open year-round. If you can find one near to you, not only will you be supporting local produce and farmers, they are gold mines for future meals.

The key to a great deep-fried tomato is to watch them closely to avoid burning, season them well and give them enough time to cool so they stay warm and crunchy.

I have tried different recipes but this one is my favorite because they are crunchy, tasty and the coating doesn't crumble off in the cooking process. You can also bake them but, honestly, it isn't the same. And here's a little tip: If you have no buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by measuring out the required amount of regular milk then add a few splashes of vinegar to it.

Although I've never tried to, I've heard you can freeze these too. You just have to make sure they lay flat in the freezer until frozen. When that craving hits again, simply take one or two out, allow them to partially defrost and either re-fry or bake them. I don't recommend microwaving them at that point as they can become soggy and not nearly as good.

Well, here we go. Let me know if you try this recipe!

Happy cooking!
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FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

2 - 3 medium green tomatoes cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour divided into half
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch ground cayenne pepper (and/or other spices)
vegetable or other high heat oil, for frying
course or flaky sea salt 

1) Preheat a medium skillet to medium heat.
2) In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk.
3) Take half of the flour and put it onto a plate or another bowl.
4) In another plate/bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, pepper and whichever desired spices and either whisk or mix with a fork until combined.
5) Add enough oil to the hot pan so the tomato slices will fry but are not submerged in the oil Do not crowd the pan (depending on the size of the skillet, there should be no more than 4 - 5 slices at a time). Flip slice over at about 2 - 3 minutes and fry the other side.
6) After frying both sides, place slices on a paper towel covered plate and sprinkle each side with the sea salt. (Tip: If you are doing this in batches, once the next batch is almost finished, move the slices that have been cooling on the plate to a wire rack and continue this until all batches are done. If you pile the slices on top of each other, they tend to go soggy).
7) Once all slices are fried, grab a bun and prepare as you would a hamburger or simply eat them plain with your choice of dip.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Music Mantra Monday ~ Nothing Will Break My Stride



Okay, this is a total flashback to the '80s for me. And, I have to say, hilarious.

I was getting ready for bed tonight and my youngest sent me a text from upstairs (my bedroom is in the basement), which isn't unusual in this house. Anyway, this is sort of how it went:

SOPHIE: Last night I had the strangest dream.
ME: Did you kill someone or die?
SOPHIE: I sailed away to China.
ME: Hm. This sounds hauntingly familiar.
SOPHIE: In a little rowboat to find ya.
ME: ...oh geez...
SOPHIE: You said you had to get your laundry clean.
ME: O_O
SOPHIE: Didn't want no one to hold you, what does that mean? You said...

Then did the bridge, which I will spare you from. But holy moly. THAT was so funny. I remember listening to that song on my clock radio while blow-drying my hair years ago! That's what I love about music. Generation after generation it comes back in the strangest ways. My kids are huge music fans. My oldest is into the music I listened to in high school (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins...you know. 'angry music'), the second oldest listens to everything from oldies but goodies to Metallica, Xander is the same and Sophie...well...she is a pop star.

But they ALL love the Beatles. I can withstand the 80's coming back as long as they never let go of the Fab Four. Plus, this song has the same meaning for me now as it did back in the day: I'll keep moving forward and nothing will stop me.

Go ahead and share some of your own classics (I don't consider the above selection a classic but it's fun to remember the decade it was popular in).

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Writing Prompt Saturday ~ Positive Words From A-Z

Wow. We've been going through the worst cold snap I can remember since moving to Alberta. All this week, it's been around -40 with the windchill. I believe we were even colder than some places up north from us! That's pretty cold.

Extremes in temperature seem to take a real toll on many of us, myself not excluded. I haven't has the motivation or energy to even come downstairs to my office and get some words out (that added to it's dang cold down here). So I thought I'd try something that might be good not only for me, but for anyone out there who may need a little positive boost to get moving today, no matter what Jack Frost says.

Several years ago now, one of my editors gave me a list of some wonderful replacement words to spice dialogue up a bit. I still refer to it to this day. Along the same lines, I am going to do a list of positive words to throw into your work here and there to give your piece a bit more subtle happy vibes. I call it "Positive Words From A-Z" and I think we can even use a couple of these in our day-to-day lives too.

Some of these may seem really simple but I think when we're down and out, we tend to focus more on the negative stuff which may be easier but certainly doesn't help the situation. So, here we go.

Happy Saturday!

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A - able
B - brave
C - caring
D - delightful
E - energetic
F - fighter
G - gregarious
H - healing
I - intuitive
J - jovial
K - kind
L - loving
M - meritorious
N - nourishing
O - oasis
P - peaceable
Q - quemeful
R - rapturous
S - sumptuous
T - tenatious
U - undaunted
V - valiant
W - winsome
X - xenial
Y - yare
Z - zen

Video trailer for BLACKBIRD FLIES!


Video Trailor for JUST SHUT UP and DRIVE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRr-vJ8W7YA