Hair-raising tales from the dork side

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Write? by Linda P. Kozar

Linda Kozar's Writing Desk: where the words spill out

























Writers are often asked, "Why do you write?" I've heard a plethora of answers to the question from other writers over the years. Here are some:
  • 'Cause I write better than I speak
  • It's in my blood
  • Gotta get these stories out of my head
  • Because I can't not write
  • It's my calling
  • Just comes to me naturally
  • I don't know any other way to express myself
  • I love it
  • 'Cause words last forever when you write them down
  • To be a NY Times bestselling author
  • To get rich and famous
  • I get to make stuff up and get paid for it
  • To write the stories I want to read
  • To find out what happens next
  • I love making people laugh
  • I love making people cry
  • To create my own world
  • Writing is cathartic
  • Writing is fun.
  • I have to write; I don't have a choice.
We may have different reasons to write, some realistic, some not so realistic. But the question to ask next is: are you writing? Talk to any group of people and I'll bet 80% of them have a book they'd like to write. With indie publishing on the rise, the percentage of people who only dreamed of writing their story are now seeing those dreams come true.

But at what cost?

There is purpose in the process. Taking the time and effort to learn the craft of writing, to try and fail, and try and fail, and fail and try again--to paper a wall with rejection letters--is important.  Not a step to be skipped over. These are the rites of passage, the milestones of success for serious writers. 

For writers, it  is natural to think that everything we write is brilliant. A lady came to a writer's group I was in years ago and announced to all of us that we were "in for a real treat" because we would be introduced to her incredible story. We would actually get to read it. Wow. None of us quite knew what to say. Did this woman have delusions of grandeur? 

When we began to read, we did not share her opinion about her work. The tenses and point of view were all wrong. The story was filled with cliche's and adverbs and telling instead of showing. There was more wrong than right about her writing. Our group pointed out what we liked about her work, but also showed her what was wrong--a response that did not go over well. 

The intent of a critique group or partner should always be to help improve another person's work, not tear them down. And we've all experienced those pathetic people who live to tear down another writer's work in the worst way. But our writing group worked from the creed, "to tell the truth in love." The woman wasn't interested in hearing the truth however. She wanted us to do what I'm guessing all her family and friends had already done--gush over her brilliance. When we didn't, she was offended. She never returned to the group.

My mom used to have a similar typewriter--an old Smith-Corona

Now for another truth. There are many indie writers in the same position as this woman, who think their writing is the next best thing. And instead of seeking honest feedback, they look for affirmations. Then they rush to publish their book. Big mistake. Anyone can publish a book, but if you want to publish a book that is memorable in a good way, you can't skip the process.

What I mean by that is, before you self-publish, learn everything you can about writing. Work on those talents and skills. Hang out with other writers and learn from them. Hone your craft. Thicken your hide and join a critique group. By that I mean, don't take offense when someone offers a comment or suggestion to improve your work. Some people are real tenderfoots when it comes to critique. And if you can't accept that your work is not perfect, it never will be. Besides, if your goal is traditional publishing and you can't take critique, what are you going to do when your editor rips up your chapters with changes? Get a thick hide and get it now.

The flip side of delusional writers are those who come to the conclusion that everything they write is trash. Every writer goes through this stage. This usually occurs after you finish reading a really really really good book. Then you compare your work to the other writers work and convince yourself that yours is only fit to marinate in dumpster juice. 

This place is the beginning of wisdom. This revelation is a landmark. Embrace it. Start here.

Balance is key. As a writer, you're not the best, but you're not bad either. From this place, if you truly have what it takes to be a writer, things can only get better. 

Why do I write? Because there's nothing else I'd rather do.



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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sue Jan's version of Fancy French April-cot Tarts...


From the second book in my "When The Fat Ladies Sing" mystery series, A Tisket, A Casket

Sue Jan’s April-cot Tart

Ingreedyents

Yummy Pastry:

8 tablespoons of butter without salt (melt and let it cool down a spell)
1/2 cup nice white sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract (I wouldn’t try making this by myself)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (not the fake kind they sell at the Dollar Saver)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground-up almonds (grind ‘em real fine)

Filling:

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sifted flour (Just run a bit through a mesh sieve)
1-1/2 pounds fresh aprilcots (Pit ‘em and cut ‘em in half, but don’t peel ‘em)
Powdered sugar for decorating purposes.
Directions:

Move the knob on the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. (I’m not sure what a flute has to do with any of this, but bear with me. Chef LeBlanc never explained that part).

Now Make the Pastry:

In a whooping big bowl, drop in the melted butter and the sugar, and with a wooden spoon, stir ‘em together. Add the remaining ingreedyents and stir to make a soft dough like cookie dough (My favorite!). Plop the dough in the center of the buttered pan. With the tippy-tops of your fingers, evenly press the pastry along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Put the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the dough is sorta puffy—12 to 15 minutes, I reckon. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the bottom of the crust. (So it won’t get all soggy.)

Now Make the Filling:

In a medium-size bowl, combine the whipping cream, egg, almond and vanilla extract stuff, and honey and whisk to mix things up real good. Then throw in the flour.
Poor the filling over the pastry. Arrange the aprilcots so they lap over each other, like the scales on a rattlesnake, and make sure you fill in the center with whatever aprilcots are left over.
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet with some aluminum foil underneath. That way, if any juice leaks out, it’ll go on the foil instead of the pan and it’ll be a sight easier to clean up. Put the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and bake 55 to 60 minutes or till the filling is set firm, and the dough is golden brown. The aprilcots will shrivel up a bit, but that’s okay. Use oven mitts to take the pan out of the oven and right away, sprinkle with powdered sugar. (Don’t forget to lick your fingers!) Put the tart on a rack to cool. If you can’t find a rack, a snowshoe, an old tennis racket or a piece of chain link fence’ll do just fine. Sprinkle with some more powdered sugar before serving, unless you’re just enjoying this dee-lish dessert all by your lonesome.

Note: This dessert is completely yummy but I need to tell you something before you take a bite. I’m not one to eat a lot of aprilcots, so I was not aware of the side effects from these fruits on the human body. I’m trying to be delicate here…but aprilcots affect the body much like baked Granny Smith apples do. That’s why they call it, “The Granny Apple Quick Step,” if you know what I mean. So, you might wind up with a case of “The Aprilcot Trots.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you!


 [SA1]Cute but you don't spell them this way in the story. Change?

Chocolate Eclairs--Yummers!


My favorite dessert without a doubt is a delicious chocolate eclair. And not just any eclair, mind you. For instance, I won't touch a eclair from a donut shop. I want the real deal. The ones in a donut shop or grocery store bakery are filled with pudding. Gag! Real eclairs are not filled with pudding. I should know. I've made my own and consumed quite a number of chocolate eclairs over the years. Hope you enjoy making these. Visit the site below too!

http://www.famousfrenchdesserts.com/chocolate-eclair-recipes.html 


Chocolate Eclair Recipe


Eclair au Chocolat… A delightful French classic!

Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (for 20 eclairs):

Eclair Dough:
2/3 cup Milk
2/3 cup Water
4 oz. Butter
1 cup Flour
5 Eggs
2 tsp. Granulated Sugar
Pinch of Salt

Chocolate Cream Filling:
6 oz. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
1 cup Milk
4 Egg Yolks
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Flour

Chocolate Icing:
5 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
2 oz. Butter
1/4 cup Water

How to Make It:

Eclair Dough:

Preheat oven to 425°F
1. In a pot, mix water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil.
2. Once butter has completely melted, take off flame, and slowly pour in flour, stirring constantly.
3. Put pot back on flame and continue to work it with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring and kneading with spoon until the dough dries out and stops sticking to the sides of the pot.
4. Take off flame. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring energetically.
5. Fill a baking sac with batter. Butter a baking sheet. Squeeze out "finger-sized eclairs" onto baking sheet, well-spaced.
6. Bake for 10 minutes. Then turn oven down to 385°F and bake another 10-12 minutes with the oven door open.
Voilà!

Chocolate Filling:

1. Melt chocolate (chopped) and milk in a pot, and bring to light boil, remove.
2. In a bowl, whisk yolks and sugar until it whitens.
3. Slowly add flour, stirring.
4. Slowly add chocolate and milk, stirring until homogenous.
5. Put back in pot, bring to light boil, stirring constantly, until cream thickens and becomes smooth.
6. When cream cools off (and eclairs have cooled off as well), you can begin filling the eclairs: Cut a small slit lengthwise, and then stuff with cream, using your baking sac or a small spoon.
Voilà!

Icing:

Almost done! Hang in there! Chocolate eclair recipes are well-worth the time they take!!!
1. Melt chocolate with water in a small pot over a low flame.
2. Once melted add butter, whisking the whole time. Should look shiny and creamy!
3. Remove from heat. Spread a thin layer on each eclair, using a spatula.
4. Wait until icing hardens a bit to serve it.
Voilà! And Bravo!

Tip:

Even if you are making fewer than 20 chocolate eclairs, make the full quantity of dough (it will prepare better!). You can always freeze what you don't use.

Serving Ideas:

Depending on how many people you are serving, you will want to vary the size of your eclairs. Traditionally, chocolate eclair recipes come in three varieties:
Small for large dessert platters. 
Medium (what you most often see in the bakery window). 
It is also possible, although less common, to make one large eclair. You can serve it on a beautiful dessert plate, and cut it directly on the dinner table! 

Whatever you choose, you will be delighted (and so will your guests!) with this magnificent French dessert! Chocolate eclair recipes make everyone smile!!!

Click here to return to the top of the chocolate eclair recipes. 

If you would like to look at other amazing French chocolate desserts, justclick here. 

Would you like to see the full selection of Famous French Desserts? Click here. 

Or, just scroll back up the page, and look at the menu options on your left.

As always, FamousFrenchDesserts is proud to be your personal and authentic guide!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wake of the Storm--by Linda P. Kozar


We all knew it was coming. Hurricane Ike. The day--September 12th, 2008. Just a swirl of clouds on the TV screen with a button eye in the middle, but it was big, no doubt about that. And we knew what big could do from the footage of the aftermath of Katrina.
         People in authority told us to "hunker down" and stay off Houston highways trying "get outta Dodge." So we stayed and "hunkered" whatever that is, in our interior closets--full of things we forgot were in there. My husband and I hauled things out of the two closets in our master bathroom, shoved in some air mattresses, flashlights, radios, food and water and tried to get comfy.
         Our teen daughters in the closet next to us slept right through the howling wind that night, proving with infallibility that teenagers can sleep through ANYTHING. My husband slept too, for a while. But I kept my eyes and ears open---listening for the train-like sounds of tornados and punishing downdrafts. All I heard though were howls and snapping branches, things bumping against the house and windows, and the pelting rain. Our power went out at 6:30 am central standard time. After that, civilization and life as we knew it, began to disintegrate.
         The morning after, we discovered neighbors we barely knew before the storm, wandering in the rain assessing the damage. There were lots of downed trees and branches in the road, leaning against homes and resting over SUVs. Tentative cleanup began, with neighbor helping neighbor on every street throughout our town, but more rains were coming and by nightfall--the REAL nightfall--the kind without electricity, tropic rains were pouring and pounding down in sheets.

         Lightening strikes hit the ground like pinball machines. We listened and shivered in spite of the heat. AND yes, it was most certainly hot. Without air-conditioning, life is different. Without AC, living by candle and flashlight, we morph into little lost panting people. It's not fun.
         After a few days passed, I began to notice something. Without the intrusion of cell phones, iPods, television and electronic games, our family talked more. With neighbors too, not just the people next door—we held conversations with people who lived blocks away. And our family actually played board games, read books, even listened to the radio! Sometimes we listened to music, but mostly to emergency channels. There were dismal accounts of destruction, heartbreaking tales of heroic help and story after story of suffering and loss. . .the true definition of “hard” news.
         I tried my best to keep things clean. My broom and mop were in constant use. There was always a sink full of hot sudsy water. But without air-conditioning, every room revealed a distinct smell. The kitchen smelled like onions and other food-type smells. The study had a bookish wafting about it and the family room started to take on the odor of sweaty, mud-caked family. Not so good.
         I noticed something else too. You would think after all the sweating and not eating a decent meal, that I would have dropped a few pounds, but the scale stuck in the same place. How was that possible? There I was--going all “frontier woman” and not a blessed pound melted off. Good grief! And let's just say it now, without hair dryers we women started to look a bit ragged. But thank God for caps--caps with witty words, caps with rhinestones, or with pretty bows--hiding split ends, and crazy bed-head cave-woman hair. 
         Then our clothes started getting gamey. The laundry room was definitely fermenting its own unique smell after only three days without power. So I decided to hand-wash a load in the bathtub. I used a large seafood boil spoon to stir the tub-o-clothes, (like Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies), then hung 'em out on a clothesline I strung up in the backyard. Our underwear now visible to the world, I began to feel vulnerable.
         For me, there was a low point one day--only one. The whole situation was depressing. So I opened my Bible and came across a passage about thankfulness. Hmmm—why wasn’t I more thankful? Things could definitely be worse. Our family was safe, our home intact. There was food on the table, a gas range to cook on, candles, batteries and ice. My attitude changed once I began to focus on the positives of our circumstance, not the negatives.
Our power came back on a week later. And when the lights and AC came on, the cap came off my head. My hair started looking good again. The smells in every room went away too, replaced by the familiar and exotic scents of room deodorizers in outlets throughout the house. But the conversations also went away. Poof! So did the board games, the neighbors as well.
And you know what? A part of me began to miss the kind of camaraderie and fellowship we experienced with each other and with those around us in the wake of the storm. I appreciate and am thankful for the little things in life more too.
I hope we never experience a storm like that again. But just in case, I’m stocking up on batteries, canned food, good books and rhinestone caps. You never know.

Cozy Mysteries by Linda Kozar

Gate Beautiful Radio Show--November 21, 2013

Family Reunion--Oregon 2012

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