For our last October blog, noodlers would like to know: What are you giving out to trick-or-treaters this year? Tootsie Rolls or Toothbrushes? Nerds or Necco wafers?
Labels: Halloween candy
A Few Last Words About Breast Cancer Awareness Month
There’s not a woman alive who isn’t terrified of those words.
The good news is that breast cancer can be caught early and treated successfully just by paying attention. Yet, many women don’t monitor the condition of their breasts, don’t have annual mammograms and don’t bring problems to the attention of their doctors.
Some of the hesitation comes from the age-old taboo against a woman touching her own body. Ironically, the first step in beating this disease is to, quite literally, take matters into your own hands. Doing a breast self-exam regularly is a good way to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel. This way, you can more easily notice changes. The best time to do a breast self-exam is when your breasts are not tender or swollen, such as a few days after your period.
Two weeks ago I had my third surgery in ten years to remove a lump from my right breast. For the third time in 10 years I received the news every woman wants to hear...“You do not have breast cancer.” Each of these three times I discovered the problem myself during a regular breast self-exam.
I’m not a breast care fanatic but there is a history of cancer in my family (though, thankfully, not breast cancer), and it makes me aware of the importance of taking care of myself. I’d rather experience these little speed bumps in life and get them taken care of now than ignore signs of trouble and spend my remaining years asking “what if.”
As important as they are, self exams should not take the place of regular screening mammograms or clinical breast exams which are done by a doctor. If cost is a factor, call your local health department or library to ask for information about groups in your area which assist women with medical needs.
Most of all, don’t be afraid. Yes, you may find a lump or other abnormality, but the sooner it’s discovered, the better. Turn anxiety into action.
Take this message to heart and help spread the word. Leave a message for our readers if you like, share your story, pass along some wisdom or encouragment.
Labels: breast cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women
The Almost- November Month
There's an old English ballad called "The World Turned Upside Down" that legend says was played on fife and drum at the surrender of Cornwallis to Washington at Yorktown. The song originated in 1651 ,when Cromwell banned the traditional celebrations of Christmas in England because of their pagan connections.http://www.contemplator.com/england/worldtur.html
It probably wasn't played at Yorktown, though. There is no historical mention of the song in connection with the event until 1881, a hundred years later. Of course we know Lord Cornwallis declined to attend his own surrender, and his representative refused to surrender to Washington anyway, handing over the sword to the French commander Rochambeau instead. Washington didn't seem to mind, apparently viewing that last piece of denial in the overall perspective of victory.
Yorktown did change the world. And whether one little song was played on that day, or whether it merely came to be symbolic of the spirit of the day, we can't tell now. Maybe some soldier in the back of the ranks slyly whistled a few bars and was told to shut up before he messed up the whole deal- we'll never know.
I often think about this little song this time of year, because it seems to me the world is turning upside down. It's not that I dislike autumn- I don't. It's just that everything about my focus changes. It's that the year is winding down, just as winter is winding up. And it always seems to come on much faster than I had intended. It's almost Halloween already, and I'm not quite used to the fact that the sun comes up too late and the rains are making the days dark and chilly. Seems like it ought to still be September.
The Almost-November phase for me also means I re-evaluate my life, priorities, and particularly my writing. Inevitably I've slipped over the summer. I'm behind schedule once again. True, I'm one of those people whose mood sags in the winter months, sometimes badly, and I don't look forward to that, but when I'm in gayer spirits in the warmer months, I have this sometimes unfortunate tendency to do lots of fun things instead of what I "should" be doing.
So October starts the catch-up time. I used to be in a rush to complete my manuscripts in time for the Golden Heart. Now there are deadlines, promised submissions, and the need to complete stories has become a compulsion all by itself. It's like getting the house ready for winter. Got to get things done before the snow falls (which in this part of the country can be any time between November and next year). I'm like that really fat squirrel that has been testing my bedroom window screen lately.
I suppose it's just a natural part of the yearly cycle. you'd think I'd be used to it by now. At least the squirrel has been storing pine nuts all summer. You can tell by the size of his belly he's pretty well prepared for the coming cold. So maybe I'm a little late, but I guess you'd say I'm storing up nuts for the winter.
Does autumn put you in a different frame of mind? Does it have these same plus-minus feelings for you?
Merrillee here hoping that these photos will give you even a little taste of the spectacular beauty we saw this past weekend in the mountains of North Georgia. The following photo was taken from the top of Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. I barely had time to snap this picture before the clouds rolled in and obscured the view.
I took the photo below just as the clouds started to cover the top of the mountain. A few minutes later, a sea of white lay between us and the colorful trees below. If we had gotten there five minutes later, I wouldn't have been able to see the fantastic colors. On a clear day, you can see Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee from the top of the mountain. There is a lesson in these photos. Take advantage of an opportunity when it first presents itself. If you wait, the opportunity may be lost.
I took this last photo from the deck of our friends' house. They live near the top of a road that winds up the side of a steep hill. Making the trek to the top yields a fantastic view of the mountains and the lake. I took another lesson away from this experience. Taking the high road is better in views and in life.
Where do you like to go to see fall foliage?
Labels: Brasstown Bald, clouds, fall foliage, leaves, mountains, views
To color or not to color that is the question, or maybe it used to be. I notice a lot more women out and about who’ve made the choice to let their gray show. Is it the whole Dove natural beauty campaign? Is it the tight economy? I suspect it’s a lot of different reasons for different people. Here are my reasons for letting the gray come as it may, and I’ve been letting it go since my daughter entered kindergarten. She’s now fifteen.
1. I like being different. The sparkling silver strands I sport are hard if not near impossible to duplicate in a coloring process. If it can’t be duplicated except by nature, I am somewhat unique.
2. I am lazy when it comes to covering the skunk line (the white/silver line of regrowth that forms between two to four weeks after your last dye job, revealing the true color of your graying head). Because gray hair resists color, if you have over 40 % gray, you’ll end up with permanent color. Talk about a line of demarcation when it grows out!
3. Occasionally, I get the senior discount even though I’m years away from being eligible. I like saving money more than I care about teenagers thinking I’m older than my birth certificate states.
4. The money and time I would have spent on hair color can go toward something I enjoy like a pound of good coffee or a bottle of wine.
5. My husband finds it attractive, and that, my friends, pretty much says it all.
By the way, if you’re thinking of letting your gray hair shine in all its glory, make sure to condition your hair every time you wash it, wash it less frequently to keep it from frizzing, and don’t use one of those violet-based shampoos more than once a week—unless you want a lavender tint to your gray.
Will you age gracefully with or without the gray showing? Why do you think more women are making the choice not to color their hair?
Labels: going gray
This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse
Noodlers explore the following topics this week:
Monday, October 26th: Maureen Hardegree Turning Gray
Tuesday, October 27th: Merrillee Whren TBA
Wednesday, October 28th: Delle Jacobs The World Turned Upside Down
Thursday, October 29th: Karen Potter Breast Cancer Screening: Early Detection and Biopsies
Friday, October 30th: Q&A: What are you giving trick-or-treaters this year?
Labels: Delle Jacobs, Karen Potter, Maureen Hardegree, Merrillee Whren
We've explored some fun topics this week. Now let's switch gears to writing.
What can writers do to improve their stories' turning points?
Labels: writing turning points
Favorite Scary Movies
This time of year I am crazy for scary movies. The evenings are cool and I love turning the lights down and snuggling up with a good scary movie.
The Ring—I think this is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. I’d not seen the creepy movement of the well girl before, and the associated urban legend—“Watch this video and you die”—still gives me shivers.
Scream—I loved the humor mixed with terror in this movie. Also, a major movie star was killed in the first act—anything could happen from there.
The Blair Witch Project—The buzz for this was amazing. Our son was small, so we waited until it came on Pay-Per-View. I think we were both confused, so we watched it again with closed captioning. The last scene was so haunting, and raised so many questions. We talked about it for days.
Halloween—I can watch this over and over this time of year.
The Thing—Back when VCRs first came out, the dh and I (we were dating at the time) rented this movie. While it wasn’t the scariest thing ever, the isolation in the movie did make for some tension.
The Pit and the Pendulum—I remember watching this Vincent Price movie when I was a kid and actually sucking in my stomach as the pendulum descended.
American Werewolf in London—my first R rated movie, very bloody, lots of fun.
Amityville Horror—I read the book when I was in middle school and the first movie scared me to death.
The Fog—I really enjoyed both the original and the remake with Tom Welling. The child in danger, the fact that they couldn’t leave the island, the encroaching fog….creepy!
Salem’s Lot—I don’t remember if I read the book before or after the miniseries aired, but I LOVE the original with David Soul, Bonnie Bedelia and James Mason. The floating Glick boys, the movers bringing the coffin back into town, James Mason, all had me on the edge of my seat.
Poltergeist (1 and 2)—Sweet-faced little girl, floating corpses, CREEEEEEEPY old man. Another one I’ll watch over and over.
The Messengers—A family in a haunted old farmhouse, isolated from everything, threatened by spirits of a murdered family. It got awful reviews but I loved it.
Creepshow—The zombie dad coming for his birthday cake—ACK!
The Believers—Martin Sheen investigating the religion of Santeria, Jimmy Smits as the bad guy. Sad and scary. Lots of snakes.
Abbott and Costello—We watched these movies on Saturdays when I was a kid. I loved “Meet Frankenstein” best, but “Meet the Mummy” is a close second.
Mystery Science Theater—We watched these movies on Saturdays when I was a young mom. I loved the ones with Joel most of all. All that delicious snarky humor.
Eight Legged Freaks—David Arquette can be annoying, but I notice I have 2 of his movies on my list. I thought this one was a good chuckle.
Love at First Bite—Best. Vampire. Movie. Ever.
Lake Placid—Bill Pullman was so charming, the sheriff had the best one-liners, Oliver Platt was a hoot. Also, Betty White!
I want to see Paranormal Activity, but will wait for DVD and hopefully avoid spoilers. What are your favorite scary movies?
Labels: Halloween, MJ Fredrick, movies
Easy, No Sew Halloween Costumes
Here are a few ideas for those of you looking for something a bit different this Halloween: 1. 50’s beatnik: black turtleneck, black slacks, black beret if you have one. A copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road or Allen Ginsberg’s poetry. Use a little beatnik slang: cool, man, hip, strictly dullsville, Daddy-O.
2. Frazzled mom: High-waisted mom jeans or pleated khakis, hair standing on end courtesy of Aussie freeze spray, dark circles under the eyes. Big purse with everything in it. Large bottle of fake Exedrin coming out of the top of the bag along with a Starbuck’s cup and a diaper.
3. Trash: Cut holes in the bottom of a trash bag. Step in. Stuff with newspaper. Duck tape to shoulders and strategically stick items like empty cans, crumpled newspaper around shoulders. Bobby pin crumpled paper to head and some uncooked spaghetti noodles.
4. A member of your family: Who can you best mimic? Your wife, husband, daughter, son, mother, father. Use the family member’s accessories, exaggerate the mannerisms, immitate the fashion sense. For example, if I wanted to be my husband, I’d stuff my hair under one of his baseball caps. Draw on a goatee. Wear glasses, his sandals, and a UGA shirt or sweatshirt. I have plenty to pick from in his closet.
5. Golfer: A cap, straw fedora, or visor. A collared short sleeve shirt. Khaki shorts or pants. A putter. Wear oversized logos from your sponsors, made from colored duck tape. Nod at people, touch the brim of your hat, and mouth “thank you.”
6. Bridesmaid of Frankenstein. If your mother or a neighbor doesn’t have a bridesmaid’s dress hiding in the back of the closet, go to a thrift store. You’ll be sure to find one—the more hideous the better. Create a wacky hairstyle. Overdo your make-up. Create a bouquet from silk flowers. Walk like you’re a monster created by Dr. Frankenstein and ask how many groomsmen are single.
7. Cafeteria Lady: Big dress stuffed with pillows. White Apron. Plastic gloves. Hairnet. Large slotted spoon. Panty hose with sensible shoes. Name Pin: Mabel, Gastronomic Engineer, Local grade, middle or high school name.
8. Blood clot: Safety pin red and burgundy balloons to a red or burgundy sweat shirt.
9. Unmade Bed. Sheet, pillow, pillow case with eye holes cut out, afghan or half an old bedspread. Option 2: don’t cut holes in the pillow case. Use a knit cap same color as pillow case and face paint.
10. Crossing guard. Dark sweatshirt and pants. White reflective duck tape to create over the shoulder and belt, stripe down side of pants. A whistle on a lariat. White gloves. Periodically stop and direct the trick-or-treating traffic.
Can you think of some other costumes that wouldn’t require sewing skills?
Labels: no sew costumes
Fifteen years and 151 rejections later, a writer friend on my 2008 Golden Heart loop made a sale to Steeple Hill. That’s what I call perseverance! This blog is for those of you out there who want something so badly you can taste it. For those of you who wake up early or stay up late into the wee hours of the night to make your dreams come true. This is for those of you who might have felt angry or bitter or resentful at times because you haven’t reached the destination you set out for so long ago. This blog is to remind you that it can happen, and I, for one, believe it will happen to you if you don’t give up. If you’re a writer, you need to submit your stuff…get it out there! You have to take risks and be aggressive and most of all you have to believe in yourself.
If you have watched Oprah lately (I record the shows and then watch when I can) you’ve seen the girl from skid row who took a bus 2 ½ hours every day to get to high school. She spent her free time in the library because it was a heck of a lot better than sitting on the streets of LA. She read books, a lot of books, she studied, and eventually she was accepted into Harvard.
And what about the son of migrant farmworkers whose parents never graduated past the third grade? Jose Hernandez wanted to grow up to be an astronaut, but the odds were against him. He never gave up his dream and at the age of 41 he became an astronaut candidate for NASA. Jose could very well be the next human being to step on the moon!
My oldest daughter, Morgan, has always wanted to be in front of a camera, not as an actor but as a host…the next female Ryan Seacrest. Despite not knowing a soul in LA, she recently moved to Los Angeles. She quickly got a job at a restaurant and a second job at a mall while taking hosting classes in Santa Monica. She also found a room to rent. After only six months, she told me she knew exactly where she wanted to work, and so she quit her job at the restaurant and told the company where she wanted to work that she would intern for no pay. To my surprise, they gave her a desk. The company manages celebrities and runs auditions for misc. shows, etc. For six weeks she ran errands and answered the phone. Every morning on her way to work, she told me she was determined to get hired permanently. Never mind that they never said they needed another employee. It was a place Morgan felt she needed to be so she could learn and grow. Needless to say, her money soon ran out and she needed to eat. We told her she had one month before she had to go get a real job that paid. She said, “Don’t worry, they will hire me before it comes to that.” I knew all about putting timeframes on dreams and I was worried, but a week later she was offered a full time job with a good salary! She’s just another positive story out of many. The kind of story that tells you that sometimes you just need to go for it!! What inspiring stories have you heard lately? Or maybe you know of someone who never gave up on their dreams. If so, please share your story!pictures 1) Morgan moving to LA 2) Morgan working at Bubba Gump 3) Morgan taking charge of her life while trying on hats!
Labels: never give up, perseverance, Theresa Ragan
Turn to A Treasure Trove of Golden Heart Advice
This is Golden Heart season, the perfect time to force yourself to finish that manuscript and enter it in the Golden Heart. We at the WNP are great believers in the power of the GH contest; we came together because of the contest, after all!
We have some great advice about the GH for you to turn to. In 2007, our blog focused on the Golden Heart and we had some pretty spectacular advice to offer. The great news is, it's STILL available to you.
Keep in mind, though, that this is 2007 advice. Pay close attention to the 2010 Golden Heart
rules to make sure that what we said is still true.
Here's why you should enter the Golden Heart:Why Enter the Golden Heart?
by Debra Holland Oct 1, 2007Good Things Can Happen from The Golden Heart
by Diane Gaston (moi!) Oct 2, 2007Using the Golden Heart to Your Advantage
by Anne Mallory Oct 11, 2007
Okay. That's the why. Now how about WHERE to enter your manuscript?
(Remember, this was 2007, so be alert for any changes in the categories)Strong Romantic Elements Category
by Esri Rose Oct 16, 2007Contemporary Series Romance
by Jill Monroe Oct 17, 2007Historical Categories
by Diane Gaston Oct 18, 2007Inspirational Category
by Merrillee Whren Oct 19, 2007Paranormal Category
by Esri Rose Oct 20, 2007Young Adult
by Trish Milburn Oct 15, 2007Romantic Suspense
by Trish Milburn Oct 217, 2007
Writing Tips for the Golden Heart:Opening Lines
by Trish Milburn Oct 22, 2007Writing Tight
by Theresa Ragan Oct 23, 2007Synopsis
by Delle Jacobs Oct 24, 2007Be Kind To Your Judge's Eyes
by Karen Potter Oct 25, 20079 Mistakes Contest Entants
Make by MJ Frederick Oct 31, 2007Dialogue
by Norah Wilson Oct 29, 2007
That should get you started! There is more, though. To find our previous Golden Heart advice, scroll down all the way on this page and look at the right for Blog Archives. Our Golden Heart focus was Oct through Dec 2007, but there are some under Oct 2008, too.
I urge you to turn to this treasure chest. You won't be sorry.
If any questions arise, ask them here and I'll try to answer. It will help if you reference which blog your question is from. Or ask a general question. I'm easy....
My website now has an excerpt
of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady
and a new contest
Labels: Golden Heart
This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse
Monday, October 19th: Diane Gaston Turn to A Treasure Trove of Golden Heart Advice
Tuesday, October 20th: Theresa Ragan TBA
Wednesday, October 21st: Maureen Hardegree Easy No Sew Costumes
Thursday, October 22nd: MJ Fredrick Favorite Scary Movies
Friday, October 23rd: Q&A: What can writers do to improve their stories’ turning points?
Please join us!
Labels: Diane Gaston, Maureen Hardegree, MJ Fredrick, Theresa Ragan
Like many Halloweenies, I like most things associated with the holiday--the excuse to eat candy, carving pumpkins, dressing up. In fact, picking out a costume for Halloween or creating one of my own has always been and continues to be a lot of fun for me.
I think that fun all started with a Cinderella costume that came in a box with a plastic mask and an outfit that resembled a hospital gown more than the finery available for purchase at the Disney Store. If I close my eyes, I can still feel my eyelashes brush against the plastic as I peered through the cut-outs; I can still feel the condensation of my breath against the plastic.
What was your favorite Halloween costume from childhood?
Labels: Halloween costumes
This month we're celebrating changes, "turns, turns, turns". For this Florida girl who's been transplanted to the Midwest, this time of year isn't exactly my favorite, weather-wise. I live for the first warm days of spring and the dogdays of summer. Funny though, my favorite holiday is a winter one--Christmas-- but while I think a white Christmas is pretty, I wouldn't mind if the temp rose on Dec. 26th. :-)
As I sit at my kitchen table typing, wearing fleece, a thick robe, and warm socks (still shivering) I'm wondering how why we bypassed autumn and jumped right into winter. Does that mean spring will come earlier, too? Somehow I doubt it.
While we don't see many leaves changing in central & south Florida, I've come to appreciate the beauty of fall leaves and their glorious new wardrobe here in the Midwest. I'll actually miss it if the dreary weather keeps up and the leaves don't get the sun the weatherman tells me is needed for those beautiful colors to appear.
My favorite part of fall is probably the celebrations (homecoming for my high school daughters, costumes for Halloween, family gatherings for Thanksgiving) and knowing that soon the Christmas season will arrive when I'll be baking, shopping for others, and anticipating spending quality time with family and friends. Forget the cold winter weather, a Christmas on the beach in Florida sounds lovely, much better than goosebumps and chills. But really, if family is together having a good time, I guess I wouldn't mind being a little cold, as long as there's plenty of hot chocolate with marshmallows. :-)
How about you? Care to share what gets your groove on as your favorite part of fall?
Works in progress
by Terry McLaughlin
My husband and I returned home this evening after several days of travel. And what did we discuss during all those hours on the road? The same thing our conversation inevitably turns to when we're far from home: remodeling projects. Somehow it's easier to get enthused about fixing up the house when we're hundreds of miles away from it.
Our changes to our surroundings tend to be ambitious. Witness our latest project: the dining room. Here are some before, during, and after views of the same corner. Quite a transformation, don't you think?
The room was originally a basic beige box. We cut a hole in one wall, bumped out a boxy bay, and installed a stained glass window we had made to fit above the buffet. After layering on wide white trim, beadboard wainscotting and wallpaper, we painted the ceiling and added a frilly medallion. We're still shopping for an antique chandelier, some old blue & white platters for the walls and an area rug–those finishing details will come in time.
In turn, this remodeling project inspired several important elements in my upcoming December release: the gentleman who made our window and the business he owns became the models for my heroine and her stained glass window shop. And since I'd always wanted to learn how to work with stained glass, I enjoyed taking the classes he offers as story research.
What changes have you made to your house? What changes would you like to make? Do you find yourself more interested in home improvement projects as holidays draw near?
The Golden Heart Contest
By Debra Holland
It’s Autumn, the time of year for unpublished writers to consider entering the RWA Golden Heart contest. The entry forms are due on November 16. The Golden Heart is RWA’s most prestigious unpublished contest. Finaling not only opens doors for your writing career, but is a LOT of fun.
When the GH call comes, the good news gives you a happy, bubbly thrill. It’s a great feeling to share with your family and friends. The high can last for weeks.
The days after the GH results are announced are a good time to send queries to agents and editors about your finaling manuscript. Finaling makes your queries stand out, leading to quicker responses. It also gives agents and editors more of a reason to request your book.
If your manuscript is already with an agent or editor, it’s good to call or email with the news. This can motivate the agent or editor to hunt through their slush pile to find your manuscript, instead of waiting the months, or even years, it might take them to get to it.
It’s not uncommon to have five to ten finalists sell their books in the months between the announcement and the national conference. During that time about the same amount of writers also sign with agents.
Sometimes an editor who is judging the contest likes what he or she is reading and directly buys the entry--before the winners are even announced at the awards ceremony in the national conference.
The finalists organize themselves into a yahoo group and begin to get to know each other. They share stories of their “call” and of their books. They support each other through rejections and acceptances and celebrate if one of them sells. By the time the conference rolls around, the group has become friends.
At the national conference, GH finalists get to wear pink finaling ribbons on their name badges and be princesses for five days. The ribbon identifies them to other conference attendees, agents, and editors, and they get a lot of people asking about their entry. There is also a special reception for the GH and Rita finalists.
At the awards night, the finalists dress up in beautiful formal gowns and sit in reserved seating in the front of the theatre. As each finalist’s name is announced, two overhead screens show her professional photo and the name of her book--a great way to build name recognition.
Winners receive a beautiful necklace with a golden heart. Once a winner places that necklace around her neck, she is forever a Golden Heart winner. The necklace is a symbol of her accomplishment that other writers can recognize whenever she wears it. However, it’s also a tangible reminder when future doubts creep in--yes, she is a good writer.
As I see it, there’s only two cons to entering the GH. One is the entry price. $50.00 can be a bit steep on an unpublished writer’s budget, especially in this economy. Multiple entries can really add up. Make sure you follow all the rules. If you break a rule, your manuscript will be disqualified, and your money won’t be refunded.
The second drawback of the GH is that the only feedback you will receive are numerical scores. You’ll never know why you received a 9 from one judge and a 4 from another.
How do you know if you are ready to enter the Golden Heart contest?
Is your manuscript completed or nearly completed? A completed manuscript is a requirement for the GH, making it different from RWA chapter contests. This weeds out the people who have completely polished the first few chapters and synopsis of their books, and enter them in all the local contests, but have never completed the manuscripts. These entries might be multiple winners in local contests, but the GH is for finishers, which gives you a different caliber of competition, and much more respect when you final.
I have used entering the Golden Heart as a spur to completing a manuscript. As a finishing-the-book tool, this has worked very well. Actually there have been several years when I was writing right until the deadline to overnight the entry in order to have it arrive the next day. In other words, the ending was done, but not polished. However, one of these books still finaled, and the other finaled the next year when it was polished. But don’t do this unless you are confident you can finish. Otherwise, your entry will be disqualified.
Make sure the first fifty-five pages, including your synopsis, are polished. Have a critique partner or two or ten go over your entry. In the first round, it won’t matter how much you’ve edited the rest of your book. The first round of judges only sees the first fifty-five pages, which includes the synopsis. You probably won’t win if the quality of the rest of the manuscript isn’t as good as the beginning, but winning is just a bonus to being a finalist.
So challenge yourself. Get out those manuscripts, finish them, polish them, and enter the Golden Heart Contest!
Debra Holland is a three-time Golden Heart finalist. In 2001, her book, Wild Montana Sky, won the short historical category.
Labels: Debra Holland, Golden Heart contest
Turning to Family Traditions, Again and Again...
Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, which means I’ll be revisiting a lot of family traditions. I spent most of the weekend in Seattle for the Emerald City Writers’ Conference, but I’m up early this morning to prepare a holiday feast.
My family loves the old standbys—turkey with bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Today it’ll be roast chicken because only four of us are sitting down to dinner. There’ll also be buttered carrots, brussels sprouts and, of course, pumpkin pie for dessert.
One of my favorite side dishes is baked squash, a recipe I modified from my Grandmother McKenzie’s old cook book—the Modern Priscilla Cook Book
—which has been passed down to me. The cover is quite shabby and the copyright page is missing, but I believe it was published in the 1920s.
I’ll start with the original ingredients for the original recipe.
Squash au Gratin
2 cups mashed squash
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup grated cheese
Yes, this cook book uses a lot of butter. And the recipe says that if the squash is very dry, “a little cream may be added.”
I substitute a little olive oil for some of the melted butter, add a sprinkling of nutmeg for flavor, and replace the buttered crumbs with chopped cashews. But the egg and squash combination still create the original souffle-like texture that made this side dish so appealing.
Squash qu Gratin (Lee's version)
2 cups cooked, mashed squash (butternut is my favorite)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
a generous grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
finely chopped cashews
Here are my instructions, modified from the original, as you can tell by my use of a microwave!
Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place the two halves cut side down in a shallow, microwaveable dish. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and microwave on High. Cooking time will vary, depending on the type of microwave you have. You can also bake the squash in the oven for half an hour or so.
Let the squash cool, scoop the pulp into a bowl, and mash it. Stir in the olive oil, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Add the beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Put this mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the top with the chopped cashews. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Serves 6.
Either version is very tasty. I hope you enjoy it!
Until next time,
Labels: family, holiday recipes, Thanksgiving, traditions
This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse
Noodlers continue To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn month with the following blogs:
Monday, October 12th: Lee McKenzie TBA
Tuesday, October 13th: Debra Holland TBA
Wednesday, October 14th: Terry McLaughlin TBA
Thursday, October 15th: Priscilla Kissinger TBA
Friday, October 16th: Q&A: What was your favorite Halloween costume from childhood?
Happy Friday to all our readers!!!
Many of our readers are also writers pursuing their dream of publication. We noodlers, Golden Heart Class of 2003, wouldn't be here if it weren't for Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest.
What's the best reason why unpublished romance authors should enter this year's Golden Heart contest?
Labels: Golden Heart contest
Writing Turning Points
What drives the plot in a story are the turning points or the places where your main characters make decisions that propel the action forward. If I’ve learned anything along this journey to publication, it’s that a story’s plot must include major and minor turning points if you as a writer want to keep your reader interested and the pace lively. Each scene should have one, and these turning points should build on each other to create the arc of your story. Turning points without connection to anything else stymie the action.
Two writers who explain the concept better than I are Michael Hauge and Jennifer Crusie.
Michael Hauge, who will be conducting a workshop in Atlanta in October 2010 during Georgia Romance Writers’ Moonlight and Magnolias Conference, believes there are five key turning points in a screenplay or novel. They are opportunity, change of plans, point of no return, major setback and climax. See http://www.screenplaymastery.com/structure.htm for a complete discussion.
Jennifer Crusie also provides a wonderful explanation and handout from the 2009 Romance Writers of America conference on her website. http://arghink.com/2009/07/29/turning-points-handout-from-rwa-national
Can you think of any other resources that explain turning points available to writers on the net? What are some books that you’d recommend?
Labels: writing turning points
Hot Buttered Cider Recipe
One of my favorite hot drinks for fall is cider. This recipe, on page 51 of the Better Homes and Gardens Heritage of America Cookbook, is fabulous.
Hot Buttered Cider Sipper
(Makes 6 servings)
1 quart apple cider or apple juice
3 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
4 inches stick cinnamon, broken
¼ to 1/3 cup brandy
3 teaspoons butter or margarine (butter is better—my suggestion)
100% cotton cheesecloth
In a medium saucepan (or your crockpot—my suggestion), combine apple cider, honey and lemon juice. Make a spice bag by cutting your cheesecloth into a 6 inch square. Place spices in the center of the cheesecloth and tie ends, corner to corner. Add bag to cider mixture. Cover and heat through but do not boil. Once cider is hot, discard spice bag and stir in brandy. Ladle hot cider into mugs; float ½ teaspoon butter atop each serving.
What’s a beverage that says autumn to you?
Labels: hot buttered cider
Top Ten Tips for Turning a Pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern
1. Create your design on paper first. Sketch until you achieve the look you’re after. Save that piece of paper. You’re going to need it later.
2. Pick a pumpkin with a shape and color that works best with your sketch. A warty skin and round orange shape may be perfect for a witch face design. A ghost face may work best with a tall, slender white variety.
3. Spread newspaper over the table where you’re working for easy clean-up.
4. Assemble your tools. You can purchase a carving kit, or you can create your own with kitchen utensils. You’ll need a big metal spoon for scooping and scraping out seeds and membrane, a grapefruit knife for carving curves, a nut pick for piercing an outline of your design on the pumpkin, a medium sized butcher knife for cutting the top, and a serrated steak knife for cutting straight lines.
5. Tape your design onto the pumpkin, then use the nut pick to punch the design into the pumpkin. This method works much better than trying to draw on a rippled surface.
6. After the design is pierced into the pumpkin’s flesh, cut the top. If you’re using a real votive candle, make certain to cut a 3” by 4”slot into the back of your pumpkin below where the top sits for air flow, so that your candle flame doesn’t fizzle out due to lack of oxygen.
7. Using the big metal spoon and your hands, scoop out the seeds and membranes and set them on your newspaper.
8. Carve the design following the punched outline. A sawing motion works best. Place your discarded wall pieces with the seed mess. When you’re done, roll up all the mess in the newspaper and throw it in the trash.
9. With your spoon, scrape a flat surface on the bottom center of your pumpkin interior where you will place your votive candle.
10. Use a long fireplace match or a fireplace lighter to light the votive wick inside the pumpkin so you don’t burn your fingers. Sit back and admire your work.
What do you usually carve? A traditional Jack-o-lantern face or something unique?
Candy Corn Isn't What It Used to Be
When I think of candy corn, I picture the white, yellow and orange striped triangular candy of my childhood. I was amazed to discover this weekend that candy corn has gone gourmet. While at a book signing, I tried crème brulee candy corn, and it prompted me to wonder what other flavors were out there. I found that not only are there many flavors, but there are also triple-sized corn, gummy candy corn, candy corn Dots, and candy corn Hershey Kisses.
Different Flavors of Candy Corn
1. traditional (vanilla)
7. caramel apple
8. crème brulee
9. apple cider
10. blackberry cobbler
11. pumpkin spice
12. raspberry lemonade
14. green apple
If you like the traditional vanilla flavor but want a more colorful corn for holidays other than Halloween—bunny corn (pastels), cupid corn (pink, white, and red), and reindeer corn (red, white and green) are available.
Are you a candy corn fan? Have you tried any of the alternative flavors? If so, which did you like best?
When not researching different flavors of candy corn, Maureen Hardegree writes for BelleBooks and Bell Bridge. Critters of Mossy Creek is available now. Look for her first paranormal young adult novel Haint Misbehavin' on bookshelves in June 2010.
Labels: candy corn, Maureen Hardegree
This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse
We hope the first full week of October has you healthy and happy. In the spirit of the monthly theme To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn, we're blogging on the following topics:
Monday, October 5th: Candy Corn Isn’t What It Used to Be
Tuesday, October 6th: Top Ten Tips for Turning a Pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern
Wednesday, October 7th: Hot Buttered Cider
Thursday, October 8th: Writing Turning Points
Friday, October 9th: Q&A: What’s the best reason why unpublished romance authors should enter the Golden Heart?
Labels: candy corn, cider, jack-o-lanterns, writing turning points
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Noodlers get their mammograms as do our readers (we hope). After my annual squishing, I treat myself to lunch and a dose of ibuprofen.
How do you reward yourself after your mammogram?
To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn
From ballerinas to plot points, most everything including the earth’s axis turns. Sometimes these turns take us to new places we aren’t quite sure about. Sometimes turns take us and our characters to places we’d never thought we’d go.
This month, noodlers embrace the turning leaves and the crisp autumn air. Please join us as we tackle topics such as how to reward yourself after a mammogram (October is Breast Cancer Awareness month!), how to turn a pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern, and how to polish a Golden Heart writing contest entry. We’ll also share our favorite scary movies and some ideas for no-sew Halloween costumes.