Saturday, December 24, 2011

recipe for tourtiere

I take my recipe from a book called Food--a la canadienne.  It's very simple:  You need 1 lb of ground pork (or turkey).  Some recipes suggest half pork and half turkey or veal--just not hamburger!  Then chop 1/4 cup onion, mix with the meat and add a dash of salt, a dash of pepper, 1/4 tsp savory, dash ground cloves, and mix it all together.  Simmer in a little water (about 1/4 cup) and include a small bay leaf (break the leaf in half to release the flavour).  Continue simmering about 20 minutes, stirring once in a while.  Remove the bay leaf halves, cool the meat, skimming off excess fat. 
For the pie crusts, I'm lazy.  I just buy the frozen ones.  Fill one 9" pie crust with the meat mixture, and cover with a second pie crust, seal the edges with a dab of water and press down with fork tines.  Cut a couple of steam vents in the top crust.  Bake at 425 f degrees until the top is golden brown (half an hour).  It should serve 6 people, if you have some vegetables to go with it, unless your family is like mine, and you're lucky if it will serve four.  I make two of them, so people can have seconds. 
This is a traditional French Canadian meal to be served after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Christmas 2011

It's Christmas Eve, early afternoon.  We have no tree, no decorations besides our Advent candles, and have no plans to prepare for tomorrow besides go to church this evening.  And I, for one, like it this way.  I suspect the rest of my family would like to see things the way they were years ago: house decorated inside and out, Xmas music playing, lights twinkling, presents wrapped and heaped under the tree.  Christmas Eve, I would have baked a tourtiere, and maybe some shortbread, bought Xmas cake, and had stockings all stuffed so that when our family (kids, their spouses, grandkids) would come over after midnight Mass, we'd open stockings and feast until wee hours.  Then, most would stay overnight and we'd do the usual present thing and brunch, etc., on Christmas morning--burning the wrappings in the fireplace, trying not to set the house on fire.
Now, even the fireplace is sealed up to avoid heat going up the chimney, and to avoid burning the place down with burning paper.  Our kids have their own Christmases in their own homes in their own ways, and our house is quiet.  One concession:  this afternoon I plan to make tourtiere again--that's all.  It will be our supper when we get home from church.  We're going to the 8pm service at the cathedral.  That will be our Christmas this year.  Peaceful and filled with quiet joy.  May your Christmas be just the way you want it.

My current project: MURDER IN THE MANSE (#1)

I'm working on a murder mystery, a young adult novel.  People who give advice about what a writer should post about in her blog, say that it's a good idea to tell about the characters in her novel--their backstories, maybe.  So, I thought I'd start with the backstory of the victim in the book I'm calling Murder in the Manse.  I was going to start with the victim, but I think I'll tell about the protagonist first.  Her name is Crystal, and she's 14 years old.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

an article about me

It's not often that I get to read an article about myself, but in the current issue of the newsletter for the Dept. of Linguistics at UBC, there is one.  (You have to scroll down to page 12.)  There are a couple of minor inaccuracies, but nothing serious.  It's not easy to take notes during a conversation and get everything 100%, but Dr. Penelope Bacsfalvi did as good a job as any.  (I hope I spelled her name correctly, it's hard to read such small print.)  Then, as the articles says you can find links to some of my publications in this blog, I've added the four that are in children's magazines:  "Vancouver at Hand" in FACES, I think that was May 2002; "Henry Kelsey, Boy Explorer" in FACES in 2003, maybe; and "A Tale of Three Rivers" in FACES in 2004.  Also in 2004 was "The Pink Bits" a board game published in CALLIOPE.  These magazines are all Cobblestone Publications.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

advice 13

Hyatt promised a "baker's dozen" items to blog about, so here's the last one:  Blog about lessons learned along the journey to publication & success as a novelist.  What have I learned about writing?  about publishing? marketing?  about myself? 
About writing:  so many books have been written on this subject alone, I can hardly do justice to it--even just what I've learned.  I started writing when I was very young, and learned from many people and books and courses and attempts and critique groups and conferences, etc., etc., etc.  The most important piece of advice I could offer is that learning to write as a professional requires study and practice.  Margaret Atwood was quoted as responding to someone who commented that he thought he would take up writing when he retired.  She said she thought that when she retired she'd take up brain surgery.  Professional writers are exactly that: professional--and didn't get there by thinking it was a hobby.
What have I learned about publishing?  Not enough.  It seems to change faster than the weather.  Same goes for marketing.  I just wish I had something to market.
About myself?  I have more stamina than I thought.  I am willing to learn and to work.  I can't quit!  I guess I'm addicted, but it's the best addiction there is because it hurts no one--not even myself.

advice 12

Hyatt talks about emotional challenges, and suggests readers would be interested in seeing the real person behind the pen (or computer screen).  He says to blog about times when the author has felt inadequate, stuck, overwhelmed, disppointed, and how these feelings were dealt with.  That's a lot like the advice 11, obstacles.  Feeling inadequate comes all the time.  I read other books in the genres that interest me, and I say I could do that--but deeper down I doubt it.  So I read more, study more, write more, and keep trying to do better.  Stuck--that's like "writer's block", I guess.  I discussed that in advice 11.  Overwhelmed?  I can only imagine that that's more likely to come with success, and the publisher wants the author to come up with another book right away, oh--and by the way--how about doing this, that, and the other to market the book, and maybe do a few revisions to make the book a few hundred words shorter or longer or whatever!  Oh, and could you add a little more humour here and there?  (like it's salt and pepper).  I'd definitely feel overwhelmed then, and would be seeking advice from Michael Hyatt's followers.  How to deal with disappointment?  First cry, then get angry, then eat candy (or better still, go to the gym and beat the *** out of the disappointing event), then start a new project.  When you're feeling better, go back and improve the work that brought the disappointment and make it better and send it out again.

advice 11

Hyatt thinks that readers, and maybe other writers, too, would be interested in learning what obstacles an author faces in the process of writing a novel.  What are the challenges?  How does it feel to be rejected?  How to keep going when you feel like quitting--and how to deal with writer's block or getting negative review.  Well let's look at that list.  The obstacles I face are more to do with home and family than anything else.  I'd love to have an office where I could close the door and put a do-not-disturb sign on the knob, and have everyone in the household recognize and respect that I genuinely do not want to be disturbed.  And that this is IMPORTANT.  Then, too, by the same token, I need to respect my own time more, and exercise more self-discipline so that I really earn the respect I crave.
As for being rejected, the best advice is to remember that it is the story as it is that is being rejected, not the author personally.  The thing to do is to improve the work and move on to the next publisher.  I've been doing that for several years with Angels in the Flames, so I know what I'm talking about here.
Keeping going when you feel like quitting.  I haven't been there yet.  I never feel like quitting.  I'm definitely not a quitter. 
Writer's block?  That's a terrible excuse for not writing.  I just work on a different part of the story until something gives me an idea for the spot I had to leave alone for a while.  I interview the characters.  I revisit (physically if possible, or in my imagination) the setting of the story--drawing a map of the area, describing it for myself in all the most vivid details I can muster. I list possible directions, playing "what if"....  As for a negative review--in a critique group or in suite 101, I simply consider the source:  If the reviewer knows more about the subject than I do, then I'll give it serious consideration. If not, then I consider the intent of the reviewer--Is the person trying to be helpful or destructive.  If helpful, I'll look again at the work.  If destructive, I do my best to ignore it.  Of course, I get my feelings hurt, but I get over it.

advice 10

I guess Hyatt has exhausted all the interview ideas, because now he moves on to suggesting that authors might offer advice to other authors in their blogs.  Offering tips on coming up with the "right" story, getting an agent and meeting deadlines.  I could use that advice, myself.  As for meeting deadlines, I've done that with magazine articles and, of course, with university papers and even as a teacher returning corrected essays.  I'm good at that.  I work better when I know someone is waiting to get something from me and wants it, not just asap, but NOW.

advice 9

Hyatt suggests that marketers would make good interviewees, asking them what it's like to market fiction compared with marketing nonfiction.  What makes it fun (is it fun?) and what makes it challenging?  I'd add what makes it worthwhile--not just financial rewards but other sorts of rewards for selling children's literature.

advice 8

Hyatt also suggests interviewing the editor of my book.  I'll be happy to do that whenever I get an editor.  I suppose an agent would be good, too.  When I get one.  If I get one.  The question to ask these valuable people is:  "What is it like to work with an author?"  Oh, boy!   I bet there are some fascinating stories there! 

advice 7

Hyatt says: Interview other novelists, especially in the genre I am writing for.  That would be those who write fiction or nonfiction for middle grade and young adults. 
I know lots of blogging authors do this, but I haven't tried it because I don't think anyone would find this particular blog a good place to showcase their work.  After all, although lots of people tell me they've read my blog--almost no one ever adds a comment or "follows" it.  I'd need a bigger audience before I could entice any successful novelist to spend valuable time on my interview.  So.....if you're interested in seeing others being interviewed here, please leave a nice comment saying so.  And follow!  Please. Thank you.

advice 6

Hyatt suggests interviewing the characters in the book. I do that all the time while I'm writing the book.  Sometimes, I think the character should act or react in a certain way, but I'm not sure if that's what he/she would really do.  So I ask him/her.  Okay, so I'm having imaginary conversations.  What did you think novelists do all the time?

advice 5

Interview self:  Hyatt says that authors who have been interviewed by professionals are often annoyed that the interviewer didn't ask the right questions.  Hmmm.  He suggests that the author's blog could suggest some questions that ought to be asked.  I need to read more interviews to see how they might be improved, especially if anyone were to interview me.  Can't imagine what they'd ask!

advice 4

Now this is more interesting for me:  Hyatt suggests doing something like "director's notes" on your DVD of a movie.  Tell why I started with this scene--now that's a good one because it's always tricky to decide exactly where to start.  Some editors want you to start "in media res" (or is that "in res media"?)--in the middle of the action with no introductory scenes at all.  Other editors want you to start with the ordinary.  We discussed this dilemma at our last writers' critiquing group.  We decided it really depended on what the story was, and how it could begin differently.  Other "director's notes": what scenes were deleted and why.  Oh, I have many versions of my novels.  I came across an old file of Angels in the Flames the other day, and it had a whole list of scenes I'd forgotten all about.  Then there are the scenes that were added to improve the book--heck, I added about half a dozen totally new chapters last time I revised that novel because the editor wanted to know what the brother was doing while the girl was on her mission.  Yes, I think those chapters did improve the book, even though the editor later decided not to publish any more books for that age group.  That hurt me, but the advice did help the book. 

advice 3

Hyatt suggests blogging about "behind-the-scenes" in a novelist's life.  Oh, how I'd love to see myself as a novelist!  But for this Hyatt suggests telling how it felt to land an agent and what it's like to see the book in print and hold a copy of it in your hands.  I'll let you know when that happens to me, other than in my favourite fantasies!

advice 2

Hyatt's second idea is to blog about the backstory of the novel.  That's something I could definitely do, especially for the novel I'm currently working on because I wrote it all out, all 50,000 (plus) words of it for NANOWRIMO in 2009.  This novel begins almost exactly where the nano novel ended.  That was fun to do, and very helpful when I need to know more about characters that were featured in it that are going to come up in this current novel.  More of that later.  Right now, I'm just looking at Hyatt's list.  To see backstories of my novels, check the label: backstories.

advice 1

Michael Hyatt's blogging advice, via Kristi Holl's excerpts from her book Writer's First Aid, sent via the list I get from the Institute of Children's Writers---long way around for a short cut.  Hyatt give 13 ideas for novelists to use in their blogs.  The first is to blog excerpts from my novel.  I'd love to do that, but won't until I have one actually published.  Logically, Hyatt recommends that the excerpt conclude with a link so the reader can buy the book.  I'm tempted to give an excerpt from one of my unpublished novels, but as there's a strong likelihood it would be revised and possibly changed in the revision, there isn't much point.  However... see "advice 2"