Sauerbraten

A dinner centered on a Sauerbraten makes one think about a grandma toiling away in the kitchen from the early morning hours until evening. Remember those days? When cooking was done in pots and delectable delights cooked slowly for hours. If you’re going to make a Sauerbraten, then get ready for an entrée that takes three days to prepare. Of course, your patience and palette will be richly rewarded.

Sauerbraten for a 3 – 3 ½ pound rump roast.

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2 Onions

1 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Salt

½ Tablespoon Black Pepper

1 Tablespoon Ground Mustard

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

12 Whole Cloves

2 Bay Leaves

12 Juniper Berries*

3 – 4 ounces of crushed ginger snaps** (Final ingredient for sauce. NOT part of the marinade)

*I couldn’t get any juniper berries this time around. I’ve made Sauerbraten with and without them. Skipping the berries will not destroy the Sauerbraten and make it inedible. You’ll be fine.

**Find dark gourmet ginger snaps, those blonde ones won’t cut it.

Step 1: Dice the onions, combine all of the marinade ingredients and bring to a boil. Then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Step2: Get a frying pan (preferably cast iron) fired up. Rub the rump roast down with 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil. Next, sear the roast for two to three minutes on every surface. Remember, color equals flavor.

Step 3: When the meat and the marinade have cooled, put both into a glass bowl and cover. Avoid aluminum foil or bowls. The acid in the vinegar will react with aluminum and other metals, because the combination of the two is a battery.

Marinate the Sauerbraten for three days. If the marinade covers the meat then just leave it alone. If not, then turn the roast every day or every twelve hours.

Step 4: Place the meat and marinade into a covered vessel. I use enameled cast iron by Le Creuset. It is perfect for this type of cooking. Cook at 325° for 4 hours.

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A Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Step 5: Remove Sauerbraten roast. Place it on a cooling rack. Use a wire mesh strainer and filter all of the liquid into a sauce pan. Add 3 oz. of crushed Ginger snaps. If your sauce isn’t thick enough, then continue adding ½ oz. increments. 

Step 6: Eat! Mangia! I really enjoy a sweet white zinfandel to offset the sour part of Sauerbraten. However, there’s nothing wrong with a high quality “brewskie” either.

I served this Sauerbraten up with spaetzl (German pasta) boiled, then sautéed in butter and cream, Rotkohl (sweet n’ sour red cabbage), and Kartoffelklöesse (Potato Dumplings).

If you make this Sauerbraten recipe or are planning an honest attempt, I’d love to hear from you.

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Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

Does anyone ever scoff at the idea of a Buttermilk Blueberry Pancake? Well, I’ve never met a person who resisted such a mouthwatering temptation. In fact, I do not think any other food can top these flat bundles of joy when it comes down to a comfort food contest. Let’s face it, if Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes with maple syrup and softened butter are on the menu, you do not need anything else, except for a properly brewed cup of coffee to wash them down.

*Please note that I generally abhor manufactured food. Also, I am not working in an industrial kitchen with all sorts of expensive specialized equipment. Even my photo equipment could use a few upgrades. Therefore, you can easily replicate any of my recipes in order to cook from scratch.

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Ingredients

2 Cups of All Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons of Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

½ teaspoon Salt

3 Tablespoons of Sugar

2 Eggs

2 Cups of Buttermilk + 1 Cup of Milk

4 Tablespoons of melted butter

Frozen or Fresh Blueberries (I use 4 blueberries per pancake) * Do not place in batter.

*** Yield 10 Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes *** I used a standard ladle to deliver the batter.

Notice: the first 5 items are dry and the rest are wet.

Combine your wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, and then add the wet mixture to the dry. Yeppers, it’s just that easy. And think about the money you’re saving and the health benefits. When you cook in this fashion, you know what’s in your food.

Things to remember: 1) beat the eggs before combining, 2) shake your buttermilk, 3) do not over mix. I know many pancake aficionados out there swear by blending the batter with a fork. However, I find that forks do not scrape in flour that lingers in a bowl. It’s just easier and more efficient to fold with a spatula. Just remember not over mix. Simply fold until the flour disappears. Lumps and clumps are good things in a pancake batter. 4) If you’re using frozen blueberries. Place some in a sealable plastic bag and soak in warm water. Then start working on the batter. The blueberries will be thawed by the time you’re ready to use them.

Get your favorite pan or griddle ready and preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Lightly grease your pan with some butter wiped on with a paper towel. Put some batter in the pan and let them cook on one side. Drop some blueberries on top before flipping.

Place cooked Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes on a plate and keep in the oven while you finish off the rest. Not only are these jewels a tasty experience, but also a very satisfying cooking experience.

Are you going to try out this recipe? How did they turn out for you?

History in a Fantasy Novel

The history of your world should play a major role if you are writing a fantasy or even a Sci-Fi novel. Imagine how a reader will feel when they are dropped into a civilization or a post-apocalyptic setting without any knowledge. Surely this scenario can make anyone feel like a stranger in a strange land. History is an essential part of world-building.

Of course, one has to naturally avoid long-winded historical passages when world-building. After all, it’s a fantasy novel not a history textbook. Earlier, I discussed the use of Technology In Your Fantasy World. Dropping such hints tells us where a civilization or society currently stands, but it doesn’t speak about how they got there.

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Reflect for a moment upon Gandalf returning to Bag End to impart his knowledge about the Ring to Frodo. The scene plays out with a sense of urgency rather than seeming conveniently dropped into place as world-building filler material by Tolkien.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, An Easterly Sojourn, I only delve into several great ancient battles and religious history. Both are incredibly linked to the main plot and the mystery at hand for the main character.

Another “history” would be backstory for characters. I used some of the same techniques and will discuss the in a future post.

I cringed at the thought of adding a chunk of history and sweated profusely when chapter 3 “Religious Relics” was read at a critique. Oddly enough it passed with flying colors.

The trick was to “seed” the history in the previous chapter.

In chapter 2, there are two sub-characters discussing and comparing historical notes. The main character listens and sometimes get frustrated by their knowledge. He wants to jump in and ask questions, but feels foolish. Later, he’ll accost one of them alone for the information he needs. His sense of “itching” for more information transfers to the reader. A sense of urgency made everything in chapter 3 flow without the aforementioned “contrived” element and seems perfectly plausible.

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History and backstory have to be present in order for a complete world-building experience in a fantasy novel, but many feel intimidated by it. How about you? How are you handling history or backstory in your novel?

Baby Francesco’s Nursery

Before, there was ugly medium shag carpet, and old dingy dark brown trim, which matched the window sills, doors and jambs.

The first thing was to rip up the carpet, padding and remove the staples; all 10,000 of them (not really that many, it just felt that way). Then I used some wood putty to repair any damage on the sill, door and closet jambs. The sill looked like a big dog teethed on it years ago.

Next I removed the old dark stained trim, and disposed of it. Don’t ever want to see that again.

When the wood putty dried I sanded the dark stain away. First I used a rough pad, and then decreased the coarseness of the pads for successive sanding sessions.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The doors arrived sooner than expected. They’re pre-hung and slipped into the rough opening without a hitch. Although, I purchased new brushed nickel hinges to match the handle, because I really hate electroplate brass on doors.

For the next step I primed the entire room and closet interior. These walls hadn’t been painted in years. It took two full coats and in some spots three to get an even appearance.

Now I was ready to paint. I drew the birch trees on the wall with a light pencil and painted around those edges.

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For St. Francis and his animal companions I took a different approach. I had a roll of brown paper, so I drew the figure and animals on that. When I was satisfied, I cut out the components and affixed them to the wall. I traced around them with pencil and blocked in their edges. I basically turned it into a large coloring book.

 

Next I applied the toast color to three walls and added details to the trees and colored in St. Francis.

With the painting done the next item of business was the Pergo. These boards were a little wider than other laminates and went in with a lot of tweaking and tender loving care. The most difficult part was the trap door. The builder didn’t cut a straight opening.

Gee thanks Mr. Builder, now I have to work around someone else’s shoddy work.

The T-mold provided the edge for the trap door and door entrance.

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For the trim, I used 1×4 MDF board. It cuts, sands, and takes joint compound easily. The best part about using MDF is no jado cuts for inside corners. As you can see, I used a 1/2’” overhang for the top of the window and doors, providing a modern but “western” look.

 

After caulking and compounding, I painted the trim. The last step was the electric switches, outlets, and switch plates. A dimmer switch will work wonders in a nursery.

The last step was the closet doors and blinds. Bi-fold just seemed the best way to go for better access, and the white blinds appealed to my “less is more” philosophy.

 

Music: The Other Writing Muse

 

I once read that you should never listen to music with lyrics while writing. Naturally, I ignored that suggestion and later learned that it is truly a sound piece of advice.

Luckily, besides my towers of classic rock CDs, I have a cabinet full of classical music. There’s Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Prokofiev, Chopin, Wagner, and many others. Classical CD’s are quite the bargain as well. You can get a stack for the price of two or three of the stuff charting on Billboard. Not sure if they’re a bargain on iTunes, but I’m sure someone will post in the comments about it (psst…that’s a hint).

trebleBeside a broad paintbrush approach, think about music that compliments your subject. Listen to Chopin while writing something romantic, Wagner for a major battle scene, Grieg for a morning scene or writing about Dwarves. However, if you need to listen to something between writing spurts, then go ahead and break out that classic rock catalogue.

At those times, when I take a break, out comes The Beatles, Yes, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Dylan, or ELP. Yes, I’m a classic rock child of the ‘60s and ‘70s and I hope you are one too. If you’re wondering about my classic rock choices, then check some of those artists out on YouTube. There’s a plethora of uploaded music and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Another Inspirational Source

Last November during #NaNoWriMo, I wanted to complete the first draft of my second #fantasy novel. The second book in the Tales of Tyrennia Series is set in the Dwarven Kingdom of Eismark. At one point I became stuck. I wouldn’t call it a writer’s block episode, but rather a malaise. During NaNoWriMo 2016, I caught a bad flu and didn’t write for weeks.

So, I thought about what could serve as a healthy push about Dwarves. In a flash, I had an idea. I created a Dwarf toon on Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). After running around Thorin’s Hall and a few quests in the mines, I found myself itching to write again. Suddenly the last three chapters flooded onto my screen. They poured out of me and practically wrote themselves.

The #LOTRO gaming experience turned a fledgling NaNoWrimo into something of a success.

What music or other media inspire you to write?

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Minnie the Cat

Last month I told you all about Phoenix, our eldest kitty. Well, now I’m going to tell you about Minnie our black & white tuxedo.

Although we call her Minnie, her real name is Minerva. As you may recall, our cats’ names reflect a Harry Potter theme. She is so named for Minerva McGonagall.

Minnie was a stray that I picked up in San Antonio. I was helping out a sergeant in my wife’s squadron paint his living room and kitchen. Every time I went out for a smoke, I spotted this scrawny starving kitty. She would approach me and meow for food. My friend didn’t own a cat so I gave her some dry dog food.

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Later that week I purchased some #cat food on the way to paint. Minnie was pleased to get some real cat yummies. The next day I brought a carrier with me and put the food inside. I captured Minnie and brought her to a veterinary clinic near my home. She got a clean bill of health and has been with us ever since.

Minnie is very playful and follows me from room to room. She is extremely jealous of other cats and quite vociferous. If I should mention Phoenix or Luna, Minnie will come running over. She does not like me doling out affection to another cat.

Odd as it may seem, I’ve learned to discern what she wants. Her usual requests are for petting, playing, and opening the blinds. However, a study was done concerning how cat owners do understand their kitties when they speak.

Do you understand cat chat? Do your kitties have a jealous streak?

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Technology in Your Fantasy World

Fantasy novels can cover so many different types of worlds. It doesn’t always have to be a medieval or agrarian setting. Remember, pre-computerized or pre-electrified societies had guns, cannons, and steam power. Have you wandered into Stormwind City in World of Warcraft lately? While many players ride around on traditional steeds, others ride dragons, and still more have motorized transportation. There’s no reason that a little technology can exist in your world as well, if you wanted.

Sometimes a map, creature encounters, or a sword fight are not enough. A reader needs to know what type of world s/he has been thrust into upon opening your book.

Mythical Creatures Fairy Tales Gnome Control Troll

Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Now I’m sure some may say, “They know they’ve purchased a fantasy novel. They should know what kind of world to expect.” All well and true. But how to best describe the intricacies of your world? One unique aspect may be the level of technology.

Exposition right out the gate is definitely NOT the way to go. Imagine opening a book or using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and seeing something like…

It was the third age after the fall of Westernia. Many people roamed far and wide over the centuries. They built communities, new cities, and were now the denizens of four separate Kingdoms. The distances created new languages, regional accents, alliances, and war.

However, all the Kingdoms would unite when faced with a common enemy blah blah blah… Maybe this could work as a blurb, but not as a chapter opening.

Here’s My Approach

A better way to build your world is in dribs and drabs emerging from the story and characters. As an example, in my forthcoming novel An Easterly Sojourn, I have a single passage from the middle of Chapter 3 that locks in my world’s technology level and a few other things.

***

The vendor blinked his over-sized eyes and smiled ear-to-ear at Cyril, as only a Gnome could do. He held out a small, plain steel box, about two inches square and a quarter inch thick. With a flick of his fingers, the Gnome flipped the top open to reveal a wick and a gnarled metal wheel. His thumb pressed down on the wheel, and after a quick quarter turn, the wick burst into a small flame.

Cyril raised his eyebrows and smiled. “By Korak’s staff! Instant fire.”

“I’d hate to hear the price,” Daggorat said.

After a hearty round of bargaining with the vendor, Cyril paid eight Golden Claw pieces. He proudly admired the gadget as they walked away. “An amazing feat of Gnomish ingenuity and craftsmanship.”

“And you accuse me of being impulsive. Just twelve copper-jacks for our breakfasts. We could eat at the tavern for almost a whole year on that money. Why does everyone trust those Gnomes?” Daggorat shook his head. “It must be those huge childlike eyes.”

“Oh, stop casting shadows upon my enjoyment.” He moved closer and whispered, “Besides, with this fascinating little trinket, I can make fire without suffering the company of dark mages. Or bending to their will.”

***

Within this small passage, I’ve introduced Gnomes, the monetary system, some information about the technology level of the world, and something mysterious concerning both Light and Dark Mages. All while keeping the story flowing. This is the approach that I’ve had the best feedback from at critique groups. Give it a try and see what it can do for your writing!

Hope you found this writing tip helpful.

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This Baby Boy Needs A Name

The anticipation of a new #baby brings many new trials and tribulations. Our latest conundrum is choosing a name. My wife and I have been over this issue many times. At one point, I proposed an idea. “How about putting a bunch of names up on the blog and see what others think?” To my surprise, she laughed and agreed.

In my family, we always name children after grandparents. My dad was Francis and my father-in-law was George. We’ve been kicking around different combinations, but I must admit feeling exhausted from the process.

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Of course, there is always the Catholic tradition of selecting a name from a Saint’s feast day. If he’s born on St. Patrick’s Day then he gets to share his name with the Saint, and that Saint becomes his guardian.

Time is running out. There’s only about 7 – 8 weeks left before (baby boy name) emerges into this world.

 

Cast your vote from among these variations and a few others

 

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An Easterly Sojourn: Chapter 7 Added

Every time The Queen and I are done #editing a chapter, I copy and paste it into a large manuscript document. That is the one which will get printed and sent off to Beta Readers. The file now contains the first seven chapters of my fantasy novel, An Easterly Sojourn.

What’s the big deal about chapter 7? Why didn’t I write a post after chapter six or five?

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Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

 

The current draft of An Easterly Sojourn has 28 chapters. Therefore, adding chapter 7 to the manuscript file means that we’re 25% complete. That is to say, if one goes by chapter count rather than words or pages. For me, the sweat beads are lessening. I bragged in a post a couple of weeks ago that this #fantasy novel will be published rather than should be published.

Doesn’t Endless Editing Get Tiresome?

Yes it does. However, there are some short stories to edit as well. The tedium level reduces when you jump between different types of work and I don’t feel stagnated or repetitive. I even switch between projects while #writing as well. Perhaps I’ll put the brakes on after chapter 10 and switch to one of the short singles waiting on the proverbial “back-burner.”

Do you switch between projects? Does working on a single project, whether writing or editing become tiresome after a while?

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Phoenix (The Wonder Cat)

As you can see, Phoenix is a tortoise shell #cat. My wife acquired her from a rescue shelter when we were living in San Antonio. She was seven then and now she has reached the ripe old age of fourteen.

Unfortunately, she was de-clawed while she was there. De-clawing is such a foul and despicable practice. She still likes to scratch her imaginary claws on carpet posts.

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Phoenix is something of a princess. Her favorite pastime is sleeping on the couch. Of course she turns into a lap cat whenever my wife and I cuddle up on the couch. She is playful, but on her own terms. Phoenix only likes to play with me or my wife, as for other cats….fuhgeddabowdit! Like I said, she is too much of a princess to bother with other cats. I’m sure she regards them as commoners in her royal eyes.

Even when we have visitors, Phoenix will sit on the back of the couch without the slightest hint of curiosity. Naturally she expects guests to approach her throne and greet her formally.

Since she is affectionate, a newcomer can make friends instantly by brushing her or using a toy mouse on a string. I think she enjoys a grooming session more than most other kitties.

Lastly, there is the specialty of her name. All of our cats’ names have something to do with Harry Potter. So goes my wife’s influence on the household.

Got cats, dogs, or something else? Tell me about your pet(s).

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The Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

The glorious tomato is a bright star in the culinary universe. Think about all of the different possibilities that can be done with this versatile ingredient. From cream of tomato soup, an Italian sauce, salsa from south of the border, an essential element of a BLT, to part of a salad…the list of versatility can go on forever.

However, the tomato conjures up one of the most perplexing conundrums, is it a fruit or a vegetable?

Surprisingly the tomato is both; it just depends upon who is going to answer the question.

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Public Domain Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

From the legal viewpoint: The tomato is a vegetable. The Supreme Court of the U.S. declared it to be a vegetable on May 10, 1893. A decision was necessary because of U.S. tariff laws.

From a Scientific viewpoint: The tomato is a fruit. Botanists consider all plant life to be “vegetation.” However, they classify fruit as the edible ovaries of a plant. Certainly our friend the tomato clearly fits into their fruit definition.

From a culinary viewpoint: The tomato is a vegetable. It can be part of an appetizer, a soup, a side dish, or an entrée unto itself. However, a vegetable can never, ever be part of a dessert.

Is it any wonder that I despise the very existence of Carrot cake?

The final definition was the determining factor of the tomato’s legal status. Although scientifically a fruit, the government classified it as a vegetable because it was used and treated like one. So go ahead and enjoy your fresh, sweet tomatoes. Just don’t try to make tomato pudding and garnish it with chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a tomato?

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2017: A Prolific Writing Year

Hopefully, 2017 will be my most active year as an indie author.

The first novel in my fantasy series, “The Tales of Tyrennia Book One: An Easterly Sojourn” will be (not should be) released this year. The editing is cruising along. The problem was continuous editing. We would get about seven chapters done, and then either the Queen or I would learn something new and start over again.

2017

 

The reason we would jump into repetitive editing was simple. We were not satisfied with the end product. Therefore, after learning something new about editing, it seemed obvious to go back to square one.

I’m happy to report that I am satisfied with the quality. As we complete each chapter, I create a manuscript file. I can’t wait to print out copies and send them off to beta readers.

Draft version 0.5 of “The Tales of Tyrennia Book Two: The Frozen War” is done and waiting in the wings. I call it version 0.5 because of my scant writing style. A strange habit, but rather than cutting the first draft down, mine tend to swell.

What About Short Stories?

I’m so glad you asked. Two short singles will be released as well in 2017, “Little Red Revolution,” and “Psychic Confidence.”

“Little Red Revolution” is a best described as a satirical-vampyrical-romp. I had some compañeros from my former critique group who enjoyed #writing vampire fiction. So, I put this piece together mostly as gag and to poke some fun at the genre. In the end, they loved it.

“Psychic Confidence” should finish up at around five-thousand words. It’s a thriller with a complicated plot, coupled with characters that have aliases. I had worries that I could lose a reader too easily, but my first reader breezed through it without any problems.

There will also be a new collection of #shortstories called “Wondrous Stories: Seven Vile Uplifting Tales.” The stories are quite an assortment. However, there are some binding themes running throughout. Like, what happens when the iron fist of government points a finger at you? Or what happens when individualism clashes with a mob mentality?

Although I’m talking about a lot of work, I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be a very good year.

What are your goals, writing or otherwise for 2017? Are you #PoweredByIndie?

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A New Short Story

Although it will not be ready for another month or two, I finished a new long short story last night. Right now it stacks up at 22 pages, but with my scant writing style, I can see it expanding to almost 30 pages.

The end came as a pleasant surprise. #NaNoWriMo ended almost a month ago, and I’ve been furiously editing my fantasy novel “An Easterly Sojourn.” For some reason, I got the #amwriting bug a few days ago and hammered out the last half of the new short. The first half had been floundering in stasis for over a year. Then in an instant, the rest of this very complicated plot flashed in my mind.

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Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

I never told or discussed this story with my resident grammar nazi…editor…wife…um…The Queen. I felt that it would be important for her to read through it without any previous knowledge. Therefore, I’d know if the plot got too confusing, had glaring holes, or paths of least resistance were sufficiently blocked. Also, some characters have more than one name. I was somewhat worried about that as well. In the end, she read through it without confusion. Phew (*wipes brow), looks like I’ve managed to handle those potential baddies.

What will win in the end, love or greed? Well you’ll have to read it to find out. You didn’t really think I’d offer a spoiler at this moment, did you?

At first, this short story had the working title “The Psychic.” However, after numerous attempts to re-title, I’ve narrowed it down to two others, either “Psychic Games,” or “Psychic Confidence.” I’m leaning heavily toward the latter over the former.

Keep an eye out for a cover reveal in January

What have you written lately? DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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R.I.P. Greg Lake

Way back in the 1970’s, I put my first album by Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) on a turntable and was summarily hooked. It wasn’t long before my collection grew, as did my taste for bands with unusually long songs considered unfit for top 40’s radio. Only late night FM DJ’s would occasionally risk playing such material.

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Photo by Jean Luc and used under CC License

The amazing Bass and Guitar playing by Greg Lake will be missed. Of course along with musicianship came his ability to write timeless classics. Gone are the days when I used to play passages over and over from an album, trying desperately to copy those notes on my guitar.

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s self-titled first album was a brazen and loud announcement to the world that rock music had evolved into a higher realm. I remember teaching a music appreciation class back when I was still with the NYC Department of Education. Naturally the textbook assigned mostly dealt with classical, folk, and jazz music. However, the last chapter did make mention of notables from rock. Of course, Emerson Lake & Palmer warranted a few paragraphs.

There are many ELP songs and full albums on You Tube. If you’re not familiar with their music, have a listen and try to understand the depth of our collective loss. Remember ELP was one of those classic rock progressive bands that didn’t just make songs; they made albums. And those albums explored particular musical themes and subject matter.

Thank you, Greg Lake for all of your creative energy, which not only entertained, but also amazed. You were more than a musician, composer, and lyricist. You were a pioneer who transported your fans into other realms.

DO GO – LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!  Tell me about your fond memories of Greg Lake.

P.S. I know all about Greg’s time and legacy with King Crimson as well. But for me, he’ll always be the “L” in ELP.

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My 50 Favorite Movies of the 00’s (Psst that’s 2000-2009)

Well fellow movie buffs, here ya go! This is the final installment of “My Favorite Films Listings,” until 2020 rolls around and I have another decade of film to make yet another list.

I’ve covered the 1930’s   1940’s   1950’s   1960’s   1970’s   1980’s  and 1990’s.

This list has more foreign films, and more women directors than any other movie list that I’ve compiled.

50.   The Chronicles of Narnia…d. Andrew Adamson (USA / UK)

49.   Hot Fuzz…d. Edgar Wright (UK)

48.   Bread and Tulips…d. Silvio Soldani (Italy)

47.   Bruce Almighty…d. Tom Shadyac

46.   Austin Powers in Goldmember…d. Jay Roach

45.   Avatar…d. James Cameron

44.   300…d. Zack Snyder

43.   Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind…d. Michael Gondry

42.   Donny Darko…d. Richard Kelly

41.   The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King…d. Peter Jackson (N.Z. / USA)

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Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Have you ever seen those you tube videos of an angry Hitler with the subtitles changed to seem like he’s talking about World of Warcraft or something? Well that clip is from #35 Downfall.

40.   American Psycho…d. Mary Harron

39.   Black Hawk Down…d. Ridley Scott

38.   Children of Men…d. Alfonso Cuarón (USA / UK / Japan)

37.   The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers…d. Peter Jackson (N.Z. / USA)

36.   Underworld…d. Len Wiseman

35.   Downfall…d. Oliver Hirschbiegel (Germany)

34.   Black Book…d. Paul Verhoeven (Netherlands / Ger. / UK / Belgium)

33.   Under the Tuscan Sun…d. Audrey Wells

32.   Hotel Rwanda…d. Terry George (UK / South Africa / Italy)

31.   Ella Enchanted…d. Tommy O’Haver

Not as many comedies as my other lists. I guess Mel Brooks really did retire.

 30.   Spy Game…d. Tony Scott

29.   13 Tzametti…d. Géla Babluani (France)

28.   Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones…d. George Lucas

27.   Little Miss Sunshine…d. Jonathon Dayton / Valerie Faris

26.   Á L’aventure…d. Jean-Claude Brisseau (France)

25.   Julie & Julia…d. Nora Ephron

24.   The Aviator…d. Martin Scorsese

23.   V for Vendetta…d. James McTeigue (USA / UK / Ger.)

22.   Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone…d. Chris Columbus (UK / USA)

21.   Open Range…d. Kevin Costner

Austin Powers is not the first time super spies like James Bond were spoofed. The “Flint” series from the 1960’s started that trend. Now the French have picked up on it with #11 OSS 117.

20.   Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon…d. Ang Lee (Taiwan)

19.   Enemy at the Gates…d. Jean-Jacques Annaud

18.   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…d. Niels Arden Oplev (Sweden / Denmark / Ger. / Norway)

17.   Pitch Black…d. David Twohy

16.   Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle…d. David Leiner

15.   The Prestige…d. Christopher Nolan

14.   The Gleaners and I…d. Agnès Varda (France)

13.   Love Actually…d. Richard Curtis (USA / UK / France)

12.   The Lives of Others…d. Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck (Germany)

11.   OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies…d. Michel Hazanavicius (France)

I’m sure there will be blood in the comments concerning my top ten.

10.   Pan’s Labyrinth…d. Guillermo Del Toro (Spain)

09.   There Will Be Blood…d. Paul Thomas Anderson

08.   Schultze Gets the Blues…d. Michael Schorr (Germany)

07.   Amélie…d. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (France)

06.   Bend It Like Beckham…d. Gurinder Chadha (UK)

05.   Flame and Citron…d. Ole Christian Madsen (Denmark)

04.   The Lord of the Rings:Fellowship of the Ring d. Peter Jackson (N Z/USA)

03.   Gangs of New York…d. Martin Scorsese

02.   Lost in Translation…d. Sofia Coppolla

01.   The Passion of the Christ…d. Mel Gibson

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A Message to Any and All of My #WordPress Followers / Readers

I follow back anyone who follows my blog. However, I noticed lately that many blogs that used to appear regularly on my WordPress Reader or others that send an email notification of a new post have been silent.

Out of curiosity, I checked the insights tab on my stats page. To my surprise, many blogs that I follow were now unchecked.

I don’t know how or why, because I certainly didn’t do that.

I’ve gone through the list and visited the blogs in question and checked the “Follow Tab” or re-subscribed. Granted about five blogs were defunct, but there were about 6 pages of active blogs off my radar.

Hopefully we’ll be hearing and seeing each other soon.

My 50 Favorite Movies of the 1930’s

Society had made definite changes from the orderly Victorian era. Urbanization and industrialization had forever changed cultures and the landscape. New subject matter was on the horizon. From the child serial killer in “M”, man hunting in “The Most Dangerous Game”, and societal commentary in “Dead End”, “The Public Enemy”, and “Scarface”. Probably the darkest views of civilization came in the form of “Modern Times”, “Stagecoach”, and “Freaks”.

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Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

50.  The Most Dangerous Game…d. Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack

49.  The Lady Vanishes…d. Alfred Hitchcock (UK)

48.  The Dawn Patrol…d. William Goulding

47.  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington…d. Frank Capra

46.  M…d. Fritz Lang (Germany)

45.  King Kong…d. Merian C. Cooper

44.  The Man Who Knew Too Much…d. Alfred Hitchcock (UK)

43.  A Day at the Races…d. Sam Wood

42.  La Grande Illusion…d. Jean Renoir (France)

41.  The Thin Man…d. W.S. Van Dyke

However, this was also the era of the “screwball comedy,” best exemplified by the presence of the Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, and other classics of that comic genre. Cary Grant & The Marx Brothers have four mentions each. Both have films in the top ten.

40.  The Little Princess…d. Walter Lang

39.  Animal Crackers…d. Victor Heerman

38.  Dead End…d. William Wyler

37.  Beau Geste…d. William Wellman

36.  Horse Feathers…d. Norman Z. McLeod

35.  Monkey Business…d. Norman Z. McLeod

34.  The Crusades…d. Cecil B. DeMille

33.  The Kennel Murder Case…d. Michael Curtiz

32.  The Story of Louis Pasteur…d. William Dieterle

31.  Anthony Adverse…d. Mervyn LeRoy & Michael Curtiz

Here’s a few clips for you. The Mirror scene from #7 Duck SoupThe battle on Lake Chudskoye from #9 Alexander Nevsky featuring a score from Prokofiev… “Gooble gobble, one of us!” from #28 Freaks. 

30.  The Devil’s Brother…d. Hal Roach & Charley Rogers

29.  La Règle du Jeu…d. Jean Renoir (France)

28.  Freaks…d. Tod Browning

27.  Little Women…d. George Cukor

26.  Jamaica Inn…d. Alfred Hitchcock (UK)

25.  Modern Times…d. Charles Chaplin

24.  Scarface…d. Howard Hawks

23.  Only Angels Have Wings…d. Howard Hawks

22.  The Mummy…d. Karl Freund

21.  The Public Enemy…d. William Wellman

A dim view of the future emerges in “Things to Come”. Perhaps this ignoble view was the basis of “The Mummy”, “King Kong”, and “Frankenstein”.

20.  Frankenstein…d. James Whale

19.  A Night at the Opera…d. Sam Wood

18.  Young Mr. Lincoln…d. John Ford

17.  Things to Come…d. William Cameron Menzies (UK)

16.  The Awful Truth…d. Leo McCarey

15.  Babes in Toyland…d. Gus Meins & Charley Rogers

14.  Gunga Din…d. George Stevens

13.  The Adventures of Robin Hood…d. Michael Curtiz

12.  The Wizard of Oz…d. Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, King Vidor, Norman Taurog

11.  Gone With the Wind…d. George Cukor, Victor Fleming, Sam Wood

Captain Blood (#6) was a surprise blockbuster hit. The studio brought the crew together again, splurged on color film and made (#13) The Adventures of Robin Hood.

10.  Le Jour se Leve…d. Marcel Carné (France)

09.  Alexander Nevsky…d. Sergei Eisenstein (USSR)

08.  The Good Earth…d. Sydney Franklin

07.  Duck Soup…d. Leo McCarey

06.  Captain Blood…d. Michael Curtiz

05.  Bringing Up Baby…d. Howard Hawks

04.  The 39 Steps…d. Alfred Hitchcock (UK)

03.  The Four Feathers…d. Zoltan Korda (UK)

02.  Topper…d. Norman Z. McLeod

01.  Stagecoach…d. John Ford

Stagecoach gave form to the modern western. It set the genre standards until the formula was challenged by Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah in the 1960’s.

How do my picks compare to yours? Interested in seeing some of them now?

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Did Your NaNoWriMo Dreams Come True This Year?

This year’s #NaNoWriMo was both a success and a miserable failure.

I caught a particularly nasty flu, one like I’ve never experienced before. This illness literally put me down for 12 days. Although I tried to write, it affected my attention span. Only about 250 words got pumped out during that time. However, I did manage about 6K, and that was enough.

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Courtesy of NaNoWrimo.com

Usually the NaNoWriMo event calls for completing a novel and hitting the golden 50K word count. Well I was out to finish a draft that was started a year earlier. The Frozen War is the title of the second book of my forthcoming fantasy series The Tales of Tyrennia.

My writing procedure is quite different from other authors. Typically an author writes an exhaustive first draft, and then refines by cutting large amounts. I simply do not operate that way. My goal is to get the story down on paper. Sometimes that means it is hardly a novel at the end. I tend to shy away from calling it a first draft, rather, I prefer to call it Version 0.5.

In college, my creative writing courses were in screen-writing. Perhaps that is the reason why I produce copious amounts of dialog without any exposition, description, or body language. For those of you who write, it should be easy to see how 10-15 pages of dialog can turn into 35 pages later.

NaNoWriMo 2016 is over and so is draft 0.5 of The Frozen War, which roughly stands at 104 pages and about 22K words. However, it will be shelved for a while as I complete the editing of book oneThe Tales of Tyrennia: An Easterly Sojourn.

Did your NaNoWriMo dreams come true this year?

How does my Writing procedure differ from yours?

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Meleagrisphobia: Fear that Turkey!

Normally, I love turkey in all forms, from the deli counter to a whole bird roasting in an oven. I grew up with culinary master magicians, who could turn a bag of groceries into the most delectable Thanksgiving Dinner. You know what I mean, real mashed potatoes, stuffing from scratch, sweet potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, and so on. That was my former life.

These days, I’m forced to live with a new tradition. Thanksgiving means a day off from kitchen duty. No, we don’t go out to eat…I wish. It is because Thanksgiving is the one day of the year when my wife dons an apron and makes an attempt to cook a traditional dinner.

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Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

My new holiday traditional dinner consists of Stove Top stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce from a can, a boneless formed Turkey, canned yams, etc. I think you get the picture.

She can burn a pot of water!

The first time she cooked, I barely made it to the bathroom for a puking session reminiscent of a drinking binge which makes one “pray to the porcelain God.” At another time, I cut into a thick slice of turkey smothered with the perfect amount of gravy. I took that first succulent mouthful and almost spit it out. My darling-domestically-challenged-wife had accidentally purchased a Cajun spiced turkey.

Some things in the culinary world were made for each other like lamb and mint, hot dogs and mustard, bread and butter. So there we were with a horridly flavored hunk of turkey that had no mate on the table. Trust me, Cajun flavored turkey clashes with everything and anything on a traditional Thanksgiving table. Even that green bean casserole made with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup didn’t stand a chance.

How can a grilled cheese sandwich have a bone in it?

Get ready, here comes Thanksgiving 2016! Yes that’s an exclamation point, and yes, I am excited.

This year, my wife has decided to go into training, like an Olympian going for the gold. She has developed a somewhat healthy curiosity about the culinary arts. She cuddled on the couch with me and watched a cooking show. Then, I caught her in the kitchen peeking inside the drawers. “Oh that’s where the spoons and forks come from.” Later, she browsed through the gadgets.

Another aspect of her rigorous training was an attempt at a meatloaf. She managed to transform two pounds of 93% lean ground range fed beef into an amorphous dark brown blob. The aroma wasn’t promising either. The most horrid moment came when I stuck a fork into the “meatloaf,” and I could swear it moved! Have you ever experienced that one?

I don’t think meatloaf is supposed to glow in the dark!

O.K. my initial excitement about Thanksgiving 2016 has dissipated back into dread. 😦

Tell me about your Thanksgiving Day. Doing anything special? Going someplace special? Got an unusual tradition?

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