Progress Report

The covers (ebook and print versions) for my upcoming fantasy novel are complete. I’m still addressing the concerns of some beta readers. The slow process of reading the manuscript out loud has also begun.  Actually, more than a beginning; we’ve completed the first sixteen chapters. I’m not ready to reveal the cover or title. But allow me to simply divulge this tidbit…SoDL: Tales of Tyrennia, Book One.

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Never Trust an Author with a Clean Desk 🙂

I heartily recommend reading your manuscript out loud with a partner. I’m almost stunned at the quality of the end product. Every craft book, or self-help blog post I’ve read have proven their weight in gold. The stream-lined manuscript comes in at three-hundred-twenty-three pages. My formatter says that it will equal more in print, around twenty pages extra.

The first drafts for books two (M&M: Tales of Tyrennia, Book Two) and three (TFW: Tales of Tyrennia, Book Three) are done as well. These drafts are somewhat raw, but I’ve been through the first five chapters of book two and feel it’s ready for another set of eyes.

I guess that’s what happens when one advances their wordsmithing craft. I’m ready for beta readers after three drafts rather than ten or twelve.

Now it’s your turn to give me your progress report. Tell me about your Work-In-Progress.

Every Time You Reply Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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2019: Scribbling Forward

Editing and polishing, and then more editing, are the best words to describe my hopes for 2019. I have no goals for writing any new material this year. Stacks of short stories, multiple fantasy novel manuscripts, and blog posts, are screaming for my attention. Oh, the writing is done, but I’m left with the refining. Besides editing, there’s the search for beta readers, addressing any of their valid concerns, and then the slow process of reading out loud.

I’m toying with the idea of a new FaceBook page for finding betas and starting an online critique group. The live chat program known as Discord (popular with gaming guilds) seems to be the perfect venue for such a group. Imagine attending a critique group while nestled comfortably in your PJ’s (I’m sure some of you have a pair with attached fluffy bunny feet), cat on your lap, and a soothing hot beverage. What a perfect way to receive some feedback for your #NaNoWriMo writings from 2018.

Tell me about your work-in-progress. What’s on the back burner? Or a project that’s about to begin?

Every Time You Reply…Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Looking Back Upon 2018

2018 has been something of a roller coaster ride.

The disruptions began in January when we renovated the master bathroom. Sawing, sanding, and tiling took its toll on us. Not to mention, the piles of construction materials in the garage, sawhorses, and tools scattered about.mb4

Little Frankie stood and took his first tentative steps.

Then in February, my wife uttered another surprise. “My boobs hurt. I think I’m pregnant.”

gb4By March, we were ready to tackle the guest bath. Back to the aura of pandemonium that comes with construction.

My wife mentioned the problems of renovating the kitchen with two children. Better to get it done before number two arrives. We spent April and May planning yet another project. Kitchens are much more difficult than bathrooms. Cabinets are unforgiving if you’ve measured something…anything incorrectly. Also, these were the months for doctor visits and ultrasounds; which of course, meant many trips to Boise.

Frankie was walking, but only on level surfaces. We took him to the park where he learned about different surfaces.

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Also in May, I feel as if I’ve worked the manuscript for my fantasy novel as far as I can.

Throughout the year, I dedicated as much time as possible talking to mom. I was getting news second-hand and worrying.

On June 1st, the old cabinets were torn out. Of course the contents of those cabinets were in boxes around the house. You’d be amazed about how much foodstuff and gadgets are in your kitchen. There is nothing more disruptive to your home life than kitchen construction. Yes, the project spilled into July. Therefore, for almost two months, we stepped over and around boxes, ate frozen food or take out.k6

For the rest of July we set up the new kitchen, and emptied the contents of all those boxes into the new cabinets. I enjoyed cooking my first meal in a functional kitchen. Naturally, I started off with two of our favorites, chicken cutlet parmigiana with penne alla vodka, and Costeletta di maiale picante (pork medallions with hot cherry peppers).

During the first week of August, the news that I had been dreading came. Mom passed away. I’m not going to dwell upon this subject.momndad copy

Off to New York City with Frankie and a very pregnant Ruth. She was carrying low and large. Most people didn’t believe her due date was two months away, because she looked like she was ready to pop.

In the final weeks of August, I submitted a short story “Road Kill” for a horror anthology.

Pat1Mixed emotions ruled for the rest of the year stating with the birth of Patrick Hunter in September. Joy intermingled with despair and regret. I will never see mom holding him. Little Patrick was born three-and-a-half weeks early and weighed only five pounds three ounces.

By October, I sent my novel out to beta readers. I’m still editing according to their feedback, and the reading out loud process has begun. My short story “Road Kill” was published for the Halloween release of Dark Visions.  The anthology has garnered some enthusiastic reviews.Dark Visions

Little Patrick is gaining weight at a proper pace.

November is for #NaNoWriMo. With a new baby, I knew I couldn’t partake in the festivities. Although I wished my fellow wordsmiths luck on their journey. I did manage some editing and rewriting of Book II.

On Christmas Eve, Patrick gave me a smile.pat16

Now December is almost gone, along with 2018. We celebrated Christmas as a family. Frankie understands the concept of opening a gift. As usual, I purchased three presents for my wife; something practical, something goofy, and one romantic gift.

I can’t help but reflect upon past holidays. The clamor of twenty to thirty people at mom’s for two days of festivities. Like ghosts, the voices of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends refuse to grow dim over time. With so many others gone, I cling tight to my wife and children.

Christmas is not about the food, or presents; stay focused on the company you keep.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry 🙂

franceso60

Dark Visions: A Horror Anthology You Won’t Want to Miss

Writing to be Read

Dark Visions

October is the month for scary things, and a horror anthology filled with spine chilling short stories from over thirty authors is the perfect read for the season. The release of Dan Alatorre’s compilation of Dark Visions anthology is October 15th, and you won’t want to miss it. In addition to a wonderfully original and entertaining  prologue, and his own story, “The Corner Shop”, Dan has lined up a slew of writing talent to include in this tomb of short horror tales.

Not only does this anthology have a very cool cover, (Check it out above), but it also has some very well crafted short fiction, some that will stay with you in times to come. These shorts cover a wide spectrum of horrors; nightmares, voodoo, vampires, apparitions and spirits, and even demons. The stories found here prey upon your inner fears, making brief little ditties from the stuff of…

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Our Newest Addition (not Edition)

My wife and I were caught by surprise. Baby Patrick arrived 3 weeks early. So far, Momma and Baby Patrick have received clean bills of health.

Yes there are many reasons why I haven’t made new posts for the past few months. Detailed explanations of this complicated year will be posted. No, they will not be bitch, moan, and whine posts, just some interesting facts to bring everyone up to date.

In the meanwhile…

Let’s give a rip-roaring welcome to Baby Patrick! Pat1

 

 

 

He’s only 5lbs. 3 oz.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Little Frankie meeting Baby Patrick for the first time.

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Just Too Cute!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

DON’T GO – COMMENT BELOW!

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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.