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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

Two girls alone in a cabin in the middle of the woods waiting for their mom to come home with their sick little sister – this one had me hooked from the start. It switches points of view from one of the girls to a childless woman who hopes to become a foster parent even though she suspects her husband is cheating on her. This one was so good up until the twists, which were a little disappointing. Still a well written and engaging story, just a touch unbelievable at times.

Anthologies are tough because you’re never going to like all the stories – or perhaps I should say almost never. While there were definitely certain stories in this collection that shone brighter than the others, I didn’t dislike any of them. They were all interesting and well written and clever! While the theme was YA horror shorts, these would easily be enjoyed by adult fans of the genre as well.

I just started:

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Friday’s Flavors: Fork Tender Veal Marsala

Hey, Foodies! Happy Friday!

When talking about restaurants, there are 3 little words I have to say to get it on my husband’s list – “They have veal.” But, invariably, if we try the restaurant, and my husband orders the veal, he complains on the ride home about how tough it was.

It isn’t hard to keep a veal cutlet juicy and fork tender – all it takes is a tiny bit of effort – but that tiny bit of effort is well rewarded and this recipe will even it out because, unlike other veal marsala recipes, you don’t have to cook the meat, remove it, set it aside, keep it warm, cook the mushrooms and sauce, reduce, add the veal back . . . you get the idea. I promise you this method is worth it!

Ingredients:

veal cutlets, 1-2 pounds

fresh, whole Portobello mushrooms

2 large shallots

5 cloves garlic

olive oil

Marsala wine or Cream Sherry

flour seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, garlic salt, pepper, dried basil and dried tarragon

*** A frying or braising pan with a tight fitting lid. ***

Preparation:

Don’t wash your mushrooms! Clean with a dry brush or with a paper towel, removing all dirt and loose matter. Slice. Chop your shallots and peel your garlic.

Season your flour, mixing well. You want to be able to see the seasonings.

Using the business end of a meat mallet, beat the cutlet, flip, beat again, flip, and beat again for a total of 3 times, working from one end to the other.

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan, then add a splash more.

Add shallots to the pan, mix with the oil, then push them to the edges of the pan.

Dredge your beaten veal cutlets in the flour, coating both sides (no egg wash necessary), then add to the pan. Don’t worry about overcrowding the veal, it shrinks and there will be plenty of time for it to cook thoroughly.

Top with your sliced mushrooms, crushed garlic, a bit of tarragon and enough wine to come halfway up the veal cutlets. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove cover, flip, making sure your mushrooms are now in the wine, stir your shallots, and replace cover. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your cutlets. Usually, by this time, the wine has reduced to a nice, thick sauce absorbed by the mushrooms and meat, but if necessary, remove the lid and cook down.

And that’s it! Plate your veal and top with your mushrooms, shallots, and sauce!

If you try it, please let me know if you like it!

Check back next Friday for another Foodie Flavor!

The Anatomy Of A Short Story : Thursday’s Thoughts On Writing

How do you write a short story?

Sometimes it begins with an idea, or a mood, but for me, most often, a short story begins with a hook. When I have the time and the inclination to work on a shorter piece, I don’t wait for inspiration to strike. I make it happen.

Usually this occurs during mindless tasks where I’m free to let my thoughts wander, like while doing the dishes or washing my hair in the shower. And it starts with a challenge:

  1. Think of a first sentence that’s shocking, or intriguing, or just plain grabs some attention.

When I land on a sentence I’m happy with, I use it as my launching point to develop a scene or a character or a plot by asking:

2. What situation might this apply to, who might say it, or what might it lead to or mean?

One of those answers will be stronger than the rest. Sometimes I get an image in my mind of the person who would say it. Other times I imagine a chain of events that the line sets in motion. Occasionally the overriding thought is the place where the character is or event occurs when the sentence happens, which dictates:

3. Whether the story is driven by character, plot, or setting.

Knowing that, I’m able to take the next step forward, juggling a few “what if” or “if, then” scenarios.

What if this character did that? OR If this happens, then that happens.

Example: A character is in trouble. What did they do to get in trouble? What will they do to get in trouble next? What will they try to get out of trouble?

This allows me to create at least two points in the story, which:

4. Gives me the jumping off point I use to begin writing.

Sometimes the rest flows organically, practically writing itself. When that doesn’t happen, I create momentum by answering questions like:

How can I create tension? What does my character want? How should I deny them that or make them fight for it?

Answering these questions often provides me with the crux of my story, which:

5. Gives me an endpoint to aim for.

But the process doesn’t stop there. In fact, I’m really only getting started once I have a first draft. Because then it’s time to edit.

6. The first round of edits I tackle the story, which means I have to ask myself:

Is this believable?

How is the pacing?

Do the characters/settings/moods/themes need to be developed better?

Have I created enough tension to keep the reader vested?

Is there something in the story (a feeling, an emotion, something experienced by the senses, etc.) that most readers will have encountered themselves at some point in their lives? (Giving the reader something to identify with help

7. The second round of edits, I address the structure.

Is my meaning clear?

Are my sentences easy to understand?

Have I bogged down the pages with too much description?

Is there too little description? Am I leaving my characters and readers in a wide, empty space?

Do the events segue smoothly from one to another or are there jumps?

Are my character’s actions consistent with their personalities?

Is there any information in the story that contradicts something else on the pages?

After answering these questions, I’m ready to:

8. Edit. Edit. And edit again.

Checking for grammar, punctuation, typos, etc.

9. Then it’s time to think about publication.

This is when I decide what genre or category the story best fits. Then, I research who’s open for submissions using Duotrope (which charges $5 a month for full access) and The Submission Grinder (free, but perhaps not inclusive).

10. Then I sumit!

Which involves carefully reading the requirements for each publication, making sure I follow directions, and a great deal of finger crossing.

This post came about because I realized I haven’t had any stories published this year – I haven’t even submitted because I’ve been focusing on a novel instead. So, I’m dedicating the next 6 weeks to brushing up a few old pieces, writing a few new ones, and submitting, submitting, submitting. Hope to have some acceptance news soon!

If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them to the best of my ability, based on my own experiences!

Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

Which is scarier? Clowns? or Cornfields? Why not both?!?! This one brings plenty of thrills to the table like a good teen slasher should. Easy reading and big on the entertainment factor without being poorly written. Spoiler alert: The clown did it!

I feel like this one was as much of a social commentary as a horror novel, maybe even more so. There are some good scenes if horror is what you’re after, but if that’s all you’re after, and you want the pacing and tension of a horror novel, you might find your attention straying in spots, especially in the beginning. Good but not spectacular.

I just started:

Click the links to friend me on Litsy or Goodreads and unite our bookish communities!

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