Pheonix In Progress

I have started a new art project that I am working on in spurts. Often I lay out my art supplies and move between this project and my computer when I’m writing. Gluing bits of paper to canvas board helps me work out plot points or bits of dialogue. I often do my easiest writing when I’m nowhere near my computer.
Here’s a bit of what I do, how I do it, and where it’s at so far:

This is a close up of its head with the eyes drawn in with a Sharpie. You can get an idea of what the texture of the work is like.

This is a close up of its head with the eyes drawn in with a Sharpie. You can get an idea of what the texture of the work is like.

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If You Use a Toothbrush as a Scrub Brush…

I have some other posts in the works about my writing and a new art project I’m working on, but with all the hints and tips websites out there, I though I’d add one of mine to the mix. 🙂
Here’s something useful if you use a toothbrush as a scrub brush. I find they are great for getting into tight places, like that tiny strip between the sink and the wall in the baths and the kitchen. Naturally, I keep these brushes with my other cleaning supplies, but just in case…


I wrap the bottom in duct tape so that even if the brush gets misplaced or forgotten, (or just gets up and walks around on its own, which inanimate objects are wont to do with kids in the house) everyone KNOWS that this is a scrub brush and should NEVER, EVER go in anyone’s mouth.

For clean-up I usually just throw these in the dishwasher or swish them around in a cup of diluted bleach solution. It’s a toothbrush, so it’s no sweat to throw them out when they get too gross to use.

Peacock Art

Once again I have let the blog slide, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. If I can find the time, I may be posting several things that have kept me occupied in the last few months. For today, here is the peacock art I made for my sister several months ago. This was made from torn tissue paper glued to a board canvas.


Sweet Potato and Pineapple Bake

Done! and so delicious!

As I continue cooking with my newfound love, sweet potatoes, I’m always looking to give new twists to familiar recipes. My sister provided this twist.  It is the same basic recipe as this one Cajun Spiced Sweet Potato Hash except the dish is baked and my sister insisted that chopped pineapple took the dish to a whole other level. She’s right.

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Parmesan Shrimp and Spaghetti Squash

ShrimpSpagSquash 024

This is another recipe cobbled together from parts of other recipes, so I’ll include links to help things along.

Preparing the spaghetti squash takes the most time. Once the squash has been cooked and scraped from the shell, the dish comes together quickly, so preparation is the key. Have everything chopped, shredded and measured before heating the wok or skillet…

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Knowledge Gaps in Fiction

In the spirit of trying to write more, I am also attempting to blog more as well. It all counts right?

I don’t usually do book reviews on this blog. I’m afraid finishing up my English degree killed all my desire for deep analysis of other writer’s fiction—writing about it at least. It’s more of a “I don’t have to anymore, so I won’t and no one can make me” sentiment.

The Story Book by David Baboulene

The Story Book by David Baboulene

However, I have been reading a wonderful book on writing by David Baboulene called The Story Book—a writer’s guide to story development, principles, problem solving and marketing. That’s quite an ambitious title and book premise.

Rather than focusing on whether the entire book lives up to the promise in the title, I’d like to focus on a particularly interesting section discussing what the author calls “knowledge gaps.”

Knowledge gaps, Baboulene says, “are the only way that your story can live and breathe. Without it, your story will have no soul.” Baboulene believes that knowledge gaps provide the subtext to a story and without subtext, he insists, “there is no story.” I happen to agree.

Text, subtext and theme have been thoroughly discussed, hashed and rehashed and fought over for years and years. Thousands upon thousands of words have been devoted to the subject (Just Google text, subtext, theme) and I’ve read a lot about it, but Babolene is the first I’ve found to tie subtext to knowledge gaps.

Baboulene says that knowledge gaps (when the writer holds back information from the reader) makes stories more absorbing for readers, saying that they, the readers, “project different answers into the gap” and this is how readers “create an underlying story, a subtextual story” all by themselves.
As Baboulene explains:

In a good story there is always, always a difference in the knowledge possessed by at least one participant when compared to the audience.
It is in this knowledge gap that the brain gets busy; flying backwards through the delivered information trying to attain the knowledge that will fill this gap and flying forwards in the story to try and project a justifiable sequence of events that will take us to the desired story outcome…

This really resonated with me. After all if readers or movie goers aren’t working relentlessly to fill in what happens next throughout a work of fiction, then where do surprise endings come from?

Baboulene goes on to discuss types of knowledge gaps and the rule of fair play in fiction, as in don’t leave out too much or the twist or revelation will seem incongruous.

This section of the book has already helped me work out some problems in at least one story of mine that seemed to be going nowhere. I had to think about what was going on behind the scenes, things my protagonist didn’t know about. This gave added depth to the story and even filled in some backstory.

The rest of the book is excellent as well and delves deeply into many aspects of story theory, but does so in a conversational, easy-to-understand way.

Here’s the Amazon link if you’re interested: The Story Book–A writers’ guide to story development, principles, problem solving and marketing

A Shot in the Arm and a Kick in the Pants

It appears that my year-long stretch of writer’s block may finally be ending. Writer’s block, a snit fit, call it what you will, I haven’t been writing much at all for a very long time. I let something that was completely out of my control deeply affect my confidence as a writer.  A story of mine was accepted for publication in a small-press anthology. However, just a few weeks into the process, the publisher cancelled the whole kit and kaboodle due to money problems.  That’s it. That’s what I let turn me away from several stories I’d been working on. A slew of rejections for my other work didn’t help, but I was getting better at handling those. The rejection, which really wasn’t a rejection at all, after an acceptance sort of broke something in me. I had to take a break, a long break.

I have to laugh even now and wonder if my new-found determination to write regularly again will last. Lots of new things are promised or begun in January, you know. However, it was in January of last year that I resolved to quit smoking. My one year smoke-free anniversary is approaching. So, as far as New Year’s resolutions go, I’m one for one. Surely, a resolution to write again won’t be as difficult to keep as breaking a twenty-eight year addiction.
A few things have given me a real “kick in the pants” lately. Keeping in touch with other writers through a Facebook group has really been good for me. Most of the members would probably be shocked to know I consider myself a part of the group, considering I mostly just lurk on the page and have only attended one meeting.  The group is lead by a wonderfully creative woman, who’s strength and committment to writing and encouraging others is astounding.
One other person in the group may be surprised to know she’s inspired me. She’s a busy homeschooling mom of three who recently began a homeschooling blog which can be found here: Mindful Homeschooler: A Homeschooling Magazine for All Families If she can raise three kids, homeschool her school-ager, host writer’s group meetings, write for and edit her church newsletter, plan, lead and host a four-hour writer’s mini-retreat,(and those are just the things I can think of off the top of my head) then I can do more than sit on my sofa pouting and searching the internet for funny cat pictures.
The “shot in the arm” came from an email I recieved yesterday. Even though I haven’t been writing, I haven’t stopped submitting my work for publication. Yesterday I recieved word that my short story “Damsel Apostate” has been short-listed for an anthology of new fairy tales. The editor mentioned that they really liked my story and final decisions on which stories will be going in the anthology should come by February first. Whatever the outcome, it was delightful to hear that my story is at least still in the running.
I have one other story out under consideration at another small press. I think it will soon be time to query about that one.
So there it is. Time to get going. Again, again.

Cajun-spiced Sweet Potato Hash

I spent most of my life thinking I didn’t like sweet potatoes. I’ve never been a fan of sweets and the only way I’d ever seen sweet potatoes served was “candied,” which means  they were so overloaded with brown sugar and maple syrup (or whatever was used) they’d make your teeth stick together. Have you ever tasted something so sweet it was bitter? That’s what I thought sweet potatoes were.

Over the last few months, I’ve learned better. I give credit to Pinterest. First, from “pins” I saw on the site, I tried oven-fried Sweet Potatoes and liked them very much.

Later on, I was on Pinterest looking for side dishes for Thanksgiving and ran across this Cornbread Stuffing with Sweet Potato and Squash recipe. I decided to try it, although as usual, I tweaked the recipe somewhat, including substituting cornbread from scratch for the boxed stuffing. It was very tasty, but pretty labor intensive, so obviously a special- occaision- only dish.

The best part of the recipe was the preparation of the sweet potatoes, butternut squash and apples. It smelled heavenly and I couldn’t resist a few bites. Wow. Fantastic (Essentially the part I’m talking about is the first two steps of the stuffing recipe.)

Since two sweet potatoes, a butternut squash and a Granny Smith apple makes a giant mound of food, I decided to streamline the recipe just using sweet potatoes.

Blog Sweet Potatoes 001Here’s a look the starting ingredients. I call this sweet potato “medium” because some of the ones at the market were huge.  Cooking time on each step is approximate.How finely you chop your sweet potato and other items will determine cooking time.

Cajun Spiced Sweet Potato Hash

1 Medium Sweet Potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes

1/3 cup Green Bell Pepper, diced

1/3 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced

                                                                       1/4 cup Green onion, bulb and tops, diced

                                                                        1 clove of garlic, minced

                                                                        1/3 cup Canola Oil

                                                                        Cajun Creole Seasoning, to taste

Here's everything all prepped and ready to go!

Here’s everything all prepped and ready to go!

1. Heat oil in a wok or large, heavy skillet. Carefully add sweet potatoes. Stirring frequently, cook 8 to 10 minutes.

1. Heat oil in a wok or large, heavy skillet. Carefully add sweet potatoes. Stirring frequently, cook 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Add peppers and onions. Continue cooking and stirring 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add peppers and onions. Continue cooking and stirring 3 to 5 minutes.

Just as the potatoes are fork-tender and the pepper and onions cook to translucence, add garlic. Stir and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Add Cajun seasoning to taste. The sweet and the heat combined really makes the dish pop.

Just as the potatoes are fork-tender and the pepper and onions cook to translucence, add garlic. Stir and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Add Cajun seasoning to taste. The sweet and the heat combined really makes the dish pop.

This is a beautiful side dish for three to four people or makes a lovely vegan lunch for two!

This is a beautiful side dish for three to four people or makes a lovely vegan lunch for two!

Another Christmas Bag

I had so much fun making the Christmas bags withe the zebra-striped cupcake liners, I decided to do some more.

This time I used a red bag with a glossy finish…
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Easy Christmas Gift Bag Decoration

While digging around in the craft closet a few days ago, I discovered a cache of plain brown gift bags I bought months ago.  Knowing that I would soon need lots of Christmas gift bags, I starting thinking about how I could decorate the plain ones.

This is a really easy way to decorate plain bags for all your Christmas gift-giving.

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