All posts for the month May, 2012

The Stein and Ms. Nine

Published May 24, 2012 by Diana

The writer married technology a long time ago.  Think about it.  They’ve always walked hand in hand – the invention of movable type, the ball point pen, the electric typewriter, and the ultimate machine – the word processor.  I thought it would be fun to consider writers of the 20th century like Hemmingway, Faulkner, or Fitzgerald using the technology of now.  Would they have accomplished more?  What would they say about it?  What would John Steinbeck think of word processors, the internet, or blogging?  To satisfy my curiosity, I invited Mr. Steinbeck into my imagination for an interview. 

Here’s a transcript of our conversation…

Ms. Nine:  Welcome, Mr. Steinbeck.  Thanks for spending e-face time on my blog today.

Mr. Steinbeck:  Please, call me ‘the Stein’; it’s my tag.

Ms. Nine: (the Stein??  I could NEVER!)… >cough< …I’ve invited you here so writers could benefit from your perspective on being a writer in the 21st century. 

Mr. Steinbeck: Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.

Ms. Nine: Uh..okay, if you say so… This is my first posthumous interview and I’m a little nervous… So here’s my first question.  How do you feel about using a word processor?

Mr. Steinbeck:  I hate computers.  They know so much more than I do.  Using a computer forces a writer to think harder, faster, stronger. 

Ms. Nine:  Would these modern tools have helped you write?

Mr. Steinbeck:  After I won the big P for The Grapes of Wrath, it was tough getting back on track.   I mean, I still had more writing to do.  Maybe if I had a word processor I would have won that Nobel Prize a lot sooner.  Who’s to say?

Ms. Nine:  Would you have finished The Acts of King Author and His Nobel Knights?

Mr. Steinbeck:  You had to mention that thorn in my side.  I’m not making excuses, but in my day writers had to set priorities.    Yeah, maybe a word processor would have helped.  But back then writers believed in the perfectibility of man.  We didn’t write frivolously.  We wrote – I wrote – to bring awareness of the economic and social injustice of the time.  I was making a statement!

Ms. Nine:  This brings me to my next topic – J. Edgar Hoover and the League of American Writers.  Do you think using social media and the internet would have made a difference?   

Mr. Steinbeck:  If I could have tweeted about what happened to Charlie Chaplin and the Smothers brothers, the resulting public outcry might have stopped that Communist brouhaha.   I am clever with words.  But remember, if I could’ve had access to social media, so too would McCarthy and Hoover.  The ability of social media to shape collective consciousness is astounding.   It flows in all directions. 

Ms. Nine: One last question – would you have used a website to promote your work?

Mr. Steinbeck:  At this point, I have grown beyond my work, walked up the stairs of my own concepts, and emerged ahead of my accomplishments, all achieved without a website.  Ironically, now that I’m dead, I have at least a dozen.


Well, there you have it – a 20th century perspective on writing in the 21st century.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?






Perfect Protagonists

Published May 22, 2012 by Diana

You’ve created the perfect protagonist.   He’s attractive, has a strong moral code, no physical limitations, and is highly successful.   He’s hard at work saving the world, rescuing the girl, and doing the right thing all the time.  But he’s exhausted.   So are his readers.  But he’s so perfect he won’t even tell you how tired he is.  Give your protagonist a break!  Perfect protagonists aren’t perfect. 

Let’s say the protagonists has to do something, something he’s expected to do.  But this time, this one time, the protagonist just can’t perform.  Is the world going to end?  Is someone going to die?  Then try letting another character take up the slack.

Like this.

     “Hey Yogi,  look over there.”  Marvin pointed to the six deer grazing under the mulberry tree.  “Go get ’em!” 

     The shade under the back porch and Marvin’s chair rocking had lulled Yogi into a state of semiconsciousness.   The black lab perked up his head.  His sloppy eyes fixed on Marvin’s.  He panted, but didn’t  follow Marvin’s finger.  Instead, he rested his head back on his paws.

     Marvin sighed,  “Come on, Yogi.  I can’t cotton to these deer going after my corn.  You know I can’t afford a fence – you’re all I got.”  He wanted to yank Yogi up by his collar, give him a nudge, a kick even.  But Marvin was a practical man.   Yogi  had worked the fields all day chasing away the deer and countless rabbits.  After doing his job for seventeen years, that old dog’s gotta be tired.

     “Alright, Yogi.  I can see you ain’t moving off this porch.”  Marvin stood up from his chair and put down his beer.  “I don’t blame you, not one bit.  So I’ll do it this time.”

     Yogi picked up his head again and wagged his tail a little as Marvin ran, arms wide, making loud turkey calls.   The deer scattered off,  just as if Yogi had chased them himself.  

See?  It’s okay to let another character take charge.  The perfect protagonist needs a break!

Writing Recipes

Published May 21, 2012 by Diana

When you share your favorite recipe, don’t forget to serve it up with a good story.  Nothing enhances the flavor of  home cooking than the story behind it.  If you’ve ever read the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe (now an urban legend!), you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, here’s the link Neiman Marcus $250 cookie recipe.

Today, think about your special recipe.  I’ll bet there’s an amazing story behind it. Food is more than nourishment. It’s inspiration, family, and playtime.

Twenty-five years ago a Vermont newspaper featured an article about New Orleans Jambalaya.   Absentmindedly, I read the list of ingredients aloud, “Hmmm – shrimp, spicy sausage, chicken, tomatoes, cayenne pepper… That sounds good, doesn’t it?”

My husband put down his coffee. “Yeah, make it for dinner tonight, why dontcha.”

“But it’s meatloaf night,” I protested.

“Well, golly gee whiz! What was I thinking? Of course, nothing compares to your meatloaf, Dear.”

“Okay, Buster. You’re on.  But I’m warning you – this is hot stuff.”

Hot stuff, indeed.  That evening, the aroma of sautéed garlic, peppers, and onions wafted through the neighborhood.    Add the shrimp and the whiff of it spawned many a rumor.

“What’s she done now?”

“She wants a new car.”

“She definitely wants something.”


“She’s pregnant again…”

After that night, I swore I would only make this dish for special occasions.   The last time I cooked this up was for my step father’s 80th birthday.  It sure put some pep in his step!

Here’s the recipe and a caveat.  This stuff draws a crowd, so make a lot.  Like sex, there’s never enough.

New Orleans Pasta Jambalaya

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 2-inch strips

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cups each chopped green and yellow peppers

½ cup chopped onion

½ teaspoon minced garlic

3 ½ cups (28 oz can) crushed tomatoes in puree

¾ cup chicken broth

½ pound fully cooked spicy sausage cut in ¼ inch slices

¾ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound cleaned medium shrimp

8 ounces dry pasta, cooked and drained

2 to 4 drops of hot pepper sauce

In medium bowl, toss chicken in flour. In large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat; sauté chicken for three minutes.  Add green and yellow peppers, onion, and garlic; sauté for three to four minutes or until crisp tender. Add tomatoes, broth, sausage, black pepper, salt, and cayenne; stir to combine thoroughly.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.  Add shrimp and continue to cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until shrimp are pink and loosely curled.  Serve over pasta. Makes 8 servings.

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