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Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Eternal Optimist


Several years ago, I took the photo above of my flourishing chives. I love chives. When they are fresh, they are delightful sprinkled on just about everything. Maybe not on ice cream, but they're good on eggs, pasta, fish, and a whole bunch of other foods.

Suddenly, this spring, I'm left with one miserable-looking chive plant. To remedy this situation, I bought seeds. I prepared a nice, sunny area. I sprinkled the seeds on the ground and added water. Now I have to wait for the magic to happen--or not. I'll have to remember to water the seeds and if the seedlings are too close to each other, I'll have to spread them out and hope I don't kill them when I lift them from their bed and move them.

In the earliest stages, plants are delicate. It doesn't take much to do them in.

Since I'm a writer, I couldn't help comparing the process of growing plants from seeds to writing. After all, in a writer's early years, it doesn't take much to crush talent. Especially if someone is an introvert, which the majority of writers seem to be. Negative comments can completely end a writing career before it's even begun. Continuing to write requires bravery and eternal optimism.

Not that writing isn't fun. It can be a blast. I entertain myself for endless hours moving my characters around in my plot. I don't worry about the next book idea because the seeds for stories are constantly being planted in my mind by the experiences I have, by the people I meet, and the history I often delve into. I can't use all those story ideas at once, but each seed will stay nearly forever if they're stored away in a safe place.

When I need to use one of my story seeds, I plant it, start typing, and wind up with a book. It's rather miraculous.

Of course, story seeds are one thing and real seeds are another. I'm looking forward to more chives to sprinkle on my eggs. But it will happen because I'm a writer and an eternal optimist. Grow seeds, grow.

Friday, April 14, 2017

African Bean and Peanut Soup



A long time ago, when our daughters were young, our church handed out pamphlets to guide parents in making Lent meaningful for children. One of the recipes in the pamphlet was African Bean and Peanut Soup. It turned out to be an enduring favorite which is now served regularly at our house on Good Friday.

The following recipe is intended for preparation on a stovetop. However, this can be easily adapted for a slow cooker. In that case, add only two quarts of water AND add all the ingredients at once. Then cook on high for four hours.

Enjoy.

African Bean and Peanut Soup

Serves 8

3 tablespoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
3 quarts boiling water (Remember, only TWO quarts if you're preparing this in a slow cooker.)
1 cup dry black-eyed peas
1 cup dry navy beans
1 cup diced green peppers
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup salted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon basil leaves, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander


    1. Melt butter in large stockpot. Add carrots; cook 5 minutes.
    2. Add water, black-eyed peas, navy beans, green pepper, salt and crushed
    red pepper. (Add more water if necessary, to cover ingredients.)
    3. Cook, covered, until ingredients are tender (1 1/2 to 2 hours).
    4. Add peanuts, onion powder, basil and coriander during last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.
    5. Taste to correct seasonings. Soup should be thick.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Weaving Life Into Your Writing


I love rag rugs. They remind me my maternal grandparents' house where these rugs were scattered everywhere on the linoleum floor. In the wintertime, when there wasn't any farming to be done, my grandfather would take all the scraps of used cloth, set up his handmade loom in the basement, and set to weaving. Bits of flannel shirts, Grandma's stockings, and her worn out aprons were tightly woven into each rug. Every rag incorporated into the pattern had a history. You could almost read the story of my grandparents' lives in those rugs.

My grandparents were the original recyclers. They never wasted anything.

As a writer, I incorporate true experiences and emotions into my writing. All the little details and scraps of events lend reality to the story. My plots are fabrications but the way the characters react, their feelings, and mannerisms are often borrowed from life. In addition, I use settings I know well or have thoroughly researched.

There are a myriad of particulars I've used to add substance to my stories. For instance, in The Cowboy's Miracle one character suffers with dementia. I've been close to family and friends with the same sad disease. However, even an ordinary and mundane situation such as baking bread can be used in a story, which I did in Patriot's Heart. Then there's Grace and her little turtle friend in Daddy Wanted. Have you ever had a pet turtle? I did.

A good book must have a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The story should be cohesive and most of all it should make sense. However, adding touches of truth can heighten the authenticity and draw readers into the narrative.

Gather all your life experiences together and use them in your stories. Tiny scraps of old memories and frayed emotions from long ago can give fiction a vital force that keeps readers turning the pages.