Friday, 29 July 2011

Don't Play Chicken With Me, You Fiend!!

Because I'm such a good blog person, it's taken me until two weeks after the fact to decide to write another blog. Yay! It's important not to overdo it, you see. I have over 300 unread emails from writing posts in my email folder and I haven't read them - not due to lack of inclination, but because I am the one who gets to choose where my time will go.

It's good not to let your passion go off the burner in those areas you love, but at the same time, you can suffer from interest-overkill and that thing you love becomes an idol or other things in life begin to suffer from lack of your attention. It's good not to always feel like you're chasing after the wind.

Give yourself a break, Kit Kat.

Here's one of my favourite simple recipes ATM, and also what we're having for dinner tonight. It's supremely flavoursome and brilliant for waking the dead (if you're tired for whatever reason, and won't kill you in the process). Try it before you write it off, and remember, you're only as good as your last dish.


Chicken with Chorizo ~ serves 4

1kg chicken pieces
2 tsp pimenton/paprika (preferrably smoky)
4tbs olive oil
2 small onions, thinly sliced
150g chorizo sausage, sliced
6 (yes 6) garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
12 fresh Bay leaves
1/3 cup Pedro Ximinez (sherry)
salt and pepper to taste
Rice or potatoes to serve (we eat it with roast or mash)

1. Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Coat the chicken pieces in the paprika, making sure they are evenly covered, then season with salt.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken until browned all over, turning occasionally.

3. Transfer the chicken pieces to an ovenproof dish. Add the onions to the pan and fry quickly. Add the garlic and sliced chorizo and fry for two minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes, two bay leaves and the sherry, and bring to the boil. Pour over the chicken and cover with a lid. Bake for 45 minutes.

5. Remove the lid and season to taste. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, until the chicken is tender and golden. Serve with rice or potatoes, or garnished with the remaining bay leaves.

NB~ I like to add a few small green olives, and also a can of chickpeas. I once ate this for leftovers three days straight and my energy levels went through the roof! If you slow the temperature down and cook more slowly, the chicken will fall off the bone. Yum.

"Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content." Ecclesiastes 1v8
Tout est en travail, plus qu'on ne peut le dire. L' il n'est jamais rassasié de voir. L'oreille n'est jamais remplie de ce qu'elle entend.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Indispensable Death of the “dot-dot-dot”.

What to do with the insidious juxtaposition of unfinished... thought?

One of my first proofies came from a particular area of expertise I was writing about and he was quick to inform me about my use of the “...” saying, “You can’t use that when it’s not a juxtaposition.” Never mind he didn’t pay attention to the actual glaring errors I’d created in his line of work. He was too busy correcting my grammar.

I nodded sagely, thinking, What the heck is a juxtaposition? Happily I can inform that instalment of my writing life was light years ago (complete solar systems, in fact).

Wikipedia sayeth: Random juxtaposition refers to the stimulation of creativity in problem solving, design or other creative pursuit by confronting two unrelated concepts or objects, usually the goal or problem to be solved on the one hand and a randomly selected object or concept on the other. Similar to an oxymoron.

I have to admit that didn’t impress or help me much. Give it to me straight, Doc. I’m a plain sorta girl. I need layman’s terms. In my ignorance, what the proofie on this occasion was saying, was that my actual dialogue wasn’t doing what my punctuation indicated.

Really? It had seemed so straightforward to me (this is why writers should seek and employ proofies).

Skip ahead a teency bit, and we find the offending “...” is in fact called an ellipsis, and should be used sparingly indeed. Why? Because it is an annoying device to readers who think the writer was too lazy to construct a proper sentence.

Some writers use it to show a pause. Some use it to show information is being left out. Others employ it to convey a particular thought pattern or add drama. But what is the correct use of this beastie, and do editors like it? Can it be overused?

The quick answer is no and yes (in that order). One online English teacher says this (and it reminds me of much of what writers face with agents and publishers): “The conventions are different in different types of writing. None of us can really tell you "go ahead and use it" or "don't you dare use it" and be right or wrong. Keep in mind that the purpose of grammar and punctuation is to help language communicate ideas. Which punctuation mark best communicates the idea that you want to get across to the teacher? It also helps, when things are getting graded, to keep in mind the way your teacher grades. Many people have replied… with many different opinions. What do you think your teacher thinks? "Guess what's in the teacher's mind" is a very annoying game to play, but a very useful skill that will serve you well…”

Surely there has to be some kind of rule or standard, I thought. I searched some more and was led to arguments on the em-dash. Sheesh. The plot thickened.

I consulted A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman and he says this: “In an amateur’s hands, though, ellipsis points can be a problem. Like italics, they can become a bad habit, a crutch to use whenever a writer doesn’t know how to firmly end a sentence or section or chapter, when he doesn’t know how to indicate a passing of time any other way. Worst of all, it can become a cheap device to end sections or chapters; some writers think that merely because they conclude with (...) it will force the reader to read on. This is silly. A reader doesn’t turn a page because of three dots; he turns a page because of content.” (p189)

Failing anything more concrete up to now, here are some informative sites to check out. If you are a literary person reading this, what say you? I’d love to know.

A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman

Decide: Do you agree that less is more, and this device need not be copiously used? Can you grow your writing style to eclipse the ellipsis? Do you need to adjust some sentences in your MS and make the “...” work to your advantage instead of being your downfall?

“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:15-16
Prends ces choses à cœur, consacre-toi à elles, afin que tout le monde soit frappé de tes progrès. Veille sur toi-même et sur ton enseignement. Sois persévérant en cela. En agissant ainsi, tu assureras ton salut et celui de tes auditeurs.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Super Pumped!

Last night I was with a girlfriend and we were discussing our friend who is soooo excited by the birth of his newborn daughter. My GF asked, "Is he super pumped?"

Not for a second did I think she was asking about Regular or Unleaded, yet my look must have been blank.

“Don’t you remember how he always used to say that? Whenever he was really happy he used to say he was super pumped!”

Well. Now I could recall it. Yes, I confirmed, he was indeed very much super pumped (and she is one adorable bub!).

Isn’t it funny how we can forget things others remember with absolute clarity? It’s the same for me with books I’ve read. There are those that charmed me utterly through, and others that made me wonder how on earth they got published because they seemed to me at the time so brain-jarringly dreadful. It truly is a curious thing that makes the grade in publishing.

While I am pumped to have ten novels under my belt, my 'super pumpedness' will come in spades when one of those gets published. There’s no shortage of helps about for people in my position even though it can be hard to know which voice to pay attention to when there are so many. So it’s of massive benefit to me to have the One Voice that matters in my background, and He keeps me super pumped in spite of the odds.

Everywhere I turn, be it inbox, twitter, blog posts, websites, you name it, everyone’s got a verdict on what the ten easy steps are, or the three rules to remember, or the five-point guarantee is on how to be published. After a while it feels like much of a muchness and the only one I can remember is Just write a dang good story. When I do that and the feedback is good, I’m super pumped to the max.

It’s just a matter of time ;)

Decide: What gets you super pumped? Is it enough to last, or does that super feeling dissipate?  Where do you find your joy? Do you believe that nothing is impossible with God?

“...then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Philippians 2v2
Rendez donc ma joie complète: tendez à vivre en accord les uns avec les autres. Et pour cela, ayez le même amour, une même pensée, et tendez au même but.