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Archive for April, 2011

Thirteen Ways to Help a Bad Head Case

Thursday Thirteen

Sometimes a few drinks at night can end up in a hangover the next morning. There are lots of theories and tried and true methods for curing a hangover. In truth, the only way to cure a hangover is limit the number of drinks you have.

Thirteen Hangover Cures and Hints

1. The hair of the dog – i.e. drink more of what you drank the night before.

2. The French drink thick and hot onion soup the morning after.

3. In Switzerland they drink a shot of brandy with a hint of peppermint.

4. In Russia they try heavily salted cucumber juice and black bread soaked in water.

5. In Norway they recommend double cream.

6. In Outer Mongolia they recommend a pickled sheep’s eye in a glass of tomato juice. Can I say yuck?

7. In Haiti they cure a hangover by sticking thirteen black-headed pins into the cork of a bottle that got you that way.

8. Don’t mix alcohol types.

9. Carbonated drinks affect people faster i.e. those bottles of bubbles.

10. Drink a pint of lightly-salted water before going to bed.

11. Drink an isotonic sports drink but not the fizzy, carbonated kind.

12. Eat a banana, honey and peanut butter sandwich. The honey and banana contain potassium and glucose. Bananas contain magnesium, which may help to relax the blood vessels in the head.

13. Go for a brisk walk or have a long and hot powerful shower. The powerful shower is to relax the muscles and helps if you’re a fiend on the dance floor between drinks. A hot bath will also help.

Do you have a favored hangover cure?

Source: Her Magazine, December/January 2011 and Hangover Cures by Ben Reed

Toys for Bella

Our puppy Bella is a real terror with her toys. She chews them and rips them to shreds until eventually I need to confiscate them for her safety. I decided I’d try to make her a chew toy.

Toy Materials

I cut up this old blanket, using the checks as a cutting guide. I cut the fabric three squares wide and cut down the lines, leaving one end intact. I ended up with long tassel-like pieces, which I plaited and tied with a knot. The photo below is what I ended up with after the plaiting/braiding.

Bella's New Toy

Bella took to it straightaway and had a fine time tearing around the house with her new toy. She ends up chewing it to pieces but has a few hours of entertainment. When she sees me making a new toy for her she’s there trying to chew it as I’m braiding.

Bella and Toy

Bella and Toy

Mr. Munro came home from hospital today. He has his right arm in a plaster and needs to wear a sling. He can’t drive for eight weeks and has four weeks off work. I can’t see the scar but hubby said it looks like a lightning zigzag – sort of Harry Potterish. Bella and I are pleased he’s home, but I can see that frustration and impatience will make tempers flare during the coming weeks. Mr. Munro is not good at sitting around doing nothing.

Fixing A Broken Character

Recently someone told me the hero in my story wasn’t heroic and didn’t behave like a hero. He was unsympathetic. Instead of panicking or becoming defensive, I took another look at my hero and, to my horror, found the criticism was justified. While I still liked my character, I definitely needed to do something to make him more likeable to readers.

Most of us want to read about characters that have the qualities we see in our friends and family—the same qualities we like to think we possess. We want to connect with characters and be able to relate to them.

So how do we do this?

In his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass says we should start showing the reader that our character has heroic qualities right from the first page of our book. Even if our character is an average person, in an ordinary job, we need to demonstrate a special quality in them. At the start of a book, it will most likely be something small. They might help an elderly woman cross the road or rescue the next-door neighbor’s cat from a tree, but it will make us, the reader, sit up and pay attention. This is a character we would like as a friend, and we want to follow them through the course of the book, during the ups and downs, to the happy ending.

In my case, I looked at my character’s interactions with other characters. My hero snapped and snarled quite a bit, so I softened his language and the way he interacted with the other characters. I added some extra scenes, which I hope show my hero in a favorable light. I also looked at the inner conflict and checked I’d done everything I needed to in this area.

Fixing unsympathetic characters isn’t easy, and I hope I’ve managed to get the job done. I’m awaiting the verdict at present.

Do you have any hints for changing unsympathetic characters to ones that readers will love? And do you agree with Donald Maass—that we should see the hero/heroine doing something heroic almost as soon as we meet them in the story?

Finding the Friction with Mary Hughes

My special guest today is author, Mary Hughes.

Bestselling author Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and writer. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. She is intensely interested in the origins of the universe. She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy.

Over to Mary…

Biting Me SoftlyLife and death is about as tense as you can get. So writing about cops and doctors naturally sizzles. But the adage is “write what you know”. Besides authoring, I’m a musician and computer consultant. What kind of story tension can you get out of programmers?

Well…what if the programmer is working late? Alone. And what if she’s a woman?

What if she’s alone and a man shows up? A tall, powerfully-built, stunning god of a man? What if he’s a vampire?

And what if he instantly rubs her the wrong way?

Add a touch of laptop humor, and we have the following.

“I” is Liese, a small town programmer. Her blood center’s just been invaded by graceful, blond Logan. The excerpt is abridged.

“What did you say your name was?” I asked him.

“I didn’t say.” The man pulled a small leather case from his jeans pocket and tossed a business card on my desk with a careless snap of the wrist.

Gorgeous and talented. This guy would bear watching. Aw, shucks, my libido said. I ignored it. Eyes locked on him, I picked up the card. Dared a glance. Logan Steel, CEO Steel Security.

Smack me in the face with a Toshiba. Steel Security was the firm that installed a multimillion-dollar security system at Andersly-Dogget Distribution, my first job—one week before I was fired.

I threw the card back. It hit the desk and rebounded into the trash, making my cheeks heat. “You can’t be serious! Steel Security is the Ferrari of security firms. They do the biggest names in the world. Why would they be in little Meiers Corners?”

“We are here to install a system.” Steel perched gracefully on my desk again. In his tight black T-shirt and open leather jacket he looked more like a well-muscled fashion model than a CEO. “Here’s the work order, if you don’t believe me. You’re wrong, Ms. Schmetterling. Gorgeous, but wrong.”

Gorgeous? I shot to my feet. “Now I know you’re lying. Fun time’s over. There’s the door.”

CONTEST: To celebrate Biting Me Softly in stores around the US, I’m having a giveaway! Just comment on this post to enter. For a second chance, let me know the city or bookstore where you’ve seen Softly! Through April 20, 2011, adults only please. Winner will receive choice of Biting Me Softly in paperback (if US or Canada) or one of Bite My Fire, Biting Nixie, The Bite of Silence or Biting Me Softly in ebook.

He’s a candy box of sex appeal wrapped with a golden bow. She’s on a diet.

Blood, sex, violence. Blood, okay, but computer geek Liese Schmetterling had enough S&V when her cheating ex fired her. Now security expert—and lip-smacking gorgeous—Logan Steel saunters into her Blood Center, setting fire to her libido. And threatening her job.

Visions of pink slips dancing in her head, Liese tries to push Logan away without touching his jutting pecs…or ridged abs. Or petting the Vesuvius in his jeans. He’s hiding something, but it doesn’t seem to matter when his smiles stun her, his kisses crank her to broiling and his bites rocket her to heaven. Fangy bites which, if she weren’t grounded in science, would make her think ampire-Vay.

Centuries old and tragedy-scarred, Logan’s mission is to fortify the Blood Center’s electronic defenses against his nemesis, the leader of a rogue vampire gang. He’s ready for battle but not for Liese, who slips under his skin, laughs at his awful puns, charges beside him into dark, scary places—and tastes like his true love.

No matter how often Logan declares his love, Liese can’t bring herself to trust him. But when his archenemy comes after her, not trusting him may cost her life…

Warning: contains explicit vampire sex involving absurdly large male equipment (hey, they’re monsters), unbelievable stamina (just how long can he stay underwater in a hot tub?), hide-your-eyes violence and horrendously bad puns. And, just when you think it can’t get any worse, a computer geekette trying to play Mata Hari.

Buy at Samhain Publishing
Check In Stock at Barnes and Noble

Hugs from Hughes!

To learn more about Mary Hughes, please visit www.maryhughesbooks.com.

Sweet Treat — Chocolate Slice

Chocolate Slice

Here’s the recipe for one of my favorite slices. It’s my father’s favorite too. It’s simple and easy to make and always goes well with a cup of tea or coffee.

250g butter (2.2 sticks/8.8 ounces)
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1 T golden syrup
2 cups flour
1 cup coconut
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
chocolate icing (frosting) and extra coconut for decoration

Melt butter, sugar, cocoa and golden syrup in a large saucepan. Do not let the mixture boil. Let it cool then add flour, coconut, baking powder and salt.

Press into a greased and baking paper lined tin and bake at 180C (350F) for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool for another ten minutes. Ice (frost) with chocolate icing. Sprinkle with extra coconut. Cut into squares and store in an airtight tin.

Shelley’s notes:
1. This recipe comes from Seasons, a year of fabulous food by Annabelle White
2. I use the normal bake setting rather than fan bake. If you use fan bake reduce the cooking time.
3. I like to add chopped cranberries or walnut pieces to the mix for a variation. (You’ve probably noticed by now that I like cranberries and add dried cranberries to everything!)

Do you have any favorite slices you like to eat/bake?

Thirteen Tips For Living Life Well

Thursday Thirteen

I’m all about living well and enjoying life. Here are a few tips to help you live well.

Thirteen Tips For Living Well

1. Laughter is really the best medicine. A good chuckle helps to increase the blood flow and can decrease the risk of heart disease.

2. A wide brimmed hat is a good alternative to a baseball cap. It keeps the sun off the neck, ears and shoulders as well as the face.

3. Getting out in the sunshine is important during the winter months. If you aren’t getting enough, try eating your lunch outdoors during the week for a quick Vitamin D boost.

4. Something as simple as using positive words in everyday conversations and also in your thoughts can help ease stress and anxiety.

5. Prevent the spread of viruses by regularly wiping down keyboards, telephones, bench tops and any other commonly touched surfaces.

6. Skip the high heels. A three-inch heel stresses your foot seven times more than a one-inch heel.

7. Protect your hearing by limiting use of equipment louder than 85 decibels. Most hairdriers, lawnmowers and motorcycles exceed this limit.

8. Sunflower seeds are a rich source of vitamin E, one of the primary antioxidants that helps decrease the decline of memory as you age.

9. Keep expanding your social skills by sparking a conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t. It’s great for confidence and gets you out of your comfort zone.

10. Sitting or standing all day can be bad for your joints. If sitting all day at work, be sure to stand up every 30 minutes and stretch. If you are persistently on your feet, sit down for five minutes and give your feet a rest.

11. There are four simple steps that help facilitate a good night’s sleep. The magic words are dark, quiet, comfortable and cool. Sleep in a dark, quiet room that is cool in temperature and wear comfortable clothes.

12. Brushing your hair doesn’t just keep it knot-free, but also stimulates blood flow to the scalp, helping your hair to grow faster. The best times to brush are before bed and before shampooing.

13. Dog owners lead a healthier lifestyle. Dogs help buffer stress and also assist in facilitating more physical activity. I’m living proof of this because I’ve lost weight since we adopted a puppy in January.

Bella

Do you have a tip to live life well?

Source: Alive Magazine, Issue 7

Finding Foster Homes for Orphan Sentences

Kat DuncanKat Duncan is my special guest today. Kat likes to write and teach. She also likes to write about teaching and teach about writing. Today she’s giving us a few hints about finding foster homes for orphan sentences.

Have you ever tried the writing technique called layering? It works like this: you draft out your basic scene with “he said” and “she said” or “he did” then “she did”. After you’ve got that bare bones framework you go back and add details such as where they are, what they look like, the weather, the room they are in, how they feel, etc.

The trouble with this technique is that it often results in disjointed scenes. Just when the dialogue gets going, the author throws in a scenery detail or stops to have the character focus on something other than the person she’s talking to. The worst blooper of this kind happens when one character asks a question and the other character goes off into a paragraph of thinking before answering.

So what’s the solution? You don’t want to skimp on these important details, so you really need to keep them. But you have to give these poor orphans a home. Make them feel part of the family. You will want to learn how to blend dialogue, action and scenery for best effect. One easy way to do this is to give your character a reason for observing the scenery, or for moving about in the scene. Linking the scene to the character’s emotions is the most direct way of doing this.

Let’s take an example and see the progression. Here’s a snippet of conversation:

“Say what you mean, Anna.”

“Okay, I will. You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long. It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?”

“I missed you, yes. And then I got over you.”

Now that I’ve got the basic dialogue, I want to add some dialogue tags and maybe some emotions, scenery and action. I’ll layer it on all at once:

“Say what you mean, Anna,” he said.

“Okay, I will. You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.” She glanced out the window at a pigeon pecking crumbs on the windowsill.

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long,” she said, lifting her head to stare into his dark eyes. “It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?” His voice dropped to that familiar seductiveness and he reached for her.

She stepped away from his outstretched hand. “I missed you. Yes. And then I got over you.”

Can you pick out the orphan sentence? It’s the one with the pigeon. I tried to give a sense of where they were while they were talking. Mentioning “out the window” tells you they are indoors. The pigeon on the windowsill tells you they are probably in an urban setting, perhaps a few stories above ground.
But…

It doesn’t fit the scene. It’s an orphan because it doesn’t connect properly with what came before it or after it. I also tried to give a sense of discomfort for Anna. Suddenly looking away at something ordinary during a conversation indicates unease and uncertainty. But the sentence isn’t working the way I intended. Let’s see if I can make this orphan sentence part of the scene’s family:

“Say what you mean, Anna,” he said.

“Okay, I will.” She edged away from him and faced the window. “You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long,” she said, waving a hand to shoo the pigeon pecking on the windowsill. “It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?” His voice dropped to that familiar seductiveness and he reached for her.

She folded her arms against her body and stared out at the cold cityscape. “I missed you. Yes. And then I got over you.”

Better, don’t you think?

Layering can work well. Just watch for those orphan sentences when you’re re-reading and be sure to give them a good home. For more examples of how to blend action, scenery and emotional details, check out my year-long novel writing course at Savvy Authors beginning in May, 2011. You can also find me on the web at http://www.katduncan.net

Recipe: Easter Biscuits

I used to make these biscuits (that would be cookies to those of you in the US) when I was a teenager and had a yearning to bake some last weekend. They’re easy to make and children like rolling out the dough ready for baking. I think they’re called Easter Biscuits because of the spices and currants, which also go into Hot Cross Buns.

Easter Biscuits

Here’s the recipe:

225 g (8oz) Flour
125 g (4oz) Butter (softened)
125 g (4oz) Sugar
50 g (2oz) Currants
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
Grated rind of 1/2 Lemon
1 Egg

Rub butter into sifted flour and baking powder. Add remainder of ingredients. Mix to a stiff dough with beaten egg. Roll out thin, cut into large rounds with a fluted cutter. Bake 20 minutes at 180 C (350F)

Shelley’s notes:

I chucked the ingredients into my Kitchen whizz in the order specified above. It was super quick and easy.
I didn’t have currants so I used finely chopped dried cranberries.
I don’t have a cutter. I used a small bowl as my cutter.
I also added a little plain lemon icing, piping the squiggles on top of the biscuits.
My oven seems to cook quickly and I only cooked my biscuits for 15 minutes.