Advice

Aim true, my dear…

The stars grant wishes, this is true;
And yet, they are such tiny spots
Of light, that when you’re wishing, you
Must carefully aim your dreaming shots
Lest they should tumble to the void
Of black and empty wish-less space
Where no wish granting is deployed,
So wishes vanish there, erased.
The brighter stars are closer, dear,
So when you aim, those ones must be
The ones to shoot, for I do fear
The duller ones, so hard to see
Will take too long, will make you wait
To see your dreams as truth become,
So when you wish, the dull, berate,
And sight the brighter with your thumb
And then, with all your heart and mind
Whisper your wish, and shoot the star,
And then, my love, I hope you’ll find
Your heart’s desires, what e’er they are.

Recipe time again! Eggplant Parmesan…

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love to cook. It’s something that has been ingrained in me since I was a child; my family cooks, together, in one big flurry of food, song, and wine. Lots of food. Lots of song. Lots and lots of wine. ;)

Because of this, my friends have gotten to where they love coming to my place for dinner. About once every week or two, I’ll have everyone over to try out something I’ve been in the mood for. A couple months back, it was Eggplant Parmesan. And though they are usually up for my experiments in culinary delights (cauliflower crust pizza? super popular!), several of my friends balked openly at eggplant.

“I don’t like eggplant, Mark,” one of my female friends said, “I won’t like it. I’ll try it, but don’t be offended when I hate it.”

I made the following recipe for her and the entire crew. It went over really, really well. Last week, she sent me an email for the recipe. She had already bought most the ingredients. She signed it thus:

“Thank you! And damn you, Mark, for making me a liar! I’ve been craving this for weeks…”

So here it is. It’s simple to cook, uses easy ingredients, and is very tasty. Let me know if you make it, and how it turns out!

Mark’s Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:
1 Eggplant
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Marinara Sauce of your choice
Sea Salt
Minced Garlic
Italian seasonings
Pepper
Pepperoni (if you want to add meat to the dish)
Italian breadcrumbs (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400.

Slice the eggplant into fairly thin medallions. I prefer about 1/8″, but you could go to a quarter inch if you wanted.

If you have a silicon brush, brush the eggplant slices with olive oil. If not, you may want to dip them in a shallow pan with olive oil in it before frying. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings to your preference.

Heat up a frying pan or skillet to a medium-medium high heat. Add in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Put in the garlic, and start letting it saute. Once it starts to smell really good, start laying eggplant slices on top.

After a bit (and when the garlic to the sides starts turning brown), flip the eggplant. Saute them for a bit, then remove them and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Spoon a dollop of marinara on each medallion, add pepperoni, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and then Parmesan cheese. If you’d like, sprinkle Italian breadcrumbs on top.

Put in the oven, bake until the cheese is bubbly and melty.

Pull out, cool for a few minutes, then enjoy!

The Writing Process Blog Tour!

Last week, the excellent Mark Gardner of Article 94 introduced me as the next stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour! Mark is an awesome writer, who pounds out interesting, unique tales with a speed unmatched by any other flash-fictioneer (yeah, I just invented that word) that I have seen, and I’m very glad I happened upon his works! Here’s a bit more about Mark…

mark-gardnerMark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, two school-aged children and a black lab. Mark holds a degree in Computer Systems and Applications and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. Mark does his writing on an old Apple eMac and iPad utilizing Apple iWork Pages and iCloud. You can check out Mark’s blog here. His books can be found for the kindle at his author page on Amazon here.

And now, on to the Writing Process Blog Tour questions!

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1) What am I working on?

World domination? Oh, wait, this is a writing question, so I’ll put away the mind-control ray for a second and get serious. This is my serious face. Right now, I’m working on a lot of things, but the one I am focusing the most on is honing my skills as a writer. I initially started this blog as a means of reigniting the spark for writing that I’ve let smolder for far too long. I’ve had a few novels in progress sitting around for years and years, but always found myself getting discouraged or overwhelmed with life. I realized that I needed to turn writing from a hobby to a habit, and to do that, I would need to write something every day. Thus far, it’s working. I find myself inspired, both by the writing process and the amazing challenges and stories I’ve been reading and participating in since starting this journey. This has me looking hopefully at a couple of my works in progress.

My main focus is on my fantasy novel in progress, an as of yet untitled tale about a charming con-man press ganged into becoming a magically powered assassin, a job title that fits neither his tastes nor philosophy. On the run from the dark and powerful kingdom that created him, he uses his charm, wit, and ability to influence the emotions of others to work himself through increasingly complicated schemes, with the grand goal of finding a way to free himself from the dark powers that would enslave him…if he can manage to keep from succumbing to the demon they fused to his soul.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That it was written by me? I know that sounds like a terribly trite answer, but the truth is, most if not all stories have already been told. What makes them interesting, unique, different if you will, is the voice of the author writing it. Though my fantasy novel deals with some pretty dark themes (forced servitude, demon binding, assassination plots), I approach it with a lot of wit and light-hearted humor, mainly through the first person narration of the main character, who remains optimistic and excessively confident even in the darkest hours of his life. This is, perhaps, a bit unusual for the fantasy genre, and I like to think it makes it fun to read, even if it’s not your usual genre of preference.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because these are the kinds of stories I like to read. I have always had a fascination with extraordinary worlds and extraordinary people, of many different genres. Though I am most often drawn to science-fiction and fantasy (and the innumerable variations thereof), I try and write and read every possible genre I can. This has allowed me to open my mind and interests, and better, it helps me write in my preferred genres with a different voice, a different form of story.

4) How does my writing process work?

Honestly? I’m still kind of figuring that out. I’ve been writing, off and on, since I was eight years old, and if there is anything I have learned on this journey it’s that there is always something new to learn. Right now, the process that is working best for me is the one this blog was created for; I make myself write something every day. Some days, its poetry. Some days, flash fiction. Some, a post about my life. Some, a rant about something bothering me. Some are about the craft of writing, some are recipes, some are sweet and some are sorrowful. I have a word count that I have to meet each day, a bare minimum of 350 words, which is insanely low, but easy to meet, and that makes me feel accomplished and encouraged. For my longer works, I use basic outlines to keep myself on track, and I write scenes as they inspire me. I’m finding it’s a lot easier to tackle a novel when you write it as a series of connected flash fiction!

***

That’s it for my part of the Writing Process Blog Tour! Thanks again to Mark Gardner for including me in the tour; check out his current kickstarter for his novel, Champion Standing.

Next week, check in with the following fantastic writers to get a look at what makes their writing minds tick. Though it isn’t a requirement of the Blog Tour, I do want to say that these three are some of my favorite writers on WordPress. They are all three excellent wordsmiths, with unique talents and voices that continue to inspire me to be a better writer.

kellyKelly Lewis has worked for a leading Fortune 500 company for many years, so most writings up until recently has been professional in nature. Being an avid fiction reader coupled with obstinate voices screaming to be set free to live and breathe lead to writing. No genre is off limits, yet works often slide into the dark and adult side of the spectrum. Engages with the blogging community, and is a member of the California Writers Club.

cecoburnC. E. Coburn is a complex individual who uses writing as a tool to navigate the labyrinths of thought and darkness lurking in her skull-place. C. E. Coburn is a regular spade-of-all-trades, who attempts without mastery, the arts of poetry, prose, and illustration — peppered with manic bouts of compulsive theorizing for good measure. When not browsing the intwarnets or writing, Charlotte hangs out with her beautiful wife and two obnoxious cats. Also visit her tumblr site at: http://strangecurations.tumblr.com/

annstvincentAnn St. Vincent is an executive woman living in a big city. The turbulence in the last two years of her life – involving open marriage, affairs, divorce, sexual reawakening, and online dating – has inspired her to write about her thoughts and experiences. She’s not bitter or angry, but after 15 years of a mostly sexless marriage, she *is* exploring her desires. Everything she writes is truth, with names disguised to protect the guilty.

A Sonnet for a Sweet Friend

Dreams are the starships of the mind,
Unrestrained by the laws of life,
Where we can search, and better, find,
A chance escape from pain and strife
Around, perchance, some distant star
Where wonders blend with sweet desire,
Where all we need is near, not far,
And we are that which we aspire.
So dream, sweet friend, and find your heart
Eased by the visions that you see
In that strange place, a world apart
From here and now, from you and me,
But pray, return, with hope to share
Your dreams will always wait you there.

Rhyme away, good poets!

This was written on the fly as a response to a blogger’s apology for rhyming a line in her poem. This sentiment has always troubled me, as I feel there is plenty of room in the poetic world for both structured and free verse, and frankly, I find the challenge of writing a rhyming piece to be thrilling and worthwhile. The doesn’t mean I think free verse is without merit – I read and love a lot of it. But, anyway, let my words rhyme and tell my tale…

Since when did it become a crime
To write a verse that dared to rhyme?
Sure, poet-snobs may toot and cough
And lift their noses when they scoff –
But let me ask these rhyming foes:
What of the Shakespeares? Byrons? Poes?
So many greats that worked in rhyme
And structured meter, beating time
With foots, with iambs, carefully wrought
As ‘gainst the wiles of language fought
To tell a tale that pleased to sing
Because they had a rhyming ring.
So if you rhyme, why take offense?
The classics are your best defense.

Kick Fear in the Sack…

Three days of not writing is all it took to make it hard again. Well, not terribly hard. After all, here I am, writing and reading and commenting. The latter part helps more than I would have guessed; reading the works of the brilliant (and sometimes terrible) minds of the people I’ve stumbled across on this journey of habit formation is sometimes the very cure I need to my lethargy. I read your words, my friends, and weep. I read them and laugh. I read them and shout with excitement. I read them…and feel. Oh, so very much. And what is writing, what is reading, if not feeling?

A friend of mine, a fellow writer, mentioned that sometimes, she sits down to write, and wonders if it is worth it, if there aren’t better things she could be doing with her time. She also asked what excites us about writing, and what makes us scared. This was my reply:

Imagine if Hemingway had asked that. Or Tolkien. Or Rowling. The thing is, ALL writing is worth your time. Even if you were a terrible writer (which I doubt absolutely), the time you spent would not be wasted. I have read some terrible, awful fiction…and yet, it got published. And that terrible stuff inspires me to write. Maybe something less terrible. Maybe even something great, that will inspire and entertain, and maybe even teach someone a little. The point is, that wondering, that questioning of worth, is just another aspect of fear. Another way that fear is manipulating you and keeping you from doing what your heart wants. Kick fear in the sack. Write.

My moments of excitement are easy to define – they are the ones where I begin writing and become lost in the world of my imagination, when the words flow from my brain through my fingertips and onto the screen and I can say to myself “this is good stuff!” The moments of fear are less hard to define, as they can be so insidiously subtle. They are the moments where I am too tired to write (but not too tired to play a video game for several hours). They are the moments where I have a great idea, then sit down at the screen and stare at it blankly. They are the moments where I am a hundred pages into a work, then go back and read it and rip it all to shreds and start over. Fear sucks. Fear is, as Herbert so eloquently put it, the mind-killer. But when you conquer that fear? That is the best excitement of them all.

So that is my advice for today. The advice that I am going to take myself.

Kick fear in the sack.

Be excited.

WRITE!