Friday, July 20, 2012

How Long To Persevere

Do you ever put a book aside, deciding to stop reading it? At what point do you call it quits? What factors figure into your decision? 

I'm a writer; therefore, I'm an avid reader. Of course, much of what I read is within my primary genre, middle-grade fiction; a secondary genre, historical fiction; and books about the writer's craft.
       Now and then, I come across a book with which I have a hard time connecting. Perhaps the characters lack the depth needed to capture my interest or the premise is shallow or weak. The book may be very good, though, and simply not appeal to me. I made a pact with myself when I was in high school that I would read at least 100 pages before I quit a book. Usually, by that point I'm invested in the story and continue to the end. Usually. But not always.
       Do you ever put a book aside, deciding to stop reading it? At what point do you call it quits? What factors figure into your decision? I look forward to reading your comments.

What Am I Reading Now?

by Dr. K. P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia

Were it not for the message of hope through Jesus Christ woven through the pages of this book, it would be nearly impossible to read because of the heartrending content. No Longer a Slumdog is a small book but an important one that every Christ-follower should read. Click on Dr. Yohannan's name above and hear him discuss the book.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Quirky Writer's Kitchen: The Recipes!

Sour Milk Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour milk (or add a little lemon juice or cider vinegar to sweet milk)
2-1/2 cups unbleached flour
7 tablespoons cocoa (not Dutch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1 cup warm water
Cake: Cream together butter and sugar. Add 2 eggs, 1 cup sour milk (add 1 tbsp vinegar to milk, if you don't have sour milk or buttermilk), flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda. Mix till well blended. Pour in greased 9 x 13 pan. (I sprayed the pan with organic olive oil spray.) Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Test by touching top of cake; if it springs back, it's done. You can also insert a toothpick near the center, and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Caramel Butter Cream Frosting

Melt together 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup dark brown sugar. Bring to a boil and stir for about one minute. Add 1/4 cup. milk. Stir well and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, sift about 3-1/4 cups powdered sugar. Mix caramel mixture together with powdered sugar and beat well. Weather affects the frosting, so don't add all the powdered at once. Beat in each addition until you have it at a nice spreading consistency. This makes enough to frost two 8" layers, tops and sides, or one 9 x 13 pan. If you wish, you may sprinkle nuts on the top.

WARNING! Once you taste this simple frosting, you'll never be satisfied to just open a store-bought can again!

Now, I'm making some tea and cutting a square of this cake, and it's back to the keyboard for me to . . .

Write on!
Because of Christ,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Quirky Writer's Kitchen

When I discovered my milk was tainted, on its way to being all-out sour, I did what any red-blooded child of a mama who survived the Great Depression would do; I set it out on the counter to let it get good and tangy. Now I'm about to bake a genuine scratch Sour Milk Chocolate Cake. I'll slather it over with homemade caramel icing good enough to cut in squares and sell in any fine candy shop.
I'm beginning my third middle-grade novel, this one set in east-central Indiana during--you guessed it--the Depression. As I searched for the cake recipe, I got to thinking about how much the 1930s changed the way we cook. It certainly affected Mama's style. 

I was born post-WWII, but I know that much of what Mama cooked was the result of having lived through the dark decade in America's history. We were "economically challenged" throughout my youth. I guess the Depression hung on longer for some folks. My mama had a talent for making something delicious out of nothing. 

There's a wonderful little restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans that's famous for its bread pudding. It's good. Really good. But not better than Mama's. And the money I paid for one helping of that N'awleans treat was more than Mama had for a week's groceries. I loved Mama's bread pudding, but I just thought of it as something you do with old, stale bread.

Pies--vinegar (tastes like lemon pie), buttermilk, custard, and old-fashioned sugar cream--were among her specialties. Some of those predated the Depression, coming through the generations from our pioneer foremothers, but recipes that reflected the frugality of the times gained popularity after the stock market crashed.

Casserole recipes abounded during the 1930s, also. Homemakers could stretch a little meat to serve a family by mixing it with something rich in carbs--potatoes, macaroni, noodles/dumplings (homemade, of course), or rice. Toss in some leftover veggies and add a cream sauce of some kind. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and serve with bread. The wolf at the door was staved off one more night.

Back to my research. (After all, I must eat what my characters would eat.) The cake should be cool enough to cut in about three hours. Come on over, and I'll serve you a slab, along with some hazelnut coffee, fresh from the quirky writer's kitchen. Sound good?

Write on!
Because of Christ,

Postscript: Cake and frosting are delicious! Come back in a little while for the recipes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Review: HEALER

    Guest Reviewer: Danielle Dodge

It's a pleasure to welcome Danielle and her review. At fourteen, about to enter her freshman year, she already has several credentials. She has written two novellas, a novel, and several guest blogs. She also has placed in numerous writing competitions. Her goal is to write and traditionally publish YA that will "make a change in teen fiction."  

Healer: A Novel by Linda Windsor

Brides of Alba series

Copyright 2010 by Linda Windsor
Published by David C. Cook
384 pages
ISBN-10: 1434764788
 ISBN-13: 978-1434764782

Back cover copy: 
Sixth-century Scotland—in the time of Arthur….
“The Gowrys’ seed shall divide your mighty house and bring a peace beyond the ken of your wicked soul.”
Her mother’s dying prophecy to the chieftain Tarlach O’Byrne sentenced Brenna of Gowrys to twenty years of hiding. Twenty years of being hunted—by the O’Byrnes, who fear the prophecy, and by her kinsmen, who expect her to lead them against their oppressors. But Brenna is a trained and gifted healer, not a warrior queen. So she lives alone in the wilderness with only her pet wolf for company. When she rescues a man badly wounded from an ambush, she believes he may be the answer to her deep loneliness. Healing him comes as easy as loving him. But can their love overcome years of bitterness and greed…and bring peace and renewed faith to the shattered kingdom?

Danielle's Review:
This book is set in 6th century Scotland.  In Healer, Brenna of the clan of Gowrys lives in the hills, hiding from an enemy clan that hunts her because of her mother’s dying prophecy.  She knows many arts of healing and wants to use her gift to help people.  But she is also afraid to come out of hiding so she stays in her mountain cave with her wolf, Faol.
          Ronan of the clan of Glenarden is son to the madman chief, Tarlach.  Ronan knows well the prophecy of Joanna of Gowrys: that her daughter will split the clan of Glenarden.  Ronan searches for the daughter of Joanna – an alleged witch – every year.  But one year during the witch hunt, Ronan is attacked by an assassin.
          Brenna, who watches from the hills just above him, saves his life, takes him back to her cave, and nurses him back to health.  During that healing process, the two fall in love, get married, and Brenna comes back to Glenarden with Ronan.  But can the two warring clans of Glenarden and Gowrys come to peace with each other?  And can they find the would-be assassin before it’s too late?

          Linda Windsor has a very good writing style.  Her dialogue flows naturally and her description is good.  I can always see the story flowing through my mind.  She includes several Christian themes and melds them into the story.  But several parts of this book crossed the line in places for me.
          While Brenna and Ronan are together in the cave, they fall in love.  For a devout Christian, Brenna seemed to let her romantic fantasies run away with her too easily.  Because of the story, it was God’s plan that the two would later marry.  But Brenna had a dream of their intimacy before they were even engaged which is something I do not believe God would do.
          Brenna also slept right next to Ronan to be able to check on him during the night.  Being that close just to check on him seemed a bit unnecessary to me.
          There was an un-foreshadowed event that left me feeling like it was a bit too easy in the end.
          There is also some radical driving out of demons in two places in the story.  While that is realistic and things like that happen today, I would recommend this for more mature readers.  Not really a book for younger readers.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

HELP WANTED! Young Reviewers!

Only Kids Need Apply!

QUIRKY QUILL is my blog site geared to middle-graders and 'tweeners who read and write. It's a work of love in progress. At present, it features "Writer's Nudge" (a prompt to promote creative writing), "Fiction in Baby Bites" (a series of columns about the creative writing process), book reviews, and writer interviews (including some  with young scribes). 

I'll do some of the reviews, but I need help. Do you know some young readers? Let them know about QQ, and encourage them to submit a review. Visit QUIRKY QUILL for more details. Note that I don't want book reports. They get enough of that in school.