"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, November 17, 2013

And Now for Something Quite Different

If you've been with me for a bit, you've already met my friend, author and teacher, Matt Posner. Matt's latest venture is a non-fiction manual, written almost textbook style, entitled How to Write Dialogue. It's (obviously) aimed at writers of all levels who wish to sharpen their dialogue-writing skills, but I'll let Matt tell you a bit more about himself and his book.
Hi Laurie!

Thanks for hosting a sample from How to Write Dialogue, my technical manual for writers at all experience levels. This book offers prescriptions for good dialogue writing with plentiful and, I hope, entertaining examples, both those written by me, and those written by my bullpen of contributors including J.A. Beard, Cynthia Echterling, Marita A. Hansen, Junying Kirk, Stuart Land, Mysti Parker, Roquel Rodgers, Jess C. Scott, Chrystalla Thoma, Ey Wade, and Georgina Young-Ellis.

The book also has essays on dialogue by Tim Ellis and Jess C. Scott and numerous illustrations by fine artist Eric Henty.

Here's a selection from a part of the book called "Dialogue Provides Information."

See what you think of this next example.

Example 36 — Elinor and Marianne

"Mother is coming to visit me," said Elinor. "For a week."

"Really?" asked Marianne. "She hasn't come to stay with me in… what is it? Eight years?"

"Your house is crowded, with your two nephews in the guest room, that you took in when your husband's brother died. And the stray dog you adopted on one of your monthly trips to Perth Amboy."

"Do you really think that's why?" Marianne asked, setting down her coffee cup. "Don't you think there might be another reason?"

Elinor sighed. "Not again, Marianne. Puh-leeze, no more 'Mom loved you best.'"

"She said so."


"When we three all went to Newport News to settle Grandma's estate. Three years ago."

"And you still have her emerald brooch," Marianne complained.

"I do not."

"You do. And Mom said she preferred you."

"She was joking," said Elinor. "It was ironic. You two were cuddled up with a bowl of popcorn watching The Way We Were."

"That never happened!" Elinor was shocked.

"Yes it did!"

"No," Marianne sniffed. "We were watching The Bridges of Madison County."

This passage, my imitation of chick lit, seems to be about the two sisters quarreling over their mother's love, and really it is, with lots of conflict and characterization, but there's necessary exposition in the passage also. We learn about who lives in Marianne's house; that Marianne is married; that she travels to Perth Amboy; that Grandma is three years dead; that there is an emerald brooch in dispute. We also are alerted to Dad's apparent absence (he wasn't in Newport News).

Dialogue passages like this are a staple of fiction, and an alert reader recognizes one for what it is, the satisfaction of a technical requirement rather than an attempt at verisimilitude. However, if you add enough positives to dialogue like this, your reader will probably not mind.

The technical action in this case is to have the characters remind each other of what they have done in the past. It can be accomplished in a number of ways.

1) Have the characters narrate their past actions during a conversation, resulting in a short in-character summary rather than a fully developed scene.

2) Have characters who are getting to know each other relate stories of their pasts.

3) Have one character tell a second character information about a third character, who may or may not be present to react.

4) Have characters argue over past action and narrate prior events as components of the argument. (This is what I did in the previous example.)

Note that people's versions of events are not entirely trustworthy, and people may well dispute each other's accounts of the past.
Matt Posner is a New York City teacher and a writer of fiction and nonfiction. The author of the acclaimed ongoing young adult fantasy series School of the Ages and co-author of the top-selling advice book Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships, Matt lives in New York City with his wife Julie. Matt is also a member of Bernard Schaffer's Kindle All-Stars and maintains a growing series of interviews with writers at his website http://schooloftheages.webs.com. Matt has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

How to Write Dialogue is Matt's sixth full-length book.

Links: http://schooloftheages.webs.com



This book: 




Happy Writing!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oh Gosh, I Hate Peas

How many times have I uttered those words? I dislike peas so strongly that I will go to to great lengths to avoid having them even sit near my plate. To this day, the face I make when it's even suggested I may ingest a pea, is the same one any child makes when they encounter a food they don't like. It's there before I can stop it, like a nervous tic.

BUT, I will try anything once.

That's how I discovered that maybe these southern folk are on to something with this whole pea salad thing. Anyhow, I thought you would all like my take on this dish I didn't even know existed until about a month or two ago.

You see, my landlady invited me to join her and her family for a birthday party. As usual, I offered my assistance as soon as I arrived. She asked me to peel and chop the hard boiled eggs for the pea salad. I thought I heard her wrong, but I did as I was told. I peeled and chopped the eggs, then went back to her and asked what she wanted me to do with them.

She said, "just dump them in and stir it up, Darlin'. Everythin' else is already in there."

"Dump them in where?"

"That bowl right there next to you."

To my left, sat a medium-sized mixing bowl with this concoction of peas, onion, and mayonnaise that was simply waiting for me to dump in the eggs. So I dropped them in, gave it all a stir, and grabbed a spoon so I could have a taste. (I did tell you I'll try anything once, right?)

I fell so in love with this one that I demanded the recipe, then I proceeded to play with it in my own kitchen until I had a version I could call my own.

And to all you whole/raw food freaks out there: yes, I began with canned peas because Miss Debbie and her entire family use canned peas.

I like the Green Giant sweet peas for this one because they're sweet, firm, and fresh.
Use the best here, because most of your flavor is from the peas you choose.

Almost Miss Debbie's Pea Salad

2 (15 oz.) cans of peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion
2-3 strips of bacon, cooked until crispy then crumbled
3 hard cooked large eggs, peeled and chopped
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 c or so* plain Greek yogurt
1/8 t dill
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover, and chill
Serve cold

*This is that ingredient you eyeball, just like for any other salad of this type (macaroni, potato, tuna, egg, chicken, etc.).
I still hate peas, just not as much as I used to.

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What Do You Mean You've Never Had Eggplant!?

Those were the exact words that flew from my lips when my landlady's daughter told me she was looking forward to my latest culinary experiment. I mean, I realize we're in the southwest, but seriously. This is still America! You've got the Olive Garden!

Turns out, her mother had never tried eggplant either. Well, that sealed the deal. By golly, there would be eggplant lasagna in their collective future. Even if they hated it, I would ensure they would at least have the opportunity to try eggplant in the near future. After all, it was in season; it was on sale (crazy cheap, which means, as usual, I bought way too much); and I was craving it.

Now, for those of you in the know, eggplant lasagna is basically just a variation of eggplant parmigiana. And, if you've been following along, you'll recognize that the components of the recipe are pretty much the same as those for my spaghetti (squash) pie from a few weeks back. So here's a tip: make both the same week (or day even) and freeze one to have later. Better yet, double both recipes and freeze one of each.

A lot of good Italian cooking is simply variations on a few good themes. In this case, a sauce bolognese and a cheese mixture with eggs used as a binder. The major difference between this recipe and most other lasagnas of any type is that the eggplant is not just part of the show; it's the star. I'm leaving the noodles out because I really shouldn't be having the wheat.

Knowing that, make sure when shopping for your ingredients, you invest in the best you can afford. This is especially true, always, when purchasing things like olive oil. So here we go . . .
Before you begin

Slice your eggplant lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices and lay it out on oiled and/or lined cookie sheets. Bake it for about 4-5 minutes on each side at 425 (f) and hold it aside.

There's really no need to season it because it's got such good flavor on its own and it's a substitution for noodles which tend to suck the flavor out of a dish.
Noodle-Free Lasagna

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
24 oz. tomato sauce*

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. ricotta
1 c. grated or shredded parmesan, divided
10 oz. (about 2 1/2 c.) shredded mozzarella, divided
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

enough eggplant prepared as above to make 3 layers in your baking pan

Saute beef and onion until meat is just cooked through and onion becomes translucent.
Add garlic and Italian seasoning and cook about two minutes more.
Drain and return to pan.
Add sauce and bring to boil.
Lower heat and allow to simmer for about five minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine egg, ricotta, 1/2 c. parmesan, 8 oz. mozzarella, and seasonings.

Lightly oil a 9x12x2" or 9x13x2" baking dish with olive oil.
Pour a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of the pan.
Layer in eggplant**, then 1/2 of cheese mixture, then 1/3 of sauce.
Add a last layer of eggplant** and top with the last 1/3 of sauce.
Sprinkle top with reserved cheeses.
Bake in a 400 degree oven until heated through and top is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes (sauce will bubble, but test center).
Let stand about 10-15 minutes before serving.
*You can use your favorite canned/jarred spaghetti sauce, plain tomato sauce, or your own secret family recipe. It's up to you. Remember, it's your kitchen.
**When you lay out your layers of eggplant, alternate the direction of the layers so it doesn't completely come apart when you slice into it.

Use sliced or crumbled Italian sausage instead of ground meat.
Go vegetarian (but not vegan) by substituting mushrooms instead of meat.
If you prefer meatballs, saute them in the pan, then in the sauce, just as you would with the ground beef, but reserve them and serve them on the side.
Use zucchini or yellow squash, prepared the same way as the eggplant for a light, summer dish instead of a hearty, winter meal.
When I double a recipe like this, I like to put it in those disposable plastic baking pans so I can just put one in the freezer. You can assemble it and freeze it, then take it out another time and throw it in the oven. It will take a full day (sometimes longer) in the fridge to defrost.

Happy Cooking!