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#amwriting: Sturm und Drang

hp-touchsmart-320-1030-full-setMy main, desktop computer died on Saturday. It’s been limping along for a while. We had into the shop about six months ago, and should have known then it was terminal. The thing is, while I love Sturm und Drang in my literature, I prefer my electronic life to be stress-free.

Limping along on my ancient, half-functional laptop, I can get by well enough to write the odd blogpost or work on my own work. But the screen is too small for me to use to edit for a client. Also, I can’t do any work requiring Photoshop, as that program is on my dead dinosaur.

I have my headphones on and the laptop strategically positioned, so it blocks the 50-inch technological disaster that is our TV and which seems to take up an entire wall. It also needs replacing as a series of vertical lines obscures the view on part of the screen but I doubt that will happen this year–TV is not that important. Music is mostly my form of entertainment.

Greg’s laptop is older than this one, although he is keeping it alive. All our technology is older than dirt. So, after I finish writing this blogpost, we are going shopping and two new machines will come to our house.

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1818

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1818 PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s talk about Sturm und Drang. The English translation is literally, Storm and stress.

Google defines it as: a literary and artistic movement in Germany in the late 18th century, influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and characterized by the expression of emotional unrest and a rejection of neoclassical literary norms.

What does this mean in simpler terms?

Sturm und Drang as a literary form evolved during the time of the American Revolutionary War, which a period of global unrest and great hardship, especially in Europe. The main feature is the expression of high emotions, strong reactions to events, and often, rebellion against rationalism. It is characterized by violent individualism and complex emotions. Literature and music written in this style were aimed at shocking the audience and infusing them with extremes of emotion.

Classical literature in this style began in 1772 with “Prometheus,” a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in which the character of the mythic Prometheus addresses God (as Zeus) in misotheistic accusation and defiance. Misotheism is the hatred of God, or the Gods, in literature described as stemming from a moment in a person’s life where one feels the gods have abused and abandoned him. Misotheism requires a firm belief in a God or Gods.

Again, Wikipedia tells us this: Prometheus is the creative and rebellious spirit which, rejected by God, angrily defies him and asserts itself; Ganymede is the boyish self which is adored and seduced by God. One is the lone defiant, the other the yielding acolyte. As the humanist poet, Goethe presents both identities as aspects or forms of the human condition.

Modern genre and indie literature using this style can be found as an underlying trope in Cyberpunk.

Wikipedia defines Cyberpunk as: a subgenre of science fiction in a future setting that tends to focus on the society of the proverbial “high tech low life[1][2] featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as information technology and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.[3]

DoAndroidsDreamIt is exemplified by post-industrial dystopias that tend to feature wide divisions in the social order and extreme chaos in society. Protagonists acquire and make use of technology in ways never anticipated by its original inventors (“the street finds its own uses for things”).  Much of the genre’s atmosphere is heavily film noir, and  employs techniques and style reminiscent of detective fiction.

The difference between classical Sturm und Drang and modern Cyberpunk is Technology and Industry are the Gods whose knowledge the mortals desire, and whom they seek to replace. All aspects of Sturm und Drang can be found in Cyberpunk.

Cyberpunk began as a niche rebellion by authors like Phillip K. Dick, and is now mainstreamed and growing in popularity.

Authors writing in the early days of speculative fiction were Indies who were finding success getting short stories published in popular sci-fi magazines, and who were fortunate enough to have some farsighted editors take chances with publishing their longer work. They formed publishing companies and became giants. That opportunity will always be out there.

Indie authors have a great deal of latitude in their choice of what to write, as we can write and publish edgy work that would be deemed too chancy by traditional publishers. Authors always engage in artistic rebellion, and society always appreciates it—years afterward.

And tonight, I will continue my artistic rebellion while getting my new computing thing, whatever it shall be, up and running.

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Filed under Fantasy, Literature, Uncategorized, writing

#amwriting: holding indies to a higher standard

Hamlet Poster Benedict CumberbatchI haven’t been able to read as much lately as I normally do and I miss it. However, time spent editing for clients and then trying to write has seriously cut into my ability to read. When I am editing for a client, I can’t disengage my mind from that mindset, which means I have a terrible time reading for pleasure. In fact, I haven’t written a book review in months. Lately, I am lucky to read two or three pages before falling out of the book. Thus I have been reading poetry and resorting to audio books.

When I am in an editing mindset, I notice things a casual reader might not, and I can’t just enjoy the book. And I am not talking indies here—I mean books published by the Big 5 traditional publishers. I keep finding things they could have phrased more actively, or should possibly have cut. These are things an average reader will never notice, and are examples of why authors must have a thick skin.

Typos and editing mistakes are pretty much taken for granted when left in mass-market paperbacks by the Big 5 Publishers, but woe to the indie who neglects to notice a repeated ‘and’ or any other editing error. Also, the Big 5 publishers are allowed to take questionable chances with “style,” such as Alexander Chee did when writing The Queen of the Night, allowing lazy habits we indies could never get away with.

I was unable to actually read the book, as it must have been too tiring for him to use closed quotations to indicate dialogue. The reader has no idea someone is speaking until they’re halfway through a conversation, and have to re-read it. I loved what I could read of it, so I had to resort to the audio book, which was the only way I could get through it.

As an editor, it’s incomprehensible to me why an editor for a large publisher would accept a manuscript that is as annoying as that one flaw makes this otherwise remarkable book.

It is also proof that large publishers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in this case) are just as guilty as indies when it comes to making strange decisions that can negatively affect sales. They may have done this to elevate it to a “status” read, a must-buy literary name-dropper for those who wish to appear fashionably cultured. If so, it’s a disservice to work that is brilliant despite a flaw that would be fatal if it were to appear in an Indie author’s work.

However, though we can’t take avant garde chances with style, indies DO get to take chances with content, writing and publishing stories that traditionally published authors most likely wouldn’t be allowed to do. If a book might not sell, it won’t be published by a large publisher, because that is what they are in the business to do. However, once an indie has a best seller with a plot the Big 5 would deem sure to fail, traditional publishers will leap on it and the market will soon be glutted. (Can you say Fifty Shades of Grey?)

George R.R.Martin bormatting issue 1 via book blog page views, margaret ebySometimes the errors and flaws in the work sold by the traditional publishing houses are hilarious, as we saw in the first Kindle edition of George R.R.Martin’s A Feast For Crows. That was a formatting error, not an error on Martin’s part, so some poor intern probably got raked over the coals for it, as the book had to be pulled, reformatted, and republished as quickly as possible.

The thing is, errors do creep into even the most carefully examined texts and manuscripts. Usually, no one dies from it, but sometimes there are consequences, as in the case of the infamous Wicked Bible. The publishers paid a hefty price: Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers in London, were fined £300 (£43,586 as of 2015) and deprived of their printing license.

Indies are held to a far more rigid code by most readers than the traditional publishers are because the internet is rife with disparaging rhetoric pointing the finger at us. And while the Big 5 traditional publishers are just as guilty of rushing-to-publish unreadable crap, the truth is, many new self-published authors haven’t yet gotten the hang of the publishing business, and often their books are rife with things they will later wish they hadn’t been so eager to publish.

Having learned my own lessons the hard way, I have made changes in how I review my own work. Besides working closely with a professional editor, I now have a solid group of friends who comb my completed manuscripts for errors and gross cut-and-paste errors. We can only hope we have caught them all. When you are an indie, it takes a village to help you get your book fit for the public to read.

Anyway—my editor’s hat is firmly on my head these days, and that means I can’t enjoy casual reading for a while more. This mindset slows my own writing output to nearly nothing because I am stupidly self-editing instead of just letting the words flow.

When I am editing I am looking for all varieties of mistakes–not just structural, grammatical, and glaring punctuation errors. I am also looking for things that will interfere with formatting the final manuscript for upload to Kindle or Smashwords, and I hope I find them all for my client, but it makes writing my own work challenging.

joyce corrections on his msAs an editor, I do my best. But, nothing is ever sure, and I won’t see the manuscript after I send my client the final suggested corrections. Mistakes can be made right up to the last minute while the client is making those adjustments, so someone else will have to proof-read her work.

Remember, you, as the author, have the responsibility for the final eye on your manuscript. So when my client has finished making revisions, she will have her posse check the manuscript over for the slings and arrows of publishing fate.

I will be done with my current editing project soon, and I plan to take a break from editing for a short while when that happens. Then I will let my mindset slide back into the joy-of-reading mode. I look forward to resting my editorial mind and over-indulging in the work of my many favorite authors.

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Filed under Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writing

#flashfictionfriday: Beyond Ecola’s Door

Heaven lies beyond the hills, beside the Tillamook Head.

At Ecola’s door, where the river finds the sea,

Where east meets west and seabirds nest, my feet are often led.

 

Gray waves pound the stony cliffs, stout and standing tall

Rock is strong and water soft,  yet crumbling ‘neath the waves.

Winter’s wrath of wind and surge slowly grinds them small.

 

And out to sea a lighthouse stands beyond the Tillamook Head

No keepers shelter ‘neath her lamp, Tilly stands alone,

Guarded by the white-winged birds, and ashes of the dead.

 

Black rock rises from the waves, beyond Ecola’s door

I long to be at river’s edge, where Ecola meets the sea

And soon and soon, I’ll walk the sand, along the wild shore.

horses on the beach, Cannon Beach, Oregon by C.J. Jasperson 8-13-2014


Beyond Ecola’s Door, © Connie J. Jasperson 2016

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Politics, Uncategorized

#FlashficFriday: Talisman (and events you won’t want to miss)

 Albert Bierstadt - Autumn Landscape PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

Talisman 

A humming bird

A peaceful garden

The evening sun lingers

Red, golden, unwilling to set

 

Time seems to stop

This moment

Will be

A talisman

 

Hanging in my heart

Warming me

When winter’s fist

Is closed.

Leaf_Border_clip_art_hight

EVENTS AND NEW RELEASES

authors-240x300Tonight, December 4, 2015 I will be signing books in Chehalis, Washington, at the Lewis County Historical Museum’s 5th Annual Evening with the Authors,  from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. 

Besides me, participating authors include Sandi Crowell, Jan Pierson, Mary Stone, Karen Frazier, Jake Blake, Roy Wilson, Buddy Rose, Julie McDonald Zander, Jennifer Shaw Wolf, Lisa Burnett, Michael Hurley, and many others.

This event will feature many genres of books from local history, fiction, non-fiction, inspirational, and children’s books.

Shakespeare goes punk 2Also–on Saturday December 5 my friends at Writerpunk Press will celebrated the release their second charity anthology, with all profits going to benefit PAWS animal rescue and shelter in Lynwood, WA. If you are on Facebook, please come help celebrate the release of Once More Unto the Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk, vol. IIfollow up to Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk with them.

The link for the Facebook event is: Release Party for Once More Unto the Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk 2

The Blurb:

Welcome to the world of Shakespeare Goes Punk, where the Bard is remixed and nothing is sacred. Our fearless writers are back by popular demand to give you a ride on the punk train.
Five punked-up tales and three sonnets inspired by Shakespeare. All profits to charity.
As You Like It
The Tragedy of Livingston (Coriolanus)
Blast the Past: Fae and Far Between (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Dogs of War (Julius Caesar)
Hank (Henry V)
Clockpunk Sonnets (18, 105, 127)

Sounds like an intriguing mix of creativity! Along the way, there’ll be some great authors and contributors, some giveaways, and some fun people talking about the Writerpunk project. I will also be participating from 12:00 to 1:00 PST and giving away signed copies of Huw the Bard and Tower of Bones to some lucky winner.


Talisman, free verse  © Connie J. Jasperson 2015 All Rights Reserved

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#EveningWithTheAuthors: Upcoming events and new releases

AsylumNIWA (Northwest Independent Writers Association) has published their second anthology, ASYLUM: a collection of short fiction. 

But first, the blurb:

A religious refugee fleeing for his life in his own country. A trickster asking an enemy for safe haven. A horrific visit to a psychiatric ward overrun by its charges. An unexplained theft from a biomedical lab. The last known survivor of a mysterious plague. A wormhole to the most peaceful and secret place in the world. A detective on the trail of a human trafficker.

What does asylum mean to you?

In the 2015 anthology collection from the Northwest Independent Writers Association, seventeen authors explore the obvious and hidden meanings of this theme—from a werewolf on a mission and self-sacrifice in a post-apocalyptic world, to shadowy wizardry, a questing knight, and a gentle prison for geniuses.

Featuring stories by:
Jeffrey Cook • William Cook • Pamela Cowan • Jonathan Ems • Ginger Dawn Harman • Connie J. Jasperson • Madison Keller • Cody Newton • E.M. Prazeman • Katherine Perkins • Dey Rivers • Walt Socha • D.L. Solum • Laurel Standley • Rebecca Stefoff • Jennifer Willis • Matthew Wilson

The Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA) supports indie and hybrid authors and promotes professional standards in independent writing, publishing, and marketing. Learn more at NIWAwriters.net.

One of my short works, Billy Ninefingers: Fairybothering, has been included in this collection of terrific short stories. Huw the Bard makes an appearance, but the real story revolves around Billy Ninefingers, the Rowdies, and the fundamental idea of asylum–the concept around which the town of Limpwater has grown. The Fat Friar, Robert DeBolt, pushes Billy to widen his horizons and take on a bad job in this wandering tale of snark and strange majik.

>>><<<

Shakespeare goes punk 2Also–my friends at Writerpunk Press are about to release their second charity anthology, with all profits going to benefit PAWS animal rescue and shelter in Lynwood, WA. If you are on Facebook, please come help celebrate the release of Once More Unto the Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk, vol. II, follow up to Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk with them.

The link for the Facebook event is: Release Party for Once More Unto the Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk 2

The Blurb:

Welcome to the world of Shakespeare Goes Punk, where the Bard is remixed and nothing is sacred. Our fearless writers are back by popular demand to give you a ride on the punk train.
Five punked-up tales and three sonnets inspired by Shakespeare. All profits to charity.
As You Like It
The Tragedy of Livingston (Coriolanus)
Blast the Past: Fae and Far Between (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Dogs of War (Julius Caesar)
Hank (Henry V)
Clockpunk Sonnets (18, 105, 127)

Sounds intriguing! Along the way, there’ll be some great authors and contributors, some giveaways, and some fun people talking about the Writerpunk project.

>><<<

authors-240x300And last but not least–I will be signing books in Chehalis, Washington, at the Lewis County Historical Museum’s 5th Annual Evening with the Authors, on Friday, December 4th, 2015 from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. 

Besides me, participating authors include Sandi Crowell, Jan Pierson, Mary Stone, Karen Frazier, Jake Blake, Roy Wilson, Buddy Rose, Julie McDonald Zander, Jennifer Shaw Wolf, Lisa Burnett, Michael Hurley, and many others.

This event will feature many genres of books from local history, fiction, non-fiction, inspirational, and children’s books.

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Filed under Books, Publishing, Uncategorized, writing

#amwriting: Taking the #NaNoWriMo novel to the next level

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-SquareYou took a leap of faith. You’d had this idea for a novel rolling around in your head for years. Someone told you about Nation Novel Writing Month, and on the spur of the moment you joined.

Then you were committed. Every day, no matter what disaster was occurring on the home-front, you sat down and wrote at least 1,667 words.  Some days it was hard, the words just weren’t there. But you persevered and some days you were on fire–everything flowed. Your story took you places that amazed you.

Now it’s November 30th and you have your 50,000 word manuscript, and the all-important winner’s certificate from NaNoWriMo dot org!

But now you don’t know what to do next.  Whatever you do, DON’T SHOW IT TO YOUR ADORING FANS JUST YET. This is not the time to ask for feedback unless you want to be lied to. They’ll look at you with a possum-in-the-headlights smile, and say “Wow…this is really…different.”

What they’re really thinking is, “Holy s**t. This disjointed, hokey mess sucks.” That friend will poke needles in their eyes before they read another piece of your work again.

What you must do is put it in a drawer for a month or two. Write some short stories, or start a new novel. You have to step back from this in order to see what need to be done with it, and you can’t do that right now. SO–in January or February:

First let’s talk about that manuscript.

When you were writing it, you were concerned about increasing your word-count. Someone told you not to use contractions, as the word ‘doesn’t’ counts as one word while ‘does not’ is two. Foolishly, you did just that.

LIRF Global Search all steps

Global Search Print-Screen

Now you must go through and make that awkward, stilted phrasing into contractions. Do a global search:

  1. press control+F
  2. type the word you are looking for in the search box
  3. click on options
  4. click on replace
  5. in the ‘replace with’ box type the word you want to replace the wrong word with
  6. DO NOT replace all. Go to each instance of the words individually and replace them after you have seen the context of the sentence they are in.

Second, let’s look at how we are telling the story. In the rush of the first draft, of getting all our thoughts about the story-line down, we use a kind of mental shorthand and write things like:

Erving was furious.

Martha was discouraged.

Readers don’t want to be told how the characters felt—they want to see.  When you come across this in your first draft, now is the time to follow those road signs and expand on the scene a little. Instead of telling the reader that Martha was furious, you will show this emotion.

Martha stamped her foot.

Erving’s face went white, his body shook with rage.

When you go back through your manuscript, change each ‘telling scene’ to a ‘showing scene.’ When you show the reader the emotions it deepens the story and enables the reader to be involved.

Dialogue

Third: too many dialog tags. When only two characters are in a scene readers should be able to keep track of speaker ID with ease. In those situations, speech tags are rarely, if ever, needed.

Instead of using a speech tag, consider inserting an action beat (a burst of action) before a line of dialogue. This identifies the speaker and offers opportunities for you to deepen character chemistry, conflict, and emotions.

Annie felt something trickling down her cheek. She wiped it, and her hand came away with blood. Her companion was covered with gore, but at least he was in one piece. “John, are you okay?”

 “Of course.”

 She reached toward his shoulder, toward the torn shirt, the ugly gash—but something held her back. “Your arm. I thought maybe ….”

 “You thought it was bad.” 

 The look in his eyes forced her to glance away. “Well, yes. But if you say you’re okay….” Her face burned.

John bent down, digging around in the medical kit, hiding his grin. His thoughts ran wild, but he said only, “Let’s get ourselves doctored up. We’ve a long way to go.”

Replace those empty speech tags with an emotion-infused narrative. However you must remember that the reader needs to have clear direction as to who is speaking to whom, otherwise you will lose them. Don’t make more than a few exchanges without dialogue tags, and make those you do use simple. Said, replied–we really don’t need to get fancy.

dump no infoFourth: Too Much Information. This is my personal bugaboo. As I am writing I spill my guts and write all the background as I am thinking it. The reader doesn’t need to know everything up front. These passages are really notes telling me as the author what direction this tale is supposed to go.

My beta readers always tell me the reader doesn’t want to read the history of the world–they want to get to the action. THEY ARE RIGHT!

Fifth: Make sure you have a good story arc:

  1. Exposition, where we introduce our characters and their situation.
  2. Rising Action, where we introduce complications for the protagonist
  3. Climax, the high point of the action, the turning point of the narrative
  4. Falling Action, the regrouping and unfolding of events that will lead to the conclusion
  5. Resolution, in which the problems encountered by the protagonist are resolved, providing closure for the reader.

The Story Arc

SO before we show this novel to anyone, we have a lot of work to do.

  1. Check for contractions
  2. Check for scenes that are telling and not showing
  3. Take a look at the dialogue tags and make action speak for you.
  4. Carve back the info dumps–keep what moves the story along and save the rest in a separate file.
  5. Make sure you have a good story arc.

Let this nano novel rest for several months before you do anything with it. Start a different novel, and come back to this one later. When you look at that original first draft with fresh eyes and begin looking for these things, you will be amazed at how well your novel will begin to come together. During this rewrite, your characters will grow and develop, and your plot will really begin to move along. This is when you really write your novel.

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Vegans #GiveThanks too: The Famdamily Feast

1024px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Peasant_Dance_-_1526-1530 to 1569I make no secret that I am vegan. It confuses my friends, and my family tolerates it. They worry what to feed me. I always say, “Vegetables.”

I like food that is
– made with Non GMO ingredients
– 100% meat and dairy free (vegan) made from ingredients with words I understand and can pronounce.

I don’t really care for the traditional vegan staple, the Tofurkey roast, although many vegans do enjoy that particular product. I LOVE Tofurkey brand’s tempeh products, and use them all the time.  I even like their 100% meat free hot dogs.

Field Roast celebrations roastI prefer Field Roast products, when it comes to getting my protein in a vegetable form. Thus, while I am roasting an actual organic, free-range turkey for my sadly carnivorous family, I will also make myself a Field Roast brand Celebration roast, with a cranberry glaze.

All of the traditional side dishes will be there but they will have no animal product in them–and there will be no  lack of Thanksgiving flavor at my table!

I will make the traditional sweet-potatoes, using Dandies vegan marshmallows.

There will be chips and salsa and guacamole, and  tea-bread and  chocolate chip cookies. No one but me will know they are vegan, because there are many great recipes that don’t require butter or eggs.

I will make mashed potatoes, using Earth Balance margarine (100% vegan, has no lactose in it) and almond milk:

  • 5 to 6 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp vegan margarine optional
  • 1 cup Almond milk, warmed (rice milk if allergic to nuts)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

My mashed potatoes will pass the taste test–Courtney, the pickiest eater ever, will love them.

I will make Balsamic Roasted Vegetables with this glaze:

1/3 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

homemade croutons image © connie jasperson

homemade croutons

I will also make a tasty Vegan Stuffing, using croutons made from homemade bread: Made like garlic bread, cubed, and seasoned with my own poultry seasoning. Baked at 350 for 25 minutes, stir half way through.

  • 10 cups 1/2 inch bread cubes from 1 lb firm wh wheat or other sandwich bread
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic (2 – 3 cloves)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1+1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaf
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 – 3 cups vegetable stock OR 3 c. water + veggie BetterThanBoullion to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large shallow casserole dish

  1. Toast bread cubes in a large baking sheet in the oven until golden brown. Set aside in a large bowl
  2. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Sauté onions, garlic, and celery until soft
  4. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the veggie mixture to the bowl of bread crumbs
  5. Add parsley, sage, thyme, optional salt, and pepper
  6. Optional: Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil into the mixture
  7. Stir until until everything is well mixed
  8. Add 2 cups vegetable stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Add more stock as needed so that the mixture is moist and clumping together, but not soggy
  9. Bake in a covered shallow casserole or baking dish for 25 minutes
  10. Optional: Uncover and bake another 15 minutes to form a crusty top
onion and mushroom gravy

picture via google images

But the best part will be the ONION AND MUSHROOM GRAVY

  • 3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme and marjoram)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, melt the vegan margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Sauté for just a minute or two over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.
  3. Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.

And–there will be pumpkin pie and cherry pie, with coconut whipped cream, all made with all-vegetable ingredients.

Vegan pumpkin pie–for the recipe, click here: Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

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Filed under Humor, Publishing, Uncategorized, writing

#amwriting: creating lean but descriptive prose

wordsSome work is written so starkly it may as well be a phone-book. This tells me that author X has really taken to heart the much-bandied, amateurish idea of no adverbs and adjectives, ever.

That concept is flawed.

It is true that when we carve away unneeded modifiers, we move from telling the story to showing it, which is the goal of every author. But the key here is the word ‘unneeded.’

Some modification of your verbs and nouns is necessary, or you have a ‘Dick and Jane” novel.

See Jane. See Jane run.

Even if the concept for the plot has some merit, a stark, completely bare-bones approach won’t make it worth reading. The idea behind the novel might intrigue me, and I could be curious as to where the author is going with the idea.  But despite being curious, if I don’t enjoy reading the narrative I won’t finish it.

gibberish-american businesses onlineWe all know fluffed-up prose (A.K.A. ‘purple’ prose) is daunting and hides the action, but don’t let a knee-jerk reaction to a bad beta-read by an armchair critic make you go the route of completely eliminating modifiers and descriptors. A well-written narrative is sparing with descriptors and modifiers, this is true—but modifiers and descriptors do exist within every good narrative and are there for a reason.

Sometimes a thought requires a little description: An old man carries his groceries home in a snowstorm, fearing he will slip and fall. This idea could be told several ways, and here are two, off the top of my head, one less wordy than the other. Both use modifiers and descriptors:

Snow fell softly. Holding a bag of groceries, he gazed at the stairs leading from the walk to the front door, fearing a layer of ice lurked beneath the pristine whiteness.

He gazed at the icy stairs leading from the un-shoveled walk to the front door, his bag of groceries growing heavier.

There is a reason that descriptors and modifiers exist in the English language. They add flavor, spicing up a flat wall of words.  Just like salt in the soup, too much is too much and too little is not enough.  We are looking for that happy medium where the prose flows in such a way that the reader forgets they are reading and lives the story.

I read a lot of work that begins with a great concept, but has no substance. If only the author had been had been brave enough to tell a good story these novels could have been great. Instead I was given a laundry list of characters acting and reacting to events with no passion or emotion.

It could have meant something to me as a reader, but it didn’t.

Good prose requires choosing words that convey your ideas in the least amount of space. Modifiers and descriptors do that for us, but need to be chosen carefully, and used only when nothing else will do.

i read because memeIf you are writing a novel you want the reader to live your story and react to the ideas and emotions that you are conveying instead of stumbling over limpid pools of velvet blue eyes or falling flatly into skeletal accounts of boredom. It’s our task to find the middle ground that exists between purple prose and lack of soul.

We want to get the reader immersed in the story, and make them forget the real world for a short time. As a reader, I love it when that happens.

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#Flashfic: Metamorphosis

MetaMorphosis cover for WattPad copyYrena Rozhenko ran, not knowing if she was headed into something worse.  It didn’t matter—the transformation had begun and she couldn’t seem to halt it. One way or the other she had to get away from Benton.

The sounds of distant pursuit penetrated to her newly-altered hearing, spurring her on.

She took to the foliage. The shade and mottled light of the strange underbrush eased the pain in her eyes, dimming the glare. She raised her hand to her face, wondering why it felt so bruised. Hard nobs had begun to form above her eyebrows, turning them in ridges. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the scales forming on her hands and long, deadly-looking talons where neatly manicured fingernails once had been.

What’s happening to me? We ate nothing and drank no water from this world. We touched nothing ungloved. Could it be the air?

Their mission was over. In the UFA records, they would be officially listed as MIA, something that happened frequently on first exploration missions. Benton had murdered Jackson. Jenner was either dead or in hiding, and she…she was changing into some…thing.

Was she going to die next? Benton’s fear and loathing of anything different made him…the only word she could think of was evil.

Why had he not begun to change? The answer came from all around her, from the forest. I was waiting for you. He is not worthy.

She heard Benton softly call her name, a sing-song taunt. “Rozhenko…come out, come out, wherever you are….”

What could she do? With those talons on her hands she wouldn’t be able to return to the ship, even if she could make it to the lander. Besides, she couldn’t leave without knowing if Jenner was alive, and if he was, she wouldn’t leave him behind.

And even if she made to the ship, what then? She knew the change was happening to her on a genetic level, as if this planet had claimed her. Something told her it was irreversible.

Gods, her back ached.  Her shoulder blades, her tailbone were like points of…gah! Whatever. She had to ignore it and get deeper into the brush.

Jackson had begun to change the first night. By dawn he’d transitioned into something…else.

The others had discussed his condition, deciding to take him back to Lodestar Station where the medical team was, despite it being a ten-day journey and meaning the end of their mission. They would have to declare Sirius C a class N Biohazard planet, meaning the established ecology was too dangerous for human settlement.

Benton had been the lone holdout, shouting they had to destroy Jackson before he destroyed them. “He’s a killer. Look at those claws—he’s not human anymore!”

When Yrena and Jenner shouted him down, he had walked up behind Jackson and shot him in cold blood, with no further conversation or discussion, murdering the man who’d been their commander with no qualm or shame.

He’d been proud that he’d done so and now claimed Jackson’s position as expedition leader.

Jenner had begun to change right after Benton murdered their commander, but he’d vanished while Yrena was in the shuttle sending the message detailing the hazard and Benton’s mutiny.

Yrena feared that Benton had killed Jenner while she was busy, but if he had, the body was nowhere to be found.

Benton had shown his true colors. He’d always bragged that he had what it took to rise to the top. He was a capable enough navigator and a solid geologist, but he’d never understood finesse or compassion. How he’d been put on their team in the first place, she didn’t know, but he’d been nothing but a sour pain in the…ass.

She suppressed a groan. Even her ass ached. She was afraid to reach back there and see why.

Some new instinct told her to get off the ground, that safety was in the tree-tops. Yrena’s new talons made excellent assists for rapid tree climbing. Perched high in the canopy and hidden by the triangular, golden leaves, she watched as Benton combed the forest floor, not even thinking to look up.

She had burst out of her shipsuit, which was now nothing but shreds. Carefully she balled it up and hid it in the hollow of the tree. She could nest there if she had to.

What was she thinking? She had to get back to…what was that? A glint of gold caught her eye. A gold-mottled form was perched on a branch near her, one sharp-taloned finger held to his scaly lips for silence. Relief swept through her—Jenner had completed the transformation.

She was not alone.

Benton passed under their tree. Yrena clung tightly to the trunk, remaining perfectly still. She needed a few more hours to complete the transformation, but if he looked up, she would never know what she was transforming into, never again know love or laughter or….

A flash of golden wings…Benton’s sudden strangled cry….

Yrena looked down and saw Benton’s bloody form lying in several pieces.

Jenner flew back up to perch beside her.  She let go of the trunk and went to sit beside him, their arms going around each other.

They had been colleagues but she’d not really known him well. He was all she had now.

The setting sun cast a ray that glanced off the abandoned shuttle. Above the forest, stars began to come out and a tiny star passed overhead. Once it had been a research vessel, but now it was an abandoned hulk ending its days as a small star in a new sky.


Metamorphosis © Connie J. Jasperson 2015  All Rights Reserved

Metamorphosis was first published July 10, 2015 on Edgewise Words Inn under the title “Transfiguration”

It was republished on Oct. 18, 2015 on WattPad under the title “Metamorphosis”

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#amwriting: consider the weather

81UuqzVF-1L._SL1500_Something about the  wind-driven rain-bullets here in our part of the world can be death on umbrellas, even expensive ones. Even the cutest umbrellas frequently end up in street-corner trash-bins, ending their days as the tattered and broken relics of impulse purchases.

Despite the carnage, I feel compelled to keep buying umbrellas, feeling sure the next purchase will be the one–the true umbrella for all seasons, able to withstand 40 mph winds and sideways rain.  So far, the decidedly unromantic golf umbrella is the bumbershoot I carry.

But while golfers look fine carrying them, I long for beauty. I just know that my desire to have some cheery vestige of spring in the form of a floral print over my head will somehow work out and I will manage to remain both dry and stylish.

And this brings me to my point: You may not realize it but weather is a huge factor in your characters’ ability to go from point A to point B. For those of us who are writing fantasy, our characters are likely to be riding horses or walking. Weather will be a large part of what impedes them, or enables them to travel faster than they had planned.

Traveling on foot in the dark during a heavy storm is extremely difficult. Prior to the advent of the automobile, people didn’t travel during storms unless some terrible reason forced them to.

helly hansen raingear comboWeather is something I understand. In the 1980s, newly divorced and unqualified for any well-paying job, I worked for a Christmas tree grower. In the summer, we started work at 5:30 am so we could be finished and out of the field by 2:30, during the hottest part of the day.

I’ve never been a fan of using too much sunscreen—it’s greasy and full of things I can’t pronounce, it gets in your food, and I’m not so sure eating it is good for you. So, in those days I wore light, long-sleeved shirts to keep the sun off me, and wide-brimmed hats that kept the sun off my face. That is old-school, low-tech farm garb, and is how I still roll when it comes to dealing with the sun.

But when November arrived, we field hands were still working outside. With the advent of a Northwest Winter, we wore layers, 2 pairs of wool socks, barn-boots, and raingear. Good old Helly Hansen—his fine product kept me dry and warm while I worked to bring Christmas trees into every home. But, working outside in the cold and rain requires a certain amount of preparation, or you can become hypothermic, and unable to function.

Howey Christmas Tree Baler

Howey Christmas Tree Baler via Flicker

Every year, when cutting-and-baling season started we would have a new crop of people who had never worked out of doors, and who didn’t understand the sense of investing in long-johns and raingear. The company offered decent gear (boots, gloves, and raingear) at reasonable prices, but many would not  spend the money, refusing to believe that it was a war the weather would win.

So I discovered that if you were going to work outdoors year-round, you needed better quality gear than the company offered. In 1982, the best gear available was: LL Bean thermal underwear, and Helly Hansen foul-weather gear, and the mail-order catalogue was the place to get it.

My point with this is that if your novel’s setting is a low-tech society, weather affects what your characters can do. It affects the speed with which they can travel great distances, and it affects how they dress. It affects their horses, and that is a serious point to consider.

Medieval society had ways of dealing with the weather when they had to be out in it, and the internet is your friend. In medieval times, people of England, Wales, and Ireland didn’t have to deal with extreme temperatures the people of Northern Europe experienced in the 17th and 18th centuries, as it was a warmer time. However, they did get some occasional snow and cold in the winter, and at times they suffered heat waves during the summer.

How did they protect themselves against the weather? Here are several good websites for research:

Sarah Woodbury, Romance and Fantasy in the Middle Ages

Medieval Gloves, etc.

Castles and Manor Houses

In a cold, wet winter, a simple shawl won’t cut it. Layers are critical, and the materials they would use are simple and readily available—linen, and wool.

414-2-blue-robed-santa-claus-christmas-vintage-postcardIn a lower-tech society fur-trapping is a common way of earning money, but only the wealthier classes, merchants and nobility, can afford to buy those furs.

The average medieval agrarian society will have access to fleeces, though, especially if they are a Northern European type of society. Also, in the more urban centers of a low-tech society, the average person’s winter garments, hooded cloaks and gloves, and even bedding would be made of thick wool, layered and felted.

Wool has been a winter mainstay since humans first began making cloth. Some garments will be made of heavy canvas, or oil-cloth. Oilcloth, close-woven cotton canvas  or linen cloth with a coating of boiled linseed oil,  was a product available from the late middle ages on.

Clothing and cold weather gear will make their appearance in relatively few sentences in your novel, but a little research on your part regarding what technology might be plausible in your society will lend a sense of realism to your work.

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