Camp NaNo Snippets!

Happy Thursday, folks!

I’ve been doing Camp NaNo this month, and it’s helped me get a whole lot of writing done. This is, in fact, the first time that I’ve ever done anything with NaNo, and I really like it. It’s nice to see that word count inch upward.

So, because I’m in a flurry of writing, I decided that I’d focus on my novel this week. It’s called The Orchardman as of right now. Yeah, I’ll probably come up with a better title later, but that works at this point.

This is a fantasy novel set in the fictional land of Rothungd, and specifically in a place called Moth Muninder, which is governed by a wealthy landowner known as the Orchardman. My protagonist is trying to figure out if the current orchardman killed the former orchardman (who happens to be the protagonist’s father). At the same time, Rothungd is about to be overrun by a vicious horde of foreigners, and Moth Muninder is being beset by magic-wielding thieves.

So, yes, it’s got lots of stuff, fun subplots, tons of characters, dialogue (my favorite), and is absolutely dripping with conflict.

Some of the characters you’ll meet in this novel are:

Mrinin – the prodigal son who returns to Moth Muninder only to find his father dead and his hefty uncle in charge

Vog – Mrinin’s almost always loyal friend

Captain Umliar – a leader in the invading force who must deal with an entire army plus a madwoman

Princess Brosiga – the madwoman

Firing – Mrinin’s uncle, a fat and sort-of jolly villain who really doesn’t want to give up his position as orchardman

Mraf – Firing’s cook, a young woman with a dark past and incredible skill in the kitchen

Thergil – Mraf’s beautiful younger sister, a bit snarky and completely fed up with Mraf’s angst

Ongrof – the headman of Moth Muninder, he’s a kind man who’s in charge of everything around the orchards, and he seems to keep Firing under control

Gungin – a reformed thief, he’s reckless and crazy, but he really just wants a friend

Gunting – a fisherman who loses everything but his dignity in the invasion

 

And now, for some snippets:

“Let’s go to Garthum,” said Mrinin.

“What?” said Vog. “Garthum? Are you gone all lunnish in the head Mrinin? There’s no one in Garthum who would take us in.”

“You don’t know that,” said Mrinin. “Besides, I think that after three years Father might be ready to forgive me and take me back in.”

“He said he didn’t want to see you again,” said Vog.

“He’d take back a repentant son,” said Mrinin. “I’m his only son, the rightful heir to his hides and orchards. He’d forgive me if I changed.”

Vog snorted. “Ach, you haven’t changed. You’re the same cheating, lying rascal you always were.”

“Yes, but Father doesn’t know that,” said Mrinin.

 

“Listen to me, my friend,” said Mrinin. He pushed Vog towards the wall of the house. “Firing has given me two days to make up my mind whether I stay or leave. If I stay, I have to bind myself to him.”

Vog’s mouth fell open, and he gulped.

“Oh, shut your mouth before you drown in this rain,” said Mrinin. “We probably shouldn’t be surprised. Firing was always a bit odd.”

“Yes, but you aren’t going to bind yourself to him, are you?” said Vog.

“I have to,” said Mrinin. “It’s the only way I can stay.”
Vog frowned. “But why do you want to stay? Father knows what you are, and besides, you know you’ve never liked it here.”

“I don’t know if I liked it here or not,” said Mrinin. “I do know that I’m curious. I want to know if Firing did kill Father as the cook said. And I want to take my own hides for myself.”

Vog grabbed Mrinin by the arm. “You’re as mad as a hog in waking season! You can’t take back the hides if you’re a servant.”

“That’s what everyone thinks,” said Mrinin. “Swear allegiance to the orchardman. Promise never to harm him, always to serve him, always to look out for him. Vog, when has my word ever been worth the breath it took to say it in?”

 

“Maybe not,” said Mrinin. “Did you think of binding yourself servant to an orchardman?”

Gungin laughed a bitter laugh. “I was born on a free hide. I’ll not bind myself servant to anyone. Besides, you’ve always lived a safe life. What would you know?”

Mrinin stepped back. “Very little, I suppose,” he said. “Look, thief. I’m going to bind myself to Firing, the orchardman here. If you do the same, I’ll see that you’re protected.”

It was a foolish promise. After all, what had this man ever done for Mrinin? Most likely Firing wouldn’t want a thief to bind himself servant here.

Except Mrinin knew his uncle well enough know that the personal satisfaction of getting to order around someone who had been stealing chickens would outweigh any graver considerations on Firing’s part.

How to use a Story Prompt

We’ve all seen them.

If you’re a writer on Pinterest, you’ve probably come across a bajillion story ideas and prompts for different stuff. You might have gotten them from a writing teacher or anotehr writing friend.

I suppose the way you got a writing prompt doesn’t matter much, but it seems to me that there are a whole lot of writing prompts that people don’t necessarily use. I think this may be because of a misconception about them that I didn’t realize existed until earlier this week, when I was talking with another author friend of mine.

That conversation sparked the idea for this post.

You see, I believe that some people actually get bogged down by writing prompts. In fact, they might think that the prompt is a diving board. They use it as the start of a story and jump off of it, hoping to dive into a plot.

That’s not really thinking like a writer, though.

Fasten your seatbelts, folks. I’m going on a little rant, here.

Writing is not about jumping off diving boards. If you let a writing prompt control your story, then you’ve missed the point of the prompt. It’s meant to spark an idea that’s like a puzzle piece. You can build the rest of your story with other puzzle pieces around it.

I think that too often writers are frightened of words. They think they have to meet certain standards and expectations with their writing, and those standards and expectations frighten them.

It’s true, too. People do expect a certain quality of writing from a writer. The problem is, you can’t be frightened of words or you’ll never gain that quality. Words are to be owned. You must master them rather than letting them enslave you.

You are the writer, after all.

Writing prompts are a part of that process. Instead of trying to fit your story into the prompt, use it for what it was meant to be–someone else’s idea that’s meant to help you find your own ideas. You don’t need to break all the rules to do that; you just need to know the rules so well that you don’t really have to follow them.

Being a writer is a mindset as much as an occupation. It’s all about improving your craft, just like any other field of work. And, just like any other field of work, if you are afraid of the equipment, you probably won’t be very good at your job.

So, go find a story prompt! Stop giving excuses that keep you back from writing. You hesitate at choosing your words. Respect them, yes, but don’t stand in petrified awe of them. They are the tools that you use to find a story, and if you can own them you will be a better writer for it.

Rant over. Happy Thursday, everyone, and feel free to comment and tell me about troubles and triumphs you’ve had with writing prompts!

Chicken Fricassee from E. Phillips Oppenheim’s The Great Impersonation

I couldn’t resist doing a recipe from this novel. At the beginning of the story, Baron von Ragastein has dinner with Sir Everard Dominey and serves him chicken fricassee, the first civilized meal Dominey has eaten in months. I decided we just had to have some for dinner.

You know how fricassee is one of those fun words that everyone knows about but no one really knows what it is? Well, that’s kind of how I was until I started researching the dish. Actually, fricassee is more of a technique of cooking than a dish. That’s music to my ears, because it means I can play around with the food. In case you haven’t guessed, that’s something I love to do. In short, to fricassee something, you have to start by sauteing it and end by stewing it.

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Baron von Ragastein, of course, is German, so I served the chicken fricassee over spätzle, which is a cross between dumpling and noodle. The book doesn’t mention spätzle, but you need to serve the fricassee over something starchy, and that seemed like as good a thing as any.

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One thing about spätzle is that you have to have a spätzle maker, which is akin to a giant garlic press. I have my great-grandmother’s, and it’s a real workout to use the thing. However, like most German-made tools, that spätzle maker isn’t going to wear out anytime soon. You can probably make spätzle without a maker, but you’d need to drop it into the water with a spoon and wouldn’t get the noodle shape, which is most of the fun of spätzle.

Anyway, I’m including a recipe for it after the fricassee, so if you’re inclined to try it, go right ahead. I didn’t come up with the recipe on my own, because unlike fricassee, spätzle is not subject to tweaking. It’s just there.

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Von Ragastein’s Chicken Fricassee

serves 6 | 3-4 hours

Ingredients

6 chicken thighs (not boneless/skinless)

3 tablespoons butter

1 large onion

3 carrots

3 stalks celery

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon butter

4 cups chicken broth

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon thyme

 

Method

Remove skin and excess fat from chicken, but leave bones in. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium high heat and saute chicken until outsides are cooked. Cover and turn heat to low.

Peel and chop onion, carrots, and celery, and mince garlic. In a large pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat and saute vegetables together until soft but not browned. Add to the pot with chicken.

Pour in chicken broth, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir and turn heat to medium. Cover and cook for at least two hours, turning down heat to medium low if it begins boiling too furiously.

About 1/2 hour before serving, remove lid and turn up heat so that some of the liquid reduces.

Serve over spätzle or other starchy food.

 

Spätzle

serves 6 | 15 minutes

Ingredients

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons salt

6 eggs

1/3 cup milk

 

Method

Boil salt water in a large pot for cooking the spätzle.

In a mixing bowl, mix all ingredients until well-incorporated. Put into a spätzle maker and press over boiling water, using a knife to cut the noodles from the bottom of the press. Boil for 2-3 minutes and remove from water with a slotted spoon.

Serve hot with butter.

A Book Recommendation – The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Happy Thursday, everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I do greatly enjoy Thursdays, because you aren’t quite to Friday yet but almost there. It’s the same thing as liking Autumn because you’re almost at Winter.

It makes sense if you think about it for a second. I promise.

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite books–The Great Impersonation, by E. Phillips Oppenheim.

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Doesn’t Mr. Oppenheim look like a nice person?

This is a hard book to talk about, because I’m sure to reveal spoilers if I say too much. All I can say is, it’s set right before WWI, there’s a lot of spying, an insane wife (but not like Bertha Rochester insane), people sneaking around with guns, people going to meet the Kaiser, and stuff like that.

It is, in fact, a terribly exciting read, and I just finished it for the third time. I think you should try it out.

Before you start telling me that you can’t find it, I would like to provide a link to the book on Project Gutenberg. It is a fascinating read. You’ll love it.

Here’s a quick run-down on some of the people you’ll meet–

Baron von Ragastein – He’s got an important mission that requires him to go undercover in England.

Sir Everard Dominey – He’s a dissolute British man that’s been wandering the wilds of Africa ever since a family tragedy ten years before.

Lady Dominey – She’s Sir Everard’s mildly insane wife who’s the cause of the family tragedy that keeps Everard away (go figure).

Seaman – He’s an efficient German spy.

Prince Terniloff – He’s the weak German ambassador to England who is convinced that there will be no war between the two nations.

Princess of Eiderstrom – She’s a highly annoying Hungarian who’s in love with von Ragastein and doesn’t care all that much about politics or the fact that the entire world is about to start fighting. (In case you can’t tell, she’s not one of my favorite characters.)

Please feel free to comment and tell me what you think about this book, or other books by the same author. (Oppenheim is a favorite of mine, and I’d be happy to recommend other books by him.)

Sour Cream Cake with Lekvar from Sydney Taylor’s A Papa Like Everyone Else

Today’s recipe comes from a children’s book by the same author who wrote the All-of-a-Kind Family series. I’ve read this book, A Papa Like Everyone Else, many times, and it was one of my favorites growing up. It’s one of those out-of-the-way books that isn’t well-known at all, but you just like it quite a bit all the same. You probably have books like that on your shelves, too.

a papa like

A Papa Like Everyone Else is set in post-WWI Czechoslovakia (formerly Hungary), and focuses on two little Jewish girls named Szerina and Gisella and their mother. Their father has emigrated to the United States and is making money so that he can bring his family over, too. The book has a lot about Hungarian and Jewish culture, especially in a small, rural town. In fact, they make a lot of food in this book.

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I chose today to make lekvar, which is a sort of plum or apricot preserve that the family makes in the book. They eat it with cake or put it in cookies, so I made a quick sour cream nutmeg cake which goes well with the plum stuff.

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I’m pretty sure I didn’t make true lekvar, though. I did some research, and real lekvar is made with dried fruit. In the book, they make it with fresh plums, so my “lekvar” is really more of a compote to eat over the cake. I promise you, though, it is delicious.

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Gisella’s Sour Cream Cake with Lekvar

serves 9 | 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients

6 fresh plums

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup melted butter

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

 

Method

Remove stones from plums and chop them into small pieces. Stir together with sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan and cook over low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease an 8×8 baking pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Add butter, sour cream, milk, vanilla, and egg and stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour batter into pan and bake for 40 minutes.

When the plums are finished, pour them into a jar and refrigerate until cool. Serve over the cake and enjoy.

Writing Snippets!

Hello, folks.

This has been a day of great work. I went picking strawberries this morning, and I must say, strawberry fields in June certainly smell heavenly. However, I spent the afternoon making jam and cutting up strawberries to freeze, and other strawberry things like that. So, I fear I let this blog post slide and I haven’t anything profound for you today (not that I’m going about spouting wisdom on a normal basis, but I think you know what I mean).

So, I’m going to take the lazy, easy way out of this difficulty and give you a few snippets from a middle grade novel-in-progress. The current title of said novel is Marcus Penaluna, which is the name of the main character and which tells you absoballylutely nothing about the story, I know.

Anyway, enjoy, and please, do comment. I’m terribly interested in hearing what you think of this.

From Chapter 1

Eight-year-old Larkin, who had already finished his lessons for the day, popped his head into the parlour.  “Lidia, Bertram just broke a jug in the kitchen and Sally cut her foot on one of the pieces.  She’s bleeding all over the place.”

Lidia muttered something impatiently and stalked out of the room to help her youngest sister.  Larkin trotted along after her.

Frances grinned at Marcus.  “At last!  I wish Lidia would fall into the sea.”

Marcus shook his head.  “Or disappear in a cloud of smoke like one of those fairies you’re always reading about.”

“Not fairies,” Frances corrected.  “Witches.  Lidia’s more like one of those.”

From Chapter 2

“Wait!”  Frances almost squealed, although generally she was not the squealing type.  “At least let me go with you.”

Jenifry Nance looked Frances up and down.  “What do you expect to be able to do?”

“I’ve read a good deal about the fairy folk, and Marcus hardly knows anything,” said Frances.  “At least I can help him.”

Marcus had never been so proud of Frances before in his life.  He decided she was the bravest person he knew, although she hardly looked like a heroine in her twisted-up pinafore and tightly plaited blonde hair.

“Well, I suppose so,” said Jenifry Nance.  “But we must get to King Jack as soon as possible.  It’s he that’ll be telling us how to calm the spriggans.”  She gave Frances a sly look.  “I won’t be responsible if you get maimed or kidnapped by stray piskies or eaten by mermaids.”

From Chapter 3

“Who is the Master of all Fairy such and such?” asked Frances.

“More ignorance from the girl who knows so much about fairies?” said King Jack sarcastically in order to hide his flustered confusion at being forced to admit that he did not like the Master of all Fairy Folk in England.

“I suppose we humans don’t know as much about fairies as we would like,” said Frances humbly enough to appease King Jack.

He smiled, flattered.  “Well, if you must know, his name is . . .” King Jack trailed off.  He did not appear to want to say the name out loud.

“Robin Goodfellow,” said Jenifry Nance in a loud, clear voice.

King Jack looked at her with part annoyance and part gratitude.

Frances squealed like a girl about to get a new dress.  “The Robin Goodfellow?  Puck himself?”

King Jack squirmed.   “Yes, that’s the one.  He hates me.”

“He hates you?” said Marcus.  He had never been considered the clever one of the Penaluna children, but he was starting to think that an awfully large amount of people hated Jack of the Lantern.

Breakfast Geodes inspired by Journey to the Center of the Earth

This week’s recipe was fun to conceive and delicious to eat. I was almost thinking that I would have to make another spicy dish (because of lava and magma and all that which you find at the center of the earth), but one of the main things about JttCotE is the way the center of the earth doesn’t get hotter. So much for spicy.

But I love doing breakfast for dinner, and since I needed to make an easy-to-eat dinner for my brothers, who have been doing tons of outside work lately, I came up with these all-in-one sourdough packets, which I have christened breakfast geodes. I feel that the reason for the name needs no further explanation.

Again, I don’t see that the explorers going to the center of the earth actually eat anything like this in the book, but this recipe is only inspired, not taken directly out of the story. Sorry, guys.

Actually, I’m not really sorry. This just tasted too good to be sorry about!

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So, this recipe uses sourdough bread, but you could probably easily make it with another bread dough. I think the sourdough adds a pleasant flavour that goes well with the savoury meat.

This is one of those complicated recipes again. You may not actually want to make these for breakfast, because they probably won’t be ready until lunch, or at least brunch, unless you get up marvelously early. If you’re anything like me, you might as well just accept the fact that there’s no way in the world you’ll ever eat these for breakfast unless you manage to come up with a paid servant who will make them for you.

And even then, they’re a little hearty for first thing in the morning. I much prefer to pretend that this is the sort of thing I would eat for breakfast if I ate big breakfasts, and then just eat them for dinner.

Ahem. Anyhow, let’s cut to the recipe.

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Sourdough Breakfast Geodes

serves 6 | 4 hours

Ingredients

for bread dough:

3/4 cup sourdough starter

3/4 cup room temperature water

2 1/2 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons canola oil

for filling

6 hard boiled eggs

1 medium onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 pound breakfast sausage meat

1/2 pound ground beef

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 generous dollop Worchestershire sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1 medium tomato

 

Method:

Mix water and sourdough starter together. Add flour, salt, and oil, and stir until ingredients form a ball. The dough should be fairly soft. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead for about ten minutes, until dough is soft and supple. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled bowl. Roll the dough until it is lightly coated in oil, then cover with plastic wrap and let it rise. After about two hours, stretch and fold the dough back into a ball. Cover and let it rise for another hour or so.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Finely chop the onion and saute it in the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook onions until they are well-browned. Remove from the pan and add sausage and ground beef. Cook the meat until it is browned, then drain and rinse it. Return the meat and onions to the pan over low heat. Add mustard, spices, Worchestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Core the tomato and remove the seed, then dice it and add it to the mixture. Give everything a quick stir, then remove from heat.

Peel the eggs.

When the dough is ready, divide into six pieces. Stretch out each piece as though you were going to make mini pizzas. In the center, put a generous scoop of filling and a hard-boiled egg. Wrap the ends of the dough around the egg and filling, making certain that the packet is completely sealed. Place the packets on a baking sheet, spray them with oil, and cover them for about thirty minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake breakfast geodes for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.