Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Creating An Authentic Voice

One of the most difficult aspects of writing is creating a unique cast of characters. Part of that process is finding a distinct voice for each. Here are author Kenneth Weene’s thoughts on the subject. Welcome back to Book Blather, Ken.

 One aspect of good writing is developing voice. The voice of each character should be real and consistent. Each person should sound unique and the way they speak should make sense within their personal story. At the same time, characters who come from similar backgrounds should sound sufficiently similar to create a sense of the locale and character of that community.

The narrator’s voice also needs to be developed. I pride myself that the narrative voices I use vary from book to book. I try to make them consistent with the book content so that the descriptions don’t interrupt the flow of the language. One special case was Memoirs From the Asylum, in which I used two distinctive narrators—one a first-person character and the other a third-person uninvolved voice. It was imperative that the two narrators were very different. The first-person voice carries the disorder and anxiety of the mental hospital while the second, by his very un-involvement heightens the reader’s sense of observing as if looking through a microscope.

In Tales From the Dew Drop Inne, which was released in February, I strove to give Cal, the narrator, a Midwestern flatness that helps to provide an even ground for the personal stories of the various characters. Were Cal more emotive, his narration would detract from the humanness of those other characters, each of whom has his or her own voice. By the way, one trick I use in Tales is to give some of the characters distinctive wordings that help the reader to follow the action. For example, the bar’s owner, Sal, typically says “yous” and Sam stutters.

Currently, I am working on Red and White, a piece of historical fiction. The protagonist is a young Indian boy who is sent to one of the government Indian schools. One of the challenges in writing this story is the capturing of the Native American voice, particularly in the legends and prophesies that are an integral part of the story.

To face that challenge, I have been working on that voice. I have started writing some short stories in the voice I hope to use. These stories will not be part of Red and White; they are exercises that I am using to prepare for writing even as I do the historical research. In these exercises I have tried to capture the sound and flow of speech that my Native American friends, especially those who have stayed on the reservation, employ. 

Here is the beginning of that story:

Why we welcome crickets in our lodges

On the third day the moon of young elk, a stranger stood outside the circle of lodges of The People and called out, “People, bid me enter for I have brought you a great gift.” Three times he said this as was the custom, and he stood outside the circle of the lodges as was also the custom, and he waited for a response.

The oldest son of Great Owl, who was then chief, was sent to ask the stranger his name, his tribe, his clan, and his business. The stranger responded, “I am Walker of Miles from among The Strong People. In my tribe we do not speak of clans, for they are sacred, but I am allowed to tell you that I am not of the sky, the land, or the water.”

At those words, the young man ran from the stranger in fear, for if he was not from the sky, the earth, or the water, he must be from a clan of the spirit world and surely brought death.

Have I succeeded in creating a rich and authentic voice? I hope so. If you’d like to hear the rest of this story, listen to me tell it on SoundCloud. And please, let me know what you think. http://soundcloud.com/kenneth-weene/why-we-welcome-crickets-in-our 
If you’d like to learn more about my latest book, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne, visit http://mediasuite.multicastmedia.com/player.php?p=aat76pv9

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Just Say No To Raisins

Today is National Chocolate Covered Raisin day. Who knew? First of all, my apologies to all you raisin lovers. Yes, I know raisins are nutritious, fairly bursting with thiamin, riboflavin and vitamins A-Z. Guess what? I don’t care!

My distaste for raisins can be traced back to a childhood trauma.  I was visiting my loving, cookie-baking grandmother and she said, “Marilee, I just baked cookies. Would you like one?”

I had no reason to distrust my grandmother and we’re talkin’ cookies still warm from the oven. With brown things in them. Had to be chocolate chips. Right? A real no-brainer. I took a big bite, fairly drooling in my eagerness for a shot of chocolate ecstasy. . .and bit into a raisin. 
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Be wary of cookies with brown things unless they come with an ironclad chocolate guarantee. And coating raisins with chocolate? Pure trickery!

 There’s another reason I despise raisins. Check out the picture of raisins above. Now check the one below (ignore the wings) See what I mean? I rest my case

Monday, March 19, 2012


My long-time friend, Durella DeGrasse, is a certified wine professional and alumna of Central Washington University's World Wine Program. She’s a regular contributor to my website where she shares her knowledge and experience with the delicious wines of Washington state and other wine-growing regions of the world. Welcome to Book Blather, Durella

Pairing Wine with Food

When pairing food and wine, the goal is synergy and balance. The wine should not overpower the food, nor should the food overpower the wine. Food and wine pairing is achieved when the flavors and characteristics of both the food and the wine are enhanced, yet each preserves its fundamental integrity and character. And, sometimes we choose wines as much to match the mood as the food. Wine and food don't always have to be technically perfect together to be delicious anyway. Pairing food and wine together well doesn't require "a set of rules" as much as having good instincts. And good instincts can be acquired - drink lots of different kinds of wine with different kinds of dishes and pay attention to the principles that emerge.

  • Pair great with great, humble with humble. A hot turkey sandwich doesn't need a pricey merlot to accompany it. An expensive crown rib roast may just present the perfect moment for opening that powerful, opulent Yakima Valley syrah you've been saving.
  • Match delicate to delicate, robust to robust. A delicate Oregon pinot noir will end up tasting like water if you serve it with a dramatically spiced dish like curry. Dishes with bold, piquant, spicy and hot flavors are perfectly cut out for bold, spicy, big wines. Thus zinfandels are great with many Mexican dishes.
  • Decide if you want to mirror a given flavor or set up a contrast. Chardonnay with lobster in cream sauce is an example of mirroring - both are opulent, rich and creamy. The contrast that would be fascinating is Champagne, which is sleek, crisp and sharply tingling because of the bubbles.
  • Dishes with fruit in them or a fruit component to them - pork with sautéed applies, roasted chicken with apricot glaze, duck with figs - often pair beautifully with very fruit-driven wines that have super fruity aromas. Gewurztraminer, muscat, viognier, and riesling are in this camp.

  • Saltiness in food is a great contrast to acidity in wine - think of a high-acid German riesling with an Asian dish containing soy sauce. Saltiness is also a stunning contrast to sweetness. Try that Asian dish with a Washington riesling that's slightly sweet, and watch the food and the wine pull together in a new way.
  • A high-fat food, something with a lot of animal fat (grilled steak), usually calls out for an equally rich, intense, structured, and concentrated wine. Here's where a well-balanced red wine with tannin such as a good quality cabernet sauvignon or merlot works wonders.
  • With desserts, consider sweetness carefully. The dessert should not be sweeter than the wine. Think about pairing a not-too-sweet fruit or nut tart, with a fairly sweet wine.
These are some fairly simple principles, meant only as a guide. The real excitement is in the experimentation. Don't be afraid to do the unexpected. Wine aids in digestion and helps calm the mind and spirit!

Durella DeGrasseCertified Wine Professional

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kat Magendie, Part Deux

Geographically speaking, nobody could be further removed from the south than yours truly. I'm Pacific Northwest born and bred. However, I've always been a huge fan of the genre known as Southern fiction. Therefore, I'm delighted to present our guest blogger today. Kathryn Magendie, is one of my Belle Book “sisters," and her path to publication is similar to my own. We both found our dream "later in life." The first two books in her trilogy, Tender Graces, Secret Graces have garnered rave reviews. I'm quite sure the third, Family Graces, will also be well received. Her books are available from Amazon and the Belle Books website.Welcome to Book Blather, Kat.

Thank you, Marilee. So happy to be here.

1. Tell us a little about your writing journey.

A long winding dirt-tear-sweat-hope pathed road. Lawd. I am a good example of someone who didn’t follow her dreams until “late in life.” Now, well, try to stop me—haha! You hear those clichéd phrases like, “It’s my turn now!” Well, that’s somewhat how I feel, that it’s time for me to make up for lost time in my writing life. This is all I ever wanted to do and be. The writing/language/character is more important to me than some may really understand. It’s been a long-journey to here, but I think I am more ready for this now than I’d have ever been before.

 2. You are a truly authentic writer of southern fiction. Any plans to deviate from that genre?

*Teehee* Thank you—that makes me happy!

I think my Deep South/Appalachian background is too embedded for me to stray very far. Even though the novel Sweetie has a Storytelling Voice not from the south or mountains, the novel is still set in the mountains and has strong ties and setting to Place there. I have written short fiction that doesn’t have a Southern/Appalachian “flavor” to it, but I know when I do that I am experimenting and not really true to who I am and what/where I love to write about/from.

There’s the cliché “write what you know,” and what I know is my roots and where I’ve lived for most all my life. To write outside of those roots/places I’ve lived isn’t impossible, I just don’t feel the connection, and to me connection is important in my settings/Place. Place is often another “character.”

3. You recently finished the third book in your trilogy. Was it difficult to say goodbye to your characters?

Oh gawd yes. There was a whole discussion on my Facebook page where I’m all emotional about saying goodbye to Virginia Kate and the other characters. She, and they, have been with me for years. Tender Graces was my very first novel (to write and to have published), so there’s that, but there is also a great respect and love and tenderness for Virginia Kate and her family. I admit that I think I am actually grieving, and have caught myself with teary-eyes. It’s near-‘bouts as excruciating as losing a good friend.  Lawdy.

4. You’re also co-Publishing Editor of the Rose and Thorn, an impressive online literary journal. What are you looking for in submissions?

My co-Publishing Editor Angie Ledbetter and I are very eclectic in our tastes, so just about anything may appeal to us in prose and poetry, and in art—our Managing Editor/Senior Poetry editor is Cynthia Toups, and our Art Director is Alaine Benard—we all mesh/meld together in our love of words and art. We also have a great support staff who help us to make the journal shine; we’re proud of our journal.

However, there are things we do not like, such as gratuitous violence and gratuitous sex, or political rants.

I’d suggest taking a look at the journal to read the prose/poetry, and as well, there is an interview with R&T editors on Duotrope Digest that may shed some light. (
http://www.duotrope.com/interview.aspx?id=540 )

Mostly, send what you feel passionate about, because that passion shows. If you are flopping something onto the page and slinging it out to every editor out there “just to be published,” it will show. I mean it; we always know. That doesn’t mean quickly-written stories aren’t accepted, for quickly-written stories can also be written with meaning and passion, and love of language and character and setting.

5. Are you a seat of the pants writer or a plotter?

I am the consummate panster! I am chaos personified! I am Sheldon Cooper’s long lost cousin-sister! I am completely discombobulated and jittery and . . .  aw lawd, you don’t want to be in my head! (And as an aside—exclamation points are fun, but don’t use them in your fiction, except sparingly, rarely if ever in narrative—do as I say, not as I just did *laugh* Oh, and either it’s a question or an exclamation—never!? Or never?! Okay, Editor Kat needs to leave the building—good bye Editor Kat.).

6. Any advice for aspiring writers?

When someone asks this question, I ramble on and on, so this time I am going to try to be succinct:

Don’t ever let anyone say or do anything that makes you turn away from what you love to do. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. If someone says or does something that makes you want to give up a dream/love of something—turn away, don’t listen. Run or walk away going, “La la la  la—I can’t hear you—la la la la.”

Write with joy and abandon, and then edit the hell out of it. For gawd’s sake, don’t be in such a hurry to push your work out there—which is so much easier to do now, so please stop and take a deep deep breath first. If you saw the first draft of Tender Graces, you’d barely recognize it from what is the published version. Become friends with your delete button.  Oh, and learn when to say DONE because I didn’t just write “edit the ever-loving snotty hell” out of it, did I?

Know the rules and then have fun breaking them. Doing something On Purpose is fun and will lift up your prose. Breaking rules because you do not know them could make the prose wilted.

That’s enough, because I’m already into the rambling stage

7. How about an excerpt from your upcoming novel, Family Graces?

Thank you. Oh, this was hard to choose, because can I say I love so much about Virginia Kate and her family? I hope that doesn’t sound as if I am bragging, for I mean instead that, well, I love them and so much happens and . . . and well, dang.

FG has dark, light, humor, and in between, so where to go? Light? Dark? Humorous? So I decided to put something a bit darker here, from the first part of the book. This is from Grandma Faith’s point of view.

From the chapters: Grandma Faith’s Last Five Days on Earth—

“Time,” she said, and pulled off her white gown she’d embroidered herself and placed it across the bed. She reached for her yellow cotton dress hanging on the chair, wiggled into it, slipped her feet inside worn-out shoes, all the while feeling the humming, that terrible terrible hot pressure in the air. Taking another deep breath, releasing it slow, Faith walked out of the bedroom and to the kitchen.

At the pocked kitchen table was Luke, still and hard as granite. He sing-songed, “Well well well.”

The hairs on Faith’s neck stood ever higher.

“If’n it ain’t my ever-loving wife.”

She tied on her apron, and then lit the stove.

“Ima thinking I want a fine breakfast,” Luke said. “Some biscuit and gravy . . . .”

The thrumming grew stronger. She turned to fetch the flour jar.

“. . . and Ima want some bacon with them biscuit. Out from the smokehouse.”

Faith hoped he didn’t notice her hands trembling.

“Yup. I went out to the smokehouse m’self and had me a look-see. Where’s that bacon? I said to m’self. What’all’s in this here smokehouse?”

A wild keening shrieked inside her head. Heat pressed against her. His chair scraped back and she turned. Daddy, save me.

Luke, big and mean and red-faced, held the bulging draw-string pouch Faith had kept hidden from him for so many years.

She’d been sloppy. He must have seen her. He must have been watching. For her to be so close.

His words punched the air and fell heavy thudding. “You lying cheating wallering hog.” Luke spilled out the money from the pouch. Dollars fluttered out like dead bird’s wings; coins jingle-jangled as they bounced on the table and on to the floor.

Faith took a running step, another. Two more steps and she’d be to the door. One more—

Again, thank you Marilee for this fun interview. Authors supporting authors is important, and these kindnesses are beautiful and appreciated.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

And The Winner Is . . .

Drum roll please! Kaci McClellan of Fairbury, Illinois will receive a signed copy of Moonstone in the mail very soon.

Many thanks to all of you who participated in the Lunar Love Giveaway Hop. A special thanks to those of you who chose to follow Book Blather. Check back frequently for more giveaways.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Moonlight Madness

It's time to howl at the moon and win books! Book Blather is taking part in a blog hop called Lunar Love featuring books in which the word "moon" appears in the title or plays a significant role in the story. Well, guess what? I just happen to have four of them. If you'd like to learn more about my books, read excerpts, reviews, etc. please go here: www.marileebrothers.com

This fabulous opportunity to win books was organized by
 Kathy http://iamareadernotawriter.blogspot.com and Lisa http://lisaisabookworm.blogspot.com. They've rounded up 178 bloggers willing to participate and donate books. Visit Kathy or Lisa's blogs for a complete list of participating bloggers and start hoppin'!

If you'd like to win a copy of Moonstone, Moon Rise,
Moon Spun or Shadow Moon, simply click the comment box and tell me which book you would like, either in print or as a digital download. The official rules state you may enter up to, but no more than four times.
Remember, I can now personalize your e-books using Kindlegraph. Good luck!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Yay for Chef Jean!

Do you have a friend you can always count on? I do, and her name is Chef Jean Denham. When I run out of ideas for the blog, I contact Jean and do a little whining. Then, lo and behold, I receive an email, complete with wonderful recipes from the cookbook author herself. Am I lucky or what?

Slow Cooker Lasagna

This is Pillsbury recipe that makes for one of the easiest Lasagna dishes ever. 8 servings.

  1              pound  bulk Italian sausage
  1             medium  onion -- chopped (1/2 cup)
  3             cans  Italian-style tomato sauce -- (15 ounces each)
  2             teaspoons  dried basil leaves
  1/2         teaspoon  salt
  2             cups  shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
  1             container  part-skim ricotta cheese -- (15 ounces)
  1             cup  grated Parmesan cheese
  15           uncooked lasagna noodles

 Cook sausage and onion in 10-inch skillet over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sausage is no longer pink; drain. Stir in tomato sauce, basil and salt. 2 Mix 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. (Refrigerate remaining mozzarella cheese while lasagna cooks.) 3 Spoon one-fourth of the sausage mixture into 6-quart slow cooker; top with 5 noodles, broken into pieces to fit. Spread with half of the cheese mixture and one-fourth of the sausage mixture.

Top with 5 noodles, remaining cheese mixture and one-fourth of the sausage mixture. Top with remaining 5 noodles and remaining sausage mixture. 4 Cover and cook on Low heat setting 4 to 6 hours or until noodles are tender. 5 Sprinkle top of lasagna with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover and let stand about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Cut into pieces..

Something as simple as chopped fresh parsley will dress up this lasagna. Sprinkle on the parsley just before serving.

For lasagna with a kick, look for hot or spicy Italian sausage. Links can be used if bulk sausage isn't available. Just squeeze the meat out of the casings and cook as directed.

Tiramisu Cheesecake
To finish off dinner in grand style, this Tiramisu Cheesecake is both easy and delicious.

11 oz. pkg. Nilla Wafers, about 88
5 teaspoons Instant coffee, divided
3 tablespoons hot water, divided
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs
1 cup thawed Cool Whip topping, or 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

HEAT oven to 325°F.

LINE 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Spread half the wafers onto bottom of prepared pan. Add 2 tsp. coffee granules to 2 Tbsp. hot water; stir until dissolved. Brush half onto wafers in pan; reserve remaining dissolved coffee for later use.

BEAT cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Remove 3-1/2 cups batter; place in medium bowl. Dissolve remaining coffee granules in remaining hot water. Stir into removed batter; spread over wafers in pan. Top with remaining wafers; brush with remaining dissolved coffee. Cover with remaining plain batter.

BAKE 45 min. or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours. Use foil handles to lift cheesecake from pan. Spread with COOL WHIP just before serving; sprinkle with cocoa powder.

How to Bake in Springform Pan
Heat oven to 325°F if using a silver 9-inch springform pan (or to 300°F if using a dark nonstick 9-inch springform pan). Assemble cheesecake as directed. Bake 1 hour or until center is almost set. Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim. Refrigerate 4 hours. Continue as directed.

Taco Pie                                    
From Share a Recipe cookbook, by Chef Jean DenhamThe list of ingredients looks long, but you’ll probably have everything in your pantry and/or spice rack and it makes a wonderful winter’s night dinner – since this will make two pies, serve one and freeze the other for a fast dinner later.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
3 T. chili powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder (or a small amount of fresh minced)
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 T. oil
2/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
14 oz. can refried beans
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 cup grated cheese (your choice)
Taco chips, coarsely broken up, optional
shredded lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream, guacamole, & salsa for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Grease two 8" pie tins. Spread ground beef mixture evenly into the two pie tins. Drop spoonfuls of refried beans on top of beef mixture. Pour egg/milk mixture evenly between the two pies.

Top with sliced tomatoes, grated cheese and sprinkle with taco chips, if using. Bake for 20-25 min., until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting. Cut each pie into 6 pieces.

Have lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole & salsa at the read to top each slice as desired. Estimate 2 to 3 pieces per person as a meal.