I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!
Celebrating Chocolate Mint, Eva Pasco's "Augusta", E. M. Swift-Hook, Curses of Scale Review, & 8 Character Developers...and a character event!
February 19, 2018
Have a bit of Chocolate Mint Today February 19th
Today is recognized by the US National Confectioners Association as National Chocolate Mint Day so eat your favorite Chocolate Mint treat today!
The Aztecs and Mayans introduced us to choclatl but in its original unsweetened form it was regarded as medicine. The monks who came with the Spanish are credited with adding cream and sugar to the dark and bitter bean. Soon after that they mixed other flavors such as cinnamon and mint.
In the mid-1800s confectioners to began to produce chocolate candy. Even then, small candy shops served a local public. Advertisements for mint chocolates, or chocolate mints, did not start showing up in newspapers until the turn of the century.
The International Dairy Foods Association states that mint chocolate chip is the 10th most popular flavor of ice cream.
One of the earliest mass-producers of chocolate mints was Huyler’s in New York, which had a chain of stores across the country.
Today we find mint chocolate in everything from ice cream to brownies, cookies and candies, liquors and sauces.
Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies were first sold in 1953 and are still their most popular cookie.
Mint chocolate is also the name of an herb with edible leaves that taste like chocolate and mint.
Best ways to eat Chocolate mint?
Cook and eat or in the case of the second recipe drink!
Below is a favorite frosting recipe for chocolate cake.
It looks great decorated with chocolate mint candies, a perfect to celebrate National Chocolate Mint Day!
Mint Frosting for Chocolate Cake
1 package cream cheese (8 0z), softened 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar 1 teaspoon mint extract Green food coloring
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. On low speed, beat in mint extract, 2 to 3 drops of green food coloring and 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar until mixed. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. Store frosted cake in refrigerator.
Decadent Andes Mint Martini
1 pint half and half
1 bag (10 oz) Andes Creme De Menthe Baking Chips
6 ounces (roughly 2 shots) good quality vodka
chocolate syrup and whipped cream/cool whip for garnish
In a medium saucepan, heat the heavy cream over low/medium heat until barely boiling. As soon as you start to see bubbles, take off of heat and add the baking chips. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted. Set aside or place in fridge until cooled.
In a shaker, combine 1/4 of the chocolate mixture, 1.5 ounces of the vodka, and ice. Shake to mix and to cool. Pour into a martini glass.
Repeat three more times, using all of the chocolate mixture
Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate sauce
Last week Eva Pasco introduced us to her writing.
This week she's brought her character
1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.
I won’t mince words. Dysfunctional. Deceptive. Demure. C’est moi—Augusta Bergeron, the town siren! More than meets the eye at face value, I’m stuck in a holding pattern of morally destructive behavior until an heirloom quiche recipe and baking rivalry enlighten me.
2. Tell us where and when you were born.
I was born in Maine during the ‘80s. From infancy to adulthood, I’ve lived in northern Rhode Island’s French-Canadian mill town of Beauchemins where I’m an Administrative Assistant at Brulé Book Binding Co.
I’m 40-years old at the beginning of the story I narrate. The other narrator, historian-in-residence, Lindsay Metcalfe, gets more than she bargains for. But, that’s her story.
3. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not?
Happy? I made do, cherishing childhood memories growing up with Marc Brulé and his sister, Estelle, my best friend. Besides coping with a “cover-up” which I
won’t get into—I’ve contended with being abandoned by my mother before my first birthday, much to my own detriment. Motherless and mistrustful of her motives to call it quits, I underwent rites of passage typecast as resignation, resentment, and rebellion.
4. Past/ present relationships? How did they affect you?
Until I meet the right one—I’m content hooking up with Mr. Right Away or Mr. Right for Now. This lack of commitment and callousness only serve to inhibit my self-growth.
5. What are you obsessed with?
Looking back— self-destruction and guarding secrets. Of most importance, however—making amends to salvage a lifelong friendship I sabotage by reckless behavior.
6. Biggest fear?
Ironically, I confront one of my biggest fears at the local bar I frequent quite a bit. A vision of myself as a ghoul from Christmases Yet to Come appears in the guise of a long-in-the-tooth trollop flicking fried-dyed hair and wearing age-inappropriate, skintight attire tautly stretched over my butt of a joke. A comparable image satirized every night by Cohen at closing time inside the chamber of Chuggers put the fear of God in me.
7. What line will you never cross?
Apparently, nothing is sacred! While it may seem hard to believe that my intentions were strictly honorable—I violated the girl code. For that transgression alone, I not only seek forgiveness, but must atone in order to move on
Today let's talk to award winning author
E. M. Swift-Hook
1. Who are you as a person? (brief bio paragraph)
A very profound question and one to which I am not sure I have yet found the answer. But, in the words that Robert Heinlein put into the mouth of Lazarus Long: 'Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.' Having tried a number of different careers, before settling in the North-East of England with family, three dogs, cats and a small flock of rescued chickens, I now spend a lot of time in private and have very clean hands.
2. How long have you been a writer?
As long as I have been able to write. When I was a small child I would write stories and poems and make them into ‘books’ by folding, cutting and sticking or stapling, paper and card. When I was at school my writing was encouraged by a teacher who gave me an extra exercise book to write my stories in. I think that moment of encouragement made me feel even more committed to writing. That said, it took a long time before I finally had the self-confidence and ability to make the leap from ‘document’ to ‘book’. My space opera series Fortune’s Fools was a good 30 years in the writing on its own.
3. Are you Traditionally or Indie published? If not yet, what are you considering?
I am self-published for now. I had pretty much given up on ever being published, then my son told me about self-publishing as an option. He is the one who is my ‘publisher’ in that he manages the technical side of formatting and uploading my books.
With the Dai and Julia Mysteries, my co-author Jane Jago works the magic as well. Their technical skills leave me feeling very much the Luddite at times.
I have had short stories published by others, three by Inklings Press, one by the SciFi Roundtable and one soon to be out from Dust Publishing, but no major works as yet.
4. What writers inspired you? Favorite Authors?
My biggest inspiration is Dorothy Dunnett, who is far and away my favourite author. I find her writing utterly brilliant. Her Lymond Sextet are my favourite books ever and I would recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy books as well as those who love historical fiction.
But the author who gave me the confidence to publish was Anne Perry and for a very different reason. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her Victorian setting whodunits but could not help noticing the utter lack of consistency between her books and the numerous typos and other mistakes in them. This is an author who renames major and minor characters between volumes and doesn’t seem to notice – and presumably her readership doesn’t notice either! Her books made me realise that perfection was not essential to publish a book that people would enjoy reading and so gave me the self-confidence to chance my own writing to the world.
5. What is your book/series about (elevator speech or quick tweet post)
I solo write one series and co-write a second and the second is easier to pitch fast than the former - The Dai and Julia Mysteries are alternate history whodunits, set in a world where the Roman Empire still rules.
But I always struggle on this with Fortune’s Fools, as it is not so simple a concept. It is a sweeping narrative of character-driven science fiction. Hmm, maybe that is the best I can do with it for a short ‘pitch’.
6. What is the setting and genre?
Fortune’s Fools is set in a future which was populated by a forced exodus from Earth before there was more than the possibility of generational ships. This diaspora of humanity meant that high technology was lost entirely in some places or set back and stunted in development in others. Humanity had settled the galaxy, but the distances between those settlements was too vast.
Eventually, a group of planets ‘near’ each other began working together to combine knowledge and resources and so built up to the point that they were able to have a form of Faster Than Light travel. This let to these planets declaring themselves the ‘Central Worlds’ and establishing a growing empire of other worlds, although colouring the idea as a free association of planets in ‘The Coalition’. The main agents of power and faction in Central and thus also in The Coalition, were the huge conglomerates, which led to political power being linked with monetary power in a way that was not always healthy for the rest of the galaxy. This let to the rise of The Legacy – an organization deemed as terrorist, but whose adherents sawas being their only protection and recourse against the abuses of a galactic empire that marginalized and abused them.
All that said, the vast majority of the people who now live across the galaxy have no idea and little interest in such things. Like most of us, history and politics is not so important as what is happening in their own lives.
The Dai and Julia Mysteries are set in an alternate modern day, in a world where the Roman Empire still rules Britannia and dominates elsewhere. The point of divergence or ‘pivot’ where the history of the series departs from real history, is in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. In history he was indeed a powerful emperor whose reforms helped the Roman Empire last many decades longer than it would have otherwise. But in Dai and Julia’s timeline, his reforms were much more profound, far reaching and effective, allowing the Romans to hold hegemony into the modern era.
7. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
This tends to vary according to whom I am writing at the time. All the books I write, both Fortune’s Fools and Dai and Julia, are written in close-third person, with chapters alternating between characters – a little like the technique employed by GRR Martin in ‘Game of Thrones’, although mostly my characters are not so geographically divided.
But if I was pressed hard I would have to say Durban Chola – which is maybe not so surprising as he is the character most readers express a preference for too.
8. What character is most like you?
I asked a friend this and she told me probably Bryn Cartivel – who is a supporting character in the Dai and Julia Mysteries. I can see why she thinks so too. Like Bryn I am not a fan of the spotlight, I am loyal and supportive and pragmatic. I am not good at ‘tea and sympathy’ but will work to resolve the problem that made the ‘tea and sympathy’ necessary.
9. If you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
Healing. What could be more amazing that the ability to heal those who are suffering and save lives.
10. Would you say your book has a message or underlying theme? What is it?
I am not sure there is one intended, but it has struck me recently that they are a lot about showing how one person of no great significance but with strong intent can change things for many. And also about how such attempts can fail, no matter how good the cause or how strong the determination of those perusing it.
11. How are you marketing your book?
My books are available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. I do my best to tell people who might be interested about them through social media – and through doing interviews and such, like this!
12. A wonderful thing has happened! Hollywood wants to make a movie of your book! You get to pick the actors & actresses. You want________________for your lead characters.
I have no idea! I don’t really follow actors and actresses so I would probably go with whoever the producers of the film felt were the best choices – although would be nice to have a veto if I felt a face really did not fit.
13. What music do you hear (what songs) remind you of your story?
‘Mockingbird’ by Barclay James Harvest
‘Riders on the Storm’ by Doors
‘Heart of Steel’ by Manowar
14. What Favorite foods
Hummus – with and on everything!
15. What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at word play a lot and at the state of the world – the latter reduces me to tears more often though.
16. What do you want written on your head stone and why?
A date of death sometime in the 26th century or later. Why? Because history is the greatest of stories and I want to see how as much of it as possible turns out.
17. Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy going on long walks in beautiful places and visiting sites of historical interest. I also really enjoy helping other indie authors out as much as I can and give a lot of my time to doing so through social media.
18. What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I really don’t watch that much of either. On TV, when I do it is mostly all factual stuff – documentaries and current affairs, though shows like Dr. Who still engage me. I can’t recall the last film I went to see, but it was probably nearly a decade ago or more.
19. If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would love to have been able to be good at visual arts. I really admire those who can produce beautiful pictures.
20. What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on completing Fortune’s Fools and on continuing the Dai and Julia series.
21. How much research do you do for your novels? Bonus –what’s the weirdest thing you have Googled?
Quite a lot, but mostly it will be an ‘in the moment’ thing when I realise I want to write about something and I am not sure what the reality of it is. This is frequent when writing the Dai and Julia Mysteries as the Latin terms for something or the Roman custom for an event can be both a source of inspiration or a right pain to work into the plot! That is less common in Fortune’s Fools, though when it does arise it is usually necessary to down pen and spend a while discovering the science behind something I want to write about.
22. What’s the scariest thing you have ever done, and did it end up in a story?
I can’t think of an answer to this so… I guess not.
23. Name 5 fictional characters you would invite to a dinner party. Where would the party be?
Ooo.. Now that is a toughie!
Francis Crawford and Philippa Somerville from Dorothy Dunnett’s ‘Lymond Chronicles’ as they would be incredibly witty, scintillating conversationalists and with a very different perspective on things.
Penny White from Chrys Cymri’s series of that name. I think the table manners of my favorite character in the books, Clyde the snail-shark, would be a bit too gross to manage and he is really not so much of a conversationalist either.
Tony Mandolin from Robert Lee Beers PI noir urban fantasy series of the same name. He would be bound to have some very cool anecdotes to share.
And my own Durban Chola – although I’d have to hope he did not realise I was his author as after a few of the things that have befallen him, he might not be that kindly disposed towards me…
I would think it would need to be somewhere not too high tech as the first couple, coming from the Sixteenth Century, would be so intrigued by that they would not really talk about much else I would guess.
24. What links or website do you have? List them below.
Amazon Author Page: author.to/EMSH
Good reads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15285489.E_M_Swift_Hook
Working Title Blog: https://workingtitleblogspot.wordpress.com/
Dai and Julia Mysteries: https://www.facebook.com/DaiAndJulia/
My Review of Curses of Scale - by S. D. Reeves
I liked the idea of a Young Adult Rite of passage fantasy in which the heroine moves through her world. The author worked hard to tell the story. The descriptions and world-building were well handled.
The major issue I had with the story is my own inability to read and comprehend stories written in present tense. I was unfortunately unable to understand who the characters were and what they were doing in the story. I found myself reading other reviews and the blurb to help me with the struggle, because it seemed like such a nice story and rousing adventure - one I would have loved to read if I had been able to do so.
I brought the subject up with several other writers and 90% of them stated similar issues. If you are a reader who enjoys First person writing, please read this book The work is a good one S. D. Keep at it
A Different kind of Takeover -50 authors and their favorite characters February 19-23 (hurry, already started)
Most authors who engage in social media self-promotion know about takeovers. The scenario is this: An author is releasing a book, has a special lower price event to kick off a launch, or has a cover reveal. Some takeovers last only an hour or two. Others can go on for days or even weeks. Other authors are invited to take a 30-60 minute time slot during which they promote their own books and also wish the author hosting the event well. The most fun of the takeovers, but also the most challenging ones are Character events. That's when an author presents information about their work by role-playing a particular character. If you are curious, here's one where I'll be presenting three characters over two days
At 11:00 AM EST Wednesday February 21 I present gentle and loving shepherd Marai and part of naughty ex-thief Ariennu from Children of Stone
2:00 PM EST Thursday February 22 I present More Ariennu and the ever mysterious and tormented deposed goddess Deka.
I've invited a lot of people but if I somehow missed you here's a link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1568462859908024/
8 Character Development Exercises to Help You Nail Your Character
(Here's an abstract of an article I recently read on Reedsy)
Full article here https://blog.reedsy.com/character-development-exercises/?utm_source=mailchimp&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=character.development.exercises
In today's writerly world of show don't tell, one of the great challenges has become the creation of well-rounded, developed and engaging characters. Gone are the days when an author could take pages or chapters to describe a character's habits, looks, and nuances. Books and stories today are action driven. Characters and worlds often become cardboard or indistinguishable from one another. The become names and hair color or eye color moving through a scene. In some stories one isn't even certain of gender. Here's an abstract from Reedsy with eight exercises to develop a character in today's faster paced writing.
Character development exercises are a great way to give yourself a better understanding of the person you are creating with pen and paper (or “fingers and keyboard,” more likely). They also help you create resources that you can pull from during the writing process. In order to help bring your character to life, we are breaking character development down into three stages:
Establish your character’s current emotional motivations
Put your character into context
Bring your character to life
Even the most fast-paced, action-driven novels need compelling characters to keep readers engaged.
Establish your character’s internal motivations
Nailing down your character's fundamental goal — the thing that is truly important to them — will help you see what is driving them right now and why their story is worth telling at this moment in their lives. Without an internal goal to achieve, your story will lack a narrative arc and fall flat.
Here are a few character development exercises that will help you get into the nitty-gritty of your character and strengthen the conviction of their internal goals.
Exercise #1: The truth shall set your characters free
In order to dive deeper into your character’s emotional depths, ask a round of questions — both probing and seemingly innocuous alike. (Hey, you never know when your character’s favorite choice of ice cream topping might come in handy!) While we encourage you to build and refine your own set of questions, these questionnaires will provide solid inspiration for now:
“Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?” “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” “What is your most treasured memory?”
“What is your idea of perfect happiness?” “What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?” “What do you consider your greatest achievement?”
Exercise #2: Put them through the wringer
How a person reacts to a difficult situation can be very revealing — and your character’s fundamental goal will inform how they respond to challenges. Here are a few ideas:
The Robin Hood Problem
Your character is an eyewitness to a crime.
A man has robbed a bank, but instead of keeping the money for himself, he donates it to an orphanage that can now afford to feed, clothe, and care for its children. You know who committed the crime. If you go to the authorities with the information, there's a good chance the money will be returned to the bank, leaving a lot of kids in need. What does your character do?
Turn the robber in. Stealing is wrong, end of story.
Keep the information to yourself because the money is going to a good cause.
The Trolley Problem
There is a trolley running down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track and cannot move. Next to your character is a lever with the power to lead the trolley down a different track. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that one. What does your character do?
Nothing. The five people die
Pull the lever, saving five people, but killing the single person.
Exercise #3: Do the unexpected
Humans are highly resistant to change — for a character to believably undergo a personal journey that substantially alters them, something HUGE and specific must happen to them. This event doesn't have to happen in your story, but once you can identify your character’s limits, you can determine what is required to create a potential change in their fundamental nature.
At the start of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is a self-involved miser. He has alienated himself from those around him and lacks empathy, even for his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, who can barely feed own children. However, at the end of the novel, Scrooge is redeemed as a generous, lively friend. What event inspired this total one-eighty in his character? The visit from the ghosts of past, present, and future, and the first-hand knowledge of how his actions have negatively impacted not only those around him, but his own life.
For this exercise, determine what this catalyst for change might be by considering situations or attributes that feel counterintuitive. For instance, if your character is a Good Samaritan, it is unlikely they would commit a crime. What would have to be at stake for this unlikely situation to happen — and for a core part of your character to change?
A fundamental goal is what drives your character, it's why their story is worth telling right now.
Put your character into context
Consider Magneto of the X-Men series. He is a “villain” who believes that mutants are superior to humankind and should therefore dominate. However, a look into Magneto’s past reveals that he was born into a German-Jewish family during the holocaust, and that their abhorrent treatment by the Nazis lead him to believe that humankind and conflict are inseparable. Therefore, in response, it becomes his goal to protect the mutant race from experiencing similar atrocities “at all costs.”
Exercise #4: #TBT
Create a timeline of the significant moments of your character’s life.
After you’ve finished the timeline, distill it into the top 5-10 moments that have shaped your character.
Exercise #5: The Gatsby method
In The Great Gatsby, before we meet the novel’s eponymous character, we hear of him. When Nick Carraway, the narrator, first attends one of Gatsby’s famous parties in the hopes of meeting the mysterious millionaire, it takes a while for Nick to find him. During this time, Nick becomes privy to a host of information about Gatsby. And while it is unclear what is fact or fiction — such as the rumor that Gatsby once killed a man — we get a sense of what other characters think of him.
Establishing how your character is perceived by others is a great way to give them greater context.
Bring your character to life
Once you’ve developed your character’s internal motivations and external influences, you need to figure out how you’re going to convey this information. For your protagonist to shine through the page with subtlety, and without the need for long-winded exposition, they need to have their own voice and distinctive physicality, regardless of which narration perspective your novel includes. Try the following character development exercise to get a better idea of your character’s voice.
Exercise #6: Break the ice
Think about it: how many times have you been asked in one form or another, “So, tell me about yourself?” It’s a classic ice-breaker question, and, these days, with social media and the overwhelming variety of ways for us to “present ourselves” to the world, the stakes of “tell me about yourself” have never been higher. Of course, we change the way we answer this question based on who we’re talking to.
Further chip away at your character and establish how they present themselves to others by imagining how they would briefly describe themselves in the following situations:
In a job interview
On a first date
Catching up with an old friend
Flirting with someone at a party
In their twitter bio
At the border between the US and Mexico
Exercise #7: Less talk, more action
When you meet someone, you do not start by announcing your height, weight, hair, and eye color, so please do not introduce your character to readers like this. But how to avoid describing looks and physicality without chunks of exposition?
Consider this line from James Joyce’s Ulysses: “He looked in Stephen's face as he spoke. A light wind passed his brow, fanning softly his fair uncombed hair and stirring silver points of anxiety in his eyes.”
Joyce takes advantage of a moment of action to shed light on Stephen’s looks and his anxious demeanor.
Try your hand at conveying your character through action by first writing a list of physical traits that apply to your character. Next, with that list at hand, write a scene where something is happening — whether it’s a conversation, laundry-folding, cooking, etc. Weave references to your character’s physicality into the action.
Exercise #8: Take them on a test-drive
Sometimes a bad case of writer’s block boils down to a broken connection between you and your protagonist, and the solution can be a change of scenery. Not for you — for your character! Writing prompts are a good way to get the creative juices flowing and can help you clear out the block so your character can continue down your story’s path.
It’s only once you have acquired a thorough understanding of your protagonist, that a compelling and realistic character will shine through the page. However, there is disagreement in the world of writing communities regarding what information is or is not relevant for an author to know about a character. While we believe it’s probably unnecessary for an author know the number of hairs on their character’s head, we also believe you can never know too much about your protagonist. What’s important is discerning what information is significant to the current story you’re writing.
As Ray Bradbury wrote in Zen in the Art of Writing: “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
My own Characters: Marai & Hordjedtef
I've mentioned earlier that I'm bringing Marai, Ariennu, and Deka to my character event. To illustrate what I do on my own and have always done to a certain extend is illustrations of the characters in the form of character playing cards. I've completed my Marai cards and a Hordjedtef (the antagonist for most of the series) card. So Here's an example of both. I recommend this, even if you can't draw at all. You might use photos or movie stars who come close for your illustrations. Make cards and set them up near your computer as you write, Try it!
Marai#2 After he is renovated and Hordjedtef
Well that's another Wrap. I'm headed out to Arby's to get my Andes Mint Chocolate Milkshake to celebrate the day! Remember our mantra, folks... Keep on Reading Writing & Reviewing
Fairytale Day - Tell me your favorite.
E. M. Swift-Hook's Wolfhounds of Lupercalia (Dai & Julia)
R J Mirabal Curing Hedge Words and Inflation Words