Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Using the Senses

Today's topic ties in with Showing vs. Telling. By Using the Senses, you can avoid those dreaded filter words associated with telling--felt, saw, heard, touched, etc. Since the post on Showing vs. Telling focused on sight, let's take a look at the other senses.

If you close your eyes when you're standing in the woods, what do you hear?
Leaves rustled in the light breeze and the rapid thunk, thunk, thunk of a woodpecker echoed through the trees.
I swatted at the persistent buzzing by my ear. Go away, mosquito!

How about when you're walking down the busy sidewalk of a large city?
A car horn blared somewhere down the block.
The drone of a hundred overlapped conversations created nonsensical garble as I waited to cross the street.

Smells and Tastes can trigger good and bad memories, drawing the reader deeper into the story.
I opened the door to call for Fido, and an acrid odor assaulted me. Not again! Time to haul out the tomato juice.
She followed the familiar scent of cinnamon to the kitchen. What was Mom baking this time? Cinnamon bread? Snickerdoodles?
One bite of the pickle had me leaning over the nearest trashcan to spit out the turpentine-flavored cuke.
A hint of mint cooled her taste buds with the first sip of tea.

The sense of touch can get a little tricky. Be sure to leave out "feel" words!
He skimmed his fingers along her silky skin.
The splintered edges stabbed at her palm, but she didn't let go.
The kitten's downy fur tickled my leg as she curled up next to me in bed.
How would they climb the jagged rocks without gloves?

Although good visuals can help the reader picture the scene in her head, certain smells, tastes, and sounds can evoke strong emotional reactions. Textures often cause pleasure or pain, whether real or sympathetic. Make good use of all the senses!

Next week's tip will be all about Worldbuilding!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Canning Recipe--BBQ Sauce

I've had to focus on my garden a bit more the last month or so. Zucchini and summer squash, corn, green beans, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes... And that means lots of canning and freezing! Here's another requested recipe!

BBQ Sauce

15 lbs. tomatoes, cored and chopped (I use a mix of whatever is ripe--Early Girl, Roma, Cherry, Grape)
2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups onion, chopped
2 cups sweet banana peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Tabasco or your favorite)
dash of ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Run the cooked mixture through a food mill, keeping juice and discarding skins, seeds, etc. Taste for sweetness/spiciness and adjust seasonings. Cook over medium-low heat to desired thickness, stirring often to prevent scorching. For thick sauce, plan on at least 12 hours of cooking time. A Crockpot/slow cooker may be used. Follow manufacturer directions for canning. Makes approximately 4 pints.


Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Voice

After several weeks of grammar and punctuation, I'm ready for a good discussion about one of the less definable elements of writing craft--Voice.

What is Voice? How do I develop it? Can it change from book to book and over time?

Voice adds depth and personality to the story. It sets the tone, whether that tone is humor, suspense, or something else. Think about what makes individual people different from the person standing next to them. Does the stuffy CEO have a deadpan sense of humor? Or maybe she has a knack for telling the unvarnished truth without caring that she might offend someone? Every writer will have his/her own way of writing the same scene based on his knowledge, past experiences, and perceptions.

Voice, through word choices and punctuation, can change the meaning of a sentence, adding uniqueness to an otherwise "flat" scene. To add suspense to a scene, the heroine might creep along an alley rather than walking through it. While you choose "creep," I might choose "slink" instead. For sexual tension, the hero might dangle the heroine's black lace thong from his fingertip for a moment and give her a wicked grin instead of simply removing her panties and dropping them on the floor. Will the panties be a thong or a scrap of lace? A well-placed em-dash can give the right punch to a line as well, showing emphasis where you want it to fall.

By allowing your personality into your writing, you develop your own voice. Not only do word choices and punctuation add to it, sentence structure and word order contribute to that not-the-same-as-everybody-else element as well. This is often influenced by geography and education. Think dialects. A native Bostonian isn't going to speak the same as a Southern lady, and a mechanic probably won't sound like an English professor. An important point to remember--your characters still have to stay true to who they are.

As you write (and live) more, you gain more experience and knowledge--sort of like your very own character arc. Those factors tend to make subtle changes to your voice. Maybe you've shifted from historical romance to paranormals. By putting yourself in new surroundings, you'll adapt your voice to fit the genre, just as most people behave differently in a variety of situations. That growth is a good thing, but be sure to follow through once you've chosen the humorous, serious, reflective, etc. tone for your book.

Although Voice is intangible, it still influences the mood of your writing. Make a list of your strongest personality traits and decide which ones you want to show in your narrative. If you're trying to develop a new voice, define how you intend to convey it. Then write and get feedback. Remember--if writing was easy, everybody would finish a book. :)

Since I'm sitting at my desk smelling the sauce cooking for lasagna, let's delve into Using the Senses to draw in the reader next week!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Another Recipe! German Doll Cookies

At the request of an old friend, I'm posting a recipe for German Doll Cookies. My sister and I spent what seemed like days helping our mom make cookies for Christmas. These are one of my favorites. They're a bit labor intensive, but they taste wonderful!

German Doll Cookies

1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
4 cups flour
6 eggs whites, beaten
extra sugar
ground walnuts

Mix butter, sugar, egg yolks, sour cream, lemon juice, and flour in order. Roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thick on a floured board. Cut with mini gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters (about 2 inches high). Dip unbaked cookie in beaten egg whites, then sugar, then nuts. Bake on greased cookies sheets at 250 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool completely before storing. Cookies will be slightly crisp and flaky. Makes approximately 17 dozen.

Here's a scale photo of the cookie cutters I use. They were part of my grandmother's huge collection. She had over a thousand cookie cutters!
I'd hoped to include a picture of the cookies, but no search results came back for the recipe name. They must have a German name... Imagine a small sugar cookie with light nut coating and a shiny, sugary finish!


Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Comma Usage Part 3

Commas demand a lot of attention, don't they? I'm wrapping up this topic today with Comma Usage Part 3!

If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, be sure to check them out!

1) Use commas with "not" phrases.
She wanted brownies for her birthday, not chocolate cake.
Not to be outdone, the other peacock fanned its tail feathers.
I need an electrician, not a plumber, to install a new circuit breaker.

2) Commas are needed with "the more" and "the less" in longer sentences, but are unnecessary with shorter phrases.
The more they tried to repair the paint job, the worse the car looked.
The less time he spent at the arcade, the more time he had for studying.
The better her grades, the more likely she is to earn a scholarship.
The more the merrier.

3) Use commas to set off names of places.
She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but now she lives in northern Minnesota.
Have you ever been to the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas?
He accidentally bought a plane ticket to Springfield, Missouri, instead of Springfield, Illinois.

While the combination of all three parts of this series doesn't list all aspects of comma usage, I've covered those used most often in fiction writing. When in doubt, look up the rule. In case you missed the memo, get a copy of your style guide, like Chicago Manual of Style, as a reference. Keep it with your writing materials. Use it!

Next week, let's talk about that sometimes indefinable thing called Voice.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Recipe Time Again! Tomato Soup

I made Tomato Soup today with half a bushel of garden tomatoes, and I'm getting requests for the recipe! Feel free to share!

Tomato Soup

approximately 13 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
6 large onions, halved and sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 sweet banana peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
pinch of ground red pepper

Combine tomatoes, onions, celery, and peppers in a large pot. Cook over medium heat about an hour and a half or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Strain the mixture through a food mill, catching the liquid in a pan and discarding the tomato skins, celery, etc. Return to medium heat.

Combine salt, flour, sugar, and ground red pepper. Mix well.

Bring the tomato mixture to a low boil. Gradually add the flour/sugar mixture. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Seal in sterilized canning jars. Makes about 7 pints.

**Note: I often use a combination of Early Girl, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes, but any flavorful tomato or combo will work!

Besides simply heating for soup, I use tomato soup for chili. Brown 1 lb. ground beef with 1 medium onion, chopped. Add 1 large can kidney beans with liquid, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1 quart tomato soup. Cook over medium-low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally.


Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Comma Usage Part 2

Are you ready for another dose of Comma Usage rules???

Let's dive right in! Here goes...

1) Commas can be used with parenthetical (supplementary/non-essential) elements for slight breaks. Use an em-dash for a stronger break.
She bought the thigh-high boots, even though she'd never wear them in public.
Romance heroes are handsome and muscular, for the most part.
The trip wasn't cancelled, in spite of the nasty weather.

2) Use commas with non-restrictive phrases. If a descriptive phrase isn't essential to the sentence's meaning, it's non-restrictive.
The boy, with the helmet perched sideways on his head, turned toward the rumbling Harley.
The doe, trailed by her trio of fawns, grazed her way across the yard.

3) Always use commas with dependent clauses that begin sentences, including participial and adverbial phrases.
If he saw one more tear, he'd break down and forgive her. (dependent clause)
Without any money, they couldn't rent a room for the night. (dependent clause)
Exhausted from the chase, she ducked into the tangle of briars to catch her breath. (participial phrase)
After hours of waiting, he no longer had any patience. (adverbial phrase)

4) Use commas to separate a listing of two or more adjectives before a noun when they can be connected by "and" and adding commas won't affect the meaning. The order of the adjectives can be reversed and still make sense. Repeated adjectives also need commas.
He shoved his fingers into the sticky, gooey dough.
The forecast is calling for a cold, rainy, overcast day.
Many, many people have phobias.

5) Direct addresses require commas. Remember "Let's eat Grandma." vs. "Let's eat, Grandma."???
When did you arrive, Aunt Millie?
Miss, please close the door.
You, Mr. Drake, aren't welcome here.

6) Use a comma after an introductory "yes" or "no."
Yes, you may sit there.
No, I wasn't expecting you.

In case you missed my other comma-related posts, check out Comma Usage Part 1, Comma Splices and Punctuation for Dialogue.

Next week, I'll tackle more ways to use commas. No, I don't expect you to remember them all!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Early Christmas!

Celebrate Christmas a little early with The Sextet Anthologies Volume 5: Mistletoe & Menage! It's 50% off at Siren Publishing through August 28th!
Happy Reading!
Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!