Saturday, November 08, 2014

Best Opening Lines

So, my survey of the best opening lines by independent authors has concluded. Participation was limited, results are not scientific, but here they are. The top vote-getter was a professional, Candas Jane Dorsey topped the votes with the opening sentence from Black Wine: "There is a scarred, twisted old madwoman in a cage in the courtyard."

But as promised the official winners are only the independent writers.

I apologize for throwing my own work into the mix. Submissions were few enough that it wouldn't have made a very exciting contest without a couple extras.

First Place At the end of this story a baby will be born, and touch off an insurrection.Shock and AweEugene Fairfield
Second Place (tie) Mesmerized by its beauty, I found myself staring at the sky with its only sun.The Legacy: FateGG Atcheson
Second Place (tie)The ravenous hunger that had formed a knot in my stomach pulled me out of my rest. The Legacy: Destiny  GG Atcheson
Third Place It all started with the bowling ball.The Prophecy of ShieldIsabelle Wightman 

Congratulations to the winners.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rhubarb Soda

Follow this link for my rhubarb syrup recipe.

For Kids and Adults:

Add 2-3 Tbspn Rhubarb Syrup to 1 can seltzer. If the syrup is frozen, it helps to mash it up first, and use a room-temperature seltzer, if available.

Note that this drink has significantly less sugar than a regular soft drink. I can't say how much, since a lot of the sugar used to make the syrup went with the compote, but I'm guessing probably about half.

For Adults:

Add 2-3 Tbspn Rhubarb Syrup to 2 oz Vodka. Mix thoroughly. Then add 1 can seltzer. Don't forget this drink is alcoholic, as it will go down very easily.

Rhubarb Compote & Syrup

This is a double purpose recipe. The same procedure creates two fabulous things. Rhubarb Compote is a fabulous topping for pancakes, or filling for tarts. Rhubarb syrup can be used to make fabulous drinks, both for kids and adults.

Makes about 1 cup each of compote and syrup.
  • Mix 2 cups chopped rhubarb stalks with 1 to 1½  cups sugar.
  • Add a little water. (maybe 1 Tbspn)
  • place in saucepan and simmer over low to moderate heat, stirring occasionally, particularly early on as the juice is releasing.
  • Cook until the rhubarb softens and the liquid is just a little syrupy. I stop before the rhubarb is mush.
  • place a sieve over a bowl and pour the mixture in. You will get more syrup if you press with the back of a spoon, but it will be clearer if you don't.
The compote is what is left in the sieve. The syrup is in the bowl. Both will keep refrigerated for a couple days. The syrup may be frozen.

To peel or not to peel. It's a personal taste thing. The red color is mostly in the skin, so if you peel, the syrup will be yellowy green. If you don't, it will be pinker. I don't believe the skin detracts from this recipe.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger -- a big empty place inside me

To paraphrase myself
I cannot remember a time without Pete Seeger, and I cannot remember a time without the music.
 I could be three, or four years old, skipping around a living room in a house that I cannot remember, singing "Put your finger in the air, in the air." Or what was then the funniest line I'd ever heard in song: [regarding the color of flowers for the imminently dying Henry] "Green and yeller. GREEEEN and yeller."

I could be six years old, at vacation bible school, singing, "If I had a hammer," which I then thought was a silly song, because if he really wanted a hammer, why didn't he just go get one.

Nine years old, at summer camp.

Fourteen years old, watching him on TV, calling out, "Split wood, not atoms." He looked like an older man to me, then. It was 1979. He was 59.

Eighteen years old, at vacation bible school, leading the kids in singing, "If I had a hammer," which I then thought was a marvelous song. I sang other songs with them to. And sometimes, I sang as I had learned from him, though I did not remember where I had learned it, "join in on the chorus when it comes round."

Twenty years old, at Oberlin College. He came to play. But I was twenty, and full of twenty, and though I wanted to go, something else called me away (I don't even think it was a girl).

I remember thinking later, that Muddy Waters had come to Oberlin, and died that same year. Then Count Bassie came to Oberlin, and died that same year, and I was sure that the curse would hit Pete Seeger next, and I had missed my one chance to see him. It was 1985, he was 65. Most people retire at 65. I was wrong about the curse, but I was right that that had been my last chance.

He came to Oberlin in 1956, too. In 1985 he filled Finney Chapel, the largest venue we had. In 1956 he filled the living room of Johnson House, which was just a living room. He was on McCarthy's black list and in contempt of Congress for not answering their questions. My mother was there. She could have reached out and touched him.

Twenty-one, still at Oberlin, having a protest in support of the campus minister who had just been let go. We sang "We Shall Overcome", until a group of black students pointed out that the song was precious to them, for the Civil Rights struggle, and could we not co-opt it, please.

Jump ahead. 2005, I'm 40 and a dad. I just got a USB turntable to convert my old vinyl to digital format. I pounce on my parents' scratchy old record collection and pull out four albums to borrow and convert. Half of them are Pete Seeger.

He was "wholesome," in a way nobody is anymore. The only one I think of as a peer to him was Woody Guthrie, but I wouldn't use that adjective for Guthrie. Seeger also could sing. I mean he could SING. Whether it was his songs for children ("Here's to cheshire, here's to cheese,") or Carnegie Hall ("If you see me at the back of the bus"), his voice soared.

It is 2014. I am 48, as old as he was when I was dancing around the living room. I heard the news while driving to work, and I very nearly had to pull over at the side of the interstate because I was crying. It's been 30 years since I worried he would imminently die. He was 94 years old. And still my heart cries, "No!" No, he can't have died. There has always been Pete Seeger. He is too precious to die like any ordinary man. Or couldn't he hang on, just another ten years, so Isabelle can see him in concert when she's at school?

Back in those days there weren't any televisions or radios, and if you wanted to hear any music you just had to make it yourself. It was only the kings and queens that could afford to have somebody else make music for them. And you might not think it would be very good music, everybody making their own. But you'd be surprised.
Pete Seeger, The Children's Concert