Wednesday, January 4, 2017

And then there are grandmas.

There are grandmas. And then there are grandmas.
My maternal grandmother was of the latter variety. Soft in all the right places, gentle, quiet, she was the rock of the family. I loved her dearly.
To me, she was Mum-mum, my name for her from the time I was toddler and she used to look after me while my then single-mother worked. Before I was out of diapers, my mom and stepdad were living together, and mom became a stay-at-home mom. I no longer spent every day with grandma. But I always looked forward to visits with her.
I would plunge in through the carport door, kick off my shoes in the narrow entry that doubled as a coat and laundry room, and dash into the dining room knowing I would find Grandma in her chair at the end of the table, cigarette in hand or smoldering in the ashtray, cup of tea in front of her, her pet Chihuahuas on her lap, the TV tuned to one of her favorite shows. As soon as I raced in, she would stub out her cigarette, shoo the dogs off her lap and to their wicker basket by the door, and allow me to take their place.
I'd clamber up and twist to look at her, maybe earn a peck on the cheek. After a few minutes of patiently answering whatever nattering questions I had, she'd scoot me off her lap, and head into the kitchen to fix me toast. With ketchup. And a cup of tea. Always a cup of tea. When Grandpa came in from the shop for lunch, she'd give me a look and nod, my cue to disappear into the living room and read, or color, while Grandpa ate in peace. As I grew older—and heavier—grandma was more inclined to bend her cheek toward me for a kiss, than let me invade her lap. So I would settle in the chair next to hers, eat my toast and ketchup, sip my tea, and watch her watch her favorite show. But time is fickle. And so are teens.
School work, sports, horses, friends, boys, motorbikes and cars dominated my teen years. And I rarely went along when mom went to visit her parents. What fun was sitting around grandma's house watching TV when I could race my horse against my friends' horses, or cruise back roads with my boyfriend?
A good decade passed where I rarely saw my grandparents but for family events, like Christmas, Thanksgiving and family reunions. But they again became an integral part of my life when, in my early twenties, my then husband and I moved into the mobile home on their property they had installed a few years earlier for one of my aunts. When she moved out, another of my aunts moved in. And then it was my turn.
Three years we lived side-by-side with Grandma and Grandpa. Three years I cherish. Three years my two eldest children ruled Grandma's lap. And made Grandpa laugh. Three years where I was welcome to wander across the yard that separated my home from theirs, and enjoy a cup of tea with Grandma, or simply sit on the foot of her bed and watch her favorite TV programs with her.
We laughed at Aunt Bea and Opie's antics. Watched Vanna turn letters. Provided Alex Trebeck the Answer. Rolled along with Ironside, and Matlock, solving crimes. And sometimes I cried.
My tumultuous first marriage heaved its final breath on Grandma and Grandpa's property. Before it did, it was to her I would go for comfort. Mostly she would listen. Sometimes she would comment. Only once did she judge:
           "If you don't like what's going on, change it. If you can't or don't want to change it, deal with it. But whatever you do, stop complaining."
She shocked the hell out of me with that. And sobered me up. Dragged me out of my pity pool, with a good swift kick in the proverbial ass.
Grandma at my first wedding.
1986
Grandma's life had never been easy. Her younger brother died of an illness she had brought home from school, and survived. As far as I know she didn't know her father. And her stepfather was rumored to be not the kindest man. She never spoke about him. Or her mother. Or the sacrifices she made as a wife, and mother. Not once do I recall hearing her complain.
Grandma raised six children on a shoe-string budget. Kept the family together when Grandpa fell apart, and stopped working for over a year. She dealt with his alcohol abuse. Anger. Chased her daughters around the stairwell with a wooden spoon when they deserved it. Fixed them tea and handed them tissue when they needed it. Did her best to protect her only son from his father's contempt. 
She picked apples and made the sweetest-tart applesauce I've ever tasted. Turned cukes into tangy pickles, and raw salmon into canned delicacy. She doted on her dogs. Adored her grandchildren. And did whatever she could to make her children's lives easier. I miss her.
Today is the anniversary of her death. And it feels keener this year, than years past. Perhaps, because this year I am a grandma; my mortality no longer a distant echo, but a resounding boom, a persistent, rhythmic thump, like the tattoo of my grandson's heart beneath my hand when I cradle him on my chest. 

Grandma on her wedding day.
1942
It leaves its mark, becoming a grandparent. A raw bruise where your youth and longevity used to be. I only hope, whatever time I have left—a decade, or four—I leave as indelible and happy a mark on my grandchildren's lives, as Grandma did on mine.

Deborah
They never die, who have the future in them. ~Meridel Le Sueur

Friday, December 30, 2016

Insulted

I read an article today by a woman who slammed Indie writers. She stated self-publishing was "an insult to the written word". This breaks my heart. For her.
Writing is a lonely enough job. It does not serve to isolate yourself further by denigrating a huge--and hugely successful--group of individuals, all of whom share the same interest: the written word.
Self, Trad...however a book makes it to readers is less important than how readers react to the book. Lord knows the "less-than" books are quickly picked apart, their writers insulted and criticized, some quite cruelly. As far as I'm concerned, it needs to stop. Just stop.
I despise fat on my steak. I go to great lengths to cut it off, and ensure very little ever crosses my lips. It makes me gag. My husband, OTOH, loves fat on his steak and prime rib. As far as he's concerned, it's the closest thing to Heaven as he wants to get right now. Same fat. Different reactions to it. Neither reaction is right. Or wrong. They just are.
Books are the same. Some you love. Some you, "eh". Some you toss before you get three pages in. It's subjective. Selective. Personal.
I used to groan, and kvetch when reading a novel loaded with back story, or erratic POV switches. Now I simply close the book, remind myself to watch for these types of issues in my writing, and move on to a book I enjoy. What I don't do, is go on Goodreads, or Amazon, or Twitter and beat the hell out of some poor author for his/her rookie--or not--mistakes (some seasoned--BESTSELLING--authors make very good money committing such blasphemy). Who cares?
Writing is hard work. And yes, as the author of the aforementioned article stated, it does take years to hone the craft. But that doesn't mean you have to be middle-aged or doddering, or traditionally published, before you can reap the reward of seeing your story in print.
Some children take to reading/writing from the moment they're handed a pencil, and Dr. Seuss book. They love reading. They love writing. They excel at it. And by the time they're in their teens or twenties, they're quite competent. And in this era, quite tech savvy, too. Other writers come to their craft late, in their thirties, or forties, fifties and sixties. Should they all have to toil decades receiving rejections before ever seeing something they've labored over into print? As far as I'm concerned, no.
Amazon and other "Indie" publish options have opened doors certain "gate keepers" would like to see slammed shut. Good. Not all gate keepers are good gate keepers.
Some gatekeepers are overwhelmed and hitting the R button out of pure survival instinct. Others have a fixed mindset as to what types of books readers want and are committed to permitting only that formula to venture past the iron fence. Some gatekeepers like fat on their steak. Some hate it. Some love fat, but can't find anyone else willing to eat it. The steak remains on the plate untouched. Should it sit there indefinitely? In my opinion, No.
When an author takes the time to pour heart and soul into something that means something to him/her, let him/her publish. Who are they hurting, really? You don't have to read it. Heaven knows there are a gazillion choices; choose the ones that make you happy. And if you feel like letting the author know you enjoyed their book, go ahead. There isn't a person alive that doesn't appreciate a little praise every now and again. If the book makes you gag, put it down. Find something more to your taste, and feed your soul. But please, don't suck the soul out of someone else. No one wants, or needs, anymore poison in an already toxic world.

Deborah
*stepping off soap box*

Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize. ~Elizabeth Harrison

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Being Female

Confession: I've been avoiding Social Media. It's taken me most of my life to truly appreciate the level of harm my empathetic tendency has to hurt me.

I don't just read angry or terrified posts; I absorb them. Feel them. And no matter how I remind myself I am not personally affected, either by the privilege of birth or citizenship, I have a hard time separating myself from the pain those personally impacted, feel.

I've been on the receiving end of sexual harassment, physical assault, emotional intimidation, the latter as recently as last week when a large white male in his forties entered an elevator I was in. As he stepped on, he looked me up and down in a way that set my alarm bells ringing, and hairs on my neck on end. I briefly considered stepping off, but if he followed me, I would be trapped on the 5th floor with no one around but him. And, it was only 5 floors to the Lobby. And witnesses. I remained, and avoided eye-contact, but kept him in my peripheral vision. He looked at his phone, laughed, and then looked at me.

"They're protesting back home."
Silly me, I responded, because that's what POLITE women do (or those do that are afraid to piss off the bigger stronger person with whom they're trapped in a small metal box): "Protesting? The new president?"
"Yeah." He smirked. "And they just better get over it."

I stepped off that elevator moments later, AFTER him (didn't want him behind me), and loitered by the front desk until he departed out the front door. Then I sent up a silent prayer of thanks that I am Canadian. And, as much as it galls me to admit it, I also gave thanks I'm Caucasian.

That's White Privilege. Knowing your skin color offers you a certain level of protection. Next time I visit the US, I only have to worry about being female. And that makes me want to cry.

All my life I've had to worry about being female. From the time I was a young and my mother admonished me for turning somersaults, or cartwheels, while wearing a dress: Good girls don't show off their underwear! Or when I started to develop, and male friends of my parents and aunts started staring, and in some cases, groping. When boys at school started cat-calling, or "copping a feel" in the hallways, or on the bus. Men at work whistled and cat-called, asked if I wanted to participate in Wet T-Shirt contest? Told me I had the "nicest big b....lue eyes they had ever seen" as they stared at my chest. It was daily.

As I grew older, and legislation and social acceptance of such sexist behavior changed, the daily assault on my psyche with regard to my physiology slowed. It never went away, as exemplified by my recent elevator encounter (and yes, an inappropriate and obvious full-body scan imbued with sexual overtones is an assault on the psyche), but with legal avenues open to people like me (females), business management and principals started cracking down on inappropriate behavior on the part of males, and societal norms began to change. Young men were beginning to be raised with greater respect for their female counterparts.

Sexual assault was defined as such: Sexual assault. Not "copping a feel". Not "checking to see if they're real". Not "offering a compliment" (because the invitation to the Wet T-Shirt contest was apparently that, a compliment), but SEXUAL ASSAULT. And I began to get through entire days without experiencing an uncomfortable reminder of my femaleness. The fact I had one to four children in tow most days probably helped. The fact the Law and the Powers That Be said it's NOT OKAY, helps more. And that is what is so terrifying about recent events in the U.S.

The small measure of protection females in general had, went up in a puff of fetid air from the white male who will soon be the ultimate Power That Be. Forget being a woman of color. I can't even imagine what they feel. And I won't presume to know. I only know, that as a female, I hurt. A lot.

We were finally seeing, after centuries of oppression and abuse, some improvement in perception of our femaleness. Some improvement in protection of our femaleness. Some respect with regard to our right to not have our femaleness assaulted, physically or psychically. And one person, one man, one white man, has the power to roll all that back. And that is what has kept me from Social Media the last couple of weeks: Grief.

Grief for my Sisters. Grief for my daughter. Grief for my future granddaughters. Grief for my nieces. Grief for all the females of this world that face daily persecution, limitations, and outright abuse/assault/terror simply because they are


Clipart

Female.

***

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. ~ Abraham Lincoln


Friday, October 7, 2016

Thanktober


October is the first month of what I consider, The End. The end of Summer. The end of the current year. The end of long days and warm nights.

Some people love October. The gold and red hues heralding the change of seasons. Crisp air. Pumpkins. Turkey. Cozy sweaters and fluffy socks. I'm not some people.

My favorite month is May. It is, to me, the first month of Summer. The start of the growing season. The birth of new life for the majority of Earth's creatures. Hues of green and blue giving way to pops of yellow, blue, orange, and red. A living fireworks display. Flip-flops. Tank tops. Grilled chicken. And sunscreen. Still, I appreciate October.

October is our month, as Canadians, to collectively celebrate Thanksgiving. And we have much to be thankful for:

Universal health care
Freedom of speech
Freedom to travel freely and live anywhere within or out of Canada (provided we've not forfeited the right through illegal behavior) 
Acceptance to love—and marry—adult to adult, free of restrictive traditional expectations.
Clean air (and laws designed to protect it)                                 
Access to clean water (and laws designed to protect it)
Park land, forest, and animal protection 
Mandatory basic education, and unrestricted access to advanced education, for both genders
The right to vote regardless of gender/social status without fear of legal/physical reprisal
Collective compassion 
Trudeau (and not the other T guy)

This is not a comprehensive list of the privileges we enjoy as Canadians that citizens in other countries do not, but it is the one I think of each October.

Credit: Photobucket


Regardless of whatever personal strife I may be experiencing, or living vicariously through my love for other people in crisis, when the Maple's leaves turn red and gold, and twirl to the rain-dampened ground, I pause and give thanks to the agitators and proponents of political, legal, and environmental change throughout history, and those who supported them, for all I enjoy. As a woman. As a Canadian.

Deborah

When people shake their heads because we are living in a restless age, ask them how they would like to live in a stationary one, and do without change. ~George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Nobody's Perfect...

The Editor Devil (@fairchild01) posed the question on Twitter:

#authors & #writers how do YOU deliver description for the POV character when they are alone? Avoiding the cliché mirror...

One response was: NOT; characters focused on personal appearance were either creepy, or vapid. And that got me thinking...Characters are people, too.

How many of us have stood in front of mirror fussing over the fit of jeans? Blouse? Sweated in a change room trying to struggle in/out of sports bra? Bathing suit? Sat in a stylist's chair and said, "Fix me" (like there was something inherently wrong with our straight/curly/red/gray/brown/long/short hair). Does that make us creepy? Vapid? I don't think so. I think it makes us human. And it makes sense that at some point in a story, a human POV character is going to experience some instance of self-awareness, while alone.

A Plus-size character trying to squeeze into a 0-size charter airplane seat. A petite character struggling to see over the steering wheel and reach the accelerator in her brother's sports car. A dyed-blonde fussing over her reverse-skunk look when she bumps into the guy she likes at the Supermarket. The overweight police chief struggling to buckle his holster. The mature woman slathering on face cream containing Retinol in a vain attempt to redirect her straying husband's attention back to her. The teen boy locked in the bathroom with his mother's seamstress tape measuring his biceps to see if his week at the gym made him "swoll" enough to interest the girl he's crushed on since grade five. And that's how POV self-image is best conveyed: indirectly.

It is a definite challenge to convey a POV character's appearance via the character without the easy mirror, but it is doable. Creatively. Carefully. Skillfully. It's not taboo. Tricky, and when done well, effective.

Here's a quick, not necessarily done well, example, purely for illustration purposes:

Damn. She'd grabbed the wrong shoes. These had to be Celeste's shoes. They were at least two-sizes too small. Ginny yanked the shiny satin pump off her toe, and glared inside it.

Nope. Four sizes too small. She'd have better luck stuffing French loaves in a set of thimbles, as shove her duck feet in these shoes. She dropped the pump back in the box with its mate.

Gad. Wasn't that going to be the theme of this wedding? Her the ribbed French loaf, Celeste and Noemi the shiny thimbles. What in hell was Laurel thinking, asking her, Hulkette, to be a bridesmaid alongside them? Ginny sucked in her stomach, glanced down.

Nope. Not even if she mastered the art of holding her breath without dying could she hope to display a quarter of the cleavage of the other two. She exhaled, bit her lip.

A pink-satin draped Stop sign tacked on the end of a triplet of hourglasses. How could Laurel be so cruel?

No, no, no. Laurel was not being cruel. Pink was her favorite color. Had been her favorite color since the first time they had watched Grease together, back in high school. She could hardly help that it was the least flattering color for someone with brick red hair and freckles. If anything, she should be grateful she had managed to sway Laurel toward a softer pink, instead of the fluorescent pink she'd wanted. Gad. What a disaster that would have been. She already stood a good six inches taller than most men. She didn't need to advertise it like a flashing neon sign. Ginny bowed her face to her palms.

Oh, God. What was she going to do? She couldn't be in this wedding. She was too tall, too flat, too red, too awkward—and what if James showed up? What would she say? What could she say? Sorry I stomped on your foot the other night. Hope I didn't break any toes--

"Ginny? Ginny? I think you have my shoes. We need to switch. Quick. The limo's here. We're all ready to go."

Drawing a deep breath, Ginny stifled a groan and pushed up off the toilet. She paused long enough to glance in the mirror and ensure none of the springy curls the stylist had so skilfully constrained in a neat chignon had escaped, smooth the wrinkles from the "Candy Floss Pink" gown and slip a hand inside it to adjust the push-up bra so it was more up, than push, and then retrieving the shoes off the floor, she unlocked the door.

"Oh, there you are. I figured these were yours." Celeste arched a golden eyebrow and smiled as she dangled Ginny's shoes with the tips of her long pink-lacquered fingernails, like she was holding out a pair of dead hens, instead of a pair of size elevens. Her ample cleavage, like her dimpled cheeks, glimmered with body shimmer.

Ginny forced a bright smile. "Yes. Can't imagine how we mixed that up."

"Is everything all right, Ginny? You're a little flushed." Laurel was ethereal in white, her creamy brown skin boasting a dewy glow seemingly reserved for brides, and new mothers, her dark eyes lit with a sparkle brighter than the flashes of light off the Hershey's Kisses-sized diamond drops dangling from her earlobes. Behind her, Noemi was primping in front of the hall mirror, applying yet another layer of lip gloss. 

"Everything is perfect," Ginny said, and smiled as she grasped her shoes, one in each hand, like a pair of pistols. "Absolutely perfect. You are the absolutely, most perfectly stunning and beautiful bride, I could ever hope to attend."

It was Laurel's turn to flush. "Thank you," she said. "Now, get those shoes on girl, and let's go. I'm getting MARRIED today!"

***

Do you have a picture of Ginny in your mind? Yes, I slipped in the mirror at the end to add texture detail to her hair. Mostly I imparted her physical description through her emotional distress. Her self-image.

Sure, Ginny needs to work on learning to embrace, and celebrate what makes her unique and beautiful, like we all do. But that could well be her character arc, the growth she experiences, through the course of the story. James could help, or hinder her with that. That's at the author's discretion. As is a choice of methodology/focus in imparting character/scene description.

Writing is not like Math. There are no hard and fast rules. If you want to convey some aspect of your POV character's appearance via that character, do. If you can do so via action, or emotion, even better.

Just like no one likes to watch another person primp and preen in front of a mirror--taking obvious pleasure, or dismay, in one's appearance is still a cultural no-no--readers prefer not to receive a menu-order of character description. Mix it up. Dole out some aspects of character's physical description through other characters, some through the character. Going back to Ginny, in an earlier time:

"Hey, Red, how's it going up there?"

"Take a hike, James."

"Ooooh, hear that boys? Ginny wants me to take a hike. How about I hike you, Ginny? Scale you like Mount Everest."

James's companions laughed. Ginny clung to her backpack and stared straight ahead.

Why? Why, why, why did she have to look like Dad? Why couldn't she be five-foot nothing and blonde like Mom? But noooo...she had to get Dad's NBA genes, while her "big" brother would be lucky if he topped out at five-six and made the wrestling team--

"What's the matter, Carrot-Top? Cat got your tongue--" Carl's head snapped back and blood gushed from his nose a second later.

"Leave my sister, alone, freak--"

"Michael." Ginny grasped his arm. "Don't. You'll get expelled--" Ginny pitched forward, and managed to get a hand up to brace herself against the seat in front, as the bus ground to a halt.

"Mr. Gilbert," the driver called. "This is where you get off."

***

However you decide to get necessary aspects of your characters' appearance across to the reader, have fun with it. And remember, no character is perfect. Or entirely flawed. Just as there is good and bad in all of us, so too is there in our characters. Enjoy them. And be kind to yourself.

Deborah


Happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies in the dance of life, impels us through all its mazes and meanderings, but leads none of us by the same route. ~ Charles Caleb Colton


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Little Man

I held my firstborn grandchild for the first time this week. It was surreal. Looking into his face, I saw my firstborn son, and I was once more an over-joyed--and terrified--new mother.

Tiny fingers. Tiny toes. Tiny, but strong nose and chin hinting at the strong-willed, and capable man he would become. Silky smooth skin so delicate. Bright, intense stare. Little puckered brow. So serious, little man.

That was what I called him, my firstborn: Little Man. And it is what I overhear my son and daughter-in-law calling their son. Little Man. And he is exactly that. A little Man.

I was always keenly aware of my role. Even when my son was six-weeks old and I found myself sobbing, convinced I could not do another eighteen years of "this", a part of me understood that I was his mother, his caregiver, his guide. Not his owner. And he was then, as he is now, his own man. A little person entrusted to me to teach right from wrong and good from bad. To feed, to shelter, to love, and protect. To educate and discipline. And it overwhelmed. That was what "this" was.

This was the trauma of not knowing. Not knowing if what I was doing was right. Not knowing if he was hungry, or wet, or had gas, was too hot, too cold, or was simply lonely. Was it safe to let him sleep on his back? Front? Disposable or washable? Spatula-shaped soother? Nipple-shaped? None at all? What if I make a mistake and screw him up for life?

My grandson, Daxon.
Photo copyright 2016, Deborah Anderson
The fear was real, and questions racing around in my head as varied and numerous as the opinions proffered by those with experience.

Lay him on his belly. Prop him on his side. Don't pick him up when he cries. Pick him up and pack him around every chance you get. Keep him in your room. Put him in his own room. Night light. No night light. Nurse him in bed. Never take him into your bed...

No wonder I was wreck. But somehow, I muddled through. And learned to listen to my heart.

Over twenty-eight years later, as I watch my son and daughter-in-law manage their two-week-old son  with the calm efficiency I felt I lacked as a new parent, I cannot be more proud.

Yes, they're tired. Yes, they're uncertain about some things. But they are confident in ways with my grandson that I was not with his father, and it buoys my heart.

They are good parents. They will be good parents. And my grandson will one day be a good man, just like his father. And grandfathers.

Deborah

If you would have your son to walk honourably through the world, you must not attempt to clear the stones from his path, but teach him to walk firmly over them -- not insist upon leading him by the hand, but let him learn to go alone. ~ ANNE BRONTË, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall









Monday, August 8, 2016

Flour, butter, sugar...

One of the most powerful—and protective—tools humans possess is their ability to smell.

That sickly-sweet odor that warns you not to eat decomposing meat? The musky warm scent that inspires you to nibble your husband's neck resulting in, less than a year later, the delicate milky-baby scent that compels you to nurture your newborn? Wood smoke that alerts to a forest fire, or draws people round a campfire for 'Smores, and social bonding? Pleasure, pain, fear, desire—emotions and actions, incited by certain odors. Memories and instinct conjured through smell.

Baking Powder Biscuits fresh from the oven take me back to the toasty-warm kitchen of first my Grandma Mac, and then Aunt Shirley's, ranch house. I see them bending to pull the scorched pans from the old wood stove, the steam rising from the biscuit as it's pulled apart, butter pooling in the fluffy white centers. I see woolen mitts and socks hung on a line on the wall behind the wood stove to dry, and my uncle at the kitchen table tucked in his favorite corner of the black vinyl-covered bench seat next to the huge picture window, where he could use his binoculars to keep an eye on expectant cows.


Cinnamon and spice, on the other hand, transport me to the kitchen in my childhood home with its yellow appliances, and my mom, apron around her waist, sliding Jumbo Raisin Cookies on to cooling racks, her long black hair tied back in a ponytail with one of the thick fluffy colorful lengths of yarn sold for that purpose. I feel the wooden spoon in my hands and taste the raw batter, hear my brother begging, "Me, too!" And when it's cold outside, or I feel alone or lonely inside, I pull out my Kitchen-Aid mixer, flour, butter, and sugar, and revive those memories in my kitchen, revive that sense of warmth, security, happiness…love. I create the scents, and with them the people, the memories, because without them, where would I be?

Deborah

Nothing reaches the intellect before making its appearance in the senses. ~Latin proverb


   

Mom's Jumbo Raisin Cookies (Thanks, Mom!)

2c. raisins
1c. boiling water

4c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp. each of nutmeg and allspice
1 tsp. baking soda

1c. shortening
2c. sugar

3 eggs (one at a time)
1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. nuts (optional)

Boil raisins until soft and fluffy. Cool. Sift all dry ingredients together except sugar. Cream shortening. Add sugar bit by bit. Add eggs one at time stirring between. Add dry ingredients in increments mixing between. Add raisins. Add vanilla.

Drop by spoonful on to baking sheet. Bake 9-10 mins at 350F (175C)

Makes 6-7 doz.



                                                                 My beautiful mother.

                                                                                                                             Photo copyright 2015 Deborah Anderson


  

Ranch House Baking Powder Biscuits


2 c. flour, sifted
3 Tbsp. sugar
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt

¼ c. cold shortening

1 c. milk

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until it forms pea-sized lumps. Add milk. Stir, lightly but quickly until soft dough forms. Do not over stir or biscuits will be more dense than fluffy. Roll to ½ to 1" thickness. Cut to portion size and shape preference.

My aunty often floured the open end of a clean drinking glass to cut circular biscuits. Or a floured bread knife can be used to cut a grid pattern in dough for square or rectangular biscuits. Cookie cutters work too! Be as creative or simple as suits.

Bake 10-12 mins in 450F (230C) oven, or until tops are golden and biscuits risen.

Enjoy with butter, or margarine, honey or PB&J. Or just J. I especially love them dripping with butter alongside homemade stew.

  


                                                  Grandma at her 95th birthday celebration.

                                                                           Photo copyright Deborah Anderson, 2010




Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Writer's Best Friend is...

...another writer. Really. 

This hit home for me today as I was lunching with a friend who is also a writer. After sharing our adventures in parenting and everyday life, we moved on to shop talk: Current and future projects, industry successes and not-so-successes, personal goals and yes, challenges. I do not remember exactly what she said, but it prompted a dark confession from me:

I had finished, but not shopped a couple of manuscripts because they felt "too familiar" to me, as in: I feared I had written a stories similar to books I had read at some point in my past, though I could not recall titles, authors, or even when I might have read these other books though it would have been prior to the 1990s. I had even Googled premises and read dozens and dozens of back cover blurbs of similar era, similar set books to see if my fear was valid. To date it had not proved out, still I worried. She very kindly did not laugh aloud.

What she did do was reassure me that this is normal. I probably had read the books before—during the many phases of writing, revisions, and edits on my stories. 

After reading some passages multiple times, and the manuscript in its entirety twice—or fifty times—it would begin to feel distinctly familiar, and that unless I had literally propped someone else's book in front of me from which to transcribe whole sentences and passages, I need not fear plagiarizing anything.

"There are limited tropes, limited inciting incidents, limited combinations of relationships"...When writing about people, you just might have a sister, cousin, mother, father, brother, or uncle, etc. acting as either compatriot or antagonist to a protagonist and doing similar stuff in similar locations as other novelists, but what matters is your voice and execution. In short: You can't worry about that stuff. 

I do.

The Melania-Michelle fiasco is a prime example of how one should not copy someone else's stuff if one wants to be taken seriously. And I want to be taken seriously, hence my interest in clean writing, and heightened appreciation for good people who offer sage advice when it's needed. 

Good writers, good people, offer support, and the occasional gentle knock-up-side-the-head when necessary (Thank you, Roxanne!). Not so good writers attempt to pass other writers' work off as their own. I am grateful to enjoy the company of the former and every time I sit at the computer to work I strive to earn my place among them, because at the end of the day, it is why I write: to tell my stories, not someone else's. 

Deborah


Great is the road I climb, but…the garland offered by an easier route is not worth the gathering. ~Propertius