Sunday, November 29, 2009

Favorite Flavors for Characters

My Great Room mantelpiece, with a friend's artwork and the shadow of Shaolin.

Above is an example of how I like to decorate and my type of artwork, plus the shadow of a statue I have in my front hall. What does this have to do with favorite flavors and characters?

We all have differing tastes, even with the simplest, most common things. This came home to me this Thanksgiving. Myriad examples abound. Everyone has specific ideas of what is traditional food for Thanksgiving--all very, very different. For example, yams are traditional, but with marshmallows or without? Without for me, for growing up, my dad (he who hated sweets) would only eat them plain.

What this has to do with characters should be obvious. We're all so different, in so many ways, from the small (no marshmallows!) to the great and sublime. Adding those differences, big and tiny, to every character will create characters fascinating and walking around in your readers' heads. They may even live past your writing!

What are some of the ways you find to create characters? How do you do their makeup? A touch here--or layer it on with a trowel--or?

And finally, another pumpkin recipe in honor of the holiday season:
Pumpkin curry soup:
1 c. cooked pumpkin
1 c. milk, soy milk or broth of your choice
curry powder to taste
Mix, heat and ENJOY!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude and pumpkin nut bread

My stomach-with-legs kitty on the lookout for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Proven facts: Gratitude increases creativity and productivity. Chocolate decreases inflammation. So I remember every day I'm grateful for family and friends and chocolate!

PUMPKIN NUT BREAD (I always buy big cans of pumpkin so I can make this)

1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2c whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp salt
dash cloves
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs beaten
1/3 c. water
1 c. cooked pumpkin (fresh or canned)
1/2 c. chopped pecans (or any nuts or can be omitted)
1/2 c. dark chocolate bits (can be omitted, but why?)

Grease 9x5x3 loaf pan (cake pan works too).
Place all dry ingredients in large bowl, mix well. Add oil and eggs. Add water, pumpkin, nuts and chocolate bits. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until done, let cool, ease out of pan.

Variations: use different spices, mace and allspice, used mashed sweet potato instead of pumpkin, frost if baked in cake pan with sprinkling chocolate bits on top and when slightly melted, spreading with a knife, cream cheese frosting works as well, as does raisins or any dried fruits.

Enjoy! And

Monday, November 23, 2009


A platform Bruce built

First snowfall of the season

A couple of posts ago I talked about the necessity of creating a platform. Above are a couple of instances of same. The first is of course a different type of platform, one created by Bruce, my permanent boyfriend. But it illustrates how to create "branding" as well as a platform: Bruce uses recycled materials in his creations. The platform was built with a shutter from our previous home and the basil was re-planted from this summer's garden. Bruce's Brand is becoming the guy who recycles while creating useful art. A brand can be created by creating different projects using the same creative process.

And what does branding have to do with snow? Well, I grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, a world famous ski resort. And the ski resort is world famous for skiing in the sun. In fact, Sun Valley has been so successful at branding that many people don't know that during summers, it's also a great resort for all sorts of outside activities, with superb trout fishing, golfing, hiking, horse trails and on and on.

What does this mean for a creative person trying to establish or maintain or grow a career? It means branding requires some thought and planning. It needs to be original and specific, but hopefully avoids "Sun Valley is ONLY a ski resort" type of branding. Narrow enough to be distinct, but broad enough to be attractive to a wide audience. (How many people never read fantasy until Harry Potter?)

Difficult to achieve, I know, and I'm working hard on my own brand, coming up with new fresh ideas for promoting myself and my writing. I remind myself often, that branding, like any creative process is always a work in progress.

What are some of the ways you've branded yourself? Any that have worked well that you'd like to share? Failed miserably? Or do you take the organic approach and promote as it comes?

Next up: networking.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

In my life, I've lived in several different countries, including those that do not have the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. Much of the reason we have those freedoms is because of the efforts and sacrifices our veterans have made.

Honor them today.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cooking up Creativity

Last rose of summer in November!
Powder Biscuit rolls, we ate the cake.

The holidays are roaring towards us, laden with expectations and promises and angst. First up (at least for my U.S. readers) is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the easiest holiday for me. Perhaps it's because it has the fewest expectations, promises and angst--and most of them are around food, or rather the creation of food. In my experience, many if not most creative people enjoy making stuff, in this case, food.

For example, my dad, an artist, adored making fudge. He never ate sweets, but every couple of months he'd make an enormous, vast amount of fudge, two to four pounds of the sweet stuff. He'd use all the best ingredients and spend hours creating pan after pan. When it had cooled, he'd take a tiny square to taste and make sure it worked. The rest of us ate the rest.

I've wondered about why he made fudge and have come to the conclusion that he enjoyed the process. He enjoyed using myriad ingredients, sometimes in new and different ways. And when those new and different ingredients and ways didn't work, he'd toss the batch out and start over (even if we wanted to eat the experiment). Because it was only fudge, only took a limited amount of time, and unlike his art work, was not going to go up for sale, he played while he created.

This is transferable to our creative work. When I remember, during process, to play, to try new ingredients and new ways, and to be willing to toss the entire batch out, I'm much more creative. I'm more likely to get into the flow of the work, instead of slogging through page after page.

I wish I had my dad's fudge recipes, but they were all in his head. Instead, in honor of the big food festival, follows are two recipes, both easy and delicious.

Here's a baking powder biscuit recipe:

2 cups white flour (can be unbleached)
1 teas. baking powder (I use more)
pinch of salt (omittable)
5-6 tablespoons of any oil or fat (I use canola)
2/3 c. of milk (soy ok)

Mix, dough will be stiff, I usually don't bother to roll into roll shape, 'cause I like 'em weird, but feel free to roll your dough.400 degrees for 15 minutes. Done.

Molasses Cake (This is one you can play with a lot, very forgiving.)

1/2 c. molasses (light or dark, your choice)
2/3 c. water
1/2 c. raisins (can be omitted, other dried fruits can be substituted)
1/2 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. cloves
1/2 teas. baking soda (I use more)
1 and 3/4 c. white flour

Boil water, combine with molasses and raisins, boil 5 minutes (to soften dried fruit) let cool.
Combine other ingredients together, add mixture.
Spray 8" by 8" pan (or oil and flour) bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

I use more of the spices listed above and often add ginger and nutmeg, sometimes even a touch of chili powder. I often add a half cup of chocolate bits and/or a half cup of nuts. This cake is a little dry and not terribly sweet, so sometimes I melt chocolate bits on the top for a quick frosting and sometimes I frost the cake, depending on mood. Plain, this makes a good breakfast cake.

So, dear readers, what are your favorite recipes for creativity? How do you bake up a wonderful novel or painting or song or?