"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Friday, December 17, 2010

Meg Waite Clayton

I met Meg on line in a writer's group, not having any inkling as to the amount of writing she had done or if she had ever been published. I have recently found out that, yes, she is published. Not only has she published three books of fiction and many essays and non-fiction pieces, but she is an amazing writer.

She also blogs about writing and writers (I've added her blog to my blogroll). I have posted below a wonderful interview from her website. I know you will enjoy listening to this intelligent and knowledgeable woman talk about one of her books, The Wednesday Sisters.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Will The Real Roger Easton Stand Up?

Excerpt from Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper's Tale
a work-in-progress by Nancy Hinchliff

I heard it loud and clear. I was on the third floor of my bed and breakfast sitting at my computer with my shoes off working away on a new article. By the time I finished the last paragraph, it had turned into a steady pounding. I got up and walked to the stairway, shoes in hand.

Sitting on the top stair, I put them on one at a time, while the pounding got louder and louder and took on a sense of urgency. I hurried down the forty stairs to the ground floor, thinking that this must be a worker from the street who has come to tell me they're turning my water off for a while.

I opened the front door and there he stood, rumpled; his weather-beaten canvas jacket open in the front revealing a denim work shirt. His hair was all askew, and a backpack was thrown over his left shoulder. He looked a little annoyed.

    "Sorry," I apologized, "It's a big house....over four thousand square feet.........takes a while to get to the door....... Can I help you?"

    "Yeah, I'm here to check in"

Check-in? Check-in? I thought, my mind racing. Did I have a check-in today? Oh my God, I think I did! But not this dirty construction worker, who was about to turn my water off. Stumbling over the words, I gathered my wits and I spit out

    "And you are.....Mister....?"

    ".... Evans," he interrupted, "the business man from Virginia"

Business man...business man...this is a business man? I thought. If this is a business man, where is his brief case?....and his computer?.

    "Mr Evans, of course" I managed to get out "Do come in"

    "And you are?" he asked, reeking of tobacco.
    "I'm Nancy, the owner and innkeeper," I replied.

Telling him to put his backpack down in the hall, I took him into the parlor to give him the grand tour, the one I always do for my in-coming overnight guests. As we left the parlor and entered the dining room, I pointed out the snacks and drinks that were available for guests.

    "Is it okay if I have some of that liquor over in the corner?" he asked, completely ignoring the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies on the cake plate nearby.

    Hesitating to think that one over for a bit, I answered "Yes" I'm such a trusting soul.

He told me he would be eating breakfast at nine and asked if his friend, the one who had made the reservation Roger I think his name was, could stop by later for a visit.
    Then he asked "Is there anyone else here but me?"

    I thought seriously about lying, but answered "No"

    He went on " Do you live here alone?"
A sharp jab in my stomach alerted me. Do I tell him the truth?  Why is he asking that?

    "Yes", I said and sent him up to the third floor, with a key, to find his room.

I hurried to my room on the second floor and double locked the door. Sitting on the bed, I tried to catch my breath, his words whirling around in my head. Later I heard him leave, then return. I quietly went down, to check out what was going on. I entered the parlor and there he was with an already half empty bottle of Vodka, in his right hand, pouring himself a drink. The brown paper sack from the liquor store across the street was lying on the floor.

    "Hi," he said, looking up at me from my favorite winged-back chair, with a crooked but friendly smile on his face. He was now reeking of both tobacco and Vodka.
    "Hi" I countered, scurrying past him and heading for the kitchen.

    "Like a drink?"

    "Oh no, thank you. I don't drink". I said, maybe a little too curtly.

I made it to the kitchen, without appearing too rude, happy that I wouldn't have to answer any personal questions. I retreated up the back stairs to my room, which I immediately locked tight. An hour or so later, the doorbell rang and I could hear him open it and greet his friend. For a while, it was very quiet and then I heard the two of them leave.

I finished watching the evening news and went downstairs to make myself some dinner. I walked into the parlor and was a little taken a back by the empty Vodka bottle plopped down on the antique table next my beautiful winged-back chair. After I recovered and threw out the empty Vodka bottle, I had dinner and retired to my room for the rest of the evening. I talked myself into believing everything would be okay and I wasn't in any eminent danger. Then I locked both locks, grabbed the phone, and jumped in bed............

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tips on writing good fiction

Guest post by author Judith Marshall

Judith Marshall is a third generation native Californian, born in St. Helena and raised in Concord. After leaving a successful career in corporate America as a human resources executive, her lifelong dream of writing fiction was realized with the completion of Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, winner of the Jack London Prize awarded by the California Writers Club and recently optioned for the big screen.

She is currently working on her second novel, Staying Afloat, the story of a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother who morphs into a sex-starved adulteress. She lives in Northern California with her husband. For more information, go to http://www.judithmarshall.net/

Top Ten things to remember when writing fiction

  • Always begin with your protagonist – readers need to know who to root for
  • Start with action – lock in your readers upfront
  • Be visual in your approach – let readers “see” your story (this helped get my novel optioned for the big screen!)
  • Limit your descriptive words – make each one count
  • Don’t forget the senses – smell, touch, sight, etc.
  • Write only scenes that either enrich character, provide necessary information, or move the plot forward; or better yet, do all three
  • Rely on dialogue - readers rarely skip dialogue
  • Have your character do something while thinking – driving a car, washing dishes, combing a child’s hair
  • Use similes for style
  • When in doubt, leave it out!
     Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, a first novel by Judith Marshall, is a winner of the Jack London Prize awarded by the California Writers Club and recently optioned for the big screen.

Set in a small town in Northern California, in the spring of 2000 when the dot-com boom was at its peak, the story centers around Elizabeth Reilly-Hayden, a successful executive in her late fifties and a divorced mother of two. Emotionally armored and living alone, she wants only to maintain the status quo: her long-term significant other, her job and her trusted friends— five feisty women who first met in high school. Yet in a matter of days, the three anchors that have kept her moored are ripped away. The group of lifelong pals gathers at Lake Tahoe to attend to the funeral arrangements of their beloved friend, and tries to unravel the mystery of her death. Through their shared tragedy, Liz learns how disappointment and grief can bloom into healing and hope.___

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Art of Making Scrambled Eggs

Excerpt from Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper's Tale

I love making breakfast at my Inn. I'm always challenging myself to try new things: Gateau of Vegetable Crepes, Spinach-herb Quiches, Croissants Au Gratin, Tarragon Eggs in Puff Pastry...all wonderful gourmet dishes. Most of my guests love it too. But every now and then, a guest or two, or three just wants down home biscuits and gravy or plain ole scrambled eggs. Well, I can do that too. In fact, I've got the scrambled eggs thing down pat.

When I first started doing breakfast for 8-10 people on a regular basis, I discovered I needed a few menues that would be easy to do for a large group, or in a situation where my help hadn't turned up, or I had come downstairs late in the morning, with only ten minutes to get it all together. Or maybe I forgot to go shopping and the only ingredients I had dictated the only kind of breakfast I could make. Enter: scrambled eggs!

Most people like scrambled eggs, adults and kids alike. Some like them plain, some with cheese, and some with ketchup or chili sauce. Some even like sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, or spinach stirred in. Kids usually prefer plain or with cheese. Most don't want cream cheese, or feta, or goat cheese. They want plain ole American or, maybe, mild cheddar. Well, my specialty is scrambled eggs with cream cheese, onion, chives, basil, and dill......my interpretation of Gourmet eggs. They are fabulous! And my guests, except for the kids, love them. I get a lot of positive feedback.

I think the feedback had to do with more that the flavor and ingredients of the eggs. It is also has to do with the consistency and the appearance. To me, making scrambled eggs correctly is an art. When I was first exploring the best way to prepare them, a fellow innkeeper suggested microwaving them. They did puff up nicely and look appetizing, but they were rather insipid. For some reason, the microwaved cooked the flavor out of them. Besides I wanted more control, and they way to get that is with a wrought iron frying pan and a rubber spatula.

There are several things you must and must not do when preparing scrambled eggs. First of all, if you cook for over 4 people, you should mix them in the blender......not too long...you want air in them, but you don't want them to be overly foamy. Secondly, never water them down with milk or even cream. Next, always melt a liberal amont of butter in the pan and have the pan very hot.........not too hot, you don't want the butter to turn brown. Test the pan with a sprinkle of cold water. If it sizzles, add the beaten eggs.

Now, this is one of the most important parts. Start with flame on high, but gradually lower it, as you slowly cook the eggs. Scrambling does not mean swishing the eggs around furiously in circles. The proper motion is a pushing motion...........back and forth slowly, as the eggs begin to coagulate. Be sure you're scraping all the way to the bottom of the pan. Let's say we're cooking for kids, so we're using shredded cheddar cheese. I hate American! Do not add the cheese until the eggs are almost finished. You don't want them too wet or too dry. They should look like little yellow mounds of whipped cream or they will be more firm. As you're finishing up the cheese will be melting, so fold it in carefully.

Now if you're doing the cream cheese version, start out the same way. Sprinkle on the herbs, as the eggs begin to coagulate, then add 3 or 4 large dabs of Philadelphia cream cheese with chives and onions. Place the cheese in different places around the pan, so it will be easier to work in and distribute. If you're eggs finish before your family or guests are ready to eat, you may leave them in the hot pan and cover with tin foil until ready to serve. Don't finish them completely, if they will be sitting in the pan a while, as they will get hard. You want them firm, but not hard or, on the other hand, not wet and runny.
Serve your eggs with ham, bacon or sausage and hot buttered toast or croissants.

Do Not let them get cold. Cold scrambled eggs are terrible!

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Nano is almost over

Guest post by Julianne McCullagh

We are coming to the end of NaNoWriMo.  I’d surprise myself immensely if I manage the full 50,000 words by Monday midnight. The experience, though, has been fruitful if not completely successful.  I’ve gotten a few story starts, anecdotes, character filling out and understanding of what it is I am trying to say in my novel.  There are decisions to be made. Directions have to be chosen, because when you are writing about three generations there are too many distractions and side roads to wander and take you far away from the point, the point, that is, that you think you are trying to make. Since I usually write works that are shorter than a novel, much shorter, my learning curve has been steep. Here is one fictional scene of what developed during my exercise of NaNo:

The side board in the dining room has rings. Concentric circles from sweated glasses left there, bare bottomed or through flimsy coasters that couldn’t do the job.
The rings have been polished over, but the lighter stain shows through years of benign neglect.
I kinda like them.
They conjure episodes of when life was simpler, for me, at least. On any given Saturday night in those days people would ‘drop over’. The men wore jackets and ties. The women wore dresses and spiky heels. The women all wore hose, of course, even in summer, except for the women who were ‘sporty’, the ones who smoked and dyed their hair and wore the kind of lipstick that left smudges on everything they came in contact with: napkins, glasses, cigarettes, cheeks. My mother wore stockings.

My parents always had a supply of rye, scotch, gin and beer on hand. And that awful Tom Collins mix.  The small bottles of ginger ale and the pretty maraschino cherries were forbidden to us. I really liked ginger ale, but we could only have it from the big bottles we got when we had bologna and Virginia ham and Wise potato chips for supper.

We’d sit at the top of the stairs, in our pajamas. The grownups would come in, loudly, laughing already, strong perfumes floating up the stairs, along with the smell of hairspray and cigarettes.  Dad had set up bar on the dining room table ready with pitchers of Manhattans, the makings of highballs and gin and tonics. Mom had cheese and crackers (I helped arrange them on the crystal dish before we had to scoot upstairs) and some cheesey puffs fresh from the oven that she made from directions on the side of the biscuit tube.  The maraschino cherries were in an etched dish with a tiny fork. There were green olives with pimentos in a divided dish, next to some pickle spears with little colored swords piercing them.

We’d hear the glasses clink with ice cubes and every so often a loud rise of laughter would follow one of the men who told a joke, I guess, that earned a lot of sloppy sshh’s from some of the women.  My sister would fall asleep right there on the landing on the pillow she brought from our room.  After she fell asleep I would wander down, wearing my best innocent I just woke up face, pretending to seek a glass of milk.

I was intercepted, as I had hoped, at the bottom of the stairs, by a woman with Lucy hair and an outline of poppy red lipstick on her mouth.  The cigarette she was balancing and the lip of the glass had stolen the rest of the color. She managed a long ash creeping almost to the cotton filter in the same hand in which she held a tumbler nearly empty of amber liquor. The cherry was still there, marinating in the watered down Manhattan.

When she bent down to give me a hug, calling me sweetie, and oh what a doll, she swept the fallen ash off the shoulder of my pink flannels. I was momentarily smothered in her ample cleavage popping over the v-neck of her tight dress.  Her perfume and cigarette made my eyes water.  It was not the perfume my mother used.  She speared the object of my real quest with a tiny green sword and presented it to me.  I slipped away with the rye soaked delight before she could hug me again.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writers ought to know: Is it Titled or Entitled?

If we are referring to the title of a piece of written work, which is it, titled or entitled? I've had several editors and agents tell me to use "titled", as in my book is titled Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper's Tale, but I frequently see writers using "entitled" in this case, so I researched it and this is what I found:

There is a common confusion between the words titled and entitled. Titled would have been the correct adjective for that sentence. If something is “titled” it means that it received such a title, either by the author or by someone else.

Entitled, on the other hand, means that a person has rights to something. If you are entitled to a house, for instance, it means that the law protects your right to own that house.

Some dictionaries propose that “to entitle” can also mean “to give a title.” I have rarely seen mainstream publications back up such usage, however. Below you will find two quotations from The Economist illustrating the point.

A visit to Canada’s web-site where the Federal Government describes itself to the world, particularly the section titled “Powers of National and Provincial Governments, as written by the late Honourable Eugene A. (The Economist)
The largesse has not been restricted to poor children. Since 1998 all pre-schoolers have been entitled to some free nursery care once they turn four, and in 2004 that entitlement was extended to three-year-olds. (The Economist)

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

La Traviata

Exerpt from Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper's Tale
a work-in-progress by Nancy Hinchliff

Demanding operatic divas, naked Irishmen walking in their sleep, and honeymooners leaving remnants of an unforgettable wedding night are all part of the flamboyant and interesting guests who came in and out of my life as an Innkeeper; each bringing his or her own unique personality and quirkiness to the table. Although the percentage of high-maintenance, demanding guests we had was pretty low, there were several who really stood out in my memory.

One of the most memorable was an eccentric opera singer who wore the more flamboyant and outlanddish costumes I have ever seen. She must have thought she was still on stage because, in addition to her colorful costumes, her daily entrances into the dining room were breath taking.

Chapter 8, opening:

I remember the day she arrived vividly.

I opened the door to a barrage of people, having no idea who they might be. The only person scheduled to check in that night was a single, elderly lady.

"I am Madame Rosalina Capriani!” the woman announced, "and these are my suitcases".

I scanned the four men accompanying her and, sure enough, each one was carrying a suitcase...

She extended a long, well rounded arm covered in silky, red, purple and green, part of a flowing cape encircled heavily in dancing Magenta fringe. I stood there in awe, as she flamboyantly glided through the doorway, motioning to her walking suitcases to follow..........

copyright 2010 Nancy R. Hinchliff All Rights Reserved

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Welcome to my blog

A Memorable time of My Life is a writer's blog with information, examples of and focus on memoir, journalistic writing, essays, poetry, stories and blogging. It includes links and tips on getting published, agents & editors, exemplary writers, and related topics. The author encourages Guest Posts from other writers, and posts book reviews and lists of helpful publications for writers of both fiction and non-fiction.

Author: Nancy Hinchliff

*Guest posts on topics of interest to writers and poets are welcome.  Contact me, if you're interested. Please feel free to post comments and feedback on the excerpts from my memoir-in-progress.   

I own and operate a bed and breakfast in Louisville, Kentucky where I also blog and write on line at Examiner.com, Eye on Life Magazine, Pink magazine and Hubpages. You can find me blogging at Business and Creative Women's Forum, InnNotes, Innbusiness  and Louisville Bed and Breakfast Association 

In 2008, I co-authored Room at the Table, for The Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky for which I won their president's award for outstanding work. The coffee-table cookbook has recipes from Kentucky Inns all throughout the state and beautiful photographs of scenic Kentucky taken by award winning photographer, Robin Goetz.

I am currently working on a memoir titled Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper's Tale, a humorous and poignant account of how an admittedly asocial retired school teacher reinvents herself as an Innkeeper. This i
ntimate tale recounts 16 challenging years of self-discovery.