Be my Huckleberry!

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Thanks to the WordPress daily writing prompt (The Daily Post at WordPress.com) I found out more than I ever imagined about huckleberries. Today’s prompt was to pick a word, any word, perhaps the first word that comes to your mind. After picking said word, you were to go to Google Images, then pick the eleventh image and write about that it brought to mind.

First of all, I read today’s writing prompt at some point during the workday when I was checking my email. I intrigued me, but I barely have enough time to read my emails until I get home, so I had a bit of time on the drive home to think about what word I should go with. Should I just think if a random word? Open a favorite book and poke my finger in the middle of a page? Go to dictionary.com and hit a random scroll to find an odd word? What if it was some ordinary word like “it”, “and” or “the”? So many questions can roll around in your head when you have an hour drive home.

During my drive I listen to Opie and Anthony on Sirius radio. Often raw and always uncensored, today’s show was a bit different. Opie was there with his crew, but Anthony and comedian Jim Norton couldn’t make it due to Hurricane Sandy. It was an interesting, different show. The other change was no commercials. (Just a personal note, why do I pay so much a month for satellite radio and have to listen to commercials too???) Opie ran a game during what would have been the commercial break. He played the first two songs tweeted to him. They ended up being Moon River by Andy Williams and then some wild thunder and lightning song played back to back just because he could. It was fun and while I was listening to Moon River I never realized part of the lyrics call it a huckleberry friend.

Oh boy, I soooo had my word to look up. I mused about it until after dinner. If you are of my generation, huckleberry probably brings to mind a blue hound dog. Good ol’ Huckleberry Hound Dog was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid. He had the best slow southern drawl and crazy sidekicks I smile just thinking about him.

Maybe a generation before me or someone much more active than I am would think of the actual huckleberries and huckleberry bushes. The picture I clicked on was from a website called Return to Hiker’s Notebook Home Page (http://www.sierrapotomac.org/W_Needham/Huckleberry_060724.htm)

The Hiker’s Handbook told me more than I’d every needed to know about huckleberries so I am going to share some of that info with you.

First of all, the name is derived from a similar berry know as a hurtleberry or whortleberry. Apparently it is thought that the name was in reference to the dark, bruised color making it appear to “hurt”. Often mistaken for blueberries, there are over 40 different species of huckleberries in the United States. Who knew???

The most interesting think I found out was the huckleberry has 10 seeds that are large enough to be seen and blueberries have as many as 65 seeds that are so small you can’t see them. But they are big enough to get stuck in your teeth when you eat them. (My words, not the Hiker’s).

Huckleberries were often associate to anything that is “insignificant and humble in nature” due to the small size of the plant they are grown on. Mark Twain chose them to name his famous character after, and explained why in an interview in 1895. Per our Hiker’s website, “…he chose the name for the character as a contrast to Tom Sawyer, to express that he was to be of “lower extraction or degree.” “Maybe because of Twain’s character, “huckleberry came to be associated with a close friend as a sign of affection as in “I’m your huckleberry.” I don’t know how old you’d have to be to know this. Maybe a great-grandma or grandpa. I do know I am going to use that the first chance I get. I can’t wait to call someone my huckleberry!!

 Instead of going on and on, I am going to give you some quick huckleberry facts:

  • The western black huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho
  • Indians of the Columbia Plateau had a big bash every July when the first huckleberries were harvested.
  • They were an important food source for the western Indian tribes.
  • Nez Perce made a purple dye from them
  •  Eastern huckleberries, the box huckleberry, are considered some of the oldest living organism
  • One colony in Pennsylvania is estimated to be 13,000 years old (dicey confirmation if you ask me, but I am just sayin’)
  • Box huckleberries have pink flowers and light blue fruit
  • Black huckleberries have red flowers and black fruit
  • I have never eaten a huckleberry to the best of my knowledge
  • I am going to look for a huckleberry bush to plant next spring

Wow, who knew half of this stuff about huckleberries other than hikers? This was a fun writing prompt. In fact, so much fun I am going to do this every day for a week. Hopefully I’ll entertain and enlighten someone besides myself.

Outline or Listen to Your Muse – that is my question

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Do you outline? According to J A Konrath, it is essential. This man has written an awful lot of really good books. Action abounds in all of them. They are fun and exciting crime novels so he must know a bit about writing.

Outlining takes me back to middle school, or Junior High if you are as old as I am. And it wasn’t a very fun time writing an outline for a story that had already been written, so why would I want to write one for a story that is bumping around in my head?

Download his free “Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” and read all about outlining and more. He has sound reasoning and valid advice. He states that “Many new writers feel like they can wing it, and usually around page 50 the story comes to a grinding halt and gets parked in a drawer until they die” and I heartily agree. Of course my know-it-all self just wants to sit down at the computer and bang out a wonderful manuscript a la Jessica Fletcher in “Murder She Wrote”. (I can’t imagine to compare myself to a real person, a fictional character will do.) This is a romanticized version of writing a lot of people have, myself included. In reality, writing is hard work, but if it was easy anyone and everyone would do it.

 

In reality, I sat down and wrote the first few chapters of three cozy novels that are languishing on my hard drive. Admittedly they are pretty awful. The ideas aren’t bad, but they just go no where.

So outlines are in order from now on. Konrath is a gem for new writers, he gives you outline guidelines. Where was he when I needed him back in the 70’s? He would have made English much, much easier to swallow leaving me more time for socializing.

Many websites have examples of outlines and debate the validity of using and/or not using one to write fiction.
Daily Writing tips at http://www.dailywritingtips.com/to-outline-or-not-to-outline-that-is-the-question/ has a nice look at outlining in a nutshell.

First they list the advantages of outlining

1. Not getting lost. This is seen by the website as the biggest advantage. Some writers insist this is the best way for them to write until they run out of steam. If you have an outline, it is a guideline or road map to what is going to happen next. It keeps writers on track.

2. Deciding whether your work is good or not. Outlines show you flaws in your manuscript and shows where the plot lags. Outlining beats writing for months then finding out you have major plot flaws.

3. Straying off the outline if you get a better way. In short stories I’ve written, my characters often have ideas of their own. Outlines are guidelines and sometimes you make a better story by taking a detour. If you have an outline, it will allow you to see if your deviation from the original plot will fit or not.

4. Writing with a sense of flow. This is basically decribed as keeping you on track. Letting the writer write.

On the flip side of the coin, they listed the disadvantages of outlining

1. Spoils the mystery and the fun. Here is where the author ego of freedom and open creativity bumps heads with the organized job of writing. Both are valid. Both work for some but not for all. It is up to you to decide what will work best. A third option is called the “Snowflake Method” outlined by Randy Ingermanson http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php . Ingermanson outlines 10 steps that offer an alternate type of outline for your work. It might just work for you, check it out.

2. May not be as good as you first thought. Personally, I don’t see this as a disadvantage. If it stinks, why waste your time? I would rather have a better idea brewing and go with that instead.

3. Just doesn’t seem to agree with your writing style. Back to the muse dictating your words. My thoughts are to outline loosely and let you muse fill in the blanks. We’ll all see how that works out as I keep you posted.

I need a road map to keep from running out of steam or going off a cliff accidentally. So outlining is in my immediate future. How do you write?

Do you write every day?

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How many works in progress can I juggle? I have two children’s picture books in revision, a holiday short story that will hopefully be done by the end of the month so I can submit it for possible inclusion in an anthology.  There are a few more ideas rumbling around in my head trying to find a way out.

How do you write? One thing at a time? Grab little bits of ideas and jot them down to flesh out later? I’ve heard some famous authors just plow through to the end the re-write. It has been said that as long as you write anything you will come out ahead in the end because practice makes perfect. Or at least a little better than you were before you started writing regularly.

I’d have to agree. But take that statement as seriously as you can considering I’ve never had a book published. But I am working on it. Every day. 🙂

Shameless Self-Promotion: The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping

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I wonder how authors promoted books to the masses just a few short years ago? Understandably there were wonderful publishers and publicists that put authors and books in the news with reviews, interviews and advertisements. I can’t imagine how hard it was for authors just starting out to be heard, let alone read by more than a few people.

Now it is so much easier to get your name out. Last week the anthology with my short story in it went live. The publisher is awesome – Yea Untreed Reads Publishing!!! – J. Alan Hartman (no relation!) is really putting it out there. Look for it online at the Untreed Reads Store, Amazon in six countries, Barnes and Nobles, and Apple’s iBook Store.

I will TOTALLY understand of you stop reading this blog right to check it out: The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping (my story is Perfect Pumpkin Pie – but all of them are really, really good).  http://store.untreedreads.com/

Welcome back.

Now a days, they have a whole big bunch of newfangled ways to promote your books. Of course you know about blogs if you are reading this. It is a great way to get the word out to people you don’t know (yet) and who don’t know about you as an author (yet). And after writing and publishing a blog entry,you can tweet it and post it on Facebook.

I’ve just spent the last hour before writing this on Twitter. Reading, making new connections, tweeting back new followers. It is very cool to talk to people instantly via social media sites. And sometimes creepy, but I’m not going there in this post. I’ve found in the twitter world you get many more followers if you follow, so go forth and follow. You’ll read some interesting short thoughts. I’m @lh171

My Facebook page is mostly personal posts. If you looked at my history, you can see life during Farmville and life after Farmville. It was taking up way too much of my time so I had to let the crops go. No more bazillon posts of “please help me finish this quest”, etc. I have to admit I do still play Words with Friends and have been known to play Bejeweled Blitz, but who doesn’t? 🙂 But now I’m adding book info for anyone that may need to know.

Back to publicizing my story. I am on GoodReads, you can find me at http://www.goodreads.com/LauraMHartmann. I am a huge fan of GoodReads. Great way to find new authors, read reviews and sign up to win free books.

Last but not least, I have an author page on Amazon. I’m at https://www.amazon.com/author/hartmanlaura. Stop by and learn a bit about me. Make a comment, Like me if you like.

Wow, all of this talking about me is exhausting. I’m more of a “write about anything other than me” kind of gal. But, the book is great, and so are the authors, and they all deserve any extra promotion I can get out there.

Thanks for hanging in to the end. If you haven’t done so already, go out and see all about me and The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping.

How do you promote your work? Let me know!

Happy Columbus Day

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Happy Columbus Day Everyone!

I was wrong. I thought it was Christopher Columbus’ birthday. Nope, it is the “official” day we celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of our country since 1937. There used to be more of a big deal made out of the holiday. Parades, most people off of work and school and programs about the Columbus’ discovery of our land by traveling over on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria from Europe. But now of course there is controversy and political correctness. We all knew there were Native Americans here already. And in all likelihood someone else floated to our shores before Columbus.

All of the sudden Columbus Day celebrations are controversial because the settlement of Europeans in the Americas “led to the deaths of a very large proportion of the native people”. Honestly, let’s brush part of our history under the rug because it may be uncomfortable for someone. Geeze. No one likes to think about the stuff that happened in history that wasn’t on the up and up and harmed others. But how will we learn not to make mistakes unless we remember what happened in the past? Political Correctness is beginning to sound a lot like censorship and that is making me uncomfortable.

Fall Weather Calls for Crock Pot Dinners

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The holiday season is creeping up on us with Frankenstein boots. The Midwest fall temperatures are crispy bordering on cold. We’ve gotten out a few sweatshirts and sweaters, cleaned out the furnace and I’ve started thinking of fall meals.

When you live in a climate that fluctuates from 10 below zero to 110 degrees depending upon the time of year, you learn to cook differently for each of the seasons.


Summer favorites always include homegrown tomatoes and peppers and plenty of other fresh veggies from our weekly farmer’s market. Hubby cooks ribs, chicken, burgers and salmon on a wood fire grill.

Fall brings most of the cooking inside. He still cooks on the wood fire, just not every night. Hubby dressed up in warm clothes and has been known to cook outside when it is  snowing. If he is willing to do this craziness, we are willing to eat the delicious grilled meats.

Several times a week we have soups, stews and crock pot dinners. It is easy to get the crock pot ready at night before going to bed, then put it in the fridge until morning. Right before leaving for work, I put the meal in the heated part of the crock pot, turn it on low and return home 12 hrs later to wonderful smells and dinner ready. Add a salad and maybe hot rolls and we are eating a nutritious meal instead of fast food.

One of our favorites is super simple. You slice up 3-5 potatoes (either red, white or sweet potatoes), add a bag of frozen veggies (I usually use green beans), place 4-5 frozen pork chops or chicken breasts (DO NOT THAW), season (I use seasoning salt), then a can of cream of anything soup. It looks think and icky, but trust me. Put on the lid, turn it on low for 8-10 hrs and enjoy!! The meat is so tender it falls off the bone and the veggies are delicious. Mmmmm Makes me hungry thinking about it.

Tonight I am putting a nice roast in the crock pot for tomorrow. Adding potatoes, carrots and dried onion soup mix will make an easy dinner tomorrow night.

 

Banned Book Week Ends Tomorrow

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Quick, what do the following ten books have in common?

ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle

The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa

The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Have you figured it out? These are the most challenged books in 2011 on the American Library Association (ALA). According to the ALA, “there were 326 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2011, and many more go unreported.”

Honestly, do people not have anything better to do than to complain they are offended for various reasons that are important to them personally. Books are condemned for language, racism, violence, sexual content and “unsuited to age group” to name a few.

Welcome to the tail end of Banned Book Week! Sorry I didn’t get this post out to you good people earlier, it has been a very busy week. But you have one more day to run out and buy, borrow or download your favorite banned book.

Go to their website and look at the list of books that have been banned since the ALA started keeping track in 1982. Yep, this is the 30th Anniversary of Banned Book Week – so join in! http://bannedbooksweek.org/about

According to the Bing.com dictionary, BAN means to forbid something officially orlegally so it can’t be done, used seen or READ.

Sounds ominous doesn’t it? It is. I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot read. That is one of the freedoms we enjoy in the US. Or do we? If the “challengers” had their way, we could be spared such classics as The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn…you get the idea.

These people don’t know me or you in all likelihood. How can they possibly know what is going to offend me? Or offend you? If said complainers don’t like a particular book, they don’t have to read it. Nor do they have to allow their children to read it. But they don’t have the right to deny the rights of everyone else to make up his or her own mind.

I was so fortunate to have a mother who loved to read. And she encouraged me to read. By the time I was in sixth grade, she let me read Phyllis A Whitney books, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines and P.G. Wodehouse to name a few. She went so far as signing a special permission slip for me to check out books from the adult section of the public library so I could read the mysteries I loved.

I appreciate everyone’s right to his or her opinion. If you don’t like a book write a review that explains why. But actually read it first.

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So, take a look back up to the list of the ten “worst” books of 2011 – how many have you read? I’ve read two of them and bought one of the others to read in the future. You have one more day to celebrate Banned Book Week. You are free to celebrate it any way you chose to do.

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