Fiction Writing

Summer Recipe Roundup

Thanks to Barrie Summy, we’ll have a summer’s worth of yummy foods. With everyone posting recipes, not one of us will be left wondering what to bring to the next gathering. So… here’s my recipe contribution… 

Ambrosia ~ The Fruit of the Gods

1 – quart low fat or fat free plain yoguart

1/2 package of miniature marshmallows

1  1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut

1 thinly sliced banana

1 – 15 oz. can sliced peaches – cut into smaller pieces – drained

1 – 20 oz. can cubed pineapple – drained

1 – 15 oz. can fruit cocktail with light or no syrup – drained

1 dozen or so marachino cherries halved and set on paper towels to drain completely

To be certain all or most juice is out of canned fruit, set in colander and lightly press. Leave to drain for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine plain yogurt, marshmallows and coconut.

When canned fruit has thoroughly drained, blend into yogurt mixture. Gently fold in banana slices. Spread Ambrosia into a 10x10x3″ pan and garnish with halfed and drained marachino cherries. Refridgerate at least one hour before serving to give all flavors a chance to blend.

Keeps in fridge 3 -4 days.

Ambrosia ~ Fruit of the Gods

Ambrosia ~ Fruit of the Gods

Um… yes… the Ambrosia in the photo has already had a few servings removed. It’s THAT good. So good, it was eaten before its photo was taken.

Viruses – physical and technical

I wanted to blog about writing again today but I was almost unable to do anything online at all… in fact, my computer refused to boot up this morning. It took three attempts – two force shut-downs, three reboots with system scans and one final automatic system restore in order to get my computer going.

Here’s what’s been going on –

The night before last, a bunch of pop-ups took over my screen. They were all the same – blank web pages with “about:blank” in the address bar. Apparently, “about-blank” is a virus, adware, spyware or other hijacking program that somehow weaseled it’s way into my system. Even when I was off-line, the popups would pop up. Tens of them at first, then what seemed like hundreds.

I disconnected from the internet – shut down the wi-fi – and did all the scans I could think to do to rid my system of whatever bugs it had. Nothing seemed to work.

Yesterday, I downloaded some anti-spyware programs from the web – and yes, I was concerned that some of them might actually feed the virus rather than destroy it. I downloaded StopZilla, AdwareAway and Spyware Terminator (I hear Spyware Blaster is a good one to run, too). I ran all of those plus McAfee, Spybot and Adaware. Each program deleted something it called a “high” or “critical” threat. Done. I thought.

Then I had to take my cat to the vet – he’s been losing weight and there’s no explanation for it. He lost a pound at the last check up last week and another ounce and a half by yesterday. He has another appointment for next week to be weighed but was given one of his vaccinations yesterday. I took him home and he had a terrible reaction to it – never happened before and he’s now 11 years old. He was itchy. Itchy like you would not believe. Rolling, scratching, rippling his muscles looking like his skin was crawling. I rushed him back to the vet and he was given an antihistamine that should have knocked him out. It had the opposite affect. He started mewing and throwing up all over the place. And then he turned very aggressive. My sweet, affection kitty turned into the Looney Tunes version of the Tasmanian devil! He was panting and bolting through the house. His body got all puffed up like when a cat is ready to kill. And then he went after my smallest cat – Lady. He was biting and hitting her and she just fell to the floor in surrender. I had to fight to get him off of her. Finally, finally – about an hour later – he calmed and was my sweet, skittish boy again.

With all that, I didn’t even think about my computer. Or… about backing up my work. If you’re hearing the death march, I’m not surprised. The last time I backed up my work was about two weeks ago. If that.

This morning, the computer wouldn’t start and I thought for sure I’d lost everything. I don’t know to what point my system has been restored but it’s working now and I’m about to back up everything. Every. Thing. Then, I’m going to call the vet and tell him what happened to my cat last night. And THEN, I’m going to run all the scans I can run on my system and maybe even call in a pro.

“about:blank”. If you see it back up EVERYTHING and call someone who knows about computers. Don’t wait. Don’t try to fix it yourself. It’s sneaky. It hides in various files, renaming itself so your anti-virus or spyware detection programs cannot find it. It’s nasty and will make your life hell. I know this first hand.

I’m blogging – when I should be writing my story

I admire the writer who can wake in the morning primed and ready to write. I admire the writer who can balance home and family with quiet, private writing time. I admire the writer who can deal with real-life drama while creating some drama of her own.

I used to be that writer. Years ago. Of course, that writing wasn’t something I’d share with the world – though at the time I thought it was better than anything out there.

I’ve become more critical of my writing over the years. If a word doesn’t fit the rhythm of the prose, I’ll obsess until I’ve replaced that word with just the right one. If a tiny plot point seems out of sync with the rest of the story, it will haunt me as I make dinner, fill the car with gas, help Daughter style her hair.

So, I’m always thinking about my writing – always thinking about what comes next in the story and just how I want to say it. But I’m not always getting it down on the page. Indeed, there have been times when doing the dishes, the bills or even the yard work is more attractive to me than writing.

What’s up with that???

Methinks it’s simply part of my process. 🙁

I wrote an article not long ago titled, “Thinking IS Work”. For writers, writing is easy. It’s the planning, the precise wording, the puzzle pieces neatly fitting – the missing puzzle pieces – and the thinking that put the ‘work’ in our creative day. I tend to spend a lot of time thinking and looking for those missing puzzle pieces. Once I finally sit, the words do flow but getting from here to there… well… utter torture.

Obviously, getting the words on the page is the ultimate high for a writer – myself included. Then why do writers like myself do so much to avoid it? Maybe because of the required investment of time, energy and emotion? Writing fiction is definitely a commitment of heart and head. When I sit to write, I need to know I will not be interrupted. Only then can I immerse myself in the story and FEEL the anguish or delight my characters feel. Only then will those characters ‘speak’ to me. Only then will that depth be transferred to the page. No half-way investments. It’s all or nothing – and that can be absolutely draining.

Starting a scene or chapter is the hardest part of all for me. POV switches, change of emotion or action… all work as the proverbial brick wall in my path. However, once I’ve forced myself to just have at it and have written my way into the story – with the knowledge that I have X amount of time to myself – the words add up, the emotion roils and the scene is there in all it’s glory. At least in my completely biased opinion. It’s a wonderfully productive time that makes me wonder why I put such effort into avoiding it in the first place.

What about you? Are you a rise and shine kind of writer, primed and ready to go? Or are you a tantrum thrower who has to drag your muse, kicking and screaming as they say, to the page? What is the easiest part of writing for you? The hardest? And how to you overcome that which keeps you from plopping your butt in the seat and keeping it there until a solid day’s work is done?


Improv Everywhere

I’m not big on practical jokes, but when a group of people can draw the attention – NOT ire – of even the busiest New Yorker, I’m intrigued.

Improv Everywhere , a group dedicated to “causing scenes”, caused a definite scene in New York’s Grand Central Station back in January of this year. Their mission? To freeze in place for five full minutes while NY and New Yorkers buzzed on around them. The mission was aptly titled, Frozen Grand Central.

The reactions are fun, the result amazing. What a cool – harmless – project. And how nice that New Yorkers stopped to take note. See? We’re not all about getting from here to there and nothing more. If you stop dead in our path… we do notice. 😉

History underfoot – the Vanderbilt Motorway

Now, the NYC Greenway

There are bits of history everywhere. Too bad we’re often too busy to notice it, or too uninformed to be aware of it – even if it’s right under our feet.

There’s a bike path in Queens near Cunningham Park – the NYC Greenway. It’s a hidden gem not just for biking but for walking, if you’re so inclined. It’s approximately 3 miles and walking/biking from one end to the other will certainly give you a workout. I know because we walked this path yesterday morning – from one end to the other and back. So peaceful there in the woods… actually, there are no woods. Just clumps of trees on either side of the path, with homes beyond them. Continue along and beyond the trees there is the highway – Northern Parkway to be precise. So here you are strolling in what feels like a surround of nature when in reality you’re smack in the heart of the city. Ah, but the woodsy scent, bird songs and rustle of leaves as chipmunks and squirrels dart here and there make you forget about what’s going on beyond the trail.

Motor Parkway today To Alley Pond Park

The trail was not always so quiet. In fact, it was not always a trail but a high-speed motorway designed, financed and built in 1908 by and for one of the Vanderbilts. William K., to be exact.

William K. Vanderbilt was a car racing enthusiast who built this highway with the intention of using it to hold the Vanderbilt Cup. The road was graded just so for racing, the curves meant to challenge. This private motorway was the first in the nation to use bridges and overpasses to avoid intersections.

Two years of racing on this road, however, proved disappointing. Some spectators were injured and others killed during a race in 1910, and New York decided to disallow racing on anything but raceways – and that included private roads. No longer able to hold the Vanderbilt Cup, and with a need for help to pay back taxes, William K opened the road to the public – amazing that a Vanderbilt would need help paying for anything, yes? Twelve toll ‘lodges’ were built to collect a total of $2.00 in tolls. I guess you could say the road was opened to the privileged, not necessarily the public at large. These socialites traveled the road at high speed – 60mph! – in order to reach the gold-coast party circuit, then travel it back after the parties wound down. Clear sailing from Queens to Suffolk County, New York. Forty-five miles of scenic road.

Toll collectors lived in the toll lodges. Reminds me of the guards on the Great Wall of China who lived right there on the wall – their lives spent patrolling and nothing more.

This is the Meadow Brook toll/lodge

With the birth of Prohibition in the 1920’s, the road had new purpose. Rum-running. As a private road, there were no obstacles to this process, and rum-runners certainly had the funds for tolls. Ah, but William K. didn’t approve and so brought in state police to… well… police the road and run the rum-runners out.

Eventually, the road became obsolete. The need for high speed ways to get from here to there was met by the city and state. Northern Parkway was built – a FREE highway with bends and curves more conducive to leisurely driving than racing.  Motor Parkway was eventually given to New York in exchange for back taxes still owed. Fourteen miles of the original road have been modified for today’s use, but  sadly, other areas of it have become obscured by time, weeds, neglect and ignorance.

The three mile stretch that still exists in Queens contains some of the original cement guardrails – 100 years old.

Old and new combined

(Old and new together – Early 1900’s cement guard rails in foreground, with early 2000’s metal guard in back.)

They show age, they show neglect. They don’t come close to showing us the grandeur they once proudly guarded. And yet, they remind us to ask questions and seek answers of a past long forgotten, and truthfully, can we ask more than that?

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