Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peppers: The Spice of Life

One of my favorite writers, Janet Fitch, has announced that the topic for her next blog post will be peppers. She will, no doubt, spin a wonderful tale, but hey, I'm the queen of peppers. I am as obsessed with these mysterious fruits as some people are with chocolate. Every year I start peppers from seed and plant them when they are strong enough. They languish for the first part of the growing season in my tightly-packed, vertical garden, but as soon as the really hot weather arrives and other plants give up the ghost, the peppers suddenly take off.


I love peppers for their bright colors, shapes, and wide range of flavors from sweet to complex to scorching (well, not the scorching so much). I love them because they have a magical quality and can transform ordinary dishes to extraordinary ones.
Paprika peppers are an essential component of my kitchen chemistry set. I started growing my own from saved seed because I couldn't find plants or seeds. Paprika, when dried and ground, is incredibly sweet, smoky, and warm. It is a thousand times better than any you will find in a store. And because it is an essential ingredient in my Devil's Dust, well, I just can't live without it.
After paprika comes Bell peppers, which come in various shades. Yellow, red, and green are my favorites. I chop and dry some of them for use in winter cooking. The rest end up in salads or stir-fry.
My third favorite is Pasilla Bajio or chile negro. I've decided I need to grow more of these. When ripe, they are the color of melted chocolate and have a complex, smoky flavor with a hint of warmth. I dry these and grind them into a powder. This pepper is excellent for sauces such as mole.
The other pepper plants in my garden are experimental. I'm always looking for that elusive flavor. This year, it's a "mild" habenero--we'll see. It has just started to fruit.
My other experimental pepper is an orange rocoto. My daughter Michelle gave me a small, straggly plant that turned into a large, fuzzy-leaved bush. It's tiny purple blossoms turned into small, apple-shaped fruits that turned a golden orange with black seeds. I dared to taste one. It had a slow heat, certainly not the fire I expected. The trouble came when I tried to cut some of these up. I immediately began coughing and my eyes started watering. My sinuses filled and I sneezed. Oh, and remember to wear rubber gloves!

Yes, it's true that life would not be worth living without chocolate, but life also requires a little spice.

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