Monthly Archives: July 2007

Win a signed copy of Meter Made

Jack Meter, the private investigator in my SF mystery series The Jack Meter Case Files, loves to eat. Beside opera, it’s his favorite thing. Not only does he love to eat, but he loves to cook.

In his next adventure, Meter Destiny, Jack has settled into an apartment and has returned to his habit of cooking for comfort and thinking through cases. Jack is not a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy (unless it’s Chateaubriand with Mediterranean roasted potatoes): he likes fish, game, chicken, anything that tastes really good but that he can prepare in less than 45 minutes.

He’s running out of ideas, though, and he doesn’t have time to consult cookbooks to find new recipes. Ialysa, one of the Fates of Mythology, is missing, which is creating havoc on Earth; the telecarb he doesn’t have anymore is giving him twinges; and he thinks Isabel Giordani, his new and beautiful neighbour, may have him in her sights. Too much to think about, too little time.

So I’ve decided to run a recipe contest for Jack. The three best recipe authors (which Jack and I will choose) will receive a signed copy of Meter Made, the second book in the Jack Meter Case Files Series. I will also mention one of the three recipes, along with your name, in the next book after Meter Destiny, Meter Parents. Contest ends August 19th, 11:59pm EST.

What you do:

Submit a favorite recipe in the comments section, leaving your name or username and email address where I can reach you.

Rules:

  • recipes must take no more than 45 minutes to prepare and cook
  • ethnic recipes are encouraged; the sky’s the limit
  • Jack likes fresh, so nothing out of a can if possible (he hates anything made with cans of soup or pouches, like hamburger helper — he’s watching his fat and salt intake)
  • meat (especially red) is not a must
  • no desserts, please. Jack doesn’t have a sweet tooth

Comments on the contest are also welcome. Good luck!

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Beginning in the middle

If you’re a reader, you know that most stories don’t begin when the main character is born, following him/her through childhood and teenage years, etc. unless that’s the purpose of the story. Stories begin in the middle of people’s lives, they assume a background (which the writer may hint at or develop during the story), an already formed personality, friends, family or lack thereof, a place to live in, a path chosen. Authors usually concentrate on one slice of life, even when they write a family saga. That’s why the first sentence of a book is so important.

The first sentence allows you to jump in the middle but also to hook the readers and prompt them to read the next sentence, then the next, then the next…

John Gardner was a master at the first sentence. Here are a few of his most intriguing ones:

“One day in April–a clear, blue day when there were crocuses in bloom–Jack Hawthorne rand over and killed his brother, David.” (Redemption)

“I had been troubled for days–odd sounds, objects our of place, all the pitiful and mundane symptoms of a disordered mind, symptoms I know all too well, coming as I do from a family of lunatics, as everyone knows–when a few odd phrases in a book on aesthetics threw everything into sharp new perspective.” (The Library Horror)

“There once was a man who made pictures on boxes.” (Vlemk the Box-painter)

“There used to be a cook in our town, a “chef” he was called in the restaurant where he worked–one of those big, dark Italian places with red fake-leather seat cushions, fake paintings on the walls, and on every table a Chianti bottle with a candle in it–but he preferred to think of himself as simply a cook, since he’d never been comfortable with high-falutin pretense, or so he claimed, though heaven knew the world was full of it, and since, whereas he knew what cooking was, all he knew for sure about chefs, he said, was that they wore those big, obsene-looking hats, which he himself wouldn’t be caught dead in.” (The Art of Living)

Now jump in the middle of ten stories by writing the first sentence of it:

  1. The first time I met my future husband, I disliked him on sight.
  2. Sally hated her name; she said it was a dog’s name, or even a horse’s name, but certainly not a girl’s name.
  3. Squeezed between the mountains to the south, and the tundra to the north, there lives a village with no personality.
  4. We all are prisoners of our memories; reality and history do not necessarily coincide.
  5. Torver Lockwood checked his watch. Damn, he thought, I blinked and another year disappeared.
  6. That night, Lucy began to plot ways of getting rid of all the kids she had to watch over.
  7. Sam Trudeau had not sold a car for three weeks now, and he was afraid he might have lost the magic.
  8. The road to Quepos slices through the mountains before it plunges, like a pearl diver, to sea level.
  9. “If you knew my secret,” said Lando the Magician, “it would damn you along with me.”
  10. “In the name of His Majesty, King George V, you are hereby sentenced to hang by the neck until death.”
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The multitude of description, part three

Using details that work

As I said before, short, to-the-point, vivid description is hard to accomplish. To hone that skill, this time we’ll describe something… without ever saying what it is or using clichéd words. Here’s the challenge:

  1. Describe a pool room without mentioning the green felt, the clack of the balls, or the haze of cigarette smoke;
  2. Describe a professional basketball player without mentioning his height;
  3. Describe the ocean without mentioning waves or boats;
  4. Describe the place were you are now, without using “is”, “are”, “was”, or “were.”

Describe a pool room without mentioning the green felt, the clack of the balls, or the haze of cigarette smoke;

The door opened onto a long, narrow room. Daylight barely penetrated through three narrow windows, half hidden by dark shades, the glass panes yellowed by the soot of nicotine. Two air conditioners were bolted to the low ceiling and their noise merged with the tinny sound of the radio playing a C&W station and the raucous voices of the men in the room. The bar stood at the far end, and to get to it, each patron had to negotiate the jungle of pool cues barring the way. Hanging lamps, strategically placed above each table, barely pushed out the surrounding shadows. Ellen took a deep breath to calm her nerves and knew immediately it was a mistake when the thickness of the air nearly choked her.

Describe a professional basketball player without mentioning his height.

Khalim sat down on the bench, out of breath after his turn on the court. The bench was too low, and his knobby knees came up to his nose. Heaving deep breaths, he followed the game, pining to be back in it, to weave his way between the players and with just a small hop, dunk the ball into the basket.

Describe the ocean without mentioning waves or boats.

From where Ellen stood, high above it, the ocean extended outward like a vast slab of grey slate, bound on three sides by high cliffs. If she were a giant, she thought, and found a chalk big enough, she would write messages on it for the Gods.

Describe the place were you are now, without using “is”, “are”, “was”, or “were.”

The sun shines through the window onto the table where I sit. The keyboard clicks under my fingers while I watch my words form, letter by letter, on the screen of my monitor. The computer hums. I stop, searching for the right expression, and look around me. The important tools of my art surround me; my books, a calendar, the telephone, a box of Kleenex. I weigh whether I should put on my earphones and listen to a CD while I write. My stomach starts to growl. Time to stop and go downstairs for breakfast.

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