Reading the Inklings: Preparation

It’s been literally a month since I first mentioned my new reading goal: to read works by the Inklings. In between other writing projects, work, and life, I’ve started doing research into the different Inklings. Fortunately, several of them have written things (and not just literary criticism, though I certainly can appreciate that).

As I mentioned, I already have a head start. Of course I know JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Their works are some of my all-time favorites. But I also know Roger Lancelyn Green’s King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table thanks to teaching. (I actually read the book specifically because he was one of the Inklings.) He’s written other things, and they deserve to be read too, but I have him checked on my list for now since I’ve read at least one thing. After all, there are other Inklings to discover!

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Fortunately, a quick peek on Amazon revealed that most of this books are still readily available. Some of them might even be on Kindle. Others might be harder to track down, but that’s part of the fun, right?

So, now to finish Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book so I can start on my new reading adventure!


Nothing Says Love Like Cabbage

I come from an area with a centuries-old mash-up of different cultures. With so many different nationalities in one location for so many years, it’s not entirely surprising that foods from all of those cultures become part of the normal repertoire. For me, that’s the case with Polish food.

Pierogis and kielbasa (better known in that region as keilbasi) are a common treat. But a favorite and easy dish that my family has been making for years is golumpkis.

There are plenty of recipes out there for how to make them, but here’s my family’s multigenerational go-to version fit for a crockpot.

 

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Golumpkis with cheese pierogis

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (or more) ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • head of cabbage with large leaves
  • crushed tomatoes (large can)
  • cooked rice or quinoa

First is an option. If you feel like messing with it and want your golumpkis to be beautifully rolled, boil the cabbage for a few minutes until the leaves are tender. Otherwise, no one’s going to notice how beautifully rolled they are because they’ll fall apart anyways.

In either case, next brown the meat with the onions, garlic, kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Make sure it’s fully browned before removing from heat.

Next, if you want to add cooked rice or (the newly discovered option) quinoa, mix it in with the meat in a separate bowl so that the ingredients will be even in each golumpki. You can also just stuff it with meat and eat rice or quinoa (or pierogis) as a side. It’s good both ways.

Now it’s time to roll a golumpki. Lay out a (cooked or uncooked) cabbage leaf. If the leaves are uncooked, peel them off of the head as gently as you can, attempting to avoid tears. If it does tear, no biggie. It can still be easily wrapped. Spoon the meat mixture into the leaf. Two or three tablespoons is usually a good amount. Then fold the leaves towards the base (where the leaf met the cabbage head). Lay in the crockpot, fold side down.

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If the leaves tear or become too small, they can be sandwiched together and tucked between other golumpkis.

Once all of the golumpkis are rolled, cover with the crushed tomatoes and add a little more kosher salt for more flavor.

Cook on low in the crockpot for 5+ hours and enjoy!

Do you have any multigenerational family recipes that you love or use often?


I Could Live in Tolkien’s House?

Last year, we had the exciting news that the Pemberley of the Pride and Prejudice films was on sale. (See more about that here.) As much as I would love to have taken that fixer-upper, a new house is on the market that I would be even more excited to have.

The house that Tolkien lived in from 1953-1968 is up for sale. There aren’t even words to describe how cool it would be to buy that house. To live in the same home as one of my all-time favorite authors. To write stories in the same room. And never mind that it’s a cute house in itself.

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It’s currently going for just under $1.6 million. I’m just a few dollars shy of that, but one can dream, right?

To check out the full listing, click here. And if you buy it, can you invite me over sometime?


What If He Was in Beauty and the Beast?

As a writer, I think it’s hard not to occasionally wonder what would happen if a story were different. What if the main character were swapped out for someone else? What if it were moved from modern times to the height of the Roman Empire? What if ninjas could hop into a medieval story and save the day? What would happen if you recast a villain into another character’s role.

Well, the video below answers that last question.

And just in case you think it’ll just be Beauty and the Beast and Harry Potter references, there’s a famous Lord of the Rings one hiding in there as well.

Have you ever reimagined what a story would be like if it were told differently? If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, is this hilarious, mortifying, or both?


When Stories Won’t Cooperate

This steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi mash-up I’ve been working on has been an adventure filled with plenty of ups and downs.

During NaNoWriMo this year, I thought I struck gold. A side story blossomed to life and took me by surprise. It was deeper and more challenging than I was expecting. And its ending… well, it left me feeling like a horrible human being because it was both heartbreaking and beautiful. It was just the ending the story needed. (See my lament when I wrote it here.)

But then I had to return to the main story. I had hoped that fresh inspiration from the side story would be enough to breathe new life into the main story, but it soon fizzled out. I’ve been trying to force it ever since, but it just won’t cooperate. Something is missing, and I’m not sure what it is.

Originally, I thought it was more conflict. While that helped, it didn’t fix the problem. Something else is missing, and the characters can’t tell me what it is. We’re all feeling a little frustrated, like we’re just stuck in mud.

So, for me, I think there’s only one solution.

It’s time to set the novel aside again. Like a cup of tea, it needs a little more time to brew. It’s time to move on to another story and let this one steep in the back of my mind until it’s ready. Then, that adventure will begin again, hopefully with the fresh infusion of inspiration that it needs.

So where to now? Back to the beginning again. I want to experiment with some storytelling elements in my very first novel that I think will kick it up to the next notch. And maybe this will be the final draft? Maybe?

What do you do when a story just won’t cooperate? Do you set it aside or do you have techniques to push it forward?


Rip It, Write It, Draw It: Remember

Sometime in my early teens, I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey. While I can’t recite all of the habits by heart anymore, I do remember one thing I did in conjunction with the book. (Whether it was in the book or not, I can’t remember anymore.)

I wrote down five quotes that essentially became my motto. They helped me remember what was most important and focus on that.

This Rip It, Write It, Draw It page reminded me of that.

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Thinking about what I would want to hear from myself in 10 years is a little crazy, but I imagine some of them are the same things that I would want to hear now. So that’s what I wrote. Words of encouragement that I think will last a lifetime.

What words of encouragement would you want to read from yourself in 10 years?


Kisses and Tells (and What They Have to Do with Twist Endings

There are some storytelling elements that you know about but don’t think much about until someone mentions them. That was the case with twist endings for me this weekend.

Twist endings have a special place in my heart. It’s the reason I love O. Henry’s stories (the one in “The Last Leaf” is so beautiful that it makes me cry every time) and The Twilight Zone. But in spite of how much I picked literature and the art of writing apart over the years, I never really considered what makes a twist ending work (or not).

This video made it all clear, though. It’s definitely worth watching, if you’re interested in really picking it apart.

It all boils down to this, though: twist endings work best if the tells are in plain sight and the reader discovers the twist when the protagonist does. When all of the pieces are sitting out in the open to be discovered on a rewatch, it work well. If it comes out of nowhere, it can fall very flat.

Considering that I do plan to have a twist (near the end) in the steampunk/fantasy novel I’ve been working on, the timing of this couldn’t be more perfect. Now to make sure that I do reveal just enough in just the right way so I don’t blow it.

What are your favorite stories with twist endings? Do you write twist endings in your own works?