Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | June 30, 2013

A Fantastic Writers’ Conference

Spring rains are dwindling—at least I hope they are, some of us have had more then we need. Leaves on trees are in full blown and trilliums have pretty much gone to seed. Spring will soon blend, or maybe snap, into summer—actually we’ll be there tomorrow—and, guess what? it will be July. So, it is almost upon us, the 2013 Alabama Writers’ Conclave.

     You don’t want to miss this year’s AWC. For one, it is being held in the very southern part of Alabama, in Fairhope, our state’s haven for writers and artists. A beautiful little town located on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, where Alabama’s most well known writers live.  Have you heard of Rick Bragg,  Winston Groom, Sonny Brewer, Judith Richards, or Terry Cline? They live in Fairhope along with other noted writers and artists.

     State Poet Laureate Emerita and AWC Program Chair, Dr. Sue Brannan Walker has put together a very exciting and wonderful slate of poets and writers who will lead the workshops. She has also secured a very congenial and inspiring venue for the conference, the Fairhope Campus of the University of South Alabama. And in addition to the usual fiction, poetry, and non-fiction workshops, there will be, I believe for the first time, a workshop on screen writing. She is also trying to organize a panel of publishers to discuss the vagaries of the publishing world. So you don’t want to miss attending the AWC on July 12-14.  

     Check out the bios of the workshop faculty that are printed in this issue of the AWC newsletter. Then fill and send in the registration form to secure your place in one of America’s oldest, continuously operating writers’ conferences. For more detailed information please visit the AWC website, www.alabamawritersconclave.org.

     Hope to see you in Fairhope.

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Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | June 2, 2013

Give a Book for Fathers Day

Got a Dad, Step-dad, Granddad, or any dad who likes an adverturous read or one who enjoys birdwatching? Then think FATHERS DAY and get them a copy of Malachite Lion and/or Chasing Wings.  Click above on “My Books” for information about them.  Both books are available from Amazon and Kindle.

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | March 31, 2013

FINALLY

WELL FINALLY!  I want to give you all a heads-up.  My novel will be out this summer.  It’s a historic adventure.  Featured below is a summary of this adventure. 

NEWFOUND FREEDOM

A Synopsis

Jack and Ian Hollister cross the Atlantic in 1774 to carry on the family business in Boston. A storm forces their leaking vessel into Halifax. Securing passage on a coastal schooner, they continue the journey. Jack establishes camaraderie with the colonial crew. Ian considers them rebels. A hurricane forces the schooner onto the rocks off the coast of Maine.   

Jack and the schooner crew attempt salvage of the cargo, but a Royal Navy frigate uses the broken hull for target practice. Seeing survivors, the frigate captain plans their capture, but flamboyant Dunkin and his pirates whisk the survivors to the temporary safety of their camp. Friendships are reestablished and new ones made. Jack and Ian meet Maire, the infamous female pirate leader and her sister. 

While Jack, Maire and Dunkin are away, the royal marines raid the pirate camp and impress Ian and other able-bodied men and women into naval service. Jack, concerned with the loss of his brother, escapes, with his friends, to Machias and becomes embroiled in the first naval battle of the American Revolution. Aiding the militia, the HMS Margaretta is captured and her captain is killed. After the battle Jack is transported to Beverly, Massachusetts, and then on to Cambridge.

Imprisoned aboard the frigate, Ian spends the winter in Halifax harbor, contending with the vagaries of naval service and trying to prove his British aristocracy. His identity verified in the spring of 1775, Ian is released to his relatives in Boston not knowing the fate of his brother.

Jack remains unaware of what has become of Ian. With the aid of George Washington, he is secreted into blockaded Boston,

After a joyous reunion, the brothers learn that their father has terminated the Hollister business in Boston until colonial stability is reestablished. All are expected to return to England. Jack decides to remain. No amount of enticement changes his mind. To Ian’s dismay, Jack leaves Hollister House saying, “Tell Father I can be found in Cambridge—but not the one in England.”

∫ ∫ ∫ ∫

© Copyright Richard Modlin 2013

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | February 7, 2013

LANGUAGE

by

Sara Mcdaris

Our language continues to change. I did not use the word evolve for I am not sure that the change means it is improving. It makes reading and conversation woefully unclear.

More and more an English word can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective. One must read the sentence, ponder a moment about what the writer is trying to say; then read it again. The trend toward written language is to leave out words which might clarify what is meant. We end up misunderstanding what we read.. Another troubling area is the tenses of our verbs. We easily confuse the time element by not using the proper tense. The little word ‘had’ can be a big help. “He saw the open door, which he thought he had closed when he came in.”

I have noticed lately many uses of a singular subject followed by a plural verb: A group of boys are in the park. And just the opposite is common, using ‘there is.’ The French have made this a given in their language, and we have joyously picked up the habit. “The French ‘Il y a’ is the equivalent of our ‘there is’ and can be followed by any amount of numbers. “There is cream and sugar on the table.”

The general population has confused she and he with him and her. “We followed she and Bill” instead of Bill and her. “The party was given by he and Mary” instead of Mary and him. This usage is encouraged by many media announcers.

The use of punctuation is suffering, also. Some authors, (editors?) have abandoned the usage of quotation marks to establish who is speaking in a passage. Occasionally there will be an indentation followed by a dash. No helpful additional words like “he gasped as he lay dying.” Sometimes there is not even a dash to clue you in that someone is speaking. This is often the case with our English writers across the pond. Again, the reader must go back, and identify each line and figure out who is saying what. Maddening!

Commas are growing out of style. I admit that at one time too many commas might have hampered a flowing passage but now a phrase followed by another phrase plays havoc with the mind as is imminently clear as you hear this sentence without the use of commas.

And then there is texting. We are losing our vowels altogether. Another language is forming. The split will be just as clear as our split with English English, say the use of bonnet and hood. This rupture will be world wide, the texting users against the non-texting users.  K?

By the way, I seem to remember that the ancient Hebrew language was devoid of vowels.  I believe Yahweh was spelled without the vowels. Perhaps other words, too.

And that brings us full circle, a literary device I frequently use. Who knows, in time I may catch up with the new messaging system, and, wonder of wonders, may even know what it is I am writing, and reading.

© 2013 Sara McDaris

As read during Morning Blend, February 6, 2013, SunDial Writers’ Corner on WLRH, 89.3 FM, Huntsville, Alabama’s NPR Radio affiliate.

About the Author

Sara McDaris is an author, storyteller, member of the Huntsville Master Chorale, narrator for the Huntsville Symphony, harpist, and member of the Monday Lunch Writers’ Group.

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | December 2, 2012

PMCS = Post Manuscript Completion Slump

In August, about a week before I took off for a three-month hiatus on the Down East Coast of Maine, my editor returned my novel Newfound Freedom. While at the cottage, my plan was to complete Patriot Apprentice. I had only seven or eight chapters to finish this second novel. During the five-day drive to the northeast from Alabama, completing this second book excited me. But gnawing my subconscious was Newfound Freedom. If I make the suggested revision, this first book would be done and ready to be tossed into the publication mill.  

Okay, do the revision on the first novel, I rationalized—can’t take long. Then I’ll continue Patriot Apprentice.

During the next eight weeks, I combined two chapters, rewrote scenes—one in particular, where Kathy, my editor, informed me that I had buried the same dead guy twice—selected more active verbs, tightened dialogue, corrected typos, and cut over 10,000 words.  Newfound Freedom now read smoothly.  The story flowed, the characters lived, and the conflict increased to its climax, as it should.  Wow! I had successfully completed writing a manuscript of “bookly” proportions. Out came the wine bottles.

Now what?  Get onto Patriot Apprentice. Yes. But thoughts of sitting at the computer and trying to get my characters moving again turned me off. And it wasn’t writer’s block. Hundreds of scenarios rattled around in my brain. They came, went, mixed with previous ideas, but none reached my fingertips, where I could translate brain waves into digitized characters on the computer screen. I was in a fabulous, scenic place—Maine. It was easier to sit, gaze at the bay, contemplate nature, plan my next photographic trip, and write about it on my blog.  What happened to Patriot Apprentice?  When it came to that novel, I fell into a “writer slump.”

Now being a creative writer, I asked my fictional shrink, “What’s goin’ on man?”

“You, m’ boy, have PMCS,” he said. “It usually follows the successful completion of a major writing project. It’s the enjoyment of the elation of being done—reaching la fin.”  

“How long will this non-productive slump continue?”

“Depends on the size of the manuscript you just finished.” He twirled a couple of long strands of hair around his ear. “PMCS is the exhaustion of one’s mental resources.  The bigger the project, the more time it takes for the glow of completion to dim.” He prescribed some short trips, spend time enjoying good food, wine, and friends, and avoid the computer. 

I followed his instructions—a good excuse to what I was already doing. But Jack, my protagonist in P.A., began again to talk to me, tell me his story. And his words were appearing on my computer screen. I was back on track. But I didn’t give up any of my other pleasures. I wrote in between them.

“Never forget,” my phantom shrink reminded, “your brain needs time to recycle.”

“Yes,” I said, sipping my wine, while pondering on the rocky coastline in front of me.

∫ ∫ ∫ ∫

© Copyright, Richard Modlin, 2012

 

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | October 7, 2012

A WILD “MOOSE” CHASE

Before I relate this experience, I want to acknowledge Pat Dumont, my friend Pierre’s wonderful wife, for coining the title of this post.

*      *      *

Wild, heavily forested, and mountainous Baxter State Park, located in north central Maine, attracts visitors for a variety of reasons. Some come to watch and contemplate the mystical changes of Mount Katahdin, the park’s crowning jewel. Appalachian Trail through-hikers begin or end their trek through America’s eastern mountain chain at Mt. K., (see blog post of October 1, 2011). Lovers of fall foliage view in awe Nature’s ability to paint landscapes in such vibrant colors. Fly fishermen, canoers, and kayakers ply the many lakes, ponds, and streams (see blog posts of October 9 & 15, 2011). Hues, shapes, and patterns of vegetation, mosses, lichens, mushrooms, and molds fascinate naturalists. And, of course, all visitors come to be charmed by the animals and birds. But some come primarily for chance of seeing the big three—moose, black bear, and white-tailed deer.

Nesowadnehunk Stream

So what brought me to Baxter? Well pretty much most of the above, but truthfully, I came to the park to satisfy my wife Marian’s intense desire to see a moose in the wild.

Bog

Though fearless, the moose, the biggest mammals in North America (height at the shoulder 5.0-7.0 ft. and weight between 800-1500 lbs.), likes privacy. Although Maine has a population purported to be around 75,000, moose are rarely seen. Sometimes they are noticed crossing a road or highway, but better observed when they are feeding in ponds and meadows. Moose are vegetarians, who prefer aquatic vegetation. So in Baxter viewing is best done around feeding time, which is in the morning or at dusk, by tarrying around the park’s shallow, vegetated bodies of water. Unfortunately moose have preferred ponds—so which pond to go to? Because of the vastness of the park, a guide can quickly answer this question. 

A marshy pond

Our friend Pierre Dumont, who knows the park and where the moose feed, exerted every effort to find Marian a moose.

Sandy Pond

Good weather, visiting supposedly good moose habitat, and seeing their foot tracks in the forest, the search in 2011 produced zero moose sightings.

Next year!” 

Far shore of Dacey Pond

A few days ago, we concluded the 2012 “Wild Moose Chase.”  Again for three nights, we braved the rigors of living in a Spartan, wilderness cabin at the Dacey Pond campsite—no running water, flush toilets, electricity, or GPS, only a woodstove to kill the chill. The weather was comfortable and fall colors incredible. Moose habitats appeared perfect, but no moose.    

Stump Pond, west shore

Charity, the park ranger at Dacey Pond, voiced the speculation that moose have become scarce. “Probably moving north to cooler climes,” she said. “You know, Global Warming.”

 “Next year!”  But this time, our assertion was made too soon. The declaration, “You find what you look for, when least expected,” came true.

Stump Pond, after sunset.

Following Pierre, as he drove toward the park exit, his vehicle taillights blinded me. He jumped out of the car, flagged another automobile to pass us, and hurried back to where I had stopped. Through about a hundred feet of forest that separated the road from Stump Pond stood a very large cow moose, grazing. “I didn’t guarantee the gender,” he said, “but, Marian, there is your moose.” 

Marian’s Moose in Stump Pond

We’ve been seen.

∫ ∫ ∫ ∫

© Copyright Richard Modlin 2012

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | September 23, 2012

Autumn 2012

East Machias, Maine, in early October

We are now 24 hours into the 2012 autumn. So what does this mean? Winter, with cold, ice, and snow, will be here in three months.  Better yet, the beginning of autumn means color.

Autumn Forest, Hwys 9 & 192, Washington County, Maine

Leaves of deciduous trees – oaks, maples, aspens, beech, birch, and others – lose their chlorophyll, and expose the other pigments that comprise the leaf’s coloration, which is masked, from spring though summer, by the color green.  Forests become warm looking in reds, purples, yellows, beige, and many in-between shades.   

Color-change is not limited to trees. The green hues of grasses, weeds, vines, and bushes also metamorphose into the warm autumnal colors.  Here, late blooming flowers add blue, violet, white, and rods of gold to fields, meadows, and barrens.    

Blueberry Barren in mid-October

This entire color-change process is technically under the control of photoperiod (the length of daylight), which decreases as the earth rotates toward winter.  But the vagaries of weather and temperature strongly influence this process.  So some years, the color change is spectacular and persistent, and in others, somewhat dull and fleeting.  

Marian on the bicycle trail

Since photoperiod changes with latitude, the development of this autumnal canvas starts at the top and progress toward the bottom, north to south, simultaneously spreading east and west.  Autumn paints a vibrant portrait of the land, before the monotones of winter cover the hemisphere. 

Winter at the Maine Cottage

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© Copyright, Richard Modlin 2012

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | August 14, 2012

Breakfast at the Smoky Toast Café

Breakfast at the Smoky Toast Café

One thing about rural Maine is the quaint eateries one finds.  Most do not catch a tourist’s eye.  So when one is found, you have to take the chance, stop, and partake of the local cuisine.

In 2011 Marian and I found the Smoky Toast Café.  This place served a breakfast I hadn’t had since my days aboard a US Coast Guard cutter many years ago—corned-beef hash overtopped with fried eggs.  Of course, toast and coffee included.  Smoky Toast Café’s corned-beef hash is homemade and fabulous.  So this morning we decided to have breakfast at the Smoky Toast. 

 

The Smoky Toast is in Jonesboro, ME, about 2 miles west of the town on Hwy 1.  It’s set back off the road in a forested area.  With the speed limit at 55 mph, it is easy to miss.  So one needs to slow down after passing Hwy 187, the roadway to Jonesport, which connects to Hwy 1 on the left.  The café is on the right about a mile farther. 

Smoky Toast sign on Route 1, Jonesboro, ME

Inside a rectangular building, the café is simply decorated, very clean, has a wood-paneled interior, six tables, a counter with six stools, and the kitchen behind the counter.  Windows facing the forest have birdfeeder just outside them.  Patrons can enjoy watching birds come for seed, but chipmunks and red squirrels provide most of the entertainment.

Two lovely ladies and an assistant run the Smoky Toast.  The ladies cook, waitress, and generally run the place.  All meals are homemade and prepared from scratch, apparently on two skillets and a griddle, though the fare is not simple.  Their day begins around 4:00 AM—the café opens at 5:00 AM—and continues until closing.  The kitchen closes at 1:45 PM.  Open only from Monday to Friday, and only cash and checks are accepted for payment. 

I did not order what I came for this morning, because the breakfast specials were special. With the Maine lobster season at its peak and an abundance of these delicious crustaceans available, breakfast, as well as lunch specials, contained lobster. 

It was difficult to decide between lobster benedict and lobster omelet.  I settled for lobster benedict—a fabulous choice.  The meat of one lobster topped two halves of an English muffin.  Atop each half lay a poached egg and all was covered in lemony-flavored Hollandaise sauce.  My breakfast was a reasonably priced, culinary delight. 

“When you stop in next, I’ll make you corned-lobster hash and eggs,” the woman cooking said, when I paid the bill.  “Corned-beef hash is always on the menu—lobster isn’t,” the other said.

 ∫ ∫ ∫ ∫

 ©  Copyright, Richard Modlin 2012

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | June 22, 2012

2012 Alabama Writers’ Conclave

          The Alabama Writers’ Conclave, considered one of the oldest continuously active writers’ society in the United States, is meeting on July 20 — 22, 2012 at the Huntsville Marriott next to the world famous US Space and Rocket Center.  This year’s noted faculy will cover workshop in fiction (Cary Holladay), poetry (Bill Brown), creative nonfiction (Kathy Rhodes), social networking (Lena Sledge) and Haiku (Terri French).  Two famous Alabama authors, Terry Cline and Judith Richards, will be this year’s Writers-in-Residence.  Come and join the excitement of aspiring writers and well known published southern writers.  This year’s event is being co-sponsored by the Alabama State Poetry Society.   After the reception/mixer on Friday there will be a special event titled “An Evening with the Poets.”  In the mode of the Three Tenors, the AWC is featuring the three notable Alabama Poets.  Alabama State Poet Laureate, Dr. Sue Brannan Walker, Sue Scalf and Andrew Glaze, will read and discuss their poems and other writings.  You don’t want to miss this.  For information and registration please visit the AWC website at www.alabamawritersconclave.org.  Deadline for hotel lodging at conference discount is June 29.

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | May 28, 2012

MODLIN’S ORANGE MARMALADE

        An ornamental orange tree my wife Marian bought has been growing in and out of our house for the past 20+ years.  Last year, for the first time, it produced about 24 little oranges.  They were inedible, more sour than a lemon and very bitter, but they had the strongest orangy, citrusy smell of any orange I’ve ever encountered.  I have since learned that these oranges (better know across the Atlantic as Seville Oranges) are grown in Spain, Italy, the south of France and other warm places as decoratives and the fruit they produce sold to flavor Grand Marnier, perfumes, soaps, lotions and other things.  But, the British, in their quest to create the finest flavored jam, use these little oranges to make marmalade.  Since I love English marmalade and, not wanting to waste these beautiful fruits, I harvested ours and attempted to convert them to Orange Marmalade.  My endeavor was totally successful.  There is no place in the USA where one can buy a maralade with such a fantastic flavor.  Since I promised my friends, who have tasted my marmalade, to divulge the recipe, it is below. 

Potted Bitter Orange Tree Growing on Deck.

Ingredients

10 – 14 Bitter oranges (depending on size). Commercially these oranges are difficult to obtain, but are know as Seville Oranges. They are common in Europe (Italy, Spain, and the south of France), but can be obtained in the USA.

2 moderately sized lemons (Meyer Lemon have the best flavor for marmalade, but regular lemons will work.  Luckily, Marian also has one of these growing on the deck.  It has produced fruit for the past 8 or 10 years.)

6 cups of sugar.  This quantity of sugar, sweetens, but maintains the strong bitterness of the marmalade. (Additional sugar can be added if additional sweetness is desired.)

8 cups of water

1 pack of Sure-Jell®

Cooking equipment

4 – 8 quart pan with lid

Ladle

Dipper

Candy thermometer

Sharp knife

12 cup-sized or 8 oz. jelly jars with screw and inner lids. (See below)

Non-absorbing cutting board

A small dish or saucer.

Tongs sufficient to grab and hold jelly jar

Oven mitts or gloves

A medium-sized bowl

Potted Meyer Lemons Growing on Deck

Procedure

Wash fruit. Do not peel. Remove stem connection. Taking one fruit at a time, cut each in half and then slice each half in thin slices. Cut large end pieces (these will be mostly skin) into smaller ones. Remove seeds from the many semi-circular pieces as best you can. (When the half orange and lemon chunks are thinly sliced, some of the juice of the fruit will ooze out, Try not to lose this juice.) Cut all slices, except the large end, which you have already chopped into smaller chunks, in half. Dump the slices and accumulated juice into the large pan. Once all the slices are in the pan, pour in the 8 cups of water. Stir, cover the pan, and bring to boil over medium heat. Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat. Allow mixture to simmer for 30 minutes, periodically stirring. Turn off heat. Pour in sugar while stirring mixture. Continue stirring for about two minutes to insure all sugar is dissolved. Cover mixture, allow to cool to room temperature, and let stand at room temperature for 18 – 24 hours.

Upon completing the mellowing period, lightly stir the mixture. The few seeds of the oranges and lemons that were not removed earlier will float to the surface and can be carefully scooped out and discarded.

Put small dish or saucer in the freezer. Prepare Jelly Jars (see below).

Again bring mixture to boil, stirring periodically. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium, sufficient to maintain a slow boil, and allow mixture to cook uncovered for two hours, stirring occasionally. After 2 hours, using the candy thermometer, measure temperature of mixture. It should be near or between 220o F and 222o F. (For best jelling results the temperature should be 221o F). Temperature should not be allowed to go above 224o F, otherwise marmalade will taste burnt. Continue cooking until proper temperature is achieved..

When proper temperature is reached, dissolve packet of Sure-Jell, i.e., mix Sure-Jell in a 2/3 cup mixture of water and cooking marmalade (about 1:1). While simmering and stirring the marmalade, pour in the Sure-Jell solution. Continue cooking and stirring for 5 or 10 minutes or more – depends on temp of marmalade mixture. Mixture will slightly thicken — check temperature.  Ladle up a few drops of mixture and drip onto frozen dish. The puddle of mixture should gel and, when touched, form wrinkles on its surface and when dish is turned vertically, the puddle will not run down. If the gel tests work the marmalade is ready to be ladled into the jelly jars for storage.

Carefully, using tongs and oven mitts, remove a jar from the oven and ladle a quantity of marmalade into a jar. Hint: Best to put jar in a bowl while filling to catch spills. Fill to within 1/4 inch of top. Remove an inner lid from the oven and place over the mouth of the jar, then secure it with an outer screw lid. Tighten the lid and put jar aside. Fill the others. Allow jars of cool at room temperature. When you hear the inner lids ping, the jar is sealed. Tapping the top of the inner lid after the jar have cooled.  A solid thud indicates the jars have totally sealed and can be stored in a pantry for later use. Bon appétit.

Sterilization of Jelly Jars and lids

Wash jars and inner lids in dishwasher. Arrange washed jars on towel paper, open end down. Do likewise with inner lids (inside of lid should be face down). Prior to ladling mixture into jars, put jars (mouth of jar up) and inner lids (inner side up) on a cookie sheet or suitable oven-proof tray and into an oven for at least 15 min at 250 – 275o F. Keep everything hot until ready to use.

© 2012 Richard Modlin

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