Hope for Novelists and Other Writers by da-AL

Do you have an elevator speech? Book writers are told that they need an ‘elevator speech’ — a one-minute pitch for when they inadvertently meet their star-maker. It’s also useful for talking about one’s book with everyone else.

Theoretically, that is. My elevator speech rarely gets past the first floor.

Bunny rabbit outfitted person reads paper.
Ryan McGuire of Gratisography is a smart bunny.

But I love my books, which is why I keep at them. My two novels are in the final edit phase as I build an audience of followers (that means you, dear reader) who I hope will be interested in them when they’re self-published. They’re narrated by a 40-year-old woman, in the form of letters to a deceased grandmother.

“An epistolary novel: written in the form of a series of letters.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The Hope Part of this Post: This video reminds me of me pitching my book — and Maria Keogh Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” did great!

Here’s part 2 of her pitching (this time to another very successful author), which is also shown comically yet realistically…

Semple’s book is so successful that Cate Blanchette is starring in a movie version of it!

What’s been people’s reaction when you tell them about your books?

Easy! Yummy! Healthy! Brown Rice Corn Island with Seafood by K. Parsi

Healthy eating is fun with recipes that don’t require a lot of skill and time, yet can even wow guests. Famed chef Jacques Pépin inspired my husband to create this one…

Brown Rice and Corn Island with Seafood Stuffing
Healthy cooking can be simple.

Brown Rice and Corn Island with Seafood Stuffing

(serves about 8)

Read this recipe all the way through before you shop for ingredients and cook. It involves four cooking steps: a) rice, b) seafood, c) sauce, and d) plating.

Step A: Rice

1 medium diced onion

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 head (about 5 cloves) of diced garlic

3 cups brown rice

1 bunch (about 1 1/2 cup) chopped green onions

1 cup corn kernels

3 cups water

3 cups fish or chicken broth

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon saffron

1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)

In a 5-quart pot, sauté onion in olive oil until lightly browned.

Add garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Add brown rice and sauté until rice is covered with oil.

Add green onions to rice mixture, and sauté for another two minutes.

Add corn, water, broth, salt, pepper, and saffron.

Bring to a boil, occasionally stirring to avoid a crust forming on the bottom.

Reduce heat to simmer, add cheese, and cook for half an hour, or until rice softens.

Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Step B: Seafood Stuffing

1 medium julienned onion

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 head (about 5 cloves) of diced garlic

2 pounds mixed seafood (e.g., shrimp, calamari, and scallops)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 cup white cooking wine

Using a medium saucepan, sauté onion in coconut oil, until lightly browned.

Add garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add seafood and sauté for 5 minutes. Add cooking wine, salt, pepper, and turmeric, and cook for five more minutes on medium heat.

Remove the seafood mixture with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Seafood will be used during plating, in Step D. Set aside juice for use in the sauce, which you’ll make next, during Step C.

Step C: Mushroom Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup white flour

6 cups milk

6 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In the same saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour, stirring quickly to avoid lumps.

Whisk in milk.

Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil.

Take off heat and set aside for plating.

Tip: If you get flour lumps, you can put the mixture in a blender before adding the mushrooms.

Step D: Plating

Parsley or chives for garnish

Butter the sides of a bowl.

Add a few spoonfuls of rice mixture to fill about 1/3 of the bowl.

Press rice down into the sides, creating a cavity in the middle of the bowl.

Fill to 3/4 full with seafood.

Cover with more rice, and gently pack it down.

Place a plate over the bowl, and flip them quickly, to get the rice onto the plate. Carefully unmold the rice by removing the bowl.

If your guests are not ready, you can place all the dishes in a 180-degree oven to keep them warm. Dishes may be kept there for up to half an hour. Any longer and the food will start to get too dry.

When ready to serve, gently spoon sauce around the ‘rice island.’

Garnish with parsley or chives.

Tip: If you have enough bowls, you can leave them over the rice plates until you’re ready to add the sauce around.

Enjoy!

Arthritis Remedy for Dogs and Cats: The Power of Warmth by da-AL

Winter can cruel to aging warm-blooded pets. The best arthritis advice I received was when my great vet told me, “Just get them through the winter.”

Cropped photo of someone in a bunny rabbit suit walking into bleak distance
Wonderfulness via Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com and tweaked by da-AL

Even in warmer climates like Southern California, winter is his busy time when it comes to pet owners frantic to relieve their pets of arthritis pain. “Even if it feels warm to us, they know it’s winter,” he said.

“Keep them warm,” was his advice. At all hours.

An electric blanket is perfect during the night. Toss it over your pet’s sleeping area. Make sure it’s the type that will stay on at a very low setting all night (don’t get the kind that switches off after only an hour).

Of the many remedies I explored to make my best friends comfortable, the electric blanket afforded them most dramatic relief.

How do your pets fare in winter?

Happy 2019 New Year from 1919 by da-AL

vintage photo from Argentina of a New Year's celebration
1919 New Year’s, my grandmother celebrating with friends and family. Abuela sits in the middle with flowers in her hair.

A lovely cousin recently gave me a copy of this photo of my grandmother, Julia Vaccaro who was an Italian-Argentine of Buenos Aires — ringing in 1919 with family and friends! Like the United States and so many other places, Argentina is a country of immigrants.

My grandmother's mother, dressed in a dark dress, stands in the middle.
My grandmother’s mother, Rosa, dressed in a dark dress, stands in the middle.

It fascinates me to see such an old photo where everyone appears relaxed and candid. The man who’s wearing pajamas in the tree — did he just wake from a nap in what could be a hammock to his left? Is the woman below worried he’ll fall or does she think he’s crazy? At the bottom, the man toasting looks comfy in his socks. That young boy who seems to have skinned his face is my cousin’s dad. The large woman in the dark dress is my great grandmother. Whatever the woman told the flapper in the middle, it’s given her pause for thought…

Close-up of my grandmother, 1919 New Year's celebration.
Close-up of my grandmother, 1919 New Year’s celebration.

Wishing each of you, dear readers, a New Year filled with joy, vibrancy, love, and good fortune!

With optimism and love,

da-Al

Christmas and More ala Truman Capote by da-AL

Truman Capote was a genius writer and spoken word performer. He’s best known for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Yes, the movie version that starred the lovely Audrey Hepburn but that horribly mangled Capote’s marvelous novella.

Here Capote reads aloud his heartbreakingly sweet and profound autobiographical “A Christmas Memory”…

Here, along with his “Among the Paths to Eden,” is him reading the real version of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”…

Have you read any of Truman Capote’s stories?

Flamenco Fusion by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is the title of the first of my soon-to-be self-published novels. The ‘Sitting Cat’ part of the title refers to the geographical shape of Iran…

Map of Iran out lined in shape of a Sitting Cat.
Map of Iran outlined in the shape of a Sitting Cat.

I grew up with only classical music — and flamenco music and dance. My father, who left Barcelona in his mid-20s, wanted it that way. Since I left home at 18, it’s a gift to watch any type of dance I like and to listen to every kind of music that comes my way.

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.
Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.

I still love classical — and flamenco! Especially fascinating to me is when flamenco is fused with the dance of Iran, where my husband was raised. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian dancer now residing in France. Flamenco is as much about individuality as it is about technique — it accommodates all cultures, all forms of beauty.

If only politics were as intent on creating a climate of ‘we’ rather than an ‘us vs. them’!

The way Ghalam (click here for his Facebook page) fuses dance styles is respectful and hypnotic…

For more flamenco, check out Part 3: Marvelous Madrid — Flamenco

What fusion art do you enjoy?

A letter to God from Dog (as discovered by da-AL)

My doggie and I were at her vet’s office, waiting for her anal glands to be expressed (eeeewwww!!!! indeedy) when we saw this anonymous missive posted on the doctor’s wall:

Pug photo by Ryan McGuire altered by da-AL
Pug photo by Ryan McGuire altered by da-AL

Dear God,

Is it on purpose that our names are the same, only reversed?

When we Dogs get to heaven, can we sit on your couch? Or is it the same old story?

Why are cars named after the jaguar, the cougar, the mustang, the colt, the stingray, and the rabbit — yet not for a Dog? How often do you see cougars riding around? We Dogs love nice rides. Would it be so hard to rename the “Chrysler Eagle” to the Chrysler Beagle”?

If a Dog barks her or his head off in the forest and no human hears, are they still a bad Dog?

Detail of pug photo by Ryan McGuire
Detail of pug photo by Ryan McGuire

Things we Dogs can understand:
– Human verbal instructions
– Hand signals
– Whistles
– Horns
– Clickers
– Beepers
– Scent IDs
– Electromagnetic energy fields
– Frisbee flight paths
What do humans understand?

Please, more meatballs, less spaghetti.

Are there postal carriers in heaven? If so, will I have to apologize?

Why do humans smell flowers yet seldom if ever, smell one another?

Detail of pug photo by Ryan McGuire
Detail of pug photo by Ryan McGuire

It’s not easy being a Good Dog. Here are some of the things I must remember:
– I will not eat the cat’s food before they eat it or after they throw it up.
– I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, or other beautiful things just because I like the way they smell.
– The litter box is not a cookie jar.
– The sofa is not a face towel.
– The garbage collector is not stealing our stuff.
– I will not play tug-of-war with Dad’s underwear while he sits on the toilet.
– Sticking my nose into someone’s crotch is an unacceptable way to say “hello.”
– I don’t need to suddenly stand straight up when I’m under the coffee table.
– I must shake the rainwater out of my fur before entering the house — not after.
– I will not come in from outside and immediately drag my butt.
– I will not sit in the middle of the living room and lick my crotch.
– The cat is not a squeaky toy. The noise it makes when I play with it is not a good thing.

Sincerely,
Dog

P.S. When I go to heaven, may I have my testicles back?

Photo by Ryan McGuire
Photo by Ryan McGuire