Muhammad Ali versus Mike Tyson: What’s your pop culture battle?

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Barely making my weekly post here, because I’ve been editing. Editing day work (which my budget says is clearly not enough!). Editing Martius Catalyst stuff. Editing SECOND THOUGHT. It’s been an editing kind of week.

While I’ve been editing, I keep running across pop-culture references, which has me questioning the wisdom of including such things in your stories.

References in question just from this week:

“…so I don’t feel like I went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali.”

“…he felt as if he’d been transported into an episode of H.R. Pufnstuf.”

“…this wasn’t the Brady Bunch.”

This is where my mind started to take note…

“…it was if he was taking aging lessons from Sting.”

“…No one ever talks about what happens before the kool-aid is even offered to drink.”

“…Because, as we all know, the Red Sox did win the World Series.”

“…that’s like bouncing a ball at the wall in a deserted hotel.”

The Muhammad Ali reference is mine, the rest from client’s work or two from blog posts I’ve read this week.  The Sting one made me laugh hysterically. Bonus points for you if you get all the references mentioned.

I question how useful it is because so many of the readers may not know what the author is talking about, so that they won’t be able to relate.  However, I know when I first became a voracious reader, things I didn’t know about was one of the things I loved about reading. I was learning while I was being entertained. I was curious; I’d underline words I didn’t know. I would go and look up references for which I wasn’t familiar.

I think I learned first about mythos – both Roman and Greek because of references in the fiction stories I was reading back when I was a pre-teen. They are still used to day by many writers. Hell, I ran across one last night in the current “by the bedside” book I am reading:  FAIR COIN by E.C. Myers (by the way this book is a total mind-fuck of a read, a review will be forthcoming once I’m finished). In the book the characters are talking about a “Charon device.” Myers kindly spent the next paragraph briefly explaining to any readers who might not know who the mythic character Charon is and why a universe-jumping device might be named for him.  However, in the references I list above, no such explanation is proffered and as the editor I’m questioning the validity of the reference. For instance, on the Muhammed Ali one that I used in SECOND THOUGHT, I made a note that perhaps I should reference Mike Tyson instead? Is he a boxing figure that’s more well known? Originally in the rough draft I know I referenced Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns because often times he’s the first boxer I think of – either him or Joe Louis. But my cultural background allows me to clearly identify that reference. Someone who grew up in New Mexico, Paris, or Istanbul may not.

Yet, these references are how we communicate as a storyteller. Why as far back as the beginning of storytelling’s history, cultural references were used to communicate feeling, emotion and intensity. I can imagine some cave man telling a story and using some sort of roving dinosaur bully as his own pop-culture lesson.

The trick is to know which is going to communicate the point to the largest audience.

As far as Ali vs. Tyson, I’m sticking with Ali because a Google search brings up 27,900,000 search results, whereas Tyson only brings up 22,600,000 references. Ali wins this bout. I don’t care what happened on Playstation.

How about you? Do you find that in your writing you use pop-culture references in your metaphors, descriptions, etc.?  If so, how do you determine which to use? As a reader do you like pop-culture references or do they annoy you? Have your say below.

In the mean time, I’ve got more editing to do. So, I’m out of here like an X-Factor contestant that Simon Cowell hates.

Harvest Creations: Faux Pho – Trying on the Wendig Kitchen Mits

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Anyone who reads my blog knows that I read Chuck Wendig’s blog. His writing advice, love of great adult beverages presented in comfortable-for-this-old-soldier language coupled with a few parenting insights and yummy recipes make his blog one of my top five go-to’s each and every day.

He posted a recipe not too long ago and I happened to be struggling with a narsty Spring bug. Pho or its Chinese sister Hot Sour are always welcome when the snot monster and comfort-food siren comes a calling.

You can find his recipe here.

I was lucky enough to be able to use mint leaves, cilantro, parsley, and green onions from my own garden.  This recipe makes me want to grow my own ginger, too. YUM.

This was fun to do and not hard. I highly recommend you try this out, too.

The second time I made this I used thin sliced portobellos because this carnivore seems to not do too well with the animal products any more. It was just as, if not more satisfying. But I didn’t take pictures that time.

Regardless, this recipe is kick-ass and doesn’t include some of the stuff I don’t really like about Beef Pho ( you know that intestinal grossness!). So Faux Beef Pho, gets four thumbs up around here. And The substitution of Portobellos in the second-go-round:  Fabulousness!

Here’s photos on how mine turned out:

Love in a Bowl - Friday Wendig Faux Pho








Make extra roasted vegetables because they are that yummy. Especially the roasted ginger.



GoChujiang Sauce is from the gods. We have a new favorite Asian Hot Sauce.























Cilantro and Green Onions from the Garden. Now I want to grow Ginger.











"Also: add a single bay leaf to the stock. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why." I did.











Flank Steak For The Win










Don't precook these bad boys. Just throw them in the pot and soak 'em up. As Wendig said, "“Absorb deliciousness” sounds like the mandate of an insane kitchen robot. “ABSORB DELICIOUSNESS,” the Dalek Sous Chef screams!"










"Now comes the thing that really helps to seal the faux pho deal. The condiments."


















Free-Range Fiction: A NAKED SLOT RESIDES

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Before I post this week’s Free-Range Fiction story, I want to let you know that this is an experimental piece. I have been reading “From Where You Dream:  The Process of Writing Fiction” by Robert Olen Butler.  He has a tactic of getting into a “trance” when you write and this piece reflects the third time I’ve attempted to do part of this tactic that I’m reading and learning about. 

I also need to thank Chuck Wendig again for helping to prompt me out what has been a bit of a writing slump. I came very close in the last couple of weeks of putting the whole writing life on hold, if not permanently behind me.  Something about this prompt, in addition to this post last week, helped my creative switch kick it into high gear again.  Thank you Herr Wendig.

This week’s flash fiction challenge was to use this random sentence generator and find 1,000 words to make a story from it. Since I didn’t know what I was going to get — trying some experimental ways of writing seemed a perfect match.  Personally, I’m intrigued with what came out of this new way of processing the ideas and stories in my mind’s eyes. I also wanted to play with tense and visuals. As always, it’s a bit dark. Best to read with an adult beverage in your hand, I propose. 

The random sentence I received was:  A naked slot resides. I’m making it the title of this little flash-fiction experiment. Hope you enjoy these 927 words. Tell me what you think in the comments below. Growing as a writer means sometimes, even, I got to digest a bit of manure from the garden of the internet. Throw it at me. 


A Naked Slot Resides.


A naked slot resides between the memorial marker for my husband and my son. It will one day fill with the memorial marker for me, the wife, the mother. The grass in the naked slot is lush and cool, shaded as it is by a giant maple tree. I sometimes lay in it, answering its whispering call. I can hear murmurs under the earth. Ants. Moles. Worms. Other things, unmentionable things. The worms are the noisiest. I hear them chatting, complaining about the clay pots that hold the remains of the loves in my life.


“It’s stale,” the worms hum.


All our ashes lain to rest on the land where our doom rose up from the ground like those unmentionable things which yammer on, normally when the moon is high. But I can’t think about that right now. Later. Not now.


Sunlight Through A Giant Maple (Photo by Sister Jean SodaHead)

I lay now in the cool grass, the sun high above the maple. I stare up, sunlight venting through the branches and leaves, leaving dancing shadows on my face. The mountain two miles from here looks down on me, a white figure dressed in white stretched between two graves. I close my eyes. Dinner can wait. Hell, breakfast and lunch did as well. I don’t worry about the dried leaves, grass or other debris that will likely stain the back of my dress. I just lay there, feeling the earth beneath me, the sun upon me, the whispers of the creatures beneath me. I think about who will have this land with three memorial markers after I’m gone, after I keep making dinner wait. I see court battles from neighbors and the county government. But they are all unable to do anything because these remains are here. They shall be here forever. As part of the grass, dirt, tree, leaves, ants, moles and worms. I shall remain. My husband shall remain. My son shall remain. We all will remain neighbors to that ever-present mountain.


I sat up, knees bent. I could feel the ants marching across my left calf. Their sets of six legs prickling my skin are there even when they are not there – the fall that should have killed me but didn’t kill me left them always marching. Today, however, the scratch of tibial spurs from a pair of sparrow-brown ants drags against my epidermis. I watch as they ascend towards my knee and then decide, seemingly, that the incline is too steep, then scrape along their way down to my bare ankle and escape out through the middle of my toes.


I lay back down, and close my eyes to the sleep I know is coming. The warmth of the earth. The peace I feel in this space. It allows me to slip into an easy nap. I dream. I see my son, a toddler, so many years ago. His father and I holding him by his hands between us. The milky sand of Virginia beach warm under our feet. We were the perfect family at the perfect moment. The waves active enough to make it fun to run in and out of them as they broke on the beach. I smile down at my son. When he turns his face towards mine and smiles, he begins to vomit. Giant slugs fall from his mouth which has begun to tear from his gums. The slugs deposit on his body, burning his skin. Immediately my husband and I are at his side at the hospital, but not right at his side, but looking through a burn-unit window. He’s much larger now, but there are actual burns on his skin. A high-school boy prank gone wrong. He would never leave that bed. The first of the memorial markers now sits as the focus of my dream. I see my husband, he’s beckoning me to come stand under the maple tree and watch the sunset on my son’s grave. We had to install 8 foot fences in order to have the marker protected. He is sweaty from all the work to maintain the property. The sunset would be replaced with the spiraling lights of a medic car, my husband had worked himself to death.


A cool breeze and the low light of sunset wakes me, sending shivers of the approaching autumn down and through me. My lips are chapped. Today is the end of the third day with no water. I can feel my heartbeat skip now and then. I suddenly want the quilt that I made for our TV nights. I struggle to sit up and see flashes of black dots, or is it bats escaping from the barn in the back? I can’t hear anything. Just the thump of the blood slowly moving through my body. I count the 50 steps from the naked slot to the back door. I pause in the doorway to keep my self from vomiting. There’s nothing to expel. It’s a chore, but I get the quilt from the couch. The TV looks at me with neglected blinking signals. I haven’t turned it on since the man at the mortuary helped me erect my husband’s marker.


It takes me nearly twenty minutes to walk the 50 steps again. I have to pause. I don’t want to fall. Not yet. I can sink into the earth once I’m in the naked slot.


The comforter smells still of family nights of popcorn and Star Trek. It’s warm. It’s colors reflect on the moons sliver of light. I close my eyes and the worms tell me good night.


INKSTER DISPATCH: Someone’s paying attention! Cool award nomination

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Illuminating Blogger Award

I received an email this morning that I had been nominated by fellow writer, Sheri J. Kennedy, via the  Now if you haven’t seen Sheri’s blog RIVERSIDE you need to put it on your RSS feed, Blog Roll, Google Reader, et al. Her art — both visual and words is fabulous.  I want to be more like her when not only my writing, but my person grows up. In the meantime, I’m humbled and honored by her nomination.

Funny this came on the heels of a theme of conversations I had over the course of last week on whether or not people pay attention to the work we artists put out over our blogs. What is really the benefit — save a bit of personal sanity — of putting these words, images, thoughts, ideas (and for many of us, recipes) into the digital realm. At this point, I can’t not do it and the other artists and writers I conferred with regarding this understood that our blogs, the internet, facebook, is one of the best tools ever available in the history of humankind, especially to the creative creatures we are.

When I was a young lass, baking with my mother during the holidays was both a much loved and much dreaded occasion. I loved the feeling of accomplishment of getting there — eating the cookies, pies and cakes we beat, rolled, and coaxed into existence. But, the process sometimes was grueling and frustrating — a juggling act of timing. But I know that my mother expressed her love and gave to us what she could through these baking sessions. Knowing that when I post my Harvest Creations here — both literary and worldly — I’m conscious of the passion and love behind them.  I think there is power in food preparations and the stories surrounding those activities throughout all of history are some of the best. Therefore, I know I’ll keep making my own — recipes and stories alike.

As part of the nomination process for this award, I am to nominate five other people. I have dozens and dozens of blogs that I follow. So the choice of who else to say “look you light up my blogging world” is tough, of course.

But decisions, always, must be made. My nominees are:


SHERI J. KENNEDY RIVERSIDE:  Sheri’s posts always remind me to live in the here and now and appreciate the grace of life right in front of me.

Avant Garde In My Backyard:  You need to be watching this fabulous artist. She has an eye and a mind that fascinates, pushes your thoughts and your appreciation for that which is other.

Lyn Midnight Against The Odds:  For those of us who tip-toe on the darker side and whose brains are pelted with voices of character. Lyn gets it. She puts it into a perspective and allows a dialogue about the creativity we crave, need, and exist.

Gluten-Free Girl & The Chef:  My son has developed a gluten intolerance and as I age I don’t handle any wheat-based food very well. So, I turn to this site often for creative ideas.

The last nomination is probably a given for anyone who’s living as a writer as I am. But he also understands being a parent. Liking Whiskey. Oh, and cooking up food you want to not only eat, but sometimes just live in.

Chuck Wendig:  Terrible Minds is a terribly important blog for any creative sort. Quit effing around and get to it now.


Thanks for noticing — Sheri and all those who are keeping regular tabs on my little corner of the internet. Remember no one is going to notice if you’re not working it. So keep working it.


Brewing a Revolution

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My copy of the Farmer’s Almanac and my Witch’s Calendar both said last Thursday (May 17) was a harvesting day. I have found that the little Almanac and those that follow the old and/or neo-pagan ways know a little something about planting and harvesting days. It has served my little green thumb, and now urban farming efforts well.

My Chocolate-Mint Patch Ready for Harvesting

I had an overgrowth of herbs which could most certainly be harvested that day: mint, sage, thyme, oregano. Especially mint. I inherited this chocolate-mint variety. I honestly wish I had just spearmint or mint-julep mint. But that’s not what I got. So I make different things with this mint. The next big planter container I inherit I will plant regular, I’m-going-to-the-Kentucky-Derby-and-drinking-myself-until-my-hat-falls-on-the-floor mint. But for now:  chocolate-mint essential oil. My little essential oil brew makes such a very yummy, intimate massage oil. The last harvest of this before fall I will make chocolate-mint hot cocoa. But come back to my blog come October for that soulful comfort drink. For now, we’re not afraid to lick our hands after giving a massage with this stuff. Also, talk about a delightful, wake-you-up bath.

I harvested the mint, washed it thoroughly, and got the crock-pot to simmering for the oil. Then I realized my supply of bottles for the oil was down to one. This batch was going to require more than that. So, I had to run out to our local health-food/nutrition center. This isn’t like a super supplements place or a GNC. This is run by a couple of women, whom I suspect are not just tree-hugging old hippies, but maybe they clearly know about the moon cycles, best planting and harvesting days, as well as, ancient alchemy things. I always find the coolest things in this store – besides empty brown and blue bottles to put oils, salts or other herbal concoctions in.

I gathered the collection of bottles I needed and did my lap around the store to check out all the new and cool things they have – alongside the vitamins, supplements and soy powder stuffs – including some other little bottles I need to get for some talismans I want to make later this summer. It was a short but sweet respite from what has been one of THOSE weeks.

It's going to be a good year for Thyme.

I took my bottles to the counter and the lady was curious right away, “Oh what are you making?” So, I told her about my essential oils and that I was also drying herbs today.

“Yes, it’s a harvest day,” she said, without my prompting.

She asked me about what else I grew and where my land was located. We chatted about different uses for different plants and she made suggestions on some other things I could grow – which I may look into for next year. Somehow (it was probably me, but I’m uncertain) we got talking about how some of the natural remedies have been co-opted by the pharmaceutical companies and the GMO seeds and oh goodness, how we’ve gotten as a society too far away from the land (a theme from my book, INTERFACE, by the way).

Then she said, “Well, things will have to completely collapse before people understand again; but, you…” she paused and put her hand on my hand that was resting on the counter cradling my phone. “You have the fairies and angels all around you. You are brewing a revolution.”

Green and White and Water and...Yummmm...

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this so I just said, “I try. I’m trying. Thank you.”

For days now her words have echoed in my head:  Brewing A Revolution.

So what’s my revolution? I’m not sure entirely – it’s a mixed bag, for sure. That much I know. I know it lies somewhere between LGBTQ issues, mental health issues, healing our planet, class warfare, and the treatment of old warriors. Those themes show up in my stories repeatedly. They also are beginning to show themselves in my visual art that I’m doing. The things I’m making, creating, cooking up in my kitchen, to sell this summer at the Farmer’s Market and the various “fairs” my community supports. I sketched a design for a glass bottle I’m going to paint that for some reason reminds me of warfare on a molecular level. If I actually paint that, I’ll post it here. However, it’s been a reminder that my writing, perhaps, has a goal outside of just getting published (a rather myopic focus I’ve had for too many months). Social Justice writing was a theme of my senior synthesis. Write Up! I told my peers. Perhaps it’s time I took my own words to heart. I’d like to thank that herbal shop keeper for the reminder.

For now, as a new story percolates, I’m still brewing essential oils and trying to figure out what names the fairies in my yard might call themselves. The words will come as I finish, I know.

What revolution are you perhaps brewing? What stories from your life (books, articles or poems you’ve read) have cause action in your life. Tell me. Inspire me more.


Brewing a Revolution & Essential Oils At the Same Time.