Now that’s a spicy lollipop!

Mexican kids are tough!

That’s what I always think when I look at the candy section at my local carniceria.  Not only does it carry things like custom-cut meat, tortillas, and drinks, but there is an ever expanding candy section. I feel lucky to be living in Southern Arizona. If I didn’t, I’d be missing out on a lot of great flavors.

Why do I think those kids are tough? For one thing, half their candy has cayenne in it. One of my favorite kinds is a paste made with tamarind, chili powder, and sugar. I also like the lollipops that are fruit flavored once you get through a layer of chili and salt. Another thing I tried recently is candied barrel cactus. That was good, as was the candied sweet potato. Both were chewy and moist on the inside, rather like a good chunk of dried pineapple.

Mexican candy has interesting and unique things in it. I love the goat milk caramel, for instance, which brings back memories of my childhood – I milked a goat every day. I will admit, I haven’t gotten used to the salted, preserved plums, called saladitos. It’s just too much salt for me. I tried, though! Another thing I’ve learned to do is eat jicama strips with chili and lime. It’s also good on apple slices. Go to any Hispanic oriented grocery store and you’ll even find a liquid preparation of brined fruit chili powder just for drizzling over things.

Other candy is made with coconut, peanut, tamarind, various forms of chocolate, and marshmallow. You can even find chocolate dipped corn flakes sold in little bags, the same way M&Ms are sold. I haven’t tried everything there is to try, but there sure are a lot of interesting flavors out there!

I think the coolest lollipop is sort of mango flavored, covered with a spicy layer, and shaped like a chicken.  They are fun to eat and a balanced flavor.  Really!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/lollipop/

Max your Writing Moxie

Do you want to be the best writer you can be?

If you want to write good stories, read good stories and pay attention.

That looks a little too simple, doesn’t it? It’s still the truest piece of advice I can give. There’s an old programmer’s motto: GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Put another way, you are what you eat.

I used to think I knew what made a good story. I thought what I watched and read was great. It was not really great though – most of it was simplistic, with hackneyed plots and cardboard cutout characters and it didn’t challenge me at all. It caused my stories to be just as simplistic. Then I started reading and watching really high quality stuff, and found what I had missed. I discovered levels of artistry and complexity that took my breath away. Twists and turns of plot, well written stories, mysteries that were done right, and more. I began to see how my own stories were woefully simplistic. I saw ways of improving them, too. I now have a habit of seeking out the best stories I can find.

With all that said, what makes a good story? I didn’t know how to recognize one reliably, after all, I thought I WAS reading and watching good stuff! So here is a list of general characteristics that can point you toward better stories, whether you are looking for a book, an anime, a role playing game, a movie, or a TV show.

A good story…

…makes you think.

…will give you clues when it’s a mystery, but make them very subtle. It will make your mind work.

…uses good descriptions or dialogue to bring you in to the story.

…avoids stereotypes.

…isn’t always a “classic.” Some classics are woefully bad, but are classics because they are old.

…doesn’t talk down to the audience.

…shows how the characters grow and develop.

…lets the characters change and doesn’t leave them in the same place at the end as they were at the beginning.

…challenges you. A story you can sleep through is no story at all.

…gives motivations behind the character’s actions, beyond “because he wanted to.”

…makes you think.

Finding good stories can be easy or hard depending on what genre you are interested in. Ask for recommendations from people you admire, read reviews on sites like Goodreads, check out forum posts about potential TV shows. Pay attention to why people like things and how they talk about them. If a person writes well when describing why they like a story, then the quality of the story is likely to be higher.

When you find a great story, pay attention to why it’s great! Then think about how you could incorporate the same techniques into your own work. Eventually, you’ll absorb aspects of the great writing styles you love.

 

Read great stories.  Write great stories.  Build your moxie.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/moxie/

The Nitty Gritty – Life Lessons from my job

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve started a new office/customer service job it seems like the training is half pablum, half semi/useful stuff, full of platitudes and not really of lasting use to anyone.  Not so with this new job, the one I talked about getting a month or so ago.

I started training this week and have been really impressed with the company.  Today I had a course in cooperative communication, and another in appreciating diversity.  Usually those are prime candidates for the Useless List.  This time, though, I was shocked!  I actually learned some things, and was reminded of useful advice I’ve heard before but don’t put in practice often enough.  I came away from the training inspired, not bored.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned, hopefully they’ll help you too.

“Be responsible for your actions.”  More people need to do this.  Being responsible isn’t being accountable to a higher authority, it’s recognizing what the right thing to do is, because it’s the right thing, then doing it.  I need to do this more too.

“Stay Positive.”  This is practically the watchword of the classroom I’m in, and the instructor reminded us on the first day that our jobs will be much more fun if we do this.  The material, though difficult, will also be easier to learn.  I agree with her 100% and want to do this more in my private life as well.

“Don’t focus your attention on your intention, but on the impact of your actions.”  I love this at the same time as I am infuriated by this.  It’s so easy to say “but I only meant to…” when a mistake has been made.  However, no matter what I might think, the effect of my actions is exactly the same no matter what I meant.  Focusing on the impact puts my attention where it needs to be to learn from what happened and do better next time.

“Be creative and flexible in your interactions.”  This was great because it reminded me that different people have different styles of interaction, so if you are flexible, you can get the most out of every meeting, be it casual or professional.

“To err is human, but to take responsibility for your part is professional.”   I love this.  It allows that mistakes can happen, but demonstrates a behavior that is the first step in the path to making amends and fixing the situation.

“The power of the pause.”   This is the best of all the tips, really, because it’s the one that lets you follow them.  Taking that extra second after you might have said or done something wrong, or someone else did, can be all the difference between a reasonable response and an unfortunate one.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/grit/

Take up your quill and write your own destiny

I’m approximately halfway through my life, given current longevity rates for a person in my socioeconomic situation.  It’s causing me to see that I will never do the things I want to do unless I make them happen.  I can’t afford to wait, it’s time to decide what things I want to take the time to be good at.  Also, what things I want to do, and how to get there.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Growing up, I didn’t have much variety of music to listen to.  We had a few cassette tapes of folk music.  We didn’t go out and buy albums.  We didn’t have Mp3s to download, and I didn’t listen to the radio because I took the bus everywhere.  Listening to music on the internet was a total revelation to me when I went to college, but I didn’t do it much because music wasn’t really a huge part of my life.

Fast forward to meeting my wife.  She is a metal head.  I didn’t like it at first.  Gradually I started to and now power metal is my favorite genre.  For a long time I had a recurring dream about playing the guitar but I never did anything about it.

Tonight I got to hang out at a friend’s studio.  He’s been playing electric guitar for 38 years and wow, he’s good!  I haven’t listened to much live music so this was a real revelation.  The music touched me as never before.  I even liked the songs I normally wouldn’t like, as the sound enfolded me and stirred my deepest nerve endings.  I found myself totally comfortable in the studio.  I liked the smell of the air, the look of the equipment.  I didn’t feel out of place like I have in other musical venues.  It felt… right.  In fact, I was inspired to do a painting, which I’ll start tomorrow.

This reminded me of my dream of playing the guitar.  Perhaps, I thought, I could start playing one!  Time’s wasting, there are fewer days ahead than there are behind.  I can find a cheap used guitar to start with, and look at lessons on YouTube.  I can practice with headphones on so I don’t even bother the neighbors.  The point is, if I want to do this, I can make it happen by taking the first step, and then the next, and then the next.  I can have my dreams if I go about it in a sensible way.  As my guitar player friend said, “you have to decide you’ve already done it and then just get started.”

Is there a dream you’ve had that’s like this?  How might you write your own life story?

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/quill/

Fantastic Sunset Art

See artist’s amazing cardboard cutouts that come to life at sunset When nine-time Emmy award-winning TV producer and writer John Marshall found himself living alone for a month on Frye Island, Maine, he got to thinking about how best to spend his time. Inspired by the beautiful sunsets he witnessed from his back door, he […]

via See artist’s amazing cardboard cutouts that come to life at sunset — FLOW ART STATION