Thursday Thoughts: Recipes – Just a serving suggestion?

I like to cook and bake. I try to make bread once a week, usually a baguette of a french loaf, but I got some rye flour, so I’m into rye bread for a while.

My grandmother would make rye bread in her own way. My sister and I asked her for that recipe once, and she pointed to her head and said “watch”. So, she poured and dashed the ingredient into the bowl—no measuring implements required unless you consider a handful as a measurement—as we looked on and guesstimated the amounts. Even with her arthritic hands, she could kneed better than anyone.

The result? Same as always – Best rye bread ever.

My mom has the “recipe”, and it’s good, but it’s not the same. My sister makes it, and it’s good, but it’s not the same. I make it, and it’s good, but—well you get the idea.

I usually follow a recipe once, then make my own variation. My entrees never taste exactly the same, because I often add different ingredients based on what I have in my fridge. Baking is somewhat unforgiving to artistic license I have learned, so I have experience some failures. Oh, I eat them…usually.

I’ve been chastised when asked to prepare on of those meal prep boxes*, where everything is all ready to go, and includes a step-by-step picture map with the first instruction being: “Read the entire recipe card before starting.” Yeah, whatever…

-Leon

*In one of the commercials, they say these meals are great for preparing dinners “on a budget.” Really? Maybe if you include the 4 or 5 free meals they send, but after that— I could eat for a week on the price of one box.


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Tuesday Tidbits: Weathering the Weather

We had a mild winter. Not a lot of snow either.

In some places there is too much rain. It hasn’t rained here in three weeks*. Even when it did, it was negligible. We just had two weeks of over +30C (~+90F) degree heat. Heat records seem to get broken every few days. I’m not going to talk about all the permafrost melting in the Arctic, although I guess I just did.

There is smoke in the air from the forest fires; the experts said the season started a month early.

What part can I play, I ask myself.

I don’t drive very often. I prefer to bike when it is practical to do so. I recycle and reuse as much as possible, and I only buy what I really need, and only after my fixes become unfixable. The dishwasher in my apartment is brand new—I haven’t used it once. Even during the heat, the air conditioner is used sparingly.

I’ll buy an electric vehicle when it is time to do so. With fuel prices not looking like they are going to go down anymore, and having to limit emissions, it just makes sense.

Sometimes it is easier not to think about it, but that’s not the answer.

-Leon

* At the time of posting, thunderstorms are rolling through. We need the rain, but could do without the lightning. I’m sure there will be a few more forest fires after this.

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Monday Musings: Author’s Comments

I recently ran a promo with Itsy Bitsy Book Bits which gave their pool of reviewers free access to my poetry book. I unfortunately did not see any sales, but the reviews that I received put my BookBub total to 21, Goodreads to 37, and Amazon to 14. This made me ponder the appropriateness of author’s commenting on reviews.

There was a post about this a few months ago. I posted two questions in some Goodreads groups, but have had little feedback.

Authors: Do you comment on the reviews that you receive?

Readers: Do you like when authors respond to your review?

I have replied to many of my reviews in the past. My thinking that it is a personal touch that connects the two parties. In some reviews there have been questions or comments that I thought deserved a follow up. I have “liked” some reviews in the past, but maybe that’s bordering on arrogant?  

I don’t think that it is appropriate if an author retaliates for a poor review. It has probably happened, though I have never seen it. If a reader pans an author’s book, they are not expecting a scathing retort, they are voicing their opinion—which is the purpose of reviews.

The other dilemma is if you comment on one and not the other, does that hurt a reader’s feelings? If you are an author, you probably re-read your reviews, but as a reader, do you post and forget or do you look at other’s reviews after the fact?

Just some thoughts to mull over. What do you think?

-Leon

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Thursday Thoughts: To be(ta) or not to be(ta)

Are you a beta-reader? Have you ever used one?

I think it is time to open up my newest work, a novel based on one of my science fiction short stories, to readers to gain some feedback on the story so far.

In essence, the story is finished, the characters have had their adventure and are…[spoiler alert]. It has been a stretch for me to write something longer than 4000 words. It’s been fun, don’t get me wrong. I’m amazed at what I’ve come up with and it has exceeded my expectations.

I write like I read. I don’t like long drawn out descriptions or seemingly endless dialogue, but part of that is the way to immerse the reader in the story. I probably need to be more descriptive in my writing, but I like to give out the basic ingredients and let the reader form their own picture because that’s what we all do when we read, right? Go to a movie based on your favorite book to see someone else’s interpretation (that wasn’t what Hogwarts was supposed to look like…)

I’ll usually go for brevity over elaboration. I use vocabulary that most people will recognize or be able to understand based on context. When I’m reading, I don’t want to have to look up the meaning of a word.

I admit that I am a new writer. Twenty years from now I’ll be a better one. George Lucas reworked Episodes IV-VI because more tools were available. I’ve gone back to earlier chapters to add dialogue and scenes because ideas have come to me. I’m adding to my toolbox with every page I write.

All the more reason to write more.

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Tuesday Tidbits: On the right track!

It’s been a while since I wrote about reviews. It’s also been a while since I received any. Coincidence? Probably.

I decided to run a promotion with Itsy Bitsy Book Bits (IBBB) for my poetry book after reading some Goodreads forums on marketing sites. They do rely heavily on social media presence, along with their pool of reader/reviewers. I’m not that active on social media, so I’m probably not taking total advantage of the package, but so far, while it hasn’t translated into any sales, I have received more reviews.

The underlying theme of many of the reviews mirrored one of the reasons for publishing my poems as the forward in my book stated:

I hope that my writing and drawing makes you smile, think, wonder, reflect, laugh, and cry (in a good way-we all need to cry sometimes. It’s not as good as laughing but it serves a purpose). If you can relate to something that I have said, and it makes sense to you, or at least you are entertained, then I have accomplished the second thing that I set out to do.

That was my intent and reason, and these are some of the comments:

“Being a beginner with poetry, this was a great book to start with…The personal points of view which are portrayed are easily relatable and resonates with me on a personal level.

“It is certainly on book that will make you stop and think… also injecting humour making me laugh. If you are up for something a little different then Leon’s book is just the thing.”

“I have read books of poems before but Lines by Leon touches on topics that really make you think.” 

“This is an easy to understand… I know you will find something in one of these poems or short stories you will connect with.”

“These speak to me at this time in my life… You will be amazed as I was at how these short works will grab your heart.”

“… there is something that will connect with everyone.”

As you can see, that goal of my decision to publish has been met, and it warms my heart to get such wonderful feedback. Now the next goal is to reach more readers.

  • If you live in Canada or the US, you can get a signed paperback copy of my book, Lines by Leon – Poems, Prose and Pictures directly from me: https://linesbyleon.com/books-and-merch/
  • You can purchase a copy from most major online retailers: Universal Book Link
  • You can tell someone about the book on your social media

Here is a link to the IBBB promo page: https://itsybitsybookbits.com/2021/07/lines-by-leon-poems-prose-and-pictures-by-leon-stevens/

All of your support is appreciated!

-Leon

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Monday Musings: Out of Touch

No cell service, no Wifi.

In the middle of nowhere? Not exactly. Just an hour and a half drive from where I usually wake up.

I stand on the rocky shore of the unusually calm lake. The rounded rocks slip under my feet and a few steps into the water they become slippery. The water is not very cold, probably because we have had such a hot summer. I crouch down and push myself out over the glassy surface.

The next morning, coffee in hand, I once again make my way to the lakeshore. The smoke in the air gives the rising sun a sinister blush, but also gives it a crisp outline as it begins its day’s journey. It’s captivating, and I take quick side glances at it. The reflection seems to swim toward me the longer I remain.

The island on the horizon is barely visible, and it seems to float above the once again calm waters. Birds flit through the trees, and ducks, annoyed by my presence let me know in language I suspect to be…well not so nice.

That afternoon, after 10 long hours of labor on the cabin (not mine), it’s time to pack it in. The rain came down in a torrent for five minutes earlier—it’s the first rain I’ve seen in a month (that would explain the low water level on the lake)—and it was over so quickly that I missed standing in it.

The wind has returned the water to its normal angry self, but not belligerent enough to prevent another foray to clean the day’s sweat from my body. I would like to stay here longer, but it’s time to pack up.

Leaving the lake behind, the gravel road gradually widens until it reaches the highway. Five minutes later my cellphone pings, alerting me to the presence of connectivity. I look for missed messages. No texts, no calls. Nice. Everyone I care about already knew where I was.

Now to tackle my email in box.

-Leon

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Thursday Thoughts: Cruisin’ at 30 000 (words that is)

I did my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge in November. The goal is to write 50000+ words in one month. I didn’t think that I would accomplish this since I am a slow writer, but it did get me started writing longer works.

Most of my creations are poems or short stories. I joke that I write short stories because of my attention span, but my stories seem to come to a natural conclusion sooner rather than later. Deciding to write a novel definitely pushes me out of my comfort zone.

When I read, I’ll often skim over longer descriptions and dialogue that I deem unnecessary (no offence to my fellow authors). Sometimes I am forced to go back if something doesn’t make sense, and my reading habits are usually the culprit.

So, I write how I read. Just get to the point and move on.

My novel started as a continuation of one of my short stories. At the end of November, I wasn’t even close, but I was pleased with what I had written up to that point. My characters were developing through their actions and words, there was suspense at the end of each chapter, and I had a good idea what the ending was going to be.

Sometimes I can write quite a bit in one sitting, other times, not so much.

I hit the 30 000 word mark last month. It’s been slowly creeping ahead ever since. The problem is that the ending is written, the characters have had their adventures and adversities. They have solved their problems (oops, spoiler alert…). The story in essence is finished.

So now I go back to fill in descriptions I feel are necessary, not for boosting word count—ok, maybe a little—but to create an engaging story for the reader. I am also going over the dialogue, trying to make it informative while keeping it realistic. Sometimes I find that extended speeches by a character seems unnatural, as most people need time and breaks to formulate their thoughts. I personally am not usually a prolific conversationalist, so that may have a lot to do with it.

I guess the question is: Would you like to read a novella or a novel?

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Tuesday Tidbits: It’s a Small World

When I first went to Disneyworld (or is it Disneyland? I can never remember which one is which), anyway, the one in Florida, I went with a college buddy and his parents in an RV. Now I know what you are thinking—that sounds like a fun time, but hey, it didn’t cost me anything for travel/lodging, and I wasn’t old enough to buy booze (he was though😊). Did I mention it happened to be Spring Break?

It was the first time out of the country for me, young adult, with people of no relation to me, no passports required. Wow. Times change.

Disneyworld at the time was just doing its first major expansion. The only attractions available were the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. A few highlights were: Seeing the Space Shuttle take off as we ate breakfast, going on my first rollercoaster, hitting the German pavilion and drinking beer, then as a joke we went on the “It’s a Small World” ride. That’s an earworm you won’t get rid of quickly.

We convinced (begged) his parents to go to Daytona Beach. We had one day to get Spring Break out of our system. I don’t remember much—not from drinking, but because it’s a long time ago. Anyway…

Fast-forward to today—and the crux of today’s post:

Land travel hasn’t changed much over that last 50 years, but the time it takes us to fly somewhere sure has, although the delays at the airport security and customs usually negates those gains. Soon, we will have sub-orbital fights that will whisk travelers from one side of the world to the other (talk about jet lag).

We have instantaneous (almost) communication with anywhere on the globe. News travels fast, bad news travels faster. Although, I do find it odd when local news anchors talk to local reporters and there is a 3-4 second delay.

Like it or not, the world is almost completely connected. No greater example was the pandemic which spread throughout the entire globe within months. One the plus side, the reverse is true with vaccine flowing, just not as fast.

Viruses don’t have to deal with bureaucracy.

-Leon

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Monday Musings: Motivation

Did you really write that you ask? I think I did. I did my research (*cough* Google…) and nothing turned up.

On Tuesday I wrote about quotes (Tuesday Tidbits) and while looking through my notebook, I came across an old post that I thought I had used. Well, I couldn’t find it in my 237 previous posts (wow!), and since it kinda fits the theme (I used part of it in Tuesday’s post), and I didn’t have anything else planned, and I also didn’t feel like writing a whole new one (you’ll get the irony shortly). Here it is:

Motivation

Do or do not. There is no try.” Hold it right there Yoda. I’m going against my adoration for you and your (well, Lucas’s) universe and it pains my heart to when I say that I have to disagree with you. There is always a “try” in doing. It’s like telling a child that they can be whatever they want to be in life. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. But by trying, they will better themselves because they will fail at times (usually more often than succeed) and hopefully learn more about what they can and cannot do.

If someone wants to be an astronaut (Pick me! Pick me!) and winds up becoming a doctor or mathematician because they couldn’t hold down their lunch in the “vomit comet”, then the world has another person to be proud of, and they have learned that you shouldn’t eat a heavy meal the night before training. Maybe math or school in general wasn’t their strong suit and they go on to customer service, the arts, public service, or become a laborer. I hope they asked themselves, “Did I try my best?”, and if the answer was yes, then the next question should be, “Am I still trying my best?”. If the answer was “no” to either of those then we must look at, you guessed it: Motivation.

I’m not an expert on the M-word. Far from it. Do I try my best? Usually, but then again, I’m a pretty good procrastinator too.

[Pan to figure slumped on a couch, bowl of potato chips in their lap, TV remote in the other…]

(But I won’t leave dirty dishes on the kitchen counter overnight)

A few quotes come to mind: “Commitment is doing what you said you would do long after the moment you said it in has passed.” I credit this to Bear Grylls, the adventure guy. If you don’t know, he was in the British Special Forces when on a training exercise, his parachute failed, and he broke his…everything? He then (not right away) became the youngest person to scale Mt. Everest. Wow.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to suffer some life-changing injury, but often things happen, and we just say to our self, “That’s it, I’m going to do something/I’m going to stop something/I’m going to try something.”, or along those lines. It’s not easy making big changes or deciding to accomplish a task, and lack of motivation is a real killer of dreams.

Where does one get their motivation? There are many motivating factors to choose from and what works for others may not be right for you. Will what you do:

  • Improve your life or the lives of others?
  • Bring joy or happiness into lives?
  • Raise self-esteem?
  • Contribute positively to society?

I think that if you can answer yes to the question, “Will I be a better person if I can accomplish this?” then it is worth doing, even if there is a risk of failure.

So, do I watch TV and eat too many chips or finish this blog? Easy choice…

Ta-Da!

(Now where is the remote…?)

-Leon

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Thursday Thoughts: National Holidays. Canada, eh?

It is Canada Day, and in a few days, it will be Independence Day in the US. Many countries celebrate some type of founding, liberation, or independence which seems to be the overwhelming majority.

A pall has fallen on Canada Day this year. There have always been some objections about the suitability of it, but with the re-emergence of the horror of residential schools into the public eye reminding people that it was a terrible time in our history, there are more calls to cancel the celebration. 

Every country has its atrocities. From the beginning of civilization, and of course, before, humans have fought with, enslaved, and killed others for food, land, resources. The beginning of colonization in the 16th century created a further imbalance between groups of people because of the technological gap, greed, and self-importance.

What happened in Canada unfortunately played out in the same way for the same reasons all over the world. As far as I know, many governments are working toward a reconciliation with their indigenous groups. There is much work to be done in Canada and around the world for healing to begin or continue, but the scars of history will always remain. The hope is that history doesn’t repeat itself.

Canada is seen as a country that provides a safe haven for refugees, a welcoming new home for immigrants, and a government the provides humanitarian and peacekeeping around the globe. Unfortunately, these positive aspects are overshadowed by an uprise in racially motivated violence, and the continuing discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools.  

Should we cancel Canada Day? In many places it will be replaced by a day of reflection, not just to remember those who lost their lives, but to think of how we can move forward, creating a country that respects everyone and builds toward a greater good. Let’s not forget that we can’t change the past, but we can make the future better.

Final thought:

We don’t own this planet. Just because we have risen to the top of the food chain and have been able to advance technologically doesn’t give us carte blanche to do what we want. At best, for our successes, we have been bestowed stewardship of the Earth. A gift such as this is not to be taken lightly.

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
www.linesbyleon.com

Purchase paperback directly for the author!