Monday, September 24, 2012

Making People Out Of Words

Although I knew the general plot through my outline, around midway through the writing of my book, my characters started doing things that I had not planned for them. They surprised me by certain decisions and or actions.  This was when I knew that I had created demensional characters that came off the page, that came to life.

For example, I did not know that Cosmo would do a magic trick for Isabella in the final chapter or that Silvia would decide to become an art school teacher, or that Donna would change her mind about the party.  I did not know that Frank would be the first to show up at the party and did not know that Donna would decide, definitely, to leave Frank. When I was ten years old, I wrote a story entitled The Magic Pen.  In the story, the main character had a pen, that when used, would create stories as if by magic.

I actually found myself hanging out with my characters in a way.  I would be walking down the street and imagine that I was in a dialogue with them.  Or I would talk about them to myself like they were real people.  A lot of my thoughts went into working out how they would act or what they would say.  And eventually they became so real and so dimensional that they started doing things on their own!  Kind of creepy, but super cool.

See great article on creating characters in the Guardian article below.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Brocoli Rabe with Garbanzo Beans and Ribbon Pasta

In the beginning of chapter four, entitled "To Know Peace", Silvia makes this dish for her and her brother Vince, who are both vegetarian.  In the story, rigatoni pasta is used to make this dish, but of course, you can use any sort of pasta as in the recipe below in which ribbon pasta is used.  She is thrilled to have the kitchen to herself as Frank is always monopolizing the kitchen.  Because he is not home, there is some peace and quiet in the house and she relishes the relaxing meal that she shares with her brother.  This meal is the perfect start to this chapter that is about Silvia contemplating the time she spent with her grandma.  "It was through her Grandma Tucci that she knew peace."


1pound ribbon pasta
3 cubes minced garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch brocoli rabe
1 can garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese


Saute crushed garlic in olive oil for a minute or two and add brocoli rabe and beans.  In the meantime, add pasta to a big pot of rapidly boiling water, and cook until al dente.  Drain pasta and top with sauteed beans and greens.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Upcoming Free Day!

Just want to let you all know that Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees will be free next week on September 17, 18 and 19!  Last time my book went free, over 12,000 people downloaded it, making it rise to #1 in the Amazon Humorous Fiction category, and making it into the top 100 for two other fiction categories:  Single Women and Domestic Life.  If you have not yet read the book, this will be a wonderful opportunity to check it out!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Humor in Serious Fiction

All of my favorite writers have one thing in common: Their use of humor.  Flannery O'Connor's use of black humor adds greatly to adds to the characterization and the setting in her stories. Another one of my writers is Nathanael West also employs a similar sort of dark and demented humor in his stories.  Most people would agree with me that the John Kennedy Toole novel A Confederacy of Dunces is a work of comic genius.  I also admire the dry and witty humor of the science fiction writer, Douglas Adams.  Although the humor in the works of these latter two writers is much more accessible and apparent than the former, they all have made me, at one time or another, laugh out loud. And I have learned greatly from all of these writers in how to employ humor in fiction.

When I began writing my novel, I did not intend for it to be funny, but when I read my first chapter to a group of fellow writers, I was delighted to find them laughing out loud at certain lines and or situations that I had written.  I was also delighted when I my book got several reviews claiming that it was very humorous.  I believe that the use of humor in fiction is a great tool, and not just for the sake of being entertaining, but also for the sake of driving a point home without sounding didactic or overly moralistic.  I also believe that it's the sheer honesty of good humor that can really make an impression on people.  If someone is genuinely funny, they are not afraid to say what they see.  There are no pretensions.  There are no lies.

In terms of character development, it is the funny quirks about characters that make them more real, more believable and more lovable.  Vince believes that the recent preponderance of books about war is a government conspiracy.  As a lawyer, Frank bartered with clients who could not make their whole legal fee. Angie is obsessed by the fact that she lives in the very same neighborhood as Bruce Springsteen and is determined to find his house.  Donna is constantly plagued by some new self-diagnosed ailment that keeps her following one trend diet after another.

Humor can really enhance dialogue.  Cosmo tells Silvia that she would have better luck making peace in the Middle East than within their family.  Frank finishes his monologue of complaints with the phrase "I can't complain."  And last but not least, humor greatly adds to the fun of story.  Silvia listens to her boss, a full grown man, rant on about the importance of Gummy Bears.  Donna is sexually harassed by the Three Little Pigs at Disney World.  What fun! 

Below is a wonderful article on the effective use of humor in fiction.  Check  out!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pasta Fazool

In chapter three, entitled "How to Be Free," Silvia goes to visit her older sister Angie at her house in north Jersey and while Angie is deciding what she will make for dinner, Silvia recalls the time her sister used American cheese to make eggplant Parmesan.  She tries to persuade Angie to order out or make something simple.  But to no avail  Angie insist on cooking and to accommodate her sister's vegetarian diet, she makes Pasta Fagioli.  Silvia is happily surprised that the soup turned out wonderful.  This healthy soup, also called pasta fagoli, was served daily at a local diner in my home town of Hammonton, New Jersey.  There are many variations on this recipe.  For instance, frozen or fresh peas can be substituted for cannelloni beans.  It can also be made with or without chicken broth.  See below recipes from  Hope you enjoy!


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried or fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup uncooked sea shell macaroni
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, with liquid

  • Directions
    1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook celery, onion, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, red pepper and salt until onion is translucent. Stir in chicken broth, tomatoes and tomato sauce, and simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes.
    2. Add pasta and cook 10 minutes, until pasta is tender.
    3. Add beans and mix well. Heat through. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

    Vegetarian Version

    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
    • 5 1/2 cups water
    • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
    • 1 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
    • 1 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans
    • 1 (15 ounce) can navy beans
    • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 pound elbow macaroni


    1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook onionn in olive oil until translucent.  Stir in garlic and cook until tender.  Reduce heat, and stir in tomato sauce, water, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, cannelini beans, navy beans and Parmesan.  Simmer one hour.
    2. Bring large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; strain and stir into soup.