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A Frog, Food, and Cajun Culture: A Trip to Louisiana

Originally posted on my Contingency Writer’s Blog

I arrived home at about midnight this morning after a 10-day trip in Louisiana. The primary reasons for my visit were to see family, and to work on a romance novel and the third Detective Games entry; although it became a great deal more.

Instead of a linear progression for this blog post, I’d like to try out bullet points!

  • I tried my hand… er, legs, at Irish dancing. My cousins had been Irish dancing for years, and I had come along to support them. Their instructor welcomed me to join in as well. My fencing instructor had always said I should go dancing, and about a year apart from his remarks, I was clumsily thumping across a multipurpose ballet studio.
  • Trekking through Jean Lafitte National Park, I wished I had first put on some bug spray, with the presence of a multitude of mosquitos. But the beauty of the marsh and swamplands were incredible, and afforded the opportunity for many pictures.
A tiny tree frog

A tiny tree frog

A young alligator surfaces near a walkway

A young alligator surfaces near a walkway

  • We visited Destrehan Plantation and took a tour of the grounds, with its grand trees covered in Spanish moss, and learnt of the vast history, including the day to day lives of the household owners and the enslaved, as well as the construction process and architectural functions. At the end, a blacksmith with a heavy cajun accent, demonstrated the use of his forge.
  • The food. Oh boy, the food. The delicious simplicity of red beans and rice, messy po’ boys, savory gumbo and jambalaya, fun flavors with stuffed snowballs, and the mandatory beignets (from Café du Monde) I had to have on a daily basis.
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Beignets and powdered sugar! Yum!

Savory gumbo!

Savory gumbo!

  • The French Quarter was a fun experience, with sights to see, a banana smoothie in hand, and trinkets to be had in the market.
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The Jackson equestrian statue

Norman & Oliver: Goldendoodles

Recently our family got two members bigger. Enter: Norman and Oliver, the Goldendoodles.

When their owner came unto very unfortunate circumstances, she decided it was time to give these two boys a new home. That’s when my family came in. They loved the dogs, and asked if I would be willing to walk them and invest time in caring for them. Having never met the dogs, but anxious to have another pet since our Akita passed away,  I agreed.

A proper looking fellow in this picture, but quite goofy in actuality! Oliver must be pet in a very certain way, and most certainly not upon the head! Only his back and belly will suffice. He is also the most excitable of the two, and one might identify him by his consistent panting.

A proper looking fellow in this picture, but quite goofy in actuality! Oliver must be pet in a very certain way, and most certainly not upon the head! Only his back and belly will suffice. He is also the most excitable of the two, and one might identify him by his consistent panting.

 

Probably the "alpha dog" of the two. When Norman barks, Oliver chimes right in. When Norman lies upon the couch, Oliver thinks it's a good idea too...

Probably the “alpha dog” of the two. When Norman barks, Oliver chimes right in. When Norman lies upon the couch, Oliver thinks it’s a good idea too…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cuban Sandwich (et frites)

On November 8th, 2009 I made one of my first posts, and it was about a Cuban Sandwich. Yet I had never thought to take a picture!

The remedy for my terrible grievance is finally here:

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For your viewing pleasure, the Cuban Sandwich. Mustard, meat, pickles, cheese… some seem to be unlikely combinations, but they work so well. The finger making its debut in this photograph was used to prop up the sandwich. It’s intentional. Not one of those, “whoops! Stuck my finger in the photograph again!” moments.

Bon appetit.

Adieu.

 

Breakfast Delight: Pancakes with…

…dark chocolate, whipped cream, and vanilla bean maple syrup.

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These pancakes have the perfect balance of vanilla maple syrup, as well as the option of whipped cream and special dark chocolate from the famous Pennsylvanian chocolate factory (*hint, hint*).

Not only did the pancakes taste great, they also were very quick to make. The pancakes were  the freezer variation (made from scratch would have been the best option), which was the most efficient option, time-wise.

It’s a writer’s breakfast! At least for this author.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Mine

It’s been quite some time since my last DP Photo Challenge entry. Today it’s the full version of a photograph which I posted sometime last year.

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A cake with my name on it. Literally. The white frosting is in the shape of a fleur de lis, accompanied by the French national colors. The cake was designed by a local bakery. Why the French theme? Of all the ethnicities that run through my family, French is at the top, followed by English…

No, I did not eat it all… just a majority.

My Story, Jake’s Story: The Writing of a Novel

Foreword

Some time ago I drafted an essay for an English Comp. class. I ran it past a well-acknowledged literary professional at a local writing center, and they believed the writing to be quite good. The essay begins with a prologue to my novel, not included here, and discusses the technical process of writing (what it takes to develop a masterful writing style), as well as the up’s and down’s of the publishing world. I wrote in a style characteristic of one of my novel’s characters, an Irishman by the name of Aedus Butler. It’s much less formal and much more witty.

My Story, Jake’s Story

This isn’t my story. Far from it. It’s about Jake Laskaris, a seemingly average teenage boy with extraordinary powers. While my tale, my yarn of a narrative, may not have my novel’s, The Labyrinth of Cosa Nostra (LoCN), explosive properties, it literarily packs a punch. Yes, literarily is a word. I had my doubts too. If it was literally, you’d have a very sore jaw right now.

To avoid common stereotypes of writers, I’d be wise to clarify about my novel journey and myself in particular. I like adventure. No, scratch that, I love adventure, and not just writing about it. When I first went zip lining, I was a bit shaky in the legs, just like I usually am after giving a speech, but I knew I was going to have an amazing time, so I went for it. White water rafting was… well, insane to say the least. While we navigated the malevolent, white crested river, our guide told us all the ways we could die. If we were to, say, make a mistake on the next bend, our boat would be pulled underwater and we’d be crushed.

This is to say, I have experienced my share of adventures. Therefore, I am quasi-qualified to state that writing a book is just as thrilling, just as frightening, and just as worth it. Though that comes later. Before I could be up to bat with a novel, I needed to prep myself, just as I had to sit through the safety protocol of one of these events.

My first lesson was a fun time because it involved reading, one of my passions, and something, despite my other shortcomings, I’ve had a sure grasp of. Certain novels were a bit trying though. I had been told, through books by authors of bestsellers and all across the grand internet, time and time again: READ READ READ. All caps, I realize that’s yelling, but I would’ve deserved a scolding if I had disregarded this simple tip. Reading is the bread and butter of any good writer. And if I couldn’t have gluten, then it would be the gluten-free brand. That is to say, if I was not at the level where I could read high-level books, I had press on until I got there. Because until I had at least a partial comprehension of the English, The Count of Monte Cristo, and not the kiddy version, I wouldn’t have the literary comprehension I needed to proceed and succeed in the various genres of the writing world. Therefore, I took this advice, and I read.

I took reading classes, not because I was behind in the game of comprehension, but because I knew I had to press forward to find the golden nuggets that would provide me with the wealth of knowledge that I so desperately needed to be up to par with the amazing writers of this world.

Once I had read a great deal, I wrote a great deal. I finished a novelette in ninth grade, wrote a serial, submitted short stories to a contest, and finally, when I felt comfortable that I could write something worthwhile, I drafted my current novel. It was slow-going at first, until I reached scenes of passion, action, and humor. Then it all began to flow so much easier.

In my mind, it was as if a film were playing out. I could see the story going by in completed form, in all its grandeur. I longed to see it become a reality, so I wrote. I wrote till’ my faculties were spent, then I went to Barnes & Noble’s Starbucks and started writing again, this time munching on a blueberry scone. I sat staring at the blank paper until the next antagonist was presented, until the next bullet let fly and I would record the event in a flurry of pen and paper. The pen is mightier than the sword, for the pen may envision. It may create. It makes declarations of great import. It captures the human element.

Writing this novel wasn’t just a simple process of envisioning a story. At the end, I did not just experience euphoria, I felt a part of the tale. Now as I contact agents, ascertain a publisher, and the bookstores are persuaded to carry my book, it shall be shared with the world. A sentiment I could not have imagined back in Middle School, because I was so far from my goal. Even now, I have those areas that I struggle with.

I struggled to write fluid paragraphs, with neat transitions and sufficient imagery, while not going overboard into superfluity. I did the latter for far too long. I cringe when I look at my past manuscripts. Stories which I started, but didn’t have the confidence to finish, and then stories that I finished, but that I didn’t feel were worthwhile to share. It felt like a hopeless endeavor. As if I were on a weight loss plan, starting off a one-thousand pounds and making my way down to a hundred. An extreme example, yes, but it is truly telling of the emotions that were at play in my heart. With time, however, which equated to many years, I started to notice my own progress. I began to like my own writing, and instead of being my own worst critic, I built myself up through constructive criticisms, and by heeding the advice of others.

Now I struggle to get it out there. It, being my novel. It, being that stack of papers that I, as the cliché goes, poured my heart and soul into for many, many hours every day. There, being the world. What stands between me and my readers, is no longer just myself. It’s the agents and publishing companies. After my first query letter, my first attempt at pitching an agent who would help me make it to Barnes and Nobles shelves, I received a rejection within about twenty minutes. Oh, and it wasn’t a form rejection either. It was only five words telling me they were passing on my project. No reason, whatsoever. I moved on, because I wasn’t going to give up after I had gone so far. I tried another agency, followed by a couple more. I altered my pitch to sound better, give them what they wanted to hear. I waited. No response. In the traditional publishing world, no response is as good as a rejection. Nevertheless, I moved forward. To this day, I still don’t have an agent, but I will. I must.

Writing a novel wasn’t the romantic journey I expected. I didn’t get there right away, and it took a lot of hard work. That’s the American dream having the opportunity to succeed, and working hard to achieve your aspirations. It’s been worth every moment. The thrill I feel in writing transcends the action I experience in the physical, and I want to share that sentiment with everyone who is willing to open up my book cover and relish the words within.

Post A Day 2012: Hiatus

I have made the decision to remove the PostADay2012 and Photography Challenge 2012 widgets.

I feel that having them up, while only posting a few times a month, is inappropriate, and casts a negative image on the blog – focusing on the lack of activity, in light of what could be a very productive goal.

After the immensely successful and fun PostADay2011, I would love to get back into the swing of things. However, that does not seem to be a possibility now. I have not even had the chance to post reviews, as I had been hoping to.

Engaging in scholastic pursuits, contacting literary agents, and developing a marketing strategy for my novel, paired with various other daily occupations, makes for a full plate. That’s not to say I don’t have the time to publish a daily blog, simply that I do not currently have the focus, and I believe that blogging demands a deal of attention.

I will continue to make posts and the occasional tweets for the Adventure Writer’s Blog on an occasional basis, until such a time that I may post on a daily basis.

Thanks for reading!

Adventure Writer

 

Misconceptions of the Wise

Rainbow

Rainbow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve begun taking English composition, Psychology, and Government courses at a local university.

I am surrounded by people of all ages, with as various dreams and aspirations as the hues of the light spectrum. Yet they all manage to flow together and coexist.

For differences do not make dissonance. It is often our generalizations, reservations, and purported revelations that are inharmonious.

‘Your hands have made me and fashioned me, An intricate unity; Yet You would destroy me [1].” 

(This quotation is drawn from Job 10:8. It illustrates a point which is in itself is a misconception. See 1 Cor.)

Of all the Christian Bible, I am most continually drawn to 1 Corinthians 13, which I have drawn upon before. I would argue that it is a universally acknowledged truth, whether you are an adherent to Christianity or not. The relationally corrosive properties of selfishness are all encompassing.

13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whetherthere are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love [2].

Query Craft: Step One

The novel is complete. By all means this is a great relief, and now the journey continues in its publication.

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“Taking each element of the book and compounding it into a few compelling sentences may be a challenge, but it is one I relish!”

Having decided to forego self-publishing in preference for traditional means, I find myself in need of a captivating hook for my story. The name, Labyrinth of Cosa Nostra, may raise an eyebrow but the catch must raise awareness.

The 2012 Guide to Literary Agents has been a fantastic resource in formatting the query letter, avoiding various greenhorn faux pas, and, without which all prior would be rendered ineffective, identifying particular agents of interest.

My novel is a rollicking, fast-paced adventure that is stripped down of unnecessary embellishments, yet remains an artful piece of literature. Suspense is the key element, as each chapter renews the reader’s interest with further complications, almost in the fashion of a serial. Characterization becomes more involved as the story proceeds, deepening relations between guests to the world of LoCN and its denizens.

Characters span a variety of cultures, as the novel absorbs the whole world in its conflict. There is Jake, Michelle, Lucio, Domenico, Inahka, Chun, Izo, Owen, Renfort, Kabu, Cніr… despite their numbers, they each hold a great significance in the scheme of things, and some even garner some extra spotlight with appellation repartee (for example, Cніr means snow. She is also a cold character).

Taking each element of the book and compounding it into a few compelling sentences may be a challenge, but it is one I relish!

(“The Labyrinth of Cosa Nostra” Novel ©2012 Zechariah Barrett – All Rights Reserved)

Make That A Triple Stacker: Manuscript Completion

Manuscripts and Burgers

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Not quite like writing, though much more delectable.

What is quite like the feeling of completing a book? Perhaps completing a burger (veggie or meat, take your pick)? I believe the latter’s jubilant expression, mixed with grease and morsels, is hardly able to compare with the writer’s exhausted cry. Especially since the former is often accompanied by abdominal pains and regret of the worst sort… unless it’s a slider. Those are more harmless.

“Ludicrous, appended to my delicious tropical friend…”

-Jean Rusé

Literary Excursion

With some parallels to the foodie fandom, the writing journey is filled with a series of stages, often including bouts of perseverance, jubilation, courage, ingenuity, boredom, aggravation, and rain clouds (“Writer’s Block”). When the haze of conflicting emotions finally fades, however, all that is left is triumph and relief. In my case, there is also an overwhelming sentiment of gratitude.

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“The Three Tier Papier”

It often takes a measure of encouragement to get a good book going, to establish momentum, and I’m grateful to those who have joined me in cheering the story onto completion. It does, at times, seem to be a very detached process, the story unfolding itself like a scroll tossed in the wind. This is why I include myself in the story’s audience, for some details are only revealed in the process, and I am equally awed as the reader when they come to light.

Seeing the story in its printed form, aside from word count statistics and page numbers, was a surprise at first. It looked very much the manuscript I was hoping for, although it was shy of aspirations of a few hundred pages.

Two-Cents Worth

While assembling the book, I found it tremendously helpful to keep a “To Do” .docx or Pages file on hand, to jot down ideas and plot points which had yet to be resolved. On occasion I’d visit Barnes & Noble’s Starbucks and brainstorm whilst (as I put it last time) munching on scones and sipping smoothies and hot cocoas. As an INFP personality, I found it imperative to set a deadline, even if I couldn’t reach it in time. It was better to have a goal than to leave it unrestricted, likely to fade into the oblivion of daily life. Break-time was also a must, both in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and retaining concentration.

“Have you finished relaxing?”

-Mr. Lombardi

Book Excerpts & Quotes ©2012 Zechariah Barrett – All Rights Reserved