Dinner And A Movie Monday – Open Range

It’s no secret I’m a Kevin Costner fan. Not for his looks (even though he has dreamy eyes) or his voice (a raspy midwestern twang) or any physical trait. I like the way he brings his characters to the screen. He usually plays a loner, someone who lives life his own way, hesitant to speak his mind yet firm in his beliefs.

Open Range is a fine example of this. He wrote, co-produced and starred in the 2003 film. It’s the story of open range cattlemen driving their herd cross country. Along the way, they encounter a vicious land baron who hates open rangers. He kills one of their hands and leaves the other for dead. The trail boss, Robert Duvall, pursues justice. But Costner’s character, Charley Waite is trying to overcome his violent past and wants no part of the fight.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is one of the scenes between Charley and the doctor’s sister (Annette Bening). They recognize the good in each other and during the course of the movie, they fall in love. But he tells her he isn’t good enough because of the things he’s done. That’s when she says “People get funny ideas, about what they are or did. They can’t see what they can be.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I cooked a pot of beans and baked a skillet or cornbread. Serve them with jalapeno pepper or sliced onion and drown the cornbread in butter. Comfort food.

Open Range is a classic western with beautiful scenery and a touching love story.

Beans and Cornbread

  1. FOR THE BEANS:
  2. 4 cups Dry Pinto Beans.
  3. 4 slices Thick Bacon (can Also Use Salt Pork, Or Ham Hock, Or Diced Ham)
  4. 1 teaspoon Salt.
  5. 2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper.
  6. FOR THE CORNBREAD:
  7. 1/4 cup Plus 2 Tablespoons Shortening.
  8. 1 cup Yellow Corn Meal.

L. A. Kelley

L. A. Kelley

Welcome! Come on in. Make yourselves at home. Today, I’m visiting with fellow author, L.A. Kelley. I recently finished reading her young adult book, The Rules for Lying and loved it. She sounded like a lot of fun, so I got in touch with her and was delighted when she agreed to let me feature her on my blog.

Some interesting things she has to say about herself: Although born in the North (don’t hold it against me), I went to college in New Orleans and developed a love of beignets, po’boys, and fais do-do. I’ve lived in the South ever since. I’ve been writing since old enough to gnaw on a #2 pencil, but only jumped into publishing a few years ago. I have eight self-published novels and five with an indy press. All have adventure, humor, and a little romance because life is dull without them. No graphic sex or gore so your mama would approve, but a touch of cheeky sass so maybe she wouldn’t. In my spare time, I call in fifolet sightings to the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are heartily sick of hearing from me.

Describe what you consider your ideal writing conditions.

I write every day, but not at a desk. I’ve never found one comfortable. Instead, I prefer to hunker down in an overstuffed armchair. This is my chair. Mine only. Nobody sits there. Get your butt off the cushion or I’ll smack you.

Are you a plotter, a pantser or some combination of both?

I wish I were a plotter, but I’m a pantser. Plotter sounds much more intelligent. I envision a writer (dressed in tweeds with a spaniel at her feet), examining a neat, organized database of characters and interconnecting plot points. She sips a sherry and pats the dog on the head. “What say, Winston, shall we give this a go?” A week later she finishes a full-length novel and takes Winston for a hike through the heather. Then there’s me. I only have a book title and that spurs an idea and then another and another and I’m off and running. Many of the characters even take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what I want. I try to slap them back into a paragraph and behave, but they spit in my eye and escape. All I can do is follow.

I completely understand. And if I don’t listen to my characters, they’ve been known to stage sit-ins.

What is the thing you like best about being a published author?

I can work in my schlubby clothes. If anyone complains, I say, “These are my lucky writing clothes. Now, scram.”

I spend some days in pajamas…why take the time to dress when you’re on a roll?

What is the one thing you like the least about being a published author?

People expect I to be better at grammar than I is. That’s why me has a editor.

I hate it when people assume I’m raking in royalties.

What is the best compliment you ever received as a writer?

One reader complained one of my books made her late for a luncheon (and she was never late for meals.) She had to finish it before she left the house. That’s what every writer wants to hear.

What is something we’ll never catch you doing?

The splits.

And her Bonus Questions (which I love): What inspired you to set this book in an alternate 1930s New Orleans?

It’s a blast to weave fact and fiction. The Depression was a tough time in American history with drama of its own. Social safety nets didn’t exist. People had to rely on each other, and it was easy for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of the weak and powerless. It was an era of rapid political change, too. The problems of the rest of the world seemed so far removed from America, but evil spread quickly with a rising Nazi threat. New Orleans is a great place in any decade and throwing magic in the mix with history heightens the fun.

Tell us more about Peter Whistler. What makes him tick?

He’s a tough kid who made it his business not to get involved with others. He has one goal in life—leave New Jersey, use his uncanny ability to lie his way to fame and fortune, and never be responsible for anyone. He has a hidden soft side, though, courtesy of the only person who ever cared for him, Elsie Hart, the owner of Little Angels. When a conjuror threatens Elsie and a little blind girl, he’s spurred to action. My, my, will Peter discover he needs people to care for after all? Stay tuned.

“Like all well-bred southern girls, Amelie Marchand is trained in deadly martial arts.” Why did you create her this way?

The great part of writing an alternate history is you get to change facts from true to “Gee, I wish that was true.” Unlike the real 1930s, my New Orleans’ upper crust expects young ladies to follow rules of correct social deportment along with protecting themselves and their families from danger. This is also an equal opportunity era when it comes to magic. Women can be shamans (the good guys) and conjurors (very, very bad guys).

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I can tell the difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated tea just by peering into a cup and my atonal singing is known to bring grown men to their knees. I’m often slipped a few bucks at parties not to sing Happy Birthday. I don’t mind. Cash is always welcome.

This book is part of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How does the next book in the series tie in with this one?

This can easily be read as a standalone. I hate cliffhangers, but hope I’ve piqued enough interest for a reader to go on to Book 2, The Book of the Practically Undead. Peter’s adventures continue in New Orleans. He learns more about shaman life and runs into trouble with a demonic book, not to mention the growing rise of Nazism in Europe causes unpleasant ripples in the Big Easy.

The Rules for Lying is on sale at Amazon for 99 cents until February 14.

Buy Link

Excerpt: The Grimaldis knew the truth about Pike. He drove their car, so they must be involved in his scheme. A little snooping to discover the truth, and then Mrs. Hart could get on the horn to the Feds. I imagined a squad of G-men storming Grimaldi’s Market and then Nico and Carlotta’s faces peering morosely out the back of a paddy wagon as it drove through town. Maybe I could even convince the coppers to stop for Chauncey.

The unlit streets were deserted as I made my way to the Grimaldi’s house. The black roadster was parked outside the garage. A light shone in a downstairs window, so I snuck across the lawn and peeked in.

Pike sat at the kitchen table; fingers clasped placidly in front, not a glowing eyeball in sight. I gave myself a mental kick in the pants for being such a dope.

The Grimaldis huddled over a piece of paper. Mr. Grimaldi looked up and cleared his throat. “Everything is in order. The carriage house suited you?”

Pike slid an envelope stuffed with cash across the tabletop. “Yes. It was private and exactly as described. We have a deal.”

Mrs. Grimaldi snatched at the bills with undisguised greed. “We wouldn’t do this, you understand, but the Feds raided all the local speakeasies. Our best clients shut down. Times are tough.”

Mr. Grimaldi scrawled a signature on the paper and handed the pen to his wife. She added hers, and then Pike tucked the paper in his pocket. “You needn’t be concerned about the girl.”

My ears pricked up. Girl? What girl? If Pike meant Mrs. Hart, the doctor needed to get his own eyes checked.

Mr. Grimaldi shifted in his seat, a flush tinting his fat cheeks. “People might get the wrong impression if the arrangement is discovered. You understand—they don’t realize our actions are for her own good.”

I sucked in my breath. Mr. Grimaldi lied big time.

“Don’t worry. No one will ever find out.” Pike’s voice was as cold as midwinter ice.

A teensy doubt jabbed at my mind that all this had to do with gangsters, but I brushed it roughly away. Pike and the Grimaldis rose from the table. I darted from the window and ducked behind a tree right before the kitchen door opened.

Mrs. Grimaldi beamed at Pike. “If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to stop by.”

The dark man set the fedora on his head and snapped the brim over his eyes. “I’m quite satisfied. You won’t see me again.”

True.

For some reason, the truth shook me more than a lie. Mr. Grimaldi closed the door, but Pike remained on the stoop. The kitchen went dark and then a light switched on in an upstairs bedroom window.

I peered from behind the tree. Why did Pike wait? To rob the joint after they fell asleep? If so, I had no plan to stop him. I had half a mind to help.

The bedroom light flicked off and the yard went pitch black. One second…two seconds…three seconds…

A yellow beam danced across the door, and my throat nearly closed in terror. That was no flashlight.

The ray from Pike’s eyes narrowed and focused pencil-thin. The smell of burning wood drifted across the lawn as he etched a smoldering hieroglyphic of a flame in the middle of the door. The outline of glowing embers flared and then snuffed out. Pike stepped back from the stoop. He paused for a moment as if to admire his handiwork and then sprinted down the alley.

Heart thumping, I darted to the door. My fingers stroked the spot where I last saw the little flame. The wood was still warm.

I snatched back my hand. The wood now blazed hot, more scorching by the second. The glowing outline flared to life again. A spark shot out, soared overhead, and landed near the chimney. Patches of shingles exploded in flames.

A long thin spark slithered from the symbol, a fiery snake writhing toward the keyhole. Without thinking, I reached to sweep it away only to jerk my fingers from the scalding heat. The spark slid into the opening. With a roar, a curtain of fire engulfed the downstairs windows.

In a panic, I banged on the door. “Wake up! The house is on fire!”

A thick choking cloud of smoke billowed under the doorframe, and I staggered back in a coughing fit. In a blink, the first floor was an inferno. How did the fire spread so fast? Mrs. Grimaldi’s terrified screams cut through the crackling fusillade of flames.

Blistering heat drove me across the yard. The panic-stricken face of Nico Grimaldi appeared at the bedroom window struggling to open the sash.

Crrrack.

The wooden supports inside the house splintered and gave way. Mr. Grimaldi vanished in a thunderous crash as the second floor collapsed on the first. His wife’s screams cut off.

Multiple sirens wailed in the distance. I stumbled down the alley as hot cinders rained from above. Embers lit on my clothing, and I slapped them away. The Grimaldi house was now a nightmare of hellfire. I flinched as all the outside walls caved in with a deafening roar.

The first of the fire trucks screeched around the corner. Cops would surely follow asking questions I couldn’t answer. As I ran across the street, the glare of a headlight caught me for an instant.

Tires squealed, and a man yelled, “You there, stop!”

This has been so much fun. Thanks for coming. Let’s do it again sometime.

Check out my review. The Rules for Lying. It’s a great book.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RPMDX9FKT26LV?ref=pf_ov_at_pdctrvw_srp

Website

Blog

Amazon Author Page

Email: l.a.kelley.author@gmail.com

Ready, set, GO!

Like every year since I can remember, I’ve spent my January putting away decorations, doing inventory, cleaning and purging. My thoughts as well as my space. Getting back into a routine and catching up with things I’ve let fallen behind with other the holidays. Like my blog. I did some serious reworking on it and it’s almost where I want it to be.

Like all writers (at least all the ones I know) I have a “thing” for cute little notebooks. One is a weekly/monthly planner I bought at the Dollar Store. I don’t know how I survived without it. It’s just the right size to carry in my purse. I use it to keep track of my appointments, bills, blog appearances, you name it. It keeps me from making promises I cannot keep. The other is a spiral notebook for lists (grocery, supplies, birthdays, Christmas) phone numbers and directions. Reminders to myself. Potential character names. Random thoughts I don’t want to forget. Websites I need to check. I do my best not to leave the house without either of these. (and a pen or pencil)

Not that I’m organized or anything. It’s just that if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it!!!

Dinner And A Movie Monday – The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil is based on the 1926 play by W. Somerset Vaughn. On a brief trip back to London, a young doctor (Edward Norton) is dazzled by Kitty Garstin (Naomi Watts) a vain London socialite. He proposes; she accepts but only to get away from her mother, and the couple travel on to Walter’s medical post in Shanghai, where he is stationed in a government lab studying infectious diseases. They find themselves ill-suited. Kitty is much more interested in parties and social life.

She has an affair a married British diplomat. Walter finds out and threatens to end their marriage unless she accompanies him to a small village in remote China, where he’s volunteered to treat victims of cholera. Kitty begs to be allowed to divorce him quietly, but he refuses. He’s determined to make her as unhappy and uncomfortable as possible.

Walter and Kitty barely speak to each other and, except for a cook and a Chinese soldier assigned to guard her, she is alone for long hours. Out of boredom she goes to the orphanage and begins to work to pass the time. She learns to value and admire her husband for the first time. He recalls when he first met her and falls in love all over again. As Walter’s anger and Kitty’s unhappiness subside, their marriage begins to blossom in the midst of the epidemic crisis. This movie is a beautiful story about two people learning how to love someone other than themselves. I love the way Kitty’s character evolves. She finds happiness when she finally sees her worth and Walter’s and realizes what they can have together. My sister and I watched The Painted Veil a few years ago, but it is definitely one to watch again

Chinese Chicken

This is one of my go to meals. It’s quick. It’s easy and hubby loves it.

Brown 1 lb chicken tenders in 3 T olive oil. Add seasoning (salt, pepper Soy sauce). Stir in 1 package frozen Asian vegetables. Cook until slightly tender. Add 1/2 to 1 can water chestnuts. Serve over rice or dry noodles. Serves 4

2019

Happens every year. It makes me feel good. I even organize my writing and make a list of new things I want to try, along with things I want to finish.

I’m making great progress with my paranormal romance about two people joined together by the past. When eighteen-year-old Eli moves to small-town Greer, Texas to live with his grandparents, strange things begin to happen. Things that aren’t real. A ghost, disturbing visions, voices whispering his name. They have something to do with Idunn, the girl who’s haunted his memory since he was young. Together, Eli and Idunn search to figure what happened long before either of them was born and discover why it’s drawn them together.  

I’m about 60,000 words into Book 3 of my time travel series. As husband and wife, Erin and Griffin face a whole new set of challenges. She thinks her husband is being overprotective. He thinks she’s too impulsive. She’s forced to contend with an old rival who still has feelings for Griffin.  When Mierla’s brother arrives at the castle with strange and unsettling news Lord John charges Griffin with taking her home. Erin puts her foot down. Castle Llewellyn is an overnight ride into the mountains of Wales, No way in hell is she going to let Griffin go without her. (I have plans to post Bridey’s Stranger, a companion story to the series on my blog.)

Last but not least, there’s Mere. A young woman from a charming little town in east Texas. Titusville sits smack dab in the middle of Ferry Woods. A place filled with pine trees, Spanish moss, and creepiness where strange things happen. Mere’s practical side says they’re only stories. But she’s certain there’s more to it than that.

Maybe it has something to do with her unique ability. The one she’s tried to ignore since she was a child. All she ever wanted was a normal life. To be accepted. Blend in. A difficult task with a family like hers.  And when it’s all said and done, she’s not certain if it’s what she wants after all.

I’ve got a lot to do. So, I’d better get started. I’ll keep you posted.

Dinner And A Movie Monday – Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain is one of my all-time favorites. Wikipedia calls it a sleeper hit, and I can’t help but agree. Everything fits together. The characters, the scenery, the music. In my opinion, Anthony Minghella did a spectacular job on this civil war epic based on the novel by Charles Frazier. 

It’s the story of a wounded Confederate deserter’s struggle to go home to Cold Mountain, North Carolina, to reunite with the with the woman he loves. Although they hardly know each other, the love they have shared throughout the war gives them hope. Keeps them from giving up.

Each character has his own unique story. Together, they give us a brief glimpse of life in the south during civil war years. If you’ve never watched it, please do. If you have seen it, watch it again.  

Roast Chicken

Every time I see the scene where Renee Zellwigger wrings the rooster’s neck, it reminds me of Gone With The Wind. I can’t imagine eating a rooster, but I’m sure it happened a lot during the war. And I’m sure they ended up roasting the tough old bird, hoping to make it more tender.

Ingredients

  • One 3-pound roasting chicken rinsed and patted dry, neck and giblets reserved
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, thyme or savory leaves in any combination
  • 3 garlic cloves: 1 peeled and crushed, 2 lightly smashed
  • 1 large lemon, washed
  • 2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 shallots, peeled, and cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 sprigs thyme

Instructions Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a small piece of foil just large enough to cover the chicken’s breast in a roasting pan; brush it with a little oil. Set aside. Rinse the bird inside and out with cold water; pat dry with paper toweling. With a thin, sharp knife, cut the excess fat from the neck and hind cavity of the chicken and discard. Sprinkle the chicken evenly inside and out with salt and pepper, rubbing it into the skin. Stuff the herb leaves and the crushed garlic clove into the cavity. Prick the lemon about 25 times each with a toothpick or skewer. Stuff it into the cavity of the chicken. Using toothpicks or trussing needles, pin the neck and hind cavities closed. Place the chicken breast down over the oiled piece of foil in the roasting pan. Nestle the neck, giblets, carrot, shallot, smashed garlic cloves and thyme around the chicken. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn the bird breast up and carefully peel off the foil taking care not to rip the skin; discard. Roast 20 minutes longer, then increase the oven temperature to 400’F. Roast the chicken 20 to25 minutes longer, until the skin is brown and crisp and the juices run clear when the leg is pricked with a kitchen fork. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the breast should read 140′. Remove the toothpick from the hind end. Lift the chicken with two wooden spoons and tilt it slightly so the juices run out of the cavity into pan. Place the chicken on a platter and keep warm. Pour the pan juices into a small measuring cup. Let settle 3 to 4 minutes, then carefully skim the fat off the surface with a tablespoon. Pour the juices back into the roasting pan set over moderate heat. Add the wine and simmer, stirring to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes until the alcohol has cooked off. Skim off any fat or scum that rises to the surface. Strain the sauce into a small bowl, discard the neck and giblets and taste for seasoning. You will have about 1/2 cup of flavorful, natural juices. Carve the chicken, dividing it into four equal portions. Pour any juices that have collected on the plate into the sauce. For a lemony sauce, squeeze the lemon into the pan juices. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the pan juices over each portion of chicken.

Enjoy the movie. Try out the chicken. I’ll see you next time!

Black-eyed peas, cornbread, cabbage and ham

That’s what my sister cooked for lunch, the first day of January 2019. A southern tradition, one supposed to bring good luck and prosperity, Delicious of course, but that’s no surprise. She’s a good cook. And I made my usual resolutions. Be kind. Be patient. Be strong. Live healthier. Work harder. Accomplish more. Never quit trying.

And I’ve already started off on the wrong foot. I woke up with one of my headaches, spent the day feeling useless, had trouble with my computer. My first setback of the year. Frustrating when you’ve only just resolved to made things different.

2018 was a roller coaster year. More downs than ups. A lot of unexpected things. At times it felt as though the bad overshadowed the good. Seemed like every step forward was followed by a step back. I want this year to be different. So I’m adding a new resolution. Start each day with a grateful heart.  Count my blessings and realize how lucky I am. I can’t avoid every unfortunate thing that comes my way, but I can stay focused and do my best every single day.

Happy New Year