Happy Thanksgiving to Our TKZ Family

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

12253

It’s hard to believe this year has flown by, but I don’t want to rush the holidays. As a writer, I’m often locked away in my office or in my head, living adventures only limited by my imagination. But with family and friends during the holidays, I want to be in the moment every day and take time with the people who truly matter in my life.

My TKZ family–the contributing writers on this blog as well as the wonderful people who follow our shenanigans and share their writing trials and tribulations–you all matter to me and I love the time we spend together during the year. I know my blog mates feel the same about the community and the camaraderie we’ve built over the years.

I hope after you read this post, you’ll share what you did for Thanksgiving and how it made you feel. I’ll go first.

It had been a tough year of transitioning my parents into a independent living facility that suited them. We had to move them twice, but they appear to be settling in and making friends and the food is great. But after selling our family home, the one we spent over 60 years carrying on family traditions, we’ve lost our anchor and have to make new traditions. Thanksgiving will be in my sister’s lovely home with her family. There will be 12 of us. Since not everyone can make it to Texas, we take pictures and videos to share with friends and family who live elsewhere and we text in the moment so they feel they are with us. The only thing we’re missing is an app for ‘Scratch & Sniff.’

1126151507

We have two turkeys (one cooked in the oven with the other one smoked or fried), mashed potatoes, Cranberry Chutney, baby peas with mushrooms and green onions, sweet potato casserole, an unusual corn recipe, Caesar’s salad, pumpkin pies, and more. Thanksgiving is a time for slowing down to count our many blessings. I love the smells in the kitchen, watching my mom help my sister make a perfect gravy, the sound of football games on TV after dinner, and the feeling of home from the experience.

Here’s my family Cranberry Chutney recipe that I’m making. It’s really good and leftovers taste even better.

1124151304

Ingredients:

2 – 12 oz pkgs fresh cranberries

3 cups sugar (This can be cut down to taste or apple juice concentrate can cut down on sugar)

1.5 cups of water

2 Teas grated orange peel

1.5 cups orange juice

1.5 cups Golden Seedless Raisins

1.5 cups chopped walnuts

1.5 cups chopped celery

2 red apples peeled and chopped

1.5 Teas ground ginger

1-2 Teas cinnamon to taste

Directions:

In 3 QT sauce pan over medium heat, combine sugar and cranberries and cook until boiling, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Crush or pop some of the cranberries with large spoon.

Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients and refrigerate. This dish can be done a day or two before Thanksgiving. Leftovers can be made into cobbler. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Funnies – because everyone needs a good laugh when they’re wearing fat pants.

“I come from a family where gravy is a beverage.” Erma Bombeck

“Vegetables are a must on any good diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” Jim Davis

“Most turkeys taste better the day after. My mother’s tasted better the day before.” Rita Rudner

“You can tell you ate too much for Thanksgiving when you have to let your bathrobe out.” Jay Leno

Happy Thanksgiving, TKZ! Please share your day with us.

6+

A Thanksgiving Birthday

I started fulfilling my Saturday obligation by writing a post about an experience which I had with an order fulfillment company. I hit page six before I realized that no one wants to read six-plus pages of a story of little interest to anyone other than myself, particularly over Thanksgiving Day weekend. Accordingly, I herewith present a much shorter story and a much better one.

Thanksgiving Day landed on my granddaughter Samantha’s sixth birthday this year. We accordingly had the traditional holiday dinner but wrapped it around the context of her special day. That meant turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and the like served out on a Spongebob Squarepants tablecloth with paper plates and napkins to match. She loved it, but enjoyed her presents even more. Her requests were somewhat outside of what one might expect from someone who regards kindergarten as a police state and has become a person of interest in the principal’s office. Samantha wanted “stuff to paint with.” Stuff, she got. Such stuff consisted of an easel with a dry erase board on one side, a blackboard on the other, a paper roller and cutter, shelves for paint cups, brushes, and of course more tempura paints than I can identify (I am colorblind, so that’s not a major deal, but she still received lots of paint). She painted all day long, and now every wall on the first floor of our house is covered with artwork, two or three layers deep, in some places.
Samantha asked for something else, however, which she also received: notebooks. Spiral notebooks, of all shapes and sizes. Done. I never thought to ask her why until she opened them. “I want to think of stories and write them down,” she said. What can you say to that? If I was physically capable of turning cartwheels I’d still be doing them. I don’t need to tell this group why, but I will: you can take all of the videogames and YouTube shorts and Facebook pages and all of the minutes that people spend with them and despair of the total, but if six year-old girls still dream of writing then there is hope for the future. And that made my holiday.
I certainly don’t think that I was the only one who had an uplifting and defining moment the Thursday last. What was yours? Or — unlikely as it might seem — did you witness or experience something on Black Friday that warmed your heart, or gave you hope? We’d love to read your story. Some of us might even need to. Please share.
0

Turkey Kill Zone (TKZ)

By Jordan Dane
@JordanDane



It’s an excellent day NOT to be a turkey…or my pants. If I had been thinking, I would have stocked up on pajama jeans last year. Maybe I’ll correct that blunder on the most sacred day of the year – Black Friday. (For those who don’t know I come with a “prone to cynicism” warning label, I’m totally kidding.)

My sister Denise and her husband Chip are the brave souls who are hosting our family’s Thanksgiving dinner. So the first thing on my “What are you thankful for” list is that I’m not Chip and Denise. I dutifully made our family traditional recipe for Cranberry Chutney (Yummo) and made Dulce de Leche Cheescake bars for dessert – one of MANY we will have. (We all make desserts so none of us have to eat Dad’s undercooked pumpkin pies. Looooong story.)

I’ve been crashing on deadline, trying to get as much written before promo begins for my next release, Indigo Awakening, in December. But I am determined to take some time off to enjoy the holidays and replenish the creative well. If there is any “writerly” advice I can share today, it’s that you should embrace all people and things. Enjoy them as if you were a child seeing everything for the first time.

So here is my game plan to make the most of my time off with the people I love and laugh with every day:

1.) I will turn off my cell phone. (See Nancy Cohen’s excellent post yesterday on Cutting the Cord if you need an intervention.)

2.) I will spend a leisurely breakfast with my husband, John, and watch the Macy’s parade on TV with him. For whatever reason, he inherited a “parade” gene and I think it’s contagious.

3.) The minute I walk into Chip and Denise’s home I will thoroughly enjoy the amazing smells coming from the kitchen. They are making THREE turkeys. (Yes, it sucks three times as much being a turkey at their house.)

4.) I’m going to hug absolutely everyone I see and take my time doing it, including One-eyed Jack, her visually challenged pug that snorts when you squeeze him.

5.) My ears will be tuned into every story and my chuckle box will be fully engaged because if there is another year ‘round tradition in my family, it is laughter.

6.) In my family, we have designated BUZZARDS. These are the few, the proud, the first at the bird. I don’t know who started this (totally ME), but the movement has been passed down to future generations. My nieces and nephews have learned the fine art of swooping in for the choice pieces (without leaving fingers behind) while my dad and Chip slice the turkey. First strike earns you a bonus round and crispy skin is double points, especially if you add in a degree of difficulty.

7.) I WILL NOT, under any circumstances, eat my meal in under 30 minutes. What is up with the rush, people? It takes hours to make (days even) and we finish as if there is a race & there’s a prize for being first done. (Of course, if there IS a prize, forget what I said.)

8.) And an addendum to this pledge, I am extending these commitments to Saturday when my Dad is hosting a tailgate party for the Aggie game, a cabrito mexican dinner gorgefest. (It will suck to be a goat on Saturday. Spread the word.)

Okay, so that is my plan. What’s yours? How did you spend your day, TKZers? I’d love to hear your turkey day traditions and any family stories you’d like to share with your other online family.

And know that at the top of my list for things to be thankful for is YOU. Write on!

0

Cutting the Cord

Do you feel jittery if you’re away from your cell phone or computer more than an hour? Get withdrawal symptoms if you haven’t checked your email recently? Find yourself longing to get back to work when out with friends? If so, you need a vacation.

I approached our recent ten day cruise with trepidation. How would I exist without the computer? Could I go without checking my email for even one day? What would I do with all that leisure time? I’d get bored out of my mind during four days at sea. Oh yes, I had books and newsletters on my iPad and Kindle to bring along, but how long can you sit and read without getting antsy?

If you share these concerns, believe me, they will evaporate once you’re out on the high seas, ski slopes, beach, or wherever you choose to go. Out of sight is out of mind. As soon as we set sail, I powered down my iPhone and locked it in the cabin safe. No more email, until I signed on to the ship’s WiFi for quick checks later during the week. I found enough to do that I didn’t miss my inbox.

I had to make myself go online to use up the minutes I’d purchased. Even reading newsletters became too much like homework. I stuck to the fiction I’d loaded onto my Kindle and vegged out on a lounge chair to read, or otherwise I spent my time chatting with other guests, eating, walking around the decks, eating, climbing stairs to wear off the calories, sipping cocktails, eating, watching a couple of movies, and—wait for it—relaxing.

Is the “R” word not in your vocabulary? Then you definitely need to take a break. Just make sure your vacation is sufficiently long to give you time to unwind, play for a few days, and then prepare to reenter reality. And who knows, inspiration might hit along the way.

I got inspired by one lady on a prior cruise. Based on her elegant appearance, I created the countess in Killer Knots, my cruise ship mystery. This time was no exception. When my husband and I both saw this woman, the word “witch” came to mind. Likely she’ll end up in one of my paranormal romances. But even better, the cruise ship captain was a woman. Change her to a spaceship captain and we’re off and running with another story. So give your brain a rest and take a trip away from home. You’ll come back relaxed, refreshed, and inspired.

If you’re the type who loves to hang out and avoid work entirely, this article isn’t for you. You’re the one who needs a kick in the pants to sit down and write. But that’s another topic.

When you find  yourself (if you do) glued to your electronics, how do you break away?

And since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, let’s be grateful for friends and family and things that enrich our lives that don’t depend upon electricity. Including you, dear readers. Thank YOU for visiting our blog throughout the year!

0

‘Twas Two Weeks ‘fore Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, but potential Christmas gifts are appearing on the shelves already. The one that most immediately comes to mind is a library-bound, digest-sized book entitled JACK REACHER’S RULES, which provides handy suggestions should you decide so far off the grid that you have to have sunlight shipped in, or want to set a building on fire; it’s great stuff, and just in time for the holidays for that Lee Child fan on your list who thinks they have everything.  I have made a good dent in my shopping already; of course, I want nothing for myself. I believe that I have commented elsewhere that at my somewhat advanced age I am no longer interested in acquiring more possessions; rather, I seek new experiences. Alas, those that I have suggested to my spouse have been, shall we say, shot down. I will leave it to your imagination what they might be, and why they won’t happen.
So, I am asking you, since Christmas is coming…what, as far as books are concerned, are going to be looking to find under the tree in about five or six weeks or so? What do you want Santamazon to leave for you? It can be anything from the grandiose — an entire library in the basement — to the simple — a new writing journal — to something that is somewhere in between, like that slip-cased copy of MY PRETTY PONY by Stephen King that you could have picked up in a bookstore twenty-three years ago for a song and dance. What about a new tablet, the better to read DC e-comics on? Or what if Santa finishes that new novel you’ve been working on, the one that seems to be missing a hundred pages or so in the middle? What would you like?
0

Now We’re Cooking

I cook the Thanksgiving Dinner at casa de Hartlaub each year. It involves some basic planning, such as buying a frozen turkey on Sunday. It sits in the refrigerator and thaws and by Thursday it’s ready for the oven. The real planning comes Thursday. I start at 7:00 AM with the pies. The lasagna goes in the over at 9:00 AM and at 9:35 I begin preparing the turkey and its stuffing. The whole kit and caboodle goes in the oven at 10:00 and then I stuff the potatoes, sit back and mfive hours later and it’s time to bake the rolls and prepare the mixed vegetable dish. By 4:00 PM dinner is served.

It occurred to me this year — probably because I had a blog entry to write — that preparing Thanksgiving dinner is a lot like the act of writing. The first and foremost step is that I have to get up and start. Getting up whenever I happen to wake up and having a cup of coffee and taking 20 to 30 minutes to transition between into it is not going to do it done. Before I know it I’ve lost half of the day. I have to get up and start.

The second element is making a schedule and doing everything I can to stick to it. Sometimes things, like life, get away from me, like that fire in the kitchen. We still had dinner that Thanksgiving, however, even though the dog got part of one of the pies. Since there were all males in the house, however, we ate the rest of it without worrying about germs. So too, when I’m writing: sometimes the idea will get away from me and I’ll find myself far afield, being just as clever as can be but not with anything that helps the story. I drag myself back and get on target and on schedule. And the sooner that I do that the better off I am.

The third element is the possession of the proper tools to get the job done. I discovered at the last minute that I didn’t purchase one of those turkey broiling pans that I use every year (one dollar at uh, The Dollar Store) and had to go out and get it. I had everything else all lined up and ready to go. Writing, I use Word and Google docs, but when my computer crapped a sandcastle while I was in New Orleans in September I used Evernote on my T-Mobile MyTouch to take notes and write whole chapters. My fingers will never be the same, but I got it done.

The fourth step is sticking with an outline. My outline for dinner is laid out above in my first paragraph. I have a more difficult time outlining a novel, but I’m finding that things work out a lot better when I do; otherwise I dislocate my arm patting myself on the back for a great beginning and a strong ending. It’s hard to fill that vast expanse of white space in between the beginning and end when your arm is dislocated. I’ve started using Scrivener, and that helps. It’s almost as good as…well, as a reliable oven.

That aside: I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving. I’m thankful to have lived much longer than I really should have and to have the love I don’t really deserve from so many wonderful people. That would include, first and foremost, the family I prepare dinner for every Thanksgiving, and who are my most loyal readers. And it would include you for stopping by here regularly. Thank you, and God Bless.

0

Thanksgiving Supper Rules for Social Networking

by Michelle Gagnon

Clare’s excellent post on Monday discussed what not to blog about. I thought I’d add an addendum to that, based on something I read recently about employers Googling prospective employees and checking their Twitter and Facebook feeds. It got me thinking about crafting an online persona, and how the list of “do’s” and “don’ts” is basically the same as our family’s Thanksgiving dinner table commandments.

I don’t know about you, but we have a wide and varied mix of relatives huddled around the turkey every year. There are aunts and uncles who define themselves as Tea Partiers, liberal cousins who spent a significant chunk of the past few months hunkering down at various Occupy demonstrations, and everything in between. To maintain the peace and insure that stuffing doesn’t start flying across the table, we established these groundrules:

  1. No discussion of politics. This includes snide and offhand references, thinly veiled metaphors, and oblique asides. I realize that at times, this can be a tough rule to follow. After all, we are in the middle of a run up to a major election, and the national discourse has become increasingly polarized. But based on past experience, finding a middle ground for a free exchange of ideas is challenging when everyone has had a couple tumblers full of Aunt Millicent’s Magic Punch. Not everyone might agree with me on this, but I feel the same way about posting on social networks–staking out a soapbox can lose readers, which as an author is not a good thing. Even if you aren’t a writer, do you really want a future boss to reconsider hiring you based on the fact that your political views diverge? If you just can’t resist reposting that link to the latest outrageous act by Congress/police/protestors, do what I do and set up a separate, private Facebook account that is limited to people you actually know and trust (of course, those constantly changing privacy settings still make this a potential minefield, so proceed with caution).
  2. Ditto for religion. I respect the right of everyone sharing my cranberry sauce to worship whom or whatever they want. But things tend to get sticky (no pun intended) when you try to explain to Grandpa that he’s been wrong all these years, and the true savior is Lord Zod. Again, this is the sort of thing you can put on a private page, if you feel so inclined. But this is another hot button issue that could alienate more followers than you end up gaining.
  3. Swearing. Don’t do it. I have a friend (in real life, and on Facebook and Twitter) who has been known to put sailors and truckers to shame under the right circumstances. This same friend will instant unfollow anyone who uses offensive language in a post. There’s an impact to words in print that shouldn’t be underrated. And really, it’s generally unnecessary. You can always resort to $%#^&.
  4. Embarrassing Stories. The worst part of social networking is that these can be accompanied by actual photographic evidence of said embarrassing moments, which is always the kiss of death. So if you wouldn’t tell your five year old nephew about spending the weekend passed out on the floor of a train station, why would you broadcast it to the world?
  5. Cats. Okay, this one isn’t necessarily on our Thanksgiving tablets, but I’ve learned the hard way that any negative comment about felines will result in an instant loss of roughly 5% of your followers. It’s true–try it if you don’t believe me. So I call this the “Rita Mae Brown” rule. Be nice to the kitties online. You don’t need to go so far as posting adorable photos/videos of them, but it’s also a bad idea to share one of a cat falling out a window.

In a world where we live increasing portions of our private lives online, the line between what gets shared and what doesn’t has become blurred. It’s remarkable that some people tell utter strangers tidbits about their inner thoughts and prejudices that they probably wouldn’t share with close friends. Many people mistakenly believe in the illusion of anonymity, assuming that a post about the awful mistake you made last night will soon be forgotten. The truth is, years from now that same nugget could be unearthed, with embarrassing consequences.

Just for fun, here’s Stephen Colbert’s take on it. Happy Thanksgiving.

0

It’s Thanksgiving. Why are you online?

Okay, guess we all need time away from the table. And maybe football isn’t for everyone. So you’re here with me on Thanksgiving. And like me, you’ve probably eaten waaaay too much, but in case you’re in doubt about that, you should look for the signs here:

Top Ten Signs You’ve Eaten Too Much at Thanksgiving Dinner

10. Hundreds of volunteers have started to stack sandbags around you.

9. Doctor tells you your weight would be perfect for a man 17 feet tall.

8. You are responsible for a slight but measurable shift in the earth’s axis.

7. Right this minute you’re laughing up pie on the carpet.

6. You decide to take a little nap and wake up in mid-July.

5. World’s fattest man sends you a telegram, warning you to “back off!”

4. CBS tells you to lose weight or else.

3. Getting off your couch requires help from the fire department.

2. Every escalator you step on immediately grinds to a halt.

1. You’re sweatin’ gravy.

My other blogger mates would have a thought provoking post about much more heady matters, but hey, that’s not me. With the tense novels I write, I need a good laugh. So I dug out my parachute pants and got into it with M. C. Hammer.


As we speak, I’m having Thanksgiving at my sister’s house. (I know. You thought I was online with you, but I hate to break it to you, I posted early. Sorry.) This year it was my responsibility to make a family classic, our traditional Cranberry Chutney, one of my dad’s contributions. But after seeing this video, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to eat cranberries again.


For the sake of discussion, I’d love to hear from you, as long as you’re here. What are your favorite things to do on Thanksgiving? And what dishes do you consider sacred MUST HAVE traditions?

On behalf of all of us at The Kill Zone, I hope you’re having a special day with your family and loved ones. We appreciate your visits to our site. It makes us feel like family, so thanks. Have a wonderful holiday season and don’t forget…

Books make wonderful gifts!


0

Thanksgiving Day Bravery

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Having just spent a great Thanksgiving in LA (despite the horrible traffic) I have returned re-motivated. Why? Because my friend Charysse gave me a much needed boost. In a recent work evaluation she had to list the ten people she would most want to have at a dinner party and I was one of the chosen. While this was nice and all – it was her reason for choosing me that caused a lump to form in my throat. She said she had told her boss it was because I was one of the bravest people she knew. Now I’m no courageous Clare that’s for sure – I’m terrified of heights, wimpy about woods (there’s bears out there you know) and squeamish about virtually everything – but I was, in my friend’s estimation, brave because I chose to ‘lay it all out there’ – abandoning my successful career in pursuit of a dream and risking all in the process. Her support brought tears to our eyes and it made me realize (as it was Thanksgiving after all) how thankful I am for so many things…Yes, here’s where it gets soppy (and I have to admonish my fellow Killzoners – where was the obligatory ‘what are we thankful for’ post last week?! Hey, I adopted this country for these kinds of celebrations!)

So here’s my top 5 things that I’m thankful for:

  1. My family (obviously) – you gotta love two five year old boys who manage to make it in the car to LA (and the three hour traffic jam we encountered Wednesday when we arrived) without watching even one DVD…
  2. That I still have an agent (he hasn’t abandoned me yet, at least I don’t think so…)
  3. That I still LOVE to write (despite the publishing industry’s best efforts…)
  4. That I get such great support from friends, family, fellow writers and fans so that even in the bleakest of November moods I can see a glimmer of hope.
  5. That I finally had my hair cut.

Okay, the last one may seem trivial but believe me I needed it! I’ve been growing my hair all year (see New Year’s resolution post) only to discover that (surprise, surprise) I hated it. Not only did my husband think it made me look older (yes, it’s a miracle sometimes that we’re still married) but I also never had the time to style it into any pseudo-Edwardian glory. I have to admit, as much as I might want to channel Ursula in my life, I need a maid to be able to do so…otherwise I’m just another boring old mum with her hair in a pony tail. Now, of course, post-hair cut, I’m the chic, youthful, cool mum with the gorgeous 1920’s bob:)

But enough about me…what are you thankful for?

PS: In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d also like to invite all killzoners to help out Basil Sands in his quest to name his blog radio show. He’s offering $25 if you suggest the name he ends up using, and for those of you who regularly read the comments you know he is hilarious (so his show is bound to be great!). You can visit his website: http://www.basilsands.com/ for more details.
0

Rituals, Celebrations and a Horse Race

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne
www.clarelangleyhawthorne.com

Believe it or not, a number of Americans have asked me how we celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia…before I remind them (with a cough) that Australian don’t celebrate Thanksgiving – it’s (another cough) an American ritual…and believe it or not they often seem genuinely shocked.

I am an unapologetic adopter of celebrations – I figure when in Rome…So my family are the ones cheerfully flying the American flag and organizing the Fourth of July street party. We take our boys trick or treating (something that growing up in Australia we never did) and at Thanksgiving we oblige by going through the whole nightmare of traveling, visiting and cooking – all in honor of our adopted home. I like celebrating. I like eating and drinking (I am, after all, an Australian!) and we get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
We fly the Australian flag on Australia Day and enjoy explaining the often strange rituals and celebrations of our homeland – which even to this day celebrates English holidays such as Boxing Day (which is the day after Christmas) despite the fact that no Australian I know has the least idea what this day is all about (apart from post-Christmas sales!).
When researching my Ursula Marlow series I came across a social calendar for 1910 which revealed just how the Edwardians set their calendars by events such as yacht races, polo and cricket matches, art gallery openings, theatre season etc. I was jealous just thinking about the pace of life back then. My favorite holiday is ‘Empire Day’ – it’s such an imperialistic conceit that I almost wish it was still celebrated – only because it would reveal how the British Empire is no more.
Of course Australia is still officially part of the Empire and as we have failed to ever pass a referendum to become a republic, the Queen of England is still our head of state. Yes, we even have a public holiday in honor of the Queen’s Birthday – now isn’t that hilarious! (Hey, I’m not knocking it though – I’m all for public holiday’s no matter what they are in aid of!).

Nothing in my research however is as funny as seeing American reactions to one very famous public holiday in Melbourne – one celebration that reveals the quirks of Australia that Americans would probably find hard to believe. That day is Melbourne Cup Day – the first Tuesday in November. It’s my all time favorite holiday mainly because my birthday quite often coincides (as it did this year) and who would ever complain about having a public holiday on their birthday?! So there you have it – in Australia we give everyone the day off in celebration of a horse race.

As immigrants we get to enjoy bringing the rituals from our home and taking on the rituals and celebrations of our adopted home, America. This Thanksgiving week I like to think it gives me the opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we are to be able to do this – to freely celebrate or not as we wish and to enjoy the welcome we have received here. America has been very good to me – it gave me the opportunity to fulfil my dream of being a published writer. I have been able to achieve things here that frankly I doubt I could have achieved in Australia. For that I am extremely thankful – but believe me when I say, I will never, ever be able to stomach pumpkin pie, no matter how many Thanksgivings I attend…

Some food for thought…what rituals and celebrations have you adopted and what have you brought with you from your other home (if you have one)? And in the spirit of Thanksgiving what are you thankful for?
0