Showing posts with label Santa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Santa. Show all posts

29 December 2015

You Should Never Assume ...


by Barb Goffman

There's a famous episode in the original version of TV's The Odd Couple in which Felix Unger (the late, great Tony Randall) appears as his own attorney in court. Under Felix's questioning, a witness testifies that she assumed something, at which point Felix interrupts her, grabs a blackboard (conveniently sitting right there in the courtroom), and says, "You should never assume because when you ASSUME"--picture him writing the word in all caps on the blackboard--"you make an ass of you and me." Picture him now circling the ass, then the u, then the me. It's a wonderful scene (available on YouTube here) that makes a good point about assumptions. Problem is, people often don't realize when they're making assumptions.
Never ASSUME!

Take the simple moist towelette. You know, the little damp napkin you get in rib joints and other messy places to help you clean up. The towelette comes in a little square paper wrapper. And on the back are instructions: Tear open and use.

How helpful.

Tear open packet and use.
Whoever wrote those instructions assumed you know what the towelette is for and how to use it. Why the writer then figured you needed to be told to actually use the darn thing is beyond me, but what's clear is that an assumption was made. At least this assumption is funny. But assumptions can also be dangerous.

I recall visiting family when my oldest niece (who shall remain nameless here so she doesn't hate me) was twelve. She was going to make her own lunch for the first time. Her mom was proud, said she knew the kid could handle it, and left the room. My niece picked up a can of something, placed it in a bowl, set that bowl in the microwave, closed the door, and was about to turn on the microwave when I screamed, "No! You'll burn the house down." She was quite surprised because the can's instructions had said to put the contents in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for a certain time period. The instruction-writer had assumed my niece would know to open the can and pour the contents into a bowl, not put the can itself inside the microwave. Ah, assumptions.


They also can be a bane of fiction writers. I once wrote a short story in which a character was given a pie and she remarked that she'd surely love it since she adored blueberry pie. A member of my critique group said, "She hasn't cut it open. How can she know it's blueberry?" I realized I had pictured the pie with a lattice crust so the character could see the inside, but that information hadn't made it onto the page. I just assumed the reader knew my intentions. Tsk tsk tsk.

I often see assumptions in the novels and stories I edit for other authors. They know their plots so well, they assume they've told or shown the reader everything necessary for their scenes to make sense. Alas, that's not always the case, which is why it's always good to have an editor or beta reader who can point out when assumptions have weaseled their way in.

But assumptions can also be helpful in stories. We know that people wrongly assume things all the time, so it's believable when characters assume things, too. For instance, in my story "A Year Without Santa Claus?" from the January/February issue of this year's Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, three men are murdered in New Jersey, one dressed as Santa, one as Frosty the Snowman, and one as the Easter Bunny. Assuming the men's costumes were relevant to their deaths, Santa decides Jersey is too dangerous this year; he's not coming for Christmas. That assumption sets the stage for my sleuth (the head of everything magical that happens in NJ) to investigate the murders and try to save Christmas. (Want to read the story? It's on my website. Click here.) 


Assumptions can also be a bad guy's undoing. In a story in the anthology Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional (scheduled for publication in April 2016), an amateur sleuth is able to solve a mystery because the bad guy (or gal) assumes something that turns out not to be true. (I'm editing the anthology, and trust me, you'll want to read it. Great stories.)

Which brings us back to Felix Unger. He says "never assume." But I say assumptions can be helpful--as long as you make them purposely.

Have you read any mysteries with good, purposeful assumptions or bad, unintended ones? I'd love to hear about them below (but be nice!). And I hope you all have a wonderful 2016.


10 November 2014

Shameless


by Fran Rizer

Part One:


Santa isn't checking his list--not even once, certainly not twice.  He doesn't care who's naughty or nice until he finds out what happens to Callie Parrish in Fran Rizer's A Corpse Under the Christmas Tree, available now from Bella Rosa Books and Amazon in print and ebook.

Part Two:


Don't worry about the difference between Lowcountry, Beaufort, and Frogmore Stew.  As Callie Parrish's gorgeous Gullah friend Rizzie Profit explains, "They're all the same thing."

Here's Rizzie's recipe:

Ingredients

Water to fill great big pot half full
3 cans of your favorite beer
1 bag Old Bay Seafood Seasoning or 1/4 cup other commercial seafood boil seasoning
4-5 pounds small red potatoes or quartered larger potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
2 pounds smoked sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces
(use Andouille if you love Cajun spice)
6 ears fresh corn cut into halves
4 pounds medium or large shrimp with heads removed, but not peeled
Optional:
4 pounds whole crabs, cleaned and broken into quarters
(soft shell crabs are fantastic when in season)
Rizzie's Directions

Just like many things (I won't embarrass myself or you by naming them), timing is everything.  Bring water to low boil.  Add beer and seafood seasoning.  Add potatoes and cook 10 minutes.  Add sausage and cook 5 more minutes.  Add corn and crab.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Remove one potato and one piece each of sausage, corn, and crab.  Check for doneness.  Return to pot.  Add shrimp and leave everything together for 3 more minutes.  Drain the water and discard it or scoop ingredients out with a slotted spoon.

In summertime, dump drained food in center of paper-covered picnic table for guests to serve themselves.  In cooler weather, serve in large restaurant style pans.  Most folks like cocktail sauce and lots of beer or sweet iced tea with this dish.

Callie's Brother Frankie's Comments

Rizzie's stew is different from lots of others because she uses beer in the water and she likes to add crab to the original recipe.  In the Lowcountry (coastal South Carolina), some people use shrimp with the heads on while others prefer cleaned, deveined shrimp. Rizzie removes the heads because she thinks some tourists might object to them, but she prefers to cook the shrimp in shell because she says it preserves the texture of the meat. This recipe is how Rizzie makes the stew at Gastric Gullah Grill, but at home, she sometimes adds whole crawfish.  She also claims that the next time someone insists on calling it "Frogmore Stew," she will add frog legs to the pot.

This is only one of Rizzie's Gullah and Pa's southern recipes found in Fran Rizer's A Corpse Under the Christmas Tree, a Callie Parrish holiday whodunit now available from Bella Rosa Books and Amazon in print and ebook.

Part Three:

Why did I title this with a Garth Brooks song title?  Because I'm shameless about my subject today. Garth sang about shameless love.  I'm referring to shameless self-promotion.  An old adage tells us that any publicity is good publicity, and I'm beginning to believe it.  I'm also having a great amount of fun coming up with methods and places to post self-promotion for my books.

Now, we'll switch from Garth's song reference to one from James Brown (yes, the same one who sings from Callie's bra when she tucks her cell phone in there to keep from losing it).

"Please, Please, Please," check out my newest self-promotion effort:



What about you? If you're a writer, how much do you self-promote your writings and how do you do it?  If you're primarily a reader, give suggestions and tell us what you think is most effective. Please share your ideas as well as what you think of my very first book trailer.  I can hardly wait to show you what's coming in January, 2015.

Until we meet again, take care of . . . you!

25 December 2011

My Thoughts On The Big Lie— Santa Claus


by Louis Willis
downtown Knoxville
downtown Knoxville

sad Santa
Santa is crying because he thinks I missed out on the joy of believing in Santa Claus. He is mistaken. Although I knew from the first day I heard somebody mention Santa Claus didn’t exist, I still enjoyed Christmas. My mother told– no, warned– my father, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, and anybody else who dared to mention Santa Claus to me, not to be telling her son that Santa Claus lie.

You’re thinking I must’ve grown up really disappointed during Christmas when all the kids wrote letters to Santa Claus. Nope. I never told my friends he didn’t exist, either because my mother told me not to or I instinctively knew not to. I prefer to believe the instinctive thing. I didn’t write letters to Santa Claus because my mother said she was Santa Claus, and so, I told her what I wanted. Although we weren’t poor, still I wasn’t always sure she would have the money to get what I asked for, so you see, I was as surprised on Christmas morning as the kids who believed Santa Claus, with his fat belly and bag full of toys, came down the chimney.

Santa in chimney I liked the idea of Santa Claus. I liked it so much that I didn’t tell my two cousins, the daughters of my uncle the bootlegger, that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I became Santa Claus to them, helping my aunt or grandmother shop for toys, hiding them, and placing them under the tree on Christmas Eve after they had gone to sleep. Santa Claus may not have been real to me but he was to them. I always wondered, however, why they never asked how he could come down our chimney. He certainly was too fat to squeeze through the stove pipe after he got down the chimney and then into the stove, which had hot coals burning all night.

Christmas is the holiday I enjoy most. I try to forget the fact that the criminals, pickpockets, shoplifters, purse snatchers, carjackers, etc., are out in force during the holidays. What I enjoy most on Christmas morning is seeing the faces of my grandkids, as they open their presents.

But a TV commercial has me worried about the life of Santa Claus. The women in the commercial buy gifts at a store, and when Santa enters their homes, they confront him with smirks on their faces that say they don’t need him anymore. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, you understand, but I can’t help but think that, as Christmas has become more and more commercialized, some merchants may be trying to get rid of Santa Claus. Okay, I’ve seen some positive commercials showing Santa using a smartphone, so all is not lost. He’s fighting back with the help of digital technology.

To keep negative feelings from messing with my mind during the holidays, I listen to soulful Christmas music: Nat King Cole singing the traditional Christmas songs, The Temptations’s interpretation of “Silent Night”; my oldest grandson’s favorite,  gravelly voiced Louis Armstrong singing “’Zat You Santa Claus”; Booker T and The Mg’s instrumental “Jingle Bells”; and Otis Redding singing the all time favorite “White Christmas.” On Christmas morning when my grandkids come for their presents, they hear Nat’s melodious voice coming from the CD player, and I watch with a smile as they open their presents.

MERRY CHRISTMAS