Dinner and Movie Monday – The Dressmaker


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The DressmakerWhen my sisters and I were little, sometimes my parents let us stay up late to watch an old black and white classic. Other times they took us to the drive-in. There we piled into the back seat in our pajamas with pillows and blankets, watching a double feature.

The three of us love to get sit back, get comfy and lose ourselves in a good flick. All kinds. So, when we had lunch together recently, one of my sisters recommended one she’d recently seen. She said it was great and loaned us her copy. She was right.

The Dressmaker is a 2015 Australian film written and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, based on the novel of the same name, written by Rosalie Hamm. Kate Winslet plays a dressmaker, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, who returns to a small Australian town to take care of her mother. It’s a story of revenge and reckoning. Moorhouse has described the movie as “Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven with a sewing machine.

After being accused of being responsible for the death of classmate Stewart Pettybone, Myrtle Dunnage is sent away from her hometown of Dungatar. Twenty-five years later, she returns to take care of her mother and ends up unraveling the mystery of Stewart’s death.

The whole town is buzzing about Tilly, especially handsome Teddy McSwiney. It only gets worse when she fashions a beautiful dress for one of the local girls who successfully uses it to catch a young man’s attention. Soon, every woman in town is wearing a “Tilly original”.

The film was filled with funny as well as touching scenes. Judy Davis played her mother, and she was a wonderful character. Liam Hemsworth was good as well. And when Tilly ends up getting her revenge, you’ll want to applaud.

Thanks for the heads up Jo Beth. This was a good one!

Lamingtons – In the movie, Tilly’s mother made Marijuana Brownies, which were a hit. However, this is an authentic Australian recipe I thought looked interesting.

australian foodPrepare time: 30 min

Cook: 60 min

Serves: 6


  •   Butter – 1 cup + 4 tbsps (unsalted and softened)
  •   Sugar – 1 3/4 cups
  •   Vanilla – 2 tsps
  •   Eggs – 4
  •   2 1/2 cups flour
  •   Baking powder – 2 tsps
  •   Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  •   Milk – 2/3 cup
  •   Buttermilk – 1/3 cup
  •   Salt – 1/2 tsp
  •   Coconut – 2 cups, for coating
  •   For Chocolate Sauce/Icing:
  •   Butter – 2 tbsps, unsalted and softened
  •   Milk – 1/2 cup
  •   Sugar – 2 cups, powdered
  •   1/3 cup, unsweetened cocoa powder
  •   Hot water – 2 1/2 to 3 tbspsPreheat oven to 350° Grease and line two 8″ cake pans with baking/parchment paper. In a bowl, cream butter, castor sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the flour, a few tbsps at a time. Use a wooden spoon to combine. Next add a little milk and stir to combine. Repeat with remaining flour and milk, ending with the flour. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool down to room temperature and store in fridge. Next day, prepare the lamingtons. Stir the mixture until smooth and a bit thick. It should not be a thick liquid as the cake will not absorb the chocolate coating. Once the excess sauce is drained which takes about 2-3 minutes, place each chocolate coated cube on a plate of dried coconut. Lamingtons can be stored in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
  • Sprinkle dried coconut all over the chocolate coated cake and allow to set for a couple of minutes and serve.
  • Once the cake is firm on touch and not crumbly, cut into small 2 inch square pieces. Cut each square in half, sandwich with jam or chocolate sauce. Use a fork or wooden skewer and dip each sandwiched cake squares in the chocolate sauce and coat well on all sides. Place on a cooling rack and allow excess sauce to drain by placing a parchment paper below the rack.
  • Prepare the chocolate icing. Place the icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  • Divide the cake batter equally into the two greased and lined pans. Bake for 55 mts to an hour or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine. Add the buttermilk and beat for 10 seconds.
  • Sieve all purpose flour, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl. Add salt and whisk together. Keep aside.
  • Method for making Lamingtons

australian food

How To Radically Revise Your Novel

Rachel Poli

Radical revision is a term to revise or rewrite your current draft. It’s a tool to help your reimagine your story.

This is a method I learned in school when I was working on my English degree. I’ve kept the notes these past two years because I found it to be helpful and a pretty cool method. It didn’t seem so at the time because it was homework, but I do think it helps.

How To Radically Revise Your NovelWhat does radical revision do?

The point of radically revising your novel is to try something new, something different you wouldn’t normally do. Rewrite your current draft in a new way and see which one works better.

It may or may not work, but you’re experimenting, getting to know your novel and characters at a deeper level, and you’re practicing new forms of writing.

In a way, I guess you could look at this as a…

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Why your writing is important 


People often say that words aren’t dangerous. But writers know better than that. We understand the power that words have. When we wield them we are all aware how we’re casting lightening stolen from the Gods.

Events in the world prove just how fickle words are. Assaulted by ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘post-truth’ a fiction writer gets concerned. People are using the words we love to spread fear not knowledge. Moreover, the seriousness of reality can make our whimsical tales feel unworthy of attention.

But fear not. Ursula Le Guin in her usual brilliant fashion, explained the difference between these ‘lies dressed as truth’ and actual fiction. You aren’t part of the distraction, you’re part of the fight against it.

Those words that you pull from your mind are not a distraction from current events. They are a mirror to it, deliberately or not. You have something to say…

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3 Tips To Be An Awesome Critique Partner

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

Your humble host. your humble host

My job as your mentor and/or guide…

…and/or critique partner and/or editor and/or sounding board…

is to figure out the things you’ve done that make your story less perfect, point them out, and try to help you figure out ways to correct them.

It’s also my job when I review my own writing.

I consider it my duty, what I would do for you and what I need you to do for me. Really giving it to each other straight so we can make our stories the best they can be.

It is a tall order.


It requires guts to tell somebody what’s wrong – with patience and kindness to do it in an encouraging and non-destructive way – and it requires time and energy to help them come up with a solution.

It requires fortitude to hear what’s wrong, even when delivered kindly…

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IMG_0985eIf I want to be successful as a writer, I must understand what makes my characters tick. Strengths, weaknesses. Things that make them happy or sad. Whatever motivates them. Including their fears.

I had an interesting conversation the other day with members of my critique group. I just considered it part of the meeting where we all visit and catch up before we get down to business. Until I got to thinking about it.

We were discussing our personal fears. Something we all have whether we want to admit it or not. While one of my friends had no problem admitting hers, she didn’t feel compelled to face them. Another friend said it was her faith that had helped her face hers.

Later that evening, it hit me. There’s a fine line between facing our fears and conquering them. And I’m not so sure that facing them isn’t the most difficult. Who wants to admit the fear of something others might consider irrational? And once we do, it means we have to deal with them. Which isn’t easy.

I have to admire anyone who has conquered their fears, but I must also admire those who keep trying.

One Man’s Journey (Part 4)


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After Lunch, Les Voutes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Here’s the 4th and final excerpt from Stan Hampton’s Journey Of The Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed making this trip with him via his wonderful photographs. At the end of this post I’ll share  an excerpt from The Ledger, available in Stan’s Intimate Journeys Anthology. Thanks again to Stan for sharing. You’re welcome back any time.


Charmaine Pauls, Montpellier, France

Did I mention I am a published writer? Not self-publishing, though. Several years ago on an author loop run by Melange Books LLC, I met the very talented Charmaine Pauls. We have become very good friends, and she is one of two authors that I regularly pepper with questions, particularly regarding female dress and perspective. (Ahem, she is the friend who came to my rescue by calling from Montpellier for a taxi in Vers-Pont-du-Gard—and, don’t ask why I don’t know enough French to call my own taxi.) After my arrival she took me on a quick walking tour of Montpellier, and we stopped for lunch.

700-year old church, Montpellier, France

One of the sites she showed me was a 700-year old church. Beautiful and incredible—I’ve used those words so many times since arrival in France, and especially during Winter Break, that I must find other words to use. But words really do not do justice to what I have seen and experienced.

Old bookstore, Montpellier, France

Charmaine showed me the bookstore Le Bookshop in the old town where she once held a book signing. This is the cellar—the ground floor is just as fantastic. And no, the stones are not mere decoration. Imagine, a bookstore in the cellar of a building several hundred, if not a thousand, years old!

After resting and visiting with Charmaine and her wonderful family in Montpellier, I returned to Pau on Sunday night, 5 March.

This has been incredible. I have gazed upon what I had only read about and finally I have walked where Romans, Gauls, and Medieval men and women once walked. My journey of the spirit has come to a close for now. But there are more journeys in the next two months.

And after that? I want to return to France to live for a year or two, to write and especially to photograph. And you know what? Such a happening is a very real possibility—I can do this rather than simply dream and wish as I once did. I can do this.


Intimate Journeys Anthology, Melange Books, February 2012.

ISBN: 978-1-61235-332-6

BLURB: Every journey through life is an intimate journey simply because it is someone’s personal journey. Sometimes the journey is like being alone in a small boat at the mercy of wild ocean currents, and sometimes the journey is like being part of a crew in a strong ship with billowing, wind-filled sails…

EXCERPT: The wintry night of New Year’s Eve 1899 was filled with excitement, hope, and wonder. The world was leaving the 19th century behind and entering the 20th century and no one could guess what wonders the new century offered.

Except Caleb Winston could care less. He was a heavyset man with a thick gray beard and mustache, and long gray hair slicked back over his head. As he sat in his favorite office chair brought from Fort Abraham Lincoln to the newly built home in New York, he let out a sorrowful sigh.

“It’s time to retire,” Abigail, his wife of thirty-six years, and his grown children had reminded him for several years until he gave in.

It was with a heavy and sometimes resentful heart that he turned over the operation of his sutler stores, convenience stores that served the soldiers in their far-flung forts, the local civilian population, and sometimes the Indians, to a long-time and trusted employee. He had two stores each in Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, and a pair of Indian trading posts in Wyoming and Arizona. Before he retired, management was usually conducted by mail and telegraph, though he sometimes visited his distant stores and posts. Though he was no longer a young man he enjoyed the travel.

At last, he and Abigail packed up their home and moved east that last spring of the 19th century; Abigail was ecstatic as their three children and their families lived within walking distance of their new home.

Yet, settling into a comfortable retirement was difficult. Caleb missed the vast wildness of the west with its beautiful snowy, forested mountains, isolated mountain valleys, full rushing rivers, and grassy prairies that extended to the edge of the world. During his travels he sometimes felt that he was watching a hard, yet pristine world, vanishing before the onslaught of endless settlers and a growing, yet mystifying technology. Future generations would never know the West as he had known it.

His resentment and unhappiness wasn’t only due to leaving a beloved life and world behind, but a realization that he was old. His health wasn’t the best and he sometimes felt his path in life was becoming narrower and darker, as if he was entering a deep sunless gorge that he would never leave…

The Ledger


One Man’s Journey (Part 3)


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After Lunch, Les Voutes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

After Lunch, Les Voutes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France



I’m back again with another installment of Stan Hampton’s journey. Please join me for this wonderful experience. The pictures are absolutely stunning. Actually being there is the only thing that would make it better.





On the morning of 2 March I missed the Continental Breakfast at the L’atelier du Midi where I was staying in the old town of Arles, but I had to be sure I found the pick-up site for the Camargue tour. The morning was chilly and sprinkling—which describes most of my stay to date in France—and out in the Camargue, there was a fog. But I saw my first white horses of the Camargue.Camargue Horses, Arle, France


At the town of Les Saintes-Maries-de-lar-Mer, at the southwest edge of the Camargue, we reached the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is beautiful. One can imagine wooden merchant ships with billowing sails on the horizon bound for the Middle East or perhaps some forgotten port along the Mediterranean coast.

Mediterranean Sea, France

The Mediterranean, France


That afternoon, because I had forgotten the day before to use a camera provided by a friend to get some photos for her, I returned to the amphitheatre and arena. The inside of the arena did not really excite me because there were so much modern additions, perhaps because it is used for bullfighting. But I climbed one of the stone towers and from there found a view of the top of the arena that interested me.

Top of the Roman arena, Arles, France

On the morning of 3 March it was time to go again. In the early morning light I photographed the bed and breakfast L’atelier du Midi; my room was on the second floor, the window on the left. On the side of the building, beneath the light, is the entrance for guests.

Arles, France

The morning of 3 March—now this is the Continental Breakfast that I missed the previous morning. I suppose sacrifices must be expected when heading out to the Camargue for the first time in my life. This was a very good breakfast. Afterwards, I rode in a rickshaw to the train station to catch the train to Montpellier.

Breakfast, L'atelier du Midi, Arles, France

Come back next Tuesday for the last installment of our journey as well as excerpts from some of Stan’s books. See you then.

One Man’s Journey (Part 2)


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After Lunch, Les Voutes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

As promised we’re continuing Stan Hampton’s journey today. It’s been fascinating so far, and I admire him for it. At this stage of my life I don’t know if I’d ever have the courage. So I’m going to live vicariously through Stan’s adventures. Join me!


The morning of 27 February I traveled by train to Marseilles where I changed trains for Aubagne. After that I had to take a bus to the village of Vers-Pont-du-Gard, a mere 4 kilometers from the famous Roman aqueduct, the Pont-du-Gard. Actually, I attempted to call a taxi, but that did not work. It took the help of a good friend in Montpellier who called for a taxi that took me to the “a Gauche du Pont,” a friendly bed and breakfast that was a momentary home. And a very nice home it was—my room was 200 years old and had a stone ceiling.

a gauche du Pont Bed & Breakfast, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

After a Continental Breakfast the morning of 28 February, Fabian, one of the owners of the “a Gauche du Pont” showed me the way along 4 kilometers of winding trails through the forest to the Pont-du-Gard. Though I walk over a mile every day at the Université and so am in better shape than in January, carrying a backpack filled with camera equipment was a bit tiring. But soon, I caught my first glimpse of the famous 2,000 year old Roman aqueduct that I had read about for so many years.

Pont-du-Gard, France

The Pont-du-Gard from the banks of the Gardon River. I did it! I was actually looking at, and had touched, the 2,000 year old architectural monument built by a people long gone.

Pont-du-Gard, France

Fabian and Veronique, the owners of “a Gauche du Pont”, and I had dinner in the nearby Medieval village of Castillon-du-Gard, then we went for a brief walk because I wanted to get some photos at night. It was a very brief walk because it was cold and windy.

Castillon-du-Gard, France

After a Continental Breakfast the morning of 1 March I caught the bus from Vers-Pont-du-Gard to Avignon. Faced with a 4-hour layover for the train to Arles, I opted for a bus—within an hour of my arrival I was on my way and arrived in Arles just about an hour later. Within an hour I set out to register for a tour into the famous Camargue the next day, plus spent the afternoon visiting the Roman amphitheatre and arena.

And yes, I did it. I was standing where, perhaps 2,000 years ago, actors, musicians, and singers performed for a packed audience who spoke Latin and ruled an Empire that encircled the Mediterranean Sea.

Roman amphitheatre, Arles, France

Wow. These pictures are fantastic. Readers, can you imagine actually standing there and snapping the photo? Not seeing it on a movie or television screen. Not reading about it. Actually being there. We have more of Stan’s journey to come. Come back next Tuesday for more.

One Man’s Journey of the Spirit


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After Lunch, Les Voutes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, FranceFriend and fellow writer Stan Hampton has agreed to share photos of his travels with us. This post is just the first of several. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more.

Stan is a wonderful photographer as well as writer, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy his journey as much as I did. Welcome, Stan. I’ll turn it over to you.

Imagine for a moment that you have spent years, if not decades, dreaming and wishing to travel and explore. Not as a typical tourist wanting to visit the big foreign cities and famous sites—though there is nothing wrong with either goal. But traveling and exploring for a specific purpose. And imagine that after decades, the dreams and wishes actually come true.

I am retired and am a full-time university student working on my Bachelors degree with the ultimate goal of attaining a doctorate. My long-held dreams and wishes began to happen after I applied to the Universities Study Abroad Consortium (USAC), Reno, Nevada. USAC was founded in the late 1980s and is one of several academic organizations that assist American students in studying overseas. I wanted to study in Ireland, but after talking with a senior director, I decided to apply for France instead.

In January 2017 I set out from Las Vegas, Nevada to Pau, France, where I would spend the Spring Semester studying French at the Université de Pau et des Pays de L’Adour. (Ah, Pau is pronounced “Po.”)

Imagine, a person my age (senior citizen, I think) being a full-time university student studying in a foreign country. And this is where, in a very real sense, my journey of the spirit begins. And the journey is not yet complete—there are a couple more sponsored outings before the semester ends in late April, after which I am signed up for an optional tour of the Normandy region. Then, on my own I go to northern England before boarding the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton to cross the Atlantic back to the States. At least, that’s the plan.

Day One Las Vegas

3 January, the journey begins when I fly out of Las Vegas, bound for Paris via Philadelphia, where I will catch a flight to Pau, a small town in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France.

Day Five, Pau, The Castle Wall

During the first week there were a pair of walking tours of Pau for the American students. This is my view of the Chateau de Pau, birthplace of King Henry IV. Did I mention I am a photographer? I always try to look for a different and interesting angle when photographing. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes…

Toulouse Rail Station, France

The Winter Break began on 25 February. That morning I traveled by train from Pau and changed trains at the rail station in Toulouse, and again at Marseilles, bound for Aubagne, France.

Foreign Legion Museum, Aubagne, France


The Foreign Legion Museum in Aubagne, 26 February. All of my life I have been fascinated by the French Foreign Legion, particularly their role in the French-Indochina War (1946-1954) and the French Algerian War (1954-1962). Indochina, especially the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (November 1953-May 1954), always reminded me of a Greek tragedy—no matter how much courage the ordinary Legionnaire and French Union soldiers displayed, a tragic end awaited all. And so, units like the 1st Foreign Parachute Battalion, 2nd Foreign Parachute Battalion, battalions of the 13th Foreign Demi-Brigade, and battalions of the 2nd and 3rd Foreign Infantry Regiments, with other French metropolitan, colonial and African units, fought until destroyed; the survivors were marched away into captivity.

Foreign Legion Museum, Aubagne, France

Stan has sent me so many wonderful photos that I’ve decided to post them once a week for the next few weeks instead of all at once. Come back to see more of One Man’s Journey of the Spirit in a week!


Dinner And A Movie Monday – The Magnificent Seven


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magnificent-7Every once in a while a good western comes along. And it’s even more surprising when it’s a remake. I don’t know how many of you have seen the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brenner, but it’s a re-imagination of the 1954 Japanese film call Seven Samurai. That makes the 2016 version the third time around.

Another little piece of trivia: It is the final film of composer James Horner. He died the previous year and his friend completed the music.

When one the locals in a mining town try to stand up to bad guy Bartholomew Bogue, he murders the man in cold blood. His wife rides to the nearest town for help where she encounters warrant officer Sam Chisom, played by Denzel Washington. Washington plays the perfect mix of cold-blooded determination and the desire to right a wrong.

Chisolm recruits a group of gunslingers. Chris Pratt plays Josh Faraday, a joker who is fast with the gun and cards. They are joined by an unlikely crew, sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux and friend, knife-wielding Billy Rocks, a notorious Mexican outlaw, a skilled tracker and a Comanche warrior.

They kill Bogue’s men and drive the corrupt sheriff away with a warning to leave Rose Creek alone. Certain that Bogue and reinforcements will return, they begin training townspeople to defend their home. Fighting side by side with ordinary people determined to take back their town, the cold, hard gunslingers find themselves feeling like a part of something good for the first time in a long time.

When Bogue returns, he brings an army and a Gatling Gun. Somehow the town manages to defeat them. But it is a costly victory.Those who did not survive are honored by the people of Rose Creek as heroes, while Chisolm rides off with the survivors.

Even though unlikely comrades, these men become friends who are willing to fight for a cause and die for each other. If you liked the l960s version, you’ll like this one. The music is perfect. The setting is perfect, and the characters have the same gritty appeal.


Pinto Beans

In every western I’ve ever watched, at some point in the movie you see a cowboy scraping beans out of a plate with a spoon and sopping up the juice with cornbread. I don’t know what spices they used or how they were cooked, but this is how my mama taught me.

1 lb dried pinto beans (washed, sorted and soaked in water for 24 hours. Rinse and add water to cover)

1 onion, finely chopped

1/4 c bacon grease.

Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Brown the onions  in the bacon grease. Add to crockpot. Add Beans and water. Add spices. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Serve with cornbread and jalapenos.