Today's writing blog is a gripe about semantics.
"Resolution" is a great word. A perfectly fine word. A strong word, a word of function.
But in the past few days I've heard no less than a dozen people saying to throw the poor word out the window. Don't make "resolutions;" you will break them. In fact, at least three different newsletters or blogs (I won't name names, but they are ones I follow regularly) equated a resolution to a "wish," just a "wish."
Now, because www.dictionary.com actually uses a up-to-date entries for words, let me copy-paste a few of them for "resolution."
1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.
(from American Heritage)
1. a formal expression of opinion or intention made, usually after voting, by a formal organization, a legislature, a club, or other group. Compare concurrent resolution, joint resolution.
2. a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.
3. the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.
4. the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.
5. the act or process of resolving or separating into constituent or elementary parts.
(from Random House)
In fact, here's some etymology for you, too:
1412, "a breaking into parts," from L. resolutionem (nom. resolutio) "process of reducing things into simpler forms," from pp. stem of resolvere "loosen" (see resolve). Originally sense of "solving" (as of mathematical problems) first recorded 1548, that of "holding firmly" (in resolute) 1533, and that of "decision or expression of a meeting" is from 1604.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper
It doesn't sound like wishing to me. It sounds like making a well-developed plan!
In fact, there's an awful lot of quantifying involved, too, contradictory to what too many people are assuming about this word "resolution."
I agree with everyone who says to make solid, quantifiable goals, follow-up with yourself, be accountable: make a plan!
It's stupid to pin the lackthereof on a word - especially a word that actually means making a firm plan to change and breaking things into achievable goals.
It's like that "political correctness" that suggests if you redefine contracts with Native Americans or American Indians, it's not the same as stealin' land from Injuns. (And if you think it's still not happening, go talk to some 'Injuns.' Changing a few words - and their names - really helped them.)
Getting rid of the word "resolution," doesn't deal with fact that most people, themselves, don't intend to keep resolutions. The word is not the action, and changing the word isn't going to change the behavior. If you really mean to keep your resolution, you'd be planning ahead, starting from before Christmas. And you'd already have a plan forming for what you are going to do and what you can do - realistic understanding of oneself is key! - to make these goals happen.
I've been reorganizing my desk, my records, my profits and losses, for most of the month - some even since September! For health goals, we've got a Wii and my husband and I are making some exercise and eating plans.
Of course, on the business side, I've been putting together these goals and plans for my annual blog-write-up of it. :) This gives me an extra edge of accountability.
What concrete plans have you made so you can follow through with your resolutions?
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Today's writing blog is a gripe about semantics.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Well, mostly sorry. I was up till… some crazy time cleaning and doing last-minute baking and prep. And then waiting until Husband-of-Awesome fell asleep so I could sneak his surprise present down - the last step of the "OMG - I can FINALLY surprise the Husband this year!" Grand Master Plan.
Um… I would post a picture, but forgot to take one, and then when I asked him "Go grab your sleeping bag so I can get a picture of you with it," he stated, "I'm not dressed." Just cuz I'm ok with him in boxers around the house…
Anyway - Thank you, Steve, for making the gift possible!
Also, I haven't figured out how to set Blogger or LiveJournal to do delayed posts. If you know, please let me know - preferably before New Year's. Otherwise, it'll be another missed post.
Another great big THANK YOU to the Shrewsbury Borders for having its Author Extravaganza! I totally failed in promoting the Day-After-Christmas Extravaganza… due to, well, Christmas and vacation.
Pre-emptive resolution: Damnit, remember to promote friggen events!
Also: Take more pictures!
Here's the usual stragglers who stay until the very end with aching feet, but not without our smiles:
Cheryl Cory (Must've Done Something Good), Dan Gordon (Haunted Baseball, Cape Encounters), me, Bret Herholz (Diary of the Black Widow, A Sinister Aura, and more!)
(Thanks, Cheryl, for the pix.)
This special in-between week brings a strange sense of both stasis and chaos to a lot of people. You want to get "all your ducks in a row" for the New Year, but there's "no time" to settle everything you want/ed to accomplish for this year. Both Copyblogger and Indie Biz Chicks have some great tips to help you organize your writing and business this week that I'm already moving on.
Fortunately, both my husband and I have this week off.
Unfortunately, both my husband and I have this week off.
Quite the paradox. We can do a lot of fun things together: day trips, movies, we're helping friends move on Wednesday, and of course, New Year's festivities on Thursday and Friday. However… that leaves me next to no time to get my work done.
Today put a good-sized dent in it, though. Scott kept himself occupied with tv, video games, and deciding we needed our own ham dinner since we had no leftovers from any other holiday gathering. (Confession: I'm fine without leftovers considering we had minimal hosting to do! He wants ham sandwiches, though.)
I spent most of today with - more - last minute (late minute?) baking, and getting almost half my desk organized/cleaned. Well, with the extra clutter and catch-all from the holidays, it's more than half better than it was! I also started a to-do list for the week, so I can get some stuff done between whatever fun things we find to do together. (Note to couples & potential couples: Marry someone you love to hang out with. J)
I have a pile of "stuff" to do/go through. Yay.
I also have to go through all my business records and make some even more definitive plans for 2010, as I know without even looking at receipts and crap that 2009 was a loss. I believe a good part of January will be further planning, submitting, and rebuilding.
Giving the desk a good, thorough clean (again) is a big help in planning for my blog post for next Manic Monday post - which will be my major New Year Resolution post. It's a huge one - but I've actually had people asking about it, so I guess it is helpful and/or entertaining. J
Oh - and pre-planning, pre-emptive resolution: Better Bedtimes.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I make money as a food writer, so my Writerly Wednesday is will be infused with the awesomeness of dinner tonight.
Y'all get a restaurant review. J
We went to Natalie's in Camden, Maine tonight.
The short version:
It's been a few years since I've been to a real gourmet restaurant, and my one big request for this vacation was to go out to a fancy restaurant. My treat.
If you watch Food TV or read food magazines, then you know it's almost a no-brainer to go with the chef's sampling dinner.
Bread course included the best sourdough we've ever had, along with a great multigrain bread. The bread had a nice chew and crumb and was served with a butter salted with Maine sea salt.
Our server was excellent, and it was clear that he was paying attention to us in our conversation and beyond. The first hint of this was when he offered us more bread – and then brought us a whole loaf of it that we used to sop up the amazing dressings and sauce from the following courses.
Our first course was a mushroom bisque with a porcini garnish. It was served in the equivalent of a double shot glass, but with a cool bow and bend to the sides. It was so rich that there didn't need to be more; it was all I could do not to lick out the soup that coated the sides.
The next course was raw oysters served with tarragon butter with mini-salads of microgreens. The oysters were perfect, meaty and the microgreens had a nice bite to them with a slight bit of balsamic dressing them up.
After the perfect oysters, we had marinated salmon with microgreens and poached quail eggs. I hate to be redundant, but: perfect. The salmon could be cut with the fork, it was so tender. It's texture melted on my mouth, and the quail eggs, microgreens, fresh pepper really complimented it.
Soft poached eggs followed the salmon. They were silky, smooth, and dressed with another garnish of porcini mushroom with a broth and Worcestershire sauce. As our server explained, soft poached eggs are a big trend in the gourmet world. No surprise. It was quite the luxurious texture to go with the richness of the broth, sauce, and porcini.
Tangerine sherbet cleansed our pallets before the main entrée. Scott's comment: "I think I will dream in tangerine." The clementines we had back in the hotel were weeping in shame compared to the sherbet.
Throughout the meal, our server chatted with us about various food and wine topics. We asked for a bottle of wine that would go with the meal. The chef recommended a 2007 California Chardonnay that was not heavily oaked. I love Chardonnay, and it was a perfect match for all the food. However, Scott is not a big fan of Chardonnay, and he had mentioned in passing to our waiter that he preferred red wine. With the dinner, the waiter brought over a steak knife for Scott and a fresh glass of Pinot Noir.
That meant different entrées. Which was quite the surprise because we figured we'd both have exactly the same thing – as we had for the other courses. Scott also had mentioned a few times when we were looking at the menu that he was looking forward to duck. Well, that's what he got. Me, I got monkfish cheeks with scallions and porcini mushrooms. We both found our dinners heavenly. I did taste his and it was phenomenal, melt-in-your-mouth-while-still-having-crunchy-skin excellence. As for my monkfish cheeks… I love fish, I never knew how much one could potentially love fish until that moment, though. It also had this soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture but also had a good chew on it. It was lightly crusted and seasoned, napped in rich broth, contrasting with the crunch of the scallions and chewiness of the mushrooms.
Ok, I have to repeat:
And then there was dessert.
Soufflé. Vanilla crème soufflé.
Just sayin', Julia Child would be proud.
We finished up with espresso and coffee – and homemade chocolate truffles sweetened the bill.
Ok, so it was a LOT of money… so much, I'm not even writing it here.
But it was worth every penny.
If you're in Camden, Maine – save your money so you can spend it at Natalie's. Really!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Some people would complain if it snowed on their vacation. Not me.
Snow is falling outside, Husband-of-Awesome is sprawled on the couch watching the Pat's game, and I'm having some quality time with Rosie. It's kind of funny, because he's paying as much attention to me as I am to him – though we keep talking to each other.
(The exception is during my moments of maximum expletive vocalization because I keep screwing up on my slightly smaller keyboard – or I can't remember my damned bank security questions. That seems to get his attention.)
Anyway, falling outside is lovely snow that we have to neither shovel nor move nor drive in. And a beautiful grey and white-capped ocean outside our balcony. The heat works great, and while I miss the crackling wood stove, it's very nice to not have to get up every 20-30 minutes to maintain it.
We have plenty of wine and alcohol, and I brought all my beta reader comments to Starbard, my sketchpad, pencils, and watercolors. Scott also picked me up Heat Wave – because I wanted it. I have many choices of what I will do in this welcome snow-in: all things I WANT to do – including editing Starbard.
Breakfast food and leftovers from yesterday's family Yule party sustain us for the night. It should be cleared up tomorrow – and we may attempt a winter hike or ocean walk. Just because. Or we may visit some distilleries or vineyards or galleries. Or we may stay in again.
It's up to us.
We don't HAVE to be accountable or organized.
We're on vacation.
Life is good.
Decided to work on Kyra, so I spent a good 9 hours or so going through the hefty pile of feedback I'd gotten over a year earlier. I took extra special care on the Husband-of-Awesome's comment because one of the things I've always appreciated about him is his honesty.
I'm okay if he says a pair of jeans isn't flattering on me. It means I don't look bad going out.
I'm even better when he tells me a scene isn't working. It would be something an editor or agent would definitely catch.
Also, his enthusiasm for the Starbard has been a great push. He wouldn't be excited if there wasn't anything to be excited about.
So, now, I have a good 6 inches of commented pages between him and others to work on… and he's perfectly comfy watching TV while I type away.
Oh, and an aside cool thing about this place is the nifty journals they keep in the room. I took a few breaks between versions of Starbard to look at the other entries and add some of my own.
Would it be bad form to leave a business card in the pages?
I was too excited to work on Starbard to take pix today, but I did yesterday before the snow fell.
Why bring this up?
Because the other really cool thing about this place is the ocean is outside my door.
Friday, December 18, 2009
"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the World he didn't exist."
When someone says we're living in a post-feminist or post-racist world or post-any-other-civil-rights-issue, that's the Devil whispering in your ear - and many others' ears, too. What else needs to be done if we've already won? The issues no longer exist.
Just this week, I read the Copyblogger post "Why James Chartrand wears Women's Underpants," where the excellent blogger and writer from (still-appropriately-named?) Men with Pens, James Chartrand - herself - shared her story of trying to enter freelancing as a woman, but who didn't find success until she reinvented her online self as a man.
"This week" - more specifically, Monday, December 14, 2009. Yes, 2009. We're not talking pre-20th century like George Eliot or any of the Brontë sisters. This isn't pre-civil rights legislation like James Tiptree, Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon) or even Andre Norton had to go through. This is after J.K. Rowling chose to use initials over 10 years ago to submit her best-selling series. If she didn't use her initials then, would you know her stories and who she is now?
As a member of the Motherboard for Broad Universe, I'm constantly learning about what goes on in the publishing industry - specifically in speculative fiction, as that's what I write and that's what the organization promotes. In fact, we have some excellent statistics up at our site to show people that women do, indeed, have the deck stacked against them. Of course, Broad Universe wasn't the first. Before us was Sisters in Crime (created in 1986), who have done amazing work in the mystery genre. And, just before Broad Universe, Women Writing the West (1998) presented their first WILLA awards for women in the western genre.
I can't say "not a day goes by without," but I can say "not a month goes by without" at least 2 people - male or female (but not trans-gendered, as they are well aware of these issues) - ask me why women/feminists need their own publishing support networks, business networks, conventions (like Wiscon or Conbust), awards... In fact, annually, I get into 1-2 outright, if not hostile, arguments - sometimes even with friends - that it's "offensive" to them that I'm a feminist, or that I'm going to a women-only or woman-promoting meeting/convention. I'm asked, "Isn't that sexist?"
No. It's not.
It's making up for the lost pay and lost opportunities I still suffer right now, WE women still suffer right now. If James Chartrand's story isn't enough, I can personally direct you to no less than 3 other women who have turned in the same manuscript under their name and under a gender neutral name - no changes made - and had the gender neutral manuscript accepted with little-to-no changes. On top of that, look at the Business and Professional Women's Foundation and its studies of the continuing wage disparity.
Women-only support groups are not sexist because even with the work they do, they have not bridged the gap of wage, promotional support, and networking resources that exists in mainstream business and industry. For example, if you follow the link to the Broad Universe statistics, you'll see where things have been improving in since we started taking statistics. However, women authors are still far behind men in receiving recognition, promotional support from publishing houses, being invited as guests-of-honor at conventions, advance pay, award nominations, and even plain old book reviews!
Now, I'm only talking about the very narrow writing-publishing aspect of the gender-issue spectrum, but unequal rights abound all over. There are plenty of articles and books available on popular media and advertising, and how women are portrayed negatively and unfairly. As I mentioned earlier, the Business and Professional Women's Foundation has a lot of information about gender inequality in the workplace. Yes, women have it better before the civil rights movement, but that doesn't mean we are treated as an equal demographic to men. There are plenty statistics and studies available, by multiple sources, so you can cross-check for yourself.
So, next time your tempted to think that we're in a post-feminist (or post-inequality) era, remember the Devil's greatest trick. Whether you believe in an actual sentient evil in the world or prefer the metaphor, the danger exists either way. If you don't believe wrongness is there, it continues to sneak in and taint your life. People cannot choose to do the right thing if they don't think the wrong option exists.
Inequality is pernicious and active - don't be tricked into thinking otherwise.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Everyone likes games - even our fictional characters.
Several years back, I took a writing class at Bay Path Vocational School, where a local author - and I feel awful because I don't recall her name - gave a 12-week writing evening class. There were two exercises that she had us do in a group that I have used countless times since. The one people still send me emails for copies of is The Character Game or The Character Autopsy.
It's basically a "getting to know you" questionnaire you ask your characters. The best way to play this game - and it works especially well for anyone with roleplaying experience - is to have someone else ask you the questions, and you answer in your character's voice.
I've moderated online chats with just The Character Game for my DragonWriters writing group and with other writing friends/colleagues, which are particularly effective. Why? Because it's already easy to assume a different identity online - and, we often let ourselves get sidetracked from the questions and interact with each other, leading to further discovery about these strange people living in our heads.
It's especially entertaining when you've got characters from different genres - like my contemporary fantasy paladin caught in the Apocalypse and Aimee's chick lit, ex-pat book-club lady in an unsatisfying marriage.
Rather than talk about it further, I'll share the game with you. Play it with your characters. Play it with friends. Play it with your friends' characters.
You'll thank your characters for playing when you uncover more than you ever thought you wanted to know about them.
*The handout cites "UCLA MFA Screenwriting" with an instructor of Neil Landau from 2/2002 as this game's origination.
What is your full name?
How old are you?
What is your favorite item of clothing or personal item?
What is your favorite room in your house? Why?
You walk into a restaurant (or bar, if your world has them/allows you to drink)... what do you order to drink?
What do you consider to be your best physical feature/s?
And what is your worst physical feature/s - either looks or usefulness?
What is your worst vice or habit?
At the start of the story, what is your highest priority?
Who are you closest to in your family (meaning your blood relatives)?
Who do you call in an emergency?
Who in your circle of family & friends could most likely betray you? Why?
Have you ever committed a crime? What was it? And did you get caught?
You find a wallet containing $500 cash (or equivalent), and an i.d. What do you do?
Do you have any pet peeves?
What do you consider to be your biggest/greatest weakness?
What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
Were/are you a good student or learner?
Were/are you popular among your peers?
What is your credo/philosophy in life?
What is the biggest misconception about you?
What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?
Have you had any key regrets in your life?
Have you ever been in love? If so, when and with whom?
What is your faith or religion, if you have any? How does it define you (if at all)?
Do you have a secret? Something you've never told anyone or perhaps only a select few?
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
What is your ultimate wish for you life - if you could have or do anything?
What do you hate most about yourself?
What is your innermost core fear? Why does that frighten you?
Put your character into the moment of his/her/its innermost fear and ask him/her/it these questions:
1. What do you need?
2. Who do you call?
3. Do you feel desperate & needy? Are you ashamed to feel that way or do you feel entitled to those feelings?
4. What must you do some day before you die?
Feel free to share some of your characters' answers in the comments!
Monday, December 14, 2009
I'm rarely happy with my Manic Monday blog posts.
The idea for them was similar to a "reminder" version of my annual New Year's Resolution/Business Plan post – on a weekly basis. Posting my weekly goals and events for the world (potentially, anyway) had a two-fold purpose. The first is that I'm always curious about how professional writers organize their lives, and I felt I might not be the only one with that interest. The second is accountability.
Organization may as well be a Holy Mystery to me. My mother ran three direct sales jobs from the kitchen table, her notes a cryptic collage collected on discarded detritus, like the backs of notebooks and sides of boxes that could no longer carry Avon orders for delivery. (We were into recycling BEFORE it got cool!). I look at her "desk" in awe, though it appears almost as chaotic as mine, because I know how good she is at what she does. When I interview professional, independent artists who are in business for themselves, I ask about organizing: their work, their day, their to-dos. No matter how much I learn, though, organization to prevent those many moments of chaos continues to be a driving Holy Grail quest – at least in my head, anyway.
Most of my editors and people who are looking at me from outside the cluttered "desk area" that's my den, compliment me on my organization and record keeping. They're impressed! I smile and nod. It's an ongoing battle, that mathematical curve that keeps getting closer to a line but will never touch it. That said, I hope someone might avoid some of my mistakes – or at least feel better about their organization - from hearing about mine.
On a more selfish level, I write a Manic Monday post to force accountability.
I have no regrets about leaving the corporate world and going into business for myself, but I'm the kind of person who needs an outside influence giving me deadlines. Posting my goals and timelines for myself creates a 3rd party I must answer to. It's no longer in my head – or scraps of paper only I see -, but it's Out There. So, I have to do it. (Well, "have to" moreso than otherwise. I believe this year alone I've written 3 "starting over/getting back on the metaphorical horse" confessions.)
It works though. J Proof: I'm writing this blog post 4 days before it's "due" to be published.
So, why am I generally unhappy with these posts?
It's hard work to balance my selfish needs with an entertaining/educational element!
And I still think I suck at organizing.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Food-trepreneurs, baking supply companies, even major brand names… (cuz, y'know y'all read my little blog)… Listen up! This one is for you!
We've got single serving cake and brownie mixes, bitty packages of crushed nuts, caramel chips, peanut butter chips, mint-chocolate chips, coconut chips… fruit pieces in multiple quantities. Single-cake size frosting measurements. Single-use baking pans. All sorts of neat stuff for convenience.
Why, oh why, oh why do we not have pre-crushed candy canes? UNWRAPPED, pre-broken peppermint candy. Seriously - I would pay extra for this convenience.
I make this peppermint-cookie brittle of which one of the ingredients is a box of crushed candy-canes. Sounds innocuous - but they are dangerous, aggravating little bastards! First, you've got open the box to get to them. Now, since I'm breaking them up, I don't care that getting into the box requires a certain degree of force that breaks or cracks at least half them, but as a kid, who wants a broken candy cane? (More on children's issues later!)
Now, once I've gotten through the box, I've got to bugger my way into the shrink-wrapped canes, themselves. I had issues doing this as a kid - and I haven't gotten any more dexterous, so making sure I get every sliver of that stupid, shiny, sticky, clingy, crap off the candy is a royal bitch.
The cat was highly entertained at my antics of hand-wagging, cussing, cleaning, and inspecting… and cussing more when I found more plastic on the pieces. I'm not gifting someone with asphyxiation cookies!
Parents! How has this gone unchecked? How do kids not choke on this plastic? It's hazardous stuff, people! You proactive parenting types - think of the danger to your children, for God's sake! Candy-cane wrapping is serious shit. We need an activist group or something!
Now, yes, I could use Starlight mints, which have the twisty plastic ends and aren't bloody shrink-wrapped, but they become powder in the food processor - none of those great chunks of peppermint candy from a couple of swirls on "chop" or a few good smacks against the counter when I'm particularly aggravated that I've underestimated my baking time again.
Chopped peppermint candy, folks - it's the next big thing! I want it in my supermarket. Now!
(And if you start marketing it based on this blog post, I better damn well get a cut - or at least a free lifetime supply!)
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I was crying within 10 minutes of opening my email today.
They were happy tears.
Last night, before I went to bed, I buckled down and finally wrote a "Goodbye" note to the discussion list for the Editorial Freelancer's Association - because I wasn't sure how much longer I'd have access to the Yahoo! Group. The organization had already given me an extra 30 days to renew my membership, but with car issues and the loss of one of my major clients this year - I simply didn't have enough.
I expected a few responses wishing me well; I'd made several friends & met wonderful colleagues on the list. I did NOT expect two of my colleagues to offer to pay for my membership!
Having been brought up by two independent parents, it took me over an hour to compose a letter accepting the gift from these colleagues and thanking them. It would have been a crime to turn it down, though.
The EFA has been a wonderful resource for me since I joined in 2005. It was the first professional group I belonged to, and it has made quite the impact on my career as a freelancer; it showed me the importance of community.
Working with the written word doesn't - and shouldn't - have to be a solitary career. Humans naturally gravitated towards each other, constantly creating and building societies. It's who we are. Despite the flaws of society/community - and there always will be flaws; we're human - creating a village is not only beneficial to the individual, but necessary.
Whether it's a grammar problem or a life problem, the community offers support and collected wisdom. One person can't know everything, nor can he or she do everything, and while even a community can't cover everything - it does offer more experience, options, and views than any individual can on her/his own.
Since joining the EFA, I've become active in several other excellent professional organizations. I'll often cross post the wisdom between them: open calls for fiction or jobs, a tidbit on grammar usage, notes on the publishing industry. I often read cross posts from others in a similar vein. When members ask for help - and even if they don't - there are individuals in the community who will shine for those in need. (And yeah, we have our periodic flame-ups, too - but even those offer something to learn.) Being part of this experience also give me the chance to help another - be it with advice, information… or a direct intervention.
If you're serious about working with the written word, look into the different professional organizations out there. I list several on my website - and I'm happy to still proudly post that I'm a member of the Editorial Freelancer's Association. It will make you not just a better writer and a better businessperson, but it might also make you a better person.
Thank you, Claire & Laurie!
Monday, December 7, 2009
Aaaah, first Monday of December!
I just got back from spending the weekend with a few good friends, seeing a play with them, and attending their Christmas party - while I caught up on the rest of my baking (including my first time making biscotti - which, I may add - came out GREAT!)
So, I'll take a leaf from my entertainment editor and admit to discombobulation in this communication.
I'm already considering my New Year's Post on Resolutions/Business Plan… less than a month and that will be up. Money and conventions are important considerations… as is continuing regular fiction submissions.
Making money. Also very important.
My good friends Renée and Sean finally got an apartment storefront in Connecticut! I'm wonderfully happy for them, though I will miss seeing them as often. Or… we may just have to spend a little more on gas and visit for longer times. Whatever it takes. Besides, I'm all for helping out at the store, too.
Our New Year starts with helping them move in/set up.
To take a peek at some of the cool stuff that will be at their store, check here.
I also feel like I'm back to square one in organizing after NaNoWriMo.
No… not quite… I'm still < 100 emails in the inbox, my side desk is mostly cleared off… but the poor animals' litter boxes desperately need cleaning… as does the right side of my desk.
My kitchen table and counter is taken over with cookies - but most of those are getting mailed out. J (Ok, that has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo… it just happened to immediately follow, so it continued the backlog.)
Of course, it is also holiday season, so that makes it harder for everyone to organize.
Husband-of-Awesome has had to work the past two weekends so that they can get this government contract done before we leave for our last vacation of the year. I'd really like to get enough of a rough draft done on the current novel before vacation, too. So, it's a push for both of us.
My plan: get back on that more rigid schedule I had after Dragon*Con.
Most creative people I know love their freedom - but we work best under deadline and within limitations. With sending out cards and cookies - and writing deadlines, a rigid schedule - using the timer on my cell phone - is probably just what I need.
What is your favorite way to get everything done in the holiday season?
Friday, December 4, 2009
It's that time of year again. J My gift to friends and family are my baked goods.
I've gotten very good at developing cookie recipes; very few are true to the original recipe format. If you're getting cookies from me, you're getting cookies you can't get anywhere else. (And usually not any other time of the year as I don't have time for these 2-3 day baking binges otherwise.)
To give you an idea of what my cookie making entails, I will share the morphing of 2 of my most recent acquisitions to my cookie collection.
My friends Caroline & Jesse put macaroons in their Christmas Cookie collection starting a few years ago. I loved them; they were a candy-like consistency. She gave me their ridiculously easy recipe:
1 14-oz can condensed milk
14 ounces shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Mix the whopping 2 ingredients (probably close to a direct quote from Caroline as she relayed the recipe for me).
Put them on a Parchment Papered cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden on top and edges.
The Parchment Paper was the key, though, because these cookies were, as I said, a sticky-candy consistency. Silpat or the equivalent sheets work - but not your regular ole greased or aluminum-foiled or wax-papered cookie sheet!
They were easy, but I wanted more of a cookie texture.
So, I put the condensed milk on Whip for about a minute to get some air into it.
Then I added the coconut AND 1/4 cup flour (or 2 ounces).
After three scrapes of the bowl after slowly bringing it up to a whip again, I got the batter to a texture more like Fluff®.
I scooped those onto my Silpat/silicon layered cookie sheets. (And, after 2 sheets, was gifted with a proper cookie scoop per Husband-of-Awesome who was sick of me cursing at the 2 spoons I was using for this sticky manipulation.)
I baked the slightly altered recipe and - voila! - just what I wanted. Lighter, fluffier macaroons.
Then, another idea hit.
(I mean, what isn't better with chocolate, really?)
I melted half a package of Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips with 2 tbsp of butter in a home-made double boiler (pyrex bowl over sauce pot of boiling water) and dunked half of each macaroon into the chocolate goodness.
The dark chocolate brought out a whole new dimension to the very sweet macaroons. They were 10x better, maybe 50x better - since I had to send H-of-A out for a slew more condensed milk, coconut & dark chocolate because we ran out of cookies before I could even assemble gifts people.
After the slight alteration and addition of chocolate, another idea struck.
(Ok, my muscles were hurting from baking all day… so rum… mmmm!)
It took a few tries with this to get the consistency right… I went through dried pinapple, how much rum, cubed, crushed, etc.
This is what I got:
1 14-oz can cubed pineapple run through food processor and strained until you've got about half a cup of pineapple smush.
1 pony shot (if you don't know what this is, you are a sorry barkeep! j/k about 1 oz. I eyeball it) coconut rum.
4-5 add'l ounces shredded coconut
2 ounces (1/4 cup) add'l flour (making total flour 1/2 cup or 4 ounces).
Prepare the same way. (your cookie output is 1.5x the previous recipe.)
Before baking, top each cookie with half a maraschino cherry.
&, if you've got leftover melted dark chocolate, use a wire whisk to drizzle it - so it doesn't go to waste, of course.
There you go, 2 new and ridiculously easy cookie recipes to try. But I won't share my version of kiffles!!! No way, no how!! ;) (But you can get the original from the DragonLance book Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home.)
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
When 11:59 November 30th rolled around… I hadn't even finished putting all my words and all of the joint-scenes onto one document - much less a document of 50k words.
So, Team Wooldridge-Tohara started making sure the one who had an extra 2 hours before her 11:59 could make it.
As a team - we won!
My little "novelfriend" button won't get the purple bar, but Chris made sure to send me a badge and certificate. Because - between the two of us and our all nighters, we've not only got our story, but we've got its soul.
If I were doing this alone, it would be an unquestionable fail, though. And that's an important lesson for me.
I can write fast: when the muse has taken me and I don't need to stop and think and research.
I don't actually write as fast as I think I do. Even at the write-ins, where I wouldn't even open a browser or Twitter, where I had no phone or animal distractions. I'm not that fast of a writer.
I can't spew onto the page. I was always taught is don't do a job that you know you're going to have to fix later - and I have a damn strong work ethic.
Yes, I have heard enough times to turn off the critic and write - that you can't use both sides of the brain at once. I don't mean to sound elitist or egotistical, but that's most people. I can. I've got about 20 short stories, 2 completed novels of my own, and now 1 and about 3/4 of a joint novel completed. I think and write. I've been writing since I could come home and wave vocabulary quizzes at my mom in chubby kindergarten fingers.
What did I want from NaNoWriMo?
Ideally, a completed first draft. But, a first draft to the standard I/we hold a first draft. It had to be strong enough not to create quicksand holes near the end and to support the heavy duty editing we would do.
What we both got was a detailed blueprint, a solid foundation, several walls going up, our utilities picked out - and even the curtains and paint chosen. If we wanted to include our planning "meetings" on messenger, we'd have 100k in notes.
But that's not a story. It is a draft.
And both of us are happy with what we've got to play with for some time.
On the website, there were videos on how to pump one's word count by doing everything you don't want to do if you're a serious writer. Extra adjectives, adverbs, include dream sequences, a lot of detailed worldbuilding…
Well, we've got the detailed worldbuilding. It goes in its own "bible." Where it belongs. For us to pull from when we need a specific plot-moving, character-enhancing, setting-making detail. It doesn't all belong in the story.
We also probably already have way too many adjectives, adverbs, and unnecessary flashbacks, dream sequences and expository lumps. If I know I'm going to go back and cut about 50% or more of that crap already, why throw more useless ones in to pump up word count?
We wanted a story, not a word count. And… if the two of us manage to have a finished first draft that's less than 100k words… well, it'll probably be a miracle. And, if our beta readers actually come back and tell us, "You need to expand more on that," we'll probably faint in pure happiness. "You mean-you mean-you don't mean we have to CUT?!"
"Winning" of NaNoWriMo is personal. The community is wonderful and supportive, we're not writing against each other, and sometimes its good to turn of the critic entirely and write. Some people need to be reminded of that more than others.
I was so excited about the story we were working on last night, that I couldn't sleep. My grin is from ear to ear thinking of the next scene we're writing together. Tomorrow. The second I turn of my tutoring clock!
I almost made it to 50k words on my part alone… but I made better with my partner: I've fallen in love with this story and the characters. (I love my partner too, but statements like that often require explanations of us both also loving our wonderful husbands who - yet again this year - demonstrated saintly patience and support! Thank you, guys!!)
And that's what counts.
See you next year!