Friday, January 29, 2010

The Traveling Food Show!

In my group of friends, we appreciate cooking. And currently, (at least in the past year or so), we’re all pretty broke, so we’ve been spending quality time cooking together.

When you go to cook at someone else’s house, you never know what they have or don’t have. And you also aren’t used to their equipment, so disasters can easily abound if you don’t plan accordingly. However, if you plan ahead, cooking-in with friends can make for some affordable, easy, and delicious fun.

1. Plan what you are going to cook ahead of time.

Know all the ingredients you'll need for the entire meal. If you've agreed to split it, agree on that early enough so all parties can get (or make sure they have) their ingredients.

2. Know what ingredients you each have, and who needs to bring what.

Some things are a given, but currently, I'm out of basil - so if someone were to want to cook Italian over here, they'd want to make sure I had my basil. Even the simplest items are best to be checked. Your friend may not keep butter in the house - and any béchamel sauces made with butter "alternatives"… well, they just aren't as good. Assume NOTHING!

3. Know about the hardware availability.

This is very easy to forget. You get used to the pans and knives in your kitchen, and your REALLY don't want to transport them. However, if you're used to cooking on heavy duty Calphalon ® pans, and your friend has lightweight aluminum: You will burn! Also, if you keep your knives Samurai sharp and your friend has… not-so-sharp knives, you significantly increase your chances of cutting yourself. (Those non-Food-Network addicts may find this counter-intuitive, but it's not! Go watch some Alton Brown). The same goes for cookie sheets and gadgets. Ask, ask, ask! The last thing you want is to have started cooking, assuming your friend has something, and then realize she doesn't… when you don't have time to remedy it.

4. Run a cockpit check/ mis en place.

Before you start cooking, know where everything is. Even before-before you start cooking, make sure you don't put your chocolate chips down on someone's furnace-that-looks-like-a-counter so you have a chocolate disaster the next day. (Actual experience.) Know where all the pans are, where the utensils are (so you're not flailing wildly for a spatula), and have all your ingredients prepared and tools where you can easily reach them before you start applying heat.

5. Pick a leader.

On some occasions where I've gone to other people's house, I've tried to apply my own cooking wisdom to something a friend was taking lead on, and made a big mess. (And, versely, have had that done to me.) Pick ONE chef for the evening, and have everyone else be a good sous chef and do as they are told. Not only does this make the practice safer (you don't have multiple hands around damaging things like fire and knives - and you avoid cross contamination!), but it makes it a lot less stressful for everyone. Believe it or not, most people like knowing what they have to do and doing it. Once you're in the groove with your job, you can relax and have fun. That doesn't mean you don't offer help if someone looks stressed - but ask what that person needs. And verify with the evening's "chef."

Planning ahead and planning thoroughly are the keys to a good evening in, cooking with friends. A few simple steps is all it takes to put together a great meal that allows you all to have fun while cooking - and while eating. Try it for your next date with friends.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Following New Year's Resolution of Fitness

Dear Wii Fit Plus ® Developers,

As a writer and the proud owner of a Wii Fit Plus ® system, I commend you on the ingenious game you have created that helps writers all over the world get in shape. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it appeals to our inner competitors. However, in creating the mental challenges, you have sorely neglected to help exercise the language sections of our brains, leaving us unbalanced. Fortunately, I have some ideas to help achieve a more perfect balance in mental and physical fitness.

Currently, the Wii Fit Plus incorporates basic math that players must complete through physical activity. For example, in the “Training Plus” section, a player must hip-check mushrooms to add (or subtract) until a particular number is reached. Also, in the Body Test, a player must shift weight or move based on displayed numerical values for one test, and in another, be able to order numbers. These are excellent exercises, and ones most writers, like myself, need. (Many of us beg spouses or hire accountants for such activities. Matching these tasks with physical activity pairs two things we often must be forced to do, anyway.)

While the math may be more difficult for the language-minded, however, it short changes the already mathematical-minded who can do such problems in their sleep (as easily as a writer can correct a comma splice.) Additionally, it doesn’t offer the same comfort zone to writers, editors, and other word-workers. Having tasks players know and regularly do mixed in with exercises and problems we don’t promotes a true balance of the mind and body. Adding language-based challenges will surely enhance your newest Plus ® edition of Wii Fit. Not only will you appeal to existing fans of the game who want new challenges, but you will bring in even more of the weight-and-balance-challenged demographic who write, edit, or otherwise type and correct words on the computer for a living.

Therefore, here are some new games I offer for your consideration. Using the mushroom hip-check template, ask players to choose the correct punctuation to include in a displayed, unpunctuated sentence. In advanced levels, players can pick out the correct pronoun usage or translate text-speak/chatspeak to the written language. For the Body Test section, in addition to having players choose numbers on their value (while attempting balance while redistributing weight and not getting knocked over by their cats), have them choose words based on parts of speech: nouns, verbs, prepositions, and so on. Using the squat-and-squish template that the game uses for testing value (greater than/less than), have players destroy the misspelled words. Advanced levels of this game can have players destroy verbs that do not agree with nouns, or non-parallel construction in lists.

Since Wii Fit Plus ® is available globally, you will want your translators to hire proper copyeditors to help develop these games in their respective languages, but the value of enhancing the game will make up for any extra cost in development. Blogs and websites across the world offer tips and programs to this demographic constantly, so there is obvious demand. In fact, if you need a consultant for American English, A Novel Friend can open up some calendar space for this project. As a fan of the game, I would be happy to return the favor of achieving balance and fitness in mind and body. Please contact me at your earliest convenience for an estimate.

I look forward to helping make the next edition of Wii Fit Plus ® even better!


Trish Wooldridge
A Novel Friend Writing & Editing

Monday, January 25, 2010

Indirect Result of Computer & Internet Issues...

I had computer issues this weekend. A lot of them.

And then Scott went to go celebrate Wintereenmas with the guys, so I retreated to my friend Reneé's house.

Here is what happened when I gave up on the computer (sort of):

Yay blue-green hair.
Going to bed now in hopes that computers and teh Interwebz will be kinder tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Of COURSE I made it from scratch…

Long before Sandra Lee had a show on Food Network (damn you FoodTV for not discovering me and making me rich!) people have been making semi-homemade stuff. My Bachi (grandmother, for you non-Polacks) would do it all the time. It's a great trick to make something special when you're short on time.

(And it makes a great blog post when you're short on time.)

If you aren't familiar with playing the substitute/add-in game, may I also suggest Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food "cookbook," which does a nice and easy job of explaining why certain ingredients act the way they do in baking - so you don't end up with a scary mess in your oven.

(There's plenty of non-baked semi-homemade creations to talk about. For the sake of simplicity, I'm focusing on baking here.)

I use whatever boxed package is on sale most of the time, but I tend to lean towards Pilsbury and Betty Crocker… with the exception of Ghiradelli for brownies (if it's on sale).

Ideas for Chocolate Cake or Brownies:

Up the chocolate content by adding cocoa powder, but if you add more than a table spoon, start taking out some of the fat (like the oil or butter).

Adding up to 1/3 cup chocolate chips to most any cake or brownie batter won't mess up the setting either.

For absolutely decadent chocolate cake or brownies, substitute half the water (if water is called for in the mix) for chilled coffee. (If water is not called for, add 1 ounce coffee and 1 tablespoon flour.)

Add up to 1/2 a shot (also known as a Pony) of your favorite sweet alcohol. (Personal favorites are amaretto, Irish cream, cherry brandy, and coffee liquor).

Ideas for Butter Cake or White Cake:

Add alcohol or chocolate chips per the above recommendations.

Zest one lemon or one orange and add that to the mix.

Replace one egg with 1/4 cup applesauce (or peach sauce if you have it.)

Replace up to half the water (if water is called for in the mix) with chilled green tea or oolong tea. (Bonus: dissolve a teaspoon of honey in tea while hot). (If water is not called for, add 1 ounce tea and 1 tablespoon flour.)

Ideas for Quick Breads:

Replace all or part of any oil component with fruit or vegetable matter. (For example, 1/3 cup canned pumpkin for the 1/3 oil. Works for applesauce, peach sauce, and can be half-substituted with orange marmalade or cranberry sauce.)

Add lemon or orange zest (particularly good with cranberry bread.

Add nuts.

Replace up to half the liquid with coffee (good for pumpkin) or tea (good for cranberry, apple, and lemon poppyseed).

Replace up to half the liquid with juice or cider.

Turn into an upside-down cake:

For apple cake: slice apples, spice them with cinnamon, sugar, and clove; layer them in the bottom of a well-greased cake pan and add quick bread mix (With apple-pie spices mixed in).

Candied orange slices work well atop cranberry quick bread, as do candied lemon slices atop lemon poppyseed. For either the orange-cranberry or the lemon, sliced almonds also work on top - as does a splash of almond extract in the batter.

Just because your cakes, breads, or brownies come from a box doesn't mean that you can't turn them into a special dish all your own. Learn how the ingredients work, and what flavors work together, and have some fun!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In just a few words, introduce yourself…

So, who are you?

In 100 words? 50? Can you show me who you are in 30 words or less?

A great tool I created for myself - one that I use at least once a month - is a selection of differing length biographies. In putting together the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading for Arisia, I was reminded of how few fellow writers have at-hand bios.

But why do you need a bio?

Ok, besides members of Broad Universe I'm including on a Rapid Fire Reading flyer (40-words-or-less, PLEASE; love you!), here are some other places where a ready-made bio will come in handy:

If you publish an article in an magazine or ezine that includes bios of contributors
If you publish a short story/novella/etc. in a magazine or ezine that includes bios of contributors
In any and all cover letters or query letters you send
For your blog
For your Twitter account
For your Facebook
If you are requesting to be a participant at a convention or conference
In case you get covered at an event and can cash in on free advertising
For networking meetings
In advertising
If you donate to a cause and people want to thank you publicly (more free advertising)
For if/when you meet an agent or editor (or someone you want to work with/for) in person

Your bio is written elevator speech that can be used for a 1st-floor stop, or a 21st-floor stop from the basement at Dragon*Con (er, stopping a LONG TIME AT EVERY FLOOR for you non-Dragon*Con readers). If you memorize a few, you have them handy for in-person meetings.

How long should your bio be? Several lengths, actually. I have a document with versions that are 250 words, 100 words, 75 words, 50 words, 40 words, 30 words, and < 140 characters long (I <3 Twitter!) You never know what you will need. I also read them aloud and time them for in-person meetings. (Remember, a good out loud pace is 100-120 words per minute!)

On top of varying lengths, you'll want to have various styles. If I'm at the Downtown Women's Club, my Bad-Ass Faerie and Fantasy Gazetteer credits aren't as appropriate as editing 3 online courses and regularly contributing to certain magazines.

What should be in your bio? What is most important to your audience. For writers: Publication credits. Have you won awards? (If you're writing fiction, talk about your fiction credits first, then non-fiction; if vice-versa, then vice-versa, but you probably already figured that out.) No writing credits? What about related experience? In fact, pick up any article about what to include in your query/cover letter bio and follow those guidelines.

In addition to studying writers' bios, research sales pitches for a different view. I'm a big fan of Copyblogger; I read their blog regularly. And my colleague, Rick Roberge, who I met through the Society of Professional Communicators, has some excellent blog posts, but also sent me to another great blog on the topic (by another great Trish).

Examples? Ok…

Here's my 40-word convention/Rapid-Fire-Reading bio:

Trisha J. Wooldridge's freelance experience ranges from Dungeons & Dragons Online to animal rescue PR. She is published in Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad (co-authored with Christy Tohara) and Fantasy Gazetteer.

40 on more general writing:

Trisha J. Wooldridge is a freelance writer, editor, and educator. Look for her in the EPPIE award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad and Fantasy Gazetteer, as well as horse-handling for Massachusetts Horse or talking food in Worcester Magazine.

For super-quick, general business networking (usually oral):

I'm Trish Wooldridge. As your Novel Friend, I teach you how to love the words you write, and write the words you love.

For longer (oral) introductions:

My name is Trish Wooldridge. I'm a freelance writer, editor, and educator, and my name, A Novel Friend, encompasses the fact I care about each client's words - and that I'm particularly interested in more unusual tasks. My editing projects include the Dugeons & Dragons online role-playing game, novels, and English composition courses. My writing covers weird history, metal and Goth bands, faeries and faery tales, horse rescue, restaurant critiques… and making mushroom merchandising interesting.

(75 words, clocking in at about 40 seconds).

Make sure write your bio in a style that matches your personality - because that's part of SHOWING, which is what we good writers are supposed to do anyway - right? What kind of person do I sound like in these bios?

So, take a few minutes to write yourself some bios of varying lengths - and practice them OUT LOUD.

I shared some of my bios - what are yours?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Arisia! Wheee!!11!!!!1!

So, I'm at Arisia!

It is teh Awesome-sauce!

I'm also very tired and have indulged in.... Saorian Brandy.... and other parties, and spent the afternoon having and hosting sex(-based panels). (I am told I give good panel.) Also, I have committed the following: tribble cleavage (at the Star Trek party with abovementioned Saorian Brandy), unicorn, and faerie.... but many of you already know the latter two.

Anyway, so, pardon the silliness. I did better than most cons and had my camera for a good part of it... and more importantly occasionally remembered to use it!

Here was Roommate Roxanne, in the grey, and fellow Broads Justine Graykin (purple) and Ray Otis (seated). We ran the Broad Universe Book Room - and did pretty durned good if we do say so ourselves!!

Here's me at the desk with my vampire pony from my Massachusetts Horse editor, and Justine with her new audio book, Archimedes Nesselrode.

We had some great visitors, like the Doctor and a little Martha.

And I went to Elaine Isaak's release party for The Bastard Queen (which is not the result of committing trilogy.)

At Elaine's party, we met a dragon. :)

Not photoed, because I left the camera back in the room, was Danielle Ackley-McPhail's Bad-Ass release party for her newest novel, The Halfling's Court. (The earlier Star Trek party also suffered the same camera-forgetfulness... as did all of today's panels as was lucky to simply get to them in time... not to mention moderate the ones I moderated successfully.)So - a blast. Looking forward to the last day - and of course, returning next year!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pepper Perdition: 5 Mistakes I Made so You Don’t Have To

I love peppers. They come in such a variety of flavor… but they also bring a variety of problems when you are preparing them for cooking.

Mind you, most of my pepper prep repository has come from screwing things up. (Though, Food Network and the Husband-of-Awesome has helped to prevent or at least warned me about pepper mistakes.) While mistake may be the best teacher, she’s a friggen bitch, let me tell you!

So, here are some things I’ve learned that may help you avoid some real, physical pain – or at least serve up some schadenfreude to temporarily entertain you.

5. TASTE. A lot in little portions.

Experimenting in flavor may seem counterintuitive to avoiding the pain of capsaicin (for those who don’t knew, capsaicin is the chemical that makes peppers burn). However, having a little bit (which means if someone says "It's REALLY HOT. Try a little on a toothpick," you listen) to get the flavor nuances down means you'll choose the right kind of pepper for the dish you want. (Because you do want to graduate beyond bell peppers, right?)

4. Small packages.

If you watch Food Network or even Mythbusters, you probably have heard that the smaller the pepper, the hotter it is. Yes, this is mostly true.

Addendum 1: They come in small packages for a reason. Use hot peppers sparingly in your cooking because they can get EVEN HOTTER when you cook them or let them sit. There are some exceptions, so rely on constantly tasting what you cook - and flavor accordingly.

Addendum 2: You can often counteract extra heat by adding a dairy-based fat, like cream or cheese or yogurt. Beer or any alcohol tones down the heat because capsaicin is alcohol soluble. You'd think starches, like potatoes or pozole or pasta or rice might work, but not nearly as good as you think/want.

3. Poblano Peppers are a Crapshoot!

This is highly specific, but I love the flavor of poblano peppers. However, I have had some almost as hot as habañeros and some as mild as bell peppers. And they are the worst offenders of the heat fluctuation in cooking. I made fajitas for Christy's family with poblanos that were too hot for most people (and I appreciate their kindness in still eating them). Then, not a few weeks later, I add poblanos to a white chicken chili (dairy free), and there was no spice or heat whatsoever. Be prepared to deal with unexpected Poblano consequences.

2. Protect yourself.

When preparing meals with anything hotter than a bell pepper, add the peppers as close to the last thing as possible. Even then, use a separate knife and cutting board, and WEAR GLOVES. The trick with the gloves is to KEEP THEM ON when you clean up after the pepper. Or, if you must prepare the peppers in the middle of meal preparation, change gloves and keep wearing them until you have cleaned up the entire mess. I tell you this having suffered COUNTLESS burning eyes, noses, and lips from NOT taking these simple preparations.

(Oh, and if it wasn't obvious - DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BESIDES IMPENDING DEATH touch yours (or someone elses) face, ANYWHERE while wearing your pepper-juiced gloves.)

Now, for when you forget this or mess up - because, trust me you will - remember that capsaicin is alcohol soluble. Diluted rubbing alcohol on or around a burning nose or lip or open cut on your hand can relieve the burning. With eyes, you're kind of SOL because you really don't want to squirt even diluted alcohol into your eyes… so, use your natural defenses of tears and go lay down for a few. Also, in case your glove gets a nick or rips, washing your hands a few times in diluted rubbing alcohol (and then moisturizing like hell!) reduces the risk of having an eye or face burning accident as such.

1. Clean-up

Why is this number one? Because it's far too easy to forget and will end up causing one of the eye-face burning experiences on you or someone you love.

Separate your trash! Scrape all your pepper remnants and wipe them down with disposable towels, directly into the trash. Or, better yet, in a separate bag and then tie up the separate bag and chuck it. And, above all, do NOT clean your pepper implements into a sinkful of dishes. This will get the capsaicin/pepper juice over everything AND the heat from the hot water will carry the burn right up to your eyes and nose - and that of anyone who is kindly helping you with dishes (or is stuck with dishes as a chore, which makes for an awful surprise!).

Peppers are a great flavor to add to dishes, and they are full of vitamins. Also, capsaicin is good for the heart and circulation. However, make sure the experience is entirely enjoyable by taking a few simple precautions to avoid disappointment, pain, and potentially severe injury.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

And it’s Beginning to Snow…*

The lack of blog post earlier today is not for having one unwritten – it’s for the fact I don’t want to INFECT anyone with whatever virus found me via the links I was researching on elevator pitches on the sales side (as opposed to the writing side.) NEXT Wednesday, y’all will have a revised – VIRUS FREE – blog post.

If you read blog posts, your obviously a writer on the Internet. (Yes, Captain Obvious – go on!)

This blog post is dedicated to helping you NOT lose an entire night’s sleep and, if you are like me and married the computer geek of the family, NOT waking your poor spouse/significant other just about in tears and making him/her lose an entire night’s sleep because s/he loves you dearly and supports your entirely ONLINE BUSINESS LIFE.

Hint 1: Use your trusted resources

Writers, you research online… that means you will likely – at some point, if you haven’t already – found information on websites of people you don’t personally know or that aren’t linked to places you know you can trust. Evil scary viruses that ruin your life CAN LIVE ANYWHERE! – but especially places you don’t know. When I do research, I will plan ahead for more and see if I can get email recommendations for places, first. (Speaking of which… *dashes off email one of the trusted people I linked to regarding sales pitches/elevator speeches for links on to-be revised article*)

Hint 2: Use recognized company, organization, or publication links for further investigation.

When I write for trade magazines, I can go to product or corporation home pages. They don’t want to be hit with malware, themselves, and they can afford to pay teams of people to keep their links safe. Larger organizations can sometimes do this too, and neither do any ‘zines or other publications. Links from here are more likely to be clean.

Hint 3: When your computer starts doing crazy sh*t, unplug!

This was my big lesson for the evening. As soon as my computer started doing crazy sh*t, I tried to go to my AVG and other safety nets. It prevented me from doing so and infected those. Finally, I went upstairs and woke up the Husband-of-Awesome, and we came back down and it had filled my screen with fake AVG alerts and crap. Had I unplugged it from the ‘Net (and turned off wireless) at the first sign of “crazy sh*t”, I could have avoided it downloading several hundred malware files.

Of course, there’s the general advice EVERYONE should follow (yet I still find people who don’t – You Know Who You Are!**): Keep all protective software up to date, run scans every month, back up every month… and so on. Fortunately, had this gone REALLY bad, I backed up just 2 weeks ago, so the majority of my files would be safe.

Super props to the Husband-of-Awesome for not only fixing these problems, but being very patient and not snapping at me for creating said problem and waking him up in the wee hours of morning. <3! His patience was at record-breaking highs.

So, dear writer and online friends, protect yourself! And if you have any tips you want to share – or suggestions – please do. We all can use the help in this scary electronic life we lead.

*Semi-random RENT reference; after said craptacular night/morning, I went outside to refill our indoor wood (because we burned the fire all night)… and it was flurrying. JUST what I needed to make my day even BETTER.

** Confession: If it wasn’t for the Husband-of-Awesome’s computer genius and patience, I’d be one of these people.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Arisia Schedule

(Steampunk Dalek from the Arisia website:

Arisia Schedule!

I hardly ever remember - no - I have yet to have remembered to post my convention schedule on my blog.

New record!

Cambridge, MA
Friday, January 15 through Monday, January 18

(This is only panels & events I'll be on, running, or moderating, not ones I'm just attending.)


3:00 PM - Arrive and Check-In
Set up Dealer's Room for Broad Universe
4:00 PM - Broads arrive and we work out Dealer's Schedule
Room 316


11:30AM - Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading (90 minutes - I read last.)
Paul Revere B
5:00 PM - Take Back the Sci-Fi
William Dawes A


11:00 AM - Faeries of Color
William Dawes A
12:00 PM - Future of School
Room 201
3:00 PM - Sexuality in Science Fiction & Fantasy
Crispus Atticus
4:00 PM - Women in SF/F
Paul Revere B
5:00 PM - Nature of Gender
William Dawes B


10:00AM - Beyond Binary: Exploring Gender
Paul Revere A

Sooo… if you want to come and hang out with me, Saturday is the day to do it. If you want to see me in my panel/teachery cap, come on Sunday (and plz 2 brng coffee!!). If you can come all days, even better! It's a fabulous convention, and I had a blast last year.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shh! Don't -nom- tell anyone...

(I intended this before Christmas, but it's still a good post now… ;) )

A few years ago, I remember reading a story in Newsweek, I believe – not one of my cooking/food magazines – about sharing holiday recipes. A young woman wanted her boyfriend's family's holiday toffee recipe, but even after the two were engaged, no one would share the recipe with her. It was a special gift the family would give every Christmas.

The story ended with the woman having broken up with the fellow and regretting the fact she hadn't stolen the recipe the one time she had the chance.

Contrasting with this lost recipe regret is this woman's regret of including the recipe for biscotti she'd made one year. When everyone saw how easy it was to make, they were less appreciative of receiving it.

Of course, these few years ago were only beginning the current popularity of the "foodie" culture. Currently, the number of people interested in food and food preparation is still growing; it's quite the marketing trend. When you give food, it's almost expected you give the recipe. If you don't, you get asked – and not sharing is quite the faux pas.

My group of friends has always been foodie-rich. The best thing college cable had was the Food Network, so sharing recipes was a given – and many of us Alton Brown fans – so was sharing preparation tricks. (For example, the puffy pie-like consistency in my kiffle cookie crust is entirely dependent on rolling technique.) Even if we don't share recipes, most of us can get a rough idea of a recipe just from eating the food with awareness. (Eating with awareness is paying close attention to taste, texture, smell… and how each of those changes as you eat. Basically. ;) ).

On the other hand, most of my friends have families rich in food traditions, so we respect, "It's a family recipe; I can't share it." Also, none of us have a ton of money for presents, so we respect what each makes as gifts. For example, when Caroline & Jesse gave me their macaroon recipe, I changed it to something different so our gifts wouldn't overlap.

What to do then? We share some recipes, and we work on our own signature treats. And we respect each other's food. No one's made my kiffle recipe, for example, though many of my friends have the DragonLance source book that has it. (Granted, I've made a few minor changes in ingredient and preparation.) No one else makes the different thumbprint cookies that Caroline & Jesse perfected, nor their rocky road fudge. Big Scott's fudge was different from the rocky road fudge.

So, we all do have our own "secret" recipes that we break out around the holiday season, but they are collectively agreed upon secrets. No one regrets missing out on cooking opportunities – but also, no one takes these specialties for granted.

Delicious holidays - er - new year to you!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Desk Spelunking for Writerly Types

If you ever wondered what the inside of the main desk drawer of a writer includes, here's a mostly comprehensive list - with notes on certain brands and item usefulness.

Gel Pens - 13
Roller Ball Pens - 27
Ball Point Pens - 33
Fancy Schmancy Pens - 7 (4 discarded b/e broken/dead)
Other: Antique pen and pencil that used to be my grandmothers - has her maiden name and Northbridge address on it! REAL mini-fountain pen!
Total - 74 (way too many to break down by color… blue, black, red, green, silver; also not including all "cheap" pens thrown out because dry)

Lesson: Bic pens cannot die. Some have bite marks from high school and are still kicking. Onyx roller ball pens also do not die unless you leave the cap off for years. Companies - if you're going to put your name on a pen, a cheap-o Bic will be used forever; fancy pens - notsomuch. Almost all discarded pens were fancy corporate-logo pens.

Mechanical - 23
Never-used "old skool pensils" (the kind that require this antique called a "pencil sharpener") - 8
Used and/or chewed to hell old skool - 5
Golf pencils - 2
Colored (various colors) - 8
Total - 47

I hate throwing away stuff, but I never, ever, ever use non-mechanical pencils anymore. Better not to put advertising $ there.

Sharpie - 5
Permanent Black "Other" - 8
Black Laundry Marker - 1
Dry Erase (What, I'm a table-top gamer!) - 12
(5 blue, 2 red, 5 black; 4 disposed, all "Rose Art"or generic. Expo = longest lasting brand.)
Calligraphy - 5 (R, G, Bl, Bk, Br)
Fine Tip - 14 (6 Bk, 2 Bl, 5 R; 1 Bk + 1 Bl dried up)
Highlighter - 4 (1 blue, 3green, Pentech green dried up)
Total - 48

"Other" Writing Implements:
Glitter glue pens - 3 (red, green, & blue - only the green works)
Sonic Screwdriver with secret message nib - 1 (yes, I'm proud to be a geek!)
Total - 4 + nib

Total Writing Implements: 147
Lesson: Yes, writers can have too many pens.
My drawer had over 147 writing implements in it. I threw out probably about 30 or so (some documented, some not). Yeahhhhhh… that's too many. Especially with the regenerating/multiplying/undead properties of cheap ball points and roller balls.

Other Desk Stuff:

Push Pins, tacks, pointy things to hang stuff up with (I had one - very old - box of them, but also found a lot loose in the drawer. Fortunately, no skin was broken from these pointy little buggers.)
Paper clips (2 round containers, plus about 60 scattered around but now housed in a chocolate almond bag.)
Binder clips (1 round container plus a lot of loosey goosies - variety of sizes)
Pencil Sharpener (to go with all those old skool pensils)
4 big rubber erasers (also for said old skool pensils)
2 mini staplers (with staples)


Mini Screwdriver set with screws
Needle-nose pliers
Small (not mini) flathead screwdriver
2 allen wrenches
3 tapemeasures
2 retractable Exacto Knives

Scary Stuff:
Ok, a lot of what I found today could be classified as scary, but here are the real winners:
ReNu eye drops expiring 2000
Halls Cough drops expiring 2001 and 2004
Neosporin expiring 2002
3 Chap sticks without expiration dates
Blistex expiring 2003
2 melted/deformed rubber bands
* Sharp, pointy compass thingy (what we were supposed to use to draw circles with in grammar school but really used to see how many holes we could poke in the wooden desks with.)
Rusted mini-stapler
Envelope blotter with scary goopy clear stuff inside
*unsheathed/uncovered Exacto knife

*Stuff not immediately transferred to trash

Random Crap:
Windows Me promotional mints
2 fortunes from fortune cookies
school ID for St. Louis University Madrid campus (where I'm more naturally blonde)
1 bag googley eyes
1 bottle of white nail polish (put aside for Mom)
Laser pointer (Here, Nylis! Kitty, kitty!)
Screw-locking carabiner
2 scrapbook edging scissors
2 jacknives
4 wood furniture touch-up pens
1 white paint pen
1 copper paint pen
2 pair animal nail clippers
1 hole puncher
1 costume ring (no idea how that got in there)
1 St. Anne's Shrine (from Fiskdale) medal
bundle of red embroidery floss
1 nut pick (another wtf find)
10 Lighters (I'm not a smoker)
2 boxes and 5 books of matches (Really, not a smoker)
1 empty box of Mentholl 100s (I SWEAR! I think that was where the loose tacks were stored! Honest!)
Pieces of a watch that's not mine
Some… photos.
A silver quarter
5 pennies (1 Canadian)
1 Thunderbird (Native American, not car) beaded necklace
2 sets (human) nail clippers (because, one isn't sufficient?)
key to said drawer
deck of Mohegan Sun playing cards
empty pill box from Spain that I got for Dad

Art Stuff*:
1 box charcoal
1 bag pastels
1 scratch-board… utensil.
paint brushes

*all transferred to a new drawer

Phew! There are a few other unidentifiable things that I don't feel like photographing or discussing… but yeah.

Writers: Clean out your desks. Rely on quality (cheap) pens. Throw away old medication and mints. Do this more than once every ten years.

Business People: Spending a lot on "quality" merchandising (like expensive pens) is a total waste of money. Matchbooks and cheap pens will have your company name in front of people and being useful for a much longer time.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The 'New Year' Blog

It's not New Year's Day, but it's my Manic Monday - which is perfect for this post.

Some general "already done" accomplishments:

CLEAN DESK!!! Or, at least as I can get it.

Business plan with Christy (including deadline dates!!)

I decided to move my fire ritual to the New Moon, mainly because we've needed the fire for warmth and Scott's beaten me to it every day. That's ok, I've got two boxes to burn for this ritual. (For more on my annual fire ritual, check EFA's The Freelancer newsletter archives.)

Anyway, here goes my compare/contrast + goal setting:



Short Submissions: 24, better than 2008's 18, average 2/month.

Acceptances: 0, maybe 1 (awaiting firm info re: BAF3)
Rejections: 21 (awaiting 2 more + BAF3)
Completed Written Shorts: 4 ( 1 Co-written w/ Christy, 1 Co-written with Aimee)
(three more than 2008!)
Incomplete Written: 5 (It went UP since 2008?!!??)

Mostly better than last year (save the more incomplete short stories - sheesh, I used to be able to crank those babies out in 1 sitting -well, here's to better quality with more time!)


Written/Completed New:
1.5 (The latest co-novel with Christy is ALMOST done; Yesterday's Shadows is, er, done but still needing revision)

Incomplete Written:
… What did I mean with this section? That I've worked on? I'm still working on Algorithm, but I've got a bunch of "back burners" that I fiddle with here and there.

Revised Completed:
Another crappy "section." I'm not done revising Kyra, but Yesterday's Shadows has had about 4 major revisions this year.

Novel Queries:
A LOT - with a lot of learning on proper queries. We did have 3 partial requests, though!

Novel Pitches:
I believe I was referring to live pitches with this one, so a big fat goose egg for 2009 on THAT.


Put out a chap book, sold half of what I published, and wrote 3 new poems! Huzzah! Also, started some sketches for a second chap book.

Non-Fiction Writing

Total Non-Fic Paid Articles:
86 (HO-LY CRAP! That is double of last year!) Granted, most weren't big payers, and I lost a client - but damn, that's good for me!

Total Pro-Bono: Very few… some for MA Horse “Overherd”


Massachusetts Horse Proofs: 2, + the Benefit Show Book (Pro-Bono for BSER)

Online Courses: 1


Maintained my Lead schedule & duties, plus a few extra projects.

Other Sales:

Gack - I'm really behind in tallying my book sales. I'm down to only 3 of each Bad-Ass Faeries and Bad-Ass Faeries 2 in my own stock, though, and I sold about half my chap books. I haven't had the $ to buy any new stock of the re-releases, but I'll negotiate that with Danielle before Arisia.

Misc. Accomplishments:

Presented paper on Neil Gaiman at Worldcon… and met Mr. Gaiman himself - without making an ass out of self. J Yes, I am VERY proud of this!

Conventions attended (total): 8
Conventions attended as
guest or participant: 6
Conventions attended as dealer/volunteer: 7

Release parties
for something I wrote or co-wrote: 0

How did I do for my plans last year?

3 short fic/ submissions/month – Not quite, but better than last year

7 Conventions, 3 as guest/participant/volunteer - HELLA exceeded!

Polished & sent out Yesterday's Shadows – Yes, but back to editing based on feedback.
Polished & sent out A Silent Starsong - um… still in progress.

4 non-fic articles/month: EXCEEDED!

5 non-convention events – EXCEEDED!!

2 Major Editing Project outside MA Horse - No, but I'm ok with that.

Regular website updates? - Not quite once a month, but pretty regular.

Blog at least twice a week - Difficult start, but have EXCEEDED since September.

Send Family Newsletter 1/month - Mostly.

Create/send Business Newsletter 1/month - Um… we got 6 out, but it's realllly nice!

Maintain 15 hours of Tutoring/week (save summer break) - eh, yup!

More horse training / riding - not sure if I did this or not, but I'm ok with what I've done.
1 Horse Clinic - EXCEEDED - gone to about 3!
Do NOT squee all over Neil Gaiman at Worldcon - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Present a proper academic paper at Worldcon - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Attend Hugos at Worldcon - No, threw a KILLER party instead, Mwahahahah!!!
Do a better job of tracking expenses/profits THROUGHOUT the year… possibly quarterly - er, yah-no.
Organize WRITING TIME better - somewhat, at least since September
Figure out how to make better use of social networking stuff like Twitter & Facebook & LinkedIn - I <3 Twitter - and I'm definitely better at Facebook, but I need to catch up on Linked in.


Despite losing a major client and having less work in this crappy economy, 2009 has been an overall good year. I'm sure that I'm not in the black as far as earnings go, not with the convention expenses - but I'm a better and more productive writer for the year.

On top of what I mentioned, I've become part of the Motherboard for Broad Universe and am the go-to Broad for rapid fire readings and the new Broad Pod. And there is so much more that I simply cannot fit into this blog.

I am happy and content.

So, what's in store for 2009?

Average 3 short fiction OR poetry submissions per month (same goal as 2009).
Get Yesterday’s Shadows polished and send at least 10 queries or submission packages (carryover from 2009).
Get A Silent Starsong polished and send at least 10 queries or submission packages (2009 carryover).
Finish draft of 2nd Christy project, edit, send out to beta readers, prepare for submission.
Submit 2nd Christy project by July
Attend at least 7 conventions, 5 as a guest/participant/dealer/volunteer*
*Calculate 2009 convention expenditures and spend 25% less.
Attend at least 10 non-convention events
Set business goals with Stefanie for Aurelio project.
Finish: Western Faeries
Puhka-Shire Pond Castle Story
1st Android Novel/Novella (?) Rough Draft
Wings & Fire

Edit: Max
Cemetery Angels
Pony's Guide
Full Withdrawal
Oprah Funds End of the World

Send regular monthly website updates to Del
Blog at least three times a week
Blog at every other week
Send Family Newsletter 1/month
Create/send Business Newsletter 1/month
Submit 6 Paid Non-Fiction/month
Maintain 15 hours of Tutoring/week (save summer break)
2 Major Editing Projects
Raise more than $500 for Bay State Equine Rescue
Submit more than 75% of articles at least one day early.

More horse training OR riding
1 Horse Clinic
Do a better job of tracking expenses/profits THROUGHOUT the year… possibly quarterly.
Answer questions on LinkedIn
Write useful Tweets and respond to people more on FB & Twitter

And, I think that is good. J

Relaxing more and losing some weight is also in there. Scott is still scheduled to leave for Taiwan, though end of 2010 or 2011 now (thanks to site conditions), so you'll hear my trials and tribulations with that.

Believe it or not, I actually have far more notes outside of this - hard copy and on word files and spreadsheets. I feel more prepared than last year - and I hope that displaying all my plans gives you an idea of the life of a professional writer, occasional editor, tutor… and helps you achieve your own dreams and goals.

Good luck - and Happy 2010!!

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