Friday, April 29, 2011

The Last Caesar's Pasta and You're Coming to the Writing Conference, right?

With a heavy heart, I pulled out my last free sample from Caesar's Pasta today.  After nearly two weeks of being sick and deadlined, we finally got down to some cooking!

This was the Wheat Free & Gluten Free Gnocchi. :)

If you read my review for the spinach version, there really isn't much difference.  It's a high quality, fast cooking gnocchi that went great with the dinner I planned (leftover prosciutto end, figs, kale, apples, sweet onion, garlic, balsamic vinegar).

As with the other products, the bag has excellent instructions.  I also have to say, after sitting in my freezer for well over a month by now, still the same quality.

I definitely recommend this brand and would price it with mid- to high-end frozen Italian meals.  I have not seen it in any of my grocery stores, unfortunately, but I have heard it might be found in Whole Foods.

If I come across it, I'll let people know.


Also, are you coming to the WPI Women Writer's conference this Saturday?  It is open to men and women.  You've get to choose two different morning writing workshops and then, in the afternoon, I'll be joining several cool people and discussing how to get published.  

Ok, in reality, I'll very likely be the cynic up there saying what several potential routes of publication are and trying to convince many dewy-eyed folk that, no, it's not easy, it's not guaranteed, and don't buy into any scams that want to vacuum out your life savings.  While self-publication is an option, you'll be doing a ton of work and people like Amanda Hocking are not "overnight sensations."  Just read their blogs.

I'll also be reminding people to keep accounting ledgers and records, learn how to handle money or put aside funds to hire someone who will.

I won't be entirely cruel, though.  There's always excellent support out there, like Broad Universe - or many other professional writing organizations.

Or, I may end up doing something completely different.  After all, I'm not the only one on the panel.

You'll just have to come to find out!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Showering some April Humor

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Welcome to another episode of Broadly Speaking!  This April brings you reflections on humor from women who write it well. 


Hostess Trisha J. Wooldridge speaks with Jaleta Clegg, Tracy S. Morris, and Justine Greykin about the ins and outs of writing humorous speculative fiction.



In the first interview, Jaleta shares with us how humor makes things less scary, how writing keeps her sane, and how absolutely important chocolate is to the writing process.


The second interview teams up Tracy and Justine to talk about how funnier they feel on paper, how writing humor is like cooking, and how to keep an interview going when life - and dogs - want a piece of the action.


Broadly Speaking is brought to you by Broad Universe, an international organization dedicated to promoting, celebrating, and honoring women in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and everything in between.  Find out more about Broad Universe at  Broad Universe is a registered 501c3 organization.  If you'd like to support our mission to promote, celebrate, and honor women, your donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.


We hope we brought a little more humor into your life with this episode.  Thank you for joining us on Broadly Speaking.



Friday, April 22, 2011

Fuzzy Friday Happy Earth Day Easter Ostara Passover Love

... because cute bunnies always make my day.  And it gives me time to enjoy the EARTH today... as in, I'm going outside to play!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The War of Email

You'd think, because I'm a writer, that the written medium of email ought to be my best friend.  Yeah, I've got that delusion, too.

Today, I received this blog post from Karen Caplan, owner of Frieda's, one of the top produce importers of the U.S.  It's about how she despises email and handles it.

Now, she's owner of a multi-million dollar company and she mentions how she was away from email for a few days and had 246 emails.  She says, "… 246 emails.  Yes, you read correctly."

I, really, hadn't doubted her.  In fact, I was surprised it was so low.  After my usual weekend off, I've got almost that much - and weekends are slow for email.  I was sick in bed most of Monday, so when I stopped on for a brief check (after viewing the fab-tacular premier of Game of Thrones the H-of-A recorded), I had well over 100 messages.  And I'm a small-time writer.

What kind of messages do I get?  In the order I think of them:

Informational Blogs and Newsletters

There are a few writers' and agents' blogs I subscribe to.  Normally, I learn something from each every day.  Of course, there are also the food blogs (like Caplan's) and equine blogs and newsletters that I also subscribe to so that I keep up on the stuff I write most about.  On top of that are also the education blogs and newsletters, because I also work in that area.  A writer and editor should stay informed.  Included in that are market listings for places to submit my work.  Some days, I really don't have the time to read these messages, so I have to delete or save them for a day I have time to read.  Some of them I need to unsubscribe to because I haven't read them in months.  My current 190-email inbox has probably about 20-40 newsletters and blogs still saved.

Events Information

As readings & events coordinator for Broad Universe, I get information on genre conventions and writing conferences daily.  New ones, upcoming ones, ones BU members are interested in presenting at, ones who are interested in BU members selling at.  Some are conventions I'm going to - I just got my Wiscon schedule, today, for example.  These are more varied and almost always require some sort of action in a short time period.  On really busy weeks, though, they fall through the cracks.

Charity Information

Some of this comes from charities I've given to, and usually I unsubscribe to these lists - unless the list has made it harder to unsubscribe than to hit "delete" every time they pop up.  I also get other regular information from Broad Universe and Bay State Equine Rescue because I'm heavily involved in both.  I do my best to listen and respond to all the members and needs of those.

Work- and Project-related Emails

Emails that do or may relate to me receiving money.  These, of course, get major attention because, well, I like paying bills on time and I disagree with the widely held belief that writers should starve.  At any one time, I've got multiple articles I'm corresponding over; team-members who need reviews or responses; information from my direct supervisors, editors, and clients; updates to software I use; and more that I can't even think of at the moment. 

Forwards and Reply-Alls

I've raised a stink enough times about this that I almost never get these, and if I do, it's for good reason.  Sometimes they can be read and discarded or read and saved.  Other times they require a response.

Group Emails

Outside of the rescue and BU, I'm on a few writing groups, and we send email to each other.  Sometimes its social, other times it's writing related - like monthly submissions.  I don't get these every day; most of us in the group are extremely busy and understand such.

Daily Reminders

I set up daily reminders in my email for events, and that helps me not forget them.

Direct Correspondence

These are emails that are addressed to me and don't fit into one of the categories mentioned.  Sometimes it's close friends and family with personal updates, other times it's friends or colleagues who want my help or want to catch up or have some other good reason for wanting to talk with me.  Other times they are new connections I've made at conventions or conferences: friends or colleagues-to-be, networking contacts, and so on.

Other Social Networking Reminders

I set my blog and Facebook and Twitter to alert me of stuff, like comments, posts, and so on.  I've been pretty bad about going on Twitter this year because it's been so much busier than last year… and there's no way to really filter the Stuff I Need to Know into email… which, as you see, has become my main workstation.


Of course, there is the ubiquitous "miscellaneous" email.  It ranges from press releases for stuff I do or don't write about to things like responses to the Neil Gaiman audiobook contest that you all are voting for me on, right?  (Pst, PLEASE vote for me?)

I'd love to share with you my insightful and efficient means of dealing with all this, but, really, I don't have one.  Caplan has a strategy, but that fits with her own work style.  She has an office and can go visit people in person to discuss things, and she has press people (I know, I chat with them!) and assistants who remind her of things that need to be done and interviews she needs to do.  I'm thankful that my husband-of-awesome cooks for me many nights and helps with dishes - after he's done with his own demanding job.  I wouldn't feel right asking for more.

It's all on me.

I tried assigning duties to my cat and rabbit, but they wouldn't help.  Also, they don't have opposable thumbs.

Most of my clients and contacts are not in driving distance.  Some aren't even on this side of the globe!  And those that are driveably close, well, it's inefficient to go and talk with them in person.  Current etiquette is also mostly prohibitive of calling them unless it's an urgent, emergency, too.  

My best shot is deciding what's urgent and important, what's urgent, what's important, and go down from there.

How do you battle the email monster? 

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Happy Side of Busy

I'll be brief and just share the top, most urgent three things - the ones I need just a bit of help with.  :)

Make Trish an American God(dess)

Ok… well, at least help me get a speaking role on Neil Gaiman's American Gods audio book! 

Getting into the Top 20 is one of those popularity voting things, so I really, really need some help with this.  If I'm in the Top 20 by May 2nd, then it's up to Mr. Neil F-----g Gaiman, himself, and HarperCollins publishing.  And then, if I win THAT, I'm off to New York to get coached by Gaiman and then get a speaking role.  Squee!

I don't think I need to elaborate on how much AWESOME that is made of!

So, if you'd like to help, here's the link!

If my profile doesn't come up right away, do a search for "trish" and it will find me.

If you haven't done this before, you'll need to make an account, but that's pretty easy.

So, begging:  Please vote for me?  Thank you!!

Working Writer's Workshop Birthday Bash

On my birthday, the wonderful, huge holiday of April 30th, I'll be celebrating by…

… working at a writing conference at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  I'm on a panel about writing resources (rather apropos!  I'll be telling women why they need to join the fabulous ranks of Broad Universe… ahem… it IS membership season!)

Of course, I'll talk beyond Broad Universe.  I'll be chatting about nonfiction avenues of income, various fiction resources, and much of the stuff I've chatted about on this blog… like why every writer should get an accountant.  (I <3 my new one as much as my old one.  Yay people who know more about making $ than I do!)

For more info about this conference, check this website out Women's Words Week Writer's Workshop here on the YWCA page.

Extra bonus: Net proceeds go to benefit YWCA's domestic violence services.

Please ignore: The somewhat incorrect and out of date bio they have for me.  le sigh!

Uncovering UnCONventional!

Last, and most certainly not least, CHECK OUT THE COVER FOR UnCONventional! 


This is the anthology I'm editing with Kate Kaynak of Spencer Hill Press.  And yes, we are still open for contributions!  :)  See our guidelines here.

And now, I'm off to bed so I may be rested to attack a busy Monday!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Caesar's Pasta: Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Manicotti

Mmm!  Did I mention how much I love reviewing food?  Well… good food.

So, there were more packages of pasta from the samples I received from Caesar's Pasta, and now I get to share with you!

(If you missed my review of their Organic Lasagna and Gluten Free Spinach Gnocchi, you can look back here.)

With Monday, I need a quick meal again, so I yanked out the Manicotti.  Like the other entrees I tried, I enjoyed this one.  The pasta was a good consistency; I wouldn't know the difference in texture or flavor.  I liked the sauce in this better than I did the shells, but I still think the vegetable lasagna had the richer flavored marinara.  (It's probably the same marinara, but affected by the vegetables and seasonings.)  The ricotta also had a great texture: firm enough to stand up in the shells and get cut by the fork but still creamy in my mouth. 

An added benefit was that despite all the cheese, it didn't bother me.  I used to be severely lactose intolerant, but with the latest age-body-changeover, it's become much less sensitive.  I can still get set off by really poor quality cheese and ice-cream, but none of the cheesy meals here bothered me at all, which speaks to good quality… and perhaps a sensible amount of cheese as both filling and topping.

Like all of the food I've eaten by this company, I also am extremely pleased by their cooking instructions - particularly for frozen entrees.  It was uniformly cooked with no burned corners, no cold spots, and a tender cut throughout. 

Calories were 390 with 160 coming from fat (18 g fat).  Sodium was at 640 mg, which is higher than the lasagna, but lower than the shells.  So, statwise, pretty decent.

I did find out from a previous comment (Thanks _rm_!) that Caesar's Pasta is available at many Whole Foods stores.  I haven't been to the grocery store (sorry: #reviewfail!) to check myself, but I'll get there. 

In the mean time, bon apetite!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Wolf on My Blog: An Interview with Joyce Chng

As the readings & events coordinator with Broad Universe, I get to meet some of the most interesting sister writers!  One of them is the beautifully talented Joyce Chng, who recently released her novel A Wolf at the Door this month.  I'm honored that she took the time to give me an interview.

Born in Singapore but a global citizen, Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction (SFF) and YA fiction. She likes steampunk and tales of transformation/transfiguration. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, Semaphore Magazine, Bards and Sages Quarterly and Everyday Fiction. Joyce also has a crowdfunded web novella entitled “Oysters, Pearls and Magic”.

Tell us a little about yourself, Joyce.  How did you get into writing, particularly fantasy?  And why werewolves?

I am Singaporean-Chinese, love gardening, the medieval longsword and reading. And of course, writing.

I got into writing after reading. *laughs* I read a lot when I was a kid growing up - mostly science fiction and fantasy. Asimov, McCaffrey, Heinlein, Herbert - to name a few. Around my early teens, I came to the conclusion that I liked to write.

Werewolves are a particular interest for me, since I like to examine the concept of transformation and transfiguration, the body and the animal. At the same time, I love wolves.

Tell us a little about your novel, Wolf at the Door.  What can we expect from it as readers?

The novel takes place in Singapore with the main character being one of the Lang (Mandarin Chinese for 'wolf'). Basically, wolves trying to co-exist with the other non-human races as well as the ordinary 'normal' human beings. Expect a fair bit of the Lang's culture, Singaporean lingo, the wolf's hunt and a look at sibling rivalry. How many of us have harmonious relationships with our siblings?

Which character from your novel did you love writing the most, and why?  Who was the hardest to write?

 Jan Xu, the main character! She is a mother, wife and daughter, something I definitely relate to. Like me, she have to balance a plethora of obligations.

The hardest to write is Kiat. He's a Lung (Mandarin Chinese for 'dragon'), and he strikes me as enigmatic. Kinda like "still rivers run deep." Hardest and also enjoyable to write. I learn so much when my characters grow.
What are some of the unique things your experiences in Singapore bring to the book?  What can readers look forward to in the setting?

Chinese culture and festivals. Food is tied in with culture. The Seventh Month or what we call "Ghost Month."  The idea of a really cosmopolitan city, diverse and complicated with different layers.

Are there werewolf legends specific to Singapore that we can look forward to discovering?  What are some of the cultural differences that motivate your characters?

Surprisingly, there aren't any werewolf legends specific to Singapore. Instead, we have were-tigers! *chuckle* The closest we have - Chinese-wise - is the fox spirits.

Family and the bonds of family/clan underlie Jan Xu's motivations and actions. She loves her family/pack and wants to protect it. The idea of respecting our elders - wolves too look after their old.

What's a question you haven't been asked by an interviewer that you wish was asked?  And what would the answer be?

"Are some of the scenes real or based on real events?"
"What do you think?"
How can we find out more about you and your writing?  How can we purchase Wolf at the Door

I maintain a writery blog at

Wolf at the Door can be purchased at my publisher's:

What else can we read from you?

I write speculative fiction and YA (or a combination of the two). Free downloads can be found at Smashwords:

I have two stories (a novel and a novella) up on Amazon Kindle as well:

Thank you, once again, for the interview, Joyce!
No problem and thank you as well! :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 2011 Humor Episode

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Welcome to the April 2011 episode of the Broad Pod!


April is national humor month in the United States and Canada. To celebrate, we will be listening to amusing, funny, and downright silly readings from five members of Broaduniverse. Their readings will show you that they are no April Fools.


Join host Tracy S. Morris, author of the Tranquility novels, a series of humorous whodunit contemporary fantasies, as she leads the laughs this month.


In Jody Lynn Nye’s A View From the Imperium, Lord Thomas Kinago must contend with a crew of invading space pirates and an intergalactic version of the telephone hold system.


Then we will journey with Shauna Roberts back in time to the age of Gilgamesh as she reads from her novel Like Mayflies in a Stream.


Jean Marie Ward brings us Lord Bai’s Discovery, in which the draconic Lord Bai and his companion Old Lau disagree on the best means for dealing with a porcine tribute from the local villagers.


Lynda Williams reads to us from her 2008 novel Pretenders, the third book in her Okal Rel series. 


Finally, Have you ever wondered where the Mad Hatter and the March Hare get the money to fund their mad tea party? K.A. Laity answers that question in Dear Friend.


Grab your sides and prepare to have a lot of fun with this episode of the Broad Pod!

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Foodie Friday: Caesar's Pasta Vegetable Lasagna & Spinach Gnocchi

As I mentioned last Friday, Caesar's Pasta sent me a lovely shipment of free samples.  So far, I'm enjoying them, so I'm happy to share with you what I think.

After my positive experience with the Stuffed Shells and in need of another quick meal on Monday, I heated up the Organic Vegetable Lasagna for a brunch.

Important to note:  The lasagna is organic, but not gluten-free.  The package lists that it does contain wheat.  Also listed as allergens are the milk products and the eggs.

The cooking time, like with the shells, was right on target.  It was hot all the way through without any burnt edges.  A very small portion of the center of the lasagna was a little hard, but I've found that in any frozen lasagna I've had.  (It's not come up on this blog, but I have eaten a fair amount of frozen dinners in my life for various reasons, despite my normal love of cooking.)

Flavorwise, I actually liked this better than the shells.  The extra vegetables lent more flavor to the sauce.  There also seemed to be a fair portion of veggies, too.  Lots of spinach, then some broccoli and mushrooms.  None of the veggies were "mushy," even the spinach.  There was a definite texture to each that I could feel and chew in my mouth.  I would have liked more mushrooms, but that's a minor complaint.  Like the shells, the pasta, itself, was the right al dente texture.

Details: 400 calories, 130 from fat (a pretty good breakdown!) Sodium was at 450, again right around the average for frozen meals.  All the ingredients were labeled as organic, which is an added benefit, and there were no funky preservatives or ingredients that I couldn't pronounce listed, either.  Allergy information was also clearly listed.

For my gluten-free friends, I had the Caesar's gluten & wheat free Spinach Gnocchi tonight.

My first comment is that it cooked faster than any gnocchi that I've ever cooked, but - kudos to packaging again! - I was warned of this in the instructions.  I planned the rest of dinner accordingly so that the pasta was the last thing for me to do.  (Dinner was sherry-mushroom chicken thighs, with the pasta thrown into the sherry-mushroom sauce after the chicken was cooked and plated.)  So, everything was ready when I tossed the package of gnocchi into the boiling water.  Within two minutes the little potato pastas were floating to the top of the pan.  I strained them, mixed them with the sauce, and plated immediately. 

As far as gnocchi go, they were as good as any other high quality gnocchi I've had are.  They maintained their shape and texture cooking and tasted great with the sauce.  (They would also probably taste great in a basic garlic aioli with fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomato mix, too.)  There was that hint of heartiness from the spinach that let it stand up to the earthy mushrooms and would let it work in any stronger-flavored or cream-based sauce. 

Per the package, it serves 4.  If matched with a hearty sauce, plenty of protein, a salad, and appetizers, perhaps.  For Scott & I, we split it between the two of us and still had room for our after-dinner Caesar salad and prosciutto-fig snacks.  Calories are 170 per serving (or 340 if you use it for only two).  Calories from fat: 25/50.  Sodium was a low 50 mg, too, and I didn't add any salt to the dish besides brining the chicken.  Depending on the price (which I still haven't received information on), I'd highly recommend them, especially because they cook so quickly.

As soon as I get information on where to purchase these products and the prices, I'll be happy to share.  If any of y'all see them in your markets, please pass on the info!

In the words of the Immortal Julia Child:  Bon Apetite! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Writerly Wednesday: Fiction!

As I mentioned Monday night, this is a crazy week for me.  I did not get the spreadsheet of taxes done that I needed to get done tonight last night.  And, well, a lot of stuff still needs to be got done.


How about some fiction?  You've heard me talk about Kelpie, how about a taste?  It's a rough draft, so it will change, so I'm not particularly worried about having published this tidbit on the Internet because it will be different from the end product.

It's near the beginning, but the opening is weak.  What you need to know (and what I need to rewrite) is that the narrator, 11-year-old Heather, is riding the family Shire stud, Opulent Majesty, with her best friend (and a prince of England) 12-year-old Joseph.  They snuck away from his bodyguards and are set on investigating the disappearance of some children at the loch abutting the family property.  Having watched enough TV (telly) and read enough books, they are quite sure they'll find some grand clue that the trained professionals missed.  They're right - but in the worst way possible!

            Beneath us, Oppie, full name Opulent Majesty, gave a little hop and a shake.  I gripped his mane, and Joe gripped me, breathing word I knew was a curse in Arabic.  It was a long fall from a 20-hand horse.
            "We're almost to the loch," he said.  "Let's walk."
            I let him slide down first, then followed. 
            Oppie pranced nervously, something I'd never seen him do, and curled his lips back, scenting the air.  It should have been a hint, but I didn't listen.  Instead, I wrapped his lead rope around a lower hanging bough so he wouldn't leave us.  We weren't planning to be long, but I made sure to clip it under his chin rather than to the training rings in case we were a few minutes and he kept up with his freaky behavior.  I didn't want to hurt the poor horse.
            We'd ridden to the loch via the route that actually had some trees, and we could see the glimmering water up ahead.  It was only a few steps to the edge of the treeline.
            "What's the plan?" Joe asked, heading towards the loch.
            "Look for clues to find the kids who went missing that the fuzz missed, figure out where they are, and be heroes."
Joe put a hand on my shoulder and stopped walking.  "You hear that?"
            "What?" I asked, smirking at the cliché.
            "Yuh… exactly," he frowned, clearly not intending any cliché.  I listened, and it was dead quiet.  No birds, nothing.  Except for Oppie's nervous stomping behind us.
            Then a soft slosh of water, as if someone were just getting out from a swim.  I looked at Joe, then jogged around the hillock that blocked part of my view.  Then froze.
            It smelled of low tide and sea beds and dead things, which was far too strong for this partial-salt loch.  Rings rippled out from a bunch of seaweed moving towards the shore.  It slipped from the water, stepping up, revealing the weed-covered body of a horse.
            Not quite a horse.  The nightmare of a horse.  It curled its lips back, flushing as stallions do.  Beneath the greenish black lips were sharp, wolfish teeth.  Not the teeth of the gentle herbivores. 
            Its eyes reflected – or glowed – red in the sun.
            "Heather…?" Joe's voice trembled, and he took my arm, pulling me back towards the trees.
            Behind us, Oppie screamed.  There was a crack like thunder, and the ground quaked from hoofbeats.  As he galloped towards us, his head was pulled down from the bough that dragged behind him, tangled in the lead rope.
            His baritone scream echoed again, and he stopped just behind us.  He lowered his head, arching his back almost like a stalking cat.  Nostril's flared, he wove towards us, neck extended like a snake crawling through grass.  His posture sent shivers up my spine.  Where was that sweet horse I knew?  Despite being the only stallion, no horse on our property was more gentle!  And now I was terrified of him.
            A grunt and growl behind us yanked our attention to the other… creature.  A kelpie.  It matched Oppie's posture and was twice as terrifying with its hellish appearance. 
            The two circled around us.
            The water horse charged first.
            Joe yanked me out of the way, and we both fell to the ground.
            The ground quaked with 2500 kilos of furious stallion hoofbeats.  Oppie's black dinner plate hoof planted only a breath from our faces.  We both choked gasps.  Lily, my sister, had received a Reserve rank in dressage with our beast-sized stallion.  Knowing how well he could do precision footwork didn't matter.
            Not when he faced off against the seaweed black monstrosity that emerged from the loch.
            Where my parents and Joseph's parents – the crowned prince and princess of England, making it a royal decree - told us not to go.
            The kelpie reared.  Opulent Majesty, my family's shire stallion, towered over us like a guardian monster.  Protecting the stupid human youths of his herd.  The limb – not a branch - I'd thrown his lead around because he'd danced nervously around the tree line kept him from reaching the apex of his rear, but didn't lessen the terrifying effect.
            Oppie, himself, hadn't even wanted to come.
            Prince Joseph and I just wanted to explore, maybe embody those twelve-year-old sleuths in Mum's books that were old books when Mum was my age.
            It was my idea.
            God, I was stupid, and it'd be my fault if we died right here.
            The kelpie lunged.  Defying physics, Oppie twisted and hammered his back legs into the charging kelpie that was about the size of Mom's Percheron cross.  The kick pounded the kelpie to the ground where it threw up dirt, flailing its own massive hooves feathered with water weed fetlocks.  Momentum flew the broken limb.  It landed on the ground, digging in, wedging beneath a rock.  The shire lunged at the fallen water horse, but the pinned limb anchored him.  His baritone scream rang sick in my stomach.
            I crawled towards the limb and rock.
            "Heather! What are you doing?" Joseph hissed at me, following.
            "He's stuck," I said.  I was the idiot who'd wrapped the lead line that ended up tangled.  I yanked the knife from my work boot and sawed at the lead rope.  Oppie bounced a few times, posturing as the kelpie got back to its feet.  It circled, tail up, snorting.  It wasn't going to back off.
            Oppie's dark eye flicked towards me, even as his attention never left the water horse.  He snorted, arching his neck, puffing his chest and flicking his tail.  He stomped closer to the kelpie as the my knife cut through the lead.  The stallion jumped forward the moment I severed the last threads. 
            I tumbled back as Oppie went on the offensive.  The kelpie reared, turning, but not losing ground, still blocking our way from the woods we'd come from.  Oppie didn't charge; he stayed near Joseph and me, blocking the water horse from us.  Both equines, mortal and fae, paced and sized each other up.
            Oppie's push left us room to get to our feet without eight oversized hooves dancing around us.  Though Joseph was on his feet first, I followed too soon for him to even offer a hand.
            "Now what?" he asked, eyes glued on Oppie and the kelpie.
            "I… don't know."
            The kelpie charged again.  I could see it favoring the hip that Oppie had kicked, and it was furious.  Its eyes glowed orange red, flickering like flames and the afternoon sun gave the slick black coat a slimy green sheen.  Nostrils flared steam, and its long muzzle pointed more than any horse breed I knew. 
            Freed from the limb, Oppie hopped to the side of the oncoming charge and pulled himself up to his full height at a rear, beating towards the kelpie's skull.  His white fetlocks fluttered like avenging angel wings so high Joseph and I had to strain to see, even as we backed further away.  The kelpie veered away and tried to circle around.
It shifted its fiery gaze from Oppie to us and sneered, revealing carnivorous, blood-rust teeth stained green at the gums.  The shire landed, turned tightly and pushed back at the faerie.
"Trees!" I pointed.  Joseph nodded.  We darted that direction.  The kelpie was faster.  In a rollback so fluid it'd make any of my riding team – even my sister - green with envy, the water horse changed direction, striking its front hooves at Oppie.  As athletic as we'd trained the shire, he couldn't move the mass of his body out of the way fast enough.  Blood dripped across his silver chest.  The kelpie charged us.
I don't know which of us changed direction first, but Joseph and I turned towards the water.
Oppie's deep scream and the thunder of his gallop stopped us.  Without looking, I could feel the pressure of his approach and shoved Prince Joe to the side – and back on the ground.  The shire jumped over us, fetlocks fluttering war feathers flying above our prone bodies.  His landing resonated deep into our guts as he grunted several times.  The kelpie screeched back.  It must've moved faster than either of us saw because now it faced off with Oppie, hind legs in the brackish water it called home.  As if drawing strength from its source, the kelpie reared again, shaking blood and salt water from itself, then leaping with unnatural grace and strength to the other side of us before Oppie, huffing and limping, could intercept it.
We were between the horses again.
The kelpie came at us in a direction that pushed us towards the water again.
"Don't touch the water," Prince Joe said.
"No, really?" I growled.  He glared at me.  Both of us searched for the opening as the stallions attacked again.  "Maybe the bank?"  I gestured with my chin to where a grassy hill crested into an embankment above the a thin line of beach where the water lapped hungrily.
Joseph nodded.  "We can cut towards the woods in two different directions there."
The path took us dangerously close to the fighting horses, but I could see Oppie's dark eyes flashing every so often.  He knew where we were.
We were his herd; he'd protect us.  
We edged toward the bank, then darted as Oppie rushed the kelpie again.  I winced seeing how much of his blue-grey chest and shoulder was red with blood.  The water sparkled, so pretty in the afternoon sun, below us.  Joseph took my hand and ran towards the trees along the embankment.  They were still close to the water, some with roots hanging like skeletal fingers or worms reaching for the sometimes fresher water that depended on the tide.
They offered cover, though, and we could stay within them towards home.  And any other path would require us to dodge fighting horses.
At the very least, we were still smaller than the kelpie, and once we were clear, Oppie could retreat.  He'd find us.
The kelpie was having none of it.  Was the fae more sentient than our draft?  Psychic?  It galloped back from the shire, then turned to cut us off. 
Oppie pounded to our rescue.
When the shire was only a meter or so from us, the kelpie changed direction.  Oppie turned.  We could feel the heat from his body radiating.  The ground crumbled beneath his back hooves.  Beneath us.
We all fell beneath the shifting earth.  Somehow neither me nor Joe were hit with flailing hoof.  For a brief moment, I felt every molecule of breath squeezed out of my body by sticky horse.  I don't know what part of Oppie it was or how I wasn't killed or crushed, but I lay frozen as water pasted sand around me.  I couldn't even gasp.
"Heather!"  Joe was beside me, his normally dark face like a ghost.  "Heather? God, Heather!"
A wave broke over us, drenching, but Joseph stayed close, kneeling in shifting sand even as he lifted an arm to protect his face.  I heard the splashes and horse screams as if they were down a tunnel or through static spewing headphones.
Joe had a hand under my neck and side and the world tipped over.  I sucked in air that burned my throat like razors and salt.  Then I coughed out red blood and sickly green water.
Loch weed tangled around my wrists and knees. 
"Come on, Heather!"  I felt Joseph pulling me up.  I broke away from the weeds, snapping them as more seemed to find whatever part of me touched the water.  My now soaked and muddied braids flogged my back.  We staggered backwards towards where the collapsed hill offered dry land.  I saw even more weeds climbing and tangling around Joe's legs.  He fell.
            "Ow, shite!" he cursed, trying to pull himself up.  "Damned rocks!"  I gave him my hand and tried to yank him to his feet, but water surged and more weeds grappled at him.  Blood stained down the leg of his jeans and he grimaced in pain.
            "Priiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnzzz."  The kelpie stopped and looked right at us, mouth agape and nostrils flared.  It's fiery eyes seemed to glow even brighter.  Oppie was fighting the weeds tangling his legs.  The kelpie took a step towards us, head lowered, smiling wickedly, predator teeth bared.  "Yourr bllood.  Ssmells.  Ssoooooo Goo-"
            One thrash.  One splash.  Oppie's rear legs connected with the kelpie's jaw.  Another tearing splash and the shire was mostly free, jumping and battering the downed kelpie further into the now cloudy red and black water. 
            "Come on!  Move it!  Move!"  Joe and I commanded each other, pulling each from the now retreating weeds onto dry ground.
            We managed one breath in and one out before Oppie galloped towards us.  He stopped, hooves right beside our feet, and snorted angrily, brown eyes bugging and staring at the churning water.  I gave Joe a leg up onto the shire's ginormous back and let him heft me up.  His face strained in pain as he tried to grip the broad back with his injured leg while balancing my weight as I used his boot and Oppie's mane to pull myself up – as if I were scaling a mountainside.
            I heard the kelpie scream from the water.  I heard more splashing.
            I was barely seated when Oppie took off.  I was gripping his mane and the remainder of the lead rope while Joseph gripped my middle.  We clung for dear life, and it was only the strength of our utter terror that let us hold on as we flew into the trees and away from the monster.

Hope you enjoyed it!  :)  Comments welcome.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's already Tuesday…

… my Manic Monday blog post got eaten by the mania.

A bunch of deadlines this week, team reviews (late), and taxes.

Tomorrow I have a riding lesson in between all the writing.  :)  It's good to get outside, at least, and spend time with my horse. 

Yesterday, (and most of the weekend), we celebrated the Husband-of-Awesome's birthday.  Without him, I wouldn't be half the writer and businesswoman that I am.  I call him Husband-of-Awesome for a reason, and that should be sufficient explanation for why I gave him the weekend.

So, forgive the missing blog post.  I need some sleep so I can work more.

Gifts of time-machines can be sent to my address. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Foodie Friday: Gluten Free Stuffed Shells by Caesar's

One of the perks of being a food writer is, well, food!

After I did my article on gluten-free dining in the Worcester area, I was contacted by Caesar's Pasta, a company that specializes in gluten free pasta dinners.  Their food sounded interesting, so I was happy to find out more about them.

Yesterday started with a special delivery of dry ice protecting a lovely box of frozen dinners!

As I was on my own for dinner tonight (H-of-A and I had to be in two different locations at much of the same time), I opened the first of the set to try: Stuffed Shells with Cheese in Marinara Sauce.

Now, for disclosure's sake, yep, these were free samples.  There was no agreement that I would review them, just that I'd be interested in finding out more.  That said, I'm a reviewer and I get a lot of stuff free.  I'll tell you whether I like it or not (just ask my editor), and I did like these so far.

As far as frozen dinners go, they are definitely good.  They have a lot of the same drawbacks of any frozen dinner, things which I have yet to see ANY exception from.  The sauce was a bit bland, the cheese slightly grainy, but I'm pretty sure there are basic chemistry reasons for that, which food scientists have yet to crack.  Besides that, though, the texture of the pasta was a perfect al dente, and I couldn't tell it was gluten free from the texture.  Flavorwise, the shells themselves, did not taste like frozen food; they could have been any shells baked.  Also, the flavor of the cheese was good, especially the Romano cheese topping it.

Some other positive points I want to make is that the cooking directions on the box are spot on.  It was seven minutes in the microwave on high, then let sit for two minutes.  Everything was evenly hot, and there were no burnt ends anywhere.  This is important because I've tried too many frozen foods that are out of touch with their cooking times and temperatures.  I also liked how, on the box, it gave what the internal temperature should be before eating. 

I didn’t get a price listing and, sadly, the website is being updated, so I can't talk about the value.  Portionwise, it was just right.  It was 370 calories, 18g fat, and 660 mg sodium.  Calorie-wise, it was lower than a lot of equal sized (and equally filling) portions, and it's about equivalent to the fat and salt content.  If I were grocery shopping and I bound by my diet, I could see paying between $5.99-$7.99 for the meal.  I wouldn't argue with someone who was willing to pay a little more, though.

If you see it in the freezer at a price you find reasonable, definitely give it a try. 

I'll keep you posted on further adventures with my samples!

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