Monday, November 22, 2004

glad tidings

I am officially approved to start attending kung-fu classes on Wednesdays, or as my husband refers to them: "Sit's Secret Skulls Meeting." Sit actually looked quite pleased when I asked him about it. I also did some rather impressive defensive escapes on Sunday. I am still trying to keep my shoulders consistently rounded and relaxed. My balance is much better, and I almost have that wing-block built into muscle memory. It's weird, since I've started working at it and paying attention, I'm remembering just how much I love kung fu.

I have three stories ready for submission, now. I polished up Bridgeport and reworked Insomnia this weekend. Insomnia was particularly difficult, because I had never had any sense of how effective that story was. I felt it was disjointed and surreal and too long. It is surreal, but in a good way; it's an impressionist painting of a story. It seems like unrelated parts at first, but viewed as a whole it makes sense. I fixed the confusion issue with Seth/Ladron being the same person, and by referring to Seth by his first name throughout, created more intimacy with the character. I also elaborated on the science, the neuro-tapping procedure and the radiation therapy. Fortunately for me, Dr. Flenning likes the sound of his own voice.

So I have three stories in good shape for submission, now. It feels very strange. I shall fix up "Donor," next, and go to work on Trace. My main fear with Trace is that the stories I have in mind are too big, too epic, and I won't be able to force them into a short story. Must practice economy. Always less. Always less.

Happily, I have to work only Monday and Tuesday this week; the office closes early on Wednesday. I'll have a solid four and a half days off. Bliss.

Now if I could just ditch my family. . .

Monday, November 15, 2004

drop the elbow

Something weird happened to me this weekend.

Long story short: both my kung fu and my writing ability took a leap up the ladder in the last few weeks, and I'm exhilarated and frustrated with both because I've not yet processed the progress to the point where I feel I understand it, ergo, I'm afraid I won't be able to duplicate it.

I wrote three short stories this summer/fall, and all three of them have met with rave reviews. People used to say about my short fiction, "This is intriguing, where's the rest of it?" Now they're saying, "This works." I have finally figured out how to close the circle, come to the point, give the plot relevance.

Sit really hammered us in kung fu this week. He had me, Tony, and Matt concentrating on dropping and rounding the shoulders--nice work if you can do it--with a lot of application, constant battering of forearms against each other. My shoulders have been gradually and conscienciously relaxing over the summer. I find I can do some of the softer applications now, and did in fact put my husband down on one knee when he asked me to demonstrate. I'm learning to pull those guys around, despite their height and weight advantages--but I'm always terrified that they're being too easy on me. Sit says, "if you don't believe it will work, it won't," and admonishing me for using too much strength, being too rigid. I do. I am. I am finally learning to yield, to be round, to focus my energy instead of forcing it.

I don't doubt for a minute that my sudden renewed interest in the Quinn stories, particularly the focus on Quinn's martial arts training and the lessons learned therein, was my subconcious attempting to process this new understanding. Now that my consciousness is aware of it, it occurs to me that I have been diffusing my energy all over the place. Costuming. Modeling. Cooking. Okay, I was working two jobs there for a while, but that's over now.

Costuming is fun but ultimately more money and time than I want to give to it. I never feel as satisfied with the sewing as I do with my stories. Fandom is definitely a distraction. I didn't intend to go at all last year, except I had committed to doing the Dru/Darla thing, and after Quizgate I'm pretty sure any further contact with those people would be a waste of my time. They're like that pride of lions in the volcanic crater, inbreeding themselves to death.

Anyway.

I spoke to Mary Ann on Sunday about joining Sit's Wednesday class, at their home. She thought it was a good idea. I think the twice-weekly focus and exercise would be good for me. I am also gearing myself up to compete next spring--the idea is both stimulating and terrifying, very similiar in sensation to the thought of sending out story submissions. The act of submitting, of holding my work out for rejection, scares me so much the only way I can deal with it is to simply sidestep it--not think about it at all. Write the address, lick the stamp, throw the envelope in the box. Go around the obstacle. Focus past the resistance. Keep the elbow down, and for God's sake, relax.

Monday, November 08, 2004

PBS costume spots

So I watched part one of Regency House Party last week. I didn't pay too much attention to the dresses, other than to reaffirm my thorough distaste for the Empire waistline. From a distance, as the ladies were strolling on the grounds, they looked pretty and feminine. At the dinner table, all that decolletage made for lovely scenery. In the drawing room, however, or just sitting around day to day, the lack of waist definition and the acres of gathered skirts made even the skinny girls look frumpy.

The gentlemen, on the other hand, looked luscious. All those tight buff pants and fitted waistcoats. Long wavy crops and sideburns, and clean-shaven chins. And the booze made their eyes look bright, of course.

Mostly I was disgusted by how some of the contestants refused to play along. One young woman did nothing but whine about the restraints and mouth off to the hostess. Admittedly, the woman playing the hostess was a vindictive bitch, but she was certainly playing her role to the hilt and I couldn't blame her for wanting to slap the little whining debutante.

Then one of the men, I think he was a hairstylist in real life, took offense to the life of leisure and the lordly way they were all living. He said he took pride in his roots as a commoner, developed a real chip on his shoulder, and left the house party early.

What I can't figure out is, why did those two sign up for the show in the first place? What did they imagine it would be like? I know people have romantic notions about the good old days, but how ignorant can you be?

Anyway, the Brits know how to put together a reality show, I can say that. My one complaint is that it all seemed very brief and rushed, for nine weeks of filming. Either the footage was heavily condensed for export overseas, or it really was so boring that eight hours of show was all they could squeeze out of it.

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Oh yeah, I also taped Henry VIII last night. Only watched about 10 minutes of it, but Helena Bonham Carter was being so shrill and was so unflattered by the costumes I don't know if I'll be able to watch it all.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

chicken cordon bleu, two versions

A few years ago I made up a chicken cordon bleu recipe, because it was one of those things that everyone seemed to like but you couldn't get anywhere, except maybe frozen, and then it tasted...frozen.

As is my usual way, I found several different recipes for chicken stuffed with ham and cheese, took what I liked from each, and combined them. There's not as much variation in this as there are in other classic recipes--chicken pot pie, for example.

Anyway, the recipe I came up with is very good, very messy, and very time consuming. Also, success depends greatly upon being able to get premium chicken breasts--not always an easy feat in our world of pre-packaged, "flavor-enhancing solution"-injected poultry.

So, the other night I had some ham I wanted to use up, and some raw leftover chicken breasts in the fridge, and decided that laziness was the ugly stepmother of invention.

The improvised dish used one pan, took thirty minutes prep to plate, and was quite tasty. The recipe is here, together with the original labor-intensive version. My husband says the new one isn't up to my usual standards, but I disagree. There's much to be said for brevity.