Monday, August 26, 2013

all will love me... and despair

Had a great writer's meeting this weekend--good food and snarky humor are always a favorite combination--but as usual my peers' remarks gnaw into my writer's soul where they churn and ferment and cause acne. 

In particular I'm musing over Jan's assessment of my book as "dark."  On the one hand, Yay! I don't want it to be lightweight. I didn't really set out to write horror, but it is definitely dark fantasy, and I sure don't want to create a "paper tiger" conflict. On the other hand, people said Revenge of the Sith was "dark," and it still sucked. 

On the third hand--I guess we're up to feet now--I don't consider my story that dark. Maybe because I can see the big picture and I'm still optimistic. Or maybe because I'm comparing it to some of the utterly repugnant trash that passes for horror these days (Edward Lee, anyone?), and priding myself on still having a plot.

On the fourth appendage, I remember thinking that my Quinn Taylor books weren't that dark either... until I tried to reread "Mobius" earlier this year, and dear Ghod, that book is depressing. 

And on some fifth tentacle of supposition, my buddy Rob mentioned after this latest installment that he was pleased to say, he had no idea what was going to happen, nor even whether there would be a happy ending. And of course my husband remarked a few weeks ago that he was almost afraid to read any further, because he'd become emotionally attached to these characters and he was afraid I was going to do something bad to them!

Mine is an evil laugh.

Am I really doing a George R.R. Martin? That would be supremely ironic, since I quit reading after A Game of Thrones precisely because I couldn't take the grinding grimness. And further irony because I created Trace specifically to be an unambiguous good guy. It's just that I have to make Mereck equally bad in order to balance.

Don't worry, I don't have any "red wedding" scenes planned. There will be suffering, to be sure, but I really want these two to have a happy ending. After what I did to Quinn and Seth, I owe myself some writerly karma points.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

lavender cookies with rosewater icing

This one is circulating the net lately. I, of course, tweaked it a little. Most versions of this call for 2 tsp of baking powder, which I thought was way too much for a batch this small. Also I used my beloved Fiori di Sicilia for the icing instead of straight rosewater, since my bottle is a little old.

I've had lavender in chocolate bonbons before, but never in baked goods, so I was a little concerned about the lavender being overpowering here. It wasn't, even though my dried lavender buds were very fresh and smelled perfumey as I was processing them. When combined with the butter and sugar they create a lovely almost-sharp flavor, rather like basil, or the sweet overtones of black pepper.

This is some of the best cookie dough I have ever tasted. I love me some vanilla, but it is much richer and stronger than the delicate flavors featured here. My writers group ate the whole two dozen I took; luckily for me I kept a few in reserve at home. :-)

Bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes.


Lavender cookies with rosewater icing

1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp lavender buds, crushed
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
*some recipes call for grapefruit zest to be added to the batter, which I think would be delightful but I haven’t tried it yet.

Preheat oven to 375º F. 

Crush lavender buds with a morter and pestle, and/or process them with the sugar for a few seconds until finely crushed. Cream butter & sugar together; add eggs. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl; beat into the butter mixture in 3-4 stages. This makes a very soft dough, almost a batter. I chilled mine for a half-hour or so to make it more manageable, but it’s not necessary.

I strongly recommend using parchment paper to line your baking sheets for these. They are quite delicate.

Drop small spoonfuls (1-inch diameter) on the cookie sheet, spaced well apart. Bake 11-13 minutes or until barely browning around the edges. Remove promptly and let cool before drizzling on the icing.

Makes about 30 cookies. I think they would be just fine without icing, but YMMV.


Icing

1 cup powdered sugar, more or less
2-3 drops rose water
2-3 drops Fiori di Sicilia (optional)
milk

Combine sugar, flavorings, and just enough milk to get a consistency that will drizzle off the end of a fork. Drizzle away, preferably over the parchment paper on which the cookies were baked. Store tightly covered.

Tapas-style meatballs in sherry cream sauce


I've made meatballs before, but this flavor combination was inspired by some I had at Café Sevilla in San Diego. The paprika and the cumin make them seem exotic. 

All measurements are estimated; I tend to make meatballs by the seat of my pants, as it were. Don't omit the shallot in the sauce; it really makes a distinctive difference.

Meatballs:

1 lb ground beef
1 chub of seasoned pork breakfast sausage (I use R.B.Rice Mild or Medium)
1/4 onion, minced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 pinches cumin
salt or seasoning salt to taste
1 egg
(optional) about 1/2 cup of texturizer; I used cold cooked rice, but rolled oats or bread crumbs may be used instead.

Mush everything together thoroughly in large bowl. Melt a couple tablespoons each of butter & olive oil in a heavy skillet. Drop small meatballs in the hot skillet and cook over medium heat; don’t let them get browned too much before they are cooked through. As the batches of meatballs are cooked, remove them to paper towels to drain.

Sauce:

1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
optional: 1-2 tsp. beef bullion powder
1/3 c sherry
1/2 c half & half
1 Tbs tomato paste
thickener: 1 Tbs flour, or 2 tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot starch (I use arrowroot lately)

When all the meatballs are cooked, scrape up the browned bits and add the additional fats. Saute the garlic & shallot over med-low heat until well softened. Add the beef bullion power if using (Note: bullion powder can be very salty, and if you’re using cooking sherry, which already has salt, the result can be overpowering). Add the sherry, cream, and tomato paste and cook until bubbling. Dissolve the thickening starch in a bit of cool water and quickly stir into the sauce. As soon as it thickens, reduce heat to low, return meatballs to the pan and cover to simmer for 5 minutes.

These are fantastic with green peas.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Heroes of Cosplay: even worse than I expected.


I've put off watching it because I hate this kind of show, and because I'm dreading how I'll be portrayed and frankly, how the contestants will be portrayed. Although the producers that I worked with were very professional and doing the best they could, the story editors are there to create drama. And I hate drama. I may write it, but in my life I like things peaceful. 

But I watched it, finally. It's been covered and reviewed, elsewhere, so I won't do that. I'll only add my personal reactions:

1. I know they only did five conventions for six episodes, and I can tell from the montage shots. I've already seen myself twice.

2. I don't believe the contestants' lines are scripted, but I do think these interviewees either planned ahead what they were going to say, or had to repeat their speeches so many times that it comes off sounding fake.

3. I knew Yaya Han made a business out of her cosplay, but I had no idea it paid her mortgage. I have to really wonder, now, why they asked her & Riki & Monika to be one of the group competitors when Yaya was a judge at the other events--and especially after she made a statement about not competing anymore. That really does seem--I don't know if unfair is the right word, but certainly suspicious.

4. I'm really glad I wasn't asked to be one of the competitors on this show. For all their talk about it being fun, only the dude, Jesse, seems to be having a good time. I wonder how much advance notice they had about being invited to the show. (Judging by the amount of advance notice *I* had, not much!). These girls are not doing anything to buck the stereotypes of cosplayers being insecure, needy, and backstabbing.

5. Of course, I can stand back and be detatched from it because it's not my chosen vocation. I wonder if they'll include that bit of my interview. I shall be sorely disappointed if they cut the part where I mention my book deal.

6. I don't think any of these people is really as bitchy or vapid or stupid as the editors make them appear. The producers were giving us, the judges, questions to put the contestants on the spot, which I thought was supremely tacky.

7. I'm relieved to know that even Yaya is throwing things together at the last minute. But she's got a helluva lot of nerve making snide remarks about Victoria not being prepared. The little forced huggy bits on the con floor are annoying. I am oh-so-glad they didn't make me do that.

8. I guess it's nice that they're trying to voice the message that "personifying the character is more important than having the perfect body type" but Becky just comes off sounding really insecure.

9. One thing you don't get from watching this is how the judges have to make decisions based on the category divisions. So sometimes you have, say, seven great costumes in one category, and maybe three mediocre ones in another category, but because of the way it breaks down, you are forced to choose from among the mediocre costumes and some better work goes unacknowledged. But it's that way in every kind of competition. As a martial artist, when I've gone to major events, I know ahead of time that there are certain categories that will be more difficult to win, because of the number of competitors and the judges' biases. If you know the game ahead of time, you can sometimes stack the deck. I don't think any of the competitors here had that advantage.