Thursday, October 28, 2004

hacking it out

Some of you may have heard of NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month. It's a sort of internet community, or writing workshop, or collective madness, in which participants commit to writing 50,000 words in the month of November. It's an art-for-art's sake exercise. There are no requirements with regard to quality or subject matter; the only goal is to put a lot of words on paper in a very short time.

I'm considering writing Trace a/k/a the cowboy/vampire novel in NaNoWriMo. My husband has been nagging me about it for a couple of months, now. I've been dragging my feet, what with kimonos and Halloween and stuff. But I want to do it, and more than that, I want to be done with it. NaNoWriMo may be the kick in the pants I need.

I have enough generic knowledge about the Old West and the 1880's in general, I could probably skate through on clichés, then fix the details in December. More to the point, I could take it to my writer's group in December and let them fix the details. They live to nitpick. Still more to the point, that would give me yet another completed work in my coffer. I need some of those.

Fifty thousand words in thirty days is 1667 words per day; 1700 to be safe. That's about three and a half pages per day, in my habitual font/page layout. That's not a lot, for me. When I'm actually working on a story, I often write five or six pages a day. I can turn out a 10,000 word story in a weekend. The problem is I'm a primadonna and I typically go for weeks without writing anything at all. I've been worse since I got married.

Fifty thousand words of Trace, assuming seven to ten thousand words per story (I plan for this to be a series of episodes or chapters, as in a comic book, rather than a straight novel), gives me five to seven stories. I'd be content with that.

There are three days until November 1. I must think about plots. And make eggrolls.

Monday, October 25, 2004

inkblot crits

I saw my real-life writer's group Saturday. They read "Galatea" and they all loved it. Alison said, "This was obviously written by an adult. That older stuff you have about Quinn was obviously written by an adolescent." A few years ago that remark would have angered me. Now I can only nod in agreement and resignation. I know that "Ariston" needs to be rewritten...again. I know Rowling rewrote the first Harry Potter book again...and again...and again. When you have an idea, and you believe in it, you keep fixing it until it works. The problem is, I've been looking at Ariston for so long, I can't see the story for the words. I feel like Michaelangelo, chiseling away everything that isn't a statue.

"Insomnia" is up on critters this week. Predictably, it hasn't gotten a lot of crits, because of the length. I know this because I've had five crits on it, and all of them start with, "I don't normally like to crit pieces this long, but WOW this is a good story!"

Most everyone agrees the story works. No real complaints about the present tense, or the shifts in POV, or digression of the plot. Most people want it to be longer, not shorter.

It's always funny, to me, how crits are an inkblot of the people writing them. One woman wrote a very insightful, complimentary and helpful crit, but spent almost a third of it complaining about the Churchill character, and how he reminded her of certain evangelical Christian types, which offended her, and he was both over-the-top and a cliche, and unnecessary because the story already resonated with themes of man-playing-God, and besides which, the spirituality implicit in the story was more humanist than reliant on a deity.

O...K. While her analysis would certainly deserve an "A" in any English lit class, I think it was reading a bit too much into a character who only has five lines in the entire story. Excuse me, miss, but your prejudices are showing.

Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with saying "this offends me," in a crit. It can be helpful in fact, because a writer should be aware of anything that may alienate her audience. But for pity's sake, just say you're offended by it and move on.

I myself have not critted anything this week. I haven't had time, with the kimono and all, and it's a pity because there's some good stuff up this week. I still have three days; maybe I'll get something in. Then again, I've got two other stories on the back burner, plus Ariston and Natoshi to rewrite. Ugh. Do I really want to go over that ground again?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

chicken yumbalaya

This is a cheater's one-pot version of chicken jambalaya; heavy on the meat, light on the rice. Slightly spicy and nicely filling.

In a stock pot or very large, deep skillet, boil 2-3 chicken breasts in about an inch of water, with some chicken-flavor buillion. Cover and cook until meat is done. Better flavor if you use chicken with bones-in.

While that's going on, chop up 2 stalks celery, about a quarter of a sweet yellow onion, and half a green bell pepper. Add more, or hotter, peppers if you like.

When the chicken is done, remove to a plate to cool. Dump the vegetables in the hot chicken broth, along with a couple tablespoons of butter. Add enough water to make about 2 cups. Add one large can (I think the one I used was about 25-30 oz) diced canned tomatoes. Add lots of black and/or seasoned pepper, some thyme, garlic, and basil. Turn down to simmer.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove any bones and cut meat into small bites. Return meat to pot.

Cut up a package of smoked dinner sausage or andouille (Cajun) sausage into small circles and throw them in. There should be enough liquid that it looks like chunky soup. Everything should be able to float around easily. Add a couple dashes of hot pepper sauce, or Cajun seasoning, or both, according to how hot you want it.

Add about 3/4 to 1 cup quality long-grain rice, or a combination of white and wild rice. DO NOT use instant rice for this. If you use the combination of wild rice, add the wild along with the tomatoes, about 10 minutes sooner than the white rice, because it will take longer to cook.

Once the rice is in there, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Do not disturb for at least 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, stir the hash and check to make sure you aren't running out of liquid. The rice will soak up the liquid and make the whole thing into a sort of meaty-savory hash you can eat with a fork. Add water in quarter-cup increments if needed (experienced cooks can sort of gauge how much liquid is needed for how much rice; consult the instructions on the rice package for guidance).

At 30 or 35 minutes, stir again and test rice for doneness.

Enjoy! You could also do this sort of thing with a firm white fish, and shrimp, if that's what you're into.

Monday, October 04, 2004

best chocolate frosting ever

Take 1 stick butter and 1/2 brick cream cheese (about 4 ounces). Blend.

Blend in 1/4 tsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp (or more!) lemon oil, NOT lemon extract. Pinch salt.

Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa powder.

Add, alternating, approx. 1/2 cup milk and 5-6 cups powdered sugar, until thick and spreadable.

Spread between, around and over a dark chocolate cake. The result is something like those orange-cream centre candies in the Russell Stover box.

This makes a big batch of frosting, enough to frost and fill a three- or four-layer cake. For less, add less milk and sugar. Frost only after cake is completely cooled, and store in the refrigerator.

Cake recipe later, if you're good.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Van Helsing meets Scully & Mulder in the Old West

just a taste....

The werewolf roared, raising on its haunches, semi-human claws scrabbling at its side, and Trace let swing with the staff of firewood in both hands, a solid clout across the thing’s head. Its howl ended in a yelp and the beast fell like a toppled tree.

“Sum. . . sumbitch,” Boz gasped, half-winded by the crush. He sat up, and Trace took him under the arms and pulled him from under the thing. The beast rolled away limp, its muzzle open and lolling in the gravel. It was breathing fast, with a raspy, growling sound. “Bastard’s snoring,” Boz said in amazement.

“Yeah,” Trace said, and laughed. “You okay?”

“Just a scratch, here.” Boz’s shirt sleeve was dark with blood where the thing had clawed him.

“Better sear that with whiskey,” Trace said.

“Inside and out,” Boz agreed. He went to fetch the bottle from the saddlepack while Trace wound rope around the werewolf’s ankles. Boz helped him with the hog-tying, and they both had a drink, in celebration.

“That ought to make the witch happy,” Trace said.