Thursday, April 25, 2013

Stomach Bug and the Day After Recipies

damnable little creatures!
Over the last seven days or so, a stomach bug has been marching through our family. My oldest daughter had it last week and my youngest got it on Sunday. I fell to it on Tuesday and hubby's just recovering today. I had started a more writing related post over the weekend but abandoned it, so that I could lay on the couch with a wet washcloth on my head. I took a sick day from writing and the kitchen. Luckily my girls channeled their inner street urchin on Tuesday and rummaged through the refrigerator  to assemble their own dinner of scraps and leftovers. Yesterday I was ready to cook again. The weather was cool, and this being Texas it's probably the last cool day we'll get until November. The temperature paired with my tender (and very empty) stomach, made me think of one of my favorite dinners. Bonus, the girls love it too!

Back to writing - and writing related blog posts - next time, for now here's what I made for dinner and how to make it.

Potato Leek Soup

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a pot,
add 2 to 3 cloves minced garlic, and then
add about 2 pounds leeks (usually about 2-4 leeks. Cut off the tough upper third of the leaves,  cut the bottoms in half lengthwise and run under water to clean, then slice thinly.),
add a little minced fresh thyme,
add salt to taste.
Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are soft.
Add 1 pound gold potatoes (the mini ones come in a handy 1 lb bag), chopped (I leave the skins on for extra texture and vitamins.),
add 6 cups chicken broth and
a dash of white pepper.
Bring to a boil and let simmer until the potatoes are tender (about half an hour).
Turn off the heat and blend with a hand mixer,
add 1/2 cup of yogurt (I use whole milk White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt) and blend again.
Pour into bowls and garnish with a few thyme leaves.

Bread is always good on a tender stomach and I often make popovers to go with soup. They are easy to make, a family favorite, and help use up our surplus eggs.


Preheat oven to 425F,
Grease a 12 muffin tin,
in a mixing bowl with a spout or a large measuring cup, mix 1 cup baking flour, and
3/4 teaspoon salt.
Blend in 1 cup milk with a wire whisk,
then blend in three eggs - one at a time.
Add in a couple tablespoons of any extras. In our case it was dill and poppy seeds. (sesame seeds are good too or Parmesan cheese...).
Pour batter into cups. They should only be one half to one third full!
Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes,
then reduce heat to 350F and bake for an additional 15 minutes.


Thursday, April 18, 2013


A Black Bag
This is going to be exceedingly short. I'm trying to keep writing through the noise.  Lately the feed seems pretty relentless. It seems like terrible is the new black.

My heart goes out to the people of Boston and to all the people of the world especially those who were there to participate in one of our most democratic sporting events or to cheer the runners on. My heart goes out to the people of North and South Korea, to the people of West, Texas, to the people of Syria, to today's victims of gun violence. I could go on.

I have lots of thoughts about Boston bombings, especially in light of social media and the news coverage. I don't watch any news off the television anymore, pulling it instead from Google News, Twitter, AP, Reuters, The Guardian, the LA and NY Times (at least until I hit their paywall). 

It seems that, with the Boston bombings, the old school model of journalism is collapsing into something else. The Boston marathon is one of the most highly recorded events. And now millions of people, in Boston and around the world, are connected to this story through the internet. We can all see the videos and pictures and we all get to wade through a sea of conflicting facts as the story emerges. There are already truthers and conspiracy theories. And then there's the edgy crowd sourcing of the visual evidence by interested parties such as Redditors and 4Chan. This kind of event seems suited to the large cooperative effort of a crowd. But a crowd is just a mob in a good mood and it's hard not to feel that we stand on the very precipice of vigilantism - especially if you read the comments section at the bottom of, let's just say, any article. 
From Gawker's: Your Guide to The Boston Marathon BombingAmateur Internet Crowd-Sleuthing
How is our world different when we are all witnesses to an act of mayhem like this? By witnessing, are we driven to participate in a solution or to tell ourselves that's what we're doing when we're online? These questions are the stuff of a much longer post, but one that will have to wait since I'm working on a story that needs to be finished. 

And that's more important, because I believe in the healing power of art, and in the subversive nature of literature, to speak truth to the dark powers of chaos that sometimes look like they might swallow us whole.

It's hard to write through this stuff. But writing stories is what I do, so that's what I must do. You can bet I'll keep watching the news because what happens out in the world will need to be inside my next story.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Read The Gyre at The Colored Lens

The Land Baby by John Collier
I wrote my mermaid story, The Gyre, a couple years ago, and workshopped it at ArmadilloCon 2011 with Paolo Bacigalupi. It made the rounds and was parked at a couple publications for quite a while, but now I'm thrilled that it's finally found a home at The Colored Lens. If you haven't heard of this great publication be sure to check them out. Their website is packed with great stuff. Here's what they're about in their own words:

The Colored Lens: Spring 2013
"The goal of speculative fiction has always been to examine the real world through the lens of the imaginary. By considering what could be, we gain a better understanding of what is. The Colored Lens strives to do exactly that. By publishing four to five short stories and serialized novellas a quarter in genres ranging from fantasy, to science fiction, to slipstream or magical realism, we hope to help our readers see the world just a bit differently than before they came to us."

Actually their spring issue has been available for nearly a month. I didn't have a specific publication date for this one and then I got busy and forgot to check. You can buy the whole 200+ page issue for Kindle for just $2.99 or borrow it for free with Amazon Prime. After the summer issue is published, the spring issue stories will begin to roll out on their website, where you can read them for free.

When I wrote The Gyre, there were a couple news stories about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and for some reason it got me thinking about what mermaids might be like in the modern world. I reread Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid and was struck by how different it was from the Disney version, which has supplanted his far more tragic tale in popular culture.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Write 1 Sub 1 Update

Woman Writing by Pablo Picasso
I've settled into my year of Write 1 Sub 1. I have changed my badge from the weekly to the monthly badge. Having three months of work and observation under my belt, I've adjusted my goals from writing four stories and submitting two every month, to writing two stories and subbing two. Really, I should call it the W2S2 challenge. 

Two stories a month still doubles my output from last year, so originally setting a goal of a story a week was probably a bit pie in the sky. On one hand, reaching for the stars pushed me to start cranking out more raw writing than I ever had before, but I now have a backlog of material that needs editing and critiquing so that it can go out the door. Adjusting this goal for the long haul feels rewarding because I can now consider myself a two-story-a-month writer.

Another reason for the adjustment is that my stories are getting longer (or maybe it's just that my first drafts are getting bigger and sloppier). I am lagging on the submissions side, as I continue to work out my best practices for managing the multiple revisions for each piece that are an important part of my writing process (in fact I think I like revising more than drafting, since as Hemingway so famously said, "the first draft of anything is shit." And, you know, sometimes it's not so fun to wade through all of that). I am still working on a process that will keep my revisions moving through the pipeline while still allowing me to generate new material. 

So far this year my output seems to be working out to one flash story and and one long piece each month. I am going to take next week to focus on revision and submissions. 

1. The Mausel Dog - short story (3,900 words) finished and in submission.
2. That Guy - poem - finished, posted and in submission to poetry venues (that take reprints).

1. Izzy Crow - Novelette (currently 13,000 words) in revision, critique next.
2. Naturally - Flash (1,000 words), critiqued* and ready for final revision/submission.

*I posted Naturally at Online Writers Workshop and it is currently an Editor's Pick for a pro critique. You can see Leah Bobet's critique in the April newsletter.

1. Kin - Flash (1,000 words) in revision, critique next.
2. Time is a Place Called Night (currently about 10,000 words) resting/waiting for revision and critique.

1. The Internet of things - Flash (1,000 words) in revision.
2. The Ruby Gorgeton deck, i.e. research and outlining is finished, probably another novelette.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Poetry and the Prose

Leonid Tishkov's Private Moon project
April is National Poetry Month, so let's talk about poetry. The point I want to get around to is that, if you're a writer, it's important to read poetry. But saying poetry is important is such a complete buzz kill. And it's not only important, it's demanding. Poetry requires more from you, the reader. It requires rereads and contemplation and mulling. So, it's important and demanding --ugh! Poetry is starting to sound like some horrible memo from management that you know you should have read, but you'd rather just fake it and hope you don't get fired for missing some action item in the third paragraph.

I truly believe anyone who gives poetry half a chance will be rewarded by the effort, but poetry has even more to offer writers. Matt Debenham makes an excellent case for reading poetry in his post: What Prose Writers Can Steal From Poets. He talks about the special way that poets use language (and how they often don't use adjectives and adverbs very much) to create a powerful experience. 

"[Poets] don’t have, usually, dialogue and scene to convey character. Their main tool is the image."
Poets do this to communicate to the reader across great distances or centuries or class lines or gender. They do it to find an emotional connection, to share something visceral that rings true and reaffirms our humanity. Wait, that's what we're all trying to do when we write.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
Poets may not be concerned with narrative devices such as plot and character (though you might be surprised how often those elements show up even in the shortest poems), but there's a world of things a writer can learn simply by regularly reading poetry: economy of language and density, how to manipulate metaphor and simile, and how to work in images. The line is as important as the whole and how words sound is often as important as what they mean.

My favorite way to train my ear for rhythm and style, for the sound of my writing, is to read long form poetry. My favorites include classic epics such as John Miltion's Paradise Lost and Beowulf, and other long poems such as William Wordsworth's The Prelude and Ovid's Metamorphoses, but I'm the first to admit that these require a lot of the reader.

There is another class of long poem called verse novels, that is more conducive to -- well to just reading at the end of a long day. And I believe that just reading this stuff with a modicum of attentiveness (which as a writer, that's how you read everything, right?) will train your ear, and it will begin to show in your writing without conscious effort! The other advantage of verse novels is that they are big enough in scope to be concerned with creating a world, and usually have the narrative devices we enjoy in prose such as characters and plot, even suspense. 

Writing science fiction and fantasy is about exploring the unknown, invoking the alien and making it immediate, visceral, human. Poetry, long or short can show us new and different, and often brilliant, ways to accomplish great things, and if some of it is a little challenging, well, the greatest pleasures are often those we earn.