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I have a cold.  I sound like I swallowed a penny whistle, and whenever I try to do housework I end up soaked with sweat.  As a result I’ve been sitting at the desk quite a bit and trying to write.  Unfortunately I picked today to read over the 17k words of the novel I’m working on.

Oh my god, it sucks rocks.  It’s talky and boring, and none of the characters have much… character. They don’t seem to like each other and they sure don’t want to sleep with each other.  All they do is travel from one place to another, have conversations that skirt the real issues, and eat. Oh, and lie to one another.  Everyone is lying to someone else and the net result is that nobody is really engaging with anyone, including me.

Have I really forgotten how to write? Am I losing my mind?

I expect every writer feels that way in the process of shaping a story.  It’s like being stuck at a dinner party with a lot of people who you were certain were going to be brilliant, but instead keep on nattering about the most inane things imaginable while throwing food or trying to stick forks into the other diners.  You end up wondering if you shouldn’t just nuke them all from orbit.  It’s the only way to be sure.

So what to do?  I could trash it, but with 17k+ words written that seems a lot like buying food and then letting it rot in the fridge.  (Okay, yeah, I do that too. Shame on me.) However I could argue that spending more time on a story that seems to be going nowhere is good words after bad.  Why waste my time if it’s not a good story?

But what if it is?  What if there’s a good story in there, but it’s my attention that’s fragmented, my sense of the story that’s skewed?  I could put it aside for a while and work on something else.  But right now there’s nothing else that’s occupying the space in my head reserved for stories.  None of the old ones are sending me write this! messages.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe I need to spend my time cleaning out closets, scrubbing floors (I did that today.) or arranging my thousands of photographs dating back to the mid-19th century.  Or I could read.  That’s always worth doing, right?

But I want to be writing.  I really feel like I need to be sitting here stringing words together.  It’s like a physical need for me.  So in the end, I think that maybe the best answer is: The damn thing isn’t finished yet. Why be so negative? I need to stop rereading my work because it always makes me want to go rewrite.  The end result is that the beginning of my stories are usually overworked, the middles are  good and the ends read like a rough drafts.

I’ve pretty much decided to stop being such a mope and bash on with the damn thing.  There’s a story there, I’m sure of it, and some interesting characters, even if they are acting like the most boring people on the planet.

Everyone has a different writing process.  I just wish mine wasn’t so weird and time-consuming.


May. 29th, 2013 03:46 pm
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20130527_112302I just posted a bunch of garden pics over on Those 2 Nice Girls Next Door, and while I'm busy cleaning up my transfer file, I thought I'd post some here as well.

First: "Hi, is that you?"  "Yes.  Go away."

He likes to keep checking.


Next, Peeb settles back into her basket, but keeps one eye open in case he comes back.

And finally, is he not the handsomest boy ever?













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 I've had a miserable headache all day.  It ebbs and flows, and right now it's flowing and I'm squinting at the screen and holding my breath.  I think I'm going to break down and take a Vicodin before bed.  As a result I've been less productive today than I wanted to be.  I had planned to do a lot of stuff, including writing, but it all got away from me.
Hummus topped with whole chickpeas and olive oil.
Much nicer looking than my hummus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I did manage to make hummus.  Yesterday when our neighbor, Linda, came over with a bottle of wine and some paper cups (It's so good having kindred spirits surrounding us.) the talk turned to chickpeas (I want to plant some this year.) and hummus. (Linda says she has her aunt's recipe for the best hummus ever.)  So last night I put some chickpeas on to soak and this morning I put some in the sprouter and cooked the rest.  Problem was I was sure I had tahini, but I was wrong.  Fortunately I found a jar of sesame seeds which were frankly just a bit older than they ought to have been.  However I was on a mission, and having to make my own tahini with raw, elderly sesame seeds was not going to stop me.  So I processed the seeds with olive oil, then tossed in the chickpeas, more oil, a lot of lemon juice and garlic, salt and some hot sauce.  And you know what?  It was good!  It's not the best I've ever eaten and it's inelegant and not perfectly smooth, but it was good and I enjoyed it.  I have a jar of it in the fridge along with more cooked chickpeas for salad this week.

Tomato seedling

I also have a terrifying amount of lentil (green, red and beluga), broccoli, cress, and radish sprouts in the fridge, a lot of chickpeas in the sprouter and a mix of kamut, amaranth and wheat berries soaking.  I'm on a sprouting binge and I won't be happy until I've tried to sprout every seed, nut and grain in the house.  I have an avocado pit in the kitchen window that should be popping soon, half a dozen lettuce and two celery bottoms in our raised bed, and a pineapple top in a jar of water in the window.  I also have a tomato plant growing from a seed I would normally just have washed down the drain.  Unfortunately not long after I took the picture of the little proto tomato plant, Peeb tore it out of the pot.  I now have a second one growing, out of her reach.

Why am I doing all this?  Well I get obsessed with things, and right now it's spring and growing stuff seems like something I really, really want to be doing.  Our garden budget isn't very big this year, so growing stuff from kitchen scraps is something that makes sense.  And I really believe that if we can we should grow things to help feed our bodies and our souls.  A garden is one of the best anti-depressants I know. (You can read more about the garden and life at the Villa on the blog I share with Glinda, Those 2 Nice Girls Next Door.)

Venus of Willendorf Fertility Goddess cast 240...
Venus of Willendorf Fertility Goddess cast 24000 to 22000 BCE (Photo credit: mharrsch)

This afternoon I got a couple of packages in the mail, one of which is my new talisman.  I think I've mentioned that I have this superstition about having a talisman for every novel I write.  So when I started Nine Lives, a novel that has its roots in an old piece I wrote entitled "Cat Tales." I knew I wanted a proper talisman for it, to help differentiate it from the original in my mind.  I chose a Willendorf Goddess pendant in sodalite, and I'm wearing it now along with my silver pentacle and the golden bear my mother brought me from Bern, Switzerland.  It's a touchstone for the novel, and along with the other two, makes me feel... safe I guess.  Or just in the right place in the universe, which is probably as good a definition of safe as any other.

So now I have hungry cats who have interesting ways of making their desires known, and I should pay attention.  G'night all.  Pleasant dreams.



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spam (Photo credit: Vince_Lamb)

Spammers are becoming more sneaky in their approach.  For example, I got this comment from someone who seems to be selling jewelry: "I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I’m complaining, but slow loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and could damage your high-quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords."

How very kind of you to worry about me and my website.  I can only hope that the host prevents you from getting to it at all in the future.  You're welcome.

And this, which not only spams, it's intended to send the site owner on a wild goose chase: "When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Appreciate it!"  To which I say, "How's it feel, you douchenozzle?  You're welcome."  Interestingly enough I got the exact same comment from two entirely different people.  What are the odds?

And this one: "This web page does not show up appropriately on my i phone – you may want to try and repair that"  Dude, if you're using your iPhone to spam me, you're working WAY harder than you need to.  You're welcome.

If they ever actually read this blog they'd know that they're a constant source of amusement.  Sans the links to whatever they're selling, of course.

Off to empty the spam.  Have a good one.  You're welcome.



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Our Alter Egos
Our Alter Egos (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

I don't know if I mentioned it here, but I've started a new blog.  I share this one with Glinda North, and it's called "Those 2 Nice Girls Next Door."  Why?  It's a complex story and has to do with the things we talked about when we were contemplating our move, searching for a house and all the rest.  We joked that people would probably not remember our names and would call us "Those two nice girls next door" or something similar.  So when we were sitting together having coffee a bit ago, Glinda suggested that we start a blog with that title and talk about our life here.  How we got here, what we think of the arrangement, the house, our lives and so on.  I thought it was a terrific idea and set up a blog, which I'm currently monopolizing because she's been so over-worked lately.  When my quarterly calls start in a week or two, she's going to have to take up some of the slack.  It was her idea after all.  Fair warning: Right now we're obsessed with the garden and probably will be so pretty much through June.  Spring is always our most active time out there, so many of the posts are going to be garden-related.

Amber and Green beaded braceletThe other thing we plan to do is open an Etsy shop with that name.  We're both crafters and it would not only do us good to earn a bit of money, but I think it would be good for us to have that outlet.  (The bracelet to the right is one of mine, I sold it under the name "Belle Epoque Originals.")

We need to clean up the basement first, and set up the Art Box I won.  God knows when that will happen.  There never seems to be enough hours in the day.

I've been working on "Winter Rose" aka, "The Russian Novel" and "The Time Travel Novel."  It's coming along slowly but the characters drag their feet abysmally.  And today I decided that I was going to... not rewrite an old novel, exactly, but revisit it.  Many years ago, around 1980 or so, I wrote a novel called "Cat Tales," and I've been thinking seriously about taking some of the original ideas and developing them into something different.  I won't be reselling an old story, just cannibalizing the best of it to make something new.

The Pantry Project is still ongoing.  I'm not doing as well as I'd hoped I would be by now, but we're eating better and wasting less.  I cook more often and we're eating less meat and ordering out less.  I can't expect habits to change overnight or even in a year, really.  Not when they're this ingrained. I want to get back to trying new things.  Tonight we had Hasselback potatoes for the first time.  They were very successful, though the mess in the baking dish is scary.  And a trip to a new Sur la Table store on Saturday ended with me buying avocado oil for our salads.  We are trying new things.

The cats are great.  Leo is having a lot of asthma problems since I started using a supposedly asthma-friendly clay litter, so we're going back to cedar.  And Peeb seems to be not having a lot of 'sodes since I plugged in the Feliway. I don't think to ask for miracles.

So... new and old, and old made new again.  We work with what life gives us.


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Last night I received a contract from Dreamspinner Press for my novella "Call Me But Love."  It's a group of four stories all based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and comes directly out of a fannish sub-genre known as "(x-number) Things That Never Happened to (character)"  I wrote one in "Brokeback Mountain" fandom, a number of years ago ("Five Things That Never Happened to Ennis del Mar" for anyone who is curious.) and got a taste for the format.  Alas, it's really only good with characters who are known to your audience.

The stories in "Call Me But Love" (From the play: "Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized; Henceforth I never will be Romeo.") are set in different places and eras.  The first, "His Timeless End" is set in Renaissance Verona. The second, "Give Me a Case to Put My Visage In" is set in Victorian England.  "By Any Other Name," which is the third story of the group, is set in post-WWII U.S., and finally  "The Children of an Idle Brain" is a contemporary story set in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

When I posted the news on Facebook last night, I promised an excerpt.  From the second story, "Give Me a Case to Put My Visage In,":

"Arrogant, self-important, little trollop," he growled. There was laughter from the shadows and he was suddenly worried that perhaps some kinsman of Juliet's had seen the entire performance. "Who's there?" he demanded. "Come out if you dare."

It was only Mercutio who stepped out of the shade of the garden wall, applauding softly. "What a show.  I thought for sure you had won the maiden or at least her maidenhead, but I guess true love doesn't buy what it used to."

"Shut up."

Mercutio laughed. "Oh by Rosaline's bright eye, you gave it your all and I applaud you. And speaking of Miss Gordon, she's left the gathering, so I guess your evening has been wasted. Lovely girl, Miss Gordon; rather wealthy if I remember correctly. Sheep."

Romeo stalked off, determined to find a way out that didn't lead back through the ballroom.  He did not want to see Juliet again; his pride wouldn't withstand another blow that night.

Mercutio followed, humming a little tune. "Why don't you go away?" Romeo snapped.

"I'm protecting my winnings."

The memory of what he had promised was like a blow. "You knew I wasn't serious about that bet."

"I knew no such thing. You made a bet with me; you lost. Will you be a gentleman and honor that wager?"

Romeo turned sharply and scowled at him. "I suppose one of us must be."

At that, Mercutio drew very close. "I suppose you're implying that if I try to collect my winnings, I am no gentleman. I'll tell you what Romeo: I never claimed to be a gentleman. You, on the other hand, are puffed up with your position in life, swaggering about and using people without ever a thought to what the consequences might be. I watched you with that girl and she had the better of you, my friend, in spite of all your efforts to win her with sweet words and cheap lies. She put you right down in your place. Your family might be rich, but you'll never be nobility, not for love nor money, my sweet, lovely boy. But all she has to do is marry Paris and her path in life is charted. It seems a shame, doesn't it, that you can't just lie down and earn a title, too?"

Romeo struck out but Mercutio saw the blow coming and danced away from it. Thwarted, Romeo snarled at Mercutio, "You would know how that's done, wouldn't you? At least I can't be arrested for what I am." He saw that the dart hit home and he was glad of it.

Mercutio made a low bow.  "As ever I yield to your superior wit." And with a sardonic smile, he started up the street alone, whistling that irritating little tune.  Romeo watched him disappear into the darkness and then began to walk in the opposite direction, towards his club.  It had been a wasted evening, and had, he feared, cost him a friend into the bargain.  But there was nothing for it; he was not like Mercutio, not...

The words wouldn't form in his mind; he feared them. 




Just FYI

Mar. 31st, 2013 11:43 pm
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Glinda North and I are celebrating five years here at the Villa by starting a blog about what those years have been like and what it will be in the future.  I'm not planning to cross-post this so if you're of a mind to follow us, you'll have to go to  There is a "follow by email" option if you'd prefer that. 
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Phisherfolk, your attention please?

English: Frame of an animation by the U.S. Fed...

U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Just in case the person or persons responsible for all the phishingemails that are coming through the email account associated with this blog are actually reading me, I’d like to alert you to the fact that I’ve send every one of your emails, suspicious attachments, headers, and all to the companies you’re pretending to be affiliated with.

I admit you’re a step up from Madame Bongwire Johannson whose late husband left me $50,000,000, but only a step. The one purportedly from NACHA sent from an address written in Cyrillic… kinda stupid.  Then there was the KeyBanc one from “Cedric Keller,” and today’s ADP payroll email.  Those are the three most recent, the ones I’ve actually kept track of.

Pay attention now:  I DON’T OPEN ATTACHMENTS UNLESS I ALREADY KNOW WHATS IN THEM.  My friends should be aware of this too.  Send me a “Wow this is SOOOOO weird” attachment and I’ll nod and say thanks but I won’t be looking at it.

Look, I have NO MONEY.  None.  You probably have stolen more than I’ve got.  So you really need to go away now.

FranÁais : Logo de l'association

Français : Logo de l’association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Facebook page The Northwest Side of Chicago posted this photo of The Buffalo today, and the moment I saw it I was catapulted into my past.

When I was a little girl, living about two blocks from this corner, the Buffalo occupied the corner space, the place that is girded by that neon sign that says “BUFFALO – SODAS – BUFFALO’S OWN MADE ICE CREAM” If I remember correctly, it had ten old, high-backed wooden booths with black marble-topped tables, and jukeboxes affixed to the wood-paneled walls at the center of long, tiled mirror panels.  There were coat hooks on the posts between booths.  At the very back there was one long table for big groups, with a long booth on one side and bentwood chairs on the other.  The floor was tiled in black and white hex tiles with black grout that had probably been white originally.

There were two wooden phone booths on one side, next to a long candy counter which had ceased to be used for candy before I was born.  I think they had stuffed toys displayed there, but it’s hard to remember.  That was where we’d line up to wait for a booth, so it was just as well nobody was trying to do business there.  Across from the defunct candy counter was a counter with stools.  That was where the magic happened, with freezers, pumps for the various toppings, mysterious machines, a big vat to keep the hot fudge sauce hot, stacks of glasses and dishes, and soda water spigots with pull-down handles that always fascinated me.  We almost never sat at the counter.  When we did, I felt like I was being let in on a huge secret as I watched the soda jerks work their magic

My parents and I went there about once a week.  It was one of the only places where my dad was willing to stand in line which is a testament to their ice cream.  Yeah, you could get sandwiches, too, but we went for the ice cream and so did most of the other patrons who would stand in line out the door and down the block on a hot summer night.  Once you got a booth, you’d give your order to a high school boy who never wrote anything down (hoping he’d get it right; he usually did) and fed a quarter into the jukebox for three plays.

I usually ordered a chocolate a la Boston soda.  I don’t know what made it Boston style, but I do know I loved it with a passion that endures to this day.  My dad was a soda man, too.  My mom liked her banana splits.  When I got older, I wanted to try some of the “creations” like the “Hubba Hubba” but my folks always said they were too big.  I never did try the Hubba Hubba, but I remember I did try the “Chop Suey – Not Chinese or with celery.”  I can’t remember if I liked it.  Mostly if I wanted something really fancy, it was hot fudge.  That was when hot fudge tasted like… fudge.  It doesn’t anymore.

I loved their malted milks too, so thick your spoon would stand up in them.  Since the advent of high fructose corn syrup sweetened chocolate syrup, shakes and malts haven’t tasted the same.  And I still remember the packet of cookies that came with them.  One Nabisco butter cookie and one Oreo wafer.  No cream filling, just the single wafer.

Later they expanded.  They took the space behind and the one to the west.  They did all the carry outs from the rear, and the new dining room area was relentlessly modern and I never liked it all that well.  But every year, on the last day of school, we went there for lunch and hung out for the afternoon the way adolescents had done, probably since the place opened.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, this print is for sale.

Later they opened a bar and grill, but I never went there.  I’d moved out of the area and going there wasn’t as much fun as it used to be.  Then Shell bought the property and tore the building down to put up a service station so there’d be three corners with gas stations  at that intersection.  What a boost to the neighborhood!  I’ve had a grudge against Shell since 1978, when the parlor closed

There have been other ice cream parlors in the Chicago area, Chicagoans love their ice cream.  There’s even another Buffalo out in Buffalo Grove, owned either by the same folks who owned the original, or by relatives of theirs, I’m not sure which.  They have a lot of the same ice cream creations, like the Hubba Hubba, and there’s a Boston shake, but no Boston sodas.  But none of them come close to the Buffalo for me.

I can still remember being sent down to buy a pint of hand-packed ice cream, and I can remember how good it tasted.  Most ice cream doesn’t taste that good anymore.  I remember how beautiful the place was with its dark wood paneling and warm incandescent lights.  And the crazy thing is, I can still remember how that place smelled.  It was a cool, dark, ever-so-slightly sweet aroma that seemed to float around you as you walked through those double doors on the corner.

Like most of the other great things about my childhood, it’s gone forever.  And like those things, I miss it.  I miss its magic.

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 Writing, I mean.  Why do I -- and apparently a whole lot of other writers -- need to be prodded into actually going about the business of putting words on paper? Why do I spend so much time gathering writing memes about how hard it is to write, and how I should be writing, and how to write, instead of actually writing?

I spend a lot of time over games of solitaire or Cubis, letting ideas marinate, trying to work out plot points.  I spent most of yesterday doing just that.  And yet it's easier than it was; still slow but easier.  Ideas come more often, plotting becomes smoother, characters are chattier.  I have a plot for a short story roughed out today, right on the heels of sending the previous one out to a magazine.  I actually have two things submitted right now, and I think that's a first for me.

Probably what I'm saying here is that the paperwork is always there but you get more used to it.  It becomes easier.  So for what it's worth, here are a couple of... not rules necessarily, but things I've learned about my writing.  Maybe they'll help yours.

  1. You have to have ideas before you can have ideas.  You know that old joke about how the most common question asked of writers is "Where do you get your ideas?" Well there's a reason for that.  Ideas are hard.  Either they don't seem good enough, or they're too big, or too small, too derivative or too weird.  They drag their feet and thumb their nose at you and don't give a damn that you actually are prepared to sit down and write.  They hide under the sofa or in cupboards, and can often be found in the shower, sucking up all the hot water.  My point here is that you have to get into the habit of having ideas.  Have a few, work with them.  More will come to you and beg for food.  Eventually you'll have flocks of them chasing you around the field, trying to get your attention.
  2. Don't rewrite until you've finished the story.  Yeah I know you have to read back a ways to know what you were saying before you can pick up the thread again, but for the love of all you consider holy, resist the urge to read from the beginning and correct mistakes.  Because I promise you that you will end up rewriting the beginning of your story a hundred times and then race through writing the end because you've gotten sick of it.  Just don't do it.
  3. Don't tell your whole story to people.  Once you've told it, however imperfectly, you'll lose some of the urge to make it concrete.
  4. Pay attention.  Take notes.  Ask questions.  You have to engage your brain and your senses if you want to write.
  5. Read.  A lot.  All the time.  If I have to explain this, you're not a writer.  Go do something that will earn you a lot of money, and stop pretending.

These points won't necessarily make you a better writer -- I'm not remotely qualified to teach anyone that skill -- but if you take them to heart you might just get something down on paper for a change.  Give it a shot.


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 Yeah I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Unless you’re twelve, of course, and haven’t figured out that the friends you’ve got now are friends of proximity who, in twenty years, will be people you once knew, whose names and faces you barely remember.  If you are twelve, or you think that your grade school friends will be with you forever, let me let you in on a fact of life: Unless you and your childhood friends never change, never grow, never really mature, you probably won’t have anything in common with them by the time you hit thirty.

There are always exceptions.  You might be fortunate and find a lifelong friend who shares enough with you that no matter how you both change there’s still a strong bond between you. I don’t really have any friends left from those days.  My oldest “friend” stays in contact rather peripherally, but I find that whenever we have even a ten minute conversation she annoys the piss out of me.  It’s not so much  that we’re different people now, and don’t really have anything in common. She’s been married and divorced, raised a child, and turned to Jesus.  I’ve done none of those things.  I respect them all, but don’t share them.  Alas, I get the feeling through both subtle and not-so-subtle hints that she doesn’t respect my choices.  I once had occasion to say to her (during a conversation about why she didn’t let the kids in her class read the Harry Potter books because they were about witchcraft) that I didn’t see that reading had harmed either of us.  Her response?  ”You read more than I did.”  I’m really trying hard not to take that as a cut; either way I was amused by it, which pretty much means that I don’t care what she thinks.

But more than that, it’s the you’re-not-a-good-friend messages I get from her that annoy me and make me dig in my heels.  Last time I ran into her, in an effort to be friendly, I said, “You should stop over some day.”  Her response was along the lines of: I will when you’re ready to call and invite me.  Okayfine.

Pam and Toto

Yeah, they’re nuts, too.

Maybe I am a bad friend.  Or maybe I just know that if we were in the same room, there’d be nothing to talk about but the past, and I’m WAY over that.  I’ve never been to a high school reunion.  When asked why I explain that if I could think of ONE person I would see there who I 1) wanted to see and 2) couldn’t see any other time, I’d go in a hot minute.  Couldn’t think of one.  I have one friend left from high school.  I actually count her as my oldest friend.  The others are all acquaintances now.  People I used to know before I became me.

Fandom and the internet has opened up a whole new arena for friendships.  Meeting people long distance allows you to get to know their minds before anything else, and while I used to think this was terrific, amazing, a way to get to know the real person without a lot of baggage, now I have to confess that it’s not as great as it sounds.  The thing is, you can get on with someone like crazy online, but if you end up in the same room, sometimes there’s just nothing.  Dead air.

Then there are people you don’t get on really well with long distance, but in person?  Man it just sparks, it’s exciting, you have tons to talk about and you just love being together.  The thing is you just never know how it’s going to play out until you give it a chance. Or in other words, some people are better at a distance or in very small doses.

Friendship is probably as much chemistry as romantic love is, and there’s simply no accounting for why it works with some people and not with others.  Yeah you have to have things in common, but there has to be some sort of spark, some sense that the two of you are more fun together than you are individually.  You have to trust that a friend, whether long-distance or in-person, will make you laugh, offer sympathy when you cry, and that you’ll usually have something interesting to say to one another.  Not always, sometimes a friend is someone you can be silent with and it’s not icky or uncomfortable.

A friend is someone who you can be apart from for months or years and when you get together with them again, it’s like no time has passed.  I’m blessed with friends like that, both near and far.  So while I do think friendship is an odd thing, I think it’s a wonderful thing, too.  Everybody needs friends.  If you don’t have them you end up being the guy who shoots people from the clock tower.  The one who “keeps to himself.”

Don’t keep to yourself.

Two friends

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Boilerplate is an ambitious book, rich with detail that makes the story feel about as real as anything you can get from a history book. Guinan and Bennett have constructed analternate history which lies so close to the real thing that I promise you you’ll be checking Google and Wikipedia to see if what they’re saying is true or not. I’m still not entirely sure that Boilerplate, the robot, didn’t exist. He appears, Zelig-like, in photo after photo with historical figures and yet blends into the background as if he was nothing very much out of the ordinary. The main reason for the brilliance of this book is the deft way the visuals are handled. The text itself is a bit dry, though it does have a history-book feel to it which works well under the circumstances. If pastiche was the intention, then it’s well done.

But the book isn’t just a wonderful fantasy. Folded into the history is a pointed commentary on subjects which are still pertinent a century later. Boilerplate is a mute witness to to early movements for workers’ and women’s rights. It fights alongside the Buffalo Soldiers and sees action in the Philippine-American War, Spanish-American War and WWI, fighting both in the trenches and with T. E. Lawrence, in Arabia. While the narrative never becomes preachy, only a fairly obtuse reader could fail to understand the point of history as it’s presented here. This is not a book likely to appeal to people whose beliefs run to the right of the political spectrum.

“Robot”, a word not in existence when Boilerplate itself was supposed to have been created, derives from a word that means “forced labor.” (Karel Capek, R.U.R., 1920) Even the name, “Boilerplate” suggests a kind of non-existence, something that only serves as a model for the real thing. Created as a replacement for soldiers, Boilerplate is intended to save lives in time of war. Sadly, what he foreshadows is mechanized warfare, increasingly removed from human concerns. There’s a nice tension between our knowledge of what Boilerplate represents, and his thoroughly anthropomorphized features — his human form and a face that registers perpetual surprise, between his utter lack of personality and the concern his creator feels for him as he strides into battle.

The questions raised by this book aren’t easy ones, but they’re raised in a way that does allow us to choose the level on which we read. Boilerplate is still a ripping fantasy adventure.


persimmonfrost: (Default)
Usually I do this from Wordpress so I can post to all my blogs at once, but apparently something happened last night and my WP blog has disappeared.  I can't access anything!  (Yeah, it's not a good day so far.)  Anyway I wanted to drop a note to say that I have a new novella being released today from Dreamspinner Press.  It's entitled "The Vampyre's Revenge" and is the story of a sad fanboy who finds love in an unexpected place.  Here's an excerpt:

FRANK went out one night to pick up a pizza and came home a vampire. It wasn’t what he’d imagined. He’d assumed vampires would be scarier, like the ones on Buffy with their game faces and all. But the vampire who turned him was Mrs. Carlson, his sweet-faced, elderly
landlady who lived downstairs, growing roses and feeding stray cats.

That night, as he was on his way up the stairs, she'd stopped him and said she thought there was a cat in the garden who was hurt and would
he please help her? And then she’d lured him out to the old garden shed where she’d said, “I’m terribly sorry to do this to you, Franklin, but
I’m afraid I need to drink a little bit of your blood.” Then she’d held him down, this tiny little white-haired lady who looked like his
grandmother, and she’d bitten his neck and drunk his blood.

When she finished, she wiped her mouth on a red-flowered handkerchief (“The blood doesn’t show as much”) she’d had tucked down the front of her plaid housedress and said, “Thank you, dear. Now you won’t tell anyone about this, will you?” Then she patted his cheek.

“Is that it?” Frank asked as he followed her out of the shed. He didn’t even feel very different. A little weak, but otherwise unchanged.

“Is what it?”

“Well, I thought there’d be more to someone drinking my blood.”

“Really? Like what?”

“I don’t know… that you’d be scarier or I’d feel different. Or you’d get all young-looking after you fed.”

Mrs. Carlson laughed. “Franklin, how long have you known me? I’m an old woman." She shook her head. “Why don’t you come in the house and I’ll give you some tea; you’ll feel better after a nice cup of hot tea. Bring your pizza along, will you? It smells awfully good, and I always
get a bit peckish after feeding.” Frank didn’t know if he found that funny or not.

He ended up eating pepperoni-and-mushroom pizza and drinking tea with Mrs. Carlson in her cheerful, bright yellow kitchen, playing with her
cat and asking her questions about being a vampire. Forties-era music played quietly on an old radio in the living room.

“How did you become one?” he asked.

“My grandson found out my heart was going and couldn’t stand the idea of losing his old granny, so he turned me." She sighed. “David never
was one for thinking things through. He was a good boy,” she said. “He worked at a large accounting firm in New York. Unfortunately, he was
killed in an auto accident about five years ago. A bad accident can kill us,” she told Frank as she fed a morsel of pepperoni to Mr. Biggles,
who had jumped up on the kitchen table. “He really should have been more careful. But that was like David; he didn’t think things through,” she repeated. “I appreciated the thought, but I wish he’d just left me to live out my years the normal way.”

Frank stared at the cat, who glared back at him. “Is… is Mr. Biggles….”

“What, dear? A vampire?” She chuckled. “No, he’s just a cat. Mind you, he’s a bit of a monster, aren’t you, my sweetheart?” The cat rubbed
his face against hers, then stared at Frank again with suspicious golden eyes. “He’s like my child, only less irresponsible and ungrateful
than my children were. And he keeps me company. No, I do not feed off of him,” she added with a touch of asperity that suggested she’d been asked such things before and considered them offensive. Frank scratched that question off his mental to-ask list.

“So, I mean… needing blood all the time can’t be easy for you.”

“I have an arrangement with a local butcher. A lot of our kind go to them for blood. Only this week I simply wasn’t able to get down there to
pick up my order on the day it came in, and they gave my blood to someone else. Imagine! And me such a good customer. So I had to find,
well, a donor. I don’t like the word “victim” much, do you?”

“Not so much, no. So you could turn someone into a vampire?”

“I expect I could, though I never have. David’s well-meaning gesture notwithstanding, I never thought turning someone into a vampire was a
very friendly thing to do.”

“Even if they asked you to?”

She peered at Frank over the top of her blue-framed glasses. “Franklin, do you mean to tell me you want to become a vampire?”

“Well… yes. That is to say, I guess so.”

“Now why would you want to be a vampire?” she asked, setting Mr. Biggles on the floor. He glared up at them for a few moments, then
meowed and stalked off.

“Being a vampire seems kind of glamorous.”

“Oh no, it’s not, dear. Would you like some more tea?” she asked, pouring herself another cup from the rose-patterned teapot. Franklin
thought that she was probably right, but the vampire life still seemed miles ahead of where he was in his friendless, dead-end existence.

“No thank you. But vampires seem…. I mean, being strong and supernatural is like… well, it’s something big. Isn’t it?” Frank shook
his head. “I’m not making myself very clear, but what I mean is, it’s not as if the life I’m living is so great, Mrs. Carlson.”

That was the problem, the truth stripped down to the skin, as pasty and bland as Frank. His life was anything but great. He’d been a geeky
kid and had grown up to be a geeky adult. He’d only ever had one girlfriend, who moved away the day after he lost his virginity to her,
and he spent his free time playing computer games, watching movies, and reading. He had a boring job that didn’t pay well and no real friends because most of the other geeks had moved away and gotten jobs that were better than his. Nobody else had ever cared much about getting to know Frank. His sex life was limited to fantasies set in his favorite television programs, and the occasional internet porn, which was as dull and joyless as his single sexual encounter had been, though rather less anxiety-ridden.

By contrast, everything about Mrs. Carlson seemed so bright and colorful. When he considered the difference between her life and his, he
felt such despair he thought he would choke on it. A vast, empty life stretched out ahead of him: fifty, sixty years of nothing very special
or interesting or even colorful, and he broke down and began to sob. “I hate my life. I don’t have any friends, I have a dead-end job, and
nothing good ever happens to me. I couldn’t even afford to go to college where maybe I’d have met some people who didn’t want to make fun of me.”

“Oh, poor Franklin,” Mrs. Carlson crooned, stroking his head. “I didn’t realize. I guess I forget we don’t all prefer a quiet life.”

“It’s okay,” he said, sniffing loudly. She got up and brought him a box of tissues. “I’m sorry about blubbing, Mrs. C. I don’t usually… you know.”

“I understand, dear.” She patted his arm, and then, as Frank watched in horror, she picked up a pair of elegant little embroidery scissors
and cut open a vein in her wrist. “Here, Franklin, drink my blood.”

“Moonlight Serenade” was playing in the living room; time seemed to have stood still. “Will drinking make me…?”

“Yes, it will, though I still don’t know if I’m doing you a favor.”

He caught hold of her arm and pressed his mouth to the oozing cut. He drank deeply for a moment, then realized what was in his mouth and
began to gag. “Oh God, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry,” he blurted, drooling blood all over her tablecloth. “I’m such a loser.”

“I could barely bring myself to drink when David offered. Did you swallow anything?”

He imagined the mess of blood, tea, and pizza in his stomach and had to suck air to keep everything down. This wasn’t going well; becoming a
vampire wasn’t remotely like what he’d imagined it might be. “Yes. Some.”

“Good, then we’re done here. And now I think I’m going to send you home, because I’m getting a bit sleepy. I have to be up early tomorrow,
too, because there’s a rummage sale at the church.”

“You can go out in daylight? I mean, we can?”

“Yes, of course. Oh, Franklin, how many times have you seen me in my garden during the day?”

“And you can go into churches too?”

“Yes, of course we can, dear. Goodness, you do have a lot of strange notions about our kind. It must come from reading all those comic books of yours. You’ll need to feed about once a week. A pint should be sufficient for you. Two at most or you’ll get sick.” She scrawled a name and address on an old fast-food receipt. “This is the butcher I mentioned. You’ll probably need blood tomorrow. What else can I tell
you? You’ll heal fast, and you’ll be stronger than the average human, though in your case, dear, I expect you’ll only be stronger than the
average out-of-shape human.” She gave him a wee poke in the love handles area. “You won’t live forever, but you’ll have a longer life and won’t get sick.”

“Really? We’re not immortal?”

“No, dear. Did you think you would be?”

“Well, I sort of….”

“Remember what I told you about David?”

“And if I don’t have an accident?”

She shrugged. “I was never quite clear on how much longer I’ll live; David never liked talking about those things. I gather that one day
everything vampiric wears off and we stop, but I could be wrong, and even if I’m not, I can’t tell you when that will be. Not for many years
in your case, so don’t worry yourself, Franklin. You have a long time to enjoy these changes. Oh, and be nice. Don’t give our kind a worse
reputation than we already have.”

“Uh… okay.”

“Good night, dear. Thanks for the blood. And the pizza, which was delicious. Next time it’s on me.”

Frank took the rest of the pizza upstairs and put it on his coffee table, got a bottle of Dr Pepper from the fridge, and popped a Buffy DVD
into the player. He sat there for most of the night, just staring at the TV, and by dawn he’d decided to take the day off work in honor of
his having become a vampire, though he wasn’t quite sure how to celebrate.

To start with, he called in sick and said he couldn’t come to work today because he’d been turned into a vampire. The receptionist said,
“I’ll let them know” in her usual disinterested manner and hung up. It'd serve her right, he thought, if he showed up there after her shift to
suck her blood for being so blasé about his transformation. In all fairness, though, he’d already called in sick earlier that year with the
St. Mary’s virus and a brain cloud, and she hadn’t bothered to ask about those either. That was the problem with this town; nobody got him.
Belatedly, he began to realize becoming a vampire wasn’t going to help him connect with ordinary people. In fact, it was likely to hinder the
process of making friends.

“Hi, my name is Frank,” he said aloud. “I’m a geek vampire.” Oh yes, the folks in their town would come a-runnin’ to befriend him now. Why
didn’t he ever think things through?

Rather than worry about it, Frank decided he should go down to the butcher shop and set up a regular supply of blood. He wasn’t ready to
think about the alternatives, and it seemed like a mysterious and vampy thing to do, stealing down to the back door of the butcher shop at
sunset in a long black coat and sunglasses and paying in cash, saying something like “Just call me….” Frank tried hard to think of a good
vampire alias. He didn’t feel right about using “Spike” or “Angelus,” but nothing else occurred to him. Franklin, maybe. Or not: it wasn’t
sinister enough. He’d have to give the name more thought. So anyway, then he’d take the unmarked parcel, the jar of blood in a plain brown
wrapper, to someplace quiet to drink and contemplate the tragic romance of his new life. The mental image of the wretched loner, shadows lying heavily upon him, made Frank a bit happier.

In the end, though, he settled for phoning the butcher shop. He hemmed and hawed so much about what it was he wanted that the guy on the
other end finally said, “You want a pint of pig’s blood a week, right?”

“Um… yes.”

“Fine, give me your name and number and I’ll put you in the book.”


“Vamps. Gotta keep track or things can get confused. What day do you want to pick yours up?”

Nonplussed, Frank blurted, “I could come by now.”

“No can do, buddy; last shipment is sold out. Next one won’t be in until after three today. We’ll be open until seven.”

Sold out? How many damn vampires lived in this town? “Fine, fine.” He felt okay; he could wait. He probably hadn’t actually turned anyway. He
sure didn’t feel any different. Probably he hadn’t swallowed enough of Mrs. Carlson’s blood to do any good. Relief and disappointment churned inside his belly. “I’m okay,” he managed.

“Okay then, blood’ll be ready for you any time after three this afternoon.” The guy didn’t even sound scared. In fact, he sounded bored.

This whole creature of the night thing wasn’t working out quite the way Frank was expecting. 
persimmonfrost: (caddy)


Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno...

Gustave Dor√©’s illustration to Dante’s Inferno. Plate XXII: Canto VII: The hoarders and wasters. Oh yes, there’s a place in hell for the likes of me.

I spent all last week cleaning my bedroom. ¬†A week, you ask in horror, imagining a scene from “Hoarders?” ¬†Well yeah, and there’s a reason why. ¬†Several, really, that I’ve been thinking a lot about as I schlepped and dusted and mopped and sorted.

I’m coming up on the five year anniversary of moving here. ¬†Before that I’d spent about fifteen years caring for my parents in a home that became increasingly cluttered due to… well a lot of things. ¬†They were in the antique and resale business for more than 50 years, and kept quite a lot of wonderful stuff for themselves (and me.) ¬†When Dad retired, a lot more stuff came upstairs, got stored in the basement or out in the garage. (I don’t even like to think about the fact that I walked away from a full garage and a half-filled basement when I moved.) ¬†And as their health deteriorated, we added a lot of home health clutter to the mix.

Housework became an exercise in simply keeping up with the increasing mess, keeping critical things like kitchen, bath and bedrooms clean and relatively neat. ¬†Dementia, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and a host of other, more minor ailments are not tidy afflictions. ¬†You don’t cough delicately into a lace hanky and swoon on a velvet couch. ¬†There are pills, and ointments, syringes, bandages, adult diapers, walkers, hospital beds, oxygen concentrators, canes, gait belts, commodes, and more dirty towels and garbage than you can begin to imagine. There are the useful gadgets to help with routine tasks and the not-so-useful gadgets that waste time, money and emotional energy. ¬†There are piles of magazines and newspapers, piles of laundry and mail, stacks of games and toys intended to, if not improve cognitive function then at least slow the loss. We even had some sort of machine that was supposed to help Mom’s hip knit. (The bone never solidified. ¬†Or something. What I recall of those days is imperfect.) ¬†In short it’s a long, messy business and once it’s over there is a fantastic amount of stuff left, in this case on top of an already fantastic amount of stuff.

All of which is to say nothing of my own clutter, all the stuff I had, all the stuff I bought to make myself feel better.  (Bad habit.  Working on breaking it.)  When my folks passed I was left with a over 4,000 sq. ft. of stuff piled on stuff.

I promptly got about as sick as I’d ever been in my life, and while I was in a decongestant-induced haze I had a dealer come in and take what amounted to about 1/3rd of the stuff to sell. The money stopped coming a year or so ago, so I assume it all sold or has been given to charity. I sold a bunch of stuff on eBay. ¬†And when I moved I still had about 4000 sq. ft. of stuff to move into about 2200 sq. ft. of space. ¬†So for five years I’ve had boxes of stuff

Caddy looking down at his momstacked almost everywhere in this apartment.  Why? Well chalk some of it up to being lazy.  And depressed.  My family was gone and about eighteen months after I moved, my beloved Caddy died, too.

But I also think that some of this reluctance to get on with living here was because I simply didn’t know how or even if I wanted to. ¬†It was an enormous change that I never really wanted to make. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did, all things considered. ¬†But the whole process was something I never felt ready to cope with.

Our Alter Egos

Little by little I’ve been easing into this new place. We have a garden, and every time we plant a rose bush it’s really an act of faith. ¬†The basement is finished. ¬†We’ve gotten to know our neighbors. (Many of whom we both love to pieces.) ¬†I’ve got a couple of rooms painted. ¬†And last week I got everything in my bedroom squared away. ¬†(Okay, to be fair, I still have one tote to empty, but it’s the odds and ends of cleaning. And the room needs painting.) ¬†I’m building a sense of belonging that I desperately need if I ever want to feel at home here.

I love this place. ¬†I don’t ever want to leave. ¬†I think if I ever needed to leave it would kill me. ¬†I suppose that would solve the problem, wouldn’t it? ¬†I just need to let myself feel like it’s home.

This is what helps:


Glinda and the bathtub full of coffee

Glinda and the bathtub full of coffee (Photo credit: Tracy Rowan)

Christmas 2012





Mirrored from Persimmon Frost.

persimmonfrost: (caddy)

I just got a release date for novella “The Vampyre’s Revenge” ¬†It’ll be published by Dreamspinner Press on February 13th.

Podgy fanboy Frank Vogel lives a dead-end life. He’s addicted to pop culture, Internet porn, and fantasies about Rebecca Hansen, a Buffy-like cheerleader from his high school days, but he yearns for something more. When he finds out Mrs. Carlson, his sweet, elderly landlady, is a vampire, a whole new world opens up to him. Blinded by dreams of sexy, mysterious vampires, Frank begs Mrs. Carlson to turn him. Against her better judgment, she does.

Unfortunately, Frank’s life doesn’t seem much different afterward. Then he runs into his unwitting nemesis, Will Chase–former high-school football team captain, former boyfriend to Rebecca–and makes gleeful plans to destroy him… until he discovers that he and Will have a lot in common.

This story was a lot of fun to write. ¬†I don’t really remember where I got the original idea, probably from a conversation with my friends — most of whom are fans — about how maybe the world needed some vampires who weren’t broody, sexy, got-it-together bloodsuckers or shambling revenants. ¬†What I wanted to write was a regular guy, a fan, someone smart but not happy or successful, who becomes a vampire almost by accident, and ends up finding love, also by accident.

I think it’s a sweet story. ¬†I hope you all will, too.

Little vampire

Mirrored from Persimmon Frost.

persimmonfrost: (Gorey)



Seriously, why do people have to go through things like this? Over a YEAR ago I was in Ulta and when I checked out they said “Would you like a couple of sample issues of magazines?” Didn’t tell me what magazines or anything. I think I mumbled something about “I don’t know, maybe.” and apparently that was enough. I started getting Glamour and Allure in the mail. Yeah me getting Glamour and Allure. Stop laughing.

Anyway they showed up at various intervals and after looking at the first ones I started tossing them out, figuring they’d stop when the trial was over. But they kept on coming on and off all through 2011. I started giving the copies to my mail carrier when I thought about it. Then in December I noticed I’d been charged for subscriptions. $15 for each magazine. I called AmEx right away and disputed the charge. That was the last I heard.

Until today when I opened my mailbox and there was Glamour staring at me. So I phoned the customer service number and was told that when I mumbled “maybe” at Ulta I had authorized a free subscription (Never told that.) which would automatically renew on the credit card I’d used (Never told that.) after the free period. I got the magazines stopped and told the CS rep not to worry about the refund because I thought American Express would take care of it. However I went to the AmEx site, discovered that the dispute was marked “closed” and that the entire amount had been refunded to my account.

NYC - Times Square: Condé Nast Building


So now I’m really pissed off with Conde-Nast because that kind of marketing just sucks. I’m pissed off with Ulta for not making sure that I knew it was a subscription and not just samples (The reason I remember all this is that I thought she’d put the magazines in my bag and when I got home and they weren’t in there I thought she’d forgotten.) and I’m wondering if AmEx is eating the cost of the subscription. I’m not worried about them, I know they have more money than God, but it chaps my hide that they might just settle it like that rather than making C-N own up to practices which I think border on deceptive.

Auto-renew should be an opt-in thing, not something you need to opt-out of. ¬†The burden should be on us to say “Yes, keep this coming” instead of “Hey, I don’t even LOOK at your damn magazine; stop sending it to me!” ¬†I just wasted half an hour making phone calls, checking websites and being really, really irritated.

This is ridiculous.




Mirrored from Persimmon Frost.

persimmonfrost: (caddy)
Chicago Tribune building

Chicago Tribune building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Y’know I used to read the Trib on a regular basis when I lived at home. However I’ve had any number of delivery problems with them, the most recent being those damn Local Value and Red Plum papers that get strewn all over my porch, steps and lawn umpty gazillion times a week. Between that, the Nadig newspapers and flyers from the dozens of businesses that drop flyers all over my property each week, it’s a constant battle to keep this place looking neat. And the waste of paper and plastic is phenomenal which I find highly offensive.

I have phoned the Tribune at the number on the ad papers, I have emailed them, I’ve told the delivery people who I can catch not to leave the papers, but NOTHING stops them. They’re like zombies, they just keep on coming. I have been promised that the deliveries will stop on several occasions, but it’s a lie; nothing stops them.

Well I just emailed them again and made them a promise: I am going to write about this wherever I have a forum. I am going to contact all their advertisers and tell them that I will not buy from them if they support the ad papers. I am going to do everything in my power to deliver a good solid kick to the collective backside of the Tribune ad paper department and keep on kicking until these damn deliveries stop.

This isn’t difficult. I spoke to the folks who deliver Hoy and they were very nice about it. I never got another paper. So why can’t the Tribune do the same? Is it because they employ lazy-ass delivery people who fling the papers from their car windows so that the sidewalk, parkway and steps are always covered in these things?

If you hate this kind of waste, I suggest you get on them too. Don’t just think that it’s something you have to pick up and toss away because that’s the way things are in Chicago. Screw that! Hit back. Phone them at 800-874-2863 or email them at

Mirrored from Persimmon Frost.

New leaf?

Nov. 13th, 2012 12:41 am
persimmonfrost: (caddy)
English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with vari...

English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with variously colored stems on sale at an outdoor farmers’ market in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the pantry project is ongoing, but just lately Glinda and I have started talking quite seriously about how badly we tend to eat. ¬†To that end, we’ve made a couple of pacts: ¬†First we said salad once a week, minimum. ¬†By which we meant dinner salad. ¬†This was a good decision but badly thought out because it’s gotten cold here and the last thing we want for dinner is a cold salad. ¬†Tonight we agreed that a heavily vegetable-based meal would do as well in the cold months. ¬†Of course we agreed this while eating a perfectly delicious meal of a half of a (large) sweet potato each, some freshly roasted chicken with lemon zest, curry powder and garlic, and a fantastic kale salad that was pretty much the same as my Swiss chard with lemon and ginger except served cold, not hot like the chard. ¬†When you can eat things that taste so good, eating better is not a hardship.

The other pact? ¬†Fish at least once a month. ¬†We made that agreement over a month ago and tomorrow night will be our first proper fish meal since I don’t count tuna casseroles. ¬†I suppose I could or should, but I don’t. ¬†Glinda’s cooking, YAYZ!

It’s all well and good to make promises like that but going at it rather haphazardly is a recipe for disaster (Forgive the pun. Normally I’m not given to them, but sometimes they race up and whap you over the head.) ¬†So after having experimented with about a week of making a to-do list every day, I observed, over coffee on Saturday, that we really should try mapping out a week’s worth of menus. ¬†Since we were going shopping on Sunday, we could decide what we wanted to make and then make a shopping list too. ¬†I mean, this is what real people do, right? ¬†Grown-ups.

So we talked about it for a while, and came up with the following:

  • Saturday: Tuna noodle casserole. ¬†It was already planned so not a big stretch.
  • Sunday: Butter chicken. ¬†Glinda makes a great butter chicken curry.
  • Monday: Sweet potato with kale. ¬†Alas, I lost track of the recipe I wanted to use so I had to improvise. ¬†The reason there was chicken was that we went to the meat dept. of Whole Paycheck and got a roasting chicken and a rump roast. ¬†Why there? ¬†Well, if we’re going to eat meat at all, and we both still do, we would at least like to make healthier and more humane choices. ¬†We’re willing to pay more for that, but then it becomes all the more imperative that we make good use of what we buy. ¬†So… wait, what was I saying? ¬†Oh yeah, the chicken. ¬†We got a roaster and I cooked it this afternoon. ¬†I figured we’d have some with dinner, and then I’d cut the rest of the meat off the carcass and use it for chicken a la king at a later date (It’s in the freezer now.) The carcass is in the slow cooker with six cups of broth and some herbs. ¬†It’ll be ready some time tomorrow morning. ¬†This is spreading the cost of the $10 chicken out across at least three meals and possibly four or five. ¬†Yes, it’d be even cheaper from some other source but like I said we’re paying for our principles. ¬†Oh yeah and we’re collecting drippings for the Thanksgiving gravy because Glinda’s sister, Laurie is The Gravy Master and uses all sorts of drippings in her masterpiece.
  • Tuesday is fish and veg. ¬†Glinda is in charge. ¬†I’m really looking forward to it.
  • Wednesday is what my friend, Gwen, used to call “Choice day.” ¬†You take what’s in the fridge or you fend for yourself.
  • I’m excited about Thursday because I’ll be making some jumbo shell pasta stuffed with a chard and ricotta mixture and baked in homemade marinara from our neighbor, Linda. ¬†How many times can I say that we have the best neighbors on earth before everyone tells me to shut up?
  • Friday I’m going to be making a rump roast the way Mom used to. ¬†I have some serious trepidation about this because Mom was one of the best cooks I ever knew, and also I’ve never made this by myself. ¬†Good thoughts will be appreciated. ¬†If all goes well, we’ll get at least three meals out of the roast, and probably more. ¬†I’m looking forward to a hot beef sandwich, and finally to making up a beef pot pie and freezing it for later.

Shakshuka (Photo credit: Pabo76)

I honestly have no clue what we’ll do over the weekend, but I am beginning to have a freezer full of useful stuff. ¬†And I’ve been wanting to make shakshuka, a savory bread pudding, and matzoh soup, all of which I can do with what’s in the house, so I’m feeling kind of good about our choices, how I’m starting to shop and the way I’m beginning to think about food.

Why am I writing all this? ¬†Because I’m starting to feel that it’s really possible to change the way we do things if we just pay attention to how we think about those things. I know I’m not going to accomplish a complete 180 and make my life perfect overnight. ¬†Doubt it’ll be perfect ever, but I can keep on trying.

So this weekend, we’ll sit down and talk about what’s for dinner next week. ¬†And it should become a habit. And when it does, we’ll be one step closer to eating better and saving money. ¬†I don’t think you can argue with that outcome.

For anyone who is interested in the recipes that informed what I’ve been cooking lately, here’s a partial list. ¬†If you know me at all you know I consider recipes to be nice suggestions.

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Three entries?  Three??  What the heck happened to the competitive spirit?  Or cookie fanaticism? *tsk* Well fine.

I got three suggestions for additions to my breakfast cookie and I liked them all. ¬†If I’d gotten twenty, even a dozen, choosing a winner might’ve been simple, but with three really interesting choices, I’m sort of in a quandary.

Parhelion suggested cardamom and cashew with a bit of citrus, and I really liked the idea. ¬†I’m not a big cashew fan but with the cardamom and particularly the citrus, I think I’d like this cookie very much.

Judymoe, who doesn’t consider herself any sort of foodie, made what I thought was a really interesting suggestion, and one I’d never even considered before: lavender. ¬†Now I can’t stop thinking about it, and I know I’m going to try using it in a batch.

And NamasteNancy suggested: walnuts, coconut to taste and sun dried cranberries.  She was actually a bit more specific about her amounts, and this sounded like a really tantalizing cookie, particularly as I love all three ingredients.

What to do, what to do? ¬†My first thought was to let Peeb decide. ¬†I put three balls on the floor with the names of each of the entrants. ¬†I figured that she’d choose one to play with and that would be the winner. ¬†This is what happened:

Sleepy Girl

Clearly Miss Peeb cares nothing for cookies or reading.

So what I just did was assign a code name to each entrant — Grim, Dave, Rafe; all characters from the novella — and asked Glinda North to choose one without telling her why. ¬†She chose Grim, and in doing so, chose Judymoe!

Miss Judy, you will be receiving your copy of Devil in the Details tonight or tomorrow. ¬†Congrats! ¬†Thanks to Parhelion and NamasteNancy for playing. ¬†The rest of you suck. No, you don’t suck, not really. ¬†But I was hoping for a metric fucktonne of ideas to carry me through the winter.

Oh and when I try the combos you three suggested, I will post the results here!  Thanks again.

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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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