Nov 25, 2012

NaNo and SYTYCW Updates

So, I have been lax in posting here. I tend to do that when I'm dug into a project.

First, a confession: It wasn't my NaNoWriMo project. I was buzzing along with NaNo and the day after my last post I got a request for the full manuscript from Harlequin for Mountain Man:MD (which I'd entered into SYTYCW). I really didn't expect it. I still have a manuscript under consideration with HQN, and since I hadn't actually gotten to any medical situations in the first uploaded chapter, I'd already decided I should probably start thinking about reworking the story for Special Edition or SuperRomance. I stopped revising it when I didn't make it to round two of the competition, and shifted focus to my NaNo synopsis for Savvy's Bootcamp.

I sent off the first half(which had been revised) and have already gotten notes back on that and am working those notes into the revision process. But, I've had such a good reaction from everyone with this story that my husband says I'm no longer allowed to bemoan how much I suck as a writer.(So I'll stop doing that for, you know, a week or two *hah*)

So you can guess what else I have to report: I have once again sidelined eWife(my NaNo project). A bird in the hand, and all that. I have story guilt though, and I'm planning on digging back in December or January at the latest. Writing a book and revising another in one month was a little too much for my little brain.

Next year, I MUST resist the lure of NaNo. I always start with such good intentions. I can write a book in a month(Mountain Man was written in 16 days), just apparently not when it's in a NaNo month. But it's hard to feel too bad about that right now aside from letting down my Savvy team. That's why the frowny face. -->

Nov 8, 2012

NaNo week 1 report

NaNoWriMo bootcamp going well so far. It's really all about the public humiliation with me, getting my word count down everyday. Apparently, I'm crazy. Who knew? (Besides everyone . . .)
  • I skipped writing on Sunday, but my word counts have been high enough to offset that day. 
  • Haven't written yet today but I'm still ahead of that 1667*8 daily word goal total, so that's good!
  • It's my birthday but I'm still going to write in a little bit. Aiming 2K+ (and for a whole load this weekend). Really want to get through this project and at least half-through another before November is up. Although since I'm fixin to buy tatting supplies... this goal may be canceled by my drive to tat.
  • Random note: aside from the threat of public humiliation, writing my word count every day on my calender and seeing it leapfrog ahead keeps me motivated. Whatever works, eh?
  • Regretting slightly that I didn't sneak in a second synopsis with the editors when I had their attention. I like knowing there's at least a line fit/story interest before I storm the castle, you know?

Nov 4, 2012

NaNo and General Update

So, my SYTYCW entry didn't make the top 28. Didn't expect it to--I just don't have a very big social media presence. Instead, I used the contest deadline as a motivator to crank out a first draft in 16 days! That's an all time best for me. I can't say I write well under pressure, but I can write without the infernal editor slowing me down. You know, so long as there's that threat of public humiliation. Now it's resting, along with my ZombieRapunzel, in the ToBeEdited pile.

I figured that if I can write 50K in 16 days, surely I can actually do NaNo... so long as there is a threat of public humiliation! Signed up with Savvy Authors for their NaNo Bootcamp with the Entangled Indulgence editors. This let us run our synopses past the editors to get feedback on the story we meant to write for NaNo. Very helpful! For the NaNo portion, we're all on teams and if you don't pull your weight you don't help your team. I did 7K words in 3 days, not too bad, guess it's working. Hope I can keep it up.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to finish up my scarf project, learning needle tatting because it's awesome and after I get done with this Victorian Bride Home Study course I'm going to have a vast repertoire of things I can make at home(but that are much easier to buy): granulated sugar(yes you can make it at home), cheese, butter, jelly, ice cream, candles, yeast colonies, blankets, sweaters, scarves, and now lace for jewelry and flimsy underthings. None of that is particularly practical, but at least in a zombiepocalypse I'll be warm, have cheese, and feel pretty. Because nothing makes you feel pretty while running for your life like lacy underwear.

Oct 2, 2012

SYTYCW and A Request

I am a category romance junkie. Those of you who run in romance-writing circles have undoubtedly heard about Harlequin's yearly So You Think You Can Write talent search. This is the third year, and it is taking place earlier than other years as it was combined with another of their talent-search contests that's been discontinued, New Voices.

I said I wasn't going to enter(it can really be a time suck if you keep haunt the site for hours a day, obsessing over your votes), but I kind of got talked into it! So, now I'm making a mad dash to finish this new book on the off-chance that I make it to round two.

Which brings me to my request: the first round elimination is mostly decided by a public vote. You can vote once per day, and if you feel inclined, I'd be happy to accept a click on behalf of Mountain Man: MD (It's under my real name--no signing up under a pen name anymore, alas!)

Or there are loads of other entries up that are just as shiny, if not shinier, and I'm sure their owners would be happy for your vote too. You know, if you feel opinionated and like to click virtual buttons(and who doesn't like that?).

(I need to learn how to do some self-promotion without cringing--like I'm cringing now.)

Sep 22, 2012

Blog Design

I know, I know, it's all over the place. I can't stop with the curly-q's. I'm a doodler, especially when trying to figure out where my story is going or what is not working with it.

Will it stay like this? Probably not! But it's like this for at least a month...

Sep 19, 2012

Scarf project

I'm not sure how I got hoodwinked into this by my grandma, but I'm crocheting scarves for her to give to her siblings(and every other XX-chromosome person she knows). I'm 25 scarves (the photo below is a day old) into the 32 I've been assigned. Since I have so many, I've been doing the same pattern with different colors. I can do the pattern in my sleep, so it's fast with minimal ripping out of stitches.  ONLY 7 TO GO.

Different from the others, the yarn was super thin and fuzzy, and I love the gradient so I just went simple to let the material do the pretty-making. Actually, I have two of them now. Gotta love that $1 per skein BigLots bargain yarn bin!

This one is made from the RedHeart Sashay yarn. It looks like a ball of shoestring when you get it and you have to open it into this mesh pattern and crochet along the top edge. It works up surprisingly thick and is very boa-like when done. Super girly--which I seem to love when it comes to ribbons and ruffles.

Sep 11, 2012

Romance Tropes

Compiling a more complete tropes reference, but have strayed a bit into themes and characters here and there.

    Aug 24, 2012

    Maggie Hates Hot Cookies

    Maggie 4-1/2 months ago
    I need to take a new picture of her, but I gotta get a new SD card first. Current one bit the dust and there is no transferring images to the computer without one.

    In the interest of healthier treats, and to use up the Skippy peanut butter no one in the house will eat, I started making peanut butter doggie cookies(biscuits) for Maggie. I make them like this recipe but I use 3/4 c. milk and add 2T sugar.

    She loves them. Unless they're hot from the oven--then she is terrified of them. I have not yet figured this dog out, she's really the craziest little hound I've ever known, but she's funny so that offsets the confusion I often experience around her.

    Anyway, I made a batch last night took one to her while the others cooled. It was hot but not hot enough to burn my fingers--I carried it to her in my unprotected hand--but it was hotter than anything else she eats and she didn't know what to make of it.

    At first, she peeled her lips back to try and take it with just her teeth, but she couldn't bring herself to bite it. So she just bit the air around the cookie several times and bounced back and forth.

    I put it on the floor in front of her and she RAN AWAY from the evil-hot-cookie and hid across the room, behind the table.

    Naturally, I had to milk this. I picked it up and pretended to eat it and she came rushing at me, barking like an insane thing, and I couldn't resist chasing her around the room with the hot cookie. She hid again. I sat again and pretended to eat the cookie--that never fails to bring her out of hiding. She might not want that cookie but she'll be damned if I'm going to eat it!

    It was quite cool by this point, but she couldn't risk it. I know she could smell what it was, the whole house smelled of peanut butter, and she wanted it but still couldn't bring herself to eat it. Thus began phase 3 of her attempt to eat the cookie: running back and forth in front of me, biting the air by the cookie once as she zoomed past, and then barking more until she got turned around and ready to take another bite at it on the next lap.

    This went on for a good twenty minutes and may be my new favorite game: Chasing Dog with Hot Cookie... Or Chasing Dog with Previously Hot Cookie... She refused to believe it had cooled off until I broke it into several pieces and lay it on the floor again. Once it no longer looked like the cookie, she came and gobbled it up.

    I recommend ya'l bake doggie cookies and chase your dog with them. Best. Baking. Ever.

    Aug 12, 2012

    Star Wars and Storytelling Choices

    I know, I've been gone. I tend to do that, like a cat that suddenly decides it has to be in another room RIGHT NOW and flees. I'd like to claim that I'm back and steady now, but I know that's probably not true. But, in my defense, I have been writing up a storm in my absence! If I'm productive here, I'm not productive with my projects and it looks like the opposite is true as well: if I'm productive with projects, I fall off the face of the blogosphere. Need to work on that.

    Anyway.... So, first, what's new with me:
    • I am currently in revision process on my medical romance with Harlequin. Dunno if it will turn into a sale, but I'm working with an editor to try and make it publishable with them. We'll see how that goes, but I'm actually loving the revision process. Learning heaptons as I go through the editor's notes. 
    • Wrote and subbed a 30K novella in July, still out with another publisher but I'm hoping something it will return something good even if it's just a contact.
    The past few days, I've been trying to figure out what story I want to work on next. I have three options, but before I pick one, I decided to explore a setting that's been tempting for me a two years. I couldn't imagine where I'd send this story in 2010 when the idea bloomed, but there are now options to send it and today I decided to explore the idea in my plotbook! Ideally, this story would take place over many years, not necessarily a family-saga, but kinda like that. And while deciding what story to start with, I started thinking about Star Wars and all the many episodes... which brings me to my questions:
    • Do people who have experienced these movies from the standpoint of beginning with current Episode IV have the same experience as folks for whom Episode I is where they start watching? Is it the same story for them? Does it illicit the same emotions? 
    • Are current-Episodes I-III as compelling as they are for those who first saw current-Episodes IV-VI and then really wanted to know how Vader became a bad guy? 
    • Do you feel like with the addition of the new first three stories, that the whole of the six stories became more a chronicle of Vader's life or that it subjugated Luke's story some? I don't think I felt that way before the new three, but now that there is a chronicle of Vader-puppy thru to his 5 minutes of redemption and death... and the stories END there... it sure does feel like Vader-chronicles to me. 
    • If these stories always existed for Lucas(even if initially as backstory), why did he choose to start the movies with current-Episode IV? Could he not have hooked his audience as well if he started with current-Episode I?

    May 8, 2012

    Dunno What to Call It ... Dialogue Revision-Foo

    I don't really like to write craft posts -- I'm no authority on writing. I'm just a super-imaginative dyslexic who's mastered reading(just not out loud, God no...) and decided to give writing a go. That's it.

    Well, that and I'm addicted to craft books. But I can't tell you whether this habit of mine is in any of them. Like most of the lessons which make the most sense to me, I think it's just from life experience and noticing patterns.

    I love to write dialogue. In fact, when I write, it's in layers, and dialogue is what comes to me first. I blast through it like a screenplay and then go back to try and layer in narrative/emotions/yaddayaddafoo. Today, while revising, I noticed a pattern--a habit--and I'm not sure whether it's a good or a bad one.

    I swap out colloquialisms and pat phrases with character-specific synonymous new phrases. Since I like to label people crazy, so we'll use that as as an example.

    Old Stand-bys for the crazy-labeling:
    • She's crazy. (generic, on-the-nose, uninteresting)
    • She's nuttier than a fruitcake. (sillier, but still generic and cliched)
    • He's not playing with a full deck. (so commonly said it's generic)

    Swapped out with character-specific phrases:
        (Examples from actual family sayings. Yes, we're a colorful lot.)
    • He's a half-a-bubble off plumb. (Credit: Dad, the carpenter)
    • Some of the suds have gone out of her dishwater. (Credit: Stay-at-home mom)
    • He's not painting with a full palette. (Credit: Me! Art chick likey)

    I do the phrase-swapping willy-nilly, sometimes first draft, sometimes in revisions, sometimes I take it back out if it looks dumb later. And, of course, it's not just for the 'She's Crazy' phrases. Anything that is super-cliched is a possible target.

    I don't know if this is good because it defines character voices, or if it'd be irritating in anything but miniscule numbers. Thoughts?

    May 7, 2012

    A to Z Reflectorationating

    I know, I fell right off the blogosphere after A to Z. I got distracted by blog design thoughts and off I ran with my pencil and a half-baked idea. Those are the best kind, you get to be surprised by the end product, and they're all gooey in the middle. Well, maybe not gooey, but it sounded good and now I want brownies. MOVING ON.

    What else suffered neglect while I wielded my pencil like a kindergartener with a fat crayon? Forgot to feed my sourdough starter. Doh! Olde South Yeaster Island, my yeast colony(Did you really think I wouldn't name my starter?), suffered a terrible flour shortage and starved. Here's hoping I can rebuild. Come on New South Yeaster Island!

    Stuff I learned on A to Z.

    The Pros:
    1. I can post something everyday if I need to, tho quality is hit or miss.
    2. I really like deadlines.
    3. I even like writing posts ahead of time, even though I didn't do many that way. I wrote N   before the challenge started, and then at W I wrote the last 3 so I could focus on getting to more blogs.
    4. I had an utterly bizarre(but fun) childhood(yay weirdos!). Also: My dad may be Wile E. Coyote.
    5. I talked about Potty Tree in public and the sky did not cave in on me! I wasn't too sure about that one before. Potty Tree is okay, but I will never speak of Internet Porn Mom. I don't think I could tell that story without putting one of those warning doodahs up to verify 18 and over first. Plus, my mom would kill me if she found out. And I am even a little afraid of the kind of traffic those three words will bring to the blog already. The post with Mullet-Man brings people Googling for images of 'teens fighting'. End tangent...
    6. It's kind of of fun to embarrass yourself online.
    7. Ridiculous titles get attention. Just ask My Cousin: The Tree Pooper
    8. Read lots of amusing, inspiring, and poetic blogs out there. I didn't get to them all, but I did follow a wad of new folks and I'm enjoying their offerings as part of my daily reading :) Well, you know, when I don't have tunnel-vision from running amok with a pencil. Which you probably shouldn't do. No running with a pencil, scissors, or a sucker in your mouth. That's what I heard, anyway.
    9. I love comments. I also love visitors. I don't know why this is a revelation to me. I am an Attention Ho. But I'm a thankful Attention Ho. New followers: Thank you for taggin along :)
    1. I really neglected other writing projects while composing little story posts for every day.
    2. Sometimes you have to stretch to come up with a unique topic for a certain letter. Lots of talk of Apocalypse on A-day.
    3. I absolutely cannot stick to a theme 100% of the time. I can do 90%, but those other days I wander off the beaten track. Really far off sometimes.
    I may give it another go next year, if I can come up with a good theme. But, I will probably leave signing up for it until March 30 again. I have commitment issues . . .

    Apr 30, 2012

    Z is for ... Invader Zim

    The last day of A to Z, I chose my favorite cartoon. Yes, I still watch cartoons. When preparing for this post, I Googled to see if there were any awesome new releases I was unaware of, and for a moment, rejoiced that a movie might be coming! But it was NOT TRUE. *sob*

    Invader Zim may be out of production, but I still love it! Also, I couldn't think of anything else Z-related. Except other cartoon characters, like Zoidberg. I just realized this is my third post involving cartoons or comics in some fashion. Hmm. Wonder if I should worry about that...

    Reasons to watch Invader Zim:

    1) Awesome dialogue. (This is totally important for you writers out there.)

    Dib: You can't make me look! I'll just shut my eyes.

    Zim: Oh, you'll open them. You have to breathe sometime.

    Dib: No, I - Wait... What do my eyes have to do with breathing?

    2) His minion robot. 
          (It's not stupid, it's advanced.)

              Zim: GIR! I've been captured!
              Gir: YAY!
              Zim: No, that's bad GIR!
              Gir: YAY!

    3) Absurdity can be an artform
    Ms. Bitters: Zim!
    Zim: Sir!
    Ms. Bitters: There's a pigeon on your head. You've got head pigeons. Go and see the school nurse before you infect the other children.
    Zim: Yes, Ms. Bitters.

    That's it. Oh, and because I need to reassure myself that I have not yet gone past the manageably weird stage, there's an InvaderCon that I have no urge to attend. Yay for being less completely inappropriate for my age bracket!

    has been kind of anti-climactic for me. I like the middle of the challenge. All the hard letters are saved for the end, and I have a theory about that. When people make up words and names, they only recently started shooting straight to X and Z for the cool factor. In the 22nd century, 87.59% of all words will begin with either an X or a Z. It's true. It will be Xtremely Zcool, except for during A to Z: all the other letters will be hard to find relevant words for that don't sound anachronistic. *nod*

    Apr 27, 2012

    Y is for ... Hardcore Yogurt Addiction

    When Maggie came home from the shelter, her tummy was a mess. She was sick a lot and we asked the vet what to do. He said: GIVE HER YOGURT. Probiotics. Belly health. Blah blah blah.

    So we gave her yogurt. 
    • The first day, she didn't really want to eat it, but after a while, decided it was pretty good. 
    • The second day, she ate it all up in one sitting. 
    • The third day, she inhaled it like it was some kind of puppy crack.
    • The seventh day, we decided she was doing well and were gonna stop the yogurt. Cue more barfing.
    • The eighth day, and everyday since then, she inhales her yogurt.
    She expects it now, at a certain time of the day. And tells me, in no uncertain terms, that it is Yogurt O'Clock and to get my rosey red rear in gear and make with the yogurt. 

    I don't actually know if she still needs it, but I do know if I am late giving it to her, she looks at me like I ruined her life.

    I'm so whipped.

    Apr 26, 2012

    X is for ... Xkcd Rocks

    I'm going small today. And probably the last three days :)


    Best webcomic ever.  
    Well, I love the ones I understand. The rest are all ... math-y.  Here are a few that make me squee :)

    Don't forget to mouse over the cartoon and read the caption!

    Apr 25, 2012

    W is for ... Willie Nelson Got Me Thrown Out of a Movie

    During my really early twenties, I had a roommate. She was pretty weird too, so we got along well, good for a roommate. We had lots of deep philosophical conversations like this:

    Roomie: What do you do if a guy you don't want to go out with leaves a message saying to call him? Do you call him back? 
    Me: Er, well, I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings... so I probably wouldn't call him back. I'd just pretend it never happened and hope he did the same.(I know this is terrible...)
    Roomie: Okay. What if it was someone famous? (Because all good deep philosophical conversations involve such realistic  scenarios) 
    Me: Someone famous wants to go out with me and I don't want to go?
    Roomie: Willie Nelson! Willie Nelson wants to go out with you, you don't want to go, do you call him back? 
    Me: Well, I guess. I mean... it's Willie Nelson. You kind of have to call Willie Nelson back when he calls you...

    We never revisited this conversation.

    Fast forward a year, we went to see As Good As It Gets. Jack Nicholson kisses Helen Hunt. I'm young, stupid, and a bit shallow. He's much older than Helen, and it Ooooged. Me. Out.

    I leaned over and whispered to Roomie, "I would never kiss Jack Nicholson." And in a flash, our earlier conversation came back to me and I added, "Even if Willie Nelson asked me to."

    And then I got tickled. It struck me as the funniest thing in the history of funny.

    All this is happening during a very emotional part of the movie, and I was trying so hard not to laugh. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her shaking with contained church giggles. This makes it funnier. In the space of a few seconds, I am laughing like a crazy person. And I don't want to!

    I try so hard to put the cork back on that bottle. It doesn't work. Not long after AN USHER COMES and makes me leave. Which just makes it funnier.

    I can't walk. I am laughing too hard to stand up properly. I'm forced to navigate the stairs and hallway hunched over like I had to keep an eye on my kneecaps--you never know what those bastards are up to...

    Once outside the theater doors, I collapse into a giggling heap of stupid on the carpet.

    I'm crying. I can't breathe. I'm a little nauseous. It takes me 15 minutes to get hold of myself.

    I'm pretty sure they thought I was drunk. Or maybe a crackhead.

    At 20 minutes, I think I've calmed down enough to go back inside. I get halfway down the hall to the stairs, the giggles burble back up, and I must once again flee the theater.

    This happens a few more times. I make it back to my seat when there's maybe ten minutes left in the film.

    For years after, I can't even LOOK at a picture of Willie Nelson without giggling. The other thing I can't do is explain why it's so funny to me.

    This is what I can say, "It made me a lot more forgiving of people who make noise during movies."

    Apr 24, 2012

    V is for ... Van Gogh vs Appalachia

    Ow, my ear!
    I love bookstores. I know they're a dying breed, but I love them. I love the atmosphere. I love the smell. I love looking at covers and seeing what other folks gravitate toward.

    Until last summer, the closest bookstore(a 45 min drive away) was Waldenbooks. But they closed(don't ask how far to the new local bookstore). So on my last visit, I was grumpy, and more sarcastic than usual.

    It was packed, Going-Out-of-Business style. The girls working constantly ran to and from the backroom, coming out with armloads of books to shelve. You had to feel bad for them.

    One especially small girl(I'd be surprised if she scraped 5'), came out with a massive load of books in one arm and delivered them to the art section. In the shelf space she'd intended to fill, sat a massive coffeetable book on Van Gogh, turned so the cover faced out. Huge thing. Top shelf.

    With her plucky spirit, and clearly no concept of how heavy that book was going to be, she anchored her book-bearing elbow to her hip and tried to shift this crazy Van Gogh book with one hand.

    I was a few rows back and I could just tell this was going to end badly, so I started weaving through the sea of bargain-hunters to try and help her. She tried all different ways to maneuver it. On the shelf. In the air. Using her thigh as shelf... And just as I got near her, her frustration went nuclear and she lobbed that sucker to a curiously empty spot of floor beside her.


    Her supervisor looked like she was gearing up to yell at the poor girl. I hate to see that kind of thing, so I thought... I'll save her! I'll distract them! Yeah! They'll laugh, tension will dissipate, and no one will cry.

    The only thing that came to me was: "I heard that's how he lost an ear!"

    They both turned and looked at me like I had some version of Tourette's that made me shout out random weird stuff in public--no idea what I was talking about.

    The cover of the book? The self-portrait of Van Gogh at the top of the page. Note the placement of the BANDAGE on the former ear.

    Still, they had no idea. At that point, my well of clever stuff to say went dry. After turning the color of a bloody ear-stump, I just kind of slunk off to another aisle...

    This is what I learned: A mall in Appalachia is no place to waste a perfectly good Van Gogh joke.

    Apr 23, 2012

    T is for ... The Story Within

    Yes, another book on writing. I've read it before, but during a time when I wasn't struggling with writerly confidence. You know, when I didn't really need it. But the past couple weeks, confidence gremlins have been riverdancing through my mental happy place. The more I wrote on my blog, the less I wrote on my projects, the less productive I felt, and the more certain I became that everything I write is crap.

    Which, of course, snowballed. I couldn't be sad about being a crappy writer without berating myself for being sad about it. And then I felt worse because I had to berate myself for being sad that I was a crappy writer, and then I felt stupid for being sad that I had to berate myself for being .... in a spiral of lameness that was periodically interrupted by me flinking myself with a  rubberband(it seemed less silly than swatting myself on the nose with rolled up newspaper).

    But then I found my book! And I didn't even have to read all that far before I found a short sentence that somehow made everything better, so I'm going to share it: No one hates himself more than a writer who isn't writing.

    That was like a prescription to write crap just to feel better about writing at the level that simply fails to live up to expectations. The equivalent of take two of these and call me int he morning... So I dashed to and in Strict Kamikaze mode, pounded out 2100 words in 62 minutes--which I think is some kind of record for me.

    Six hours later I re-read it, and it didn't suck sugar-frosted monkey nuggets, as I expected it to. I revised and edited, layered in emotion, clarified the conflict, wrote a synopsis and query letter, and submitted it to the Riva Fast-Track in about 24 hours time elapsed time. It might get no where, but I feel confident stating: It's not crap! I'm even kind of happy with it.

    There's something very cathartic about forcing yourself to produce fast. There's no time for second-guessing or berating yourself. It's a good feeling. I've never been one who can shut off the internal editor. But if this is what it's like, I'm so going to have to do this more often.

    Apr 21, 2012

    S is for ... Sourdough (tomato recipe)

    Step one -- The Sponge -- Mix. Cover. Refrigerate 8-12 hours
    • 16 oz pureed and strained tomato (Note: You can substitute tomato sauce/juice, or marinara sauce) 
    • 1 1/4 c sourdough starter (100% hydration, 1:1 water/flour ratio) 
    • 2 c All-Purpose flour

    Step Two -- Flavor Enhancing -- Mix and add to sponge.

    • 1/4 c tomato paste
    • 1/4 c milk
    • 1/4 c sugar
    • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
    • 2 t salt

    Step Three -- The Dough: Work in flour in 1/2 cup increments until you can't stir it with a spoon anymore. Then turn onto floured surface and knead in more(3-4 cups flour total for this stage) until desired stiffness, then spray with oil and cover with either plastic wrap or a bowl. Rest one hour, it will develop more gluten while it rests.
    • If you want a free-form loaf, you'll need a stiff dough so it doesn't flatten out to a pancake during rise, so knead in however much it takes to make the dough not sticky, just smooth and elastic. 
    • For loaf pans, you can stop short when it's still a bit sticky.

    Step Four -- Forming -- I usually use loaf pans, and this technique shows how to do both styles, free-form and loaf pans. The first two loaves are done the same way and that's what I used for the loaf pans, and the last is the round loaf. (As you can tell from the picture, I'm less good at the free-form loaves -- mine's all lumpy!)

    Step Five -- Panning -- Whatever the pan style, lightly spray with oil and dust with cornmeal. It will stick without the cornmeal. After, spritz again and cover with plastic wrap. Rise to double, 1-2 hours

    Step Six -- Baking -- Preheat oven to 365F and bake on center rack for about 30 minutes. I like to rotate the pans halfway through. Cool on wire racks.  (If you want soft crust, run a stick of butter over the surface of the top when it is hot.) Cover with clean kitchen towel and cool. If you cut it when it's hot and tempting, it will smash and gum up on the inside. Serrated bread knife necessary.

    Makes best grilled cheese sammiches ever!

    Apr 20, 2012

    R is for ... Rockets & the 4th Grade Space Program

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, my dad wanted to turn his homemade gunpowder into model rocket engines. That idea never came to fruition, but not because we didn't love model rockets. The first one dad got was a tiny thing. He put it together, we launched it and everything was awesome except... the rocket was too small. We needed a bigger rocket fix.

    Next, he used learning from the kit to build his own, bypassing bigger, more expensive kits. This one used the tube from a roll of paper towels, balsa wood fins, and the nosecone was an old pill bottle hotglued to one of those plastic bubbles you get gum in for a quarter from the tiny machines in front of stores. Parachute from a plastic bag and thread! All he had to buy were the engines and igniters.

    We loved that one so much that I made a replica for the fourth grade science fair. We saved the last bit of nosecone assembly to catch a grasshopper and seal him into his capsule. The hope was that it would come down where we could retrieve him, and ask what he was going to do now that he was the first grasshopper in space... But wind caught the parachute as it drifted down and blew him far away on the hills behind the school. A tragic blow for the fourth-grade space program.

    After this, Dad was always on the lookout for bigger, sturdier cardboard tubes. He came home with one that was five foot tall and six inches in diameter. But we knew we couldn't get it off the ground with our current model rocket technology, so it was stored for 2 years while we built and launched increasingly bigger rockets with separate stages of ignition. Stage #1 gets it so high, ignites stage #2 and #1 pops off as #2 fires... Then we added a stage #3 and #4...

    They went high enough that no one could see them anymore, but the parachutes were colored with markers by this point, so when they drifted far enough down that binoculars could see them, the chase began to retrieve the rocket.

    Except for the times that we had rocket engine failure. Turns out, it's really hard to time the ignition on the separate stages. Sometimes... the next stage of engines wouldn't fire until the rocket had already turned and was no longer pointing up. Sometimes they fell and didn't kick on until they were more or less at ground level and could chase people--so you couldn't come watch our launches unless you were ready to run.

    Finally, the learning curve progressed to the point we felt confident enough to attempt the five foot rocket. It launched beautifully. I think it had five stages... We lost it in the sky before all the stages ignited. But we caught sight of it again when it was speeding down without the parachute. One of the stages delayed igniting until the sucker was pointed at the ground... It rocketed into the middle of the road and the top 12-18 inches smashed down like an accordion. Luckily, no one was in the road at the time.  That was the best launch ever. Height. Speed. Drama. Destruction. Perfection!

    I highly recommend building model rockets with your kids :)  Just maybe ... don't Wile E. Coyote it...

    Apr 19, 2012

    Q is for ... Q&A on Pigs

    Did you know pigs are extremely smart with unbelievable problem solving skills? It's true. Every time we had pigs on the farm, they could escape their pens at will, I think. They ate so much because they were plotting while eating. We'd just think... "Man, they sure like that corn and stuff. They're oinkin' a whole lot!" Untrue, as it turns out, they were discussing weaknesses in the fencing.

    How do you keep pigs from escaping? You don't. Oh sure, someone may hand you a 2x4 and say... "The first pig that comes out that hole they made, you hit in the head as hard as you can! I'll go get the other ones!" But I couldn't hit a pig in the head! I stood there and tried to look menacing with my longish piece of treated lumber, and the pigs were unimpressed with me.

    What else can you do with a piece of lumber to keep a pig in a pen? NothingCertainly not poke at it and try to hold it back. Pigs are round, slippery with muck, and cut-throat! It doesn't matter if you had too much courtesy to hit a pig, they'll run right over you and leave you helpless, clutching your lumber while your farm is transformed into an episode of Benny Hill--except with fewer naked chicks and more pigs running about.

    Do pigs help their brothers and sisters escape when they've made a hole in the pen? Heck no. It's every pig for himself! Which is what lead to that unfortunate incident with me guarding the pig hole with a piece of lumber . . .

    Don't be fooled by how cute they are when they're little. If a pig asks to come live with you, you say NO. They're perfectly capable of building houses of straw, wood and bricks. I heard a story about that a time or twenty.

    Apr 18, 2012

    P is for ... Party Games of Survival

    My little brother was born on Halloween. When we were little, we'd have his party, then get dressed up and Trick or Treat. But at around ten, he didn't want to Trick or Treat, but we all still wanted to get dressed up and eat sugar. This began big Halloween parties with lots of candy and danger.

    First party was in our old farm house with 10ft ceilings. For the game, they put prizes into balloons stapled to the ceiling, which we popped with the aid of metal rods with a nail on the end.

    The balloons popped, candy and quarters rained down on us. No one lost an eye, but there were a few light stabbings. Well, light pokings. Some Scrapings. Holes in costumes... But we did alright! No one got tetanus. Good time for all! Oh, and there were also a bunch of holes in the ceiling after that. Whoops. Every little kid loves being given a tiny sword with a really long handle to stab the ceiling with. It was AWESOME. Everyone remembers this game.

    A couple years later we had another party, this time in the barn. Mom and my aunt spent a week decorating and converting the barn(it had four rooms) into a haunted house/birthday party. Not just for all the many cousins this time, friends came too! It was actually very impressive. I'm still impressed with what they managed to do to the barn that week. But what everyone remembers is THE GAME.

    Open rafters meant a new game. Popping balloons had been a hit, so they tried a new game: spinning metal wheel with balloons tied to it. And a bb gun. For the kids to shoot at the metal wheel. Well, to be fair, they tried darts, but it didn't work so they switched to the bb gun(forgetting the wheel was metal).

    After the first shot, which ricocheted, each shooter wore safety glasses and mom shouted... DUCK AND COVER YOUR EYES! Then we'd hear POP... PING! ... OW! (bb's sting even after bouncing off a few surfaces). In short? Another hit! We loved that game too. But I think mom feared having to top it--we stopped having big dangerous Halloween parties after that.

    Apr 16, 2012

    N is for ... That Sick Feeling You Get

    I've finally overcome my inability to spell nauseous,  but for years if I had to write that word, in a fit of laziness I would write nauseated  instead. I didn't need a dictionary for that one.

    The special case of two very similar words with the same meaning bugs me. What's so special about feeling the urge to hurl that needs two naus+suffix  words to express it? And it's not just one naus+suffix  word that has the same meaning. There's a nauseous/nauseated  combo, and there's also a nauseous/nauseating  combo. Is it something to do with the same illustrative mechanism that causes us to have a million ways to say blowing-chunks? (This could get its series of posts. I have no idea why puking euphemisms make me laugh, I am older than 12, but 'Shouting Groceries' might be the best vomit euphemism ever.)

    This pattern doesn't work with other illness-related words ending with -ous.  For instance:
    • Infectious. To infect someone. You can say infected,  which doesn't mean the same thing, but you can't say infectiated.  No infectiating.
    • Contagious. Could spread disease.  There's even fewer options for contagious.  No contagiated.  No contaged.  No contagiating.
    I want to endorse nauseated  as the goto word for that going-to-hurl feeling, but I can't. Sure, it's easier to spell, but people will always want a -ous  sick word for it, and nauseous goes better with infectious  and contagious.

    Instead, I call for a ban on all other forms of naus+suffix  words. Seems like nauseous  can mean anything anyway, at least this way I only have to remember how to spell one version of this word. Even if this plan does mean supporting a word which has more vowels than is healthy. Seriously, three vowels in a row? Pfft.

    Apr 14, 2012

    M is for ... Morality Evolution & the Apocalypse

    I cannot testify to the ridiculousness of this subject, but it's been on my mind and times well with A to Z letter M, so I'm tossing it out there. As a life-long weirdo, I feel qualified to babble about it.

    It used to be a lot harder to be unabashedly weird in small-town USA.  It's not exactly easy now, but it's a lot easier to be yourself when you can find like-minded support online.

    The internet has also expanded what Average Joe is exposed to--like a small-scale version of mind-broadening you get from world-travel. Even if it's simply exposure to different cultures, if it hasn't made people more accepting, it's at least made them aware of/more used to exposure to cultural differences.

    Morality is always evolving, I know that, but I think this mind-broadening influence is speeding up the process.

    Which brings me to the Apocalypse. Or actually the fascination with an Apocalyptic future. I feel like the two are related. Like all this doomydoom we're drawn to in movies and fiction is an unintentional metaphor. That it isn't really about melting ice caps, pollution or the super volcano under Yellowstone... it's about the evolution(or death) of the traditional Judeo-Christian culture.

    That's what I like about the apocalyptic theme, at least--the complete upending of society and pole-shift in ethics after disaster. Zombie movies, for instance: Sure, there are mobile, possibly supernatural, diseased dead-cannibals roaming about eating people, but that's not the best part of movies like Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead, The Walking Dead(tv).

    I think the theory holds true for other types of apocalyptic entertainment: The Terminator, The Book of Eli, The Stand, The Matrix Trilogy... It's like six in the a.m. and my brain is still a bit sleep-fuzzy, so I'm not coming up with lots of examples.

    Anyway, thoughts? Disagree? Think I must have had a weird dream to prompt this? :D

    Apr 13, 2012

    L is for ... Grenade Launcher

    Keeping to the theme of ridiculousness for A to Z, it's time for another thrilling post of childhood memories!

    If you read about the camper-bus, you may have gleaned that my dad liked to build stuff out of other stuff. Kind of like McGyver, but with less spies and more random danger.

    It all started with him repacking his own bullets. If you didn't know you could do that, you can. You get bullet fixins and assemble yourself with a tiny scoop for gunpowder, and a tiny hammer for taptaptapping the slug into the shell (Which freaks everyone out. What's the first rule of bullets? Don't hit one with a hammer, duh.).

    From there, it progressed to mixing his own gunpowder. This is also dangerous, so he commandeered a rock tumbler(just the rubber container bit), and then built a little machine to spin the tumbler out of old typewriters and a sewing machine motor (we didn't have that bit for some reason), and took it all out to an old shed in the back pasture--where it wouldn't hurt anyone if, by chance, it exploded. After that, he had lots of gun powder! Which, thankfully, never randomly exploded.

    This lead to the idea that he maybe could make his own model rocket engines(coming R post). And from there, the natural evolution . . . the realization that it might explode the rockets. One day all this came together in a flash of I-COULD-BLOW-STUFF-UP brilliance, model rocket engines we already had were added, along with the bent metal tube from an old vacuum cleaner... and later a few smallish holes in the front yard. I think he may have also exploded an old tree stump with it... Good thing we lived way out in the country.

    So all that stuff about country people being crazy? Probably truer than we'd like to admit.

    But I cling to the fact that no one in the family has fixed a dead deer head to the hood of a car. Yet.

    Apr 11, 2012

    J is for ... Jeopardy (aka Nerdvana)

    As a complete nerd, I feel aspiring to one day be on Jeopardy is a sacred duty. But at this point in my evolution, there are a few hurdles between me and Nerdvana.

    One: I don't like speaking in front of people. First day of speech class at college, after I stood up and said my name, I had to flee and hurl.

    Two: I know I'm not as smart as I think I am... But every now and then I watch an episode full of categories even simpletons know the answers for, and for several minutes I imagine myself standing behind my carelessly-scribbled name on a field of blue, a five-figure cash amount lit up in front of me.

    Three: Final Jeopardy. I find Final Jeopardy inexplicably terrifying. That music everyone hums? Freaks. Me. Out.

    Even if all I'm doing is drinking tea and watching Jeopardy, that cheerful little fricking song causes me instant panic. Not entirely sure why. Maybe because the category always feels like a trick. Like it would be Marshmallows, and I'd be all.... I KNOW ALL ABOUT MARSHMALLOWS... and wager all my five figures. But then the question would be: This was the first person to squirt marshmallows into a Peep shape.

    Final thoughts: I am not evolved enough yet for Jeopardy. But one day...

    (brought to you by the letter J and A to Z blogfest.)

    Apr 10, 2012

    I is for ... Interesting People

    I had an idea all lined up for I-themed post for A to Z, but I got Writer's Regret before ever actually writing it and I decided to talk about something else instead! Luckily, I was inspired to do so by a workshop I attended tonight.

    My little rural county is full of writers. Monday nights, my local library has been hosting writing workshops with different published writers from the area, which they also did last year. I went to all of them last year, but the first few this year were repeats of the year before, so I'm only attending the last two.

    Kay Stockham
    Tonight, Kay Stockham and Serena Miller teamed up to presenting. Kay writes small town series for Superromance, and Serena writes inspirational romance, both historical and Amish suspense.

    Kay spoke about writing in series, Scrivner(ProTip: she's a huge fan), RWA membership advantages, and answered some questions about submissions(Sekrits about unagented subs to publishers--shhh).

    Serena Miller
    Serena spoke about her methods for historical research, differences between the language in old books versus modern historicals, the value of interviews in research(ProTip: She went to make friends with Amish folks in order to get setting and culture right for her Amish stories), importance of writing conferences, tips about pitching to editors and agents.

    I've read some of Kay's books(if you want to read emotional punch, Kay's a master), but was unfamiliar with Serena's(I don't tend to read Inspirational) before tonight. Now I've written her name into my TBR list... something about Amish and suspense... I kind of have to check that out.

    And since I've gone entirely off the rails with my theme for this post, I am closing with something ridiculous so it's not a total wash:
    “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life's realities.”
    Dr. Seuss

    Apr 9, 2012

    H is for ... Hillbilly Ridiculousness

    A couple weeks ago, I was on the way to town(the closest grocery store) when I saw the most redneck vehicle ever created. I didn't take a picture. I actually didn't even continue driving while it was coming down the hill and driving past me, so I was lucky it was a back country road--no one behind me. I was just so stunned by this vehicle that I sort of coasted to a stop and watched him pass, my jaw falling open.

    Interesting characteristics of the most redneck vehicle ever created:
    • Homemade spray-painted camouflage big truck. Not just any homemade camo either, it had a reverse stencil of a maple leaf strategically placed here and there. (Reverse stencil: hold leaf to car, spray paint around it. Tada)
    • Really big tires.
    • Lots of mud to prove those really big tires were necessary
    Up until this point, there's nothing extraordinary about this vehicle, I see this kind of truck/SUV fairly regularly. I never actually understood the idea behind camouflaging a car, I've never seen a forest driving down the road before. Not fooling anyone!

    Anyway, what made this truck special was the hood ornament. A deer skull with a massive antler rack sat front and center, likely obstructing the view of the driver at least a little bit. The skull actually may have started out a taxidermied head, what I saw seemed a bit fuzzier than bone would look and I imagine that wind buffeting the hood of a traveling car is enough to blast the fur off. I've never tested this theory, but I speculate.

    Rest assured, next time I will have the mental capacity to take a picture. I'm not leaving the house without my camera until I get a shot!

    Some things simply require documentation.

    Apr 8, 2012

    Guest post: Author Ju Dimello

    Note from AB:  Ju's been a writing pal for a couple years now, so I'm tickled to help her celebrate her release blog tour. And since it's Sunday, and not A to Z day, this post brought to you by the letters J and D and Cake and Yummy-shirtless-men. What? Those are letters where I come from.

    .~*``*~...~*``*~...~*` Ju Dimello `*~...~*``*~...~*``*~.

    Thanks so much, Amalie, for hosting me in your blog to celebrate my debut release!

    My characters like to cook...Maybe it's because I have a love-hate relationship with cooking, or it could be the fact that I need a lot of comfort food to get me into the writing mood or it could just be that I can try whatever dishes I'm in the mood for through my characters. Whatever the reason is, I wish I could say that incorporating food into my stories is much easier than me preparing them! The sad truth is, it’s often not. :sigh:

    In Fiery Icicle, my debut release (Look at my cover pretty), the heroine is a witch. To make it interesting, I put in a point that she doesn't eat eggs. Well, I didn't realize the amount of research time I might need, where I ended up searching for recipes that doesn't contain eggs and in making sure the heroes (yep!) take double care in that aspect :)  

    Why am I doing this? I think there's a lot one can find about characters from the way they eat or show they care through food. At the very least, I feel so nice when my DH (Dear Husband) steps in to cook for no reason at all...and there're times we substitute eating in instead of going out to celebrate and it's fun to cook together. Of course, the kitchen looks a lot messier that day but well, it gives me a chance to get worked up and start on a whirlwind of cleaning (which btw, is my usual style). LOL! 

    How about you? Do you love to cook, hate it? Or in between - where you do it because it has to be done? Let me know in the comments.

    I have one copy of Fiery Icicle to giveaway during the blog tour and every comment during this week will count towards it. I’ll pick a winner around the 15th of April and contact them! Don’t forget to leave your email id.

    Blurb and Excerpt:
    I thought I’d share a short version of the blurb and excerpt here, while a longer one can be enjoyed at :

    This story contains a half-fae intent on claiming his woman, a half-demon bent on resisting her and a passion that's hot enough to melt the alpine snow


    She placed a plate with an omelet topped with peppers and tomato in front of him, while another one simmered on the stovetop. She obviously remembered the part about double the serving. Toast accompanied by homemade muffins followed before she poured generous glasses of orange juice for both.
    Following up her promise, she brought out a tub of butter and a bottle of strawberry jam. She didn’t eat eggs and his skeptical glance at the tempting omelet didn’t go unnoticed.
    “Cooking helped me focus on something besides school and wanting to run away. Mom never bothered with anything except her ranting. I prepared the meals every day, leaving them on the table for her.”
    He cleared his throat to distract her. “You mean to say I can dig in without fear?”

    If you liked the teaser, you can also check where I’ll be during this week at:

    You can also find me at the following places.

    Drop me a line..I’d love to hear from you!
    `*~...~*``*~...~*``*~. Ju Dimello .~*``*~...~*``*~...~*`

    Apr 6, 2012

    F is for ... Fun Family Traditions

    While rifling through my mind to come up with some ridiculous post ideas for A to Z, I started thinking about the things that make my family different.

    Part of the charm(and horror) is the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature of my family. We have very few traditions, aside from just doing stuff on whim. We're real good at doing stuff on whim.

    My list of family traditions became a list of things we do without making a fuss about it.
    1. We name things. Everything. Cars. The lawnmower. People who already have a name...
    2. We fish. We're not good at it. We get distracted a lot. Although none of us have ever been hooked while another cast willy-nilly out into the water, we've somehow developed a fear of losing an eye during the wild flailing of line and hook. Like golfers, we yell warnings before casting. Like "DUCK!" or the ever popular "Watch out, Mom's casting!"
    3. I saved my favorite tradition for last: BugBall.
    My parents are chicken fanatics, so we always had them and it's a long-standing tradition.
      Baby chicks are kept warm and safe(separate from evil adult chickens) in a cage -- the perfect arena for a good game of BugBall.

      BugBall Rules:
      1. Get a ball: Junebugs are best, but any beetle works. If can't find good bugs, slivers of tomato skin will do. The ball must be sturdy.
      2. Throw ball into the cage. 
      3. One chick will grab the ball and run. The running alerts the other chicks to the presence of something good in the cage, and they all start peeping like mad and give chase. They run run run, but eventually the urge to eat the ball overwhelms, and the chick stops and tries to eat it. No chick is ever fast enough to do so. It usually gets one bite as another steals the ball, and the running starts again. This is why you need a sturdy ball.
      It's hard to say why this is so funny to us. We aren't a sports-watching family, but even the extended family will stop by to go watch a game of BugBall with the Spring chicks.

      Do you have any silly family traditions? Or have you ever had the pleasure of watching a good game of BugBall? (BugBall is like pizza, even when it's not so good...)

      Apr 1, 2012

      A is for ... Adorable Animal Adoption

      See, I set a theme, but can I stick to it for even one day? No! Not when there's a new puppy in the house. So we're calling this... Ridiculously Adorable.

      Introducing: Maggie! She's a beagle+basset mix. 9 weeks old, and desperate to make friends with the cat(who is full of hate, especially for anything smaller and possibly cuter than she is).

      So tired. Surgery is exhausting, and even Squeaky Sock Monkey can't keep her awake.

      Please Please Please pick me up. Up with you. Up on the couch. You can't resist sad Basset-hound eyes.

      The couch is less fun than anticipated . . .

      Mar 29, 2012

      Accountability and A to Z

      I thought about saving this post for the 1st, or Saturday, but I'm forging ahead!

      First: update on progress on eWife 3.0, prototype first draft completed a few days ago(yay), it's short but it has all the major scenes in it and is printed out and in a notebook for following along with daily writing schedule. Second story for the Romance Fast-track on the Harlequin forums, roughly plotted out and ready to start on if I decide to storm ahead on it.

      Second: A to Z

      Decided to give this a go. First year doing it, and I'm terrible with schedules so it might just go to hell, but giving it a shot!

      I've prowled the blogosphere to see the approach of others to this bloghop, and most seem to have a theme of some sort. The only theme I can keep to with any kind of regularity is being ridiculous. I can be ridiculous 24/7, so I guess that's my theme: Snapshots from Ridiculousville. We'll see how that pans out :)

      Mar 27, 2012

      My Awesome Fru Fru Lamp

      Sticking this up since I've mentioned it to a few people online and requests have been made. I have a strange fixation with making bows out of wire-edged ribbon. I love them. It's my favorite Christmas decoration: sheer and sparkly bows lit with lights. To indulge that love all year round, I threw a bunch of different color bows at my lampshade, and it casts such a lovely mellow light on my bedside table it has become my favorite craft project from the past couple years.

      •     1 cheap cloth lamp shade
      •     Approx 100 yds wire-edged ribbon
      •     Scissors
      •     Craft wire
      •     Bandaids

      1. Shred the fabric/material off your lampshade to leave only the wire frame. If your cheap lampshade is only a couple wire circles connected by plastic, you'll need a different lampshade. Something like this, which has a metal skeleton beneath the fabric.
      2. Make 30-ish big(6" diameter) poofy bows with your ribbon (More or less depending on your lampshade size to start with. If you don't know how to make a big poofy bow, this is a good tutorial, but rather than just wrapping the ribbon the width of my hand, I wrap it to be about 6" long when the loop is flattened.)
      3. Tie some bows on lampshade skeleton and fluff
      4. Apply bandaids-- that wire-edged ribbon is evil and pokey
      5. Tie some more bows on the lampshade skeleton and fluff
      6. Make sure none of the ribbon touches the bulb, and please please use a bulb that doesn't get hot. May start fire otherwise!

      Mar 26, 2012

      Summary Is Your Frenemy

      As a new writer I take writing advice to heart, probably more than I should. I live by the mantra: Show, don't tell. 

      What about the times you should summarize? Like when what you've written is important for plot credibility, but doesn't drive the story.

      Getting to know one another conversations, for instance, aren't generally rife with conflict. And even if they are, run-of-the-mill debates about this and that aren't the kind of conflict that drives story. I can grasp this concept, sometimes you need to tell, not show. Summary is your frenemy.

      The problem is, I have trouble figuring out what other situations would benefit from remembering there are times to break this rule.When I have anything happening with my two protagonists, I want to show it. I want to show, don't tell, like a good girl!

      I like to end my posts with a question, for the sake of gathering more advice(I <3 advice): 
      How do you decide when to summarize?