Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Candy Trickle-Down-Theory (and the Countdown=1)

It's Halloween. What kind of candy blogger would I be if I didn't speak up today?

First off, I'm still trying to avoid sugar ingestion. It's not going very well. I had to make sugar cookies over the weekend (and frosting) for kids' school. While I only ended up eating one (broken) cookie, which was a WIN, I think I probably ate a full cup of dough. Not a win.

And that cherry-vanilla flavored frosting was sooooo tempting.


As for today, I didn't resist the Halloween candy in the ENORMOUS bowl. We live in one of "those" neighborhoods; you know: the kind with street lights, and without mean dogs on the loose or large spiny cactus on the "lawn." Therefore, we get hit pretty hard. In fact, one year, I swear I saw a BUS parked at the end of the road and people piling off it, coming through the houses wearing masks and holding pillowcases. Seriously, folks.

The bowl has to be ready for such contingencies. Therefore, I bought
EIGHT bags of mini-candy bars,
two bags of Sixlets,
two bags of Smarties,
two bags of Dubble Bubble,
the biggest bag of Dum-Dums I'd ever seen,
a bag of Sugar Babies,
a bag of Tootsie Pops,
possibly some other stuff I forgot.

I had a friend mention on Facebook that Halloween is a day where you end up trading candy you DO like for candy you DON'T. But I think I've already established there's no such thing as candy I don't like.

This morning I've been experimenting with the "trickle down" theory of sugar ingestion. In other words, I've chewed about fifteen pieces of Dubble Bubble. Since I spit out the gum as soon as it started to get tough, I told myself I wasn't really "eating" sugar. Yes, I realize this is a form of lying to myself. But, dang, it was good. I love that pink stuff.
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Meanwhile, the gum is helping me concentrate on my writing organization. Only ONE day left until NaNo begins, and even though I can see I was probably delusional thinking I could really do it this year, with all the other responsibilities that are flinging themselves at me, I'm still going to at least give it the old college try. Go, Aggies! Anybody know how the Aggies are doing this year, by the way? I never pay attention. Didn't in college, either. Ha. Good thing I married a guy who cares more about raspberries than sports. He might (if I can cajole him into it) dress up like Clark Kent for trick-or-treating tonight. It's perfect. I'll be my usual--the witch.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Infinitesimal Rhinos and Sixlets the Candy

My 11-yo got braces this week, and I offered him carrot sticks for dinner.

This is an indication of the situational awareness level of his mother.

This is possibly due to the fact I've gone deep into my writing head again. I'm scratching together a whole bunch of outlining and characterization notes for NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo? A minuscule rhino? No! It's National Novel Writing Month. November every year brings out the novelist in thousands of writers all over the world. According to Wikipedia, last year over 200,000 participated, but I bet those are the official numbers and many more participated but didn't do the official sign-up on the site.

The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. If you've ever wanted to write a novel and never made yourself buckle down and just do it, NaNoWriMo could be the motivation you've been looking for.

About five years ago I heard about NaNoWriMo from my friend Colleen. She was participating. I didn't ever go do the real sign-up. I didn't want to be accountable! But I was a closet NaNo and created a novel that month. It was quite grueling. Because it was November, Thanksgiving holidays got in the way, so it had to be packed into a certain number of days (no Sundays. I don't do writing for profit on Sundays.) I ended up cranking out about 2,500 words a day, some days more. It was also quite a rush. In the end, I set it aside and didn't do anything with it for about three months. I was kind of sick of it by then. But I broke it out again after the new year and finished it up, edited it for ten months, and then it became my third novel, Delicious Conversation. Last I heard, it's still in print.
Delicious Conversation

So, now I'm done tinkering with my novel that took two years to write and edit, and I'm ready for something fresh. Something came to me Wednesday night and I think I'm going to NaNo it. (Makes me think of Mork From Ork, Nanoo Nanoo!) Organizers suggest getting as many notes together as possible prior to the November 1 start date. Then crank out the words in one big Blaaaaat!

Should be fun. I love a writing rush! Like a good dose of Excedrin. I bet my braces-mouthed son could use one himself.

No candy news today, except they served Sixlets at the bridal shower I attended today. Only yellow Sixlets. I wish I'd been in charge of sorting them. Then I could have eaten EVERY SINGLE Sixlet of any other color besides yellow. Yeah, baby. Those little spherical doses of heaven are grand.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blueberry Cake and Failure (which precedes success)

My now-4yo daughter had a birthday this weekend and requested a blueberry cake. Part of me went "ew." There's family folklore around here about the Christmas morning that I labored to create homemade blueberry muffins using a dubious recipe and came up with mounds of bready, fruit-studded, gag-inducing sand that not only the kids hated but that our chickens would not eat.

So, the request of the blueberry cake caught me off guard.

Have you ever noticed that modern blueberries just aren't quite as good as the candy blueberries that come in little powdery purple clumps in Jiffy Muffin Mixes? I love those candy blueberries. My husband, whose mind gravitates toward all things agricultural and genetically altered, complains that modern blueberries have been so bred for size that the sweetness has gone out of them and their texture is (his words) "nasty."

I still like them fine in a McDonald's Fruit & Yogurt Parfait, as I've mentioned before.

Anyhow, it became a challenge, and at the advice of my baking-queen sister-in-law Julie, I bought two(more expensive because it contains a can of REAL wild blueberries) Betty Crocker blueberry muffin mixes and baked them in 9" rounds and then drizzled them with a lemon glaze made out of 1/2 cup lemon juice and 2/3 cup sugar and some water, cooked on the stove until the sugar dissolved. I used a chopstick to poke dozens of holes in the cake for the lemony sweetness to seep down through both layers.

Can I just say? I think I redeemed myself on the blueberry front.
The Best Blueberry Muffin Cake
This isn't my cake but it's the internet image that matches it best. I did two layers...Mmm. I love this cake plate.
Right now I'm getting details together to run a new round of queries on my novel. The topic is out there, I'm aware. It's not something most of us will have read a dozen times in the past. I'm hoping some brilliant agent will see it for the cash cow it is and snap it up.

And like the gaggy blueberry muffins that preceded the triumphant blueberry cake, here's believing the non-triumphant queries I've launched will be followed by a bidding war among publishers for some lucky agent out there!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Writing for Fun and Profit and Jalapeno Corn

It's only October and I'm already starting to formulate goals for the New Year.

This is probably due to the fact that I spent the morning Christmas shopping. Is this jumping the gun or getting a jump on the gun-to-your-head type season that is coming at me like an army with bayonets?

I'm not sure.

Anyhow, I'm thinking about what kind of things I can be doing next year for writing. I have love, love, loved my novel writing experiences. I think it's the most satifying writing I've ever done. However, novel writing is what I'd put in the trickle-down category of earning. It takes a while to earn anything from writing a novel, royalties only come in a lump sum every six months (at least that's how mine come), and it eventually trickles to a drip, which is fine unless you have something new written coming down the pipe and didn't take a couple of years off to be the mommy of the kids. 

That's fine. Most novelists don't quit their day jobs, and I never could (as a stay-at-home mom it would be a colossal mistake. Plus, I kinda like my job. My bosses are pretty hilarious. And good fodder for the novels.)

So, as for the new goals, I think I'm starting to want to try some new formats. I've been writing novels for about 15 years. Before that, I wrote essays and short stories--and a bunch of papers for college (not a format I'd like to revisit.) My good friend Donna Hatch told me recently she had written a couple of novellas she put up on Smashwords and made available for Kindle and Nook. She had a fun time writing them. That sounded fun to me, and like not as much pressure as a full-blown 85,000 word novel to calibrate. And if I get something cute done, nice and frothy, I might do what Donna did and make it available for sale as an e-book. Even if I only make a few bucks, that's a profit, right?

For the past several years I've been writing a book review column for our local newspaper. I love it. I get to inflict on the local populace my taste in books. Ha! Sometimes I go to a doctor's office or a city luncheon and people say, "I've heard your name. Where...?" I tell them I write the column, and that's usually how they knew me. I'm using up all 15 minutes of my fame this way. It's not a bad way, promoting other writers' books. Good times! I haven't written a column lately (too busy writing to read much I'd like to recommend), so I think in the new year my goal will be to step that up, funnel a few more columns their way.

Besides that, I got a new community-involvement-assignment to work on the county's state Centennial celebration and do the write-ups for that. It should be a good variety of challenges, from the news releases to a pamphlet here and there, to website content, to a history of a local landmark. That'll make me stretch.

A friend of mine, Valerie Steimle Bashein Foy, from ANWA (my writers group) keeps posting on our Facebook group whenever she gets a byline in a magazine, newspaper, or e-zine. She's raking in the clips! It's inspiring! I don't know how much she gets paid for each column, but even if it's just a few dollars here and there, it's cool that her writing is valuable enough that she is being paid for it. That makes her a professional writer. I love it. She's quite the inspiration.

I'm not going to quit working on my latest novel (it's going to be the cotton candy fun I love to spin), but I want to branch out and make myself stretch into new projects in the new year. If I can just get through the holidays!
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I can't wait for the holidays. Seriously. When is food a bigger part of our lives than those diet-deadly and delicious six weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day? Ah, I think I can taste the jalapeno corn already. Mmm!

Here's my recipe:

4 bags frozen white corn
1 8-oz cube cream cheese
1 cube butter
1/4 cup milk
3 jalapenos seeded and chopped
garlic salt
season salt

On stovetop in saucepan combine cheese, milk, butter, seasoning and peppers. Stir until creamy and bubbling. Pour over thawed corn. Cook on stovetop stirring occasionally until peppers are tender. Keep warm in crock pot until ready to serve. Makes enough for the whole Thanksgiving gang (but I have to double this because our gang is gigantic.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tasty Snails vs. Espresso Books (and genre crossing)

My friend Louise introduced me to a VERY DANGEROUS website. It is called Food Gawker, and it seems to troll the internet for cool blogs about food.

Here's a photo that was bubbling at the top of the pic gallery today.

I ask you. Does food get cuter than that? Bless her little macaron-making heart.

So I have been stuck there, clicking over and looking at recipes for chocolate cake (which I'm going to make and enter in the county fair this weekend, good luck to me!) and all kinds of other beautiful, deliciousness.

Meanwhile, I have also been reading a MS for a friend. She is writing out of her genre, and it's amazing how versatile some writers can be. I'm really happy to see the different sides of writers' personalities emerge. Yes, I think the voice for most writers is pretty constant--I can hear her romance side sneaking through in this great YA dystopian story--which I think is what makes readers for the most part not mind when writers cross genre lines. There are some writers I'd read whatever they wrote, no matter the genre (almost. I mean, I do have some limitations on what I won't read.)

I also got a load of something really innovative and interesting today. It's called the Espresso Book Machine. From the writerswrite blog:

"The Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Trachtenberg discusses the expansion of On Demand Books' Espresso Book Machine, a desk-sized device that quickly prints out black-and-white paperbacks with color covers. Jeffrey says he printed his own book in four minutes."

Click on the link to see the machine.

Huh. How would that be? It might change things. And book publishing would no longer be for the snails. Yummy snails. Mmm!