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7 posts from May 2011

BooksMay 31, 2011

The winner of Sheepish has been chosen and has been notified by email! Thanks, all, for playing.

And now, while I'm already going on about books, I have to tell you about the one I'm reading right now (I'm so much better at doing this here on the blog, rather than on Goodreads or Amazon...).

I both love and hate reading books that make me second-guess myself as a writer. Oh, look! Here's what I love to read and write! Followed immediately by oh, shit. I'm SO not getting this right.

I normally don't blog about books I'm not finished reading, but I'm so confident in this one, I'm blogging now.

Pcfb The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, by Bridget Asher. It's lovely, pointed, and poignant, filled with specifics about love and grief presented gorgeously. I'm rooting for our heroine SO MUCH that I read all afternoon, and I'm going to bed early tonight to read a little more. (Not that this is uncommon--but this particular lust to get back to reading is one of my favorite things in life, and I love it when I find it.) It doesn't surprise me that the author is a poet, and what's gratifying is that all her quietly lovely moments aren't showy but simply presented.

Bqljpg Also, just a moment to mention Libba Bray's Beauty Queens. I was surprised by this one. A plane-load of beauty queens crash-land on an island--a cross between ANTM and Lost. I predicted it would be funny. It was. I thought it would be snarky. Check. And about four chapters in, I thought I'd seen all the jokes. I got it. I understood the schtick. I was going to stop reading. Any minute, I would be done. I never feel pressure to finish books I don't really want to... any minute.... And I keep turning pages. She kept surprising me. I finished it, and I was really glad I did. I loved the surprises, and even when they were on the obvious side of gotcha, they were RIGHT.

Two incredibly different books (three, counting Catherine's memoir first mentioned in this post). I love reading. Off to do more.

Racing For WordsMay 26, 2011

Ahhh. I've had five days off with one more to go, and while to some that means long hours of leisure and relaxation, right now to me that means writing as fast as I can. I've got this project stuck in my craw, and I can't let it go. I'm trying to ride it while I can (and, apparently, mix every metaphor available). This week has reminded me of a few things:

When writing 20 pages a day (5000 words-ish), by nightfall the English I don't speak it so good. It's as if I use up all my thoughtful words and I'm only left with Huh? and Wha? None in Chez Hehu stand in awe of my rapier wit and mastery of our mother tongue, that's all I'm saying.

When writing quickly, there are hundreds and hundreds of typewritten words scrolling across the screen in front of you that you KNOW will die by the fiery red-pen of death. They're awful words. Terrible. Possibly the worst words ever linked together on a page (I like to compete in all things, including mind-numbing prose. Mine is the most numbing!). So you get that terror that we all get (often), the fear that says YOU SUCK SO MUCH YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GET A DAY JOB. Wait, you have a day job. YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GET ANOTHER ONE, TO BOOT, AND QUIT THIS CRAP. You see one terrible idea after another splat on the page in front of you, and right when you're about to quit FOREVER, you realize that the thought that was so dreadful, isn't, really. It's kind of okay. Later, you figure out that part was pretty good, actually. It's a good thing you were writing quickly because it was only a fluke you typed it in the first place.

This leads me to the Most Difficult Thing About First Drafts: You never know which parts are good and which are terrible when you are writing them. Ever. You can't tell. There is no way to figure that out, so you just have to keep writing. The parts you thought were genius? They'll be precious and over-wrought. The parts you thought were flat and stupid? They'll end up containing the entire THEME of your novel. The parts that were meh? Some were, and some weren't.

You just gotta keep going. And the faster you go, it feels to me, the more exciting it is. It's kind of like driving. If you drive like you're racing (which I don't--I own a station wagon, but I think this is true), you have to hold on tight and be ready for anything. You might have to swerve, and fast. On the other hand, if you're going fifteen down a country road, you might have to dodge a bunny or two, but you can just keep one hand on the wheel.

I'm kind of liking this death-grip racing thing. It's working right now, anyway.Sheepish

GIVEAWAY!

And hey, to celebrate books, I have one to give away--I already gave away my galley copy of Catherine Friend's Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet, but her publisher has graciously agreed to send a copy of the real, finished book to one random commenter (I can't bear to give up my own copy: I am a BLURB on the back, along with Garrison Keillor and Novella Carpenter!). 

Leave a comment, enter to win! Easy-peasy. (I'll draw a winner on Sunday.)

And scrappy, ratty, skinny, grumpy ole Digit says hello. And now he will attack.

Digitlskd

Moleskine Hack! May 18, 2011

Really, I get WAY too excited about this. But it takes me soooo long to fill up a whole Moleskine that when I get to crack open the spine of a new one, it's like Christmas morning.

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Then, of course, I'm too nervous to write anything on the first page, so I have to wait for a bit. And this last journal -- you know what was on the first page? "I have finished a book." In September 2007, I finally finished my first novel, Love Spun (which turned into How to Knit a Love Song). I was so dang over the moon about it, and in the pages of the journal I spun a little dream about publishing something someday. I finally knew I *could* finish something.

I love that journal.

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And hey, you know what has saved my bacon many times in various journals? I'm one of those people who writes ALL OVER the book. I keep my diary in the front, but that probably comprises the fewest pages. I write fiction, make knitting notes, jot ideas, makes lists, worry and plan and hope, and just WRITE in general. I never pay attention to where I am in the book -- I just open to a blank page and go. Then, of course, I could never find what I was looking for until I did this simple trick:

I number the pages as soon as I get the journal. It's that easy. Then, when I write something that I think might be of use later, I jump to the very first page and add it to my Table of Contents. Yes, everything is out of order, and the numbers jump around (just like my brain!), but I can FIND things.

See?

Mole1 

And I use the heck out of tabs and post-its. Totally helpful.

Oh, what was that? You want the magic formula that I highlighted pink? It says, "He shines spotlight, it backfires." Wish I could remember what that meant, exactly. And why it was magic. Huh.

But under character motivations, I'll give you what I have because I use it a LOT. (I can't remember where I got it, so I can't attribute it, I'm sorry....)

Questions: What is your character's immediate problem? What CHOICE does she face? What terrible thing will happen because of that choice?

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It's important to me to keep these questions in front of me all the time, because I tend to be too easy on my characters. I let them have too much chat time in first drafts. Must do bad things to them! Must be very mean!

Now, I'm off to write something....

Clementine smiles, hoping in vain for a walkMay 13, 2011


Sent a-go-go from my Android.

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Lentils Again? May 9, 2011

Today was a rather lovely day. Actually, I've had a couple of lovely days in a row, which is great. Yesterday, Mother's Day, I spent in bed. Okay, I got up once to show Lala how awesome soft-boiled eggs are, and then for some reason lost my mind and thought a 3-minute egg must be the way I used to make them.

Not so much. I ruined two eggs this way, then reboiled the other two and finally got it kind of close to right.

But the rest of the day, I spent in bed reading and napping. True, I'd worked 18 hours the day before and had come home at midnight, so I felt I had some resting to do. And I have to tell you this: I've discovered Molly Harper. (Full disclosure: I thought I'd read her before, and when I met her at Romantic Times, I gushed. Later I realized I was thinking of another book. Ahem. Which is okay, because she's even better than the writer I'd confused her for! And she was awesome in person, too.) So to make up for it, I started How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf. It is GREAT. She's such a funny, smart writer, and it's just fun. Girl moves to Alaska to get away from Mississippi hippie (hey, that rhymes!) mother, and starts working at the local pub. Cue Northern Exposure soundtrack. You'll like her, too.

(In heavier stuff, I recently read Laura Lippman's new book I'd Know You Anywhere. Oh, oh, oh. Now I understand why, when I was at a HarperCollins cocktail party, my agent stammered a little when we met Laura Lippman. She's that good. It's not a light book, but it's everything I love in women's fiction: voice, tone, emotion, intensity and a rockin' plot.)

Then, after the date with bed, I went to the bar with sisters and friends, and we toasted our dead mothers. I brought brownies, C brought chocolates, and we laughed so much the bartender wanted to come sit with us. We had such a good time. A new tradition is born.

Today I spent Doing Scary Things in the morning (because we all need to do them now and again, and I like to keep my heart rate up) and then I came home and wrote. A lot. I'm in LOVE with a new project and I can't keep my hands off it. I wrote 5000 words today (about 20 pages), which is kind of like going on a blind date that goes really well and lasts the whole night. You don't know ANYTHING yet, but you're so excited you bounce when you stand in place. And I tried to nap, and failed because I wanted to write some more (oh, writing is so often NOT like this), so I got up and did just that.

And now, because apparently what I do is cook things, and then realize there's NO WAY I'll remember how I made it, I'm sharing a dinner recipe that I just made up that was DELICIOUS. Rather than just write it down on a recipe card, why not put it here? So someone else might enjoy? Easy-peasy, and quite fast (I like cooking things during which I can putter around and do other things while the stove is doing the work).

Lentil Asparagus Goodness

Put a cup of lentils and 3 cups of water in a heavy pot. Add a bay leaf, five smashed peeled cloves of garlic, half a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of salt, a half-teaspoon (or more) or red chili flakes and a bit of fresh ginger root if you have it (we keep it in the freezer so we can always shave off a bit). Bring to a boil, reduce to low simmer, cover, and cook for 30-45 minutes (I like the water to be mostly gone, but if the lentils are getting too mushy, I raise the heat and boil it off). Juice a lemon over the top, stir in.

Then chop up some asparagus, add to boiling water for exactly three minutes. Dump some lentils in a bowl, top with plenty of feta cheese, and top with the hot, drained asparagus. SO DELISH. Add another squirt of lemon if you like. And some more salt. Lentils love salt as much as I do.

If you make it, let me know me what you think!

Standing Desk and Delicious SoupMay 3, 2011

Hey! I'm standing right now! I didn't actually end up so much making a standing desk as uncovering the one I already had.

Ready for it? A low Billy bookcase from Ikea. How much do I hate these bookcases? And HOW MANY OF THEM DO I HAVE? (Answer: so many.) But the low one turns out to be the perfect height.

This was what the office had scarily turned into in the course of writing this last book. (I've noticed that as deadlines creep up, so does my stuff. My crap knows when my defenses are low.)

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Isn't this AWFUL? See that HORRIBLE white door I was using as a desk? Terrible.

I knocked it around for a while and dug this haven out of the rubble:

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Ah. So much better. See, there's my lovely desk, all clear and ready to go. Where's the standing desk? Why, here it is!

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Digit checks things out.

See? Just there, where I've put the laptop? It's perfect, and I get to write while looking out the window, something that I love. I'd like to eventually get a laptop riser so I can lift it up to eye height and put the bluetooth keyboard I normally use under that, but I'll have to look into finding a cheap one of those (anyone like one particularly?).

EDITED TO ADD:

Fixed that, too! Look, a book stand works perfectly!

Bookstand

Cost: Three hours labor, AKA FREE. I'm returning that shelf I never even got out of its box this weekend.

Spicy Chipotle Bean Soup

Putting the recipe I made last night here so I can find it again. Made up of a mix of a bunch of recipes, and it worked really well (but really spicy! Tone down if you need to).

Saute 1/4 chopped red onion and 2 cloves minced garlic in a tbs of olive oil until softened. Add 2 chopped-up chipotle peppers (in their adobo sauce from the can), and add, along with 1 can of black beans (I used TJ's cuban style) and 1 can of kidney beans. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of chicken stock (could use water to keep it veggie), 1/2 tsp dried cumin, 1/4 tsp dried oregano. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, covered, about half an hour or so. Use immersion blender to puree about half of the soup. Add a can of diced tomatoes and 1/4 tsp of ground red pepper. Cook until all thoroughly heated. Top with grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

YUM.

Quick and RandomMay 2, 2011

I realize that in this brave new world, we all think in tweets and FB updates, don't we? I don't sit down to write long blog posts much anymore, because I don't sit thinking about them like I used to. A little bit sad. All those creative things I used to think up (and be able to reference later) are washed away in the Twitter flood. I know they're out there somewhere (thanks, Library of Congress!), but to find them? Almost impossible.

So I'd like to write here a bit more. Plus, I miss you. (I'm off Facebook now, except for my author page -- I didn't unfriend you on my personal page, I swear; I just got rid of it.)

In no order, thoughts that are longer than 140 characters:

* We have such a nice surprise growing in the backyard. We had to pull out that huge acacia which fell over the winter, and we were horrified to find that instead of gazing at the trees swaying over our little backyard creek, we had a direct view onto a parking lot and portable classrooms instead. But that was winter, and we didn't notice the spindly little tree behind it wasn't dead. It was just dormant, and it's putting out leaves now that will shield us from the ugly.

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See? You can hardly tell!

* The season of Cadbury Creme Eggs is almost over. I have three left, and I predict that by noon, those will be gone, too. Which leads directly to:

* The season of standing has begun! Everyone's been scared straight by that NYT article, but I have to say, it's kind of amazing to put into practice. They say anything more than sitting for six hours is bad for you, right? I work twelve-hour shifts. And my commute is about two hours. So in order to be on the right side of standing, I need to stand for 8 hours at my job (we have great ergo tables that raise and lower easily).

So this last week, I stood for at least 8 hours every day (I stand for the first six and then add more hours in the afternoon), and for 9 hours a couple of days.

I HAD SO MUCH ENERGY. I was so energized that instead of coming home Saturday night and collapsing, like I usually do, into a big whiny mess, I went to the store, came home and cooked chicken mole from scratch (YUM, but only good, not great, so I'm not linking the recipe) and stayed up to watch TV with Lala. This is unheard of, people. I was not a wreck (but oooh, my hip muscles! Could feel them again!).

* So today, as God is my witness, I will be smacking some order into this office o'mine. I made the mistake a few months back of adding a desk (and by adding a desk, I mean perching an old door on top of my low filing cabinet). It was great, for a minute. And then I put stuff on it, as we do, and now my office is about to gobble me up and no one will be able to find me.

I want to git rid of it and of a lot of books (I know!). And then I'll put together the $19 shelf I bought at Ikea that I *think* will work as a standing desk. I'll keep you posted.

* The rose my dad gave me last year is blooming! It finally has a place to live that it likes!

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* It has been GORGEOUS 'round these parts lately. Yesterday my sister Bethany taught me that my new favorite place to walk the dogs is in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, which is ENORMOUS and has the best view in the world:

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(Click for biggetyness.) The Oakland AND SF skyline! Perfection.

* And finally, one for the ladies. Digit is still a crankypants, but his thyroid meds are helping and he's put on about half a pound.

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