31 December, 2010

Joely's Awesome Tools

My friend Joely has just posted some great organizational tools for plotting, including some that follow The Hero's Journey. I know lots of folks are looking for new tricks to try and this might be just the thing!

26 December, 2010

Starting with a clean desk

We have too much stuff. There, I said it. And while Bill and I certainly are not shop-a-holics by any measure, we both have 'keep this because we might need it' tendencies along with the ever popular 'I don't know what to do with this, so I'll just put it over here for now' general malaise. These two habits tend to clump in certain places, especially the back end of the bathroom, the entry room closet, and my desk.

Last night, I cleared off my desk and emptied the drawers. Everything except my computer and desk lamp went into a clothes basket and, sitting here looking at it, I can honestly say it's a huge pile of crap. Yep, crap.  I have calendars and address labels and book plates and figurines and my stockpile of vitamins, music, data, and blank CD's, a dictionary, ball cap, tweezers, and I dunno how many miscellaneous papers, receipts, business cards and other papery things. And that's only what's on top of the pile.

It's awful, and it must stop because it's just... Uck!

I have decided that I shall, for one week, root through the pile when there's something I need. If it deserves to stay, I shall find a tidy, logical place to put it. Next Sunday, I'll haul everything else to the garbage can. Then it's the hall closet (most of which will surely end up in the garbage or Goodwill) and after that, the bathroom.

So far, the only items to resurrect themselves from the Laundry Basket of Doom are my eye ointment, mouse pad, and nasal spray. So far so good.

16 December, 2010

I should have stayed out of the kitchen :/

Most of y'all know that my regular day job is housewifery. I am incredibly lucky and blessed to have a fabulous husband who encourages me to be my creative if somewhat ditzy self (including doing various things that I know he finds outright wacky) and, honestly, he's pretty freaking awesome.

Since he works crappy hours and I adore him so, one of the usually-not-so-ditzy things I do on a daily basis is cook. I like to cook, it's another one of those creative outlets for me, and while I do occasionally talk him into taking me out for a burger or something, I'm making supper pretty much every single day. Have been for years, so one would think that I was fairly accomplished at it. I also bake regularly, cookies and quick breads and pies and things (for some strange reason I'm not compatible with yeast. Dunno why, it just never works right for me, but I've learned to adapt) and it *is* Christmas season. Christmas means I make lots and lots of cookies and other sweet treaty things, mostly because, well, it's what I *do*, and I hand out packages of treats and nummy goodness to pretty much everyone I can get to. So. Tonight. Supper and Christmas baking, which should have been easy squeasy but, for some reason was just about a total fail.

I'm going to link to three recipes just to show you how simple tonight's tasks were, and to encourage you to try cooking these things yourself, because they are usually awesome. And easy. Just not tonight. ;)

It started with the Saltine Toffee. The main ingredients are 2 sticks of butter, some sugar, and saltines. Seriously. This is like the simplest thing on earth to cook. I usually add chocolate chips or ground pecans when it's heading to the oven. Super duper easy. And I make it a LOT. It gets gobbled up like crazy around here and people request it. But, tonight, I tossed it in the oven for it's 5 min or so cook time to get the toffee into the saltines and...

I got distracted. Not sure with what, exactly (Ooooh! Shiny!!), maybe it was the creaming the butter for the cookies, or starting the rice (both of which are yet to come in tonight's goof-up-o-rama) or maybe the cats, I honestly don't know, but I smelled something burning, said some bad words, and opened my oven to a cloud of smoke and BLACK saltine toffee.

It was smoking so much and was so insanely hot that I had to take it outside and set it on a snow drift. Thank goodness for snow!

I hadn't set the timer for the toffee like I usually do because I needed to use it for the rice since we were having tambo fried rice. I'd made a roast a couple of days ago and it makes great stir fry leftovers. Yum! Me being me - and always looking for any possible way to get more fiber in our diet - I always make brown rice. You have to plan ahead for brown rice and while I sometimes use Alton Brown's oven method, tonight I made it on the stove because I *had* planned on using my oven for cookies and toffee.

Until it filled with smoke, that is.

I was good and not too ditzy, though, and I set the timer for the rice and cooked it just like I always do, but tonight it was a gushy, sticky, undercooked mess. Which NEVER happens (I've been cooking brown rice for pretty much all of my adult life) and the fried rice was sticky and gloppy instead of, well, super yummylicious. But we ate it anyway, it's not like I had time to make anything else before Bill left for work.

I'd mixed up popcorn cookie dough (a huge family favorite I make all. the. time. Like every couple of weeks.) while ruining the toffee-cinders and gloppy-rice, and had set it in the microwave to just, well, sit and be out of the way until after supper. The fridge is pretty much full and the microwave is really cold (because the below-freezing wind blows up the outside vent) and I thought it'd be fine. Nope. It dried out. I have never, ever, anywhere in my memory had cookie dough dry out while chilling. And it's not like it sat there for hours and hours.

So instead of being able to scoop it up with two teaspoons like I usually do, I had to make little cookie-balls by hand - sticky!! - which wasn't so bad, but I BURNT THEM TOO. While in the kitchen doing NOTHING but waiting for the cookies to cook. WITH a TIMER.

I'd set the time, but apparently when I pushed start, the timer was off daydreaming or something because it didn't count down, therefore it didn't go beep-beep-beep like it was supposed to, so there I am, standing there, doing nothing more exciting than wiping up my assorted messes and waiting for my cookies. But they burnt. Black on the bottom.

Laura (our daughter) laughed at me, can you believe it?

The other three sheets of cookies are fine - thank goodness - but I do not like tossing a dozen cookies into the trash. Oh no.

So today I tried to cook three simple things, and failed each time. Three easy, routine recipes, stuff I don't even have to LOOK at the printed recipe to make, I make them so often. But today was not a good day to cook.

It had better be a better one tomorrow, because I have a LOT of Christmas baking to get done.

03 December, 2010

P!nk's lyrics

I like P!nk, been a casual fan for a long time (Sober is hands down my favorite song in my playlist) and there are four lines of lyric from her 2006 album I'm Not Dead (not going to mention the song here for fear I might jinx this), that I want to use in the opening of 'M'.

Tomorrow I'm calling the William Morris agency to get preliminary approval (or not) and, hopefully, the price to include all four lines, or even the two that freaking SCREAM this book, so that I can have the legal details all figured out before I send it out to my agent, and, if the lines are pricey, if their cost can be included in the book's sales contract, if it sells. The song I want to quote wasn't a hit, so I don't know if that'll have any bearing or not. This is kind of new territory for me. Any other quotes I've used have either been written by me and put in the story (like the rabbit's poem in Threads of Malice) or written by a friend who only charged me a dollar plus attribution in the front matter (a hundred or so words used as the book Nella read Risley in Ghosts in the Snow)

Some people think that 'fair use' means you can lift a small portion of any published (or non published) piece for your own use. You *sort of* can, if you're reviewing it, and there's no potential to make money, AND that the amount lifted is very, very small. However, since this is, hopefully, a book for commercial sale and it's one full verse of a song, I will get some sort of permission before I include it on the manuscript I send to my agent (or at least have a contract in hand that tells how much said permission will cost, if anything).

Respecting copyright is essential, even for as little as thirteen words of a song lyric. Regardless of P!nk and her agents' decisions on price, if I can include the lyric, she and Billy Mann will get full credit with the lyric and in the book's front matter.