Month: March 2009 Page 2 of 3

Food fad: Salad

It seems like, every season or so, I gravitate to one easy-to-make dish and eat the heck out of it. This winter it was canned tomato soup. Last summer and into fall it was ramen with peanut butter and the kitchen sink. Last spring it was sushi.

Now, it is the SALAD.

I buy a box of pre-washed spring mix or baby spinach, and I’m good to go. I think the important revelation, for me, was buying a bottle of good sherry wine vinegar: it goes with almost everything, if you’re short on ideas. And the second most important revelation was that hot meat + sherry + olive oil + cool salad = bliss.

Here are some of the more successful combinations of late:

  • Premixed Thai peanut sauce, blood oranges, red onions, lime juice
  • Grilled beef, blue cheese, pecans, red onions, grilled asparagus, sherry vinaigrette
  • Pears, pecans, romano, red onion, pomegranate-balsamic vinaigrette
  • Fried vegetarian mushroom ham (the perfect consistency for frying, and o mushroom deliciousness), black sesame seeds, shao xing wine, garlic, thai peanut sauce, lime juice

I am particularly fond of fruit + cheese + red onion salads.

A good box.

In the mail I got a box. In the box was another copy of Repo! The Genetic Opera, Beirut’s Lon Gisland EP, and a book of Russian fairy tales. A very good box.

Improv Writing: Questionable.

Warning—>don’t read this if you don’t like embarrassing bits of information about yours truly. Mom. Not that’s it’s horrible or anything.

“The erotic instinct is something questionable.” — Carl Jung.

Ice cream; elephant trunks; stroking a ukelele; riffling the pages of a book; walking through crowds before a concert; ceiling fans; the sound of a keyboard clicking, pausing, clicking; melted chocolate on the fingers; nipples of course; green tea; the smell of bacon; fresh-washed hair; quiet snows; loud rain, long rain, any kind of rain at all; the smell of rain, but thunder and lightning must have been involved; fresh-ground pepper; harmony; anything that makes me laugh wickedly; solid (grain) wood; pine soap; Murphy’s wood oil soap (which also reminds me of church); a new recipe, which I do not follow; beards; bones in the spine, which are never perfectly aligned; phallic objects, even if they make other people laugh; flower petals on the skin; letting go of the hard feeling between my eyes; faith, love, joy; as if one really were hungry; modern art, which is more due to my skill than that of cleverer illusionists; nudes (Why not more male nudes? Because if only men are visual, why do women look at them at all?); dancing, but only in grocery stores, or anywhere else I can get away with being noticeable but not stared at; couches that make embarrassing noises when you sit on them (leather); being surrounded; collapsing; mastering; sitting like a queen on a throne and feeling like the devil herself from The 9th Gate; Bolero, my first erotic song; vibrators, ones with funny shapes; the life-sized, crucified chocolate Jesus.

Improv Writing: Empowered!

From yesterday.

If I were truly empowered, I would run away from home and never come back. No, I could come back with a gun. No, I would come back with a run and flamingo-pink high heels, because I am empowered. To find myself. To say any outrageous–to do any outrageous thing whatsoever, without regret, or conscience.

See, that’s the bad part, thought Suzy. Regret–who needs it? Just say “better luck next time” and move on. But to be without conscience?

To be truly empowered, then, was to deserve to be shot down like a dog. And what about envy? If being fully empowered means you never feel envy, you can shove it up your ass and garnish it with a tomato-skin rose.

“I want to be someone else,” Suzy said as she looked in the mirror. “Not fully empowered. Just a little more powered.” Then she pinched the fat roll around her waist and decided to go on a diet.

Empowered people can deprive themselves, she thought. They have that power too.

Book Reviews

Eden Moore books, by Cherie Priest.

Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau Wilce.

There’s dark fantasy all over the place. Vampires! Werewolves! Tattoos! Sex! Did I Mention the Vampires?!?

Cherie Priest’s Eden Moore books aren’t dark fantasy. They’re ghost stories. I love ghost stories, which may or may not contain ghosts but at least contain something 1) spooky that 2) must be faced, if only because it’s in the same house.

So Eden. She’s a southern girl. The American South is as full of ghosts as Great Britain, you know. They have Wuthering Heights. We have Gone with the Wind.* They have haunted castles. We have Graceland.

Eden can see ghosts. At first the ghosts are from her family, who are trying to protect her, because other people are trying to kill her, also from her family. It gets complicated. That’s Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which I read half a year ago.

I just finished Wings to the Kingdom. Now, the ghosts are not from her family, but from the Chickamauga battlefield in Tennessee.

The first book started out so strong – threats to her life, backstory so strong you actually wanted to read it for its own sake, good characters, believable conflicts (i.e., a real mess all around) – that I was disappointed with Wings at first. Eh, the writing is good, but why bother? There aren’t any threats to Eden herself, she’s dealing with people because she’s obligated to not because she has any internal motivation, she doesn’t see much point in getting involved in anything actually interesting.

But if the first book’s about Eden deciding she has a right to live, the second book’s about her deciding what to do with her life, and the plot reflects that. A conundrum. Writing an honest story about finding a place in life doesn’t start out with knowing it already – you go in false directions, you piss people off, you whine a lot. But then Eden gets her shit together. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the third book in the series, and other things she’s written, like Dreadful Skin, which is about werewolves and lapsed nuns.

Flora Segunda, Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog is a YA Fantasy set in an alternate California populated by magicians and mad scientists. Check out the website – it’s fun in and of itself.

Flora is the daughter of a military genius and her insane husband, and she’s supposed to grow up to be a soldier. Instead, she wants to become a ranger, a magician-assassin-spy, a woman of many hats and talents. So when the opportunity comes to have an ill-considered adventure with her friend, a real fop, of course she goes for it. What could go wrong?

A lot. I won’t say what. But it’s fun. If you’re looking for a lurid adventure novel about a girl who isn’t a fantastic fighter, or a super magician, or preternaturally intelligent, or never gives up…yup, you will find a good novel to read in bed with your head under the covers and a flashlight. If you’re an adult, ignore your Significant Other saying, “Why don’t you just turn the light on?” Because IT’S NOT THE SAME, YOU FOOL!**

*Tell me there’s no ghost. Go on, tell me. It’s the entire Antebellum South! Notice the nose on your face much? Shyaa.
**No, Lee didn’t say this. But then, I thought of it just now, so I will have to do that when I read the sequel, which is sitting on my shelf as I type.

Neil Gaiman vs. “Bombadil” Colbert!

Fight!

Improv Writing.

So here’s improv writing:

  1. No critiquing (especially in read-aloud situations).
  2. No censoring anything on paper. If necessary, say “bleep” when reading out loud.
  3. The prompts are just prompts, not binding.

First prompt: The door wouldn’t open.

The door wouldn’t open. The window wouldn’t close. The cat wouldn’t scratch. The snatch had been stolen. And we were all sitting around the table at Marbury’s place waiting for the missus to come home. Boy, were we in trouble, Sammie and me.

But Fred wasn’t in trouble. He was dead, poor sod. He got killt out in the getaway car, even before we knowed it had started to go wrong. The cops din’t find us, the bank manager din’t find us, the investors were insured and didn’t give a shit, shit, shit.

I wanted to hear the alarm bells ringing, but it was quiet, because people more afraid of gettin shot than they are of gettin robbed, people so crazy nowdays. But Freddie was the one who got shot, and a stranger wore his hat [and took the money and run off].

And the door we locked won’t come unlocked, and without the money, the missus gonna kill us. And the window is so high.

Second prompt: My first thought was that he lied in every word. (The one I read aloud. It hit me about halfway through the POV was the mom from my current project.)

My first thought was that he lied in every word. But I was fond of him, regardless, that son of mine. What mother wouldn’t die for her son? Well, most of them, I think, if they had a son like mine. But he reminded me of Henry. The heartbreak of Henry, the “mad passion” you only find in romance novels. And I was fond of Henry, even then. Even as I felt my face falling and my heart turning to ashes, I was fond.

“Glenn,” I said. “Of course I will follow you to the fairy woods. But your brother is gone. No matter what I do–if I let you bleed me–“

He interrupted me. “Mother! Don’t talk like that. We don’t need to find David that badly. I just–I want to go. I want you to see what’s happened.”

I felt old then. No, ashamed. Glenn was no Henry. Never would be. He’d never ask me to lay down my life. And not for some selfish, ill-considered purpose.

I cried.

But not until he had gone, and I was drunk.

A good experience, even if my envy is aflame…

Of course, Stephen’s King’s use of the “My first thought” prompt is waaaaay better than everyone else’s, so I can feel a little better about it.

The Tower.

Today was a good day, but a hard one.

It started out with not making the first cut on the ABNA award, which is never an easy way to start the day, being impersonally notified of your not-brilliance.

But then it did a quick segue into being accused of something I didn’t do, but would have done if I had been around to do so – getting caught in the middle of someone working herself up to quit, in my supe’s words. It was unexpected. I felt like a stranger instead of an ally.

And I ground my way dully through the day until I got someone else’s project dumped in my lap, to be finished COB. Work doesn’t always magically end after eight hours, does it?

And then I went to Write Brain, on improv writing, and listened to other people be brilliant when I was only good.

My tarot card of the day is The Tower.

  • Chaos —– Sudden change —– Impact —– Hard times
  • Crisis —– Revelation —– Disruption —– Realizing the truth
  • Disillusion —– Crash —– Burst —– Uncomfortable experience
  • Downfall —– Ruin —– Ego blow —– Explosive transformation

Tomorrow, The Star.

Fool!

There will be no ABNA news for you tonight! HAHAHAHA!

Still no news yet…

Update: I didn’t make it to the quarterfinals (500), but I got to the 2000 that had excerpts reviewed. The reviews haven’t been sent out yet, though.

So what comes before pulp?

I’m trying to put a finger on the fiction writing period from about 1900-1914. It’s difficult. I’m not a historian, so please don’t take all this as intended as authoritative, just throwing ideas around. And granted, there were pulp magazines at this time (Argosy started in 1896), but this just wasn’t the Great Age of Pulps.

There seems to be a logical splitting point at the turn of the century – 1865-1900 – Late Victorian. 1900-1914 – Edwardian/Belle Epoque. High literature was still obsessed with Realism. Modernism was inventing itself but hadn’t become popular (post-WWI).

But eh, I’m not really concerned with high literature. Something I’m finding is that popular and children’s literature was becoming more fantastic (Oz, Burroughs, Dunsany, Chesterton). This was the start of the great era of ghost stories (MR James, EF Benson).

A common theme seems be that there are two worlds, a normal world and a secret one.

Spiritualism advanced the theory of the world of the dead as a scientific fact. Psychology (Freud and Jung) advanced theories that our minds weren’t entirely aware of themselves, that much was hidden (in synchronicity, the Titanic sank in 1912 in a conflict between Science and That which Lies Beneath).

Socialists were becoming impatient with their alliances inside their national governments (the Russian revolutions started in 1914) at the same time that national governments were seeing the peak of nationalism (as WWI started in 1914). Inside the national pride were ethnic movements, threatening to split nations apart (e.g., Austria-Hungary). The British Empire had its last heyday; it was falling apart by the time WWI was over. But – for the time being – war was far away, in the dark corners of the world.

Science introduced the paradoxes of relativity.

The occult was prominent, with theosophy, OTO, and Golden Dawn either beginning or continuing strongly. The Third Great Awakening was still running its course among American Christians. The Pentecostal movement was setting tongues on fire.

It’s like writers are warning, “You can only pretend to hold to the status quo for so long before it will all fall apart. ‘Normal’ will only take you so far.” But that could just be hindsight from my perspective.

Selected works from the period:
The Wizard of Oz books (note: L. Frank Baum spent the end of the 19th century in Aberdeen, SD, which is probably the basis for “Kansas.”) – Theosophist
Edgar Rice Burroughs – SF/F themes. Tarzan, Mars, Barsoom…
GK Chesterton – Christian allegorist. The Man who Was Thursday.
Lord Dunsany – Fantasy. The Book of Wonder.
JM Barrie – Peter Pan.
Frances Hodgson Burnett – A Secret Garden.
Rudyard Kipling – Just-so Stories.
Arthur Conan Doyle – Lost World books. (He became a Spiritualist, but that was later.)
Jack London – Call of the Wild. His mother was a Spiritualist.
Kenneth Grahame – Wind in the Willows
MR James – Ghost stories
EF Benson – Ghost stories
Gaston Leroux – The Phantom of the Opera
Baroness Orczy – The Scarlet Pimpernel
Maurice LeBlanc – Arsene Lupin, criminal mastermind.
Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness.

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