Saturday, February 28, 2015

Anything and everything but writing

So far today, I've sent my first, okay second, novel off to two different agents. I'm now researching a few more, to see if I can hit four submissions today, but I'm getting bored with that, and the internet is not being very helpful.

It's mostly uninspiring. I lost an hour or so at Buzzfeed and got lost listening to Pandora while scrolling through Facebook. Saw some cat and dog images. Funny. Cute. Yawn.

So I decided to write instead, which means that I baked cookies and ate them instead. Now I'm drinking diet coke, happy the children saved me from more cookies, sad I ate all the Twizzlers I had stashed in my desk drawer. I could eat the bubble pop lollipop...

I decided looking up agents online is fraught with distractive peril in my current mood, so I decided to go old-school 'Guide to Literary Agents' book, but then got distracted by all the articles in it before you get to the agents. So I went back to online research, but got stuck on writer's digest's twitter feed, thinking the last thing I'm going to do is submit to a new agent accepting clients that just got posted on a twitter feed with a following of like, every writer.

I'm thinking I should stop writing the story I want to read and write romance. Or I could write a story about a cheeky new 20-something trying to make it in the world. Yawn. Or not.

I'm back to writing the story I want to read. Except now I'm distracted by Andy Weir's short stories and I'm thinking I could start writing short stories and post it on my blog. I've got one in mind. I should write that. Or the novel I'm actually writing.

It's a bit ridiculous, isn't it? All this back and forth in my head, designed to get me to do anything, everything, anything and everything except the one thing that I set out to do, which is write the story I'm actually writing, because I'm stuck at a point and it's hard.

But I really like the short story I have in my head. It'll keep til tomorrow. I've already written the idea down.

Right now, though, I should leave the internet, take my diet coke, and head back to my story.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Best Meat Pie Ever

The stickers are the best part of this letter. 
There are several versions of meat pie out in the world. If you google meat pie, invariably a French or British, and Australian  recipe will come up. Invariably is a great word.

You'll find   Almost every country has its own version, including Italy, and though my mother isn't Italian, this became her thing to make. When we were little, meat pie was an Event. We had it frequently enough that I remember it being made in the kitchen. We would hover by my mother because meat pie meant canned black olives, and nothing is better than black olives straight out of the can. She'd open the can, reach for something, and there we were, pinching as many as we could.  I remember one day my mother putting out the two loaves of dough to rise, and then coming home to find our dog, Jessie, lethargic, not moving, and with a much expanded belly, and only one loaf of bread remaining on the counter. It's a family memory we all share. Another time, my father was at the stove, bossing about something. Usually, we were hovering, sneaking black olives.

"Don't eat the black olives!"
"We won't!"

A long time ago, when I was young and newly married and thought my mother would be around forever, I asked her to send me the recipe. Now, you can find every recipe online, but back then, mailing them was still a thing. So she mailed the recipe to me, and I cherished it. I still have it, complete with the stickers, the misspellings, and the funny note about keeping it up high enough so the dog can't get it. She spelled dough like doe and wasn't quite sure why you poked holes in it, but suggested not doing so might make the meat pie blow up.

It's titled Italian American Meatpie. You can find many variations on this, but this is ours. You can also find French-Canadian variations, but they include a potato and don't include mozzarella cheese, so really, what's the point?

I haven't seen this particular recipe online anywhere, which is a crime against all lovers of meat pie, so here it is.

Two loaves of bread dough (just get the frozen kind and thaw and let rise - roll out on floured countertops)
Olive Oil
Basil, Oregano (basically, Italian seasoning)
Big can of sliced black olives
Mushrooms (I skipped this)
 1 lb Ground beef
 1 lb ground pork,
1 25 (26?) oz can of crushed tomatoes
Big bag of Mozzarella cheese

Saute the onions and garlic until onions are soft. Add in, and cook, the ground beef and ground pork. 

Pan of onions, garlic, pork and beef.

 Add olives, crushed tomatoes and spices, and stir it up.
Also, pick out  an olive, eat it, and stir some more.

The 'meat' in meat pie. Toss it in a pan lined with one of the rolled out loves of dough. 
I didn't mention that earlier. Roll out the dough on a floured counter when it's risen.
 Add the layers of mozzarella yumminess.
Cheese. Because dairy is just as important as meat.
Cover with bread dough, top with olive oil, poke holes, so it won't explode, and bake in 350 oven until bread is done.  One day, I'll come back and replace this image with a proper bread topping image.
See this? This is cheating. This is a pie crust topping. Use bread dough. 
It tastes that much better, it's just tonight is a weeknight...
 This is the end result. If you aren't a hacker/slacker, than you will have used the bread dough, and the result would be a thicker top crust and a much heartier pie. Either way, it tastes amazing, because how can meat and cheese not?

Monday, February 23, 2015

The freedom of writing the stories I want to tell

I'm totally posting excerpts of an e-mail to a friend of mine. I like to think our conversations are introspective and deep and philosophical, and if either of us end up famous, then years from now, the other will, also, simply because the electronic trail that binds us is filled with rich, thoughtful words. Well, and beautiful prose such as 'omigosh how did I ever think having kids was a good idea.' and 'do you think these shoes are me?' and 'My husband is driving me freakin' crazy...' One of us will be famous, and the other will be 'the famous author's best friend.' One hundred years from now, and maybe it'd be 'Famous author - best friend... or?' Ha! She'd die.

I read something about writing for those of us who are not published or famous or clever enough to write the next pop culture scandalous thing. The gist of it was that no author is ever really satisfied, that success has its own issues, and there is only one time you are truly free to write the stories you want, only one time to write and play and experiment with your writing, and that is all the time that you are unpublished. Once you become published, the machine kicks in, there are expectations, and you must produce, perform again and again, usually based on the 'thing' that made your book a success: Did you write a clever detective cozy? Great! You better have loved it, because that's what your agent will probably want in your next book. That's not a bad thing, not at all, if that's what you love. I love the Inspector Gamache series, and am glad the author enjoys writing those books! 

It's also why I think it's important to write the type of story you can write again.

But the freedom piece, it's true. It's the one thing I think all aspiring authors should hold on to. Perseverance, time, luck, patience and talent will get you published in the end, but the freedom of an unpublished author is a child playing make-believe. We can be whoever and whatever we want without the rules, expectations, constraint and 'work' of actually being it. 

In an industry where 50 agents is nothing to go through, maybe 100 before you get published, and where 50 Shades of Utterly Poor Writing gets selected over probably several remarkably written books, well, that isn't a resounding mark of confidence in the argument that truly talented writers will get picked up. It is true publishing is a 'for profit' industry, and though no one can say 'what will be hot' next, well, there's more harm in trying to write on trend and for profit than there is in trying to write the story you want to write, the tale you want to tell. If you're talented, and talent and luck are the two requirements, well, you can't go wrong. This is the advice every successful writer passes on - write what you want to write, write for yourself, because that's the best way to succeed.

I love reading Neil Gaiman, he's an inspiration, simply because he gets it... maybe he's got more marketing skillz, more cajones (he lied on his resumes!) and more talent, but at his heart, he's a writer. He writes stories. They sell. It works for him.

I say, as many successful authors say, write what you want to write, write for yourself, because you'll enjoy it more, and because there are far other, easier, ways to make a hell of a lot more money. We all want to be published, us aspiring authors, and we'd all love to be prolific authors. But that's not enough really, for me. I want to be a prolific author of stories I want to tell, not stories I figure will sell.

It's a difficult place to manage, I suppose, for successful authors, and if I ever get there, we'll see how I manage, but tonight, just tonight, just this one night, I believe I will be, simply because I have so many stories to tell. How can it be possible that not one or two or five find their way out into the world?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Winter get-a-ways are a must!

Our weekend away was a blast. Worth every inconvenience of packing up a family of five for two days. Look at this guy, first time on skis, and he loves it. His favorite part was tumbling down an intermediate hill head over heels.. not sure why that's his favorite part - maybe the adrenalin and excitement? It was just the two of us on the trails after the family ski lesson we all took. After the lesson, Bear and Drama Girl went tubing while Husbear went back to the cabin for a long winter's nap. Turbo and I, we skied on calm, quiet trails, hardly seeing anyone else out there. We weren't great at it, but we had a lot of fun! He made me stop to take a picture of what looked like a den. Then, the mountain views. Then, he told me to slow down. I was zippy...

The place we go is never busy. The cabins are far enough out of the way to make it easier to stay in than go out. There's a lot of stuff to do there, but mostly it's the hang out time and the snow play time. There's great cross country ski trails and snow shoe trails, and a tubing hill.

There's just enough people to make you remember other people exist, but not so much that you get stressed out and want to hide. The family dynamics change when we get away. Everyone is mostly calmer (cue Bear dropping to the ground halfway through the ski lesson to express his frustration by taking a nap in the snow ... because Bear's need sleep... but we ignored him, because... whatever kid) and mostly more tolerant (see kid dropping to ground in melodrama,  hitting his own head with ski,  whining about it, and no one throttling him, though our instructor probably thought we were weird).

At the cabin we got a fire started, and then took turns stoking it, because stoking fires is fun, almost as fun as staring at the burning logs in the fire. We played board games. We chilled. We talked about how we totally tooootttaaallly want to run off and move up here. We were mostly unplugged except for reading and the DS' the boys bought for the car ride. Turbo played the guitar, which he doesn't know how to play, but enjoys playing anyhow. Husbear bought his ski stuff, and decided that downhill skiing techniques may not work quite so well for cross country skiing (cue aspirin for sore shoulder that encountered snowy ground).  Drama Girl did have her phone, and we suspect snuck netflix videos at night, but hey, she tried cross country skiing and had fun.

This is our second trip to our winter get-a-way place, because last year we went, and loved it so much that everyone agreed we should do it every year. We sneak off on a Friday and stay for the weekend., and come back much happier, content, and dreaming of cabin and mountain living. Next year, if I plan it right, we'll be staying for a day or two longer, since everyone wants to do more than can be fit in a weekend, without sacrificing 'hang out in the cabin' time.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fedoras and pink gingham

We all know that Bear likes pink. He always has. His first quilt, his 'fish dee dee' had a lot of pink and fun bright pastel shades in it. I must have instinctively sensed his color preferences while he was in the womb. Turbo's was far more not pink. Bear had Hello Kitty rain boots at two (and three, and four) pink hat and gloves at six and seven. And eight and nine. Pink pajamas at ten. A bright, hot pink hoody at 11. The cover image on the blog, this one? That is Bear.

We all wish we had his hair. 

We roll with it. It just so happens that the color also looks great on him. We like to think he just truly appreciates color in a way other children don't. He has a good sense of what goes with what. He woke me up once, with a piece of paper smudged with several shades of blue, yelling, "Look, Mom, look how many shades of blue there are!" The pink thing is just a phase he's had since he was, well, two...

This is also Bear. Hippie Bear.
I fully suspect that at some point this spring/summer, my bright pink running hat will suddenly be making appearances on Bear.

Turbo is really good about it. He just shrugs when Bear shows him the things he likes and says 'it's like a girl.' Bear says 'I don't care' and Turbo shrugs back and says 'Lets go to 7-11.'

He also loves the new pastel rainbow shades that are coming out in sneakers and clothes. The new return to the 80s vibe. If pastels make a roaring come back, fashion-wise, he'll do really well. I'm dreading it. I never liked the sparkly rainbow hued fashion themes that hit in the early 80s, and don't think I could handle too much of those soft sweet cotton candy and ice cream shades. I never cared for pastels. That was when I went into my crazy bright neon color phase. I had a long skirt with bright clocks all over it.  It was all the pastels fault. That's when my sister got into Motley Crue and horrid eye liner. We both have our fashion scars...

Right now Bear is running around in neon rainbow printed socks, pink gingham pants and a black fedora.

Because Bear.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Writing Ramblings from a Saturday night

I'm writing and blogging.

Mostly writing but sometimes the words flow so fast I need to pause, absorb them, and then write.

There's a picture, because, everyone knows, blogs need pictures!

This is a piece of my writing desk. It's a bit disheveled. I should clean it. See? I've got a bag of 'old cat medicine' for Bounder's achy joints, a blue bird (it would have been my mother's birthday today, I've been thinking about her a lot. She'd be happy I'm writing this story. Okay, she'd just be happy I'm writing :)...) There's the mini-Lego TARDIS Bear made me, ear buds for running. A fairy in a jar. Rocks collected on a hike. A terrarium from Turbo that's lasted waaaay longer than it should have. Butterfly in a jar. Crystal I bought my mom for her birthday one year. Now it's mine. Rose Quartz. She kept it on her desk for years. A rock with a hear Bear made me. A phone that, since it isn't a cell phone, probably is out of charge.  An old eyeglass case for a kid who doesn't wear the glasses anyway so why is it even here?  A Kindle cord. So yeah, this is the place I write. 

I'm writing a science fiction tale! Traveling Cities in Spaaaaaceeee.... okay, it's what I call it in my head, but that doesn't really explain it at all. It's fulfilling because, for one, I've always wanted to write in this genre.  I wrote a short  science fiction that did well in my writing course, but then veered. Sci Fi were the first books I ever read and loved. I dug into it all. Then dragons and vampires happened. But I've always returned to reading Sci Fi. It's also fulfilling because the world they all exist in is mine, and I love world building.

When I write, I need to have headphones on and music.  But it can't be music with words because I get distracted. So on Pandora, right now, I'm listening to a station called Star Wars film score. I think I created it. The children are behind me chattering away, but the music dulls it so it's not intrusive. I will say, I'm quite impressed that the first thing they grabbed when I said it's kind of a do-it-yourself dinner was the veggie platter. 

I said to a friend that I was teasing this story out, that my main character wasn't the main character at all, and only sort of a predecessor.  It's one of my 'tells' on when I know a character is a keeper or not. If they aren't in my mind, if bits of them aren't slipping into my imagination and if they stop developing personality traits or quirks, then they aren't fully formed and probably won't last.  

It's hard, switching between the two characters. But I have enough of the story teased out that now I feel I'm close to being able to outline and section it, so I can work in pieces in different parts of the story.

No, I'm not a linear writer, but I do create an outline of a timeline.

This happens in the beginning.
This happens in the end.
This happens before that other thing happens, and that after this thing.

It's how I write. 

It's Saturday night. I should loosen up and go a little crazy. Maybe I'll have some Baileys with my writing and Darth Vader music.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Welcome February! Flowers and Mom-Doesn't-Cook Dinners!

Pretty pretty flowers! 
The longest, dreariest, uneventfullest month is over. Uneventfullest isn't a real word, but it should be. I talk about January and the doldrums I find myself in every year. But it's okay, because February is here! I made it! Whew.  Next year's resolution is to find a way to successfully enjoy January. January did see my return to the habit of buying fresh cut flowers for the house. Fresh flowers are never tacky.

There's a lot of reasons to celebrate February. For one, our newest Longmont pub/restaurant is celebrating Stout Month and I love stouts. I'm having one as soon as my pint glass gets properly cold in the freezer. For another, spring is around the corner! Okay, not really, but close enough... 28 days and we can start talking about March showers (blizzards) and April flowers! I can think about things to grow, and start planning my container gardens.

But mostly, because my role as 'the Responsible for Everything Person' has greatly diminished in the last month. For instance, the only laundry in this family of five I'm responsible for, is mine! All my children are now doing their own laundry. I don't even worry about how folded the clothes are when they are put away. Mine are usually sort of just packed in tight in a shelf, and only resemble folding, so I'm not one to judge.  And chores! Drama girl is empty/load dishes girl. Turbo and Bear are 'sweep the floors, trash, recycle and cat food feeding' boys. While the children are doing daily chores I used to do, I mainly flit about, and occasionally giggle at the sheer joy of having a moment and not having a thing that must be done in that moment.

And dinner, ah, I think I've talked about dinner. The greatest thing of all. I only cook on Mondays, and sometimes a Friday or Saturday. Yep, I've decided that the responsibility of cooking homemade meals is a necessity, it's just the right thing to do for your family, however, that responsibility can be shared. Five people 11 and over, means we can spread that burden across five family members! I shared this vision of mine with a few people, but none have been nearly as excited as I have. I decided it's a control thing. I am not particularly picky about dinner, provided it's reasonably good, reasonably healthy, and everyone makes an honest attempt. Some people are probably thinking, kids, can't be healthy, but, surprise! Most meals can be made 'healthier,' but overall, my kids aren't doing too badly. For instance, look at this week's menu. We've got a healthy salad, a yummy chowder, Turbo is doing BLTs, which, okay, bacon, but then, mmm, bacon, we've got a pizza bar on Wednesday with both boy's helping out, terriyaki chicken drumsticks and brocolli and salad by Bear and chicken parmesan on Friday.

Homework, you say, oh, the homework? What homework? I am not the one attending school, pish, I say to that, and posh. Pish Posh.

I have, after all these long years, finally released some of the burden of being the Responsible for Everything Person. It's not me, that's doing dinner. It's all of us. It's not me that has to clean the house, it's everyone. It's not just me. The biggest winner of all, though, is me, because while everyone has seen an increase in chores, responsibilities and overall 'Do It Yourselfness' I have seen a large decrease.

Except, I still am the one who has to do appointments. No one in the house aside from Husbear and I can drive. Still. /sigh.