Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Breathing into a paper bag

There's something different about the blog today.  See if you can guess.



Not that either.  Give up?  Look to the right.  Yes, I know.  It's the same picture of my cover art.  Click it.  Go on, you know you want to.  I'll wait here.


I'm on my publisher's coming soon page.  I exist!  I'm a real rabbit now!  So that's fabulous news, right?

Except for the part where I freak out.  Each step closer makes me more nervous instead of relieved. That's the dirty little secret of publishing and writer egos, because I'm sure I'm not alone in this.  As writers, we stay focused for so long on landing an agent or selling a book that when it finally happens--euphoria!  We're so afraid no one will ever say yes, that it's like magic when it comes.  But magic doesn't last.  

Daylight arrives and we all know the magic dies at midnight.  The editing process beings and brings a new fear.  I'll never be able to get this manuscript right.  It's a daunting task and so the writer sweats and toils and chews nails and kills "its" and "thats" and a multitude of adverbs and dull scenes are polished and finally--finally--the editor says it's done.  A big relief.  You've passed muster.  But there is always another hurdle, isn't there?

What next?  What about my next book, the one I'm frantically writing? What if I can't finish?  What if my editor hates this one?  And what about book one?  What if everyone hates it?  What if the reviewers laugh at me?  I could become a bad blog meme.  What if I've missed some whopper of a typo?  And perhaps even worse...what if it doesn't sell?  What if my book creeps in on little cat paws, quiety sits on its haunches, then steals away?  What if I sell five copies, on to my sister and each of my aunts.  My career is over before it has begun.  I'm a failure. 

Now you're understanding the paper bag over my head.  I'm going to sit here and breathe quietly for a moment.

Please send chocolate and tell me I'm not alone in this. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Everyone loves a party, right?

Anybody out there?  Summer time is when things slow to a turtle crawl.  Nobody around here wants to do much.  Texas is hot.  I realize that's hardly a news flash, but it is a reality.  It's too dang hot to do anything during the day.  We pulled out the saddles just to give the a scrub and Chex, my son's horse gave me the stink eye.  She was not in the mood for a trailride.  Lucky her.  I wasn't either.

When the 4th of July comes, all I want to do is hang out at the lake and eat.  Fireworks are good too.  That's how I intend to celebrate this year.  I'll be camping not far from home.  It's close enough to come home and shut up the critters, but far enough to be not at home.  On sunday, we will grill and scare the fish in the lake with our mad splashing skills.  Then by dark, we'll pull up a chair and watch fireworks over the lake.  If it sounds lovely, it is.

And best of all, I'll also be dropping by Creating Home to see their Blog Potluck starting July 2nd.  Sound like fun?  It is.  Go ahead and click their site.  Go on.  I'll wait here. 

Fun, right?  So in the spirit, I'll be posting some great recipes for garden goodness including my Nana's chow chow (vegetable relish) and a corn relish.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll even throw in my icebox pickles.  Just mix and chill.  No boiling, no canning. 

Speaking of garden goodies, I was having an issue.  My tomatoes are doing fabulous, thanks for asking.  That is, except my little grape tomatoes.  I had plants smothered in green ones, but never saw any red.  I'd have some look like they were ripening, but when I checked back--nothing.  Someone or something was stealing my tomatoes.  I busted the culprits this morning.  Early in the am, I heard a ruckus and came out my front door to find my gaggle of geese fighting over their loot.  There's no honor among theives and they all tried to act innocent bystander, but everyone had red juice dripping from their beaks.  They were all in on it.  It was a goose conspiracy.  So now I have to shut the garden gate at night to keep the naughty geese from stealing all my tomatoes.  Don't worry.  I'll set some aside to share with them. 

So get those summer memories and recipes ready to share.  I'm getting hungry!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Cabinet of Curiosities

Maria Zannini has asked that we entertain her as she is trapped at home.  Her wish is my command, of course.  So here is a list of oddities and curiousities about yours truly.

1. I went to high school with Barney.  We were drama club geeks together!  It's true!  Well, actually he's one of the two guys who donned the big purple suit and played him.  They didn't do all the vocals, but he still knows all the words and does a dead on impersonation if you get him drunk enough.

2. I once broke my foot--and broke it twice more before I got off crutches.  Yes, I'm that much of a klutz. 

3. I'm addicted to peanut butter.  I can eat it from the jar with a spoon.  Nom!

4. My husband used to be a golf pro, but I have never swung a club.  I think a golf course looks like a lovely place to ride my horse, if those nutty people didn't put holes all over it.  Grown men cursing at a white ball.  I don't get it.

5. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an ornithologist.  I just find birds amazingly cool.  This was like 5th grade when I had that dream.  Flash forward all these years later and the dream has manifested in my adoration of poultry.  I breed and raise chickens, geese, ducks, and guineas.  Coming this October?  Turkeys!  My incubator has been turned off for less than a month and I'm fighting the urge to hatch something.

6. I have visited every continent except Australia and Antarctica.  I intend to rectify the first, although not the last.  I also have an obsession with explorers and collect the journals of folks like Mungo Park and David Livingstone.  My hero is Ernest Shackleton.  If you love polar exploration, you need to read his journal, South.  You can download it for free.  Another favorite you should know is Mary Henrietta Kingsley, You can download her Travels in West Africa for $1.99.  It's a fascinating read. You can't beat real life for amazing and weird!

So now you know six goofy and useless facts about me.  If you want to read the seventh, visit Maria Zannini's blog and check out the comments. :)  In fact, you should go there now and read all of her weird, random items.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mugged by Sleep

The sandman mugged me.

 I meant to write a great post about Sushi--that's a capital 'S' because she's my pet goose.  But that involved taking photos of her and actual effort.  Yanno, thinking and stuff.  I also meant to surf the net, add 2K to my current ms, write an introductory post for my publisher's blog, and all sorts of good things. Instead, I did my impersonation of the kitteh above and yes, it was that abrupt.  I was upright.  I was face down in the bed.  And there was no alcohol involved. 

It was supposed to be a 10 minute power nap, but I just woke up an hour ago.  Goody.  I'll sleep well tonight.  At least if I have insomnia, I can surf the net, add 2K to my current ms. . .

How about you?  Can you sleep after napping?

So in the comments of my previous post about zombie children, we were having a fun discussion of the crazy games we played as kids.  It reminded me of what summer used to mean.  Summer used to be fun.  It used to mean pools, ice cream, lemonade, watermelons.  I think it still does.  So after I crawled out of bed and dragged myself outside to feed and put up critters, I chased fireflies.  Then cut into a watermelon.  Nom?

Monday, June 21, 2010

On Zombies, Yardwork and Waterparks...

I won something!  How often does a love of zombies and a hatred of mowing combine to gift you with books?  Well, it has and so to celebrate I've got a cute story and then a recipe for my favorite brain food: oatmeal raisin cookies.  Nom!  Speaking of noms, I won a galley of Dust by Joan Frances Turner from Jude at Omnomnom Books!  Clink the link to fnd out what zombies and yardwork have in common (at least in my head!)

Okay, cute story first and then noms.  Yes, it's a zombie story.  Sort of.  Okay, my kids are weird, but then I was a weird kid.  I know.  Isn't that where authors come from?  We all started as weird kids, right?  So Lizard Boy had a cub scout event yesterday morning.  e'd built a rocket and it was time for Rocket Academy.  Basically, you get a bunch of hyped up little boys together with moms and dads and fire off their homemade rockets.  Good fun except Howler Monkey now wants to make one.  He's 12, btw.  Their father (Let's call him Lawnmower Man, m'kay?) was also smitten with the process.  He's quite a bit older than 12, chronologically speaking.  But they don't want to make just any little old rocket.  They want to make a huge, enormous, Mythbuster-worthy rocket.  Stay tuned for more on that front.  I just hope they don't blow a hole in the barn roof.  Lawnmower Man tends to overestimate his explosive skills.

Now, you're saying "Where are the zombies?  Didn't Marguerite promise zombies?"  Patience!  You're as bad as my children.  So after two hours of explosive goodness, everyone is super hot.  This is Texas and it's already in the 90's by 10:00 am.  Solution?  I'm a brilliant mom.  I had them already in swimsuits to go to the Splash Pad and play.  We arrive at the Splash Pad and kids are playing the usual water games.  It's orderly, good clean fun.  Mom's have lawn chairs arranged in the shade and kids with appropriate smears of sun screen are splashing about.

But now the Butlers have arrived.

My kids invented an awesome new game they've dubbed "Zombie Tag."  Someone starts out as the zombie and chases everyone through the waterpark, violating Rule # 1: No Running.  It isn't enough to just touch someone.  You must be able to grab and hold on, thus violating Rule # 2: No Roughhousing.  The "zombie" then eats the brains of the kid he's tackled.  Bonus style points if you make lots of messy noises and your victim howls in mock agony.  Now the victim is infected and he's a zombie too.  The last non-zombie kid standing gets to be Omega Man.  He wins!  I love my weird kids.

We stayed for a couple hours and when we left, the kids were still messily devouring one another.  Butler Mission complete.  I'm sure the other moms love me.  I'm raising the next generation of writers.

On to the noms!

Oatmeal is good for your brain and you don't want zombies to starve, right?  But you don't want to be their snack of choice either.  So make sure you feed these cookies to everyone around you.  Zombies will be attracted to their big brains and leave yours alone.  It's a theory.

Brainiac Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 Cup butter
1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups quick oats, uncooked
1 Cup raisins
1 Cup pecans

Now there is a secret to this and it's in the raisins.  Plump them up.  For the G-rated version, soak them for an hour in apple juice.  They'll absorb it and get all big and juicy.  For the adult version, soak the raisins in rum.  It's wicked good.  Cookies and a buzz.  Win!

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Beat your butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until creamy.  Combine all your dry ingredients except the oats. Now add the liquid mixture and the dry indredients together.  Stir in Oats, raisins, and nuts until it's well-mixed.

Drop tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes.  Be sure and cool these before you try and remove them.  They need about a minute to set up.  This recipe makes about 4 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies.

Enjoy and look out for zombies.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pet the Internet!

My son (Howler Monkey, not Lizard Boy) had a brilliant observation just a moment ago.  See, I should be working.  To be more precise, I should be writing.  I have several Very Good Reasons why I need to write like a maniac on Becoming Mr. Brooking, not the least of which is that I accepted a dare.  Oh, this wasn't just any old dare, but the dreaded Triple Dog Dare (from Celina, Kim, and Grace) which is an entire level above Double Dog.  So we're talking serious cosmic consequences should I fail.  I was dared to be at the half-way point for this WIP by Sunday.  In other words, I should be writing.

Howler Monkey just busted me playing a game on the computer.  Not only was I trying to unlock pieces of a puzzle (so Atlantis could rise again!!) but I had open multiple windows including my Facebook page, Gmail, Twitter, and Absolute Write.  Oh yeah, I was totally busy.  Busy wasting valuable writing time.

I find that the Internet is like a needy cat, demanding to be petted.  Pet the Internet!  Check your email!  Pet it!  Feed it!  It's soft and purring and oh so insistent.  But it can suck all your time without conscience.

Howler Monkey's brilliant observance? 

Me: "I know.  I said I was going to write."

HM: "You should write on your laptop, Mom.  It doesn't have Internet."

Wisdom from a 12 year old.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I've hatched a novel--and it hates me.

I swear this novel is trying to kill me.  I'm leaving this note behind so that if my body should be found, the world will know the truth.  Mr. Brooking did it, in the library with the lead pipe.

Cause I feel like I'm being bludgeoned. This whole stinking novel doesn't want to cooperate.  It's like dragging an anchor.  But I know there's a narrative thread buried somewhere in this mess.  I will finish this novel and dig back through it until I unearth that thread, you know, the part that ties the whole thing together, the part that makes the novel work.  I'll drag that narrative thread to the surface and polish it until it shines.

But if anything happens to me, you've been warned. 

My novel wants me dead.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Goodies from the Garden

For veggie loves, summer is an embarassment of riches.  All the cucurbits run wild in the garden: cucumbers, squash, zucchini, cantelope, watermelon, pumpkins.  Many a careless gardener has discovered to their chagrin that these fuzzy-leaved critters are not particular about their sexual partners.  You can have pumpkin flavored cantelope and watermelonish zucchini.  Don't be fooled into thinking these are tasty.  They aren't.

It's also the season of tomatoes, peppers, okra, pole beans and today's star: eggplant.  Oh, the humble eggplant.  So many varieties to choose from.  I'm partial to slender Ichibans for eggplant parmesian.  For hearty dishes, I prefer the plump, luscious Black Beauty. 

What sort of hearty dishes?  I'm so glad you asked.  I promised Lisa and Mac I'd post this:


1 lb peeled eggplant, cut into 1 in. cubes
1/2 lb bread crumbs
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 beaten eggs
1 TBS pimiento
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sage
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar

Brine your eggplant cubes overnight.  Just put them in cold water with a little salt and let them soak.  Drain the water and put in fresh water.  Simmer them until they are just tender.  Add the milk to your bread crumbs.  Stir until moistened and then set aside.  Saute your onions and celery until tender.  Combine all the veggies, breadcrumb mixture, eggs, pimentos, and seasons.   Blend thoroughly.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Top with grated cheese and return to the oven until the cheese melts.

Want more delicious goodness?  Be sure to check out Creating Home.  This is social networking at its finest, all about food, friendship, and blogging with your mother.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Something exciting

Notice anything different about the place?  No?  Just look around.  I'll wait here.

Still nothing?  All right.  sigh.  Look to the right.  No, you're other right.  Back at me.  Back to the right.  What do you see?  You see what your cover art could look like if it smelled like a man.  I'm on a horse!

Yes, there is cover art!  Isn't it purdy?  And it's green.  In case you couldn't tell, green is my favorite color. 

But wait, there's more.  Oh, yes.  If you haven't seen me buzzing around Facebook, you might not have heard my squees.   I have a big squee.

Aspen Mountain Press has officially accepted Becoming Mr. Brooking, book two of the Mad Hatterlys.  Look for it in October when they formally launch their Aurora Regency line.  Pardon me while I take a moment to dance.

C'mon!  Dance with me!

This is one of those things that you hope will happen, you believe will happen, but to have it all official and stuff is a big whew.  Needless to say, my weekend was a bit manic.

In other exciting news, the chicks have figured out how to escape their brooder on a regular basis.  Somebody is about to move to the outdoor baby coop.  They grow so fast!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Drama Chick is Dramatic

This is Drama Chick as discussed in the previous post and yes, her mouth is always open and cheeping like that.  She never shuts up and everything is of The Sky is Falling variety.  Every little occurence, from being stepped on to the lights going out is cause for hysterical screeching.   

I had a long involved post planned out and half-written, but a funny thing happened and good news took the stuffing out of my rant.  So here it is in the Cliff Notes version:

The sky is not falling.  Print is not dead.  E-books are not a fad.  DRM sucks.  Friends and family make everything worthwhile.

Now one more fluffy chick picture and then tomorrow, big news. 


Here's what she looks like quiet.  You gotta love the fat cheeks.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hatching a Novel: They're Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere!

As promised, I have a few pictures of fuzzy goodness.  Whew!  This has been a rough hatch.  I tried a few things for the first time.  Not so sure I liked them all.  My humidity wasn't right.  There is no nice way to say it.  I must have peeled shells and membranes from six or seven shrink wrapped babies.  That never happens to me.  I think it's because I tried the carton hatch method.  To keep the fat end up, I placed them in egg cartons.  I see people do it all the time.  But I use recycled paper cartons and I think they were absorbing moisture and jacking with my humidity levels. 

But I now have 13 little peepers--or the dirty baker's dozen as I like to call them.  One is still struggling, but the others are thriving so far.  My struggling peeper was the last to hatch.  Late hatchers often have problems.  Some people think that they are weaker and might not hatch in the real world without intervention.  Still, I've got some late hatch weaklings running around my yard right now, so I'll give this one a chance.  The most obnoxious baby got his picture taken because he (or she) wouldn't stop picking on a new hatchling, so I took him out and he hung out at the computer with me for a while.  Then we played papparazzi. Someone in the brooder is a screamer.  There's always one.

Peep: "OMG!  I'm flipped!  I'm upside down!  Help!  Oh!  I got back up!  Look at that!  Hey!  He pecked me!  Mom!  He did it again!  Ow!  Someone stepped on me!  OMG!  I'm upside down!"

Always one drama queen.

I'm giddy with joy that one looks exactly like my favorite hen, Blueberry.  She is a carbon copy of her mother, a fat, blue baby that was born happy.  She was an easy

Some books hatch easier than others as well.  Mad Hatterly's 2 pecks at me in fits and starts.  I keep getting sidetracked with editing and other issues related to book 1 and my other series.  (Thank God I've got years of practice in juggling children.  I'm used to being tugged in a zillion directions at once.)  Some books just flow.  You start typing, look up, and wonder where your day went, but oh! look at all the shiny new words.  Some are late hatchers and force you to pry them out of your brain, wash them repeatedly, dry them under lamps and rewrite them until your fingers bleed.  Sorry.  I clearly need more sleep.  I try to stay in a single metaphor.

So this book is a little more labor than love at the moment.  If you will excuse me, I've got Drama Chick screeching that she's being killed and a scene that is ready to pip its shell.  One more obligatory cute pic:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hatching a Novel: Lockdown!

We have acheived lockdown.  Woo and hoo!  What's lockdown?  Lockdown means we are close to our hatch date.  On day 17 of our incubation, it's time to stop turning the chicken eggs.  They go into cartons with the fat end up (remember our air cell) and I fill all the water resevoirs to pump up the humidity.  Then I close the incubator and step away. 

That's the hard part.  Tinkering is easy for me, but stepping away can be hard.  It's sort of like editing--you knew I'd turn this around to writing, yes?  See, I'm a tinkerer by nature.  I can piddle and rearrange the words in a sentence and play with synonyms forever.  I'll rewrite a scene 150 times if left to my own devices.  Thank God for editors and deadlines that force me to hand it over--step away from the ms and no one gets hurt.

I've spent the last week smoothing and prettyfying Compromising Prudence one last time.  I handed it back over to the tender mercies of my awesome editor Celina (no, I'm not kissing up.  honest.)  and now it's time to sit and watch. The last look will be proof for errors.  That's it.

 Once eggs are in lockdown, I won't intervene unless babies have a serious issue.  You can kill them with your love.  Inside the egg, there is a membrane.  The baby pips the membrane into the air cell and then goes to work on the outter shell.  It's why you need the high humidity.  Too low and the membrane dries and literally shrink-wraps the poor chick.  Too much moisture and you can drown them in their shells. Opening the incubator jacks with the humidity.  It's a tricky dance, but all you can do is present them with the right atmosphere and watch. 

Now I have to distract myself with the shiny of my new WIP.  And it's lovely and shiny.  The characters have suprised me in the most delightful of ways.  But my novel and eggs are all in lockdown.