Archive for September, 2009



Foodie! Drinkie! Snackie!
by KimLenox on September 19th, 2009

STATUS: Cleaning office, before heading off to watch Texas A & M Aggies beat Utah State!! Whoop!

Food! It’s one of my favorite subjects. Whenever I’m on deadline, I will try to just throw the guilty conscience out the window. As writers, we have enough guilt! “That scene didn’t turn out as well as I’d have liked!” and “I really shouldn’t have thrown that still-frozen bag of fishsticks at my family before I locked myself in the office to write …” So, guilty calorie conscience be gone! Still, I tend to plow through a pile of contradictions — some fuel very healthy, the rest total junk.

When my family leaves me for a writing weekend, I’ll break and make some sort of pasta in the skillet. It always starts out with olive oil and sizzling, popping garlic — and then I’ll throw in pasta and whatever else.

I also love a great margherita pizza with olive oil, fresh basil, tomatoes and cheese (and yes, I can eat the whole thing myself! Eeek!). Chips and Pace salsa are also a standard.

But then I also have a pantry stash! Here’s a pic of my last deadline pile:

See my V8 soup? I love those, and feel like they give me some brain stamina. As far as “healthy” goes, I also love the Odwalla juices, especially the green superfood one. Every writer needs some java. That’s my bag of Duncan coffee beans in Southern Pecan flavor. Yum! And here’s my reward when I’m closing in on “THE END” … or either moping that the words aren’t coming out the way I’d like …

Java Chip, how I love thee! I’m also a big fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, which has about 8,000 calories, so I only have one about every two weeks.

One thing I never have when I need to write, is alcohol. I like to joke that I go all “Edgar Allen Poe” during a deadline, which I do…I get ridiculously oversensitive, intense and emotional. ?? Why? I don’t know! It’s silly to even admit. But booze (or … um, opium in Poe’s case)? How did he (and Hemingway, et al) ever get anything written? I’d just want to go to sleep. Yawn! No words!

So yes, lots of food, snacks and drinks make up my deadline and writing stash! If I had to say I was a “foodie” a “drinkie” or a “snackie” I think I’d go with a “drinkie” because I’ve always got some sort of beverage in front of me, whether it’s any of the above referenced or green tea or diet cherry Dr. Pepper. What are you, reader? Are you a foodie, a drinkie or a snackie?

Ghoul says, “I can’t believe I ate the whole cemetery”
by Sharon Ashwood on September 16th, 2009

If I’m really writing, I don’t tend to snack. If I’m stuck or procrastinating, I can graze through my fridge like a herd of deer through a prize garden.

It’s all about unloading nervous energy. Crunchy is good. Virtuous is better. Over the years, I’ve learned to stock up on veggie sticks and ban Succulent Evil at the front door, because dietary judgment fails in the face of an artistic crisis. Fortunately, the nearest junk food emporium is a fifteen-minute walk away. Sloth wins out over the appeal of a bag of chips.

food_junkfood

I was contemplating this blog and kept bumping up against one very compelling question. It’s one thing to be a human author with a bad case of the munchies, but what about my characters?

Pizza place: So you want the pizza delivered. What toppings would you like?
Vampire: Forget the pizza. Just send the driver.

With vamps, one could go on and on in a similar, uh, vein, and it would lead nowhere good.

I’ve always wondered about the urban werewolf. Real wolves are built for speed – long legged and slim – in order to chase down their dinner. Would it be hard for citified werewolves to maintain that so-svelt physique? Sure, he might have to run a bit to catch his nightly jogger, but there’s prey a-plenty in most city parks. After a few years of easy pickings, would the Wolfman have to spend hours on the treadmill like everyone else? What happens if you’re a roly-poly werewolf? Do the Hellhounds laugh and call you names?

Demons stumped me. What do they look for when they stand with the fridge door open? A box of Soul Snax? A bowl of Hot as Hellfire Fudgy Brimstone Ripple?

Mom demon: Who took the last of the lava and put the empty container back?
Little sister demon: Azazael drank it straight from the carton!
Azazael: Quit tattling, or I’ll take away your Inquisitor Barbie.
L.S.D.: Mo-o-o-m!
Mom demon: Just wait till your sire gets home.

How about the Demon Celebrity Chef cooking show? A bit of flame and sulphur could put a whole new spin on the old “Bam!” routine.

Uh, hold that thought. As I write this, my stomach is telling me it’s lunchtime. Salad with a few Moroccan olives and feta. Nice, simple, and cheerfully dull. Outside of the occasional illicit BLT, I’m vegetarian. Which is why paranormal romance is only in fiction. It’s hard enough agreeing on a restaurant when you’re with another human.

Werewolf: Honey, I’m home, what’s for dinner? Oh, no, mailman again?

Snacking the Pyramid
by Annette McCleave on September 15th, 2009

When it comes to snacking while I’m writing, I take my guidance from the food pyramid. It’s simple to follow and I think it’s important to put all the right nutrients into your body to spur the creative process. I tried to find a picture of the food pyramid I use on the internet, but strangely I couldn’t find one. So, I took the liberty of drawing one.

food_pyramid

The pyramid shape is an indication of the quantity of each major food group you should ingest. Although my pyramid doesn’t have a dairy section, you’ll note that there is milk in both the chocolate food group, and in my case, in the coffee food group. Not everyone puts milk in their coffee, however, and those that prefer black should up their intake of choco-heaven to make up for the lost dairy.

Tea or cola can be substituted for coffee. Although not specifically addressed in the pyramid, it’s recommended that you switch from caffeinated to decaf after two cups. Unless you’re on deadline. In that case, you may also support your coffee food group with shots of Red Bull.

The necessity of including choco-heaven in your diet is tri-fold. At different times it can provide soothing calm, inspiration, and emotional connection. No dedicated snacker should skip this vital section of the pyramid. Unless you’re allergic. Then all we can say is “Long live the carob bean”.

Popcorn provides all the dietary fiber you could ask for. The only disadvantage of the popcorn food group is the smears it can leave on your keyboard. On the other hand, butter is easier to clean than chocolate, which is why we recommend eating the chocolate straight from the wrapper.

I know what you’re going to say—there doesn’t appear to be any protein in this food program. That’s actually not true. This food pyramid recommends putting large quantities of cheddar powder on the popcorn to accommodate the full range of nutritional requirements.

It also recommends including exercise in your snacking life—stretches while seated and regular marches to the fridge, coffee pot and ladies room. If you’re so inclined, putting a load of laundry in the machine while you’re up will give an extra workout to those biceps.

Happy snacking!

Snacks for the soul
by Jessa Slade on September 14th, 2009

Currently working on: Unpacking the car trunk after a four-day camping trip and unpacking my mental trunk after Book 2 revisions
Mood: Purging

A writer, like any other triathlete, does her best work when properly fueled. 

Perhaps I should first justify my supposition that a writer is like a triathlete since one might not automatically think that marathon chair sitting and staring into space qualifies as an Olympic event.  But if you look closer…  There’s the wild flailing of idea generation, kind of like entering a vast lake where any direction is possible, but only one way will get you where you are going.  And then there is the grueling haul of the first draft, pedaling as fast as you can to get through it.  And finally there is the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, no-power-but-you revisions culmimating in a full-out sprint to the deadline.

You see why carrot sticks alone won’t get you to The End.

I wish my list of writer’s snacks made suitable reading for dieticians.  But at least I’m not William Burroughs composing through a heroin/morphine/opioid daze.  (Tangent: Burroughs NAKED LUNCH is 50 this year!  And here nobody thought it’d live past its thirties.)  Hello, my name is Jessa and I’m a snacker.

As regular readers might remember, I should have a corporate sponsorship from the makers of my bucket o’ cookie dough.  The English Bay double chocolate batter comes in 8 lb. buckets that are precisely calculated to get me through exactly one month of writing.  Between pre-heating the toaster oven and baking the cookies for 13 1/2 minutes, I can time a 20-minute session at the keyboard and then eat cookies guilt-free before returning, sugar-powered, to my scene.

Which is not to say cookies are my only snack.  When I have time, I like to bake from the Cake Mix Doctor’s Cookbook. (For quick ‘n’ easy recipes, her blog is here.)  Yes, yes, I realize I haven’t fallen far from the bucket o’ cookie dough tree with box mix cupcakes, but srsly, yum.

(No dogs were injured in the eating of this chocolate. What? You thought I’d share?!)

Other emergency back-up snacks include the French Silk Pie from Village Inn (no other chocolate cream pie will do), Trader Joe’s chocolate-coated Dunkers, or — in a pinch — Reduced Fat Oreos (which sounds absolutely ridiculous — why reduce the fat in an Oreo? Because they stay crispier in milk, that’s why).

And that’s just for First Snack.

Because of the extreme sugar content of my snacking (amateur snackers should build up their endurance before attempting such feats) by 10:30 pm, I’m in desperate need of more fuel.  In the summer, my sweet XY brings a plate of watermelon, peaches or blueberries, depending on the season.  Not only is this more sugar (yay!) but it is fruity, fibery sugar which is self-righteous sugar.  The best kind.

By midnight, though, the sugar receptors in my brain have burned out and I still have more writing to do.  This is the time known in my household as Second Snack.  Second Snack demands salt.  But I am far less cultured about my salts.  I’ve tried gray French salt and pink Hawaiian salt and mostly they just taste like salt to me.  Any handful of pretzels will take me through that last hour.

The trouble, of course, comes when I’m really pushing for The End, 2 a.m. rolls around and I’m still at my computer.  What now?  Sugar is done.  Salty is over.  That leaves, what?  The umami taste (that’s the “fifth taste” culinary types say is induced by MSG in foods)?  Actually, carry-out Chinese at 2 a.m. sounds perfect, but would require living in a much larger city than where I am.  Instead, I usually just brush my teeth.  This is comparable to the triathlete veering off the nicely cordoned path headfirst into the cheering crowd.  Ooh, the agony of defeat.

But there’s another race tomorrow night.  And I’ll be pumped for that.

Happy New Year!
by KimLenox on September 13th, 2009

No, it’s not January!

“Back to School” time always feels like the New Year to me. My year seems to run from September to September, rather than January to January. I think a lot of it has to do with Fall. I love fall. I love the slight change in the light, and the dip in temperatures — although I live in the South, so I get really excited when the temp gets below 75. Woo hoo! Break out the hot cocoa and sweaters!

I love pumpkins and stews and crusty bread and burning logs in the fireplace.


Going back to school was always a time of excitement and renewal. As a kid, you knew you’d be exposed to new people and knowledge. As an adult and out of school, I still think of this as RENEWAL time.

Sooooooo … I’m cleaning the house like crazy, and purging out the old junk we don’t need. I’ve decided to start reading more. I love reading, but with time constraints, I realized I wasn’t getting as many books in as I wanted. So I’ve started SHUTTER ISLAND by Dennis Lehane. I’m only a few chapters in and it is SO GOOD…and SPOOKY! And I’ve signed up to attend the Todd Stone Writer’s Boot Camp being hosted by a local chapter next month.

What about you? Even if you’re not going back to school, are you starting something new this fall?

Winner of Drawn into Darkness copy!
by Annette McCleave on September 12th, 2009

Random.org has spoken and the winner of last week’s commenter draw for a copy of my debut paranormal romance, DRAWN INTO DARKNESS, is gypsywitch36! Congratulations! Please email me with your shipping address and I’ll send the copy out to you.

Jessica Andersen’s back to school shopping spree
by Sharon Ashwood on September 10th, 2009

Hey Silk and Shadow-ers! Jessica Andersen here … I know I was just here a couple of weeks ago, talking about SKYKKEEPERS and the other Novels of the Final Prophecy, but I had so much fun with y’all, that I thought I’d come back for some social time. Thanks for having me!

Even though I’m not a parent, it’s tough to avoid the back to school frenzies this time of year, and all the relentless commercialism has made me a little nostalgic. I’ll admit it—I was (and still am) a total geek. Although I loved my summers, I also looked forward to the start of each new school year, and celebrated each new grade with a careful selection of notebook covers, pens, and other assorted necessities.

Since I don’t actually have the excuse to go out and buy myself said necessities now (or, more accurately, I impulse-buy them when I have the free cash), I indulged in a bit of cyber-shopping, and would like to share my “If I were going back to school this week, I would buy myself…” list with you.

First, the perfect pens are a necessity. I’m quite fond of skeleton pens (and actually use the boxing version at booksignings). So I would load up on some new skelly-pens.

jess-skeleton-pens

jess-skeleton-boxing-pen

Then I would skin my paper notebooks and notebook computer with some pictures I find cool or funny, like these.

jess-funny-pictures-anakin-cat

jess-kulkulkan-venus

Finally, I’m a sucker for having an awesome jacket. I recently bought an uber-cool steampunk jacket to wear to the RITA awards this year, so I’m all set there. [I’m sorry to report that I can’t find a picture of it online, but trust me, it’s really cool. It’s patterned like a ladies’ cutaway tux jacket, but is made of blue and gray denim and has lots of studs and zippers.] But because I’m really into jackets (I could care less about shoes—jackets are my thing, leather a bonus), here’s one I think is kind of neat, and might be a fun back-to-school present.

jess-cool-jacket

And with that, I’m ready to head back to school! [Or I’m ready to get started on a new manuscript, as the case may be- LOL.]

So … anyone want to join me on a back-to-school cyber-shopping spree?? What were some of your essentials when you were headed back to school, and what would they be today??

School Doom
by Sharon Ashwood on September 9th, 2009

I always liked learning things as a kid. That did not equate to a love of school. I just couldn’t see the point, and rational argument about future job prospects is a non-starter when you’re six or even thirteen.

What I did like was the autumn—the first, wine-sharp tang of fall has always made me come alive. I treasured the fire of turning leaves, jack frost silvering the chain link fence (yes, your tongue does stick if you lick it) and the acrid smell of bonfires. It was time for the ubiquitous grandma-knitted woollies and lunchtimes of tomato soup.

apple_books

Of course, back-to-school itself had compensations, like new clothes, fresh school supplies, and the contact high from other people who actually were excited. That was usually good for the first week. Then reality began to set in:

Day 1. New stuff. Goody!

Day 2. Show of end-of-summer despondency in hopes of more new stuff

Day 3. Updating gym avoidance protocol

Day 4. Phoning the drugstore 3,000 times to see if latest teen mag has been delivered because life, the universe, and school cannot progress without authorized fashion instruction

Day 5. Complaining to friend whose mother doesn’t care about said fashion authority, either. This phone call good for two hours.

Day 6. Official boy watch begins. Wow. In post-surveillance free time, begin Lord of the Rings for the third time, dreaming of Aragorn

Day 7. Boy watch continues. Surely The Boy (le sigh) is Aragorn-in-waiting—tall, dark, silent.

Day 8. Scientific field excursion aka welcome back school dance proves all too conclusively The Boy dances like an orc, or at least a troll. Enemy agent in disguise?

Day 9. Boy watch is definitely over. What was I thinking? Crushing on teacher because, y’know, he’s like scholarly and mature.

Day 10. Dress code? Whaddya mean dress code? Public education is a social experiment gone seriously wrong.

Day 11. First math test. Teacher must be Saruman in disguise. I squander my affections on the unworthy.

Day 12. My soul is made of darkness eternal, and yet we must read Rascal. Mock me if you will, my gloom is impenetrable.

Day 13. Gym is cancelled! Yay!

5 Things I Like About Back to School
by Annette McCleave on September 8th, 2009

1. Shopping for school supplies
I love this part. Love. Love. LOVE. As close to August 1st as my daughter will allow, I’m right there, list in hand, sailing up the aisles of my local Staples or Walmart, gleefully picking out new pens, new stacks of paper, new rulers. Yes, we have tons of old stuff back at home (I have a HUGE bin of pens, pencils and crayons under my desk) but shiny and new is sooo much better. And, of course, we desperately need highlighters in seventeen shades of fluorescent.

2. Back to a routine
What? You think this sounds boring? Talk to my dog—he’ll explain. During the school sessions, he gets walked at a reasonable time in the morning and pretty much the same time every day. With the arrival of summer, his life turns upside down. I don’t need to get out of the house by a certain hour, so everything gets delayed. And I mean everything. Showers, dressing, and dog walking. Vacuuming, grocery shopping, laundry. If I didn’t have a routine, these things would rarely get done. Summer is like that over here.

lucky

3. More snacks in the house
I buy boxes and boxes of snacks to put in my daughter’s school lunches. At least, that’s what I tell myself at the grocery store. Some of them are delightfully healthy, like dried fruit and probiotic yogurt. Some of them are not mentioned anywhere on the National Food Guide. Point being, when I need to take a break from my work, there’s more than just coffee in the cupboard. See number 2 for how the snacks miraculously get into the house.

4. I can find a clean glass again
If you don’t get this one, you probably don’t have a teenager living your house. Every drink requires a fresh, clean glass (unless you’re willing to accept drinking straight from the container, which I’m not) and thus, over the course of any given day, my daughter can use upwards of fifteen glasses. And where do they end up? In her room. In the bathroom. In the living room. Pretty much anywhere she has been, there’s a trail of dirty glasses. During the long hot days of summer, the nagging mother and the dishwasher (which are one in the same, in case you were wondering) simply can’t keep up. Bring on the Fall.

5. Empty house during the day
I know. You saw this one coming. But this is a big deal for me. My daughter, like many teens these days, can’t do anything without the radio blaring, the TV providing background noise, or her cell phone warbling with text messages from friends. “Quiet” is something out of a horror movie to her. But I need the blessed serenity of quiet to write. If I’m in the middle of a scene, I can ignore distractions and plow ahead. If I’m facing a blank page, silence is vital. Back to school means I can commune with the empty page again, find zen in the purity of clean white space. And it means I can eat the last of the chocolate chip cookies, hide the empty box, and she’ll never know that she missed out.

What’s your favorite part of back to school season? Don’t feel guilty about any of it. Share.

A life of learning
by Jessa Slade on September 7th, 2009

Currently working on: Two more days of Book 2 revisions — Argh!
Mood: Wondering if I use “argh” too much

Since most of us are lifelong readers, I suspect we all agree that learning is a joy that never ends.  Oh, maybe not calculus, true, but even quantum physics can be compelling when someone like Brian Greene writes THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE with cool pictures.

strings

I’ve recently been asked to become a workshop leader for a paranormal writing community.  The Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter of  Romance Writers of America is hosting an online conference called “60 Days to Pro” which is meant to help serious writers make the transition to professional writers.  If you’re a writer — especially a paranormal writer — I think this is a great program.

So this back-to-school season, I’ll be going back as a teacher, presenting a workshop on plotting for “60 Days to Pro) and a chat on the shadow side of writing.

I’m nervous about it.  I don’t consider myself a natural teacher.  I’ve had the luck to score many good teachers in junior high (a social studies teacher who had us build our own economy), high school (a chemistry teacher who — with great zest — set stuff on fire) and college (a comparative religion professor who taught us the proper pronunciation of YHWH, aka God).  So I know good teaching when I experience it.  But giving it back…  Trickier.

Deeply understanding the topic isn’t enough.  Even feeling the topic won’t do by itself.  I have to make someone else understand and feel it.  Kind of like writing, I suppose.  But writing is easy compared to being a preschool teacher standing up in front of 35 youngsters and feeling in control.  Eesh. 

Not that teaching at FF&P will be like teaching preschool.  Or maybe it will be like teaching preschool to toddlers who drink blood, zip through time, play with swords, and shapeshift into large carnivores (see blood drinking referenced above).

My plan is to prepare, practice, present and be patient.  Be patient with myself, I mean, since this is a relatively new skill for me.  Hopefully the class will be patient with me too.  Because under my nervousness, I’m excited about this opportunity.  Thinking about writing and how I’ll present it to others is giving me more insight into my stories, and after I send my Book 2 revision on Tuesday (YHWH willing) I get to start Book 3 using everything I’ll have learned from teaching.

Did you have a teacher who inspired your love of learning, even if the topic (like economics, chemistry and religion) wasn’t one you would’ve normally pursued?  What was it about that person that made you pay attention?