Thursday, October 22, 2009

two for the price of one

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I watched the movie first, and this is one of those rare occasions where I'm really glad I did it in that order. I knew going in what to expect, which was not a book about cooking, but a humorous navel-gazing book about finding a passion and sticking to it. I wish there had been more about Julia Child, but that's really my only complaint. Sure, Julie does some things that are deplorable - most times, I felt awful for her husband, and sometimes, I really didn't like the author and would have loved to say a few things back to her, but overall, this book made me laugh more than it made me cringe, and even the cringes were worth it.

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Her Fearful Symmetry Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you read Time Traveler's Wife, think about all of the bits that tore you apart inside. Don't think about the romance, though that was wonderful - think about the miscarriages, the loss, the parts that made you want to cry. Amplify those gut wrenching bits from 40% of the book to 70%, replace a time traveling husband with ghosts, twins, a cemetery, and an incredibly screwed up family, and you'll come close to Her Fearful Symmetry.Note - if you take a drink every time you read the word "Victorian" in the first 20 pages, you'll have to pick the book up days later after you've sobered. Otherwise, this was the most satisfying book I've read in a very long time. And every character gets exactly what she deserves.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009


If I had a soap box and a loudspeaker, I'd be on them. This is the next best thing.

Again, from the lovely Janet Reid: "Now the reason the proposed FTC reg changes are important for you is that if these go into effect, there's a $1000 fine for violations. That means that if I take down that rather snotty FTC notice on the right side of my blog, and I mention a couple books here I received for free, and do so because the author asked me too, I could be asking for donations to help pay the fine.
"You don't need those powerful imaginations of yours to work too hard to see what kind of chilling effect that could have on one of the most powerful weapons for visibility authors now have: word of mouth via the internet."

And this, from author Courtney Milan: "Book bloggers can avoid the FTC regulation by disclosing any and all relationships. Authors cannot.(...)What can I do to avoid liability? The FTC explains that I can police the relationship by asking bloggers to disclose, or I can tell them to edit their reviews. In other words, the only way I can avoid liability is to tell book bloggers what to write."

Also from Courtney, a very interesting look at what mandatory disclosure means, especially for blogs written anonymously.
I hadn't made this connection before. Many publishing blogs are written anonymously, for myriad reasons, up to and including not wanting their blog followers to take any rejections from them personally. Some are by editors, who never talk about the books that they've worked on for obvious reasons, but have input, both positive and negative, on what they've read. Some of the best books I've read recently have come from recommendations on these blogs. I wouldn't have heard of them otherwise. Sure, I might have seen them in the bookstore, but I wouldn't have known to go looking for them. I know that these blog writers might have been given the books as ARC's - that's generally how publishing works - houses release ARC's into the wild, hoping to get word of mouth going, but with no expected control over what's actually said.
And that's the key here. There is no expected control. ARC's do not equal a bought and paid for good review. If I'm reading on the internet, I don't expect a completely unbiased view. I expect opinion. That's all blogs are. Opinion.
Putting out a rule that you can't write about anything without completely disclosing all of your connections would effectively be a gag order to the likes of Ms. Snark, Moonrat, and countless other anonymous bloggers who provide amazingly valuable insights to writers and readers.

And this isn't just about books, though that's what affects me the most personally, so that's where my focus is right now. It also affects celebrity endorsements. Is that *Total Gym not working for you? As of Dec 1st, if they play that ad with Chuck Norris endorsing it, you can sue him directly for not getting the same results. I don't know if you'd win, or how enforceable these "guidelines" will be, or even what sort of jurisdiction they have, but it's there.

Sure, anonymity can be annoying. I hate reading flaming comments signed off by "anonymous," but it is completely their right to do it. One more quote for you, again from Courtney Milan: "Under the First Amendment, we protect people who voice unpopular opinions from disclosing their identity. We think the opinions they have to share are more important than the value the public gets from the disclosure. And it is this that makes me quail from the FTC guidelines: The disclosure the FTC seeks, in some cases, requires a person to leave a trail of informational breadcrumbs leading to her identity, as a precondition for engaging in speech that is both politically and culturally valuable."

*I sold Total Gym about 5 years ago. I should say attempted to sell. I wasn't very good at it, but I'm sure I sold at least one.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

figuring it out

I don't know if it's the cooler, drizzly weather or what, but the tone of my pov character has changed over the past week. The story has gotten darker too, so chicken/egg/weather. Anyway, it's more introspective than I'd originally planned for her, and if it works, I'll need to watch the tone during the next draft and bring it all to the same level. Is this character growth or Christine-growth? I'm still relatively new to writing and I wonder if feeling like I'm trying to reinvent the wheel is a common feeling. Forgive the cliche, but I feel like I'm going through steps that other people have walked - this path teaches plot; this path is conflict; this path shows you how to create a character - and I don't know why I assumed that this stuff would be innate rather than a really long learning process.
Though the more I think about it, the more I think this is probably a very common feeling. Every composer has played a piece that was written before, following the notes on the paper, trying to figure out the fingering, trying to make the same sounds that were made before as they also try to figure out how making music works. (mental image of ghost hands playing a song on the piano as intended as the newbie stumbles over her fingernails)
I've been reading a lot of writer blogs lately, and a lot of writers didn't publish until their fourth or fifth go around at this. At first, I was thinking, oh, crap. That's a really long time. Two years a book: 8-10 years. Now I'm thinking - hey, no wonder. I'm halfway through the second one and I'm just now starting to look at characters in books as characters and trying to figure out how they work (or don't) rather than just what's going to happen next.
I have a long way to go.

119 / 400

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

3 recipies tried this weekend

1. Pesto. Purists, either cover your eyes or walk away now. The grocery store was out of the small bags of pine nuts and I couldn't justify spending 10 bucks for a big bag of them, so I got walnuts instead. Then when I got home, I realized that I had confused the oregano and basil plants in the patio because my basil is some odd breed that has tiny leaves, ranging from about half a pinkie nail size up to paperclip size, and the shape is long and thin, unlike the oregano, which is, well, normal-basil leaf shaped. I harvested almost all of the basil, which took a good two hours, saw that this still wasn't enough, and added a bunch of oregano, which took another half hour or so. P helped with the food processor, adding way more olive oil than the recipe called for, but it turned out to be the perfect amount, whatever it was. We mixed it with penne and chicken and it was delicious. It may have helped that it was 9:30 and I was starving, but I think it would have been pretty tasty even if I hadn't been so hungry.

2. Rosquilhas - from the English language Portuguese cookbook Foods of the Azores Islands that gramma used. I'm not sure what happened to the one she had in Portuguese, but I don't think I'd be able to do much with it even if I did have it - the measurements are different and a lot of words don't translate directly - normally this wouldn't be an issue, but with cooking, I'd probably end up with something completely different from what I remember her making and not be happy with it. Rosquilhas roughly translates to "rings," which are kind of like a less sweet sugar cookie with a lot of lemon rind. I didn't have shortening, so I substituted vegetable oil and a bit more butter, and while they didn't come out the same, they were still pretty yummy. I took about two dozen of them to a Labor Day party, expecting them to not really move at all, because they aren't very sweet and don't look like normal cookies - they're small and ring shaped, and there were plenty of chocolate chip cookies and other sweet breads, but most of them were gone within the first hour, which really surprised me.

3. Brownies from scratch. I'd always made them from a box. They tasted pretty much the same, though a tad smoother, but I accidentally added more cayenne than I normally do, so they were a bit spicy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

water lilies

When I took the dinghy out on Sunday, I swiped two water lilies. I'm not sure why I always feel slightly guilty about picking flowers that aren't from my own garden - if I'm at the beach or walking through the woods, I'm more than happy to pick up rocks and shells and stick them in my pocket. Flowers always seem different - like they should be there for everyone's enjoyment because they add to the beauty of a place. Along those lines, a rock or a shell won't be missed.
I was paddling along, listening to the audio-book of "Shiver" when I came across a lily that wasn't attached to a lily pad. It was gorgeous, floating there, in the middle of the lake all alone, huge white petals bouncing along in the water. I circled it a few times before deciding that I was going to swipe it, and then a few more times before I could get within arms reach of it and then I grabbed it and sat it on my sandal. I was out there for another hour or so, and, since the lily wasn't in the water, it started to shrivel. I finished my tea, filled the bottle with pond water, but it was too late. So I paddled back out to one of the lily groves (I've never seen so many lilies as there were that day - veritable groves, I tell you!) and broke a large one free, managing not to topple the dinghy in the process. Lily stems turn out to be formidable foes. I balanced it in the water bottle and made it back to shore without upending the bottle.
At home, I poured the lake water into a big blue bowl, filled it the rest of the way with tap, and put the lilies in. That night, both lilies closed and I was disappointed with myself for taking them away from the lake if all they were going to do is die. But then, lo and behold, the next morning, they both opened. And then promptly closed in the evening. The first lily never reopened after that, but every day since, that second has opened in the morning and closed in the evening. The bowl is still sitting in my kitchen, where there are no windows, and every time I look at it, I wonder - how does it know what time it is?

107 / 400

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Favorite line of the night: "Arming myself with an oven mitt, I opened the door to my studio."

93 / 400

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hi! Welcome to my brand new blog. If you've linked here from a comment on someone else's blog, feel free to drop me a line. Just a warning - I don't post very often, because I find that I write more offline when I'm writing less online.
I currently have one manuscript, Little Fish, on the back-burner while I'm working on a new story's first draft. Hopefully once I'm finished with this draft, I'll be able to get back to polishing Little Fish and it will be ready for submission. Here's the query for it if you're interested:

A coroner discovers that there's a killer in the water, and what's worse, it might have knocked her up.

In the small lake town of Ira , Pennsylvania , Evie Dalton just started her first case. It's an old man, sitting in his easy chair with a dagger in his heart. The problem – he's frozen solid, and everything in his house is wet. She sees a man, standing out on the lake, staring up at her. Sure, she could go get the Sheriff, but this is her first case, and she wants to impress. She goes down to ask the man a few questions, and that's when the real trouble starts.

Thanks for stopping by!