Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Octave again

A week past the 3-Day Contest. A complete story went in, though definitely one of my shorter entries. As always, there were aspects I could have expanded on, but the writing was competent enough. I finished at a quarter past eleven on the Monday, enough time to read over quickly and discover 2 typos.
The cats decided that 9:30pm on Monday was the perfect time to have a series of altercations over territorial boundaries, and I could have done without that.

What I didn't find this year was the strangeness that drifts in when I'm writing with insufficient sleep or sufficient focus. On the other hand, I may be saying that because I'm too close to the story still, and it's true that I don't always notice strangeness at the time, because it's coming from the story and not from me.
Maybe when I read it over in a week or so I will find strangeness. Also, I used a real setting, as I did in Doorways (in fact, the same setting I used for Doorways) and that sets certain boundaries on what goes on within.

The squat challenge has been of mixed success. Most days I manage 5 to 6 minutes of squatting, and a couple of days I have done the full 10 minutes. The difficulty is to fit in things I can do while squatting. Waiting in line-ups is obviously the best opportunity, and the day I did library tours was an easy 10 separate minutes between tours. Petting the cats is another; Khandi will usually remain in place for 2 minutes at a time, but Priss prefers to be in the lap and where is my lap? It is not convenient for cats in this position.
Yesterday she tried to sit in my lap while I was doing seated leg raises, sitting on the edge of the chair with my legs extended at an angle, raising and lowering them. She was pretty determined, even though I couldn't pet her, since I was gripping the sides of the chair.
I suppose I should take a lesson in determination from my cat.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Last day, all or nothing

Last sentence written last night:
The rift in the earth closed to a long welt like a turned furrow.

First sentence written this morning:
Elsa was restless all the morning, waiting for the stones to arrive.

I have sort of complicated my day by signing up for the 30-day Squat Challenge, to squat for a total of 10 minutes a day for every day of this month. It should be do-able, since I don't have much trouble holding a squat, and it may remind me to get up and move around regularly. My longest writing stint yesterday left me with stiff hips even though I have an ergonomic saddle chair that keeps me shifting position.

So we'll see how it goes. Sometime around lunch I plan to write the ending, and see if I can bring the events of the story to it. That's what broke the short story - I had a terrific revelation scene in mind, and I could not bring the story up to that point. With more room to manoeuvre, maybe it will work.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

slow dive, surfacing

First line written yesterday:
"I'm back, and nothing is the same."
Last line written yesterday:
"Maybe I should tell her about the trolls."

First line written today:
"The gas station has swollen hugely."

So far I have held to the no-deletion-except-for-errors rule. Today I want to add in speed, and throwing the wrong word in if I cannot bring up the right word right away. This is particularly difficult because my usual comfort is that I can fix a poor wording in editing. But I have never had time to edit a 3-Day ms. and I know I won't have time this go-round either.

Lacking a plot and characters, I've brought out versions of both from a short story that wouldn't come together earlier this year. I suppose it might be a poor omen to re-use aspects of a failure, but one reason the story wouldn't hold was that I couldn't bring it to a resolution in 5k, and had to keep cutting out bits that would have given it more resonance. So it may fill out a novella more successfully.
First person and present tense for the present-day storyline, and 3d-person past tense for the past storyline. It's surprisingly difficult to move to present tense after working in past, especially keeping track of which clauses and sentences should be in past tense while the narrative is in present. "The road was paved (at some time in the past)" and "The road is paved (and I am just seeing that now)"  have different connotations.

The cats have been relatively non-obstructionist so far. Khandi paces around on my desk and sticks her face in mine, or curls up and purrs in her basket. Priss demands to be on my lap when I go downstairs for food, or lurks on the stair landing to protect the house from evil other cats. There has only been one noisy cat-altercation, but it came when I was writing with concentration and had not noticed it building, so the effects lingered more than they might have.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Jumping in again

Obstacles to writing: cats.
We have two cats now. They are both cute and purring, but also both senior females used to being the only cat in the house.  The newer cat, Khandi, has been settled in my writing room, because we needed to keep her in a room with a door that closed for the first few weeks. Now she has been with us almost a year, but still regards that room as her bastion and refuge, not to be entered by any other cats. Established cat, Priss, still regards the whole house as hers, and my writing room as her place to snuggle with me and interfere with composition.
Now they both interfere with composition by hissing and batting at each other at random intervals. It somewhat interferes with getting into the zone of steady writing.

I skipped the 3-Day Novel Contest last year, because the online submission through Geist (who are handling it now) was a pain and a half, and because Melissa's personal touch (the daily email of encouragement, etc.) was gone. Same admission fee, and you had to print out your own certificate of survival at the end. Pfah.
But it's really a contest between me and the screen, isn't it? The way writing always is - sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard. Just more compressed, instead of continual. So I'm giving it another shot, although I have no plot or characters or setting.
I did have an idea, rather Neil Gaiman-ish, of slipping between a fantastical world and everyday world, echoing each other, with fairy-tale tropes (I mean the original fairy-tales, with ogres and bones, not sparkles and cute animals). Whether that's going to develop into an actual story I do not know as yet.
Okay, time to grab another cup of tea and get down to writing. And since this is the 3-Day, I will not allow myself to backtrack or delete text, except for correcting obvious typos.
Oh lord, that is going to be hard.
See you all later!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Another rejection

But a nice one. My story "Foretold" that everyone likes but not enough to buy, went off to the latest Tesseracts submission, after which I forgot about it and went back to struggling with Cost of Silver.

Today I got this in my email:

Thank  you for submitting "Foretold " to Tesseracts: Wrestling with  
Gods.  This topic brought out  many different authors with creative 
scifi/fantasy ideas  on our relationship to faith.  We were 
overwhelmed with the response.  We received many strong stories and 
poems, and there just  wasn't enough space in the anthology for 
everything we liked.  Unfortunately, we were not able to include yours 
in the final  selections. 

We can't stress enough how much we enjoyed your story.  It was 
incredibly well written, with a strong structure.  It almost made it 
in.  We just had trouble separating the elements connected to Greek 
Myth from original fantasy elements.  Stories selected had to be 
strong in both the faith component and the fantasy/sci-fi element. 
 Foretold was on the border. 

We do appreciate the chance to read your  submission and wish you the 
best of luck in placing it elsewhere.  We're confident it will get 
published somewhere. 

In other news, I've been taking an Olympic weightlifting class, and have been enjoying my ability to hoist 50 or so pounds above my head. I'm happy with my deadlift, and feeling more confident with the clean and jerk, but having trouble with the snatch, especially with the overhead squat portion. Front squat, back squat, no problem, but overhead squat, yes problem.
The frustrating part is that my form seems to be pretty good with a dowel, but as soon as a weighted bar or Olympic bar comes in, I can't drop to a full squat, my arms come forward, and it all goes to hell.
Which is oddly analogous to the story rejection - there's nothing actually wrong with it, it just isn't quite right.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

all this running around

I've mentioned, maybe, that I'm not terribly sad and disappointed that last year's fall and cracked tibial plateau mean I can't take up running or jogging? Even when I was young and lean (ie pre-puberty) and active, I never enjoyed thudding around the track, with a stitch in my side and my head hot and thumping in rhythm. A sprint was okay, and it turned out to everyone's surprise that I could do hurdles if I was allowed one practice run up to them first. But long runs? Nope. I have no endurance.
My history and issues around team sports and group exertion are something for another post entirely.
Still, this spring and summer I ended up being around a lot of runners, to the point of helping to marshal a race, the closest I'm likely to come to the perfect summer job of my childhood dreams, which was holding the STOP and SLOW signs on BC highway construction. (Travelling each summer as we did, I got to see a lot of well-tanned young women in reflective vests, helmets and workboots, wielding their two-sided signs and waving cars and trucks onwards or holding them back. Young females with power, tans, and kickass boots! Probably getting paid union wages!)
This wasn't me myself running, of course. This was me being a supportive spouse to the actual running person in a series of 5k, 10k, and half-marathons across the Island, each one organised by a local running club.
I won't try linking to the website for the series, which was minimal and mostly useless, but the races themselves were well organised, though with a certain bias towards those who had come before and knew where things were.
The courses varied considerably in flatness and scenery, and were probably more interesting to run than to watch. Standing 1k from the start/end point of the last race, I got to see everyone run by in a fairly tight bunch, then straggle back in ones and twos.
I also got to see keeners run to the end, then trot back for 1k or so, so that they could cool down. Yikes.

I've sort of understood why my husband likes running. It's not a team sport, and it's mostly competing with yourself and your own endurance and speed. If it isn't around a track, there might even be pleasant scenery.
I hadn't previously encountered the community and support system around local running events, but it turned out to be a pretty good place to hang around. People made a point of staying at the finish line to cheer even the very last runner/walker who staggered in. For the shorter races, the finish line crowd would shout encouragingly "Sprint! Sprint!" and cheer by name.
After each race there was an assembly recognising the best runners in each age/gender category (the first ten in each, I think, which means that at 70 and older, you're pretty much guaranteed a ribbon for completing the course).  Plus the various sponsors gave out prizes, including shoes, watches, gift cards and the inevitable t-shirts.  My volunteering session of making sandwiches and slicing fruit, then marshalling, earned me a water bottle with the 'island road racers' logo, sitting beside me at the computer now, reminding me to hydrate.

It's probably a good thing I'm not allowed to run, or all this sports-related niceness might tempt me to  lose more  potential writing time in pursuit of speed as well as strength. Better to stand on the sidelines and shout "Sprint! Sprint!"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January ice cream

It's a new year, I've had my birthday, and maybe I should prove that I haven't actually abandoned this blog? So, how about a recipe, though not a particularly seasonal one, given the heavy frost and heaved ground here, alternating with grey clouds and sleety rain.
Last summer I found a Donvier ice-cream maker on, where I have also found lots of fitness equipment, bookshelves, and other useful things. It came with a nice little recipe book, and soon I was using up frozen blackberries and blueberries from the summer before, squeezing oranges and limes, and generally filling up the freezer.
I'd made buttermilk scones, and had buttermilk left over (which I can't drink, because of the texture). Hmm, wouldn't buttermilk and butterscotch go nicely together, I thought. I bet the slight acidity of the buttermilk would balance the sweetness of the butterscotch. Let's fire up the internet and find a recipe.

Some Time Later....

I have found buttermilk ice cream recipes.
I have found butterscotch ice cream recipes.
I have found buttermilk-butterscotch sauce for ice cream.
I have found not one recipe for buttermilk-butterscotch ice cream.

Why? Would it actually taste really bad? I can't believe that. I decided to be a pioneer and make the experiment.
So, examine several buttermilk ice cream recipes, then several butterscotch ice cream recipes. Figure out which were the necessary steps, and combine them. Ice cream, fortunately, is a pretty forgiving medium. Eggs, no eggs, cream, milk, or yogurt, fruit puree, juice or whole, you generally end up with something people will eat straight out of the ice cream maker as soon as it solidifies.

This is what I came up with:
In a medium saucepan, put
1 cup brown sugar (demerara might be good too)
2 tbsp butter (real butter here, not margarine).
Simmer until the brown sugar is melted and bubbling - stir occasionally. (This is the butterscotch part.)
In the meantime, in a mixing bowl, whisk
3 egg yolks (you can use more, but I'm stingy with eggs)
1/4 cup brown sugar.
Add slowly to the saucepan
1/2 cup cream (or light cream or milk)
1 tsp vanilla (or more if you like vanilla a lot).
Stir and continue heating until any little crunchy bits of brown sugar have melted back in (though they might be nice little crunches in the ice cream, so it's up to you).
Take 2 cups buttermilk,
Pour 1/2 cup into the mixing bowl and whisk up.
Pour remainder, a little at a time, into the saucepan and mix well.
(You can try putting all the buttermilk into the saucepan instead - I wanted to dilute the yolks and avoid them cooking into lumps in the next step.)
Slowly pour the saucepan contents into the mixing bowl, whisking as you go. If you put all the buttermilk into the saucepan, apparently it helps if you pour the hot mixture along the sides of the mixing bowl rather than right into the middle. I haven't tried it.)
When it's all mixed up nicely, you can either take it straight to the fridge, or pour the lot back into the saucepan and cook it down further. I've done both, and the only difference I noticed was a darkening of the colour (but I did not do a scientific taste comparison).
Cool overnight in the fridge, covered.
Put mix into your ice cream maker and proceed as directed by your instruction manual.

And I was right. The tangy buttermilk balances the sweet toasty butterscotch very nicely. It is particularly good with a hot apple crumble. Or an apple-quince crumble as below.