Tuesday, April 26, 2011

If you were wondering

The answer is no. Many words, many well-researched words were added to The Cost of Silver, but no, this draft is not finished.
It's looking like 10-15k still to go. And I am still having qualms about the ending. Do endings need some vaguely redemptive aspect? Or is bloody unrepentant revenge enough of a closure?

I feel as if I should insert one of those cheesy 'Under Construction' gifs here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

glass has class

Happy Easter! Or other seasonal celebration as appropriate to your tradition!

A brief post because this long weekend is the last push for the expansion of The Cost of Silver. I have the Battle of Newburn to write, the arrival of the Undertakers at the fen, and the death under witchfinder questioning of the only really sympathetic character in the book.
Why yes, I do expect this all to be a bit emotionally draining.

As a relief to that, some non-writing news. For Christmas, Mark got me via Groupon two sessions of a glass sampler class at DeBrady Studios. It was popular--I got into the classes this month, Wednesday evenings.
You can see the work layout above. The first half of each session was lecture with samples. Mr. Brady is an enthusiast: his most used phrase was "Wait, I'll show you one." And that in addition to the many samples of different glass crafts he already had out on the table. Then the class divided into two groups to try one of the aspects of glass craft, afterwards swapping table-ends to try the other setup.
I think only one person cut themselves each night. Not sure whether it was the same person.
First night was practice cutting glass with a modern wheel cutter, then swap around to cut a stencil out of 'ceramic paper', a quick and easy way to make a form for slumpwork. A sheet of glass is laid over the thick stencil, and heated in the kiln until it softens and melts into the spaces cut from the stencil. This is called 'embossed glass', and the technique may have been developed by DeBrady Glass.
You can see my piece here (that's a post-it note underneath):

The second night was lampwork beads, and I made about 5 small ones, though I fear that I heated the metal rod too much and burnt the kilnwash off it (which is what I did the last time I tried lampwork), which will make the beads break rather than be pulled nicely off.
As was mentioned in class, lampwork is quick to do but slow to do well.

The other end of the table was fusing, another in-kiln craft like embossing or slumpwork. Take a square of clear glass as base, and cut and shape coloured glass and frit (powdered glass) to make a design on it. One square to be heated until the coloured glass adheres, making a raised design, the smaller square to be heated until the coloured glass fuses into the the clear glass, making a smooth inset design.
The challenging thing about kiln work is the same as with pottery. You don't know what worked or what exploded or turned into something else entirely until the kiln has cooled and you open it up the next day. That rather attracts me--it's like baking. The question is more whether I can find anything I want to make with it.
I do want (post-novel) to go further with stained glass, the leaded kind, not the copper-foil kind which leaves me rather cold, especially when applied to building dustcatchers like model planes and houses. (I know many people find these awesome and impressive, I'm just not one of them.)
Then there's enamelling glassware, like those gorgeous Middle Eastern and Venetian drinking vessels. I've made some using low-fire enamels, but the real thing would be cooler.

I may have to write something with glass as a plot element, to justify this as research.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

hungry ever again?

Because I promised you this some time ago. Above is the Novelty Meat Square, and I really do apologise for it not being in full 1950s saturated colour.
Wait, let me add an equivalent picture, so you can colourise Novelty Meat Square in your imagination. This is the pic of Onion Squares.

Mouthwatering, no?
These two appear in the 'Savory Foods' section of Bake it yourself with MAGIC BAKING POWDER, published by Standard Brands Ltd in 1951. The Savory Foods section also includes Beef Crescents, Tenderloin in a Blanket, and Frankfurter Loaf.
Does Tenderloin in a Blanket sound like erotica to anyone else?
As a library tech and occasional archivist, I feel deeply that Novelty Meat Square should not be lost to the ages. This is what the recipe says:

This good supper dish is made as an upside-down cake, with a meat layer in the pan under a rich biscuit dough. We picture it turned out and topped with an interesting chili sauce meringue, as given in recipe--but a good brown sauce may be used instead.

1 1/2 pounds minced lean beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons fine-flavored dripping, heated
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups coarse soft bread crumbs
2 cups once-sifted pastry flour
or 1 3/4 cups once-sifted all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons Magic Baking Powder
5 tablespoons chilled shortening
1 cup milk
3 egg whites
2 teaspoons corn starch
2/3 cup thick chili sauce

Grease an 8-inch square cake pan.
Preheat oven to 425 (hot).
Combine beef and onion and fry in heated dripping until browned; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, pepper, mustard and bread crumbs and combine lightly. Turn into prepared pan and pack lightly.
Mix and sift once, then sift into a bowl, the flour, 4 teaspoons of the Magic Baking Powder and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Cut in shortening finely.
Make a well in flour mixture; add milk and mix lightly with a fork.
Pour into pan over meat and spread evenly.
Bake in preheated oven about 30 minutes.
Turn out onto a cookie sheet and top meat with the following topping.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry; combine corn starch and remaining 1/2 teaspoon Magic Baking Powder and beat into egg whites; gradually beat in thick chili sauce. Pile lightly on meat; return to oven and bake until topping is set--about 8 minutes.
Serve hot, with tomato gravy.
Yield: 6 servings.

And for dessert: Blossom Cake! (very springlike)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

soul of a writer?

Thing that I'm rather tired of seeing, in whatever permutation: the insistence of yet-another-someone that you cannot call yourself a writer unless you {fill in the blank}.
The blank-fillers range from the quite concrete, like 'sell a story to a print market paying .05 a word or higher' to the maddeningly vague, like 'have the soul of a writer' (which demands the answer: 'but I do, in a green glass vial in my cabinet of curiosities.'). Pretty much the only thing they have in common is that they tend to be something the speaker believes him/herself to have and the addressees not to have. (Ha ha, I'm a writer and you're not!)

Pause to prevaricate: there are many ways to become a better writer, such as practice, critique, reading the work of good writers, reading books on writing technique, and so on. There are a few inborn or learned traits that will help you become a better writer, like having an ear for how people speak (this can be acquired by paying attention and making notes), having an eye for detail (same), having a good memory or an ability to visualise plot threads. But that's a modified writer, not 'a writer'. (VP injoke FTW)

If it were up to me, which praise-be it is not, I'd rule that to call yourself a writer, all you need to do is write and keep writing. I'm not even sure you'd need to finish anything, though finishing and revising and submitting are important if you want to call yourself a published or professional writer.
But in the real world which goes on without my having any say in it, nobody can stop you calling yourself a writer even if you never finish anything; even if you never write a full page (250 words in Standard Manuscript Format) but spend all your time drawing up character profiles and writing opening sentences and deciding on titles for your imagined bestseller instead.

And I'm fine with that, because whatever you want to call yourself, it doesn't make me less or more of a writer. It's not as if there are only so many stick-on badges to go around, and if you grab the last one then Patricia McKillip or Tanith Lee suddenly isn't a writer anymore.
Nor will I become more of a writer if I can somehow stop five other people from using that designation. I'm pretty sure I'd have to eat their hearts or brains to manage that.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The ABM is fired

I've been writing. That is, I have been in the depths of my own brain, with occasional excursions to the Bishops' Wars and to the Fenland Riots, and to the Witch Panic. This is not actually a comfortable or relaxing tour, but it is full of incident.
I can sort of see the end of this book, if I stand on my tiptoes and squint. I'm hoping to have all the holes filled in within a couple of weeks.

So every now and then I stick my head out to see what's up with teh intarwebz, which almost always results in my staying up too late reading FandomWank or something similar. Is it my imagination, or has there been a marked increase in Authors (and Publishers) Behaving Badly over the past few months?
I mean, just on OTF (Other than Fandom) Wank, there's been (the ironically named) Chivalry Bookshelf ripping off its authors; Decadent Publishing getting over-excited over some nasty sockpuppet reviews; First One Publishing wanting $150 to take all your rights; and most recently the J Howett meltdown over a mixed review.
More fun threads on Absolute Write, in the forums, but if I look for them I'll be up all night.

Responding to a negative review is such a poor idea that it's called the Author's Big Mistake, or ABM. (Paul Fussell is credited with inventing the term) Back in the day when print was all, authors and reviewers would carry on feuds slowly, over weeks, through the book review sections and letter columns of newspapers. It was made even more fun by the likelihood that reviewers and authors were likely colleagues, published by the same presses and reviewing in the same newspapers and journals. So an angry author might have the chance for sweet revenge by reviewing his enemy's book (and being paid for the review, too).
Yeah, the fact that everyone knew it was a bad idea didn't stop highly-educated, literate and eloquent people from doing it. Some very classy invective was produced this way--but again, if I look for it I'll be up all night.
Wait, Jane Smith's brill blog How Publishing Really Works has a terrif rundown on the classics here.

The internet has made it possible not only to carry on such a feud without any timelag (and without, alas, most of the eloquence, as eloquence takes time) but for everyone and his dog-that-no-one-knows-you-are-on-the-internet to weigh in and mock and share.
I like snark (I sometime explain that we are an ESL family: the first language is sarcasm) and I'm willing to watch a trainwreck happen in realtime. But the scope of the possible wreckage is more than a little scary.
On the one hand, it's possible to have an ongoing intelligent and thoughtful conversation between writer and reviewer, online.
On the other hand, it's possible for things to explode before one party even realises the fuse has been lit.

I wonder what I'll do when/if I get my first negative review? Hopefully I'll have as much class as the author of Pregnesia does here. Or at least the good sense to bitch privately and offline.
Now, back to the fens!