Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Plan for Tuesday

I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend.

My plan for today: brew and drink coffee, write, and pet Chiana a lot. So far so good.

On Sunday, I managed to submit my story (and its accompanying documentation) to an anthology I'm trying to get into. It'll be couple of months before I hear back.

On Friday and Saturday, I worked on the story a lot. I kept thinking it was done and then I'd find something to tweak. I was lucky to have some great readers provide feedback, and I was able to tighten the weakest parts. This story... It began as 5,000 words. And then I asked the first readers to read it, and it was not conveying what I wanted at all. So I started again and wrote a brand new 3,600 words, which morphed into the 4,100 story I submitted.

It's better than it was. So that was my process. Write and then rewrite until I lost all perspective.

It was a pretty rough weekend all around, and I'm certainly not over it, but I will refrain from talking about it too much. It is likely you understand what we're going through--most of you will have lost a pet yourself. It is hard and it hurts and you wait for it to hurt a little less, until one day it's not the first thought you have when you open your eyes. It doesn't mean you miss him less, it just means you've absorbed the experience and it's an integral part of you now.

Yes, I just compared the mourning process to the Borg. You say pota-toh, I say pota-toe.

Monday, May 30, 2011

August 15, 2002 -- May 30, 2011

This will be my last post about Vash.

About 9am this morning, Monday, May 30, 2011, we put our cat, Vash, to sleep. I won't go into details, but his condition worsened and it was necessary to take him to the emergency vet.

He was a really good cat and I'm happy to have had him in my life. We didn't have nearly enough time together.

I miss him already.

I'm turning off reader comments for this entry. Please don't take it personally.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Kindle, a couple days later

Still loving my Kindle. I just wanted you to know.

I found the free section of Amazon and downloaded about 20 books. So far I'm working through two. The first is H. Beam Piper's "Little Fuzzy," which is the story/world from which John Scalzi derived "Fuzzy Nation." And the other is a collection of essays on writing by Robert Louis Stevenson. His poetry influenced me strongly growing up, and I still have a few of them memorized. On summer evenings when it's bright at bedtime I still find myself muttering, "In winter I get up at night and dress by yellow candle-light, in summer quite the other way I have to go to bed by day..."

I would have been a different person without "A Child's Garden of Verses." It taught me the satisfaction of a good rhyme.

The other thing I like about the Kindle is the built-in dictionary. I have friends who told me how wonderful this feature is, and I agree. Let's just say Stevenson has used some words in his essays I find challenging. Like impasto, a painting technique, which now I know.

I submitted the story I've been working on this morning, so that's good; time to start another one. Vash is getting worse, so that's bad.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tron: Keeping your mind off important stuff since 1982

Before I start I just wanted to say thank you for all the emails and notes about Vash. Jeremy and I appreciate it.

So Tron.

Last night I watched Tron: Legacy (2010) with friends, and it was... Forcedly gorgeous? I spent most of my time marvelling at the costumes and the design and pretty camera pictures. The music was great, too. Very beat-y.

If I watch it again it will be in the context of a very long, very confusing music video. Or to test the speakers.

At one point, as yet another thing was flying through a beautifully stormy backdrop, I said, "Man this would have been a great movie if it had an actual story." And it would have been. Or characters. Or decent acting.

There were only a couple of scenes where an actor acted, and it made that actor seem out of place. Because all of the other "actors" were secretly scenery and were too busy standing around looking bored, or slick, or like the minute the camera turns away they might yawn. But no one gave the acty actor the memo, and he acted his sad, lovable little heart out...

And would it have hurt to have decent dialogue? I understand so many fingers go into a movie pie, and good intentions get warped into fluffy evil, yadda yadda yadda. But damn. Damn! Father says to son woodenly, first time he's seem him in 20 years, "You're so big." Crickets.

HUGE fight scene, lots of tension, guy says something like "This isn't good." And the response is, and I remember this, "You're probably right."

PROBABLY? There's no PROBABLY'S in invisible plane shootouts! Way to murder the tension.

And then there's the issue with the lead actor, Tron Lebowski, looking extraordinarily creepy in a CGI death mask for most of the movie. One could make the excuse that his speech patterns are stuck in the 80's so of course he uses different expressions, which just happen to be exactly like his Big Lebowski character.

Even if you could suspend your disbelief that long, which I doubt because by then you would have choked on it, his suspiciously recognizable speech patterns were too distracting.

I just wanted to hand the guy a white Russian, pat him on the head, and ask him to nap in his trailer until it was over. Just, get out of the way, sweetie...

So the only good thing about Tron--besides it being pretty on the eyes and ears-- was that it distracted me for 2 hours with its badness. And so I award it two thumbs of mediocrity. Whatever that means.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Christy's First Kindle

Not to detract from the last post, but I have some other news to share.

My first eReader just arrived in the mail. Thanks to w00t, I'm the proud owner of a refurbished Kindle.

It's charging now. I'm sure I'll have lots of fun finding stuff to download.

If you have any tips (or favorite free books), I'm all ears.

Sad News

Vash, our 8 1/2 year old male cat, had an ultrasound on Tuesday that pointed to an issue around the kidneys. They thought it was either an infection or cancer. The vet took a tissue sample and we got the results last night.

He has lymphoma of the kidneys. The good news is he's tested negative for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which means his immune system isn't depressed.

We have a couple of options: chemotherapy to try to get the cancer into remission, or a steroid/antibiotic to help make him more comfortable.

It might be a long shot, but I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with either of these options?

If you'd feel more comfortable sending me a note directly, please email me at: christyv followed by the at symbol, followed by gmail dot com.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You think your diet is rough?

Humans are amazing. I just learned that many years ago in northern Japan, monks who followed an ancient form of Buddhism, Shugendô, practiced self-mummification. These mummified Japanese monks are called sokushinbutsu.

Here's a web site, that I've drawn heavily from. And here's a scholarly text in English. (Hint, hint. My birthday is only 3 months away!)

It took about 10 years to complete the process and was the ultimate act of self-denial: enlightenment through physical punishment. There were three phases. Each phase lasted 1000 days, and involved stricter and stricter eating habits and physical hardship. The goal being to reduce the fat content and slow or prevent the flesh from decaying after death.

1000 days of nuts and seeds. 1000 days of bark and roots. Then 1000 days of tea from a sap used to lacquer furniture. Then the monk was buried alive with a breathing tube and a bell. The monk rang the bell once per day to show he was still alive. When the ringing stopped the tube was removed.

You can actually go to northern Japan and see these monks on display. Here are some pictures.

Oh the things you learn when you google "bizarre traditions." Not that someone else's cultural heritage is bizarre, but...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gypsy Radiologists

I've been stuck in story land all day: population me.

Let's do this thing.

Vash is scheduled for a kitty ultrasound tomorrow. I was hoping to avoid it, but there it is. I drop him off at 8am and wait for a call. The vet uses a travelling radiologist, so it could take all day.

It's easier if I picture him as a gypsy radiologist, who arrives by caravan, and wears many colored scarves. For an extra coin, he will tell my fortune and bless our crops.

This is probably a bad sign. In one week I've written about throwing a Victorian tantrum and delivering my cat to the gypsies.

Because all of my daydreams involve literary stereotypes.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This is for the Groaners Out There. You Know Who You Are.

I haven't written a poem in awhile. Let's see how rusty I am.

the world it ended yesterday
the rapture took my friends away
i am so sad and out of luck
i missed my chance cuz i got stuck
i fell asleep and missed the call
not even chosen pass through walls

one thing's for sure and bonafide:
if rapture comes, go stand outside.

Went to Fry's Last Night and Bought Cheap Paper

Jer and I finally watched "The Hangover" last night, and I was pleasantly surprised.

I know everyone everywhere has already seen this movie, and most of them are only too happy to share how funny it is.

But I was not prepared.

I enjoyed the structure, the dialogue, the acting... it was just a lot of fun. I'm curious to see how they follow it up.

Thoughts of my story woke me at 4:30am. I knew I had to get up and jot it down before I forgot everything, so I pushed off the covers and wrote notes until the sun came up. Then I went back to sleep.

It's going to require a total overhaul to tell the story I meant to tell. I'm not sure why this one is giving me so much trouble, but if I'm honest with myself, I don't have a huge pool of experience to draw from. Maybe all my stories will give me trouble.

I signed up for a couple of one-shot Saturday classes in June. One is about editing your own work, and the other is about publishing. I was on the fence about these but then I looked at the summer schedule and saw how few writing classes will be offered. I will need to find another way to stay motivated until fall.

Vash ate a little more last night, but is back to snubbing food again today. I will call the vet tomorrow and schedule an ultrasound.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cantaloupe Crisis Averted

Cantaloupes are boring fruit to me. Bland and watery, I've always hated having to gnaw at the rind. So when I bought a whole cantaloupe (on sale) yesterday, I had no clue what to do with it.

So I did what I always do when I'm too lazy to call my Mom: I turned to the Internet.

Internet wants me to be smrt.

I followed the directions at Simply Cara, and it turned out perfectly. (Simply Cara satisfies all your cantaloupe cutting needs.)

Turns out a fresh cantaloupe tastes better than whatever I've been eating. It also tastes better if you slice off the rind and cut the flesh into small pieces, thereby eliminating all need to gnaw.

I tossed the cantaloupe in a bowl with blueberries and strawberries, drizzled it all with a tablespoon of agave nectar, and now I might just be a cantaloupe convert.

Fun fact: If you stand in front of the bathroom mirror at midnight and repeat "cantaloupe" three times, then the cantaloupe fairy will grant you longer, thicker lashes.

Friday, May 20, 2011

How I Do Go On

The lawn needs mowing, so I'm writing an entry instead.

I just busted out the food processor and pureed some cat food with a few tablespoons of warm water. Vash lapped up a fair amount, so that's good. It got all over my shirt, so that's bad.

If it turns out he's just burning through his PTO until I'm forced to fire him and pay his severance, I am going to be mightily displeased.

I returned to a Weight Watchers meeting today, after a three week absence. Then I went to the grocery store and bought a cantaloupe and a personal sized watermelon. I have no idea how to cut these things up, but it'll probably be easier than opening a pill bottle.

With a knife.

After sharing my recent short story, two of three readers pointed out some pretty big problems with the first part. (They said it nicely and they were right.) The third reader said it was all "good," but that's because I'm married to him.

So for the last 3 days I've been rewriting the story, trying to get it to say what I meant it to say and not what it said. It's already better than it was, which is excellent, because for about 15 minutes I had a Victorian tantrum in my brain and vowed to find the tallest sea cliff in the Pacific Northwest and fling the manuscript into the choppy waters below, where it could shame me no further.

Ugh. Better go mow that lawn before I work in a whale bone corset metaphor around my Victorian tantrum mode.

Not that there's anything wrong with corsets... or whales... or Victoria...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Human Proof

Christy sits at the dining room table at her laptop. Jer is in the kitchen.

Jer: What did you do?

Christy: Did you find the pill bottle?

Jer: Yeah.

Christy: I couldn't get it open.

Jer: So you...

Christy: Cut the bottom off.

Jer walks out of the kitchen, popping off the top and showing it to me. He shakes his head.

Jer: You just push it down and then turn.

He pops it off again to show me how easy it is.

Christy: Yeah, I didn't do that.

I'm not going to lie to you. It felt pretty good to stab the prescription bottle. I recommend it, just watch your fingers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blog Name Change: Still "Folly's House of Mirth" on the inside

I sincerely hope I haven't broken your brain. I'm just so bored with the name "Folly's House of Mirth." So, after 7 years of posting, I've picked a new name from a hat: "Maybe It Was The Moonshine."

It would've made more sense to ease you into this gently. I understand change is hard.

It's not you, it's me. I need to spread my wings beyond the mirth. Mirth doesn't draw a crowd like it used to. Mirth is so 2003.

Welcome to the Moonshine years! May they make our ancestors proud.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Playing catch-up

Thanks for bearing with me as I get all this administrative blog stuff out of the way. Let's catch up on the rest now.

First, I continue to love living in Seattle. After a few days of spitting rain, today is all blue skies and sunny patios.

Second, I haven't much mentioned my diet and exercise lately because it's bad. While I've been writing I haven't been to the gym or walked beyond the mailbox. I have my bananas and raw almonds, but then I'll just say screw it and eat a few slices of pizza. So yeah. I'm having a hard time focusing on both writing and eating correctly.

I know I need to get back on the program. But I also feel (irrationally) like time is ticking down for my chance at writing and I need to focus on that entirely. (It's not true, I should be able to multi-task.)

(My parentheticals are so wise.)

Third, along with my pal, GreenDragon, tonight I'm going to go see author John Scalzi promote his book Fuzzy Nation. I'm looking forward to it.

Fourth, I found a new alcoholic beverage to imbibe. It's called an Arnaud Martini and it consists of 1 shot Plymouth Gin, 1 shot Dry vermouth, and 1 shot Giffard Cassis or Chambord (I used Chambord.) Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass. This drink is smooth, tasty, and not too sweet.

Fifth... I'm looking for anthologies accepting submissions. And I'm writing as much as possible before my classes end. I hope to finish two more stories before then.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Housekeeping: New domain name

Another housekeeping update: I've set up a new domain name for the blog, www.follyblaine.com.

From now on -- or as soon as the DNS changes propagate everywhere -- you can get to this blog at either follyb.blogspot.com or www.follyblaine.com.

You won't need to make any changes on your end. The redirects should take care of everything, but please let me know if you have problems.

I've also created a "Folly Blaine" Facebook page with nothing on it yet. If you want to beat the crowd, you can click here to see the sparseness.

Folly Blaine is the name I'm submitting my work under, in case you're wondering. I just thought it would be better to get everything under the same consistent umbrella. I still answer to Christy.


A Vash Update

Vash sleeps in the bed Aunt Goo gave him

Vash, our male cat, is still feeling poorly. He drinks water, he uses the litterbox, and he'll eat treats, but he still picks at his wet food and hardly touches the dry. His appetite is all messed up.

Since I started giving him the Pepsid AC, he hasn't thrown up. This is good. And he seems to be eating just enough, so I'm glad he's keeping it down. Every night he still sleeps on my legs and he doesn't seem to be in any pain.

If he gets worse, or takes too long to get better, the vet tells us there are a couple more things we can do. Since the blood work and X-rays didn't point to any specific problem (kidneys are a little swollen and he's overweight), then we can have an ultrasound done. We could also try giving him medication that will increase his appetite.

Maybe my little monster is just being body conscious. He wants to be bikini ready for summer.

A gal can dream.

Folly's Blog for the Kindle: So Quiet You'll Never See it Coming

I know how it is. You're away from a computer, and you're jonesing for a blog update.

Where is Christy at? What is she doing? Did she write about me???

The screen on your iPhone is nice, but you want something bigger -- at least 6 inches, sporting the latest in E-Ink technology -- what do you do?

Oh, I'll tell you.

Folly's House of Mirth is now available for the Kindle. Subscribe (click here) and posts will be whisked to your device via the magic of Amazon Whispernet, so quiet you'll never see it coming.

(Yes, technically you wouldn't see it coming, if it were quiet. That is a strange juxtaposition of sensory images. Unless it made such a sonic impression that the waves of sound resulting from impact actually disrupted the physical plane.)

Don't have a Kindle? Easily solved.

Some of you may be thinking, "That's all well and good, Christy. But my Kindle is a sacred space where blogs don't belong." There's still something you can do to help. Take a moment and go to the subscribe page and Like the blog. Telling the world you like something doesn't cost you a thing.

Integrity doesn't count.

Please help by clicking here and then clicking the Like button.

Like and Like often! The future depends on you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What I Think About When I Think About Writing

Me to myself:

A motif is the writerly equivalent of a hairball. You just keep hacking it up until it's out of your system.

Happy Sunday.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Learning about Banksy

I'm about ready to hit up the ol' coffee pot again. Something about today is making me sleepy.

This morning I watched "Exit Through the Gift Shop," a Banksy film.

This documentary-style film is about a charismatic guy who films obsessively and stumbles onto the street art scene, slowly getting introduced to all the players and gaining their trust. After the footage he compiles turns out to be useless, the guy transforms himself into a street artist and finds quick success by copying other successful artists, and playing the hype game. In his first show he sells a million dollars worth of product.

When I first heard about the film I didn't think much of it. Isn't street art just vandalism? And, while yes, it's a form of expression that operates in a legal gray area, it can also be very interesting. Especially when you have someone who knows how to use it for social commentary, like Banksy.

The film is not what I expected. And I mean that in the best possible way. It's worth a watch.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Experiment and My Cat's Weird Addiction

Updated: This post was originally published 5/12/11. Blogger went down, the post disappeared, and now I'm reposting it for historical accuracy.

I've written 2200 words on the story I started Sunday, and I've got about 1300 words to go. This time I'm wading into the icy waters of urban fantasy.

Water is an interesting word. You can type it entirely with your left hand.

Disappointed with my short (and ever dwindling) attention span, I asked Jer to set up the network to automatically disconnect my laptop from the internet on Thursday and Friday, 9am to noon. Today was the first time that went into effect and it worked.

How nice I am so easily tricked. I am equal parts glad it worked and annoyed I have no willpower.

I made an appointment with a new vet for this afternoon. About a week ago, Vash (male cat, 8 1/2 years old) lost interest in mealtime. He devours treats just fine, and he'll eat a little dry or wet food if I stick it in front of him. I suspect he got into a plastic bag and it's disagreeing with him. Or he's just decided he doesn't like the brand of food we serve anymore.

It wouldn't be the first time. For either scenario.

Vash has always been obsessed with eating plastic bags, to the point where we replaced all of our trash cans with closed lids and installed baby locks on any cabinet doors with bags in them. He still finds a way sometimes. Like if the trash bag isn't tucked firmly enough under the lid, then he'll gnaw on the bit that's loose.

Anyway, he doesn't seem to be in pain, and he is eating just enough, but I'd feel better if a professional checked him out.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fighting the devil before cell phones

I'm fascinated by "Friday the 13th: The Series." As I mentioned before, the series came out in 1987. It's about distant cousins retrieving cursed antiques -- antiques sold by their uncle who made a pact with the devil.

The lead actress has big hair.

Besides this being a (pretty darn good) precursor to the male-female partner shows like X-Files and Fringe, this is a supernatural drama in a pre-PC world. It features:

  • No cell phones -- the first episode had a rotary phone. The characters actually have to sit around and WAIT for each other to arrive. This is a world with phone booths!
  • No digital cameras -- they just flashed a packet of negatives at a suspect.
  • They get their news from a daily newspaper -- no Internet.
  • Paper schedules and calendars instead of PDAs.
  • Actual keys, not fobs or keycards.
  • Cranky paper maps, no sat nav.
  • Radios and record players -- no CDs or mp3s.

Amazing! The protagonists are practically handicapped by today's standards of technology. And yet they still manage to get the job done and find the bad guy every week.

Bonus Fascination: So far in my viewing, a couple of the episodes have been directed by big deals, such as Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don't fear the stock market

Don't be afraid of the stock market. Be cautious, sure, don't be hasty or rash--that is a healthy and reasonable approach. But don't be afraid.

Also when someone like me starts telling you they're a stock market wizard you should walk away, or read on to humor them, but take your grain of salt along for the ride. Nobody can predict the future. You can only be a wizard in hindsight.

That said, pensions don't exist for most of us. Social security will be an echo of itself when we retire, if it exists at all.

For those born after 1960, the age for collecting full social security benefits has already been increased to age 67. (Source). As someone in her early 30s, that is a long way off. So why should I worry about it now?

Time. You should worry about it because you're wasting time.

There are two elements you need to learn right now if you don't know them:

  1. Dollar cost averaging
  2. The power of compound interest

Dollar cost averaging (DCA) is when you invest equal amounts of money into a portfolio over time so as the market goes up and down (which it will), your risk is more evened out--averaged out even. The reason this strategy works is you'd never take a lump sum and invest it into a single stock because then you have to magically pick the absolute best moment to invest, which is impossible. DCA helps you reduce risk by spreading out your exposure to price volatility.

The power of compound interest speaks to how much faster money can grow, the sooner you start saving.

"The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest."
-- Probably not Einstein

Although it's not clear if Einstein really said it, a number of financial gurus love this famous pseudo-quote attributed loosely to Albert Einstein.

Even if the quote isn't, the sentiment is genuine.

There's a little trick called the Rule of 72 that tells you know how long it will take your money (or debt) to double, ignoring taxes and fees.

Start with the number 72 then divide it by the interest rate. The result is how many years it takes your money to double.

Let's say you have $10,000 invested at 6%.

Divide 72 by 6 (interest rate) and you get 12. In 12 years you will double your money, no matter how much money you started with. In this example, after 12 years you will have $20,000.

If you take this a step further, you see that the sooner you start allowing your money to double, the more money you'll end up with. If you only have 12 years total to let your money ride, it doubles. Good, but not great. If you let your money ride for 36 years at 6%, what do you have?

This is where the power of compound interest shines. You can't just multiply what you get after the first 12 years by 3. If you did that you'd end up with only $60,000. In reality, you'd have $80,000.

Let's break it down:

  • After 12 years you have $20,000, still at 6%.

  • In another 12 years (72/6 is still 12) you double your money again, so now you have $40,000.

  • Since you still have another 12 years left, you can double your money one more time and end up with $80,000 after 36 years.

The Rule of 72 is just one way to see why compound interest is important. Retirement professionals usually show you a bar chart featuring a 25 year old versus a 50 year old which clearly lays out why time is on the 25 year old's side. Although it may be true, this chart is not targeted to people who are starting to save/invest later in life. It just makes them feel bad about not starting sooner.

So put it in the right perspective and start saving as soon as possible. Every little bit of time helps.

What does dollar cost averaging and compound interest have to do with the stock market and retirement?

You probably can't avoid the stock market if you want to retire someday. (Note: If you're already within 5-7 years of your retirement date, then other rules apply.) The stock market is currently your best hope for building the funds you need. However there is no magic investment that will get you there. Dollar cost averaging and compound interest are two tools you should know about, but there are more, such as index funds, knowing about fees, and contributing to a 401k matching plan through your employer. Start slow, educate yourself, and don't be afraid. Reading personal finance blogs, watching Suze Orman, or reading Dave Ramsey are all great places to start.

I am not a financial professional; I'm just an enthusiast. If what I say is interesting to you, please go out and do your own research and make your own decisions. Never follow anyone's advice blindly. Thanks.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Friday the 13th: The Series

Image credit*

I hope everybody had a good weekend.

I spent most of mine at the kitchen table, staring at my laptop, interspersed with occasional blank-eyed stares out the window. I saw a couple of squirrels hopping along the fence. I saw a friendly Steller's Jay. I typed words into a word processing program and watched some television.

Jer and I watched the first episode of the first season of the Friday the 13th television series from 1987. I remember watching it on the TV in my room growing up, the black and white TV with the dials that clicked into place for channels. There was always a lot of static between stations.

Sometimes I miss the static. Reaching a clear picture with clear sound after all that flickering felt like stumbling onto an oasis. Like a reward.

The series is about two cousins who inherit an antique shop from an uncle they'd never met, and soon discover the shop is filled with cursed antiques. Once they learn the items were cursed, these cousins decide to track down all the objects that have been sold and put them into storage. Cursed storage.

I can only remember flashes from when I watched the series the first time. It was on channel 69, the San Diego station that sometimes played horror flicks. There was usually an older man commenting on the movie during commercial breaks. Channel 69 was hit or miss. If I found anything worth watching out there, it was a surprise.

Did the series stand up after all these years? Well, it's only the first episode. There are some interesting things going on but overall it shows its age and the music is especially dated. I plan to keep watching though. It definitely had an impact on me.

Lastly, I was surprised to re-learn the main characters were cousins. There's a lot of sexual tension playing out for cousins.

*Image from the excellent fan resource for all things "Friday the 13th: The Series": Vendredi Antiques.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Jer finds Nature's Miracle

Jeremy is using the spray bottle of Nature's Miracle and a paper towel to scrub a cat vomit stain out of the carpet. Christy watches from her seat at the table.

Jer: I see you over there silently judging me.

Christy: It wasn't so silent, if you could read minds.

Story submitted, proposal sent

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there.

Awww yeah, you know who you are.

(That would make an excellent intro to an odd sort of music video.)

Yesterday I decided to submit the story I just finished to a horror market. Then I spent the next hour or so formatting my manuscript. First, I used advice from Flashing Swords, then I went back to William Shunn's site on Proper Manuscript Format.

In the future I need to remember to turn off curly or smart quotes much earlier in the process. Dashes and ellipses also give me trouble. Dashes should not become em dashes, they should be two dashes with no spaces on either side. Ellipses should not be converted to the condensed version. Turn off Widow/Orphan control.

I feel a bit like Rain Man repeating this stuff in my head.

So I sent that off. Then I started looking for the next story idea and found a place that requires a proposal to be accepted before submission. Next I did a lot of research, wrote a few paragraphs about the short story I'd outlined loosely and sent it off.

I'm not sure I did it right. But that's the good thing about writing as opposed to, say, practising medicine: Nobody's going to die because I screwed up. Except maybe of embarrassment.

The story may get written regardless of acceptance. I can always use it as an exercise for class. Go go gadget workshopping!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Newest Resume Skill: Champion Lurker

I'm looking for new blogs to read; let the comments know if you have any suggestions.

Yesterday I went into my Blogger profile and searched for everyone who listed "Joe Versus the Volcano" in their movie-likes section, thinking those people must be pretty cool. It's one of those movies I watched when I was little and didn't get, and then I watched it when I was big and got completely.

Yes, sir. "Joe Versus the Volcano" is my new indicator of whether or not I'm going to cold call your RSS feed.

It's so easy to get stuck in a blog reading rut. Yet there are so many Venn diagrams of interesting you just have to stretch a little further and make work. I usually stumble into a circle where everyone knows each other and comments and they're good with that. They don't need anybody else. So I stick my toe in, test the water, feel embarrassed (did I say the wrong thing? omg did that sound too crazy? it sounded too crazy) and lurk.

I am a champion lurker. I think the number one skill a champion lurker must possess is the ability to fast read. It's hard to stay on top of so many people's lives if you stumble over words.

One of the technical writing classes I took once was good, but when I found out the instructor taught a side course in speed reading it became fantastic. I bought his book and... then I never read it -- unless reading the first five pages counts as reading the whole thing. But just buying the book, which was actually a binder full of Xeroxed loose pages -- almost wrote mimeographed, it's a prettier word -- makes me feel like I levelled up through osmosis.

The enchiladas I mentioned yesterday turned out pretty good. Took a long time, but then I am not a fast cook. Whenever the prep time says 5 minutes I mentally tack on another 20. I got to use the heck out of my food processor though, and that helped. The cheese shredding attachment is my favorite.

I just thought you should know.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas and Sauce, Gluten-Free Recipe

Last night I put together a recipe for gluten-free chicken enchiladas from several different sources. This Frankenstein recipe makes two 13x9 pans of enchiladas (filled with shredded chicken). One pan with red sauce and one green.

Both for my future reference, and for your insight into my madness, this is the sort of list I like to put together:

Shredded Chicken for Filling, from Cooking Light book (double to make two 13x9 pans)


  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound skinless chicken breast halves


  1. Place ingredients in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil
  2. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes
  3. Remove chicken from bones
  4. Shred with 2 forks
  5. Discard bones
  6. Reserve broth for another use

Green Sauce, from Cooking Light book


  • 2/3 cup 2% reduced fat milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 (11-ounce) can tomatillos, drained
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained


  1. Place ingredientsin a food processor
  2. Process until smooth

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce from http://www.lynnskitchenadventures.com/2009/04/homemade-enchilada-sauce.html


  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


  1. Combine all tomato sauce ingredients and place in a blender.
  2. Puree ingredients.
  3. Then place in a saucepan.
  4. Heat over medium heat until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  5. Use as desired for enchiladas.

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas (originally from Gluten Free Goddess and I modified the instructions -- you should go to her page immediately for GF recipes)

from http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2006/07/sour-cream-chicken-enchiladas.html

Instructions modified based on Cook's Illustrated The Best International Cooking Recipes

(this makes one pan of 13x9" enchiladas, will need to double)


  • 3 cups cooked chicken (see above)
  • 4 ounces roasted green chilies, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • Juice from a large fresh lime
  • Cracked Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cups Enchilada Sauce (see above)
  • 10-12 white or yellow corn tortillas
  • Light olive oil, as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar (sharp or extrasharp) (I usually just eyeball the cheese)
  • cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Lightly oil a 13x9" baking dish.
  3. In a mixing bowl, toss together the cooked chicken, chopped green chiles, sour cream, and lime juice; season with cracked Pepper and cumin. Set aside. (I also usually add in some cheese and sauce)
  4. Spread about a spoonful (about 4 oz.) of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the oiled baking dish.
  5. Place tortillas on 2 baking sheets. Spray both sides lightly with cooking spray. Bake, one sheet at a time, until the tortillas are soft and pliable, 2 to 4 minutes.
  6. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
  7. Smear the bottom of the baking dish with 3/4 cup sauce.
  8. Place a heaping 1/3 cup filling down the center of each tortilla. Roll it up into place, seam side down. Repeat for the remaining tortillas.
  9. Pour the enchilada sauce all over the tortillas and top with shredded cheese.
  10. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted, the sauce is bubbling, and the enchiladas are hot.
  11. Uncover, sprinkle about 1/4 cup cheese on top and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Seeing the world through a Words with Friends filter

Updated 5/7/11: If you came here looking for "Words with Friends" or Scrabble help, you want Win Every Game instead. Now back to the post...

Since I started class on April 14, I've written 104 (double-spaced) pages or 19,542 words. The words are scattered over 18 daily exercises, 3 short stories, and 2 flash fiction pieces.

This doesn't mean I'm any closer to publishing anything, it just means I have a bigger pile of words now than I had last month.

It's been a gorgeous couple of days in Seattle. I got to see a little of it, but mostly I am sinking deeper into my head. Turns out it's kind of cozy in there.

"Cozy" would be good move for "Words with Friends."

I drove past our old apartment and saw that the strange wooden scaffolding they erected after we left is still propping up the balconies. I am so glad we moved.

Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, which only means I should buy the ingredients for the enchiladas I'm making for Seis de Mayo.

For whatever reason, Strunk & White's "Omit needless words," keeps rattling in my head. Omit!

One more letter and you could so easily become vomit.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A follow-up to the last post

11:30pm. I finished a draft of the short story I will read tomorrow night in class.


Practice won't make you perfect, but it will make you better

This one is going to be about writing.

I've been reading a lot of writing books -- more than normal, anyway -- and they're all consistent in their message. You have to write to get better. Quit making excuses for why you can't write. Practice practice practice.

And yet I secretly hope the next book will tell me the magic shortcut. You know, the one where all of a sudden I don't struggle to find the right words anymore.

Tomorrow night I have to read a story in class. I have mixed feelings about this. First, the story isn't finished yet. And by the time I finish the first draft, I won't have much time to write a second draft.

I am really fighting for words today, that's two. I've sat here for hours trying to force them out.

It'll get done because it has to.

When I complete a story, it is very satisfying. I enjoy writing. It's just that some days are hard and I still have a lot to learn.

Please don't misunderstand though. I am not complaining. I just want to explain what it's like.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Star Wars and Book Sales

It was a good weekend. Jer took a couple of photos with his phone, and maybe I can convince him later to let me share.

First off, Seattle was fortunate to have excellent weather this weekend. Sunny, warm, no clouds! After the coldest April on record, it was a welcome change.

Yesterday Jer and I went to the Pacific Science Center to see the Star Wars exhibit. I heard good things going into it, and it was fun to check out, but I wasn't impressed. The few costumes they had on display were neat. They had a Vader outfit, a few life-size Wookiees, and basic character outfits. There were a lot more hands-on stations than I expected, which took up most of the floor space.

There was a big droid on the second floor I liked. The Stormtrooper costume was cool. But mainly I was disappointed. When I tell you why you'll probably point and yell NERD.

It would have been nice to see one fancy Queen Amidala outfit. Just one.

When the kid offering to let visitors take pictures with his fake Yoda doll outside (for tips) has a more interesting Yoda than the one in the exhibit, something is wrong.

It would have been nice to show something about Jabba. Or oh, I don't know, Leia's slave outfit. I did enjoy the parts of the exhibit where they showcased how real technology might someday make space travel possible.

The whole thing though just felt... incomplete.

I don't think the exhibit was worth the twenty something dollars we paid. There I said it. And the $3 Millenium Falcon "ride" was lame. There. I said that too.

Overall, it was a nice day out. It's been awhile since Jer and I explored the Pacific Science Center, and going through the permanent exhibits was fun. We saw cosmic trails in a cloud chamber and a scale model of currents in Puget Sound. The signs in the bathroom that let me know women pee on average 4-8 cups of urine a day was a factoid I'll treasure forever...

After, we tried to have dinner at Peso's and failed. Service was just... really, really bad. So we left and had a very tasty meal at the Greek restaurant across the street.

Today Jer coaxed me into riding on the back of his motorcycle. I usually flat out refuse, but since I wanted to go to a book sale we compromised. I'd do something I didn't want to do, if he did something he didn't want to do. Guess what? I lived.

Anyway, I'm boring myself writing this out. There aren't nearly enough fight scenes. To sum up, it was a good weekend. We did stuff outside in the sun and we didn't melt.

The end.