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Showing posts from 2013

Holidaze

Ah, the blessed relaxation of a holiday vacation. Or so I hear.

Jimmy's off work until January 6, damn him; except he volunteered for an overtime shift next weekend because we could use the cash. Ian's off school until January 2. No fair.

Me? I'm on duty at the newspaper today. At least I got a late start, since I thought I had a night meeting and it's cancelled. After work, I'll finish the tins of yummies for our friends, then Jimmy and I will go out to deliver them. I also have to make dinner, since we ate out WAY too much over the weekend and now I'm afraid of our bank account.

I also need to find time to get over the river and retrieve the box of photos that I brainlessly left at a signing. I've been searching for it, because it has all my photo stock and my Christmas cards, which I'd planned to, y'know, mail. Meanwhile the box of bookplates has vanished, of course, since they have to go out this week for the first round of Kickstarter incentive…

Dear Boy, or Why We're Always Broke

Oh beloved son of mine...

I suppose I can understand that multiple bowls of cereal are not enough for a gargantuan like yourself. This is why I end up buying multiple Sam's Club boxes of cereal per week and never seem to get any cereal myself, and why we go through six gallons of milk a week. And apparently all the remaining French bread. I hope it was yummy.

But then you pulled out the frozen bowtie pasta broccoli alfredo and chomped on that for a while - without heating it up. You might have put the rest back in the freezer, by the way. I am not the maid.

And then you felt like a soda, so you got out the ice cube tray - and cracked it in half. Another item for the shopping list. How, exactly, did you manage that?

But it boggles my mind that you also apparently ate an entire 19-ounce bag of cheese tortellini. I hope you at least heated it up. I was planning to make up a scratch alfredo sauce for that tortellini. Back onto the shopping list.

Remind me to teach you how to scramble …

Meet Ariane, or How I Doubled My Personal Debt In 15 Minutes

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I've either made the smartest financial move of my life, or the second-stupidest.

The stupidest financial decision I ever made was to get student loans. Young people, learn from me. Student loans of the modern era are not your parents' student loans, easily paid off five years after graduation. My student loans were bought and sold three times within six months of my graduation, all without my consent and folding the interest in as principal. Ah, the nineties. They ended up with Sallie Mae, which jacked the interest to the skies and demanded half my salary until I ended up borrowing even more money just to stave them off until I could make a deal with the U.S. Department of Education to consolidate them into an amount roughly three times what I originally borrowed. Since then, my loans have hovered over my head as an impossible debt that I cannot hope to pay off unless that Mega-Millions ticket pays off tomorrow or someone doubles my salary.

It also destroyed my credit, as did…

Ten (or more) Books

There's no way to properly discuss ten formative books in a Facebook post. Books have been far too much of an influence in my life for that. But after the fifth or sixth time I'm tagged on a meme, even I start to notice.

Trying to choose only ten books is... difficult. I started reading at age three, or so I'm told, and haven't stopped since. I don't consume books at the rate I did as a young person, mostly because I'm old and tired and after a few pages I fall asleep. It's also much more slow going reading a nonfiction book on history or philosophy than the paperback novels I devoured as a youngster. But if there's a good mystery on my nightstand, it'll be consumed posthaste.

Here's my books, in no particular order, with honorable mentions:

1. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. I discovered this book about the time Nancy Drew was losing her appeal for me. As much as I adored Nancy and her titian-haired adventures, she was always getting …

Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

I made this for my family while my mom was visiting, but I started it too late and so nobody had any. It is delightfully still in the freezer and all mineminemine. As soon as I crowed about this on Facebook, y'all were asking for the recipe.

Always happy to oblige...

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE ICE CREAM

1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. milk
3/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa
1/8 tsp. salt
2 egg yolks
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla

In a heavy saucepan, combine milk, cream, sugar, cocoa and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and cocoa is well-mixed.

Whisk yolks in a small bowl. Stir in about 1/2 cup of the hot mixture into the yolk and whisk to temper them. Return egg mixture to the pan, whisking constantly.

Cook mixture on stovetop until it reaches 160 degrees or it coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate (chocolate chips are better than the one-ounce blocks for quick melting). Then add vanilla.

Let cool, cover and chill in the frid…

Giving Thanks

I'm calling out everyone who bitches that we don't need Thanksgiving or the 30 days of thankfulness because "we should be thankful every day." That's true, of course. We should be thankful and remember our blessings every day of our lives.

But human beings are what we are: imperfect. And anything we do every day, see every day, think every day becomes just that: everyday. Normal. Background. We no longer notice the beauty of daily blessings when they are our normal state of being.

The menfolk left Wednesday night after Jimmy got off work, so he could deliver Ian to his father for Thanksgiving (it's his turn) and spend the weekend with the enormous Gillentine clan and with his kids. I have to work on Friday, so I could not go with them. In fifteen years, I have not traveled for Thanksgiving or Christmas. That's the job. I did bake a pie, however, and Jimmy is under strict orders to bring back my pie pan.

I'm not really used to the house being completel…

Recipes By Request

Tis the season to cook until your family begs you to stop, the fridge is full already. I suppose I should be happy that the Boy snuck the green bean casserole out of the kitchen this morning, because nothing says "teenage boy breakfast" like vegetables. *shrug*

So here's a few recipes folks have requested! With special thanks to Mom for her recent visit, which gave me an excuse to cook a lot!

MIDNIGHT MASHED POTATOES

6 potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. butter + 1/2 stick
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. sour cream
2 tbsp. parmesan
2 tbsp. chives
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. onion salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. fines herbes

Chop and boil potatoes until tender. I prefer my potatoes to still have some chunks to them, and I never peel them because I like the skins. So mine still have a little firmness to them when I'm done. If you like yours super-smooth, skin the potatoes before you chop them and boil them a little longer, until they break apart when you hit them…

Dreadmire Party Playlist!

Every author does this, I don't care what they say. We compile playlists of music that we listen to while we write. Jimmy's currently on the Les Miserables soundtrack. I wrote one of my best books listening to the Schindler's List soundtrack on repeat.

In honor of the official release party for Dreadmire, here's the playlist. I always save them, to play at room parties. Save your mockery - I have eclectic taste in music. That's the word for it. Shaddup.

"Fields of Gold," Sting"As Long As You're Mine," Wicked soundtrack"Bad Moon Rising," Creedence Clearwater Revival"Bring Me to Life," Evanescence"That's All I've Got to Say," America"I'll Be There," Escape Club"The Unforgiven," Metallica"The Last Unicorn," America"Love Walks In," Van Halen"Somebody Help Me," Full Blown Rose"Whithin You," David Bowie"Iko Iko," Zachary Richard"Man&…

Remember remember...

... or, please don't.

I think I'm going to end up running this every year, because ever since Alan Moore's damn graphic novel became a damn movie, we're going to see people running amok in V for Vendetta masks advocating freedom from some oppressive evil government force. Or something. It makes me historically cranky.

So let's get this straight:

• Guy Fawkes was not trying to overthrow a theocratic, repressive government; he was trying to create one. King James began his reign by offering religious freedom, at least the best that time period could envision. Only after constant threats of violence if he did not convert to the Catholic faith personally, and the Bye Plot, which was a failed plan to kidnap the king and hold him until he agreed to reinstate the Catholic Church as the sole faith of England, did James get cranky and begin persecuting Catholics.

• The November Plot was to assassinate King James, to kidnap and install Princess Elizabeth, all of (I t…

The Little Monsters of Edwardsville

The tragedy of the night was certainly the St. Louis Cardinals' performance in Game Six. Congratulations to Boston; you played the better game and deserve the trophy. (We'll be back!)

But the horror was the wonderful tableau we built this year in our front yard. Skeleton rising out of his grave, ghosts and critters, Casper the Ghost floating beside the porch, Charlotte the Spider scuttling down the siding. We love Halloween, and if we were not limited by funds, our house would look like the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Each year we add a little bit more to our display.

This year's Cuteness Award goes to the three-year-old Wolverine and two-year-old Spiderwoman who braved my miniature cemetery to gain candy. Wolverine told me in a gruff little voice, "I ain't afraid of no ghost," while glancing sidelong at Casper.

Extra credit goes to the toddler Simba who was sufficiently frightened of our skeleton that I had Ian deliver her candy to her at the sidewalk. Ia…

Fright Fest

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We're trying to cram all our Halloween traditions into a couple of days, since the Furlough Tour ate so much of October. Yesterday morning it was our trip up to the farm for pumpkins and apple cider before work; today it was Fright Fest at Six Flags.

Fright Fest was the usual array of expensive silliness. We love Six Flags, though we haven't been able to use our membership as much as usual this year. We do not do the extra-cost haunted houses, because we pay enough for our membership as it is. But we loved the zombies, evil clowns and other walk-around critters, the decor and goofy scary fun.



At least, Jimmy and I did. Ian clutched my hand awfully tight for a young man a foot taller than his mom, and refused to go through the Twisted Circus with us. Seems he still has a thing about clowns. So it was probably mean of me to offer to put my new painting in his room:


A good time was had by all, nevertheless. Though we had a harsh moment: when we foolishly sat down for one of the …

Dreadmire benefits the real Gulf

So there was this little error at the printer's, and we ended up with a lot of large-print editions of the new book. Now, large print is very nice for folks with limited vision, but large print sales are pretty small, comparatively speaking. Shorthand: We've got a bunch of books on our hands.

After consulting with my publisher, we determined the best use of the books would be to try to benefit the Louisiana wetlands. After all, Dreadmire is a sword-and-sorcery novel, but its worldbuilding is based on the ecology of the bayous. I drew inspiration from an IMAX movie several years ago titled Hurricane on the Bayou, which I strongly recommend for the soundtrack, if nothing else. Hurricane on the Bayou explained the ecological value of wetlands, specifically how they act as a natural barrier for the inland areas from... wait for it... hurricanes. Katrina happened to hit while they were there, and you can guess the rest.

The imbalance of nature is a theme that runs throughout Dreadm…

The Little Bookstore(s) That Could

I attended a wonderful book signing tonight at Afterwords Books, the little shop a few blocks from my house. Afterwords hosted Wendy Welch, author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, and her husband, Jack Beck.

Welch has one of those stories that is so incredible you have to believe it. You could make a movie of it, and no one would believe it; too Capra-esque, they would say. Welch left a "high-octane" business career that was making her miserable so that she and her husband could move to a coal town in Big Stone Gap, Virginia ("It's not the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there," Jack says.) They started a used bookstore in a town of 5,000 people.

Wait a second. Yes, 5,000 people in coal country. The whole county has only 150,000 people. To put that in perspective for you, Madison and St. Clair County have a combined population of over 500,000. There's a lot more "country" than "people" around Big Stone Gap, which is h…

Home sweet home

Whew.

I'm even unpacked, because if I don't unpack within an hour of arriving at home, I'll be living out of the suitcase for a week. That's just the way I roll.

Fortunately I did not have to return to Ye Olde Newspaper today, which gave me a chance to decompress, run some errands and return Falkor the Rental Luck Dragon. Being back behind the wheel of my old Toyota already makes me miss Falkor's high-tech bluetooth system.

Among other things: a pleasant lunch with Jimmy, who says he missed me; a trip to the Genius Bar to get my @#$! iPhone examined - ever since I upgraded to iOS 7 it has been buggy as hell; and wrapped the day with an interview on Digital-Radio103.com with Nikki Palomino. It was a nice chat, though the static made it hard for me to tell if I was talking over her. I devoutly hope not.

Nikki invited me to read from my work, which doesn't usually happen in interviews. I didn't have anything on my desk, but Jimmy scrambled to bring me a Settin…

Furlough Tour: Day Eight

I made it to Memphis.

It's 3:30 a.m. by my clock.

Six states today. I'm going to crash now. Sorry folks, but you get real blogging tomorrow. My hotel is kindly letting me stay until 2 p.m., so I can sleep the hell in and then get lunch before the signing.

If you live in the Memphis area, come to the last event of the Furlough Tour! 3 p.m. at the Booksellers at Laurelwood; look for me in the bistro. Yes, I'll be selling and signing, though I may not read if there are young ears present.

Missed Opportunity of the Day: I neglected to collect barbecue sauces in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama on today's deathmarch across the south.

Thanks: To Seth and Tip Kendall for introducing me to their little one, to Kelly Parker for helping feed my IKEA addiction, and to Marian Sanborn for the iced americano! I think I have a new favorite hyper-caffeination.

Furlough Tour: Day Seven

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It was bound to happen. After a week on the road, I finally hit a day where I took zero pictures. Not even a proof of life!

Today's lesson was that Google Maps is a lying liar who lies. Sure, it's only three hours from Baltimore to Charlottesville, Va., and only four hours from there to Charlotte, N.C. It all made sense on paper.

Today started at my sister's funky-cool house in York, Pa., where she was kind enough to host me for the evening. Melanie and I see each other so rarely now, and that's something we absolutely have to fix. The photo below is actually from last night's pub adventure, with her boyfriend Bryan. Because Melanie and I managed to see each other three times in one year and STILL didn't get a photo of us together. Oops.

Bidding farewell to Melanie (again), I set out for Charlottesville. It was sorta kinda on my way to the signing in Charlotte, and the NBC affiliate there happens to employ one Lynne Vogt, who survived the wilds of Westfield Mid…

Furlough Tour: Day Six

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It's possible that there is a time vortex on the New Jersey turnpike.

Bidding New York farewell, I left the city this morning with a carefully planned route to avoid tolls and make it to lunch in Delaware. That plan did not account for an hour at 8 mph, as the New Jersey turnpike continues to redefine "clusterfuck" for me. And this is driving at non-peak times, folks.

Somehow the three-hour drive to Delaware ended up being more like four and a half hours. Then I met long-time reader Meri Weiss for lunch, cementing the awesomeness of a tour that lets me meet people who have supported my work for almost a decade now and cheered me on through the internet. Meri, by the way, is awesome.

Then back to the turnpike, dangit, and more tolls. We're up to $60.50 in tolls, folks, and that doesn't include the bridge over the Hudson (I think) which is experimenting with mail-in tolls. You drive through, it takes a picture of your license plate and mails you a bill. We'll s…

Furlough Tour: Day Five

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New York City!

My wonderful hosts, Keith DeCandido and Wrenn Simms, were challenged to show me Manhattan in one day. All of Manhattan! Not only have I never seen New York City before and thus must do all the silly touristy things, but I have this story I plan to write that involves a great deal of New York detail. That's a bit difficult if you've never been.

First was the subway, where I discovered that a) they look just like St. Louis' Metrolink, and b) they put poetry on the Metro cards. (Also, unlike Metrolink, there ain't no way I'd know which train to take without locals for guides.)

We took the subway to the Empire State Building, which included a walk down Fifth Avenue. I saw the real Macy's, and I swear I wished we had an extra half day. I'd love to look around in the original Macy's!

Approaching "Empy" was a bit disconcerting: it's like scenes from a half-dozen movies kept playing over in my head and overlaying what I was seeing.

Furlough Tour: Day Four

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It's hard to remember that I woke up this morning in Pittsburgh.

Crashing hard last night, I woke up and didn't want to move. I'm not a morning person at best, and this constant motion is beginning to take its toll. Whoever called this a vacation didn't look at the itinerary. Note to self: Next time we do this, I'm in my hotel room by 10 p.m. each night.

I scrambled to Crazy Mocha in Squirrel Hill, which is a nifty ethnic neighborhood outside Pittsburgh. It was a pleasant enough event, sold a little and chatted some more. But then I was on the road again, because miles to go and all that.

First: Proof of life.


Along the way, I was treated to the beauty of rural Pennsylvania in the fall. Poor Jimmy was on the phone with me for a while, and must have gotten tired of hearing, "Wow," all the time. The pictures don't come close to doing it justice. A panoramic lens with some serious color might help. But in between the awesome weirdness of driving through …