Monday, November 28, 2011

Everyone's a Winner

View from hotel balcony in Sorrento, looking toward Mt. Vesuvius.
     This has been a lovely five-day weekend, though not very restful. I'm ready for a vacation to recover from the week of house guests, preparations for the Thanksgiving holiday, and then cleaning up after the feast.
     I added another 1,000 words to my Nano total yesterday -- the first time I was able to sit down and write in several days. I also revisited an older WIP that I put on the back burner while I dove into the Nano project and I think I'm ready to pick it up again. The brief trip to the beach in my Nano WIP was a good vacation, but it's time to head back to mid-winter Minnesota.
     First, though, I have several days of Nano left yet and intend to keep writing on my Nano WIP until the deadline. It won't be complete, or anywhere near 50,000 words. But that's not why I did it. I wanted a short-term commitment to jump-start my creativity and that is what happened. I came up with a great, twisty story that I can't wait to flesh out. But I also came up with several ideas about how to fix my other WIP and I'm excited to get back to those characters.
     I may not get the Nano merit badge, but I feel very good about my participation certificate.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is There No End To This Turkey?

    There was still far too much turkey left in the fridge, so today I made the obligatory leftover recipe — turkey pot pie.
    I started with this recipe — Leftover Turkey Pot Pie from the Pioneer Woman — and then made changes to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand. So, here’s my version:
    Start with the turkey and dice up a lot of it. The recipe calls for 2 cups, but that doesn’t look like enough, so throw in more. Are you really going to want to make yet another turkey recipe tomorrow? No? Then keep dicing.
    Dice up some carrots, onion and celery. What? You don’t have carrots or celery left over? Are you sure? What about that veggie tray you put out for the guests? Yes, in the back of the refrigerator is the baggie with the celery sticks and carrots. Chop them up.
    Saute the veggies in some butter for a few minutes.
    Add the turkey. Sprinkle some flour over the turkey and veggies, stir and cook for a few minutes.
    Raid the fridge again. See any leftover white wine? Look for something along the lines of chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. Stay away from anything sweet. Splash some into the pot.
    Add some chicken broth. A single recipe calls for 2 cups. I added twice that.
    While that’s coming to a boil, back to the fridge. Any leftover roasted vegetables? Throw them in, too. I used the vegetables roasted with olive oil and fresh herbs, about a cup or so.
    Got any green bean casserole left over? Throw that in too.
    Hey, how about the cranberry sauce? No. Put that back.
    Add a cup of heavy whipping cream, or more if you’re doubling the recipe.
    Add fresh thyme, salt and pepper. I added some chopped parsley. Taste it to make sure you’ve got it seasoned well. You don’t want to under-season it. Bring to a boil until it thickens, which probably won’t be too long because you’ve just thrown in the contents of your fridge.
    I used this recipe for the pie crust and highly recommend it. I think it’s the vinegar. Unlike the recipe, I line the pie tins with crust and put a crust on top. I like crust.
    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Home Team Advantage

    Twenty-one people. Ten pounds of potatoes. Two turkeys. Wine in almost every color and flavor imaginable.
    But it’s over and no one cried. Well, there was a minor meltdown over the chocolate cake, but I swear it wasn’t me. And the poor 3-year-old who was at eye-level with a triple chocolate mousse cake cannot be blamed for getting upset after being repeatedly told she can't have any just yet.
    It was a hectic, but fun get-together that included family and friends. Spending time with my family, including two of my three siblings, reminded me to give thanks for my family. My loud, funny, generous, and smart family.
    We were not raised with material excess, but there was always money for books. My parents worked hard, but there was always time for a trip to the library. There were difficult times, but there were more water balloon fights, hide-and-seek games (usually in a dark house, for extra adrenaline), camping trips, practical jokes, and games of all sorts, than I could ever count. I am thankful that my parents raised their four children to value education at all stages of life and nurtured our intellectual curiosity. That they taught us to find the laughter in any bad situation.
    What I value most, though, that they raised us to be a team — to look out for each other. I think that couldn’t have been an easy thing to accomplish with four kids whose ages span a decade. Somehow, they did it. I knew my two older brothers were always looking out for me, just as I was keeping an eye on my younger sister.
    These instincts don’t fade over time. Now, instead of looking out for each other in the halls of the high school, we’re there for each other after job losses and divorces and other grown-up issues. There is some bond that develops after years of exchanging promises not to tell mom and dad. It's a bond that outlives the mutually assured destruction of sharing and keeping those secrets.
     Of course, it would be a terrible breach of tradition to have my brother stay for the weekend and not short-sheet his bed. Or not to needle my sister about her love-life. Or for them to not tell the story — yet again — about how I wrecked my parents’ car on the way back from the garage where it was being repaired after my first accident.
    This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that these wonderful people are my family and are on my team.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving Thanks

    It’s early yet, but in the spirit of John Scalzi’s Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, I thought I would focus on the things for which I am grateful. I have much for which to be thankful, including a mother who taught me not to end a sentence with a preposition, which is why I rewrote that previous sentence.
    Today’s exercise in gratitude is dedicated to my day job.
    I would love to be able to be a full-time writer. I daydream of waking up, going for a walk, then coming home to sit down at my computer and spend the day telling stories, hanging out with my imaginary friends, and researching the issues that confront them. But I know that is a daydream, a near impossibility for me. Why? Well, there’s the student loans that I will have hanging over my head for the next 30 years or so. And how my self-employed husband and I have come to enjoy the luxury of health insurance.
    I am lucky, though, to have found a career that I love. I know many lawyers don’t like their jobs. Many of my friends who are lawyers would gladly chuck their jobs to do, well, pretty much anything else. I actually like my job. It can be frustrating, difficult, and at times even heartbreaking. But I get to challenge myself intellectually and, best of all, help people who are in a bad situation. That is rewarding.
    I also get to tell those people’s stories, though not with the creative license I would have if I were a full-time fiction writer. The true stories that I get to share with judges and juries, however, are often every bit as compelling.
    So, yes, I will probably bitch about my day job. But if given a whopping advance to write, say, a multi-book series — well, that would be a tough call.
    For about a minute.
    Until a whopping advance gets thrown my way, I’m happy to keep working in a job that lets me meet interesting people, learn something new every day, and work with fun, smart co-workers.
    And I’m thankful for that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ten Days In

     It's 10 days into my ill-advised commitment to writing a novel this month and I've logged a little over 11,000 words. How did that happen? I've been working a ton of hours and trying to muck out my house to prepare for the onslaught of relatives coming over for Thanksgiving.
     Oh, right. I completely abandoned quality control. Told my muse to take the wheel while I gagged my internal editor and threw her in the trunk. Those two don't get along at all, so the muse was happy to oblige. I'll let the editor out next month and she can take care of the adverb problem I've developed.
     While I'm short of where I'd like to be at this stage of Nano, it's 11,000 words (and a completed outline) that I didn't have two weeks ago.
      For all you participating in Nano this year, good luck and keep writing. I'll see you, and my internal editor, in December!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bubbly Goodness

Three be the things I shall never attain:  Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.      -- Dorothy Parker. 
I'm pretty sure that Nano was created by and for insomniacs. One late night bout with sleeplessness and I finished my plot outline for my new project. I haven't included that in my word count, but I'm really happy with the scene list so far. Sure, there's a couple holes still, but I can fill those in as things progress.

This calls for a celebration, right? I think so. Which is why I'm writing this (slightly) under the influence of a nice crisp Spanish cava.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Nano - The Planning Stages

    Work, work, work. It’s totally getting the way of my life and my NaNoWriMo project. Because I expected to be tied up with work until early next week, I’m still in the thinking-planning-dreaming phase of my Nano project. And, with some luck, I may get to start writing earlier than I planned.
    In the meantime, I’m pulling together a playlist of music. Actually, I’m putting together two playlists — one for the present day and one from 1992, which is when a major event takes place that has a huge effect on the characters now. Picture it: a cross-country road trip, summer of 1992, a man on the run from the law and from some very bad men, and he’s got his 9-year-old daughter with him. What music is on the radio?
    The present-day playlist has been easy to put together. Here’s what’s been playing on my commute, setting the mood for a beachside mystery. 
  • California — Phantom Planet
  • Earthquake Weather — Beck
  • Still in Hollywood — Concrete Blond
  • Into the Ocean — Blue October
  • Angeles — Elliott Smith
  • The Horizon has been Defeated — Jack Johnson
  • Six O’Clock News — Kathleen Edwards
  • La Cienega Just Smiled — Ryan Adams
  • Dani California — Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • California — Rufus Wainwright
    There’s more, but I’m pretty sure the theme is emerging. Or at least perhaps a setting. You may have picked up on it.
     But seriously, anyone who recalls 1992, please suggest some music for my cross-country road-trip.