Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Resolution — July Update

    I was so sure that July was going to be a better writing month. I was inspired! I had fresh new ideas on how to fix those plot holes and help my characters arc. Unfortunately, I also had a whole lot of work. And then a vacation. And you know how it is when you’re planning a couple weeks off. There’s lots to do to prepare for that. So, the writing projects got put on the back-burner.
    Still, I got a scene off to my critique partner and got encouraging feedback on it. And I wrote 3,831 words during the first two weeks. The second two weeks were a total bust. In my defense, I was in a cabin in the woods for one of those weeks. It was a great vacation and was just what I needed to refresh my creativity. Just not real productive, in word count, at least.
    Last month, I wrote 2,465 words on the novella project and 1,338 words on its sequel. I also wrote 28 words on the novel, which I think was some minor editing that I did on the scene that went off to my critique partner for her review.
    This is a far cry from what I managed to write last July, when I wrote 29,114 words. Yes, nearly 30,000 words in one month. How did I do that? Well, last year, we took the fiscally-mandated “stay-cation” (a word that I really hate) and I wrote more than 26,000 words during that two-week span. This year, we actually traveled across the country for our vacation. Good for us; bad for my novel.
    So far this year, I’ve written 77,733 words. That’s still ahead of last year, when I was at 68,109 words for the year.
    For the next month, I plan to get off to a good start on my daily writing goal. The new spreadsheet started yesterday, and I’ve got a couple thousand words on it already. I have another week before I have to return to work and I’m feeling very refreshed and ready to write. So I think I’ll go get started on that right now.

Monday, July 23, 2012


    I swear, this isn't a gardening blog. I don't know what it is, but really, that's not my goal.
    However, I am producing more tomatoes than words lately, so it's what you get. 
    Here's a picture of a tiny tomato plant put into the ground around the very end of May.

     And here it is on July 5. It's bigger now and is climbing out of the top of the cage. Still no fruit on this on, but lots of flowers.

     I received these in the mail from my critique partner a few weeks ago and wow! The timing couldn't be better. I've made several recipes from the new books using my own veggies.
     Thanks, D! You're awesome!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

O California

   I had the day off work today, so I planned to write a substantive post, instead of another recipe. Maybe something about writing. Character. Location, Conflicts. I had many ideas. 
   But it is too hot to ... well, fill in the blank with anything you'd like. It is another day to lay on the floor under the ceiling fan. I did wake up early to write and got 1,200 words written on a WIP. Then the heat hit and sapped all my energy and creativity. Tomorrow, I will try again. 

There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California. — Edward Abbey

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tomato Recipe #3 — Pyllo Pizza with Tomato and Feta

     Sometimes, it pays to never, ever throw anything away. Usually, it’s a pain in the ass and an express pass to a starring role on Hoarders. But once in a while, it pays off.
     Case in point:  I knew I had once clipped a recipe from a Sur la Table catalog for a phyllo dough tart with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese. I couldn’t find it online, at least, not the right recipe. I did find a recipe that looked similar, but it wasn’t quite right. So as a last resort, I turned to my recipe file.
     My recipe file is a box of photocopies, clipped magazine pages, and grease-stained recipe cards with no discernible organization except strata. The most recently used or clipped recipes are generally toward the top of the stack. I knew I hadn’t seen this recipe in a while, so I dumped it out and started at the bottom.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tomato Recipe #2 — Caprese Salad

    The cherry tomatoes are ripening fast and they really don’t keep for too long, so suddenly we’re eating salads twice a day to keep up with the tomato production. This isn’t a bad thing — a nice crisp green salad with crunchy peppers and sweet cherry tomatoes, a little onion and maybe a few bleu cheese or goat cheese crumbles on top. That’s an easy and tasty lunch.
    But by the second week, I was craving something a little different. Hence, the caprese salad. It looked like a good way to use a lot more tomatoes.
    In addition to planting too many tomatoes, I also put in too many basil plants. I haven’t had much luck with basil in the past. It goes to seed too quickly or gets crowded out by other plants and doesn’t get enough sun. But this year, it’s thriving. All four plants are full of fragrant leaves.
    To assemble this very easy salad, first halve about a pint of cherry tomatoes. I used Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, which turn a beautiful shade of orange, and yellow pear tomatoes. I also had a handful of small Early Girl tomatoes that ripened in a brief heat wave before they reached their usual full size. I cut these into small chunks.
    For the dressing, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and a little white wine vinegar. Add minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste. I wasn’t going to use lemon juice, but I still have lemons on the tree. Also, Rachel Ray uses lemon juice in her recipe, so there ya go.
    Alternatively, The Pioneer Woman uses a balsamic vinegar reduction, and I endorse heartily anything The Pioneer Woman does. Her fancy mac-and-cheese recipe is solely responsible for the larger one-third of my wardrobe. Today, though, I didn't want to turn on the stove to reduce the vinegar. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar for flavor.
    Drain some small mozzarella balls — bocconcino. You can find them at Trader Joe’s in the mini size. Or you probably find slightly larger size at any grocery store. I had the regular sized ones, cut into smaller chunks.
    Cut the basil, using the chiffonade method. Combine the mozzarella and tomatoes and then drizzle with the dressing and added the basil last.
    This is an easy salad to throw together and it keeps in the refrigerator overnight. I’ve used the leftovers, when there are any, as a topping for bruschetta or a green salad.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Half a Year of Books

    I keep track of the books I read in a spreadsheet. It’s pretty nerdy, but I like that I can look back and see which authors I enjoyed, what I loved, what I hated, and how my reading tastes have changed. I did a summary for 2011, and since we’re halfway through 2012, it seems like a good time to do a recap of my reading so far this year.
    Since January, I’ve read 28 books. The vast majority were fiction. In fact, my non-fiction reading has tapered off quite a bit. I think a lot of that is because I have a to-be-read pile that is threatening to topple over and kill me in my sleep and it’s almost all fiction. Even my electronic to-be-read pile, the folder on my Kindle, is huge and full of books that I bought on impulse or on sale or on a really strong recommendation. So, while I’m trying to work my way through that pile, I haven’t been looking for new nonfiction books. Also, I’m not currently obsessed with any particular topic right now. Typically, I will read something that triggers a need to learn more about the subject (The Troubles in Northern Ireland, post-colonial West Africa, the financial crisis) and then read everything I can get my hands on until I run out of steam. Apparently, I’m between nerd-outs.
    Most of my reading was on my beloved Kindle, and I've only listened to two audiobooks so far this year. That's below average for me, but I blame the ready supply of quality podcasts that I've been listening to on my commute.
    So, of the 25 fiction books I’ve read, the overwhelming majority were some sort of romance — skewed heavily toward romantic suspense. I’ve got a few on the list that were mysteries or thrillers, without the romantic element, but only a few. I read my first Anne Stuart book this year, followed by my second Anne Stuart. And there’s a third coming up on my to-be-read list. I can’t believe I haven’t read her before now. She’s just wonderful.
    I usually don’t do reviews because that’s not what this site is about. Also, my notes on what I loved are too vague to be of use to anyone else. It's like how my wine tasting notes basically amount to "tasty!" However, here are a few of my favorites so far this year.
    First, A Little Night Magic, by Lucy March (aka Lani Diane Rich). I loved this quirky, fun, light paranormal romance and recommended it to everyone I know who reads. I am impatiently awaiting the second novel. It will be one I pre-order.
    In the Bleak Midwinter, by Julia Spencer-Fleming, was an incredible book. I just loved it. I learned about this from a review from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and I am so happy I did. The book is incredibly well-written, the characters are genuine and the growing story of their relationship is compelling. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. And since this book came out in 2003, there are many more to read.
    The Kingdom, by Amanda Stevens, the second in the Graveyard Queen series. Oh, my god, I adore this series. I’m reading the third book, The Prophet, right now. The first book, The Restorer, was one of my favorite reads of 2011. The second and third books are just as good.
    Not that this is a contest, but if it were, honorable mention would go to Whiskey Rebellion, by Liliana Hart, because it made me laugh out loud and wake up my husband. I love a book that does that.
     In the next six months, I think I'm going to focus on adding some nonfiction to my diet (it's like fiber, it's good for you and can be delicious). Also, I have amassed some serious credits in my Audible.com account, so I'm going to let someone read to me while I drive.
     If you have any recommendations, please feel free to share!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Resolution — June Update

    This month, I made some steady progress on several fronts. First, progress on the novella project, including sending the first four chapters off to my critique partner for her initial impressions. Second, progress on the novel. And third, progress toward my New Years resolution to write regularly and to complete one of these damn works-in-progress.
    By the numbers, June was a pretty good month. I wrote 12,664 words. That’s more than last month (9,794) and about what I wrote in June 2011 (12,297). I wrote 5,410 on the novella. On the novel, I wrote 4,574 words. I also feel like I broke through a wall that has been keeping me from moving forward on that project. I wrote 2,680 words on a miscellaneous story that was haunting me, which I finally put down on paper just to get it out of my mind. So creatively, as well as just by the numbers, June was a good month for writing.
    I wrote 13 days this month, which considering my work schedule, wasn’t too bad. It’s one day more than last month’s tally. My best day was 2,899 words, which was followed by a 2,680-word day. That was also my most productive week.   
    This brings my total word count for 2012 to 73,902. Last year at this point, I was at 38,995 words, so I’m definitely writing more this year.
    It was a huge step for me to send to my critique partner the four chapters of the novella (which is already at 40,000 words, so is probably not going to be a novella after all). I really wanted to finish a draft before getting feedback, but I’m at a stage where I need some advice about the big picture issues. I have some ideas sketched out for the last act, but there are gaping plot holes to figure out yet.
    In July, I have some work events that are going to keep me from writing for about a week, and I have a vacation at the end of the month. Still, I think I can top both the word-count and the number of days in which I write. It helps to vacation with working writers who inspire me to keep at it.
    Since we’re now halfway through 2012 (uh, yikes!), I think I may also do an update on the books I’ve read this year. Yes, I have a spreadsheet for that, too. My inner accountant is fighting her way out, one statistical tracking device at a time.