Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Post-Nano-Blues Anti-Depressants: Dark Chocolate Biscotti

For those that don't know, I cook. A lot. Mostly baking. I am a patisserie nutjob. I can honestly recall one situation where a cake I made ended a feud between me and this guy, and diabetics will actually eat my brownies (In all honesty, I warn them not to do it, but they can't resist...I don't get it...) they're so good. Sure I saute, stir fry, boil, poach--but baking is where I shine.

Toady is the last day of NaNo--I finished last Wednesday. For those that have done it, you know that post-NaNo blues set in about a week after "THE END". Now, since I can't smuggle prozac out, I've foudnt he next best thing to get you feeling fecking awesome again--Dark chocolate biscotti. The only stipulation to their flawless curative properties is that you hvae to make them--not someone else.

I'm not a big sharer of recipes, but these are just exotic and writerly enough to qualify...and besides, they always go with coffee--what's more writerly than coffee?

2.75 cups AP flour
1.5 cups white sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons meled butter
Enough dark chocolate chips or chunks to make it the way you want it

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix dry ingredients.

Make well in center of dry ingredients. Add eggs and yolks. Mix

Add melted butter. Mix.

Add chocolate. Mix

Split dough in half. Pat into 14 inch long, 1.5 inch wide "loafs" on greased (or parchmented (or silicone-lined)) cookie sheet, 3 inches apart. Bake until firm (25-30 minutes)

Remove from oven and cool on pan. Transfer to cutting board and cut half-inch slices on the diagonal. Arrange slices on cookie sheet and back for ten minutes. Flip and cook about 10-20 minutes. They should not be hard, but should be starting to dry. Cool completely. Serve with a cup of fresh coffee (if you take sugar and milk/cream, cut back on it--the cookies are very weet.).

This is probably the only recipe you'll get out of me, but it's so worth it.

Happy eating!
Voss

Monday, November 28, 2011

Voss News

Hello, all! Now, I don't have much news (Go figure, right?) most of the time, and this is no different…but I have a touch of news. Yesterday, I got word that the story "Luft Zeppelin 129" (American history buffs among you are probably a bit intrigued, now.) was accepted into the Hall Brothers' newest upcoming anthology "Untold Tales of the Past". Why is that exciting to you?

Well, aside from the fact that I would hope you might be happy to hear another bit of my success (Since I figure you all like my work…otherwise you wouldn't be here…right?), it's a bit of a preview of a world I have fallen in love with…which means there may well be more shorts and books set in that world. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a good urban fantasy.

In other news…well, there's not a whole lot that would concern anyone but myself…but I'll share anyway.

My story "The Common Ground" (Written for the "Shanghai Steam" anthology is in beta reading with the lovely and talented Jaleta Clegg, and my Christmas story "Merry Christmas, Oliver" has been submitted for a Christmas anthology through Magic Cat Press over in the United Kingdom.

Now, that should be all…I think.

Happy Holiday of your choosing, if you s=choose to celebrate at all,

Voss

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Crossing Over

Staring at his screen, the writer stopped. Something better than this must be on TV. Wow, a new Restaurant: Impossible. No, wait, tomorrow's Thanksgiving! I won't get shit done tomorrow. Must write.

Five minutes later

Our lovely writer friend gets off of the couch, cursing the idiocy of anyone that would dare call that dive a restaurant…and thinking about Robert Irvine's arms. My God, they're huge! Wait, time to write.

One hour later

Wiping away a final tear for those lost in the Battle of Thabia, the writer closes the file and proceeds to collapse into bed.

**************************************

For those that don't speak writer—I did it. At around 11 PM last night, I wrote THE END on Knightshade. NaNo is off of my checklist for the year.



Now comes pie cooking, potato cooking, cranberry cooking, turkey roasting, eating, bloating…was I making a point?

For those that have joined me on this side…doesn't it smell great over here? I've heard there are some shirtless, oiled men with negative calorie chocolate somewhere.

For those still on that side—I'll see if I can't send one of those guys over for you…of course, you have to eat the chocolate off of their rock hard abs, but I guess we'll have to suffer through. In all seriousness, though, everyone that does NaNo is great and, win or lose, I think we deserve negative-calorie-chocolate-bearing-muscle-men…don't you?

Voss

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Week Four

Everyone--it's official. We've hit hit week four of NaNoWriMo in full stride (or at least half stride). This means that everyone out there is about to finish their novel. The glory of week one--those long-winded, all day writing sessions--has returned and now begs for everyone to join in. this is also the second pilgrimage--when it first begins, people Join NaNo like it's going out of style. Not as many people join anew in week four--but a good number of people do join.

Now, I've been at this point *mumble mumble* times: here are my three tips to keep that motivation up and about:



  1. Don't focus on the end, or how many words you have left. The important thing is to look at what you've already done, and use the awesome sense of accomplishment to keep you motivated to the thirtieth (or the end of your plot arc, whichever comes first.).

  2. Socialize. By this time of the month, you NEED that social element. Your brain will explode (or something akin to that) if you can't get out and be with people that aren't fighting demons and slaying dragons and the like. Well, maybe you shouldn't go quite that far...but the people you socialize with should not be solely on the page.

  3. Get ahead again. Lord knows you're probably going to be heading straight for zero words on the 24th--Thanksgiving, if you spend it with the whole family, is a word killer, and it's the same day as the big dog show--how the hell are we supposed to win against those odds? So, get at least a day or two ahead before that turkey comes out. Of course, if you're lucky enough to be the on cooking the turkey, you've got some time before everyone else gets up. Even in early-rise households, if you put the bird in at 4 AM, you'll have a good solid two hours of useless roasting time before your family whines to existence...I mean, awakes...

Now, get the heck away from this blog! Why are you wasting your precious writing time reading this? Go! Away with you! I'll see you next Thursday!


Voss

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Whole Lot of Nothing






Well, it's officially the middle of week three, and the same thing that always happens is…happening…




I'm lacking the motivation to write. It happens pretty much one day, every time, and then I'm over it. Instead of writing, I'm sitting around talking about Trockenbeerenauslese with an invisible audience, waiting for some rejection/acceptance letters to come rolling in any second now—but I'm not writing.




I know—bad novelist…whatever—I quite need this break, however, as much as I should be writing. Maybe I'll call my friends—they probably miss me…maybe. I could write another song. Make some fudge…maybe truffles, if I feel like going to town.




Or I could ignore my NaNo novel for a day and let it stew there on my hard drive for a bit. I have other writing projects I'm working on, and probably some semblance of a social life I can try to salvage before the month is out…does this sound like Week Two? Don't be surprised—Week-Two-it is normally hits me a little after the middle of the month during NaNo, but I also have a two or three day cushion right now, so I can afford myself the break…right?




For everyone out there in the same spot: you're not alone. The elusive motivation disease is running rampant, I promise, and there's no cure but time—at least one day so you can fall back in love with the whole thing—but no more than two. It's a good rule straight from No Plot? No Problem! If you stop writing that NaNo novel for more than two days, there's no guarantee that you will ever be able to pick it back up, and the whole thing may well float into the endless abyss of lost ideas to mingle with that toaster/flashlight/shotgun you knew was such a good idea…although that one may be better off in the abyss.




For now, join me in the reveling misery of lacking motivation—it's okay. Curl up with an encyclopedia of culinary knowledge and a cup of spiked coffee and let yourself fly to worlds known, but never experienced—or something to that effect. Either way, make this one day count for a lot—the rest of the month is still ahead.




Voss

Monday, November 7, 2011

Research Bunnies

It’s a bit of a departure from speculative fiction, but stay with me—I have a proverbial itch that needs to be metaphorically scratched.

I love research. As much as I may complain about having to do research for a project, if you ask anyone that knows me even a little bit, they’ll tell you just how much I love research. In fact, somewhere in the long-lost annals of this blog, I have a previous post about research. Something to the tune of taking up new hobbies as a form of research. I digress.

The problem is, when most people hear or see the word research, their heart rate skyrockets, memories of restless nights studying meaningless equations about pointless anomalies all to pass a test that may or may not hold any importance in your life five seconds after turning it in—at least, that’s what I’ve heard from other people.

That issue stems from a lack of anything interesting to research in school. Now, I can’t complain too terribly much myself—learning the atomic weight of every element on the periodic table is something I probably would have done on my own eventually, just like I did with quantum mechanics and string theory—but that’s no longer as fun for me.

What we need to do to make our writing research fun, and hence infuse new life and excitement into our work, is research things that interest you, but you’ve never put any real effort into learning about. I can’t say what that will be for you exactly, but try this: think of something you wish you could do, but have next no or no experience and/or skill with/at. Anything could work, not just the traditional jobs for heroes and heroines. There a thirteen-billion-and-four books about cops, cowboys, and knights—I can only think of one with an assistant fashion editor as the main character, and it’s one of my favorite books (The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger). The only really important thing is that your desire and passion come through—that alone will make the character believable.

Why, then, should you research what it is to be an assistant fashion editor, a tornado chaser, or a gunsmith? All you need is passion, right?

Mostly, you research because you love what you’re learning about, but you’re also trying to infuse that knowledge into the collective of your lifelong knowledge, and pick up on those tidbits, those holy nuggets of information you can deglaze with the broth of your novel, to add that intense, otherwise unreachable flavor.

Does a hobby or profession not make your blood dance? That’s perfectly all right—think of a place you desperately want to visit—the best thing about it is you can visit anywhere, at any time in the present or past with your writing.

Again: why does it really matter? Sure it adds flavor and realism to your work, but are those things really that important if the rest of your manuscript is to die for?

Let me give you an example of a scene—one version written as someone that put almost no time into learning about their main character’s job, and one that allowed him/herself to live and breathe the profession:

He kneaded the dough, the soft mass squeezing out between his palms and the cutting board. Behind him, too many pots to handle boiled and bubbled, but he maneuvered through the kitchen with mastery, stirring this pasta and that sauce as he let the dough rest. The chef below him handed him a nearly finished plate, his eyes hopeful. With a flourish of his hand, he sprinkled the final ingredient on top, “Perfect.”

All right, I know that was unbelievably bad, and no one would probably ever write that, but I had to make a point—someone that had no understanding of the culinary world could craft something similar.

The same scene again, but from someone that actually knows about cooking:

He leaned his full weight into the dough, kneading the sticky mass into submission. Push, turn, pull. Push, turn, pull. The mantra repeated in his head. He pressed the dough down and out into the flour, turned it up a quarter turn, and pulled it back over itself. Soon, his hands moved the dough into little more than a blur, the vibrant yeast accosting his nose. Picking it up, he pulled the dough taut, plopping the pale, silken sphere into his pre-oiled bowl. He gave it a quick turn and covered it with a tea towel, placing it next to the full stove—the heat would be enough to make it rise, for sure. A popping, burbling pot of fresh marinara called to him. A simple stir released the acidic smell into the air. He joined the flavor of the sauce with the sweet, wheaty tortellini in his head—the dish was nothing new for him at this point. The gentle footsteps behind him signaled his sous chef, a plate of chicken parmesan held out in front of him. The executive chef dipped the back of his spoon into the sauce, careful not to drip any on the edge of the plate, and tasted it—it was a common mistake. He grabbed a jar of Worcestershire from the counter and carefully added a few drops, watching them bleed across the dish, “Perfect.”

Same scene, but much different—you can see that someone knew something about cooking when writing this scene as opposed to the first. It comes from research—the person that wrote the second scene could probably make you a delicious meal thanks to all that he/she learned—I’m not so sure I would let the first author make me rice.

So, join me—learn. There are a whole lot of ways to learn about these sorts of wonderful things as well: books, movies, documentaries, professionals, natives, teachers—I bet, with a little scratching, you’ll find that your friends and families are veritable wealth-springs of interesting information. One of my uncles knows a scary amount about munitions. Another used to pan gold for a living. My first cousin once removed makes his living sewing costumes for the local drag queens in Portland. My friends range from entomologists and geologists to cake decorators and Broadway stars—use them, and I’m sure they’ll understand. I read somewhere that, if you tell people you’re writing a story, they’ll talk to you. I’m strongly considering talking to a pair of Indian Sikh that run a convenience store near my house, just to hear the tales they could tell me—and I’ve never met either of them.

So, grab a cup of coffee (two, if you’re planning to have an informative chat with someone) and get to it.

Voss

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day Two

Yes, it's really here--we've reached the second day of NaNo, the day that more or less fades into the background of memory--but day one is purely awesome, as any real Nanite would know. It starts with the way too late/way too early jitters, and you end up waking at 5 in the morning, realize that NaNo is upon us, and grab your laptop to get a headstart on all of your rivals...I mean, friends...

Then you pull 7,000 words in a day, followed by an immediate colapse onto the nearest soft and/or semi-comfortable thing, person, or animal. Or something similar to that, at least. At any rate, it's a day of pure, awesome inspiration and explosive writing raising up from the depths of hell: personally, I think that the spirits that come up on the thirty-first energize the air and that's what causes it...but you don't need my scientific mumbo-jumbo...

In short--it is NaNoWriMo, and someone (who shall remain nameless (ME) ) is far higher on his word-count than he probably should be.

That's it--I just felt like bragging,
Voss