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March 9th, 2014
I know he looks sort of solemn here, but that is just an illusion. He is as bouncy and playful as any five-week-old puppy ever. Or Cavalier puppy, at least; I’m sure he is calm compared to a terrier puppy. He has hit every behavioral benchmark right on time, well, a tiny bit late as you expect for a single puppy. Unfortunately I’ve had too many opportunities to observe that single puppies start off slow (they are understimulated, obviously). They catch up by about six weeks.
I know I said I might swear off showing and just quit the whole dog thing entirely, other than just having dogs as pets of course, but . . . and I know that this puppy is only five weeks old, and we do not truly evaluate puppies this young, but . . . probably I am completely insane to even consider this, but . . . I am thinking that right now, this is a very, very promising puppy. For the first time, I am thinking of keeping this baby. I’m thinking that he might be exactly the type of puppy I was breeding for: a fabulous show-stopping puppy who owns the ring from the moment he steps into it. The kind of puppy who catches your eye right from the first and never lets you look away. That kind of puppy. I remember seeing this puppy’s, um, great-grandfather, in the ring. He was maybe the first dog that ever caught my eye like that. Not a perfect dog, but extraordinarily showy.
Well, well . . . early days, early days. Maybe he’ll only have one testicle descend, disqualifying him completely. Maybe his bite will go off, though it’s fine now. Maybe he’ll have serious freckles, or small eyes, or or or . . . who knows. To walk into the ring and compete right at the top, he would need to be practically perfect in every way. Which is exactly what I hoped for from this breeding. But obviously hard to get.
If I did keep him . . . maybe I would breed him just one time. Or buy a bitch who would be a total outcross and breed him to her. Yeah, that would be insane, another huge gamble. Or get with a friend and make a deal to breed him to one of her girls in return for a puppy back, or something. He would need to be so fabulous for me to do any of that. But maybe . . . argh, who knows. Where IS my crystal ball?
Anyway, I thought you all might like to know that this little guy is perfectly fine.
March 9th, 2014
So, supposing you took my advice and made crystallized ginger? Now that you have all that crystallized ginger, not to mention all the ginger syrup, what can you do with it?
Of course you could just make a LOT of double-chocolate ginger cookies, which is an excellent idea and don’t let me talk you out of it. I’ve been adding twice the crystallized ginger in that recipe, btw, and reducing the chocolate chips to one cup, so that ratio is totally up to you.
But supposing you would like to branch out a bit, here are a couple other recipes you might try:
King Arthur Flour Gingered Oatmeal Muffins
I like these a lot. They rise surprisingly well, too. For me, this recipe made more than 12 muffins, and I was glad I didn’t just insist on putting all the batter into just 12 muffin cups. They also came out of the muffin tin pretty easily.
1 C white whole wheat flour
½ C oat flour, which you can make by grinding some oatmeal in a food processor or (easier, if you have one) a spice grinder
¾ C rolled oats
¾ C brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 C plus 2 Tbsp milk
¼ C vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
½ C finely diced crystallized ginger
Toss the crystallized ginger with a spoonful of flour and set aside. Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and fold in. Add the crystallized ginger. The batter was quite thin but everything was fine, so probably you should expect that. Spoon or pour the batter into greased muffin cups, probably about fifteen cups if yours are the same size as mine. Bake at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes. Let cool five minutes and remove from the pan.
Now! You could have sprinkled these with a streusel topping before baking, as KAF suggests, and I’m sure that would be good. But I dipped the warm muffins into ginger syrup and then Demerara sugar. They were great.
King Arthur Flour Ginger-Molasses Cookies
Another KAF recipe. Usually they’re very reliable, you know. Anyway, this is a nice, soft type of cookie, which is what I prefer. I did mess with this recipe a bit, as you will see. What? You can never have too many chocolate-ginger cookies.
1 C butter
1 C sugar
¼ C molasses
¼ C ginger syrup (or more molasses)
2 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (the recipe called for 1 ½ tsp)
½ tsp cloves (the recipe called for 1 tsp)
1 tsp ginger (I believe the recipe called for ½ tsp)
3 ½ C flour (or reduce the flour by 2 Tbsp and add ¼ C. cocoa, or by 3 Tbsp and add 1/3 C cocoa)
½ to ¾ C crystallized ginger (not in the original recipe)
¾ C bittersweet chocolate chips (not in the original recipe)
Oh, all right, actual directions: Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in molasses and ginger syrup. Beat in baking soda, salt, and spices. Beat in eggs. Stir in flour, or flour and cocoa powder. Stir in crystallized ginger and / or chocolate chips. Scoop onto lined baking sheets or else roll into 1 ½ inch balls, roll or dip into coarse sugar (such as Demerara), and place on baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on sheets 10 minutes, then cool completely on racks.
Lemon Ginger Scones
2 C flour
¼ C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ butter, cold, cut in pieces
½ C chopped crystallized ginger
Zest of one (or two) lemons
2/3 C buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter. Stir in the ginger and lemon zest. Stir in the buttermilk. Knead gently till the dough comes together. Pat out into 7 inch circle. Cut into eight wedges and place on lined baking sheet (or freeze). Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a touch golden. Cool on racks, or better, serve warm.
I would suggest making a glaze with powdered sugar and lemon juice, since after all you just zested that lemon. Alternatively, nothing stops you from drizzling these scones with ginger syrup. Maybe try some each way? Anyway, mmmm, scones.
You can always freeze scones at the cut-into-wedges stage, and I always do unless baking for a crowd. Freshly baked scones are just better, and you can bake them right out of the freezer. Of course it adds a few minutes to the baking time, but not enough to signify.
March 8th, 2014
So, yesterday, I visited Troy Buchanan High School, which is in Troy, MO, which in case you are curious is a bit north and west of St. Louis. This was part of a Writer’s Week, where they invite local authors to come speak to their students and also allow student and faculty to showcase their writing — it’s a pretty big deal, very well organized, and I really enjoyed it.
Plus! The art students get involved.
This is a ceiling tile — ceiling panel? — whatever they are called. The picture was painted by a senior high school student and it is FABULOUS.
Every author who visits gets a ceiling tile, and then after the Writer’s Week events are over, the ceiling tiles are set into place in the library ceiling.
I noticed both Antony John and Brian Katcher had ceiling tiles from previous years — this year, Antony John was there the same day I was, but unfortunately I couldn’t stay all day, because I would have liked to meet him. I really liked his contemporary YA FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, but didn’t know till I saw his waiting ceiling tile that he also has a dystopian series in progress. I’ll have to check that out. You trip over YA dystopias everywhere you turn these days, I know, but in fact I haven’t read a huge number of them, so I’m not burned out.
Brian Katcher wasn’t there this time, but was in a previous year — probably he will be next year, since his new book will be out. You may recall that I really admired his book ALMOST PEFECT, and I do have his earlier title downstairs on my TBR pile, but I haven’t read it yet. I will probably wind up getting his newest book when it comes out, reading that one, and then finally going back and reading the first (PLAYING WITH MATCHES).
I think it would be fun to make sure we are all there next year and then get together for dinner or something. And I should really look up the other authors who were there, because who knows, maybe I would like their work, too.
Anyway, the kids were great, the involvement of the art department is so cool, and I am still floored by that fabulous ceiling tile, and the entire ceiling.
March 7th, 2014
A fun graphic here, “If the Moon were only one pixel.” Click through and start scrolling over to the right. Odd how entertaining empty space can be.
Loosely related: lots more Earthlike planets being discovered, apparently. On the other hand, I’m not 100% sure that this article is defining “verified” as strictly as, say, I might. Maybe I just read it too quickly, but it looks to me like “verified” might be “statistically likely to be there,” which to me is a rather different thing.
I feel like I should go find something else related to planets or space now, so here: Best Space Photos of 2013. I don’t guarantee they’re the “best”, but they’re pretty cool. It’s actually kind of hard to beat the one of Vesuvius. Wow, that is quite a volcano, even if it is not so much a space photo, just a photo taken from space.
March 5th, 2014
First, here‘s Chachic’s review of BLACK DOG. I’ve been keeping an eye out for this — I knew she’d write her review eventually!
Chachic says: “I did wonder if the story would have been richer if we also got Miguel’s POV but it wasn’t a major issue.” And, “There’s also a tentative romance in the first book that I’m hoping will be further developed in the sequel. I felt that the love story was barely there and would have loved more scenes between the two characters.”
To which I can only say: patience! Actually, it will take quite a lot of patience for one of those points to be addressed: Miguel is not a pov character in the sequel either — but I hope a third book will appear in time, in which he will be a very important pov character. It’s actually his scenes from the middle of the book which have written themselves in my head.
I tend to have pov characters multiply, which in my opinion can be a problem if it goes too far, so if I do write Book III and Miguel is a pov character, I believe I will have to restrict one of the other current pov characters to secondary status for that book. But we’ll see. This is all for the future.
Meanwhile! Here is a guest post of mine, up today at Write All The Words. This post was supposed to address gender, and it does. I will say that my personal experience with female protagonists and female authors seems to have been broader than many other girls apparently experienced. It may not be clear from the post, so I will just say that I was in high school in the eighties. I hope that people comment on this post, because I am always very interested in other people’s experiences with regard to this issue.
March 5th, 2014
So, I saw this post over at Rinn Reads, a blog I’m glad someone pointed out to me because I immediately said Yeah!. Then I said, Oh, memoirs? Because to me the experience of reading a memoir is identical to the experience of reading fiction, only (usually) not as interesting, because, well, fewer dragons, right?
There are exceptions, though. Have any of you read EIGHTH MOON?
Here’s what Amazon says about it: “Sansan was four when the Communists took Tientsin. She was seventeen when she left China in 1962. This is her story of the years between: how she lived, what she hated, whom she loved; a sturdy, stubborn girl’s true record of an existence none of her readers has ever known.”
Here’s what I say about it: It’s an amazing story. Sansan is so ordinary, and her circumstances are so extraordinary, and the juxtaposition gives you whiplash. I knew about the Cultural Revolution, but this will bring that to life — on a very small scale, because this is a story about Sansan’s life, not a political treatise. What she knows about is what’s happening to her and to her family and neighbors. This is a story I keep giving away, but luckily paper copies are easy to come by and not expensive, and the Kindle edition I linked is also inexpensive.
But memoir is definitely not at ALL what I think of when I think of nonfiction.
I read a lot of nonfiction when I’m supposed to be working on a project of my own. Since that’s the case at the moment, I currently have on my coffee table:
WHAT JANE AUSTEN ATE AND CHARLES DICKENS KNEW, by Daniel Pool. It is quite entertaining, plus since I’ve been reading Regencies lately, it’s nice to finally know the difference between a guinea and a pound (I thought they were the same thing, but it turns out not quite) and how to play whist. Did you know that when a gentleman escorted a lady down to supper at a ball, he stood by while she ate, but he didn’t eat anything himself? I had no idea.
WHAT IF THE MOON DIDN’T EXIST by Neil Comins, an entertaining look at what happens to Earth-like planets if they form under different conditions.
A MAN FOR ALL SPECIES, by Marc Marrone, which is supposed to be anecdotes by a guy who is owns a pet store — one presumes he doesn’t sell puppy mill puppies, but I haven’t read the book yet — anyway, the store is called Parrots of the World, so I expect it’s one of those specialty places that raise their own parrots and things.
EVERYDAY LIFE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA, edited by Kathleen Adams and Kathleen Gillogly, which I want to read to develop a SE Asian “flavor” for a book I want to write sometime. Don’t hold your breath; I only have a few pages of that one written, plus I suspect there is a dragon in it somewhere.
ART THROUGH THE AGES, edited by Crosby, because it was free to a good home and I picked it up. I’m hoping it is nice to flip through, but this is not likely to be something I read from cover to cover.
DOLPHIN SOCIETY by Karen Pryor, which I’ve read before but want to read again.
HOW TO READ A FRENCH FRY, by Russ Parsons, a book on food science — Parsons explains why French fries don’t brown as well in perfectly clean new oil as in oil that was used once already, and lots of other things. I’ve read this one before, too.
Okay, all those books really are just sitting here on my coffee table. I didn’t cheat by going and getting a couple more to pile up here.
It’s true that fiction is more compelling on a must-turn-the-page level. That’s why I don’t read much fiction when I’m working on something of my own. But . . . honestly, if you don’t ever voluntarily read anything but fiction, I think you’re missing out. And as a writer, I know I would be. I may not be doing the research a true historical novel would require, that’s way too much work for me, but I believe that any writer will do better worldbuilding if they actually know something about the world. Something deeper than the snappy soundbites we’re handed by pop culture and mass media.
March 4th, 2014
A good post at Janet Reid’s blog.
My own take: I used to hate all prologues. Then I wrote a book with a prologue. Then I wrote another books with a prologue. Now I have to limit myself to declaring that I hate all unnecessary, infodumpy, pointless prologues.
And if I were writing a query, I would call the prologue “chapter 1″.
Good comments on this post, btw. My favorite: “I would never skip a prologue. But then, I also read the acknowledgments, dedication, author’s notes and the back of my cereal box in the morning.”
Me, I never read cereal boxes. Now that I no longer eat cereal.
March 3rd, 2014
Of other people’s books, positive and negative.
I know I am probably a bad person for enjoying negative reviews of other people’s books. But sometimes I can’t help it. In case you have the same taste, I’ll start with those. Here are a couple I have particularly enjoyed lately.
First, this is a YA story, WATERMUSIC, published in the eighties. Charlotte takes it apart, fairly gently but quite thoroughly.
“In case you ever want to write a high school essay on this book, I will help: Laura’s mother and the anthropologist are both, in different ways, making bad choices by distancing themselves from the world of insects and over-ripe cantaloupe (which is what the swamp mermaid smells like). One can assume that the writer thinks the eighties are/were bad and we are/were killing too many insects with our household toxins, but also thinks that pure thought, devoid of emotion, is bad and we must embrace as well the Mermaid of Fecundity or something.”
I must add: of course there were brilliant YA stories published in the eighties! (Of course I know Charlotte knows that, too.) Having declared that, am only able to think of a couple. It turns out Red Moon and Black Mountain was actually published in 1978, so I guess it doesn’t technically count, though what’s a couple years between friends? But! The Blue Sword! The first Alanna stories were published in the eighties (I didn’t discover Tamora Pierce till decades later). And, hah, DWJ was publishing in the eighties, so there you go.
It really would be interesting to look at YA themes through the decades, though — the reviews published of Watermusic at the time are so interesting. I’m glad Charlotte tracked those down.
Okay, now for something much newer and quite different. No one does devastating reviews with such a fine scalpel as Liz Bourke. Check out her recent review of Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson.
“Unwrapped Sky takes all the creative power of language and sets it in service of hollow symbols of dissolution and decay. It turns revolution into a directionless treatise on corrupted wills and compromised moralities: its characters are more symbols than affective individuals.”
Wow, rush right out. I don’t mind sharing this review with you because I’m pretty sure people who like my books are going to join me in stepping slowly away from this one, so I don’t feel bad in saying it sounds awful. I must say, if Davidson had succeeded brilliantly at what he was apparently trying to do . . . I would still totally detest this book:
“Sad, morally compromised people, they drift about rather aimlessly, being sad and ineffectual and morally compromised and reflecting on the state of the world and the state of their selves. . . . It all seems very impressed with its own profundity. That rarely turns out well.”
I don’t know about you, but “dismal” is the single word that comes to mind with all that drifting aimlessly. This is not the tone I enjoy in a book, even if the author brings it off. The review, on the other hand, is great fun. You should particularly click through and read the whole thing so that you can appreciate the last line.
On the other hand! Don’t you enjoy reading recent positive reviews of books you read ages ago and loved? Here is The Book Smugglers’ recent joint review of Jaran by Kate Elliot. This review also raises an important question about what constitutes Science Fiction Romance and what expectations readers have of a book called “Science fiction” versus “science fiction romance.”
I have not previously been aware of anybody identifying a subgenre of “science fiction romance,” and frankly I think the name should have a stake driven through its heart pronto. The term is going to drive people who aren’t big on romance (like me) away from excellent books and as night follows day, books that are called “anything romance” are going to be dismissed as nonserious or lesser quality. Ana nails this by saying “I admit I was surprised at how much of the novel focus on the developing romance between the protagonist Tess and the leader of the Jaran, Ilya. Because I was not expecting it: this seems to show how I have certain expectations of Science Fiction I was not even aware of. If it is not called SFR, I am not going to be expecting a strong storyline involving romance and sure as hell won’t be expecting it to be that good.”
Anyway, they both loved the book. So did I, though I was not keen on how some aspects of the story played out in the sequels, and felt strongly that the series did not come to a satisfying conclusion. So personally, I would suggest reading Jaran as a standalone.
And finally, I really enjoyed this review of Troubled Waters over at Ivy Book Bindings. I don’t always agree with Keertana about specific books — do you know, she actually did not like The Blue Sword? Can you believe that? But we are on the same page when it comes to Troubled Waters.
Keertana also adds, “The world of Elemental Blessings is one of those few fantasy realms I wouldn’t hesitate to live in.” That is so true!
So there you go: a handful of reviews that caught my eye last week. Enjoy!
March 3rd, 2014
As a follow up to the previous post and comments, if you really did try to match excellent YA titles for age and venue and tone, what would you come up with? Here are some that occurred to me.
Jellico Road and Tomorrow When the War Began I’m trusting Maureen’s opinion about Jellico Road for this, plus the Amazon description of the book, because as you recall, I haven’t read it.
The Floating Islands and Airborn by Kenneth Oppel — they’re both adventure stories with elements of flight.
The Attolia series and The Riddlemaster series — the whole series for each because that’s only fair, right?
The Changeling Sea and The Truth-Teller’s Tale. To me, these two seem to be aimed at the same age group and to have something of the same lyrical fairy-tale tone. Agree / disagree?
What are some other good ones? The Sunbird and what? Something historical-ish? It would have to be something intense. What would work?
The Year of the Griffin and what? Another school story? I hesitate to suggest Harry Potter. What other school stories are there? I mean, I know there must be heaps, but it’s not a subgenre I’m all that familiar with.
Jinx and what? Oh, how about the Enchanted Forest books by Patricia Wrede? I think those would match up pretty well. Wait till the third Jinx story is out and match up each series as a whole.
Oh, hey, what would you match up against The Scorpio Races? Something intense and tightly self-contained. I’ve got something on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t quite think of it.
Anybody want to finish any of these off or offer a pairing of your own?
March 2nd, 2014
It’s a YA / MG faceoff for great and underappreciated titles! I do think some of these are pretty well known, probably only underappreciated in the sense that they’re not at the level of The Hunger Games . I also think there is a very wide range here, from the young end of MG to the high end of YA, which has got to add an extra layer of difficulty to the judging.
But! I must say, I thought this was a great idea even before I saw The Floating Islands is on the list. Then I spotted Islands and was instantly much more excited. I’ve read about half the books in Round 1 and, wow, I love every single one of them. Very nice indeed to see one of mine in this company.
Unfortunately, I haven’t actually read both titles in even a single given pair. This isn’t strictly a coincidence; a lot of these are not fantasy titles and those are mostly the ones I haven’t read. In fact, only two pairs of faceoffs involve books where both stories are fantasy. I wonder if that will make the judging easier or more difficult? I would be a terrible judge for most of these faceoff challenges because I think I haven’t read enough contemporary to be a fair judge.
Okay, looking carefully at the faceoff pairs:
I have Chime down on my TBR pile, but I haven’t read either it or the one it’s paired with. It’s the only pair where I haven’t read either title.
I personally loved Court Duel, but was not quite as enthusiastic about Crown Duel, so I wonder how that will work out. I have The Demon King on my actual physical TBR pile downstairs, but alas, haven’t read it.
I haven’t read A Face Like Glass, can you believe that? After everything everyone’s said about it? But I haven’t, yet. It’s just as well, as I somehow don’t feel I’m likely to be objective in judging that particular pair of titles. : )
I know Maureen loved Jellico Road, but I haven’t read it (yet). Though the Stephanie Burgis’ Kat series is charming, it reads a bit young for me and I don’t think I would be a good judge for it. I know Charlotte liked this title but preferred the second and third books. Like the one by Sherwood Smith, I suspect a contest here might come out differently if the challenge involved the second book rather than the first. I also wonder whether it’s quite fair to put a young MG title against a YA title such as Jellico Road. But my impression is that several other pairs do this, too.
You know what *I* would have put against Jellico Road? Tomorrow, When the War Began. Both set in Australia, both contemporary (-ish), both with themes involving war. Hah, THEN let the judges try to pick! I must say, Jellico Road is moving up my must-read list. Or at least my must-acquire list. Heaven knows when I’ll have time to read. Next month, maybe.
Okay, moving on, I think it’s going to be very difficult for ANYTHING to beat The King of Attolia; I’m glad I’m not facing off against MWT. That’s the first pair that I’ll just call, even though I haven’t read the one by Susan Cooper and even though I loved The Dark is Rising.
Nobody is likely to beat Patricia McKillip for me, plus I haven’t read The Road Home, but I know it is a historical. So that is going to be a tough pair to judge — I wouldn’t want to do it, even if I wasn’t going in biased, which I would be. I do know that Angie at Angieville really really REALLY loves The Road Home.
If I’d been arranging these pairs, I’d have put The King of Attolia against The Riddle Master of Hed. Talk about an impossible judging assignment! There would be NO WAY.
Of course Sorcery and Cecilia is wonderful, and here’s one where I think the first book is very clearly better than its sequels.
And! Of course, here is DWJ to wind out the contest. Would you have picked The Year of the Griffin? I might have, because I really loved that one, but if you were going to pick just one DWJ title, which would it be? I would probably have picked Dogsbody. Or The Power of Three.
Besides Tomorrow, When the War Began, I could easily pick a handful more. The Truthteller’s Tale. The Adoration of Jenna Fox. An Alien Music. The Sky is Everywhere. There’s no end! Any of you have a definite pick you’d love to have seen here?