Four snow days . . .

. . . means a six-day weekend!  Whew!  That was really long enough.  About a half-inch of ice, then a little snow on the top, then another five inches of snow on top of that.

Weather like this is a great excuse to take dogs for walks in the snow (once there was all the snow to improve the footing) and then cook a lot of chili to warm up.  I made two kinds:  one with tiny bits of minced pork shoulder and pork sausage, one with black beans and the last of the butternut squashes I picked last fall.  Tons of chipotle in both, though otherwise they were very different.  Both very good.

I also made bagels for the first time ever, using the recipe in Reinhart’s The Bread-Baker’s Apprentice.  Worked beautifully.  I sprinkled my bagels with za’atar.  Yum.  Snow days are very helpful for Reinhart’s recipes, as many of them take hours and hours while you wait for dough to proof.  I want to try the Portuguese sweet bread next, but I need a weekend or another snow day before I can make that because it takes about seven hours.  Most of it unattended, but you have to do things to the dough now and then, so not a workday project.

I also polished up the first 50 pp or so of three different potential mss. and sent them off to Caitlin.  I hope she will like them all, but what I really want is for her to say enthusiastic, flattering things about one or another.  That’s a splendid impetus to get me in writer-mode.

One of them is set in a kind of alternate Ottoman Empire.  I’ve done tons of reading for that, starting with scholarly works I borrowed from my brother and ending with the fabulous Everyday Life in Ottoman Turkey, by Lewis.  That book worked perfectly for me, especially since this is an ALTERNATE empire, not really the Ottoman Empire, so I can invent whatever details I like that have the right kind of feel.  A lot of different cool ideas came together for this story — the Ottoman-ish Empire and underground cities and tiny dragons and a woman who was a spy when she was a little girl . . . I’ve got some great scenes in mind and maybe 1/3 of the plot in my head.

Then the second is totally different.  It’s a YA, set in a world where there were massive disasters involving plagues in the distant past and, well, it’s a little hard to describe.  There’s a powerful sorceress who used to be a good guy and now might be something of a bad guy (not sure about that), and a threatened war, and well, we’ll see.  I actually have about 2/3 of the plot in my head, which is quite a lot more than usual.

The third is also a YA, probably, meant to be more fairy-tale-ish and less of a straight adventure story.  I think I know a fair bit of the plot, but the characters have sort of multiplied out of control and either they’ll have to sort themselves out and become useful or some of them will have to vanish from the script.  Won’t know which until I start really working on it.

I kind of like all of ’em, so any one Caitlin picks is fine with me.

Recent reading:  After getting that done, I had time to read books!  So I got out the really good chocolate and settled down with the crowd of critters and read Joe Abercrombie’s series, The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings.  At first I hated two of the main characters and thought, Well, not likely I’ll finish these.  But then the torturer (Glotka) started to grow on me (somehow), and I saw that that idiot Jezal was probably going to improve, and I already liked Logen.

So even though Abercrombie insists on spelling “All right” as one word, which I DETEST WITH A FIERY WHITE HOT FURY, I finished the series.  And I liked it quite a bit, although I was pretty shocked and a bit dismayed by some aspects of the ending.  I think I’ll read his fourth book, though, and hope that the part I disliked most about that ending resolves in a more satisfactory way.

I also read this interesting Literary novel:  The King’s Last Song, by Ryman.  Never read anything by him before, but it was one of the free books handed out at last year’s World Fantasy Convention.  It’s about Cambodia and it has a lovely cover.  Turned out to be beautifully written and haunting.  Loved how Ryman interwove modern Cambodia with history.

Also, for something completely different, I read the first three Kate Daniels books by Ilona Andrews.  The Book Smugglers reviews were responsible for this series winding up on my To Read Soon pile.  Urban paranormals are so dime-a-dozen right now I can’t imagine how to pick one out of the herd without a trustworthy review.  I thought the first book was only average, the second an improvement, and the third book really good — so I’m glad I kept going.  I ordered the fourth book this morning and I’m looking forward to getting it in the mail!

Now just waiting to hear back from Caitlin.  No rush (really!).  I have plenty of dark chocolate left, and I’m looking forward to a few more days off to whittle down my To Read Soon pile down a little more!

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