Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author


Check this out —

A fabulous article on verbs. I think I found it via Bibliophile Stalker, btw, but it was several days ago. Weeks? I dunno, some time ago anyway. I glanced at it then, thought it looked good, bookmarked it, and just got around to actually reading it now.

Like I said, fabulous!

I don’t think I actually laughed out loud at the use of the phrase “conjure existence itself” — great verb use there! — but I did at the term “copulative”. Copulative verbs, hah hah hah!

Though really I thought the breakdown of types of verbs was way cool.

Oh, but here’s a bit where the author (Constance Hale, a journalist) also asks a question I can answer:

Why have a character go when he could gambol, shamble, lumber, lurch, sway, swagger or sashay?

Because I am pretty sure that if you always have your characters gambol, shamble, lumber, lurch, sway, swagger, or sashay, your prose will turn out to be unbearably purple. I’d sashay with caution, myself. All those verbs better fit neatly into the overall prose!

Even if it’s true that using verbs with nuance and style lets you avoid adverbs. Which, hey, is true, not disagreeing!

Next on my list of things to get to: tracking down the other articles on writing by this author. I expect to enjoy them — maybe even print them out for future reference.

Verdict: way better than Strunk and White.

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Starting a new project! But with distractions everywhere!

My goodness, is it ever hard to write when you have a super-cute single puppy! It’s true that Puppy G plays with her “older sister”, Folly, but she’s not quite able to keep up with Folly yet, so I have to fill in as a kinder, gentler, slower playmate.

Which is a total hardship, let me tell you.

Ultimate cuteness at five weeks

I’ve registered her, finally. That means I had to decide on a show name, which is indeed Anara Give Me A Break. I’ll probably call her Giedre later, when she looks elegant enough to deserve a name like that, but right now she is just Puppy. I mean, there’s only the one. Not like I need to be able to distinguish her from a horde of others.

Also! Gardening, right? I mean, there’s all this stuff that won’t wait. Mind you, after a burst of summer back in March, it’s now too cold to plant the hot-season stuff (phooey! Tired of cold weather!). But there’s all kinds of other stuff to do. Moving the Kerrias finally. Making Kerria cuttings after cutting back the ones I moved. Planting my very first rhododendron! If it lives maybe I will get more. Planting the new, tiny ‘Butterfly’ magnolia — it’s not even knee high. Planting a bunch of nandinas. That horrible weedy strip next to the house looks so much better now that it’s been filled up with nandinas! I have little ones in the front (they should get three feet tall) and big ones behind (five to eight feet). Can’t wait for them to fill in. What a great plant. How could it have taken me so long to plant them?

Also! Moved a bunch of rocks to make an ornamental flow of rocks across this one area out back. Found four (4!) little ringneck snakes and one earth snake and two skinks.


It was totally tiny cute reptile day! Ringnecks never bite. Neither do earth snakes. You just pick ’em up and drop ’em over the fence. To protect them from the dogs, you understand.

But when it’s finally dark and the dogs are all miraculously asleep? It is actually possible to turn on the laptop. I’ve finally adjusted to the new machine (pretty much) and so I don’t accidentally resize the text anymore. Well, not very often. I never did consciously figure out what I was doing to make that happen, but the back of my brain seems to have got it sorted out because it’s nothing like as annoying a problem as it used to be.

So! 2000 words (or so) of a new project. About four pages a day. Which is very good considering a) the puppy, and b) the gardening. Plus, c) school isn’t out so there’s a big chunk of each day gone, right?

Which, no, I don’t want to talk about the new project. Later, like next year, maybe. I will probably — best guess — take it to about 20,000 words and then let it stall, because as soon as it does I have a different project I should be working on. But hey! Not on a deadline, so “should” is a relative term and I can totally switch back and forth if I feel like it. But I will feel awfully embarrassed if I fritter away the whole summer and don’t have a new ms finished by, say, September.

Plus my YA editor at Knopf made suggestions about reworking MOUNTAIN and I think I will probably try to do that, but not right away. Going to let that rest a while (like, months rather than mere weeks), get a little more distance, come back to it when I’m not bored just thinking about it.

This evening — weeding! Playing with Puppy! And THEN, we trust, another few thousand words.

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Blog / The Craft of Writing

Pacing . . .

. . . is more subjective than you might think, and I think I’m starting to figure out part of why that is. I think there are elements that contribute to a feeling of slow or dragging pace even when the pace could objectively be described as fast.

You know, a couple of years ago now, I was having dinner with my agent and various of her other clients and Robin McKinley’s book DRAGONHAVEN came up, and I said I’d loved it and everybody else said NO WAY, IT WAS TOO SLOW. And I was shocked. Shocked!

Not that it wasn’t slow, but it didn’t strike me as too slow. I really loved the story, I loved the protagonist’s voice, and it didn’t bother me one bit that the story took its time getting anywhere. For me, the pacing of DRAGONHAVEN was just right.


I’ve been re-reading Eric Flint’s 1632 series lately, whenever I want to read something but don’t want to get too caught up in a new book. And so I recently re-read THE BAVARIAN CRISIS. And, whoa, was it slooooow. It wasn’t just that nothing much was happening, it was that nothing much was happening to dozens and dozens of point-of-view characters. Who were all named Ferdinand or Fernando if they were male or Maria or Anna if they were female, and were thus impossible to keep straight. Slow, slow, slow AND confusing.

Well, at least until (at last!) Grandduchess Maria Anna’s storyline took over the book as she fled her arranged marriage and headed for the dashing romantic Don Fernando instead. She finally gave me a character and situation I could care about. But this illustrated one major problem that can make a book seem to be slow even if exciting stuff is happening: lack of a main character to attach to. Although THE BAVARIAN CRISIS really did not have exciting stuff happening either, until quite late in the book, so really almost anybody would probably find that it dragged at first.

Now! For a completely different problem! The other day I read a book by Mark L van Name called ONE JUMP AHEAD and it dragged and dragged. Only not really. Objectively, there was all this stuff going on. The protag has to get this crucial piece of equipment only the guy who’s selling it to him tries to rob him, only he knew that was going to happen so he Took Steps. And then he kidnapped this one guy and then this other guy and then made an alliance with this violent female leader of a small mercenary troop (who didn’t turn into a love interest, and that was an interesting choice on the author’s part). Anyway! Plenty of action!

So why did it seem to me that ONE JUMP AHEAD dragged so badly?

Because (I figured this out afterward) the back cover copy had made it clear to me that the main character was going to have this important discovery where he realizes that he only THOUGHT he rescued this kidnapped girl right at the beginning, because instead he was tricked by the bad guy into recapturing her after she had escaped his evil clutches.

And, see, because the back cover copy gave this important plot development away? I spent like 2/3 of the books going HEY, DUDE, FIGURE THIS OUT ALREADY. It made the WHOLE THING before the protagonist figured out he’d been used seem to drag — and it made everything AFTER that realization seem anticlimactic.

See, I think pacing is complicated. More complicated than “This book has too much description” or “There’s not enough going on in this story” or “Can’t the characters quit talking to each other all the time and DO SOMETHING?” even though all those elements can make a book seem slow if you don’t happen to appreciate plenty of description or interior monologues or whatever.

So . . .

1) Too much description (this will not usually in itself strike me as a problem)

2) Not enough action (ditto)

3) Too much space spent on interior monologues / dialogue (ditto, if the monologues/dialogues are good)

4) Too many point-of-view characters and too little attachment to any of them (I will not be able to get interested in this book)

5) An important plot point is foreshadowed but does not get delivered in a timely fashion (I hadn’t realized how much I hate this until ONE JUMP AHEAD, but it’s not unique).

6) Is there anything else?

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Recent Reading

So! Just read RA MacAvoy’s new book, DEATH AND RESURRECTION. I really enjoyed it! Really! MacAvoy hasn’t forgotten how to write! I really liked Ewen (the main character) and the secondary characters were well drawn. I enjoyed how MacAvoy made one police character a poet and the other a Mormon. I enjoyed the way Susan dyed her hair blond (she is Indian or part-Indian and fiercely defends her right to dye her hair any color she chooses).

I admit, not too crazy about the wolf-dog hybrid. Not usually crazy about super-obedient super-tough dogs in books. The writers seldom seem to know what real dogs are like and have them act like programmable robots instead of like real dogs. PLUS WOLF HYBRIDS ARE NOT SUPER OBEDIENT. Adding wolf blood does not exactly make a dog easy to train, hello? Although to be fair MacAvoy implied that there was not a lot of wolf in that dog. Still didn’t like it.

But that’s me, and personal. Here’s a more substantive comment: this book is kind of like a novella plus some related stories, rather than an actual novel.

See, there’s this big bad evil thing? And it gets defeated. And everything after that, which is about half the book, seems like an afterthought. Or really a series of disconnected afterthoughts. If I’d been editing this book — and I definitely do not claim major editing mojo — but it seems obvious to me that MacAvoy should have either a) put the defeat of the big bad evil thing at the end, or b) had some other problem that was in some way worse than the big bad evil thing, was foreshadowed early, and was dealt with in the second half of the book.

As it was . . . every part of the book was enjoyable, but it doesn’t seem very coherent as a single work. Plus, nothing after the defeat of the monster carries the increased sense of danger or urgency or importance that you would expect to see as a story builds toward the end. It’s as though you climb up a mountain . . . and then rather than being carried over a cliff by an avalanche, just clamber calmly down the other side.

So . . . hard to rate this book. I liked it! I will re-read it! I recommend it! But all with caveats.

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It helps to be awake when performing in public . . . and recent YA releases

I’m afraid my Adora was basically sleepwalking through her obedience classes on Sunday. Oh, well! She qualified in Rally anyway because, hey, Rally. I mean, when a dog loses focus in Rally you can call her name. But her heeling in formal obedience was awful. There was a thunderstorm the night before and she doesn’t like thunder, so I’ll use that as an excuse. She virtually went to sleep on the long down, thus lending credence to the notion that she was tired or just not in the mood to show.

Nevertheless, she is now Anara Adornment RN, C-RN, RA, C-RA, RE. That’s not “registered nurse,” obviously. It’s “rally novice.”

And Pippa is Sevenwoods Epiphany RN, C-RN, RA, C-RA, RE, CD, C-CD.

Also, I sort of regretted not entering Adora in the real show (the breed ring, you know). Because even sleepwalking, she would probably have won her class — she’s beaten the winner several times in the past. But, I don’t know. She really is terribly out of coat still. Although three of the confirmation people walked by her when I was practicing her stays in the lobby and independently stopped, looked at her, and said, “That’s a nice ruby.” Which she IS. Except when she wanders off to do her own thing on the off-lead heeling pattern.

So! Home again.

Also! Check this out. It’s the April YA releases. a) there are sure a lot of ’em; and b) whoa, paranormal is still popular. I never read paranormal unless a review by someone I trust cuts one out of the herd. Too hard to tell which ones might be good otherwise.

It’s interesting to see the trends, (Immortals, anyone?) but I don’t know how many sound like they would actually appeal to me. ABOVE I’m familiar with by repute, because I follow Leah Bobet on Twitter, but I haven’t read it. It’s getting good reviews, though, and it sounds like I would probably like it. I need to add it to my wish list at least . . . there, all done. So now I won’t forget it’s there.

And serial killers appear in at least four April YA releases. Four! Maybe five, not sure about number 55, go read the plot summary and see what you think. Plus maybe I missed a couple somewhere in the list. Anyway, it seems like an awful lot of serial killers. One of the books sounds especially disturbing: number 11) I HUNT KILLERS. I loved Dan Well’s book I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER and I wonder if it spawned some offspring? Which I am not sure I would like nearly as well.

Oh, look, number 46 is GRAVE MERCY by LaFevers! That one actually sounds quite good Angie at Angieville liked it, that’s a good sign. Also, Robin LaFevers wrote this really good post on second and third chances for a writer whose career seems to have stalled. That post alone makes me want to read her book. That’s another one to put on my wishlist.

How about you? Any stand out?

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Hating main characters — driving in the rain — and puppies!

Okay, I came across this across this neat post on things that make a main character not work. Oddly, I find I agree with basically the whole post! Especially this:

I don’t want to feel a sense of unending embarrassment for your main character. Watching him, I shouldn’t be constantly wincing, crossing my legs, furrowing my brow. Do not let conflict be driven by the character’s ceaseless stupidity. Endless humiliating self-driven failure ceases to be interesting.

Whoa, you said it, buddy. I hate that. Hate hate hate. You know what? I realized, oh, decades ago, that the reason not a single sitcom tv show has EVER appealed to me is that they all base their so-called humor on putting people in embarrassing situations and then laughing at them. Sorry, to me, that is just embarrassing, not funny.

Here’s the one I agree with least:

I want the main character to be the protagonist. This doesn’t need to be true, technically….you can have a main character who is a witness to the protagonist’s journey and is an observer to the changing world and the unfolding tale, but you need to be really powerful talented to pull that off and get away with it. Let your main characters drive the story as protagonists. Don’t give us a main character who somehow remains secondary to the tale being told.

And you know why I don’t agree all the way with this one? Because I’ve seen this done really, really well. I think this is what Dorothy Dunnett is doing in her (outstanding) historical series The Lymond Chronicles. Starts with, uh, GAME OF THRONES KINGS (whoops!)? Actually one of the books, the second or third, is kind of mediocre (IMHO). But still! Overall, a great series! And the driver of the action, Lymond, is not the pov protagonist. And that adds this great element of uncertainty because we don’t know what’s in Lymond’s head. It’s like watching The Hunt for Red October and truly not knowing whether Ramius is defecting or out for blood.

And, ever stumble across any of Dorothy Dunnett’s mysteries? Because they are SO MUCH FUN. I managed to get my hands on all of ’em back when that was actually hard, ie, before the internet started really making our lives easier. Anyway, again, the point of view character — always a female first-person narrator — is arguably not the protagonist. Track one down and read it and let me know if you agree.

Now! Important driving safety tip! If you have a white car? Consider turning on your lights if it is raining hard and traffic is heavy. Jeez, you guys are invisible under anything but ideal conditions.

But! Made it to Chicago just fine. Brought my laptop because I figured if cell phone reception is not fabulous at the Chicago airport, where would it be? Sure enough, reception here is great. Such a difference from my house.

Made it to the hotel after rush hour and before dark, just as planned. Whew, no traffic jams or serious slowdowns. Now taking the evening off. The show doesn’t start till nine. For me, that’s way way way late in the morning because I’m used to getting up at five thirty. So, plenty of time to do training in the lobby with distractions. I don’t want to say that I’m confident Adora and Pippa will do beautifully in Rally . . . though they ought to . . . but dogs are not robots and you cannot program them and then depend on unvarying performance. But they OUGHT to do well. Then in formal Obedience, not sure. Adora CAN do everything, but I haven’t really worked with her enough because, hey, time is not unlimited and the new puppy takes a lot of my attention and, well, I just haven’t. So crossing my fingers. I don’t think she’ll make me look like a total idiot in the ring, which is the big thing, I guess.

Then I think (not sure) that I’ve been dragooned into being a table steward for the breed ring in the afternoon. Never done that. Lots of complicated paperwork. Hope I get a chance to watch somebody experienced do it in the morning, or I might not need help from my dogs to look like a total idiot.

So! Busy! After this weekend, might (might!) have time to try writing.

I mean, other than writing an article for the Cavalier Bulletin on “swimmer puppies” (a potentially serious defect of proprioception you occasionally see in very young puppies) versus normal puppies that are just late to walk — like, how to tell the difference. I read a lot about swimmers because my new puppy was late to walk, see, and it turns out there’s a lot of confusion out there about what a “swimmer” actually is, based largely on confusion of terminology, so doing my part to clear that up. Thus we see that precision in language is important and that it’s really not okay to give two different conditions the same name. Which, actually, is not that uncommon an issue.

That article may well have a readership in the hundreds, so that’s not bad, but my guess is general interest in the topic is, shall we say, limited. Though, hey, maybe I’ll put the article on my other website (www.anaracavaliers.com) and link to it from here, because you never know, maybe tons of people would find it way exciting to read about swimmer puppies. Plus, on a website, I could include pictures! Visual aids are neat!

My own baby puppy is peachy-keen, btw. Five weeks old yesterday and bouncing around like anything. Cavaliers puppies are just hitting the too-cute-for-words stage at five weeks. I REALLY need to figure out how to add a video clip to a post. Or at least add a new picture.

Wish me luck showing!

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Have you seen The Hunger Games?

What did you think?

I, unlike some people, loved the book as a single book, not just as a trilogy. I didn’t think the “conflict felt contrived” at all. I didn’t even notice that Katniss was protected from hard choices! Which she was, that part was obvious once it was pointed out — what if, for example, the original hunger games had come down to Peeta, Katniss, and Rue? Or even Peeta, Katniss, and Thresh? Talk about tough choices then!

But I loved the immediacy of THE HUNGER GAMES and the close focus on Katniss and the world building — what great world building it is, and the way Collins skimped on physical detail didn’t bother me a bit.

So. Loved the book. The movie? I think it was fine if you had already read the book. Otherwise, how could you possibly know what’s going on in Katniss’ head?

When I watch a movie I like, nine times out of ten if there’s a book I’ll want to re-read it after watching the movie. Which I did. So that just confirmed for me HOW MUCH BETTER the book is. Though, don’t get me wrong, I thought the casting was good and the visuals were good. Katniss looked just right. So did Gayle and Peeta. Haymitch was fine. Cinna was all right. Caesar Flickerman was fabulous, just fabulous. FABULOUS.

Even so, even though almost every action was taken directly from the book — except that bit with the berries and the games director right at the end, and actually I wasn’t happy about that change — anyway the movie had a very different feel. A shallow, glossy sort of feel. A casual-adventure-movie sort of feel. A sanitized sort of feel. I think the viewer has to put the depth into the characters and the horror into world, I don’t think the movie on its own did the job.

But it’s not like I can go back in time and watch the movie without having read the book. So how about it? Was the movie great or did it lack the strength of the book?


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I spent all Easter gardening —

And by “all Easter”, I mean of course all weekend. Lessee. No little kids, so no Easter egg hunts (I do regret the lack of small children around holidays, but there you are — though I’m sure the dogs wouldn’t mind if I hid sugar eggs for them. Or liver eggs!)

Anyway! Planted the new astilbes that just arrived — I want to create a river of astilbes down the dry stream bed beside my house.

Folly posing at the beginning of the dry stream bed

That stream bed continues around the corner of the house and right down through the yard, past the fence and down the hill. The rocks turn from nice pretty round manicured rocks to big rough boulders, because luckily a neighbor has a small bulldozer which we used to move really big rocks into place just after the house was finished.

I’ll take a picture of the astilbes when they’re up, though they’ll be small this year. Also I thought about what else to plant down along that stream bed, but of course thinking doesn’t count. Plus the nursery accidentally sent me a Chaenomeles ‘Cameo’, which is not what I ordered. Naturally they’re sending the shrub I actually ordered and naturally they’re allowing me to keep the flowering quince, which I am not a huge fan of flowering quince, but if I were going to get one? It would in fact be ‘Cameo.’ So I wandered around looking for a place to put it and finally planted it over to the side of the flowers bordering the orchard. If it’s happy there and looks nice, maybe I’ll get a couple more to keep it company.

I moved the poor little climbing hydrangea vine. Its tree died. For no reason at all. Just poof! Dead. A hickory, maybe thirty or forty years old. We’ve had the odd tree die for no reason before — a couple really big hickories and a few young oaks, like thirty years old, and two perfectly fine willows. Sometimes mysterious things happen. But why to a tree where I planted a somewhat tricky and very slow-growing vine? That was just unfair. Luckily the vine is young, but it hurt me to cut off all its tendrils and hack it out of the ground. I hope it survives and recovers and starts up its new host tree. It’d be nice to see it flower before I die of old age.

But I can plant a new tree where the hickory used to be! That part will be fun! But what? A dove tree? A silverbell? A kousa dogwood? Maybe even a paperbark maple? Choices, choices . . . my life is so tough, having to narrow down the list to just one! Maybe there’s room around the place for all four if I just walk around and stare at the landscape long enough?

Too much shade and too dry for anything demanding

But doesn’t this give a great sense of space? We’re moving the pathway that used to run through this area because obviously the Vinca minor vines are eating the old pathway. Dad built that gazebo.

Check out the other side of this area as you come around my parent’s house:

These spirea? They’re ordinary Vanhoutte spirea, an excellent choice. These particular shrubs are cuttings off the bush that my grandfather planted for my grandmother when they got married. Isn’t that something? I took several more cuttings this spring to extend the white white white blizzard of flowers down farther toward the pond.

Back over at my place, I dug a bed for the kerria cuttings I made last year. I’ll move ’em as soon as they stop flowering or next week, whichever comes first. Love those things. Hard to complain about a really easy shrub that puts on a show you can see from 100 feet away! I have plans to make a lot more cuttings ASAP, which is why the established cuttings need to move. I’ve got the ordinary double, ‘Flora Plena’, I think.

Weeded, of course.

The low-growing stuff in front will produce white upward-facing flowers soon, and the daisies behind the Japanese maple will flower any day now, and I should take another picture at that point because it’s going to look great! Especially with all the weeds out!

Got all the big weeds out of the butterfly garden in the dog yard, too. Much quicker to write that sentence than do it, I assure you. The butterfly plants are out there not so much for me but for the critters, which is why the yard gets called the dog yard rather than just the back yard. I don’t worry about holes getting dug out there or whatever, either. Cavaliers love chasing butterflies, hence the butterfly garden is out there. Also! Transplanted some butterfly bush seedlings that were not in a convenient spot. Now re-mulching the whole area (also takes longer than you’d think) and thinking about adding a few more butterfly plants out there. Not sure what. Thinking’s cheap. The buy-it-now list tends to shrink when I look at the actual prices of plants.

Tied up the peas in the veggie garden.

The garden won't look this neat and trim in August, believe me.

That’s a polyantha rose in the center, ‘Marie Pavie’, a fabulous pale-pink highly scented rose that appears to be entirely immune to rose rosette, because man have we lost a lot of roses to rose rosette. But not this one.

Also spent time snarling about the weather, which was fabulous but is predicted to turn chilly and thus I am prevented from planting the summer seeds — squash, melons, okra (I like okra, okay?), beans. We’re supposedly at risk of a frost tonight. I trust it won’t happen. There’re thousands of baby apricots and cherries and plums and peaches, so frost would be bad. Luckily we’re up on a hill, so in fact we should stay a few degrees warmer than down below. Plus baby apricots are tougher than you’d think. We’ll see!

And ALL THAT is why I did not touch my computer all weekend! So no writing taking place just now! After the major gardening push or after school gets out, I promise I will get back to work! On something . . .

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An entertaining defense of a bad book, but I don’t buy it

I found this at Pub Rants, which you probably already know is agent Kristen Nelson’s blog. I gather it was a comment left in the previous post, but I didn’t go read through the comments, so I won’t swear to it. Anyway, check it out:

I’ll man up. I read the hell out of it [FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY, which apparently started as a piece of erotic fanfic]. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.

And here’s why: 

I couldn’t put it down.

True, it’s technically a mess. It’s randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like “a bacon in the night” which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses….

Here’s what I think people don’t understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining.

And then the commenter goes on to explain what she loved about this book and how little the poor writing bothered her. And that’s fine. I don’t care if people love books even though they’re poorly written and hideously edited. Much.

Except really I guess I kind of do mind. Because if punctuation is random but that doesn’t bother you, and typos abound but that doesn’t bother you, either, then, well, I guess the fact that you don’t care does bother me. Not so much because of what it says about you as a reader, though I think I would actually be happier if all readers everywhere were pickier. No.

I care because of what the reader’s lack of discrimination says to the author. And what it says to the author is: It’s okay to be lazy. It’s okay to be a slob. It’s all right if you don’t know the rules — just throw punctuation in any old place, no on cares! Sure your writing will be less effective and your readers will often be confused and have to figure out what you mean — but whatever! Close enough!

And I hate that. I think it’s insulting to your readers to not bother to edit your manuscript. I think it’s insulting to be too lazy to bother trying to put out the best book you could produce. And if your book is popular despite the fact that it’s a mess? That is nice for you but it is more than you deserve and you should be ashamed to blow off your readers that way.

Humph. Mood: Grouchy. I’m going to go eat chocolate and read something that was written BEAUTIFULLY and has EVERY SINGLE COMMA in exactly the right place.

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And Cake! / Blog

Puppy pics! And cake!

Puppy G made it up onto her feet this weekend! Woo hoo!

I was actually a bit concerned about this because the puppy was about a week late to start walking. One does expect a puppy to make it up EVENTUALLY unless she is a “swimmer”, which is a problem way different from (and much worse, and often confused with) just being too heavy. MY puppy was fine, only fat fat fat and lacking in hind-leg strength.

I did two things to help Puppy G get up:

1) Used a terry cloth surface to give her better traction than the smooth absorbent pads I usually use in the whelping box and placed rolled-up towels under the surface to give her hills and valleys to crawl over so she would build muscle strength in her hind legs, and

2) Every single time I noticed Kenya going into the box to nurse, I would let the puppy start nursing and then move her the full length of the whelping box and make her crawl back to her mom. My policy was: if you are not hungry enough to crawl back over there, you are not hungry. After all, getting a little less to eat would only be a plus for this puppy!

And it worked! She was up at three weeks and two days, just about exactly what I’ve seen before for heavy singleton puppies. If she hadn’t been up by Sunday, I was going to start swimming her in a tub of warm water to help her exercise those legs, but it wasn’t necessary, so I am happy.

This is Puppy G at one day! She weighed 4.25 oz.

This is Puppy G yesterday! She weighted 2 lbs 8.0 oz.

Quite a difference, huh? The limbs are so pink in the just-born picture because she was too premature to have a full coat. In fact, it’s amazing she had so much hair and such dark pigment. She doesn’t look like a full-term puppy, but closer than she had any right to.

And those stuffed animals she has in the box with her now are her “siblings”. She likes the lion toy best. She is active enough to spend ten minutes or so at a time playing, so I try to make the lion toy “play with her” several times a day. It even nips back, but only very gently. Soon Puppy G will be steady enough to really benefit from playing with Folly (four months old) and Dara (two years and my very best and gentlest babysitter).

I’m thinking of naming this puppy Anara Give Me A Break for her show name, btw, and the name I like the best for a call name? It’s Lithuanian — Giedre. Pronounced GYEH-dray. I think I could learn to say that (“Giedre! Come!” it sounds all right) and doesn’t the word look neat? Unusual and distinctive. Plus, the semi-famous Giedre right now is a Lithaunian model (I found out while goggling pronunciation). Naming a show dog after a model is perfectly reasonable.

I celebrated the puppy walking by baking a cake! (Seriously — I promised myself I would try out this keen new recipe the day the puppy got up on her feet).

This started as a Moss Rose Cake and I didn’t make very many changes. (You know, I always thought I followed recipes until I started posting some? And I was just wrong, because actually I almost never follow the recipe all the way through. It took me by surprise.)

Anyway, the cake!

(Mostly) Moss Rose Cake

This is a sponge cake, not a butter cake. If you do it right, you’ll get a light, airy cake that sort of seems like a cross between a normal cake and an angel food cake. The original Moss Rose cake uses almond extract, but since you’re using a coconut-orange filling? I thought it made sense to use coconut and orange extracts instead. Also! Please notice that you need to put the filling ingredients together ahead of time!


3 C sweetened flaked coconut
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
4 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp sugar


4 eggs
2 C sugar
1 C hot milk — I actually used almond milk because I had some that needed to get used up, and it worked just fine, but I wouldn’t actually suggest it or anything. Just FYI.
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 C cake flour
2 tsp baking powder — which not all sponge cakes use, but it does help guarantee lift
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coconut extract — I would use 1/2 if I did it again
1/4 tsp orange extract — I would keep this at 1/4


1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp orange extract

Combine the filling ingredients and chill overnight.

Now, beat the eggs until frothy. Beat in the sugar and beat until thick, like four minutes or so. Combine the milk and oil and have that ready. Combine the dry ingredients and have that ready. Beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat in half the milk mixture. Repeat, ending with the last third of the flour mixture. Beat in extracts. Pour into 3 8″ or 2 9″ cake pans (it’s best to line them with circles of parchment paper and spray the circles with baking spray). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, a bit less if you’re using the larger cake pans. I took them out when a tester came out of the center with a few moist crumbs stuck to it, and that was perfect.

Let the cakes cool ten minutes and turn out onto racks. Peel off the parchment. Cool.

Make the frosting: Mom commented that this is like seven-minute frosting. What it reminded me of was making marshmallows. It’s VERY sweet, and obviously you won’t need it all if you’re making a two-layer cake, but I didn’t want to deal with cutting the amount down (how do you cut the recipe by a third when you’re using two eggs?), so I made the full amount. Anyway!

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan to 240 degrees. While you wait, beat the egg whites just until frothy. When the syrup is hot enough, pour it into the egg whites in a thin stream while beating on medium speed. Then beat on high until quite stiff peaks form. I didn’t beat it quite long enough and the frosting showed a distinct tendency to ooze gently down the sides of the cake, so don’t get bored and quit early. I bet it’ll take at least eight to ten minutes to beat it till stiff. When you think you’ve beaten it enough, beat in the extracts.

Assemble the cake: Put the first layer on a platter and spread with frosting. Sprinkle with about a cup of the filling. Repeat, so there will be coconut-orange filling on the top of the cake. Frost the sides of the cake. I chilled the cake to help set the frosting and make it easier to slice the cake, but I don’t know that you’d need to. Like all cakes, it’s better eaten at room temp rather than cold.

The frosting is getting a little crackly crust in places after being stored overnight in the fridge, so I don’t know, you might want to make this when there’s enough people around to eat basically the whole thing the same day it was made. People with a serious sweet tooth could also help you take care of any extra frosting you might have! It’s a little over the top for me!

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