Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Sales, sales, sales

Hey, just noticed by the merest chance that House of Shadows is 78% off for the trade paperback today!

That price might last till Christmas, but why chance it? If you’re shopping for a fantasy-loving relative or friend, this is a great time to pick up a couple of copies.

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Rooibos Shortbread Cookies

Christmas baking is a biiiig thing for me, as you may know. I started baking cookies a week or two ago (of course I am concentrating on varieties of cookies that freeze perfectly) (freezing perfectly is defined as tasters can’t tell the difference between freshly baked and cooled versus frozen and thawed.)

No cookies freeze better than shortbread. You can also freeze the dough in logs and slice and bake it later, but I’m not doing that this year because suddenly realizing I need to thaw and slice and bake cookies before I can put together a cookie platter or box … No.

This is a new recipe for me. I got it from Michelle Muenzler, who is known as the Cookie Lady at conventions because she shows up with a neverending supply of cookies. This is undoubtedly an excellent way to meet people and make friends! I liked her Earl Gray Shortbread best of the ones she brought to World Fantasy, but these are the ones I chose to make myself:

Rooibos Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
3 Tbsp loose Hibiscus Rooibos tea (“The Four Redheads of the Apocalypse’s Scarlet Women” from Tea Punk teas)
1/2 tsp salt

Put butter, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar into a large bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, tea, and salt. Mix until a dough is formed.

Roll dough into logs (1″ thick or so) and tightly wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Slice logs into thin disks (2mm or so) and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake until edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

I didn’t take a picture of the finished cookies, but these from Food 52 are very similar. The cookies are thoroughly speckled little disks.

I made my cookies exactly according to Michelle’s recipe, except I accidentally ordered and thus used a different brand of Rooibos tea. I found them practically addictive. I will add that my brother said they were “too savory” for Christmas cookies. You should obviously make them and judge for yourself.

I have lots and lots of Rooibos tea left, and since I don’t care for tea, which tastes to me like very slightly flavored water, I expect I will use it to make … oh, scones, say. And cheesecake. It turns out there are many recipes using Rooibos tea.

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The Sausage Princess

At tor.com, a post by Ursula Vernon: The Sausage Princess, or, Reshaping the Bizarre Structure of Fairy Tales

This is not a very, um, catchy title, as far as I’m concerned. But hey, Ursula Vernon! Let’s see what she has to say:

So there’s a Grimm Brothers fairy tale about a mouse, a bird, and a talking sausage who live together. (I am not making this up.) The sausage is the cook. In order to season food, she—yes, she’s identified as a female sausage—jumps into the pan and slithers around, sweating grease and spices on the food.

Anyway, one day the bird decides that the mouse and the sausage have it too easy and they all switch jobs. The sausage goes out to gather wood and is set upon by a dog, who claims (I am still not making this up) that the sausage is guilty of carrying forged letters and thus he is allowed to eat her. The bird sees this, goes home, and tells the mouse. They decide to stay together in memory of their friend the sausage, but then the mouse does the cooking, jumps into the pot like the sausage, and is of course roasted alive. The bird, horrified, accidentally sets the house on fire and drowns in the well trying to get water to put it out.

Good heavens. Is Vernon making this up despite the disclaimers? I can’t quiiiite see any possible version of this story working for me. Well.

The moral of this story is presumably that everyone’s job is hard and you should just keep your eyes on your own work, and also that mice are not bright and talking sausages are often guilty of postal fraud.

Now, I retell fairy tales for a living. Wearing one hat, I’m the author of the Hamster Princess series for kids, which are all based on fairy tales, and wearing my other hat, I’m T. Kingfisher, and write novel-length fairy tale retellings for grown-ups.

Neither one of me is going to be able to do a good retelling of the Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage.

Good, good. Please do not try.

But the post is good though! Click through and read the whole thing, which is actually about why Vernon finds fairy tales (SOME fairy tales) a useful jumping off point for writing her own stories and novels.

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Happy Cyber Monday!

It is perhaps indicative of something that I have so far glanced at and ignored emails advertising sales for kitchen supplies and books, but found Chewy.com’s targeted advertising irresistible.

Hey, I go through a lot of dog treats in a year. (Or a month.) (Or a week.)

Also, I ordered another x-pen, which is the single most useful item most dog owners don’t have. Over the weekend, Dora was in an x-pen some of the time because she hurt her back, poor baby, and I didn’t want her jumping on the couch or going up stairs without help. She is better today, but as it happens I want an x-pen for the puppies as well, so what the heck, Cyber Monday seems like a good time to get an extra.

At some point I should look at books and kitchen supplies and stuff as well.

You know what it means that we are past Thanksgiving? It means that my own personal NaNoWriMo period is starting. November is a terrible time for me to pick up a big writing project, not only because Thanksgiving weekend is in November but because WFC and WindyCon took out consecutive weekends plus the young puppies kept me hopping. But you know what’s coming up on December 18th? Christmas Break, that’s what. A full month where I’m home a lot more, plus at least two of the puppies will be leaving me and the others will be older. (The boys have homes waiting impatiently; Girl 1 isn’t spoken for but I hope a wonderful home for her will turn up in the near future.)

Anyway, lots more time for writing coming up in mid-December, and I am getting set for that by aiming for 1000 words a day for my “real” WIP plus “some” work on something else in the evening. My mornings go like this: Get up a touch before five, feed the puppies, feed the adults, everyone out, everyone out again, puppies asleep. Shower, then open the computer at around 6:30 and take a stab at adding 1000 words before 7:30. Breakfast, puppies out, puppies in for playtime, puppies out, puppies in their room, and then I get ready to leave for work at 8:30 or so.

That leaves time for baking cookies in the afternoon (along with taking puppies out) and then working on some other project in the evening.

Plus I don’t seem to have all that much time for reading right at the moment, but I just started Barbara Hambly’s newest Benjamin January novel, Murder in July. Looks good so far.

Okay, I know it’s not time for a Friday Puppy Post, but I will call this an Official Introduction Post. Thus:

Boy 1: Anara Leitmotif, Lee for short

Boy 2: Anara Lunar Eclipse, Lex for short

Girl 1: Anara Luna Moth, Layla for short

Girl 2: Anara Lavender Rose, Leda for short. Hey, I don’t like Rosie or even Rosa. Nor Lavi nor Veni nor anything else I could think of, while I do like the name Leda. Also, you probably know that Leda was the mother of the beautiful Helen. Maybe someday my Leda will have a daughter so beautiful she launches a thousand metaphorical ships…

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We are getting fed up with the Doomsday Planet

Did you know there has been a lot of Doomsday Planet fear-mongering recently? I had no idea. But this is funny:

This NASA Scientist Has Had Enough of Your Ridiculous Planet X Doomsday Theories

David Morrison is a real NASA scientist who studies real planets and makes real discoveries about the real universe.

Unfortunately for him, Morrison’s duties also include debunking perennial Internet theories that a fake planet is about to destroy Earth, which was supposed to happen in 2003, then 2012, then September 23, then October – and now the world is supposed to end again some time Sunday.

HAD you heard about this? I didn’t even have a chance to roll my eyes about any of this Doomsday Planet stuff. Sounds like Morrison has heard about it waaaaay too often:

“You’re asking me for a logical explanation of a totally illogical idea,” Morrison said on this week’s SETI Institute podcast, after the hosts asked for his take on the third scheduled apocalypse in three months.

“There is no such planet, there never has been, and presumably there never will be – but it keeps popping up over and over.”

And this:

“I now receive at least one question per day, ranging from anguished (‘I can’t sleep; I am really scared; I don’t want to die’) to the abusive (‘Why are you lying; you are putting my family at risk; if NASA denies it then it must be true.’)”

How have I missed out on all the fun?

Actually, I do have a guess about that. Maybe I have heard of this particular doomsday prediction before, but paid no attention to it and therefore forgot about it immediately. Morrison has to pay attention because he gets all those questions and it’s his job to answer them. If I were him, I would write or or two versions of a reply and just paste them into emails instead of actually writing a new response each time. Maybe he does.

If doomsday theories amuse you, click through and read the whole thing.

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Favorite cover art

Which one is your favorite?

I have a hard time choosing. The styles are so different. Maaaaybe I might like Mountain’s cover the best? Hard to say!

I do especially like how Mountain and Winter form such a visually balanced pair: hot and cold. As you know, Mountain is indeed set in a hot desert type of region, while of course Winter has a much colder setting. That is just coincidence; it’s not like I was thinking of one book while writing the other and going, “Gosh, I think I’ll make the settings kind of opposites!” But it’s neat it turned out that way.

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Interesting advice that is not quite legal advice

Also from the Passive Voice Blog, this, in response to news about Disney being accused of plagiarizing “Pirates of the Caribbean:”

When PG worked for a large advertising agency during the Mad Men days, instructions to employees who received creative ideas in a letter or other writing from any person outside of the agency went something like this:

As soon as the employee realizes the content of a letter, document, etc., he/she will immediately stop reading and mark the place in the letter where they stopped.

The employee will immediately place the letter into an envelope and securely seal the envelope.

The employee will hand-deliver the envelope to the legal department, tell one of the lawyers what it contains and be available to answer questions in the event it is necessary to prepare an affidavit describing the entire sequence of events.

Then comes the advice to authors (though The Passive Guy specifies that this is not legal advice) (He is a lawyer and is sensitive on the topic of offering legal advice on blogs), which seems well worth reading, though I’m not sure I would follow it:

If a friend tells you about a story he/she is writing that sounds similar to a book you’re working on, tell your friend there are some similarities between the two plots so it’s clear you are already working on your story and you don’t have anything to hide. During this conversation, you don’t have to act like you’re talking to the secret police. You can be friendly.

Don’t add anything distinctive to your MS that your friend told you about unless it’s already in your MS.

You might send emails to a couple of your uninvolved friends or associates describing what has happened.

Save your MS as it existed on the date of your conversation with your author friend in at least a couple of different places.

Think twice about providing reading services, editing, advice, etc., on your friend’s book until after yours is published.

If your book is going to be traditionally published, send an email or letter to your editor at the publisher explaining the situation. Keep a copy for yourself. Your publisher may have a process it wants to use in handling these types of situations.

Under typical traditional publishing contracts, if there is a legal dispute about copyright ownership and the publisher is named in litigation, you’ll be obligated to pay the publisher’s legal expenses in addition to your own.

A little bit scary. I often don’t save early drafts as drafts, unless I’m making huge changes I’m not sure about. I do try to remember to save early drafts because every now and then failing to do so comes back to bite me. (Oh, damn, I DO after all want this scene from HER pov, not HIS. Now I have to change the whole thing back again. Why didn’t I save the earlier draft?)

But I don’t generally save early drafts in case of copyright disputes. Not that I recall having a conversation much like the above. Yet. But it’s pretty easy to imagine.

I guess for truly famous authors this kind of thing is more important. I’m sure Stephen King and Nora Roberts and people like that get accused of plagiarism as a get-rich-quick thing on a more frequent basis.

Anyway, food for thought, I guess. Especially if you didn’t have enough to worry about.

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Hey, here’s a great idea for your next story!

Via The Passive Voice blog, this wonderfully snarky article from The New Yorker: An Unsolicited Great Idea for Your Next Book

“You’re a writer?” the man said. “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a book.”

Gompers tried to stay calm. He had become a writer for the same reason anybody did: he was incapable of coming up with ideas of his own, and he longed for a lifetime of being given them at cocktail parties. But he had been down this road before. Somebody would offer him an amazing, can’t-fail idea for a guaranteed best-seller that was certain to be made into a hit movie, and then they would demand millions of dollars in payment.

This was fair enough, but Gompers simply didn’t have the money. How could he, a mere writer, earn any money before he had an idea given to him by a total stranger? And without any money, how could he pay the millions of dollars the idea was inevitably worth? It was, in the phrase coined by Joseph Heller’s chiropractor’s cousin, a total “Catch-22.”
So Gompers tried to play it cool. “A great idea?” he said, casually. “And what would you want in return?”

“You write the book, and then I take half the profits,” the man answered.

Gompers nearly dropped his drink. The other man was going to do the heavy lifting of coming up with a one- or two-sentence logline, and all Gompers had to do was expand it into a novel-length story featuring believable characters and elegant prose — and, in exchange, the man wanted only half the profits?

Click through to read the whole thing.

Incidentally, complete strangers have offered to share their amazing ideas with me only a handful of times. But it does happen.

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