Archive for December, 2013

Fingers crossed: first submission

I sent out my first fiction submission today.

Or rather, to be honest, C did it for me because I had glaciers for feet and if I hadn’t asked him to step in, it might still be sitting on my hard drive languishing while I fretted over every single word choice I made.

It didn’t help that it was for a call that wanted a bit of heat.

I love reading erotica; there are some days when it’s all I read. However, I’ve never really been able to write it without feeling a particular queasiness and so I originally wasn’t going to answer the call. Not to mention the call was for knights and highlanders. I enjoy reading about men in kilts and tin cans, but it’s not something that I personally want to write.

Then… I came across a definition of a cavalier that sang to me and inspiration struck.

So. Now I have an erotic short.

It took me a while to get going and to finish. By which I mean I squirmed for most of the night, way into the wee hours of the morning before I got so tired I felt drunk enough to actually write the sexy scenes. I then proceeded to be intoxicated off lack of sleep and a bit of what-did-I-just-do for the rest of the next day. Just as well, since as it was, I was editing it peeking between my fingers.

If it isn’t accepted, I’ll consider self-pubbing it or putting it up on the site as free reading.

The thing is — if I self-pub it, I’d want to bundle it with some other shorts because it’s only about 6k words. The only issue with that is that I feel rather twitchy just re-reading over what I wrote for the smutty bits, much less duplicating the effort.

Thene assures me that “this too will pass” and that all people who write porny bits feel that way and eventually get over it.

Of course, what she was too much of a good friend to say was that some people don’t and they never, ever write another insertion scene again.

Here’s hoping I don’t fall into that latter camp.

Girding the loins and tally ho and all that.

Writing Numbers: December 2013

I’m currently in Taiwan and I’m suffering from an acute case of vacay-brain.

Perhaps you know how it is when you’re getting ready for a trip.

There’s the packing, the pre-leaving cleaning, the desperate attempts to corral an unruly life into as much order as possible so entropy doesn’t present you with life’s version of a decomposing rodent as a present upon your arrival back home.

Bad enough to get home with travel fatigue and still have to shower, brush the teeth, and do all those adult things that need doing before you can crash into bed and sleep for a full 24 hours.

Even worse when you realize that you’ve left the faucet dripping for the entire time you were gone; all the houseplants are dead; the pets have cannibalized each other because someone forgot to arrange for the pet-sitter to be paid and they quit in fury and of course you forgot your cellphone charger at home so there was no way for anyone to tell you that everything had gone to the eighteen hells in a handbasket and that you really, really should make some very important phone calls right. about. now. Oh, and because you forgot to set the bill to be paid automatically, you have no power, no internet, and the grotty stuff in the fridge has gone from moldering grossness to being well on its way to achieving sentience. Let’s not even talk about how your work has completely gone supernova in your absence and the business burned down overnight.

Not that I know any of that from personal experience or anything.

So I didn’t really get anything done writing-wise for the first almost half of the month. I slapped 954 words together writing about that creepy ass dream I had, but I’m not sure that really counts.

Then there was the inevitable jet lag from traveling half-way around the globe.

I’m a wuss and I usually end up doing nothing but sleeping and eating for about a week after I get off the plane and this time was, of course, no different.

Being in Taiwan, land of my forefathers/mothers, means that I’ve pretty much been dragged from hillock to pillar to post and back again doing all manner of things from familial obligations to renewing my health insurance so I can do my medical touristy thing to (things I haven’t done yet, like…) buying a dress and shoes and a shawl for the wedding I’m attending to…

And, as I said before, vacay-brain. Also, vacay-wallet. And vacay-diet. By which I mean nothing productive, not exercise, not writing, not revising, not thinking about anything too strenuous than what the next meal is going to be.

As a matter of fact, I’m fairly grateful I’ve managed even this blog post. 

Today’s been the first day since I departed Boston on the 12th where I was left alone (O’ blessed solitude!) for more than the amount of time it takes to shower.

I highly doubt that any real writing/revising is going to happen before I get back to the States and recover from jet lag.

Which means that I’m looking at sometime mid-January of 2014.

Oh well.

There are worse things to cause a lack of writing than being forced to hang out with relatives I don’t see for years at a time and eat delicious food with them.

So I’m doing the reflection post early this month. What with less than 10 more days to go, I figure I might as well, in case I don’t get another chance to hop on my laptop before then.

No matter where you go, I will find you.

No matter where you go, I will find you.

I frowned at the screen.

The popup box had just come out of nowhere. I’d opened nothing recently and all of my open tabs were the usual safe suspects: Gmail, Twitter, a couple of writing sites, and a dozen or so food blogs. In short, nothing that should have popped something like that up.

Clicking the little x at the top right corner, I shook my head, dismissing it from thought.

Shadows lurked at the edges of sanity and consciousness. That was a place I couldn’t, wouldn’t go.

I turned my lamp up higher, casting everything into sharp relief, allowing nothing to hide.

Tabbing back to my document, I returned to the sentence that was giving me grief and tried to clear my mind of everything except the upcoming deadline.

Don’t you know, the brighter the light, the darker the shadow cast?

My fingers froze on the keyboard in mid-word. I stared at the popup box, my breath stuttering in my chest.

I’ve chased you across lifetimes. Across eons. Across space and time. If it takes a thousand years, a million years, I will find you.

Another popup box.

I shoved my chair back and stood, the force sending it crashing to the floor.

I backed away from my desk, my heart pounding in my throat.

Don’t run. Save your breath. You’ll not escape me. 

I swallowed, hard.

“Amala?”

My voice came out a strangled whisper. Clenching my fists, I took a long, deliberate inhale, and shouted my friend’s name, forcing sound through stiff lips.

She pushed open the door and strode in, bitter chocolate eyes searching the room and then me. “What? Another bug you want me to deal with?”

I shook my head, mute, and pointed to my computer screen.

She sent me a puzzled look, but she walked closer.

She can’t help, you know. No one can. No matter what it takes, who I have to go through, I will find you.

Amala grew very still as she read the messages. She straightened slowly and turned back toward me, brows gathered in a frown.

“When did these first appear?”

“Maybe five minutes ago? I closed the first one. It said ‘No matter where you go, I will find you.’ and I thought it was just a one-time thing.”

“Apparently not.”

She bit her lip. “We’ll have to call the master.”

“You think so?”

Her frown deepened, the lines around her mouth growing more pronounced. “Of course. This is nothing normal.”

I shivered, remembering the walk home earlier. I was near the site of the old factory when I felt a distinct presence pressing near. Looking around, I’d seen nothing, but the feeling only increased the longer I tarried. Eventually, the fear had built up to the point where I couldn’t keep to a walk anymore and I’d run the remainder of the distance home.

Once in our well-lit, cheery home, I’d shaken off the feeling as a bad case of nerves, but now I wasn’t so sure.

Amala reached out, grabbed my hand, and led me to the bed. She pulled out her cell phone, jabbed at the screen a few times, then set the phone on the bedspread in front of us. We curled up on my bed, still holding hands, listening to the phone ring.

“Stella?”

“Yes. Master, I wanted to ask you a question.” I fought to keep my tone smooth.

A sigh. “He is coming for you, Stella. I thought we would have more time to prepare, but evidently not. How has he made contact?”

I drew in a sharp breath. “You know? Who is he? Why is he stalking me?”

“He is a demon, one of the strongest of his Path. He’s sought you for many lifetimes. Now, it appears he has found you. Tell me, how has he established contact?”

“A popup window appeared on my screen. I closed it, and then more appeared.”

“What can we do to keep her safe, Master?” Amala cut in, her tone urgent.

“I am on my way home. Do not open the door to anyone before I return. I might have a solution, but I will need to think on it and refine it further.”

I made the mistake of glancing over at my laptop screen. I shuddered, a chill running through down my back and through my veins.

The screen was covered with popup windows. I couldn’t read the messages from this distance, but I could see more windows popping up even as I watched.

“Don’t look at the computer, Stella. You and Amala should leave your room and stay away from all things electronic until I get back.”

I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat. “All right.”

His voice gentled. “We will find a solution, Stella. Don’t worry.”

I forced out a watery chuckle. “I’m only worried if this means I’ll have to get rid of the new laptop I just bought, Master.”

“That’s the spirit. Keep your chin up. I’m on my way.”

The call disconnected. I curled my hand tighter around Amala’s, resisting the urge to dial back just so I could hear his voice, keep hold of that thread of safety I always had around our teacher.

A pounding came at the door just as the lights flickered.

Amala’s hand tightened convulsively around mine.

The lights flickered again before going out, this time for good.

The pounding intensified.

A low whimper escaped my throat before I could call it back and Amala let out a muffled scream.

 

 

Fiscal reflection for 2013 and projections for 2014

So it’s the beginning of December 2013, and I spent a couple of hours staring at my finances. I’m going to quit soon, because honestly, some things just aren’t going to change the more I stare at it, so I might as well quit now.

Currently, I have $18592.76 in credit card debt.

The saving grace is that I also have 45,812.54 in my ROTH IRA.

Goals for next year:

Stay within budget. I might have to resort to writing down, every single day, how much money I have left to spend in my budget on my hand and stare at it every. single. time I want to buy something that isn’t related to the bare necessities of life.

I want to pay off that debt aggressively. I’m currently budgeting $600 a month toward debt repayment. I wanted to do $1k, but that is simply not reasonable if I also wish to fully fund my IRA at the same time.

I’m going to have to scrounge up the money to finance  my self-publishing journey and actually do it next year. My ambition is to have the first novel fully edited and ready for self-publishing in Feb. 2014. The second novel will hopefully be ready by April 2014. Hopefully this will eventually bring in more money rather than simply being a time and money sink.

Find a second job, or three, or four — whatever it takes to bring in the bacon and fry it.

As I’ve said before regarding other things, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It’s time to stop running and face the zombies.

T-day 2013 reflections

We actually did T-day this year on the Saturday following rather than on the day itself.

I’m not sure I’d do that again, actually, although it was nice to be able to go shopping for things on Friday when all the madness had already died down. We had also ordered pies from Petsi Pies, listed by Travel + Leisure and others as one of the best pies in America, and I think the line was somewhat more manageable on Saturday rather than Thursday. If nothing else, it allowed us to get a bacon and Gruyere pie as well as a sweet potato and pumpkin pie.

I roasted the turkey a la Alton Brown’s directions, and it really was superb. I’ve never been a fan of turkey before this, but I think that this might have made me a convert.

I brined it in a mixture of chicken stock reconstituted from Better than Bouillon, fresh grapefruit juice, onions, garlic, poultry seasoning, S&P and allspice powder. I stuck it in on Thursday and roasted it the day of on a beer can chicken stand. Since I only got an eleven pounder, it fit well on the stand and had enough clearance in the oven. A little bigger and I might have had more difficulty.

Thirty minutes at 500 and another hour and a half at 350 and it was gorgeously browned and well-done. I might actually, for a ten pounder, take it out sooner next time to keep it moister.

Something I actually found out recently is that beer can chicken, despite its proponents, doesn’t actually do anything for the chicken. Or in this case, the white wine I poured into the canister probably didn’t do anything for the turkey. On the other hand, I like how the bird cooks, with no soggy skin, and the wine made for some great gravy. So, debunking aside, I’m going to keep sticking my birds on their throne just the same.

Petsi’s pies really did live up to the hype. The bacon and Gruyere was delicious, rich and luxurious with the added vegetables keeping it from going over the edge. The sweet potato was wonderfully nutmeggy and not too sweet. The pumpkin was good, but I found it a wee bit too sweet. What really made me happy was the crust — buttery, flaky, and not too salty and not too bland. I have to admit to loving the crust on pie, but it’s so often an afterthought, a mediocre vehicle for what people see as the point. This was perfectly lovely on its own. I’ll definitely be going back for more pies, especially the mushroom and Gruyere one.

Note to self: baking hams in champagne is a waste of perfectly good champagne and ham.

We got Nueske’s ready cooked spiral cut ham and Harrington’s ready-to-cook ham. The Nueske’s was perfect out of the packaging — savory but not too salty, with a lingering hint of sweetness and smoke. I didn’t try the Harrington’s because I wasn’t sure if it was edible as was without cooking since it said it needed to be baked. Thinking that dumping a bottle of champagne over the both of them would only make them better, I did so. Sadly, it was not the case. Most of the ham’s flavor leached out into the champagne and even a mere hour in the oven (directions said for at least two!) changed the consistency of the ham, and not for the better.

Next time, we’re drinking the champagne and eating the ham cold.

I suppose I could have reduced the champagne and made a glaze — but I don’t like goopy stuff on my ham and the texture problem still would have been an issue.

Reminders to self for next year:

No more than four desserts for about twelve people, so maybe one dessert per three people. Even that seems a bit high if we’re talking about pie and cake. Who, after mashed potatoes, stuffing, ham, turkey, and way too much in the way of appetizers, is going to be able to eat a third of a pie?

Pumpkin pie, cheesecake, and maybe a chocolate cake for those who don’t like pumpkin pie or cheesecake. Definitely not the chocolate chip chocolate pie. No gilding the lily with cookies. And wonderful as the Florentines were, they were way too filling to have set out at the start of the party.

Asparagus always goes over well. Even more so wrapped in prosciutto. Roasted bell peppers and mushrooms? Much less so.

If feeling broke, spinach frittata with bacon/sausage is almost universally a hit and is mostly healthy to boot.

Also, always make more stuffing than you think you need. Ditto for mashed potatoes. Those are imperative for leftovers and everyone will be very sad if there aren’t leftovers.

Cranberry sauce might be a must. We had people asking after it and even though I’m personally a terrible foodie for usually disliking fruit with meat, the masses must be appeased. Good thing someone brought a can.

We had biscuits from the whack-a-can and they were lovely. No more slaving over yeast, fussing about space in the oven, and worrying about tenderness. I love from-scratch everything, and I have to say this is one area where I say outsource the heck out it. Pies too. Just let someone else make them so the oven stays clear.

*breathes out*

Whew. It was fun. I had a mostly-good time, which I’ve come to the conclusion is about as well as you can feel after hosting twelve people in your home — but I’m fairly relieved it’s over.

Now I’m going to go hide in my hole again and wait to recover from the burnout from cooking, cleaning, and washing up for twelve with a sprained ankle.