Revise a hundred pages in a week by rewriting one sentence at a time? I'll sign up for anything, I guess.

A chunk of manuscript and my notebook went with me and my schola friends to Shaw Island on Saturday. I threw out my no-writing-work-on-Sundays rule and pulled up the computer almost as soon as I got home from church. Monday gave me the opportunity to write from 10 AM through this morning at 3 AM, stopping only for prayers and food. The alarm went off at 7:30 this morning and I got up, showered, put the laundry in, and went back to work.

I forgot about Tasty Tuesday. My Google Reader is stacking up with unread items. I am getting creamed (lame pun) at food fighting on Facebook (seriously, I'm 0-7.) I am having random snickering fits because my husband finally got to watch Surf Ninjas with me on Sunday night, initiating him into an age-old family movie quoting tradition, and ... well, I probably would be having those anyway. Dang, that movie makes me laugh.

I still have not finished revisions--not because I haven't had time, but because they keep coming out wrong.

At any rate, I'm still alive, just buried (LAME pun) under work. I will finish this book.

Or else.


A Very Short Vacation of Sorts

I'm going to take a couple of days off from blogging in order to focus on my story. I'm swamped ... and I can't think about anything else. Multitasking has been switched off.

If I can, I'll return Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!


And ... Revise

Mom and my sister Beth have both read my book, and I spent a couple of hours talking it through with them today—which, as you might imagine, was both exciting and terrifying. They shook part of it up so much that I emailed all my readers and told them not to read beyond the current page 89, as I want to revise the last ninety pages before they get there and that's the best stopping place.

This, my friends, is why you always have your novel read by someone who will give you honest feedback before you try to approach an agent with it. I knew there was a problem there, but had stared at it too long and simply couldn't say what. Now I know, and I can fix it.

The comments they gave me were overall greatly encouraging, though, including some compliments that left me a little startled (and made it possible to bear the thought of major reworking). It also felt good to talk about the fourth primary character, whom we all love, and about the reasons I did certain things. They even gave me some ideas for possible extensions to the story, which I will now have to write or burst, I guess.

Now I have to go revise, because I told my readers I'd have the updated pages by the end of March. Yipes. Apparently I'm crazy.


Tasty Tuesday: My Mom's Clam Chowder

Tasty TuesdayAs a general rule, I wouldn't make clam chowder for our parish priest on a Sunday in Lent. Surely he gets it constantly ... but this isn't just any old clam chowder. This is my mom's new, schnazzed-up clam chowder greatness.

Normally I wouldn't risk a new recipe on our pastor, either, especially not when it's the first time we've had him to dinner. But I figured I could trust Mom's word when she said it was good and people kept asking her for the recipe. She was right. It's amazing.

Anne Olwin's Clam Chowder

5 medium red potatoes. Cube and boil in salted water until tender. You only need enough water to cover the potatoes and use as a base to the soup. Do not discard the liquid.

Saute 2 medium onions and 10 shiitake mushrooms in butter. Add to cooked potatoes.

Add 5 cans of chopped or minced clams and the juice from three of them.

Make a roux with 1 stick of butter and 1/2 cup flour. Thin with about 1 quart of milk and add to potatoes.

Season with garlic powder, red pepper, and black pepper to taste. You want a little zip, but not too much heat with the red pepper, so start out light and let simmer for a few minutes to meld flavors. You can always add more.

Chop some fresh spinach. Place about 3/4 - 1 cup of chopped spinach in the bottom of each bowl, ladle hot chowder over top, and finish with a dollop of cream cheese. Serve with bread or crackers.

I served it with Caesar salad, warmed multigrain bread with butter and honey, and kiwi-strawberry shortcake for dessert. It definitely did not taste like Friday food.


Politics Out, Potter In

Want to talk about something -- or possibly anything -- besides Obamacare? I've got just the thing. We're doing a read-through of Deathly Hallows over at The Hog's Head, and I just posted commentary on Chapter 21: The Tale of the Three Brothers. There's not a word about Extreme Takeover: Government Edition in the entire piece.

There are, however, many fascinating possibilities for discussion in that chapter: things like the fable of a meeting with Death and the fable's strange parallels with Harry's story, the battle between wildly opposite minds (Hermione Granger and Xenophilius Lovegood), and the three Hallows. Do come check it out. This is one of my favorite chapters in the book, so I had a lot of fun writing about it.

But if you just can't get big news off your mind, I think I'm with Zinger Sandwich on the way the past decade will be remembered in history.


Brain Dump

The combination of a busy week and continued lack of sleep means you get a rambling thoughts post from me tonight. My focus is limited to about three lines at a time. Hopefully the rambles make sense.

* * *

The "three lines" thing might have to do with my having to write an author bio for the editing project I'm working on. How many of these have I written in the last three years or so? At least six. But author bios change depending on what project they get associated with, and I got good and stuck this time. It took hours, spread over days.

For those of you who may need to write an author bio at some point, here is an excellent article on how to write one. It helped me figure out why I kept failing. Ah, success.

* * *

This afternoon I was typing in Open Office and my computer bluescreened and then shut down suddenly. It came back up by itself and has worked fine so far. That's just one more example of how real-life stories can have happy endings.

* * *

Last night I sang polyphony with a schola. If music were my only form of creative expression, I'd think I was born to be a second soprano in Palestrina's choir.

* * *

Thanks to a few clear nights, my newly-acquired habit of stargazing has had opportunities to improve. Up until recently, I could only find the Big Dipper, Orion, and Cassiopeia and hardly knew any stars' names; now, in addition to attempting various pronunciations of Betelgeuse, I've located Spica, Sirius, and I think I found Arcturus last night.

Next on the must-find list: The Pleiades. I'm a little bit in love with the sky.

* * *

After giving my book to my writers' group for the reading, I have begun playing the second-guessing game. The main character never meets this other one, who is kind of a big deal; is that too weird? Is my character development strong enough? Should I have built up this or that plot thread more? Does it all move too fast? Am I just a hack writer who has no business wasting people's time with her words?


* * *

So I'm guessing that if I have 1700 unread emails in my old hotmail, I'm probably never going to get caught up on them. They're junk, I promise. If I see something real come through, I answer it.

* * *

Remedy for exhaustion: Quiet evening at home with husband, brownies and milk, Ministry of Magic on the headphones, and a little lazy blogging. I feel better, and just might get through everything I have to do in the next two days.

Have a good weekend, everyone.


Animal Confusion



When people want to describe marketing, tactics, or warfare, they should use the latter of these two homophones. Although the former makes for some amusing mental pictures.

Correct usage, in other words: guerrilla marketing, guerrilla tactics, and guerrilla warfare.

Gorillas are generally nicer than guerrillas -- if I got lost in a jungle, I'd rather meet the gorilla. What that says about the marketing, the tactics, and the warfare, I leave it to yourselves to determine.


With Apologies to a Few Trees

+ Two reams of paper
+ Two black printer cartridges
+ One inkjet printer
+ Me
+ All day Tuesday
= Five copies of a 195-page manuscript

It took me one month to write the novel and three and a half to revise it (made it by my deadline of March 20, thank you very much). Yesterday I printed out copies for my writers' group, while doing laundry and posting a blog and … not much else. I really had to watch that printer.

From today until I make the huckleberry pie with which I bribed my writers' group, I'm not allowed to think about that book -- unless Beth or Briana finishes it before then and wants to talk about it, in which case I shall not say them nay. My mind has gotten saturated in the story, in the mythology and the people until I can hardly even see the words any more, though I'm apparently capable of getting caught up in reading my favorite parts when I ought to be printing out further copies.

Look for a post or series of posts on novel revision, coming soon. I'll try to do that without letting my head slip too much into the story.

I'm also going headfirst into a nonfiction piece, as well as judging two writing contests, more editing for the project some friends and I are working on, and then -- if I have time before the pie party -- there's the other novel I have in progress. Here goes. But … yeesh … I'm going to miss my characters. A lot.

I love you, A.D., and your loved ones too. I'll see you in a month.


Tasty Tuesday: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Whole Wheat

Tasty Tuesday
Chocolate chip cookies are some of my favorite, favorite things -- especially with a cup of whole milk. This recipe cuts way back on cookie guilt, and I love it, whole wheat, walnuts and all. I don't know where Mom got the recipe, but I grew up with these.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup white flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 12-oz package of chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs.

Combine flours, baking soda and salt, and stir gradually into creamed mixture. Beat well.

Stir in chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoons (ha, I shoot closer to tablespoons) onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about eight minutes.

Oh, weird. I guess I've had this recipe memorized wrong -- I always bake them at 350 degrees for about ten minutes. You shall do as you choose.


Things Amazing and Awesome

News: My best friend, an excellent photographer, has just set up a Facebook page for her business. Her work includes senior photos (love Victoria as Bella Swan with the red truck!), a shoot of the local Tracing Days concert, and wedding/engagement pictures. It's well worth checking out, especially if you're anywhere near the Bozeman area and might need something photographed.

* * *

Something else to check out: Coolest. Music. Video. Ever.

Have you ever played the game Mousetrap? -- and by "played Mousetrap" I mean "set up the little course and rolled the marble, re-set and repeat," which is what my sisters and I did. Fantastic game. I loved it.

In sixth grade I wound up in Odyssey of the Mind and did a Cause and Effect activity, where I worked with a team to create a complicated domino effect fulfilling a list of requirements -- displacing so many ounces of water, etc. We had a lot of fun, and thanks to more scientific minds than mine, actually placed well in the competition.

This music video is created on the same principle as Cause and Effect or Mousetrap, but on a far grander scale. I just loved watching it. Enjoy.


Currently Reading: The Shack

"But --" Mack could feel his control getting away as he drove his shovel in hard -- "Didn't Missy have a right to be protected?"

"No, Mack. A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected."

That stopped him. Somehow, what Sarayu had just been saying seemed to turn the whole world upside down, and he was struggling to find some footing. Surely there were some rights that he could legitimately hold on to.

"But what about --"

"Rights are where survivors go, so that they won't have to work out relationships," she cut in.

"But if I gave up --"

"Then you would begin to know the wonder and adventure of living in me," she said, interrupting him again.

Mack was getting frustrated. He spoke louder. "But don't I have the right to --"

"To complete a sentence without being interrupted? No, you don't. Not in reality. But as long as you think you do, you will surely get ticked off when someone cuts you off, even if it is God."

Author: Wm. Paul Young

Synopsis: Mack has never been on great terms with God, whom he pictures as someone unreasonable and abusive as his own father -- an image exacerbated by his wife's tendency to refer to God as "Papa." When a serial killer abducts his youngest daughter from a campground, what Mack calls The Great Sadness takes over his life and drives him further from God. Some years later, a note signed "Papa" appears in his mailbox and draws him to the mountain shack where the police found his daughter's bloodstained dress; a strange place to meet God, but God will refuse to abide by any of his expectations.

Notes: I had -- shocker here -- mixed feelings about this book.

For Mack, who finds the image of a father God terribly problematic, the three he meets in the shack catch him off his guard: Papa, an exuberant African-American woman fond of her kitchen; Jesus, a Semitic-featured everyday guy with a tool belt and jeans; and Sarayu, a moving, shifting Asian woman whose name means simply "a common wind." The three take him in turn to explain what it means to have a relationship with God, working healing and forgiveness in his heart in the process, and seeking to redeem both his relationship with his father and the death of his daughter.

The tale is interesting, well-told, and capable of shattering many an expectation. It contained some stunning insights and some lovely thoughts, some good pictures of forgiveness and some truth.

It also contains some things that appear to be grave, if popular, mistakes: the idea that authority and hierarchy are man-made things that God does not ordain, for instance. Young's concept of relationship as a circle without hierarchy is great where all participants have reached the ideals of thorough wisdom and righteousness. Until we all get there, I'm not quite ready myself to say that God doesn't ordain any authority.

Then there's the concept of the "personal relationship with God," which made for some enjoyable conversation in my Catholic women's book club. I love those girls. We don't all have the same taste in books, but we can think together, and we had a great discussion on the importance and the problems of that term.

As for the idea that we all attempt to make God in our own image -- so true. So very true.

I would totally be up for lying on a dock in the middle of nowhere and staring at the stars with Jesus. Walking on water sounds like a lot of fun, too.


More E-Books

Since I wrote about e-books yesterday, I can't resist linking to the best. e-book. post. ever. I laughed and laughed and read all of the possible answers, some of which sounded decidedly more hopeful than others. The reasoning behind the different possibilities also made a lot of sense.

The possible futures of the e-book industry have a lot to do with the question of whether I ultimately choose to query agents and go the traditional publishing route, or give in and self-publish. But that's a lot more post than I have time for tonight ...


Book to the Future

E-books are coming to get me.

A house can hardly have a more lovely decoration than a well-stocked bookshelf (except maybe a happy houseplant.) And for myself, as a re-reader, I like the comfort of the familiar copy, held in my hands, the binding creased and the pages bent and loose, loved till it comes to life like the Velveteen Rabbit.

Thus, books I will re-read get a hallowed place around here. But I've joined two book clubs, which means reading quite a few books that I would not ordinarily pick out for myself, and when there are seven people in one town all looking to check out the same book from the library, well ... sometimes I just have to buy the book. And it's cheaper and more convenient when I can do it through Kindle for PC.

Not having had $300-500 to spend on an e-reader, I just figured it would be awhile before the e-book trend caught me, but I discovered Kindle for PC (still in its beta version) yesterday, downloaded it, and am currently reading Father Elijah on my computer. No shipping time or charges. No refrigerator box on my doorstep with a little paperback and several air-pillows inside. And I can get next month's book for ninety-nine cents.

Don't get me wrong: when I come across a book I really, really love, I'm still going to want it adorning my bookshelf. I'm still going to want to hold it in my hands and love it into life.

For everything else that I can't get at the library: we'll see how this goes, but I'm thinking positive. It already feels better than reading the online text of Dracula I found, which had OCR errors in almost every paragraph and was contained in one extremely long web page. I thoroughly appreciate the bookmark feature. Now if they can just make it possible to set the background color to something other than white -- which I do even for my manuscripts at times, to keep the computer headache away -- they really might hook me on the ebook thing.


Tasty Tuesday: Pork Chops with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Tasty Tuesday Lou's parents took us to see the Bellingham High School production of South Pacific on Saturday. The show was fantastic -- an excellent story, well sung and very well acted. I had never seen it before, and we had a great time.

I made dinner. Normally I would not choose to risk a new recipe on anyone but Lou, especially not when adapting it so much from the original. But I felt adventurous, and it turned out well enough to make this week's Tasty Tuesday.

Dites-moi, pourquoi la vie est belle ...

Pork Chops with Mushroom Cream Sauce

About 3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
1/2 - 3/4 cup minced onion
8 oz sliced mushrooms
5-6 medium size pork chops
1 cup cooking sherry
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Turn oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil and butter together in skillet (yeah, it seemed weird to me too) until butter is fully melted and bubbling. Add onions and cook till clear; then add mushrooms and cook lightly. Remove onions and mushrooms with slotted spoon, leaving liquid in skillet; reserve the vegetables and turn heat up to medium-high.

Add the pork chops to the skillet, salting and peppering well, and brown on both sides (about three minutes per side.) Remove from skillet, place on a baking sheet and put in oven to finish cooking.

Return mushrooms and onion to skillet and add sherry and cream. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens slightly. I kept the heat high, but it does need watching and stirring.

I served this on a bed of sticky rice (put the rice down, set a pork chop on top, spoon sauce over everything) and put a Caesar salad on the side. It turned out quite well. Next time, I think I'll experiment further, perhaps including the pecans that were in the recipe from which I adapted this and a little hot pepper.


Open Book

Until this weekend, nobody besides me had seen more than the first few pages of my NaNoWriMo novel.

Writing so intimately, just me and the characters and the words, felt very comfortable. My heart felt no shame in laying itself down on the pages. Now I have to let other people read it, and I'm experiencing the usual artist's embarrassment, often described as "feeling naked."

I gave my book to Lou, who began it last night and is just over halfway through. My beloved husband is hardly the target audience -- given the option, he'll always choose a Dostoyevsky gutwrencher over a romantic YA fantasy -- but if I'm going to feel naked, best to start with him.

He's getting the macro questions: Which characters seem important at this or that stage? Is the world believable? Has anything challenged your suspension of disbelief? Do the brief omniscient-voice segments I've inserted detract from the main character's point of view? So far, his answers are encouraging.

As soon as he finishes it, I'll work through any changes he suggests; then I plan to take it down to a copy shop and print copies for my mom and sister, my best friend, and the friends from my writers' group who have volunteered to read and comment.

From henceforward I begin relearning how to live without constant engrossment in this tale. Even with a nonfiction piece to work on, an editing project with friends, my other story still turning around in the back of my mind, this blog, and the Blogengamot (not to mention a husband and home to devote myself to), I'm not quite sure what to do with all the mental energy that will be freed up when I'm not existing almost entirely in my sweet protagonist's head. The thought of stepping away from her -- and from certain other characters, whom I love with all of her heart -- feels a little like loss.


Art in Rome

Right, so when I listed some of my favorite things the other day, and a bunch of things from Italy wound up in there, I realized that I still haven't posted much about the trip. Hopefully I can make up for that in the next few weeks.

* * *

My mother is an artist, and I heard a lot of artist names around the house growing up. To my surprise, I still felt quite ignorant in Italy; there have just been so many great artists through the centuries. But I do have favorites.

Everyone loves Michelangelo--it would be hard not to. He's all over St. Peter's, of course, and when you walk in the great doors and look to the right, this is what you see. It brought tears to my eyes.

This statue of Moses was in the St. Peter in Chains church. I kind of wish I'd stolen the camera from Lou and gotten pictures of Leah and Rachel, too--they were on either side of Moses.

Bernini turned up everywhere too. His statue of the four great rivers fascinated me. Here's the Nile, head covered because in Bernini's time, the source of the Nile had not been found:

This statue of St. Teresa of Avila in ecstasy was at Santa Maria della Vittoria, one of the more beautiful small churches we saw. I could have stayed in there for a long time just staring at the ceilings (which, unfortunately, did not photograph well.)

I'm sure Mom told me about Caravaggio at some point in my life, so I don't know how he came as such a surprise to me. His use of light and shadow had me in awe.

I don't remember the official title of that piece, but I believe St. Matthew is writing his gospel there.

The above is the Calling of St. Matthew. If you click on it, you'll get a larger image ... unfortunately, without the use of flash, all pictures taken inside churches pretty much turned out dark.

Last but not least, Raphael. I love Raphael. The School of Athens:

... and The Dispute over the Most Holy Sacrament (both of these in the Vatican Museum):

Raphael's tomb was in the Pantheon (now a church called Sancta Maria ad Martyres):

The inscription reads "ILLE HIC EST RAPHAEL TIMUIT QUO SOSPITE VINCI RERUM MAGNA PARENS ET MORIENTE MORI"--translated, according to the sign beside it, "Here lies Raphael, by whom Nature herself feared to be outdone while he lived, and when he died, feared that she herself would die." I know I'm a bit of a sap, but it made me cry.


Currently Reading: The Wednesday Letters

Malcolm and his high school rat pack had spent many hours atop Woodstock Tower. It offered a unique, panoramic view of northern Virginia. To the west, from the one-time fire observation station, visitors saw Woodstock and the Seven Bends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. To the east, if the air was crisp and clear, one could see Fort Valley and Massanutten Mountain. The clearest of days offered glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He made a mental note to return to the tower during the daylight to enjoy the view.

Malcolm shined his flashlight over the metal roof and smiled at the graffiti. Some was new; some was familiar. He saw his own handwriting still scrawled on one of the support poles in red Sharpie: I LOVE RJ.

Author: Jason F. Wright

Synopsis: Jack Cooper wrote a letter to his wife, Laurel, every Wednesday throughout their marriage. After Jack and Laurel die in each others' arms, their three children gather for the funeral and discover the letters. More than just messages of love, the letters contain a very painful family secret--and all three of the children, especially Malcolm, find their lives permanently altered through the news and through the final notes directed at each of them.

Notes: I grew up on Christian genre fiction--the Winslow books, Janette Oke's work, various positive-themed teen books like Dawn's Diamond Defense and Pounding Hooves, etc. This book fits right into that tradition: safe to read, solid message, lots of hope and forgiveness.

Less positive is my own attitude: while I regret giving away my copy of DDD because I remember really liking it, and I still have Pounding Hooves, my patience for most inspirational fiction--evangelical or otherwise--has gone a bit thin. I got hold of Pride and Prejudice in my late teens and never looked back; then I met Harry Potter and discovered what really makes a story inspiring.

As for The Wednesday Letters: The premise made me think of the movie Fireproof, but the story wound up being more about the Coopers' son Malcolm. I really, really liked Malcolm and the girl he loves--at the beginning of the book. By the end, both of them were harder for me to believe; Malcolm because I didn't quite buy some of his temper tantrums, Rain because I never got a sense for why she even bothered with Nathan when she clearly had so much affection for her ex-boyfriend.

Reading this book also made me determined to go and remove as much of the crying as I can from my own. It is very hard to write a good crying scene. The protagonist, I think, shouldn't generally shed a tear unless the reader also has a pretty solid lump in their throat (exceptions may be made, perhaps, for angry crying.)

It wasn't a bad book, though; I got a good evening's read out of it. If inspiration is your thing, then by all means, enjoy. I'm sure you'll find it worthwhile.

P.S. If you're from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, you might enjoy the book just for the local references.


Very Helpful Link

Current place in re-read of my own book: Page 33 of 191
Current sleep debt: Too high to repay before I have to get up to cook dinner
Current mental operating power: About 23%

Fortunately for me, I don't have to force myself to blog today (which would be like running my brain through a garlic press) because literary agent Jessica Faust put up a basic publishing dictionary on her own blog, and that must be linked. Even knowing the general meaning of most of the terms, I found it helpful.

Those of you interested at all in the world of publishing--enjoy.


Tasty Tuesday: Lillian's Spaghetti Sauce

Tasty TuesdayLou and I elected to do dinner and a movie at home last night. I like to consider myself capable of making a restaurant-quality meal when I try, and given the time and ingredients, it is a real thrill to try.

While I don't normally question my usual straightforward spaghetti sauce, the one made in Tom's chapter of The School of Essential Ingredients sounded so good that I decided to make the effort, adapting it a little. It was thoroughly worth it. Enjoy.

[As for the movie: Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery is not at all romantic (or clean). But it did make me laugh. I get a kick out of Mike Myers' stairs-escalator-canoe-elevator routine. I cannot figure out how he does it.]

Lillian's Spaghetti Sauce
Adapted from here.

Several cloves of garlic, minced
About half a small/medium onion, minced
1 lb. Italian sausage
About 2/3 cup milk
About 1 cup red wine
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
A little dried oregano
6-8 oz. sliced mushrooms
Olive oil

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and add onion. Cook over medium heat till clear, then add garlic and cook a little longer but don't brown.

Add meat and cook till just done, then add milk--this is supposed to prevent the wine from giving the meat an acidic taste.

When the meat has absorbed the milk pretty well, add the red wine and mushrooms and cook till mushrooms are lightly done. Then pour all that into a crock pot and add tomatoes, tomato sauce and oregano. Cook for several hours on low setting and serve over spaghetti, topped with parmesan.

P.S. Lillian would say to use good wine and buy canned tomatoes whole and crush them. I cheated on both counts. It was a little easier and a lot less expensive, and it tasted fabulous anyway. She also didn't include mushrooms, but I couldn't quite imagine spaghetti sauce without them.