Category Archives: General Mumblings

A Recipe for Dragon’s Breath

So this guy I know

…from social media — funny guy named Jesse — asked me to write down this recipe. As a rule (there is no rule, I’m just making that up), I don’t write down recipes. At all. Especially not this one. That’s because the last time someone asked me to write down this recipe, she died. (Not making that up.) So read this recipe at your peril, make it if you dare, and eat it with whomever you plan to kiss goodnight. Or goodbye. Or whatever.

 

Dragon’s Breath
(caramelized vegetables with garlic-yogurt sauce)

What to:

3 yellow summer squash, or 5 zucchini (or courgette, or whatever you call them in your country. They are “kabak” here in Turkey, but you don’t care and why should you?)

3 eggplants (aubergine, “patlican”)

3 sweet red peppers (the kind you would roast, not red bell peppers, although those would be okay I suppose, you heathen) (“kirmizi biber”)

3 sweet green peppers (not bell peppers)

1 or 2 sliced, hot green peppers, more if you are a full-grown dragon (optional)

1 cup olive oil

2 cups full fat, unadulterated plain yogurt

8 fat cloves of garlic, fewer if you are a baby dragon (none if you are not a dragon at all, and how sad for you)

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

pinch of fine (table) salt

How to:

strain the yogurt if it seems runny (an hour should do it; we’re not making yogurt cheese here)

mash the garlic cloves and coarse salt with a wooden mortar and pestle; it should be pretty much liquified — you don’t want big pieces of raw garlic to chomp on; stir the mashed garlic into the strained yogurt and refrigerate, covered

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius (dragons, just use your breath)

Fry the vegetables in olive oil:

cut the squash into 3/4 inch cubes, sprinkle them with a little fine salt, and stir fry them in a single layer in a large frying pan in 1/4 cup olive oil, over medium high heat, just until they start to soften and have some well-browned sides; remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and scatter into a small, shallow roasting pan

cut the peppers into 1 inch pieces and fry them in the same oil, just until they blister; add them to the squash pieces in the roasting pan

add the remaining oil to the frying pan and heat it, while you

cut four strips of peel lengthwise from the eggplants and cut them into 3/4″ cubes.

add the eggplant pieces to the pan, sprinkle them with a little fine salt, stir them until they are equally oil-sodden little sponges, and fry them until they, too, have some well-browned sides. You might need to add even more oil, but don’t worry; they will release quite a lot of this oil in the oven. Add the fried eggplant to the roasting pan and stir in the hot pepper slices, if using.

Roast the vegetables for 15-25 minutes (This is to your taste. 25 minutes makes them a dark, sweet, creamy, lightly carcinogenic, suitable-for-toothless-Turkish-mothers-in-law mush). Transfer the vegetables and their oil to a shallow serving dish.

Serve warm or at room temp with yogurt sauce (on the side or smothering them, your choice), sprinkled with the pepper flakes if you wish. For vegans, omit the yogurt sauce; the caramelized veggies are pretty tasty without it. And they are pretty good cold, too.

Try not to die.

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Mark My Words…

Here’s me, showing my panties to a moist cabbage.

Have you ever considered that there are some words you dislike, that irritate you, but you don’t know why?

I never did.

In fact, I found it amusing to know that some people can’t bear to hear the words “moist” or “panties”… even when they aren’t used in the same sentence as “grab ’em by the pussy”. But lately it’s occurred to me that there are some very useful words that I’ve come to hate.

And I know why.

Here are just a few of them:

bellicose, braggart, bully, liar, delusional, two-faced, greedy, slanderer

Think about it. Are there any words YOU hate, that you’d like to share?

You don’t have to say why.

 

Reasons to Type Faster!

Greetings from The Voice of Doom!
Remember the old story from Isaac Asimov?

I was once being interviewed by Barbara Walters… In between two of the segments she asked me… “But what would you do if the doctor gave you only six months to live?” I said, “Type faster.”

Well, then: You probably know all about these two good reasons to stay indoors and type faster:
Lamprey Lampetra_camtschaticaArctic lampreys falling from the sky, and

Super Volcano gets Supersized.

I mean, people, we already knew that when it blows, civilization as we know it will end. Now they say the new magma chamber they’ve found could fill the Grand Canyon 11 times! So what the world needs now is more Paranormal Romance! Chick Lit! YAAAAAAAAAA !!!!

The Voice of Doom wants more bad news, more reasons to type faster.

Whaddya got?

Get Your Cliches from Hell Here!

Yesterday, I read this:

The Top Ten Storytelling Cliches that Need to Disappear Forever

Did you read it? Or did you skip to here? If you skipped, that’s okay. Who’s gonna know? But the rest of this post will make more sense if you click on the link and at least skim the list of cliches, m’kay?

Now: Here’s what I think about that post:

“I agree! And I’m dancing with glee!”

“Huh?” you say. “How can you agree that a writer shouldn’t use this list of cliches? For fuck’s sake, Hyperlink from Hell is loaded with them!”

To which I say: “You bet it is! It’s front-end loaded! It’s satire, remember? I can’t begin to say how thrilled I am to have hit the bullseye on 7 out of 10 of these!”

But listen: Hyperlink isn’t JUST satire. It isn’t just Pinocchio, poking his little (and sometimes not-so-little) nose into society’s blowhole to see where the bloated whale of our culture springs a leak. I took great pains to make sure he’s also a real boy — a real story about real(ish), crazy people. And I know some of you readers REALLY get that. And I love you for it.

But I’ve also realized that for other readers to get that, they need the other two books in the series, like, NOW. And they aren’t finished. So maybe I should have waited ’til they were done before publishing the first book, but live and learn — and I’ve learned so much from this last year and met so many wonderful readers and other writers, that I wouldn’t go back and change a thing…

Except one. I will soon be uploading a new version of the ebook, with a preview of the second book plopped on the end. Yes, you will soon learn if there’s a body in the tunnel! You won’t have to wait. And after I make those changes, I will make the book free for a while.

Then, after the troll anthology is out, I will write my fingers off to get those other two books out as soon as I can.

Now, about those cliches… Let’s have some fun with them!

1. Characters describing themselves in mirrors: Yes, Jimmie does, just once, stare at his face in the mirror and describe what he sees. But since his appearance keeps changing at Al’s Almighty whim, how else would he know what he looks like at any given time? It’s a win-win!

3. Blaming bad behavior on bad parenting: The whole book is a satirical look at this one. ‘Nuff said.

4. Too many inside jokes/references: All part of the satirical experience, at no extra charge.

5. The chosen one: Bullseye!

6. Countdown clocks: I am practically orgasmic that they included this one on the list!

7. Veiling your message in a dream: Or three! Weeeeeeee!!!

10. Knocking characters unconscious for plot convenience: Poor Jimmie! I did this countless times to him! And all on purpose! (I am a fucking genius!)

Now, I know what you’re thinking:

“What about numbers 2 (Broadcasting an upcoming plot twist), 8 (Using sex as wish fulfillment) and 9 (Magical Negroes and Noble Savages)?”

Well, I’ll do my best to squeeze 2 and 8 into books 2 and 3, but as for 9? No fucking way. I will simply have to admit defeat on that one — wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot Polish person — but you know, my own list of Cliches from Hell…

Is just getting started!

Grant E. Hamilton’s 1885 political cartoon for the “The Judge” magazine.

(Wikimedia Commons)

 

“STATE YOUR OCCUPATION!”

Just signed the tax forms. Where it said “occupation,” I put “writer,” but only because THIS wouldn’t fit:

“I take those stupid fb tests, you know, the ones where you’re supposed to find out which ’80s action hero you are (John McClane), or which Harry Potter character you are (Hermione, duh!), or which famous writer is your soulmate, even though she’s dead and you’re not a lesbian (Virginia Woolf) or which kick-ass character you are from a TV series (RIVER SONG, alias Melody Pond.  I get to marry The Doctor, who, by the way, has also kissed me mum).”

You know what else wouldn’t fit under “Occupation”? This:

“I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning.” (Phillip Roth)

Or this: “I do the hokey pokey and I turn the words around…”
Or this. “Yes, I AM a writer! I didn’t say it pays…”
Or this: “Stop laughing, IRS guy! I said, Stop laughing!”

You know what would fit, though? “Hello, Sweetie!”

 

The Masses need Glasses

Dear Universe,

This post was meant to be about author J.A. Konrath.

Well, not about J.A. Konrath, himself, more about this blog post of his, called “Zen and the Art of Bitching“, which reminded me of this part in Hyperlink from Hell where God starts bitching about all the lazy, ungrateful humans who sit on their asses and blame Him for their troubles. That is: they want Him to do everything; they won’t take responsibility for their lives. You know, like people who won’t wear seatbelts and blame Him for not deploying the airbag, as they sail through the windshield and into Intensive Care. If they’re lucky.

So, naturally, I ended up on YouTube watching this apologetic book trailer for Blinders Keepers, a book I’d never heard of by an author I’d never heard of, either. (I may be the last in the universe. I usually am. Damn You, Universe!)

I checked out the book’s blurb, on Amazon:

Collapse, chaos, confusion, rioting, looting. And that’s the good news!

America is coming apart and the President can do nothing to stop it. But 23-year-old Noah Tass has his own problems. Stuck his entire life in the hayseed capital of the Bible Belt after his father abandoned him 18 years ago, he has no future, all his friends are losers, his job is a dead end, his mother is stark raving mad, and his sister is a meth head stripper.

It was time to bail! Time to strike out a new path, to discover America, and kick start his life. Noah leaves Missouri and for a year truly experiences the adventure of a lifetime. But the country is one big loony bin and he ends up in the sock puppet theater of contemporary American life, inhabited by a deranged blundering president, brutal agents of the ATF, FBI and NSA — men who kill first and ask questions later — and an underground of wild and wacky but endearing freaks who are trying to overthrow the existing order.

Blinders Keepers is social-political satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift, Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller, but revved up and spit-shined to take on the historic new levels of absurdity and dysfunction of the 21st Century. It is one young man’s laugh-out-loud struggle to survive the epic disintegration of the American Dream.

Next,  I downloaded the sample to My Precious (Kindle), because I can’t afford to buy any new books until, like, 2045, and I started reading it. And that’s when I realized the title (Blinders Keepers) had special meaning to me. Because when I read this sentence:

“As I stand before this great body and look at the faces of those who have dedicated themselves…”

I saw this, instead:

“As I stand before this great body and look at the feces of those who have defecated themselves…”

So this post is about needing glasses.

Now… who can I blame for that?

My sentiments, exactly…

I’ve been thinking about this “reviewing other authors’ work” business a lot lately, ever since I started writing all these wee reviews of the wee books from the Konrath 8-hour Challenge. I will soon make a little addition to my reviewer’s profile over on Amazon, to wit:

You may notice that none of the books I review gets less than 4 stars from me. That doesn’t mean I never met a book I didn’t like. It means I won’t review it. And now that Chuck Wendig has written this awesome blog post on the subject, I don’t have to explain why. He does it for me!

Take it away, Chuck:

Why I don’t like to negatively review other authors, by Chuck Wendig.

 

The Turkey City Lexicon? Guilty!

If there’s anyone out there who still hasn’t heard of the Turkey City Lexicon, or who thinks it’s a colorful list of Don’t’s for Sci-fi writers only, get thee to the SFWA site right now! Some of us indie writers are guilty, guilty, guilty!

The most common infraction I’ve seen lately is this:

Not Simultaneous

The misuse of the present participle is a common structural sentence-fault for beginning writers. “Putting his key in the door, he leapt up the stairs and got his revolver out of the bureau.” Alas, our hero couldn’t do this even if his arms were forty feet long. This fault shades into “Ing Disease,” the tendency to pepper sentences with words ending in “-ing,” a grammatical construction which tends to confuse the proper sequence of events. (Attr. Damon Knight)

I am  sooo guilty of this particular, attractively-named bad writing habit:

Squid in the Mouth

The failure of an author to realize that his/her own weird assumptions and personal in-jokes are simply not shared by the world-at-large. Instead of applauding the wit or insight of the author’s remarks, the world-at-large will stare in vague shock and alarm at such a writer, as if he or she had a live squid in the mouth.

Since SF writers as a breed are generally quite loony, and in fact make this a stock in trade, “squid in the mouth” doubles as a term of grudging praise, describing the essential, irreducible, divinely unpredictable lunacy of the true SF writer. (Attr. James P Blaylock)”

But at least we’re not Rimmer or The Cat from Red Dwarf, trying to justify our very existence:

Sometimes, of course, we only think we’re guilty, and punish ourselves unfairly:

If your writing isn’t guilty of a single bad habit listed in The Turkey City Lexicon, my hat’s off to you.

That is all.

Quid Pro Ho, reprise.

Today’s a good day to reprise this post from last month, because I need a little reminder:

Woke up with these words reverbing through my brain:

Quid. Pro. Ho.

Just that, nothing more. No clue as to what my trickster mind meant by it — but I could almost hear her snickering behind her tiny trickster hand. Always the naughty little scamp, my trickster mind likes riddles, and she loves poking fun at me. Someday I hope to squash her, like one of the fairies in Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book.

But not until I squeeze the truth out of her.

See, the thing is, my trickster mind is a little bit psychic. Or psycho. Or a bit of both. Take what happened later that day, the day I woke up to her shouting “Quid Pro Ho”: I started reading Chuck Wendig’s 500 Ways to be a Better Writer. And what did I find right in the middle of the book, there? Actually, not there, no, no, a little to the left — on page 47% of an ebook with no table of contents, so I couldn’t have known ahead of time — under a chapter called 25 Things You Should Know about Social Media:

11:  Be An Escort, Not A Whore  (and)

12: Just Say No To Quid Pro Quo.

Before I speculate on what this means to me, much less you, let me say I don’t believe in fairies, or dragons, or astrology, or deities of any kind except in fiction — where all these things surely exist. If there is such a thing as precognition, there is a scientific reason for it. Probably some “Doctor-Who-wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey” universal reason that, when revealed, will make all humankind smack its collectively unconscious forehead and utter a resounding “duh.”

On to the speculation. After reminding writers to vary their online content and avoid participating in “pissy Internet rumpuses,” Chuck says in Be An Escort, Not A Whore:

“Speaking of self-promo… the reality of the modern writer’s existence is that self-promotion is inescapable. Whether you’re published by the Big Six or published by your buddy Steve out of his mother’s basement, you’re going to have to serve up some self-promo. Social media is your online channel for this. It has to be. And it isn’t a dirty word — if I follow a writer, I want to know that their new book is out because I may have missed that news. I just don’t want to hear it 72 times a day. And there’s the key to self-promotion — like with all things ([Chuck lists a few here]), everything in moderation.”

and in Just Say No To Quid Pro Quo:

“Controversial notion: do not re-share something purely as a favor to someone else. [….] The thing is, if one is to assume you are a writer to trust, then those who listen to your social media broadcasts want to know that the information you share is, in a way, pure.”

I guess what Chuck’s trying to tell me is that it’s all too easy to get caught up in link-love, in the mutual scratching of backs… even though, yeah, we might sell more books… but all that scratching has to mean something. We have to really like the back… back.

So now I’m pissed. How dare my fairy bitch trickster mind accuse me of link-lust, of click-counting, of slut-sharing?! And Chuck, Chuck… I love your novels, but I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Did I not just make fun of My Major Award? Did I not just not spread that chain letter link — which might have gotten me some “hits” and sold me some books? Did I not just use a whole bunch of double negatives? Huh?

No, you and my tiny mind don’t know me. Or do you? Could it be that you know a potential future me, one I would not be proud of? One with, say, psychic dinosaurs on the payroll?

So, note to self: “Psychic or no, don’t be a Quid Pro Ho.”

“And buy a fairy flyswatter.”

In the Beginning…

What if some of us are famous, someday? What if one of us has JUST THIS SECOND become famous, or is famously becoming famous… and we just don’t know it?

What is the sound of one person becoming famous? Clapping?

Setting aside the good, the bad, and the ugly cliches about whether or not being famous is a good, bad, or ugly thing, let’s pretend:

You are a famous author (chicken farmer, beekeeper, astronaut, whatever you are, how-the-hell-should-I-know-what-you-are?), and someone not quite as famously famous — a journalist, perhaps — asks you:

What’s your favorite opening line from a book?”

Could happen. Chicken farmers read.

Shouldn’t you be ready for that question? And have clean underwear?

I have clean underwear. It’s in my pocket. So I’m ready, just not for that question. I have too many favorite opening lines. Some of them aren’t even from my favorite books. Here’s one, which actually is from one of my favorite books, Terry Jones’s Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book:

Nanna wuldnt bleive me.

Here’s another all-around favorite, from The House at Pooh Corner:

One day when Pooh Bear had nothing else to do, he thought he would do something, so he went round to Piglet’s house to see what Piglet was doing.

And then there’s:

This is the tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.

(Breakfast of Champions)

and

“To be born again,” sang Gilbreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, “first you have to die.”

(The Satanic Verses)

and

It was love at first sight.

(Catch-22)

Of course, this one is on lots of people’s lists:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

(Pride and Prejudice)

I shan’t forget my beloved Alice in Wonderland. I shan’t!:

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do; once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures and conversations?”

Then there’s this opening line, which tells so… so much in so few words:

When Jamie was home, May Rose felt safe.

(The Girl on the Mountain)

But I might (just might) have to vote for The Catcher in the Rye, which is not one of my most favorite books, but it is a classic for good reason and I just love the opening:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it.

My favorite part of that is “how my parents were occupied”. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that, like all good chicken farmers, I might be famous someday. And so might you. So start making your lists now, fellow future famous folks. If you want, you can share them now, and here. Just for practice. I bet these guys practiced.

After all, we must be ready for anything. Even questionable questions about our underwear.

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