Okay, this site is pretty much dead...

Please go to www.blog.deannaknippling.com. It's not perfect, but it's home now. I'm going to leave the content here for a little longer, but there will be no new updates.


Writing Contest

I entered Scalzi's SciFi Writing Contest over at AMC, Option 9:

9. Stung by the reviews of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that describe the flick as being utterly without any redeeming qualities, director Michael Bay declares that the next Transformers movie will have a story and script based on one of the plays of William Shakespeare. In no more than two paragraphs, write a synopsis of that movie, using any Shakespeare play you like. NOTE: No fair using Titus Andronicus.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S MACHINE (2013): Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox return in Michael Bay's latest installment in the Transformer series. Sam Witwicky (LeBeouf) and Mikaela Banes (Fox) have split up. Mikaela is about to get married to Max McNabber (Simon Pegg), while Sam is about to propose to Elaine D'Lessoin (Malin Akerman), who used to be his girlfriend - until Elaine accidentally betrayed Max, a scientist who had discovered how to use a fragment of the AllSpark to interface a human brain with a machine.

After Optimus Prime's (Peter Cullen) AI is accidentally exchanged with the mind of Agent Reggie Simmons (John Turturro),* Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and Starscream (Charlie Adler) are free to wreck havoc on the humans. However, a mysterious female robot, Nightbird (Sigourney Weaver) attacks Megatron, accusing him of betraying her - Nightbird is the result of a human-Decepticon experiment abandoned by Megatron. Starscream tricks Nightbird into blaming Optimus Prime while simultaneously attempting to transfer Megatron's AI into Agent Simmon's body, destroying Optimus Prime's mind. Nightbird traps Optimus Prime (with Agent Simmons' body). It's up to Sam, Max, Mikaela, and Elaine to resolve their differences, discover how to return Optimus Prime and Agent Simmons to their own bodies, and trick Megatron and Nightbird before Megatron can take over Optimus Prime's brain and destroy them all.**

*I.e., an ass.
**I almost want to see this now. And of course the resolution will include a fake-death scene. O Pyramis!

[Insert snickering to self.]

Continued issues with WordPress at the other site

...but I really like playing with their toys, so I will probably persevere.

Thanks, Dave and Doyce :)

On cursing.

Somebody gave me what has to be the first reason not to curse that I can respect:

"It takes no discipline to curse."

Just so.

Except, personally, I disagree.

I grew up so shy, so self-contained, and so afraid of breaking the rules that cussing is a sanity check for me. If I let one slip and proceed to panic, I know I Need to Calm Down.

I had to practice to be able to curse, out loud, in front of other people. (I still would rather walk around pantsless than try to spit in front of someone.)

I still think cursing at someone to make them feel bad is repulsive. I do it sometimes and am repulsed. I feel embarrassed about cursing in front of someone who finds it offensive or improper (or excessive). I also feel embarrassed when a ridiculous number of cuss words show up in my novel - on the level of using too many exclamation points or adverbs. I feel like cursing in the car is losing my cool when I need it most.

But, in general, it takes me more discipline to keep myself relaxed enough to curse and not grit my teeth afterwards than to keep my mouth shut in the first place.



My blog is moving - to www.blog.deannaknippling.com.


Recipe: Butternut Coconut Soup

I don't like squash. It's mushy. It's baby food. It's bland. And sometimes it's spaghetti squash, which for some reason I find absolutely disgusting even to look at.


But someone was talking about making butternut squash soup, and it sounded good, so I made some.
Lee: Are you planning to make anything for supper tonight?
De: Butternut coconut soup. But I don't think you'll like it...whatever you make, make some for Rachael, okay? I don't think she'll like it either. I may not like it either. But I need to experimente.
Lee: Okay.
They had peanut butter marshmallow grilled sandwiches, which I think might be the perfect accompaniment to the soup.

Being generally against the idea of squash and the eating thereof, I have no idea what to do with them. I look up a butternut squash soup recipe on the internet. Step 1: Roast at 350F for 1.5 hours. Hm. I don't hate squash enough to spend that much time torturing it. I decide to peel the squash and saute it.

With my good, sharp, trusty knife, I cut the squash in half lengthwise, which is like cutting a 2-by-4 with a wet noodle. Wow, that was tough, I think. Maybe peeling it will be easier.

After jamming my fingernails several times into the peel and getting painful Chinese-under-the-fingernail torture, I realize peeling the butternut squash is a bad plan.

I turn on the oven. I turn off the oven. I'm NOT roasting something for 1.5 hours just to get the damned peel off. I turn toward the microwave, which whimpers.

Which was not nearly as amusing as the sound of the butternut squash screaming after 3 minutes nuked on high. HAHAHA! I should have pricked the flesh with a fork, but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. However, the squash is still not coming out of its peel, so I nuke it some more...about ten or eleven minutes total. I'm not sure how long; as soon as I could scrape each piece off its peel, I pulled it off the plate. Also, I kept opening the microwave door as Lee and Ray walk by, so they can hear the squash screaming too.

Meanwhile, I chopped half a red onion and a couple of tablespoons of ginger and sauteed them in a few Tbs of butter. I added a teaspoon of Rogan Josh seasoning, which I got from Penzey's last year. A year! It's a shame; I really don't know how to handle Indian spices, and all I'm using the RJ for is seasoning food that turns out to be too bland, while I'm at work.

Then, knife in hand...

Hassan Chop!

...I spy the McIntosh apple sitting on the counter.

Now, the McIntosh apples I find at the grocery store are nowhere near as good as the apples we used to have on the farm, at least as far as I can remember. The flesh is too mushy, not crisp enough (my perfect apples, in non-memoryland, are Pink Lady, so far). But the McIntoshes still smell right, the one true apple breed as far as I'm concerned. If I ever get around to making cider, I'll have to start with McIntosh.

Goodbye, apple.

Then I add one container of coconut milk. Coconut milk is one of those things that, if you're going to buy it, get a reasonably pricy brand. Cheapass coconut milk is AWFUL. I got the Sunflower house brand this time, and it was just fine.

Things are starting to come together in the soup pot. It smells good, anyway. But I can't resist screwing around, so I add a tablespoon of peanut butter.

I'm more used to the Thai flavor profile than the Indian, so I'm thinking in Thai, coconut + peanuts = good. And it's tasty. Not spectacular or anything, but tasty.

After I got the kitchen cleaned up and simmered the stuff for about 10 minutes, I pureed it all in the blender. [Insert blender sound effects here.]

I make Lee and Ray taste it:
Lee: It's okay...it tastes like squash.

Ray: It's missing the main thing.
Me: What's that?
Ray: Well, coconut.
Me: I put a whole can of coconut in it and I'm not going to do anymore.
Ray: [Walks away. Probably the safest option at that point.]
I thought it was too bland.

So I added another teaspoon of RJ. And a teaspoon of true cinnamon. And a teaspoon of thyme, because it sounded good. And a teaspoon of salt.

Hm...suddenly I can taste the peanut butter, in a good way. Not enough onion; red was probably a poor choice, and half an onion not nearly enough. And spicier = better. Not enough to make my nose run, though, so I'll probably add some more when I reheat the leftovers.

Conclusion: DEATH TO SQUASH!

I would eat butternut squash again, if in a spicy dish for sure, and I would consider using pumpkin instead of butternut squash here. I really don't eat pumpkin, either. Could be interesting...

Suggested recipe:

1 butternut squash, heated to mushiness via microwave (about 10 minutes) and peeled
2T butter (or more)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 T ginger, minced
1 McIntosh apple, or anything but a Red Delicious, diced (didn't bother peeling, no issues)
1 small can of coconut milk, and an equal amount of water (or 2x the amount; the soup was really thick)
2t Rogan Josh seasoning (cardamom, bay, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne according to one recipe)
1t cinnamon
1t thyme
1t salt (or to taste)

Saute the onion, ginger, Rogan Josh, and apple in butter. When the onion is translucent and soft, add the coconut milk and water and bring to a simmer. Add the squash as you remove it from its skin, chopping the squash roughly if necessary. Simmer about ten minutes, then puree. Add cinnamon, thyme, and salt to taste, and serve.





Because I said so, and it makes me happy.


On the importance of importance.

Sadly, I don't know that I have anything to say that can't be said in 14o characters or fewer. If you see a blog post after this, I must have figured out something to say...

I've been thinking over the last couple of days about things that are important. What is, what isn't, and why.

Is being right important? Is being nice important? Which is more important?

Is being "good" at something important? Is having "fun" important? What about being so obsessed about something that you get good at it, is that even healthy? Should I let Ray go off the deep end about various things, trusting that she'll be back eventually? Do I even have a choice? What's the difference between going nuts about something and not knowing what else to do with your time?

When I don't have time for the things I love, what do I give up? I can only give up so much downtime before my brain fries. Why does everything have to be so important? Why do I have to care about EVERYTHING? Why do I let myself get backed into doing something I don't love, don't want to do, but feel to guilty to abandon? On the one hand, you have to try new things, or you'll never find out whether you'll like something or not, but on the other hand, when do you burn your bridges on something you're trying out?

Why don't I make time for the things I want to do? Why am I so attached to commitments that aren't worth my time?

In the middle of all this, my position at work is on very shaky bedrock. I probably won't get fired tomorrow, but the next few months will be rough. Do I take a job I don't like? I'm not ready to go freelance, for financial reasons, but more than 50% of my brain is saying, "please fire me...please fire me..."

I'm not working much on computer stuff. Thinking about computers makes me panic, honestly, and I keep telling myself that I have to get the novel out before I can go back to computer stuff. But I obsess about it daily. I'm pretty sure being an IT tech is not the job for me. I mean, it's bedrock stuff, and I'd be ashamed not to know it, but I've been skimming through Lee's Make magazines, and the articles about fussing around with hardware just don't twirl my eggs.* (It's the programming stuff that I drool over.)

But I haven't been writing lately, either. I've been reading books, because I haven't had time to read books lately, and that's what made me feel the worst. Also, when I'm reading books, the back of my brain is usually secretly sorting something out. But I'm not accomplishing anything while I read books, so I feel bad about that...

I've spent years doing what I was supposed to do. Maybe not to the same extent that other people do, but I've been doing it, being jerked around by it. I'm frustrated with doing what I'm supposed to do, but I don't know that I could ever succeed at doing what I want to do (especially with as mixed up as I am now).

Good severance package...good severance package...no whammies...no whammies...

*I was going to type "pump my nads" but I realized that's not what it was...this seemed to be both parallel and accurate.


Recipe: Notes on Quiche

This turned out to be delicious, so I better write it down. I intend to try the croissant crust on a fruit pie - quite tasty, and very convenient.

1 can refrigerated croissant rolls
1 bunch of spinach (or 1 10-oz package of frozen spinach), rinsed and chopped
4 green onions, chopped
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 eggs
1/3 c cream
1/2 pkg (4 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
about 3/4 c finely grated cheese, pressed (that is, not completely fluffed up. about like brown sugar, if you know what I mean) - I used about 1/3 smoked cheddar and 2/3 parmesan
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the croissant dough, squishing to seal the seams. The dough will get pretty dark around the edges; you may want to cover with foil. Don't cover the middle of the quiche with foil, regardless, or you'll prevent tasty browning.

Saute the garlic, green onions, and spinach in olive oil for a few minutes over medium-high heat, until the spinach has turned dark green and has released some of its water. Remove from heat.

Beat the cream cheese in a blender, adding the eggs and cream, until all the cream cheese is blended in. Be sure to scrape the sides of the beating bowl.

Mix the spinach mixture, cheese, and salt and pepper into the egg mixture. Pour into the pie pan, set on a cookie sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is just set, plus about 2-3 minutes. Let the quiche cool for 10 minutes to finish setting. The center should be thick but just a bit moist.


Something new.

So I've started studying for A+.

Yesterday I had a moment of complete zzzt, which ended up with me begging for Lee to hold me and let me blubber. Going into computers--which is the plan--is something completely new.

I'm not worried about the test. Tests. Pfft.

I'm worried about being able to fix people's computers. Which makes it sound more noble than it is; I'm worried about failing more than I'm worried about people having expensive paperweights.

Lee told me not to worry; I'm very smart. I told myself not to worry; the worst thing I can do is make an ass of myself, and I survive that on a daily basis.

No, it's just fear of the unknown. I haven't done anything really new to myself for several years, which is part of the reason I'm ready to get out of pure tech editing. A risk: what if I have to change? --Self, you will have to change. You're doing this in order to change.

The logical brain, unable to anticipate what new logics it will have to use, panics. What if other people are better at computers than I am? --Self, you better hope so, because you're going to need help.


Writerly ramble: Current status of the toolbox.

So I'm working on revising the Short Story that Wouldn't Die, the Thing in the Box story, which has survived 13 rejections (and one acceptance/'zine tank) to date. (The name started out as "Things You Don't Want but Have to Take" and changed to "Fragile" when I thought it would sell better that way and has now gone back to the original name, but it is, essentially, a Thing in the Box story.)

I'm not very good at short stories. This was the one I liked the most so far - but it's still hasn't been published. But I have another short story drafted that I like, and I have another one rumbling around in the back of my head...and I really, really like short stories. Horror shorts, mostly.

I promised myself I could get this one revised and sent out before I got back to Alien Blue, both so I could feel a sense of accomplishment and so I could have more time to ruminate on AB issues before I went back down in the weeds.

Revise, revise, revise. I curse myself for not being able to know whether I'm writing brilliantly or with great sucktitude. Suddenly, this morning, I think, "Why not use my novel writing tools on it and see what I get?"


What are my current novel-writing tools? What ARE novel-writing tools? Versus other writing tools?

Well, writing tools in general are anything that help you write. Improv exercises, character sheets, programs that highlight adverbs, etc.

What I think of as my novel-writing tools are the quick checks I've been making before I start something difficult in a novel--either drafting or revising, even just revising a specific scene, to make sure I'm heading where I intend to go (rightly or wrongly).

Here's the current list, which I can get through in a half-hour when I'm in the middle of a project, longer if I'm trying to work something out:
  • Log line. A short (25-word or less) description of the story, in the format of Main character [adverb + verb] tries to ________. Notes: Between the adverb and verb, one of the two must change before the end of the story. Also, the attempted action must reflect the focus of the story--not the ending. Don't reveal the twist at the end. (Via general PPWC goodness.)
  • Character web. Write the names of the characters on a piece of paper and draw lines to show the relationships between them, checking for any missing relationships or characters. Yours truly, writing about mysterious things (although not necessarily mysteries) often finds hidden connections or parallels between characters this way. (My own invention.)
  • GMC. Goal, motivation, conflict. Take the main characters and write at least their main goal, their motivation for the goal, and the conflict that stops them from immediately achieving their goal. You can do two versions, one for their internal goal, and one for an external goal. (Got this from Pam McCutcheon.)
  • Plot as Joke. Write the ending down. Working backwards, include all the steps needed to set it up. Make sure each unit (story as a whole, each chapter) includes a beginning that sets up the end, all of and only the necessary steps to set up the end, and only the ending necessary. (For some reason, this usually breaks into 4-part sections: Beginning, Thing 1, Thing 2, End-which-leads-to-new-beginning.) (From Daniel Abraham. My hero.)
  • The Clue grid. With any mystery, there are red herrings. Make a grid like the game Clue: Character, Method, Opportunity--add a column for motive. Do this for each mystery (subplot). You may want to set up a Joke plot for each red herring, too--Plot A looks like Mrs. White did it in the Conservatory with the lead pipe; Plot B looks like Professor Plum did it in the Library with the Revolver. If you've seen the movie Clue, you'll know what I mean. (Adapted, obviously, from Clue.)
  • So what? The most nebulous tool. What was it you had in mind when you sat down to write this particular story? What was the point? "A rollicking good time" is so vague as to be meaningless. (I pulled this out of the general "how to write a story" ether.)
Here's AB:
  • Log line: An ornery barkeep tries to save his town from alien invasion using a mysterious blue beer.
  • Character web: In progress, actually--I'm working out where the Good Doctor fits in, and how everyone has different relationships at the end of the story. Different types of relationships.
  • GMC: Goal--Bill Trout wants to save his town from alien invasion. Motivation--A failed ex-cop, Bill wants to keep people safe and prevent his best friend, Jack Stout, from making a fatal mistake. Conflict--Jack's too !@#$%^& smart for his own good.
  • Plot: Not going to give it away here!
  • Clue grid: Have to rework this again, re: Good Doctor.
  • So what? AB's about what makes stories--and, by extension, memory--important. I also wanted to mess around with the question of what makes a monster.
So here's my trying this stuff on the Thing in the Box story (spoilers):
  • Log line: Defeated housewife tries to hide a long-lost monster from her lonely husband.
  • Character web (as close to the picture as I can get): Madeline (wife)--->David (husband) (relationship: cold, proper, a "good marriage"). Madeline---->Doreen (relationship: sucking the lifeblood, rules, expectations) (phone survey note - adding insult to injury). Joe (delivery man)--->no relationship to anybody, but reminds Madeline of an ex-boyfriend (parallel). Monster--->Madeline. The curiosity that killed the cat. M thinks the monster came because of "who she is really." Old BF--->Madeline (relationship memory, he found out who she was and left).
  • GMC: Madeline G: Hide the monster. M: Husband will leave if he finds out. C: Monster won't stay hidden. David G: Find out what's going on. M: Tired of the excuses. C: Hurting Madeline. Monster G: Keep Madeline as she is (i.e., tied to the monster). M: Only way of existing, as parasite. C: Madeline betrayal (punish?).
  • Plot as Joke: 1) M tries to hide monster from D but fails. 2) D tries to destroy monster alone. 3) M comes clean to D. 4) M & D face monster together. --Ah, I was missing 3, and 1 needs to be refocused.
  • Clue grid: One of the few stories I've written that doesn't need one, although I did write down the clues (what is the monster?) and decided to remove one, because the story (see below) is about something that means I need to keep the monster purposely vague.
  • So what? The story is about living with something you can't live with (but is at least somewhat your own fault), and how you cope. M has coped poorly, hiding the truth and even her personality in order to keep things under control, not asking for or accepting help from outside sources in the fear she'll be pushed away totally (again). The story shows how that breaks down and what she does about it. People have given me fascinating comments, trying to find out what the monster "really" is. I don't want to lose that.
Results...well, I'm going to have to read it again tomorrow, but I think I might have it. We shall see.


Recipe: Pesto.

Among other things, summertime is about eating yourself stupid on fresh vegetables and fruit from the farmer's market.

And basil.


1 large bunch basil
4 cloves garlic
1/3 c (pre-grating) freshly-grated, extra-good Parmesan or Romano
1/3-1/2 c. pine nuts
High-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar (optional)

I like rougher pesto; the smooth stuff just doesn't do it for me.

So here's what you do: go to Sam's Club, Costco, or what have you, and buy a block of Parmegiano-Reggiano and a package of pine nuts. Don't bother buying this stuff at a grocery store; you'd be stingy with it, and that would be sad.

(Do you really need the pine nuts or cheese? Well, no, you could make pesto without them, but it wouldn't be sublimely yummy; it would be chopped basil - you would be better off just snipping basil leaves into your dish at the last second, to save time and sparkly basil freshness. Pesto is greater than the sum of its parts.)

Then go to the farmer's market and buy a bunch of basil, a big one that masses about as much as a bunch of leaf lettuce. Or two or three bunches of basil, if you want to freeze some pesto for winter (this works very well; see below). Get some fresh garlic, while you're at it. It should go without saying that if you can't use fresh garlic or basil, don't bother; get pre-made pesto in a jar instead.

Strip the basil leaves off the larger stems and wash the leaves thoroughly. Drain and drip dry.

Pull out your trusty nut chopper, the one with the springs and the W-shaped blade. Or a food processor, I guess. A blender is right out. Chop the leaves into largish flecks without pureeing them - standard crossword-puzzle box size or so. If you care whether your basil turns dark, I suppose you could chop it by hand - I'm too lazy.

Crush about 4 cloves of garlic through a garlic press and stir into the basil.

Grate (use a Microplane-style fine grater, if you have it) about 1/3 cup of Parmesan into the basil mixture.

Put about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of pine nuts in a dry saute pan, and toast the nuts over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are brown. Chop the nuts and add.

Start adding the best extra-virgin olive oil you can find. Add enough oil so the basil clings together smoothly in a paste (think tomato paste, only not as stiff), about 1/4 cup. If you like, add a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar (I know, I know, it's not standard).

The flavor should be fairly mellow, except for the garlic. That's okay. The best way to bring out the full flavor of the pesto is with a gentle heat - add the pesto to hot dishes AFTER you pull them off the heat.

To freeze: fill an ice cube tray with pesto and freeze, then pop the block out and put them in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible (to prevent freezer burn).

Angel hair with pesto and tomatoes

1 recipe of pesto (see above)
3-4 good-quality ugly tomatoes, chopped to bite-size and seeded
1 lb. angel-hair pasta
feta cheese
capers (optional)

Cook pasta al dente in WELL salted water and drain, reserving a little pasta water. While still hot, toss with pesto and tomatoes, adding a little pasta water if it's too dry. Top with feta and capers, if desired.

Sheer gluttony.


Do the Next Thing.

I realized a couple of days ago that I'm good at my job.

Sad, isn't it?

I can sling commas with the best of them. I can argue quotation marks until I'm blue in the face. I can stand toe to toe with rocket scientists (well, engineers) and tell them they may not include metaphors in formal documentation. I can juggle a schedule, I can negotiate delays, I can determine whether requirements have been met and whether the reviewers are full of crap. I can make judgment calls and stand behind them later. I can back down even when I'm right (sometimes).

I found out someone was moving to a different job doing something similar, but with new things to learn - and I burned. Not right away, mind you. But an hour or two later, it hit me. I'm good at my job. I'm more than good enough at my job.

There are still more things to learn, but they mostly involve meta functions, like audits and process engineering and stuff like that. Nothing that I work on a daily basis.

I'm not bored yet - but I will be, soon.

My plan had been to work at this job until I could go freelance (not just fiction writing), but I don't think I can wait that long. I'm disruptive when I'm bored.

Bored now.

So now what? What's the next thing?

Well, I do know that I want to be some kind of guru. For me, TMI = state of bliss. I like meta functions, but as a whole job? I don't know. I did QA for a while, but someone else designed the program, I just ran with it. Something databasy? I like to design things, but I've never made serious money at it. Something Internetty? I don't want to get into food; there's not enough money in it, and I'd rather keep it as a hobby. I don't want to go back into health care, unless it's as some kind of geek. I keep coming back to doing something computerish. And I don't want to have to get another degree to start doing it - although some certs would be okay.

So I keep noodling around. I'll be surprised if I make any changes before a year goes by - and shocked if I do anything before the year is out. But there it is: I can't fit my brain back in the same box.



I'm tired of waiting for my daughter to come home. --I was doing just fine until about half an hour ago, when I saw some pictures of her fishing with Grandpa & co. And now I am not doing fine.

Done being patient!


Independence Day.

Happy Independence Day.

While a lot of people will be exhorting you to remember the sacrifices other people made to make this country what it is (usually so you will shut up and stop disagreeing with them for five minutes), I would like to exhort you to remember to be independent.

You are not your religion (or lack of it).

You are not a political party.

You are not a company or a job.

You are not even a family or a relationship. You aren't your parents - you aren't not your parents. Or your kids.

You aren't tallness, you aren't shortness, you aren't healthiness, you aren't illness, you aren't wealth, you aren't poverty, you aren't happiness, you aren't sadness.

You aren't a sexual orientation. You aren't manhood, womanhood, or anything in between.

You aren't an unhappy childhood. You aren't a privileged childhood.

You aren't where you live. Or where you grew up.

You aren't failure. You aren't success.

People try to tell other people they are these things, that they should do things based on who they are. "You're a ____. You should do _____." I, for one, find myself doing it all time (e.g., "You're a conservative. CONSERVE.")

But it's exactly that kind of thinking that leads to the ends justifying the means - Christians killing abortionists, gay people making fun of "breeders," out-of-work fathers killing their kids so they don't grow up hungry (and never grow up at all), environmental activists supporting biofuels that cause farmers to chop down rainforests, Libertarians who sell their liberty to corporations (to keep Liberty away from the Government), people who let their families fall apart because they can't walk away from the jobs they took to support their families.

So take a step back from your ideals and ambitions today to smile more often, listen more, laugh at jokes, and do what you love (and not what you should do). Don't put your nose to the grindstone. Don't make sacrifices. Don't be noble.

Taking it all with a grain of salt is also part of what makes this country great.


Growing like a weed.

Ray's getting older. For better or worse, she's grown away from the sugar sweet innocence of babyhood. She isn't sour, but she's tarter - wittier - able to stand just the tiniest bit back from the events happening around her and see them from her own perspective, not just her parents' or friends'. It's still hard for her to keep that eye of distance on her friends, but that's as it is.

She's getting to the point where she wishes things were different (i.e., perfect). If only our yard were like everyone else's, full of grass and flowers and a swimming pool and...

Honestly, it's a little discouraging.

But I have to stand just a little bit back and see things from my own perspective, too. I spent two summers pulling gravel out of the back yard to get even this far. Today, I spent a couple of hours pulling weeds out of the yard - first, I watered and admired the strawberry patch - and under the big clumps of weeds are patches of tiny, silken grass shoots. My patch of dill and basil is starting to sprout, even after the heat we've had the last few days. My next project is to put bird netting over the strawberries - which may or may not do anything about the squirrel that runs across the top of the fence next to the patch. I put some old leaf mulch between the rows of strawberries today. I didn't plan it - I just ran across a pile of rotten leaves and was inspired. "Perfect," I said. "Nothing's growing in it."

I'm finally able to stand back from the sweltering gravel pit of imperfection that is my back yard and go, "Ah. That part's nice."

It's not a big part. But it's nice.

Part of me is an editor, a perfectionist, a rules lawyer, a perpetual teenager whining about how things aren't fair. And if I didn't have that part of me, I wouldn't have a job, and I certainly wouldn't have pulled weeds tonight for two hours. But that part of me can't appreciate anything I've accomplished. It tangles me up: don't bother starting if it isn't going to be perfect.

Part of me is a daydreamer, a living non sequiteur. If I didn't daydream, I wouldn't be worth being around. I wouldn't be able to understand other people, let alone give a crap about them - I wouldn't be able to put myself in their shoes. But that part of me will start a million projects and never finish anything. It always gives up.

But when they work together - when I just leave them alone to do what they do best - it's better. I don't give up - but I occasionally stand back and admire my work.

Maybe I can get a kiddie pool this year, if I put it where the worst of the weeds are instead of where the baby grass is growing. The pool will have to be rigid plastic, of course, or the gravel will tear it up.

A surprise for when Ray comes back from South Dakota, in July, from visiting her grandparents. Unless she reads it on the blog first - she does that sometimes.

On the one hand, you want your kid to be well-adjusted. Well-rounded. Happy. Perfect.

On the other hand, it's the little pieces of craziness that both give your kid individuality and talent. Who would I be if I hadn't obsessed about books and words my entire childhood? Or if I hadn't spent so many years tearing myself up about how things weren't fair? I wouldn't be me, had all my wrinkles been smoothed out too soon.

So here's to my daughter - growing like a weed - in a protected corner of our garden, where I won't trim her too much, until she can find the place where she isn't a weed anymore. Hopefully, she'll come back and visit after she uproots herself.


Bad Jokes.

So this kid tells his father a bad joke. And his father tells me. And I, admittedly not the best joke teller (or rememberer; I only have two long jokes and two short ones at hand most of the time) in the world, tell my daughter.

Here's the joke:

"An actor wants to get a part as a pirate, so he cuts his leg off. But he doesn't get the job. Know why? He cut off the wrong leg!"

She's sitting in the back seat of Lee's Jeep. She looks at me like I'm an idiot.

Okay, okay, I'm a bad joke teller. Fair enough, I'm thinking.

She says, "Mom, everyone knows you have to cut off this leg [points to right leg] if you're going to be a pirate."


Later, she says, "Mom, do you want to hear a joke? My friend [friend's name redacted] told it to me."

"Okay," I say.

"A boy, it's his first day of school, his very first day, his teacher asks, 'What is your name?' and he says, 'Buttcheeks.' And the teacher says, 'If you say that one more time, I'm going to send you to the principal's office. Now what is your name? And the boy says, 'Buttcheeks!' [Giggles]

"The teacher sends him to the principal's office and the principal says, 'What is your name?' and the boys says [more giggles] 'Buttcheeks!' And the principal says, 'If you say that one more time, I'm going to send you to the cop, and he will shoot you dead. Now, what is your name?' And the boy says, 'My name is Buttcheeks!'

"The principal sends him to the cop and the cop says, 'What is your name?' and the boy says [she has to stop to catch her breath] 'My name is Buttcheeks!' and the cop says, 'If you say that one more time, I'm going to shoot you in the head. Now what is your name?' And the boy says, 'Buttcheeks!' So the cop shoots him dead.

"The boy's mother comes to the police station and says to the cop, 'Oh my poor Buttcheeks!' And the cops says, 'You can sit down if you want.' But the woman says, 'Buttcheeks was the name of my son!'"

[Complete loss of cool. Apparently, that's the end of the joke.]

Nobody believes kids, you know. It's a shame.


Burnout, slow recovery.

The last few weeks have been rough - too many projects going on, too many possibilities. Too much editing.

So instead of trying to accomplish it all as fast as I can, so I can fit more in (my usual mode of operation), I've been trying to (face it; something in the back corner of my brain has been forcing me to) slow down and take things one step at a time: I worked on a strawberry patch instead of trying to fix my entire back yard (it needs it). I've been working on my murder mystery game, instead of my game and my novel rewrites, and a short story I have in my head, and doing research, and volunteering for Pikes Peak Writers, and coming up with RPG material, and writing blog entries, and and and. I took a few evenings off to just read or hang out with my family.

Part of me is gnashing my teeth. I didn't get enough done! But part of me is saying, "What you did do, was valuable." The thing is, I get down when I'm not accomplishing something, and I'm afraid of wrapping myself up in the idea that I have all the time in the world to do what I want to do. What if I forget something important? What if I spend too much time doing nothing?


Rachael at Nosh.

I took a floating holiday on Wednesday. That morning, I tried to do edits, but realized I still didn't have a plan on how exactly to fix something, so I used the morning working that out. I hate rebuilding plans during editing time - it works much better to brainstorm during meetings. But I couldn't move ahead without it, so there you go.

Ray and I left for Nosh about eleven.

On the one hand, eating at restaurants really isn't important. It's all calories. On the other hand, it's vital - humans aren't built to eat the same thing, day after day. And we are what we eat, both in our choices of what to eat and how our choices affect us, physically and otherwise.

Nosh is a good place. High-quality ingredients prepared simply but well, in reasonable portions and proportions. Good ambiance, with the far side of the main dining room lit by skylight, the walls covered with giant koi, and the floors made of bamboo.

Friendly, foodie staff. Reasonable prices. An eye for world cuisine and twists on familiar flavors. Not the best food I've ever had - but that was a conjunction of excellent good, ambiance, and company not to be often recreated or surpassed.

We arrived early, so we got a little carton of sweet potato fries, dressed with salt and pepper and served with a sweet sauce with red peppers, maybe.

The waitress asked how the fries were and got a thumb's up.

Ray scanned the menu. I said, "You should have the calamari."

"What's that?"


"That's what I'm having."

And she did. She wandered the restaurant and decided the giant goldfish wallpaper was a good thing. She chatted up the waitresses and figured out our table number.

I ordered the tomato bisque and crabcakes with mango-cilantro salsa.

It all arrived quickly, perfectly prepared.

I don't like going to restaurants that serve food that I can cook better than they can. I'm pretty sure I can make everything on the Nosh menu without too much hassle. I just can't pull it off as well.

So we sat, and talked, and ate, and laughed, and it was good. And that's something I would like to have be a part of my daughter's life.

Then we went to Fernando Botero at the Fine Arts Center. And after that, the park: everybody looked weird: too thin...


Book Reviews.

A Betrayal in Winter, by Daniel Abraham.
The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson, edited by Richard Dalby.
So far on the Gene Wolfe Solar Cycle...


My only complaint with A Betrayal in Winter was the fact that most of the action (all but the epilogue) occurred in SUMMER. SUMMER. I think this is a valid complaint.

The second book in the high fantasy The Long Price Quartet, I find the book not quite as striking as the first - the first book introduces the idea that a poet might physically lock an idea into place, after all. And the characters' choices weren't as wrenching as in the first book - I'm sure other readers would argue with me, but I just couldn't empathize with the choice in this book. I kept thinking, "What you call for will come," and sure enough, it did.

But. I enjoyed reading this book more. The storylines were stronger, less disorienting. I actually liked some of the characters, instead of standing back and admiring them from a distance. The book may be a little further away from brilliance, but closer to clarity.

I recommend the series for anybody who remembers liking high fantasy but can't pick up the typical, mass-market high fantasy books (e.g., Robert Jordan) anymore. Mature, sophisticated - the kind of books that only in retrospect you recognize as being a retelling of the "chosen one saves the world" story.


E.F. Benson is one of my favorite old-school horror writers. "The Room in the Tower," "Mrs. Amsworth," and "Caterpillars" will stick with me until I die.

This collection of his short stories, however, shows his weaknesses rather than his strengths. By collecting pretty much every ghost story Benson ever wrote, I saw the repetitive nature of a lot of his stories - themes that never evolved, characters that never changed, horrors that lost their insidiousness due to their humdrum recurrence.

I really didn't read anything that met the level of the stories I'd read already, sad to say.


My project in reading the 12-book Gene Wolfe Solar Cycle (which starts with The Shadow of the Torturer) continues. May was The Urth of the New Sun.

TUotNS was a coda to the first four books, The Book of the New Sun, apparently written to clear up the mysteries of the first four books, at least to the extent that Wolfe was willing to clear them up. Ahhhh, says I. TUotNS made for easier reading than the first four books (I only have about 50 vocabulary words to look up for TUotNS, instead of 250 or so for each of the others), but it was less satisfying. Too clear? Too many mysteries revealed? Too easy, the way breaking into the local bank is too easy after you've successfully ripped off Fort Knox?

Nightside of the Long Sun is next.

Restaurant Review: Curry Leaf

The Curry Leaf restaurant in Colorado Springs is tiny, but it's good. Sri Lankan comfort food turns out to be a cross between Indian and some colonial European influences, and it was comfort-food yummy. A lot of curries with rice - and pastries and flan for desert. The coconut sambol (a salad) was too spicy to gulp down, but I wanted to. Otherwise, the dishes weren't terribly spicy.

It's hard to imagine the tens of thousands of people supposedly killed in the class between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers - in a country a quarter the size of Colorado, but there you go.

Pueblo trip - weekend of May 23

I can't recommend going to Pueblo, although I had a good time, which says more about me and my capability for amusement than it does about Pueblo. And more about how much more easily Ray and Lee get along, how they cope with changes in the routine. The trip was a belated birthday present: there's a limit to how much I can cope with being spoiled, okay?

The Sangre de Cristo Art Museum is an odd construct - an arts complex in which more enjoyment and attention is devoted to the kids' museum than the one for adults. The kids' museum wasn't as fun as the one in Santa Fe, but the one in Pueblo was still very nice.

The Pueblo kids' museum focuses on art, naturally enough; the focus both defines and limits the place. For example, there was a free kids' pottery class over in the adults' building, an area filled with blocks to make mazes out of, little tables with exercises in color, shading, etc. - but no 'what ifs.' What if you take a square frame and try to blow a giant bubble with it? Will it be round or square? What if you have a pendulum with a marker on it, and you shake the paper underneath it? Art without some science always comes across as a little dry. Frivolous. (The reverse seems tragic.)

My favorite part of the museums was a kinetic sculpture with heavy balls (like pool balls), a heavy-gauge wire track, a motor to pull the balls back to the top, and various doodads to spin and dance when the balls hit them.

The museum for adults was well-built but small, and the art inside not really compelling. (Something I've had to learn lately in writing is the difference between "interesting" and "compelling." The art in the adult side was "interesting.") The art tended to modern art of the stuff-hanging-on-a-wall or sitting-on-a-pedestal type. Being modern art, this was no excuse - the best modern art pieces are stuff-you-might-play-with, not overbred dalmatians waiting to have their pictures taken. Modern (and following) art should have a quality of eliciting, much the way fluffy clouds on a sunny day do, but with more emotional and intellectual impact.

All of which is to say, I found some things I liked, but nothing I loved.

Afterward, we drove around, looking for the Pueblo Riverwalk (we must have passed it four times before we found it). The river itself sits past the railroad tracks and is quite restrained and unlovely, although I squealed with delight when I first saw it, because the cement embankment that separates the railyards from the river was painted with gigantic murals, graffiti higher than a house, and all of it a bit mad. Pictures of saints, pictures of weird cosmologies. Across the river was some kind of historical district filled with the most depressingly derelict houses - good houses gone multi-unit, unmown, unloved.

We recrossed the river after being harassed by a number of one-way streets and stopped at a reassuring shop filled with Southwestern-style furniture, tin-framed mirrors, ceramic crosses and lizards, and wall tiles with the motto "Mi casa es su casa." The owner revealed the riverwalk was only a block away - and that, due to the thickness, in the fifteen years he'd owned the store, there had never been a problems with any of the sandstone tables.

The riverwalk is a tame section of stream (a rivulet of the river) along which one may promenade. Part of the walk was blocked off for a wedding, but otherwise we walked the whole damned thing. I was hoping for rain - it was perfect weather for it, warm and still.

The riverwalk was almost, but not quite: not enough people for a gorgeous Saturday night, not enough boutiques (i.e., none), not enough goofy art, not enough vendors with irresistibly greasy street food, not enough length: tame.

Downtown was odd. For one, it's a huge area, all filled with brick buildings. And no section has been "fixed" or set up as a place for people to wander about and spend money and see things that are nice to look at while one eats snacks and drinks coffee. I don't remember seeing a single Starbucks downtown - and a downtown without a Starbucks, nowadays, is a remarkable thing. The only coffee shop we passed was closed, on a Saturday afternoon.

We ate at Fifteen twenty-one, a small restaurant built into what looked like the only consecutive row of open shops in the entire downtown area. The ambiance was simple and unobtrusive. The food was superb. How to crust a leg of lamb in herbs and salt without the salt becoming overwhelming - the crust wasn't removed - I will have to consider. Lee had escargot. "Gorgonzola was the right way to go," he said. But the place was almost abandoned - us and one other couple. The owners should have picked a different location - or else they should be getting free rent.

Afterward, we went to Tinseltown and saw Star Trek. I cheered at the end.

The next morning I sat in the breakfast area of a chain motel, watching people in t-shirts request omelets from the complementary chef. A chef. In a motel. But only for breakfast.

From a steel town of no attraction for years and years (or so I've heard) to some half-assed effort to acquire a predictable type of appeal, failing in its lack of (like wine) terroir. If only I could pick up that restaurant and bring it back to the Springs with me.




Hooray! It is raining and too wet to do anything with the front yard!
Hooray! I'm eating the last of the cereal!
Hooray! I'm going to Pueblo today with Lee and Ray and there will be pretty food and tasty pictures!
Hooray! Yoga will be over soon!
Hooray! I have an extra day to get caught up on edits this weekend, especially if it keeps raining!
Hooray! No rejections in my inbox this morning!
Hooray! I put down a book yesterday that I don't want to finish, because life is too short to read books that are no fun! Even when I paid for them!
Hooray! I didn't pick up Ray's clothes and stuff all over the house! So she's going to have to!
Hooray! I have an artichoke in the fridge the size of my daughter's head! It's going down, baby!
Hooray! I'm almost done with my book! In the larger scope of things anyway!
Hooray! What a good song!
Hooray! I had a great time with my family back in South Dakota! Thank you for letting me screw up on Rock Band! I sing in the car more now!
Hooray! Doyce told me I had to watch My First Mister, and it was good! The girl reminds me of me (chewing the fingernails) and my sister Betsy (who is even more sarcastic than I). Hey stupid girl! Carol Kane is your mother! Get over it!
Hooray! I'm going to stop avoiding my edits now! Later!


Recipe: Aji Verde

Behold! The wonderful power of something good to do with the leftover bunch of cilantro before it goes bad! This is a South American-type condiment.

Aji Verde (Green Garlic Sauce)

1 c chopped washed cilantro, with stems
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 c sour cream
2 T lime juice
1/2 anaheim pepper
1 T chimayo chili powder or similar (not a spice mix so much as a ground-up, dried chili)
Salt to taste

Smoosh the whole bit in the blender and whirl everything into the consistency of a dip (i.e., more or less smooth). However, this is more of a condiment than a dip, unless you really like cilantro.

If you find the flavor is just not quiiiiite lovely, add more sour cream before you add more salt or lime juice. If using jalapenos, skip the chili powder. If using chili powder, allow the sauce to sit for a few hours before adding a significant amount of additional powder, as it takes a while to come to full potency.

Poem: Spring Blossoms


Crabapple trees go pink in spring
and you forget how annoying they
get in the fall, with the fruit.

This year the buds died on the branch
after a dry, warm winter and a suddenly
icy spring. Dry on the branch

I crush them between my fingers.
The tree keeps growing. New leaves
set in. And I say look,

If you had just kept going, there
would have been water in time,
warmth in time. I see other trees,

down the street, in bloom. You
kept going, sure. But you could have done
what you were planted to do.

But maybe, this year, it didn't want fruit.


Science Fair.

First, line up with the parents and the strollers outside the doors, wondering what's going on. A mass of parents is milling because none of them know what to do about the sign in sheets. Sign in to show your support as well as your perspicacity. Then sign up for the Star Lab, because your daughter is bouncing off the walls to go (she went once already during the school day).

Then walk around the exhibits for a while. Your daughter will show you her class's exhibit, which is about water: animals need it. Small fish swim in tiny plastic containers, and millipedes and pillbugs rest on dirt and moss.

Start to count volcano exhibits, and naked egg exhibits, and crystal formation exhibits, and give up.

Stop at the Oreo exhibit, about how Oreos love milk. The girl contacted Nabisco to find out whether a special ingredient was added; there wasn't. The girl tested four types of milk (whole, 2-percent, soy, and almond) to determine best absorption. More fat meant more absorption (although the whole milk, she decided, was a bit much). Tell the girl how much you liked her exhibit when she walks by, bragging about her awesome exhibit.

Your daughter is engrossed in the salamander and frog exhibit run by two dissimilar-looking brothers. But it's time to go, so start walking while you look for your tickets. You hate tickets; you always lose them.

Stand in line for the Star Lab. You have to put booties on over your shoes so you don't scratch the canvas over the floor. Get down on your knees and crawl into the womb of the sky, a canvas hemisphere tent onto which a volunteer projects the stars with a twenty-five-dollar lightbulb the size of a grain of millet. Your eyes take a long time to adjust, and you begrudge every second of it while the stars spread over you in a way you haven't been able to feel for years. You cannot see the Milky Way, and you miss it.

The top of the tent is flat, because the ceiling isn't high enough, but you don't mind as the ex-teacher volunteer talks about how much everything costs. You see stars and Greek myths marching across the bubble of the sky and a projection of the world, with the Arctic Circle cut off at almost exactly the right latitude.

You crawl out again, in order, despite the protests of little boys who want to Go First, and edge your way out of groups and groups and groups of people standing in line, hoping to get to see the stars, even without a ticket.

You go upstairs to the older kids' exhibits. One of the exhibits is a fake; it's a bogus experiment off the Internet copied right down to screen shots from YouTube videos. You were disappointed the experiment was a fake when you found out; it seemed perfect for your daughter's birthday party.

More volcanoes, more eggs, more salt.

Most of the exhibits are hand-lettered, showing either understanding or a lack of understanding of what a hypothesis is, but not professional or parental. You are proud of that, even the girls who have written their hypotheses with circles and hearts and stars for the dots of their is.

You hang around the salamander/frog boys with your daughter, who is hoping to touch the animals again. Another little girl, apparently a teacher's daughter, tries to scare the frogs out of their cage, and you have to tell her to knock it off several times before her mother shows up, oblivious to how much of a jerk her daughter is being to the boys and the animals. You want to tell the mother to spank her daughter, but you know she will say, "For what?" even as she watches it. But the girl leaves with her mother, both whining, and you chase your daughter off so the boys and their mother can go home.

People are sweeping the floor fifteen minutes before closing time and your stomach is rumbling. You go home and think about what you would like to do for a science project, if you were in school again. Something, you think, having to do with cooking. Your daughter tells you she wants to do a science experiment about animals. She just doesn't know what yet.


Mother's Day.

6:45 a.m. Made cup of tea, grabbed two muffins and a slather of butter. Disappeared into office (!!!) to write.

7:30 a.m. Made second cup of tea. Snagged some Sun Chips that Lee had purchased yesterday to go with the raspberry-chipotle ribs, because I mentioned that I really like them a few weeks ago. Checked on daughter, who had stayed up late playing Plants versus Zombies game (very cute). She was curled up on the couch with the cat sitting on her hip. Kissed daughter on cheek, which was cold, so I brought her another blanket. She complained about cat, which I removed. And removed again.

7:45 a.m. Ray got up. Had to quiet her several times so she didn't wake Lee up as she played in her room. I kept catching brief bits of the story she's telling as she plays with her toys. 1) Princess. 2) Some guy. 3) In danger. 4) Kissing. Briefly think about how mothers are supposed to get breakfast in bed on Mother's Day. Laugh out loud.

9:00 a.m. Done editing for the morning. Rewrites going well. Lee's up. Take shower. Ray interrupts shower to announce that she's much taller today; she's standing on a kitchen chair and waving her hand over the top of the shower curtain. Lee interrupts shower to ask what I want to do today. I tell him I already told him what I wanted to do today so don't even pretend to forget. He says gaming won't take all day. I acknowledge this and say I need to get some shopping done before the trip to South Dakota for my youngest sister's graduation. He needs to pick up some things, too. He wants to go clothes shopping. Ross's is the approved clothing-shopping place, which is good, because I need to replace the mattress pad. I mindlessly stuffed it in the dryer on full heat and the cheapass piece of crap melted. We leave the house, agreeing that eating out is not in the plan today, because Mother's Day is the worst of all possible easting-out days per Waiter Rant, etc.

10:00 a.m. or so. Actually leave house. Head to World Market to look for part of youngest sister's graduation gift. End up with 1) smartass graduation card, 2) chipotle chocolate bar for Lee, and 3) required gift component.

11:00 or so. SuperTarget. Pick up groceries unable (or impractical) to obtain at Whole Foods yesterday after brutal, "strength-building" yoga class. Lee is in charge of redecorating the bathroom, because he has a wild hair to do so. The shower curtain currently en route to El Casa KK is blood red with clear silhouettes (if you can imagine such a thing) depicting a man with a knife aimed towards to disembodied hands that appear to be sliding down the curtain. Our current towels, mainly light purple, obviously aren't going to match. We consider mattress pads, sheets, and dark gray towels, as well as an ice cream maker, but do not purchase any of these items. Ray picks out a movie, because I owe her allowance money. It's Journey to the Center of the Earth, which she's seen before.

12:00 p.m. or so. Decide we'll risk a restaurant: whiny and irritable and annoying, all around. Strangely, Lee, who becomes green (HULK SMASH) when afflicted with low blood sugar, is the most stable of us all. Unfortunately, even the late churches have let out by now. Drive by Mimi's, our usual choice on the Powers strip. Mimi's is packed. Switch to backup plan, Rock Bottom Brewery. We've never been there before, but people at Lee's work keep recommending it. Rock Bottom is not packed. Aha! I knew living in a religious-image town would have its benefits: you can't take your mother to a brewery for Mother's Day, it's sacrilegious! Lee's driving, so I have a cherry wheat (okay, but filtered and smooth, and I like the chewy wheats) and we both have this gorgonzola-bourbon sauce burger concoction, which is excellent. The beef isn't as good as King's Chef Diner, but is still okay.

1 p.m. Remember the whole point of the shopping expedition was to go to Ross's. Find mattress pad (better quality this time) and some excellent sheets. No towels selected. Lee buys a dress shirt and two pairs of pants, neither of which is black. I try on three bras and two swimsuits while Ray ogles herself in the mirror and manages to try on 1 dress and 1 pair of capris in a different changing room; for Ray, remarkable efficiency. None of the bras fit: big surprise there. The suits fit, but I'd be happier with something with back support to help with the boobs, so I decide to order the same brand online. Ray eventually picks out a dress.

2:30 p.m. Home. Nap. My feet still hurt from yoga class.

4:30 p.m. Wake up. Ray tells me my naps take too long. Eat some chocolate and drink a cup of tea. I've been drinking "Get a Grip" PMS tea from the Republic of Tea. I don't know if it's actually helping, but I feel like I'm enjoying my bitchiness more.

5:00 p.m. Awake and ready to game!

5:30 p.m. We finally get our butts in gear and roll dice on another episode of Faery's Tale from Firefly Games. I cannot recommend this RPG enough. Our characters ally with two goblins to save the forest from crystal spiders...or to doom it to a goblin spell. Well, that's a problem for another week. Pooh gets cow milk squirted in her eye and Homa does this:

Homa: I grab the web.
GM: It's stretchy. [Makes boinging noises.] But you can't pull your hand off.
Pooh: I grab around her tummy and pull.
GM: It takes both of you, but you manage to get Homa unstuck.
Pooh: Homa, don't grab that stuff with your hands again!
Homa: Okay, I use my foot.
[Laughter ensues.]

Guess who's who.

6:30 p.m. Break for leftover mini-pizza (Ray), ribs (Lee), and cheesecake (De). I never do eat any "real food" for supper.

7:45 p.m. Done gaming. Ray scrambles to get a few more levels of Plants versus Zombies in, so she can stay ahead of her dad. I get to see the almost-final version of the playhouse Lee's going to work on this summer. It's very cool. You will like it.

8:00 p.m. Bedtime. I get a footrub from Lee while Ray reads us stories out of Harold and the Purple Crayon.

8:30 p.m. I announce that I'm going to take a bath. I proceed to accidentally fill the bath with bubbles and cold water, then attempt to make the water warm without letting out some of the cold water first. The water heater laughs at me, and I am floating in tepid water when Lee comes in with more tea. I drink a lot of @#$%^&* tea. Lee and I talk. Soon, the tub becomes too cold to be even remotely enjoyable. I get out, shivering, and Lee makes fun of me because I'm too cold to put my robe on, because to do so requires drying off, which requires unwrapping the towel, i.e., the only thing that's keeping me warm. I realize later I could have just put the robe over the towel and then dropped the towel: it's a terrycloth robe. You know what towels are made of? Terrycloth.

9:30 p.m. This has been my best Mother's Day ever, so I blogged about it. I think we're finally starting to get the hang of this, but I'm probably wrong. Time for bed in bed with new sheets and the usual husband. Hugs and kisses to all the mothers out there. Keep this in mind for the bad days: if Dads get kudos just for showing up, you do too. Good night.

More editing...

Working on:
  • Integrating Richard's comments (writer group).
  • Not giving away suspense for free.
  • Removing wordy "intros" to sections (Eric's comments, writer group).
  • Rewriting Dr. Heck.
I just finished clarifying some motives, both Bill's and Jack's.

Favorite line so far: "Julian came back with another pitcher. Dinah looked up at him. I looked up at him, too. It was like looking up at a fur coat wearing a Phantom Tollbooth t-shirt."


Writerly ramble: Faces.

I've been thinking a lot about faces lately, not so much physical faces as the "faces" we wear. Not a new theme, I think, but something I ran into a lot lately, between the writer's conference and looking up people online afterwards--the difference between the face one presents to other people, in person, versus the face one presents online.

While I was at the conference, I ran into some people who had distinctly different personas:

One woman lacked confidence in person--but had survived a terrible personal tragedy with grace.

One man laughed constantly--but had been recently divorced and dwelled on it constantly and humorlessly online.

One woman presented herself as needy and impatient in person--but was a kind of guru on the Internet.

At first I thought, "Ah, these people are more likely to be honest in person than they are online." Then I had to reconsider. I mean, I don't know any of them well. Maybe they're more honest online than they are in person. Or maybe they aren't honest at all. Or--in some way--both sides are honest.

Why not? I am both funny and shy. I love both horror* and uplifting love stories. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what tied the stories together for me was pain and how we have to hide it in certain situations but still need to have somewhere to express it.

Maybe the trick is to pull all the faces together.

Anyway, how do these faces affect characters in books?

The two-faced character is proverbially a bad egg, someone who gains the main character's trust and then stabs her in the back. But a two-faced character can also be a character in disguise: a hero with a secret identity. Westley in Princess Bride.** Or a two-faced character can be a bad character who acquires (or rediscovers) a heart.

So making a character two-faced might not be an entirely bad thing: you end up with a more rounded character. Even a traitor has to have something good in them...or they'd never be able to act trustworthy enough to screw the main character over.

*Not so fond of the terror.
**Speaking of two-faced characters--in the features for Princess Bride, the actors reveal that Andre the Giant had put his back out and couldn't lift anything, had practically lost his strength. The stunts were done with ropes.


Restaurant Review: The King's Chef Diner

What do you want in a diner?

A place to eat, and decent (if heavy) food to eat. Hm...decent service?

Pfft. I didn't ask, "What's reasonable in a diner?" What do you really want?

Fine. I want basic comfort food so good it puts most restaurants to shame. Plus some weird stuff. I want to laugh when I read the menu. I want atmo that ain't flair, flair, flair. I want service that takes one look at me and finds exactly what I want on the menu, orders it for me, and brings it out just as my ass hits the chair. I want good coffee, dammit, and keep it coming. I want a diner run by @#$%^& geeks, man. I WANT COMIC BOOKS.


Tip: Just order the side of green chili. The waitress saved my life and didn't let me order a whole bowl of the stuff. I have a burn on the side of my mouth from where it touched the outside of my lips. OMFG it was so worth it, though.

We went to the diner on Bijou. The service wasn't quite that fast, but it was pretty close. If I love you, I will take you here next time you're in town.


Some photo references for Alien Blue.

One of the speakers at PPWC was talking about using photo references for facial expressions.

Just for fun, I've found some for Alien Blue:

Martie Washington.

Caveman exterior (but without a basement or steps up).

The look on Bill's face after Nina comes in.

Nina, when she smiles. When she doesn't.

Back from PPWC...

So on Friday I'm in a read-and-critique session, one where a reader reads the first page and three people give their first impressions. I have Ginger Clark, Jeffrey Deaver, and Rose Hilliard (editor at St. Martin's).

I have (yet again) rewritten the first page, based on Miss Snark's First Victims Secret Agent first page contest (I didn't enter; I just read all the pages).

The reader stumbles over one sentence three times. I resolve to rewrite it.

Rose Hilliard says, "Intriguing." She likes the title. SF isn't her specialty.

Jeffrey Deaver says it starts out very concretely and advises me to ground the situation quickly - are we on a spaceship? (No. Crap.) The story comes across as a detective/thriller; he advises me to be careful about mixing genres.

Ginger Clarks says, "I would keep reading" and says I have evocative descriptions.

My pitch session on Saturday is with Ginger Clark. She's sick, and her ears are out. I give her the log line: Barkeep tries to save town from alien invasion using mysterious blue beer.

She says, "Wait. I've heard this one. This is the girl that walks into the bar."

"Yeah," I say. When you say it like that, I feel like there ought to be a punchline.

"What did I say about it?"

"I don't remember. I was too ecstatic. It was nice things, though." (I wrote them down at the time, though, luckily, so I have the crits.)

"Okay. I'm paranoid I'm going to run into someone whose stuff I didn't like. Send me fifty pages."

I glow, even though I know she'd probably ask for pages as long as it wasn't something completely awful or out of her range of representation. I ask her a few questions.

The entire time, her expression is very guarded, frozen onto her face. Her lips are a little oval on what looks like a wide mouth. I wonder whether I've seen her smile: on Friday, I tracked her down to be a Geeky Fangirl and tell her I loved Patricia Wrede's Sorcery and Cecilia books.* She didn't smile at that, just asked whether I knew about PW's new book, Thirteenth Child. I didn't. (I look up the book later: Old West School-of-Magic fantasy WITH STEAM DRAGONS. It's mine. I don't care if I have enough unread books to last me a year. It's mine.)

What I really want to ask her is whether she's a bitch. Because I don't want to work with someone who's going to be nice to me. I don't know I got it across, but she told me she'd let me know if she thought anything was wrong with the manuscript - and pointed out that I should be more worried about an agent's track record. Fair enough.

Will she work with small press, if that's the best option? Yes. (I love Subterranean Press.)

Is she completely adverse to something with a more literary quality about it? [Cautiously] No. But in the RNC session, she joked about literary fiction as being "anything that won't sell." Well, Alien Blue is what it is, and I think one of the reasons SF hasn't been doing as well lately is that all the wonder and love has been sucked out by ideas and facts and plots and messages. Greg Egan is brilliant...but where is Zelazny? Corey Doctorow is inspiring...but where is Sturgeon? Exactly. I can help.

I tell her I have YA drafts I'm working on, too, so I need a good YA/adult SF/F agent. As miserable as she is, she lets her mouth go wide - not exactly a smile - at that. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's an open-mouth-insert-foot moment. I'm okay with that.

To sum up my first impressions of Ginger Clark, professional literary agent for Big New York Agency: an introvert dropped naked into poison ivy and then put onstage at Broadway. The best you can do is not scratch until you bleed, at least until you get off stage. I know that feeling.

About four minutes left in an eight-minute pitch session. I tell her thanks, and I'll get out of her hair.

She tries to look earnest: her eyebrows go up. "But we're doing this for you."

I say, "You wanted fifty pages. I asked my questions. I got what I wanted. Have some free time."

She dives into her purse (ollie ollie oxen free!) for her Crackberry: "I'll get caught up on some e-mail." Her lips crush themselves into a smile that only goes wide and curly at the corners, and she blinks several times. Has she not blinked this entire time? I can't remember.

She's gone. I leave the room, find the first person I recognize, and do the squirrel dance, which is both arms up in the air, loose in the knees, and jiggling like an electrocuted scarecrow. I have no pride.

I find out later Ginger used the time to request a full from a buddy of mine. So dear Powers that Be: I got some karma coming, all right? Yeah? Yeah?

*With Carolyn Stevermeyer.

Mama Told Me not to Come, mock interview.

PPWC Thursday, we performed mock interviews for our current book projects. Margaret Brettschneider's interview, for her true-life account of taking a 29-year-old virgin around Europe decades ago, called Mama Told Me not to Come, had tears running out of my eyes.

True love and slapstick comedy.


Word of the Day.

with Anu Garg


noun: A rumbling noise caused by the movement of gas through the intestines.

From Greek borborygmos (intestinal rumbling), an onomatopoeiac word to describe the sound.

Borborygmi are usually harmless, they are simply a result of gas movement around the stomach. And the rumbling sound doesn't mean one is hungry either. We can't really do anything about the sound of a stomach growling, but we can take comfort in the fact that at least we know a fancy word to describe it.

"And the piece de resistance:
'He was woken early by borborygmus as his insides fermented and his intestines ballooned with gas beyond their capacity.'"
Ruth Dudley Edwards; Book Review / Straying Into A Dark, Ugly And Sick World; The Independent (London, UK); Sep 21, 1994.

Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous. -Confucius, philosopher and teacher (c. 551-478 BCE)

Alien Blue Log Line.

This might be it:

A barkeep tries to save his town from alien invasion using a mysterious blue beer.

I talked to someone at the conference about it yesterday. She was a very good listener - I don't say that often.


PPWC: Thursday.

This is the first year of Thursday add-on material for PPWC. I chose Track 3: Giving it Wings (Publicity, Promotion, Marketing).

I have mixed feelings about the day.

The track itself, I think, was good, sound stuff. We even wrote trial press releases and gave interviews. But I talked myself into listening to the wrong stuff later in the afternoon, so I didn't get everything I wanted. Lesson learned.

The Basics of Marketing:

One of the speakers, Sue Mitchell, kept telling us, "Become your own cottage industry."

In traditional publishing, the publishing house coordinated all PR efforts, including marketing, advertising, and coop projects between authors in bookstores. Alas, most authors don't get to go the traditional publishing route. However, nowdays, the publishing house handles just the editing, the cover, and distribution - the rest of it is up to the author.

It's important to start early with publishing and marketing, so you can assure potential agents you know where you want to take your book and how. Your initial marketing materials should include a press kit with your log line, a 1-page synopsis, and a 5-page (i.e., more detailed) synopsis. Keep your press kit available at all times. Also helpful are a publicity photo and review copies (when you get them).

Then it's time to start considering where you want to start marketing. One way is to find an author you like or who writes the same things you do, then use the same marketing techniques. Another is to research what markets are available locally, and spread out from there. Advertising can be coordinated with other authors.

Types of marketing:

Interviews - Practice in the mirror or on a camcorder. You should sound relaxed, informed, and competent even in the face of attacks, incompetence, and lack of preparation. Also, make eye contact with the camera, not the interviewer.
TV - Various news programs are always looking for content. Public access is an option.
Print - Newspapers (including independents), magazines.
Radio - More talk radio is on air than ever before (including on the internet).
Internet - Try mailing lists to register people for updates, promotions, and giveaways. Use blogs, vlogs to build a following and fan base before your book ever comes out.

The key is to find out what kind of author you want to be. Do you want to be an overnight bestseller or earn out your first printing and get a second? Your goals should drive your marketing efforts.

The basic elements of a marketing plan:

Your press kit (see above) is your marketing overview. Your marketing plan should also contain:
  • A description of your next project. To help establish yourself as an emerging artist with a promising career, know what you're going to work on next and be able to describe it and where you are on it.
  • Your author bio. Include anything that will help an agent or editor decide what to do with your book (which line of a publishing house, which editors, etc.), anything that makes you more credible and interesting as the author of that book. Example: If you're writing a military history and you used to be in the military, mention that. Include publishing credits.
  • Your customers and audience. Being able to narrow your potential audience down to a core will save the publishing house's marketing group time. Saying, "My audience is men, women, and - in fact - children of all ages" tells them nothing.
  • Your competition. Sue said, "If you have no competition, you have no product."
  • An action plan. Include your objectives (goals, like pre-sales and additional print runs), strategies (author positioning, book positioning, establishing yourself as an authority on the subject), and tactics (press releases, author tours, reviews, volunteering, etc.).
Press Releases

A press release should have an angle, a purpose, and a goal or result and should not be a simple cry for attention. Press releases have a specific format that you customize to fit your needs. There are a lot of good examples of press releases online. For example. you can use PRWeb to search for and track response to press releases.

Press releases should contain:

Contact Information:
  • Your name/firm.
  • Phone number, e-mail, and website contact information.
HEADLINE (the most important part of a press release).
  • The date, the date of the event, or the date until which to hold the release (or "For immediate release").
  • The location of the event, if applicable.
  • The headline should be pithy, short, active, and capture all important information.
  • Being a headline, it should be in noun + verb format (e.g., "Local Author Makes Good" vs. "Booksigning").
  • The lead sentence should include the who/what/when/where/why/how information.
  • Next section of the copy should expound on or explain the lead sentence and include any quotes (keep in mind, the quotes will probably get cut if the press release is published).
Standard information about the author, history, organization, etc.

End the press release with "-30-" or "###" to indicate no more pages follow. If another page does follow (but probably shouldn't; the release should be short), start the page with "(Add1)" and end it with "-30-" or "###".

Press releases should be customized for each release.

We wrote practice press releases for (fictional) events. I now want a book signing/reading at a brewery, with a special on blue beer. I bet some of the local breweries would at least consider it, especially if it was during a First Friday, which is a local arts/culture walk downtown, in Old Colorado City, and Manitou Springs.


The internet has a plethora of marketing possibilities. Here are some:
  • Youtube. Book trailers, vlogs, interviews (remember to get rights to post any TV interviews you do).
  • Podcasts and web radio.
  • Newspaper A&E editors with blogs.
  • Blogs. Use free software from Blogger, WordPress, Flickr, OpenSource, SourceForge, Joomla!, Drupal, b2Evolution, TypePad, etc.
Make sure you're not giving away your first rights to your writing projects for free - unless you're doing it on purpose. Posting something on the internet can count as "first rights," so don't post anything you plan to publish elsewhere.

That being said, if you're going to have a website, you're going to need content. While you can publish very small portions of your work (personally, I go by the guidelines for fair use), most of your content should be material relates to but isn't the work itself.

Deb Courtney noted that once you post something on the internet, you cannot simply "take it down." Any number of websites record every page on the internet...regularly (for example, see the Wayback Machine).

Several people asked how to drive traffic to their websites. The answer was there's no easy answer; you have to 1) network and 2) hustle. Ron Heimbecher noted he was using a group of websites to act as "rabbit holes" for his current project.

Marketing for Pitchers

At this point, we split into two groups, "marketing for pitchers" and "marketing for those with published books."

Sue Mitchell recommended pitchers put together what she calls a "Pitch One Sheet," a one-page sheet with all the information you need during a pitch session.
  • Title.
  • Log line (a one-line summary of the book).
  • A one-paragraph explanation of what the book's about.
  • Your ideas about market (customer, audience, genre, what authors/books this is like, etc.).
  • Bio, including why you're the best person to write the book, writing credits, professional associations, and what else you're working on.
The rest of the session turned into a Q&A about pitching, which was disappointing - I'd just gone to the April Write Brain on Tuesday (about pitching). I wish I'd joined the other group, but I kept hoping we'd get back on track, and I was too embarrassed (I mean, no published book to market) to get up and switch. However, Ron Heimbecher was talking to the other group, and I'm confident that I can contact him with any questions I have.

Other interesting points covered:
  • If you're asked about the ending, just tell it - don't tell the editor or agent to buy the book!
  • The type of marketing help you can get from your publishers is sometimes determined by the size of the press. Large presses have more resources - which they use on big-name authors. Small presses have fewer resources - but more attention to give. Just make sure your press can register an ISBN for you (thus allowing you to distribute the book in other places than the press's website).
  • Talk to your agent about your marketing plan to help set your timelines.
  • Review copies often must be sent 90 days or more ahead of the desired date in order for reviewers to meet their publication deadlines. If you're not sure how to submit a review copy, send a query first.
  • If you have an agent, talk to them about short stories you intend to submit - they may know of markets and editors who are looking for what you're writing.
I will try to post links to the interviews, which went really well - informative, confident, calm under fire (at times), and sometimes even funny.

More conference tomorrow...


Poem: Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun in the House

By Billy Collins.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking...


Allllmost. But again, no.


Thanks very much for sending "Fragile," my way. My assistant editor and I both enjoyed the narrative voice, but overall, the piece isn't quite what we're seeking for Farrago's Wainscot, so we're going to pass.


Darin Bradley
Fiction Editor

Such is the life. However, I will happily take the compliments where I can get them.

Secret Agent!

Kate over at KT Literary reviewed 50 first pages over at Miss Snark - it starts here.

Here's what I learned:
  • So far, I see I give people about four-five sentences before I’m bored.
  • Grammar issues are grating.
  • I hate running into a plethora of weird names.
  • Irony is good.
  • I want to start off with character + action, not just action.
  • NO MORE EYES. (Eyes rolling, etc.)
  • After a series of pages without action, a page that handles action well is a breath of fresh air.
  • People who talk down to MG audiences make my teeth grate (Hello? Remember fourth grade? You were SMARTER than that).
  • I want to say I just don’t care for women’s fiction, but it’s not true–but I know that’s not true–but the women’s fiction barely gets a sentence or two before I’m tired of it.
  • Fiction vs. the moral of the story = give me fiction!
Control Issues and No Pet is Worth All This! are the two I hope get published, so I can read the rest.

Also, I don't want Kate's job.


Query update.

I sent my updated query off to Query Shark. Blood! Blood in the water! Blood everywhere!
Dear Query Shark,

An hour's drive from Roswell, New Mexico, is a wide spot in the road named Haley. Haley's famous for two things--Haley Hospital, the best in the state, and a dive called the Caveman Bar and Grill.

Bill Trout, big-mouthed owner of the Caveman, is enjoying running the bar, coming up with new kinds of weird beer, and settling back into a bachelor's life when Mayor Jack Stout, his best friend, decides to hide an interstellar fugitive in town. Jack's a good guy, but his common sense isn't a strong point.

Bill, who has been walking the fine line between "jerk" and "responsible adult" for many years, tries to trick the alien, Anam, into leaving, but when the aliens attack at the bar, he promises to let Anam stay if Anam will help kill them. Not that Bill intends to keep his promise.

Will Jack get off his high horse and help Bill get rid of the local alien before his pursuers find them again and kill them all? Will the local alien-conspiracy cult that runs the hospital find Anam and before he can save humanity from invasion? Will a town full of perfectly ordinary people turn crazy from the New Mexico summer heat?* It all depends on an old man built like an orangutan, a stranger with a familiar face, and Bill's latest brew, a blue beer he calls "Alien Blue."

Alien Blue is an 85,000-word contemporary science fiction novel that fits somewhere between Spider Robinson and Kurt Vonnegut. Alien Blue stands alone, but I'd like the chance to develop a sequel.

I'm a technical writer and editor for the Air Force, but my clearance isn't high enough to know anything about what happened in the New Mexico desert in 1947. Or so I tell people. I've published short-short stories (at Toasted Cheese, Verbiage, and Clever Magazine, all online), poetry (in Darkwaves and Larkwings, Vol. 1; and iMPS iN THe iNKWeLL, from a gleeful press!), murder mystery party games (the best of which are at Freeform Games, online). I volunteer for the Pikes Peak Writers as a reporter and Published Writer Liaison. I have a blog at secret-hideout.blogspot.com (shh).

Thank you for your time.


DeAnna Knippling

[contact info]

*Probably not. It's a dry heat.

Thanks to everybody with comments from last time.


Today I found over used words...

...and @#$%^ the @#$% out of them.

Today I removed the phrase "rolled his eyes" or similar from Alien Blue seventeen times.

I left references to that monstrous dice game twice:

Miss Dewey scooted the chair back toward the computer. She poked the power button on the monitor, but not fast enough, so I was able to read a few lines: And then Jack said it was an undercover group. The BFI? I asked. But he said no, it was worse, it was the MacTeagues. Well, what does that mean? I asked. He rolled his eyes at me, if he does that one more time, I'm going to-- Then the screen went blank.

I closed my eyes and leaned back against the wall. "Yup," I said. "I know exactly how you feel. So what the hell are you wearing a black shirt and jeans for?"

"I wanted to look cool," she said. "For my first day at the dig. I mean, my first day that I'm not actually trespassing."

I rolled my eyes.
It's like using exclamation points. Did I do the right thing? Should I have cut it?

Which reminds me...oh, shit. TWO HUNDRED EXCLAMATION POINTS.

And then I almost used another one.

First cut: down to forty-four. Sigh. Second pass: seventeen. Third pass: Nine. Good enough.

Yell: fifty-three uses. Down to six.

Shout: eighteen uses. Down to nine.

Bill cusses a lot.

F-bombs: sixty uses. Down to eleven.

Shit: forty-seven uses. Down to ten.

Damn: one hundred ten uses. Down to twenty.

Hell: seventy-six uses. Down to...oh, forget it.

To be continued.


Yet another Alien Blue log line...

I don't know if it's perfect, but this one actually rings true:
Loud-mouthed bar owner must convince mayor to ditch an alien fugitive before invaders come to exterminate him and all "contaminated" humans. And there's beer.
I couldn't get it down to Twitter-level (140 characters) without taking out the beer. To hell with it.



Another iteration of celebrating a holiday for something you don't believe in, but you do, but you don't, but who wants to miss out on everything, you know? Is it just for the kids or not?

I got the existential; I just ain't got the angst.

We cheerfully dyed eggs on Friday night. I like getting new kinds of egg dye as they come out; we invested in egg-dye stamps this year. I liked them, but they were a little tricky. The stamps were very spongy, and you had to roll them around a bit to get the whole stamp to show up. Honestly, I think Lee and Ray had more fun just painting dye on the eggs with the little brush.

On Saturday, I went shopping for food stuff. There was this cake at Rancho Liborio that I have been eyeing for quite some time, so I picked one up. The cake had chocolate icing and was shaped like a torte, with glazed strawberries and whatnot on top. Just...pretty. I asked the lady at the counter for one, and suddenly she goes, "You want that in a box, right?" with a panicked look on her face. The ensuing 10 minutes of looking for a box, not finding a box, sawing a big box in half, taping it together, retaping it together, figuring out that closing the box will squash the stuff on top...it gave me time to watch one of the pastry chefs assembling another cake. He had big squares of what looked like sponge cake, which he shook before dipping in some kind of liquid and slapping onto a cake board. A good half-inch of icing, then another layer of cake, and the whole mess was carried, just pouring liquid onto the floor, onto a cart to drip dry or something. Wow.

Lee and I stayed up late the night before to sow eggs (sow the egg...reap the deviled egg!) and candy. I fluffed up a pile of shredded colored paper (which, sadly, I had to buy, since the shredder at work is approved for classified documents, and the pieces end up looking like really ugly snow) and put out treats. To bed by midnight.

Awake by seven; Ray was searching our room for eggs. I asked her to wait until we're awake; she had trouble but managed to limit her search to our room while she waited.

Later, we did the treasure hunt, which was five riddles long. When she solved one, Lee presented her with a kids' movie. We spent most of the rest of the day watching movies, because Ray was sick with a cold (still from last week) and was pretty pooped. The movies were: Igor (meh), Barbie's Thumbelina (shoot me), the Tinker Bell Movie (surprisingly, a movie to inspire girls to be engineers), Bolt (pretty good), and Treasure Planet. We didn't get to Treasure Planet. I hadn't seen this many movies in one day since never or maybe-college-but-I-doubt-it.

Breakfast was peeps and hardboiled eggs. I've never seen anyone so enthusiastic for oversalted hardboiled eggs. I cooked the last of the baby artichokes, because that's what I like to eat with salt (and butter and lemon). And then I had cereal.

Lunch was Kraft macaroni and cheese.Ray's seven. So sue me; it's what she wanted.

Ray took a nap with me, which meant she really wasn't feeling well. She's had this cold since last week. This cold's a doozy. Personally, it's settled into my ears, which for some reason means I have to cough all night.

The cake was good but not more-than-normally moist; the frosting tasted, as Ray noted, "like chocolate ice cream."

Supper was potstickers and salt-and-pepper shrimp and mangoes and pineapple. I did not make the potstickers by hand; I knew she'd rather have me snuggle and eat popcorn than eat homemade. Which may be some kind of lesson about motherhood. A lesson for me, anyway--do less work; have more fun.

We wrapped her up and Made Her Brush Her TEETH and go to bed.

She was still sick today, so sick she stayed home from swimming lessons. But not so sick she couldn't eat little lemon cakelets and drink tea and watch Treasure Planet, apparently.

A gluttonous day: laying around all day, watching movies, eating what she liked, and being petted over to her heart's content. She's a good kid who probably enjoyed the last, best.