Small Things 12-31-14

Year’s end, and it was a good one, by & large.  Can’t complain, & have so very much to be actively grateful for.

Professional lesson learned in 2014: Just because I wrote a book — and did a good job on it, and think it’s publication-worthy — does not mean it will ever be published.  Seems like this lesson ought to have been self-evident some time ago, but writer-ego is a silly thing.  It is possible to be both incredibly arrogant about the brilliance of one’s creation and incredibly self-doubting of one’s professional worth at the same time.  Who knew? This is a sadness, but a manageable one. I’m working on a book that’s unlike anything I’ve ever written, and I’m excited to work on it every chance I get. That’s a nice feeling, and I have high hopes for it (see above, re: arrogance of the brilliance of one’s creation, etc.)  🙂

Other professional lesson learned: I have actually learned to craft a decent query/sales letter/ package. I know this because most of the top agents who represent books in my field did request a copy of my manuscript (not at all a given in today’s over-saturated market.) The fact that they did not choose to represent it is–sadly–the direct result of what I learned in pro. lesson #1.  But at least I know when I finish my next book, that I will likely be able to get some good agents to take a look at it.  And I’m hoping they love it a bit more than they did this one.

This year I picked up my reading pace, and I intend to keep amping up the ‘books read’ number until I’m as saturated in wordswordswords as I used to be. Aiming for 100 books this year, hoping for a few more than that. Happily, xmas gifts hae styled me out on my first dozen or so – waiting on my bedside table, as I write this.  And I have a list of the next dozen or so, just waiting for me to be ready for them.

But all of these are things I’ll be spending more time pondering later in the year. (Ah, and there go the fireworks. People around here seem to love fireworks.  Even when it’s only 7* out there. Brrr…)

For me, tonight is to be spent huddled in front of the woodstove, sipping really good wine (our thanks to the Boy’s parents!) It was a day of doing jigsaw puzzles, reading xmas books both long & short (Kiddo’s obsessed with his Cam Jansen collection, Mom & Dad – thank you!), constructing LEGO sets, bringing in eggs still barely warm on this frigid day, sipping tea all day long, enjoying my new electric foot warmer (in my office, which is actually a closet, ie: an uninsulated, unheated bit of space that gets downright nasty in the cold. The footwarmer sounds frivolous beyond words, but seems to be making all the difference between cozy & impossible-to-accomplish-anything-due-to-uncontrollable-shivering) The Boy is here beside me, reading, occasionally sharing interesting tidbits. Sipping wine.  Holding hands.  Enjoying the fire. And the company. And, well, and everything.

A New Year’s wish: I hope everyone reading this is feeling as blessed with the company you’re keeping (whether nearby or merely in spirit) as I do.  I hope 2014 was a good year for every one of you, and that 2015 will be even better.  May the New Year be sweet for us all.

& I’ll let you know how the black-eyed peas & ham & collard greens turn out for tomorrow night’s dinner…

 

 

Small Things 12-29-14

1.  Getting toward that contemplative part of year’s end that I rather like.  The holidays we celebrate are over. Clean up is finished (or at least begun!) and things are starting to return to familiar patterns.  This makes me happy – almost as happy as the excitement of the holidays, actually.

2.  Hoos-Foos (which is to say, my blue-egg laying chicken) is laying again. So my collection of eggs each morning is rainbow-ish once again.  Which makes me way happier that it should.

3.  Have decided that I need to get back into the habit of reading A LOT.  I used to be one of those people who read a book a day, more or less. ie: that was pretty much my whole life.  And that’s – obviously – not desirable, or even possible, with an affectionate 4yo around, but I can do better than I have these last few years.

I gained a big chunk of time when I decided to stop bringing my phone upstairs each night for the hour or so a day I need to ‘calm down’ after my exciting, invigorating activities.  (Yeah, a bit of sarcasm, since even I realize I’ve got a cushy, nearly stress-free life. But still. If I don’t zone out before bedtime, I get anxious at about 3am & don’t get back to sleep.  And – no surprise, I know! – reading is better for my brain than playing games on my phone.  So I plan to keep doing that.  And maybe try to carve out a few more bits of reading time, as well (child pick-up line at school, I’m looking at you over the pages of my book!)  So expect to see more formal & informal book reviews on this blog – & I honestly do apologize if that’s not your thing, you three people who still check in here on occasion.

4.  I’ve also decided I really need to try to find some formal critique partners. Which seems wonky, since I LIVE with one of my favorite writers. But there it is. I think I need a crit partner who’s writing stuff that’s more like mine – or at least more like my intended audience.  So whether I join a local-ish writing group, or just poke around online with the intention of finding a dedicated crit partner, I think it’s time to do it for real.

5.  My husband bought me a fancy bread machine for xmas, among other assorted & amazing goodies.  And I fired it up today for the first time. Oh my.  Going to take all my holiday-strained will-power not to just sit and eat fresh bread all the time now.

nom nom nom

Small Things 12-13-14

Last one of these dates til 2103? *sigh*  It’s been a good decade+ of these, and I’ll miss them.  In lighter news….

1.  The chickens are bitter about the cold weather, and at least one of them (the blue-egg layer) is either refusing to lay at all, or laying in some strange place I haven’t found yet.  She’s contrary enough it could be either way, so it’s a mystery that keeps poking me every day.  Silly birds.

2.  I’m finding the writing hard these days. Got very disheartened during my last round of rejections. I think the finished novel is going to end up getting “trunked” and I’m sad because I really love a lot of things in that book – the protagonist’s constant re-exploration of being a powerful woman – how it affects her choices.  The rights of bloodlines vs. adoptive & created families.  Pregnancy loss and desperation. You know, standard high fantasy tropes.

Ok, not so much. I guess I understand why it’s having a hard time finding a home – not a single sword-wielding king in sight!  But still.  I had hoped.  And it’s hard to walk away from a lot of work and start work on something else.  But I’m trying.  Trying to make the joy be about the writing, not about the finished project.

3.  This month is skidding by, feeling very out-of-control. So much going on with holiday celebrations at home & at the kiddo’s school. The unseasonably cold weather, the snow & ice,  it’s all adding up.  And I have to say that I’m looking forward to January 2 when the world quiets down immensely and we can all just snuggle in for a while.

4.  That said, my parents are making noises about possibly possibly moving out here.  Which would be so much awesome that I can’t even imagine it.  I mean I CAN imagine it, and I desperately want it.  I want my mommy and daddy here where I can go see them and we can go to the movies & eat Sunday dinner together and celebrate holidays together and bring donuts over with the paper on Saturday morning and the kiddo can go spend the night and we can walk our dogs together and I can unload all my unwanted zucchini on them and OMG I WANT THIS!!!!  So keep your fingers crossed for us all, eh?

5.  Finished baby blanket #1.  It’s funny, my two closest friends here are both expecting new babies in the next 5 months. One has gone through a rather epic experience, and in fact, is using a surrogate. The other, her pregnancy has just happened in the way babies just happen for some people. And while once it would have been really hard to see past my own writhing green jealousy to be happy for them, these days I’m so contented with my own little family that the envy has just up & disappeared.

It’s a nice place to be–happy to be making baby gear for others, but even more perfectly happy with my own reading, writing, ‘rithmaticking, hilarious, klutzy, silly, splendid little boy.  We got so lucky with this child, life just gets more & more fun as he gets older.

His teacher wants him to start kindergarten next year. A bit early, since he’ll be 4 for a few weeks–a mid-September birthday–but she feels (& I agree) that he’ll be happier challenged than bored.  And he’s a wise little soul, I think he’ll do fine, even though I can’t quite figure out where his babyhood went.  Of course, one of the three things he asked for, for Christmas, was clothes for Real Bunny, so I guess he’s not a big kid just yet!  But Kindergarten? Really??? Sigh.

And on that note, I hope you enjoy your last sequential date day for a very long time.  I know I will…

Book Review – TAMALES by Alice Guadalupe Tapp

tamales

Ok, you guys.  Christmas is coming.  Cookie time, right? Plum puddings and candy canes and rare roast beasts?

WRONG.

It’s tamale time.  Which, if you live in Tucson or Santa Fe or Moab, or even a lot of southern California is awesomely easy to partake in.  ie: the lady down the street sells them door to door (the best) or from a shopping cart in some grocery store’s parking lot (awfully good), or even at a restaurant or tamale shop (super-convenient & delish.)

New Hampshire seems to have, approximately none of these things.

I’ve spent far too much time trying to replicate Christmas-season-tamales-past, with very little bang for my time/money buck, because I don’t know what I’m doing, and it’s hard to wing something that’s traditionally undertaken by a houseful of people, when you’ve got a hangry preschooler whining for dinner, and “is it SUPPOSED to look like this?” is a valid question.

That has all changed.  This book.  Seriously, this book.

Alice Guadalupe Tapp illustrates & discusses different wrapping methods, different masa types commercially available, and sauces/condiments to complement her tamales. There are recipes for vegan tamales & dessert tamales & nose-to-tail tamales (innards & ‘odd’ cuts of meat.) She’s attempted to make tamale-making a simpler, more forgiving process, offers tons of shortcuts that manage to save time without compromising taste/texture.  Seriously? This is a reference book for those of us who love tamales, but didn’t have an abuelita & a bunch of aunties to learn from.

Out of the 50-odd recipes in this book, I can only find one ‘dessert’ recipe I do not want to try (Oreo-filled, because I’m not a big fan of those cookies), and a couple of the nose-to-tail ones, because I’m not a fan of tripe or tongue.  But everything else?  I’m sold, I’m there, I’m working my way through the book methodically and happily.

So happy holidays to all, and to all, a happy tamale-making experience every night this month if you wanted to (and if I wasn’t the adult in charge of dinner for three people, I think I just might be making them every night for a while.)  Honestly, this is the most awesome cookbook I’ve found in a LONG time.  Anyone on your list who’s a fan of steamed masa should get a copy of this for xmas or solstice or Chanukah or New Year’s or Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate at this time of year.

Tamales, folks.  Happy tamale days to everyone!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Small Things 12-1-14

1.  I really mean to get better about posting here.  Really.  Honestly.

Thanksgiving was wonderful, good times had by all.  But the best part of the long weekend? My own far-away parents told me that they might, possibly, consider entertaining the possibility of moving out here.

I could barely sleep all weekend for the idea.  SO. EXCITING!

2.  December is here, and honestly, I was barely used to it being November. So this?  This December nonsense?????   PFFFFTTT!!!

But seriously, I’m beginning – ok, middling through – the long slog of xmas gift buying/making. I finished the kiddo’s advent calendar last night at about 10pm. (I also  submitted a story for an anthology, which deadline was about 9 hours after I managed to finish it.  Sensing a theme here?) Baby mittens knit (now i have to get GOING on baby blankets.  Three new arrivals between family & friends in the next 5 months.  Knit knit knit! Purl purl purl!)

But it feels like a busy time, because it is a busy time.  School conferences, dentist appointments, all coming in this weird three week period between holidays.  January 2nd can’t get here soon enough for me!

3.  I was able to reproduce my Great-grandmother’s penuche recipe, and what’s even better is that the kiddo LOVES this stuff (I mean, what’s NOT to love? Pure fudgey sugar. Yum!) But it made me amazingly happy to reforge that link to my past.

4.  Chickies survived the bitter, arctic cold of this weekend just fine, thanks to the chicken-sitter & the electric water heater. (Yeah, seriously.) I was more relieved than I’d really like to admit when we got home to the winter-wonderland & realized they were just fine (if RATHER happy to be let out of their pen.  6 X 12 is rather confining when you’re used to being Chicken Empresses of the Universe.

5.  As always, this really was my favorite holiday. I have so much to be grateful for, so many people in my life to love. I hope it was a lovely holiday for you & yours (or at least not too painful, for folks going through a hard time.)  Now let’s all get through the rest of the month, and all will be well.  Yay January!