Skip to content

Life

Merry Christmas, World!

I hope everyone has a great day today. Here are some ornaments from our Christmas tree.

Ornaments From Tia’s Tree

As is true for most fortysomething broads like me, I have collected ornaments over the years, and I now have more “special” ornaments than those that have come out of a box. Here, we have an angel bell with “God Bless the Irish” and a shamrock (didn’t you know those were Christmasy?) and a Wedgewood teacup and saucer, and one of my box ornaments. Sorry it’s a little dark.

I hope this post brought you a little cheer. If you’re feeling glum (I sure was), remember that a great way to get a little cheer is to spread a little cheer. It comes back! Just like a good deed.

God bless you all.

A Sunday Miscellany

Site Updates

I have a book review prepped for tomorrow for Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. I am going to *try* to resume weekly book reviews. I have some other regular features I want to introduce as well, one of which I detail below.

I have been doing a lot of site maintenance and clean-up, and I created a new header image. I may tweak the color of the gradient. Feedback welcome.

~*~

Thanks to …

Many thanks to Jennifer Estep and Rabia Gale, who invited me to guest post on their blogs for my upcoming release. I am looking to fill out a blog tour of at least one week, starting on President’s Day. I have flagged that week for vacation at work. My day job will not make a blog tour any longer than that feasible, so I also want to plan out some Friday or weekend posts for another month or two after that.

The official release date is February 18th.

~*~

And Now, a Rant

I have been pining for a wonder-filled fantasy again. I am beginning to think the genre is dead. All we get is endless grit, grit, grit. I first wrote about this four years ago:

I think all novels need that sense of wonder, even ones that are gritty, dark and snarky. After all, Arthur C. Clarke managed it with hard science fiction.

If you are an author or aspire to be one, does your novel have an unforgettable “oh, wow!” moment? Will I be able to remember, twenty years later, the exact moment when the characters met the point of wonder? The grit and dark and snark might be diverting and popular at the moment, but will it all blend into the rest of the grit and dark and snark as I read other novels? Will I remember your novel as that one, or will I say, “Oh, yeah. I read that novel. What was it about?”

Will I purchase multiple editions of your book? Or will I eventually give it away?

… Give me a bit of wonder, and I’ll remember your novel forever.

We still seem to be in this grind of endless grit. And YA novels have gotten that way as well. That may be why I have been gravitating toward fantasy romance recently.

~*~

Community Interviews

I have removed the Review Policy page from this site. I don’t accept review copies at all, and it was giving a false impression. That said, I want to step up my guest postings, and I want to start with longtime readers.

I try to keep my blogroll of longtime readers and author buddies current, but if you would like to be added, please pop a comment on this post. I will start inviting people on this list to interviews starting as soon as I get the interview questions written. Let me know if you are interested.

Squeezing it All In

The older you get, the more you tend to add things to your schedule without taking anything away. It’s an illogical practice, and if you can avoid it, it will save you some angst. Since I did not avoid it, I am living with the consequences.

Of course, things get squeezed out, even if you don’t want them to. Here are some things I’ve given up or reduced to occasional activities:

  • Playing the violin or piano on a regular basis. I can be a competent musician, but I’m not at present. I am out of practice. I hopefully keep my fingernails short, but when the Time Squeeze occurs, this, unfortunately, is what is squeezed.
  • Calligraphy. I have pens, ink, paper, paint–all the accoutrements. But I no longer have an art desk or a magnifier light because there’s just no time for this activity. When I do decide to do a project, part of the time involved is practice and brushing up. And each project takes three or four drafts, so the occasion has to be very special.
  • RPG Games. We don’t have a group anymore, either, and it’s so hard to find gamers who at the same level of geekiness as you. Gamers that are too geeky just make you feel awkward, and if they are not geeky enough, you make them feel awkward.
  • Book reviewing. I hated giving up Debuts & Reviews. Hated it. This blog has languished without a clear subject ever since. I am considering dipping my big toe back in it, but really–the thing that made that blog distinctive was my Debut Showcases, and there are just too many debuts for me to handle. If I were to return to book reviewing, it would be one review a week, unless I could lure back my review partners.

Lest this post become totally negative, why did I have to give these things up? For reasons that were worth it.

  • My daughter’s education. Something had to be done, and we’re doing it. It involves a private school and lots of time, but it has totally been worth it.
  • A new job. My old career as a business analyst was pretty much played out, and now I am a product manager. It has been hard, and it will continue to be hard for at least six months or so. And it does involve extra hours. But when I get this product managed (that’s the idea, eh?) things should get easier.
  • Increasing my writerly output. I don’t blog as much because I am writing more. I am trying to add 2000 words to my WIP a week. A measly amount I know, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, and that’s all the time I’ve got.

But mostly, I don’t ever want to give anything up. Note that I still have my musical instruments and my calligraphy pens. And I still have this blog, along with a remnant of my audience (thank you!).

I know that I am probably in the busiest years of my life. As time goes on, and as my daughter grows up, I know the demands on my time will slacken, and I’ll be able to tackle those activities in the top group again. I was in Orchestra once with a woman who picked the violin back up after 30 years.

Have you had to give up any activities that you still miss? Or have you picked an activity back up due to a surplus of free time?

Unbelievably Awful Month

Well, I never got over my sickness (which is apparently sinusitis, not pneumonia), but events did not let me rest. Last week, my daddy died. My sickness promptly came back, and I am now on medical leave from work.

I don’t really know what to say, but since you guys genuinely seem to care, I thought I’d let you know what was going on.

Where Have I Been?

Sorry about the long silence. I’ve been like a lady obsessed.

First, some news. I have 2 stories ready for submission. Yay! I’ll get those suckers sent off by the end of the weekend. Here are the queries I’m working on; this is for The Face in the Magic Mirror, a novella:

Prince Richard is trapped by a spell on a magic mirror, through which he must answer truthfully the vain questions of a very beautiful and ambitious queen. As long as Richard finds the queen the fairest of all, she is content. However, one day, Richard falls in love with the queen’s young stepdaughter, Angelika.

He urges Angelika to flee the queen’s jealous wrath, so she runs to her friends in the woods, a farm worked entirely by dwarfs. There, she meets Gretchen, who came to the farm looking for a husband. She has made her choice, but her heart does not yet agree with her head.

To free Richard, Angelika, and a land in the grip of the evil queen, Gretchen and her betrothed decide to become heroes.

Yeah, so it needs work. My WordPress theme made it italic; I’ll have to find that setting and turn it off. One day.

Here’s the other, for A Little Night Magic, my Regency urban fantasy. Some of you have seen other versions of it before:

Tory is a spy. She’s also a starcaster–able to manipulate starlight. The Intelligence Ministry director, Mr. Bradburn, thinks her specialty should be using her feminine wiles to seduce state secrets out of unsuspecting enemy operatives. And while Tory appreciates the implied compliment, she would like nothing more than to find a way to respectfully decline.

She doesn’t realize that what Bradburn really wants is a patsy. When enemy spies try to steal a new magical prototype, Tory thwarts them and traces the spies back to Bradburn. Before she can gather evidence against him, he frames her for the theft of the prototype. Now, everyone wants the prototype and Tory’s dodging villains like ladies evade louts at a ball.

Disguised as a domestic servant, armed with lockpicks, decoding disks, and a black powder revolver, Tory must evade her fellow operatives, find evidence of Bradburn’s connection to the enemy, avert the plot against the throne, and clear her good name.

So why am I obsessed? Because I’ve been a crazed songwriter lately. I’ve been churning out songs like I’ve never been able to churn out stories. In the last month, I’ve written the music and/or lyrics to four songs (although one needs more polish), and I’ve even set one of them to music. I had already set another song to music last year, so I now have 5 songs. As soon as I write one, another pops into my head. The music generally pops in later.

Here are the titles:

  • So Screwed (with music)
  • Oh, Autism (with music)
  • Worth the Waiting (lyrics only, needs rhymes)
  • How to Write a Country Song (lyrics only, written on Saturday and Sunday)
  • Lady Geek (lyrics only, written yesterday and today)

Most of these are comic songs, except the 2nd and the 3rd. No, I don’t intend to be a singer. No, I don’t have a singer lined up to do demos. No, I don’t have a collaborator lined up to help me with the music. Yes, I’ve been studying how to write songs (hence the 4th song). Yes, I got the appropriate “For Dummies” book. Yes, I am still totally lost. No, I have not given up writing fiction.

So thanks for hanging with me. I’ll try to keep you guys posted.

Because Brownies Ought to be …

… a traditional Christmas dessert, here are the low saturated fat brownies I’ll be making this afternoon for our huge family Christmas Dinner Bash.

My daughter named these Cotton Brownies because they turn out so light and fluffy. She devours them.

Please note: I am a butter snob. You can reduce the fat content if you use a vegetable spread instead of butter, but I have not tried it yet. Make sure the spread you use contains no trans fats.

  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened (37.8 g. saturated fat)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 whole large egg (1.6 g saturated fat—use Eggland’s Best for lower satfats)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat oven to 350. Grease bottom and sides of pan with shortening.

Mix sugar and cocoa powder and set aside. Don’t skip this step! The cocoa is easier to mix when blended with sugar.

Melt butter. Blend with applesauce, egg whites, egg and vanilla. Beat in cocoa until just blended. Spread in pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cut into 20 squares. 39.4 g saturated fat for the entire batch. About 2g saturated fat per brownie.

The recipe is now on LiveStrong!