writing

Infinite homework report

October 28, 2015
infinite homework report

Current WIP

Oh man. I am not going to finish this book by end of October. Three days. THREE! How did that happen. Life conspires. Oh well, I suppose it was a self(inflicted)imposed deadline – it shall be done in November instead. This only pushes out me being able to start on a ShinyNewStory(TM)… which patiently waits. All shiny & new.

So. I have 40-something pages left to edit, and the first draft of a query letter. Once both things are done I will be putting them aside for a couple of months, and letting them settle. Letting my brain have a break.

I would love to wipe my hands and say DONESKI for REALSKI – to throw that query letter + 3 chapters into a million agents’ mailboxes – but I just think it’s not quite polished enough yet. You only get one chance to write and finish your first book. You ought to make it the best book you can. And I need some distance before I can do a final passthrough, do a slash & burn with the red pen.

So it will sit and percolate, and I shall entertain myself with ShinyNewStory(TM) in the meantime, and in the new year I’ll pick Rukan up again and dust her off and finish that sucker. For realski.

There’s no other progress to report… All my writing time has been focused on Rukan.


life

1970 dessert experiments: mocha cream pie

October 8, 2015

Pie crust made, pie filled, about to be baked

Mocha cream pie fresh from the fridge

Mocha cream pie with an attempt to remove a slice

Mocha cream pie - half an eaten 'slice'

Essentially: glue

I actually thought this might be a nice dessert. It seemed to have good elements – a pie crust. A coffee/choc filling. Whipped cream. “Mocha cream pie” – it just sounds delicious.

I never learn.

Go & do a google image search for “mocha cream pie” and then come back here. Compare & contrast. Entertaining, no?

So, you start with a basic pastry – flour, butter, “enough” water. As usual I screwed up the pie crust & overbaked it. I am not destined to create pretty crusts, this much I have learned on my 1970s dessert journey.

Then you make a filling – sugar, flour, spices & cold milk – cooking until thickened. Add in some beaten egg yolks, butter & vanilla, and cook for 5 more minutes. Cool, then pour into the pie shell & chill until firm. Finish with whipped cream.

I sprinkled a little cocoa on top for effect. I thought it looked quite pretty for a pie made by me.

Then I tried serving it.

Listen. “Firm”, right? Firm makes it sound like maybe this would turn out like mousse. What “firm” actually means is THICK STICKY GLUE. It clings to the knife as you try to cut into the pie. It tries to SUCK THE KNIFE OUT OF YOUR HANDS INTO THE PIE. This is like some sort of 1970s quicksand. You think, this is how the dinosaurs died, in ponds of this stuff. You wrestle some out onto a plate. It should look like a slice. It looks like a gelatinous heap, possibly even a gelatinous heap that has reached singularity and is self aware and already plotting how to take over mankind.

It’s deceptively sticky. You try to remove a forkful and almost lose your fork in the process.

With some trepidition, you put a forkful in your mouth.

Your mouth is instantly gummed up. You cannot talk. You look at your fellow taste tester and communicate with bugged out eye language alone: I need a huuuuge glass of water. Me too.

But what about the taste? Even if it looked a hot mess, and gummed up your mouth, surely it tasted OK? Ah no, my optimistic reader. It didn’t even taste very nice, mostly due to the excessive amount of spice. I was somewhat perturbed at the levels specified – 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon & 1 teaspoon of clove – I halved the clove because honestly 1 tsp seemed too much, even though I do try to stay true to the spirit of the recipe. I should’ve reduced it further, and the cinnamon too. This wasn’t really “mocha-cream”. It was “cinnamon-mocha”. Although I have to say, it did seem quite 1970s. Lots of cinnamon and clove in a recipe that should be about the mocha flavours instead.

Things it would have been nice to know: how much water is actually required to make the pastry? (“add enough cold water to form a stiff dough”… turns out 3 squirts from the tap wasn’t enough, but 4 squirts was too much. Ha.) How long must you stir for until it is ‘thickened’? (I went for 3o minutes. Maybe I should’ve gone for more? Maybe it would’ve been less gluey? Or less cooking time = less glue?) How long should I chill it for until this magical ‘firm’ stage? (I must admit, the texture was sliiightly less gluey the following day after overnight refrigeration. But by then the damage had been done, and no more was consumed.)

At least this recipe specified a pie dish size & how thin to roll out the pastry…. small wins. Very small ones.

Verdict: never again.


life

Loving & loathing for October

October 3, 2015
Calendar for October 2015 and flowers in a vase

The 2015 edition…

IN

A blast of hot spring weather. This is a good way to start the warmer months! Even though I do think that, on the whole, October is the worst month in Melbourne. Pollen. Wind. Not a good combination.

Finishing my book. This is it! The last month to write on Rukan if I want to reach my goal of finishing it in October. Must. Keep. Plodding. On. (I have lost all will for it, btw. Good times.)

Getting old & decrepit. Another October, another birthday.

rose gold sandals from target
These cute sandals from Target
 Only $29! Sweet.

OUT

The lemon tree. I have decided I am not going to take it with us to the new house. With the amount of bug infestations & issues that thing has, it would be like bringing a Trojan Horse with us. The new house deserves a clean slate garden!


writing

The weird stuff I have googled while writing this book

September 25, 2015

So one of the fun things about writing sci-fi and fantasy is making stuff up. And one of the annoying things about writing sci-fi and fantasy is making stuff up…! because stuff must be based in realism. I always write with browser windows open on Google, Etymology Online and Thesaurus.com – and I’m constantly checking things.

I kept track of a few of the searches I made while writing Rukan… gives you an idea of what weird & wonderful stuff I have read about!

  • How soon after death should someone be buried (ugh, right?)
  • Climate where forest fires are common
  • Words that end in -mancy
  • How does police corruption typically start
  • Composition of bronze
  • When do linden trees flower
  • Symbols and colours of death
  • How fast do pigeons fly
  • End of summer harvest crops
  • Harvest seasons of ancient Israel
  • How ceramic stoves work
  • Economic sanctions
  • Animal symbols and totems
  • How long do moths live
  • How long does it take to sail Sydney to Auckland (to gauge relative distances between my book’s countries)
  • Climate types
  • Who cleans up a crime scene
  • How do you make yellow laundry soap
  • History of traffic control
  • History of kohl
  • Metals in meteorites
  • Yams (apparently most of the world call a sweet potato a yam…?! what I call a yam is actually an “oca” from South America…)
  • Early mail systems

life

Five things on a Friday

September 18, 2015

Another Friday! Man these things keep on arriving, almost like they’re programmed that way.

~~~

These totally adorable ‘tea dragons’ as featured on io9. I love Lapsang Souchong’s flaming antlers, and Oolong’s mossy mane. And Ginger is soooper cute, can I have one please?

~~~


Just cause, you know, Nancy Sinatra is awesome.

~~~

37 tweets guaranteed to make you laugh every time

Number 12.
And 15.
And 22.
And 24 (haha, that’s so me)
And 29.
And 33! Best Jesus ever.

~~~

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a really awesome movie I watched recently. It’s about a girl who escapes from a cult, and takes refuge with her estranged sister. The way the movie slowly layers together clips from her past in the cult, with the current scenes of living with her sister, builds this great dramatic tension. You realise just why she was so terrified early on. You see what they did to her, how they drew her in. You wonder just how damaged she is – what is she imagining, what is now real? She is somewhat of an unreliable narrator in the current scenes. You see her sister suddenly realise something isn’t right with her. You see her sister struggle with how to help her. Highly recommended.

~~~

DAMN YOU STEVE. A very excellent & amusing video on blame. If you have ever dropped something & immediately blamed someone else for your unfortunate accident, give this a watch.


life

First taste of spring

September 15, 2015

Daffodils in the Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

Melbourne Botanic Gardens

Melbourne Botanic Gardens

Spring arrives early this year, with two days of heat in mid September, mild breezes knocking blossom from the trees. Great drifts of plane tree pollen are banking up in the gutters. I think this season will be a sneezy one.

On a Sunday afternoon we strip off jerseys and throw pale feet into sandals, and turn our faces to the sun. I pile food into a basket and we go to the Botanical Gardens. So does everyone else in Melbourne. We spend a stupid amount of time hunting for a carpark, along with everyone else in Melbourne.

There must be thousands there but it doesn’t feel crowded, all these people walking the paths & lying on the grass. Reading newspapers, and kindles, and books. Eating, and drinking. Chasing after small runaway children. Guess who we are. After finishing barbecue chicken skewers and mini quiches and strawberries, we roll up the picnic blanket and let Jamie take the lead. He runs. He runs and runs. He runs in a very non-linear fashion. He tries to climb into the pond. He gets pink cheeked and sweaty.

We pass a few selfie sticks, and people taking photos in front of giant spiny succulents, and from across ponds glittering in the sunlight. We wander along a trail through dense bamboo thickets, and stop to try climbing a rock. A girl and a guy in a tree inspire Jamie, who giggles when we hoist him atop a long smooth branch. He runs in circles around the fragrant herb garden. On the way back to the car, we walk past swathes of sweet blooming daffodils that perfume the air.

It smells of spring, warm and delicious. It has been a perfect spring day, without any of that brutal wind peppering eyeballs with pollen that you usually get this time of year.

We drive home, a tired and hangry child in the backseat, and all of a sudden it doesn’t seem so long until Christmas…


life

I heart the Sunshine Coast

August 24, 2015

Swimming with Nanna in Maroochydore

The Queensland Zoo - Big Pineapple in the background

Queensland Zoo - train station

KOALAS!

Swimming in Maroochydore

Swimming in Maroochydore

Sunset at Maroochydore Cotton Tree

A slice of moon in Cotton Tree

I am back from our annual winter getaway to the Sunshine Coast. Aaahhh. That is me now ready to do battle with the remainder of winter. The whole one week of it.

This year we got a mixed bag of weather… but it was still better than last year’s totally rained-out affair. We got beach time, sand between our toes, sunshine on our skin. Big pineapples were visited. (Someone needs to make a post-apocalyptic film at the Big Pineapple, because that place is a ready-made set, all empty buildings and rusted glasshouses and empty parking lots fallen into disrepair…) There’s a zoo next door now, where I got up close to my first ever live koalas. And koala BABIES! Surely there are few cuter things in the world than sleeping squished up koala baby faces. We also saw Tasmanian devils, dingoes, an echidna, loads of wallabies and kangaroos, as well as other non-native critters.

We drank plenty of coffee, had some stressful drives with two screaming children, watched Foxtel movies and read magazines, & failed to co-ordinate naptimes most days. We had dinner at the surf club, made excursions round the area, and the dads made dad jokes (exhibit 1: upon deciding we would have lunch at Deja Vu cafe “I have a feeling we’ve eaten here before…” and exhibit 2: “why would you go see Magic Mike when you have your own Magic Mike at home?”)

Now we are back in the not-actually-that-chilly Melbs, and I am already planning next year’s trip!


life

1970s dessert experiments: sour cream apple pie

August 14, 2015

Sour cream apple pie in progress

Sour cream apple pie in progress

Sour cream apple pie being consumed

Meh. Apple pie with sour cream, basically.

I actually had hopes for this one. I like sour cream. I like apple pie. What could go wrong?

You start by making a pastry with self-raising flour, rolling it out & creating the shell, then filling it with sliced apples mixed with dry ingredients: cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, flour & salt. Top this sour cream, chuck a pastry lid on top, and bake.

As always with this book, there were some details missing. Things it would have been nice to know: what size pie dish should I use? (I picked the wrong size & ended up throwing out half the apple mix) How thin should I roll out the pastry? (Thinner than you think, Kate)

Verdict? Actually it was OK. A bit soggy. (Perhaps I should have blind baked the shell first. Add that to the ‘things it would have been nice to know’ list.) It was also ridiculously unattractive… but kind of delicious. The sour cream added a nice tartness to the overall flavour – unusual for these recipes, since the 1970s seemed to be big on Add All The Sugar. I wish I had packed in more apple, since it shrunk down quite a lot. Maybe I should’ve cut the apple up into smaller chunks. (Add that to the ‘things it would have been nice to know’ list too.)

This was also nice cold the next day as lunch-dessert.

What? Doesn’t everybody have lunch-dessert?

// I really wish I had better photos for these 1970s dessert posts – sorry for the half-ass quality. Haaate the lighting in our kitchen/dining room!