4:18pm: Not here to make friends
“Male writers, and their male protagonists, are expected to be flawed and complex, but reader expectations for women writers and their characters tend to be far more rigid. Women may stray, but only so far. If they go on deep, alcoholic benders, they best repent and sober up at the end. If they abandon their spouses and children, they best end tragically, or make good. Women must, above all, show kindness. Women may be strong – but they must also, importantly, be vulnerable. If they are not, readers are more likely to push back and label her unlikeable.” (http://kateelliott.livejournal.com/235586.html, Kameron Hurley as guest post author)
"Well-behaved women seldom make history." (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich)
I write what I hope are realistic characters. Men and women, all of them real people, with real flaws, making decisions which span the range from inspired to really problematic but which are driven by their backgrounds and personalities and the intolerable situations in which they find themselves. Character, more even than plot, is what drives me to write about these people, and character is what makes me want to read someone else’s stories. I don’t want to read, or write, about characters whose edges are smooth and fit into society’s little boxes. What fun would that be?
(What's the worst thing someone can hope for you if you're female, IMO? "Stay out of trouble.")
So, am I going to be polishing off the edges on my "unlikeable" female characters? Hell no. They are who they are, just as is every flesh-and-blood woman not afraid of demonstrating independence from the expectations of others. I firmly believe we should all be who we are, and my characters stand in testimony to this belief.
-- A harvest which, despite the wettest year on record, is still filling boxes. Who knew winter squash liked so much wet? Who knew about peppers' love of moisture?
-- Marmalade, which was actually not the most difficult preserve I've put up thus far in my rather short career.
-- Three-quarters of a new novel. It's still fighting me every inch of the way, but we're getting there. Which is convenient, because I really want to get back to the first in the series and do some revision. You know, so it's presentable for company?
-- Conquering my fear of markers in color-rendering a drawing. In fact, if it wasn't for the contest I'm entering this drawing in, I might never have even tried. (I made three copies of this drawing so, if I screwed up two of them learning to color-render, I'd still be able to enter the contest with the black and white third. Thus far, I'm actually very pleased with the first attempt.)
Challenges yet to be conquered:
-- Learning to balance my time better. Just because I can do three things at once, two of them in my head, doesn't mean I'm more efficient that way or that the things I'm simultaneously working on are better for the split attention. I need to focus on just one thing at a time. Which means....
-- Not feeling guilty when I can't actually think about the current novel. The constant low-level current of thought about whatever scene I'm working on, circling endlessly without progress, robs me of the ability to focus deeply on my active project, which is usually active for a reason. So, yes, I need to just let it go every once in a while and not fret over the absence of those characters in my mental space.
-- Finishing what I start. Not ever going to conquer this one, but it's worth looking at every once in a while. Plus, notice how it feeds directly into the one above? Just one damned thing after another. ☺
12:52pm: The alien**
A mini cat emergency – two people distractedly trying to anoint four* animals with flea-killing elixir while one of the dogs is determined to make a getaway, resulting in a cat getting tagged with flea stuff intended for the beagle – turned into a rather different evening than I had expected, once I realized the mistake. (Mistake; cue shocked realization that this stuff can be toxic to cats, grab for cat, cat ducks out of kitchen and ends up under bed, is dragged out and finally washed off with a soapy washcloth.) Heigh ho, off to the emergency (e.g., expensive) vet’s, where they informed me that we had a lovely young lady who would be just fine, as we’d acted fast enough and she’d gotten a dose far below the danger threshold.
I promptly asked them whose cat they were talking about. Surely they had hold of someone else’s animal, because they couldn’t be referring to the cat who’s named Luna and referred to, often, as Lunatic.
The tech brought her out, purring and calm in his arms. Yep, our cat. But she was friendly and interested in perfect strangers! And you know what? She’s still behaving like that.
I may have to take her back there in the future. You know, the next time she decides to be a screeching hellion. Well, when my wallet can afford the fee for whatever magic they applied, anyway. >:-)
*Four animals - three dogs, one cat - only because the fifth, the old ginger tom, has an open wound near the spot where you apply this stuff, and we didn't want to risk it. That cat's been through enough already this year.
**Anyone who's taken one cat out of a household of multiple cats and then brought the traveled cat back, only to find the others think it's been turned into an alien, will understand the title of this entry.
8:54pm: Fire season
First fire of the autumn - chilly outside, nice and toasty inside beside the woodstove. Not exactly in my chair, because the dog beat me to it. >:-\ And, tomorrow, when we wake up to a world gone frosty, I'll still be grateful for the warmth.
8:32am: Element Weekend
It was a weekend full of Elements - Honda Elements, that is. We went up into the valley, to Graves Mountain Lodge and Orchard, for their fall apple festival and harvested more than a dozen Element sightings on that one single day. Are there just more Elements in the community of people who are likely to attend such a festival? I hardly see Elements anymore down in the city - which I suppose isn't all that surprising, given that Honda stopped making that model two or three years ago, but I love my Element and still find it incomprehensible that more people don't drive them. Perhaps I have finally met my people. *g*
(Apples? Oh, yes. We ended up bringing home a bushel of various varieties - Mutsu (also called Crispin), Granny Smith, Grimes Golden, a whole lot of lovely, tiny Winesaps which you cannot find hardly at all anymore, Yorks, and the best Golden Delicious I've ever had. Most of those will be apple pie/crisp filling, but the Golden Delicious are purely for eating.)
We're due for our first frost later this week. The newly sown winter greens beds are covered, as of Sunday, with a lightweight frost blanket, just enough to keep them through the worst of what our winter will bring. Here's hoping the support system for that blanket, which we fabricated ourselves, will hold up to any snow or ice we may get.
The garlic and perennial onions should go in this weekend, and the rest of the tomato vines and their trellis will come down. I have to clear the remaining beds (and hopefully sow winter ground covers), but that's waiting for frost to knock down the last of the squash and beans. The Seminole squash patch now extends at least 30 feet out from the bed where they're planted. Next year, those suckers are going on trellises. >:-)
And then I get a bit of a rest from gardening work. So looking forward to that!
4:25pm: Hanging's too good for 'em
I get to have a conversation with my local research librarian about locating examples of a particular sort (and era) of rural preacher so I can figure out how Jody, in Lynch, is going to try talking a mob into not carrying through the action flagged by the book’s title. There are probably even good examples of such speeches out there.
I bet it’s not even the strangest research query the librarians have seen. >:-)
That's two weeks' worth of growth on the winter squash vines and the cosmos. In those two weeks, we've received ten-plus inches of rain, and solidly warm (and occasionally hot) temperatures, and sun when it wasn't raining. Not too much wind, either; the corn is mostly vertical still.
8:36am: The Carnival of the Weeds
The past two weeks around my house have been a magnified version of the spring and summer over all: Rain. Rain. Rain. Thunder, then rain some more. Weed! Weed! Rain. Rain. Thunder. Weed!
Last night I came in from the garden at 9PM covered in wet, spattered dirt flecks and sweat. I'd had onions that needed to be harvested and then hung up in bunches to dry and a million opportunistic weeds to yank and turn into mulch (roots up, you buggers!) This was the fourth night of six that I've come in like that, with a break of two days because it was just too hot one evening and monsooning on another.
This morning, and all of last night so far as I can recall, having woken to lightning and rain at some point, it's monsooning again. We are officially having the wettest summer on record here in central Virginia (not that I needed the official record to tell me that). Here it is nearly the middle of July, with all the vegetables in our massive garden bursting at the seams in their rush to produce, and I have watered with the hose a grand total of one day: right after the sweet potato slips went into the ground. That's it.
I know that weather doesn't equal climate...but wettest summer ever on record. I wonder if the climate change deniers are enjoying their summer?
1:35pm: Oh, so angry
The most frustrating experiences in my life have been where I see wrong being done and been unable to do more than tell the wrongdoer that they’re screwing up. Some of these situations are so infuriatingly wrong that I am rendered nearly speechless. This, I know, is the point at which some people become activists. I don’t have room on my emotional plate for that sort of investment, however, and so I have done what I can: I’ve commented on the proposed removal of endangered species protection for the grey wolf.
"Collectively, these factors mean that wolf populations are quite resilient to human-caused mortality if it is adequately regulated."
You lie to yourselves if you think "adequately regulated" is the way certain states' regulators are gleefully lining up to target an animal which has become far more a symbol than a varmint. You’re committed to your chosen science, which ignores the human variable in this species’ environment, so nothing I say in that regard will be anything more than blah, blah, blah to you…so I will just say this: you’re wrong, your decision will destroy not just the wolves but their entire ecosystems, and I hope your grandchildren can forgive you.
You can comment, too, if you feel so moved; the open comment period on the proposed delisting of protection for the grey wolf expires September 11, I think. How very ironic.
Would I advocate you comment? Sure. This delisting involves so much more than the lives of individual wolves, and its implications affect you, and all of us, in the larger picture, to the point where I get a lump in my throat thinking about it. Oh, people, we can be so much better than this!
Your ability to comment on the proposal is one of the really great advantages to a democratic system, and one you should seize whenever the mood moves you. It should move you this time, but that’s for you to determine for yourself. Me, I’m going to sit here and be speechless for a while.
Or, why it's important to have good neighbors (or at least good relations with your neighbors). I was contemplating what I was going to do about the frost predicted in this area for Monday night and was not feeling optimistic--I put forty tomato plants and a batch of peppers out in the garden last weekend, and none of those plants will handle frost. I reasoned that I could cover them with straw if I had enough left over from the mulching project, but I knew I didn't.
My phone rings; it's my son. He's at the horse farm up the road, where he works part time, and the owner has asked him to dispose of a batch of spoiled hay. Did I maybe want it? I did.
So, I acquired a pickup load of spoiled (and therefore weed-seed-less, or as near as could be) timothy hay, and all my tomatoes and peppers are now sporting hay wind screens, ready to be pulled over the leaves tomorrow evening in case the weather report holds and that unseasonable frost threatens.
(We are about three weeks past what is generally accepted to be the last frost date in this area. I usually delay planting frost-sensitive things like tomatoes until the beginning of May, just to be certain, but clearly this year is determined to be different.)
Needless to say, I did not plant out the remaining batch of tomatoes and peppers or sow the plants that come up directly in the rows, not with a pair of cold nights like we have coming. Next week will be soon enough.
8:15pm: A'farming I Shall Go
Forty tomato plants - Brandywine, German Johnson, Black Plum, and Illini Gold, all paste or main crop - are now out of the seed trays and into the ground, along with eleven peppers of various persuasions. I've got a much smaller batch of cherries - my seed-saved Rose variety - and the Corno di Toro peppers coming along that will probably get planted out next weekend, when I should be able to get up a head of steam again. The annual beds are all completely straw mulched, now, too, alongside the bed with the strawberries and asparagus and garlic, leaving only the one permanent bed with the raspberries and blackberries and assorted early season beets and greens.
(If you've ever wondered why we mulch, you have only to leave one patch of ground uncovered and take note of the difference about thirty days later. Man, the weeds in that one remaining bed!)
It was a real toss-up this morning whether I'd put all this planting off yet another week. It has been cold in central Virginia this spring. Yesterday, it was 41. This morning, with some cloud cover, it was 46, with a northerly breeze that made my hands go quickly purple when I took the dog out for her walk. Tomatoes and peppers do not like the cold. But we have rain coming, a slow front that looks to bring us nice, calm, soaking rain for the first three days of the week, and I did not want to miss that free water. So, the tomatoes are in and I am tired, tired, tired. I should say we; I was not the only one out there.
This week, we took delivery of three very large loads of topsoil, which once spread will form the base for the hoop house we'll be raising as this year's major project. More and more like a farm every day. >:-)
Next up, sowing squash - summer and winter - and melons in the seed trays. It only took me three tries last year to learn that, with the crows, direct-sowing of these crops was not going to work. There are things I can direct-sow which will be going in next week (buckwheat, sorghum, corn, chard) and other things I need to start in seed trays (sunflowers, which the deer love and which, therefore, cannot be direct-sown). Unless the weather turns unexpectedly hot, however, those will wait another week, maybe two.
I picked the first spring-sown radish today. Some of the early spinach is approaching harvest size. Beets are slow, but coming along. The collards and kale which overwintered are in glorious, bee-feeding flower; once done, they're going to be the chickens' delight, and then I will have to do something else with that part of the bed. Hmm. I bet it won't be tomatoes. >:-)
1:32pm: Dear Subconscious,
I sometimes think it’s a damned shame that we can’t write a novel in the length of time it would normally take someone to read it. If, for instance, this benighted story of prodigal brothers, kidnapped babies, and the hills of the city of Lynchburg, VA, had taken me only a couple of days to write, I might have a much better handle on whether the plot really does need that extra layer of Urgent! Complication! that my subconscious apparently believes it does.
Or maybe I just have too many things going on in my head. You think?
Really, Subconscious, we’re up to 186 pages and nearly (so very nearly) to the midpoint reversal. You’d think you would be able to manage at least a little urgency. The point-by-point spreadsheet I’ve laid out for the rest of the novel isn’t enough for you? Do you maybe think you can hang me out to dry and let me dither here, all calm and crisis-less, until I give up? Guess again, friend. I know how this book ends. We’ll get there together, even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming across that finish line.
(And if I then have to spend the next year rewriting and revising to graft on the sense of urgency you have failed to fork over in the first place, well, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.)
Love, Your Author Forebrain
Unfortunately, I’m not exaggerating the too much stuff in my head. The chicks we brooded out this spring graduated first to a separate pen inside the big girls’ run, so everyone could get to know each other, and then to inclusion with the big girls. They all survived, and they're beautiful. No one’s drawn blood and they’re actually starting to mix a little, so I’m calling that one a win. At least until we figure out if any of them is a rooster!
The tomatoes and peppers I started under lights in the shed are big enough, and the weather appears to finally have settled enough, that I hope to plant them out this weekend in the beds P and I spent hours last week clearing of the last of the crop of weeds and grasses which had invaded last season and which I totally failed to clear over the winter. I still need to put down the last of the straw mulch to keep a fresh crop of weeds from germinating; I foresee another exhausting weekend ahead.
I’ve finished a design project for a lovely little back garden in the city, and I look forward to seeing it paved and planted by fall. (Fortunately, that part is someone else’s baby.)
I’ve also designed and planted a hummingbird garden for P to look at through his office window, and I’ve fleshed out the plantings along the walkway in the winter garden (so-called because it’s the only garden one walks through on this property in the winter, and it’s what I see when looking out the kitchen window in the winter, watching it snow and wishing really hard for spring).
I cleaned up and weeded out the kitchen garden. There’s work yet to be done here: the pathway from back deck stairs to the patio inside the kitchen garden, and the plantings at the far end (Washington hawthorn, I think, and maybe some Skip laurels or Mugo pines), but I don’t see myself getting to that right away.
And then, of course, the big vegetable garden. The planting of the tender crops is only the start, and the work gets more intense from here. I am bound and determined to get a crop of winter squash this year. I might squeeze in a block of early corn, even though last year’s result was laughable. We are planting a huge number of main crop tomatoes now that the new stovetop is in and the canning ought thus to be far less of a PITA.
(Oh, yeah – new stovetop. Replaced the glass-solid-surfaced cooktop that I blew a hole in during last fall’s canning. The whole process had far more moving parts than I’d planned for and convinced me that I want nothing to do with being a contractor, managing the timelines for all the subs, but that said, the people I worked with were very professional and did absolutely beautiful work despite the unexpected obstacles. One of these days I’ll take a photo and post it for all to see. Lakeside Plumbing and Lowes installer David LaJoie, your skill and creativity saved my sanity, and I thank you and wholeheartedly recommend you.)
So, um. Too much shit going on. Most of it, at least, handled. Back to the writing grindstone….
Yep, chicken chicks. (What did you think?) Supposedly they are all Silver Laced Wyandottes, but some brilliant person at the co-op had mixed the remaining chicks together, so I think I really got five Wyandottes and one Partridge Rock. Which is okay, because the Partridge Rocks whose photos I can find online are beautiful. It will make a nice addition to the flock, once they're old enough. (And assuming it's not a cockerel, rather than a pullet. Fingers crossed!)
They're busy playing in the pine shavings as I write this. No need to worry about their foraging skills! Pine shavings are flying everywhere. Good thing I propped their waterer up on two stone blocks.
Aside from the chicks, I've been running from pillar to post this past month--design work (yay!), garden prep and planning, seed starting. My professional organization designed a garden display for the local home and garden show. Two weeks after that, we held our annual winter business meeting, for which I had responsibility for assembling certificates and DVDs of the previous summer's garden tour. I even managed to put a few words on paper for the Lynch book. I lost a day due to power outage following a winter storm, but it was just a day, so I count myself fortunate there.
From this point forward, it's all go - I have a million things to get started and planted once it warms up a bit more. If you don't hear from me for a while, just think of me in my garden, or playing with the chicks. >:-)
9:46pm: Eureka of the Musical Kind
Ah! I've been struggling to identify music which will work to conjure the main characters in Lynch; bluegrass/folk/Southern balladry is so very much not my usual era or prior area of interest, but it's what these characters want.
Tonight, I acquired the latest Mumford & Sons CD, and I got a nice, solid click: Calvin. Some of this will suit his personality exceptionally well.
I still need to pin down theme music for Lucie, Calvin's love interest. I'm stuck at the scene where she appears on screen for the first time. (Well, stuck for that reason, and because of some other Real Life stuff bogging down my conscious and subconscious mind. Fingers crossed I can get that handled in the next week or so.) A dayjob work friend of mine is much more up on this music than I am. I think I'll ask for her suggestions.
Other stuff that's working for this book: Fleet Foxes (that's Jody). Sarah Jarosz (theme, I think, rather than a specific character; I had thought this was Lucie's music, but it doesn't conjure her. Or maybe I just don't know her well enough yet). Riverside (Calvin, again.) Trapezoid (Martha, maybe?). Hank Dogs (thematic). Crooked Still (also Martha). So many groups I had no inkling of before starting to work in this book universe. See what writing does? Step through a door, and open your mind to possibilities unseen! This, now--this is magic. This is the joy of writing for me.
Gardeners will appreciate why I say this: sometimes, January is one of my favorite times of year. Not only is there little back-breaking work to be pushed through outside, but there's a stack of seed catalogs and, after dreaming over them, the satisfaction of actually choosing the varieties to be ordered and holding new seed packets in my hand. Daylight's growing noticeably longer already, less than a month after Midwinter. At this point in the season, anything is possible.
Easily the most intriguing gift of the season: a book called Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, which appears to be an actual work of scholarship by Edward Kritzler (who, the foreword says, was a historian and journalist based in Kingston, Jamaica, who died in 2010). I haven't actually done more than look at the chapter titles. Given what I've read doing research for the pirate novel -- for those following along from some several years back, that would be Josh's book -- I'm interestingly positioned to either condemn or thoroughly enjoy it. >:-)
Nicest gift of the season: an honest-to-goodness Peruvian alpaca knitted scarf, red and dark pink, soft and warm. It came with a tiny little Peruvian female figure in a colorful woven skirt that I will have to take a photo of and post later. Quite clever, actually.
I also got far too much chocolate and baked far too many cookies. At least most of those went out of the house!
At least the damned election’s done, and while it appears to be status quo in Washington DC, I’m not currently bracing for the sheer lunacy we’d have seen if Romney had won. (There’s one alt future history I will have absolutely no interest in ever reading. ::shudder:: )
(Although, come to think of it, I bet there’s quite a few books being written in alt future historical style that will use this as a fulcrum. It was that kind of choice.)
The big election in Virginia will be next year…. Yeah, I’ll be bracing again next fall. Ah, well. Perils of working in a political organization and all that.
At the end of this week, I get to go up to western Maryland to a book signing for my writing partner in crime, Corrina Lawson. This one’s actually for her third book, Geek Mom, written with three other ladies from the Geek Mom spinoff of the Geek Dad website. If anyone else happens to be in the vicinity of Boonsboro MD (slightly south and west of Hagerstown) on Saturday, come on by! http://ttpbooks.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=TTPB&Category_Code=VB.
3:42pm: Bookkeeping: Lynch
Well, I've got my protags up a tree and have started throwing metaphorical rocks at them. I need to think about the conversation they're about to have with an important secondary character.
New words: 1508 Total words: 30,952 Mean things: unwelcome revelations; an admission of just exactly how messed up the situation is; the mob's back; playing foxes before the hounds; landslide. And then, of course, the confrontation to come. Research: n/a
The downside to living surrounded by so many hardwood trees is that, this time of year, there are all of those leaves to be gotten up. Mostly, we try to shred them and get the collected bits out onto the garden beds - worms and soil organisms really, really love those decomposing leaf bits. Today we did the side yard and part of the driveway area. P mowed the leaves out front, too, but those he just blew into the surrounding woods. I did a lot of raking, collecting the leaves and laying them out in a thin enough layer not to clog the lawn tractor we use to chop them up. Gonna be stiff in the morning!
I had promised myself I'd change the straw in the chicken house this weekend, too, and here it was, already Sunday afternoon, so I got that done (and the hens hate me for the disruption to their nice little world, but they will enjoy tearing apart the straw flakes I laid out fresh across the floor of the coop).
For the rest of the evening, it's reading, watching Elementary on the DVR, eating chili, and just letting my subconscious do its job. Now if only this were Saturday....
5:06pm: Bookkeeping: Lynch
It's blowing and raining outside my window, and I've finished up all of the rush-rush getting ready to weather the big storm (Hurricane Sandy, and may XKCD (http://xkcd.com/1126/) not be prophetic!) - I bought apples (and cider, and cornmeal) up in Nelson County at the Apple Shed, a favorite of mine, then put up crushed tomatoes and persimmon butter, then made and canned cranberry apple wine jelly, then baked brownies. Good thing I took some extra time off this weekend!
Getting all that accomplished did help work through the logjam in my head, and over the weekend (mostly today) I've managed to make some headway on Lynch. I'm just shy of 30K, and am busy finding ways to make the protag's lives more difficult. Back to work tomorrow, Sandy permitting, so it's time to report word count.
New words since last report: 3413 Total words: 29,415 Mean things: implied safety turns out not to be; being ordered about by someone younger than you; that mob is not giving up; hiding in far too plain sight; reminders of failure. Research: more photos, this time for one of the supporting cast.
I can feel one of the protags evolving as I work out her backstory and motivations. She's done something despicable, desperate. It must, of course, come back to bite her, but I need to work out exactly how...which requires working out what she did. The magic in this book is a bit closer to the surface, more ritual than natural. It's relatively new territory for me. Lovely; I really needed a reason to do more research. ::wry face::
9:19pm: Bookkeeping: Lynch
Finally, some words have happened. I've been fighting my way through the scene which is the first turning point, the end of the first act and of the first third of this book. It took a long, long time to gel sufficiently for me to get it into words.
Images don't translate so well, some times. Especially when you're tired, with too much other stuff dodging around in the room behind your eyes.
So, words. Have some metrics:
New words: 1371 Total words: 27,372
Mean things: Mob; threat of beating or worse if they get caught by that rightfully-enraged father; pain, because choosing to take it on means someone else can maybe move a little faster away from the mob. Fleeing for your life and that of people you care about. And, of course, discovering that the goal you'd set yourself, which had nearly been within your grasp, is completely unattainable (but then, it wouldn't be a turning point otherwise).
Research: street addresses relative to where they met the mob and where they gave it the slip (maybe); train tracks coming into the city and the places they go; urban legends of the time, and the names of the people associated with them.
I'm taking a long weekend coming up. I need to go get some local apples and make cranberry apple wine jelly for the holidays. We have a local get-together at a farm down the road on Saturday, and I think I'm going to see if I can just spend some time laying out straw in the garden and walking the dog and staring up at blue autumn sky. I'm in that place where I'm doing a lot of reading (and rereading) of other people's writing, and I need to empty out the stress and make room for words of my own.
The damned election can't come soon enough, though of course the craziness won't end there. Maybe we'll get a bit of a break before it starts back up again, though. I'm hoping.
2:38pm: In which Baking takes place
I had only one set item to accomplish this weekend - plant the garlic. That's accomplished. Also, I double-dug the bed for the garlic to clean out the stones that seem to grow there; I baked, first Monkey Bread on Saturday and then pumpkin scones on Sunday; I harvested parsley and got it into the dehydrator; and I finished up my laundry in the new washer.
(Yes, new washer. We decided repairing the old one was throwing bad money after good, since the only repair guy we could get to come all the way out to our place wanted $125 just for the visit. Then we had to have it delivered, in a saga all its own which took two separate delivery times to accomplish. Let's just say this machine had better last a while.)
The monkey bread thing was instigated by a post I saw over at Pinterest. That recipe used pre-made biscuit dough, though, and I knew I could do better. So, using a recipe from America's Best Lost Recipes (one of the many fine cookbooks from the America's Test Kitchen folks), I came up with the blended recipe below. And--let me just say--everyone in the house immediately went back for seconds. This one's a winner.
Dough: 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 Tbsp melted 1 Cup warm milk 1/2 Cup warm water 1/4 Cup granulated sugar 1 package rapid rise or instant yeast 3 1/4 Cups all purpose flour 2 tsp salt 2 Tbsp apple pie spice
Sugar coating: 1/2 Cup granulated sugar 2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (or apple pie spice)
Caramel glaze: 1 Cup brown sugar (packed) 3/4 Cup butter 1/4 Cup canned pumpkin
1. Adjust an oven rack to the medium-low position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. When the oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Lightly grease a large bowl with cooking spray. Butter a Bundt pan with 2 Tbsp soft butter. Set the bowl and pan aside.
2. Mix the milk, water, melted butter, granulated sugar, 2 Tbsp of apple pie spice, and yeast together in a large measuring cup. Stir the flour and salt together in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low, slowly add the milk mixture. After the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 6-7 minutes. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in the greased bowl and coat the surface of the dough with cooking spray (or soft butter, if you have more on hand). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warm turned-off oven until the dough is doubled in size, 50-60 minutes. (If by the end of that time the dough hasn't doubled, place another bowl filled with just-boiled water in the oven alongside it, being careful not to slosh or burn yourself!)
3. In a large bowl, mix ½ Cup granulated sugar and 2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
4. When the dough has doubled, gently remove it from the bowl and pat into a rough 8-inch square. Set the oven to 350 degrees; re-set the racks. Cut the dough into 64 pieces with a bench knife. (Quarter, then divide each quarter into quarters, then each quarter again into quarters.) Gently roll each dough piece into a ball and, working one at a time, roll the balls in the sugar coating. Place the balls in the buttered Bundt pan, staggering the seams where the balls meet.
5. Make the caramel glaze - mix together ¾ Cup butter, brown sugar, and pumpkin over medium heat. When it boils, cook and stir one minute. Pour over the dough balls in the Bundt pan, being certain to cover all of the upper surfaces.
6. If, like me, you are actually using a tube pan of the sort where the bottom is removable and thus can leak, take a piece of foil slightly larger than your pan and, folding the edges in just a little, lay it on the oven rack to catch any leaks. You definitively do not want the caramel dripping into your oven.
7. Put the pan into the oven and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown. Cool in the pan for ten minutes - no longer, or you could have trouble unmolding it as the caramel cools and gets sticky. Lay a piece of foil or parchment paper on the counter. Put a plate across the top of the pan, and turn the whole thing over so the bread slides out onto the plate. Caramel will come cascading out over and around the bread; make sure you have that piece of foil under the plate to catch the drips! Serve warm.
8:41pm: Bookkeeping: Lynch
Weekends are good things, especially when they're three day weekends. This one was busy, as they always are, but with three days to stretch out in, the busyness has gaps. Gaps through which the words oozed. >:-)
(The momentum might be coming from the run up to that first turning point. Sooooo close now. I need to give my brain a chance to block out the next piece of the scene, though, so I'm breaking off here. I still have tomorrow to finish it.)
New words: 1389 Total words: 24,556 Mean things: Lack of trust in yourself; being forced to face something that terrifies you; threats of bodily harm. Research: location of the old train station in Lynchburg; routes of the trains in 1909; location of pedestrian bridges from downtown up into the hills.
Remember my mention of the ways in which writing in the near past pays off? I actually found an image from an old postcard which showed me the location of the train station, a location I could not find anywhere on the web. And that very same postcard showed the bridge I needed my characters to take. And another postcard gave me the same scene from a different angle, with a close-up of that bridge. Wonderful!
Accomplished thus far this weekend, in addition to the writing: the splitting and stacking of a winter's worth of firewood; digging the sweet potatoes before the first frost (potentially tonight) zaps them; gathering up what will likely be the last of the tomatoes and peppers.
Yet to be accomplished: finding a repairman to fix the washing machine, which believes it's a jumping jack and no longer needs to spin water out of the clothes. Fingers crossed I can get someone in tomorrow, while I'm still off.
Here, have some photos I've had stored on my camera and only took the time to download this weekend. You can see the whole batch over at my Flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/8556491@N07/). The first shot is for mnfaure - here's hoping your move is going well!
And here's a shot of the kind of warfare I can heartily get behind. That worm doesn't know it yet, but those little white cocoons have signed its death warrant, and my gardener's heart is gleeful.
9:12pm: Bookkeeping: Lynch
I still haven't quite reached that first turning point and the end of the first act, but we're nearly there - and right on track, page-count-wise; I'm at 101 after tonight's transcription of the couple pages I got on the bus.
New words: 2851 Total words: 23,242 Mean things: macho bullshit; wishing you could be children again; the bright chance of escape thwarted; reminders of just how dangerous, and lonely, a situation you're in; having to lead when you're a natural follower. Research: n/a
I need to go back to my earlier research and verify where the footbridge from downtown Lynchburg proper crossed to Daniel's Hill in 1909. And where the train station had been then. And maybe figure out what that footbridge would have looked like, given what it was crossing (Blackwater Creek, which was a substantial creek at the bottom of an even more substantial ravine). The bridge that carried trolleys and wagons across the creek to what is now Rivermont Avenue was a solid metal structure; I do have photos of that.
And then I get to have the big fight that ends the first act, and that I am looking forward to. ::grin::
I've been wicked tired lately, after a nonstop couple of weeks at work. I went to bed really early last night and woke up around 2AM on the tag end of the weirdest dream. All anxiety; being stalked and hiding and having to rescue myself, which is what I do to get out of dreams like that - forcing logic on an unreal situation wakes me up. I think today was the first day I've felt really well rested in more than a week.
Tuesday we start in on the next round of interviews to fill the position of the secretary who retired last week. We can't hire this one soon enough for my purposes. Too much stress, too much work, too little support from upstairs. What's new, right?
We still have tomatoes coming out of the garden, if you can believe it - there's been no frost, though we've had weather cool enough that I did bring the lemon tree indoors a couple of nights. We have a woodsplitting party planned for Saturday, and if I don't feel too tired after that I'm going to try and dig up some of the sweet potatoes to see how they're coming. They have to be dug before frost, and I've pushed it waiting so long. I don't want to get a nasty surprise. If the vines are any indicator, the harvest ought to be pretty damned good.
The leaves are starting to drop. Pretty soon this place will have that cathedral feel you get when it's all bare branches and high, pale sky. Excelsior, autumn!
10:05am: Bookkeeping: Lynch
On the 14th, the person who was hired to fill the admin position I’d been dragooned into covering finally started work. Yay! It’s very good to be able to focus on my job again. (Of course, I’ve since gotten dragged onto a committee to study our office’s transition to Voice Over IP telephony, but I’m hoping that will be less intensive.)
So, while the writing pretty much stopped for a couple of weeks there, since last Thursday things have been looking better. I’m spending less time reading fanfic (or re-reading, which is a sure sign of burnout) and more time working out the next scene in Lynch. Earlier this week, on the bus, I got a page and a half of material, written in the notebook I bought myself last week specifically for this purpose – that I just had to write down. It’s good to have characters burning a hole in my head again. *g*
The third of the four characters this book has demanded is about to step out onto the stage, which means I need to get him firmly in my head. This morning’s bus time was spent thinking about Cal, his needs and wants, hates and loves.
New words: 2304 Total words: 19,968 Mean things: traps, physical and metaphorical; what happens to a person shut up in a box who really, really does not like them. Research: images of people of the time. Working in the near past makes this so much easier!
9:37pm: Bookkeeping: Lynch
Finally, I'm through the logjam of a scene whose characterization was giving me fits. We're trundling along now, headed straight for the first turning point and end of the first act - still on track, still in step with the outline. I have a feeling it's going to take a while before I stop being astonished when an outline's integrity holds.
And, miracle of miracles, at least one of my protagonists has decided he knows how to protag! The characterization problem above was not on his head, but on his partner's; here's hoping she remembers she, too, is not a fainting princess and must earn her keep.
New words: 1734 (several days' worth, mind; it's been a rough week) Total words: 17407 Mean things: a little PTSD, some condescension, a deliberate demonstration of threat, fear and then the even more deliberate resumption of the country bumpkin persona he hates (but which has a use). Jody is not having a good morning. Research: more faces - I found one which completely captures Jody's young face and wary attitude.