A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni is alive

Hey everyone!  Long time no post.

Life has gotten a little better and a little worse all at the same time.  I'm no longer in danger of separating from Himself but we're in danger of becoming homeless.  Twitchy is still jobless and is in danger of losing her house.  If she loses the house we're out on the street with nowhere to go except some really cheap ass hotels because we don't have anyone who can afford to take us in.

Writing is going okay.  I've done another edit on ONLY A NAME and it's out to my last remaining beta reader, who plans on getting to it at some point this month.  I'm in no hurry but I'm grateful she's willing to take a look at it for me.  I especially think the ending is weak and needs help.

Work is work.  I'm out of customer service again and back in collections where I was happier.  I'm hoping I'll start doing well at work again.  I'm excited and scared at the same time.  Things have really changed since I left and it's a whole new world that I'm coming back into.

Nothing much else to report so here's some music videos for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing Wednesday - NaNoWriMo

Yes, it's that time of year again.  Once again I'm embarking on that crazy journey that is NaNoWriMo.  If you're unfamiliar with it, you can always check it out here.  I'm there under the name of annikkawoods as well, so as soon as the writing buddies are up and functional (which they're still working on, as far as I know), feel free to add me & drop me a line.  I'm always happy to add folks back.

So November is going to be full of my wails and my triumphs, my failures and my cheers.  At least it will so long as my world doesn't come crashing down around my ears again.  If that happens, NaNoWriMo is going to be the farthest thing from my mind.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni really is trying to keep up on the blog

Wow.  It's been a while.  Sorry, folks.  I'm still in the middle of some rather rough stuff so I've been neglecting a lot of things.  I'm still on Twitter a lot under @annikkawoods, so if you're on Twitter & you don't already follow me, please feel free to drop by and say hi.

Therapy is going well.  I've got another week and then I'm back to work.  I'm actually looking forward to being back to work.  It just reinforces the whole schedule thing that I need in my life and while I'm nervous I'm not as broken down about it as I was two months ago.  Himself and I...let's just say he's part of the rough stuff I'm going through and leave it at that.

Writing...well, not too much has been done.  I've done a little work on ONLY A NAME, but because my hard drive is dying (seriously enough that I can't turn my laptop off if I want it to turn back on again) I haven't done much in the way of writing.  I got the verdict back from my beta readers and the Halloween story just won't cut it.  I'm going to attempt Christmas stories instead, and that gives me some time to get them written and perfected.

And here are this week's music videos.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni is beginning to think that nothing good is going to happen to her

Hey all~

This week's 'fess up is brought to you amidst panic attacks, fights with Himself, and major stress.  I'm having a really bad time of it right now because our financial situation has not improved.  In fact it's gotten worse.  I don't know what to do anymore, other than go back to work - which is a no-no according to my doctor.

Writing is sporadic right now because of my emotional state.  But I did get a story finished that I'm going to polish and then I'll probably post it close to Halloween, since it's a Halloween story.  It's just a short blurb in one of my UF stories, although I'm beginning to think they're more Para Rom stories rather than straight UF stories.

I'm keeping it short this week, so here's the usual music videos.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Freaky Food Friday - Reader Requests

I'm trying to find some new recipes for these posts.  While I'm at it, I'd like to know if you have any favorite recipes you're willing to share.  Or are you looking for a new recipe for something?  Let me know and I'll see if I can oblige you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni's had a good enough week

Hello everyone!

This week has been a remarkably long one but not a bad one on the whole.  It's been long because, oddly enough, I miss being at work.  Days drag on when you don't have something regular to do.  But I've got therapy coming up so I'm looking forward to that, even if it's going to be painful.

Himself has a steady job.  He's working at another call center, which he really hates, but we're in a position where we need steady work more than we need him doing something that doesn't bring in money.  The Kirby job doesn't bring in money if he doesn't sell, and not too many people are buying now.

I finished Cracked World this week, which makes two of my Aleran novels down.  I started a third and I've also started one of my sci fi novels to give myself a break from the fantasy.  I'm having a little more trouble with them, but I expect the fact that I spent a lot of time focused on Cracked World has to do with that.  I took yesterday off and played a video game, something I haven't done in a while.  It was very refreshing.

Today is the ten year anniversary of 9/11.  I can remember precisely what I was doing that day.  I was sleeping.  I'd spent the previous night on a Greyhound bus bound from Seattle to Boise.  I'd just broken up with Himself back when we were still only engaged over something ridiculously silly.  I was absolutely heartbroken because Himself was the first person I loved that dearly, though he wasn't my first boyfriend.  I remember getting in at 2:30 am on 9/11 and walking into my parents' house.

Mum was standing there in her green nightgown with her old red shawl wrapped around her shoulders.  That was soon wrapped around me too as she held me while I cried.  I believe the comment of "It's his loss" was mentioned on more than one occasion by her during the next 4 1/2 hours until I finally passed out around 7:30 in the morning.

I was woken up at 8:30 by my mom arguing with my older sister about turning on the news.  She didn't want to wake me up.  But my mom did turn on the news.  I heard her say, "Oh my god."  I pulled on my glasses just in time to see the second tower get hit.  I didn't go back to sleep after that.

Mum and I just sat and held onto each other, watching as everything happened.  It was probably two hours later, and we were still watching the news, when the phone rang.  It was Himself and his mom and sister.  They wanted to make sure I was all right and that I'd arrived in time.  His sister told me, "It's not like I don't hate you but I also don't want something to happen to you."  (Yes, she's really that spiteful...and yes, I have it written down in my journal so I do remember this.)  This is also what got me and Himself talking again, and ultimately led to him leaving Washington for Idaho.  Which then led to us getting married.

9/11 was a horrible day.  I was blessed that I didn't lose anyone I knew or loved that day.  I was worried about my cousin, who was in Washington DC.  He was off duty Army special forces, and was taking his wife and kids around the DC area.  At least, that's where he was supposed to be.  His car hadn't started that morning, and they were still somewhere in Virginia.

While I do remember that time, and I know that it was a devastating blow to the U.S., September doesn't hold a lot of pain for me because of that.  It holds the pain because on 9/13/03 my mum lost her fight with a brutal form of cancer and died.  She went from diagnosis to death in three weeks.  My mum was a hard woman to live with growing up, but in the last few years of her life she'd really changed and I was growing to love her even more.  I lost her before I ever really got to know the new woman my mum had become.

Now for my usual music videos.  So until next week, my most wonderful friends.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Freaky Food Friday - Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Pomegranate Jelly, Apple Butter

Hey everyone.  With fall approaching the fruit harvests are coming in.  So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite recipes of what to do with that fruit.  The first is two variations on my mom's Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.  The second is a recipe I heard about recently that I hope to try very soon.  The third is something my mom used to make regularly as well.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

11/2 cups crushed strawberries
13/4 cups ground rhubarb
¼ cup lemon juice
1 box MCP Pectin
1 cup Karo Corn Syrup  (Momma used the white Karo syrup)
41/2 cups Sugar
Prepare Fruit.  Add pectin and stir to dissolve completely.  Let set
30 minutes stirring frequently.  Add corn syrup and stir.
Add sugar slowly, stir well to dissolve, box & freeze. 
Recipe says freeze and use within 6 months.  (We frequently kept the jam for over a year without noticing any deterioration in the jam. )
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam made with SUREJELL
Smash Strawberries and grind Rhubarb 1 cup of each
2 cups of prepared fruit
4 cups of Sugar
¾ cup water
1 box SUREJELL Pectin
Thoroughly mix sugar into fruit, let stand for 10 minutes.
Mix water and pectin in small pan, bring to full boil and
boil 1 minute stirring constantly.  Stir into fruit.  Stir for three minutes. 
Some sugar crystals may remain.  Ladle into scalded containers. 
Lid and let stand on counter for 24 hours; then store in freezer.

Pomegranate Jelly

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
5 cups white cane sugar
You'll also need:

6-7 Eight ounce canning jars


1 Make the Juice. There are two basic ways to make pomegranate juice from fresh pomegranates. The first is to cut open a pomegranate and submerge it in a large bowl filled with water. Remove the seeds underwater; they will sink to the bottom while the white membrane holding them together will float. Discard the peel and membranes. Strain the seeds and put them in a blender. Pulse the blender only a few times so that the seeds are broken up. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the seed mixture through the strainer. Use a rubber spatula to help press the pulp against the strainer as to extract as much juice as possible.
The second way to juice a pomegranate is to use a juice press. I have an old fashioned press that I use. I wash the pomegranate and cut it into quarters or halves, depending on how big the pomegranate is. I then crush the sections with a press and strain the juice through a mesh strainer. I have found that this method takes half the time or less of the first method, but the flavor can be a little more bitter because you are squeezing the peel as well.
2 Prepare canning jars. Seep the clean, empty canning jars in boiling water for several minutes. Boil a few cups of water in a separate kettle and pour over the lids in a small bowl to sterilize.
3 Measure pomegranate juice and lemon juice in a 6-quart pan. Add pectin, stir and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Reach a full rolling boil, that cannot be stirred down, and add sugar. Boil hard for exactly 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand for a minute and skim off foam.
4 Fill jars to 1/2" of the top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2-piece lids.
5 Finish canning. This step you need to take if you plan to keep the jelly unrefrigerated. Place the jelly jars, not touching, on a rack in a tall pot of boiling water. The water should cover the top of the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 5 minutes and then remove from the water. Let the jars cool. Check seals, the lids should be sucked down (you'll hear a popping noise as the jelly cools). Once the jars reach room temperature, put them in the refrigerator for a few hours to complete the jellying. Lasts about 3 weeks once opened.
Yield - 6-7 cups.
(My friend who introduced me to this uses pomegranate juice from the store rather than juicing the pomegranates herself. I intend to try this once I'm in my own place.)

Apple Butter
  • 5 1/2 pounds apples - peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well.
  2. Cover and cook on high 1 hour.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
  4. Uncover and continue cooking on low 1 hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.
  5. Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Sad scenes in your books

Last night I had to do the hardest thing I've done with this manuscript - I had to kill a character.  She's technically a minor character but she'd become as beloved to me as the main characters.  I nurtured her through her rough childhood, suffered with her when she struggled with magic, and ultimately rejoiced with her when she married and had her first child.  And then, when she was at her happiest, I killed her.

I had to.  It was needed to move the story forward, and will spur the main character (since this is his only daughter) to the much needed point of wanting revenge against the people who murdered her.  It burns and festers in his mind until those people act again.  That second time, when they wipe out what he thinks is what's left of his people, he loses it.  He'll try to kill all of those who had anything to do with the massacre.  His actions are what changes things to lead up to the third book in the loosely connected series.

But I cried when I killed her.  I didn't want to do it.  I felt like a heartless monster when I did it.  I put on my saddest song that I have access to (Who Wants To Live Forever by Queen) and I burned through that scene.  I cried along with her father and her husband as she was laid to rest.

That got me to thinking.  Is it a good idea to get so involved in your story that you grieve over the loss of a character?  Or that you laugh with your characters when something fun happens?  Is it normal or necessary to get that deeply involved in your characters' lives?

I think it is.  I love feeling what my characters are feeling, because I think it helps me portray those feelings better as I'm writing them.  I think it's better for my readers because if I'm that connected hopefully they'll be as connected by the time I'm done.  I'm investing my time and my emotions into these characters.  I want a reader to do the same.

I don't know if I've succeeded, but I do know I wrote one hell of a depressing scene last night.  I only hope that when I go back in edits I can make it punch a reader in the gut even more.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni has a soapbox and isn't afraid to use it this week

Hey all!

Sorry about the blog absence last week, but I was in the hospital and didn't have access to my laptop.  I spent 9 days in the hospital, and now I'm on a month long hiatus from my day job until I get some therapy out of the way.  My doctor practically ordered me to keep writing though, so that's what I'm going to do.

Himself is still working for Kirby but he's looking for something with a steadier income so we can get out of Twitchy's house sooner.  He's got a couple interviews lined up for next week, so send good thoughts his way.  One is almost the same hourly wage as I get ($11/hr), so we'd have a lot more to work with and that would be lovely.  Instead of living from my paycheck to my next paycheck.

Writing is going well.  I've put in almost 15k on the novel this week since I got home, and hope to finish it by the end of the month.  I've got some other projects that need to be finished, and I've got some side stories I want to write because the side characters interest me as much as the main characters.  The side stories probably won't ever see publication but they're going to be fun to write.  I may save them until November, when I do NaNoWriMo again though.

I'm going to deviate from my usual SFU for a moment.  I want to talk to you about a subject that is both serious and very important to me: mental illnesses.  I myself am bipolar.  I suffer from depression, mania, and anxiety - mostly depression and anxiety.  My mental illness was part of what got me hospitalized.  It, along with unattended health issues, knocked me off my feet.

NAMI has a great definition for mental illness.  My favorite part of the definition is: "Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing."  It also mentions that it's treatable, which it is through therapy, counseling, and medication.  Coping skills can be taught and medication can help stabilize moods.

There's even an institute to deal with mental health issues (NIMH).  Now, aside from the terrifying portrayal of them in "The Secret of NIMH", the National Institute for Mental Health has a lot of good information available to those who either suffer from mental illnesses or the families of those who have to live with those who suffer from mental illnesses.

One thing I've seen which breaks my heart is a lack of support from friends and family members.  Friends abandon individuals with mental health issues.  Family members go after them to "get their head on straight" and to "get over it".  You can't get over it.  It's treatable but not curable.

If you know someone with a mental illness, don't turn away from them.  Offer them love and support even if it seems like they don't want it.  Mental illness can make people do strange things, and one of them is isolate themselves to avoid any further pain.  Don't let them.  Isolation and a feeling of being alone is often what leads to suicide among those with mental illnesses.  Let them know you're always there for them no matter how often they tell you they don't need help.

Now, for a lighter note...this week we're going to have some Simon's Cat videos instead of my usual music videos.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni's week went better


Hey everyone.  This has been a fairly long week.  Himself is finally back on his feet after his mom's death.  I'm due back at work today after a full week off to help take care of Himself until his depression was back under control.  I've also had an interview with Aaron's RTO for a manager trainee/customer service rep.  Here's hoping I get the job so I can get out of the call center.

I've been working on CRACKED WORLD this week.  I'm absolutely thrilled because my damn writer's block finally broke.  I put ONLY A NAME on hold because I was too frustrated with it.  I'm going to try to finish CRACKED WORLD and a few other projects before I go back to ONLY A NAME.

I've finally decided to try to epub a few of my short stories.  I'm getting them polished up and ready to go.  I don't know when I'll get them published but I'll keep everyone informed.  I'll provide a link to them when I get them up.

I had a phone interview for Aaron's, and then I got the in face interview.  So that makes me excited.  I'll know by the end of this week if I've got the job or not.  Wish me luck!

Some music videos for you to enjoy have been added.  See y'all next week!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Writer's Block

I have it.

The dreaded 'writer's block'.

It sucks.

It's even impacting my ability to post to my blog.  I sit and stare at blank screens and wonder what I'm supposed to be saying when the words won't come.  I hate this feeling.  I spent five years not writing at all because of this feeling.  I really don't want to do that again.

Part of it is how discouraged I am with Only A Name.  I want to be done with it, have it polished, and be shopping it around.  Instead I've shelved it because it needs a lot of work and because I feel like it's crap I want to delete it and start over.  Except I know starting over isn't the answer because it really isn't a bad story.  It just needs some good, strong edits and revisions.  But emotionally I'm too attached so I have to put some distance between me and it before I can do those edits/revisions.

Now, I have a lot of other projects I could be writing on.  I have more than a dozen novels set in Aleran that are waiting to be written.  I have my sci fi projects.  I have my UF projects.  I have random bits of stories that have been jotted down for "future reference" so I can work on new stories and new worlds.  And none of them appeal to me.  I just can't seem to make myself write anything.

The other part - and probably my major reason for not being able to write right now - is the emotional stress I'm going through.  Himself's mom died and he's not taking it well.  He needs someone to keep an eye on him so that's what I'm doing.  My job is stressing me out because of their insistence on perfection when I am far from perfect.  I'm even stressed out about the interview I have tomorrow for a new job (wish me luck?) because this could be a whole new avenue and a whole new opportunity for me, if I get this job.

I don't know when or how my writer's block will go away, but I need it gone soon.  I need the release I get from writing.  I'm hoping that something will spark that creative fire that's been banked by my frustrations soon so I can start writing again.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni is hurting right now

Hey everyone.

If you've read the blog for a while, you know Himself went in April to say goodbye to his mom because she'd taken a turn for the worse.  She hung in there for another four months before finally receiving an end to her pain and illness on Friday night.  My mother-in-law has finally passed, bringing with her death a more extreme closure to our lives than you might expect.

I used to be close to my mother-in-law.  But events over the past few years drove us apart and for a time even made it so she refused to speak to Himself, let alone me.  But time and her own growing sense of mortality allowed her to forgive Himself and they started talking again.  She refused to have anything to do with me, blaming me for everything - including "stealing" her son away from her.

What's interesting is I'm sad she's dead.  I'm hurting for Himself, who's hurting bad enough over his mom's death.  I'm also hurting because she died with that animosity still between us.  I'd have liked some more time to hopefully work things out with her so we could at least be civil to each other again, for Himself's sake.  I'm sad because Himself really has no other family - his sister...let's not get into her right now, just accept she's out of the picture; his grandmother preceded his mother in death; he doesn't know if his biological father is alive (and he doesn't really care either); and now his mom has passed.  He for all intents and purposes has no family now other than me.

I'm also relieved she's dead.  Not because I hated her.  I loved her in spite of everything.  I'm relieved because she's no longer suffering.  She was in such poor health that she barely recognized Himself when he went to see her in April.  She's finally at peace and no longer shackled to a body that had stopped working right several years ago.  Himself isn't quite ready to accept that at this point (which I don't blame him...I didn't want to accept it after MY mom died), so right now we're just kind of taking it one day at a time.

On the writing front, I'm putting ONLY A NAME on hold for a while.  I want to focus on some of my other projects because I'm to the point where I hate looking at OAN.  I want to delete the whole thing and forget it ever existed.  Not that I'm going to.  I'm just going to ignore it again for a little while and see if my attitude improves and I can finally get it polished and ready for publication attempts.  I've got the same problem with my Beauty and the Beast retelling.

So I'm going to find other projects to work on.  I'm going to find other stories to tell.  And hopefully, one day, when I come back to both of these projects I'll be able to put the kind of care and attention into them that they deserve.  Otherwise they're both going to get deleted and I'll probably kick myself for that in a few months once I've changed my mind about how horrible they both are.

Work is work.  I'm taking a couple days off to deal with Himself and losing my mother-in-law.  Then I'll be back to work.  I'm actually doing better than I was, though I'm still not where they want me.

Music videos for your enjoyment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Revisions and edits

Update on the car issue - it was the starter.  We're now $50 poorer but the starter works.  We were just lucky the mechanic cut us a break.  Otherwise it would've been closer to $100.

I'm not going to post a lengthy diatribe on revisions and edits.  I don't need to.  Anyone who is a writer knows how hard it is to sit down and chop up your own work.  It's even worse when you send your pride and joy off to other people to have them chop it to bits too.  But that's what critique groups and beta readers are there for...to help you make your writing better.

So remember to thank your beta readers and your critique partners.  They're part of the writing process too and they deserve credit for their assistance.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni is really stressed, as usual

Hey all!

Life is getting complicated again.  The good news is Himself has a job now.  He's a Kirby salesman.  Please don't bash the job.  Selling vacuums is hard work.  At least he has someone else doing the appointment setting for him.  He's not going to random houses.

The bad news is I'm not doing as well at my job as I thought I was.  I've been given my final written notice.  I'm not selling enough to suit them so they've given me until the end of the month to pull it together.  Or I'm fired.  Yes, I am looking for a new job as we speak so please keep me in your thoughts/prayers as I try to figure this mess out.

My car also won't start.  We're not sure if it's the battery or the starter.  We'll find out tomorrow.  At least I'll have a ride to work tomorrow, unlike today.

I've made some progress on the edits on ONLY A NAME now.  I started dividing it into chapters and quit after I realized I was at chapter 14 and not anywhere near the end of the book.  I think I was about a quarter of the way through.  Now either I need longer chapters or my book's going to end up with 30+ chapters.  Then again, it is fantasy so I guess that's not too unusual.

I haven't really touched any of my other projects.  I've been focused on that and on job hunting lately.  And now most of my spare writing time is taken up with job hunting so I have even less time to devote to it than I'd like.  I did spend most of Friday and Saturday working on it, though, and I'm intending to put a few hours on it today.  I've already done my job hunting as best as I can on a Sunday so now it's just waiting for tomorrow and then back on the hunt.

The regular blog schedule will resume this week, so long as nothing ELSE goes wrong.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...the Monday edition

Hello everyone!

We've had two days of some rather spectacular thunderstorms so I opted to avoid being online last night (and I forgot in lieu of other panic inducing issues Saturday night and Sunday morning).  So we're a day late but here's the SFU anyway.

No soapbox this week, I promise.

My paycheck didn't show up on Friday.  It didn't show up on Saturday.  No mail on Sunday.  We have a lot of bills to pay off of my meager paycheck and they were all running late.  This made us very, very nervous.  Thankfully my check showed up on Monday (today) so we were able to get some of our bills paid.  But we had one major expense come up that's wiped out the money I was expecting to have for food and other random but necessary things.  I've had to ask my dad for help and I NEVER ask him for help anymore because he can't always afford to help me.  We'll get to see on Wednesday how much he can help us.

Yes, my work offers direct deposit.  Yes, I've signed up for it.  I don't need another panic-inducing weekend like this past one.

Nothing new on the work front.  Same old, same old for me.  Himself is still job hunting.  We're hopeful that SOMEONE will eventually realize he's perfect for their company (or at least very good for their company) and will hire him soon.  We have to keep that hope up or we'll drown in our depression.

Writing is going okay.  Still working with getting my critiques done, after my email went and ate the most recent chapters.  ONLY A NAME is on hold until I get the critiques and beta reads done for it.  The Beauty and the Beast retelling is getting darker and more violent, which is what I want, so we'll see how that goes.

I don't really have that much to report this week.  So instead I'll leave you with more music videos.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Freaky Food Friday - Support your local food banks

Hello all~

I'm taking a break from recipes to talk to you about something that I've been forced to rely on in the past and may have to rely on again here very soon: food banks.

Food banks are marvelous aids to those who don't have enough money to purchase food for themselves.  For some food banks are the difference between extreme hunger (possibly even starvation) and having a meal to put on the table.  I've had to live on the charity of others before, and the food banks were a real blessing.  There were two we frequented as often as we were allowed.  They knew us and by the end of our stint of relying on them for food, they counted us as among their regulars and would occasionally toss in an extra treat or two into our boxes.

Right now I've hit a financial crunch and may be forced to rely on the local food bank again to get me through the next two weeks.  I'm hoping something else will come through for us but I'm not holding my breath.  My family is unsupportive and most of my friends are barely making it paycheck to paycheck like I am.  I know very little about the local food bank, other than when we were in a better place we donated food and gave up all of the points on our grocery store rewards card to buy two 15 lbs. turkeys for them over Thanksgiving.  They're by appointment only so I don't even know if they're going to be willing to help us.

But that is the point I want to bring up - donations.  Food banks live and thrive on donations.  Whether its donations of food from grocery stores that's close to its expiration date (yes, it's still good for a short time so they aren't handing out expired food) or people donating spare food from their pantries or shopping trips, they survive only through the help of others.

So if you get a chance, donate to one of your local food banks.  They'll appreciate it and you never know when the tables might be turned and you'll need their help.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writing Wednesday - What are your publishing goals?

I got asked this question by my husband - "What are your goals for publishing your work?  What are you going to do with all that work you're doing?"

My first response was, of course, to get it published.  But he asked me what my goals were.  Where am I going with these stories?  Am I going to e-pub on my own?  Go small press?  Try for a shot with the Big Six?

The answer to those questions is simple: I don't know.  Well, I do know that I'm going to attempt to e-pub my faerie tale retellings once I get them finished.  But for ONLY A NAME and the others?  I haven't quite figured out what I want to do with them yet.  OAN is nowhere near ready for publication anyway, so I've got time to work out what I want from it.

I do want to take a shot at publishing with one of the Big Six.  I mean, it's always been a dream of mine since I started writing to see my name on a book with Tor, Baen, Del Rey, etc.  You know, all of those big name publishing companies whose logos were blazoned on the books we've all read and loved.  I know my chances are very slim in the current market.  But I want to try anyway.

I want an agent.  I need someone to help me through the pitfalls and problems with getting my book out there.  I'd like to know someone else is passionate enough about my work to go to bat for me.  With the heavy competition for agents, and how subjective their opinions are (which is as it should be), I don't know if I'll ever get one.  But I want to try.  So I'm constantly researching agents, practicing query letters, etc. so when I'm ready to actually dive into the pool I'm prepared.

I also want to give the whole self-pub/e-pub thing a shot too.  But not if it's going to cost me a lot of money, seeing how I'm a poor starving artist these days.  It'll take a lot of work but I'm not scared of hard work.  I wouldn't be a writer if I was.  So I'm going to start with my novella length faerie tale retellings and see how well that goes.  I might e-pub a few other things too before I try to get the novels published.

What about you?  What are your publishing goals?  What do you want to do with your stories?  How are you working on those goals?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni's running out of pithy titles for these things

Hello everyone!

I know, I know.  I'm late with getting this up.  It's still Sunday for another two hours here so it still counts as a proper SFU.  I'll be a little better about getting it in on time next week.  At least, I hope I will.

This week has been full of same crap different day.  Himself is still unemployed.  I've gotten another lovely "meeting with a manager" over with.  I still have a job.  Twitchy is still a pain in the ass.  You know, the same stuff I tend to complain about.

Writing is going well.  The Beauty and the Beast retelling is finally taking off.  I've found ways of making it fit the dark, twisted vision I've had all along.  No light and fluffy, although it does have a happy ending.  I can't quite completely obliterate the faerie tale out of this story.

This week my SFU is going to be a little different.  I'm dragging out my soapbox again.  I'm bringing up some things that bothered me over the last week in regards to news and the like.  The first thing that I want to talk about is something that's not far from a lot of minds: the debt ceiling talks.

Gee, who DIDN'T think that the talks were going to collapse?  Seriously.  The Republicans are so fucking protective of the wealthy in this country that they feel that destroying this country is worth it.  REALLY?  Come on.  There are people starving to death in this country because we don't have enough money.  There are elderly who are choosing between medications and food, knowing they need both to survive and yet they don't have enough to buy both.  Whole families are living homeless because of this shit.  It has got to STOP.

But they won't listen to us.  Maybe when the entire fucking country is unemployed, starving, and littered with the corpses of people who fought to the end to survive and ultimately failed they'll begin to understand what their bullshit is doing to this country.

Another thing I wanted to talk about is how focused people are on Amy Winehouse.  I didn't even know who she was until I Googled her when she started showing up all over my Twitter feed.  I hate to break it to you folks, but, well, a musician overdosing on drugs and alcohol and dying from it isn't news.  It's more common than it should be, actually.

Now, I'm not saying her death isn't tragic.  It's sad to think of someone so young dying.  I don't know if she had more musically to offer the world but she was still a person who had friends and family who loved her.  How must they be feeling right now, knowing she's dead because no one could seem to help her fight her self-destructive behavior?  Where were they when she was self-destructing?

Too many people stand back and go "Too bad, so sad. but she did it to herself so she deserves it".  No one stops to think of the people left behind who have to live with the feeling that they might have been able to do something to prevent it.  Just like what happens when someone suicides because of depression.  Or when a doctor misdiagnoses something and a family has to watch a loved one die when, if they'd just pushed a little harder they might have convinced that loved one to see a different doctor.

Death is tragic, no matter what the circumstances.  How about we take a moment to remember, not only Amy Winehouse, but all of the teens who've killed themselves because of persecution for being part of the LGBT community, or were too intelligent or too creative for their peers to understand, or are being abused and death is the only way out they can see?  Or all of those civilians killed in every war that we've ever had?  Or for all of the soldiers that have laid their lives on the line, who are still laying their lives on the line, and who are getting screwed over by the country they've sworn to protect?  Or how about those who die due to the incompetence of medical practitioners?  Or those too poor to be able to afford doctors, who die in the streets or in their homes because they don't have any way to get help?  Who will remember all of the silent casualties of a war that should never be fought in the first place - a war against humanity that large corporations and politicians seem to want to wage with us as the unwilling (and unknowing) soldiers?

*puts soapbox back in her closet*

To close out, here's the usual music videos.  Enjoy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Well, there goes my last shred of faith in our justice system

Mother whose son was killed in hit-and-run faces 2 years in jail for jaywalking

I just...

I mean...


I have no words to express how much of an outrage this is to me.  A mother of four children is about to be sentenced to two years in jail for cutting across the street - like everyone else was doing - when the guy that murdered - yes, I said MURDERED - her four year old son got 6 months?  How the HELL is that justice?

The man admitted he was popping pain pills and drinking when he ran this woman and her children down.  The four year old was killed.  And the guy drove off without any thought to the family he'd just hurt.  And they gave him SIX FREAKING MONTHS?  And she's getting TWO YEARS because she was trying to get her kids home and inside faster?  That is seriously some fucked up shit going on in Georgia.

I understand jaywalking is illegal.  But when you're one of a dozen or more doing it, and the cops single you out when you lose your child to an asshole who's driving intoxicated and who speeds off into the night, that's just wrong.  The fact that the article says the public is largely unsympathetic to her just makes it worse.  She just lost her son.  Now her children will lose their mother.  Those kids, if their dad isn't in the picture and there isn't a family member willing to take over their care, will end up in some kind of foster care situation through CPS.

Let's not get me on the soapbox about CPS.  I think that, for the most part, the people who are in it are powermongering hypocrites, liars, and home wreckers.  There is NOTHING you will say that will convince me otherwise.  Yes they do serve a purpose, and there are those times when they do good.  But all of the times they've done good have been washed away by the gross miscarriage of their power that I've seen and experienced.

To be perfectly honest, my heart goes out to this woman and her children.  I don't think we should condemn a tired mother for trying to take the fastest route home with her children.  In the middle of a heat wave.  After they'd already missed their first bus.  I think we should condemn the bastard who ran them down.  I think we should condemn the prosecutor, the judge, and the jury who are persecuting this woman because of this situation.  I think we should condemn the hard heartedness of the general public in her area because no mother should ever have to go through the agony of losing her child and find herself on the wrong end of a legal witch hunt.

That's my .02 on this.  Feel free to discuss in the comments.  I'm off my soapbox for now.

Freaky Food Friday - Cheesy Polenta, Tabouleh Salad, Hummus

I don't know about you, but summer heat makes me think of different countries.  So I thought I'd introduce you to a few of my favorite non-traditional (for Americans) foods.  I found the Cheesy Polenta and the Hummus recipes on www.allrecipes.com.  The Tabouli Salad my mom got from a Lebanese cookbook (I have NO idea where she found that recipe book) and I copied it down into my personal collection shortly before mom died.

Cheesy Polenta

2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring milk, water, and salt to a boil. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook 20 minutes, until creamy, lifting the lid and stirring every 3 or 4 minutes to prevent sticking. Remove pot from stove, stir in pepper and butter. Gradually stir in cheese. Serve.

Tabouli Salad

3 bunches finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 cup chopped fresh mint
2-3 tablespoons fine bulgur
1 chopped firm tomato
1/2 onion or 2 scallions chopped
1/2 cup extra Virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the chopped parsley and mint and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix Bulgur, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions/scallions with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to them the parsley and mint and olive oil and mix, adjusting seasoning by adding more oil and lemon if desired.  Place in refrigerator and let sit at least 2 hours to let flavors combine.

(A/N: It's better to let it go overnight if you can.  You can also toss in chopped up cucumber if you'd like.  I've added chopped red/yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, and olives to this as well.  The olives didn't work as well but the vegetables worked all right with the mix.)


1 clove garlic
1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, half the liquid reserved
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a blender, chop the garlic. Pour garbanzo beans into blender, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish. Place lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic and salt in blender. Blend until creamy and well mixed.

Transfer the mixture to a medium serving bowl. Sprinkle with pepper and pour olive oil over the top. Garnish with reserved garbanzo beans.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Minor characters becoming not so minor

Has that ever happened to you?  A minor character you expect to play second fiddle to your main character suddenly steps up and demands your attention?  You find you like them better than you like your MC and even consider changing your story to let this minor creation take the spotlight?

I hope the answer is 'yes', because I know this has happened to me a few times.  I've got a couple stories that started out as something completely different but evolved into their present (roughly written or roughly plotted) form because of a minor character I fell in love with.  I've also written side stories that gave a secondary character his/her own storyline and their own chance on center stage.

In another one of my stories, a character who was supposed to be strictly in the background and only there to be the shoulder for one the MC to cry on has evolved into a major player in the story - to the point where she becomes closer to the MC than a lover or a parent.  She's become an incredibly complex woman who ultimately becomes the perfect partner for this MC.  She's the main force in keeping him from becoming a threat to the world...again.  It's not as complicated as it sounds but she was never meant to hold that kind of power.  She was just meant to be the kindly teacher who became a second mother to him.

Or how about Scat?  If you've seen my ONLY A NAME stuff, you know she's the main character of the story. Originally, Scat was a side character in a completely different story.  She was the slave who ran errands and carried notes for her mistress but that was it.  She wasn't even all that interesting - until I gave her the limp.  Then I wanted to know where the limp came from, where were her parents, had she been born a slave or as something else, etc.  Now she's the star of a book of her own, and her discoveries are pivotal in helping to change how an entire race is born.

For me, if a minor character is so demanding that I have to stop the story to take care of those demands, perhaps I was focusing on the wrong character to begin with.  Or maybe I should take a look at offering a side character a full time starring role in his/her own saga.  Either way, if a minor character wants more than a cameo I'll at least take a look at and listen to them.

What about you?  Has this ever happened to you?  What do you usually do when something like this happens?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni is ONLINE again

Hey everyone!

Yeah, I'm back online.  This time my missing blog posts weren't by my choice.  My internet bill was one of the bills I put off and, well, it got cut off like my phone.  I paid the phone and the internet on Friday, only to find out that our router bit the dust.  We found this out because I couldn't get the internet to load up even after I made the payment and we finally hooked Monstrosity up to the hard line.  Yeah, that didn't go over well either.  We're the source of internet for the whole bloody house, and now we have to wait for a while until we can get a new router.

The good news is that when we get the router, we're going to get another external hard drive and we're going to set up some kind of wireless network dump thing.  Basically Himself and Nice Roommate are going to put together something kind of like Dropbox, only it's going to be localized and only for the house.  That's going to be seriously useful.  (No, I'm not a techie.  I just like techie things.)

Another good thing this week is I went in to pay the phone bill and walked out with a new free phone (and a 2 year extension on my contract with Sprint, but I love them so I don't mind).  This is my new phone,  Best part is it's purple.  The guy tried to sell me on a touch screen phone with a QWERTY keyboard attached but I wasn't in a position to pay $50 to walk out with it.  I got it because I was grandfathered into the upgrade plan where you got to upgrade after 1 year instead of 2.  I'm not complaining because I've wanted an upgraded (TOUCH SCREEN YAY!) phone for a while.  I'm still playing with it but so far I like it.

In spite of not being online, I did get some writing done.  I'm still trying to work out how I'm going to start my darker version of my Beauty and the Beast retelling.  I know where I want it to go and how I want it to end, but for once it's the beginning that's stumping me.  I'm hoping something good will happen over the next week and I'll figure it out.

We had a rough week when it came to extra expenses.  Himself was driving home from taking Nice Roommate (who doesn't have a car or license right now) to work when our tire blew out.  We're very lucky we pay the extra money every month to have roadside service.  Geico sent someone out to help put the spare on and on Friday we got a new tire for the car.  Well, new to us.  There's an awesome guy we go to that sells used tires that aren't horrifically used.  They're in good shape and last for a while.  We've been going to him from the time we had our minivan.  We also found out our emissions test is due by the end of this month.  We've lost the little card they sent us so we have to find it before we can take the car in to get the emissions checked.  But that's for the next paycheck.

Himself is still job hunting.  My employer is hiring for my same position (they're aiming to fill the 2nd floor by the end of the year...assuming the government doesn't default and screw us ALL out of jobs), so he's going to take another shot at getting on there.

That's pretty much it for this week.  Here's some music videos for your viewing pleasure.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni actually got stuff done this week

Hey all!

This blog should be back to its regularly scheduled...schedule now.  I'm getting the hang of the new job - albeit slowly - so I've got more energy and focus now.  I'm also determined to keep up with those things that I enjoy, to help me get through the stresses of my life right now.

Himself is still without a job.  He's applied several places and we have high hopes for interviews but we won't know until they happen.  I'm haphazardly looking for another job since I won't take a pay cut just to get out of a job I don't like.  I can't afford my bills on what I make now.  I don't want to think what it'd be like if I was making less money.

I FINALLY got back into my writing this week.  I finished all four critiques for my critique group, and I've given the new chapters a once over.  I'll get into doing the actual critiques on them over the next week.  This week I've been tweaking my world building stuff, making sure everything is plausible and makes sense.  Yes, I know I write fantasy.  But if the world doesn't have some semblance of reality to it, if you get pulled out of the story because the details are off, that means I'm not doing my job right.

Some music videos from one of my newest favs...Immediate Music.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Freaky Food Friday - Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Egg Salad Sandwiches, Marinated Veggie Sandwiches

Today is a sandwich day.  I'm all for quick and easy, and with minimal use of the stove during the summer.  So here's some sandwiches that I absolutely love on those days when I'm too hot/busy/tired/lazy to fix regular meals.

Tuna Salad Sandwich

1 can tuna in water
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder
1 small onion, diced
6 celery stalks, diced
1 dill pickle, chopped or grated
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
6 slices whole wheat or multi-grain bread

Drain tuna and pour into a small bowl.  Add mayo, lemon juice, and garlic powder.  Mix well.  Toss in the veggies and mix until coated.  Spread onto the bread and serve.  For me, it makes 2-3 sandwiches.  But we like it nice and thick on our bread.  You may be able to get more out of it than we do.

Egg Salad Sandwiches

6 eggs, hard boiled, peeled, and chopped
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 T yellow mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 small onion, diced
1 T sweet relish
1 T dill relish
12 slices whole wheat or multi-grain bread

Boil, peel, and chop up your hard boiled eggs and put them into a bowl.  Let them get to room temperature.  Add the other ingredients and mix well.  This will make 3-4 thick sandwiches or 5-6 smaller sandwiches.

Marinated Veggie Sandwiches

2 beefsteak or roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1 medium red onion, sliced into rings
2 cucumbers, seeded and sliced thin
2 red/yellow/orange/green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 small bottle low fat Italian salad dressing
Cream cheese
Bagels or whole wheat/multi-grain bread

Slice up all your veggies and toss them together in a bowl with the salad dressing.  Let sit for a few hours.  For best results, let sit overnight.  Coat bread or bagels with cream cheese and layer veggies on top.  (If you have a panini grill or some other kind of sandwich grill you can add sliced summer squash, sliced zucchini, and/or sliced eggplant to the veggie mixture and grill with regular cheese instead of the cream cheese.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Are day jobs and writing mutually exclusive?

I know a lot of writers through Twitter, Facebook, and other aspects of social media.  Heck, most of you reading this are writers.  How many of us struggle to find time to write between our obligations of family, friends, and that ever present monkey on our backs - the DAY JOB.

I work in a call center, taking inbound phone calls from people with a certain store card who are generally in an okay mood.  Some of them are bitchy because of things happening on their accounts (which generally they did to themselves but we won't get into that).  Some are downright hostile because they feel they were wronged and want us to fix it.  Thankfully, most of the time if I can't fix it the next level up from me can so it's not too bad.

But moving from my old position in collections to this customer service and sales position has robbed me of the time I used to use to write.  In collections we could be 10+ minutes between calls and I'd get a lot of writing done.  I'd get some writing done on my breaks and lunch too.

Now, by the time my breaks and lunch roll around I'm headed for the break room to de-stress and don't get much time to write.  I need the brain break because of how much I have to think on the fly doing my job.  I try to snatch a chapter or two of whatever book I'm reading at the time while on my breaks.

When I get home I'm usually too tired to write.  I work the evening shift so I'm not getting home until 10:30 or 11:00 at night, depending on how bad traffic is on my way home.  By the time I get home I just want to chill and go to bed so I have the energy to do it all over again.

My days off are spent trying to catch up on everything that I've neglected during the week that Himself hasn't gotten to.  Things like cleaning the room up to my standards, the litter box, other household chores no one's done that need to get done.  Then I try to work on the critiques for my critique group and only then do I have time to get some writing done.  But by that time I'm usually worn out and just want to go to bed.

So are day jobs and writing mutually exclusive?  No, I don't think they are.  For one thing, if I got up earlier on the days I have to work I could get my walk in.  My walk is a good time for me to mull ideas over in my head and plot things out for my characters.  I could then come home, take my shower, and get some writing done before I go to work.  This does require me to get up earlier (and believe me, I LIKE my sleep) but it's all about the discipline of the craft.

On my days off, I could actively plan time to write instead of trying to cram it in at the end of the day.  I could do the same thing I do on the days I go to work: take my walk, bathe, write.  If I could re-establish a schedule like this I'd be getting a lot more work done on the revisions and the writing projects that are all lurking on my hard drive.

What about you?  How do you fit writing in around your every day obligations?