A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

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?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday 'fess up...Anni's not feeling good these days

Hey all.

I'm being plagued by constant anxiety/panic attacks these days because of all the stress that I'm dealing with.  Himself is still without a job and all the bills are now falling on my meager paychecks.  I'm letting Himself use the laptop more, when he wants it, so he can do his job hunting.  We've got $20 to last us for gas for two weeks and a tank that's only a little more than half full.  I had $40 for groceries to last us for 2 weeks and now we're fighting to keep Twitchy out of our food because she doesn't seem to understand that our food is OUR FOOD.  We want out of here so bad, but we're so broke we're not getting anywhere.

To make it worse, I had to pick and choose what the most vital bills were to get paid.  This means my cell phone's been cut off.  Thankfully for Himself, our Nice Roommate is letting him use his phone as a contact number until I can get the phone bill paid and get them turned back on.  Otherwise Himself would be utterly out of luck for the next two weeks.

In the meantime, I've been working slowly on critiques for a new critique group I'm in as well as reviewing the critiques given to me on Only A Name.  Between the ladies in my critique group and KD Sarge, I'm learning where the weaknesses in OAN are and hoping to eventually get them fixed.  I haven't done much writing because I just haven't felt like I'd be able to get anything done.

Just some music videos to round out today's SFU.