Friday, January 22, 2010

Details, I say

It's all about the details, when it comes to quality.

I'm going to make buttermilk bread when I get home tonight (because it's a weekend and therefore okay to wait until 9 pm to have dinner); the buttermilk needs to be the right temperature, and not lowfat or you can honestly taste the difference. Crystallized ginger will help activate the yeast. You have to have the salt, the kneading time, and the rising time. Obvious details, but they affect the bread.

Many people in the speculative fiction community have been talking about the movie Avatar in the last month. It's caused an uproar, a diversity of opinion because of its busting through records despite the weakness of its script, and so many writers - regardless of their own abilities - have slammed it for that reason (and some have rightfully championed its cause). I do admit to a bit of difficulty in getting past the script myself; I wasn't as moved by the visual beauty as I'd expected to be. It could be a matter of personal taste - I admit to a strong reaction upon watching Terminator:Salvation because my interests right now lie in apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic worlds, rather than in 'new' worlds. I can also admit the script is equally as awful, if not worse, but I didn't observe that until the second time I'd seen it.

But it's the details that have caused this uproar - the fantastic visual details, or, depending on your opinion, the lack of detail in the script, which includes cliche lines like 'you have a strong heart.' (John and I have counted now, this makes 3 movies in the last year that have used this line: Terminator: Salvation, naturally, the atrocious Ninja Assassin, and now Avatar.)

Just like the details of the YA novel Twilight, which hit cult success and brought more readers to the world of speculative fiction than potentially any other book besides Lord of the Rings. I read Twilight on its first printing, before anyone dreamed up the Team Jacob or Team Edward t-shirts, and I loved it for what Meyer did with the main character (I won't get into my opinion on the sequels, nor on the movies). Those details resonated with thousands of people, some of whom may be eventual readers of mine one day.

It's the details of the fantastic slush story this morning - the best one I've read yet since I joined the new team - that left me staring at the computer screen; the details of the way the main character/assassin assembled his sniper, the way he picked his victims. I was horrifically spell-bound.

It's the details that could make "Braeberry Street" work. It's creeping up in word count, and I'm finding myself getting into not-okay patterns, sneaking in these details in a fashion that will lull instead of delight a reader - monotonous repetition of rhythm, too much detail without corresponding action - ways that would cause me to regretfully hit 'reject' should I have read this in a slush submission pile. The details will make or break this story, and I have to find a balance.

John and I have been married five months today. The circumstances haven't been what either of us quite envisioned when we got engaged, but the details, the little things here and there, have made our young marriage exactly what I've wanted.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sweet Potato Biscuits

The most delicious biscuits I've ever had, and John agreed. I used this recipe, but with a full cup of mashed sweet potato (about 3/4 of a large one, raw) instead of 3/4, and I baked them for twenty minutes instead of 22 since my oven runs hot. Also, I didn't whip-mash them, so there were lovely golden pieces in the final products, and I used 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, and the rest white. (Next time, I shall do 1/2 and 1/2. You can't even taste it, but I have to hide it from John, since he prefers white.)

With stone-ground mustard, and thick cuts of ham. Oh, I forgot honey! They were still amazing.

Also, terrific work on "Braeberry Street" today. It's funny how putting a story away for 8 months or so can change everything about it, in a good way. All the problems I was having with it before have begun to sort themselves out. Perhaps it will be the next to find a home.

Monday, January 18, 2010


From Publishers Weekly:

Destination: Future Edited by Z.S. Adani and Eric T. Reynolds. Hadley Rille (Ingram, dist.), $15.95 paper (316p) ISBN 978-0-9825140-9-2

Hiding under dreadful cover art, this exceptional science fiction anthology from Reynolds, publisher of Hadley Rille, and short fiction author Adani explores first contact scenarios and interactions between human and alien cultures. Standout selections include K.D. Wentworth's “The Embians,” in which two postgraduate students researching alien communication stumble across a life-changing revelation; “One Awake in All the World” by Robert T. Jeschonek, an unlikely love story that pits two space-faring “exterminators” against a horde of nightmarish monstrosities; and Michael A. Burstein's sublimely moving “Hope,” about a time traveler who returns to a generation ship to warn his ancestors about their less-than-idyllic destination. The strengths of this 21-story anthology are its diversity, cerebral speculation, and stellar storytelling, which breathe new life into well-worn themes. (Mar.)

Dreadful cover art - ha! But it's true. I'm not certain I'd buy the book if I saw it on the shelf. Well, I'd pick it up to marvel at the gangly aliens, but then put it back. And okay, my name isn't mentioned here, but it's a starred review, and I've contributed! "The Light Stones" was the bane of my writing life since its creation, and then the first short to find a home, ironically enough. Now to wait until the antho comes out until March, when I can buy copies and force them upon all my loved ones.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sicilian bread

There's never a shortage about what to write about, but rather so many options that I have a hard time narrowing them down. This week, they were all pushed aside by the circumstances in Haiti. My own ramblings seemed paltry compared to the enormity of loss that those people have experienced, and not a single topic won out, despite how much that has been on my mind: the writing/submission process of mine & Gio's "A Rose for the Nomad" and finally sending it out to see if it can stand on its own, the quickly-approaching tax season and how that changes the dynamic at work, realistic approaches to grief thanks to a book Dad recommended, new progress in running, and a mishmash of other topics.

I was happy with tonight's bread: a Sicilian scroll bread made with semolina flour and olive oil. It doesn't bear much resemblance to an 's,' the way it's supposed to, but it was delicious, as was my first attempt at clam chowder.

Now I need to brainstorm new meatball recipes. The serrano-chili recipe got nixed because John's not a fan of Mexican food, and I'm not a fan of making elaborate meals he won't enjoy. (I think he'd probably like them, but I don't want to take the chance.)