Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reviewing the Zero Years

This morning I was reading Diana Peterfreund's blog and I thought her 'Decade in Review' seemed like an awesome idea (even though I agree with her that the decade isn't quite over).  So...  Here I am, reviewing the zero years...

Let's start with the night the zeroes began.  I don't know about you, but I was at home, online, chatting and waiting to see if the world was going to end because earlier programmers hadn't thought to write code to encompass the years past 1999.  Needless to say, nothing happened and we all had a good laugh about it in the chat room.

The year 2000 had its ups and downs.  Picture it: Burton, MI.  When the year started I was in a committed relationship that lasted another month.  By the end of the year, I had been through what I thought was a different committed relationship (I was monogamous.  Too bad he wasn't.) and ended the year in an online relationship that would last a couple years.  Daughter started the year in first grade, with a teacher who was determined to get her on Ridalin - because my child obviously had ADD.  Feh.  I was working in a job I loved that had significant parts I hated.  2000 also saw the last few weeks of my physical therapy from a surgery I had in October of 1999.

I spent New Year's 2001 in Tallahassee, FL, visiting my online romance and checking out the city as a potential new home.  The romance part went well, and it was nice to be somewhere on January 1st that wasn't covered in snow.  In March, my new beau came up to Michigan and it was decided.  I would leave my home of 30+ years.  I gave notice at my job - which had become more of the hated and less of the loved anyway - and I put my house on the market.  Daughter's second grade teacher sat me down to tell me that my child probably needed Ridalin, because she couldn't sit still in class.  Bah.  We moved to Florida at the end of June to start our new life.  The house hadn't sold, but I found what I thought was a wonderful person to rent it with an option to buy.  I didn't care.  I had money in my bank account and a new lease on life.  Lucky me, I found a job just before my savings ran out.  That Christmas, my beau got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.

Another New Year's Day rolled around - one I don't much remember.  2002 was a busy year. The start of it found me working my tail off for a place called Dial America as a floor manager, living in a lovely apartment in the best school district in Tallahassee, and playing house with a man I thought would eventually be my husband.  Daughter's new FL teacher was awesome, until Daughter got bored - then I got called in to discuss... you guessed it... Ridalin.  (Only this time she supposedly had ADHD.)  P'shaw.  We decided homeschool was the only way to put a stop to it.  In May, I got promoted to shift manager and two days later my father passed away.  (Not that those are related in any way, but the schism between the two left me a wreck.  Super happy, incredibly sad.  Talk about manic-depressive.)  The summer passed in a blur until the day I got laid-off.  Not to worry, I got another job offer within a couple weeks, but then again, so did the beau.  Only his offer was in Utah.  We had two weeks to pack everything and move.  Homeschool stopped, and Daughter got her first private school experience.  It lasted about a month before they asked me to remove her before they kicked her out.  Off she went to Utah public school, and off I went to a temp job.  (Finding a job in Utah is only easy if you already Mormon.  I'm not.)

Enter 2003.  Another jam packed year.  I found an awesome permanent job in January - at a place called Orbit (they make sprinker systems) - as... get this... Executive Administrative Assistant to the Vice President of Operations.  Daughter was doing fine at her new school - making friends, finally - and her grades were back up to where a girl with a 138 IQ should be (the FL school gave her an IQ test because they thought she was learning disabled... go figger).  In April, I got a line on my dream job - working for the same private school system Daughter was unceremoniously ousted from, and come May, I got the job.  I thought everything in my life was finally working out.  Two weeks later, my beau decided he never really loved me after all and we went our separate ways.  I moved again and Daughter had another new school to deal with.  Over the summer, we got Kira - our most loveable furbaby.

If I thought 2003 was jammed, I was in for a shock in 2004.  One night in January, after watching the movie Armageddon, I was laying in bed when the idea for a novel jumped into my head.  I got up and wrote down the general premise before going back to bed.  After work the next day, I sat down at my computer and began writing what would become my first book - Spectacle.  Two weeks later (what is it about two weeks and my life?  LOL), I was feeling lonely and decided to do a hard-target search on Match.com.  I found two profiles I thought looked interesting enough to write to.  One became a friend, and the other blossomed into something more.  By April we were serious enough that he flew me to Colorado and we spent a wonderful week in each other's company.  We were married in May, but between work and housing, we still couldn't be together.  Those six weeks of married but living apart was hell, but we survived them.  Daughter and I did the 600+ mile trek with Kira from Utah to northeast Colorado.  Once we settled in, I got back to writing and just before she began her new school, I finished the first draft of my first novel.

From then to now, it all sort of blurs together.  2005 saw me finally getting rid of that house in Michigan.  It also saw the end of Daughter's public school career.  I finished another book, and started a third.  In 2006, I began my first writing blog and my now-defunct homeschooling blog.  During those two years, I tried a couple writing forums - both of which I eventually parted company with.  I found the blog community, though, and I'm happier here with all of you than I ever was with either forum.

2007-2009 saw more of the same in both my life and my writing.  I've been cranking out books and collecting rejections, homeschooling Daughter (although she doesn't need me for much education anymore), loving my husband and keeping our house.  I've made some good friends - both online and off.  I'm settled here in Colorado - which is probably why it's a blur.  No major incidents to mark the passage of time.  Over the last couple years, my writing and/or my submission materials must've improved because I've actually gotten some requests for partials and a few for fulls.

All in all, the zero years weren't a bad decade.  Better than the '90s were for me, definitely.  In fact, now that I think about it, 2000-2009 was probably the best decade of my life.  I found true love, I discovered the wonderful person inside my troubled daughter, and I took the chance to live out my lifelong dream of writing.  Who could ask for more?

I don't know what the next ten years will bring, but if they end up with half as many good things as the preceeding ten, I'll be one lucky gal.  Here's to a wonderful time in the tens.

See you next year.  ;o)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Resolu... errr... Goals

Okay, so I skipped ahead.  I started my resolu... errr... goals a few days early.  Of course, the only one I really hammered was the goal to make a cleaning schedule and stick to it.  Monday was bathrooms and Tuesday was kitchen.  Each of those rooms is so sparkly clean that I'm freaking my family out. 

Didn't help that I rearranged the kitchen, but once I started cleaning, I realized how much better it would be if the table was over against the wall.  Then I needed to move the cookbooks, which led to moving the coffee maker, the toaster and the blender, then I needed a good place to put my new griddle.  THEN it occurred to me to shift some stuff in the cupboards. 

Whew, I'm tired just typing all that, and today is laundry day.  :collapse:

Crap.  I just remembered that Husband is off work starting tomorrow until the 4th, so my scheduled rooms for Thursday and Friday need to be done today or wait until next week.  I may have set myself up for failure this week, but I refuse to accept that.  I will have the house finished by the end of the week, if it kills me.

As for my writing goals...  Well, since my personal goals are draining the energy right out of me this week, I'm guessing I set myself up for failure there, too.  :shrug:  I'm trying not to look at my lack of writing last night as a FAIL.  I mean, it's not like I didn't think about my story while I was scrubbing the counters.  That counts - even if I didn't get any words typed last night. 

Thank goodness I made goals instead of resolutions this year.  Resolutions are so unyielding.  As if each one is like saying 'if you don't do this, you're a failure'.  Gimme Goals.  Those I can handle.  If I miss one, I can make a new one and not feel like crawling under a rock.  Life can throw little wrinkles at me, and I can go with the flow. 

How about you?  Resolutions or Goals?  Have you started working toward them yet, or are you waiting for the big day on Friday? 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Recap

First off, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday - whichever one you celebrate.  Here at the Sanderson household, we spent a relaxed day.

Up at the crack of too-damn-early, I took care of the first order of business - COFFEE.  I can't face a normal day without it, don't ask me to face a holiday sans caffeine.  Shortly after the last perk, Husband joined me.  Then came the cat, looking for her special food.  The Kid?  She wandered upstairs a few minutes later.  (And yes, the idea of her getting up last was totally alien.)

With coffee in hand, we settled into the living room and the festivities began.  Much paper tearing and a thoroughly cluttered floor later, and we sat amidst our prizes.  Daughter made out this year - like most every year since the lean times.  She got a couple of computer games, a few books, clothes, jewelry, movies, CDs...  You know, teen stuff.  Ever heard of a band called Owl City?  I hadn't until she put it on her Christmas list.  I guess I'm not as hip as I thought I was. 

Husband got mostly clothes - because that's all he wanted.  Jeans, shirts, socks... You should see him in his new pullover shirt.  Rawr.  I knew that cut and color was perfect.  Heh, what a hottie with a naughty body. :smirk:  Daughter got him a Yankees keychain and a box of chocolate turtles - which I'm helping him eat.

I got most of the things I asked for - like socks and a griddle and a Christmas cactus that I named George.  I also got a brand new set of plates and my wonderful husband gave me a couple 5-subject notebooks for my writing.  =o)


The cat, of course, got all the wrapping paper her little heart desired.

My favorite gift this year was the griddle (although George comes in a close second).  I'm having so much fun making things on it, and it reminds me of my childhood.  Mom had a griddle and with five kids to feed, she would make mounds of pancakes or piles of grilled cheese. Nothing like recreating some memories (albeit on a much smaller scale).

How was your holiday?  If you celebrate Christmas, did Santa bring you everything you wanted?  What was your favorite gift this year?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stalking the New Year

...or maybe it's stalking me.  I can never tell with these things.

Anyway, the beginning of a brand new year is only a few days off and I've been thinking about the shift from '09 to '10.  First off, it's going to be a lot shorter to say - oh-nine vs. ten - but that's neither here nor there.

No, I've been thinking about making a few changes in how I approach my life.  (Because, let's face it - some of this life ain't working too great, if you catch my drift.)  As my husband is fond of quoting - and I'm sorry I don't remember who he's quoting - "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results."

Which is why I decided to write in a totally different genre a few months back.  I'm still keeping the general gist of the story pretty close to the vest, but this book is about genies.  Yes, I did what I thought I wouldn't do and wrote a paranormal.  (Or maybe it's urban fantasy... :shrug:)  I took what I knew about the supernatural creatures, and I warped it all into a mythos of my own making.  So far, I think I have a pretty believable world and I really like the people populating it.  We'll see what the industry thinks once I finish it.

I also changed my approach to writing - at least with this story.  So far I've only written in third POV, and I'm in the process of converting my 3rd POV book into 1st.  It's coming out well.  I like the MC, and looking at the world through her eyes makes this book even better.

What's left to change?  Well, on a personal level, I'm making a commitment to do a better job of keeping the house clean.  Let's face it, folks, Mary Poppins I am not.  Oh, my home isn't a disaster area, but the dust bunnies are threatening to take over, the cat hair is making our carpets a darker shade of pale, and if I didn't know what color my tables were, I wouldn't be able to tell.  Hell, I haven't seen the top of my computer in months.

I'm also committing to getting healthier.  This year is going to see my 40th birthday, and I am not getting any younger.  Of course, at the moment, I'm up to my eyeballs in chocolates and other Christmas goodies, but I swear that once all this yumminess is eaten, I'm not buying any more.  (I told my husband that, and he laughed at me, but I'm serious.)

On the writing front, I'm going to make myself get back into some kind of schedule.  I've got work to do that just isn't getting done - as you may have noticed from looking at my unmoving word meter over the past week.  Not only do I have this manuscript that I'm shifting POVs with, but a couple other of my previously written manuscripts would benefit from some added attention.  So, I'm planning on revisiting everything to see what I can make work.

Now, every year since I started writing, I've said that 'this year is going to be my year'.  I'm not saying that this year.  Nope.  This year is I'm going to do the best I can and let the chips fall where they may.  I may get an agent this year.  I might even get a publishing contract.  Only time will tell.  The point is, I'm not setting myself up for failure by promising myself something that is, ultimately, outside my control.  I'm just going to write the best books I know how, and I'm going to put together the best query materials I know how.  If doing those gets my foot in the door, great.  If not, I'll content myself with seeing you back here this time 2010 and knowing I did everything I could for my career.

Have you been thinking about the new year?  What are your plans for 2010?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Weather... Frightful... Nuff said

It's been an interesting few days here at the Sanderson household (at least weather-wise - the rest has been pretty blah).  Thursday gave us hoar frost:


Yes, that's my car antenna with about an inch of icy spikes.  Don't worry - they weren't as sharp as they look.  Yesterday's Quickie Pic was a result of that frost.  (And no, the picture wasn't touched, edited, or tweaked in any way.  It came out of my camera exactly like that.  Heh.  I forgot to turn the flash off, and I thought that pic was going to come out gross.)  Here's what the same tree looked like without the flash:



Not quite as striking, eh?

Anyway, Wednesday and Thursday were supposed to be days of great snow dumpage.  We got the frost and a dusting.  Go figger.


Christmas was supposed to be a quiet weather day.  Instead, we got another dusting of snow and a windstorm which gave us more than a dusting of dust.  All the pretty frost and snow ended up covered in a layer of brown.  It almost looked like the world was covered in cinnamon and sugar.  Really made me long for a donut, ya know.  (This is today's pile, but if you look close, you can see the dirt in striations at the bottom.)

And then came yesterday.  We woke up to what was probably about 3 inches, but with the wind blowing like it was, it left drifts of 2-3 feet in some places.  Every time I tried to make any headway shoveling, it blew all my work to hell.  Once Husband got home from work, I gave up.


This morning, the wind is gone.  The early morning sky is filled with stars instead of clouds.  I've been shoveling since I got up an hour ago.  (I shovel in ten minute bursts, so it takes me a while to get it all done.)  Husband is off with the road crews making the world safe for anyone who's stupid enough to drive right now.*

Me?  I'm off to shovel some more and then maybe... just maybe... I'll get some writing done.  What's on schedule for you today?



*Next time you wake up to a snow-covered landscape and yearn to drive out in it, send a silent thanks to the men and women who keep your streets clean.  Our guys have been at it since 3:30am.  It's a thankless job, but at least our guys have donuts to keep them going.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quickie Pic


This is from a couple of days ago, when we got hoar frost (or freezing fog).  Pretty snazzy photo, if I do say so myself, so I had to share it with all of you.

Right now, I'm dealing with the effects of a snowstorm, so I'll be back later.  If I remember, I'll get some pics and post them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Through the Years

Happy Christmas Eve - even though it isn't evening.  This morning I'd like to share a few pictures from Christmas Past.

Ten years ago, Daughter and I were still in Michigan, living in the house I owned (well, me and the bank).  We didn't have a lot, but we had each other.  The tree, the table, the chair... those all belonged to my parents.  It was the year I splurged and bought a beautiful expensive coat for Daughter Dear - and got the reindeer seen here.  (JC Penney was having a thing where you purchase anything and the reindeer was $15.  His name is Apple, btw, and he's still with us.) 

By Christmas the next year we were living in Florida.  Believe it or not, the warmest place I ever lived was the only place that ever had a fireplace where we could hang our stockings.   Same tree, same ornaments, different stockings.

For Christmas 2002, we were living in Sandy, UT.  New tree here - because the other tree didn't make the trip from FL to UT.  But, if you look, you can see we still have the red bow/pine cone tree topper we use - under the star.


Now I have to flash forward a bit, because I lost most of the pictures from before the great computer crash of 2006.  Five years since the last picture, we moved from the first apartment in Utah to another - this time in South Jordan - to Colorado and then from house to house to house in this place.  What you see here is probably my favorite house architecturally - where we held Christmas 2007. 

And thus, we come around to this year and this house - pictured yesterday.  Since I first began taking digital photos of my Christmases, a lot has changed - the scenery being the least of it all.  I am married to a wonderful man, I have an intelligent and fun daughter, and we have the best cat ever.  I now write novels instead of just dreaming about it. 

And through it all, the pine cone with its red bow has graced the top of our tree.  Thinking about it now, I guess that little tree-topper is a symbol of constancy amid change.  And maybe it's also a symbol that no matter what life throws at us, we can still have presents under the tree and joy in our hearts.  May the pine cone remain there for many years to come.

Merry Christmas, Everyone.  I hope the season brings you all the joys you hope for.  May the next twelve months bring more delights than any found beneath our trees.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Day Before the Day Before Christmas

Happy day before the day before Christmas.  As of right now, that's what our tree looks like.  Of course, it's still missing a bunch of presents.  Those will be placed around the tree tomorrow night after Darling Daughter goes to bed.  (And if you're reading this, Daughter: "No, you can't open anything until Christmas morning.")

I think we went a little crazy on the gifts this year.  I know I did, anyway, and since I'm the Santa for the most part, I also know I'm right.  Of course, Hubby went shopping yesterday and made three trips from the car to his hidey spot while I sat on the couch with my eyes tightly shut.

In the pile around the tree, there are presents for everyone.  Except the cat, that is.  She's got everything she needs, and she's never interested in the presents themselves.  She does have an awesome time playing in the discarded wrapping paper, though, so she'll have a blast this year. 


Right Kira? 

Well... ummm... we'll just ask her later.  And before you think to suggest I buy her a cat bed, she had one.  She prefers the jeans - even if she doesn't appear to enjoy anything at the moment.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Xmas Penguins

Since I've been a horrible blogger lately, I thought I'd just amuse you all with a picture of some of my Christmas decorations...  Here, at the top of the bookshelf in my living room, are the Xmas Penguins.



They always remind me of the Bugs Bunny cartoon - with the little performing penguin - wherein a hungry hobo looks at the bird and says "Pen-goo-inns is prack-tick-lee chicken".  ROFL

Heh, guess you had to be there.

Stay tuned for more pictures later...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Busting it out

Well, here I am.  Just a short stop today because I'm busting it out.  After a couple weeks of nothing, I've managed to crank out the words these past couple days.  This story really feels like it's coming together.  Maybe this will be the book that gets me an agent.  Of course, I've said that before and nada, so I'm not holding my breath. 

As always, if not this one then the next one. 

I'm just getting a little tired of saying that.  I mean, it's not like I'm writing the same damn thing the same way every time.  I'm growing and my work is getting better for it.  Anyway, before I get all morose, I'd better stop.  I just wanted to say I'm busting out the words, and I'm going to let myself be happy about that for a while.

What something you're letting yourself be happy about these days?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bored Morning

*All images deleted to avoid any chance of copyright infringement*

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Switching POVs

Okay, so all I needed was some tough love - thanks for the kick in the pants, Kristen.  Once I got my gumption hump in gear, I managed to turn out 2300 words in this endeavor.

So, what's that got to do with anything, you ask.  Well, I've said before that this book has been trying to get me to write it in first POV since the beginning, but I didn't feel confident in my ability to do it.  So far, everything I've finished has been either third omniscient or third limited.  First was outside my comfort zone.  Or so I thought. 

Anyway, I wrote the entirety of DLN in third limited.  You see everything from Jo's point of view, but it's like someone else is reporting things through her eyes.  Not always the easiest way to write - considering that every sentence I have to think whether she would actually know what I wrote.  I mean, if Jo can't sense it in some way, it shouldn't be in the book, right?

Shifting from third limited to first shouldn't be all that hard.  Of course, it isn't like Daughter assumed - which was that all I have to do is change all the pronouns.  Changing 'Jo sidled along the wall' to 'I sidled along the wall' doesn't quite work.  I had to consider whether Jo would actually use the word 'sidle' when thinking about her own movements.  She might think someone else would sidle, but it was out of character for her to think that about herself. 

Aside from that, though, the process of switching to first POV has been really freeing.  For a couple hours last night, I had to be Josephine Mayweather.  I had to see things from her eyes, and remember things as she remembered them.  What fun!  Nothing like slipping into the persona of a supernatural being to get the old heart pumping. 

I still don't know how I'm going to handle those few flashback scenes.  I might still write them in third - showing the reader how the character feels distances from her own past, or in one case, letting the MC listen as another character relates his own distant past.  Or I may cut those scenes altogether.  We'll see what happens when we get there.

So far, though, this seems like it's working.  And from what Daughter said after I made her read the first few pages, my feelings on the subject are correct.  She gave me two thumbs-up, after all, and being the paranormal junkie she is, I'm taking that as a positive sign I'm on the right track.

Wish me luck.

How are things going with your writing?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoroughly Unmotivated

Is it just me, or does this feel like Monday?  Hell, I woke up thinking it WAS Monday, so maybe that's why.  :shrug:  Either way, I'm thoroughly unmotivated today. 

Christmas?  Bleh.
Writing? Bleh.
Editing? Bleh.

You get the picture.  I don't feel like doing anything, and that includes flopping on the couch to watch TV or going back to bed.  How's that for limbo?  I don't feel like doing anything, but I don't feel like doing nothing either.  xop

Of course, it probably doesn't help that Sunday night I came to the conclusion that DLN needs a total rewrite from third limited to first person.  I even had the snazzy new beginning all planned out in my head as I lay there trying to sleep.  Then I fell asleep and by morning the plan was gone.  Stupid brain.  Anyway, I did manage to remember some of it, and I got the beginning rewritten last night, so it's not all crappadoodledoo. 

Okay, enough about me.  Time for a quick writerly question:

How would you feel about a book that's written in first POV for the most part but has a few choice scenes in third?  Or would it be one of those cases of 'if it's well-written, anything goes'?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Avalanche of Manuscripts

If you've been around here long enough, you may have realized that I tend to attack my writerly problems by posting about them.  Today is one of those posts...

Okay, so here's the deal.  I'm just not that into editing Nano right now.  Oh, I still like the book, but every time I try to get my head around where I need to go with it, my creativity curdles.  Part of the problem, I know, is that there is a get deal of work to complete in order to get this book finished.  I've got chapters to rearrange, Villain #1's POV to fix...  I need to make the heroine more sympathetic, and I need to figure out if there really is supposed to be a romance between the hero and the heroine.  Is the cat really necessary or is it just a distraction?  Oh, and I need to introduce that secondary character way earlier in the book so when he becomes important in the middle no one will be shocked...

The other part of the problem is that while I'm trying to focus on Nano, the book I wrote last month keeps creeping into my brain.  DLN wants me to finish it.  I have new names for Nigel and Nelson (I must've been living on Sesame Street - N is for November), I know what needs to be rewritten to fix the beginning...  I keep seeing the characters in my head, and they aren't happy about waiting.

And now, several other past books are demanding to get some face time, too.  I need to rework Caldera, I have to do some fine tuning on Manhunter.  I think I need to rework the beginning of Blink (again).  I need to polish RTL some more.  Hell, I caught myself this morning wondering if I needed to rewrite the beginning of Spectacle, and thinking about the fact that I never requeried that book after the last rewrite.  I could query it, you know, after I take some of the things I learned over the past couple years and polish it a bit more.

Avalanche of manuscipts, anyone?  My brain is buried under at least a foot of fluffy white pages.

Is it any wonder I can't focus on Nano?

And if I sit here too long, all those stories I started but never finished will jump into the waters and drown me.  Jordan keeps shouting "You promised me a three book series, and you still haven't finished book one!!!" in my ear.  Eddie's in the corner whining about the fact that I wrote the beginning and the end of her story, but not the middle.  At the back of my head, Dennis is shooting me dirty looks because I wrote all of his story, but I never edited it and now the conspiracy I threw into the secondary storyline during the last rewrite is giving him fits.

Insane much? 


Soooo...  I'm going to put Nano aside, again.  I'll work on editing DLN, and hope it's powerful enough to shut the rest of the stories up - at least until I get through the first round of edits. 

Wish me luck.  If I'm not back soon, send a search party.  I'll be the voice babbling from under a mountain of paper.

 *All images deleted to avoid any chance of copyright infringement*

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekly Update

This hasn't been a particularly writerly week.  Other than Sunday, I didn't touch a word of fiction.  Hell, I didn't even had time to read.  Instead I baked, boiled, decorated, shopped, packaged, delivered, partied and collapsed.

Baked & Boiled:
Six different kinds of cake cookies
Three batches of coconut Rum cookies
Two kinds of 5-layer bars
S'mores bars
2 kinds of fudge
(Okay, so I only did the 5-layer bars and the fudge.  Daughter did the rest, but I supervised.)


Decorated:
The house is now decked out for the holiday season.  It looks like Santa exploded in my living room.  All that's left to do is put up the Christmas cards as they come in.

Shopped:
My shopping is 99% done.  If I buy anything else, it will be impulse items that no one needs and stocking stuffers.  Did I ever mention how much I love Amazon?  They shipped most of my gifts priority and I didn't even have to pay for it.

Packaged:
Yesterday saw me putting together 9 tubs of treats for friends and co-workers.  Which I then delivered around town.  Oh, to see the happy looks on the faces of the recipients.  The satisfaction of seeing them eat a cookie or two was even better.

Partied:
Last night was the Christmas party for Husband's workplace.  They did a potluck this year and IMO, it was the best party they ever had.  The food was scrumptious and everyone seemed to have an awesome time. 

Collapsed:
Now that everything is pretty much done for another year, I'm going to let myself fall apart.  We got home about 8:30 last night and I flopped on the couch, satisfied that another round of Christmas rush was over.  Except for the presents I still have to wrap, the cards I have to get out and the food I have to cook for the big day, that is.  Today I'll collapse and tomorrow I'll get back to work.

How was your week?  Are you ready for Christmas or do you still have a bunch of stuff to do?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fudge Lessons

As I just finished a batch of peanut butter fudge, I have a couple things I learned that I'd like to share:

- No matter how hard you try to avoid it, boiling sugar will jump up and bite you.
- Never do two batches of fudge in one day.  (I haven't made the chocolate fudge yet, but I see the error in my planning.  I have to do the other batch today, but I'm going to regret every minute of it.)
- Writing isn't the only thing that causes hand cramps.  You try stirring molten sugar for five minutes straight and then stir peanut butter into the mixture.
- Eating fudge first thing in the morning isn't the best idea in the world.  Then again, how else are you supposed to clean off the spoon and the pan, or taste test your creation???
- Making fudge is not an endeavor for one person.  You need at least four hands, and unless you're Kali, you're screwed.  (Thank goodness Daughter was here to help.  I can't remember how I managed to make fudge when she was too small to help.)

Now I feel like a nap, but I have errands to run, more things to gather for my cookie baskets, and more fudge to make.  I'll nap when I'm dead.

Have a great day, everyone.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Peanut Butter Fudge

Since the Cookie-Stravaganza is in full swing, I thought I'd post another recipe for you to try.  Sure, this one isn't a cookie, but nothing says 'holidays' like a big batch of creamy fudge. When I was a kid, my mother would make chocolate fudge every year, and damn, was it ever good.  She never made peanut butter fudge, though - I guess because my oldest brother is deadly allergic to legumes.  Since I never see my brother (no one's heard from him in years), I can make all the peanuty delights I want. 

I found this recipe a few years ago, and tweaked it a bit to make it better.  By far, this is the best peanut butter fudge I've ever tasted, if I do say so myself.  (And this is coming from a kid who grew up near Frankenmuth, MI - home of the most-awesome Frankenmuth Fudge Kitchen.  Every year we'd drive up to the Christmas wonderland and I'd spend as much time as the folks would let me staring through the windows watching as they made fudge.)

:drool:

Anyway, this is a pretty awesome fudge you can make at home.  I hope you try it and enjoy it.

Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups light brown sugar (packed)
2 cups white sugar
4 T butter or margarine
1 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups peanut butter (creamy)
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups mini marshmallows

Butter the bottom and sides of a 8x10" cake pan.  In a medium saucepan, combine both sugars, the evaporated milk and the butter.  Initially, keep the pan on medium heat until the butter is melted and all the ingredients have combined.  Turn heat up to medium high until mixture is at a rolling boil.  Boil for 5 minutes (or if you have a candy thermometer, soft ball stage - 234 degrees F), stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in remaining ingredients.  Stir quickly but thoroughly until all ingredients are well-combined.  Once everything is smooth, pour into pre-buttered pan to cool. 

A few helpful hints:

- A glass pan works best.  I use an 8x10" and get some fairly thick fudge.  If you like yours thinner, use a 9x13" pan.
- 5 minutes means five minutes exactly.  Overcooking makes your fudge hard and dry.  Undercooking means your fudge won't harden.  (Make great ice cream topping, though.)
- If you don't stir constantly during those five minutes, the sugar mixture will burn to the bottom of your pan, giving your fudge burnt sugar lumps.
- When 'stirring quickly', take care the hot sugar doesn't slop over the sides of the pan.  Sugar burns can be painful - trust me on that one.
- Speaking of sugar burns, please be careful when you're stirring for the five minutes.  Boiling sugar produces a lot of air bubbles that can and do burst.  Keep your face, your hands, and your kids as far away from the pan as you can.

Yes, I know.  Making fudge sounds like a huge pain in the ass, but I think it's worth it. 

If you have any questions, let me know. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ohhhh The Weather Outside is Frightful

...and let's just leave it at that, shall we?

Of course, it's nowhere near as frightful as what my friend Natalie got but it is pretty gross.  No matter where you are, snow and wind and single-digits temps are no fun.  I had to park my car on the front lawn so Hubby wouldn't have to park in the street where he ran the risk of getting plastered by one of the many ijits who drive past our house on a daily basis.

Yesterday, while stopped at a red light, I got to watch a semi headed toward me begin to jackknife.  Wheeee.  Lucky for him, me and the people around him, he managed to pull out and get the truck under control before he smashed into anyone.

One would think people who live in Colorado would know how to drive in snow.  Unfortunately, they don't.  I saw the same thing when I lived in Michigan.  Why some people think they can drive in snow the same way they drive on dry pavement is beyond me to understand.  So, here are a few things about winter driving I thought I'd share

1) Underneath that fluffy white stuff the road is slick.  So...
  1a) You won't be able to stop as fast (i.e. don't tailgate)
  1b) You'll need to gently apply the gas when you want to accelerate otherwise your tires will spin and you'll go nowhere.
  1c) You can't maneuver like Vin Diesel in an action flick.  Whipping in and out of traffic is frowned upon even on the best of days - and this ain't one of them.

2) Pay Attention!  Other people can't control their vehicles any better than you can (and trust me, you can't control yours as well as you seem to think).

3) SLOW DOWN.  The life you save may be MINE, you dumb shit.  I don't want to die because you have ten minutes to get to your hair appointment and the beauty salon is eleven minutes away.  There is nothing at the grocery store you need so bad you're willing to die or kill others getting it.  If you think your boss is going to fire you for coming in late again, leave the house ten minutes earlier. 

In non-driving related reminders, let me point out....

- Just because your pets are wearing a fur coat doesn't mean they can't get frostbite or even freeze to death.  Don't leave your animals outside when it's this damn cold.  If you do, don't be surprise when a good person just happens to call Animal Control on your stupid ass.  (Like I did one January in Michigan when the dog next to my office building had no food, shelter or water for days and every step looked painful because her little paws were frozen.)

- If your kid hates wearing his winter clothing, and screams when you put it on, leave him at home. If you can't afford proper winter clothing, please locate your nearest Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul, Salvation Army, Deseret Industries, church, or other charitable organization.  Coat drives are going on all over the country right now.  And if worse comes to worst, socks work very well as mittens.  Yeah, it loooks stupid, but so does having a kid with eight fingers because you couldn't keep his hands warm.

- There's a reason snow blowers have warning labels.  When it says not to stick your hand inside, DON'T.  I knew two guys when I was in college who were missing the same two fingers from separate snow blower accident.  True, the first guy was just a kid when he lost his, but the other guy was in his forties - and he KNEW about the first guy's accident. 

I guess what I'm saying is: use common sense during this time of year.  I know it seems like common sense is lacking these days, but everyone really does have it - even if they often choose not to use it.

And since I know those people reading this are chock-full of common sense, I'd just like to tell you all to be careful out there. You never know when some moron could decide he's such a good driver, he doesn't need to worry about ice and snow.  I don't want to learn that any of you have become a victim of senselessness.

:HUGS:

Now, back to your regularly scheduled blogging and back to shoveling for me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thoughts on Editing

I love writing.  Really I do.  Editing on the other hand...  Bleh.

Yeah yeah, I know...  I should never admit that in public.  90% of writing is editing.  Getting the story on paper is the easy part.  Editing is the work part.  blah blah blah

As I've said before, I'm terminally lazy.  I'd much rather just do the easy part.  Been this way since I was a kid...

And you know something?  I don't really even hate editing.  I do love the part of editing where I'm picking just the right words so that my thoughts shine through.  What I hate is the second-guessing part where I'm not sure if this scene is the right one or that scene would work better.  Which would make this more grabby and thus more sellable?

Anyway, I know the progress meter still hasn't moved.  I'm still stuck*.  So, what I did was the tried and true method of thinking my way through this stumbling block.  I took out my yarn, sat on the couch and crocheted while I watched football.  (Or listened to football, since I have to look at my hands while I'm crocheting.)  As I went through the automatic steps of a single-chain crochet - over and over and over - I thought about the story.

Since I've actually got three different beginnings written for this story, I have three paths to choose from.  On the last round of edits, I snipped the other two scenes and tucked them away in a file for safe-keeping.  Today I'm planning on pulling those out of storage, seeing how they read, and whether I've started in the wrong place again.  If neither of those work, I'll rewrite the entirety of Chapter One.

I know where I have to go and what I want to accomplish with this opening.  Now I just have to make it interesting for the reader.

Wish me luck.  I know I'll need it today. 

On the bright side, if I don't get past this, I should have another blanket done by Christmas.

*I knew if I just wrote a post about it, I'd shake the damn thing loose.  I'll explain what I did tomorrow - if I still think it works by then.  

Saturday, December 5, 2009

:HEADDESK:

Ever have one of those mornings when you're editing your work and you realize that everything you wrote was so lame you want to bash your head against a hard surface until you lose consciousness?

Yeah.  I'm having one of those.  The Prologue is fine, but Chapter One makes me want to follow the directions below...

*All images deleted to avoid any chance of copyright infringement*

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekly Update

It's been an interesting week at the Sanderson household, even if not necessarily productive.  This week saw the end of NaNo, the beginning of the Christmas season and the recommitment to a book I haven't touched in what feels like years (but in reality was touched in July). 

In the span of twenty-four hours I went from 'Whew.  November's over.  Time to relax.' to total panic that looked something like this:

"OMG, it's December.  Christmas is coming, which means the office party in almost here, and the annual Cookie-Stravaganza needs to begin.  I have to shop for ingredients...  And all those presents I meant to buy online need to be bought now if they're ever going to arrive in time."

Needless to say, I panic easily sometimes.

Last night, Daughter finally gave me her Christmas list, so all that shopping I haven't done can be tackled.  Yay?

On the writerly front, I've started editing Nano again - see the meter?  It moved.  Not much, but it did move.  Of course, last night was a wash.  I want to edit this book.  Really I do.  But every time I sit down to think about how I want this book to be, my recently completed WIP jumps in the way.  I can't stop thinking about it.  My muse wants to play in that book.  RIGHT.  NOW.  But I promised myself I wouldn't touch it until after I finish this other book.  Arrgghh.  I may end up shifting between the two to satisfy muse and still keep my promise.  If my head explodes around New Year's Day, you'll know why.

So, what about you?  Any plans for the coming weeks?  How's the holiday shopping coming along?  Is your work playing nice or is it being a brat like mine? 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Evil Pastries

Can you tell I'm hungry this morning???  Well, it's the fault of some insidious email I received today...

Years ago when I was a manufacturers' rep in Michigan, one of the companies we represented would send each of us the most wonderful pastries ever.  So gooey and buttery filled with pecany goodness.  :drool:

If you've never heard of this wonder, it's called a Kringle.  And, in my opinion, the people who do it the best are the folks over at O&H Danish Bakery in Racine, WI.

Of course, being the moron that I am, I signed up to receive news and flyers in my email box.  Every so often, I open my gmail to find a flyer covered in sweet goodness.  :commence excessive drooling:  Evil evil evil.  Especially since I'm sure just looking at them is adding poundage to my ever-widening ass.


Sooo...  This morning I'm sharing the evilness.  I wish I could send you all a pastry - because they do ship these evil  pastries.  Ooo, and they even have a Kringle of the Month Club. Those rotten demons of temptations.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for something different this holiday season, order yourself up a Kringle.  They're especially good if you nuke them in the microwave for a few seconds.  Mmmmm.

Now I must go forage in the kitchen before I short out my keyboard with all the drool.  Gross, I know, but these things really are that good.  I'm like Pavlov's dog over here.  Screw ringing a bell.  All I need are pictures of food.

;o)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Post-NaNo Post

Midnight Monday saw the end of another year's NaNoWriMo, and from what I've seen around the web, many people reached their goals.  The question that comes on December 1st is "What now?"

After spending a month typing furiously, I'm feeling a little bleh.  All I really want to do is lay on the couch.  I keep telling myself that I earned a break, but all I'm really doing is giving myself an excuse to slip right back into my old lazy ways.  I need to find a way to keep the drive November gave me. 

But...

I refuse to touch my NaNo novel.  It needs time to cure.  If I look at it now, it won't be with fresh eyes, and I won't see the problems I know must be in there.  (Typing that fast lends itself to flaws, after all.)  So, for now, this book will be tucked away.  Of course, that way lies the potential for total laziness.

Except I have other things I need to do.  A couple weeks ago, a writerly idol of mine posted something on her blog about not doing your NaNo book an injustice by shoving it into a drawer and forgetting about it.  I'm not even close to doing that with this year's book, but her words reminded me that I have another book I never finished editing.  It's been eating it's head off in a drawer for almost a year now.  Poor thing.

So...  As I said on Monday, I'm going to finish the book I affectionately call Nano.  I admit that so far this week, I haven't done diddly-squat.  I realize I can't allow that malaise to take over again.  I have to write, even if it's not new words.  In honor of that, I'll be putting up a new word meter to show my progress, and please feel free to kick my ass if you don't see the colors move. 

As soon as I'm ready to tackle the edits for this year's NaNo novel, I'll begin a series of posts regarding all those errors I advocated in my Pitfall posts. 

Now, I'm off to start the day.  Have a great one out there, people.  =o)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cake Cookies

It's creeping up to that time again.  You know the time I mean... Cookie-Stravaganza!  Wherein Darling Daughter and I bake cookies until our eyes are bugging out. 

Anyway, sometime in the next two weeks, we'll be baking our brains out with Coconut Rum Cookies and Cream Cheese Cookies... and fudge... can't forget the fudge.  Anyway, we used to make every recipe totally from scratch, and that was fine.  Time consuming, but fine.  And while I still don't used store-bought cookie mix (Okay, I admit to the occasional use of those Pillsbury pre-cut cookies with x-mas trees designs), I did stumble across a recipe last year that cuts some of the time out.  I posted it on my old blog, but for those of you who weren't around back then, here it is again...

Cake Cookies

1 box cake mix (whichever one turns you on)
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, candy bits... whatever works with whichever mix you pick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until firm and slightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to cool.


Super easy and super quick, so if between writing and shopping and wrapping and life, you're up to your ass in alligators, you can still do a reasonable cookie-stravaganza in half the time. 

If you can find the Caramel Cake Mix from Duncan Hines, I recommend using that one with Hersey's Toffee Bits and chopped walnuts.  Another favorite here is Devil's Food with Peanut Butter Chips.   This year I picked up butterscotch chips on sale, so I'm going to create something with those... maybe with Butter Pecan cake mix.  A gal I gave this recipe to last year used Betty Crocker Funfetti cake mix and Fruity Pebbles for a fun new cookie.  The point with these is to have fun and to save time.  And in this economy, you can also save money - especially if you find cake mix on sale.  =o)

Enjoy, and if you come up with any awesome combinations for your cookies, share in the comments.  I'm always open to trying new things.  =o)