Sunday, December 25, 2011

2012 Art Project

Every year I assign myself an art project to work on.

Mainly I do this assignment to keep myself out of trouble (idle hands are the devil's somethingorother) and to provide a break from writing while still exercising my creative muscles.

This year, in the spirit of the journal that I've always kept, I'm going to assign myself a project using a particular product.
I've heard about SMASH journals for a couple of years now. For a while they were so hot you couldn't find them anywhere because they were always sold out and the back orders were six months behind. They are touted as the "unscrapbook", where messy is beautiful and heck of a lot more representative of a person's real life. The journal comes with a variety of paper and a pen that is inky on one end and gluey on the other for quick, just-smash-it-in options. 

Now, I'm not sure exactly how this is going to be a different experience from me just using a Moleskine as my art journal, but several people I trust have sworn by them. Does it seems counterproductive to be "creative" using a bunch of pre-package products? Wouldn't it be more creative to start out with a completely blank slate and not be hampered by the use of specifically designed, SMASH-trademarked bits and bobs?

Guess I'll find out. I'm not going to invest a whole bunch of cash though. I'm going to buy the journal, and take a pass on the extras like little SMASH pockets, SMASH sticky notes, SMASH tabs and SMASH clips. Seems a bit of a racket. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review - Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

I was surprised by Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. I'll admit my expectations weren't high going in. I'd burned out on YA paranormal lit a couple of months ago after blasting through the first seven Morganville Vampire books in ten days. Afterwards, whenever I picked up a YA book that had a paranormal vibe to the storyline, it felt like my eyeballs might pop outta my head and going pinging around the room. I retreated to Regency-era historical fiction along the lines of Austen to soothe my frayed neurons, and Necromancer remained mid-way through the teetering stack of TBRs.

Initially I bought it because it had a promo blurb by Sherman Alexie, author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (which the brilliant, hilarious, heart-breaking movie Smoke Signals was based on), whom I luuurve. His books should be required reading in high school. He's an amazing writer.*

And the fact that the author's name was Lish. Which kinda plays on the necromancer theme. Lish... Lich. McBride... Bride. The Lich Bride.


OK. Maybe it's just me. Anywhoo...

When I finally - and I will admit, grudgingly - picked Necromancer up, I nearly set it down again permanently when I realized main character Sam's full name was Samhain. I sneered in disgust. The author hadn't even done their research. Any good Gael can tell you Samhain is NOT pronounced "sam-hane". It's more along the lines of "sah-win". Thus, SAM cannot be a derivative of SAMHAIN.

Sorry to be such a pronunciation snob, but that shit bugs me.

Fortunately, before I could throw the book across the room, the author redeemed themselves with a plausible explanation in the next paragraph. At that point, I gave up the struggle and let myself become completely engrossed.

Sam is a lovable slacker - a skateboarding college dropout working the fast-food career track. That is, until he has a run in with the local necromancer at which point Sam's entire life goes from meh-to-worse in the space of 48 hours.

One of the other reviewers on GoodReads (Vinaya) said they pictured Sam looking like Lloyd Dobler from the 80s movie Say Anything, and now I can't get the visual out of my head.

Slap a hoodie on him, hand him a skateboard, put him in Seattle, and pit him against an evil-dead-raising SOB, and you have Sam LaCoix.

The plot was twisty and sprinkled with enough new angles on the paranormal stuff - werewolves, vampires, fairies, ghosts, zombies, etc. - to seem fresh. Which is hard to do considering how the market is flooded with the stuff. (Oo. I just came up with the title of my next book/blog post: Weary of Werewolves. Or how about, Fed-Up With Fairies? Sick of Vacuous Vampires?)

Despite all the weirdness going on, Sam came across as a very normal, likable guy. He's not the perfect hero. His apartment is a mess. He eats a lot of ramen. His friends crash on the couch. He ogles the occasional chick. He sticks his foot in it a lot. He bumbles around trying to make sense of his life and find some sort of purpose. He gets his ass handed to him a couple of times, so he's no ninja. All of those things, combined with a good heart, make him a character worth reading about.

The ending, which was very satisfactory, still left the door wide open for sequels. I'm eager to find out what happens to Sam AND all the interesting secondary characters that were introduced.  If the first book is anything to judge by, it's going to be an interesting ride.

*Shameless plug. Sherman... call me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

An Awesome Book by Brian and Bronte





Today a gift arrived on my front porch from my friend Brian, a.k.a. Fells. It was a book. Which is why he's my besty. He knows me. Obviously.

I'm Fields, if you hadn't guessed.

What elevates him to super-besty is that the book is one of my favorites; Jane Eyre.
But to take it a step beyond, the book had been customized and everywhere in the text in where it had originally said Jane Eyre, it now said my name. When I opened it and began reading, my heart did a little flip-flop and I squealed like a freaking fanboy every time my name appeared.

So very, very cool.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thanksgiving in the Lab

Since we kids "got all growed up", as my grandmother used to say, Thanksgiving has become a potluck affair for our family. Sign-up begins three weeks in advance, and if you want to be the one who brings rolls, plastic silverware, and paper plates you have to act fast.

Most of the time that's reserved for the person who's currently single, unemployed, or traveling more than 10 hours.

It always works out pretty well, and there is never any shortage of food. It also gives everyone a chance to expand their culinary skills and take new items for a taste test using human guinea pigs. Fortunately, no guinea pigs, human or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this year's dinner.

My sister cooked her first turkey. Joel made a green bean, kidney, and bacon dish. My brother tried his hand at baking a ham. One of the cousins brought corn spoon-bread. An aunt brought parsnips...

What the hell is a parsnip?

These are parsnips, or as I like to call them, naked carrots.

I signed up two items I'd never made before, creamed spinach and a pumpkin pie. The creamed spinach wasn't too difficult, except I made it from fresh spinach so it took eight pounds to get a decent amount once it wilted.

The pie... I know you're thinking pumpkin pie is easy. Crust, can of pumpkin glop, 30 minutes in the oven, and you're done. But NO, there would be no canned pie glop consumed by MY family this Thanksgiving. I was determined to make a pumpkin pie from scratch. From an actual pumpkin. You know, that thing you carve jack o'lanterns out of.

Lab Notes: The first thing you should know is that you have to get a special kind of pumpkin. You can't use just any big, orange squash. You definitely CANNOT use the same kind of pumpkin that you use for fall porch decor or Halloween carving. You have to use a PIE pumpkin to make pie.


After you get the expensive ($3.99/ lbs) little sucker home, you cut it up in chunks, gut it (remove all seeds and gross, orange, slimy string stuff), and bake it in the oven until it gets soft and practically slides right out of the skin into the bowl. Add about $50 worth of spices that you have to go out and buy (because who keeps ground cloves lying around?), evaporated milk, sugar, and eggs. Hit it with a immersion blender until you have...


Lab Notes: "Huh. I wonder if it's supposed to look like that? Maybe I left something out. Like flour. Hmmmm... (consults recipe) Nope. It's all here. Maybe it will thicken up if I blend it some more."

*10 minutes of splattering copious amount of liquefied pumpkin all over the kitchen*

"Nope. Still soup. Oh well. *Shrug* Might as well go ahead and see what we get."

Funnel the pumpkin soup into the prepared pie crust, bake, and miracle of Great Pumpkin miracles you get...


Pretty darn good pie, too, if I may say so myself. It was much lighter and fluffier than you get when you use pumpkin out of a can. Even the people in my family who don't like pumpkin enjoyed it. So much so, that there wasn't any leftover to take home.

The downside is that it probably costs about $10 a slice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

And So It Ends...

Life as we know it may now resume.

NaNo is over.

Thank you sweet baby Jebus.

Don't get me wrong. NaNo is fun. At least it's fun up until the last week. That's when you do the math and you realize you're going to have to get 10,000 words a day from now until the end of the month to make it to your goal. It makes you feel like a big, smucky loser and you are sad that you will not be getting a winners badge or t-shirt again this year.

When it's finally declared over, you're just glad to see the backend of it. After a few days of mourning, you're more than happy to shove the POSM (Piece Of Shit Manuscript) of approximately 38,000 words into a desk drawer with a huge sigh of relief.

That usually happens somewhere around Dec. 3rd or 4th.

Thusly NaNo 2011 concludes.