The List, the List

Feeling a little overwhelmed with things to do before WorldCon (and before semester starts). Lists to the rescue.

Things to Do Today / Tomorrow:

1. Finish weeding parkway strip (side near the cars), put down a little mulch.

2. Implement Jude’s proofing edits on Vegan Serendib.

3. Publish Vegan Serendib.

4. Clear at least a hundred e-mails. Two hundred would be better.

5. Write more of Three Kings for WC.

6. Finish scheduling Deep Dish reading for September @ Volumes.

7. Write up SLF ask letter / start Drip one-week campaign.

8. Finalize SLF brochure with Kay.

9. Deal with papers on island.

10. Meet with former student about MFA programs @ 1.

11. Take Kavi to 6th grade orientation @ 4.

12. Get new folders for new semester. (ritual)

13. Finalize syllabi with new semester dates.

14. Get eyebrows and nails done.

15. Charge all the things for the trip.

16. Pack.

17. Finish making fire lizard gemstone soaps and sell.

18. Sew dress? (I have this project that I’ve had hanging for a long time, and I sort of just want to get it done, even though it’s not urgent. We’ll see if time allows. If not, move it off dining table and back to basement, sigh.)

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Things Not to Do:

1. Binge-watch the first season of Grey’s Anatomy for two straight days.

Disability Cliches

When George asked me to write something for the Wild Cards blog, the first thing that leapt to mind was how nervous I was, trying to write a ‘joker’ character for the upcoming volume, Joker Moon. I’m able-bodied (for now, anyway). My character isn’t.

In the Wild Cards universe (first published in 1987), the major premise is that an alien virus has come to Earth, and if you catch it, you have a 90% chance of dying, a 9% chance of becoming a joker, and a 1% chance of becoming a superpowered ace. A lot of our characters are jokers. As you can imagine, that can lead to some interesting challenges when writing.

It’s honestly super-hard to talk about this given the difference between today’s language and that of forty years ago. If you look up the premise of the series, they’ll generally refer to the jokers as ‘deformed,’ which is a term I would basically never use otherwise. Heck, I wrote an entire essay about my reaction when one of my oncologists referred to making my breast ‘normal,’ again, through surgical interventions after a lumpectomy. (Spoiler alert: her language made me super-annoyed. Perhaps unfairly. I’m still not sure.)

I’m honestly not sure I’ve avoided all the disability clichés in the story I just handed in yesterday. I did try, and I have to shout-out here to excellent writer Haddayr Copley-Woods, who let me talk over my initial conception for the story and pointed our some big clichés I was about to walk right into.

Any remaining issues are my own.

A brief introduction to disability clichés in fiction.

WorldCon

My WorldCon schedule (all on Saturday, but I’ll be around Fri evening, Sunday, and Monday):

Saturday August 18, 2018
Tor: Wild Cards Signing 2 hours 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM | San Jose Convention Center , Autographing
George R. R. Martin | Kevin Andrew Murphy | Melinda M. Snodgrass | Mary Anne Mohanraj | Marko Kloos | Caroline Spector | Saladin Ahmed

The long awaited reprint of Wild Cards VIII: One Eyed Jacks is August 28th. But you have an opportunity to get a copy while at Worldcon and to get autographs from many of the authors. This is a special group signing.

Copies of the trade paperback will be available from Borderlands Books, in the Dealer’s area.
The authors will ONLY be signing Wild Cards books.

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12:00 PM Wild Cards: An Ongoing Shared Universe 1 hour 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM | San Jose Convention Center , 210G
Moderator Kevin Andrew Murphy | George R. R. Martin | Marko Kloos | Melinda M. Snodgrass | Mary Anne Mohanraj
Panel Literature Writing

Who knew when Wild Cards was released in 1987 that it would grow to over 2 dozen books and still be going strong over 30 years later? The latest installments are Texas Hold ‘Em and Knaves Over Queens. The eighth book, One-Eyed Jacks, is being reprinted and released during the convention.

Join the creators and authors for this discussion about how it all started, and where it’s going to be going.

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From 2-4, I plan to be in the SFWA Suite, where the SLF is sponsoring lunch! Come say hi!

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4:00 PM The Body and The Shadow of the Imagination 1 hour 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM | San Jose Convention Center , 211C
Moderator Iliana Vargas | Felecia Caton Garcia | Libia Brenda | Laura Anne Gilman | Mary Anne Mohanraj
Panel Writing

How necessary is the visual or descriptive charge of an image in science fiction? How much do you have to let the viewer see and when do you suggest so that the reader’s imaginative engine works by itself? How do we open dialogues with the reader or viewer so that they activate their own channels of imaginative communication?

Status

One more pass on my Joker Moon story in the morning and then I send it off to George. If all goes well, I should be able to finish Vegan Serendib this weekend — just need to write up the last recipe, then build the file with lots of photos. Matching all the photos to recipes will probably be the most time-consuming part — I knew, as I was tossing them into a folder, that I would regret it one day, and lo, that day has arrived.
 
That then opens up interesting questions for the next few weeks. Two weeks before the start of the semester, and with WorldCon travel in the middle. Afternoons will be committed to all kinds of family and school and SLF logistical stuff, but I should really still be able to keep mornings free for writing if I stick to the schedule rigidly. I have to finish drafting my other WC story, which I’m writing collaboratively and have people waiting on, which I think means I’m not going to get back to the novel before the semester starts.
 
I could make myself harried and try to do it too. Or I can just accept that it’s August 10th, and I’ve gotten as far as I’m likely to get on the novel this summer. 48,000 words, roughly. I think they’re pretty solid, and I could just keep going with plot, figure there’s another third of the book to go. But that doesn’t feel right. I think I’m actually at least 3/4 of the way through this book, and that I’ve skimmed over a lot of description and character-developing work. The plot has really been racing along at somewhat breakneck speed; I’ll be happier with the book if it’s slower paced, I think.
 
So that’s kind of exciting. That means I get to figure out what my ending is, and then work back for the last quarter, sketch it all out, and then go back to the beginning and add depth and beauty. More little moments that illuminate character. That sounds like a totally manageable thing to do during the semester, rather than floundering my way through the murky middle of a novel. Could it be?
 
Well, we’ll see. Draft by Christmas? Possibly sooner…I live in hope.
 
(As long as I don’t get distracted by other mini cookbooks. Serendib Tea Party? Tempting…)

Structure

Sometimes I feel like as much as I appreciate the potential flexibility of my communities, re: family choices, relationships, etc., we really are still struggling to evolve structures that support people. Self-help books offer some of it, and support groups (both in-person and online), but when you think about the way that the village priest / minister / etc. had a whole host of rituals designed at least in part to support people through life’s transitions, it often seems like we’re really lacking those now. Everything is ad hoc and evolving, and so often, people are left floundering, not even realizing they’re lost and sinking.

That’s all very vague. Here are a few examples that have come up in the last few year:

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BIRTHS: A few of my local casual friends have had babies recently. I really love making food for them — it’s relatively easy for me to just cook double meals for a few days, freeze the extras, and then run them over once. When you’re dealing with a new baby, especially your first, not having to think about food prep is such a help. But it’s all so random — I happen to notice them mention it on FB or whatever (and FB doesn’t show everything, etc.). If you’re part of a church community, maybe this is more structured? People set up meal schedules for new parents? But if you’re not a churchgoer, where do you get these structures? You have to ask, probably, and the last thing you have energy to do is to ask for help…

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ILLNESS: When I had cancer, people rallied around and I had tons of support, boosted in large part by my blogging about it here. And still, it was horrible and hard and two years after treatment started, Kevin and Jed and various close friends all basically said, one after another, “Hey — we were patient while you were sick and recovering, but you seem fine now, and we are feeling quite neglected.” And they *had* been neglected; there hadn’t been any structure to remind me that now that I didn’t need to be quite so inward-focused anymore, I should maybe take a little time to cultivate and foster my significant relationships again.

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MARRIAGE / SERIOUS RELATIONSHIPS: I was talking to someone recently about how there’s basically no relationship counseling outside of a religious framework, unless you seek it out yourself. If you’re young, in a Catholic setting, you want to get married, you go to Pre-Cana, where at least you talk about some of the issues that might come up. In the old days, you’d probably be having babies right away (no birth control!), so the advice would be fresh in your mind, and of course, there’d be all that social pressure to stick together and work it out. Now, it’s gotten much easier to walk away, which is good in lots of ways, obviously. But if you actually want to stay together, even through hard times, and aren’t sure how, you need to seek out the help. And there’s probably a shame component to that still. We don’t get classes on how to have healthy relationships, y’know? Maybe we should. (My kids’ sex ed classes actually had a tiny bit of that, but they could use a lot more, both before and after they actually start dating.)

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And there’s a lot more — relationships with aging parents, for example. Mid-life career crises. Coping with unexpected financial hardship, or school failures, or addiction. Exploring monogamy / polyamory / a whole host of other possibilities. Seriously considering your own gender. Race / disability / and how it impacts your life.

I don’t know what such a structure would look like, that wasn’t organized around a church. But I think we could use more of it. I think what I want is some kind of humanist organization that normalizes healthy communication and community support. I guess the Unitarians do a lot of that, but it’s still a church, at least in some sense, and that makes strong agnostic me twitchy.

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This post brought to you by lots of people asking me for advice recently, in a variety of forums, and me feeling more than a little out of my depth!

Bell Pepper and Goat Cheese Egg Bites

I can’t take credit for this recipe — I pretty much followed the instructions on the Anovo website for egg bites, using leeks instead of scallions, because I happened to have them on hand. But I’ll say that it was yum.

Very delicate, roasting the peppers — honestly, I think I’d be fine with using raw peppers in this, for more of a fresh bite. And I’d probably use a little more cheese, a bit more black pepper, for some more oomph. But the general concept, good.

Nice to take fifteen minutes on the weekend to prep, one hour in the sous vide, and then have six warm eggy breakfasts for the week to come, that you can just grab and eat with a spoon, or decant (maybe over some fresh spring greens, lightly dressed) for a slightly fancier presentation.

In general, I’m trying to do more weekend prep to make healthy meals easy during the week. Egg bites, white wine-poached chicken, grilled shrimp, etc. It’s a bit of a process, adapting, but I think it’ll make my life easier during the semester.

    

Passionfruit Lassi

(5 minutes, serves 2-4)

Some people like their lassi very sweet; some like it hardly sweetened at all. It seems like that decision is best left up to the individual cook. I don’t use any honey when I make mine

3-4 ice cubes
1 cup yogurt (or silken tofu yogurt)
1/2 c. passionfruit puree
1 T rosewater (optional)
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey (optional)

1. Combine ice, yogurt, passionfruit, rosewater, water, and blend.

3. Stop blender and taste, adding more water and/or honey if desired, until preferred consistency and flavor is reached. Enjoy!

Passionfruit Rose Cake

Rich passionfruit flavor and a hint of rose scent. This delicate cake is lovely with a very light tea. Passionfruit puree can be ordered online, or is often found in Mexican grocers, sometimes frozen. If you have are lucky enough to have actual passionfruit on hand, you can, of course, pulp and puree them yourself; strain out the hard seeds if you do.

2 c. flour
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 c. passionfruit puree
1 c. yogurt
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T rosewater
12 T butter (room temperature)
2 c. sugar
5 large eggs (room temperature)
2 egg yolks (room temperature)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a cake pan (spraying with Baker’s Joy makes this easy). You can use a bundt pan, cakelet pans, or mini cake pans.

2. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.

3. In a second bowl, combine the passionfruit puree, yogurt, vanilla extract, and rosewater if using; set aside.

4. In the bowl of a standing mixer (paddle attachment), cream the butter and sugar; add the egg yolks and eggs one at a time, pausing to scrape bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.

5. Add the flour mixture and passionfruit mixture alternately in a few additions, starting with the dry. Scrape sides and bottom again to make sure all ingredients are fully incorporated.

6. Fill the pan and bake on the middle rack for (50-55 for bundt, 25-30 minutes for cakelets, 15-20 minutes for mini cakes), or until a toothpick comes out dry when inserted in the center of a cake. (If you want them darker, which shows off the contrast and the detail more, bake a few minutes longer.)

Done and Onwards

Okay. I woke up early and finished drafting that Wild Cards story, sent it off to George. Now I have done all the baking I had planned for this week (mango-ginger shortbread and passionfruit rose cake) — anything that doesn’t get sold in the flash sale will be frozen for a party date to come (there are always parties coming, esp. as we head into political fundraiser season — I think I am helping to organize three of them now).
 
I appear to have caught a cold, sadly, probably when I took Anand to the Y to swim yesterday afternoon. SIGH. This congested head I didn’t need. On the other hand, Anand had SUCH a great time at the pool, managing to swim all the way from the deep end to the shallow end on his back (making mommy much less anxious about him in there). He was excited enough that he had trouble sleeping. When Anand took a bath before bed, he was out very quickly: “You have to admit, Mommy, it’s hard for any bath to be as exciting as today’s achievement!” Yes, yes, I will admit that.
 
I am just tired. I should turn right around and start work on another Wild Cards story, but I am hoping Melinda and my other co-writers will forgive me if I take a few hours to just sort of collapse here on this couch. I will drink tea and fortify myself. I have a phone call to make to get my ADD results, and a therapy appt. @ 1, and a fundraiser organizing phone call at 2:30.
 
Aside from that, I think I may just rest and down some cold medicine and finish catching up on Supergirl the rest of the afternoon, let Christopher pack up the sweets and mail them, and pick up the kids from camp. If I rally, maybe I’ll be able to get back to the other WC story this evening — if not, tomorrow morning, first thing, I promise.

Mango and Ginger Shortbread (take 3)

I keep messing with this recipe.  This version has the real shortbread crispiness that I love. 🙂

  Mango-Ginger Shortbread
(makes about 40 cookies)

The way the butter lingers on your tongue, the hint of salt with the sweet fruitiness of the dried mango and the slight sharpness of the crystallized ginger? Heaven. Bake a few minutes longer if you’re planning to dip them in coffee or tea.

3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 t. salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 c. dried mango, chopped fine
1/4 c. crystallized ginger, chopped fine

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and salt. Then add flour and mix on low until dough forms. Stir in mango and ginger.

3. Turn out dough onto floured board, roll into logs. Cover in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. NOTE: Can be kept chilled at this point for several days, covered in plastic wrap, and then rolled, cut, and baked fresh.

3. Remove from fridge and cut slices. Chill individual cookies again for 10 more minutes (to reduce spreading). Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet (I like the insulated ones for even baking).

4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges begin to brown, then remove to wire rack to cool. Delicious with chai!