Bittersweet chocolate, pistachio, sultana, and rose

One more floral bark for the road; now that the roses have started blooming, expect ALL the rose recipes — Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate, pistachio, sultanas, and rose. Luscious, with the slight bitterness of the chocolate balancing the sweetness of the sultanas, and that salty pistachio nuttiness….mmm…

When you’re trying to put the pieces of bark in a container for freezing (for a party to come), and you find that you keep surreptitiously eating them (they’re just *little* bits, not worth packing up, right?), you know it’s good.

Woke up too early

Woke up too early due to child who couldn’t sleep and climbed into bed with me at 4 a.m. (and immediately conked out), sigh, but managed to start being productive eventually despite grogginess. Still feeling reasonably good, in large part because I got some nice news yesterday that I can’t discuss yet (soon), and I also found a compliment about my writing in my FB messages (someone who was listening to one of the new SF stories (at Escape Pod or Lightspeed), and who really liked it; they hadn’t read any of my fiction before). Happy happy.

So far this morning I’ve processed a bunch of backlogged FB messages (many more to go, sigh — one goal for the summer is to get through all my e-mail and message backlog so I can then hand it over to Heather to do first pass on going forward, as I clearly get more more mail than I can keep up with on my own during the school year), worked on Maram logo design (oh, it’s so easy to fall down a rabbit hole of logo design articles!), and started two loaves of banana bread baking, both for the 9 a.m. Maram planning meeting, and for the children to delight in.

Nice buzz of productivity, so I can’t really regret the lost sleep — though I’m sure I’ll be feeling it by evening. For now, coffee is powering me through. More e-mail processing next, and then turning to the Maram website for an hour. Later today, actual writing work from 10 – 3, on Sigiriya — I meant to do it last week, but didn’t get to it, sigh. I need to flesh out nine characters, ideally writing brief background scenes for all of them. That’s probably about ten hours of work, but if I can get half of it done today, I’ll be very pleased. We’ll see.

I also had what might be a brilliant idea for my own Jump Space universe — intercutting one story-in-progress, “Thin Air,” with the rest of the published short stories, plus a few more unpublished; I think that actually might be surprisingly close to a book already. They are very tightly linked, thematically, a collection of pieces that explore an emerging interstellar war from various ordinary peoples’ perspectives. Interlinked stories seems to be my primary mode; it’s how I see the world. Or the universe.

I need to check with Cecilia Tan at Circlet on whether they’d be interested in publishing it (since they did The Stars Change), but it’s probably not going to be erotic in tone, so it’s somewhat outside their wheelhouse. So if not them, then I’ll be thinking about whether to ask Russ to try to sell it (this kind of interlinked story project is a hard sell for commercial presses), or whether to approach some smaller press like Liz Gorinsky’s Erewhon or Small Beer or Tachyon or Aqueduct….hmm. Well, write it first, Mary Anne. Sell later.

If I get a break, I may work on my own logo design — I need a Serendib Press logo for the cookbooks, and while I could hire someone, I think I want to at least take a stab at it myself. I actually kind of want to do a set of logos:

– Serendib Press (I had a little tea leaf logo I did aeons ago, but need to add the words, and also possibly rethink it entirely — and gah, somehow it’s coming up as an animated GIF in this post and I can’t seem to edit it out to a plain image, sorry.)

– Serendib Kitchen (cookbooks and cooking blog)

– Serendib Garden (there isn’t really a Serendib Garden ‘thing’ yet, but there could be….? A separate piece of the site for the garden photos and notes and handmade art and Spoonflower designs (which tend to be garden-y), plus promotion of Perennial, perhaps?)

– Serendib Tours? (I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to call it; the Sri Lanka writing retreat and/or food tour…? Serendib Retreat? Not sure which is clearer…)

Putzing around with art stuff for a while sounds like a nice break from endless e-mails!

Teaching emotional labor

Oof. Anand got out of the car after we ran a much-needed errand at Old Navy (swimsuit that fit, etc.) and said, ‘This has been a terrible day.’ I had spent quite a bit of energy and time today trying to give him a great no-camp day, and was staring down the barrel of 2-3 hours of additional work this evening before I could go to bed, so I’m afraid I snapped at him.

Then we snapped at each other a few more times — Anand is not one to back down just because a grown-up is annoyed with him — and then I told Kavi to take him upstairs and take care of him until bedtime and put him to bed, because I didn’t trust myself not to start yelling. Then I did some work for half an hour, until I was calmer, and then I went up to try to sort things out, and he was still pretty mad, but we managed to talk through it eventually, and we both ended up crying for a while, while Kavi kept patting us both consolingly, and encouraging us to hug.

It’s all fine — the only thing really wrong is that we were both a bit overtired and cranky after a little more exercise than we’re used to, and Anand happened to poke at a sore spot.

Part two was kind of interesting, though. There may have been some frustrated complaining on my part about how little they help out with work around the house. Kavi responded, with a faint hint of indignation, that they always help when asked, which is pretty true. (But if you have followed various conversations here and elsewhere about emotional labor, domestic labor, project management, etc., you may see where this is going.)

I may have said, forcefully, that they were old enough now to take on household responsibilities even when not asked — that they should be able to just handle the dishes after dinner now as a default, and also taking out the trash, and keeping their clothes put away and their rooms clean. And that they should ALSO look around and see what needs doing, and if they could do it, just do it. And that Daddy and I both worked very very hard, and had very little time for fun, and it’d be nice if we had a little more time for fun, especially in the summer, when Kavi and Anand have 14 unscheduled hours a day.

Kavi then bustled around doing chores for the next half hour, and seems resolved to do more of them, and Anand has forgiven me too, and is even going to try to grumble less at me (grumbling is sort of his natural mode) — so perhaps this was all for the best. It’ll be interesting to see if the newfound chore-doing resolution holds. We should try to reinforce it, gently.

But probably I should’ve talked to them more about all this BEFORE bursting into tears. Mommy is generally fairly patient and very rational and I think that can be a little misleading sometimes; the kids don’t generally know when I’m getting really frayed. Must try to communicate that better, at least.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I happened to watch this earlier today. The first half I basically already knew, and I think Kev and I do okay on, but the second half is mostly about the importance of chores, and why, and the why is interesting and clearly stuck in my head.

Work while supervising kids at home over summer

Hm. So far, the ‘work while supervising kids at home over summer and denying them internet’ is only somewhat effective. Yesterday I got a fair bit done, when it was just them. We didn’t make it to the library, because I wasn’t sure Anand was up to that long a walk, but we did do park and walk on Marion and getting ice cream for first day of summer, and they were off devices for about 8 hours, and both fell asleep hard and fast at 9:30, so I think I can call that a success.

Today, they have three friends over, which has necessitated some conversations at the park about appropriate treatment of younger kids, etc., and also some time prepping lunch for them.

Also, the internet at the park is not great, and we ended up spending two hours there — I should’ve just brought a book or planned to write, rather than trying to do net-based work. It’s okay — I’ll get the hang of this. It’s a learning process. Overall, my kids are having a much better time with friends over than just on their own, I think, so I’m hoping we can do this at least two days / week.

Next, have them clean up lunch, then two of the kids head home, and I take three kids to the pool for the afternoon. I think Rehm — hoping I can set up a laptop under an umbrella’d table and work for a few hours? Locals, is that feasible, or am I fooling myself? Is Ridgeland better for that?

A lesson in publishing

In the interests of documenting the setbacks as well as the successes, we had a rough time with the cookbook last week. It was honestly pretty upsetting, and mostly my own fault, I think. I had one sleepless night, and a few very awkward conversations that I had to push myself to actually have (I wish I were less conflict-averse).

What happened was that I’d hired someone to do interior layout for the books, but he’d thought I was just hiring a formatter. Once we started working, and the e-mails started going back and forth, there was a lot of my wanting him to do things that he said would be too hard or too time-consuming, beyond the scope of what he did.

I did actually say in our original e-mail exchange that I wanted someone who could do beautiful design, rather than just someone who would run the file through a conversion program like Vellum (which I’ve done myself), but apparently something got lost in translation.

The short version is that we managed to get books formatted sufficiently that we could, in a bit of a mad rush, get rather ugly ARCs out to the book reviewers that we’d set up a blog tour with for late June. It hurt my soul to send those books out, but hopefully the reviewers will focus on the writing and recipes and not the aesthetics of the book.

What does that mean for now? Well, he and I have parted ways, and I’m out $1500 — which, once I looked around more thoroughly, I realized really wasn’t near enough for professional interior design for three versions of the book. If I’d done more research, I would’ve known that his bid was much too low, and I might’ve asked more questions about what exactly he was planning to do.

I am trying to treat all of this as a lesson in publishing, and thinking that if I’d paid $1500 for a course in how-to-publish and what-not-to-do, that would’ve been not unreasonable. Still. Ouch. I’ve now contracted with someone else (my cover designer, whose work I love) to do the actual design for the print books, at fair market rates, and have just sent him the files.

So that’s going to eat up…well, probably all of the immediate Kickstarter ‘profits,’ plus maybe a bit more, which is a bit painful. But I can still afford to do a print run for the hardcover, which gives me hope of some profit down the line, if more people actually buy the book.

Probably not a print run for the paperback (just POD), but I wasn’t sure I was going to do that anyway, because at least for the Kickstarter, a lot more folks were interested in the hardcover with its lovely color photos. Which kind of surprised me, given the higher cost of the hardcover, but I guess most budget-minded folks get the ebook, and the ones who go for print are more likely to be willing to spend a bit more for a beautiful object.

Anyway, live and learn. Now I go look at Pamudu Tennakoon‘s lovely pen and ink illustrations, and let her know if I have any revision requests, and then have her upload them to Google Drive to share with my designers.

Oh, and for the ebook, Jed is going to take a stab at the design and layout, which is very kind of him; he says he’s thinking of it as good practice for his own burgeoning Constellation Press, rather than just a favor for me. I’ll take it either way, gratefully.

If it ends up too time-consuming for him, though, I’ll either do it myself — I think I have the basic skills for what I want — or hire someone else. Whew.

I’ve slipped the delivery deadline a bit, as a result of all this — I had originally hoped to have books by mid-June, but that’s clearly not happening. Aiming for July 1 now; we’ll see.

Publishing beautiful, professional books is expensive.

And not easy!

I have a host of things to do, but a purring cat has come

I have a host of things to do, some of which require getting up and going, but a purring cat has come and nestled up to my back on the couch, which is slowing me down a bit. 

Plan for today:


– put Maram June workshop flyers by front door, for team to pick up and distribute, hopefully? — DONE

– drop off check and artwork to Pam Martinez for Maram teaching

– come back and post remainder of Maram May photos, so Heather can copy them all over to the website today as blog posts; she can then starting going back through my FB posts and copying over older Maram posts (resetting the dates, so they actually appear in chronological order on the website)

– update the website so instructor, etc. info is clearer — I think we could use a form there, to make it simple for instructors, and I don’t know how to do that — I think you can embed a Google form in a WordPress site, but is it hard? Help??? (Barbara A. Dolan?)

– talk to Pam W. re: space hunt

– talk to Rhea at Community Foundation re: stock account


– call plumber re: (list of things)
– call Pam Whitehead re: (list of things)
– talk to landscape guy re: drip system (worthwhile? unclear)
– call Loyola and schedule ob-gyn
– call dentist for Anand

SIGIRIYA: — (hey look, actual writing!!! I am excite.)

– finish drafting background characters for video game
– start drafting expanded pitch for Serial Box
– look at pitch requirements for Choice of Games


– try to finalize e-book formatting

Sugared Violets

Hm. This batch of sugared violets did not work great. I picked a bunch of lawn violets — all I had, which wasn’t very many. And then I tried the dip in sugar syrup, put on wax paper, sprinkle with caster sugar method of sugaring them.

The problem is that the clump up as soon as they get wet, and then all the pretty definition is lost. Maybe you could separate it with tweezers, but I think they’d likely tear badly if you tried? I didn’t have the patience for it. So I have clumpy sugared violets — I have one idea for a recipe that they’ll probably work okay in, but it wasn’t what I intended. Bah.

The other method is more time-consuming, and involves using a paint brush to brush them with egg wash and they sprinkling sugar on them — I think that would likely work better to maintain the flower’s appearance. Next time I have violets, I guess I’ll try that — but I’m all out now, so I suppose it will have to wait ’til next year.

Redbud & Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Fairy food! I had a redbud for a few years, but I didn’t realize the flowers were edible. Once someone told me they were, I had to try experimenting. (We’ve kept our garden pesticide-free for ten years now, which makes it much easier to eat out of it!)

To be honest, I find that the flowers, like most, have almost no flavor — if I eat them on their own, I can taste a very faint sweetness, slightly nutty. But put them in a cucumber sandwich, and you have a teatime treat to brighten any fairy’s heart!

My daughter was a little suspicious — ‘flowers aren’t for eating!’ But I convinced her to try, and she admitted that the cucumber sandwiches were quite yummy. Of course, I think she mostly likes the butter…

I really really want the semester to be done

I really really want the semester to be done and all my urgent computer things to be done so I can switch into summer mode and actually start writing fiction again and reading and gardening and napping, but the urgent computer things aren’t done yet and it’s kind of putting me in a terrible mood.

The semester really isn’t over yet (not for another week), but I WANT it to be. (I did spend 20 minutes sitting on the porch reading yesterday. That was nice.)

I managed to spend a few hours working on the Kickstarter survey with Heather yesterday, but otherwise couldn’t make myself do much of anything on the computer — I spent the rest of the day putting the first floor of the house in order (sorely needed) and running errands to Home Depot and Target. Today, although there is still plenty more to organize upstairs, I have GOT to make myself do computer work.

So, a list. It’s a stupidly long list, but is for the whole week, not just today.


– send formatter Chris the revised manuscript
– fill out ReaderCon panel form
– fill out WorldCon form, if there is one?
– do overdue Digital Measures for university
– pay Jaggery authors who need checks mailed
– pay parking ticket and any other bills
– check to make sure all the students handed in everything final that was due yesterday & send query e-mails to those who didn’t
– confirm all set for Nebulas trip to L.A. next week (get sari blouse made? see if Lisette is available to meet up?)
– prep for Maram meeting tonight
– pay Maram instructors once Amanda gets me final numbers
– check and confirm that all Maram instructors were paid for last workshop

– get a few volunteers to look at draft of Kickstarter survey and tell us if all the questions make sense
– make and print recipe cards
– decide if making promo items for Perennial / The Stars Change
– check e-mail for any Feast-related promo tasks

– send George second pitch
– send Marco expanded pitch
– revise opening to Nalvarum and send to WisCon crit group
– post remaining Sri Lanka pics (almost done)
– write second Sri Lanka history piece

– plant azalea, pear tree, cherry tree, dogwood
– plant pale blue creeping phlox and pink forget-me-not
– identify and plant remaining natives
– clean up backyard
– weed and mulch garden (Chris)

– prep for Yudhanjaya Wijeratne arriving Wed @ 2 (see if Alec Nevala-Lee, Michael Moreci will be joining us for Deep Dish — if not, maybe we can do a SF writers meet-up in Oak Park sometime in next few days?)

– prep for hosting writing workshop on Wednesday evening
– prep for hosting Deep Dish on Thursday evening
– prep for hosting OPALGA potluck on Friday evening
– prep for hosting Sri Lankan potluck on Saturday afternoon

– put away laundry
– straighten up second floor
– transfer all my car stuff from one car to the other
– take Kia in for estimate and repairs (Chris)
– get Kia cleaned

– grade final portfolios and papers (by next Tuesday)

Retake photography

Yesterday was a mad rush to finish off the retake photography on the cookbook — I think it is actually done, finally. I have all the photos I need. 4 days left on the Kickstarter, and we broke $13,000 this morning. Neat.

We left the kitchen an absolute disaster and simply walked out the door so we could hit the road earlier and not do night driving, which stresses me out these days. Old eyes get tired.

We’ve taken us and the kids off to a friend’s lake house in Indiana for no good reason, really — it’s too chilly this weekend to do much lake stuff. But Kev and I have just been working so hard, and I miss the kids, and I thought it might do us good to have a little time away, just in a different space. Also, I wanted to check this place out, and see if we might want to come back for a longer stretch this summer, maybe a week or so.

Anyway, Kev and I still have way too much work to do; we should really work straight through the weekend. But maybe we can do 8 hour days instead of 16 hours days; that would be a nice change.

I let myself sleep in this morning, until 9 a.m., when Anand pitifully came and asked if he could have some breakfast please, and Kev’s actually still in bed, which I think he really needed. The union bargaining ate up an incredible amount of time; it is not easy fighting the forces of neoliberalism. My hero.

Now I will finish assigning the photos, write up the salmon curry recipe that I’m adding, do one last compulsive check of the text, and then…send it off? Eep.

After that, I need to pay some people, and I need to write some things, but I’m also going to chill out with the kids. Make art. Knit a little. Watch TV. Play board games. Dream of mango mimosas on the beach in Sri Lanka…