The Mad Whirl

Feeling a little weirdly — dizzy? I don’t know. It feels like I have a LOT of books coming out right now (Perennial, Survivor, The Marshmallows of Serendib, Vegan Serendib), and more in the queue that will likely be out soon, and there were several years without books before this (The Stars Change was what, four years ago?), and it’s just dizzy-making.
 
I think I’m having imposter syndrome, like, they can’t all be good, what are you doing putting out so many books at once, go hide in your room for a decade and come out when you have a decent novel or memoir.
 
But the novel and memoir are both still in progress, and they’ll hopefully be good and finished some day, but not this month or this year even.
 
And in the meantime, it *has* been four years, and it’s sort of coincidence that everything else is ready right now, and also that I just happen to have time at the moment to finish up a variety of projects that I’ve been working on for four years. I started Survivor two years ago, after all. Perennial came out of the cancer (which also kept me from publishing much for a while). These little Serendib books came out of Feast, which I spent most of last year working on (and which I still have to hunt publishers for, speaking of finished books that should get out the door…) There’s a logic to the floodgates opening right now.
 
But still, it feels dizzying. Maybe I’ll just sit here quietly for a little while.
 
(Before the next round of mad book-production and promotion.)

The Marshmallows of Serendib Launches!

Launch day! The Marshmallows of Serendib (and yes, the name was a deliberate echo of Arthur C. Clarke’s wonderful Fountains of Paradise) is now available for purchase. $3 for a baker’s dozen of Sri Lanka-inspired marshmallow recipes, plus a vegetarian variation (suitable more for making fluff than cut marshmallows), and a little story co-authored with Anand Whyte.  (It’s on Amazon for your Kindle too!)

Thanks to Kat Tanaka Okopnik for the kitchen conversations, and to everyone who ordered and taste-tested sample marshmallows the last few months. I’m done with shipping out marshmallows now, but if you follow Kat, she’s gearing up to start shipping her own again soon, and you’ll get a generous dose of smart social justice commentary along with the foodie posts.

The tiny book ($3) is available in e-book formats (DOCX, PDF, MOBI, EPUB) now, and may be available as a paperback soon; I’m working on it. With color interior for the photographs, it’ll be a little pricey, though, so just be warned.

Table of contents at the link above, along with direct ordering from me. Enjoy!

SaveSave

PW on Survivor

GREAT review of Survivor from Publisher’s Weekly! Congrats to the authors mentioned, and to all of them, really!

“In this potent but uneven anthology, 17 authors tackle the themes of trauma and survival as interpreted through various science fiction and fantasy settings and tropes. “One thing our genre has always excelled at is offering a different lens, a startling angle of vision, a new perspective,” Mohanraj (The Stars Change) writes in her introduction. The sources of trauma are familiar, however, including physical and sexual abuse, addiction, bigotry, and grief. Standout stories include Tonya Liburd‘s “A Stitch in Time,” in which a young man uses his gift of time travel to relive moments with his deceased girlfriend only to sink into an addictive pattern, and Evey Brett’s “Fell Child,” in which a dutiful son makes sacrifices in order to save his dying father before discovering the cure isn’t worth the cost. In Erik Gern‘s “Mold,” grown children must confront the physical manifestation of their abusive father’s lingering legacy. Jes Rausch’s “The Art of Quilting” sees a nonbinary individual constantly traveling across the solar system to escape their oppressive, intolerant family. Many of the tales take literary or experimental approaches, and both prose and content will challenge the reader, but each survivor’s struggle and triumph is worth the effort.”

 

Pistachio & Rosewater Mini Scones

Delicate and fragrant, with a little nutty goodness to add to your morning or teatime. (If you don’t have a mini scone pan, you can cut and shape these by hand, and bake on a regular baking sheet, placing them quite close together.  If you pop them in the freezer for 30 minute before baking, they’ll hold shape better.)
 
2 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 c. chopped pistachios
1/2 c. dried edible rose petals
2 large eggs
1 T rosewater
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 t. lime zest
1/2 cup milk
 
Glaze:
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
6 T water
1 T lime juice (or substitute water for a plain sugar glaze)
 
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray mini scone pan with Baker’s Joy (or butter and flour pan, which will be kind of a pain).
 
2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Chop butter in small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry cutter (or with your fingers) until mixture resembles coarse meal. (It’s fine to have small lumps.) Stir in pistachios and rose petals.
 
 
3. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 5 scone ingredients, beating eggs lightly. Pour into dry mixture and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms.
 
4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Cut into 16 equal pieces and press into the cavities of the pan.
 
5. Bake 20-25 or until medium brown. Let cool 20 minutes in pan, then remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely. Serve warm, with coffee or tea.
 
6. Optional: Glaze. In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, water, and lime juice. Line a baking sheet (with sides) with parchment. Pour glaze in, then dip scones in glaze. Remove to wire rack to dry. Alternately, drizzle glaze over the top.

Midpoint

First day finally back on the novel, kids about to come back from camp, 1500 words done. That feels pretty pathetic, since it’s about 1.5 hours of actual writing + lots of procrastinating during the 6 hours they were away. But trying not to be disheartened; it will take some time to get back into the deep mindset of this book. Hopefully it’ll go faster then.
 
Taking a break to cook, hang with them, clean, etc. May try and knock out another scene this evening. Feeling summer slipping away remarkably fast — we’re at roughly the halfway point right now, but we’ll be visiting Kev’s parents for two weeks, and while I’m hoping to write through that time, I know some days will be less productive than they would be here. (Less productive of writing, more productive of family bonding, you know what I mean).
 
There’s a weird, mild panic that comes at the midpoint of summer for academics, when you’re not as far along in your research / writing as you’d hoped; Kevin and I both look at each other with this strained expression on our faces. Summer can’t last forever.
 
The students are coming.

Plot and Scene

So, completely failed to work on novel yesterday. I stressed about it all day, though, and got all kinds of other stuff done in my procrastination, so that’s something?

Went to bed early, slept long, woke refreshed. Opened up the file and skimmed the last section over (prevented from FB-ing by having set a program the night before), also the notes I made for the rest of the book. I’m about 30K words in, and I clearly have enough notes for at least a trilogy, so I think the next thing to do is actually not diving into writing, but outlining the next section or two. Time to generate some plot + scenes. Surely I remember how to do that…if I get stuck, though, I have notes from the WisCon workshop of this first third of novel, and I can start by revising to incorporate those notes. (Big problem in first 10K of book is all the characterization is weak. It gets better as you go, but I need to go back and fix the earlier stuff, when everyone is a little bit cardboard.)

Fed myself and child, went out and did half an hour of weeding before it got too hot. Came back in, checked FB (timer had gone off) and then there was some chaos getting Kavi everything she needed to take to camp with her so she wouldn’t be bored (sewing supplies for little bag project, HP book, plus a water bottle because she got dehydrated playing in the sun yesterday). Anand took his new Beyblade, which is apparently the hot thing for his friends at this camp right now. He’s also planning to make some Lego stop-motion animations.

Now Chris is running the kids to camp, and I’m going to water a couple transplanted plants I’m worried about, and then settle down to novel-ing. Turning off FB for the morning; will check back in at lunchtime, let you know how I did.

Novelicious

Okay, finished Wild Cards blog post that was overdue, sent it off to George for approval. I think I’m finally ready to dive into the novel — but I don’t wanna. It’s scary. If I don’t try, I can’t fail. It’s easier to make desserts; I have no investment in cookies, and my family will happily gobble up even my rejects. My fingers hurt.

Okay, that last one is a valid excuse to step away from the keyboard for a bit. Going to go have lunch, take a little reading break. But then, come hell or high water, I’m opening the novel file again. So say we all. Or at least me.

Vegetarian Passionfruit Marshmallow Fluff

This makes a delicious and cravable spoonable dessert (you might want to stir in some chopped fruit to grace it, or sprinkle with sliced almonds).
 
NOTE: The egg whites won’t be cooked, so you may want to use pasteurized egg whites for food safety.
 
(45 minutes + cooling time)
 
1/2 c. passionfruit puree
2 t. powdered agar-agar
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. water
3 egg whites
chopped fruit (optional)
 
1. Combine passionfruit puree and agar-agar in bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment). Stir briefly to combine.
 
2. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 12 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat.
 
3. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the agar mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.
 
4. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes. Add food coloring, if using for the whole batch, during this stage; it will be a creamy color if no additional coloring is added.
 
5. Add egg whites and beat an additional 5 minutes or so, until notably increased in volume.
 
6. Turn off mixer, remove whisk, and with a spatula, gently fold in chopped fruit if desired. Pour the mixture into a large serving dish, spreading it evenly.
 
6. Chill fluff for at least four hours, and then serve.

Vegetarian Marshmallows with Agar-Agar & Egg White

I’d deem these barely acceptable. They taste right, if a bit dense and chewy, and they toast up. The biggest problem with them is that they’re quite sticky, so a huge pain to cut up into neat squares. Your best bet with them would be to abandon neatness, chop off pieces, and then toast them up over a fire, where you don’t care so much about the neat aspect. They brown beautifully, melt in your mouth afterwards, and I’m sure would be delectable in a s’more.

NOTE: The egg whites won’t be cooked, so you may want to use pasteurized egg whites for food safety.

(45 minutes + cooling time & 15 minutes powdering time, makes 44)

2 egg whites
2 t. powdered agar-agar
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. water
powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
butter (for greasing the pan)
food coloring (optional)
chocolate chips (optional)
sprinkles (optional)

1. Separate two eggs and place egg white in bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment); add agar-agar. Stir briefly to combine.

2. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine water, granulated sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 12 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.

3. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.

4. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes. Add food coloring, if using for the whole batch, during this stage. (For bicolor marshmallows, you can pour half out, spreading flat. Then color remainder in mixer bowl and whip to mix, then pour out second half on top.)

5. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan and dust with powdered sugar (you don’t need the sugar here for gelatin marshmallows, but the agar ones are stickier). Prepare an oiled spatula.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with oiled spatula.

7. Dust the top with enough of the powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

8. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut. As you’re cutting, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. These are more perishable than gelatin marshmallows, due to the egg whites, so best used within a few days.

OPTIONAL: Dip in melted chocolate chips (melt in microwave on 50% power for a few minutes, in 30 second bursts, stirring in between); lay on wax paper and add sprinkles over the top; let dry 10-20 minutes. (In humid, warm climates, you may want to refrigerate to aid drying.)

Policy-Makers

There is something fundamentally flawed with a nation composed primarily of politicians whose own lives will not be endangered by changes in policy.

Men, making decisions on reproductive rights, whose own bodies will never experience the rigors of pregnancy. The wealthy one-percenters, making decisions about minimum wage, with no understanding of what it means to live on less than that every day. Straight people deciding who does or doesn’t get to visit their loved ones in the hospital. Cisgendered folks deciding about trans health care coverage.

I don’t know what the solution is — it also seems wrong to require that you have some skin in the game in order to advocate policy changes. I’m not disabled, but as an elected official in our strategic planning meeting on Saturday, I was talking about whether we could add a low-sensory morning at the library, to make space for those who would find it helpful. Allies are useful, I think and hope.

But I watch West Wing, and they lose a big fight about domestic violence funding, or tax breaks for college tuition, and the rich white men in the room are idealists, they’re disappointed at the loss, but then they shrug and move onto the next thing. They don’t go home and spend the next few nights trying to hold themselves together, shaking and scared about what’s coming round the bend, and how it will directly impact their daily lives.

They get to move on.