Baby, You Can Too Write a Novel!

Hey sweet’eart. Missing me? Good, I miss you, too. : )

Life’s got me hustling and bustling enough to keep my blogging fingers busy elsewheres — but I promise an update SOON.

In the meantime, click to read my guest post about life, the universe, and everything, and how You. Are. Enough.

42, y’all. BANGERANG.

Growing Up in Bowel Town: Marauders

From Ghosts of Bloggings Past:

I grew up in the German city of Darmstadt, which literally translates to “Bowel City,” which I choose to render as “Bowel Town” because it sounds funnier. My first home in Darmstadt was an apartment building at Roßdörferstraße 55 (which loosely translates to “Horse-Village Street” — I swear I am not making this up). We lived for eight years in a two-bedroom apartment on what Americans would call the third floor but Germans call the second.

The building’s first floor housed a “Konditorei,” which I guess would be a pastry shop or confectioner’s shop to those of the English-speaking persuasion. The presence of said pastry shop resulted in the most amazing scents that drifted daily up the stairwell and into all the apartments, making everyone in the building crave Butterhörnchen a whole lot more often than fortnightly, lemme tell ya.

The baker’s names was Herr Gibis, and before I started 1st grade, he took to wife a younger woman with two children. Their names were Marcus and Sylvie. Marcus was my age, and Sylvie was a year younger, and they lived with Herr and Frau Gibis in the only apartment on the first floor, behind the pastry shop.

Marcus and Sylvie and I became fast and great friends. I could tell oodles of stories of our many outside adventures, including the ones about how Marcus chased me and his sister with daddy longlegs. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

The story on my mind right now is The One Where We Got Into The Bug Spray. You see, adjacent to the back of our apartment complex and beyond a low chainlink fence brooded this squat, square, white building with a fire escape. (The fire escape figures into yet another tale, as does the chainlink fence, but again, that is neither here nor there right now.)

In this squat, square, white building lived an old woman. I suppose now that she must not have been very old at all — probably between 40 and 50 years of age — but to us children (we were now 10, 10, and 9, respectively), she seemed ancient. I only ever caught a couple of glimpses of her, and my only memory of her is long, dark hair in a bun, and shoulders wrapped in a fringed shawl. But Marcus and Sylvie must have seen her more often than I did, because they said her name was Maria and she didn’t like children.

It quite possible that Marcus and Sylvie were making this up.

Anyway, we were fascinated and terrified. Maria didn’t like children; ergo, we qualified as unlikeable. There was a chainlink fence — obviously, a barrier we were not meant to cross. Mystery, darkness, and danger lurked at this far end of the apartment complex. The lure of the squat, square, white building was irresistible.

I don’t know where Sylvie was on that fateful day, but she wasn’t with us when Marcus and I climbed over the chainlink fence, our hearts thudding wildly in our small chests, our eyes darting over our shoulders again and again in case A Parent should suddenly appear. But, undaunted by fear or threat of parental disapproval, Marcus and I scaled the fence (it was all of four feet high) and found ourselves on terra incognita: Maria’s backyard.

Eerie light filtered down through leaves overhead. An unnatural hush descended, as though even the birds were shocked into silence by our audacity. We were shocked into silence by our audacity. The air felt heavy.

The shed beckoned.

It was squat, square, and wooden, with a tin roof and all sorts of gardening implements leaning against its rickety frame. My memories progress as though I’m flipping through photographs, and the next picture shows Marcus and me, not entering the shed, but inside the shed, and Marcus is holding a sort of pressurized pump can, and we’re deep in the fantasy of marauders surrounding us, barring our escape, shouting for us to give up and come out, there’s nowhere left to run, and Marcus and I are looking at each other with huge, excited eyes, and we know that this moment is The Grandest Adventure EVER.

Meanwhile, the marauders were advancing. They were at the door. They were breaking in. We defended ourselves with the only weapons available: magic sleep-dust spray guns — what else?

Of course, when we got back to our side of the backyard universe (not having had the guts to approach the squat, square, white building proper, defeated marauders notwithstanding), the fantasy quickly broke into smithereens when The Parents smelled not magic sleep-dust on our clothes but insecticide, with which we had sprayed not only the imaginary marauders, but also each other, and generously. Because, as anyone with half a brain can tell you, magic sleep-dust magically turns into a restorative and palliative powder when used on a friend instead of against a slavering, primitive marauder.

I don’t remember what happened to Marcus, but I got a spanking and an afternoon in the bathtub, being scrubbed down with great vigor by my mother, who was not impressed.

That was our first adventure centered around Maria’s squat, square, white house…but it was not to be our last.

Away Message and EXTREME Cuteness


Hello, my loves!

As many of you already know from Twitter and/or Facebook, I was stricken with plague a few weeks back. The dire malady didn’t affect my blog, really, as I posted something right at the start of the death-warmed-over-ness and then posted another something right as Horrid Gunkdom finally capitulated. Since then, I’ve been playing catch-up, which is my favorite game, and I just lied to your face about how much I enjoy playing catch-up.

The upshot of it all is that the blog has suffered this week. I am sorry. I want this place to be more for you guys than it is for me, and this week, I’ve let you down. I apologize. Please forgive.

Please especially forgive because the Suffering of Blog must needs continue into next week. You see, starting tomorrow, I’ll be facepainting part-time at the Oklahoma State Fair. It’s only four hours per day for four days…but that’s 16 fewer hours I’ll have to work with over the next six days. Therefore, although I hope to grace Court Can Write with my presence over the next week, I can make no guarantees.

The other thing that’s currently a thing is actually two things:

(1) final edits for the first issue of “A Consortium of Worlds,” our short story e-magazine, are due next Wednesday, and

(2) Shadows after Midnight final manuscript, back cover copy, and cover art with trade dress are due next Thursday.

I am a bee of much busyness.

I will come up for air, my dear inklings. And when I do, you shall be the first to know! (Or at least second.)

Also, I shall try to finagle permission from my employer to post pictures here of my facepainting artwork. Because I know you dears love visuals. And because I love you, I shall end this post with a VEC* for you:

*Visual of Extreme Cuteness, please click to embiggen!

**Origin of this image unknown. Please help me attribute, if possible! Thank you. : )

German Rye Bread Recipe

If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, you really should), you already know that yesterday was Bread-Baking Day.

I started baking my own bread about 3 years ago, when a two-fold realization struck me whap upside the noggin:

1. If I wanted to find good, dense, whole grain, healthy bread (read: not pasty-white-Wonderbread-ish-white-flour smooshiness), I was going to have to buy it at some kind of special bakery or something.

2. Buying bread at some kind of special bakery or something is expensive.

Thus: Woman, get thee to thy kitchen and start thee thy baking!

I’m not sure where I discovered the following recipe, so my apologies to the original baker for not attributing it here. But the fabulous and heart-warming Jennifer Bones (@JennyBBones) was so enthused about the breadal yumminess I posted on Twitter yesterday, I emailed her the recipe just a short while ago. And since I’d already typed it up, I thought ’twas a lovely opportunity to share it here, as well!

So, without further ado or adon’t, I give you:

German Rye Bread

INGREDIENTS

STEP ONE
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110-115ºF)
2 cups whole wheat or rye flour (I use rye.)

STEP TWO
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp sesame seeds (I will often add an additional 3 tbsp sunflower seeds or poppy seeds or nuts or all of the preceeding.)
2 tsp salt
5 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups warm water (110-115ºF)

1 egg

DIRECTIONS

STEP ONE
In a 4-quart (or 4-liter) bowl, dissolve yeast in 2 cups warm water. Whisk in 2 cups rye/wheat flour until smooth. Cover loosely with clean dishcloth and let stand in warm place for 4 hours or until dough falls about 1 inch and surface bubble activity lessens. (I pretty much go the 4 hours and call it done.) ; )

STEP TWO
Stir sugar, seeds, salt, 5 cups flour, and 2 cups warm water into prepared dough. Mix well. Add flour as needed to form a firm dough. Knead on floured surface for about 8 minutes (–> smooth, elastic consistency). Cover and let rest 15 minutes.

STEP THREE
Divide dough into 2 or 4 portions. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. (I just divide it in half.)

STEP FOUR
Shape portions into loaves. Grease two baking sheets with extra virgin olive oil; sprinkle each with corn meal. Place loaves on sheets. Cover and let rise 40-45 minutes. (I use two medium-sized loaf pans.)

STEP FIVE
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Brush loaves with lightly beaten egg. Sprinkle each loaf with more seeds (I use poppy, sesame, or sunflower.) Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating pans after 15 minutes or until browned. Cool on wire racks.

Store or refrigerate bread in airtight containers for 5-7 days or in airtight bags in freezer.

Makes spiffy sandwiches and tastes especially yummy warm with butter, cinnamon, and sweetness (I use Truvia.).

But I’m a Novelist — Why Write Short Stories?

Short stories? Really?

G’day, inklings! It’s a beautiful day in the Oklahoma City neighborhood! Remember that horrid heat dome thing I recently vented about? IT’S GONE. As I type this, it’s 11:29 a.m. and 72ºF. My windows are open, and my a/c is off. CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH?!?

But I’m not here to talk about the weather, much as I am in it rejoicing. Today, my lovelies, we’re back to short stories. My recent post Get Shorty elicited the following comment from reader Heather:

I am still terribly confused about the purpose of a short story. Why on earth would we want our stories to be short (unless, of course, they are children’s bedtime stories and then they cannot seem to be short enough for my tastes!).

As I pondered Heather’s question and posted my reply, I realized that others might have the same question and that it was worthy of its own blog post. Why write short stories? What’s the point of creating a world and then only spending a few pages in it? And as I pondered, I also realized that I’ve done a 180 on the subject since last I gave it thought. Oy vey!

So, in case you missed it, here are my thoughts on:

Why Short Stories?

1. I’ve always enjoyed long fiction far more than short. If I’m going to make an emotional commitment to a piece of fiction, I want a full return on my investment! It always seemed like short fiction couldn’t compensate me enough.

But since I’ve started writing my own short stories and reading others’ and reading what others have to say about short fiction, I’ve discovered that some readers feel the exact opposite about short stories. They want the short fiction, because it lets them know if they’re going to like a particular author or not. They can commit a short amount of time to a short piece. If they like it, they’ll invest more time in a longer work. But if they don’t like it, they haven’t lost a lot of time, and they can move on to something else.

In this article, Charlie Jane Anders writes,

You start every story with a certain amount of capital, and that capital is your readers’ attention span. You need to spend that capital wisely.

This rule of thumb applies well to short stories. Short story readers donate only a certain amount of capital. But if we spend it wisely, we can get them to donate more — and it’ll be enough to buy an entire novel.

2. Writing short stories hones our craft. I’ve only recently started realizing this. In a short story, I’ve got a very limited amount of word-space in which to establish character, develop character, develop plot, and transition from scene to sequel to climax to denouement. Since I can’t take my good ol’ easy time about it, I’m more focused on choosing the right words and on cutting unnecessary material.

It’s kind of like blogging vs. Twittering. On my blog, I can expound at length. On Twitter, I’ve got 140 characters with which to say something meaningful. Each tweet must be lean and to the point. The same, I find, applies to short stories: They’re lean and to the point, because they can’t afford not to be.

So, as I learn to fine-tune my short stories, I’m also fine-tuning my skills as a novelist.

3. ________________________________________.

Readers and writers, this one’s for you! Fill in the blank: What benefit do you see in writing short stories?

Or, if you disagree with me on the merits of penning short fiction, you can use #3 to hold forth on that, as well. ; )