Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Happy Halloween!!

I wasn't around in the blogosphere last year at Halloween, so this is my first official Halloween post! I love Halloween. The sad state of my undecorated house may not show it but I do. Not the trick-or-treating, strangers ringing my doorbell half the night thing, but I love creepy stuff, scary stories, watching horror movies (the 70s ones that are actually scary), scaring the shit out of myself looking at ghost photos in the middle of the night...seeing a pattern??

Some of my favorite stories have come from the internet, and short stories I read as a kid, like The Scary Stories Treasury by Alvin Schwartz.This Buzzfeed post kept me up for days, but I love it. It's a problem.

I suppose now is the appropriate time to mention that my house is haunted. Drawers close on their own, someone knocks on the bathroom door, I see things in the corner of my eye and get creepy feelings of being watched. The first time anything happened was about a month after we moved in, our old tube TV turned off by itself. We thought nothing of it, as the TV was pretty old. But that was only the beginning.

Max was just over a year old and one day toddled into the kitchen, laughed heartily for no apparent reason, then ran back into his bedroom like someone was playfully chasing him. Then the kitchen light turned on by itself. My reaction was to immediately purchase a ticket on this:

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The Nope Train to FuckThisShitVille.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coffee & Tea, Part Deux

I already talked about my hopeless, I'm-not-fixing-this-for-love-or-money addiction to caffeine in another post. Well, the addiction is still on, and I've been trying new things. I also recently acquired a second, larger, redder Le Creuset tea kettle from a thrift store my mom and I popped into while we were on a weekend trip. $20 and the thing looks like it's only been used a handful of times.

I like my tea strong, slightly sweet, no milk please. Or iced, sweet. Shaken, not stirred. No, that's something else...

Tea Verdicts:

PG Tips, still my fave. Great big boxes for the price so it lasts me more than a few days. Available on Amazon in counts up to 1150 O_o. Don't think I need to order that much at a time, but you never know.

Twinings Irish Breakfast - if this isn't the tea that can wake your ass up nothing will. Strong and tannin-rich, dries up your taste buds with one swig. Very close second favorite.

Earl Grey....*sigh* I normally drink Twinings, which isn't strong on the bergamot flavor, but I decided to order some from Adagio, a place I'd never ordered from before. I probably never will again. Because I am a moron I ordered a full POUND of loose leaf Earl Grey. My house smelled like a English earl's bergamot-perfumed butthole for TWO DAYS after opening the bag and brewing one cup. The smell of the tea was so strong I felt sick to my stomach and had to get the tea out of the house ASAP. I couldn't have stood the smell long enough to let some of it dissipate in order to drink it. Sadness.

Lapsang Souchong is black tea dried over fire, so it develops a smoky smell and flavor. As far as I'm concerned it can suck a bag of....never mind. It smelled like an ashtray and tasted so much like campfire smoke I didn't even get through a cup. I also ordered this from Adagio and tried it at three different times, including three whole months after I got it, after leaving it out in the open the whole time and still couldn't down it.

Coffee Verdicts:

Mystic Monk Fair Trade Organic Ethiopian starts out okay. Not great but okay. It's more acidic than I like, a little astringent (I've never used that word to describe coffee before). Meh. I don't get all the hype about Ethiopian coffees.

However, their Midnight Vigils blend gets the seal of approval. They wouldn't approve of my language, but it's a tasty cup of wake the fuck up! (BTW, those aren't affiliate links, I get nothing if you hop on over to Mystic Monk and buy right from them. So go already!)

Starbucks Willow and Veranda Blends are the best light-roast coffees I've ever had. They're kind of sweet and fruity and not too strong.

And now for something super-fun: cocktails!

I'm not a drinker, really. One and done, that's usually the way I operate. But I'm not a teetotaler, either. My Irish blood perks up just talking about a good drink, especially when I've already talked about tea today.

Old Fashioned Iced Tea

Tea-Infused Bourbon
The bourbon doesn't have to be anything spendy but it should be one you can drink neat. I like Early Times.
1 cup (8 oz.) bourbon
2 tbsp. loose leaf black tea
Stir the bourbon and tea together in a jar, then seal it and set aside to steep for at least two hours. Filter out the tea leaves and store bourbon in a sealed jar.

Cocktail Recipe
1/2 tsp. superfine sugar
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz. tea-infused bourbon
7-Up (sweet) or Squirt (sour)

Put the sugar in an old-fashioned glass and add bitters. Add the infused bourbon and stir until sugar dissolves. Add enough soda to almost fill the glass, then ice to top the glass off. Stir to chill, garnish if desired, and serve.

Garnish ideas: maraschino cherry, pineapple chunk, or orange wedge for the sweets; olives or a lemon twist for the sours.

Warm Fuzzy
2 oz. Buttershots butterscotch liqueur
1 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur
1 oz. Kahlua coffee liqueur
4 oz. hot strong coffee

Stir liqueurs in a coffee mug and top the mug off with coffee. Substitute hot chocolate if you're a weenie. Garnish with whipped cream.

See you Tuesday!
-S

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review in Short - The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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Grade: D

*sigh* If I had a nickel for every time someone recommended this book to me over the last few years...I would have many nickels. Many. Nickels.

Friday, October 10, 2014

'Snowbound' is a Featured Book on Butterfly on a Broomstick!!

Linze Brandon is hosting debut novels on her blog, Butterfly on a Broomstick, all this month, and she chose 'Snowbound' as a Feature Novel today!! Head on over there to check out an excerpt and info about yours truly!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Writing Tips: Writer's Block

Writer's block is the bane of any writer's existence. It drove me particularly nuts while writing 'Snowbound' when I had a scene written that I needed to get to, but my characters weren't quite ready. They didn't know a damn thing about each other yet, and though there was chemistry between them, chemistry wasn't going to be enough. I was stuck. I looked like this a lot, basically:
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Source: FOX via giphy.com
Sometimes with writer's block you just have to let it go for awhile, but when you have ideas for the story that are further down the road than the scene you're writing that can be hard. Usually, I crank up the music and just sit with my eyes closed imagining different scenarios. It usually goes between "what would happen if" or "what would definitely not happen if" type stuff. I'll also fire off a scene in a separate file to see if it flows alright and if it does, I go with it.


Ideas for scenes come to me very disjointed, a piece at a time, out of order. I had a beginning and two different endings written but only a few scenes for the middle. The meat of the story was missing and there was a long time when I didn't think I would be able to stretch the story to a full week. I thought, at most, I would get five days and I just didn't think that would be enough time to create a believable story like I needed to for Liam and River. The idea for Snowbound started in my head when I was only 15 or 16, so I had waited a long time to give them their story, and wanted to do it justice.

I used the game '20 Questions' in a scene in 'Snowbound' to force some development both for me and my characters. It's a game kids play but if you're trying to get to know someone, there's really no quicker way. For some reason this game lowers inhibitions quickly and questions that start out perfectly innocent turn R-rated in a hurry. The rules are simple: ask a question, the other person answers, reverse, repeat. I thought "How would this game go between the two of them?" So I riffed on it in a separate file and loved what came out of it. I did something silly just to keep the juices flowing and wound up keeping it in the book.

It's funny how that works out sometimes.

What do you do when you're stuck on something, grinding and grinding but can't get it figured out?

See you next week! 

-S