Friday, July 31, 2009

Writing The End

I'm on the last part of the book I started last week and I can't force myself to finish the end. It's not because it isn't worked out. In fact, I have it all worked out. I know exactly what the characters are going to say and do. I know how it ends. This is always so hard for me to write, because it is much like reading the last chapter of a murder mystery, knowing "whodunnit" and not caring about reading it because there are no surprises.

Often when I'm in one of my writing blitzes (like this past week where I have written over fifty thousand (50,000) words in nine (9) days) I sometimes don't know where my characters are going to take me. It's an adventure. As the words spill across the screen (I write almost exclusively on the computer) it is like I am reading someone else's work. It's intriguing. But as I get towards the end I start thinking about where my characters need to go to "have closure."

Early this morning I was lazing in bed enjoying the tremendous pounding of the rain on my roof and the distant rumble of thunder. I started thinking about this book that is so close to being finished. I had an idea where I was going with my story, but I wasn't quite sure how I was going to get there exactly. And then it all worked out. All the characters were strategically placed around the board and I had the conclusion in check mate. And I can't force the queen to take the king.

I have baked biscuits (see previous post), checked my e-mail (several times), visited almost all my boards on Ravelry (my name is knitcookwrite there as well), looked through some knitting patterns, ate biscuits, talked to my friend Susan on the phone for nearly an hour about everything from the Cars for Clunkers program to Mexican food, and taken a shower. Oh and written another blog post. So I'm taking myself out of the house and going to the bookstore with my Moleskin Notebook and refusing to come home until I have written it out.

I'm taking a knitting project to. This is going to be a long day.

Free-Range Top Knitter

A few months ago I had the privilege of meeting Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, also known as The Yarn Harlot. For those of you not familiar with her work, she writes books about knitting. Not pattern books, not books on spinning or construction of wool products, but books about knitting. Essays about her trials, tribulations, insights and joys when it comes to manipulating string with two sticks to make something wearable, useful or artful. She spoke at a nearby independent bookstore to promote her newest book Free Range Knitter. Sometimes reading her stories is just a little to real. Chapter four has got to be my favorite from this book. It is entitled Left-Leaning Decreases: Stories about Women, Politics, Knitters and Looking at Things in a Different Way. My whole life is like looking at things in a different way. So if you are looking for a book about knitting to take your mind away from consider picking up one of her lovely little books.

More exciting than actually getting my copy of Free-Range Knitter autographed (as well as one from my visiting sock monkey, but that's another story) is that I got to listen to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee talk about what it is like to work one's way through the publishing world and society's view of authors of non-standard genre. When you think about it, her niche is very small. She writes books about knitting. So for those that don't knit these books probably don't make much sense. For those who aren't interested in looking at knitting with with, wisdom, and the continual FGO's that go with knitting her books will probably be seen as juvenile or a waste of time. But for those of us who understand knitting and how it reflects life, living and life's little lessons in ways that we can relate.

So in cooking news, I am attempting the fearful. As I mentioned earlier I can't bake biscuits. In fact there was a rumor going around at one time that the Detroit Red Wings were considering contracting with me for hockey pucks. This morning, armed with my newest digital scale and my copy of Ratio, I set to make a batch of biscuits. They aren't bad. They still aren't my grandmother's light and fluffy biscuits, so I'll keep trying. For this batch I used 9 oz flour, 3 oz. butter and 6 oz buttermilk. The recipe actually called for just milk, but I only had enough for a bowl of cereal and if someone woke up and wanted cereal and milk they could still have some. My grandmother always used buttermilk, so that's what I used, but then my grandmother also would oscillate between shortening and lard for the fat. I may try shortening next time rather than the butter and maybe add in a bit more baking powder. They were a tad thick. But at least they were edible.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Books on Words

It is my opinion (and not a very humble one at that) that writers who don't love words truly don't love writing. Why without words there would be no writing. And to use the same tired words again and again, over and over, day in and day out, ad nauseum (I'll stop with the idioms now) is just boring. I liken it to working in a factory and seeing the same product run through on an assembly line. That is one of the wonderful things about the English language. We have lots of words that mean essentially the same thing. There are volumes of thesauri, tomes of dictionaries and countless treatises on the words in the English language. Every writer should have a well worn thesaurus, a tattered dictionary and an atlas whose pages are nearly falling out on their bookshelves. (Why an atlas? Do you know how many delicious words are in atlases?)

I found two new (to me) books while at the library this week that I want to share. The first is called What in the Word?: Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers to your Peskiest Questions about Language by Charles Harrington Elster (now if that isn't a name that sounds like a wordographer!). This is truly a fun little read. It isn't dry or dull as one would initially expect from a book about words, There are quizzes, fun ways to remember commonly misused words (they're, their, there) and delightful lists of idioms. One of my favorite little things from this book was a discussion on the phrase déjà lu (and no I won't tell you what it means!)

The other treat I picked up is called How We Talk: American Regional English Today by Allan Metcalf. I've had the unique opportunity to travel the world. I've been to Japan, Europe and all around the the continental United States. (I've been to some of the interior of the US, but prefer to live in areas that are near tremendous bodies of water.) One of the advantages in this is that I don't presume that everyone talks like I do (or the people around me as most people assume that I am from somewhere in the Midwest rather than the deep south - except when I say y'all.) One of the disadvantages is that I never can remember how words are delivered and received where. For instance when talking about carbonated beverages. I never can remember if in the Pacific Northwest we would say soda or pop. I'm thinking it was soda, but that may have been New York or perhaps it was southern California. I know here in the south we say coke as a generic word for any carbonated beverage. First you ask your guest, "Would you like a coke?" They respond in the affirmative. So then you need to clarify, "What would you like?" The answer could be anything from Sprite to Dr. Pepper or even Pepsi. This book is broken up into regions, taking into account that within that region are sub-regions. For instance under "The North" one can choose from New England, New York City and the Mid-Atlantic, and The inland North. There are also sections on American Ethnic, In the Movies and Dialects 2100.

I'd love to know of your favorite books on words.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


There is nothing more wonderful for a book person who cooks than a book about cooking (not necessarily a cookbook/recipe book.) I was listening to NPR the other day (Sunday's ATC episode) and they were interviewing Michael Ruhlman about his new book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. It sounded interesting so I went and picked a copy up from my local bookstore. I was captivated by the first sentence that I read (which was not the first sentence in the book, actually.) What caught me was from the section on Pâte à choux. It read: "Pâte à choux is one of the coolest flour-and-water preparations in the kitchen." After hearing the author talk I could hear him actually reading passages to me. (I love when I know the author's voice, it means I don't have to read everything like Alan Rickman playing Col. Brandon. Not that that's a bad thing.)

I am not a recipe cook. I rarely use recipes, especially the second time around. It was the way I was taught to cook by my grandmother. She didn't even use a recipe when she made jelly or pickles. Her forte was her biscuits. She just knew how to cook and how much baking powder to use to how much flour. If more company was coming she'd just made more. (I suck at making biscuits. It's the one food that I truly can't make. My family groans when I say, "I feel like biscuits." They'll beg me to not try it again and just get in the car and go to Cracker Barrel.) So I'm intrigued by this book as it actually has an entire chapter (OK, it's only three pages long) on the ratio of biscuits.

One of the things that gets greatly overlooked in the world of cooking by many home chefs is the food scale. I love my food scales. In fact I own three (although one has been relegated to my knitting so I can weigh yarn and fibers). My latest acquisition is this mighty mite. It's small, but it can weigh up to 6.6 pounds. (All together, OoooooOOOooo.) Ruhlman has all his ratios designed around weights rather than measurements, so it is important to have one (or three, you just never know.)

If you have always had problems with cooking before, especially baking, I highly recommend this book. Now if only he knit.

Writing Prompts

An online friend has recently started weekly writing prompts on her blog. I have been humored by the first two as it seems she has been channeling my work. I have to laugh when I read them. The blog is called Open Road Writing and it's quite a good read.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Knit, Cook, Write

A friend of mine recently asked me, "What is it that you enjoy doing most in life?" It got me to thinking and the thing I came up with was the name of the blog: knitting, cooking, and reading. It's true. Now I could couple that with reading, but for most writers reading and writing are fraternal twins. For the past two years I have been on a writing frenzy. It has lead to me learning some very interesting things about myself and my outlook on life. Currently I am in that long drawn out stage where I am sending out query letters trying to catch the attention of just one author or editor. I've bought books on the subject and have started reading magazines on writing regularly. That hasn't halted my writing though. In two years I have completed four novels and have just recently begun on a new series.

I have been an avid knitter since I was around eleven (and for those of you that are going to be nosy and as, "So just how many years is that?" the answer is thirty-three. You do the math.) I have evolved from a crimped-cord-metal cheap needle with the cheapest acrylic yarn money could by (OK, I was poor and it's all I could afford) to an avid knitter with at least two pair of every size from US 0's to US 15's and some miscellaneous metric sizes that fit in between and some really nice honkin' big US 50's. (Admission: I probably own around eight sets of size US 1.5 needles either in long circular or dpn's.) My yarn choices have become snootier as my budget has afforded. I have stashed silk, mohair, bamboo, wool, alpaca, and even some cashmere. That isn't to say that my stash doesn't also contain yarns bought at big box stores. There are some really nice yarns being released by mass merchants and I'm not so snooty to turn my nose up at a lovely bamboo and wool sock yarn that is in the perfect shade of turquoise just because it came from a large retailer.

And to cooking. I'm a foodie. Should I say more? OK, maybe I should. I love food. I love the texture, the color, the flavor, the aroma, and the action of making food. I like shopping for food. I like tasting food. I adore seeing well presented food at a restaurant, but especially at a friend's home. I like serving food on beautiful platters and in hand thrown pottery bowls. Food is more than just sustenance. Food is life. I'm even such a foodie that I buy books about food. Not recipe books, but books that talk about the history of food, the relationship of food, and how to put food together (that aren't actual recipes.)

At one time I had three blogs. And then I realized that they were interconnected because they were all extensions of myself. So that is what this blog is all about. It's about food. It's about knitting. It's about writing. And it's a place for me to gab on about those subjects and somewhere in there I might even have something interesting to say.