Saturday, October 31, 2009

H1N1's the New Black

...which makes me feel like such a follower. Oh well. We stocked up at Target on prescriptions, Kleenex, soup, laundry detergent, and magazines. Really excited about the hard-core cough syrup. Tastes better than Nyquil (but then, so do many things), and packs a lovely punch. Looking forward to sleeping tonight!

In other news...

1. The car's fine. We replaced the alternator and fan belts, but the flying sparks didn't damage the electrics. Yay!

2. The fruit flies returned. We have a new trap, so at least we've got something to do while we recuperate.

3. Going to Urgent Care is great marketing. I have these fantastic little Plain Jayne postcards with me, which I find myself handing out with remarkable speed, and Urgent Care is no different.

4. I'm reading Moira Hodgson's It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: My Adventures in Life and Food. Really enjoying it.

5. Also watching Britney Murphey in The Ramen Girl. Low Budget, but cute so far. It's like The Karate Kid Makes Soup. Makes real Japanese ramen look really, really yummy. But then, it's noodles with broth, and I'm sick. Coincidence? Probably not.

Any good movie recommendations? 'Cause, you know, I've got some time on my hands.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cough Drops and Tow Trucks

Whether the illness that Danny and I are suffering from is what I had last week or a fresh incarnation - hard to say. Either way, our throats hurt and I decided that I needed some of the heavyweight cough drops, the kind that make you forget you had a throat in the first place.

Danny agreed to come with me.

On the way, I told Danny about how the brake and battery lights had been coming on for the last couple days. He figured it was probably alternator-related, decided we'd take it to our favorite car electrician tomorrow.

Went to Albertson's. Bought cough drops. Went out to car. It's dead in the water.

We call Danny's brother. Isaac and I push the car, car starts. Car runs while we chat for a moment...

Car dies.

Re-push car. Run out of space. Push car in the opposite direction. Nothing. Jump Start car, car starts. We say good-bye to Isaac, pull out of the lot, I shift gears...

Car dies.

Call Isaac back. Try to jump car again. A red wire attached to the negative lead of Isaac's car inspires Danny to attach the wrong cable...sparks...damage...and our car isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Twenty minutes later, the happy tow truck man comes. If Santa were a tow truck driver, he would be this man. With mutton-chops.

Car's at the shop. We have cough drops. And we're not going to take the truck anywhere tonight.

Back in the Land of the Living

...though Danny's down for the count, fever and all. Not good. October's flying by, and partially because time flies when you're blowing your nose.

Some updates:

1. This bulleted format's really working for me these days. Helps me stay organized.

2. The Superhero Symposium - only missed one panel discussion, due to the fact that I really, really liked the idea of a nap on Saturday afternoon (I've been napping a lot, lately). The Symposium, overall, was helpful, but less about Superheroes than about Superheroes in comic books. Now, I'm fairly indifferent to comic books. Not my thing. I was impressed by some of David Mack's work that was shown, which was far more progressively artistic than the pen & ink drawings we associate with the genre. A lot of comic books reminds me of Kabuki theater - heightened expression and emotion. Not so much with the realism, but David Mack's work is more...still. More organic than most, which is probably why I liked it.

For those who are wondering why I'm interested in a Superhero Symposium anyway - I'd like to write a Superhero book. Not sure when. But I came up with a really great concept a while ago, and I've been slowly mulling it over since. I love The Incredibles and appreciated Watchmen; I liked that both pieces took the idea of the superhero and pushed the concept a bit further.

So we'll see what happens. Even though the conference wasn't quite what I wanted it to be about, it was still good for me to get a feel for that particular audience and the history of that medium. I'll probably anger fewer people, knowing what I know now.

3. I met with the fantastic Harvest Marketing team last week; they convinced me to join Twitter. I know. Shocker. But as long as I think of it as "micro-blogging", things are good. Actually, especially good since I commented (or replied? still working it out) to one of Hester Browne's posts (Hester Browne, author of the delightful Little Lady Agency books), and she totally replied back!

For those of you who follow this blog on Blogspot rather than facebook, none of this is a huge surprise, since I now have the fetching Twitter utility thing on the page, cataloging my every "tweet." (Seriously? "Tweet"? Let's go with "Micro-blog". Honestly).

Feel free to follow. Content thus far is different from my facebook status updates. At some point I may run a "follow on Twitter, win a book" contest. Since I don't have books yet, it's still in the future, though.

4. Just had a very successful trip to TJ Maxx. Super long BCBG gray slacks - yes! Herb-scented neck warmer - yes! Cashmere hoodie - yes! All ridiculously cheap - YES!! Especially excited about the pants. I've been looking for a while...good things come to those who wait. And know where to look.

5. I really am going to start making that skirt for Simply Sara. Especially since she's going to start sewing soon, and I have no idea how the thing's going together. Did I blog about her skirt earlier? I can't remember. If I didn't, I'm making a green wool pencil skirt that will figure into the book, and educate me all at the same time. The fact that it will go with my black tall boots is a side benefit.

6. The new Swell Season CD released yesterday, picked it up at Starbucks this afternoon (one of my increasingly frequent hot-water-only trips). Really enjoying it!

Running out of steam. In all honesty, while I feel better overall, my throat is killing me. But I have gray pants and homemade macaroni in the fridge, so life is good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Speaking of Super...

I'm taking a break from the Superhero Symposium. Granted, I think there's an overall break going on now...would have to check the schedule. There was a talk going on in the gallery, going over Comic Art, but my nose started running and the Sneezes came (and I really do mean Sneeze with a capital S), and it was a good time to take a break.

Honestly, I kind of panicked last night that I wouldn't make it at all. This conference has been on my radar for about three weeks, and when my head cold started being obnoxious...I wasn't happy.

But Nyquil last night (tastes like Simple Green, and don't argue with me) allowed me some sleep, and 12-hour decongestant got me through the morning. Though now, I think it's wearing off, and I'm showing signs of going through my box of Puff's Plus.

(Note: I didn't bring the box, but the contents. I had a brilliant moment this morning when I pulled all of the tissues out, put them in a plastic ziplock, and pulled out the top one so that, theoretically, it would operate like a tissue box without the box. Does that make sense? Hard to say.)

That said, it's been a great morning. As a woman, I'm definitely in the minority. No one wore a cape. I'm a little disappointed. But everyone's very serious about the ideas and concepts that supers provide, so that more than makes up for it. The keynote lecture an hour from now is "Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero."

Okay. My mom just okay'd another dose of decongestant. Hope springs eternal...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First review and my promises to you, the blog reader

On Monday the 19th, I received an email from Dave Bartlett at Harvest House, congratulating me on my review in Publishers Weekly. He attached a PDF of the review.

Dear reader, I nearly had a heart attack. By the grace of God I did not pass out, but it was a a close one.

I really wanted the chance for Plain Jayne to be reviewed by PW, but I didn't know if it would happen (they don't review everyone) or it they would say nice things (they eat CBA releases for breakfast).

So it was with literal fear and trembling that I opened the PDF and took a look...

"Plain Jayne Hillary Manton Lodge. Harvest House, $13.99 paper (300p) ISBN 978-0-7369-2698-0

Debut fiction author Lodge, a freelance photographer with a background in journalism, enters the popular arena of “plain people” fiction with a surprisingly funny, refreshing and strong story line. Lodge creates the lovable and always acerbic protagonist Jayne Tate, reporter for Portland's Oregonian. Forced by her employer to take time off to regain her edge, Jayne goes hunting for a feature in Oregon's Amish country. What this independent and thoroughly modern journalist finds is an alternative lifestyle that keeps her slightly off-balance even while, in good reporter form, Jayne tries to remain coolly objective. Enter Levi Burkholder, formerly Amish, presently a carpenter, and Jayne's heart goes off kilter as well. Jayne joins the household of Levi's estranged parents for some real Amish experiences, learning to respect the hardworking family. Smart, fast-paced and chock-full of endearing characters, Lodge's entry into inspirational fiction is a keeper, plain and simple. (Jan.)"

The next several hours provided several reactions:

1.) Someone in New York (or maybe not, maybe they contract out their reviewers, but either way, someone somewhere else) read my book. SERIOUSLY????

2.) That someone liked my book, despite the fact that they probably hold to a very, very different belief system.

3.) The reviewer found it "fast-paced," which means all the times when I was freaking out over how BORING this book was was apparently all in my head. PW does not lie. (Or my editors, for that matter, or my husband, or any of my other compatriots in editing...fine. Writers are insecure creatures.)

Honestly, knowing other people are reading your book is a weird, weird experience. My PR person told me she was going to read my book, and for a moment I kind of froze. Then I remembered that, truly, the book was going to be released in a few months and even more people were going to read it. And have their own opinions about why Jayne did what she did, or why Levi responded like that, or why Spencer turned out the way he did (which is a bit of a mystery to me, but hey.)

So there you go. My first book, and I got a good review. This will not always be the case. I'm sure some day I'll get raked over the coals; bad reviews happen to good people.

Crazy Season is approaching. The publicity campaign is locking and loading. Things are going to get weird for this writer, but here's what I wanted to tell you:

1. When I share good news about Plain Jayne or whatever book we're talking about, I want to make sure I'm sharing out of happiness. I do not want to smack you over the head with internet-brags; they make for dull copy.

2. Therefore, this is the last time the happy review will be mentioned on this blog, unless something concerning it comes up.

3. In all likelihood, something resembling a blog tour will probably be launched at some point. It would be unfair to the launcher for me not to tell you about where I'm blogging, but I'm not going to super-hype it here. The point of the blog tour is to introduce me to people outside my readership. Y'all already know who I am and what I'm about, so the blog tour is really not meant for you. I'll tell you what's posted where, but that's the end of it.

4. I really enjoy connecting with beginning writers and answering questions about writing and fiction. If you have a question you'd like to see addressed in the blog, leave a comment or send me an email at hillary (at) hillarymantonlodge (dot) com (I'm not sure why everyone's being cryptic about email addresses these days, but I felt like following the trend this morning).

In other news...

1. Norah Jones is coming out with a new album in November! I'm curious to see how her sound changes...I got to catch a the last bit of her song on DWTS last night. Was not a fan of her Not Too Late album, but loved the first two. Either way, always happy to hear about new music.

2. The basil is circling the drain. Danny thinks it's getting too cold.

3. The Superhero Symposium is this weekend! My throat's a bit scratchy, but I'm really going to push the fluids to make it work!

4. Speaking of the scratchy throat...I've been really sore lately (back, neck, jaw), and really worked yesterday to make sure that I'd actually get a good night's sleep. We took a walk, I did my PT exercises, and I went to be with Advil, Tylenol PM, and a cough drop. And I'm sleeping fine (for the first time in several nights) until I'm awakened by the CRACKLING OF VERY VERY LOUD THUNDER at five in the morning! I woke up and was like, "Seriously, God? You knew I haven't been sleeping well and you couldn't hold off the crazy loud thunder for a couple hours??" I'm over it (mostly). I'll try to get another walk in today...can't have two nights with crazy thunder, right?

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Super-Secret Formula

I got to go to OCW's fall conference yesterday, and completely enjoyed myself. Since college, I didn't attend many of the day conferences (while I faithfully participated in the summer coaching conferences) because, after a week at class, attending another set of classes, starting at 9am on a Saturday, doesn't hold much appeal.

But now I'm out of school, working from home, living the writer's life...and in desperate need of community.

The way I see it, day conferences are like church for writers. It may not tell us anything we don't already know, but it's nice to be reminded. There are people in all stages of faith/publishing, but the fellowship is beautiful as we come alongside each other.

As a writer in Eugene, I'm an oddity. I'm not in close contact with anyone else who writes full time, struggles with plots, characters, inspiration, or figuring out marketing. It's delightful just talking with other people who have agents. When I'm with the writerly, I'm no longer the odd woman out.

Not the least of which is the fact that we're all a little odd. So I blend in well.

The book buying at a conference is great too - I got to pick up a copy of Linda Clare's The Fence My Father Built, Christina Berry's The Familiar Stranger, Karen Wells' The Miracle of You, and Keynoter Eva Marie Everson's Things Left Unspoken.

No room in any of the bookcases, really, but what else is new?

Eva Marie gave a great day's worth of keynoting. She answered graciously when beginning writers asked questions that were apropos of, well not much.

One in particular struck a chord with me. A conferee asked, "As a writer, how do you get yourself to sit down and write, even when life is busy?"

I wish there were a super-secret formula to easy, breezy writing that the literary world's upper echelon writers guard closely. I really do.

But here's the thing - writing is a job like any other. It's work. No book was ever finished without a great deal of personal discipline. Funny thing - writers aren't the most disciplined bunch. We tend to procrastinate. We tend to eat a lot of chocolate (there aren't a lot of svelte writers out there). Our homes are often cluttered. We work in our pajamas. But God, being gracious, enabled us to be disciplined in the one area that matters, and that's writing.

Anyone considering writing as a career needs to go in with his or her eyes open. Writing is hard work. After you write your first book, you will need to write a second, better book while editing and marketing the first. You can't go into publishing as a lark and expect to succeed.

That said, as a writer, I'm always looking for tricks to help me keep going while I'm sitting and writing. Writing a synopsis, or storyboarding is one - it's like giving yourself a map before you drive off. While big-concept synopses are helpful, so are small ones. My latest technique (because seriously, I'm desperate), makes me think of Winnie the Pooh...

At the start of a new chapter document, I start off with the chapter number (helps keep things straight), followed by what's going to happen in a nutshell. Example:

Chapter 6 - In which Sara gets a tattoo, reads Nick Hornby, and does laundry.

(Note: none of these things happens in chapter 6. Can't give away all my secrets...)

Anyway, I'm hopeful. What I love about this idea is that I have a point of reference for the chapter at all times if I get lost. The chapter innards won't go into the final copy, or even to my reader copies. They're just for me. And if I find that I spend the whole chapter in the tattoo parlor, the Nick Hornby reading and laundry can go into the next chapter without a whole lot of disruption.

Like I said, I'm hopeful. Also hungry. I'm going to move on to lunch, during which I will try Martha Stewart's grilled Ham, Cheddar, and Apple sandwich...

Friday, October 16, 2009


I'm sorry. This blog has been so neglected, it's starting to look like my basil plant (which is less neglected than it is in need of some sort of plant food. Anyone with insight into this matter, feel free to share your wisdom). I'm sorry because I have not:

1. Blogged about my big research weekend in Portland (remember that?), which kicked off with a salute to Studio 54 and involved women in go-go boots climbing over bathroom stalls. At the University Club.

2. Blogged about the fact that my website's not up yet. But it will be. Someday.

3. Blogged about the number of book-related meltdowns I've had in the last three weeks. Actually, not sorry about that. Consider yourself spared.

4. Blogged about the Superhero Symposium I'm attending next weekend.

5. Blogged about the SUPER COOL FINISHED HOODIE. I haven't even taken pictures - how lame is that? Does anyone say lame anymore? Is lame lame?

6. I'm sure there's something else, and I'm sorry for forgetting about it.

So I'll just start in, and write more in subsequent blogs. I'll probably apologize in those too.

1. The peach cobbler. Every last trace, all gone. This took a while. You would not have believed my kitchen. It looked like that kitchen, in the movies, when the kids cook and things get a bit out of control. The last step was scraping the dried cobbler dough (whether the first or second batch, hard to say) off of the stove and counter top. Seriously, forget duct tap. You want cobbler dough. Trust me.

2. Studio 54 night at the University Club. Oh, the deep delight. The young Portlanders, in their rented costumes and large hair. Their go-go boots and zippered orange backless miniskirt dress thing, which they admit would not be good for picking up the children in. The gay men in red leather pants. The slightly drunken conga line. Oh - and the aging boomers who lived through that era, are due-paying members of the club, and dancing with as much gusto to "Celebration" as the aforementioned party-goers.

The best part, though, was going into the lady's restroom and noticing a cocktail glass on the floor in one of the stalls. Empty. And two pairs of go-go boots. And one woman's voice, saying "I just can't believe he doesn't get it" and another assuring her in the tones one uses during inebriated relationship crises. (I just now thought a bit more about the whole cocktail glass thing. I mean, who brings that sort of thing into a restroom, anyway? Because there's no use in taking it in if it's empty to begin with, so that means that someone was drinking on the floor of the lady's room, and that's just a sad sad statement about...something.)

Anyway, enter orange-miniskirt-zippered-backless dress go-go woman, who enters the stall next to the drama stall, apparently recognizes voices, decides to first strike up a conversation before hoisting a leg to climb over the side.

In a orange-miniskirt-zippered-backless dress.

I'm retouching my lipstick while this is going on, and clearly I've got the best seat in the house. Then in walk some older ladies, clearly club members, who take the scene in impressive stride.

2. The next day, I got to go to the Powell's rare books room, where the very very nice man let me take pictures of whatever Godey's Lady's book my heart desired. Also bought Amy Karol's book, Bend the Rules with Fabric which is fabulous and the sort of thing Sara would be very interested in.

3. Website is not up yet, but it will be. My fearless designer has been working two jobs and going to school, and none of those involve the extra time spent in designing the site. However, one of her jobs involved the sighting of a man who looked very much like Lucius Malfoy, so she's forgiven.

4. Um...what else. The hoodie. No pictures yet, so there's something to look forward to.

5. Superhero Symposium, because I want to write a superhero book someday. No joke. Something between The Incredibles and Watchmen that takes the idea of the superhero and pushes it a bit further.

6. Getting tired, and with me getting up to go to the OCW fall conference tomorrow, that means it's very nearly bedtime. I'm looking forward to seeing all of the happy Oregon (and Southern Washington) writers. Eva Marie Everson is speaking, should be a very good day.

7. I'm doing Beth Moore's Esther study right now, which I'm enjoying very much. This is, however, my first Beth Moore, and I always find I spend much of the video time contemplating her hair. I spend an embarrassing amount of time fantasizing about sending different people to participate in TLC's What Not To Wear, and I can't help but think that if Nick Arrojo were to get his hands on it (and I know they have someone else doing hair on the show now, but I only ever get to watch the morning reruns), she'd be, like, two inches shorter. Also, were the wind to blow, the top would move. In her favor, Beth (or whoever shops for her) has impeccable taste in clothes. Sometimes I think that, if we were to move to Texas, I would be considered quiet to the point that medication would be considered.

8. I think that's it for now. Next week I may attempt to make a skirt, but I'll definitely be working on the book, and thinking positive thoughts about it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cobbler: A Tale of Woe and Redemption

I offered about a month ago to bring a snack for a new women's bible study I was joining. After tossing around options (baked gouda? pumpkin scones? plum crumble?) I settled on my favorite ginger peach cobbler, from Mary Englebreit's Sweet Treats (and honestly, if you're at all into any aspect of dessert, you want this book). Thing is, the recipe served six. I needed to serve an estimated15.

So I tripled the batch, and planned to bake it in two 9x13s. I wrote out measurements ahead of time.

Eighteen cups of peaches is a lot. In case you were wondering. But I assembled the cobblers, popped them in the oven, and tried not to think about how it seems like there was more butter than usual in the topping.

We watched Castle. I checked on the cobblers. They smelled...buttery. I rechecked my measurements. Had I left out a cup of flour?

Castle ended. Still buttery. Like, really really buttery. Then I figured it out.

The original recipe called for 6 tablespoons of butter in the topping, or 3/4 of a stick. I put in three times 3/4 of a CUP of butter. That's 4 1/2 sticks of butter. That's, "would you like some peaches and flour with your butter?" kind of butter. I haven't seen that kind of butter since I was an intern at a food magazine, and tested a recipe that called for yams, brown sugar, blue goat cheese and 1/2 pound of butter. It's a LOT of butter.

It was eleven o'clock. I didn't have another 18 cups of peaches laying around. I reasoned that, in the morning, I would get up, scrape off the butter-saturated nastiness, put a new topping on (with 2 tb less butter per repeat to make up for it), bake it up, and be fine.

Perfectly fine.

I dreamed about cobbler.

This morning, I rose extra early. After Danny left for work, I turned to the cobbler. I scraped off one top, that went well enough, but the second was soupy. Buttery soupy. The peaches were drowning in a buttery mire; I scooped them out, every one, and rinsed them in my avocado green colander. Rinsed them and started from scratch.

As I rinsed, I thought, "there's a spiritual takeaway here. Jesus removes us, the peaches, from our buttery nastiness, rinses us off, makes us clean, and starts over with us. We're not the way we were (pre-baked, vs. fresh frozen), but he's still able to make something with us.

I scrubbed out the baking dishes and started over. I ran out of ground ginger, but had some fresh ginger left over from another dish - grated it over the bowl without measuring.

By the time I put the baking dishes back in the oven, I had used every mixing bowl in my kitchen, including the Pyrex one I forgot I had until last week (Grand total of six, I think). Pretty sure there is only one remaining spatula. I could verify, but that would require entering the kitchen, and I'm not going to do that for a little while. Not going to go there.

We are almost out of butter.


The ladies at bible study had nothing but compliments for the cobbler...still, while everyone who stayed for refreshments ate a piece, I was left with 1/3 of one pan remaining, and an as yet untouched additional pan of cobbler. Probably could have made a single batch and been fine. But I'd rather have too much than too little (and you know if I'd made less, more people would have been around to eat it).

The takeaway here:

-The best laid plans, and all that. You were warned.
- Listen to your instincts. If you think there's too much butter, there probably is.
-It's hard to ruin peach cobbler.
- I'm a work in progress. And I'm okay with that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Back to the Storyboard

I really have to try something new, because what I'm doing now isn't working. I'm having a harder time with Simply Sara than I ever have with any book I've ever worked on. Note: I've completed two and made serious inroads with four others, so this is kind of saying something.

Not sure what it is about this book, but I'm really struggling here. Serious, meltdown-inducing kinds of struggle. The higher-than-usual chocolate cravings should have been a sign.

Danny and I sat down during lunch and talked about it (that statement sounds more grown-up than it was. Less adult conversation and more talking-off-of-ledge). The conclusion I've come to is that I'm taking next week off of writing. In lieu of writing, I'm going to spend a week storyboarding and really figuring out WHERE THE HECK THIS BOOK IS GOING. Because there's a good story in there, and some good characters, and it's already funny and poignant and all that good stuff, but my idea of where it's all going is kind of hazy.

Hazy is bad. Actually, worse than bad. Soul killing. Mind numbing.

While I storyboard, I'm also going to try a project or two that Sara would do. This gives me a.) some fun things for her to do, for me to write about with authority and b.) an actual concrete project with a beginning, middle, and end within the foreseeable future.

The hope here is that when I return to writing, I will know what I'm doing and be able to return at a faster, more reasonable pace.

Really hopeful here, because something's got to give.