Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Daily Grind


We're slogging a lot around here. Danny finishes graduate school in just over four weeks. And people, it's been a long haul. For the last long while (a year and a half? Two years? Time immemorial?), he's been working 40+ (and for a while, 50) hour weeks, then coming home and working on calculations and concrete/steel/wood/snow load/seismic analysis.

I, on the other hand, am working through a follow-up novel that's giving me mood swings. It's not the book's fault - if I wasn't 20,000 words behind where I wanted to be, things might be a bit different. Oh well.

In the meantime, my home hasn't been anything resembling since well before Christmas, and likely won't be until Danny's school is over, and possibly not until the book's done. Usually having guests over forces the issue, but we're both so swamped with work that we don't really have time for any sort of social engagement.

This is sad, because I've been wanting to throw a cupcake party for, like, four months.

In other news:

1. Plain Jayne has officially entered its second printing.

2. The second-edition will feature the Pub Weekly quote on the cover. (Yay!!!!!)

3. Honestly, I'm more excited about this batch for that very reason.

4. Hoping a quote from the Booklist review might wind up on the third printing.

Reminder -

1. Valentine's Day signing at Powell's on Cedar Hills. Yeah, I know the date sucks, but it's in the afternoon...and okay, it does cut into Sunday Afternoon Naptime, but if you're in the area, do it for a friend. Or Toledo. Frankly, I don't care why, but you'll be remembered in heaven for it. A good time will be had for all, I promise. You won't even have to park illegally, seeing as it's the Beaverton location.

2. Oregon Christian Writers Winter Conference 2010. Longest title ever? Probably. But it will be grand and lovely. The conference will be held at the Salem Red Lion on Market St, from 8:30-4pm (don't even think about leaving early!!!!), on February 20th.

Robin Jones Gunn is keynoting (and which means it will be PHENOMENAL. She's a terrific speaker, and let me tell you, not every writer is.) She'll also teach a workshop on getting unstuck. Love it. Linda Clare will be teaching "Essays for Anthologies," which will be super cool, and Kathy Ruckman will be teaching "The ABC's of Writing Children's Picture Books." I'll be teaching a workshop about writing an ensemble cast, which I'm totally excited about!

3. Lastly, found this AMAZING (sorry. I'm in a good mood. I promise to be cranky and lay off on the caps on the next post) blog post here by Laini Taylor (of Laini's Ladies, who also writes) about brainstorming. Great exercises. And great writing quotes, from which I found my favorite writing quote of the day:

"A writer is someone to whom writing is more difficult than it is to other people." - Thomas Mann

Sigh. So true! Back to work anyway!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Hoodie How-To


I blogged a long, long time ago about the hoodie that I made over, a project that I had Sara repeat in the book. I promised pictures and instructions...

And let's face it. Follow-through is not my spiritual gift, and anything that involves pictures takes longer because's a multi-step process (I don't snap and share; it's not in my nature. There's always editing, even if it's just fixing the levels).

No more excuses - here's the hoodie in better detail:















1. I picked up the hoodie itself at Ross after looking about everywhere. Somehow, finding one with long enough sleeves became hard. It's BCBG; I got it for $30. Maybe even $20 - I don't remember anymore. I wasn't wild about the color, but the price was right, the fit was good, and it had a two-way zipper.

2. Went to 27th street fabrics for black chiffon. We played around a lot to find the right kind of look. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, from a cardigan I'd seen on J.Crew.com. I was able to look closely enough to figure out the way they'd stitched theirs.

3. Was having a hard time figuring out what to do, was being swayed by black velvet ribbon, when the gal at the store ripped off a strip of chiffon for us to play with. The torn edge was perfect! I bought 1/4 yard, which was more than plenty.

4. I went to Harlequin Beads to figure out what I wanted for the center of the bow. I knew I wanted something a bit glitzy without being overdone (the concept was "an evening hoodie"). I settled on some slightly smoky-looking Swarovski crystals, as well as three Swarovski pearls to keep it toned down.


















5. The hoodie had bright silver-toned accents. I colored over them with a black sharpie. Also pulled out the string in the hood. Played around with threading a narrower chiffon strip (actually, a couple tied/glued together, but liked it best without.



6. So. The stitching. I started off with fabric glue - total no go. Moved to black thread. Tacked and tied off every one or two places, generally about every 1-2 inches. The giant cluster in the picture is where I sewed the center and the beads.

7. I should also note that there was a BCGG label on the front, with the same little silver stud-things as the hood. I picked them off with my thumbnail and placed the bow over it so you couldn't see the residue.


8. On top of the bow, around the beads I did little mini flowers. Not that you can much tell, but they added texture. Basically, I just cut a couple small squares off of the strips, pinched them into a blossom shape, stuck a couple stitches through the base and sewed three or four onto the center of the bow.

9. I continued the motif around the back, not that you see it much with the hood down, but I liked how it connected to the ribbons on the other side. I kinda twisted the ribbons at the ends, so that it was less obvious when I joined new ones.

10. I tried to take a picture of me with it on, but it didn't go so well. Danny's now home - could probably try again, but I'm feeling kind of wired and wondering if the coffee I drank earlier wasn't decaf (I drink so little caffeine that Danny can tell if I've had half-caf four hours after the fact. Now
I avoid it altogether).

So there it is! Sara makes and wears this hoodie for a big event in the book. She pairs it with a green wool skirt I'd hoped to make. Maybe the skirt will happen after the book is done - just don't expect a timely blog about it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Confessions of a Name Freak


My name is Hillary Lodge. I'm a name-o-holic.

The indicators showed up early. As a child, I renamed myself frequently. My first grade teacher quickly learned that if the name on the top of the page did not belong to a child on her roster (and in fact was odd to the point where a set of hippie parents would shake their heads at it), it must be mine (blessings upon Mrs. Bauer).

I loved Anne of Green Gables. Her desire to be called Cordelia made complete sense to me.

I spent a lot of time naming my dolls and stuffed animals the right name. Because heaven help us if they had the wrong name.

One thing led to another. My condition worsened. I began to write fiction.

I collect names. I've sat in movie theaters watching the credits, looking for good names. I'm very interested in the etymology of names. I'm always looking out for good baby name books. I'll write down random names that I like. I'll make fun of ones I hate.

I didn't think much about this until recently, when the subject came up in a blog interview. The section I had the most to write about was how I chose characters' names.

Now I've got my protagonist, Sara, starting in a new atmosphere, and I need to meet the people she'll encounter.

First, writing a follow-up novel means you've got a cast of thousands. There's more than half of the characters from the first book, plus all of the new ones. I actually had to pull out a copy of the book to remember what Jayne's mom's name is.

To avoid name conflicts (because I worry about such things), I made a categorized list of everyone in the book so far.

And wow. I have an addiction to names from the middle of the alphabet. Grady, Gemma, Jayne, Joely, Kim, Kip, Levi, Nora - this is Simply Sara alone, and does not count Grace, Jenna, Joel, Livy, Lewis, Mark, or Nick from my first novel.

Sure, I've got Sara and William and Zach and Arin, and Beth and Spencer and Sol, but good heavens. And talk about a soft-G/J addiction; I want to write a book about someone named Ginger (no idea what, just love the name), and now I realize it would just feed the pattern.

I'm teaching a class at OCW next month about creating an ensemble cast, and let me tell you that this experience of trying to add three characters has completely changed the way the seminar will be presented.

After a couple days, I finally managed to name the three young women I'd been working on. I'd think I was settled, then made changes at least once per character. I love the women I ended up with! Sometimes I wish some of the characters I wrote were real, I'd love to hang out with them.
Since then, writing's been a bit easier. There's knitting in this book (finally! I get to write about knitting!), which is happy. And like I said - I have people to play with!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Updates


A few things...

1. )You can read the first chapter of Plain Jayne here.

2.) Amazon has PJ back in stock, so order away without the 2-3 week wait.

3.) Borders (with luck) will stock this Friday.

4.) Wal-Mart (as far as I can tell) is either stocking nationally or only in Oregon and Florida (those are the only ones that have been reported to me). I'm guessing it's the former.

5.) If you've read the book, or if you'll read it soon, and you like it, please post a review on Amazon, CBD, or wherever (hint: you can post the same review on each site. Just sayin'). And no, you don't have to have ordered the book from that source to post a review and rate the book. Positive reviews are very, very helpful when it comes to sales - I really appreciate the help!


In other news...

1.) I watched the "Sectionals" episode of Glee on hulu again. Happiness. There are people who say they just can't get into Glee. My theory is that these are the same people who make unkind remarks about the Twilight books (which is mean, you know, because picking on the writing is like shooting fish in a barrel, and obviously she did something right to get thousands of teens reading books), and claim to have gotten through H1N1 by drinking ginger tea. We must pray for such people.

Anyway, here's a bit of Glee joy to help you live 'till April.

2.) My new method for getting through the winter with a smile on my face is: soup.

3.) And oatmeal cookies.

4.) Watched Alexis Bledel in Post Grad. Not earth shattering, but cute.

5.) Will watch Hurt Locker soon.

Well, I've procrastinated writing my actually book for too long. On to the next writing project!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Epiphany-inducing recipes

We'll start with the soup:

Divine Butternut Squash & Apple Soup:

4 c. less sodium chicken broth
1 onion, roughly chopped,
1 large Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 stalks hearts of celery, or 1 1/2 regular stalk (whatever), ends removed, also chopped
1 1/4 (or so) unfiltered apple juice (I used "Simply Apple")
1 3-4lb butternut squash
1/2 c. half 'n half (I use fat free)
cream to taste (I probably used about 1/2 cup)
dash of nutmeg
dash of curry powder
Hazelnuts for garnish

1. Roast the squash: Heat oven to 400 degrees. With a heavy-duty knife, cut the squash down the middle, splitting it open. Scoop out the seeds. Cut each half in half, place flesh-side down on a baking sheet, allow to roast for 35-45 minutes, or until the flesh pierces easily with a fork. Remove from oven, allow to cool enough to handle. Remove and discard outer peel, chop squash, set aside.

2. While waiting for the squash to finish roasting, chop the appropriate ingredients and place the first five into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer until veggies are fairly soft.

3. Add squash when it's ready, if any of it is still a bit firm, let it cook for a bit with the other veggies & fruit. Turn the heat down, ladle in small batches into a blender. Puree until smooth, place pureed amount into a separate bowl (if you have one of the large glass Pampered Chef bowls with a spout and handle, use it!). Use a rubber spatula to get the last of the chunky veggies into the blender; return all of the pureed soup to the pot.

(Obviously, if you have an immersion blender, this is all a different story)

4. Taste. Add half n' half and cream to taste. Add nutmeg and curry powder, and really whatever you want at this point. If you're making anything else, keep the soup pot on a burner set to low, covered, stirring occasionally.

Fancy Tip:

Serve with a small drizzle of cream over the surface. Top with crushed, toasted hazelnuts.

Note: I was very, very pleased with this, having mostly made it up. The tartness of the apple cuts the musky sweetness of the squash. I was worried that the celery might overpower the apple, but it didn't, just added the right amount of acidity. If you want to avoid the calories, you *could* skip the cream altogether, I suppose, but then life wouldn't be nearly as fun.


Mousse for Two:

Just over 3/4 c. heavy cream
4 ounces good quality chocolate (I use Black and Green)
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Add vanilla to cream. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside a small amount of cream; cover and fridge.

2. On a cutting board, chop the chocolate. I don't have a double boiler, so I place the chocolate in a Pyrex measuring cup and microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring in between. Set aside the cutting board for later. Allow the chocolate to cool until about room temperature.

3. Fold the chocolate into the whipped cream, using a rubber spatula to make sure you get all of the chocolate in there. Fold until chocolate is well incorporated. Spoon mousse into servingware. I used teacups, which looked very cute. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Fancy tip: Before serving, top with reserved whipped cream. Use a knife to scrape chocolate dust off the cutting board over the tops of the mousses as a garnish. A pirouette cookie placed in the teacup would be a nice addition...might try that in the future.

Note: These are very rich. I got about a half-inch into my teacup before putting it back into the fridge. You could easily get three, maybe four servings out of this recipe without looking stingy; I halved it from the original. Would be very cute and very easy for a dinner party.

More book updates to come later...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Twelfth Day

Happy Epiphany! Sorry I've been AWOL. The holidays have that effect on me...

So. The big news around here is that Plain Jayne has released! In fact, it was found in Wal-Marts throughout the Eugene-Springfield area. I saw "was," because (by all accounts) they've been kind of cleaned out. I haven't poked around much to see who else has it in stock yet, and I'm admittedly unmotivated because I have a box of copies taking up floor space in the study. Also, I'm kind of holding out for Borders, and they're not stocking for a couple weeks.

But it is out there, and now when people (inevitably) ask me when the book is out, I can (finally) say "Oh, it is out." Like that.

In other news...

-If you're in Eugene and near campus, there should be a bit of something or other about me in Thursday's Oregon Daily Emerald.

-Mark your calendar! Not only is February 14th Valentine's Day, it's also the day I'll be signing books at the Beaverton Powell's. Will get back to you on the time...I think it's 2-ish.

-If you received your CBD Catalog, disregard the bit about Jayne going to "Harrisburg, Oregon's Amish Community." Because Harrisburg is never mentioned in Plain Jayne. Because that's not where she goes. However, two Harrisburg residents (one former, one current) are listed in the acknowledgements, so maybe that's it...

Today is Epiphany, and I had this whole grand plan about making a special dinner or something. Never came up with specifics. I'm thinking of the Butternut Squash soup from Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life" book. Or this recipe, which I'm made before and I think will be much improved by the addition of sour cream (I was underwhelmed last time). And cheese. And maybe a bit o' guacamole for garnish.

Anyway, this all depends on me having day where I'm not completely wiped, which hasn't happened yet this week. We had a BUSY weekend involving a LOT of driving, as well as the dismantling of our tree.

I don't know about you, but with the holidays ending, I'm ready for spring. Like, now.

Lastly, if you received a digital photo frame for Christmas, beware the alarm. I was home, minding my own business, when I started hearing (and not softly, mind you) the sounds of a rooster. Crowing. Yes, my frame was crowing at me, because at 2:43 in the afternoon it thought it was 9am, and therefore time, I guess, to crow.

Hoping to get moving today. We'll see how goes...