2017 art update

I’ve been getting back into painting and drawing over the last year and a bit. It’s been amazing to do something creative just for pleasure, without the business side of things attached. As much as I’m enjoying it, I am in no danger of throwing aside my writing and starting down the equally long road to be a professional artist any time soon.

IMG_1771My dad wanted a higher resolution, one spot for all my artwork, so this post is that. This oil pastel work is really the first representational thing I’ve done in a while. I’ve been working on patterns lately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been working with a lot of patterns and sheets. These are jelly-plate prints, cut and reassembled.

 

The first one was a proof of concept thing. The seond was the same thing with paint added after the fact. I really like the hexagon as one of the most complicated nesting shape.

 

Here are two 22×28″ canvases that I’ve finished without painting on top. I just like the color combinations.

 

And these are the same basic method in both abstract and more representational.

I’ve spent a lot of this summer building up sheets of color to use as my palete, but some of them I will probably like too much to ever use as material. I have a lot of these in various colours.

 

So I’ve been busy. Just not doing finished work.

Gluten (and free) flatbread at the same time

A stack of flatbread on a plate

Flatbread by Le Mai on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We decided to have bread and Greek dippy things for supper and make our own flatbread. The breads started from the same idea:

  • 6 cups of flour
  • 1 3/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of yeast
  • 1 tsp of sugar.

The regular flour one got thrown into thrown into the stand mixer for five minutes. While it was kneading, mix up the gluten-free flour mix (we use the stuff from cost-co). Laugh at the idea that all that flour will only need 2 1/4 cup of liquid total. Add another cup of water and then add enough to bring all the flour together. It should be a thick texture but with no dry flour on the back.

Both rose for an hour. The gluten one got punched down and divided in half, half and half again to make eight balls. They rested for another hour rose for an hour, divided into eight, then let rest for another hour).

Shaping the gluten ones is pretty simple. Flatten them by hand or with a rolling pin. The gluten-free ones need to be rolled out between two greased parchment papers. It flattens nicely. Leave the bottom  paper on to manoeuvre into the hot frying pan, then peel sheet off. You can use and reuse the sheets, just spray with oil if it starts to stick.

With two frying pans going at the same time, cook the flatbread. The gluten ones took about half the time as the gluten-free ones. On Medium-medium low heat (as the crow flies) they took two minutes a side. If the pan was too hot, I turned down to a four. If it didn’t brown, I upped it to five. I also swapped the pans around if one was too hot and the other was too cold. Our burners have very different heat settings.

The gluten-free ones turned out really well. They’d make perfect flatbread, sandwich bread or pizza crust. I kept them in a 250 degree oven while I cooked up the whole batch. The Cloud-9 flour mix works really well for bread.

Surprisingly awesome lemon rice pilaf

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Preserved lemons Again by Emma Nagle on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We eat a lot of rice around here. Most of it is Japanese short grain. I like the clumpiness of it. But last week we made a pilaf I’m still thinking about. It’s a “some” recipe, and things can be subbed in for other things, but if you have the chance, use preserved lemons. It makes all the difference.

The recipe doesn’t veer too far into the unknown at the start. You’ve got chopped carrots, onions and celery that get sweated on the stove. Cut it up into matchsticks and then dice the match sticks, though I suppose if your knife skills lacks, you can totally food processor chop it.

Standard chicken stock liquid, standard bay leaf, nothing new to see here, but then chopped up apricots go in with an extra bit of water. While that’s cooking in your rice cooker with all the veggies added, toast some almonds until you can smell them, chop (or process) them into fairly large chunks and chop up a good half of preserved lemons.*

Serve. The best part is, the rice is so good, you don’t need a particularly good source of protein. All the flavour of the meal will come through with the rice. Sub out chicken stock for veggie stock, or even use water. It doesn’t matter. The veggies make their own broth.

*You can make preserved lemons; cut organic lemons (the organic is important here, because you’re using the peel) three quarters of the way, lengthwise so the lemon opens up like a flower. Pack as much non-table salt (pickling salt, kosher salt etc, basically anything without iodine in it) as you can jam inside it and then pack salt around the layers of lemon as you cram them into a mason jar. Leave them on the counter for a week and then put them in the fridge for a month. Or you can buy a jar of them at a store somewhere, but I’m telling you, home made is truly awesome.

Also, just incidentally, have I mentioned that it’s new book** release week for me?

(**When Matt, the former prostitute long-lost heir to the Fae throne finds out the tradition his Fae prince boyfriend has been protecting him from, he learns why the rabbit has to run. Contains gay romance, a surprisingly useful bear, and no rice pilaf–although hot buttered noodles are a plot point.)

Rabbit is loose!

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Rabbit, book two of the middlehill series (though it should stand alone) came out today. I couldn’t be happier with the final version or the cover art. Isn’t it amazing? That’s Matt, in Kevin’s sweater standing next to his…uh…spoiler.

I really like how this book came out in the end. It’s probably my most rewritten book. As much as I love Matt and Kevin, Sam will always have my heart.

Five months have passed since Kevin saved Matt from working the streets. Matt didn’t think he could be happier having his prince, Kevin, at his side. But nothing is simple in the Fae world Kevin belongs to, and both love and deceit lay tangled webs. Life under the Hill needs a strong hearthstone to power the long lives of the Fae and the magic they use, and Matt couldn’t have guessed how corrupted and dark the source of that power has become. What once had been a beautiful ceremony between the King and those who loved him has become a terrifying ritual of being hunted down like a rabbit and drained for the good of the Kingdom.

Matt had thought his love for Kevin knew no bounds, but he doesn’t know how the hearthstone is refilled, or that in all the years the rabbit had run, there had only ever been one who had survived the night. Matt’s own father had been caught and drained. Only one rabbit had ever survived the night–Kevin himself. Love is easy when life is simple. When things go to hell, love is forged…or burned away.

You can buy it on the Loose Id website or it’s now live on Amazon.

 

 

 

Apple and pecan pancakes

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Pancakes with Caramelised Apples by Edward Kimber on Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.

We brought home a lot of apples back from BC and I wanted to cook something that would be delicious, filling and have a lot of good protein in it, so we made pancakes. I made them gluten-free but they don’t have to be. Scaling back the gf flour while using the oats and nuts as part of the substitution really worked.

This is more of a… guideline than a recipe. I’m assuming past pancake-making experience. You need:

  • A large apple chopped finely. You could grate it, but diced leaves a better texture.
  • 4 eggs. I used duck eggs, you don’t have to.
  • 1/2 cup oats, put through a blender until it is flour.
  • 1/2 cup of pecans (or any nut) also pulsed in the same blender
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, whole, chopped or pulsed
  • 1 cup of buttermilk (or milk, or milk and 1/4 cup of buttermilk powder)
  • Mix 1 tbs of baking powder with 3/4 cup of flour. We used 1 for 1 substitute gluten-free flour blend.
  • 3 tbs of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Butter and maple syrup for serving, or topping of your choice

If you’re making this gluten-free, you can mix as much as you want to bring it together. You’re not going to develop gluten that isn’t there to begin with. If you are using regular flour, mix only until combined.

Mix together, get out your frying pan or griddle. Cook until the edges are dry and the bubbles in the middle of the pancake. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes.

These are the closest gf pancakes I’ve ever tasted to regular pancakes. With all the nuts, oats and seeds it is quite filling, but I would substitute this recipe for regular pancakes to avoid the white starch crash right after eating them. If apples aren’t in season, I’d definitely smash up three bananas, but that’s really going to increase the sugar so scale the recipe sugar back and cook at a cooler temperature.

 

So, my next book is coming out next month

Loose Id usually books out about 18 months on their schedule, but my stuff always seems to plug up holes in their catalogue due to missed deadlines. So while I sold Rabbit, the sequel to Changeling in August, the edits weren’t really going to start until the fall.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing over the past couple years, it’s that I haven’t been finishing. My style has been doing a lot of rapid change over the past three years so that every time I finish something, instead of editing it I started to rewrite it. I have about five semi-finished books and countless more stories that are 30-70k in that I started until the flash of a well-turned story heel caught my attention and had me following it.

But I’m going to be continuing the Middlehill series, finishing the Tempest trilogy, hopefully getting the vampire series TNG’ed and then I have Shark Punching that just needs a few more tweaks. Plus I’ve been getting pretty regular editing jobs this whole time on top of my English as a Second Language instructor and all the painting I’ve been doing. I’m really busy these days, but in a good way.

Making a Post Answering a Reddit Writing Question #1: How do I write more?

I’ve been getting tired of writing Reddit responses of late. I type what I want to type in the little box, think about how users will respond, then delete it. I should be responding here. So buckle up, this is MaPAaRWQ #1: How do I write more.

The question was how the original poster can increase their stamina. They could only write for 1000-1500 words and then hit the wall. But it’s the wrong question. He’s already doing what I think is the ideal writing session, but then if you want to be prolific, have multiple sessions.

A scene is the smallest unit of story. In that one setting, they should be thinking about writing a single short story in which something changes in the plot. There could be longer scenes or shorter scenes of course, but the length of the scene should be a deliberate choice and not just where the author stopped writing.

One of the biggest problems I see in the books I critique (and to be honest, most of my problems are my biggest problems. I have a lot of biggest problems, but regardless…) is the climax of the scene arrives but instead of quitting there and going to the next scene, the author continues, filling the following pages with details about matters that are not important. Dining and sleeping and parts of the story in which nothing happens but instead of writing a few sentences bridging the time between the last scene and the new scene, the scene goes on and on.

I found when I sat down for four hours, I wrote a 4000-word scene with one high climatic moment. When I sat down for three or four sessions on a good writing day, I managed 3-4 scenes, all with their own climatic moments. There are times when that long heavy scene works for the story, but if it’s stuffed with bits that just doesn’t matter, it slows the entire pace to a crawl. Scrivener is great for this. When you get to the point you’re trying to make in the notes, you stop the scene and move on.

After the 45 minutes of writing, it’s best to get up, stretch, and do some puttering around as you think of the ramifications of how what just went down will affect the rest of the story. No matter how sure I am of what exactly I’m going to write when I’m really in the zone the story goes 10% further than I planned. And that new, spontaneous bit may change everything. It may make a throwaway line in chapter three the most important line in the book. If you don’t give the bit in your brain that puts two and two together and gets a llama time to ruminate on what just happened, the story has to work extra hard to get that spark that will keep you going in the rewrites and will grab the reader by the throat in its finished state.

Besides, getting up and stretching is something you should be doing anyways. Like everything else, there’s an app for that.