Mad Progress

I didn’t realize how much progress I’d made on outlining my next several projects until I stopped and took inventory.

Oh, I learned some lessons along the way too. Like, sometimes the old ways aren’t the better ways after all.

Writing

I’ve fully outlined my next two book projects. At this point, I’m torn about which one to write first… and when to start it.

The first is a new book I’ve been conceptualizing for a long time. The book starts in third person POV and moves to first person for the bulk of the story, then back into third person again. I can’t tell if this is the best way to go or not. I thought initially it was the best way to build sympathy for my main character, or empathy even. But there’s a lot I can’t show the reader in first person and I don’t yet know how much of that will be critical to the story. The way it’s laid out now, it’s strong and effective (as long as I can actually deliver the story well), so I’m inclined to leave it. It’s just harder to provide privilege knowledge gaps this way. Harder, but not impossible.

I’ve recently seen an example of this and I have to admit, it was masterful.

Anyway, I can’t decide if that should be the next one I start, because I also finished the outline for my first darling, Spectral Analysis, the book formerly known as Ghost Hunters. A lot of folks who read it in its first incarnation liked it. I got good, positive feedback. I believe those same people are going to like the story even better now. It’s stronger, has been shored up dramatically, the holes filled in, the tension ramped up. I haven’t been this excited about that story in almost five years when I was closing in on its completion.

And, I have a rough map laid out for Witch Hunt, the sequel for Spectral Analysis, and an embryonic idea for the third installment too. Overall, that series has come alive again in me, and I’m looking forward to it. Beside all that, book series do better on Kindle than stand alones unless you’re Blake Crouch or Joe Konrath. Or someone big. So I guess my best chance is to get the series going.

But this other book – and it’s a stand-alone – is growing on me. It’s one I’ve looked forward to writing for a while. “A while” might’ve finally arrived.

I have about four other books in various stages of completion. Mostly, I have to come up with the major sequences for each act (four of them per Dramatica theory, though I need not use them all) and then turn those sequences into the series of events comprising them. Once done, I’ve got 64 events to guide my story along its path. Coming up with those 64 events is the trick, of course, but honestly, when the story’s been roughed out in your head, it’s more time consuming than difficult.

‘Course, I have to discard my first ideas and force myself to come up with better ones. Or at least different ones, to verify whether they’re the best choices to narrate or not.

Writing…what’s better?

So, there.

Cooking

I might’ve come up with a method for making scrambled eggs fluffy every time. I’ve had some difficulty with them getting tough or rubbery on me before. But lately, I’ve been experimenting with a new way of doing them and I have to admit, they are awesome. Fluffy, flavorful, but not rubbery or too egg-y tasting. I might be able to get away with them as bread substitutes on my low-carb lifestyle way of eating.

I’m posting my findings over on my loving spouse’s recipe blog, so check that out if you want to know what I’m doing. (Yeah. Right.)

Hope you all had a good weekend. I sure did!

Now, if I can just finish my projects today…please God.

-jdt-

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Oops!

So I get ambitious, right? Always a mistake. Always.

Go to the store. Why have plain ol’ chicken when you can jazz it up, liven it up, invigorate that shit a little, right? Add some zip, some pizzazz. I get tired of a handful of parsley scattered over a roaster nestled above the same old potatoes. So how ‘bout I try something a little different, a little dangerous?

Bad choice of wording. I’ve done this before. I got a wild hair across my butt a few years back and invested heavily in things I could cook with. Grill. Food processor. Produce shopping. The whole deal. Not good. Not good at all.

So what’s different this time?

Abso-frickin’-lutely nothing, that’s what. But I figured it’s time I got a little busy if I don’t want to choke down the same crap day-in, day-0ut. I’ll do a little bit myself.

I buy an apple pear. Eh. Won’t do that again, but whatever, it was like thirty cents. Big effin’ whoop, even I can afford that. I plucked a nice meaty red pepper out of the bin too. Another couple bucks. Okay, I can deal with that. I mean, I can’t make a habit out of this or anything, but I can do it this time. Then I get an orange. Another fraction of a buck. Less than four and I’ve got all my stuff for a little … well, stuffing.

One of the things which survived our horrific trek across time and space was our little solid flavor injector. Unlike liquid flavor injectors, this one can stick solid foods right into the fiber of your meat. Essentially, it stuffs your food with a salsa-like concoction you come up with on your own. Mine included that pear, an orange and its zest, a splash of oil and wine vinegar, salt, pepper, scallions, a couple of diced pineapple slices (canned), a red pepper, a splash of Worcestershire sauce (spell that crap however you’d like, that’s the one my dictionary picked for me), and a dash of Chardonnay. Sound good?

So I’m cutting and chopping. I’m in the cabinet looking for a container to hold my diced items. As I’m looking, I knock something out of the cabinet and it falls on the magnetic paper towel holder we have stuck to the side of the fridge.

The entire holder comes down. Boom.

It takes out my glass full of sugary juice, ice and a pineapple slice elegantly wedged over the rim. That glop splashes all over my French bread,  cutting board, knife, arms, shirt, pants, and runs down the cabinet fronts in thick, ropey strands of sweetly thick ooze. My Chardonnay bottle is clipped low by the spinning glass and falls like a ten pin. The cork’s not in it, I notice … too late.

I’m scrambling around, my hands trying to stop fifteen calamities at once, doing an ineffective job on all. I knock the glass into another spin and send the remnants of my drink spiraling over the countertops and microwave. The wine bottle looks like a group of kids spun it for their first kiss and it’s likewise hosing down the counter with golden (irreplaceable, at this point) liquid. My knife clatters to the floor and by only God’s grace and intervention does the edge swipe past my vulnerable stocking-clad toes, leaving them on my feet.

For a moment, I stared in a daze. The glass objects spun slowly to a halt, although the French bread had to reach out to stop the Chardonnay. Luckily they knew each other from the old country.

I put my hands slowly to my sides and backed away from the counter.

“Will you help me in here?” I called, and heard my wife get up from her seat, “I think it’s going to be one of those days.”

I’ll let you know how the chicken turns out.

-JDT-

All original content copyright 2010 DarcKnyt
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Fried or Baked?

Bacon is one of the best things you can do with a pig. (Ham and sausage being the other best things you can do with them. Outside of this, you’re on your own.)

But there’s a raging debate in me about how to best prepare bacon. That’s right; there’s not a “right” way to do this.

I know what you’re thinking – What, you don’t just throw the crap in a pan and fry it? To which I respond, No, I don’t, and if you read this post, you’d understand all the reasons that’s a bad idea. Just sayin’.

So, one of the best things you can do to bacon is to bake it. Bakin’ bacon. That rules. No spatter (on you, at least); easy clean-up with a little oven cleaner later; and you get bacon done right. Like it crisp? No problem. Like it a little chewier? No sweat. It’s awesome.

It does, however, seem to take longer. I think preheating the oven will help, but it’s still going to take time to get that stuff done. Slapping it in a frying pan seems to make the process go faster somehow.

So now, which do you prefer? Fried, or baked? Or have you ever even considered doing bacon another way? And do you have an alternative method of cooking something which seems out of the ordinary somehow?

I’m feelin’ my inner Emeril, people. Sound off; I wanna hear from ya.

-JDT-

All original content copyright 2010 DarcKnyt
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

My Great Pastime

omelet It’s probably not a secret – and my prodigious girth would testify to the fact, should you see me in life – I love to eat.  It is my favorite pastime, hands down.  Cooking, not so much, but eating?  Oh yeah.

Problem is, I have very … let’s say sophisticated tastes.  I’m not easy to please.  Obviously I don’t expect five-star meals on McDonald’s money, but I want things that are palate-pleasing and delicious.   We eat with our eyes first, so if I can get attractive on top of great tasting, all the better.  Of course, being out of work facilitates none of this, and being a low-paid worker when I am employed sort of keeps the higher-quality foods out of reach.

Another problem with good eats tends to be prep time.  The more effort required, the less likely my beloved wife and I are to be interested in doing it.  Slicing, dicing, pre-cooking, simmering, boiling, blanching, blah-blah-blah’ing … no thanks.  The prep work, I’ve found, is the greatest deterrent to cooking for me.  Interestingly, I used to think that was the part I love the most.  I figured out otherwise today, just a little while ago, while making myself an omelet.  The omelet, by the way, is one of my favorite comfort foods, especially when prepared by someone else for my consumption and made to my specifications.  Love them … loaded with bacon, peppers, cheese, scallions, maybe some jalapenos if life and tummy allow … oh, man.  Nothing tops my morning quite as well.

Anyway, my wife made nachos the other night.  Excellent, by the way, and beautifully presented as well, so I made a glutton of myself.  (Big surprise there, eh?)  Left over we had diced tomatoes, a few chopped scallions, the remainder of a can of sliced black olives, and a couple of packets of shredded cheese.  I used these ingredients – along with the open jar of salsa – to make the omelet, and topped it with salsa.  Dee-licious.  And very quick to make and easy to clean up, which is awesome.  Awesome.

So, I need a couple of things to make eating more pleasant.  Money, for one, but a line chef would be another great thing.  Oh, and a clean-up crew.  Can’t forget the clean-up crew.  What’s the point in coming up with great ideas for amazing food if you’re going to have to do the clean up yourself?

How ‘bout you?  What’s your stand on cooking?  Like it, love it, hate it, meh?

Sound off, and have a great weekend, y’all.

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

Mistaken Identity

a small plate with a serving of mashed potatoes

For those who don’t already know, my eyesight is … well, let’s just call it unpredictable.

Years ago, when I was young and thin, good-looking and not very bright, I made a horrible decision for cosmetic surgery which ended up screwing up my vision for life.  It can’t be corrected, only … I dunno.  Accounted for, I suppose.  I have to sort of average it out.  So, anyway, long story short, I have really poor vision, especially early in the day (whenever that comes for me).

So this morning, I stumbled out of my bed and got started with my job hunt and things like that.  I spent some time online with blogs and Twitter and whatnot.  Then I got the kids fed and decided to have something to eat myself.  Not a major decision for most people, but lately, food and I aren’t getting along very well and I have to walk on eggshells with it.  So on tenterhooks I go to the fridge for something tummy-friendly to eat.

And there, nestled in a black plastic container from a favorite local Chinese delivery joint with the clear plastic lid covered in condensation, is a pile of what looks for all the world like my wife’s amazing twice-baked potato filling.  She’s made some pretty amazing stuff of late – twice baked potatoes being a favorite for the kids and me – and some of it managed to be left over.  So I thought I hit the jackpot.

I peel the lid off the container and set it on loose, to allow the steam to escape while I re-heat what will eventually be a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes.  I’m considering digging for the leftover chicken that went with it too, as I pop it in the microwave and tick the timer over to two minutes.  It’s a large heap, so I figured I’d start with two minutes and if it’s still cold in the middle I can zap it a few more seconds and see how that does it.  But I want to be careful, because I don’t like how the microwave alters food, so I don’t want to ruin this delicious lunch I’m prepping.

I catch a glimpse of one of the many makeshift cookie jars my wife has, and see it’s been left apart from the others on the counter.  Intrigued – because I’m famished at this point – I open the lid and see the sugar cookies she made for the kids to decorate last night.  Good stuff – not too sweet, not heavy, great texture.  I decide against sneaking one, though.  Again, I’m set on those spuds.  Don’t wanna mess it up for myself.

I give up on the chicken idea and return my attention to the microwave, as the final seconds wind down.  And I’m still smelling those sugar cookies even though the lid’s securely placed back on the jar.  Hm.  Interesting.  The pleasant, sort of starchy scent is a bit doughy considering they were mixed and baked last night.  And my wife stored the leftover cookie dough, so it’s not out on the counter turning rancid.

So what’s with the smell?

The electronic chirp of the microwave cries at me and I pull the black container out of the chamber.  But something’s … not quite right.  No, not right at all.

The lid of the container, set atop the black plastic bowl, is pushed up and aside a little.  The potatoes under it seem to have … to have grown somehow, like some mutating blog monster from a bad 50s Sci-Fi movie.  They’ve … expanded.  Bloomed.  And as the steam slowly drifted around the edges of the circular plastic lid, it almost looked like it was breathing.  Exhaling.

Then I caught that odor, that smell.  A starchy, floury smell, like sniffing into a bag of … well, flour.  All purpose flour.  The kind you’d use to make …

Oh, no.

No, no, no!

Nooooooooooo!

Rip the lid aside, take a big sniff.  Yep, it’s this stuff.  This … this is not twice-baked potato filling.  Not at all.  No, this … this is …

… cookie dough.  The leftover cookie dough from the night before.

I shove a spoon into the puffy mixture and more steam escapes.  I stir, wild, vigorous cranks of the spoon, trying to get the dough down, down, cool, dammit, cool off!

Finally I slam the lid back onto the container and stuff the still-hot plastic back into the fridge.  A few hours, yeah, yeah, just a few hours and it’ll be all right, it’ll be fine, two minutes, c’mon, how much damage can two minutes do?  It didn’t harden, I could still stir it, who’s gonna notice, right?  Right?

Right?

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.