Saturday, May 29, 2021

Details matter

I finished the first draft on the next book! And then I gave it to Calmer Half, for the tactical read-through. Because accuracy matters. (After he finishes, it's going to a geologist who will do her own accuracy read-through. I aim to always write something good enough that people who are skilled in the profession shown do not want to throw the book across the room.) 

He came back with three tactical errors. One of which was a one-line fix, and two of which require rewriting an entire chapter. We'd already discussed the third one, and I knew it was coming; he has encouraged me to write it horribly instead of not writing it, because it'd be easier to edit to correct than to get right the first time. But the second, ah the second. He insisted I had to write the aerial shootdown. Which has been so frustrating to research and write that I copped out and had the viewpoint character looking the wrong way. 

Calmer Half isn't going to let me get away with that. Darnit. He holds me to higher standards than I sometimes want to be held, and I love him for it, no matter how frustrating it can be. So, being unable to figure out what I need from online, I finally swallowed my pride, took a deep breath, and... asked him for help. (Yeah, I know. He's right there. Doesn't mean it's always the easiest option.)

"Love, what's it look like to someone on the ground when a plane launches a missile?"

He said offhand, "There are youtube videos."

"Oh, I know, and funker350 videos. But they're mainly air to air, from the plane. Or they're handheld shakycam, and assume you know what you're seeing, or staged, or Hollywood. Not useful if you're running and look up. Which is why I avoided writing it in the first place. Help?"

He took a long, deep breath in, and let it out slowly, then said, "When the fucker is launching a missile at you as you're trying to shoot it down, first it looks like something broke; the wing changes shape, and you think 'did something fall off?' And then there's a flickering as the rocket ignites."

"And then... it accelerates too fast to actually see the missile. Your eyes just can't focus on something moving that fast. A smoke trail suddenly appears."

His lips twisted in an odd grimace, and I said, "And when it hits another plane? I'm betting the Hollywood fireball is completely wrong."

He rolled his shoulders, trying to relax a sudden tension, and moved his neck side to side, before saying. "Eh. When it hits a fighter, with the missiles and fuel tanks, it's a fireball. It's a... a slam, that's the only way I can describe it. A slamming explosion. And a fighter just disintegrates, so explosion, fireball and smoke, and bits falling."

"Now, transport planes? They're so much bigger you can see the explosion along it's length, with the nose fore and tail aft. So you'll see a wing come off, and it gently flutters, slowly drifting down to the ground. The plane itself, as it still has that one wing giving lift, starts spinning and tumbling and it is the most astounding tumbling flopping. It bends at the break, too, as it spins and flops and it's almost comical. Things fall out at the breaks. You can see the bodies falling, if you're close enough." His voice went soft, and deep, almost guttural, "Sooner them than me."

Okay, maybe there's a reason that I don't ask him for help if I can avoid it, and it's not just pride. It's not liking poking old wounds. Time to retreat with humour. "You know, for someone who said he's not going to write about Africa, there's an awful lot of writing about Africa in this house."

He looked back at me, and the humour sparkled in his eyes. "But I'm not writing it!" 

...right. That was accurate. And accuracy matters!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Good fences make good neighbors

I first woke up confused, thinking "Why does Calmer Half's snoring sound like a cow?"

...No, wait, that's not Calmer Half.

That's a cow. Right outside our window.

Ah, somebody's fence is down.

...Yep, at least two cows.

Eating my lawn and lowing at each other at Oh Dark Thirty in the morning.

All right, self, grab a bathrobe, and the phone, and what's the non-emergency number for the police?

Welcome to Tiny Town, Texas!

...Damage assessment can wait for first light. If they got the neighbor's roses, there might be a revenge BBQ happening soon.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The spaces inbetween

I finished the first draft, and got it out to two of my subject matter experts - promptly ensuring, in the way Murphy's Law works, that they both have had weeks far too busy to crack open the file and take a look. It's all right; I know it has some structural weakness and there will be rewrites, but until those come back, I"m in the odd space between stories, where the inside of my head is calm and quiet. 

This is where I get very productive on the domestic front: not because I have any more energy (I don't), but because I have more attention to spend on finding what needs doing and fixing it. (At least on the weekends. Day Job has its own unique challenges right now that are using all the mental horsepower I can spare.) So in the space between stories, the space between workdays, and, critical for outside work, the space between rain... I'm at the computer less, and getting more things done. 

Which aren't always the things I planned. For example, today I went out to mow the yard as soon as it was dry enough. (For the rain, O L-rd, I thank you. Better than drought, which this part of the world has known too well. Let me remember that when I start grumbling "I didn't move to South Seattle!") And instead, found that the mulberry tree was drooping under the weight of a bumper crop of fruit, brought on by the rains and whatever internal cycle it sets. (it's very common for trees to have cycles of unproductive and productive years. I haven't been paying close enough attention to get to know this one's yet.) So before I mowed, I picked half a gallon of mulberries, and set them aside to make mulberry pie.

This year's recipe was a little different, in that I tried einkorn flour and some dehydrated butter. (Testing out emergency ration offerings before the emergency is always a good idea.) It worked well enough, except the resulting pie crust wasn't flaky at all, but dense and chewy; you really do need to cut in cold butter to get a flaky crust. 

Also, despite all my protestations that I sometimes really do cook dishes with intention beforehand and ingredients bought especially for it, today was not one of those days. Instead, cleaning the fridge brought the rediscovery of a container of dates on the bottom shelf, and a block of feta that hadn't even been opened in the cheese drawer, and a tupperware of pear-infused balsamic vinegar shoved back behind the milk (I put it on that shelf after the stopper disintegrated into the bottle, so I had to strain bits of cork out and then had to put the strained vinegar somewhere).... 

Yes, I defrosted bacon, and made bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with feta, with a basalmic vinegar reduction dipping sauce. And mulberry pie for dessert. No, it has absolutely nothing to do with low carb. I regret nothing!

Yes, Calmer Half did give me a very odd look when he found out what was for dinner. That man can say more with a raised eyebrow than most people given a dictionary and an hour's head start to acquire extra vocabulary.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Smoked Salmon & Clam Chowder

I'm afraid Calmer Half wants me to make this again, so I'm dutifully trying to transcribe "A pinch of this, a handful of that, and the chunk of hot-smoked salmon in the freezer" into proper recipe amounts. Take all amounts with a grain of salt. 

Smoked Salmon & Clam Chowder


2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp bacon grease
2 medium onions, diced fine
1 shallot
1/2 cup crumbled bacon
1.5 teaspoons cajun seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
juice from one can of clams
reserve the clams to add separately
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp thyme, dried
1 can mushrooms, drained
1 can diced hatch chiles, drained
2/3 of a can of corn, rinsed and drained 3 times
1.5 pounds of hot-smoked salmon (or a can of salmon, drained)
1 pint heavy cream
1 steamable pack of cauliflower rice
3-4 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
2-3 Tablespoons fresh dill, chopped fine


1. In dutch oven, melt butter and bacon grease, and saute onions and shallot. Toss in cajun seasoning, too. When they're fairly well translucent, add garlic and saute for thirty seconds.

2. Add the chicken stock, celery seed, thyme, mushrooms, and the clam juice. (Reserve the clams.) Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, put a lid on, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, remove the lid (hot!), and use an immersion blender to turn everything into a slightly chunky puree. Start the steamable cauliflower rice pack in the microwave.

4. Add the hatch chiles, corn, clams, salmon (not the skin), fresh herbs and heavy cream. Mix well.

5. Return to a simmer, and after about 5 minutes, taste, and turn off the burner. Should be ready to serve. 

Note: all the cans except the clams are drained because otherwise this would end up way too salty... and canned corn needs the three rinsings to lose the tinned taste. If you're using canned salmon instead of hot-smoked, add a touch of worcestershire sauce for the savoury note.

Next time, might add a little more chicken broth, as this was awfully chunky thick stew consistency. On the other hand, Calmer Half likes it that way.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Einkorn Thumbprint Cookies

I may have been delighting over the idea and the execution of einkorn cookies a little too much in chat with friends, while also reminding them to take care of themselves... next thing I knew, I'd been suckered into a guest post.

Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that the next time I make keto brownies and start singing praises to chocolate and capitalism, I'm going to get the arched eyebrow, and a Certain Someone is going to demand another guest post with recipe?