Sunday, October 31, 2010
After having her come home crying several times because everyone got a cupcake (or popcorn or pie) and she got *nothing,* I decided to be more pro-active this year and sign up more to bring things.
So, when the sign-ups came for the Halloween party I signed up for baked goods. I was going to make brownies from a box, frosted with frosting in a can, and some nice Halloween sprinkles.
Then I saw the recipe for Adam's Scary Apples.
The whole idea of black candy apples using twigs instead of wooden dowels seemed rather fun.
Somehow I decided that I'd make these instead. Only, I decided I'd make them using mini-apples to make them tot size -- 36 of them.
I'd never, ever made anything like this before. I'm still not sure what possessed me to do this.
I bought 36 crab apples, tracked down black food coloring, and bought a candy thermometer. I had the hubby cut me 40 twigs from the tree.
At 9 pm, Thursday night, after the tot was in bed, I started making them for the next day.
I used a wooden dowel to make a hole in each crab apple so I could put the twigs in. It took a loooong time. They also looked more like giant cherries than apples.
Then I started on the candy mixture. I remember making hard-candy type things with my mom when I was small and bringing things to the "soft ball" or "hard crack" stage, but I'd never done anything like this as an adult. I had no idea how long it would take to bring the mixture to 300 degrees.
It took a very, very, very long time.
I also had no idea how hot the plastic top of the candy thermometer gets.
Did I mention I managed to melt half the plastic part of the candy thermometer?
I added the cinnamon oil and decided that I'd do a few red apples for accents first, then add the black food coloring, like it suggested.
I did make the recipe at 1 1/2 (a full recipe plus a half), but it still needed a lot more red food coloring than the recipe called for.
The first few went really well. They looked all red and shiny--like giant cherries.
Then, following the instructions, I reheated the mixture and added the black food coloring. I didn't even measure and I just added half the bottle to make it nice and black.
But I didn't realize that I should re-heat the mixture back up to 300 degrees.
At about the third black apple the mixture started crystallizing and getting really goopy. Actually, it looked really cool, like they were creepy poison apples.
Re-heating it restored the mixture and made more shiny apples. But I also didn't realize that I'd need to reheat it after every couple of apples.
It was also really hard to coat them all by simply dipping it in the pan and rolling them around (and these were tiny apples, I have no idea how'd you coat big ones.) The candy cake cooling on the spoon and getting hard (it is hard candy). That got frustrating. I'm sure there's a trick, but I don't know what it is.
I also didn't realize how hot the mixture was and accidentally burned several figures while trying to coat the apples.
It probably wasn't a good idea to make them on the tray I was going to take them to school on, since if they get too close while cooling they stick together.
Oh, and the biggest thing?
I had no idea it would take nearly three hours to make them.
But, melted candy thermomotor, sticky mess, and three burned fingers aside, I think they turned out pretty well -- not perfect like in the food blog, but good enough for my first attempt.
What do you think?
The tot loved them. The kids at school also thought they were nice and spooky. Not all the kids liked them, but not everyone likes candy apples or cinnamon. That was why I made tiny ones.
All-in-all, I think they were a big hit.
I did get some dirty looks from other mommies at drop-off. These one-upped the store bought cupcakes with spider rings on them big time.
I'm still not sure what possessed me to go all June Cleaver and spend three hours making candy apples instead of baking brownies.
Will I make them again next year?
If someone asks, sure. I might even add some gummy worms as decoration.
But this time I'll try not to melt anything or burn any fingers.
Today's the last day of the Steamed! Halloween Author Invasion.
Urban Fantasy Author Jeanne Stein blogs about Halloween and is giving away a copy of her latest release Chosen and a copy of Cherie Priest's Boneshaker.
Have you checked out Paranormal Romance Author Maggie Shayne is talking about Halloween traditions and giving away three tarot card readings.
We also have Ednah Walters who's blogging about demons and guardians and giving away a copy of her debut YA novel Awakening.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
It's Halloween Appreciation week over at the National Short Story of Romance in honor of Fyrefly's birthday. This is an old story, but I thought it fit the occasion.
Happy Halloween Everyone.
Tricking the Treaters
©2008 Suzanne Lazear
Halloween was one holiday I just didn’t get. Kids dressed up in costumes and went door-to-door expecting candy. Adults dressed up and got drunk. I could deal with the parties. But the whole candy thing confused me.
What goddess was this holiday supposed to appease anyway?
Of course there were a lot of things I didn’t get. Like Girls Scouts, Spandex, and Reality TV.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay, Rory?” my housemate Ray asked. Again. On his way to a party, he was dressed as a pirate, complete with a three-cornered hat and a black eye-patch.
Looking up from my trashy romance novel, holding my place with a blood-red, manicured finger, I shot him a look as I lounged on the battered couch in our living room. “I promise to not turn the sprinklers on the kids and to actually give them candy, not cans of vegetables.”
I glared at the bowl of chocolates.
He tracked my gaze. “Some people like candy.”
Why did I volunteer for candy duty again?
Oh yeah, because I had to get up at the butt-crack of dawn for work tomorrow. At least I wasn’t on duty tonight. Like everyone in the house, I was an FBI agent. Ray and I dealt with those who walked on the wild side. We were the real “x-files.” If only people knew what really went bump in the night...
“Alright,” he sighed. “But if the house gets egged, you clean it up.”
I rolled my eyes. “I did last year, didn’t I?”
The little devils paid for it, too. You didn’t want to mess with me; I had a katana and knew how to use it.
Said katana sat in the center of the old wooden coffee table, with the bowl of candy, a can of beer, and a box of ding-dongs.
My spell gun was hidden from Ray’s view, tucked under my bent knees, loaded with pellets filled with sleeping potion, just in case the little devils came back for a rematch.
Punk teens were nothing compared to my usual workload.
He eyed me skeptically. “You’re not dressed up.”
“Am too.” A battered Red Sox hat was over my messy auburn bob, I had on jeans and a Red Sox shirt. “I’ll put my katana on when I answer the door.”
Ray shook his head. “Try not to burn the house down.” He left. My other three housemates were already gone.
Alone at last.
Unfortunately, not for long.
The doorbell rang. I dutifully doled out brightly wrapped candies to little kids dressed as stuff. I liked kids well enough, I’d sooner die than see them hurt, but I just wasn’t very good with them.
But then again I’d never really gotten to be a kid.
The night dragged on. Every time I got into a scene in my book, the doorbell rang. By 9 pm, it was quiet again. I’d gone through a couple of cans of beer and half the box of ding-dongs.
The guys wouldn’t be back until late. I could join them for a little while. But it was a work party. At someone else’s house. That meant certain a co-worker would be there.
So didn’t want to deal.
And if I didn’t dress up…
Somebody didn’t count a katana and a Red Sox hat as a “real costume.”
Also didn’t want to deal.
The doorbell rang. This time it wasn’t little kids, but a group of frat boys in drag. I gave them handfuls of candy, beer, and at their request, cans of Spaghetti O’s. I didn’t get it.
But I’d never actually been a college student, either.
Just as I was about to sit down, the doorbell rang again. The teen hoodlums got the rest of the candy. I turned on the sprinklers, and turned off the porch light. Then I left a bowl of canned vegetables on the porch for stragglers. It was a school night. Certainly, if you were out this late in our quiet DC neighborhood you weren’t expecting anything good.
About an hour later my sensitive ears picked up whispering in the front yard.
“Dude, she turned the sprinklers on.”
“This is a bad idea, she has a katana remember.”
“You’re such a chicken.”
The little devils were back for more.
I was ready.
Slinging my katana across my back, I grabbed my spell gun, and padded up the stairs. From my bedroom widow, I climbed up onto the roof and took my position.
Despite the sprinklers, they were toilet papering the yard. That would make a mess. Couldn’t they think of something more creative?
Even I was beyond that. I’d left an old couch on the lawn of a co-worker who pissed me off. Pink flamingos also worked well. In a pinch, so did plastic forks.
From my perch on the roof, I aimed my spell gun at the teens and fired three times in rapid succession. The tiny balls loaded with potent sleeping potion hit each one, felling them as soon as the liquid touched their skin.
I grinned. Those little devils never had a chance.
Sleeping potion was a wonderful thing, even if it was expensive and I couldn’t figure out how to put it on my expense reports. Just because I believed in the paranormal didn’t mean accounting did.
Now the real fun began.
Like they were sacks of potatoes instead of punks, I threw the three of them in the back of my housemate’s pickup along with some lawn chairs, rope, lawn gnomes, and a plastic palm tree. I took some of their toilet paper for good measure.
Covering everything with a tarp, I stowed my katana in the gun rack I’d installed for that very purpose.
Then I drove to the White House. Government tags were marvelous things.
I was about to engage in the prank of a lifetime when I heard a familiar voice.
“What are you doing, Rory?”
Of course he’d be lurking in the shadows on Halloween. For a vampire, Joel wasn’t that bad. “Tricking the treaters.”
Arching a dark eyebrow, he shot me a look.
“What? They were trying to TP my house. I’m leaving them on the White House lawn.”
The vampire smirked. “You’re not that good.”
I grinned. “Watch.”
I was faster and stronger than a vampire. Leaping fences and avoiding cameras, dogs, and patrols came naturally. Even with punks and prank stuff in tow. I knew where all the security weak points were. This was something I could do with a katana strapped to my back and never losing my Red Sox hat.
They should hire me to break in and tell them how to fix it.
On second thought, that would be a bad idea. That would mean admitting that I had exceptional breaking and entering skills. Ones that were unusual even for an agent who dealt with the paranormal.
In a matter of minutes, all three pranksters were settled in lawn chairs on the White House lawn, the plastic palm tree and gnomes around them. They were tied to the chairs, and toilet papered.
I hadn’t even been seen.
Soundlessly landing on the other side of the fence, I gave my hat a tweak and winked at Joel.
Would the little devils be found before or after the sleeping potion wore off? How would they explain it? Now that would be pure comedy.
“Remind me to never piss you off.” Joel looked impressed.
I shrugged. “Serves them right for trying to TP my yard.”
Like I’d arrived, I quietly slipped away, truck and all, returning to the house.
After I cleaned up the toilet paper, I settled on the couch with my book, even though I should go to sleep. Another can of beer, a ding-dong, and katana were on the table, spell gun tucked under my knees, just in case. I wondered if it would make the paper in the morning.
Ah, peace and quiet at last.
I was still there when Ray came home.
“Hi, Rory. Anything exciting happen?”
I barely looked up from my book. I was at a really juicy part. “Nope, all quiet on the home front.”
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Have you seen her great post on newbie writer no-nos?
Well, what happens when I take that list and apply it to a slew of contest entries? Come by and find out.
Stop by and say hello.
Also did you check out yesterday's post by Charlene Sands? She's talking about how to get rid of a ghost.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
I also need a little help with my Steampunk Princess Costume.
Don't forget, the author invasion starts on Sunday at Steamed! and runs until Halloween. Stop by for great authors, prizes, and more.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Do I try to do NaNoWriMo this year?
NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month where writers everywhere attempt to write a novel the month of November. The NaNoWriMo folks even give you tools to help you in your quest like an online page where you can track your progress with a pretty graph, forums, local "chapters" where you can meet up with fellow NaNoers, and Twitter sprints while everyone tries to "win" by reaching their goal of a book in a month.
NaNoWriMo defines "novel" as 50,000 words.
I have never, ever written a 50k novel. Even my Middle Grade ended at 73k (and needs to be whittled down considerably.)
So really, you don't need to write a beginning, middle, and end, to "win", just 50k. Even if you don't write the whole WIP, 50k is a big dent in any project. (Now, technically you're supposed to start a brand new project for NaNoWriMo, but I won't tell if you use it to finish a project. A finished project is epically better than an unfinished one.)
If you do the math, 50k in a month breaks down to less than 1,700 words a day. Even someone who's time crunched like me could handle that...if I was organized.
NaNo is 99% dedication and being organized. It's carving out time and writing every day, weather you're going solo, using write-or-die, doing online writing sprints with your writing peeps, or going to a write-in.
There's something fun about doing NaNo, since so many other people are trying to accomplish the same goal at the same time. Friends can provide great motivation to continue when you're stuck or feel like giving up. It's also kind of neat to be able to say you "won" NaNo.
NaNo is also not for everyone.
Everyone writes differently.
Depending on your process you might not be able put out that many words that fast without a break.
November might be too crazy to carve out the time to write. It does require a little planning to remove excuses and roadblocks (preparing the fam, making a few dinners ahead of time, clearing your calender).
It might require a sacrifice or two. Last year I did bring my laptop to Thanksgiving.
Your NaNo project is also the only project you'll be doing for a month so you may have to think can I drop everything and write this month? Would it be best for you to continue with your current project...or finish those evil edits before starting a new project?
For example, last November I was in a great place to do NaNo--I needed to write that project and it provided just the motivation I needed. I wrote 63k in three weeks.
This year, as much as I'd love to write something new, I think I'm going to have to sit NaNo out. Right now I think would be best for me to finish editing the two projects I have in progress, including my Middle Grade Elfpunk I just finished drafting. Then I can perhaps think about something new...
However, I am teaching an online class in November, so I will be encouraging everyone else to NaNo.
So, will you NaNo this year? Why or why not?
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
It's a very, very good article. She has some great, practical advice.
But I had to put in my own four cents.
As working moms who write, one of the keys to successes is figuring out what works for you. What works for one mom, may not work for another.
What this mom has wouldn't work for me--not with my job.
It seems to me that she has a very flexible job, one that allows her to take children to long sports practices and simply sit there instead of shuffling off to something else then circling back for a pickup. What a privileged and a luxury. So many working moms don't have the ability to take their kids to any practices at all during the week.
I also have to say, I am insanely jealous of her getting three hours a day to write.
A year ago I would have laughed and told you that two-to-three hours was easy and everyone should sit down at night and write that much if they were serious. I thought 3,000-5,000 new words a day was normal and those eking out under a thousand clearly needed to turn off their internal editor and just write. I wasn't a stay-at-home-mom or a work-at-home-mom. I didn't have some cool, flexible Hollywood job. I had a full-time, 9-5 job and a family. I would write 5-10k on weekends and still do things with my family and get the laundry done.
I was superwoman.
I had no idea how lucky I was.
Then I got my new job. I had to drastically re-think the way I do, well, everything--including write. The job where my 4 mile each way commute turned into a 40 mile each way commute. That three hours a day I used to write, is now spent in the car, which, unless I somehow manage to hook Dragon up to my laptop and dictate while driving, isn't being used for writing any time soon.
I get home late, so it's dinner, homework, and getting me and the tot ready for the next day. If I'm lucky, I may get to spend a little time with the hubby after the tot's asleep. More often than not, I go to bed. 5 am comes really early.
Some evenings I don't even check my email let alone write.
I had to find a way to make my new schedule work for me.
To me writing every day is important. So, I still write every single day. I write at lunch. I take my pink lunch box and my laptop and go sit out on the patio and write. I can get 1500 words done in a single lunch time if I'm really focus.
I also get food on my laptop. Oops.
But it's not the 3-5k I'm used to, so progress is much slower and that frustrates me.
Weekends? Well, I get more done, but not 10k. Weekends are spent running errands, which I used to do during lunch at the old job. Cleaning. And doing things with the tot, who no longer gets to hang out at mommy's work like at the old job.
I love my tot who is so supportive of me and understands that "mommy writes books." She'll even lean over and look at my screen and go "whatcha working on today, mama?"
I do plot and drive (I need a bumper sticker touting that.) I have been known to hide during family events and birthday parties with my laptop. I totally agree with having to give up other things in order to write (Housework is one of mine, though the family doesn't always agree).
I do have to say, as much as I love writing, I'd rather have a date with the hubby, then him taking me out so I could write. If I'm going to get a babysitter, then I want to go out and have fun. But, that's just me. I know if I want the hubby to continue to support me (and he is my biggest fan) we need to occasionally have conversations that don't revolve around work, children, or schedules.
Despite the new roadblocks, I manage to make it work. I *am* serious about my writing, even with this little time that I have. I have realized that it's possible to be serious about writing and only devote an hour (or even less) a day to writing. The important part is actually making the time, then sitting down and doing it.
I feel like I'm using my time the best I can--most importantly, in a way which works for me, which may not work for others. For example, many people swear by writing in coffee shops. I don't feel any more productive writing in Starbucks than in my living room.
It's also just not possible to go off duty as a mom when I'm already gone 12 hours a day and I just can't function staying up 'till 11:30 every night when I have to be up at 5. I still have to make time to be a mom and a wife and do mom things, both of the laundry and grocery shopping variety and of the playing with the tot and doing things as a family variety.
I have to keep my priories in order--a must when being a working, writing mom, and they differ for every single woman. I get very creative with my time to make sure I cover all my bases--that my family gets time and so does my writing. My family is very important to me and the last thing I want them to do is to resent my writing because it takes time away from them. Without them, I never would have started writing again, have continued to write, finished a book, shopped it, gotten over rejections, and finally gotten published.
So, maybe this year I'll only finish two WIP's instead of three. I'll probably be editing instead of doing NaNoWriMo. But I'm okay with that. I'm still writing. Every day. It's progress.
Also, I'll take writing in the backyard while the tot makes mudpies over writing in Starbucks, any day, because that's just the way I roll.
Friday, October 8, 2010
They both have the tot stamp of approval.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Did my child write about day camp or maybe going to the beach?
My child wrote about how she and her older sister went to Unicornland.
I’m not sure the teen knows they went to Unicornland over the summer.
I certainly didn’t know they went to Unicornland this summer.
“She’s so imaginative,” someone told me.
But I got the feeling that some of the other parents thought it’s a little more than *just* tot imagination. No, it’s because her mom is a (gasp) fiction writer.
I’ve hear it all before.
When the tot told my elderly aunt about her imaginary friend Bobo the Vampire giraffe that eats old people.
When the tot spoke of zombie unicorns, mermaid vampires, and dragons who explode, while at school.
Okay, so maybe normal tots haven’t developed their own mythologies about wereseahorses. Or have penpals who are fictional Vampires. The tot also recently told an author at a book signing that she was really a faery (and props to said writer who whispered back "I believe you.")
But it’s not necessarily because I’m a writer
(well, maybe it is.)
Is it really such a bad thing?
I love the tot’s imagination. When I need a wacky idea or hit a problem in a WIP, she always has ideas for me. Granted, they’re not always what I’m looking for, but they always give me a laugh. Why can’t worm farmers enter “sexy man contests” anyway?
Though she hasn't grasped yet that it's not "just" a story, if you're going to give your characters pink eyes when the story is set in our world you have to give it a reason.
But she has time to learn all that "stuff."
Also, she supports me as writer. She gives me (incredibly funny) plot lines, she shows bookstore employees where my book will be on the shelf, and she told me that I don’t suck as a writer—“not anymore, mama.”
Who could ask for anything more?
I love the tot’s overactive imagination regardless of whether it’s because of who she is or because I’m a writer.
Who knows what stories *she’ll* write one day.
When wereseahorses are the next big thing, you’ll know who started it.