Snowy Thanksgiving

I spent Thanksgiving in New Hampshire with my parents, my two sisters, my husband, and one small cat who was more than a little confused by all the activity.

It was a great weekend, despite the fact that we lost power – for 48 hours. We enjoyed the time together (thankfully, my parents have a wood stove and a generator they turned on for limited periods of time so we could do important things like charge phones, drink coffee, and take hot showers) and we got to have Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. Very grateful for that! And for the ability to flush toilets without having to fill the tank (my parents are on well water). It’s the little things.

The snow stayed in the trees for days, even after the sun came out. It was incredible. Here are some photos!

During the storm

During the storm

Blue skies

Blue skies

Snow's still hanging in the trees!

Snow’s still hanging in the trees!

I Signed the Pact to #WriteInclusively

Untitled

The symbol for #WriteInclusively

SC Write issued a challenge today asking writers to agree to a pact to write inclusively. The pact, and the reasons why it’s important, can be found here: http://scwrite.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-pact-for-writing-inclusively-please.html

Because of this initiative, I also came across Deb McKellan’s blog post, Being Black in Writerville. I’d urge you to read that, too.

I enthusiastically signed up for this pact, and I’d encourage others to do the same.

As a white writer, it may be scary to think about writing diverse characters. I get it. I’m white. I’m sometimes afraid I’ll make a big mistake, do something wrong or hurtful. But writing is about pushing to the heart of what it means to be human. How can we do that if we whitewash our stories?

Take the risk. Make mistakes. Get feedback. When people point out mistakes? Listen to them. Do better next time.

A lot of us feel helpless about what’s been happening in the news, and how can we not? This is a step we can take, action through our words. If we writers won’t do it, how can we expect that anyone else will?

I want to say a word about reading diverse literature here, too, because SC Write and Deb McKellan have articulated better than I can why writing inclusively is important. Please, please read their posts, which I linked above.

With regards to reading: put your money where your heart is. Buy books by diverse authors. Check them out of the library. Request them from your local bookstore.

I’m guilty of sometimes relying too heavily on the titles I see in reviews and on lists to make up my to-be-read pile. Unfortunately, authors of color are consistently underrepresented in reviews and on booklists (many coming out this time of year). When I find my shelf is looking a bit whitewashed–and I’m getting better about monitoring this–here’s what I do:

  1. Turn to Goodreads lists.
  2. Run a Google search (obvious, maybe, but worth noting).
  3. Request recommendations on social media.
  4. Follow threads like #WeNeedDiverseRomance and #WeNeedDiverseBooks.
  5. Go to readings, book festivals, and conferences that embrace diversity. The Brooklyn Book Festival in September had authors of color on every panel I attended. I added many of them to my list of authors to check out.

My hope is–and despite the horrific news lately, I do still have some–that the more diverse books we buy, the hungrier publishers and booksellers will be to acquire them. Spend some of your book-buying dollars on diverse books, and you’re helping everyone.

Bonus: reading books by a wide range of authors will always, always improve your writing.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Drinking Game & Signature Cocktail

Blog series: TV Show Drinking Games and Signature Cocktails. The game’s designed to be fun whether you’re catching up on one episode or settling in for a good binge watch (but uh, no binge drinking please. Binge drinking is bad).

Up next is the on-again, off-again, can’t-quite-quit-it show that is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Fair warning: the drinking game may contain minor spoilers for Season 1, but let’s be real: you can pretty much skip Season 1. Or start with the episode directly before the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Annnnyway, the themed cocktail is:

The 0-8-4
You’re not sure exactly what it is, but you know it’s dangerous.

AoS_PineappleMargarita_KateSheeranSwed

I wonder if Coulson had these in T.A.H.I.T.I.

This one requires a bit of setup, but it’s SO worth it. It’s a pineapple/jalapeno margarita, and it’s insanely delicious.

Setup:

  • One batch of jalapeno-infused tequila.
    I used this recipe from Foodie Misadventures. I made a half batch using 1.5 jalapenos in 400 ml of tequila, because I only had small mason jars. This made for an intensely spicy margarita, and I loved it. But if you want something subtler, maybe reduce the jalapeno. It’s simple, but it needs to be started at least two days in advance.
  • One batch of Sriracha salt for the rim
    I found a great recipe on Buzzfeed. This involves baking for one hour.

For the drink:
Foodie Misadventures has a recipe,  but I prefer Triple Sec to Grand Marnier and I wanted the lime juice to have a stronger presence in the margarita, so this recipe is a variation on Ina Garten’s recipe here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part jalapeno-infused tequila
  • 1 part Triple Sec
  • 1 part lime juice
  • 1.5-2 parts pineapple juice
  • Pineapple/jalapeno garnish (if desired)

AoS2-PineappleMargarita-KateSheeranSwed

Spread the Sriracha salt on a plate and wet the rim of the glass with one of the cocktail ingredients (I used pineapple juice, because it’s sticky). Dip the glass upside down in the salt and repeat until the edge is adorned.

Combine the jalapeno-infused tequila, Triple Sec, lime juice, and pineapple juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour the drink into a glass, garnish if desired, and get ready to play the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. drinking game!

AoS3-PineappleMargarita-KateSheeranSwed

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Drinking Game

Level 8
(Sip it!)

Skye hacks something

Coulson withholds information

Fitz makes puppy eyes at Simmons

Simmons does science

May kicks someone’s ass

Ward says he will never lie to Skye

Ward lies

Tripp gets to do something! Anything!

Lance Hunter and Bobbi Morse squabble

May silently flies the plane, or silently engages in any activity, while another team member attempts a heart-to-heart
BONUS: is Coulson attempting the heart-to-heart? Drain half!

Creepy alien carvings

Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow reference

Clint Barton/Hawkeye reference

 

Level 9
(Half glass!)

Skye hacks something without permission

May kicks another team member’s ass
BONUS: is it Ward? Drain it!

Coulson fanboys over weapons/artifacts/Cap trading cards

Thor/Hammer reference

Cap reference

Tony Stark/Iron Man reference

Hulk reference

 

Level 10
(Drain it!) 

Skye hacks something despite specific instructions NOT to hack that particular thing

Maria Hill appearance!

Nick Fury appearance!

 

What did I miss? Feel free to add ideas in the comments!

It is SO On, NaNoWriMo

I’ll have another TV-themed cocktail posted here soon – probably on Sunday or Monday. In the meantime, this is what I’m up to:

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

What this means: I’m trying to pound out 50k words this month in what will be a SUPER rough draft (I call it a skeleton draft or a zero draft, though I think skeleton sounds nicer) of my next  novel. It’s been several years since I was last able to do NaNo, but it’s a fun community and a great way to make new friends.

Right now I’m about two days ahead of my word count goal, so I’d say it’s going well. I’m excited about this project, which is an epic fantasy.

Here are some great resources for NaNoWriMo:
Veronica Roth’s pep talk (LOVE this)
Worksheet Resources on the Great Noveling Adventure
NaNoWriMo Writing Tips from Chuck Wendig (entertaining as always)
And an important reminder from Laura Heffernan (whose writing process sounds eerily like my own) that it’s ok NOT to do NaNo

Sleepy Hollow Drinking Game (And Signature Cocktail!)

New Blog Series: TV Show Drinking Games and Signature Cocktails. The game’s designed to be fun whether you’re catching up on one episode or settling in for a good binge watch (but uh, no binge drinking please. Binge drinking is bad).

In honor of Halloween I’m starting with one of my favorites: Sleepy Hollow!

Here’s your Sleepy Hollow signature cocktail:

The Witness

It’s a take-off on this recipe. I played around with it and decided to go with triple sec over peach schnapps. Sparkling pomegranate juice seemed to have a more festive, Halloweeny feel than cranberry, and I adjusted the ratios to my taste. I also came up with something fun for the rim of the glass.

The most frightening cocktail in Sleepy Hollow. BOO!

The most frightening cocktail in Sleepy Hollow. BOO!

For the rim:
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried ginger

Mix sugar and ginger and spread out on a plate. Wet the rim of a martini glass with one of the ingredients from the drink (below), then dip it upside down on the plate and twist until the edge is adorned.

For the drink:
1 oz. black vodka
1 oz. triple sec
4-5 oz. sparkling pomegranate juice

Pour the triple sec in the bottom of a martini or small wine glass. Add the sparkling pomegranate juice–don’t shake it or it’ll lose the fizz! Carefully add the black vodka by spooning it in against the side of the glass so it’ll hang over the cranberry juice and look all creepy.

If you want the drink to be more tart than sweet, definitely go for five (or even six) ounces on the pomegranate juice.

If you can’t find BlaVod (black vodka), which is big for lots of Halloween drinks, you can add some black food coloring to regular vodka for the same effect.

Ghoulishly delicious!

Ghoulishly delicious!

Drinking Beer?

To stick with the theme, pick up a pumpkin brew by UFO or Blue Moon.

The Sleepy Hollow Drinking Game

Ichabbie

Sleepy Hollow Sheriff’s Department
(Sip it!)

“LEF-tenant.”

“Crane…”

Beheading!

Maloch!
BONUS: In a mirror? Drain half!

Jenny resents Abbie.

Andy changes sides.

Hawley is unreliable.

Ichabod name-drops one of the founders.
BONUS: General Washington? Take two sips.
BONUS x2: Zombie General Washington? Three sips!

Jenny is a badass.
BONUS: Does it involve a gun? Two sips!

Abbie almost dies.

Ichabod almost dies.

Anyone other than Maloch communicates via mirror.

Flashback: Teenage Abbie and/or Jenny in the woods.
BONUS: Did they show Maloch? Two sips!

Supernatural occurrence relates to Ichabod’s time in the army.
BONUS: Was he still a redcoat? Two sips!

Headless Horseman!
BONUS: Is he shirtless? Better drain it!

 

The Archives
(Half glass!)

Ichabod struggles with/rails against some aspect of modern life.

Katrina communicates, fails to provide specific information.

Answers/demons found in creepy tunnel/underground lair.

Supernatural occurrence relates to Ichabod’s personal life.

Conversation in a car.

 

Purgatory
(Drain it!) 

Ichabod appreciates modern life.

Henry’s secretly behind something. Anything.

Extras in scene (paramedics, other non-Witness civilians) treat supernatural occurrence as though it totes happens every other day. A police woman who almost drowns in a library. Little girls abducted by the Pied Piper. Etc.

What did I miss? Add ‘em in the comments!

 

Book Recommendation: The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears

9781460337752-COVTitle: The Masked Songbird
Author: Emmie Mears
Publisher: Harlequin

KoboB&N | Amazon *

Disclaimer: Let it be known that I purchased this book of my own free will and enjoyed it so much that I’m posting a recommendation/review.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb:

Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—even her country.

-

I adored this book.

The voice. This voice is everything I want from first person. Gwen is fun to hang around with, and you never quite know what she’ll do next–which is why it’s totally believable that she’d suck down an open beverage when she finds herself in desperate need of one (no spoilers here!).

The story is rigorously true to its own internal logic, and to Gwen’s character. I know her well, so I believe in her choices. She may be hapless from the beginning, as the blurb tells us, but it’s clear she’s tough even before she can leap onto rooftops. She’s good at her job, yet she’s stuck with an evil boss. She’s bad at budgeting, but she doesn’t “solve” the problem by throwing expensive meals/shoes/etc. on credit cards (or hell, even affordable ones–the woman is barely surviving). She has flaws, interesting flaws that directly effect the direction of the novel. She’s also competent enough before she gets her super strength that I believe in her ass-kicking abilities when she does find she has powers–and in the loyalty and kindness that drive her to use them. It’s beautifully done.

The supporting characters are also intriguing. Gwen’s evil boss makes all other evil bosses look like kittens. Her neighbor is a-dor-a-ble. Her flatmate is charming. And her boyfriend…yeah, I think I dated him once. Even those who appear only briefly are memorable and nuanced, which I love–layers and secrets keep me guessing all the way through.

This book strikes a beautiful balance between a fun origin story and a serious contemplation of the price involved in becoming a hero. That choice fascinates me, as do the consequences. I think about it more than I should, probably. I love superheroes. I wrote a novel about superheroes. It’s nothing like this book, but my point is that I was proudly biased when I started reading The Masked Songbird, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was thrilled to see a female superhero who faces these choices and the sacrifices that come with them, who rises to the occasion just like Cap and Spider Man–but (I’m itching to tell you more, but I won’t) brings her own unique spin to the story, too.

What surprised me the most about this novel was its depth of heart. It’s clear from page one that it’s going to be a fun read, but woe betide you if you go in expecting Emmie Mears to pull any punches. She raises the stakes throughout the novel, and she delivers. There’s a line in the climax that hit me so hard I had to put my e-reader down for a few minutes to catch my breath. It’s a moment that could be cheesy, but Ms. Mears pulls it off without sugary sentiment.

Is it too soon to ask for a Gwen Maule TV series? In the vein of Arrow? I’d love that. More importantly though, there’s a sequel on the way–which means lots more quality time with Gwen!

-

*Yup, I’m still mad at Amazon, but this book doesn’t seem to be available in print (yet! I hope!) so I’m linking to them. Go buy it somewhere. Anywhere.

Project(s) update

I’m in the beginning stages of two novels right now, which is pretty unusual for me. Not sure exactly how it happened, and I suspect one will probably take over my brain before long, but jury’s out on which it will be. The two books are different enough that they might play well together for a while, but eventually I do expect one of them to demand more of my time.

Stephen King talks about “keeping the door closed” on first drafts, and for me it’s really the only way. If I talk about it too soon, the idea loses its magic. With that in mind, I’ll share the genres here and leave it at that for now.

The first is Magical Realism, and it’s quite serious–which is probably why I need to be worldbuilding on the second project while I’m writing on this one. I’m about 15k words in.

The second project is straight Fantasy. It’s leaning toward Epic Fantasy, but I’m still in the discovery process. I’ve written less than 200 words on it; I need to develop the setting and character backstories before I can get very far. I did capture a bit of voice, which is the tricky part. If I have a hint of voice, I can usually rocket through a draft. If not, I tend to struggle. That’s why I dislike first drafts, in comparison to the rest of the writing process; I can’t lock down the voice until I write, and it’s hard to write until I have the voice. Yeesh.

In fact, I call this my zero draft because it’s much more of a skeleton with dialogue than anything resembling a real draft. I may write more about that soon, but for now I have some worldbuilding to do!

Quick Update and Links

I’m working on a few short stories right now, and it feels good to finish things after spending so long wrapped in a bubble of novel. I love my novel, maybe more than anything else I’ve written, but there’s something soothing about reaching “the end” with a little more regularity. Maybe it’s just that “a change is as good as a rest”?

One of the stories has a super precise voice, and it’s fun to puzzle over each word. It also has dragons.

Other small projects: a villain story, a steampunk story, and (maybe) a sci-fi story that’s acting like it’s going to take a while to find the right tone. That’s ok; I can wait.

Links to some things I’ve particularly enjoyed lately: 

Delilah Dawson on 10 Things You DON’T Need to be a Writer – couldn’t agree more!

Chuck Wendig’s glee at Guardians of the Galaxy pretty much reflects my feelings on the movie, too.

Speaking of Chuck Wendig, he also wrote a great piece on comparing yourself to others. It’s a must-read.

My critique partner, Sara Seyfarth, has a lovely story in Paper Darts this week. Check it out when you have a chance!

How to Express your Mood with Superheroes

I made fun little chart thing. I got the idea this morning while talking to people on Twitter. 

It has superheroes.

I think it’s pretty self explanatory, although I suppose that “badass” isn’t so much a mood as a state of existence. Let’s say it’s also a state of mind, shall we?

Enjoy :)

SuperheroMoods

Updates!

Excuses for blog silence:

  1. Graduated from MFA program at the end of June – yay!
  2. Got married at the end of July – also yay!
  3. Needed time to collapse – zzzz.

This week, it’s back to my writing routine. The second draft of my novel is with critique partners, so I’m working on a new story. I’ll be back with the novel soon.

I’ve also been blowing through books and literary magazines like crazy. The highlights:

Here’s some other stuff I’ve been checking out:

  • Audio Didact, an Apiary Podcast. It’s by two friends of mine, Killian and Daniel (with special guests). Great conversations on books, comics, science, music, art. All the good stuff.
  • The 100, a sci fi show on the CW. It premiered last winter, I think, but I’ve been catching the reruns. (It has Desmond from Lost, Burke from Grey’s Anatomy, and Zoe from Person of Interest.)

Looking forward to:

  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (it comes out today!)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy