Saturday, August 30, 2008

Writers Market

Who knew that bread baking could lead to a great lesson in book marketing? Jeff Hertzberg himself commented on yesterday's entry about brioche (some of which, by the way, I'm thinking about using to make blueberry-lemon curd bread for a family brunch tomorrow.) He co-wrote the book the recipe came from.

I don't have to ask how many hits he had to go through to find a link to my little blog (a ton), but I do have to wonder how many writers are willing to work that hard - not only hunting for, but also e-mailing website links to, every site that mentions their book. I'd probably do the hunting and then be too shy to say anything.

That's just not good business, being too shy. More and more I'm amazed by the depth and breadth of skills required of a financially successful writer today, compared to fifty years ago. Usually I consider it a curse, but when it comes to writing I'm darned grateful I'm naturally chatty and a little compulsive.

And now, I'm gonna go reorganize my whole wheat bread dough. I love the Tupperware thing, but it's harvest season and I need more 'frig space for blueberries and - mmmm - seedless concord grapes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Brain Food

If you love bread (and hate your body), you totally have to try the brioche recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. And then eat the brioche with jam. Oh my. It's actually the easiest bread recipe I've ever made as well as the most foolproof. Just make sure you have a really really big lidded bowl before you start. This is the part where I pay homage to my dear friend Rosa, who invited me to a Tupperware party the month they were doing their giant bowls for $11 if you bought a bunch of other stuff, which I did. Never thought I'd need that thing and now I can see it taking up permanent status in my 'frig.

Yeah, so, baking brioche at 10pm is not a good plan during no-food-after-7pm week, but neither is getting insomnia at 2am when you have to be up at 5:30. Another not-so-good plan is to eat cereal and read The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge at 3am when you have to be up at 5:30. That book is just plain fascinating and I recommend it highly, for daytime use.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Home Bakery

When I was in my mid-twenties (twenty or so minutes ago), there was a bakery between where I lived and where I caught my bus to work, and I would breathe in deeply as I passed (assuming I didn't stop and buy everything I could carry) and think that someday I should retrain as a baker. I was dimly aware of the early hours, but I figured the aroma would be worth it.

All of which is to say that today I am trying yet another bread technique as described in the reassuringly slim book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. I have the equivalent of four loaves of whole wheat bread rising in a big Tupperware bowl on the counter, and in a couple of hours I'll be able to shove it in the 'frig and use the contents for up to 14 days. I'll keep you posted.

Yes, I know it is insanity to choose this particular procrastination technique during Boot Camp. Bread and weight loss Do Not Mix. And I haven't worked on either of my two rush pieces, one due Saturday, the other on Tuesday, in several days. What can I say? I like to live on the edge.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Boot Camp

Much earlier in the summer, before I decided to submit two competition pieces three days apart on two weeks' notice, I designated this, the last week of August, as 'Boot Camp.' I knew the pizza and holiday fudge would catch up with me eventually, and I was right, and that means this week it's soup made with home-made chicken stock, vast quantities of farmstand fruits and veggies, and a looootta time at the gym.

But most of all, it's no-snacking-after-7 week. Fortunately all the fudge and candy bars mysteriously disappeared (into my tummy) a couple of days ago so I was finally able to do that last night. I feel much better today, and that's annoying because I feel much better every time I skip the snacks. Just once I'd like to feel glorious after midnight chocolate feastings. Chocolate is so darn delicious.

The real test comes Saturday, when I find out whether I can complete even one of the two pieces without feeding my brain any processed sugars. That one is harder to believe but hey, it's science, so I gotta try...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Miss me?

I've been so swamped with procrastinationisms the last few days I forgot I even had a diary to record them all!

It's mostly organization again. It's like paper is breeding right there on the kitchen counter in among the fresh fruits and vegetables I picked up at farm stands, and the pots from the chicken I roasted and made stock from yesterday.

But also I'm going for it with those last two writing competitions and their end of August deadlines. And the weather is getting colder out, which always makes me think of knitting. And skirts with tights and cute flat shoes. As soon as I can extricate myself from the house, I'm totally going shopping.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

That's a wrap!

Or will be - I'm definitely into the home stretch on presents and surprises and wrapping of same. I took time off last night for a long gab with my mum that gave me about 16 more tons of fuel for the newest project, due Sept. 2, which will make it hard to give up. But I've got my work cut out for me revising the one that's due August 31, too.

I can't remember the last time I had such a rich harvest going on in my brain. Next week, I'll definitely be doing a countdown here in the diary to see if I can pull off two pieces plus a phone list all in seven busy days!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Things I Should Not Do

Find contests with deadlines less than four weeks distant.

More than once a month.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Car Hole

Ever since I saw that episode of the Simpsons where Moe tells Homer he's all la-di-da for saying 'garage', and Homer says well, what do you call it, and Moe says 'the car hole', I have been physically unable to say garage. And anyway, car hole is more appropriate for the place where one would put a car here, if there was space for it.

No matter how hard I try to keep that thing organized, it turns back into a pit of despair within seconds of my shutting up the door (which, by the way, swelled so badly last winter I couldn't get it open to get to the garbage cans... another item to put on the to-do list.)

The fact is, there's only so much you can do with choreography. If I could accept that I am never going to have an elegant meal in the back yard and will probably never camp again, and get rid of the patio set and tent, I could probably whip that thing into shape.

But not today. Today, I'm weeding the outside of the garage, aka the garden of despair. If I'm not back in 24 hours, send a search party, wouldja?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

In Which I Feel Remorse for all the Ice Cream

Well, not so much the ice cream, because I lost weight eating that, right? Maybe it was all the chocolate.

Last night I went to a fun run as cheerer-on. I tried to do the 15K last year and did the last 2 or 3 of them in an ambulance, so I wasn't going to try it again this year. But seeing all those runners having a great time with their glitter and butterfly wings and floaty skirts I thought, Yeah, I miss running.

For some reason I've never been able to balance writing and exercise. If I have just one free hour, I will almost always choose to write. But I've also noticed that when my focus is on writing I can't budge it, and when my focus is on exercise I don't care about anything but eating right and getting out there.

Oh well, it's nearly September, and another thing I've never been able to do is lose that back to school frame of mind. Back to school, back to order and discipline. It's not like exercise doesn't free your mind to work out plot problems and boost your creativity, if I can just figure out how to harness the two activities together. Meanwhile, it's back to the elliptical trainer for me. Yay, iPod.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I am not meant to take vacations

The first time I went away this summer, everybody I went with got sick. The next time, I came home to a broken washing machine. This time, my modem fried, and I came home to No. Internet. Access.

It's sad that this is such a horrifying prospect, isn't it?

Even though I did end up getting a lot of writing done and a better washing machine and my brother rescued me with a new modem and the setup for same, I think maybe I am not meant to go away. And I *know* I have to stop looking with longing at big houses in small towns. Small towns probably don't have pitstop modem stores that are open till 9 on Friday nights.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Minibreaks vs. Vacations

When I was a kid, summer vacation meant (or felt like, not always a good thing) a week or two someplace a fair distance from home. This summer I'm taking what seems like a zillion minibreaks a good deal closer to home.

Which is better?

Well, a long vacation means thinking ahead two weeks and shutting down your life for as long. Minibreaks with an internet connection don't require you to shut down your life for longer than it takes to travel to your destination, and less than that if you have a smackberry, which I don't. But they do require you to consider every possible variation in setting or dress that could possibly occur for the two or three days you're gone. And to pack accordingly. Over and over again.

And doing insane amounts of laundry because even if you didn't wear that top, it's going to smell funny when you get it back from its travels through hotel and suitcase.

That's what it comes down to, really. This summer, it's not so much about the vacation - it's about celebrating the wonderful new washing machine in the basement.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How to Write a Bestseller

Everybody has their theory, but they seem to boil down to this: resonance = bucks. Beautiful writing makes it easier to deliver something that hits home for a ton of people who are, coincidentally, willing to drop $20 on average for a book. You still have to hit what the average book buyer or persuadable book buyer cares about.

That's where my theory sits. Read spam! Well, the subject headings for spam. Spammers stake their careers on knowing what drives the average person, and they cater their subject lines the key elements of resonance - the recipient's actual life, inadequacies, and fantasies - all elements in achieving resonance.

So taking a random sampling of my spam from the last couple of days, I should be writing for deal-seeking, computer literate people who are interested enough in current events to sign up for CNN alerts, worried enough about people wanting to have sex with them to be open to enhancement drugs, and first on the mouse when it comes to possible topless photos of celebrities. I am so up for writing to all of that.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I got through that whole list from yesterday before lunch (which reminds me of the novel Before Lunch, a wistful look at lost romance in the English countryside, written in the 20s.)

(not that you can afford to be wistful getting through such a busy list, or having thoughts of romance either.)

So for breakfast, I am going to picnic on chocolate croissants and cafe au lait. Toodles!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Today's Top Ten Menu

Oooooo, so many options for today. I did get my short short story drafted yesterday, so of course I want to work on that. But I can/should/will face dire consequences if I don't also:

10/ Fold laundry
9/ Do more laundry
8/ Organize the stuff I dumped out on the counter
7/ File the stuff I organized
6/ Put the laundry away
5/ Bake something - anything
4/ Eat chocolate while baking or
3/ Eat chocolate instead of baking
2/ Review my camp notes relating to the short short
1/ Stand in front of my new washer and say Ahhhhhh

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Furniture as Hook

I never think of myself as a writer of short stories, even though I've had several published (and have never published anything else.) I wrote four terrible novels before starting work on this much better one, and just spent two intense weeks on a nonfiction piece. The short stories were little flings I fit in between the other stuff.

And then yesterday a short story idea occurred to me and today, I definitely want to get started on it.

It's about a desk. It wasn't until this morning that I remembered one of my first published stories was about a chair.

Okay, so the desk and the chair are both family heirlooms, more or less. But still. I'm writing about furniture. I'm like the new mom who says Okay, baby name... (glances around room) Doorframe! Doorframe good with you guys? Doorframe Lightswitch. We can call her Door-ie, okay?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I grew up in a cooperative subdivision - cooperative as in friendly, but also as in co-op. All the families kicked in some money to buy an orchard and house plans and building supplies, and then donated a whole lotta their own labour to build a community. Of maybe three different houses repeated over and over, none of them glam.

My dad solved the perennial storage problem in ours by putting an 8'x10' piece of board across one end of a basement area otherwise partitioned off by curtains and finishing it with blackboard paint. I drew chalk houses on that thing for hours at a time, and they were all glam, even the treehouses.

I've never lost that obsession for interesting places to keep my stuff, and perhaps that explains why even now I yearn for a new home... a new old one, that is, with a fireplace and a window seat and a big porch from which to admire a different cute house across the street.

All of which is to say that when not writing, online viewing of real estate listings is a wonderful place to pass the time, and maybe even sort of productive! if I move some day. Criminy. Maybe I'll have to, just to justify all the hours I spend on MLS.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Life Begins on Thursday

... sometime after one, to be exact.

After the new washer arrives, I can once again garden with impunity and get my clothes as dirty as I like, assuming I don't find a zillion other better things to do. But they'd have to be really, really good things because the weeds and even the few scraps of the grass that used to grow in patches out there are trying hard to convince everybody that they belong between the yews and the hostas and in front of the boxwood hedge. What I need is a big-time Weed and Mulch Day to let them know how wrong they are.

Like that's gonna happen. All I can think about is getting busy on the revisions to chapter two... definitely, I've become a reverse procrastinator.

But a procrastinator with a shiny new washer on its way. Yay!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Forget the Salad Days...

I'm looking at a return to my Laundromat Days. You know, the good old kind when you take a cheap apartment with no laundry facilities? I used to lug a duffel bag and a backpack full of my entire closet plus a good book down 6 blocks to a warm little place on a side street across from the Snake Pit restaurant (as I was wont to call the Fire Pit back then.) I believe the laundromat is still there, though the Snake Pit is now a Starbucks. Another kind of Snake Pit.

I enjoyed those evenings, even though I was never approached by cute guys offering me gum. But I didn't enjoy them enough to look at favour with resuming them now that my washer has seized up for the third time in a year. Admittedly, the second time it was probably because I was washing a towel I had used to wipe the porch dry after powerwashing it to remove loose paint, and which I had forgotten to shake out first. But still. I need a new washer.

And it takes 3-4 days to deliver, and today is a holiday so I can't even order one till tomorrow. So it's either laundromat parties, or no laundry at all! Mmmm, holiday from laundry....

Sunday, August 3, 2008

More Toast, Please

You proooobably don't remember my recent obsession with the Paul Young recording of 'Toast', but I DO, which may be why I am so intrigued by a rather novel application for this delicious and versatile food item:


Yep, is selling off toast images with, well, your name on them, to raise money for Oxfam. I think that's just brilliant. As are some of the slices on the main page.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

If it's a long weekend, I must be painting...


Seriously, this is probably the first time in ten years that I haven't had to do some major painting job while everybody else is drinking beer beside some tent or pool or freshly-caught fish. Though as luck would have it, I would be happier slaving over a hot manuscript as drinking beer any old place.

Spending the weekend with one of my best friends is even better than working on the book, however, and it couldn't come at a better time because if I don't have some jolt to push my focus back to my real life very soon, my house (or, at least, all the dust bunnies therein) will fall down around my ears.

Friday, August 1, 2008

E-mail: friend or foe?

I know that some might say that constantly e-mailing and replying to e-mails would be, you know, procrastination, especially when there is laundry to do and muffins to bake and packing to prepare and a chapter to totally revise by Tuesday.

But I beg to differ, because yesterday when I was typing an e-mail to one of my very fine new writing comrades, I had a Eureaka! moment that totally resolves a plot problem I have been battling since the winter.