Second Draft

Nonsense, I Say.

Posted in Food,Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What would you call a fantasy or science fiction cookbook?  You must understand that I am not in a particularly sane or sensible mood just now, so if you’re interested in a serious post, this blog is not your best choice today.  However, if you’re feeling less-than-profound, as I am today… what would you entitle a cookbook filled with recipes based on your favourite SF or fantasy stories?

I mean, for a cookbook based on the hard-boiled detective novels of John D. MacDonald, there is no possible title but The Dreadful Lemon Pie.  For a Regency romance-themed cookbook, you want April Ladyfingers.  For recipes based on cosy British mysteries, there’s Five Red Pickled Herrings, maybe, or Passage to Frankfurters.  So what about science fiction?  What about fantasy?

Surely you have better ideas than I do.  Must we be content with Lord of the Rings of Calamari, or Time Enough for Lunch?  No, I say,  You can do better, even in a silly mood.  Go ahead.  Make my soup — I mean, my day.


Writing Retreat

Posted in Collaboration,Writing by Jill Snider Lum on Monday, April 12, 2010

Twice a year, the Cecil Street Writers’ Group organizes a writing retreat. We take off on Friday morning for a cottage-camp on a lake in the Kawarthas, and we stay until Sunday afternoon. This past weekend was one such retreat, and it’s spurred me on to recommend this kind of thing to anyone who writes.

Let me describe what we do; maybe it can work for you and your fellow writers as well.

We rent a cottage, or cottages, for the weekend, depending on how many of us are going up. This April there were only four of us, but I’ve been on retreat with as many as eight writers together. Splitting the cost makes it affordable for everyone. Michael loves to cook (and do we ever love to eat his food!), so he does most of the cooking and provisioning for meals and we all chip in accordingly with the cost. Helen always makes the excellent Saturday breakfast crepes, we take turns doing dishes, and drinks and snacks are brought up individually and shared collectively.

We wake up between 7 and 7:30 a.m. on average, eat breakfast together in the same cabin, and then go back to whichever cabins we’ve slept in to write. Some people like to repair to their rooms and write alone. Others gather in the living-room area of their cabin and write together. I am one of those latter, because I find it easier to concentrate on writing fiction in a room where other people are doing the same thing. The enthusiasm, or you might say the energy, in a room full of writers writing is a powerful force. I find it impossible not to be carried along by it, and contribute my own energy to the stream.

We don’t talk much; we’re there to write. Now and then one of us might get up and walk down to the lake, to stretch our legs, or to brood (Dave is a great brooder-by-the-lake on these weekends, and he says it helps him a lot). Sara and Helen have a traditional walk they do, to the weir and back, to watch the rushing water and have it clear their minds. But mostly, we write.

A full writing day up there is eight to ten hours long. After the workday is over we have dinner together, and spend the evening talking, drinking wine, and relaxing until we’re ready for bed. Then we do all it again.

When you go on retreat, your household stays behind. There are no pending chores to distract you, no family needs to attend to, and unless you turn your mobile phone on, no phone calls. You’re in a room full of writers who have the same goals as you do, and the only distraction, the lake, requires that you get up and go outside and walk to it. You can’t help but accomplish a lot, under those circumstances.

This weekend I wrote 8000 words, and rearranged and edited a great deal more in addition. I’ve revised two shorts stories, which are now almost ready to submit (pending one more glance-over by a helpful critique friend), and reached the point of being 85% finished my novel — I mean, the Frankenbook. The rest of us all had similar successes.

I don’t think any of us have gone on a single retreat and come away thinking, “This was a waste of time”. If you write, I recommend you try retreating. You won’t regret it either.


Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Saturday, April 10, 2010

It’s been a tricky week all ’round; but there’ll be a new post sometime on Monday. Thanks for visiting us; and thanks for your patience. Happy Saturday!

Write What You Want To

Posted in Writing by Jill Snider Lum on Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I’m working on a story for an anthology right now (in addition to the Frankenbook, Son of Frankenbook, and of course, Demon Gate).  I got the story completed, after long and arduous effort… and disliked it.  My excellent critiquing tribe, the Cecil Street writers’ group, read it, and of course helped me to see a lot of what was wrong with it.  Usually this experience galvanizes me into a fresh approach to a story, leading to a piece of work that I like much better than before.

This time I just wanted to chuck the entire story.  And after a certain amount of cogitation, I figured out why.

I’d started out wanting to write a Japanese ghost story — I had ideas for it, it would be much different from the last one, but still, Japanese.  I decided not to, because the last two pieces I’d had published took place in Japan, and I thought it would be a bad idea to be known as the person whose writing always has Japanese themes… like someone with only one string to her bow.  So I decided to write something else instead.

Now, I don’t know if this applies to any of the rest of you who write, but for me, it was a mistake.  I’ve learned that I have to be pleased with what I’m writing for it to turn out even halfway-decently.  The Something Else Instead just wasn’t what I wanted to do, and my subconscious knew it, even though my conscious was trying not to think about it.

Obviously there are restrictions on what we write about in fiction, including things like the market we’re after, the demands of the editors, the guidelines for submission, and so on.   But within those restrictions, I’d advise you to write what you know you want to write, rather than what you feel you ought to.  It will make for a much better story.

I’m revising the original piece I wrote, but I’m also working now on the one I wanted to write.  It’s coming along much better, and taking hardly any time at all.  And I know that even after the helpful flensing it’ll get from the Cecil Street gang, I won’t want to toss it in the trash.  The brain is an interesting thing; it’s amazing what it can do when you jolly it along a little.

Long Weekend…

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Thursday, April 1, 2010

…and I don’t know when we’ll get to post; possibly not until Monday. So, in case we can’t get back to it until then, Happy Easter Weekend, everyone!

A Happy Undead Review!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Michael’s story, “Red Blues”, gets the special mention it deserves in the Innsmouth Free Press’s review of Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead.  I encourage you to check it out, and get a copy of the book.  Whether you’re just slightly interested in vampires or a long-time fan of the genre, you’ll like this collection of stories, which pushes the old blood-sucking envelope in remarkably innovative directions.

Hope you have a great Wednesday… and fangs for reading our blog.  (Yeah, I know… but it’s that kind of day.)

Another Kind of Monday

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Monday, March 29, 2010

And Monday it is.  We open our eyes and groan.  We crawl out of bed at the last possible moment, drag ourselves to the coffee pot and brew a hot cup of consciousness, trying to wake up enough to remember our own names.  We had a pretty decent weekend, but now it’s back to the grind.

And in seven more days, we’ll be doing this again.  Oh, yuck; another Monday.

In ancient Japan, though, the week didn’t have seven days.  In the time period when our novel takes place, the Japanese went by a calendar that gave them a 30-day month, consisting of three 10-day weeks.  There were compensation days put in periodically, to keep the 365-day year from being knocked cockeyed by the 30-day month.  But when you thought of a week in the Sengoku Jidai, you were thinking of a string of days named One, Two, Three, Four, and so on, up to Ten.

So, I encourage you to enliven your Monday by imagining yourself opening your eyes and groaning, rolling off your straw sleeping-mat — it’s too early for futons to have been invented — dragging yourself to the fire and brewing a pot of green tea, trying to get properly conscious, because it’s so hard to wake up on Day One after the weekend…

Hang on.  Weekend?

Your Turn!

Posted in Drink by Jill Snider Lum on Friday, March 26, 2010

Michael’s previous post has made me wonder about you, our readers.  Our blog hasn’t really been active for very long, and yet we do have people looking into it, presumably for all sorts of reasons.  It makes us feel good (and somewhat amazed!) that people are reading us, perhaps even on a somewhat-regular basis.  And the previous post got more hits than almost anything else we’ve put up here.  The previous post about infusing shochu with umeboshi, and how delicious the results are.

So… we’d love it if you would post your favourite drinkable innovations in the comments, so that we and all the other readers could try them.  Have you a favourite cocktail?  One you discovered, were introduced to, or invented yourself?  How about a delicious and unusual non-alcoholic drink?  Something you put in your tea or coffee that turns the ordinary into a treat?  Something you put in your hot chocolate that really goes well with it?  It’d be great to hear from you, and read your ideas!

Here are two to begin with.  A glass of soda water with ice is just sublime with a splash or two of yuzu juice added, especially on a hot day.  And so is a generous ounce of golden rum, enriched with a scant ounce of Calvados and an ice cube, sipped slowly as the sun goes down.

What about you?  What do you like to drink?

Anachronistic, Perhaps. But Tasty!

Posted in Drink by Michael Skeet on Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I have been experimenting with alcoholic infusions lately (apple-infused tequila is quite wonderful) and, as an afterthought at the end of a cocktail party a couple of months ago I tried something that’s appropriate to the spirit of Demon Gate if not necessarily defensible as being period-accurate.

From the back of our fridge I took the remnants of an old (very old) plastic tub of shiso-umeboshi (that’s pickled plums with a bit of shiso leaf to add extra flavour, not unlike putting dill in with pickled cucumbers) and dumped them into a small mason jar. Then I filled the mason jar with barley shochu. (Remember, that’s the only kind we can get up here, at least for now.) Then I put the mason jar in the fridge and forgot about it.

Fast-forward to last Thursday. Looking for something to drink, I spotted the shochu, glowing wickedly in the fridge. I dropped some ice into an Old Fashioned glass, and filled same with the infused shochu.

Oh. My.

Yeah, it was that good. And a really lovely shade of purple-pink, too. No, I don’t have a photo to show you; not in this post. That’s because I drank it all too quickly to think of taking a shot in any sense that didn’t involve shot glasses. As it were. However, I’ll try to post something about this experiment again in another couple of months, because as soon as I’d finished drinking the single glass I got from that small jar, I began infusing a much larger quantity of shochu in a larger mason jar.

I figure it’ll be great this summer.

Peter Watts convicted

Posted in Uncategorized by Jill Snider Lum on Monday, March 22, 2010

Our friend, esteemed colleague, and fellow workshop-member Peter Watts is now a convicted felon, for having committed the crime of asking a U.S. border guard a question.  He faces the possibility of up to three years in jail, and may never be allowed into the United States again.

Michael and I currently share the problem of being incapable of coherent speech regarding this matter — at least, coherent speech whose main content is not a long string of bad language.  So let me simply observe that it would appear the Land of the Free only grants that freedom to those who guard its borders — and that it’s the freedom to take out their frustrations on innocent citizens, freedom to take advantage of badly-written laws in order to make themselves feel important by beating up random strangers and throwing them into jail.  In other words, not freedom.  License.

We mourn for you, America.  All that freedom you keep talking about… it’s a ghost.

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