Words and pictures from the author of And the Crows Took Their Eyes as well as the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries . . .
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Oh my goodness. And here I just thought I was writing about chickens and old pictures and books and dogs and stuff -- and taking pictures kind of as if you were walking alongside me and I was saying, 'Oh! Look at that!"
But I'm glad Bo enjoys my blog and my pictures and I'll pass this along to five more bloggers I enjoy.
Laurey Bikes The adventures of Laurey, a popular Asheville chef and caterer, riding her bike cross-country in company with other intrepid women to raise money to aid in the fight against ovarian cancer. I don't know Laurey, though I've enjoyed her food on several occasions and read and enjoyed her culinary memoir Elsie's Biscuits, but I'm vicariously following her adventure.
My Carolina Kitchen -- despite the name, it's quite a lot about food in France -- yum.
Reader Wil -- lovely pictures from Amsterdam and beyond. And Reader Wil's personal story is fascinating.
Urban Amish -- more quilt talk from a quilter and fabric designer
Willow Manor -- an immensely popular and beautiful blog. Everyone would like to go have tea with Willow!
These bloggers are invited to copy the image to their own blogs and pass it on to others. Or not -- as they choose. They may be like me, running out of blogs they follow and running out of time to follow new ones.
Signing off from Bowling Green . . .
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunrise and Morning Light
I have finished expunging Myrna Louise and her subplot from the Miss Birdie book and, fond though I was of Myrna Lou, dang it, my editor was completely right -- the book is much stronger now. I wrote in more Birdie-specific material and am doing my final re-read -- 174 pages to go before sending the book off to Herself on or before the first.
Herself, of course, may want more changes. But, at this moment, battered and bruised and creeping near the finish line of this particular lap, I'm happy with the book.
Myrna Louise isn't gone forever --I hope she'll be back in a short story or a book of her own.
Assuming my hotel in Bowling Green has WiFi, I'll let you all know how things are going.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
What About the Cats?
It's a kind of unspoken rule among writers of cozies that you mustn't kill a cat -- or a dog or a child or anything cute and fluffy or any likable person.
But I don't write cozies -- I write psychological suspense. Sometimes bad things happen to nice people. . . or their animals. I'm not just trying to set up an interesting puzzle to be solved with some snappy repartee and zany hi jinks along the way --all done with a minimum of emotional involvement. No, I'm trying to make my characters real to my readers -- real people in real (well, except for the occasional touch of paranormal) situations where there is always some risk.
I'm trying to engage my readers' emotions . . . to move them to laughter . . . and sometimes to tears.
In one of my books, there is a reference to a cat (or maybe two, I don't remember) that was killed in the past by one of the characters. Not, notice, a cat that we ever got to know. But I needed that reference to show the nature of a particular character. Remember, adult psychotic types often began by abusing animals when they were children.
And, as always, I wonder why I (along with many readers) am more squeamish about the death of fictional animals (fluffy animals, it goes without saying) than the death of fictional people.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
And yet another sign of warmer weather! The first snake is out relaxing by the fishpool! (I feel like someone in a Charles Addams cartoon saying that.)
Friday, March 27, 2009
A Happy Woman
1. What is one interesting tidbit about you that few people know?
2. If you weren't a writer, and could be anything you wanted to be, what would it be?
3. If you could have lived in a different time period, what would it be? Why?
4. What is the one subject that you would never write about? Why?
5. What is the most imaginative scene you have ever written?
It was the second question that stopped me cold. I thought about it a bit and decided to go on and answer the rest then return to formulate an answer.
Question three, what other time period would I like to live in, is one I've thought about a lot. There are lots of times and places that I would love to visit but ONLY if I were at the top of the food chain, so to speak. Elizabethan England, for example, might not be so bad if you were wealthy -- unless, of course you were a Roman Catholic . . . or a woman . . .or a Jew.
And even if you were wealthy, the hygiene, the medicine (or lack of it),the callous disregard for animal and human suffering (for example, bear-baiting, hanging, drawing and quartering for execution). . . no, I think I'll stay put in our times, flawed though they may be.
Number four, the subject I would never write about is cruelty to animals or the death ( other than old age) of a dog. Okay, I have killed a cat and a squirrel or two in my books -- but always quickly and without suffering.
Number five I had to think about. I'm not sure about the most imaginative scene I've ever written -- in a way, that's more for a reader to say than me. But off the top of my head, and since I was eager to get back to question two, I chose the scene with Elizabeth in the Melungeon cabin toward the end of In a Dark Season.
And then I went back to the second question, trying on, in my mind, other enticing directions my life might take if I could be anything I wanted to be . . . and I realized that there is nothing I'd prefer to the life I already have -- with or without the writing.
So I answered that I'd like to be a very wealthy gardener. I don't want to live anywhere else but money for more plants and more help in the garden would be nice.
Even without it, I'm a happy woman.
But you probably knew that.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
A Morning Stroll
My stroll to the chicken house yesterday morning yielded a nice haul of eggs and a little web album of the latest Spring arrivals -- Mother Nature's fashion show.
Note: Please ignore that empty Spinning Wheels post some of you received. I hit the wrong button. The post that goes before this one is Marigold the Jersey Heifer. Spinning Wheels will happen tomorrow, if I don't foul things up again. ~ V
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Marigold the Jersey Heifer
Karen and her husband Bruce are some of 'them that's doing,' as The Mother Earth News used to refer to involved back-to-the-landers. They have a small herd of lovely doe-eyed Jersey cows and Bruce turns out some of the best cheese I ever tasted.
Karen makes beautiful pottery and together they are Yellow Branch Pottery and Cheese -- their website tells the story more fully.
I'd been wanting to go over to Yellow Branch for years and years -- but it's about a three hour drive and somehow, it just never happened. Karen and I would exchange Christmas cards and lament that we were both too busy in our respective worlds. I would see Yellow Branch cheese for sale in fancy stores or on the menu at fancy restaurants and feel a little surge of pride -- 'That's from my hemi-demi-semi-cousin's farm!' I would say to anyone around.
But what finally got us to make that long-postponed visit was a Jersey heifer named Marigold.
We're buying her from Bruce and Karen with the intention of making her into a milk cow so that, as in past years, we'll have our own milk, butter, yoghurt, cream, (clotted cream, too, Karen B.!), soft cheese and maybe, maybe someday, hard cheese too.
Justin and Claui are the reason -- they say they'll take on the milking. I'll pull my electric churn out of storage and try to remember what I once knew about dealing with great quantities of milk. Probably there will be a pig or two to raise on the excess. In short, back to the small farm economy we practiced for years.
This is all a year or so in the future. Marigold is too young to breed yet. But as we sat down last night to a meal of Justin's turkey vegetable soup, John's bread, and cheese (including one with flecks of basil) from Yellow Branch, we all felt that the future couldn't come soon enough.
Monday, March 23, 2009
John gives the roof of the chicken tractor a coat of shiny green to match
the Spring. The dogs are not impressed
The weeping cherry down at the pond is blooming, enticing me to come sit beneath it . . .
But I am in the final throes of rewriting Miss Birdie and am stuck indoors for most of the time.
If nothing don't happen . . . well, I do hope to be done by the end of this month
. . . if nothing don't happen.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Carol, over at The Writers Porch has tapped my blog with the Sisterhood Award which I'm passing on to five blogging sistahs who expand and enrich my world:
Marta, the gardener at Marta McDowell, teaches, writes, gardens, and takes great pictures too. This is one of her own garden.
Byron, The Village Witch, gives a lively insight into traditional Appalachian witchery as well as the pagan/earth religion/Wiccan community. Alas, no pictures on her blog which is put up through The Asheville Citizen-Times.
Pepper at the Quilt Studio reminds me that I have a mass of fabric, waiting to be made into all sorts of wonderful quilts . . . someday.
Susan at Rambling Thoughts and Thoughtful Ramblings is a writer, would-be gardener, and blossoming entrepreneur with her pet-sitting business.
Victoria at Brushstrokes shares paintings, photos, and thoughts from her world somewhere on a mountain in California.
An interesting and varied posse . . . I invite them each to pass the award (a right-click will do it) on to 5 more Blogging Sisters with links to their blogs, notifying them by e-mail or by leaving a comment on their blogs...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Yesterday was the Vernal Equinox . . . daffodils grew yellower still . . .
Spring is always a time of such infinite promise and ambition and joy . . . a time to celebrate with e.e. cummmings' s goat-footed balloon man . . .
luscious the little
whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
Friday, March 20, 2009
Easy Artisanal Bread
It's super easy; it just requires patience.
John begins, as in the picture below, mixing together flour, yeast, water, and salt. The mixture is very, very sticky. Next he covers the bowl with plastic wrap and lets it sit in a warm place for twelve to eighteen hours. This is the part about being patient.
There is NO KNEADING !!! You couldn't if you wanted to; the dough is far too sticky and that's the way it's supposed to be.
Now you may have tried those so called no-knead batter breads in the past and been disappointed -- tasty enough, I always thought, but not like real bread.
This is different. The long slow rise and the cooking method work some sort of magic that produces a crusty exterior and an interior, dare I say it, reminiscent of a French baguette.
The covered bread bakes for 30 minutes in its own little steam bath which is what makes that good crust. Then it bakes 15 minutes uncovered so the loaf will brown.
Full disclosure: In the middle of doing this post, I had to go downstairs and have a slice of this bread, I had made myself so hungry writing about it.
Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.