Artfully: Day 21

I’m sitting on the floor in the SEA-TAC airport. I’m listening to a father tell his children a story, and then I recognized it as being SF… how wonderful. My art options are limited. I have the pentablet with me, but not a good place to work with it… so I altered an older photo. Photoshop has some interesting filters I have begun to play with. I really need to put Filter Forge on this machine.

I had a ver stimulating conversation with my seatmate on the first leg of this flight, and for some time after as we waited for other flights. The conversation danced from military to fiction to science fiction, history, medicine, the flu… he’s among other thing an epidemiologist. We got to talking about epigenetics and the study of gene expression, and he postulated finding a gene that would ‘switch on’ the ability to grow wings.

What if?

The most powerful words in my toolbox. What if, indeed?  We’d be free like the birds… or limited, by weight and range, and I’d still be sitting her killing three hours waiting for the next plane to get where I want to go.

ducks

‘Tis the Season for Fruitcake

Finished cake isn't beautiful, but it will be yummy.
Finished cake isn’t beautiful, but it will be yummy.

So this is a recipe for fruitcake. Only it isn’t what you’re thinking of. This is my Dorothy-Mom’s recipe which was handed down to her, and which I believe has it’s origins in a time when fruit and sugar were scarce. The resulting cake is sweet, so sweet, dense, rich, chewy, and absolutely does not need any sort of icing, although my First Reader assures me that the original recipe called for it. After making this last one, I mused that it would do very well infused with rum or brandy like fruitcakes once were…

And why was that? Well, it was for storage. We modern folks are completely unspoiled. I mean that literally. We have a consistently cold refrigerator to keep foodstuffs in at a chill which deters most bacterial growth (note that it does not kill, only delays. And Listeria likes it cold, but I digress). We have reliable canning. We have freezers. For heaven’s sake we have irradiation which is a miracle of modern technology that doesn’t see widespread use with a connected saving of lives and billions of lost dollars in man-hours of work because some people are ignorant luddites.

Where was I? Oh, yes, fruitcake. Nuttier than…

Fruitcake were soaked in alcohol because they are rich, sweet, and bacteria-friendly. The alcohol slowed this down somewhat. Look. Candy, chocolate, all the sweet things we adore and consume by the ton are very modern creations. Sugar was expensive once upon a time for very good reasons I’m not going to get into right now – that’s another blog post. Which I will do soon, I promise. I do love food history, as you know.

This is a fruitcake by another name, and I have made a few modifications to the original recipe.

Jam Cake Batter: most unbeautiful. Those are chopped prunes you see lurking.
Jam Cake Batter: most unbeautiful. Those are chopped prunes you see lurking.

Jamcake

Dorothy Wilson

  •  1 cup soft butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups jam (seedless)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts

Dredge nuts and raisins in 1/2 cup of the flour, return flour to the main supply. Cream butter and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time. Add all dry ingredients except nuts and raisins, mix well, add buttermilk, mix. Add nuts and raisins. Pour into a greased tubular cake pan and bake for 1 to 1.5 hours at 325F check for doneness with toothpick.

Cedar’s modifications:

whole spices
Cloves and Allspice

I have made this the last couple of times with prunes, because for some reason we had a lot of them. I dredge them in flour, then chop until they are about the size of raisins. I have been using one cup of nut meal rather than whole nuts. This last recipe I used whole spices that were ground just before adding to the batter and Wow! that adds a flavor punch. For jam, we have used strawberry, and this last batch was mulberry-blackberry jam I’d made earlier this year.  If you haven’t got buttermilk, add a teaspoon of lemon juice to your fresh milk.

The cake took 2 hours to bake last time I did it, and at least 90 minutes the time before that. This is not a cake you will make often, it is… heavy, moist, flavorful, and filling, which isn’t a word you’ll hear often about cake. It’s perfect for fueling up before going out to play in the snow.

(Don’t forget! Farmhand is on sale for only a dollar, and so is Pixie Noir! Perfect for gifting.)

Slice of Jamcake: so very dense and fruity.
Slice of Jamcake: so very dense and fruity.

Artfully: Day 20

We went shopping today. This place is very special to me, it’s where the First Reader took me on our first date. I was smitten with it – and him, right away. I think you’ll see why I’m so fond of it!

I was trying to shoot with just the 55mm setting on the lens, but gave in and just had fun with it because even though parts of the store were crowded, the places I was hitting  – Thai, Indian, the further out parts – were relatively quiet, and I hadn’t ever taken a camera in my favorite store before!

This is, if you want to visit, Jungle Jim’s, near Cincinnati, Ohio. Worth a trip!

Wierd soda
Look at the flavors, folks…

Jungle Jim-16 Jungle Jim-14

Bugging out!
Bugging out!
From Ostrich to quail, eggs!
From Ostrich to quail, eggs!

Jungle Jim-9

Exotic vegetables
Exotic vegetables

Jungle Jim-7

Exotic fruits
Exotic fruits
kumquats and dragonfruit, I think
kumquats and dragonfruit, I think
Greens, greens, greens...
Greens, greens, greens…
Jungle Jim's
The conventional produce section…
Persimmons!
Persimmons!
Cute Cheese
Cute Cheese

Ebook Cover Typography

Cedar Sanderson:

I have now written at length about designing a book cover. You should be able to mine some useful information, and see the new cover for Vulcan’s Kittens.

Originally posted on madgeniusclub:

Last week I talked about selecting the right art for your cover. Remember, it’s not about recreating a scene from the book (which rarely if ever works) it’s about marketing the whole book. Now, we’re going to do the most important part of the cover. “But wait,” you say,” a book cover is all about the art!”

Nope, wrong. A book cover is all about the text. Without the text, your reader is lost. Who wrote this? How will I find it? What’s it about? The title and author name are absolutely vital. Let’s put it this way. You could have a solid color (well, okay, maybe a little grunge or somethin’ going on!) cover, and if the text is right, that’s all you need to attract the eye. The typography in a perfect situation is part of the art of the cover, and it wouldn’t look right without it.

View original 1,097 more words

Christmas Shopping

#procrastinator #lastminutegift #bookgift

Have you left the shopping until the last minute? Looking for a gift for the person who has everything? Here’s a suggestion that is clutter-free, on sale until Christmas Eve, and will please any reader in your life!

You can gift ebooks very easily. All you need is an email address, and a few moments of time. You need not even leave your comfy chair.

If you are giving the gift of an ereader, you simply must consider a few titles to begin your favorite reader’s journey. Or, after Christmas, return to see what I have on sale then! I promise you, I shall.

Farmhand cover finalToday, I am offering my newest title, appearing under the penname of Lilania Begley, on sale for less than a dollar. To readers of Romance, or Westerns, this will be a hopeful choice. I have had some pleasing reviews on it. Farmhand is a different story than I have told before, but centered around characters as most of my tales are.

Pixie NoirI am also offering my best-selling Pixie Noir, an unconventional urban Fantasy with very little Urban but plenty of fantasy.

Buy both today for a fraction of their usual cost, but over the next couple of days, the purchase price will slowly return to the usual price point.

For my friends, readers, and fans, I ask a simple favor: can you share this link to let others know about the sale? Thank you!

Artfully: Day 19

Today I was working on setting up blog posts for this blog, and others I guest at. As I will be doing a cover tutorial tomorrow for Mad Genius Club, I worked on cover art for two stories I wanted to use as demos of before and after. Both are manipulated photographs.

red cloak
Original photo taken about 3 years ago, me in my cardinal.
Red Riding Hood
New Cover for Little Red-Hood
Cat's Eye
Photo I used to create the Vulcan’s Kittens cover, this is Minerva, long gone now.
Cat's Eye volcano
New Cover Art for Vulcan’s Kittens

Review: Chaplain’s War

Click on cover to see more, and buy.
Click on cover to see more, and buy.

I have been working on this book since… longer than I care to think about. And it’s a good book. So what took me so long? Well, I bought it in paper. Yeah, I know, most people buy books in paper, what gives? Long story short – and I think I’ve told the long story before – I’m in the habit of reading ebooks over paper for about a decade now.

I tried sticking this book in my bag and pulling it out to read in stray minutes like I do ebooks on my phone or tablet. It didn’t work. Not for the bulkiness of trade paperback size, although that was a factor. No, it was more that this was a book which demanded my full attention. I’ve had very little to give of that this semester. Until last night. I was halfway through the book, I sat down, and I finished it. It was glorious.

The Chaplain’s War, if I must make a short comparison, is like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. It’s half philosophy, and half soldier training, for similar motivations. Like Rico, Harry lives on a world threatened by aliens. Like Rico, Harry joins up for a war against bug-like aliens. he suffers through training unlike anything in his life previously, makes friends, and then watches them die.

Unlike Heinlein’s shorter novel, Torgerson interweaves his hero’s training in the past with the present-tense story of the interaction with the aliens, and the crisis of faith the Chaplain’s assistant is having after long years as a prisoner of war. It is handled delicately. There is no proselytizing in Torgerson’s writing. It is, simply, an exploration of faith itself. If we are not the center of the Universe, and after our death, nothing, then we are forced to consider those who live around us. This is central to The Chaplain’s War. The mantid aliens have no faith, only themselves, in a semi-automated existence that forbids them even companionship in ways humans would understand. Because of this, they relentlessly crush any sentient races they come across. They are the center of the Universe, and others are competition alone.

The humans in Torgerson’s book are not saints. They suffer, they falter, they doubt. But in their earnest seeking, they convey to the curious aliens that the Universe may just be larger than only one race needs.

If you are looking for a philosophical throwback to the days when Science Fiction explored the really big stories of ‘what is human?’ then you will enjoy this book. Although the two threads are not close at first, they do merge by the end of the book, and they are both needed for the full tale. Yes, you could skip through and just read the present-day story of the aliens, the Chaplain, and Adanaho, but why? Enjoy, savor, and finally, put it down with your mind full of dreams and hope and a small spark of faith in humanity.

 

Artfully: Day 18

In the spirit of the Raymond Chandler quotes earlier, I have a Noir guy for you this evening. My ever-patient First Reader modeled for me. This was shot at 35mm for my lens challenge (for those keeping track) under fluorescent lights with no flash. I took the RAW file into Photoshop, masked the background, and played with filters and settings until I got the one that made him go Oooh! Can I have you send me that one?

Under the Noir Guy you’ll find a couple of other shots from the 35mm lens setting challenge.

Noir man with a bullseye and smoke
Noir man with a bullseye and smoke

 

Cedar Sanderson
Herself: a self portrait
glass fish
Fish Aglow
sidewalk crack
Enduring Life
Franklin Ohio
Old Building in Franklin Ohio

Trouble is My Business

I’ve been reading a collection of stories by Raymond Chandler the last few days, when I got stuck on the writing and wanted to soak up a little more flavor. I’d gone through all the Spillane we own (that is, none of the Mike Hammer books) and I’m disinclined to shell out $6-7 each for the slim novels on Kindle. But while I was shopping for Noir fic, I’d found this one, for only $2,(price is up to $3) and figured it was worth a little cash.

I was right. I’m sure I’ve read Chandler before, if nothing else, the Philip Marlowe name is familiar. But right now, reading with a specific focus, I’m really enjoying the man’s turn of phrase.

“I’ll play with you,” he said softly, and put a moist fishy little paw in mine. I shook it carefully, so as not to bend it.

“There was a tall blonde with him who had eyes you wouldn’t forget.”

“All this took a couple of seconds and felt like half an hour.”

“Nothing lived in his face but the eyes. Black eyes, deep-set, shining, untouchable.”

“For under-arm shooting that was something to be almost bashful about. It was too good.”

“He stood stiffly as a scorched tree, his face as white as snow, with the dead man at his feet, one linked hand reaching up to Louie’s hand. There was the horror of a thousand nightmares in his eyes.”

“I went out like a puff of dust in a draft.”

“She was so platinumed her head shone like a silver fruit bowl.”

“Her face fell apart like something you see in a nightmare. Her mouth and eyes were black hollows.”

“The rain touched my face with fingers of ice that were no colder than her fingers.”

“The big guy wasn’t any of my business. He never was, then or later, least of all then.”

“Her evening gown was cut so low at the back that she was wearing a black beauty patch on her lumbar muscle, about an inch below where her pants would have been, if she had been wearing any pants.”

“One of those perfumes you don’t notice until they are gone, like the last leaf on a tree.”

One thing about Chandler’s private eyes, they never make good. They never get the girl, mostly they don’t get the money, and sometimes they don’t get their man. It’s depressing as hell if you let yourself dwell on it. But the language, the interpersonal actions and reactions, they resonate with an era gone by. I don’t know if there were ever people like this, but they feel right.

 

Artfully: Day 17

“Mom, mom! Look…”

The caramel-haired boy, whom as Wizbun knew, sometimes tasted like his hair looked, had leaped from the couch where the rabbit cowered, and caught the little dragon neatly in his hands.

Now, the scared rabbit crept a little out to see his Mistress standing on the stairs, while her son ran up them to show her what he held.

“I see your present opened itself.” She reached out a fingertip to tickle the little dragon’s belly. It made a small chortle, and blew a smoke ring.

Wizbun huffed. He might be fooling them, but he’d been making fire, not that long ago.

“Better go put him in the oven for the night, dear.” Mistress came down the stairs after the boy and made a beeline for the rabbit, who had hastily kicked his willow staff with it’s crystal marble shooter under that couch. She didn’t know what he could do, and he wasn’t sure she would like it.

“And you, mister, need to be in your cage. Limited playtime until the tree comes down, I’m afraid.”

Warm, strong hands scooped him up and placed him gently, with an extra pat and ear rub by way of apology, in his cage. Wizbun didn’t mind, for a change. He burrowed into his hay, and listened to the house grow quiet again. But as he fell asleep, visions of a scaly beast danced before his eyes, and he knew they would meet again.

The End

Dragon splash

 

Planning Ahead

On Sunday, rather early in the morning, I leave on a big trip. Because I have multiple connecting flights, and a close to four-hour layover in a place where I’d love to leave the airport and do some sightseeing, but can’t due to the ever-damned security hassles, I don’t arrive at my destination until early evening. Oh, well, maybe I’ll be able to get some writing done while I’m traveling.

This will be a ten-day trip for me, which has repercussions for this blog. I’m not going to just walk away and leave it sitting here dormant while I’m gone. I should have internet access, and I’m going to create a few ‘buffer’ posts in the next couple of days before I’m on my way. What it may mean is that you get more travel journal than writerly musings, and I think I can safely promise photos from along the way (although not, sadly, of the places like Seattle where I’m trapped in the airport).

Today I will start making lists of what I need to have with me. Laptop, power cord, tablet, charger, keyboard for tablet, phone… The camera bag. Yikes… Lots of electronics. Actually, I’d debated not taking the tablet, but there are a few things going on there. One, I’m not taking my pentablet, but I will want to keep up with my artfully challenge. Two, the battery life between the laptop and the tablet with bluetooth keyboard means that even on the day I’m traveling for 17 hours, I should be able to keep writing when I’m not sleeping. Third reason, silliest of all: my son put a game on my tablet which was essentially an electronic pet, and I’ve been taking care of it for him. So I want to show him his Pou is getting big and sporting a red shirt. (A friend’s daughter showed me that trick. Thanks, Athena!)

My tablet is also my ereader. I am not going to pack books… I lie. There will be a paper book in the camera bag (my carry-on) because I have a horror of being caught without anything to read, and I’d rather not wind up buying some popular novel at airport prices. What else does this reader pack? Well, protein bars, but no liquid. I’ll have to buy that thanks to security. A light coat and scarf, given the time of year. I have a neck pillow thing that will hopefully assist with sleeping on planes. I sleep better in a prop-driven job than a jet (don’t ask. Early imprinting on loud aircraft) so I’m hoping that long overnight flight I can get some sleep on.  And that’s about it in my carry-on. It will be bulky enough because I’ll have both the laptop and the camera gear, which I will not entrust to checked bags.

Coming back around to the blog, is there anything you all would like to see while I’m prepping posts? Comment with a suggestion and I will try to get 5-7 posts ahead, so I don’t have to worry about a blog every morning on my trip. I have lots of visiting and catching up to do with family!

Artfully: Day 16

So… I was writing. And I had no inclination to leave the house, so I didn’t. And I figure out why I’ve been topping out at 5K words a day, which means tomorrow I’ll be experimenting with where I write, as my desk and laptop as it’s set leads to pain after about 1K words (or an hour) of writing at a stretch.

Want to know why I didn’t take that walk I wanted? Well, it’s winter in Ohio, and this is the view out my office window, complete with lashings of cold rain.

Sketched in Gimp.

winter in Ohio

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