Trope Fail: A Competent Adult

You know how in all horror movies involving teenagers, they don’t have guardians?  It’s always like a pack of teenagers just getting mowed down left and right, and the parents and the teachers and the neighbors either A) don’t notice or B) don’t believe or C) don’t function.  It’s like all adults in the horror movie universe have the IQ of an eggplant.

Yeah. That trope. Urg.

Competant Adult

This comic was A PAIN. Not because it’s in and of itself particularly difficult. (Although there were a few rather annoying technofails setting me back, and I finally just gave up on those purple dialog bubbles.) But just because this whole month has been a pain. (Thank goodness it’s nearly over. I could use a couple fewer commitments in my life right now.)

The first day late with the post, I was like, ‘It’s okay, I’ll just put it up late.’ And the second day, I was like, ‘Ah, geez, I should do some kind of apology bonus. Like a funny extra panel!’ And the third day, I was like, ‘Man, this is really late, I should color it or something.’ And the fourth day, I was like, ‘Maaaaybe I should just concentrate on posting it at all.’

By the end of the whole affair, I was about as annoyed as Nurse Linda. But I did manage a lame bonus doodle. Nurse Linda is so over this.

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She keeps telling the principle to seal off the crypts. But nooobody listens to the nurse.

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Trope Fail: Crime Solving Teens II

Happy Labor Daybor!  And here at long last is August’s comic.  You may recognize the first part of the comic from its previous incarnation, Crime Solving Teens the First, but after much deliberation, I’ve decided that this alternate ending is probably much more likely.  Enjoy!

TropeFail Mystery II

PS- This probably comes as a shock to none of you, but, much like our teenaged friends here, also failed to solve my own mystery regarding what the heck is wrong with my drawing tablet.  As such, this was hand-drawn and scanned, a scanning which I nearly had to make my husband do.  And so the technofail continues.  *sad trombone*

I’ma go play Worms Armageddon.

Where Two Loves Meet: the Joy of Cookbooks

Howdy, folks! ‘What gives?’ you’re thinking. ‘Last Monday of the month means comic day! What are these word things doing here??’ But uh oh, boy do I suck at technology!  So while I struggle to exorcise the demons from my drawing tablet, I’m gonna have to swap in next week’s post for now. Hopefully I’ll have a shiny new comic to puke onto the internet next week. Thanks for your patience!

LucidI am a creative person.  This shows up in my life in a lot of different ways.  I like to sketch and paint.  I like making up languages.  I enjoy building things, like my chicken house and ever more bookshelves.  But my two main creative outlets are writing and cooking.

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love writing.  And anyone who has set foot in my home for more than ten minutes knows how much I love making food.  If I hold any affection for you at all, I will have spent time daydreaming about the foods I could make especially for you.  (I’m looking at you, internet friends.  Pie-Pal Madison can vouch for this.)

That said, it should come as no surprise at all that I am just as addicted to cookbooks as I am to any other book.  Every time I get a new one, I read it like a novel.  I sit down and go through it page by page, ingesting it from introduction to index.  I stare at the pictures- for it must have pictures- and I tally up ingredients and I start crafting menus and planning dinner parties and imagining tweaks and adjustments right then and there.  I stay up late reading them, desperate for just one more recipe before I collapse.bowl

One of the many (many, many, augh, so many) books that I picked up while traveling this summer was Lukas Volger’s Bowl.  While books like 1000 Vegetarian and our 1974 edition of Joy of Cooking are regular workhorses in my kitchen, I really love a glossy, photo-packed cookbook with an itsy-bitsy, super narrow theme.  Bowl is filled with vegetarian recipes for ramen, pho, and their soupy one-dish kin.  Likewise, the other darlings of my kitchen are all very specific.  Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Foods is about crafting seasonally appropriate eco-conscious menus.  Wynnie Chan’s Fresh Chinese is about healthier alterations to traditional Chinese dishes.

Another kind of cookbook that sings to my soul is the narrative cookbook.  Like Herreid and Petersen’s Recipes from the Bun, which tells about how each recipe came to land on the menu of this iconic little food truck in Fairbanks.  Or Arevalo and Wade’s The Mac + Cheese Cookbook, which talks about the inspirations for every recipe, and the experimentation that went into their creations.  Or David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, which probably has more stories in it than actual recipes.

PlentyWhen I get a tightly themed, visually gorgeous, narratively transporting book all in one package… *swoons*  So you can imagine, I’m always on the hunt for a good cookbook.  I’ve got a dedicated wishlist (Plenty, Charcuterie, 100 Days of Real Food, etc), but nothing in the world can stop me when I spy a cookbook that just has to come home with me.

This probably goes without saying, but all of this ogling over beautiful recipes in my shiny new copy of Bowl got me thinking: what kind of cookbook would I produce?

I cook a lot, and I joyfully muddled around through quite a few ideas over the span of days.  (I pestered my husband about it for like an hour before he firmly asked me to please stop, and then I festered on in gleeful silence.)  Burgers!  I could do a whole cookbook about burgers.  Ooo, or breads, I love baking bread.  Or maybe I could make like an Around the World in Eighty Recipes sort of cookbook, and feature something from everywhere.  Or dairy-free desserts, I can always do with more dairy-free desserts.

And then it came to me, and one word stole my every thought:

Crêpe.

A whole cookbook of crepe stuffings, all healthy, all flexible in their ingredients, and all with fifteen minutes or less active prep time.  I can already picture it! *squeals* Maybe the table of contents would look something like this:

 

Sarriette (Savory)

Quick Cassoulet- Tomato, Canelli Bean, Sausage, and Herbs

Garbanzo Tajine- Garbanzo Bean, Winter Squash, Raisin, and Spices

Chowderhouse- Clam, Potato, Carrot, and Cream

Chicken Caprese- Chicken, Mozzarella, Tomato, and Fresh Basil

Indian Dal- Lentils, Onion, Paneer, and Chutney

Ratatouille- Tomato, Eggplant, Winter Squash, and Herbs

Spanakopita- Spinach, Feta, Egg, and Garlic

 

Sucré (Sweet)

Chocolate Mousse- Chocolate, Whipped Cream, and Crushed Chocolate Wafer

Honeyed Stone Fruit- Nectarine, Peach, Cherry and Honey-Cinnamon Glaze

Dita degli Apostoli- Ricotta, Dark Chocolate, and Orange Liqueur

Lemonbars- Lemon curd, Shortbread cookie, and Whipped Cream

 

Of course, I’d need five to ten times this many recipes to fill out any self-respecting cookbook.  But still.  I think it’s a good start.  Anybody wanna be a recipe tester? 🙂

Writing on the Road

RoadIn my naïve notes that I wrote up for this blog post before starting off on an insanely long road trip, I wrote “Writing on the Road- About all the tricks and stuff I used to help myself write while traveling”.  Ha.  So cute.

As mentioned in earlier posts, I didn’t get much writing done.  Really, it was all I could do to keep up with blog posts, since I burned through the buffer before the first month was out, and even then I failed on the home stretch when I somehow improperly scheduled a post and it- shocking- didn’t post.  (I’m calling this another technofail.  They never end.)

Despite the startling lack of bonanza write-a-thons, I don’t feel like the summer was a total waste, as far as writing goes or otherwise.  True, there was very little drafting, and very little editing, and not even all that much outlining or active brainstorming.  But there was a lot of experiencing going on, and experience is the foundation on which believable fiction rests.

Write what you know is one of the sacred commandments of writing, and there’s good reason for it.  Obviously nobody writing today really knows what riding a dragon feels like, or living on a colony embedded deep in an asteroid, or working as an astrologer in the court of Tutankhamen.  We make a lot of inferences about the details in our fiction.  Riding a dragon probably feels kind of like a cross between riding a horse and a hang glider.  Living on an asteroidal colony probably feels similar to living in the Princess Elizabeth Research Station, or the International Space Station, or a fancy underground bunker from the Cold War.  As writers, we get as close as we can, and then we make an educated guess.

But there are some things that can’t be fudged.  These are the things that will bother a reader like an itch they can’t quite reach.  A child whose voice isn’t quite what it should be.  A victim shouldering his abuse in a way that feels off somehow.  An emotional outburst that’s somehow wrong.  These things are much harder to quantify and, in many ways, much harder to peg.  But they’re things that, once we’ve experienced them, we can smell a fake from a mile away.  And nothing snaps a reader out of a story faster than a fake.

(And then there are the mistakes that just drive the experts crazy, like having your Western hero shoot a Peacemaker three years before the thing was developed.  But just because the demographic is small does not mean it’s quiet.  Don’t irritate your experts.)

Experiences keep us from making those mistakes.  Experience helps us to know precisely what places ache after nine hours in the saddle.  But more importantly, experience helps us to transcend the particular setting and to find the truths that are just as relevant to a thirty-year-old woman writing in a closet as they are to a twelve-year-old boy in the second century staving off starvation, or a forty-year-old xenologist encountering their first alien, or a dwarf girl who wants to be a florist when she grows up.  And when we have the experiences that give us that insight into human nature, and then we couple it with a mind open to tangents, we give ourselves a powerful recipe for creativity.

When it became clear that I wouldn’t be penning my opus magnus on the road, I instead tried to focus on keeping this recipe for creativity stewing as much as possible.  Although I don’t have the write-no-matter-what pearls of wisdom that I hoped to have, I did get some sense of the sorts of things that fostered a creative mindset (and kept me open to new experiences), and the things that killed it.  Maybe better people than I can build on merely thinking creatively and actually create creatively.

What hampered creativity

High expectations– Being disappointed in myself was the quickest way to squash my ability to think clearly, let alone creatively.  Just like your body needs time to rest after a program of intense dieting or exercise, your brain needs a break too.  All my attempts to power through and keep up on my home routine were total failures.

Stress–  I know, I know, stress can be hard to avoid when you’re hurdling down the highway for hours upon hours at a time, day after day, and the kids are so over this.  But avoid it when you can.  If you’re stressing about missing deadlines or flubbing wordcount goals or whatever, your focus is on the failures instead of the opportunities.

An excessive I-got-this attitude– I learned this at the birth of my first child- ask for help.  Trying to do everything myself- the cooking, the childcare, the everything all the time- absolutely depleted me, mind and body, leaving no energy for creativity or adventures.

What promoted creativity

Taking care of myself– When I was sick or tired or hungry or desperately iron deprived, creativity did not happen.  Mostly tears and anger and hiding under blankets happened instead.  Things were just better for the world in general when I made sure the basic needs were met first.

Time for reflection– As weird as it sounds, time was kind of a hot commodity during this vacation.  But I found it was very important for my brains to just have sit-and-chill time.  I didn’t go into it with the active intent to brainstorm, but it happened naturally, and those are always the best of storms.

Paper at the ready– I know I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but always, always keep something handy on which to jot notes.  There’s just something about having blank paper begging to be filled that gets the juices flowing.  This is especially needful when you have other things going on (like funerals, reunions, weddings, and a million visits).  My little pocket notebook has tons of little ideas and snippets that I would have forgotten completely if I hadn’t written them down.  The paper helps you think creatively, and then it helps you hang on to the things you do come up with.

I had some great ideas while on the road, ideas that I can hardly wait to flesh out and write up.  So maybe I only had the time and presence of mind to jot down some don’t-forget-this sort of notes.  I’ll count the fact that I was having ideas at all- despite the oppressive heat and despite living out of a car and despite months of nausea- as a victory.

Technofail Theatre

TechnofailSooo… I drew up the comic and then realized… I don’t know how to use my parents’ scanner.  And my mom was at work.  And my dad was running errands.  And my brother’s been in a third world country for the last two years… So.  Yeah, anyone who’s been following my blog for any amount of time probably knew to expect this.

I’ll probably post the real comic eventually.  But given my track record, I don’t want to promise any kind of timeline.

Yeah. See you Monday!

ERROR: Your Internet Stinks

Due to technical difficulties, today’s comic, which was really, truly, honest-to-goodness done and ready to roll yesterday, is going to be delayed until my internet decides it’s willing to upload things again. Thank you, internet company, for taking my money and breaking my promises. We’re not friends.

Technofail: the Sequel

I can’t believe how bad this whole “technology beyond lightbulbs” thing has been lately. The internet has conked out yet again. If any other internet companies want to come to Alaska, the field is wide open and any degree of competency will raise you head and shoulders above the present competition. Please come. PLEASE.

So! Here I am, Jill-of-the-past, stealing internets on a Saturday morning. (I seriously snuck into an unused classroom in the back of the museum to use the university’s much more reliable internet. I’m cold and the ceiling is making weird noises at me. Please pray for me.) Unfortunately, I can’t stay long. So, with no means to do any research, I don’t have a regular blog post for you. But I doooo have a recently finished Camp NaNoWriMo project. *bats eyelashes* So until I can figure out how to browbeat my internet into not sucking (attempts to guilt the router have so far resulted only in a flashing red light of mockery), have the first chapter of the newly revamped Dead Timmy!

Chapter One

One fine spring day, Timmy died.

He didn’t mean to. He didn’t want to. But he did just the same.

And as unexpected as that was, what came next was even more surprising.

An unknowing blankness distilled into a kernel of self-awareness. Timmy didn’t know how long he had been out, or whether he had been dreaming during that time, but he knew who he was and, with that sense, he began to fade back into existence from the nothingness that had followed that rush of stone and water.

The first thing he saw was a six and then a two. He concentrated a little harder and noticed a seven and a one on either side of the 62. And there was a three. His vision telescoped out and he realized he was looking at a piece of paper, or at least something kind of like it, being held in a hand, or at least something kind of like it. On the strip of paper was the longest stream of numbers he had ever seen in his life, or after it for that matter, held loosely by an ameobic fingerless blob of being that could only be a hand. His hand, he realized with a start.

Wha…?

He held up the long strip between two translucent hands jutting incongruously out of his chest, or at least the bigger blob somewhere below where his eyes were.

What just happened?

It came back to him in a flash. Bright sunlight as he pinwheeled through the air. The smell of saltwater. Black rocks eager to embrace him. And then nothing more.

Dead.

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