Some small newses

I’ve noticed a lot of people coming to my website in search of my recipe for chicken hearts. And by a lot, I mean at least two or three. Who knows what desires lurk in the hearts of Googlers?

Anyway. A couple brief notes for those not looking to fry chicken hearts (but you should anyway, they’re actually pretty tasty):

1) As of January, I will be taking over as co-host of my favorite Chicago live lit series (but perhaps I’m biased) — Tuesday Funk. I’m devastated to witness the end of the Bill Shunn era, and I hope to do his legacy justice.

2. Another story of mine, “Cape to Cairo” (a Clarion West 2008 creation), will be available for public consumption sometime mid-2014… this time in the gorgeously weird Apex Magazine. I’m sure I’ll make another brief list of updates when that one comes out.

 

 

This government shutdown is no joke.

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A few small updates

I try to give tidbits of news in one fell bloggy swoop… not sure why. One would think that the more successful technique would be to write as many blog entries as possible. But not me, boy, I know you’ve got jobs and kids and TV shows to watch and pad thai to inhale. In other words, I got your back, time-wise.

So, on to the news!

1. Sometime in mid-2012, I had a story called “Camouflage” accepted at Kaleidotrope, and it looks like it’ll be in the next issue, which, I believe, comes out in October. Stay tuned!

2. About a month ago, I had another story accepted by the high-class folks at Shimmer… super-psyched to be a part of that publication too! The story, long-windedly entitled “Ellie and Jim vs. Tony ‘The Nose’”, will be in Issue #19, which comes out sometime early 2014.

3. And finally, I’ve started writing for Chicago’s mega-blog Gapers Block, in the books section! I’ve even undertaken the herculean task of compiling and then reviewing a list of Chicagoans’ favorite books by Chicago authors. You can check out the first two reviews (for Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars and Crossing California) if you’re so inclined.

Eating things off trees

The ladies at Nerdette Podcast agreed to let me participate in one of their episodes! Check out this week’s episode, where I discuss the do’s and don’ts of urban foraging and reveal my secret past as a high school Speech Team wunderkind.

I haven’t listened yet… still working up the courage to listen to my own voice, but you can check it out here. Listen to their other episodes too! They talk about movies and TV and other nerdly things you might enjoy.

Freelance Writing and Editing

In addition to fiction writing and the occasional ramblings, I am also a freelance writer and editor. Check out the appropriately named page on this site for more info and links to my online portfolio!

http://www.monkeythumbs.com/freelance-copywriting-and-editing-services/

The Clarion West Write-a-Thon and some other stuff

Am I the only one who feels mocked by the comment spam that talks about how great my posts are? Anyway.

I am, as ever, trying to figure out what to do with this site and also keeping it as a sort of placeholder. My apologies to all ye searching for smoothie recipes (quite a number of you, as it turns out).

But in the meanwhile, it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m doing the Clarion West Write-a-Thon again this year… a worthy organization that is RIGHT NOW training the future writers you’ll love. Doesn’t that deserve your hard-earned cash? You can find my page here.

But in case your fingers are too tired to click right now, the brief rundown is that I will be writing the first 50 pages of my new novel, a weird Western tentatively entitled As Big as the West. This novel features a transgendered cowboy, a family of Jewish homesteaders, an epidemic of ghosts, and Teddy Roosevelt. For the first time ever, I have completed an outline, and wouldn’t you know, with that in my back pocket, the writing has been going swimmingly. In the first week of the Write-a-Thon, I’ve already chalked up 5000 words/20 pages. Not too shabby.

And since I’m already here, how about a bit of unrelated weirdness? I applied for a job at dictionary.com, and part of the application was giving those fine folks three ideas for their online word-related slideshows. You know, a little bit of a good-faith effort to show you’re not a one-trick pony. Well, I did not get the job, but apparently my ideas are stellar since one of them (English words you didn’t know were actually Yiddish) was yoinked from my application and is currently and prominently on display on their main page. So. Caveat job searcher. Apparently some folks are so lacking in ideas, they’ll steal yours straight off your unsuccessful job application. Gross.

But, to end on a (yet another unrelated) high note, I’ll be doing  another reading! This time at Tuesday Funk, my personal favorite reading series in Chicago, though maybe that’s the booze speaking. July 2nd, 7:30, bring your drinking pants. And your listening shirt.

 

Unexpectedly delicious smoothie ingredients, an evolving list

Note: Do not put all of these in a single smoothie.

  • Butternut squash
  • Garam masala
  • Cayenne pepper
  • A blueberries and oranges combo
  • Oatmeal
  • Turmeric
  • Tea
  • Mushrooms (don’t try this at home — I’ve only had it added by a professional)
  • Quinoa

Something that is decidedly NOT on this list: Kale. Whose terrible idea was that?

WisCon Reading

Will you be at WisCon? I will! And I’m doing a reading on Sunday. You should come!

Here’s the deets;

Exotic Worlds group reading

Sunday, May 26th, 10:00am-11:15am (location TBD…. check your programs!)

Featuring: Bradley Beaulieu, Holly McDowell, Wesley Chu, Tom Underberg, Dustin Monk, and me!

We’ll read things. It’ll be glorious.

Pie.

I made a pie. It looked like this:

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Maybe not quite so yellow.

In any case, being a person who is allergic to many important and delicious food items, it takes a bit of finagling to find a good pie recipe. To make this one, I mutated about seven different ones. The result? Gluten-free, dairy-free bourbon apple pie with a candied bacon lattice top.

And yes, ye few readers salivating at such a prospect… I will provide a recipe.

This pie was enjoyed by glutentards and non-glutentards alike. Personally, I’m still on the hunt for a good, flaky, non-crumbly pie crust. This one totally disintegrated as I put it in the pan, so I had to manually smash it down, rather than elegantly roll it out. Nevertheless.  If you enjoy complicated, allergen-free desserts, with bacon, I give you this:

Slapdash, Seat-of-the-Pants Gluten-and-dairy-free Bourbon Apple Pie with Candied Bacon Lattice Top

First things first: The crust.

Take with a grain of salt here — I’m not impressed with my crust. But it worked, and it tasted decent, and every damn person out there says their GF crust is the best, but they’re LYING.

1 1/4 c. Bob’s Red Mill Multipurpose GF flour
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
4ish T. frozen Earth Balance butter-ish thing
3ish T. vegetable shortening (probably I should have frozen it first. Learn from my mistakes)
3 T. ice water
2 T. vodka (chill this too. I forgot.)

Probably best to use a food processor if you’ve got it. Mix up the dry stuff, then add the butter and shortening and mix that up til you’ve got a coarse mix of pea-sized butter balls. Slowly add the ice water and vodka til you have a dough that adheres fairly well. Not too smushy. Alcohol burns off in the cooking and (at least theoretically) doesn’t make the dough quite so crumbly. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least two hours, preferably longer.

Next, apples.

3-4 Granny Smith apples
3-4 non-Granny Smith apples (I like Fuji, but you know, ladies’ choice)
3/4 c. sugar
2 T. Bob’s Red Mill GF Multipurpose Flour (or whatever you got)
2+ T. Bourbon
1 t. cinnamon
Coupla healthy shakes of Garam Masala
Pinch of salt

Peel the apples and slice them up into thin slices (say 1/4 inch thick). Mix all this shit together, let it sit. I used 2 T of bourbon, but I bet you could get away with a little more.

Next next, bacon lattice.

8 strips of bacon should do it
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
Coupla pinches of cayenne pepper

Set oven to 350. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Dredge bacon strips through sugar mixture, and set them on the cookie sheet in a lattice formation (4×4, probably). Check on this diagram from Smitten Kitchen for help on that. Sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture on the bacon. Put another sheet of foil on top of lattice, and another (ideally matching) cookie sheet on top of that, to keep the glorious structure flat. Cook for about 15 minutes. Not til it’s 100% done, but just so you can get some of the greasy greasiness out of the bacon. If you can manage it without disturbing your lattice, after the 15 minutes is up, transpose the lattice onto another, non-hot surface (I found that two spatulas, a set of tongs, and another pair of hands was mighty helpful).

Put it all together.

Set the oven for 425 and put a cookie sheet in it. Take your pie crust out of the oven. Line the counter with plastic wrap topped with some kind of starch (I used corn because I’m cheap). Put crust ball on top. Put more starch on top of crust. Put more plastic wrap on top of starch. Attempt to roll out crust without catastrophic cracks. You may need to use your hands, or maybe you’re a better man than I.  When it’s rolled out to pie pan size, attempt to transplant the crust into the pan, removing plastic wrap of course. I have no bits of wisdom to help with this. As I said, mine fell apart, and I ended up just smashing it manually into the pan. It tasted fine. So whatever works for you. Or maybe you have a better crust recipe altogether! In which case, good for you.

Pour apple mix into that bitch.

Top, as delicately as possible, with semi-baked bacon lattice. Probably the bacon is undercooked enough that you can straighten it out with your fingers, if you don’t mind the sticky greasiness. It should lay across the whole pie, more or less.

Put pie on pre-heated cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for about 10-15 minutes.  The bacon shouldn’t burn at this point, but keep an eye on it just in case. After 15 minutes, lower the oven to 350. Cook for about 40-45 minutes. Bacon might be  dark in points, but that’s okay. It’s still delicious.

Cool for about 15, and eat. If you’re really smart, you’ll buy yourself some vanilla coconut milk ice cream ahead of time, thaw it out, add cinnamon, and then refreeze it. A la mode to the max!

Meme-bligations

Oh hey guys. So, I’m back in Chicago, slowly and arduously unpacking all seven circles of cardboard box hell (only seven, you ask? No no, I’m just trying to be literary here. In reality, the circles are endless; they are circles upon circles upon circles. Circles all the way down.)

Anyway, I took a break from unpacking for this blog meme thingie that fellow writer and weirdie Caren Gussoff tasked me to do. You should read hers and then you should read her book when it comes out because it’s awesome.

But for now, hold on to your damn hats because this is going to be the thrill ride of a lifetime.

What is the working title of your book?

It’s called The Grand Adventure of Aught-Nine. Originally because I started the book in 2009, but luckily for me it ended up making sense with the actual story too!

Oh, I also just started writing a new book which is tentatively titled As Big as the West. It’s a weird western involving Jews and magical Teddy Roosevelt, and I just wanted to briefly mention it because I’m super-excited to be writing it, and seeing the title written down makes me even exciteder.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea for The Grand Adventure started out as an epistolary war story, told from the perspective of two tiny brothers who were stationed on the bodies of two regular-sized humans who were fighting on opposite sides of some war. Then I realized I hate war stories and epistolary novels, so.

I wrote it first as a short story for a terrible contest I used to have with my Clarion West ’08 buddies, where we would write as many stories as we possibly could for about a month and then end up hating each other at the end.

What genre does your book fall under?
I pitched it as literary fantasy. Whatever genre George Saunders is. Saunders-ary fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I love this game! Here’s what I’m thinking at the moment for a few of the characters:

Christoph Waltz as Teeny

William H Macy as Boston

Anjelica Huston as Fiona

Richard Jenkins as Walter

Julianne Moore or Meryl Streep as Penelope

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Teeny, who was once the world’s finest Gentleman Adventurer — and who, like the rest of his kinsmen, stands no taller than a cocktail fork – is given the opportunity to go one final adventure to save his good name, find his lost love, and discover the true nature of his people’s origins, but finds instead that in this new world, dangers lurk in places that he could have never anticipated, and proving his own relevance is the very least of his problems.

(I’ll admit I cobbled this together from a two paragraph synopsis. My apologies for its clunkiness and many commas.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. And when I say that, it makes me feel like I’m introducing a British lord, which maybe I am. Trumpets and trilled R’s!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
First draft? I want to say it took about 8 months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Indiana Jones meets Gulliver’s Travels? Can I do that?

George Saunders’ books. Kelly Link’s stuff.  Sherlock Holmes for sure, and some of the older adventure books like Around the World in 80 Days. I’m also going to say Kurt Vonnegut, though that might be wishful thinking.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I was in an awful rut at the time and was just dying to have some kind of wild adventure, so I figured I’d write one. Plus I wanted to learn how to write a novel without putting too much pressure on myself, and this story seemed as good a starting point as any.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I want to BE these characters.  I’m jealous of them. If you’ve ever wanted to go to Morocco or Cuba or Paris, ride in a hot air balloon over the Atlantic, outwit an assassin, or search for priceless artifacts with your very best friend, then this story is your jam.

Now, I tag these authors to answer these same questions next Wednesday:
Oh let’s see.  I know these guys are working on stuff and I want to know what it is:

Kira Walsh: Multidisciplinary genius and baker of elaborate matryoska desserts.

Shane Hoversten: Neuroscientist, cat lover, champion eater.

Pamela Rentz: Organizational whiz, grower of impressive vegetables, charmingly grumpy Karuk

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