Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just Write for the Holidays

Yes, it's another edition of Just Write Thursday, the holiday edition. Since next week is Christmas and the week after that is New Year's Day, this will also be the last Just Write for 2014.

So: Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: sosha333

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Easy Holiday Treats

When the holidays grow hectic I often make treats that are easy or quick so I don't end up spending my life in the kitchen. Here are some ideas to cook up for your next gathering:

Apple Pie improved: Take a store-bought dutch or streusal-topped apple pie and drizzle caramel or raspberry ice cream topping over the top.

Fruit and cheese kabobs are probably the fastest and easiest treat I make; here's a recipe for them and an accompanying dip. Be sure to remove the skewers before you serve them to little kids (you can also make kid-safe mini versions with pretzel sticks instead of skewers; also don't serve this treat to babies who might choke on the pieces.)

Speaking of infants, I always keep a small box of plain Cheerios on hand for out littlest visitors, but it's a good idea to check with parents before you offer any baby any snack (in the case of Cheerios, they're not a good idea for kids with gluten issues.)

Superquick ice cream sandwiches: Let your ice cream or frozen yogurt soften until it's spreadable, then spread between two graham crackers, two big chocolate chip cookies or two toasted mini-waffles. Roll the sides through mini chocolate chips or mini M&Ms. Put back in the freezer on a tray to harden.

Pizza on the Quick: split a baguette in half, brush with pizza sauce (or if you don't have any, tomato sauce + a sprinkle of oregano + garlic powder to taste), top with shredded mozzarella and your favorite toppings like sliced veggies, pepperoni, salami or cooked and crumbled ground beef (I love Hormel's turkey pepperoni minis; they're perfect for finger food.) Place in your oven and broil for a minute or two until the cheese bubbles. Cut into two-inch sections (if you have extra time you can also cut the baguette into slanty slices ala bruschetta before putting on the toppings.)

Popcorn + nuts + bite-size candy = a bowl of quick snacking joy. Delight the kids by calling it Reindeer Feed or Snowman Snacks.

Dip the end of a pretzel rod into a jar of creamy peanut butter, then roll the peanut buttered end over sprinkles, chocolate chips, chopped nuts or mini M&Ms to coat.

I was not surprised to see a wedding cake among the many variations of Rice Krispie Treats here, but I usually stick to the classic, three-ingredient base recipe, wrap them up with squares of tinfoil and pile them in a bowl.

One of my neighbors made us a plate of cookies and these adorable Strawberry Santas, which are so easy to make I can whip up a plate of them in minutes (and if I don't have the ingredients to make the cheese filling, I substitute bottled whipped cream.)

Tiny Tacos: Take Tostito Scoops! or any flat-bottomed crunchy corn tortilla chips and lay them out on a plate. Fill each one with a sprinkle of cooked ground beef (or for vegans, a teaspoon of vegetarian refried beans) top with lettuce shreds, a dab of sour cream, grated sharp cheddar or American cheese, and a dollop of salsa.

Also for the vegans: Cut stalks of celery into 4-inch pieces, fill with hummus dip, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. If you have a bit more time to cook, this black bean chili dip is pretty awesome; serve it with your favorite chips or crackers.

Got any quick and easy holiday treat ideas to share? Let us know in comments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2 Sub Ops

Ghostwoods Books has two open calls here for some upcoming anthos:

Antho #1: Cthulhu Lies Dreaming

Looking for: "Lovecraft-styled cosmic horror with a modern sensibility, by which we mean without the lengthy passages of exposition and racial biases that were common in Lovecraft's day. This anthology has the working title of Cthulhu Lies Dreaming. The overarching theme will have to do with the way in which Cthulhu's dreams interact with the real world, either in the past or in the modern day. What horrors would Cthulhu dream of? If the substance of Cthulhu's dreams were made manifest in the world, what might happen? Stories do not have to mention Cthulhu or his dreams. To get an idea of what kinds of stories we might be looking for, a quick read of the back cover text of Cthulhu Lives! could be useful. Creativity will be rewarded as long as the story fits the general theme. Stories should be enjoyable for both those who have read Lovecraft's own work in depth, as well as those who haven't. As in Cthulhu Lives!, our goal is to reflect upon how deeply Lovecraft's themes remain embedded in the human psyche." Length: 3-8K; Payment: "Pays a small advance + an author share per story of 50% of the proceeds from the book." See guidelines for more details. Deadline: "When we get enough good stories. (We're shooting for May, but we'll put something firmer up when we're close to having enough.)"

Antho#2: Haunted Futures

Looking for: "The most suitable genres will be variations or combinations of sci fi, fantasy, thriller or mystery. We are not trying to scare the audience as with traditional horror. Haunted here is used more in the Romantic sense. Stories must be both excellent and suitable for an audience that enjoys the work of the notable authors who are to be included in the book. Outside of these primary concerns, we would also like to see more submissions from women and people underrepresented in traditional genre publishing." Length: 2.5-5K; Payment: "Advance plus royalties. Exact amount depends on the number of stories we accept." No reprints, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: "Early Summer 2015. When we get enough acceptable stories (we'll post a firm deadline as we get close)"

Monday, December 15, 2014

HoHoHum Ten

Ten Things I Hate About Your Holiday Story

24/7 Bliss: The arrival of the holidays has mysteriously transformed your entire crew of non-religious, deeply-flawed, potentially interesting characters into a quasi-Borg Hive of Happy People Who Must Do Charitable Things and Make Deep Personal Sacrifices to Surprise That Character They Couldn't Stand Before Thanksgiving. They also seem to infect everyone they meet with this Be of good cheer or you will be assimilated nonense, too.

Behaving Perfectly Pets: Dogs, cats and other pets in your holiday story seem to spend all their time cuddling small grabby children, fetching wrapped presents and looking adorable as they pose by the decorated Christmas tree, instead of what they'd really be doing, like biting those children, gnawing or peeing on those presents, and trying to climb up or knock down the damn tree.

Chesty Chop: I know your male protag has an awesome-looking chest, and you like to show it off every ten pages, but sending him out shirtless in subzero weather to chop firewood just so his lady love can sigh over his pecs from the window? Really?

Death Takes an Extended Holiday: Doomed characters never expire on Christmas Day -- in fact, no matter what shape they're in, no one does. Anyone destined to buy the farm does it at least a month before or the day after. In the case of the Dec. 26th RIP, they must of course have an utterly magical Christmas that they declare was the best of their life right before they drop dead.

Give Me a Break: Everyone receives marvelous/wonderful/awesome gifts in Holiday Story Land. There is never anything silly or weird or cheap or inappropriate. All the gift clothes, shoes and engagement rings fit perfectly, too.

Santa to the Rescue: No matter if they're bell-ringer Santas or mall Santas or Uncle Herb dressed up as Santa, the Mr. Claus in your story will without fail provide some invaluable assistance or a wondrous revelation for your characters that a) eradicates the black moment; b) permits star-crossed lovers to uncross their stars or c) saves someone or something from imminent bankruptcy.

Snow No-No #1: Despite the fact that it's been snowing steadily in your story for the past three weeks, no character ever has to cancel travel plans, consider the possibility of road closures or even shovel their way out to the car -- which mysteriously always starts no matter how long it's been sitting out there, and is never buried under what should logically by now be a seventeen-foot drift.

Snow No-No #2: Your characters have been snowbound alone together in an abandoned cabin long enough to have wild monkey sex on every available flat surface in place, and constantly cuddle in front of the fireplace that never stops burning, and profess their love while making snow angels out in the yard. This is wonderful, until you consider they're also exclusively living on the handful of granola bars the heroine conveniently found in her purse which, according to my calculations, even if nibbled slowly would have run out a week ago.

Snow No-No #3: Have you ever actually had sex in the snow? If not, then you should know that at zero degrees, no matter what they're doing, your half-naked characters will begin suffering from frostbite in about ten to fifteen minutes. Guess where? So some advice: speed it up.

Stocking Stupidity: Here's another thing in Christmas stories that makes me crazy: fabric stockings full of candy hung all night from a mantle over a roaring fireplace, yet somehow they never catch fire. And since all that heat generated by the roaring fire rises up over them, why aren't they filled with liquid chocolate in the morning?

What do you hate in holiday stories? Share your gripes in comments.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Coming Soon

Image credit: curaphotography

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What About . . . ?

I've had a couple of people ask me when I will be writing this story, which I promised (and then had to scrap) last year:

The truth is I still have not written it. While I know it's already been reviewed, every time I go to start working on it I get the most annoying twitch in my right eye. Plus it only stops when I stop thinking about writing the story and work on something else. Since I don't care to write with a blinky eye, Forget-Me-Knot will have to go on existing only in my mind (and, naturally, anyone who can scan my thoughts for stories I haven't yet written or travel to the future to read stories I someday publish, etc.) until such time as the twitching problem goes a way.

Okay, I'm kidding about everything except not having written it (yet). F-M-K is something I plan to get back to after the holidays. I'm just not sure if I want to keep the idea to novella length (my original plan) or let it expand into a novel (which is what it wants to do.)

To get a sneak peek at the next freebie, which I hope to have ready for you all before the end of the year, stop by tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Other Worlds

Chicago artist Bruce Riley explains a bit about his process as he creates gorgeous, otherworldly art from recycled paintings, paint, resin and flow (with background music, and narration by the artist, for those of you at work):

Bruce from Jason Stanfield on Vimeo.