Still Printing

I’ve recovered fairly well from my sprained ankle and went back to work, and kept printing.

Once I turned on the brim option, I managed to get a unicorn that turned out pretty well. He does have a bit of a beard, but you can’t have everything right? It makes him look distinguished I think. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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Somehow, designing my earring chest files in the middle of the night was not the best way to ensure accuracy. I thought I had run the numbers correctly for all of my shelves on the large piece to be the same size. I was wrong.

I printed the drawer first, and then the insert to go inside of it. It wasn’t quite the right fit, and I hadn’t thought to make the legs of the insert short enough to be practical.

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I edited the insert a little–smaller dimensions over all, and then shortening the legs–and, success!

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Now, I just had to print the shelves to hold the drawers (and print some more drawers and inserts), and  I’d be all set. A relatively complicated, multi piece 3D printed object. I was excited about this milestone.

The truth is, I wasn’t quite there yet.

Somehow, I had ended up with 3 shelves that fit my existing drawer design, and one shelf that was just too short. Rather than print a whole cabinet for it, I was going to content myself for the time being with printing one more drawer that would fit the smaller height on the last shelf, and call it a day.

I didn’t quite manage the perfection I was hoping for, but I’d call this a decent success for my first attempt at something this complicated.

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The mixed success did slow me down a little in my design ambitions, but I’ve still been having lots of fun printing. This napkin holder I printed (designed by TanyaAkinora) turned out beautifully (slow down your bottom layer speed to a crawl for something like this).

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After nearly 6 weeks of writer’s block, where I only managed a few thousand words, last weekend I managed 5K in a night and I feel like I may be over my block.

I’ve also started going for walks. The weather is gorgeous–there’s turtles, birds, and squirrels out in abundance. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul.

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That Duck Burrito Video…

Writer’s block still has me in it’s grip, which means there’s plenty of time to experiment in the kitchen.

Duck is one of my favorite meats. It’s tender and delicious. I’ll panfry it, rotisserie it, chop it up for stir fry, coat it in almond flour…I’ve yet to find bad way to cook it. Shredded duck meat in butternut squash soup? Check. Confit? Check. (Note: I haven’t made duck confit, but I’ve had it out…totally fabulous.) Peking Duck? I haven’t had it in a few years, but I thought it was delicious.

I also have a severe weakness for tortillas. I’m not a big fan of eggs, but put them in a tortilla and I’m ready for a breakfast burrito.

When I saw this video on Buzzfeed for a Peking Duck inspired burrito yesterday, I knew I had to make it. I made a few substitutions here and there, and I wasn’t sure the duck would be filling enough on it’s own, so I made my quinoa version of “fried rice” to go with it. We ended up with way too much food, but at least there’s left overs for lunch tomorrow.

Here’s my adjusted recipe for the Peking Duck inspired burritos. It was easy and delicious and way too much food for two, but perfect for dinner and a lunch!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds of duck breast meat (breast off-cuts work great and are affordable if you can find them)
  • scallions
  • cucumber (a few slices)
  • soy sauce
  • Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
  • garlic (6 cloves)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • sesame oil
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Flour tortillas

I marinated the duck breasts with a splash of soy sauce, Mirin, and a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic, and I let the breasts sit while I cooked my quinoa and veggies.

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I poured a splash of sesame oil and olive oil into a frying pan on medium high heat and put the meat in the bottom of the pan for a few minutes before turning it over and cooking the other side.

While the duck cooked, I sliced scallions and cucumber into thin strips. I’m not a huge fan of cucumber and next time, I would probably just trade it for extra scallions, though as I mentioned before, that might be because I’d put scallions in absolutely anything.

I heated up the tortillas in the microwave for about 15 seconds, and my duck burritos were ready (some assembly required).

For my quinoa stir fry, I cooked more or less the same vegetables as I did earlier this week, except I substituted ginger for the bell peppers tonight. When the duck was done, I threw the quinoa and veggies into the pan where the duck had been cooking and scraped the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Delicious.

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Once we got to the table, we assembled our “burritos.”

  1. Slice pieces of duck into manageable bites.
  2. Spread a little Hoisin sauce over the warm tortilla.
  3. Put a little scallion and cucumber on either side of your meat.
  4. Roll up and enjoy!

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The original recipe called for rice in the burrito, but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of rice (and it comes out terribly when I cook it). I ended up with fairly small flour tortillas at the store, so it worked out perfect to put my quinoa and veggies on the side.

This dish is definitely going to be repeated. Happy Friday!

 

Spring is Coming

As mild as this winter has been around here, I have to admit, I’m ready for spring. Naked trees and dead grass just never quite feels right to me.

I haven’t updated here in a while, but that’s mostly because I’ve been busy making things.

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I will admit, that the original story I’m working on hasn’t quite been receiving the love that it should. I think I’m going to try writing some short stories set in the same world to help me flesh out the world my characters are playing in. I absolutely love the world I’m exploring there, I just haven’t discovered everything there is to know yet.

My kitchen has been missing me the last few weeks. After a disastrously bad butternut squash soup, I’ve been a little afraid to venture forth into experimental cooking again. I’m going to admit it: I improvised and it went badly. I was out of the chicken stock that the recipe called for, so I substituted beef broth. A normal butternut squash soup made with chicken broth has a lovely, appealing orange color. Butternut squash soup made with beef broth tends to look like something I’m not sure I’d even feed to my cat. And in my attempts to doctor it up and make it more appealing, I added cayenne. Not just a little cayenne, or a moderate amount of cayenne, but so much that in the few spoonfuls of soup I attempted to power through and eat required several glasses of water and still left my mouth burning. If anyone wants to recommend another butternut squash soup recipe, I’ll give it another try. I’ve had it out at restaurants and thought it was fantastic, but my own missteps have made me a little wary.

While I haven’t been cooking lately, I did go back and add an epilogue onto my first Dramione story and make a lot of progress on other stories in my queue. The other thing I’ve been doing is getting back into 3D printing. I can take apart and reassemble a 3D printer like it’s nobody’s business, but I haven’t spent a whole lot of time developing my CAD skills.

To easy myself back into the printing process, I scoured YouMagine.com and Thingiverse for some designs that looked fun. I have to tell you, I’m going to have the BEST Christmas ornaments next year. I found a lot of useful tools like an SD card organizer, and some slightly less than useful tools like the tape dispenser I printed. In all fairness, the dispenser printed beautifully, and fits great with a roll of tape. The edge just isn’t quite sharp enough for cutting tape. However, I like it so much, I’m half-tempted to put some sort of blade on the edge and keep it on my desk.

One of the things I find most fascinating to print are the articulated models that print as a single piece but actually have moving parts.  There’s a heart-shaped box that opens up that you can see in the picture up top, and an elephant whose legs and head all move. The elephant was really amazing–it needed absolutely no clean up and moved fine as soon as I’d pried it off the glass bed. If you want to see the little fellow in action, here’s a short video clip of me moving the legs and head. I’ve got a whole bunch more things I want to print this week, so stay tuned.

I also did finally brave the CAD world. My results aren’t exactly going to win me any design prizes, but it’s a start. I started playing around with TinkerCAD, which is so far the most intuitive of the free CAD software I found. I used it to make a flat bottomed butterfly.

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You could use the butterfly by itself–maybe put a magnet or hairpin on the back of it if you wanted to do something useful with it. In an effort to find something to do with my butterfly, I remixed a basic business card holder that was under the Creative Commons license and used MeshMixer to put my butterfly on the front of the business card holder and voila! A new thing was born and available for download.

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I’m going to try braving some of the other CAD programs and see what I come up with. Wish me luck!

New Year Update

Well, it’s been two months since my last post. Time to check in and see how things went.

I did manage to write 50,000 words in November. Unfortunately, almost none of them were on the original novel I had planned to write that month. It was on the Dramione story I’ve been working on. I’m glad that that story is going so well, but it’s frustrating that I didn’t succeed in making progress with my original novel. I’m trying to figure out where I went wrong–why I can write several hundred page fan fictions, but that I can’t seem to find the steam to move forward on my original stories.

I’m not sure if it’s a motivation issue, a world building issue, or plot.

When I post fan fictions, the characters I’m writing about already have a big following, so I get lots of feedback as I go along, and it spurs me on to keep writing. I’ve archived over a million words of fan fiction and constantly have new ideas for more.

Maybe it’s a world building or character creation problem. Writing fan fiction is easy for me because I take characters I like and know well, and put them in a situation I’ve dreamed up (no magic for Draco, a terrible law, etc.) and respond in the way that feels natural for the character. Maybe I just don’t know my own characters well enough before I try to write an original novel?

Or maybe it’s just the sort of plots I’m trying to write. Most of my fan fictions have an overarching plot, and a slow-burn friendship into romance over the course of the story. When I tried to write the original novel I came up with this fall, I tried to write something entirely without romance, and never assigned a gender to my main character. Maybe I’m just better at writing romances? Should I just admit that that’s what I’m good at? Or is there a way to improve my skills?

The stories I loved best growing up–the Prydain Chronicles, Artemis Fowl, The Lord of the Rings, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and even Harry Potter, didn’t put romances front and center in the story. The stories I liked best were about changing (or saving) the world and finding out who you were. That’s the sort of story I’d like to be able to share with the world.

Goal one: In 2016, I want to improve my writing skills and write an original novel. It doesn’t have to be finished, or perfect by the end of the year, but I want a story.

I also want to do more hands on crafts this year. 2015 was an amazing, crazy, wonderful year. Our business grew from 8 to 26 employees. This year, I stayed home all of Christmas weekend, and relaxed and had a wonderful time with my husband. Last year, we were working long days, 7 days a week. Now, I’ve got more time for hands on crafts again.

This Christmas, I made a Christmas stocking for my stepdaughter. Can you guess which one is hers?

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Goal two: In 2016, I want to keep working on hands on projects and learning new skills. I want to sew, and crochet, and learn modeling software to 3D print things.

One of the pitfalls of working long hours and having no time, is that I ate a lot of food that was terrible for me in 2015. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed most of it. But whereas in 2013 and 2014 I experimented with a lot of new recipes and had fun with them on my YouTube channel, in 2015, I ate out. Fast food, restaurants, take out, you name it, a lot of days, I was too tired to cook.

However, now that I have more time on my hands, I’m committed to cooking good food and eating healthy. In the last month, my husband and I have cooked everything that we’ve eaten. I’ve dropped 10.2 pounds as of this morning. I cut out refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, wheat, dairy, and corn. Whole grains, veggies, fruits, meat, and healthy fats are now the rule of thumb in the house. My husband has come up with some fantastic recipes. For example, look at this beauty from Christmas night:

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Quinoa, with yellow squash, onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers, and a a piece of duck breast with almond flour, cooked in a little olive oil. It was amazing. Absolutely brilliant. (Seriously, how have I never discovered Quinoa until now? It beats rice hands down.)

A month into eating this way, we feel better, have more energy, and our clothes fit better. While I might relax a little–a slice of cake or glass of wine now and then won’t kill me–I feel so much better eating real food that I want to keep doing it.

Goal three: In 2016, I want to keep experimenting with new cooking recipes and fabulous new food that’s good for me. 

Well, there’s my start of the year update. What are you looking forward to in 2016? How was your 2015? What changes do you want to make in your life? What do you want to keep the same?

Cooking with Baby Bellas

Well, I’ve been pretty busy making things lately. I’m making 3D printers pretty much every day. I’ve tried a handful of new recipes including marinated mushroom and sweet potato tacos this week and baked mushroom baozi earlier in the month. I’ve managed to update my fan fiction and am finally writing the crucial scene I know many of my readers have been waiting for. I’ve also finally gotten myself to write another flash fiction for ThanInVain‘s Flash Fiction Challenge. The prompt was just too good to pass up and I found myself with a little time tonight, so let’s start with that.

Prompt: A woman’s cat goes missing. Two days later she receives a ransom note.

Catnapped

Ellen Helmsby shrugged out of her overcoat and settled into her chair, heedless of the layers of cat fur. She squirted a little hand sanitizer into her palm to her to rid her hands of the metallic smell of dealing with other people’s coins all day.


She clucked her tongue behind her teeth and waited for Tire to materialize for their pre-dinner cuddle. She’d tell him about her day and he’d purr and life would be just a little bit better. Then she’d open a packet of food for him, and put a TV dinner in the oven for herself.


But cluck and call as she might, Tire didn’t come. She got down on her creaking knees calling out to him under the bed. Finally she was reduced to swearing at the damn cat to show up. He didn’t. She sat in the chair all night.


The next day, cars honked as she gave people the wrong change or or her mind drifted. Her supervisor thought the exhaust fumes might be getting to her head and sent her home. A note, in purple crayon, was wedged under the door.

Deer Cat Lady,
My bruther loves your cat. He wants it, but can’t rite. He’s 4. If you give me a bazillion $ I’ll steal it back. But it has to be a bazillion or I can’t, cuz he’ll cry when I take it.

Ellen heard the hedges rustle and saw the grubby six year old from next door watching her.

Being a cat person myself, I couldn’t resist the prompt and I’m glad I gave it a go. It feels good to be writing.

I’m trying to lead a more healthy life-style, and building printers all day is certainly a lot more physically active than my last job. I’m also trying to be mindful of healthier new recipes and fewer sweets. So far, it’s working. However, there’s an amazing frozen custard shop not far from where I work, and I want some…right now. However, I’ve got some very good motivation for wanting to get healthier right now. I’m looking forward to a long life with the man I love, and I want to be healthy.


The marinated mushroom and sweet potato tacos were absolutely delicious. I’m not going to lie, I ate several and they were all gone before I could take a picture of them. One lingered on someone else’s plate (the tortilla got a bit burnt) and I did manage to snap a picture of that before it too disappeared. 

Marinated Mushroom and Sweet Potato Tacos

I cut and cooked the sweet potatoes the night before, so they weren’t as crisp as I could have hoped, but they were delicious and it saved me an hour of prep-time right before dinner, which was good since by the time I get home, I’m pretty hungry. I used baby bella mushrooms and topped it all off wit a little cheese, sour cream, and green onions. I always keep a container of sliced green onions in the freezer to add to meals. They keep for ages and defrost almost instantly when I add them to any dish.


A few weeks ago, I watched the new reboot of Sailor Moon that just launched. I then followed it up by indulging in a few of the classic episodes as well. I remember watching the original episodes on television as a kid in the morning when I got ready for school. I think there’d usually be an episode of Sailor Moon for me in the morning, and an episode of Mighty Max for my brother. Eventually Sailor Moon only aired on cable, and my family didn’t get cable until I was in middle school, so I missed out on most of the later seasons.

Watching it recently I was surprised as how much I remembered and still felt familiar, but I was also delighted by what I didn’t remember. I’d forgotten that Serena/Usagi tends to eat a lot. One of the things she was snacking on was stuffed pork buns, which I remember as a delicious treat from my time in Taiwan. 

Usually stuffed pork buns are steamed, but as I don’t have a steamer at the moment, I specifically wanted to find a recipe for baked buns. I toyed with the idea of barbecue baked pork buns, but the recipe I found was for mushroom baozi, and I am so glad I found it.

I don’t have much experience baking, particularly with making dough from scratch. This recipe called for me to make the dough and give it an hour or two to rise, but I was going to be working and didn’t want to delay dinner by two hours or more once I got home, so I made the dough and let it rise over about 8 hours in the fridge (it turned out great).

It still took longer than I was expecting when I got home to roll the dough out into pieces and put the filling inside, but it was totally worth it. Most of the baozi I made were the mushroom recipe I found on the website, but I also made a handful with shredded pork from the crockpot and barbecue sauce. 

The mushroom ones actually turned out best (I didn’t use enough barbecue sauce, so the pork ones were a bit dry). I wasn’t real sure about being able to seal them up well, so I put them together upside-down. 

Mushroom Baozi

I also should have rolled out the dough a bit thinner, and maybe added a little more salt, but I will definitely repeat this recipe. 


So, there you have it. I haven’t been blogging as much as I should, but I’ve certainly been making things, and more than keeping busy. There’s always more to get done and more to learn. Are there any other recipes you’d suggest using mushrooms? Baby Bellas are my favorite. Any advice for loosening hand muscles after building something all day? 

Casserole Creation: Chicken Cordon Bleu

I’ve finally tried a new recipe again for the first time in ages. I’ve been itching to try this one since a friend of a friend posted a link on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. I gathered up most of the ingredients, and then had the last one dropped in my lap this week, so it was time to try it. Are you ready? Chicken Cordon Bleu casserole. I guess it wasn’t a surprise; the title of this post probably gave it away.

Chicken cordon bleu was one of my favorite dishes growing up. My mom and aunt would both make it for me on special occasions, sometimes with fresh cut french fries. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard. They’re both excellent cooks and I’ve adopted a number of their recipes. For my college graduation party they even made two hundred mini-chicken cordon bleus for me, because it was my favorite. No surprise, they were a big hit and disappeared pretty quickly. I don’t even want to know how many I ate. Mom, Auntie, if you’re reading this, I love you both. Chicken cordon bleu (made from scratch, NOT the nasty frozen kind) is delicious, but it’s a lot of work. Pound the breasts (or tenders if you’re making minis), coat them in egg, and bread crumbs. Roll them up with swiss cheese and ham inside, pin them shut with toothpicks, fry them, and then bake them in the oven. I’m exhausted just writing it, so as delicious as it is, it’s not something I make terribly often. When I saw this casserole recipe, I knew I had to try it.

Let me just say I have very little experience with casseroles. I had a vague notion that casseroles are a one pan meal, so it must be quick and easy to throw together. Quick and easy cordon bleu? Yes, please, and seconds. The only other time I’ve really attempted to make anything in a  casserole dish was the spinach and sweet potato gratin I made last year adapted from a recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen.

This wasn’t quick and easy, but it was well worth the effort. I filmed the cooking process tonight and will finally be updating my YouTube channel. I used Terri’s recipe I found on TastyKitchen and made a few modifications. I’ve learned to check out the comments on food blog posts before attempting the recipes I find and I’ve found some great advice, so I tried to incorporate it into my dish tonight.

I’m picky about meat and as anyone who has eaten with me will tell you, I don’t particularly relish the task of separating meat from bone and cartilage, so instead of stripping a rotisserie chicken, I baked several chicken breasts the night before with a little salt, pepper, and garlic, shredded them when they came out of the oven, and stuck the chicken in the fridge. For the ham, I used Easter dinner leftovers I’d been given, rather than a package of deli ham. It was delicious.

Shredded chicken

 

When I got home from work tonight I buttered my casserole dish, and piled in the chicken, then put a layer of ham on top. I used shredded swiss cheese instead of sliced because…well, I had it.


Ham and Chicken

I was actually really pleased with the sauce. Based on the comments on the original posting on the recipe I decided to use half the amount of salt, and significantly less milk. I used skim rather than whole milk, and only used 2 cups of milk instead of the 3.25 that the recipe called for. I also replaced the mustard with garlic. I loath mustard. My feelings towards mustard can only be rivaled by my feelings towards pickles–yuck. But garlic is a beautiful thing. As per the instructions, I melted 4 tablespoons of butter, slowly mixed in 4 tablespoons of flour to make a roux, added 2 cups of milk, and then my seasonings: lemon juice, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic. I let it heat for a while until it thickened and poured it over my dish. I taste-tested it and it was beautiful. This picture came out a little orange, but it was actually slightly pink, from the paprika.

Let there be sauce!

After that, all that was left to do was make the crispy topping. The recipe called for a cup and a half of panko bread crumbs, 6 tablespoons of butter, parsley, and seasoning salt. I used half panko bread crumbs and half Italian bread crumbs, and swapped out the parsley for spring onions. I skipped the seasoning salt altogether. I tried to get away with 4 tablespoons of melted butter to mix with the bread crumbs, but it really needed 6 for that many crumbs. And a little grated parmesan, just because it was left over in the fridge from chicken francese the other night.

Casserole Topping

I popped it into the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and sat down to wait. I’ll admit, by then I was pretty hungry. I was a little impatient and took it out 12 minutes early–it didn’t seem to suffer any harm from it except that maybe the topping wasn’t as crisp as it could be.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

What would you have paired with it? I went with baked potatoes because they were easy, but I’m thinking I might go with something a little lighter tomorrow–I’m open to suggestions. Yes, tomorrow. No I’m not cooking it from scratch again, I’m looking forward to the joy of leftovers. I can’t wait.

Upcoming projects/updates:

  • I have majorly slacked off on the Flash Fiction challenge. We’ll see if I go back to it. I do like it as a writing exercise quite a bit, but I may be a spectator for a while.
  • I’ve posted chapter 27 of my Dramione story, Law and Marriage . Chapter 28 is nearly ready and will be going up soon.
  • I Tweet. I resisted Twitter for a long time, but I’m planning to apply for the AmtrakResidency for writing, because it looks awesome, and they want whoever gets it to Tweet about the experience. Therefore I shall Tweet, because I intend to be on one of those trains. You can find me at @ErinWritesOn . I’m a bit torn between that and HiIMakeStuff for a handle. What do you think?
  • I recorded my casserole project tonight, so hopefully I will sit down and get a YouTube video up in the relatively near future.
  • And–I went back to the gym on Wednesday. I don’t even want to tell you how long it had been since I’d been there, but I lifted weights, and did a few minutes of stationary bicycle (I hate cardio). It felt great to get back under the barbell again and know I could still do it but man am I sore. But I’m going back tomorrow. My coworker and I have pinky promised on it, and you know that’s sacred.

Until next time, keep making stuff!

Frozen, Fantasy books, and Flash Fiction Week 3

Two posts in one weekend? I’m on a roll. And I guess I’m still procrastinating on that whole editing thing. I’ll get there eventually. Last night, I went out to see Frozen, which is, I think, one of the best things Disney has put out there in a while. It was really refreshing to see a story that was about sisters, communication, expectations, and growing up. Yes, there’s a romance in it, but contrary to the traditional 1950s and 1960s Disney, this movie is mostly about the love between sisters rather than the romantic interest. While one character thinks marrying a man she just met is a brilliant idea, because obviously it’s true love, two other characters point out that it’s absolutely ridiculous. I loved the movie.

All the same, I think my favorite part was probably during the credits. I looked down at saw 2 or 3 young girls up in front of the screen, dancing. They were probably around 5 years old. I’ll admit it, the music was good and I was dancing in my seat. It made me really happy to think, “YES, these are the Disney princesses these girls are growing up with. I’m okay with that.”

I grew up on Disney Princesses like Belle and Mulan, who put others first and risked their lives for the people they cared about, and who learned to be themselves, even when the rest of the world didn’t accept them as they were. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White never did much for me. Admittedly, if you want a great retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a princess who doesn’t just let the story happen around her, I recommend Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley.

I grew up on YA Adventure Fantasy–The Black Cauldron, Artemis Fowl, the Lord of the Rings, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Harry Potter, the Pendragon books, Young Wizards, and pretty much anything by Diana Wynne Jones. For the most part, these stories were about young people finding something bigger an more important than themselves and fighting for what they believed in. Artemis Fowl may not quite fit that mold, and I don’t think anyone would call Lord of the Rings a YA book. But my main point stands, that the stories were about people finding their larger place in the universe and doing good–romance in these stories tended to be more incidental than anything else.

I was fairly horrified when I came back from two years out of the country and walked into a large chain bookstore for the first time in a long while and found the YA Fantasy Adventure section by and large gone in favor of rows after rows of “Teen Paranormal Romance.” Yes, that was the tag on the shelf. Or shelves rather–there were 18 shelves on 3 book cases with that label. I think a lot of the things I found so meaningful to read when I was growing up are disappearing. The Hunger Games was refreshing in that it fell more back into that model of focusing on what was going on outside the arena of who had a crush on who. Yes there was a love triangle in it, but for the entire first book pretty much the main character had no idea either of the guys had those sort of feelings for her–she was too concerned with staying alive and protecting her sister, which really was the more important bit to be worried about at the time. She didn’t have a chance to think about anything else.

I guess I ran a bit longer on that than I meant to. I could discuss my favorite fantasy books for hours, but I’ll stop now. Here’s this week’s flash fiction entry for Thain in Vain’s flash fiction challenge.

Week Three Prompt: While at a party, two adult siblings find themselves attracted to the same person.

Sibling Rivalry

Elise shook her head, laughing. Her curls were getting just a little longer than she liked, just enough to start to swing when her sister said something inappropriate. “I can’t believe you just said that. Have you no sense of decency?”

People moved slowly about the room, eating and drinking and talking. Some of them were strangers, others hadn’t seen each other in years.

May just rolled her eyes. “If we don’t have a little fun, what else is there?” She sipped her drink. “It’s not like we’ll live forever. Besides, Jeffrey was Irish.”

Elise shook a few crumbs off her skirt from the cookie she’d had earlier. “What on earth does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, aren’t wakes supposed to be fun?”

“You’re impossible. Don’t let Mary hear you talking like that. They were together so long—this is all hard enough on her.” Her eyes strayed to the young priest on the other side of the room, chatting with Sarah-Jean. Her sister wasn’t wrong, he was a dashing specimen. He was only about forty or so and he still seemed to have all of his hair. And what a smile!

May smirked, noting her sister’s gaze. “I saw him first. I think I’m going to go thank him for such a lovely homily.”

“Oh no you’re not. Look at him all you want—I’ll probably do the same—but don’t you go making a scene,” Elise said.

May gave her older sister a smirk. “Just you try to stop me.” It took several moments for May to ease herself up out of her chair, bones creaking. Nothing really worked the way it used too. She shuffled across the room as directly as she could, but had to stop several times to catch her breath or make conversation.

Swearing under her breath in a most unladylike way, Elise put her hands out onto her walker and pulled herself to her feet. May had made fun of the walker when Elise had finally decided she needed one, but who had the last laugh now? The walker clunked against the floor as she started toward the priest. Damn May. She couldn’t be content to look at a handsome fellow, she had to go talk to him. She’d always been a precocious girl—too impulsive. She couldn’t be content to simply hang back and watch an attractive man. Elise would have been content to just watch the priest from afar and maybe smile at him but May had to go and raise the stakes.

Elise grabbed a glass of punch off a nearby table and put it in the little basket at the front of her walker. She smirked at May, who seemed to be stuck talking to Jeremy—the man didn’t have his own teeth still, let alone his own hair.

She was a little out of breath when she reached the priest. She picked up the punch with a hand that trembled only a little. “Thirsty?”

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The flash fiction ended up being 499 words, plus the title. I hope you enjoyed this week’s submission. My next goals: finish the latest chapter of my Harry Potter story, fold the laundry, and start my editing processing on The Making of a BeastFeel free to leave comments about any good fantasy books you think I might enjoy, or your thoughts on anything I mentioned above–there’s never enough people to talk about my favorite books with.

Confession

Happy Friday, everybody. Or, Saturday. I probably won’t post this until tomorrow.

I took the plunge and did something I’ve been putting off since I hit my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal on November 29th. I reopened my story for editing. This might not sound like a big deal–I got the words on paper, I did the hard part, right? It’s just time to go back and clean it up a bit, yeah?

Well, I have a confession to make. It’s probably going to make me sound like a bad writer. The truth is, maybe I am.

I’ve never seriously edited a story before.

I’ve sent out 1.3 million words’ worth of stories into the internet to hopefully entertain and delight fantasy fans, and I’ve never seriously edited them. Most of those stories were fan fiction. I had strong characters as my starting points and I put them in a situation and just let the characters dictate what their natural responses would be to the situation. The stories just kind of evolved, and I’d post a chapter at a time, as they came to me–there were a couple of stories that were 8 years, start to finish, as I pretty much took a break from fan fiction throughout all of college and a couple of years after and only returned to it intermittently until recently. There are pros and cons to this I suppose. Pro? I had to stick with what I’d written because it was already out there and I couldn’t change my mind about a plot point after the fact. Con? I couldn’t change my mind about a plot point because it was already out there.

Maybe it’s just a decade of habit now, but when I think about my stories, I rarely ever give much consideration to major changes. Pretty much everything I’ve posted on FanFiction.net could use going over with a fine tooth comb–there are typos that need to be fixed that embarrass me. But I’ve never really thought about dismantling the stories and changing any major facet about them. The characters told me what felt right for them and the story worked. If I didn’t know what the characters needed or I wasn’t sure where it was supposed to go…then my reviewers waited a long time between chapters.

Participating in NaNoWriMo this year and really pushing myself for the first time in writing an original story (as original as a fairytale gets), I discovered some of the problems with my method of writing. If you have characters you know like the back of your hand, characters you feel like you know as well as anyone in the real world, it’s possible to feel pretty certain that you’ve chosen a natural response for them in a situation. But what about when you don’t really know who your characters are yet? When their backstories are still largely unformed?

For example, part way through my NaNoWriMo story The Making of a Beast, I decided that the main character’s friend and confidante wasn’t a friend who he’d grown up with–it was his father’s friend, who had watched him grow up. I’m fairly certain he’s going to abandon the main character at some point, but I’m still not sure who he is and what the reason for it might be. So I just skipped over that bit.

That’s right–I skipped over chunks of the story during NaNoWriMo, which is something I couldn’t do when I was writing fan fiction. Again, you’ve got the pros and cons there–by being able to skip over it in this case I was able to keep writing, and moving on, and I know I can go back and fix it when I’ve made decisions. It’s been over a month and I haven’t wanted to think about it–I haven’t made those decisions, and I don’t have any better idea about who my characters are. When I write my fics, if I can’t decide on something or I’m not sure about it, it delays the whole process, because I can’t go back. B has to follow A and C has to follow B or the whole alphabet will hate me–though occasionally there’s a good excuse for a flashback and things can be jumbled up a bit.

Here I am now, more than halfway through January, and the only headway I’ve made is to promise myself that I will go back to this story, and that I will do NaNoWriMo again. I have 50,000+ words of unedited something with all these decisions still waiting to be made and these gaping holes in the story as I jump from one part of it to another. Thinking about it, I think I was trying to rush things. I predict all said and done this is going to be a roughly 200,000 word story. I’ve written stories over 150K before (and my current fan fic is nearly at that mark), but it’s never something like this.

I used to always find I had the best chance of editing something if I printed it out and took a pen to it–it’s easy to gloss over things on the computer. I opened my story tonight for the first time since November and started nipping and tucking at the prologue, changing a word here or there. Then I decided to print it. Surely I can do it all if I just take it a piece at a time. And then I found myself wondering what I was doing, trying to edit it piecemeal. Shouldn’t I read the whole thing again and then go to work on the pieces?

Honestly? I haven’t the foggiest. I’m leaning towards that, so that I have a better idea of what I’ve already written. I told myself from the beginning that sections of what I’ve written were probably going to have to go, but I find myself reluctant to part with any of it–something I remember feeling in the creative writing classes and projects I did a lifetime ago.

How do you feel about the editing process? Does it make you cringe? Or is there satisfaction in purging your story, making it better, getting the perfect fit for it? The perfect fit really does make a difference in most things in life. I could probably wax philosophical on that for a bit, but I think it’s time to call it a night. If I manage to hit “publish post” in the next 30 seconds, it’ll still be Friday.

Too late. Saturday is here. Oh well. It’s still Friday somewhere, isn’t it? Time to curl up and sleep.

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And before I forget, here are a few things you can expect to hear from me about in the next couple of weeks:

Stay tuned!