Archive for the Musings Category

Shortbread Experiments

Posted in Food on November 13, 2011 by Jaym Gates

For some reason, I’ve considered shortbread to be an insurmountable wall. I have no idea why, because I don’t think I’ve even looked at a recipe until last week. Even then, I was just looking for another cookie recipe to play with.

These are damn near foolproof. I can whip these up without looking at the recipe, which is amazing, because I’ve been known to ruin those Pillsbury crescent rolls. It’s kind of like my ability to kill bamboo: damn near a superpower.

They are also quite amenable to experimentation, being somewhat blank-slate cookies. I’m posting the basic recipe, and then the variations.

Cream 1 stick room temperature butter and 1/4 cup sugar.
Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tblsp milk or cream and a pinch of salt, mix thoroughly. If you are using flavorings, add now.
Mix in 1 and 1/4 cup flour.
Roll into logs of desired size, roll in sugar until lightly coated. Wrap in tinfoil, freeze for 30-60 minutes, or until solid enough to slice easily.
Preheat oven to 350. Slice cookies, bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. (They won’t spread very much at all, so they can be put close together.)

Let them cool. Quickly give them to all your friends so you don’t eat them all. No, seriously.

Now, variations:

1/4 tsp fresh, or 1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers, ground.
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Earl Grey-Orange with Brown Sugar and Almonds
2 tsp Earl Grey tea
1 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup dry-roasted almonds, chopped.

Substitute brown sugar for the white. Soak tea in 2 tablespoons of warmed milk. Add with vanilla and salt. (the tea soaks up enough milk that it will be too dry if you only use 1 tablespoon)
Add almonds at the very end.
Roll in coarse brown sugar instead of white.

Jasmine-Green Tea with lime and black sesame

2 tsp jasmine tea, prepared according to the directions above.
1/2 tsp lime zest, divided in half
1/2 cup black sesame seeds

Mix tea and 1/4 tsp lime zest into batter according to the directions for the Earl Grey. Instead of rolling the dough in plain sugar, sprinkle a mix of sesame, lime zest and white sugar for each log. Absolutely beautiful cookies. (The sesame is a strong flavor, so use sparingly.)

I’ve got all sorts of other ideas up my sleeve, involving whiskey, chocolate, saffron, orange-flower water, cumin…the list is endless. I’ll post new variations as I find them. Enjoy!

Easy as Quiche

Posted in Food on April 20, 2010 by Jaym Gates

I’ve never made a quiche before last week. Always thought that they were pretty hard. Then work asked me to come up with something that would be easy enough for our food demo program to do, and still understandable and delicious for the public.

I was supposed to find a recipe. Predictably, I forgot, and ended up experimenting. The resulting recipe is nearly foolproof, takes about 10 minutes to throw together, and turns out delicious. This recipe is for a crustless quiche, but you could easily throw it into a crust for something even better!

4 eggs
1 cup milk (2% for lowfat quiche, whole otherwise)
1 cup shredded cheese
Pepper or seasoning blend
Additions of your choice

Whisk eggs, add milk, salt and seasoning. Stir in cheese and additions. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 until set and golden on top.

That’s it!

Suggestions for additions: Asparagus, goat cheese or swiss and ham. Spinach, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, olives. Green chilies, cheddar or pepper-jack, cilantro, tomatoes. Mushrooms and swiss. Broccoli and cheddar. Anything you want!

Copywrite Ideas

Posted in Musings, short stories, Theories and Thoughts, work on March 4, 2010 by Jaym Gates

The other day, I was discussing a story on Twitter with someone. Long form short, he asked for a plot. I gave it to him, in a regular tweet. At the time, I’d thought of sending it DM, and it just didn’t seem necessary. He was surprised that I had put it out there in public.

That got me thinking. I’d considered, at the time, sending it DM. But it was just a very rough plot, one which is actually not that unique. It isn’t a story that I’m pushing the boundaries with, at least, not in main plot. It is about what I’d write into a teaser. I hadn’t given away the ending.

Yes, someone could come along and pick up the plot. They could write and submit it, and maybe even sell it. But it would still so not be my story.

I grew up reading fairytales, the Bible, and mythology, as well as an unhealthy dose of Christian apocalyptic fiction. Adult stuff, honestly, that I probably shouldn’t have been reading. But it formed interesting patterns in my head. I draw from these plots when I’m writing, and overlay it with an upholstery of horror and the stitching that comes from a love of world-building.

If you read more than three of my stories, certain similarities become apparent. Threads start forming. I write everything around a core of concepts. Things like the Aether Age stories are outside of the created world I typically use, but the details are still there.

I consider the details to be the treasure. I guard those fairly closely, and the timelines/history/mythology of my world. The plot? Show me a plot that hasn’t been done before! It’s in the seasoning and mixing of ideas that I find the real beauty and unique voice, whether in my own work or someone else’s.

However, I also have to be humble here. I’ve been working in the publishing world for just over a year. I’m still wet behind the ears, dammit. So yeah, I totally am open to having screwed up on that one.

But if I did, I want to know why, and how. I’d be interested to hear from the perspective of an editor, or a slush reader. Is it a problem to skim a plot in a public venue?

Recipe: Mango Madness!

Posted in Food, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 28, 2010 by Jaym Gates

Tried some mango on sticky rice last week, and was underwhelmed. Then again, I eat with the perpetual thought “I could do this better.” See, I don’t need to go to culinary school, I’m already as snooty as a chef!

I had to be fair in my challenge to the product, however. It was prepackaged and insta-eat. Soo…I had to make something easy and phenomenal.

I love my job. I get to experiment on my coworkers! (I work at Trader Joe’s, and I spend a lot of my time working in the demo program. This accounts for all excess weight, as grazing is damn near a job requirement.)

So, being bored, and having the human sharks gnawing the counter, I made Mango Madness. And my coworkers renewed their vows their undying love. (I exaggerate not, they very literally do vow undying love over food. Bachelors are so easy!) Also, I know it worked because the former chef, the half-French gourmet cook, the caterer from Sonoma and the particular manager all loved it. I cannot speak highly enough for this dish!

This is made with four ingredients, and all can be found at your local Trader Joe’s!

Mango Madness

1 tub rice pudding
1 package pre-sliced mango
1 cup crumbled ginger thin cookies
1/2 cup crushed sesame-honey cashews

Rice pudding goes on the bottom.
You can either leave the mango as-is, or dice, but put a little bit of sea-salt on it. (Really, this makes ALL the difference! Lime would be good, too, or orange juice, but that’s frosting.) Spread mango over rice pudding.
Mix crushed cookies and cashews together and sprinkle over the mango.
Add whipped cream, if you so desire.
Serve cold.

This would be an ideal summer dish. Very light and refreshing, not at all too sweet, and fairly unusual. It is an odd combination, but the heat of the ginger plays off the sweet mangoes and cool rice pudding.

Of course, I can’t do things the easy way, so I’m all fired up to try the hellishly-complicated, gourmet version of the above dish. I’ll make that on Wednesday, probably.

What is it? Homemade sweet coconut-milk curry risotto with mascarpone, cooled and molded. Top that with chili-mango-lemongrass chutney and spiced whipped cream. Garnish with cashews and sesame seeds.

My crew think they love me now? Most of them don’t know that I’ll take this dish in for them to eat. Mwahahaha.

Open Letter to People Who Do Not Matter

Posted in Rants, Seven Deadly Sins on February 27, 2010 by Jaym Gates

Why do I address a letter to you, if you do not matter? I address it to you because I am endlessly hopeful that someday, you will listen to me.

You see, I am a patient person. Laugh for a moment. Get that cleared out. Yes, I am a volcano, sharp-edged and passionate. But that is the surface. The waves may whip up, but it passes quickly and without incident. I am patient when you playfully mock my speech, not understanding that I choose my words so carefully because there are days when I cannot speak at all, days when I stutter, days when the words are in my head but not on my tongue. I smile and joke back, because it is good to talk, and I did not do that for too long.

I laugh when you say that my aggression, my temper and impatience are an act. I don’t care if you think my music, my clothes or my hobbies are silly or a reaction to my upbringing.

I am not easily angered. But there are things which do anger me. Let me share those, so that I won’t be tempted to claw your tongue out next time you talk to me.

Please stop telling me that I just need to find the right church. That I should keep going until I do. Do not talk over me, reprimand me, or become condescending when I say I do not need a church.

I do not need to find the right church. I do not need a church. This is not reaction to a bad childhood experience, nor backlash against my conservative upbringing. It is because I find church to be meaningless to me. I gain nothing from listening to someone else tell me what his experiences, his beliefs or passions are. I can get that from a book, and have tea too.

I do not need fellowship. If you knew me, you would understand that I have a low tolerance for other people. I have had everyone in my head but myself for years. The most holy experience that I can have is utter silence, and that cannot happen so long as one person is in the room.

I do not need your god. He is not my god. I do not hate him, but I find him contradictory and judgmental. He has no meaning to me, no call to serve. Believe me, I tried. I tried with all the passion of a child who believes that she is going to hell, that she can be saved if she just loves hard enough. I have my own gods now, and your god does not like that. Save the lightning, please.

My church is the rugged face of Pyramid Peak. My cathedral is the Desolation Wilderness. My chapel is the open hillside where I watch the storms that are my hymns. My fellow worshipers are the hawks, the horses, the coyotes. My reverence is the total peace of a night without people. My prayers are songs and my songs are prayers. Please, don’t try to judge me for this. You don’t understand. You don’t need to understand.

I won’t tell you my beliefs. Please don’t tell me yours. That is not something that needs to be known. We are in a world of over-share. Let this be personal. Leave the sacred secret and cherished. This is what keeps me alive, please do not try to haul it out for autopsy.

Also? I said I don’t want children. I will not be ‘changing my mind in three or four years’. If you think I am, you do not know me, do you? There are things that change in my life, but they are not many. This is something I have known for years. I am not wholly a woman, it is true. I do not identify entirely as a woman, either. It is a gender that I have worn uncomfortably, even as I love it and luxuriate in some of the gifts it brings. I have never thought of myself as a mother, nor imagined myself with babies. It is fine for others, but it is not my path.

There are enough unwanted children in the world. I have worked with some of them. They left an indelible mark on my heart. It was not the fat babies and cooing cherubs, but the little-old girls with HIV, the beautiful girl who took my hand and made me her eyes. It was the boy who had been burned, with his plastic-skin skeleton, and the boy who hit a horse on the nose until he was shown how it hurt the horse. It is the kids that society misses that I love.

If I ever desire children, I will reach for them first. Not out of pity, oh gods no. It is out of admiration, honor, respect. These children saved my life. The autistic, the brain-damaged, the abandoned. I would die for their memory, and I would selfishly keep every one of them.

I will not change my mind. Please, keep your judgments to yourself. I don’t hate children. I love watching my friends with their children. My young cousins can bend me backwards with a look. One of my special children from years past can reduce me to tears with a word or touch.

I am used to being judged. I have been judged since before I could speak. That does not matter. What matters is that you do not listen when I try to speak.

I am not easily angered. Irritated, yes. Yet these things will always make me angry. Judge me if you wish, but remember, I will lose all respect for you. When you judge me and dismiss my opinion, it reduces you to the level of the people I have struggled to leave behind. The ones who give religion a bad name. I used those people as examples of what not to be. I used them to become who I am today.

You Do Not Matter because I have ceased to listen to you. You have become the noise that I flee, the irritations that I see over my shoulder in the mirror. You do not matter because you do not listen. So much white noise in your own ears, you’ve forgotten that there are other ways.

You do not matter to me, but I hope that someday, a blanket will fall over your head. I hope it drowns out the noise and lets you look at the world from someone else’s eyes. I hope you will someday find peace in silence, strength in your own eyes, and love in your own heart.

Then you will matter, not just to me, but to the world, to your loved ones, to yourself. Good luck.

Prayers, Wishes, Vibes

Posted in Personal Life, Uncategorized with tags on November 9, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I would like to ask for all of those for my cousin. He’s a brilliantly smart, thoughtful, active 4yo who is currently in excruciating pain and confined to a walker. He has no strength in one leg, and it hurts him badly. MRI says there’s a blocked nerve. My aunt and uncle are waiting for Shriner’s to get back to them to see if he can be taken in for therapy, surgery, or anything that might solve this.

This boy has been a terror since he learned to crawl. He’s truly my uncle’s son, climbing and falling and moving constantly, so this is pretty hard for him. But he’s been communicating with the doctors and his parents, telling them where it hurts, using his walker faithfully, and has said ‘it’s no use to complain, so I’m not going to.’

Just try and tell me that’s not the most awesome kid!

My aunt and uncle also need the love. My aunt adopted her cousin–a little boy with hydrocephalus, autism and other issues–several years before she met my uncle, and raised him as a single parent. My uncle happily adopted the boy as his own. They’ve been taking him to therapy ever since, and he’s a gentle, happy child who signs, loves music, and is in love with the world. But two kids with special needs and a toddler are hard for them to keep up with, and they don’t have an unlimited budget.

Any prayers, well wishing, or good vibes you can spare for them are greatly appreciated.

Job, Not Reward: Links

Posted in Rants, Uncategorized on November 5, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Manuscript formatting for both long and short stories.

Janet Reid’s blog, always fun, informative, and blunt.

Also by Janet, Query Shark, a must-read for anyone writing queries.

The sheer amount of information in Nathan Bransford’s blog is astounding.

Colleen Lindsay has experience in many areas of publishing, spanning quite a few years. Lots of tasty morsels here.

Rachelle Gardner posts tons of helpful columns for writers at every stage of publication.

Timothy Hallinan has a lovely long series of articles on how to succeed as a writer. Go. Read it.

A great collection of resource links.

There are a ton of other places to find info. But these should get you started. Enjoy!

It’s a Job, Not a Reward

Posted in Rants, Theories and Thoughts, work, writing with tags , , , on November 4, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Well then, that was special. The happy-happy about where I live is that some moron decided to put the cable box right at the entrance to our subdivision. Right at the side of a very busy road. A very busy road that has many, many accidents right at the entrance to our subdivision.

Seeing the pattern here? Yeah. There was an accident this afternoon apparently, so I’ve been without internet for four hours.

Of course, I did all the non-internet stuff early this morning…when I still had internet. And since half of what I needed to do today was ONLINE…it hasn’t been quite as productive a day as I was hoping.

Oh well.

I guess this means (since at the time of writing, I STILL don’t have internet…) that I might as well write a nice long post.

About…hmm. Nothing springs to mind.

Ooo, I know, a rant. Yes, a rant.

See, I’ve seen a lot of questions basically saying ‘how do I get published?’ ‘how do I write a query letter?’ etc etc etc. Those are all good questions, right?

Well, kinda. But the problem is, a lot of the time, it’s pretty obvious that they want the easy answer. Most of these questions are easily answered by a quick Google search.

And you know what? That’s how I found out all my answers. Every time I answer someone’s questions about something related to writing or publishing, I swear they say ‘wow, you know so much!’.

Behold the power of Google. There are literally hundreds of blogs, ‘ask the agent’ and Q&A sites. Agents and publishers have Twitter too, where they talk about the daily problems associated with publishing and give lots and lots of hints and tips. And, to top off the deal, there are writer’s forums, where you can go read, ask and learn.

“But there’s so much! How do I know what’s real?”

This is actually a really valid question. There must be a dozen ‘how to write a query letter’ sites out there…at least. I stumbled all over those for a while before I figured it out. It can be hard sometimes, to figure out what is valid and up-to-date.

That’s where reading the articles on agency sites, and SFWA can be so useful. They tend to keep up pretty well with what you need to send.

Reading the blogs of newly-published authors is useful too. A lot of the time, these people are going to be talking about what it’s like, how they did it, what they have to do. This is not only good, but priceless.

What you don’t want to do is go around asking ‘how do I get published? How do I write a cover letter?’
Every successful author, agent, editor and publisher has gone through years of research, experience, study and confusion. Do you really expect to bypass all that? That’s what classes and seminars are for. Agent and writers get paid to do those. It’s part of how they make money. Shelling out advice for free is nice and some people will do it, but they get dozens of those questions every day, and the best you’ll probably get is a ‘go research’.

If you do get that answer, don’t get pissed. That’s virtual suicide. The publishing world is a small, tightly-knit one. Everyone has lunch with everyone else. So if you do go off about how unhelpful someone is, chances are, you won’t be all that welcome any more. It’s not rudeness. It’s you have your job, they have their job.

And that’s really what it boils down to. You have your job. Consider the research to be schoolwork. Read, study, do your homework. Writing is a job. No one’s going to do it for you.

So next time you have a question, Google it. There’s a lot of stuff out there to find.

Tomorrow I’ll post some of those resources. After all, it is always nice to get a bit of a headstart from someone!

*edit* Apparently, it’s just me that got lucky. No internet at all, and something seems to be broken. So I’m offline until at least tomorrow night. Gotta love it.

Oh Dear

Posted in Personal Life on November 3, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Hey, I can walk this morning! That’s a lovely thing. See, when you’ve gone a month without doing horse-training, it’s not smart to go wrestle with a big, playful, bored stallion. I don’t know what it is about training, but horses manage to find muscles nothing else knows about.

However, I’m having a mild panic attack. I can’t seem to write at the moment, at least not with any skill or focus. Which means I don’t have anything to distract me from what’s coming up.

Apparently, I’m on everyone’s invitation list this year. Kind of odd, since I have a reputation for saying ‘no’ to almost everything. But it seems like I’m going out almost every week right now, and sometimes, multiple times a week. No, it’s not a wild social life…unless you are like me and usually are whining if there’s more than one social event a month.

And in October alone, I think I went to ten or eleven different things. Now I have Thanksgiving in California coming up. We’re heading out on Wednesday–a Wednesday where I will probably be up at 4am, work, and then catch a flight to get to CA late at night–and coming back Sunday night/Monday morning. Yes. A red-eye. I know, right? And then Tuesday, there’s a charity event. Because I worked as the newsletter editor for MAP (Metrolina AIDS Project), I’m on the guest-list for anything like this.

It’s a cocktail party. Do I actually own anything cocktail-party worthy? Um, no…So the vintage pieces will be dragged out. I don’t get to be gothy for this. How sad.

Fortunately, we scrapped plans to go anywhere for Christmas. Wisdom finally prevailed and convinced us that DC is just too cold, and flying into Denver in January is simply idiocy.

However, in the meantime, I’m realizing how close the end of the year is. And how much I have to do. And how soon I’m supposed to be moving. And how much I have to do before I move.

Anyone got some Xanax?

Fortunately, I’ve discovered new music to help me survive. It never fails. Summer is the time of lighter, playful music and classical. The first cool day, and I’m back to Eisbrecher, Rammstein, grunge, industrial, etc. Now I’ve got more Bella Morte, Faith and the Muse, Angelspit, Ego Likeness, Miss Kittin and the Hacker… Lots of goodness.

It might be a truly disturbing measure of sanity however, when listening to Angelspit is relaxing enough to put me to sleep.

Sugar-Addled 6-Year-Old Boys

Posted in Personal Life with tags on November 3, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Some people recently moved out of my coworker’s neighborhood. They took the couch, the bed, the dishes, and presumably, the food.

However, they forgot something. The dog. A big, sweet, 4 year-old German Shepherd. And, if abandoning him wasn’t enough, they left him chained up in their back yard.

What the fucking hell is wrong with people?

Anyways, a neighborhood couple took him in, but can’t keep him. Since I’ve had Shepherds, we’re going to look at taking him in, at least foster him. I don’t know if we’ll keep him at this point, but he’ll at least be safe and happy for now.

Ok. On to other things.

The Big Blind Man. It’s been a month or so since I went out to help M. Last time I was there, it was hot and muggy. Now, it’s cool, brisk and the season is changing. Oh yay. PB020507

Yeah…that’s about as still as he stood all evening. See, there’s this thing with autumn weather: it makes horses all prancy. Take the calmest horse out on a wintry morning, and chances are, it’s going to be a workout. And when that horse is a 6 year-old stallion who has lots of energy to begin with… We were trying to figure out whether her very energetic son or the horse had more energy tonight. Came out as…a draw. PB020503

It didn’t help that I can only make it out there about an hour before dark, and, with the recent rain, we were slogging a bit. However, even with his current attention deficit disorder, he stood tied nicely to the trailer…flipping his hope, smacking his head against the trailer, swinging side-to-side. But hey, remember my first post about him? When he wouldn’t even go near the trailer? Heh. PB020505

Our sum total of progress for the day: took him out of the pasture. Ran him in circles until we were both so dizzy we had to switch out so we didn’t fall over. Tied him to the trailer. Fed him apples. Ran him in more circles. Brushed a bit of dirt out. Waved a blanket at him. And watched the handsome boy pose for the camera. PB020504

Yeah, the big, bad, gentle stallion got the full-moon jitters today.

We still love him. PB020509