I just delivered this month’s recipe to my patrons on the Patreon service. This month the recipe is:
Blackberry Steak Stuffed with Bleu Cheese, and Candied Pecans
Hibiscus Flower & Wine Salad
About this recipe:
This recipe is a work in progress. Part of why I experiment with these ingredients is because I have them on hand. When I’m trying to build a new recipe, it may take me a dozen tries. I usually start out with the base flavor (in this case, just the blackberry jam, vodka, and steak) then I build on top of the base flavors. The first round of just blackberry and steak needed something to balance it out. My first thought was a bright acid, like lime…but that ended up not working. Then I tried the heat from the jalapeno vodka, and that lifted the warmth—but then it needed more of a savory net to hold the flavors together on the palate. Adding rosemary, thyme, and blue cheese turned this steak into a savory, near dessert-like centerpiece. (Next iteration will try a glaze)
Rosemary and Thyme. Rosemary is always a win with earthy meats, and thyme is a perfect balancer for acidic fruits. I chose to powder them in the pestle with salt, to get a more even distribution to the flavor for the meat roll.
The steak came from a local beef share I purchased last autumn. I’m always looking for new ways to cook beef, and was hoping to find a near dessert-like flavor experience with local grass-fed beef. BEEF # 654
The Blackberry Jam was made by me, from local foraged blackberries. The base ingredient was used for the Orc’s Blood Blackberry Liqueur I make; the jam is a byproduct of the liqueur process. I’m ever on the lookout for new ways to use these ingredients.
Jalapeno Vodka, was made here at the Elder Glade last autumn. It’s simple consists of one slivered jalapeno, and a half quart of vodka, slowly extracted in the sunlight for several month. It turns out—its WAY TOO HOT for me to drink, even when I mix it, but it makes a great little heat kick to something like this dish.
I’ve almost always got candied pecans in the pantry. I’ve almost always got some type of blue cheese in the fridge. I try to stay stocked through the winter on staples I know I can use in several configurations and recipes.
The dried hibiscus flower was a new item I picked up at Trader Joes, and I’ve been trying to figure out new ways of using this interesting ingredient. It’s sweet and chewy, and goes fabulously on salads. More to come on this one, I think.
Sea Siren rose. It’s both sweet and dry. It worked well as the base for the vinaigrette for the salad. And it paired well with the blackberry steak. At twelve bucks a bottle it wasn’t a bad purchase, but I do tend to like my roses on a bit more on the sweeter side. For what I used it for, I’d probably stock a couple of bottles in the pantry.
Why I cook:
I’m not what you’d call a good cook. I’m mostly just curious, and I like to eat.
Experimenting with food and flavors helps my creative writing. Why? Sensory information, as well as problem solving on the fly. When I’m trying to connect flavors to emotional or mental responses, in the kitchen, it also helps me to draw up those emotional/flavor profiles in creative writing. It creates a resonance in the language and the experience. It can be a frustrating process. But it can also be exhilarating when you actually nail it.
Even though I’m often working with things I have on hand, or recipes I’ve made such as the Orc’s Blood, or Beetle Juice--I try to imagine what my fictional worlds and characters would do with the ingredients. I write a lot of scenes around food, trade routes, foreign edibles, and sensory experiences.
Obviously, few of my characters, if any, would have had access to Earthbound culinary schools. How then, do I write meals and ingredients into my story when there needs to be a foreign, otherworldly strangeness to the culinary descriptors? Enough recognizability to create frame of reference for readers, but enough uniqueness to lend credibility to a fantasy based world and story?
If they have some of the same ingredients, such as blackberries, would they be using them in the same way we would on the Pacific Northwest coastline? Or would they treat them altogether differently. (An example of location-based food concepts is this: In the Pacific Northwest, blackberries overrun nearly everything. They are often called a nuisance or “junk berries”, but drive a thousand miles east, over the Rocky Mountains, and people covet blackberries enough to pay a small fortune per pound.)
The blackberry steak was an attempt to make the leap toward a dessert profile with a meat base. Meats, beef especially, is its own savory, fatty, umami experience. But what happens when you add sweetness, and an acid? What happens when it’s deep winter on the fictional world of Aria, and they’re pulling out the autumn preserves for a special occasion…would they use blackberry jam to make a treat out of a mid-winter roast?
I can’t say my characters prefer the dessert meats, but what if they do…then I’d need to know how that tastes, so I can write about it. It’s purely hypothetical.
A fun hypothetical question you get to eat afterward. Win!
Curiosity is the seed of creativity, and I’m curious as hell how some of these flavors/textures/smells fit together, especially in the context of an alternate world and myth-based reality. Are the dishes I make good in the culinary sense? Probably not. It’s hit or miss, really.
But it’s fun, and it adds a whole new level to my writing, and for that, it’s totally worth the effort.
If you'd like the month patron recipe, please sign up to become a patron at https://www.patreon.com/Wisegoddess
Scold of Jays has officially been handed off to layout and design! The amazing Roslyn McFarland of Angelfish Publishing is taking on the task of interior design and digital formatting.
Book II of The Pillars of Dawn is officially off my desk. I can’t even begin to express how good that feels. It’s been a long six years on this one, and it would have been even longer without Patron support. I feel like I need to collapse near the river and sleep in the hammock for a week.
It will go through layout, a final galley edit, then to print. It’s still slated for available download and print on demand, April 9th, 2019.
It’s a long-standing artist reality that nothing is ever perfect, it’s only good enough to be released from twitchy fingers. I could agonize over the flaws for another six years, but the truth is, Plague of Gargoyles is pushing for mental space and I need the room in my brain. Holding an eleven-book series in my brainpan means storage space in the noggin is a priority. Like it or not, Scold of Jays needs out, so Plague of Gargoyles, and Tangle of Mermaids can breathe.
This post is a lot about coming to terms with being indie. I knew when I made the choice to go solo seven years ago that I wasn’t taking the route of having professional development funds or guidance, or even a large publisher’s umbrella to hide under. I knew it might be a long slog. Three novels into an eleven-part arc, and it hasn’t gotten any easier.
Several of my patrons on Patreon, are either indie, or thinking about going indie. So, I’m writing this post for them, on the last step prior to Scold of Jay’s launch. This is what my indie story looks like, to people who are about to take the dive.
Artists spend a good chunk of their early careers waiting. Waiting? Waiting for what?
Waiting for permission. Waiting for validation. Waiting to be discovered. Waiting for the money to balance out the cost. Waiting…mostly, as in the publishing world, they spend a lot of time waiting to be greenlighted by the gatekeepers, the people they believe are the best judges of their talent or efforts. Publishers, editors, agents, etc. The Gatekeepers make the call that most artists, writers, are desperate to be validated by, and released upon the world with their “I’m a legitimate writer” card.
That card will cost you 95% of your gross. Just sayin’.
The waiting game, or the “permission game” as I like to call it, strikes everyone at some point. No one is totally immune to the need to have their efforts “matter”. Deciding to take the indie path means re-configuring what matters most TO YOU, to YOUR AUDIENCE, and your SUPPORT TEAM.
Once you re-configure that data—you realize, there’s nothing left over for the gatekeepers.
Hell’s pretty tinkling bells, how I’d have loved to land a contract that would have made all this so much easier. Alas, it just wasn’t going to happen.
So I made a choice, the kind of choice you have to keep making every day. Get up. Yep, still indie. Start again the next day. Get up. Yep, still indie. And you just…keep…writing.
As an indie, YOU are the permission. You are the validation. You are the gatekeeper of your own stories. Period. It will cost you, a lot. But it’s worth the freedom of knowing you’re not waiting on anyone else, especially a bevy of highly paid professionals taking 95% of your cut for their third house on a nice sunny beach, who’ve never written a book in their life, but will be happy to tell you how you’re doing it all wrong. You’re not waiting on those guys.
You’re an indie, or thinking about it, so let the next artist wait on that kind of validation. You just keep writing. Write. Write. Write. Write until your fingers bleed, and your heart breaks, and then keep writing, because you’re about to get to the good stuff. Just write.
I estimate I lost a good decade of quality writing time while I sat on the curb with my first books, waiting to be “rescued” by someone else’s recognition or validation. Then I bored, tired, and hungry. There would be no rescue, time to do it myself.
The choice to go indie was not made lightly. I’d been with a publisher for one book, and it was a terrible experience. I wasn’t giving in so easily the second time around.
I knew it would be years of professionals questioning my choices, or dismissing my lack of polish. I knew it would be a lot of players in the industry just being polite, but having already decided to write me off. That happens to everyone. Even the big, famous writers. I’m not special, and I was prepared for a double dose of, who the fuck do you think you are treatment from industry people.
The publishing offers I got were ridiculous. They boiled down to: re-write the story of the muses from a male perspective, OR, take out all the Avian’s and replace them with vampires, OR, take on a masculine pen name. These were essentially rejections, in my book. So I added them to the pile of rejections and kept going. (Honestly, my most frequent rejection from agents was my refusal to change my name—my real name—Athena. My feeling was, if you have to change MY NAME to sell these books, then there’s something wrong with your marketing strategy, or the world as a whole. My name is short. It’s a mononame. It doesn’t take up much room on the cover. If your excuse is that a female name will prevent men from reading—there’s a problem with men, not with my name. End of discussion.)
But the tide of rejections slowed me down. They made me think, and re-think, and clench up. One hundred and forty-three rejections on my series later…I was too afraid to let Scold of Jays leave my hands—because what if they were right? What if all those important people who know storytelling and writing better than me are right?
What if I should have quit a long time ago?
Impostor syndrome is perfectly named. Once impostor syndrome gets hold of you, it’s nearly impossible to shake off. Who do I think I am publishing a series that one hundred and forty-three professionals decided was too shitty to support? I’m an idiot. I should be listening to them, right?
A couple of months ago, after a lot of clenching, stressing and the spinning in circles, I got in the car and went for a long drive under the full moon, hit fifth gear and belted some tunes. The Oregon Coast is a marvel by moonlight, and I made my way up and down highway 101 with my trusty Pink Floyd, The Wall.
I’m here to tell you if you’re indie, or thinking about it—the self-doubt and self-questioning has yet to totally go away. Three books total under my own label, and I’m still hesitating right at the final release stage. I had to go on a drive with Pink Floyd to remember this about myself and my mission:
Since when do other people’s opinions or permissions ever really stop me? For reals. All of my very favorite mistakes, accidents, journeys, relationships, scenic routes, learning curves, destinations, moments of bliss, and best adventures happened when I ignored the voice of authority—and made my own call, went my own way.
That’s how I felt before I published Murder of Crows, and again when Sinnet of Dragons was ready to be released. Why has Scold of Jays been such a struggle?
I think it’s because of the point of no return for my personal investment. I could have still walked away from the series after those two books, but once Scold of Jays is live…there’s no going back. The arc hits a pulling stride, and the characters are swept in at tsunami force, and I love the story enough to go with them. I don’t think I’d be able to walk away after this book is released because, I NEED TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS!
People are shocked when they hear I don’t know how the series ends. You’re not supposed to write a series unless you’ve already written the ending!! I did. I wrote an ending. But because I wanted it to be a surprise for me too, I wrote two more endings.
Yes. I wrote a total of three endings to this series. Because I’m selfish, and I wanted to be surprised, too. I’m writing it in a way that any one of three endings can fit, and I don’t know which one it will be. It could literally come down to picking one of three endings out of a hat.
See the problem? If Scold of Jays goes live---then I have to keep writing because I’ll be so invested that I will just have to know what happens next. Damnit.
It’s a point of no return because I’m realizing, I’m accepting an indie for life challenge. Potentially years to keep writing this series on my own, struggling, fighting, pressing forward. It’s a long-term commitment—me—with the commitment phobia.
So, I’ve literally done everything I wasn’t supposed to with this series. I’ve ignored the advice of professionals in the industry. I’ve been unable to afford top-quality editing and professional development, so I went ahead without it. I didn’t re-write the story from a male point of view. I didn’t replace my flying characters with vampires. I didn’t take on a neutral name, or masculine pen name. I didn’t finalize my ending before my series arc started. I didn’t hire a professional marketing firm, because I couldn’t afford it. And so on and so forth, etc. (the list goes on)
So therein lies the indie dilemma: give up because you feel like you can’t reach the bar set by the industry? Which means you will never be recognized by the industry, or validated by the industry, or supported by the industry and its peers.
OR keep going and find out how the story ends?
TRUST THE STORY.
So be it. I love these characters and these books. My readers love these characters and books enough that they’ve become my patrons in order for me to keep going—so, I CHOOSE THE STORY.
When it comes to the industry bar, I may not be a pole vaulter—but I can limbo like nobody’s business, and I bet there are a few good folk out there who’d like to limbo with me. Choosing the indie path means, not waiting for permission. It means setting your own bar.
You don’t have to be good enough for them—be good enough for yourself, and your readers, and the rest will eventually stop being relevant.
JUSTICE TO THE STORY.
Queuing limbo music… Scold of Jays is set for shelves, April 9th, 2019.
I hope it’s one hell of a dance off.
Food is an enormous part of our daily story. We need it to survive, yes, but it has also become synonymous with community, family, and connection. Food, both giving and receiving, is an act of hospitality and love. It’s a peacemaker; a medium for sharing story with one another. It’s the language of love and humanity.
When I set out to build a self-sustainable lot, and to become as self-reliant as I could in the wildwood—food, and the way I think about food had to undergo a radical change.
I have always been a foody. There were droughts in my time and access to food and the love of cooking, but I’ve always been what you might call, an eater. I love the story of food, the experience, the sensory journey of eating. I’m an unapologetic hedonist. I’m a storyteller, therefore I eat, I drink, I travel, I enjoy the pleasures of the world and my body. All of these experiences end up in my writing.
Writing sensory details from the world means imagining it, then living it, then recounting the discoveries in my work.
When I bought the Elder Glade and began prepping to live a mostly secluded and simple life of writing, I knew I’d have to make some changes to how I access and source my cooking products, as well as increase my knowledge of gardening, storing, and foraging.
When I was a kid we kept livestock and gardens. I remember the long hot days in the kitchen during canning season. I recalled the godawful canned recipes passed down for generations not meant for the true enjoyment of meals, but for the sole purpose of preserving harvest. I hated it. All of it. And I swore I’d never do it again.
Tick tock. Thirty years later, I’m singing a different tune, such as “Thanks for teaching me canning when I was a kid.” All knowledge is useful eventually, right?
That being said, there’s no way in hell I’d ever eat that nasty spaghetti sauce again. I’m not joking when I say, retch-worthy canned harvest goods lined much of our pantry.
It was time for a revolution in preservation, and my sourcing choices. It’s all about the ingredients, right?
One of my favorite pastimes when I lived the city life, was trying out new restaurants. In fact, I had one of the best exploration partners in, Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail. We checked out a new dessert menu almost every week for months at a time, jumping all over the city looking for new chocolate and or the best whisky. To this day, Jordan is the only person who’s been able to out-chocolate me, and he still has the best palate for single malt scotch, or imported whiskeys of anyone I’ve ever met.
I had my go-to places, and my go-to types of cuisine, but what I really lacked was an understanding of the farm to fork process as it pertains to city dwellers. I had a frame of reference as a child for livestock slaughter, and garden work. I even had a frame of reference for catching my daily limit of salmon all through the summers in Alaska, or sighting a caribou in the rifle scope.
But as a city consumer, I was able to block out a lot of information…like the colossal and grotesque amount of waste produced by the restaurant industry, and the largely ignorant or easily confused republic of fellow consumers. (Just ask any five restaurant patrons what gluten actually is, or how many plastic straws end up in the ocean) I myself, have been oblivious to a lot about the food industry.
Most terrifying and disappointing about the American food industry as a whole, is the waste. Not just in by-product, thrown away food, single use plastics, and containers—but in transportation of out of season ingredients, and over-sized corporate food manufacturing infrastructure. It’s grotesque.
Let me be perfectly clear – I am a consumer. I love out of season produce. I adore imported ingredients I can’t find anywhere else on the planet. I cherish amazing packaging. I get a buzz when I discover a new product, or a neat new ingredient with which to be creative in my kitchen. LOVE IT! I equally love being able to dine out at new spots, try new cuisine, or spend time with my friends, a bottle of wine, and a fabulous meal I don’t have to cook or clean up after. I love to indulge. I admit, I love the good life.
I don’t expect to change my love of these things, nor do I plan to give up my process of collecting the new and unusual hedonistic experiences; food or otherwise.
How then, can I reconcile my differences with the love of the food world, and my distaste for the waste?
My plan was to split the difference.
At first this seemed a simple challenge; lower my own personal carbon footprint, be a wiser consumer, produce/contribute to less waste, and build the Elder Glade to become a provider of food and essentials for myself and my neighbors. Then, I would hopefully still be able to enjoy my dining out experiences, and product explorations. ALL THIS: while also keeping my number one objective in mind and perspective--to live as a full-time writer and publish my books.
I would be more careful about my choice of products, suppliers and source materials. I would cook more. I would share out my recipes. I would develop my own recipes for canning and preservation that I would actually enjoy eating and sharing. I would ask my restaurant if I can take home kitchen prep for composting and feeding my livestock. I would recycle as much as I can. I would grow food, raise animals, and create a pocket of renewable resources. This would contribute to a lower footprint, as well as to my goal of being a self-reliant writer in the woods.
If the primary goal is to be able to write more, then the secondary goal was to be able to live a full and delicious writer life without contributing to more waste than I’m balancing out, or feeling like I’m giving up all the awesomeness that is indulgence.
By taking on more of the challenge of self-reliance—I would then be able to appreciate and enjoy the delicacies this world has to offer in a way that is more mindful and sustainable. It would also mean a shift to finding more meaningful experiences, which would force me into a realm of higher quality products.
I accepted this personal challenge in 2016.
Turns out, it was a lot harder to do in real life than it was on paper.
Baby steps to be self-sustainable, and living smaller on less:
I took up beekeeping and gardening. I planted the first round of grapes, hazelnuts, cherries, and roses. I tested the garden the first year—it needed a revision of layout and organization by the second year. I also realized my soil was deficient in nitrogen and potassium from the heavy rainfall of my region. So, I took my first crack at aquaculture; farming trout. I wanted to create a cycle of water from the fish to the nitrogen starved garden. (First year aquaculture fail)
I started raising chickens for eggs and fertilizer. I’m working on a better composting method (my current method attracts wild animals, so it’s not going to work long term). I began to work on foraging (blackberries, salmonberries, thimbleberries, mushrooms) and local trade and barter (fruit from friends and neighbors).
Meanwhile, I’m cooking a lot more. I love cooking, so that’s the fun part. Because I’m working at being more sustainable long-term, I feel like I can justify more of the special ingredients I like to work with; imported cheese, wine, sake, chocolate, salt, and whisky. And because I’m working toward a better overall sustainable practice, my intermediate ingredients I try to source either locally, or from suppliers with methods I can get on board with. (Things such as vegetables, roasted coffee (still has to be imported raw), fruit, spices, and meats (local beef, and seafoods).
Still, all of this effort has to fit within the scope of an indie writer’s budget (primary goal) therefore, sometimes, I have to slide off the plan and buy cheap, or in bulk. I hate to admit it, but in super tight budget windows, I do make a trip to Walmart or Target. Sometimes it can’t be helped. This works in a different way though; my mileage to town is about an hour each way, so having a well-stocked pantry means fewer trips to town, less gas used, and more time writing. It sucks to buy in bulk at Walmart, but in the end is sometimes hits all the target markers for the primary goal--writing.
Cooking more, especially more outdoor cooking, has brought me back to a sense of full circle with my ingredients, and my childhood. Getting back into making bread, learning more about multiple types of fermentation, experimenting with homemade mead, cider, wines, and liquors, and even diving into the world of cannabis cuisine has totally blown my mind with the potentials of living a rich hedonistic life in the wilderness without a sense of losing any of the good things.
In the future I may need to split my time between the world outside and my little bubble in the woods. Research and travel, and the need for adventure will call me out of the wild, luring me with the promise of new discoveries. But if I can manage to keep myself supported at least half the year with these methods so my impact is lesser when I’m out in the world, well, I’ll be okay with trying to do my part in preventing unscalable waste, while also working to remind myself about the inter-connectivity of the planet, and my hungry palate.
I realize I’m a woman with large desires, both of mind and body. I dream big. I imagine big. I drink well, and eat well. I build things.
Working toward self-sustainability is my plan to be able to live affordably on a writer’s budget, and also to live as a human being that balances out my overall impact. As a woman with large appetites, all appetites, this means giving back as much as I consume.
I don’t have all the answers today about how to do that. It’s a work in progress, and I’m enjoying the challenge. I get better at it every year.
In the meantime, this post is to set the stage for the “A Palate for Life”, and “Recipes” categories on the blog. I’ll be posting the foods I cook or create. When I have better ways of validating the source materials, I’ll let you know how I come across my ingredients, and what makes them unique.
For example: I’m currently practicing cooking with the apple butter I canned last fall. This means experimenting with all sorts of new dishes to incorporate the spicy sweet apple butter I made from apples given to me by my neighbor down the road. I’m also in the middle of bottling the blackberry liqueur I made from foraged fruit.
To explain the importance of these recipes and the flavor experimentation: I’ll connect the recipe and ingredients to where they are used in my books as world-building concepts, scene accents, and or post-book products and recipe cards. Much of what I taste, eat, smell, or indulge in ends up in my writing, and or on complementary note cards to support my works of fiction. This adds an element of realism to my books and characters, because we as humans, are so connected to food and the experiences of what we consume. (IE: the apple fritters Sybil, and Fable eat in Sinnet of Dragons, or the breakfast eel scene in Murder of Crows, etc.)
These foody adventures, what I’m eating, drinking, creating in the kitchen will be found under A Palate for Life, and Recipe tags.
Please feel free to write in with requests or suggestions. I’m always on the lookout for new techniques, ingredients, and products. Tags for social media: #ElderGlade #cottagestead #PalateforLife
As I’m going through the final polish of Scold of Jays, I realized I’ve made a mistake with my research guide; I dropped topic I’d marked for validation. #Rookiemistake.
I keep a running list of research topics to tackle when I’m in internet range, or have access to the book store or library. When you live remotely, information access becomes a scheduled time slot—whereas when I lived within satellite and or wifi range, I might think of a topic or question as I’m writing and immediately go look it up on the internet.
Having instant access to the internet for every question that pops up is both a blessing and a curse. (Remember that time I tried to look up arsenic poisoning symptoms while I was writing a chapter, then FOUR WEEKS LATER, I emerged from my room and said, “I found the best recipe for salt dough from the American Revolution!”.) One click on a link about Napoleon’s death symptoms had led to another click on bread wars, to French debt to the American cause, to well… a month of lost time as I couldn’t stop reading the WHOLE internet from beginning to end.
Not to mention, when you have immediate access to the internet, it’s easy to say, “I’ll just take a quick break and check my emails,” which turns into an hour, followed by another hour on Facebook, followed by a Twitter binge, followed by… well, you get it. Five lost hours that I could have been busting out a chapter.
Living off the main pipeline means, focus. When I’m writing, I’m writing. There are no interruptions or distractions. It’s priceless. It’s blissful.
To support this process, I keep notebooks of questions as they arise, and tag my manuscript with notions of details to research when I’m in range. In order to keep the writing tap at full pressure, I just come back to those details by writing around them, or inserting (x) to hold the marker until I can verify data.
Scold of Jays had three legal pads of notes for checking data, and cross-checking world-building notes. Somewhere in the move from Portland to the coast…I lost a notebook. It’s probably in a box in a closet of my old apartment, that I missed. It could also very well be lost at one of the dozens of coffee shops where I sat to work, or on the table at the sushi bar on Division. Either way, someone will stumble across a legal pad with questions such as: “Cattle mutilations in Scotland?” “Fastest way to dismember cadaver?” “Historical weather chart for Dublin, December 2011?” “How long does it take blood to congeal at room temperature?” “Emily Dickinson poem about death?” All of these questions and the research will make sense after someone reads Scold of Jays. At least, I hope it will make sense.
Unfortunately, I’m certain some poor soul who finds my research list at a coffee shop will think they were sitting where a serial killer drank some raspberry mint tea and plotted a murder.
When I unpacked my writing boxes and rebuilt my permanent storyboard, I realized one of my research notebooks was missing. I tried to make a new one with the questions I could remember that I still needed to validate…but some topics must have slipped in the crack.
As I’ve been going through this final polish, I hit a chapter that I wrote, revised ten times, then pushed through, and after seeing the same set of words no less than a dozen times…it triggered a memory of what was in the original notebook that I hadn’t actually verified. “Historical weather chart for Dublin, December 2011?”
Sonofabitch. Four chapters have the wrong weather details for historical accuracy. AFTER the proofer has already been through. #headdesk
So…here I am…a week out from delivery to layout…trying to re-configure the atmospheric details in four chapters, and NOT MAKE ANY TYPOS during these corrections. Cramming edit session in before my shift at the restaurant.
Some days I ask myself, “Why couldn’t you have just wanted to be an accountant, Athena? Why?”
I haven’t left my house in over four days. The storms that have been coming through have been rough, to say the least (a total of five downed trees on my street alone). I’ve been without power a few times in the last week, and the roads just haven’t been clear enough to risk venturing out. The creek doubled in size and volume overnight, and the flood waters washed down some heavy debris.
On the bright side, I’ve had four un-interrupted days of work on the last draft of Scold of Jays, which will be going out to the layout designer- ON TIME! YAY!
Last year I tagged four trees on my property with teal spray paint because I knew they were hazardous to the power-line, and neighborhood. With help from neighbors we were able to take two of the trees down to prevent any accidents, but the last two were positioned in a way that could potentially cause a power-line failure. So, responsibly, I called the power utility and asked them to come trim the trees, or cut them down.
When they came out, they declared the trees safe and sound, “good healthy trees”.
I insisted they come out and look again, since I’m an hour out of town, and when the line goes down it’s not easy to get here in a storm, and one of those trees has the potential of leaving my whole neighborhood without power for some time.
They came out again. Again they declared the trees sound. I argued that it would make more sense to have them just take the trees down when it’s not already an emergency, than have to do it in a storm or in the middle of the night. Still, they refused.
So then I asked if we could schedule a day to turn to the power off, lower the lines and let ME cut the trees down. (I have a chainsaw, and or I could hire a professional). They refused to turn off the power or lower the line. Said it wasn’t necessary, then went on to let me know that if I tried to cut the trees down and caused any damage to the line I would be responsible for all repairs. “If the tree falls on its own, it’s our responsibility to fix the line. If you do it yourself, or have someone else do it, you pay the damage fees.”
Hmm. Do it myself and risk a catastrophe, or wait for the inevitable?
I didn’t have to wait long. A year later, one of the two remaining trees I flagged as dangerous fell in a snow storm. It snagged the power-line, ripping it down the road as it fell—then that power-line snagged a neighbor’s tree down the road and pulled their tree down as it tangled and tipped over from the weight.
No power. Freezing weather. Snow storm. Two massive trees across my only access road out of the hazard zone. It’s midnight. Backup generator not installed yet. Can’t walk to the neighbor’s house who has a generator to stay warm…because the road is covered with live power-lines.
Switch out phone lines from cordless to hard-line. Call emergency utility number and politely explain that even though it’s midnight, I have no alternative heat source, and it would be very nice if they could help me out.
Let’s be honest. I didn’t say it so sweetly, and it took all my theater training not to rip a new bunghole open on the poor dispatcher answering the midnight call. After all, he likely wasn’t the one who turned down my request to remove the tree in question, not once, twice, but three times. Not his fault, no reason to eviscerate—plus, trying not to piss off the only people who could now be of service.
Snow coming down hard outside, nothing left to do but pour a shot of vodka, snuggle the dog, and wait it out.
The utility did make it out an hour later and set about cutting a path through the downed trees. The night was full of the roar of chainsaws, which I’m sure my neighbors appreciated. Power was restored by 4:30 am, and my heat finally kicked on.
I didn’t sleep through the floodlights on the road, chainsaws, giant cable winch and diesel engine rigs. But once the heat kicked back on, I was out like a light. Woke up groggy, but warm. Thankfully.
Moral of the story? Well, living the wilderness life is a challenge. You can foresee some problems and try to prevent them—but when the people who are in a position to be helpful refuse…it’s in my best interest to next time, just do it myself. (They got lots of overtime from the utility company to come clean up this mess, meanwhile my whole neighborhood was impacted, and I was freezing. Glad you could get some extra bank though, guys.)
Then, three days later another tree fell and took out the same power-line just a few hundred yards up the street from me. Seriously? During the storm I also lost a tree near the dam of my creek, and the tree next to the bee hive (Borg Station#2) split in half and fell across the hive.
This summer will be the year I do some serious tree clearing.
It also really reminds me that the whole reason I set out to build a self-sustainable lot was to be free from the vulnerability of spotty service in general. To be able to be in a position that my power, water, and other resources were within my own ability to maintain.
Luckily, no one was injured by the falling trees, or the live power-line. It was lucky there weren’t a dozen other outages that would have put us at the back of the repair list that night. It’s lucky there wasn’t property damage, it missed the house and the car (the beehive was empty, thanks to the bees absconding last October. No bees were injured in the collapse). Would it have been nice if the whole situation had been avoided by taking the trees down a year ago? Sure. Shoulda woulda, and all that.
But it does inspire me to get a move on and figure out a better way to being self-sustainable, and being more prepared for emergencies. (IE: get the generator installed).
Wilderness living can feel a bit overwhelming sometimes. There are nights like the one in question when curling up with the dog and a stiff drink that I do briefly wonder what the hell I was thinking.
But then the sun comes out and the snowy landscape through the picture windows reveals the peaceful forest. The snow and ice mute all the sounds and there’s just an epic blanket of calm.
I sit with my coffee and my current manuscript and stare at the wonderland outside. Yeah. Still wouldn’t have it any other way.
I woke up to snow this week. It means a day of writing and working next to the windows with hot coffee, and a snug blanket. It’s beautiful. Peaceful. A much-needed change of pace.
The launch date for Scold of Jays has been set (04/09/19), and the print scheduled. This means the chaos will escalate for a few weeks, then there will be a drift…whatever isn’t done by March 20th, won’t get done, so, at that point all I can do is make peace with whatever happens on the April, 9th launch.
There’s a resolve in knowing when the cut-off date will be. As an indie, the field of launch can feel like a field of battle. Especially as so much time has lapsed on this book while waiting for circumstances to come together. I’ve had a wonderful six years of near-miss release dates, and six years of answering pointed, eager, hungry questions from readers.
I’d rather march naked and unarmed into a hungry wolf den, than face another reader if I miss this launch window. I suspect anyone who’s had a long drought between releases can sympathize.
March 20th is my cutoff for print. But my job as an indie doesn’t end when the manuscript is uploaded, it continues far beyond launch. Part of planning means I’m building my marketing options on my limited budget, setting up ARCs, looking for reviewers, and preparing to ship copies to the bookstores I have relationships with.
I’m not making a lot of noise about this launch. In fact, it may be a publishing mistake, but I’m sort of just slipping it out to the public with little fanfare. It’s practically a ninja launch. Super quiet on the down low, ya know?
Why? Well, for two reasons really. The first being that finances for publishing are still low, and marketing can be a pricey expenditure. But secondly, and more importantly, the readers who’ve hung in there, the ones who’ve supported, encouraged, maintained…well, they’ll get the book first. And that’s important to me.
It’s important to me that they’ll see it before anyone else does. It’s raw. It’s not professionally edited. It’s proofed, but not combed. It’s me as a storyteller, giving this book to the fans and readers (all ten of them) who’ve clung to The Pillars of Dawn tagline from the get-go. Trust the story.
And they have. They’ve trusted me, and I feel that. I’ve got all the feels about that.
So a quiet launch will give them time to get their hands on it first, to take their time with it, and process it before anyone else stumbles across the book. Meanwhile, I’m already knee-deep in Plague of Gargoyles.
It’s taken six years to get to the release stage on this book, and almost a year of that time was spent with me in my own head, processing the emotional and mental space I needed to be in to be able to release a book without a professional editing job. There’s a foreword in Scold of Jays, explaining the decision.
I had to get past the fear and shame of it, in order to be in a space where I just wanted to be able to keep telling the story to readers who wanted to know what happens next.
So, long story short, it doesn’t matter to me anymore if there’s a typo or two, or if the pacing is just a little off. It matters to me that the readers who’ve been valiant, I’d even say heroic in their support, get to keep writing with me, even when that writing isn’t perfect.
Just a few more weeks. It’s almost here. In the meantime…snow in the Elder Glade.