Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I have a micro short up on Tuesday Shorts called The Watchmaker's Lover. It's 50 words. It's very very short. Read The Man Whose Home is a Bench by Eva Eliav and Farm Wars by Nathan Key while you are there. I'm particularly charmed by Farm Wars because there's a goat in it.

I love Tuesday Shorts because it's so playful. It features only stories 100 words and under. They took my drabble, Gracie's Mom, so this is the second piece they've graciously accepted from me. Link

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The ladybugs swarmed today. There's something like this that happens in the spring--little airborne motes swirl in the air. There's something lazily magical about both of these days of the year. The light is golden and the touch of the wind--which surely must be there from all of the air movement--is invisible, unfelt. While this dance goes on all day, it is particularly in those fifteen minutes before light is completely lost that the impact is most forceful, most beautiful. During that fifteen minutes, the longing to fly with them is so strong, it takes your breath away. The ladybugs swarmed today and I watched. But I watched from indoors because having them all over you isn't that fun. They have a really funky smell, you know?

You know what strikes me oddly? The fact that the newspaper runs announcements of when and where the state highway patrol is setting up and conducting roadblocks. They'll be on Big Creek Road next week. Am I the only one who finds this counterproductive? It would seem to me the highway patrol would call the paper and say, "Hey, dudes...cut us a break here while we are trying to catch the bad guys." And it would seem the paper would say, "Oh...we get it. Our bad."

At any rate, if you are planning to drive drunk or use your suspended license ix nay on driving on Big Creek next week. It was in the paper. M'kay?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Coconut-Pecan Sweet Potato Pie

Remember I was telling you about that amazing sweet potato dish I had at the Hall Reunion? Someone asked me to try to put it together and I did just that--but made a few changes. The idea is the same but I made it into a pie with a caramel oat nut crunch crust. I don't have a name for it. It's a Coconut-Pecan Sweet Potato Pie--we'll just call it that for now. I made it all just using the food processor--though I'm sure if I tried I could dirty up many more dishes.

Here's how I made it:

6 medium to medium-large sweet potatoes
1 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
2 cups of quick oatmeal
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of plain sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
juice of 2 lemons
1 can of Duncan Hines Coconut-Pecan frosting/cake filling
1 and a half cups of sweetened angelflake coconut

1. On the night before making, bake 6 medium to medium-large sweet potatoes. Choose the sort with more orange-red color.

2. In your food processor, mix 1 stick of unsalted butter, 2 cups of quick oatmeal, 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of plain sugar with a pinch of salt. Use 2/3rds of this mixture to press into the pie pan for the sugar crust. Set the other 1/3 aside.

3. Puree/Mix in the food processor 2 eggs, sweet potatoes, juice of 2 lemons, 1/2 cup brown sugar, white sugar to taste. (Mixture should be sweet--if you have a preferred sweet potato pie filling recipe--feel free to use that. There will be some left-over) Spread into pie pan, almost but not quite to the top--leave about a half to 3/8ths of an inch.

4. Pour the contents of 1 can of Duncan Hines Coconut-Pecan frosting/cake filling into a small bowl. (If you can't find this, it is the filling used in German Chocolate cake for the layers--you can find recipes for it and make it fairly simply. Getting the ready to use makes this an easy recipe, though) Mix into this 1 and a half cups of sweetened angelflake coconut. Then spread on top of the sweet potato mixture very gently.

5. Sprinkle with the remaining oat buttercrunch mixture. Dot generously with butter and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Give this a try and I'll bet you'll want to use it for your Thanksgiving table. I'm sure it will freeze well so you can make this way ahead of time. This is a very rich dessert and it might help to serve it with some whipped cream. You may also garnish it with pecan halves for a festive look.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My house smells of brown sugar and vinegar, spices and fruit. It's an old smell that belongs with crocheted antimacassars, mahogany furniture blackened with tung oil and the back of my great aunt's washstand. It belongs on a table covered in linen--the damask kind with a sheen like oil on water, ghost colors rising to the surface of starched white. It belongs with a silver dish and a uselessly ornate silver server that strains the liquid from mysterious fruit, no longer recognizable.

My house smells of chutney--winter rice dishes, ploughmen's lunches and a colonial past.

I'll need to get some sharp cheese.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm a writing fool for the next five days doing a Zoetrope mini flashathon. Only five days, but hey! I need pushes like that now and again. I seem to write my best material under duress. I wrote a creepy cat lady story called The Ears of the Dead today.

I meant to write last night but found myself tired, drifting off, so I set the alarm for early this morning to get up and write. However, I woke up to the mother of all nosebleeds. I think I lost a pint of blood through my nose over three hours. Called the hematologist who told me I'd need to apply pressure for freaking 20 to 30 minutes rather than five or ten. And if that didn't work then call the PCP and go in to have balloons or something stupid put up there. Anyway--ended up going to see the PCP thinking, crap, now I'm gonna waste the entire day catering to the stupid clotting disorder--but it stopped right as I got into town. Of course, if I hadn't called and gone in--it still would be bleeding. But I had to go in anyway because...

I'm making chutney and needed ingredients. Now that I've got my story out of the way, I can peel my apples and pears and prepare my spices. I'll leave it to cook on the warmer overnight. I may also work on recreating the amazing sweet potato thing I had at the Hall reunion. I've already got some ideas about changing it while keeping that yummy combination of sweet potato, coconut pecan icing and butternut crust. I'm thinking about combining the crumbly bottom and top of the wedding/date bar cookie with it. Make sort of a layered sweet potato bar thing. Be a good T-day sweets recipe.

And guess what!!! A guinea was in the yard today!!! So they weren't bobcat bait, just wandering as guineas do.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Checking in--

Just checking in. Haven't posted most of the week.

I've been having what I guess is a sort of post-traumatic stress reaction from last month's health crisis. I can't get it out of my head how brutal my doctors were. I have trouble sleeping because it keeps running over and over in my head. I have flashbacks of lying there in the living room by myself, screaming and bleeding. I feel like I should sue Newport Baptist Hospital for what they did to me. I can't seem to put it behind me and I'm, at the very least, going to have to write a nasty letter to the BOD and their parent company. It's taking large doses of amytriptiline to knock me out at night. I've got headaches from stopping my Plavix--the drug I was taking to protect my eyesight and prevent arterial clots but am now too terrified to take because I think it has something to do with those attacks. I'd rather go blind than have that happen again. I'm terrified since I was told I couldn't go to the emergency room anymore and that podunk hospital is the only place I can go to be stabilized--and they said they wouldn't treat me. The great irony being they call themselves "Mercy" partners--or something like that. Mercy being the furthest concern any of them. I can't trust anyone in the medical profession here. Everything that happened in 1997 is happening again and I'm afraid I won't be able to get out of here in time.

I remember how long it took me to stop being afraid the vacuum in my chest would fail again. Once you have that happen, you never forget it. This is just as bad. I'm walking around afraid all the time, because I know there isn't a soul who will help me in east Tennessee. I know it sounds crazy, but I think the doctors think I'm too much trouble and should just go ahead and die. I really think that sometimes--it's the logical thing to think. I really would like to stop being so angry about this, but it took 140 excellent doctors to get me past what they did to me in Columbia, SC at Richland Memorial Hospital. I now seem to be in the same cycle of crazy.

But...the writing is going really well. If I can survive the not so tender ministrations of east Tennessee's health industry, there's a good chance I'll have a novel published eventually. People really like my work and that is gratifying. I spend as much time as I can concentrating on that so I don't concentrate on the other thing.

I'm really excited about the elections coming up. Sad that my Republican friends are so angry and inaccessible right now--but you can't say anything without them jumping these days. It's as though I'm not entitled to my opinion without someone jumping all over me. Not that I'm the sort who goes around crowing about it--but I should be able to make an offhand statement without people getting their panties so twisted. But I do like Obama--so there. He's presidential. And I'm not asking for comments here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The place is jumping with wildlife this fall. Perhaps it's because the place has grown up so much now that I can't keep as many goats. I'm not sure, but yesterday I chased three big fat wild turkey hens down the mountain on the backside of the property. Then this morning, there were two whitetail does right in the driveway, just bold as brass. Mutton and Chops were leering at them like a couple of blinged up romeos on the make.

And just now, as I was typing away at a review, something slinked across the backyard. It was bigger or as big as Max. A bobcat--bold as brass. I went out on the back porch and she looked at me with that lynxy shorthair face--but bigger--their heads are really big. Anyway, she wasn't afraid of me at all. I left the camera in the car, unfortunately. But I guess that answers what happened to my guineas.

You have to register to comment here now. I've been getting visitors from Dumbfuckistan.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I've got a story for you today. Up the Staircase, an excellent new journal that is simply stunning visually, just released their fall issue and my story, Collectors, is included. I first spotted Up the Staircase over on EditRed when they published two emerging writers I had been following in their inaugural issue. Their second issue featured my old stomping grounds, Savannah, Georgia and the family cemetery, Bonaventure--so I couldn't resist sending them something.

I'm just about as impressed as I can be by their layout, photography and content. I'm sharing space with some fine writers so Collectors is in good company. I especially enjoyed Ashley McAtee's The Cashier--another flash fiction that had me in stitches. But read them all--they are all very fine stories and the featured poet, Rachel Custer, is fascinated by fainting goats and therefor must have excellent taste.

I'm sure you will love Collectors --a story dealing with a childhood lesson in larceny.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

One of my rare political posts.

So, this place where I live is redder than the ass of an overly "friendly" baboon. Really. I'm not the sort that needs to live in a liberal ghetto--it would be nice--but I like to mix it up a bit and can't afford to live in most liberal ghettos. The grocery bill alone at The Fresh Market would be prohibitive. I figured out that Republicans could be really nice people even if they think odd things and feel very strongly about those odd things. I'm sure they think the same thing about me.

Our State Representative, Eddie Yokley, is a heck of a nice guy. He's up for re-election this year. Eddie shows up for everything--even when he's not campaigning fast and hard. He's always there and does a really fine job for his constituents. I will certainly be voting for him. But Eddie's got a dirty little secret. He's a Democrat.

His phone minions called my house. Not subtle at all, asking me if I would be voting for Eddie or the other guy. I can't remember exactly the question, but it wasn't veiled at all.

"Eddie's a Democrat, right?" I asked.

Dead silence. Then, "Ummm....well. Yeah."

"Well, sure--I'm a yella dog, so of course I'll be voting for Eddie."

They perked up considerably after this and asked if I'd be willing to put a sign out on my property. I told them, sure, but weren't much but bears and deer could see it.

I shook his hand once at the Ramps Festival and mentioned I was a Democrat and I remember a certain furtiveness to the exchange.

I defy you to find a statement in his campaign literature or his website or even his Wikipedia entry as to the fact he is a Democrat. Even his flyers are all done in red rather than the proud blue we Dems usually fly on our literature--there is, after all, a reason they are called red or blue states. And his blurbs are Republican-y too.

The reason he wins here is because everyone knows him, likes him and he does his job well. Obviously, some slick campaign management people have decided he should at least look like he's Republican and never, under any circumstances, say the "D" word. Or write it. I just think it's pretty funny. They are like that here about gay people too. As long as no one admits to it or says anything about it--everything is hunky-dorey.

I'm not going to link to him since I've never been one to out people. It's just rude. Mum's the word, m'kay? But I think it would be awesome if Eddie would emerge out of a giant cake wearing a racy Democrat outfit when the world turns on its axis after these elections. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I'm so sorry I've missed so many days. I've just not been in the mood--I spend so much time writing stories now that I sort of blow my writing mojo on the stories. They are getting to you--but they are getting to you on a delay as they are accepted. Sorry about that. Things were so much simpler when I was just writing the stories here on the blog. Unfortunately--I can't get some of those published, excellent though they may be because I did develop them here.

Anyway, there's a wonderful new Appalachiastana/rural literature blogazine run by Rusty Barnes of Night Train fame. Who knew? Super literati uber-editor extraordinaire Rusty Barnes grew up in the sooty back hills of Pennsylvania. I have a piece up there now called Sister Hayes Takes Up a Serpent.

Sister Hayes is an ekphrasis flash--which is a piece of writing about another work of art or literature. The piece was inspired by Pastor Jimmy's Sister Hayes painting--one of his most striking works. Most over-edjumacated people recognize the kinship between Sister Hayes and St. Theresa of Avila, or at least Bernini's sculpture, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa. St. Therese, a mystic deeply involved in ecstatic religious states would have felt right at home in a signs-following service. My story is an exploration of the phenomenon called "the anointing".

Rusty is looking for new content for Fried Chicken and Coffee so if you have something along these lines:

Send me rural, funky, dirty stories about churchgoing women who never sin. I'd like to read that. What about the story I lived, the one where the kid moves away and goes to college and becomes a writer, and until he's thirty, his male relatives hitch their drawers and ask him when he's going to be out of school? Except don't write about writing. I don't care much, since I live it. I would love to see more stories about women, though. Get to the grit, get to the love, show me the scars, and take Harry Crews to heart: "Blood, bone, and nerve, that's fiction. Show me the stuff that cuts to the quick."
...send it on in--after reading the guidelines 'natchurly.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I think this bailout plan is especially hard for Appalachian folk to accept and wrap their heads around. The farmers can probably understand it, because they depend on credit--though the farmers I know are pretty pissed. But your average folks live hand to mouth for the most part in the Appalachians. They have very creative ways of making money here. I recently wrote a story called The Moss Gatherers that features the wildcrafting culture. Entire families make their living from gathering moss, trillium bulbs, gensing, ramps--anything they can find in the woods. They even go around buying boxwood clippings. It's really why the Park has such strict rules about picking plants. They aren't worried about you nabbing a few leaves to press--they are after the gatherers poaching entire stands of gensing or ramps. Stripping the forest of mosses and trilliums. All that craft moss has to come from somewhere and it usually comes from this mountain range.

So. People who make their living this way, only buying things when they have money, living in a purely cash economy, are mighty pissed off about the bailout. Because they don't connect that the grocer needs credit to buy food--our entire economy runs off of it. The world runs off of it.

It seems weird to me, too. I've never been particularly credit worthy having spent the majority of my life in the arts. It's why I try to convince young people going into the arts to do something else for a living. Keep the arts as your bliss, because once you try to make a living from it, it ruins it.

So, people are already calling it The Great Depression of 2008. We all may be out there gathering moss.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Have two stories that came out today for you. Both of these are a bit different in their own way from stories I’ve done before. Both stories involve gender bending. I didn’t know they would both come out on the same day—that was entirely serendipitous.

Mr. Black Takes a Sunbath on Insolent Rudder

The first is on Insolent Rudder and is entitled Mr. Black Takes a Sun Bath.

Judy's got her arms outstretched atop
Wonder the Rocking Spring Horse saying "Look at me, look at me!" The springs groan and squeak.

I glare from beneath my bangs. She's bouncing too hard and she's too heavy for Wonder anyway. I'd wanted to name him Silver, but she won because it said Wonder right on the box.
This story is set in the south during the 1960's and has cultural references very specific to that period in time.
I know you will enjoy Mr. Black.

Queerer than Me on Thieves Jargon

The second one of these on Thieves Jargon has racy/salty language, adult situations and involves a subculture some might find distasteful. Not surprising it was accepted since Thieves Jargon looks for work that is “… edgy and impulsive and not necessarily informed by experience. We're interested in stories about drifters and dreamers finding beauty in things they never thought they would.”

What I’m trying to say is, don’t read this story if you are easily offended and don’t think your beloved Rosie would ever use a cuss word. I can write badass. Absolutely. I have unplumbed depths, dammit. My writing has range.

Now that I’ve warned you, I’m sure the most timid of you will now rush over to Thieves Jargon to be thoroughly scandalized. You may console yourself by calling me a fiction writer and believing I couldn't possibly know people like that. Right?

Queerer than Me.

In other news...I got a personal package from Japan yesterday. Bet you're dying to know what was in it.