Friday, January 27, 2012

Salt Cod Chowder

Monday was another experimentation in the kitchen day. What else would you do after having spent part of the morning doing a major clean of the gas range? You have to then set about making it a mess again.

I had a piece of salt cod soaking in water in the fridge. Originally I'd planned to make my Stockfish Soup in Stonehouse Cooks. But I wanted more of a chowder with lots of winter vegetables, what Gary has come to call one of my stoups, a cross between a soup and a stew. The result was this wonderfully satisfying Salt Cod Chowder.

About 1/2 pound salt cod.

Soak the cod in cold water for about 12 hours in the fridge. Change the water several times in order to clear the cod of excess salt. You may have to do this up to four times, depending how salty you wish your chowder.

Drain the cod one last time, pat dry and cut into bite-sized cubes.

1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes
2-3 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
olive oil
black pepper
3 cups vegetable stock (or whatever you prefer)
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

In a large soup kettle saute all the vegetables in a little olive oil to soften and develop a little colour. Season with pepper. Add the cubed cod and saute for about 3-5 minutes longer. Add the stock, bring to the boil and reduce heat. Cover and let simmer about 30 minutes. Make a paste of the flour and water and stir into the soup to thicken it slightly. Simmer another 10 minutes. You could also use a heavy cream instead, but I opted for something a little more heart-healthy. Add parsley just before serving.

We had this with large crusty rolls.

Serves 6
Freezes well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Creator Interview at Motivate to Create

Yesterday an interview I did for Motivate to Create author, Nate Hendley, appeared on his blog. We discuss, of course, motivation for writers, as well as roll models and talent.

This is the first of an ongoing series of creator interview Nate will be hosting.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review: Mort, by Terry Pratchett

Mort (Discworld, #4)Mort by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slowly making my way through the Discworld series. This fourth novel doesn't disappoint, exploring in Pratchett's usual funny, madcap manner the apprenticeship of Mortimer to none other than Death Himself.

Told with wit and style, the characterization is excellent, the plot brisk, and although Pratchett deals with an old concept, he handles it with freshness and vivacity.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting Down to the Business of Writing

Since my last post I've taken advantage of the lull between Five Rivers' publishing projects to work on my own writing. It's amazing what you can achieve with a little will power and discipline. In about 10 days I've:
  • Finished the first revision of my novella, Caliban. This is a speculative fiction dealing with the concepts of reality and beauty, through the voice of an alien creature known as Tine. It has been challenging writing from an alien perspective about another alien, which has required a willingness on my part to set aside all human prejudices and become these other creatures, to imagine what life would be like confined to their realities. When I played let's pretend as a little girl, I had no idea that play would lead to a necessary skill as a spec-fic writer. So, first revision is done, but just when I thought the novella was ready to fire off to an editor, I realized I'd forgotten to weave in some key technical elements, and so will now go back over the story with a view to tightening up not only the technology, but the environment I've created. If you're going to build it, you have to make it real enough your reader will step through the looking glass with you.
  • Spent some time researching markets and found a potential home for one of my speculative short stories, At Union. I particularly like this story. Think it's a new twist on an old theme, given to me in part through a nightmare of my daughter's, and deal with trains, resurrection and a father's love.
  • In that research I found an anthology open for submission, with a theme that perfectly fits another short story, A Perfect Spell, I'd originally written for, and didn't submit to Tesseracts15. Hoping the story will find a home with this new anthology. I think it's a happy match, but I'm all too aware that my idea of perfection is often familiar.
  • During all of that I managed to complete a new short story, Occupational Hazards, this one a bit of a departure for me because no one dies, no one cries, no meets tragedy and despair. In fact, I think it's quite humourous, written from the viewpoint of an unreliable narrator. I've now sent it to Robert Runte for comment, as he's brutally honest and often sees things I don't. It's really awful of me to ask him to do this, as he's so ridiculously busy himself. Still, I'm hoping he'll find enough merit in the story that I can set to a small revision and then fire it off to the anthology for which I've targeted it.
  • And today, while this lull lasts, I'll work on completing yet another short story, Haki's Song, which is a speculative fiction dealing with L'Anse aux Meadows, based partly on people from The Greenland Saga, and partly on the clash between slave and master, cultures and belief systems.
Am I still working on The Rose Guardian? Yes. But as I've written before, that novel is a challenge for me, requiring more of my skill as a writer than ever before. Consequently I've been spending a great deal of time preoccupied with it, letting it percolate in my subconscious where I'm working out voice, plot details, pacing. I still feel it will be the best thing I've written to date. It's just going to take me awhile to get there.

Of course late next week I'll have to put back on my publisher's hat and set to work on the next projects for Five Rivers. But while this sun shines, I'll make some hay of my own.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: The Ant King: And Other Stories

The Ant King: And Other StoriesThe Ant King: And Other Stories by Benjamin Rosenbaum
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Call me despicable, an ignoramus, whatever villainous epithet you wish; I just didn't get these stories. I tried. I really did try.

There is very much the device of the parable in these stories, but what the moral of each story was eluded me. Rosenbaum throws aside the conventions of plot arc, character development, environmental description. In fact, he doesn't seem to use many literary conventions but those of his own devising. Which made me think: maybe I'm just too obtuse to get these stories. I kept feeling the way you do when you can't remember a name. The knowledge is right there, sliding around behind neurons and ganglia, but despite all your efforts you can't latch on to that elusive information.

By the time I arrived at the series of vignettes about cities, well, I'd had enough, and it's not often I give up on a book.

And this from the person who loved Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

And if these stories were meant as humour, which the first and titular story is likely supposed to be, well, that eluded me as well. I didn't find humour in a woman becoming gumballs. Seemed nonsensical and pointless, but then humour is a very personal thing, and it is well known it's difficult to make me laugh.

So, I'm sorry, Benjamin Rosenbaum. While I appreciate the free download, I'm very glad I didn't pay for this collection.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Writing and Cooking my Way into the New Year

We're under a snow squall advisory here. Gary's futzing with some renovations in the mud room today before returning to glass business tomorrow. I'm catching up on some Five Rivers Publishing business. Just finished the mailing for a Goodreads promotion.

Thought I'd take a moment to share another recipe I threw together yesterday for dinner, this time to use up leftover smoked salmon and some cocktail shrimps. I looked at them in the container and thought: Fish Cakes!

Please bear in mind these proportions are not tested. I'm just winging it here, going by memory.

Shrimp and Smoke Salmon Patties

about 1 cup fine bread crumbs (or part crushed crackers)
about 200 gms smoked salmon
about 200 gms cooked shrimp
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 tbs mayonaise
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 egg

Place bread crumbs in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a food processor pulse the salmon and shrimp until you have a coarse mixture. Add to the bread crumbs. Process the garlic and onion until they are coarsely chopped. Add to the bowl. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.

Shape the mixture into large walnut sized balls and press flat into small patties.

Heat a small amount (2 tbs or so) of oil in a skillet (I use olive oil) over medium heat, and fry the patties until a deep, golden brown.

Serve with home fries, and a salad or grilled asapargus. A wonderful way to use up those party leftovers and switch up ordinary fish and chips.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Review: The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of CasterbridgeThe Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the few Hardy novels I had not read. Certainly you see how Hardy was developing the skill that led him to produce Tess of the d'Ubervilles and Jude the Obscure. Fascinating how the themes of the open country of the moors counterpoint the microcosm of urban life in this novel, mirroring inner human nature and social convention. It's this use of geography that has, for me, been a hallmark of Hardy's work, and certainly a major influence upon my own writing.

Once again I was impressed by Hardy's modern approach to writing, employing deep character development and dark, socially unacceptable themes for the period. In this case the narrative explores an alcoholic's cruel treatment of his wife and daughter, his attempt to redeem himself only to find himself incapable of rising above his baser nature. It is a mark of Hardy's writing skill that the reader both loves and despises the character of Henchard, so that in the end Hardy presents a pitiable wretch for whom we are capable of weeping.

As a side note, the film adaptation of The Mayor of Casterbridge with Ciaran Hines as main character, Michael Henchard, is a faithful reproduction of the novel, beautifully produced, impeccable costuming, and well worth seeing.

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