Monday Meandering

So, it’s Monday again. Today is the last day to finish and validate for NaNoWriMo. I finished last night at a little over 100k, which was my goal. So that’s done. I had a couple bad days in there where I thought I wouldn’t get to it, but I did. I also thought I’d be scrambling to find enough stuff to fill the story to get it to 100k. Nope. I’ve still got story to tell and I haven’t padded much at all. I originally had them talking without contractions but got frustrated with how stupid they sounded and how hard it was to craft the sentences so I went back to using contractions.

Thanksgiving was last Thursday. The past few years have been kind of rough for us so we haven’t really done much for the holiday. This year was a lot better. There are six of us here and all of us pitched in to make dinner possible. And dinner was incredible.

We had two types of turkey (baked and smoked), stuffing, sweet potato casserole, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, carrot and raisin salad, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes. I dealt with the baked turkey using spices and veggies cut to fill the smoked turkey as well. I coated it in butter and sprinkled the spice mix on it and then stuffed it full of onions, carrots, and apples. It came out really good.

I also made the stuffing from scratch, the scalloped potatoes from scratch (in the slow cooker), and the green bean casserole. Tims (my husband) cooked the potatoes for the mashed and I mashed them. Tims also cut pretty much all the veggies I needed in my recipes, so that made cooking a lot easier.

We didn’t go the traditional pumpkin pie for dessert this year since one of our roommates doesn’t like it. Instead Tims made three cheesecakes – two pumpkin and one regular. One of the pumpkin cheesecakes was his test cake and we all ate it. Then he made two more and they were used for dessert on Thanksgiving.

We had a good dinner and have been eating off the leftovers ever since. I think today I’ll get some help breaking down the turkeys and get some into the freezer. I’ll try to incorporate some of the other leftovers into tonight’s dinner. No clue what I’m going to fix, but I’ll come up with something.

I made more rolls last night. As popular as they’ve been, I may try my hand at making loaves of bread. I’ve never been good at it, but it won’t hurt to try again. Who knows? What I’ve figured out with my rolls may help me make better bread.

Tims is trying his hand at recording gaming videos for YouTube. You can find him under the name TDGuyGaming. He doesn’t have much up now, but he’s working on getting more up. He’s working with a friend to do it.

I think that’s it for today. I may do my Recipe Monday next week and share my scalloped potato recipe and my roll recipe. Enjoy your week and I’ll see you back here on Wednesday.

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Athena’s Gift – Part Five

 The rest of the Circle arrived later. Many of them looked frightened. Bailey and her friends looked sick. As soon as they were all seated, Athena took a place in the center of the room. “We have a problem,” she said.

“There’s something in town,” Taylor said. “Something powerful. Something evil.”

“It may not be evil, but it’s not something to be trifled with,” Athena said. “It challenged me today and I was not strong enough to fend it off on my own.”

“I saw it,” Vanessa said. “It was passing through the street by the theater. Everyone moved out of its way but I don’t know that anyone else actually noticed it.”

“We felt it when we were leaving the shop,” Bailey said. “We didn’t stop to see what it was, but we almost started running.”

“As it stands, I don’t think you three should leave,” Mark said. “We may need the whole Circle to deal with this.”

“I agree,” Athena said. “You’re going to have to put off your internship.”

“We weren’t stuck on the idea of going, so that’s not going to be a problem,” Haley said.

“What are we supposed to do about it?” Courtney asked.

“We have to draw it out when the full Circle is gathered,” Justin said. “If we’re united we should be able to stop it.”

“I’m surprised you’re considering this,” Patrick said. “I thought you and Athena were bitter enemies.”

“We have our differences, but even we can put aside our petty little problems to stop something bigger than us,” Justin said.

“When do you want to do this?” Paige asked.

“We’ll do this Friday, when we have our usual meeting,” Athena said. “If you see it, don’t go near it. If it confronts you, run. Come see Justin or me to make sure it didn’t cast a spell on you. I’ll be at the shop as usual.”

“I will be at the library,” Justin said. “Or at the cafe. You all know which ones I frequent. If all else fails, you can find me at home in the evenings.”

“What if it goes after one of you?” Bailey asked.

“Then we’re all in deep shit because it was just playing with me today,” Athena said. “If it goes after Justin or me with its full power we’re going to fall.”

“How do you think the whole Circle can stand against something like that?” Evan asked.

“We all have differing power levels,” Justin said. “Combined we produce enough energy to protect this entire city. If we can do that just standing together, imagine what we could do if we really tried.”

“Meet in the park in our usual spot on Friday,” Athena said. “Destiny, Blake, I know you two hate it, but you’re going to have to pull the blocks off your powers. Or we may not survive this.”

“We’ll do it,” Destiny said. Blake nodded.

“Remember, don’t confront this thing,” Athena said. “We’ll see you Friday.” Everyone filed out.

Mid-week blahs

Okay, so as all of you know, November is NaNoWriMo. I’m hip deep in drastically changing plot lines and characters who don’t want to cooperate, so I’m keeping this week’s post short. (I already missed Monday…sorry.) Instead of posting a long winded discussion on something, I thought I’d share something fun. (I am owned by the black and white cat on the quilt. His name is Reidar. The rest I’ve found poking around online.)

 

Athena’s Gift – Part Four

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Athena called the rest of her side of the Circle before closing her eyes and searching out the feel of her own essence. As Justin suspected, there was a spell on her. She fumbled around trying to get rid of it. She stopped long enough to close the shop before resuming. It took her an hour to get it off. She tapped into something she once swore never to use except in the direst of emergencies to get rid of it.

Athena staggered back a step. She glanced at the clock. There was an hour before Justin would be at her house. She turned off the hotplate, grabbed her mp3 player, and picked up her purse. She jammed everything into it and hurried out of the store. She started towards the bus stop but ended up turning around. She locked up the store before making her way to the bench.

The bus came on time and Athena climbed on. She shivered as she thought of the creature that they were facing now. She kept her eyes out the window until she found her stop. She didn’t feel safe until she walked through her door.

“So, did something interesting happen?” Socrates asked.

“It’s far beyond that, Socrates,” Athena said. “It’s bordering on fatal for the Circle.”

“That bad?” Socrates asked. “I sensed a new presence but didn’t think it was going to prove to be a big enough problem that you couldn’t handle it.”

“Justin and I might not be able to take care of this thing,” Athena said. “If you sensed it, you could have warned me. It put a spell on the shop, and then one on me. I dealt with both, but the second one took me an hour to get rid of.”

“That is not good,” Socrates said.

“Justin will be here in twenty minutes,” Athena said. “The rest of the Circle in a little over an hour. We’re going to have to work together to get this thing out of the city.”

Justin showed up right on time. “Are you all right?” he asked as he came through the door.

“Not really,” Athena said. “I’m going to have to be though.”

“We’re no strangers to fighting things trying to take over our territory,” Justin said.

“I know,” Athena said. “It’s going to be one hell of a battle though.”

“If you two are through playing nice, could we get the wards up so our Circle is safe?” Socrates asked.

“Are you still using your rune stones?” Justin asked.

“Not for this,” Athena said. “This is going to take something with a little more kick.”

“Then let’s get started,” Justin said. He raised his hands. Athena could see the power emanating from him. She put her back to his and held her arms out. She sent her magic through the house, weaving around his to create a whole greater than either of them could alone.

World Building Wednesday – my science fiction building

So last week I gave you a tiny glimpse into my world building for my fantasy world. This week let me introduce you to my sci fi world. Or worlds, rather. Because I have three different story lines in three different universes. One is a cyberpunk story, but it falls under the sci fi tag. The other two are more space opera than hard sci fi, but they’re still fun to work with.

The first sci fi series I started working on was a world based loosely on elementals set in a rather fluffy world even though I intended for it to be a battle torn playing field. Instead I got fluffy. Over the years it’s changed and evolved. Now the elemental abilities don’t even play into it and it’s become more militaristic.

The second sci fi series I have I originally based it somewhat on Babylon 5. I even had a psionic academy that played on what we knew of the Psi Corps. That has drastically changed to the point where if you saw some of my early writing in this world you would be hard pressed to see the similarities to the war torn universe it is now.

The third, as I said, is a cyberpunk story. This one is fairly new in comparison to the other two. I’ve been working on the other two off and on since my late teens and early twenties. My cyberpunk story came around when I was in my mid twenties. It started out, once again, as something light and fluffy. Now it’s much grittier.

In case you can’t tell from this post and the last one, I’m tired of fluffy stories. The original ideas were all light and happy with overpowered characters who breezed through life. There was no real character to them at all. Now though I have real people in my stories. Real life isn’t all sunshine and roses and I show that in my new writings.

Athena’s Gift – Part Three

Part 1
Part 2

Here’s part three of Athena’s Gift.

 Bailey, Taylor, and Haley stood off to one side as Justin left the small shop. The three girls – a trio of young witches who found better luck working together than working solo – drifted up to the counter. “We would’ve left yesterday except for the fact that Bailey’s mom is in the hospital,” Taylor said.

“Mom and I don’t get along but I just want to make sure she’s home before I leave,” Bailey said with a shrug. “Look, Athena, can we get about a couple months’ worth of the usual from you? I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get this stuff where we’re going.”

“Where is that again?” Athena asked.

“A small town in the heart of the Bible Belt,” Taylor said. “For a short term internship with one of the paranormal ‘specialists’. Should be fun to see how often we get Bible thumped while doing this.”

Athena frowned. “The Belt is no place for you three. How long are you going to be there?”

“Six weeks,” Haley said. “Then it’s back here for the rest of our summer break.”

“I’m still not sure you three should be going down there without one of us supervising,” Athena said. “Who are you interning with?”

“Dr. Craig Speight,” Bailey said.

Athena relaxed. “He’ll keep you out of trouble,” she said. “Listen to him and don’t argue when he tells you something, unless it requires you putting yourselves in danger or getting you three into his bed. I doubt either things will happen, but you never know with him.”

“We’ll be fine, Athena,” Taylor said.

Athena sorted through the shelves. “Here you go. Don’t lose any of it and keep it hidden while you’re not home.”

“We will,” Taylor said. The three girls took their boxes and left.

The day wore on. Athena dealt with a few more customers, but the shop was quieter than usual. Athena felt a strange energy coming from the front of her shop. She left the counter and walked over to the door. She began swearing. There was a spell cast on her door that would drive off the sensitive. Most of her customers were among the more unusual members of society.

It took Athena fifteen minutes to counter it. A presence nearby moved closer to the shop. Athena kept her powers active but returned to the counter. It didn’t take long for someone to walk through her door.

The emanations from this person were overwhelming. Athena brought up her defenses and released her hold on her own energy. “I was hoping for a challenge,” the person said. The voice was such that Athena couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman. “I can see I’m going to be disappointed.”

“Don’t count on it,” Athena said. “I take it you’re thinking to take control of this city?”

“It almost isn’t worth the effort,” the being said. “But I must have a new power base and this will do well enough for me.”

“Don’t think we’ll let you take over our home without a fight,” Athena said.

The entity smiled. What Athena could see of its face looked human but she couldn’t be sure. “You can try.” It turned and walked out of her shop.

Athena waited a few minutes before checking her door. There were no further spells cast on it. She went over and picked up her phone. She hit speed dial on a number she only called in times of emergency. “Athena, I’m surprised,” Justin said. “You’re not usually calling me.”

“We have a problem, something far larger than our petty squabbles,” Athena said. “I’m calling a meeting of the Circle tonight.”

“I’ll be there,” Justin said. “Does it have to do with the spell put on your shop earlier?”

“That’s part of it,” Athena said.

“We may have our differences but even I wouldn’t do something so low as to cause you that kind of grief,” Justin said.

“I know,” Athena said. “You and I have a friendly rivalry. This is not that.”

“What time are we meeting?” Justin asked.

“Seven tonight, my place,” Athena said. “That should give me some time to get things set up.”

“I’ll be there at six to help you,” Justin said. “With both of us warding, it’ll take an army to get through it.”

“This thing doesn’t need an army,” Athena said.

“We’ll see,” Justin said. “Check yourself for something. Whatever visited you may have tried another dirty trick.”

“I will,” Athena said. “See you at six.”

World Building Wednesday – some of the process to get to what I have today

So, let’s talk world building. Specifically the fantasy world I’ve been building for the last 20+ years. No, seriously. I’ve been working with Vassa since I was a teenager.

The first story I ever imagined (and wrote) about Vassa was a story co-written with a friend where his characters made it into my world and interacted with the characters I was developing for a series that will eventually become the Blood War books. (They’re going to be very different from that string of early stories.)

That kept me busy for a couple years. The next story I worked out was a story based loosely on a movie about Lady Jane Grey who was also dubbed the “Nine Day Queen” because she ruled between Edward VI and Mary Tudor, the woman who became known as Bloody Mary. It was a cross between that movie and Cinderella. Needless to say it was sappy and mostly light and fluffy.

At the time, I was very fond of light and fluffy stories. But over the years my tastes have evolved and I find I like a little darkness in my stories. Those fluffy tales from my early years writing are no longer workable as far as I’m concerned.

But what have I done? Well, I’ve developed the lands more. I now have not only the two kingdoms I initially imagined. on the continent of Vassa, I have two other territories in the same world where I have stories set. I’ve divided the two kingdoms into very separate and distinct places. I also discovered that there were two other kingdoms on the continent of Vassa.

My gods and goddesses have evolved to the point where they’re unrecognizable as the pseudo-Greek gods and goddesses I initially envisioned. I’ve added a goddess to the mix as well as taking out two of the other gods I made up. A new religion is formed and two new gods are born in one of the later books in the story line.

I’ve built a timeline for my books. Between novels, novellas, and short stories, I have thirty six projects for this world that I will eventually get written. That’s a lot of tales to tell, and I’m going to love every minute of it.

Now fantasy isn’t the only genre I work in. I also write cyberpunk and science fiction. More on those next week.

Recipe Monday – White Lasagna

So, I’ve made this one once and I’ve been asked to repeat it. I thought it came out very good. I’ll share the link to the actual recipe as well as giving you my adjustments for my household.

White cheese chicken lasagna

9 lasagna noodles
1/2 c butter (I use unsalted)
1 onion, chopped (I used a Vidalia sweet onion)
1 clove garlic, minced (I used two since we’re big on garlic)
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt (I left this out)
2 c chicken broth (I used the Better than Bouillon Low Salt Chicken stuff)
1 1/2 c milk (I used 2%)
4 c shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 c grated Parmesan
1 tsp dried basil (I used 2 tsp of an Italian herb combo)
1 tsp dried oregano (Italian herb combo)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper (Left this one out)
2 c ricotta cheese
2 c cubed, cooked chicken meat (I used boneless/skinless breasts)
2 (10 oz) packages frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 T fresh parsley, chopped (Left this one out)
1/4 c grated Parmesan for the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and rinse with cold water. (I skipped this step and used dry noodles.)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the flour and salt, and simmer until bubbly. Mix in the broth and milk, and boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Season with the basil, oregano, and ground black pepper. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer with 1/3 of the noodles, the ricotta, and the chicken. Arrange 1/3 of the noodles over the chicken, and layer with 1/3 of the sauce mixture, spinach, and the remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Arrange remaining noodles over cheese, and spread remaining sauce evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with parsley and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven.

Athena’s Gift Part Two

Here’s a continuation on last week’s story.

Athena plugged her mp3 player into the dock. Opera not being conducive to a flourishing retail environment – unless you were selling things related to opera, of course – she hit random on her rock and pop playlist.

“Going for the popular stuff today?” A dark clad man stood just in her doorway. “I would have thought Bach and Beethoven would be more your style.”

“I want people to shop, not fall asleep,” Athena said. She waved him in. “Hello Justin. Here for the usual?”

“Of course.” Justin was one her more eccentric customers, and as regular as clockwork.

“How’s business for you these days?” Athena asked, loading a box with his order.

“I can’t complain, although I must commend you on getting Dawn’s protections up so fast. How did you find out I was targeting her?” Justin asked.

“It wasn’t hard when you let slip who you were working for last week,” Athena said. “If you’re going to brag don’t do it around someone who knows me.”

“The problem with that, Athena dear, is I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t at least have a passing acquaintance with you and your shop,” Justin said. “At least that moves in the same Circle as we do.”

“That’s true enough,” Athena said. “Trying to get one up on you when we’re probably two of the most powerful in the Circle here is always a challenge.” She turned and handed him his box.

Justin smiled. “By the way, Athena. I was just in that coffee shop down the road. The barista in there was having a very bad day. It seems she spilled chocolate syrup all over her expensive shoes and managed to spoil my drink twice before she got it right,” he said.

Athena raised an eyebrow. “That sounds like a rotten run of luck. I wonder if she managed to upset someone.”

“Yes, I wonder,” Justin said. He winked at her and she grinned. Leave it to Justin to poke his nose into her business, as usual. “Well, this takes care of my needs for a while. I’ll see you next week.”

“Are you coming to the meeting Friday?” Athena asked.

Justin made a face. “Of course. But there we can’t be nearly as polite to each other as we can here, so I’d rather not have to think about that right now,” he said.

She sighed. “Well if you didn’t persist in opposing everything I do we wouldn’t have that problem, now would we?”

“Ah, but I enjoy opposing those like you who come to this city, Athena,” Justin said. “I’ve been doing it for a very long time, after all.”

“As have I, Justin,” Athena said.

“I know. Which is why you’re a challenge,” he said. He’d have said more, but the door chimed and a handful of customers wandered in. “Have a lovely day, Athena.”

 “I’ll see you later, Justin.” Athena turned her attention to the new customers. “I thought you three left already.”

World building Wednesday – Building a story

There are many ways to develop a story. I know a lot of people do plots first and then create the characters around that. I know others start with characters first and craft the world to fit. Then there are those like me who don’t plan anything ahead other than maybe a vague name and place and go from there. Those last ones are called pantsers, and while I am still one I’m slowly edging my way over to being a planner.

I’ve actually been something in between a pantser and a planner for years now. I have my worlds built and I work my stories into the weave of those worlds. For my fantasy novels I even have a set time line where everything happens. I have the titles of the stories and a one sentence blurb about what’s supposed to go on in them. This list is subject to change, since realistically I’ve changed things so much over the last 20+ years that there’s a good chance it might change again.

Telling stories is something we as writers are trying to do. We’re telling the stories for ourselves, but we are thrilled when others read it and enjoy it as much as we do. Not every writer buys into the philosophy of “write what you love and don’t think about publishing or your story is going to be crap.” I don’t quite agree with that. I believe you need to have a reader in mind as you write, but don’t get hung up in writing what you think people want to read. Write what you want. You can always pick and choose which ones to send out later.

The best way to tell a story is to build it from the ground up. Start with the basics – characters and world. If you’re someone who likes lists, make one with some of these details on it. Don’t agonize over the details in the beginning. You can fill them in as you go. All you want in the beginning is a name and a brief description.

Once you have the basics, start fleshing out the details. Put more descriptions in your world building notes. Add a sentence or two to the character sketches detailing their lives before the story. If you want, draw up actual character sketches using questions like “What’s their favorite color?” or “What car does/would your character drive?” Don’t linger too long on these. Try not to go overboard on all the details. (Trust me, don’t go overboard. I once handed someone a 78 page background on a character of mine because I wrote a story instead of just a few notes. I was restricted to a page or two after that.)

When you’re done, you can start the real work. For planners, that means creating an outline before getting to work on the story. For pantsers, it’s time to dive into the story itself with no planning. For those of us in between it means we have to judge what will work best for the story and go from there.

Building a story is magical. No matter what you write, you are putting words down in a semi-permanent format for someone to read. Whether it’s just you or an entire world audience, the writing is what’s important.