Day 23741

May. 18th, 2017 12:09 pm
dianeduane: (Default)

I sat doing some computer stuff over the first mug of tea today and found myself wondering: 65 years. How many days is that?

And of course there’s a web page to tell you.

Birthday calculations

So, the usual question: Any plans?

Yeah, because there are always plans… but the day will be, relatively speaking, quiet. Which is fine, because generally I’m not much one for birthday parties (for me, anyway). At age nine, I think it was, I had one of those episodes that seem surprisingly commonplace to those of us who were the Strange Looking Smartass Weird Kid in their class at school. Clueless though well-intentioned parent insists on throwing birthday party for unenthusiastic child, invitations are sent, big buildup ensues, and on the day no one shows up; and afterwards, the person whose party “failed to launch” largely goes off the concept. I wouldn’t say I was exactly scarred for life, but the subject aches a bit when picked up for examination… so as regards further parties, as we say over here, I’m “not fussed.”

(Other people’s birthday parties, now, that’s a different story. One of those, earlier this year, is where I had the Karaoke Incident that laid me up for the guts of two months with a torn right external oblique. And you know what? Now that my back feels better again, I do not regret it. It was the best rendition of “New York, New York” I have ever produced, bar none. It was like shower singing, but with a backup group and kick dancers and a roomful of applause at the end. So what if the dramatic drop-to-your-knee-with-the-mike-in-the-air finish went colossally wrong?  Some things are worth a little pain. [“The falling over part?” said the birthday boy’s brother after the fact. “We thought that was part of it!”  Such a diplomat.])

Anyway. What today looks like for me, for those of you who’re curious:

All day: Trying to avoid the US political news. Trying SO HARD. Probably failing. (…And hearing in my head again and again Plato’s line: “The fate of good men who are indifferent to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”)

11:00-13:00: Do some writing on [redacted].

13:00-15:00: Do some writing on [other redacted].

15:00-20:00 probably: Go to local shopping town and do errands. Grocery shopping, etc. (The high point of this: pick up multiple bags of The Really Good Lithuanian Bread Flour. Jeez but I am so glad we can get this flour here: it’s fabulous beyond belief. I finally got around to putting up the recipe for the basic white loaf we make with this stuff at EuropeanCuisines.com: it’s over here.)  Then stop at local pub/restaurant bringing samples of Peter’s new vegetarian (Vegan in fact) chili recipe. (They’re looking to add some more vegetarian options to their menu, which can only be a good thing.) Have wine. Doubtless get given cake with a sparkler in it.

While there, leverage the pub’s broadband (which is way better than ours…) and gloat in a demure way over the goodies now available to one just turned 65. (It’ll be another year before I’m qualified for the Irish Free Travel Scheme for seniors, but that’s okay. I can wait.) (Note to self: check out what has to be done at the DB and SBB ends of this issue. If someone offers me a discount to travel on an ICE train or one of the Swiss Pendolinos, you better believe I’ll take it.)

And also: answer all the HB wishes, which are already coming in. ALL of them. Because, you guys? You are my party. You didn’t wait to be invited. You just showed up. And you are who I work for, so it’s great to have a chance to thank you. 

Afterwards: Go home, watch the rest of the Doctor Who episodes piled up on the Sky box, and hang out with my honey.

In short: A good day. The 23,741st in a series. And already looking forward to 23,742…

dianeduane: (Default)

 

I can die happy now. :)

 

dianeduane: (New DD Av)

***With thanks to Ursula Vernon for a most magic moment: see under the cut***

Once upon a time (or indeed once upon another time, if that suits you better: there’s always more time lying around), in the lounge bar of a pub in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, a redheaded woman is kissing a pig.

Not just any woman, granted. And definitely not just any Pig.

In any case, none of this is as difficult as it might sound on first hearing, as the Pig is both graceful and light on his feet, and good at displacing his  own mass in such a way as not to wreck the barstool on which he’s perched. Nor (from the redhead’s side of things) is this particularly an unpleasant experience, as the Pig’s facial bristles are on the soft side, and due to being fairly silvery to start with, almost invisible anyway — as if he’s wearing a very subtle and discreet version of designer stubble, with a slight glitter about it.

“Chao, bello.” It is of course a pun, a terrible one. “Mwah. Mwah.”

The redhead gets a third “Mwah” from the pig, then straightens up and looks at him quizzically. “Three? What, are we in Switzerland all of a sudden? Or no, of course you are. By definition.”

“And why not? Besides, a three for one deal, I’d think you’d be in favor. Value for money. Very Swiss. Anyway, I hear you’re planning to be crying on the bar up there shortly…” He grins.

“Oh, don’t you start tormenting me now! I can get that at home.” She rolls her eyes. “Yet another way for the BBC to break my heart, who needed that…? Come on, get yourself settled.”

No one in the bar shows the slightest sign of having noticed a redhead kissing the Pig hello a la Suisse, or the two of them settling in their respective seats. This is partly because all this is happening in the woman’s head, but also partly because this is one of her locals. And even if they could see what was going on, the neighbors (who’re by now well used to seeing this particular redhead with a red wine and a mineral water and a netbook and an iPad and a notebook on the bar in front of her, working on them all at once) would never be caught actually remarking on whatever she’s up to this time. At least not until she’s left.

“You comfortable?”

“Entirely.”

“What’s your pleasure? They’ve got Ballygowan if you’re on the clock.”

“You kidding? I’ve been on the clock since the local Big Bang, and no one cares when I punch out. Or is qualified to judge what I’m doing, whether I have or not. If you’re buying I’ll have a Remy, thankyouverymuch.”

The dark-haired assistant manager, Louise, comes around and takes their orders without batting an eye. (And why would this be a surprise when you think how many jokes start with “A(n) [x] walks into a bar…”? They get all kinds around here; any place that routinely deals with Wicklow bachelor farmers has no problems with the occasional Yank-Irish woman or silvery-pink Pig.) Shortly the redhead has a fresh glass of a Spanish-bred Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Pig has an oversized snifter of XO, and they are clinking glasses.

“Mud in your eye.”

“Like there’s any on you. Ne’gakh emeirsith.”

They sip and settle back into the calm atmosphere. Halloween isn’t for another two weeks and change, but the decorations are up already: people here like Halloween, and in any case there’s not the inevitable groaning that comes with the appurtenances of Christmas (especially the TV ads) starting too fecking soon. The place is calmly busy, half-full with a subset of the place’s normal afternoon clientele — in the recently-redone front bar, guys who have bets on races or the football are escaping home life till teatime; here in the lounge to the rear, ladies and gents are cozied away in the U-shaped banquette booths, having tea or drinks and taking a break from the shopping with the kids in tow. Some of the smallest of the tinies are thundering up and down past the far wall in the enclosed play area.

The most important thing the pub has, besides a comfortable atmosphere and genial staff who know the redhead and her husband of old, and a good restaurant and lunch buffet, is working wi-fi—which the redhead has been exploiting for some time now to turn this general area into one of several Away Offices. Now, though, she shuts down the laptop and the Pad and silences the phone and takes a few other precautions against being interrupted. “Thought we’d have been having this conversation a bit earlier,” the Pig remarks, gazing around.

“Nope, we’re right on time.” She finishes putting the last of the various devices to sleep. “You know the guidelines. If you’re going to self-insert, don’t be shy about it, don’t let yourself off easy, and pay attention to the symmetry. Right at the beginning, right at the end, or smack dab in the middle.”

“Or all three.”

“Can’t have a resonance with just one thing, can you? You need two, minimum. But three’s a chord.”

“So tell me something I don’t know.”

She chuckles. “Bit of a stretch, that…”

“Well, I may be omnipresent, but that doesn’t necessarily make me omniscient.”

On the face of it, this is true, but the redhead suspects that the Transcendent Pig—due to his unique uncreated status—has certain positional advantages he doesn’t routinely reveal or discuss. Fine: so does she. “Let’s not play semantics games just now,” she said. “Got other business.”

“I assumed so. What’s on your mind?”

“Well… You know what I’ve been up to.”

“It’s more or less unavoidable. You mean the OTP thing.”

“Yes.”

“So?”

“Well… The spooning.”

Read more... )
dianeduane: (New DD Av)
The Games Wizards Play website splash page

 

It's  February 2, 2016.

The book has its own website, as well as its own Tumblr and Twitter: you can follow its progress there.

dianeduane: (New DD Av)
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(via anartificialaspidistra:)

Hi Diane, I’ve been a fan for a long time. Read the YW books, Wounded Sky, and eventually the Door Into… books staring when I was a kid back in the 80s. Someday I’ll take a picture of the Hello Kitty notebook I owned circa 1984 where I wrote both Ed the shark’s name and Sherlock Holmes’ name surrounded by hearts. I was totally willing to marry either one of them. ;D

Anyway, when I started looking for more Sherlock stories after the BBC show premiered I got into reading fanfic, and eventually the amazing art on Tumblr. It was great to see someone whose books I’d always loved was right in there as a fan too.

Reading someone’s tags today, I noticed the latest example of something that makes my heart hurt a little every time I see it. The art (it was a short Sherlock comic strip) was great! Well laid out, engagingly drawn, funny, entertaining, etc. But the artist’s tags were all about how terrible it was. How she couldn’t write, how she couldn’t draw, etc. I know how hard it is to put your work (of any kind) out there and just let it speak for itself, but the prevalence of young girls making something amazing and then sharing it by saying “here’s this thing I did. It’s probably terrible,” just kills me. I can’t count how many posts I’ve seen people tag or comment that their art or they themselves are “trash”. I mean, I get that they’re self deprecating for comic effect, but…

I don’t know. Maybe learning to not put down your work before someone else gets a chance to is just something that has to be grown out of, but I also wonder if more of us older women should be saying something. I’d love to see girls say “here’s this thing I made [full stop]” if it still seems too hard to say “here’s this thing I made; I’m proud of it.” Just not tearing themselves down would make a world of difference, I think.

I guess I’m just curious if you have any thoughts to add. Thanks again for writing such enjoyable stories and building such cool worlds! May you live long and prosper.

First of all: thanks for the nice words. It's always nice to know I'm getting the job done.

Re the self-esteem problem as regards talking about one's work: I see a lot of this from girl creators too. (Yet also from the boys, until they gradually knuckle under or get pushed under the surface of the whole patriarchal never-say-anything-that-might-make-you-seem-weak crap, and get it institutionalized out of them.)

Part of the problem is that the creation of art (or indeed anything else useful) is unnerving business, because you're essentially making the invisible visible: making something out of nothing -- and even that phrase is culturally loaded. ("Don't make something out of nothing!": a classic putdown for overreaction.) Yet making Something out of Nothing is also, as it happens, what Gods do. (The classic western-culture version of this: Deity moves over the surface of the empty void, says, "Hmm. Light..." and bang! Light.)

So creation routinely frightens those who who do it -- because the actual process of mastery of art takes a long time, and in the meanwhile you may frequently feel like you're riding the tiger, only half in control, while your grip on the tiger's ears is always threatening to slip. And creation frightens more badly those who don't do it (not that you'll ever easily get them to admit that), because they see you making Something out of Nothing and that's not normal. Everybody gets a little freaked as a result, and it's probably no surprise that the responses to the act of creation by both creators and spectators can get skewed -- reactions based on fear not routinely being the healthiest ones.

(Adding a cut here, since more discussion and a brief how-to course in auctorial esteem lies below. Also, "pieces of shit"...)
Read more... )
dianeduane: (New DD Av)
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This is our friend Kim Knight - Kimmie, or even Kimmiwinkles.

Kim and her band of usual suspects were the concoms for the UFP series of Star Trek conventions in the UK, some of the best organised, smoothest-running and most fun cons we’ve ever attended.

UFPCon 1986 was the one where Peter and I met up for the third time. Not happenstance, not coincidence, certainly not enemy action; it was third time pays for all, but even then we were so very quiet and subtle that when we finally revealed our secret engagement…

…Kimmie, Ros and Ali already had champagne waiting on ice!

Kim visited us in Ireland, travelled with us to see a solar eclipse in Germany, met up with us unexpectedly in LA, and introduced us to amazing people. She was one of the most extraordinary people you could hope to meet -- warm-hearted yet businesslike, kindly yet efficient, humorous yet hard-nosed, all wrapped up in one loveable, huggable package. In particular I remember one trip she and I took to Bern together, where we went shopping, ate out, caused the staff at the hotel where we were staying to mistake us for "such a nice pair of gay ladies" (I overheard them...), and generally acted like crazed teenagers pretending to be grownups. It was the Best Girls Trip Out Ever.

Kimmie died on the 11th of May 2014, from complications of the diabetes she bore and fought so gallantly. It would have been her birthday on the 31st of May. Instead her funeral is today, the 6th of June, and we can’t even be there.

Our friend Sarah made this piece of art, which we share with you all: the dedication plate of a happy ship on which we’d proudly serve

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We miss you, Kimmie, but you’re not really gone.

What’s loved, lives.
dianeduane: (New DD Av)
Homemade Ginger Nuts

Ginger nuts are a favorite store-bought biscuit in most parts of the UK and Ireland, but homemade ones are way better. And somehow or other I seem to have made these three times in the last week and a bit, so I think I’ve acquired some expertise.

If you want to make some holiday-ish biscuits/cookies that aren’t a lot of trouble, especially for gifts, these are an excellent bet. They're crisp and flavorful and very more-ish. They’re also a good sort of bikkie to make if you want to let children or those who are normally a little baking-challenged assist (meaning it’s the kind of thing you can do sitting around the table with a bunch of adults and a bottle of wine, gossiping while you do the slightly repetitive work of getting them ready to bake).

Making the dough takes twenty minutes or a bit more, depending on how long you spend creaming the sugar and butter and flour together. After that it’s just a matter of how quickly you feel like assembling each baking sheet’s worth of cookies / biscuits. The dough refrigerates nicely for short periods, but because ginger nuts are raised only with baking soda / bicarbonate of soda, I wouldn’t keep the dough unbaked for more than 4-6 hours. The recipe makes between four and five dozen gingernuts, depending on how large you roll the pieces. Recipe and method under the cut.

Read more... )
dianeduane: (New DD Av)

You know the place. It's where deities and divinities and avatars go when they've clocked off and they need a casual after-work pint or a quick remedial stiff one or some casual conversation with their peers before going home to the family.

So Christ is sitting there nursing a nice Pinot Grigio (he gets so tired of red wine, you have no idea) and he's saying to the gods and near-gods at the bar with him, "You know what really gets to me, though? The tat. The kitsch. The dashboard ornaments, the endless dodgy art -- "

"I saw that doll," says somebody down the bar past Mithras and Izanagi: a god with his hood pulled up and a long cloak that looks and flows like shadow. "With the puffy sleeves and the crown."

"The Infant of Prague, yeah. Take my advice, do not do apparitions after hours in Prague, it's something about the beer they brew there, what those people will do to you after the fact just does not bear considering. But you know what's worst? The 'Sacred Heart.'" He actually does the air quotes, which leave little traces of (appropriately) red fire. "On the front of me, outside my clothes, like I've had some kind of bass-ackwards transplant. Usually with rays of light coming out of it. Aorta and vena cava and wobbly bits all aglow. There is nothing that does not appear on. Lunch boxes. Key chains. Night lights, do you believe that? How many kids' nights have been ruined by having that thing glowing at them like a refugee from a Bill Cosby skit? You should see some of the stores at CafePress. I'm amazed they haven't done My Sacred Spleen yet. Except probably none of them can figure out where it would go." He rolls his eyes. "I have it way worse than any of you."

Mutterings of agreement run up and down the bar. Then a voice speaks up.

"I got that beat."

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dianeduane: (New DD Av)
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Sometimes Nita wishes she could just open her eyes in the morning and be ready to leap right out of the bed and get on with stuff. Unfortunately, life doesn’t seem to have arranged itself for her that way.

She lies there this morning, staring at the ceiling, and wishes it again. What I need is something like in that Wallace and Gromit movie, she thinks. Where somebody pulls a lever and dumps you into your clothes and automates your putting-yourself-together and your breakfast.

She yawns and rubs the early-morning gunk out of her eyes (why is there always so much of this gunk?). She knew it had to do with eye fatigue.  Hilary the optometrist had told her so once, back in the ancient day—back when her folks were concerned enough to  take her to an eye specialist because all of a sudden she didn’t need her glasses any more.  Though it had always been a given that Nita’s astigmatism was of the kind that would clear up eventually by itself, having it happen so quickly—and take the nearsightedness with it—had freaked her mom and dad out. And unfortunately Nita wasn’t yet out to her parents as a wizard, and so couldn’t explain that she had slowly and carefully been talking her own eyeballs into changing their shape so that her eyes’ inner focus points would fall on the right place on her retinas.

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dianeduane: (New DD Av)
It's not scientists who find the first signs of life on Mars. It's wizards... Young wizards Kit Rodriguez and Nita Callahan become part of an elite team investigating the mysterious, long-sought "message in a bottle" that holds the first clues to the secrets of the long-lost inhabitants of Mars. But not even wizardry is enough to cope with the strange events that start to unfold when the "bottle" is uncorked and life emerges once more to shake the Red Planet with its own perilous and baffling brand of magic.

The good news is that the Martians seem friendly. The bad news is that now they're free to pick up where they left off on a long-dormant plan that could change the shape of more than one world… and they don't mind using their well-intentioned rescuers to achieve their goals. Kit’s long-standing fascination with all things Martian unexpectedly enmeshes him in a terrible, age-old conflict -- turning him into both a possible key to its solution, and a tool that in the wrong hands shortly threatens the whole human race.

Only Kit has a shot at defusing the threat. But when he vanishes unexpectedly from the Mars of here and now, his fellow wizards are left uncertain of where his true loyalties lie. Nita’s determination to find the truth – and Kit – soon sends her into battle against an implacable enemy who may not be conquerable except by violating wizardry’s most basic tenets. As the shadow of interplanetary war stretches ever more darkly over both worlds, Kit and Nita must fight to understand and master the strange and ancient synergy binding them to Mars and its last inhabitants… or the history that left Mars lifeless will repeat itself on Earth... Now at the online store at Ebooks Direct
dianeduane: (New DD Av)

This came out of a query over on Tumblr, and it occurred that it might be useful to post it here as well for anyone who's interested.




starspangleddaydreams asked:

Hey! I'm a big fan of the Young Wizards series, and was thinking about the mythology included in A Wizard Abroad. You seem to know it very well, and I was wondering if you could recommend any reading for someone who'd like to learn about it? Thanks!



I know it well since I started studying it (along with other mythologies from all over) when I was ten. But here’s what our present Irish-myths-&-legends shelf looks like:





— This is quite basic stuff. If I needed anything really complex, rare or obscure, I’d check the online catalog for the library at Trinity College (which is one of Ireland’s legal deposit / depository libraries and has copies of every important book published here in the last couple of centuries, along with many much older ones), or the National Library of Ireland (ditto).

The listing of the above: (NB: I’m excluding the relatively modern fiction [the Stephens] and the Welsh, Scots and Orkney material from the list to keep things clear.)

LEGENDS AND TALES OF IRELAND, Samuel Lover and Thomas Crofton Croker

MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF THE CELTIC RACE, T. W. Rolleston

OXFORD COMPANION TO IRISH HISTORY, S. J. Connolly (not a book on legends, but provides context)

THE IRISH FAIRY BOOK, Alfred Percival Graves

CELTIC FAIRY TALES, Joseph Jacobs

GODS AND FIGHTING MEN, Lady Gregory*

VISIONS AND BELIEFS IN THE WEST OF IRELAND, Lady Gregory*

CUCHULAIN OF MUIRTHEMNE, Lady Gregory*

IRISH SAGAS AND FOLK TALES, Eileen O’Faolain

THE TAIN, Thomas Kinsella (a modern translation of the Tain Bo Cuailgne, and widely thought to be one of the best)

…As I said, this is a goodish basic library. There are of course hundreds if not thousands of books on Irish folklore out there, some of them excellent and some of them pretty worthless. The only way to find out which is which is to get a basic grounding in the subject and then start feeling your way forward.

Have fun!

*These three were published by Colin Smythe, who besides being Terry Pratchett’s publisher and agent, is also an Irish scholar of considerable repute.

dianeduane: (New DD Av)
Possibly the most photogenic bread I've ever baked

To the right: Possibly the most photogenic bread I’ve ever baked on Flickr.

This is the bread I make when I need plain white bread for everyday sandwich or toast purposes. It has a lovely crumb and is a substantial bread, not an airy-fairy "pan loaf" of the type too damn common in British and Irish supermarkets. (Which is not to mean that it’s one of those loaves you make that refuses to rise and which you therefore desperately characterize as “substantial” so people will think you meant it to come out that way.)

The basic recipe came from the website of Bäckerei Sieber in Au, a town in Canton St. Gallen in Switzerland. The recipe itself is for Tessinerbrot or “bread from Ticino”; down in that southern canton the Roman breadmaking techniques have persisted unusually tenaciously. Since Roman bread had a deserved reputation for being very high-end indeed -- a reputation which Spanish-bred bakers brought to it -- this is a good thing.

The peculiarity about this recipe (from the home baker’s point of view, anyway) is that the recipe manages its ingredients by mass rather than volume. This is how professional bakers do things, though, at least in Switzerland: it seems to get around the problem of how much moisture your local flour is in a mood to absorb today. One caveat: this dough tends toward the wet and sticky end of the bread dough spectrum, so it’s really easier made in a mixer with a dough hook.  Also, I sometimes bake this using the bake-it-in-a-preheated-pot technique which derives from the famous Lahey no-knead bread recipe. Pot baking produces a good high rise with little work, and with a really nice crust. (Though sometimes the old-fashioned loaf pan technique produces very superior results, as above. The Bread Fairy was really sitting on my shoulder that day.)

This recipe makes one big loaf. I’ve baked this in anything from a Romertopf to a single US-style loaf pan to a 3-liter lidded casserole of enamelled cast iron. This recipe branches several times: think of it as a Choose-Your-Own-Bread story.

The ingredients:

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dianeduane: (New DD Av)
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The staging room is two flights up from where something like three hundred people are crammed wall to wall into the downstairs space of the Liberty Bounds pub on Trinity Square at the City’s edge, drinking strange liquids with names like Old Speckled Hen and Waggle Dance and Theakston’s Old Peculier out of pint glasses, while pausing occasionally to roar in annoyance or cheer in wild approval at something happening on the big-screen TVs. The third-floor upstairs room, however, contains nothing but a scatter of hardwood tables and chairs, and its mostly bare walls are ornamented with nothing more interesting than a selection of framed eighteenth-century cartoon prints and various posters advertising guest beers, upcoming karaoke nights, curry days and eighties revival-band dates, and other locations in the UK’s big Wetherspoon pub chain.

In the middle of the room, some of the the tables and chairs have been pushed out of the way to make an empty area about twenty feet wide. In that space stand three people unusually dressed for the early twenty-first century: two men in their very early forties, and a tall young man of sixteen or so. In the middle of the room with them, a rectangular slice of air about three feet wide and seven feet high has been talked into solidity and coaxed into the perfect reflectivity of a mirror.

The youngest of the group in the middle of the room is standing in front of the wizardly mirror and muttering under his breath, more or less constantly, as he fiddles with his clothes. At last he says loudly enough to be heard, “You think they had a higher than usual percentage of wizards in the late eighteen hundreds?”

A pause. “Haven’t seen any numbers on that recently,” says Carl under his breath as he buttons up his dark close-fitting vest over a full-sleeved white shirt with high collar and strangely-knotted dark tie. “Can’t think why the stats would be above the planetary half-millennial median, though. Why?”

“Because it has to have taken wizardry to deal with all… these… fastenings!”

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dianeduane: (New DD Av)
Due to ructions at the DD.com website and various home / software issues, the LJ end of things has been slipping a little, especially in regards to the site truly being a mirror of "Out of Ambit." This has been pretty sporadic of late.

So I've been doing some software updating, and that will be changing. I finally have BlogJet set up correctly to make sure that new posts are copied over here from OOA in a timely manner. (I think. This may take a few days to settle down.) So some older postings from OOA will be appearing here as well over the next few weeks, insofar as they're germane or I think people might be interested in them. Otherwise, new OOA postings should appear here on the same day.  ... I'm looking at whether having tweets mirror here as well, or whether that'll be too annoying. Opinions are welcome.

Also, for those who were wondering: no, I haven't abandoned the 30-Day OTP project: that starts again, almost immediately. (Like later today.)

More shortly.
dianeduane: (New DD Av)
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"[Bilbo] had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he -- as the host: he knew his duty and stuck to it, however painful -- he might have to go without. "'Come along in, and have some tea!' he managed to say after taking a deep breath. "'A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,' said Balin with the white beard. 'But I don't mind some cake -- seed-cake, if you have any.' "'Lots!' Bilbo found himself answering, to his surprise; and he found himself scuttling off , too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel." And there you have it. Clue-finder and web-cutter, friend of bears and guest of eagles, Ringwinner, Luckwearer, Barrel-rider: Bilbo Baggins bakes, too. Here is the all-round Hero in potentia, waiting for the Call... but with one eye on the oven timer. (And the appetite obviously heroic, as well. Only a hobbit would consider two whole seedcakes "a morsel".) ...It's been hanging about in British children's literature for a while now, the seed cake. The appearance in The Hobbit is hardly the first one: seed cake turns up as comfort food often enough, sometimes in strange disguises (the reference in Winnie the Pooh to "crustimoney proseedcake" is one of these). I woke up this morning (completely irrationally) with the yen for it and went to check what recipes were to be found. There are quite a few out there in the Webby part of the world at the moment: apparently the cake is having a mini-renaissance due to people rereading The Hobbit in the wake of the film, or in prep for it. Now, we've had a recipe for something similar over at European Cuisines for a while now, but it's more along toward the Irish-influenced "tea bread" end of the spectrum due to the chopped candied fruit in it. So I checked the classic recipe from Beeton, had a look at Delia and Nigel Slater, and then wandered about a little bit more (discovering along the line that we're out of baking parchment [makes a note on the kitchen chalkboard]) and assessed a few others.Read more... )
dianeduane: (New DD Av)
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I was making bread the other day and suddenly found a finger in it.

...Cognitively speaking. (Not a real finger, don't panic....) But writers' brains are such strange places sometimes. Here's today's example.

My short-term memory is a constant joke around here. You can (as happened this morning) tell me that the weather station's batteries are kaput and can't be charged in the normal battery recharger, meaning they have to be put into one of the more technologically challenged ones... and I will still, two hours later, look at the weather station and remark, "Oh look, its batteries have finally gone south" -- to the sound of ironic laughter from Himself Upstairs. (And I'll then recall the whole previous conversation perfectly well, but will have mislaid it between times.) Some of this is Not Paying Attention, but other aspects of it are just Sixtyish Brain Fail.

However. Ask me for a quote from a book I read forty years ago, and no problem, there it is. As you shall hear...

So I'm working with this recipe from Raymond Blanc for the first time, because the other evening I went to sleep with the TV running (I sometimes do) and it was showing an episode of Blanc's "Kitchen Secrets" series from last year, the one about bread. Now, bread is a passion with me. (A master post about this will turn up in a day or three so I don't keep losing some of the links I keep looking for.) Bad bread is everywhere -- I can't think of another place where Sturgeon's Law applies so rigorously; in bread's case it's because of the pestilent ubiquity of something called the Chorleywood Bread Process. (More about this in another post, but originally this process was devised as a way to make decent bread in large quantities from the soft wheats that are all that will grow in the British Isles. It uses yeast as a flavoring rather than as a way to develop the bread naturally: gluten is developed in this process by violent physical agitation and the addition of ever-increasing types and amounts of additives. Ick.)
Read more... )
dianeduane: (New DD Av)
A Wizard Abroad New Millennium Edition cover

Teenage wizards Nita Callahan and Kit Rodriguez have been working the New York suburbs for nearly thirty years now, through nine novels' worth of adventures. As the dawn of their fourth decade in print draws near, the long-planned updating of the Young Wizards series continues with the Ebooks Direct release of the fourth novel in the series: A Wizard Abroad.

Abroad, like So You Want to Be a Wizard (book 1 of the Young Wizards series), Deep Wizardry (book 2), and High Wizardry (book 3), now appears in a New Millennium Edition that's been extensively edited and updated for the present century.

You can find out more about the update project as a whole here. All nine books will be updated by the end of 1Q of 2013, and all brought into alignment with the new (2008-2011-based) timeline.

If you've already picked up copies of the first two New Millennium Editions, you can grab A Wizard Abroad here. Alternately, if you haven't yet acquired any of the new editions, we're offering a four-volume "box set" of the first New Millennium Editions at a slightly lower price than buying all four separately.
New Millennium Edition Four-book set

(For those interested: book 5 of the series, The Wizard's Dilemma, is now in edit and will be available around mid-February of 2013.)

A little about the story:


There's magic across the Atlantic...

NitaCallahan's mom and dad are beginning to get the idea that she and her fellow wizard Kit are "spending a little too much time together". So -- explaining that they want to give their daughter a little vacation from wizardry -- they pack Nita off for a month-long stay with her eccentric aunt at her farm in Ireland. But this turns out to have been a bad move on Nita's parents' part, since Ireland is even more steeped in magical doings than the United States.

Nita, initially certain that she's going to be bored out of her mind, soon finds that the serene beauty of the Irish landscape is deceptive. The ghosts of men and beasts and other beings -- including what seem to be heroes, ancient gods, and even the Powers that Be -- confront her at every turn. And her attention to strictly wizardly business during this crisis is somewhat distracted by the dark and edgy Ronan Nolan, a local teen wizard with uncomfortable secrets... and an agenda that might possibly include Nita.

 
Along with a group of Irish wizards both young and old, Nita and Kit (who joins her in Ireland) are drafted into an increasingly desperate battle with the Lone Power in yet another of Its many forms. The fight is a personal one, as always -- but this time there's more at stake than usual, as the ancient Enemy of life attempts to submerge the everyday Ireland in an older, more dangerous one: a place where human beings are fairy tales, and the legends and monsters of Celtic myth are a deadly reality....

Reviewers say:



"Duane seamlessly interweaves encounters with creatures from legend with glimpses of modern Irish life and teen culture... So clever and well reasoned that readers will have no trouble suspending disbelief." (School Library Journal)




"An engaging fantastical tale... Definitely worth reading." (Book Trust)




"Suitable for a wide range of readers. The colourful descriptions and imaginative characters create an exciting read... found it difficult to put the book down." (Platform)





To sign up for our shop's mailing list and be informed of new releases in the New Millennnium series (and other offerings), click here.
dianeduane: (New DD Av)

ETA: Offer extended for one more day because the damn conjunctivitis GOT THE OTHER DAMN EYE. More details at the original Tumblr posting here. Also (over there) a link to a horrid, horrid pic of the first eye. Peter, I am so going to get you for this.

Preamble: I HATE THIS SO MUCH.

I hate being sick generally. (It's all true about [even former] nurses being terrible patients. Even more terrible than doctors, probably.) I've had a cold for the last few days (it's Peter's: I mutated it a bit -- what else would I do with a disease but tinker with it). I've been drinking tea and feeling my lymph nodes and sulking and doing all the things one does at such a time, when they feel their medical knowledge should by rights protect them from the smaller indignities of life.

Around eight last night I started feeling like I had something in my left eye. That there's-an-eyelash-stuck-in-there feeling: you know the one. I had just had some ramen with wasabi in it and I kind of laughed and thought "Right, maybe I got some wasabi up there." Funny.

By about midnight it was becoming plain that wasabi was not the issue. The upper eyelid was swelling.

4 AM I woke up and asked Peter (in his office working, he's the Owl in the Owl Springs Partnership) if he'd wander downstairs and make me a hot pack with a washcloth and a Zip-Loc bag. I was thinking maybe I had an inflamed tear duct or something. Got some relief from the pack, turned over and tried to sleep a bit.

8 AM ... went to take care of things and look in the mirror...

This was definitely nothing to do with wasabi. NOT AT ALL. (sigh)

(Normally the understanding is "Pictures or it didn't happen." Forgive me for not posting something here that would, as Hawkeye once said, "put you right off your french fried lobster." Peter took one look at me and said (torn between awe and pity, since when I look awful I look really awful), "I don't think I want to go to the pub with you tonight. The neighbors might think I punched you.") ...So what have we got? Sudden-onset eye irritation, swollen upper or lower lid (both in this case, we do nothing by halves around here), incredibly bloodshot sclera, at the same time as a cold? Snap diagnoses: Viral conjunctivitis. OH JOY.

(BTW: What you can't see here is me stopping every five minutes to put a cold pack on my eye, or wipe the constant tearing out of the bad one so I can see to type. I HATE THIS I HATE THIS I HATE THIS SO MUCH.)

So. Measures taken: In-house hygeine alert, as this this is incredibly contagious. I become a pariah in my own home. All towels, facecloths, and other impedimenta in contact with me become untouchable. Mild saline solution prepared to cleanse eye. Aspirin taken. Cold packs prepared. Sticky note on monitor says (in large letters easily visible to nearsighted woman without glasses) DO NOT TOUCH YOUR OTHER EYE STUPID, NO NO NO. (ETA: Resistance was Futile.) Husband warned to treat me like a walking case of Ebola (because, though he is a mirror of all virtues and a wonderful person, he is also, if at all possible, even worse as a patient than I am.) (But oh God, no cuddling, no, argh, no anything really until I cease to be infectious. This sucks unusually hard. DAMN YOU ADENOVIRUSES!)

And: to cheer me up, because I could really use it: I hereby declare a sale at the Ebooks Direct store. 50% off everything, today only. Use the discount code BUMEYE. Go on in and get yourself a 3-book set of the Young Wizards New Millennium editions or the full original-YW-series 9-book set or a copy of CSI Alfheim or some fairy tales or something. Do.

If you saw this pitiable rant on Twitter, please do RT it if you can see your way clear. (OUCH, inadvertent optical pun, sorry.) If you saw it on Tumblr, reblog it if you like, it'll be much appreciated. (OW OW OW this damn eye cold pack again). Knock yourselves out. I'm going to sit here with this squishy plastic dishtowel-wrapped thing against my face making me functionally useless, and practice cursing in Rihannsu or something.

...End of strop. Thank you for your continued support.  :)

(Dammit, what's the point in being sick in such a way that you can't even lie in bed and watch Sherlock DVDs successfully? Gaaaaah. ...And this cold pack's not even cold any more. What, did somebody leave entropy running again? Feck.)

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