I’m not much interested in cooking or baking, but occasionally I get a wild hair and decide I want to bake something festive. A bunch of my friends on Pinterest pin a lot interesting-looking recipes and I’ve been collecting on my own board, just in case the wild hair should strike, and behold, today it striketh! With Halloween just a couple days away, I decided I needed to try out some cookie recipes. I printed out two but only got around to making one today; there were other things that needed doing first, like grocery shopping, helping Jeff install our new trailer door, and sitting on the couch watching Ghostbusters and drinking Cherry Coke. Eventually I did get around to doing one of the recipes (which can be found here) and it turned out rather well, both in appearance and taste. I’ve actually had pretty good luck with recipes I’ve found on Pinterest. Here’s some pictures:

Gooey Monster Cookies
IMG_0944 IMG_0945

I have another recipe to try out tomorrow, which I suspect won’t turn out as well because it requires assembly with icing, but we’ll see. These were fun to make, but quite messy, and because of the dough’s incredible stickiness, the recipe only produced about two-thirds what it said it would.

watership_downWatership Down was the only book I’ve ever read in secret.

In sixth grade, we spent a couple of really snowy days sitting inside during recess, watching movies. One of those movies was Watership down. At the time, I was really into cartooning, but most of my experience with the medium was Walt Disney movies and shorts and Don Bluth movies like The Secret of Nihm. This was a completely different animal from anything I’d seen before–violent and gory, with a bittersweet ending, and the story was compelling as all hell. I’d always thought of rabbits as cute, sweet little creatures that were fluffy and gentle (and if the Cadbury commercials were to be believed, they pooped those delicious Creme Eggs). The movie was an eye-opener to say the least. I wanted to check the book out from my elementary school library, but to my dismay, someone had lost it and the library had never replaced it.

So I casually mentioned at home that I was interested in it, and I was taken aback by the strongly negative reaction that drew. “It’s an awful book, so pointlessly violent!” I didn’t mention that we’d already seen the movie at school, afraid of getting my teacher in trouble (because I adored her), but it seemed quite clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to convince anyone to take me to the public library so I could check it out. No one explicitly told me that I couldn’t read it–the only time my parents plainly stated they didn’t want me reading something, it was Stephen King’s work, though even then it was couched as “I’d rather you wait until you’re 14 to start reading those. They have a lot of adult content in them.”–but I read the conversation to mean that I wasn’t allowed.

49766Seemingly shut down at home, I enlisted a friend to help me procure a copy . She checked it out from the public library for me (oh the trust that entailed…or the youthful foolishness we can sometimes display), and she became my Watership Down dealer. I was astonished the first time I saw the hardcover; it was monstrous, the biggest book I’d ever seen. But I wasn’t deterred. I read it when I wouldn’t get caught, keeping it hidden under my mattress when I wasn’t alone, and taking it to school with me to read during recess. It was the perfect plan….

Except sometimes I wasn’t the brightest kid. I casually mentioned to my teacher that I wasn’t supposed to be reading the book, and following her teacherly obligations, she phoned my mom and told her what I was up to. When mom came home that night, she came to my room (just seconds before I’d managed to tuck the book under my comforter) and I fully expected to be in serious trouble. To my relief though, she gave me permission to go ahead and read it, but warned me, “You probably won’t  like it. It will give you nightmares.” I considered putting it aside at that point, even though I was really getting into it, but since I no longer felt the need to read it clandestinely, it seemed a waste to give up. So I continued reading it, searching for the terrible things that were going to give me nightmares.

WSSketchI never did find what was so vile and scary about Watership Down; in fact, the more I read, the more I liked it, and the more I fell in love with the characters, especially Bigwig. The book became a minor obsession of mine for a couple years in middle school (and I habitually checked it out from middle school library–which did have a copy–until Mom bought me a copy of my own). In the end, it became one of my favorite books and I’ve read it numerous times over the years, always marveling how my eleven-year-old self managed to not only make it through such a huge, poetically-written book but fall in love with it too. I spent hours drawing the characters and plastering my bedroom walls with scenes from the book, like the one to the right; though they were often in full color, complete with the blood and gore. When my mother would ask me about all the blood, I’d tell her, “It’s art, Mom!” She still gets a chuckle out of that.

Where_the_red_fern_grows_1996SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

Where the Red Fern Grows is the first book I remember ever falling in love with; my second grade teacher read it to us in class, and being someone who really liked dogs, I was immediately enthralled. I remember one kid kept telling the rest of us, “the dogs are going to die, you know?” but none of us believed him–no one would ever kill off dogs in books (this was long before I read Old Yeller). And even though he was right, I still loved the book dearly; I loved Old Dan and Little Ann, and I desperately wanted to be Billy Coleman–I stole my brother’s raccoon-skin cap he’d gotten at Frontierland at Disneyland and from 2nd grade until middle school I wore it almost everyday: I would have worn it to school if my mother would have let me. I also wore overalls all the time and I named my Pound Puppies after Dan and Ann, and I swore that someday I would get some coonhounds of my own. I definitely had what Rawls had called “puppy love” in the book.

I don’t know the exact number of times I read this book, but it has to be up near fifty; my teachers had to force me to read other books, and when I was flunking math in fourth grade, my mother didn’t ground me from my friends or from the television–no, she grounded me from reading Where the Red Fern Grows. And it worked, for I busted my hump to get my math grade up and get my book back. Wilson Rawls was also the first author I ever wrote a fan letter to; unfortunately he’d succumb to cancer about five years earlier, but his wife Sophie sent me a nice letter that I kept for years and years, until it got lost as some point. I read the cover off of at least two copies, and before I had my own copy, I kept my school library’s copy almost constantly checked (I adored the cover of their copy, which isn’t the one shown here–I was unable to find a picture of the actual cover they had–and often thought of reporting it missing just so I’d have it forever, but my mother didn’t raise thieves for children….). It didn’t matter that I bawled my eyes out over and over when I read that book; nothing has quite held my heart the way this book had, and continues to do so today.

I tried reading it to my daughter, but to my sadness, she had very little interest, and when we were halfway through and she heard from someone about what happens at the ending, she didn’t want me to finish. It was just too emotionally brutal for her and she wanted nothing to do with it. Years later I tried again with my son and this time we made it all the way through, and when I closed the book for the last time, he just kind of hid his head in his pillow and cried, and nothing I said comforted him. I figured he’d hated it too, but to my surprise, when we came across a $5 copy of the 1974 movie version, he begged me to buy it and we both sat down and watched it, and he cried again (it takes a lot to make me cry anymore). We haven’t watched it since then, but I was glad to have least been able to share my love of this story with at least one of my kids.

LilyAnd back in day, I’d always talked about how someday I was going to get myself two coonhounds, just like Billy had, and wouldn’t you know, that is one childhood dream that came true. I wasn’t looking for a hound, but when I saw Lily’s adorable face on the Humane Society of Boulder Valley’s website, I fell in love immediately and made sure I was at the shelter first thing the next morning. I really considered naming her Little Ann, but in the end we settled on Lily, which suits her just fine. She’s not a Red Bone, like the dogs in the book–she’s a Treeing Walker–but she’s every bit as sweet and smart, and I really can’t believe I waited until my 30’s to finally get a coonhound of my own.

the-bone-flower-throne-displayI got the opportunity to talk about my new novel The Bone Flower Throne over at John Scalzi’s blog, so if you’re curious about what inspired the story and why it took me four years to get it finished, hop on over there and give it a read. Here’s a little sample:

I’m an Aztec geek; whether it’s history or mythology, I devour it all. It’s a love affair that began in college and has taken over my fiction writing life. It gives me immense joy to immerse myself into that world, digging up the forgotten treasures and intrigues, and finding voices and figures my high school history and English classes never bothered to mention.

Like Quetzalpetlatl, the most famous woman no one knows anything about: the woman the gods used to ruin Mesoamerica’s greatest hero.

MileHiConMilehiCon is my local con, so I try to make it every year, and in the last couple of years I’ve taken to volunteering for panels. But this year, I felt I was, overall, better prepared to be useful on said panels. And I think it helped tremendously to actually have a book published, to hold up for the crowd to see; in fact, I was quite astonished that whenever I mentioned that the book had just come out that weekend, everyone clapped and took the time to congratulate me, audience members and fellow panelists alike. It was a very rewarding feeling, and I’ve never quite felt so welcome in the community as I did this weekend. I had a reading and people actually showed up (though for all I know they were there for Hilary Bell, not me:-D) and I handed out quite a few postcards about my book.

My panel load included Researching Fiction, which went well, and everyone had very useful and inspiring things to say about the importance of research in fiction-writing. The best overall panel though was the Border Crossings: Non-Western Fantasy panel–a bit of a surprise since, in the past, I haven’t done well on panels on such potentially heavy subject matters. And when I saw the original questions, I was dreading going to this panel (and in fact was really hoping that no one would show up so the panel would end up getting cancelled). Luckily, we were blessed with a really good, astute moderator–Jonna Gjevre–who tossed the questions out and led us in a fascinating and fun discussion about the importance of writing the Other and how to go about it with care and integrity. I left the panel feeling excited and uplifted in a way I never have with any other panel. What a difference a really good, passionate moderator can make in a discussion!

The best part of any convention is seeing friends again, and meeting new people. I signed up for Autograph Alley this year, and though I didn’t sign anything, I sat with my friend Carol Berg and met Bonnie Doran, and we all hung out in the bar afterward for the Writers’ Networking (if you pop over to Bonnie’s blog, you can see a picture of me and Carol at the signing. I’m the one in the blue Soft Kitty shirt. Being shortsighted, I neglected to get any pictures of my own at all during the convention.). There we met up with a bunch of Codexians, like Eric James Stone and Matt Rotundo. If I’d been staying at the hotel, I would have joined Matt and a few others for some Karaoke downstairs, but instead had to drive back home for the night. Next year I’m going to consider renting a room for the weekend. The next night I went to dinner with Carol, Courtney Shafer, and Rick Friesen, whom I’ve come to fondly think of as my MileHiCon posse; we ended the night with a writing session in the lobby since there didn’t seem to be anyone in the bar, and I did a little work on Bone Flower Queen.

Overall a very productive and fun convention.