Tagged: food

Trip Report – Domestic Edition

We’d like to speak to you today about an exciting new product we’ve recently learned about. It’s called a “calendar” and you can use it to keep track of all your upcoming appointments. Truly groundbreaking stuff!

If only such a revolutionary product had been available to us in the early days of this year, we might now be slightly less exhausted. Alas, it was still in prototype format which means that when we registered for a writing conference in the far-off month of November, we had nowhere to record it. We merely saved the emails for future reference and went about our lives. And so, weeks and months later when we booked our European escape we had forgotten all about the conference. As luck would have it, they did not actually overlap. But they might as well have.

We returned from our Adriatic adventure on Monday evening and headed off to Philadelphia that Friday morning. To make it even more exciting, we were still adjusting to being back in the Eastern time zone, and daylight savings time ended while we were at the conference. In Europe we’d gone back and forth through a couple of time zones, plus several of our devices were in airplane mode the whole time which meant they were still on “home” time. We rarely knew for sure what time it was, and probably still don’t. What day is it? Anyway – the clock in our Philadelphia hotel room assured us that it was 11:00 pm on January 20, which we were pretty sure was wrong no matter which dimension you looked at it from. We were so fucking confused, but we made it to the conference on time so we must have done something right somewhere along the line.

Being antisocial miscreants, we skipped out on the Friday evening author-mingling festivities and instead went to Fogo de Chao and stuffed ourselves.

The Independent Authors Conference was a great big kick in the pants in regards to marketing. The constant refrain from the presenters was basically “yeah, you boneheads, you have to market your stuff.” Which sounds obvious when you say it. Luckily, there was also a ton of practical advice for how to market, and some of it doesn’t even cost an arm and a leg. We especially enjoyed the presentations by Lee Wind of the IBPA, and Dana Kaye of Kaye Publicity.

Our hope is that next year they’ll have more sessions focused on the needs particular to fiction authors. And that the conference dates don’t fall right after another big trip.

In closing, either invest in one of these newfangled calendars everyone’s talking about, or start tattooing important information all over yourself, Memento-style so you don’t run yourself as ragged as we did.

PS – of course we had cheesesteaks!

I Stood in the Prow

  • by jenAnswer: Not much.
  • blocked nearly all the sunlight
  • desperately tired of seeing naked shoes
  • Welcome to… Aberdeen
  • ice skating on the frog pond

Tune in next time part 227                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

I stood in the prow of the locust until it slowly became a hovercraft and I realized that I had been hallucinating. I asked Cleopatra how much sense I had been making. Answer: Not much.

We were in the middle of the ocean, zipping along in a cloud of spray that blocked nearly all the sunlight. There wasn’t much to look at, but that was actually a relief because I was desperately tired of seeing naked shoes on people’s hands and overdressed fish circling their heads.

Cleopatra coaxed me away from the railing and we went to the cafeteria. She bought me a huge plate of non-psychoactive haggis and said, “Welcome to… Aberdeen.” Then she made me eat the whole thing and wash it down with a glass of peaty scotch. She meanwhile enjoyed a BLT and a coke.

After our meal we still had many hours to kill before our hovercraft would deliver us to our destination. Cleopatra had reserved a cabin for us, so we went there and I showed her a sex position that came to me during my mushroom trip, something that I could only describe as “ice skating on the frog pond.” Her prosthetic butt will never be the same.

I still didn’t fully trust her, but I needed her to think I did.

In the afterglow I said, “So where is this hovercraft taking us?”

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Cleopatra’s Eyes Darted

  • by jenJoe, I know it’s not shit
  • dutifully packing the egg cartons
  • want to play Road Warrior
  • propel a converted atomic submarine into space
  • now dating his ex-girlfriend

Tune in next time part 225                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

Cleopatra’s eyes darted around the street, searching the shadows for spies. “I can’t talk about that right now. I left my prosthetic butt at home,” she whispered.

I sighed at all the Svenborgian nonsense.

She gripped my hand in a way that would look tender to any casual observers, and led me into a small grocery store. In the back room, a handful of Tibetans were busy sorting mushrooms into piles.

The youngest looked at me and said, “What are these damn ‘shrooms called again, Joe, I know it’s not shittake.”

Why did he think my name was Joe? “Maitake,” I said.

“That’s it!” he said, snapping his fingers, then went back to dutifully packing the egg cartons in front of him with the frilly fungus.

Cleopatra pulled me into the corner. “Joe?” she demanded. “I thought your name was–”

“I want to play Road Warrior,” I interrupted. “I want to drive a car that’s got a booster big enough to propel a converted atomic submarine into space.”

I watched as Cleopatra decoded that. Her face looked like she just found out her father was now dating his ex-girlfriend‘s sister, daughter, and niece all at the same time. Or at least that was the look I had when my father did that.

“If what you say is true,” she finally said, “we need to get the hell out of Harmonia immediately.”

I agreed.

“Grab a handful of those mushrooms to tide you over. We’ll have to stop at my apartment to get my butt and my passport, then we’ll go straight to the hovercraft depot.”

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I Have Always Been a Man

  • by jenmistrusted his own senses more
  • What kind of candy was it?
  • I hope they jammed their fingers into him
  • “The Devil’s at the bottom of it, I’m sure.”
  • My arse is killing me.

Tune in next time part 221                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

I have always been a man who mistrusted his own senses more than most people do, largely due to all the mind games and psychedelics my parents employed in my upbringing, but I was sure that there was a candy bar strapped to the leg of Gordon the goose. What kind of candy was it? It was vitally important that I find out. It was likely the key to everything. If Esmerelda had resorted to something as dusty and disused as the washerwoman’s code, it only made sense that the confectioner’s code was also in play.

As the gander continued to rub against Isaac’s pants, I crouched and deftly unstrapped the candy bar from his scaly leg. The wrapper was unfamiliar, but the lettering looked Tibetan. Whoever sent this message, I hope they jammed their fingers into Himalayan mittens before frostbite set in.

Isaac peered at the exotic candy in my hand, her eyes wide. “The Devil’s at the bottom of it, I’m sure.”

“The Devil” is what a lot of people called my father.

Gordon didn’t like being ignored. With a loud honk he nipped Isaac. She yelped and scolded the bird, then stood rubbing her rump. “We need to get out of here, find a place to stow Gordon. My arse is killing me. You’ll need to check it for me to make sure he didn’t break the skin.”

While the thought of examining Isaac’s arse would normally have been quite intriguing, I was currently much more concerned about the chocolate bar in my hand. I remembered John’s childhood spent in the Tibetan monastery. If the message really had been sent by my father, things were very dire indeed.

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My Father Had Been Dead for Years

  • by jenWait, what?
  • “preferably dead,” she added.
  • sang the last line of the song
  • just toast, maybe a boiled egg
  • a great many other pleasant and astonishing devices

Tune in next time part 209                           Click Here for Earlier Installments

My father had been dead for years, but there he was, boarding my brother’s presidential zeppelin. I drained my subpoena and smacked the glass down on the bar, upside down as per Pinkie Swears tradition. My head was swimming. I tried to focus on the image on the tiny phone screen. It couldn’t really be my father, could it?

I realized the bartender was speaking, and had been for some time.

Wait, what?” I said.

She sighed heavily. “After the sex scandal, we thought we were done with your father. We thought he’d be disgraced, imprisoned,” her eyes darted to the door, “preferably dead,” she added.

“That’s a bit harsh,” I slurred, wishing I had some food to counteract the alcohol. “Everyone involved was a consenting adult. Even Freya.” I hiccuped.

“Jason’s here.” She grabbed me by the front of my shirt and hauled me over the bar where I sprawled on the floor. Out amongst the balloons I heard all the Pinks take up a chorus of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. The bartender stood up and sang the last line of the song along with the rest of them.

Staying low, I made my way through the door into the kitchen. I was hoping to find something to eat. Nothing fancy — just toast, maybe a boiled egg. I found neither of those, but I did see a frozen daiquiri machine and a great many other pleasant and astonishing devices.

As I stuck my head under the daiquiri nozzle and opened my mouth, the bartender came through the door. “Now’s our chance to get out of here,” she said, pulling me away from the machine, “while they’re all distracted. We need to get to that zeppelin and stop your father!”

Her breath in my face was even more flammable than my own, and I realized I was tangling with a representative of the Guild of Fire Eaters. I couldn’t let her know that Jemma was just downstairs.

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A Couple of Hours at IHOP

Another big storm rolled through our area earlier this week and knocked out our power. Again. This time it was only out for about four hours, so it was a lot less of an inconvenience than last time. We didn’t even lose our DuoLingo streaks this time!

For some reason the fact that we’re going to want to eat every day takes us continuously by surprise and we often waste a good half-hour taking an inventory of our pantry and debating the merits of various take-out options. Just as we were getting warmed up for our daily dinner negotiations, the lights went out and the battery backups all started chirping, and thus our decision was easy. We shut down all of the electronics, grabbed our trusty steno pad, and absconded to IHOP.

After stuffing our faces, we got down to business. It was our waitress’s birthday, so we tried to be easy customers, demanding only endless coffee (for Kent) and water (because Jen actually has tastebuds) refills. We spent the next few hours reviewing the notes we’d already made about Sibling of Music Novel. There were some points that are already moot, and some sidetracks we’ll probably ignore. We thought of a few things that had been discussed but never written down, so we added those. Some characters have already been renamed. It was interesting to find so much progress on a project that’s still really in its infancy. And it felt really good to see how much material we already have.

Eventually our electricity came back on and we were able to go home, but even so, progress was slow this week. Kent had a business trip, and instead of writing in his absence, Jen used the time to binge a whole bunch of stuff he’s not interested in watching.

And speaking of binging, we finished up the program we mentioned last time, and are happy to say that we don’t have to replot anything. We’re sure you’re as relieved as we are.

Don’t Turn Your Novel Into a Turducken

The other night we had a conversation in the writing cave about ways to flesh out a story. We know there are things we neglected to spell out, or perhaps omitted altogether, because of being a little too close to them. However, not everything that you could add is something that you should.

Obviously, you don’t include the stuff that’s irrelevant or uninteresting. But sometimes you need to hold off on making additions even if they’d be fantastic. Because not every nugget of gold belongs in the tale you’re telling right now.

Consider a scenario where your main character makes a decision after tons of soul searching, a decision that’s going to determine the direction of the narrative. You can feel the turmoil of your character throughout his sleepless night. It’s tempting to try to bring the reader into that space of conflict, share the doubt and trepidation of the protagonist. To show (not tell!) all the alternatives that were contemplated, all the attempts to bargain away the painful but inevitable outcome. And in many cases, it’d be the right call. But not always. All that’s essential for the reader to know is what the decision is, and that reaching it was difficult.

Forcing the issue will hurt the whole book. If this moment falls during escalating kinetic tension, then inserting a digression into someone’s interior world is likely to kill the mood. Dwelling on this particular moment for this character might detract from the image you intend to create. And in such cases, no level of prose quality will change the basic fact: it doesn’t fit.

Including a scene that’s a tonal or thematic mismatch is like stuffing a different story inside the one you’re trying to tell, like jamming a bird inside of another bird. Maybe turducken is delicious, in which case the metaphor falls down. Just be sure that all your ingredients really do work together.

“I Would Kill For a Cup of Coffee”

  • by jen“You’re supposed to know!”
  • not using a pseudonym
  • the baffled animal beneath me
  • so cheesy and dramatic
  • Jennifer’s wedding band

Tune in next time part 183                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

“I would kill for a cup of coffee,” I said. Those scorpion donuts made me thirsty.

The strip-tease waitress just looked at me askance and moved away, shimmying her hips and not pouring any coffee. Mother smacked the back of my head. “That was a code phrase!” she whispered angrily. “You’re supposed to know!” She whacked me again like I was a puppy that piddled on the carpet. “After all that tuition I paid to the Academy you’re supposed to know ALL the spy stuff! And here you are, ignorant of even the most common codes, running around Harmonia, not using a pseudonym or anything!”

Oh, Mother wanted spycraft did she?

I pushed past the patrons gathered around the stage, all of them hoisting tiny pitchers of maple syrup, ready to “make it rain” for the dancers. I leapt onto the stage, my saddle shoes skidding in a pool of melted butter. I caught myself on the gingham stripper pole and looked down at the baffled animal beneath me, Mother’s ape-like henchman standing stupidly at the edge of the stage.

The music that was playing was so cheesy and dramatic I couldn’t help but do a little bump and grind. I’m sure you know the song. It’s by that weird group Jennifer’s Wedding Band. The audience erupted into hoots and boos, and in the ensuing chaos I was able to run backstage. I almost made it out the back door, but was stopped in my tracks.

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My Lace Jumpsuit Was So Tight

  • by jenThe tongue action is explicit
  • We are not moving
  • in a very satisfactory manner
  • all the men were much too stupid and ugly to mate with
  • “It’s gonna match. It’s gonna match. It’s gotta match.”

Tune in next time part 171                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

My lace jumpsuit was so tight I could only indulge in one Scorpion Angel donut. My captor watched me eat it with unseemly glee in his eye and a bit of drool at the corner of his mouth. No matter how much I cajoled, he himself did not partake. When I had finished the last bite, he put his gun away and licked the powdered sugar from my fingertips. It was very unsettling, but my training had prepared me for things like that and I reacted calmly. The tongue action is explicit and precise in this kind of code, but you have to pay close attention to pick up the nuances.

“Well,” his tongue said. “Time to get going. Tessa is waiting for you.”


I allowed the man to herd me out of the donut shop. If he would lead me to Tessa, I would follow him practically anywhere.

Memory Lane was clogged with tourists on their way to the bachelor auction. My companion and I were trying to fight our way upstream.

He grabbed my hand and licked a message on my palm. “We are not moving in a very satisfactory manner.

Suddenly the tide turned and all of the women surged in the opposite direction. From what I overheard, the bachelor auction was a bust because all the men were much too stupid and ugly to mate with, especially if you were expected to pay.

One of them, an Asian woman with green hair and cotton candy stains around her mouth, spotted a numbered tag fluttering from the zipper of my jumpsuit. She shrieked with delight and pulled a raffle ticket out of her pocket. She compared the numbers, chanting, “It’s gonna match. It’s gonna match. It’s gotta match.”

What would I do if I was this woman’s prize? I had to get to Tessa.

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My Stomach Growled

  • by jen“Tell us more about these scorpion angels,”
  • got married just a month after they met
  • a lie from start to finish
  • his accomplice killed him
  • been required to eat cold meat

Tune in next time part 169                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

My stomach growled. Donuts sounded amazing right now. The last time someone with a gun foisted food on me I’d been required to eat cold meat off the body of a lithe young man. He’d been sent by the White Faces mime syndicate to infiltrate the ninjas while disguised as a platter of sushi, and his accomplice killed him after discovering that his life story was a lie from start to finish. He must have been a very convincing liar because he and his accomplice had got married just a month after they met.

My trip down memory lane ended abruptly when my gun-weilding friend directed me to turn down Memory Lane. There, between a hot pink wedding chapel and a stall selling furry handcuffs was a donut shop. We entered and perused the very unusual menu board. There were flavors here I’d never heard of.

We approached the counter. “Tell us more about these Scorpion Angels,” my captor said to the clerk, who was dusted from head to toe with powdered sugar. “Are they made with real scorpions?”

“We couldn’t very well call them Scorpion Angel Cremes if they weren’t,” huffed the fastidious donutmonger.

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