Friday, January 28, 2011


I just got a very humbling email from my critique partner. God bless her, she was quite honest about the amount of work that I need to do. I'm not being sarcastic here, I truly appreciate her bluntness. It was what I needed to hear. Definitely not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed nonetheless. And I can't imagine that's an easy crit to write, so props to her for doing it.

I'm not going to lie, I feel pretty shattered. I'm sitting here right now thinking that writing just may not be my thing. Kind of like how I enjoy baking, but my cakes aren't that pretty to look at. Or how I can coordinate an outfit, but I'd never be hired as a wardrobe coordinator. And that's cool. Sometimes you like doing things and you're okay at them, but you're not that great and you need to accept that. I mean, it mostly breaks my heart to write that, but truth is truth. Right?

Funny thing is, the novel I sent her is about a girl who, when presented with a challenge, when things don't go as hoped or planned, assumes it wasn't meant to be and moves on. She doesn't see that she's cheating herself. She's missing the opportunity to achieve something through adversity and hard work. And we all know, those successes are the most meaningful.

So I'm probably going to drink myself silly tonight. And I'm probably going to wake up tomorrow wanting to die. And then I'm probably going to eat something greasy, go for a run, then figure out how I need to tackle my plot problems. Maybe I'm not meant to be a writer. Maybe. Maybe I'll never have an agent,be published, see my words printed on anything other than my own printer paper. Okay. But that will be the case after I've done my best. Not just gave it a go, but really busted my bottom to write some kick-ass novels. Because I'd hate to think that I missed out on my chance to better myself because I quit too soon.

The specifics of like.

I haven't gone to a concert yet this year. Okay, it's still January and my kids have been sick almost the entire month, but even so it's been since Damien Jurado/Shearwater and that's a long time in between shows. And I resolved to see a ton of shows this year, so it's almost a moral imperative to get to one soon.

Since Jeremy Enigk and The Jealous Sound aren't touring right now, I have to expand my horizons and find another band to see. I noticed that this one band my friend always gushes about (he's seen them 6 times!) will be at my favorite venue this weekend. I don't work that night, so I thought I would go. But first, I wanted to check them out. I hadn't listened to them before, so I pulled up their Daytrotter session. Um, not really my thing. I mean, they were okay. I could listen to them. Definitely could see them live, but I won't be falling in love with this band.

It's weird how you can have such similar tastes as someone else, and still differ. Like my awesome friend who shares music love with me, but cannot understand why I like Silversun Pickups. Or my reader friend who hated The Hunger Games trilogy. What? Okay, both are so offensive to me, but not friendship deal-breakers.

But it does make me wonder what is that quality that can elicit such different reactions? Why do I listen Shudder To Think and hear art, and someone else hears noise? Why do I read Margaret Atwood and think, "Oh my God, yes" while someone else yawns? I mean, obviously, I'm right and they're wrong, but beside that, where do our tastes come from? Is it environmental? Cultural? Maybe. I cannot for the life of me get into Indian music, but a lot of Americans can. I mean, didn't Madonna go through that phase a while back? So maybe it's not just environment. Maybe it's genetic. Maybe we're hard-wired not just to have straight/curly hair, brown/blue eyes, but to like what we like. I've been programmed to love Sunny Day Real Estate but not Tapes 'N Tapes, Dogfight but not Dream For An Insomniac, Charlotte but not Emily Bronte. I don't know. It seems pretty cool to me that somewhere in our genetic code is an instruction to fall in love in a very specific way.

Listening to: St. Vincent "Actor"

xo. kb.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The visuals, man.

I was listening to Silversun Pickups while on the elliptical today. When I run, I go 2 or 3 miles, depending upon how much time I have. When I elliptical, it is always 37 minutes. I think there was a reason for this at some point, but I've lost it along the way. Now it is just a habit. And the number is conveniently saved on the timer on my phone. But whatever. I'm straying.

I have a few artists I alternate among when I work out, and I know where I am time-wise based on the song that's playing. When I elliptical to SSPU, if I start my music first and timer second, I can get all the way through "Sort Of" (Swoon). So I always remember to start with music because I love that song. Here's why. It starts out as a loud, fuzz-fueled guitar and drum pounding song. Okay, fine. Then the solo happens. Oh my God. It's simple, really. Not intricate or masterful at all. But the drive behind it. It's the sound of motion. Truly. And I get visuals every time I hear it. Like I'm watching a movie. And the movie I'm watching is a race car on a track, every time the keyboard sounds, the car is rounding a curve. It's the craziest thing.

Anyway, this isn't unusual for me, these visuals. I write my novels this way. Okay, first I create the characters and come up with a story line, but then I watch it all unfold in my head like a film. When I write, I stop the action and record what happened. Sometimes I have to rewind and pause. What does he look like? What is her expression at this one moment? What does this room look like? What does the air smell like? I capture it, then press play again. Let it continue.

Having an image for the words helps me to see the details. I try to create a sensory experience for my characters and, hopefully, my readers. I want it to be more than words on a page.

Listening to: Silversun Pickups "Swoon"

xo. kb.

This post has been brought to you by the letter "S"

I'm going through another "S" phase folks. It's my comfort letter, the consoling color blue. I do this once a year at least, generally in winter when I can't run consistently and the confining cold starts to take its toll on my emotional/mental health. I don't notice it right away. Maybe it's been a week or two that I've been listening strictly to my "S" bands and artists, when I realize what's been happening. It occurred to me today after writing to Sunny Day Real Estate, cooking to Sia on, then working out to Silversun Pickups (which I have for the last three days). My "S" phase is the equivalent of an old sweatshirt, a bowl of chicken soup when you're sick, a hug from Mom.

Listening to: Silversun Pickups "Pikul EP"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bacon cupcakes.

I had an idea for bacon (pronounced bahcon) cupcakes (do not turn that "a" to an "ah") the other night. This is the recipe I came up with today. It's a winner. Oh my God, is it a winner...*drools*...

Bacon Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
10 strips cooked bacon* (6 strips crumbled, 4 cut into 24 pieces for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350F and line 24 standard muffin cups with liners (paper works best). Combine cornmeal and milk in bowl, stir, and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and mix until the color is consistent. Alternate adding flour and cornmeal mixtures until both are incorporated. Set aside.
Using a wire wisk, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Fold into the batter. Next, fold in crumbled bacon.
Divide batter evenly into muffin cups (about 3/4 full). Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and center pops up when pressed lightly with a finger. Cool cupcakes on wire rack, and frost with Maple Buttercream. Garnish with bacon pieces.
Makes 24 cupcakes

Maple Buttercream
2 sticks butter, room temperature
maple extract to taste (1-2 teaspoons)
3-4 cups confectioners sugar

Cream butter and maple extract with electric mixer. Add confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until smooth and sturdy.

*I baked the bacon in a 350F oven so the strips would be uniform in texture and appearance. I didn't time them- sorry- just kept an eye on them. Maybe 15 minutes? I don't remember. Just make sure they're crispy, but not burnt. You should be able to cut them without the pieces disintegrating.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The math of real life.

My son is cleaning his room today. He's not happy about it. In fact, when he was informed that was what he'd be doing today he cried and stomped and carried on like a toddler having a tantrum. He'd be pissed that I told you that, too, but whatever. He doesn't read my blog. Anyway. Generally, I wouldn't be so emphatic that the room had to be cleaned- it's his room and his mess, and the fit he throws when he's asked to clean it is enough to make me reconsider. I'm conflict averse as much as he is cleaning averse- a match made in hell- but the room's out of hand, dangerous in fact, and it needs to be done. And once I decide something needs to be done, that's the end of the story.

He went to his room after breakfast and freaked out. I understand the frustration. It's an unholy mess- scraps of paper on the floor, Legos on all the surfaces, Bakugan cards, crumpled Monopoly money, dirty clothes, batting from a human-sized stuffed dog with a ripped seam, one half of a busted open pinata. It's overwhelming, all the work that needs to be done, and what I'd like to do is ransack the room with a garbage bag and call it a day. The whining would stop, and the room would be cleaned. Problem solved. But then I'm doing the work and he hasn't learned a thing other than that Mom will take over if he whines enough. Not the lesson I want to teach.

So I'm helping him out, not by cleaning, but by teaching him to forget the big mess for a while and focus on something smaller. I pointed out that he had Legos scattered all over, and asked him to start on those first. "Put them all away, then come get me," I instructed. So he did. Then I asked him to pick up all the paper. "Make a pile of what you want to keep, put it in a folder on your desk, and recycle the rest." It took a while, because he had to actually decide what was worth keeping, but he finished and came to get me. We did this a few more times before he noticed that his room was getting clean. "I'm doing it," he said with a smile. "Yep," I grinned back.

I think about my own mess- the things I want to do, need to do, long-term goals, short-term expectations. I want it done, cleaned up now. Organized and achieved. Sometimes I don't know where to start, and the sheer frustration of not being able to accomplish it all at once overwhelms me and I freak out. Not the crying and stomping and kind of freak out, but the kind where you shut down and think, "If I can't do it all, I can't do any of it."

I'm wrong, of course. And sometimes I need to be reminded that small accomplishments add up to big achievements when put all together.

My son's room isn't clean yet. He still has a lot of work to get done. Me too, but I know it'll happen. Just keep at it, Kate. Every little bit counts.

Listening to: Death Cab For Cutie "The Photo Album"

xo. kb.