Thursday, January 31, 2013

EATING SPAM AT 10,000 FEET

We interrupt our regularly-scheduled Friday Food Love for a special episode about how the experience sometimes makes the most mundane of foods memorable.

Take, for instance, Spam.

This canned meat product isn't considered a delicacy anywhere, not even in places where it's consumed regularly, such as Hawaii. My favorite Spam preparation is musubi:

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cosmic_bandita/1180353174/
My least favorite Spam preparation is it cut in chunks and tossed into a bowl of milk, like cereal. I saw that once, years ago. The image haunts me still.

This morning I woke early in order to drop my father, husband and brother off for a hike. It didn't go exactly as planned. Just minutes away from our rental condo, we encountered flash floods. As in, a couple of miles of unfamiliar road flooded on one side, or the other, or both.

Once we hit a clear highway, we caught up to the rains that had just caused the floods. There's nothing quite like seeing a flash of green through a wall of water, thinking it might be a road sign for your exit, estimating the amount of time between this possible sign and that potential exit and hopefully veering to the right.

We were correct, by the way, or this would be a very different blog post.

Following that, we drove up the side of a volcano. Ten thousand vertical feet of hairpin turns and switchbacks, with no shoulders on the road, and a steady onslaught of buses, shuttles, white-knuckle tourists and miserable-looking families hunched over bicycles. Plus there were geese and cattle, crossing the road at their leisure. All we were missing were oil slicks and banana peels, and Wario cackling at us and our two plumber friends.

And then we reached the top. Or, as high as cars are allowed to go. And it was outstanding. Like finding the surface of the moon laid over the surface of Mars and surrounded by fast-moving clouds.

This is Haleakala, known as "house of the sun" in Hawaiian. It's a dormant volcano - not dead, merely in between eruptive states. The summit is at nearly twice the elevation of Denver, the Mile-High City.

It's cold up there, and often windy, but even when rain is pouring lower on the island of Maui, it's oftentimes sunny at the top of the mountain. Standing on the edge of this great crater as the clouds rise up over the opposite ridge, then glide past, is unbelievably calming.


It sets a great tone for the drive back down to sea level. Driving a difficult, well-paved road is its own kind of exhilarating meditation. It's not for everyone. I encountered a woman at a rest stop who all but begged me to drive her rental car back the rest of the way down for her. She was almost in tears, and if I hadn't been alone, I would have. She said that she was afraid that she was going to go around a corner and find herself driving off the end of the world. I couldn't dispute that the road often looked as though it was a kind of naturally-occurring gangplank, but I assured her that, unless she had ascended from somewhere not-of-this-world, she likely wasn't going to find herself going that way on the descent.

After the harrowing morning, the elevation-induced giddiness and the half hour I spent puttering around the visitor center in the cold with a gaggle of very well-dressed Japanese tourists, I was hungry. We'd picked up musubi in the morning. They're ubiquitous in Hawaii, from gas stations to high-end grocery stores, and combine the best of Japanese snacking food with long shelf-life American food products. And, when the road was straight enough for long enough, I'd sneak a bite.

Best Spam I've ever had.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

WRITING AT 35,000 FEET

I do my best writing on airplanes.

Maybe it's because there's little else to do. I can't go anywhere and the peskiness of regular life - the laundry to be done, the accounts to be reviewed, the seam to be resown, the television shows to flip idly through - simply aren't there.

Maybe it's because, being in Alaska, even the shortest flights out of state are a minimum of three hours. Three hours of airline-mandated butt in chair. I've never sat for three hours straight while writing, not even on the one day in which I wrote eight thousand words. I can maybe go fifty minutes at a run.

Maybe it's because pretty much everything about airplanes bothers me. The rude travelers, the generally unsanitary conditions, the noise, the terrible food [with the exception of the Alaska Airlines fruit & cheese plate, which is amazing (unless you're flying out of Boston, in which case it's inexplicably yucky - I know there's good cheese back there)]. So I can either fester in my anger at and disdain for the other travelers or the delays, or I can bow my head, pull of my headphones, and drop right out of the sky into another world. One that exists because I enjoy it.

Reading is great escapism. Writing at 35, 000 feet is divine.

I'm actively (desperately?) seeking earthbound places in which writing comes as easily.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Q&A AND GIVEAWAY WITH CATHY PEGAU


I met science fiction romance author Cathy Pegau through our publisher, Carina Press, and we immediately hit it off. We’re both Alaska-based, sneaking writing in around work, family and play, and have a shared fondness for sushi. I’m thrilled to have Cathy here today to talk about her process and her newest release, Caught in Amber.


You seem to specialize in backing your protagonists into corners. In Rulebreaker, Liv falls for the woman who’s supposed to be her mark. In Caught in Amber, Sasha James is like Bruce Lee in the mirror scene from Enter the Dragon, seemingly trapped on all sides. What’s the allure of writing characters in this type of predicament?

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard: Make things hard on your characters. Then make it harder. Now see if you can make it worse than that.

If things go swimmingly for characters there’s no conflict, and no way for the reader to see what sort of person they’re reading about. Conflict makes the story, and in some ways reveals more about the character than expected. I like my characters to have to make tough choices. Sometimes the consequences aren’t so pretty, but that’s the fun part of writing J

I love the rise of romantic science fiction. I think the contrast of newly-imagined worlds and the age-old desire to be loved and to belong is fascinating. What’s your favorite part of writing these cross-genre stories?

Making stuff up as I go along J I don’t have to be historically accurate, I don’t have to research real places and hope I got the details right. I’m lazy like that.

Seriously, though, it’s exactly what you said. I have the chance to use my imagination to create a world but still touch on basic human needs and behaviors. We may go beyond our solar system in the near future, taking our complex species fortes and foibles with us.

I hope SFR/RSF continues to gain readers, especially with those romance readers who don’t normally read SF and SF readers who don’t normally read romances. I read a lot of SF too, and in the past found myself wanting a bit more on the relationship side of things. That’s what got me started writing SFR.

I am unable to believe this claim of laziness! What authors or figures inspired you to write, and to write these types of stories?

Most of my teen and young adult years were spent reading science fiction and fantasy. Anne McCaffery, Alan Dean Foster, Stephen R. Donaldson, Connie Willis and Barbara Hambly filled my shelves and still do! Later, I developed a taste for suspense and thriller type books by authors like Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child and James Patterson. I guess I wanted to combine aspects of these favorite genres and make the female leads as strong as I could. I’m not anywhere near the talent as the above authors, but they do inspire me to strive to create a better book every time I sit down to write.

On the spot time! What are a few of your favorite lines that you’ve written?

Oy! Not easy! Okay, here are a few, but there are lots more J

From Rulebreaker: My ex-husband had just felt me up, taken my gun and spoiled my hit.

From Caught in Amber when Sterling is assuring Sasha they can get her ex to believe she’s coming back to him: Her eyes narrowed and she cocked her head. “And you’ll counter that how? With a note from my parole agent attesting to the sincerity of my backslide?”

From Deep Deception: Genevieve Caine dropped the sedative cartridge and rushed forward to catch Natalia before she crashed to the floor. It was bad enough she’d just drugged the CMA agent; adding a concussion to the mix was not ideal.

Like me, you’re a family gal. Do you talk about the content of your books with your children and spouse? Do you let them read them?

I do talk to them about the books, though I leave out the more *ahem* adult content when talking with the kids. They know I write about people falling in love and having physical relationships, but we don’t go into details. My older daughter helped with some plot knots for Rulebreaker and the younger one came up with the title. My husband has been banned from making editorial suggestions ever since he said I should get rid of Liv’s mother in Rulebreaker ;) I do talk to him about some of the technical details of the world, and he has helped with a few plot issues. Oh, and he came up with the title to the book I have coming out in May J

I told my oldest she could read Rulebreaker when she turned 16, but I let her jump the gun a few months early. I don’t think she’s read Chapter 16 yet. Yes, it’s *that* sort of chapter.

Note to self: Go immediately to Chapter 16. What’s next for you, Cathy? *crosses fingers* Please tell me there are sequels or new series in the works. 

The third book set on Nevarro, Deep Deception, comes out from Carina in May. It’s another F/F featuring Natalia Hallowell (a Colonial Mining Authority agent who has minor roles in both Rulebreaker and Caught in Amber) and Genevieve Caine, who we meet in CiA. That will pretty much wrap up the Nevarro Bad Girls J

I’m currently working on a post-apocalyptic story set in Alaska, considering a couple of shorter pieces in the same universe if not the same planet as the three Nevarro novels (one with an intergalactic freak show as the setting, another with courier as the MC—inspired by my recent stint as a UPS driver).

There are gobs of plot bunnies gnawing at my brain and enough “under the bed” manuscripts of several ilks to keep me busy for a while. I just need to decide which to work on at any given moment.

I hear you on that. I’ve got Shiny New Ideas lined up around the block (the neighbors despise us). Thanks for stopping by, Cathy!

Thanks so very, very much for having me, Hillary!!! It’s been great fun J

Cathy has graciously offered a giveaway of an e-book copy of Caught in Amber to one lucky commenter. I'll draw the winner via Rafflecopter on February 6th, and announce the winner here and on twitter!

About the Author


Cathy Pegau lives in semi-far north, mostly soggy South Central Alaska with her husband, two daughters, cats, dogs and the occasional bear. She writes a variety of speculative fiction between stints as mom, wife, substitute teacher/aide and UPS driver.

***
Find her latest book Caught in Amber at:
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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 25, 2013

FRIDAY FOOD LOVE - TORTILLA-ENCRUSTED TILAPIA

I became slightly obsessed with tilapia when a friend recommended Kirkland Signature's (Costco) individually frozen loins. And no, it wasn't because of the word "loins".*

Nutritional Info

Tilapia isn't exactly an A-list fish, but it's low calorie, high protein and isn't strong-tasting so it's easy to prepare toward the flavor profile of your choice. It's not like we can eat salmon everyday. *looks around, realizes she's in Alaska* Okay, so some of us could, but it's not practical for most people.

Today we're doing Tortilla-Encrusted Tilapia. In the past, I've crusted this fish with panko, bread crumbs, herbed flour and oatmeal, but this was a first, and it was delightful!

TORTILLA-ENCRUSTED TILAPIA

3 tilapia loins
2 C corn chips
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t dried parsley
1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
1 egg
1 T V8 or milk (this is not a typo)
1/3 C flour
2 T canola oil


1. Defrost and dry the tilapia loins
2. Mix the next eight ingredients in a food processor until the largest pieces are no larger in diameter that a Monopoly house (not a hotel - don't get crazy)
3. Pour the corn chip mixture onto a plate and smooth out
4. Pour the flour onto a separate plate and smooth out
5. Mix the egg and V8 or milk together and pour onto a separate plate.
6. Heat the oil in a frying pan over med-high heat
7. Dredge the loins in flour, shaking off excess, then the egg, then the corn chip mixture, patting it to adhere
8. Place in pan and cook on one side for six minutes.
9. Roll the loins over and cook for another four to six minutes, or until fish flakes easily when pressed with a fork.
10. Serve

I paired mine with sauteed onions and red peppers cooked with cayenne pepper and hot sauce - separated for the sake of the child. It would also be good with pico de gallo or mango salsa, or used as the fish in fish tacos.




*It was a little bit - but no more than 6% - because of the word loins.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

MY MUSE IS AN A$$

Whenever I don't want to write, I remind myself that I'm going to die soon so I'd better get on it.

Then I remind myself that I'm dressed in scrubby pyjamas, just so that I don't get any wild ideas about living it up before I go. Or leaving the house at all, really.

This "tough inspirational" tactic works 100% of the time, 18% of the time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

CARNIEPUNK NEWS

Photo by Glen Edelson 

CARNIEPUNK is coming, and faster than anticipated. The release date has slithered up a week, from 7.30.13 to 7.23.13.

It has also, hidden out of sight, transformed itself from a mass market paperback that you can slip into the back pocket of your favorite coveralls to a big, beautiful trade paperback.

Pre-Order: Amazon     Barnes and Noble

Friday, January 18, 2013

FRIDAY FOOD LOVE - GUANCIALE

Guanciale is a pork product cured with both sweet and savory seasonings. It's similar to bacon or pancetta, but more complicated and - if this matters - made of pig jowl. Because, when you see the droopy cheek of a pig, isn't curing and eating it the first thing you think of?

It should be.

Through a series of events and decisions, mostly involving how difficult my husband is to shop for at Christmas and the existence of what's basically a sausage of the month club (thanks, Boccalone!), we ended up with a choice piece of guanciale.

the product in question

What do you do when you find yourself in possession of a new piece of meat? Find a Mario Batali recipe, of course, such as this one for Bucatini All'Amatriciana.



Bucatini (pierced hole - not like that, pervs) is a fabulous pasta: thick, toothy and a great conduit for sauce. The guanciale is delightful, blossoming into satisfying complexity with every bite. We paired it with a mourvendre, a smooth, dry red that nicely offset the slightly spicy sauce.


So, if you can get past the face part of the meal, it's absolutely delicious!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART

On the drive home from preschool tonight...

Child: Do you want something that I made extra special just for you?

Me: Sure.

Child: Here. *pretends to hand me something* It's a waffle.

Me: *pretends it's the most delicious waffle ever* Thank you! How did you cook this?

Child: I made it in my body.

Me: O.O ... You cooked it over your warm heart?

Child: Yes. That's how I cook food. Mostly soup, sometimes waffles. *pause* But it doesn't taste like blood.

Me: Good to know

Friday, January 11, 2013

FOOD LOVE FRIDAY

I'm hereby designating Friday as Food Love Friday.

Panzanella Salad


From the sweet to the savory, I shall endeavor to update the blog on (most) Fridays with a new, experimental or old favorite food.

If you have suggestions, something you're interesting in seeing cooked or explored, let me know. I can't promise I'll oblige every request (especially not if it's revolting, though I did eat pig face tonight, so I'm not uber-picky), but I'll try to fit some in.  And do try to remember that I'm in Alaska, where, when I was a kid, we only had two kinds of apple in the grocery store and had to drink POWDERED MILK. Powdered. Freaking. Milk.

No wonder I love food so much now.

Photo by Jeremy Keith

Monday, January 7, 2013

YOU SAY YOU WANT A RESOLUTION

Well, I'm fresh out.

Burned out, actually.

Or, I was.

I faltered at the end of last year, tripped over my writing feet and, for once, I didn't feel like getting back up. The last few beat-downs - rejections and reviews - had been too rough. I thought that, after countless nights and weekends, stolen moments over the course of hundreds of days, I might be done with writing.

That feeling didn't last long.

I started 2013 with a bang. Well, actually I started with an aggressive illness, but after that came the bang. Not writing is no longer an option for me. In a way I wish it was. I wish that I could walk away, frolic and go out, try on hobbies and laze about. But that's not going to happen. A friend asked if I was going to keep going, despite setbacks and disappointments, because I like it so much. That was the wrong question to ask.

You don't go all out, all the time, because you like something. You don't sacrifice fun, freedom, friends and years because you like something. You do it because you need it, because nothing else makes you feel quite like this. Even when your passion kicks you through the floor to a place lower than low, you climb back up and begin again. That's what love is.

That's also probably the definition of a deplorable addiction, but I'm in too deep to judge.


Photo By MatthiasKabel