Archive for July, 2011

When you have your second child, everything seems easier than the first time around. (Assuming, of course, an uncomplicated delivery/arrival and a healthy baby.) At least, that’s how it has seemed in this household. We already had the gear, the clothing and the myriad little baby care gizmos that the modern world provides and that somehow the generations before ours did without. We already knew what was normal and what was not. We had perspective—the 6-8 pm witching hours really don’t last forever! We had the infrastructure and the general life-schedules that were already tailored to small-scale humans and their needs.

Not so with the second book. No no no, not at all. We’re starting from scratch here. You’d think that having spent 8 years writing one novel, I’d have an idea as to how to begin another. And yet I find myself reaching up into my shelves to pull out my writing-related books. Surely one will tell me how to go about creating a main character, no? Somewhere I must have a how-to-write-a-novel book, right? Internet, come to my rescue!

And then there’s another issue. No pun intended. What “should” I be writing, from a publishing career standpoint? Should I stick to the same genre as book one? Is it ok to try to publish something completely different? I have another project, a collection of linked short stories, which I’m having fun writing. They are diametrically opposed to my first book. For one, they are short stories, not a novel. They are set right near where I live, not thousands of miles away. They take place now, not five hundred years ago. And best of all for me, they don’t involve any research. I have the complete freedom to just write. Don’t get me wrong, I love the research I do for historical fiction, but it’s also refreshing and liberating to be able to write a scene without looking up what type of bird lives in such and such desert, and what material homes were made in at a certain time and place. I get to exercise an entirely different writing muscle. But, I worry. If I’m lucky enough for my first book to see reasonable success, if the public receives it warmly, am I tempting fate by trying to feed it something entirely different? And then, how much should I care about this? Shouldn’t I just write what’s in my heart, and not worry about how much it makes sense from a career standpoint? Ack!

My agent is encouraging. She suggests drafting a paragraph on Book 2 of my sort-of-series for her to include with her pitch to editors, and meanwhile she is encouraging about short stories, saying she’d be glad to help me place them for publication. A woman after my own heart, pursuing multiple angles at once. And so, here we go. Launching Project 2 and Project 3 (or, more realistically, Project 58 and Project 59) simultaneously. Wish me luck! In the meantime, fingers crossed that we send out the first manuscript on sub to editors next month.

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I skipped the second one, in part because it was a busy week, and in part because I don’t think I managed to make anything particularly scintillating with the contents. But since my report on the first box resulted (strangely) in the most hits on this site (all very small-scale of course) in a single day, I figured I might as well post the following one. Plus I’m very excited for the food we are prepping for a gathering of friends at our place tomorrow which will feature many of the items.

Onions: we are inundated with them. Sweet Vidalia onions. Giving them away to friends and neighbors. However, I did use some with a good chard recipe. I liked that the recipe included chopping and using the chard ribs, which came out both sweet and slightly crunchy. Quick and yummy.

Green peppers: sliced and laid out on a bed of semi-cooked potatoes underneath a delightfully fresh haddock from the farmer’s market, then popped together in the oven as per this recipe, with charmoula sauce. A hit for everyone from age 13 months to… well, to the parents.

Chard: see Onions above.

Blueberries: the BEST recipe. Hand box to neighbor and, about two hours later, receive a tart. I suppose I could ask her for the recipe, but really, why?

Rhubarb: cooked down into a compote and served with pork tenderloin with a fennel seed and sage rub. Fabulous! The baby was all over this. And vice versa, by the time she was done.

Zucchini and summer squash: sliced lengthwise, tossed with olive oil, fleur de sel, fresh ground pepper and herbes de Provence, then roasted. Served with above-mentioned pork tenderloin.

Dandelion greens: Simple salad with feta and a lemon-based dressing. Thanks, Mark Bittman.

Watermelon (from a partner farm in Georgia): It has spent a few days hanging around our floor like the family pet, and serving as a toy for the baby, who derives great enjoyment out of thwacking it with both hands and watching it roll around. At the moment it is wearing her sun hat. (She also can spend long periods of time rummaging through our laundry basket, alternating between pulling our unmentionables out and then piling them back in, and occasionally pausing to chew on a sock. Don’t worry, this is laundry that has come out of the dryer. She actually doesn’t discrimate between the clean and the dirty, but her parents do draw the line somewhere.) Anyway, back to the watermelon. We’re expecting 16 children between the ages of 1 and 10 tomorrow (with accompanying responsible adults), and I suspect they’ll make short shrift of the watermelon.

Beet greens and collards: Being cooked down tomorrow morning with a large quantity of collards, according to a recipe titled “Your Mama’s basic greens” in Holy Smoke! The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue. Accompanying North Carolina pulled pork with Carolina dip and Carolina slaw, and home made BBQ sauce, all adapted from Holy Smoke. (It’s 9:30 pm and the smoker has been lit, in preparation for some overnight smokin’. The chef is trimming the pork butts, and punching some holes in an empty bean can to rig some kind of cover for the chimney in case the forecast of thunderstorms overnight ends up being accurate.) To be supplemented with grilled lemon-lime chicken, for those who for whatever reason have sworn off the pig.

Eggplant and fennel: waiting to be used.

Happy Fourth, folks.

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