Please update your links. My new blog is here:
Please update your links. My new blog is here:
According to UPS, which claims it will have it on my doorstep on April 3rd, it's right there in beautiful downtown Shenzhen with an ORIGIN SCAN and just this morning, BILLING INFORMATION RECEIVED!
Jay Lake posted a good one on an email he received about Kindle users boycotting books over $9.99, and the resulting comment thread was enlightening and somewhat weird.
Here's my comment:
I think it's crazy to think that "almost all Kindle users honor the $9.99 boycott of digital books." I have a Kindle and a Sony and the Kindle Reader on my iPhone. I buy textbooks, programming books, many books over $9.99 for my Kindle. Most of the Kindle users I know also buy books $10 and up. Maybe the boycott only applies to fiction?
The "no publishing costs" error is also common. Time is money, and I know how much time it takes to convert, test, review any book that goes from one format into another--and the crazy things that happen to characters, line-spacing, paragraph styling, chapter headings, tables of contents, when books are fed through automated converters. It's a costly process.
I'm wondering if what's really happening here with the pricing is that Green is out in hardcover, and Tor wants to drive buyers to it. Seems like good sense to me. Tor can, at any time, go in and change the Kindle price to suit the market, to suit the shift to a new edition, to suit any ebook strategy they're working. It's not like the book price is printed on the cover. It's changeable.
Here's what I know about item pricing for the Kindle:
A publisher can set any price between USD $0.99 and $200, and the publisher will always receive a set percentage of that suggested retail price, even if the product is sold at a promotional price by Amazon. The standard is 35%, but I imagine the big pubs negotiate a far better rate.
What color is your thumb? Are you brilliant green,
a desert-maker, are you a Wednesday Addams sort of gardener (poisons and irritants),
flowers only, veggies only, wildflowers, weeds? If you don't garden, what would be your ideal place for plants if you did? Forget time, money, land--say you had everything you'd need to get started on whatever particular green leafy adventure you like.
Alice is the gardener in the family, not me, but I'm pretty sure I can take care of plants. The question is what would I want in a garden? I'm leaning toward seaweeds, probably brown algae like Macrocystis sp.--I mean, if you're going to grow something--and there's no limit on cost, make it different, right? And by "different" I mean make it the "fastest linear growth of any organism on earth." (Stop it. No, there's no deeper meaning here. I just think giant kelp is cool. Okay, I can't resist. Two words: Kelp Spam).
Alice is not only the gardener, she's also the most devastating Plants vs Zombies game player out there. (In deep zombie dens around the world, the name "Alice" is spoken with awe. Zombie kings fear her, zombie children are threatened with her name and gardening skills). Me? I'm a newb. I played my first game ever last night, spent about two hours hooked, and dropped a ton of zombies, even a few of those bastards with screen-door shields. Eat mushroom poison, zombies!
If you haven't played, check it out here: http://www.popcap.com/extras/pvz/ and also try the "Zombator" which lets you create funny what-if-you-were-a-zombie avatar images like the guy up on the top left--yeah, that's me as a zombie. Yes, of course I'd dye my hair a cool purple and wear nothing but black turtleneck sweaters. You think I'd stop being a writer just because I'm undead?
I posted a while back on the subject of using real world residences in your fiction:
If you're writing in this world and not some other, do you have real places in mind when you write something like, Joe turned left at Nor'east Lane, and made his way down the sandy path to his cottage on the beach? And is it ever a real place? Some place you like? Your favorite house in the world?
Do your characters live somewhere nearby? Are you neighbors? Maybe a better question: would you like to be?
For the longest time, one of my main characters, Kassandra, has lived in a great big house at the end of Atlantic Avenue in North Hampton, New Hampshire. I've had a particular house in mind from the beginning, a place in Little Boars Head, one of my favorites along the coast of New Hampshire. All completely fictional, of course, but this is the house I imagine when I need to think about where Kassandra lives.
We were renting a place in North Hampton for a couple years, and all of this seaborn stuff comes from that too short a time when I could hear--from any open window--the Atlantic tides coming in.
...and anyone else who's looking for a recipe that's not going to force you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. The idea is that you can have plenty of time to write and make a delicious meal. The key is to make stuff that doesn't take long to prep, but takes an hour or more to rise, cook, set, steep, etc., so you're in your chair at the keyboard making up worlds and killing off characters. All you have to do is listen for the timer.
I'm going to make a versatile pizza dough that you can use for any kind of tasty flatbread kind of treat or meal. I'll save the what-do-you-put-on-the-pizza? question for another post. (I did add a Quick Start Guide at the end with simple instructions for baking fresh pizza dough).
You can do a lot with this dough. You can make plain flat bread--think of it as a thick tortilla or naan like bread. You can make focaccia, basically a flattish bread with some interesting stuff on top, olive oil, green onions, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto and cheese.
This dough also keeps well in the fridge for days--I'd say up to four, although no batch has ever lasted that long. (TIP: The dough's actually easier to work with--roll out--the second day, so if you have the time, make this recipe the day before you plan to use it). If you want to have pizza tonight, I'd recommend starting the dough no later than 1:00 PM or so. Even though total prep and rise time (you're writing during two hour-long rise times) is around 2 hours and fifteen minutes, you should probably let the finished dough sit in the fridge another couple hours.
Let's start with the tools you'll need. In spite of one book review in which I'm referred to as Ms. Howard (I think the reviewer assumed that I was a woman since my novel Seaborn has two strong female protagonists, and it's published under an imprint that's very much geared toward female readers). In fact, I'm a guy, so I'm going to start with tools.
You don't need a lot. I've tried several mixers, and you know what? I think they all worked well enough for this recipe. However, if you can get a stand mixer like a KitchenAid, you will not regret it. My wife bought me the manly gray KitchenAid several years ago, and it makes everything easier.
And here are the only other tools you will need: a table spoon measure, a one cup (or half cup as shown here) to measure the flour, and a flexible spatula of some kind.
Flour, yeast, and then it's pretty free after that. I recommend this ingredient list:
2 cups warm water
3 cups Flour (I like a mix of 2.5 cups unbleached all-purpose and .5 cup whole wheat)
2 tbls Yeast (doesn't matter what kind, RapidRise or the regular old stuff)
1 tsp Olive oil (used later in the bowl to stop the dough from sticking)
1 tbls Cornmeal
1 tbls Spices
1 tbls Parmesan cheese (optional)
Before doing anything, I turn on the oven for a minute or so, and then turn it off, leaving the oven light on. We're going to let our dough rise in the oven. Keep the oven off after the initial minute warm-up, but leave the light on--and leave it on the entire time we're letting the dough rise. That's important. The oven works because it's out of the way, and it's a box in which we can maintain a somewhat consistent environment. If you're in a warm climate, you probably won't need to do this, but this what it looks like outside our window:
Just to jump back to guys and tools for a moment. I know the barbeque is the typical guy cooking thing, but what can you do when it's 12 below outside? Baking is the cool wintertime cooking activity because, well, here's what the barbecues look like--and not that I can barbecue that well. Alice is way better at it than I am. Okay, moving on.
Here we go:
STEP 1: Mix all the dry ingredients.
Use a measuring cup to put in 3 cups of flour. (If you're doing this for the first time, don't mix anything. I would not recommend starting out with whole wheat flours because they complicate the rising process. Get a few successful pizza doughs made, and then start playing with other stuff. Use plain old unbleached all-purpose flour. I use King Arthur from Vermont, but I haven't had problems with any of the name brands).
I put in the flour first, then the cornmeal (which I think gives pizza dough a traditional flavor), spices (I like Penzeys Pizza Seasoning (basically Italian herbs with some pepper) and a little "Sandwich Sprinkle" but you can use any off the shelf Italian herb mix), and some Parmesan cheese.
Note on the yeast: you can prep it in a separate bowl, a tsp of sugar and hot water for 10-15 minutes, letting it foam up, but I like to mix it in dry. It's just easier, and works as well.
Here's a shot of the bowl with all the dry ingredients:
Next, you're going to work with the most beautiful, the most powerful, the most life-sustaining substance in the universe. Yeah, it's water. (<plug>See Seaborn for more on my opinions on this </plug>)
Put 2 cups of water in a measuring cup and microwave it for 1 minute. It needs to be pretty hot, somewhere around 120 - 130 degrees F (around 50 - 55 degrees C). I typically don't use a thermometer on the water. Stick your finger in it. It shouldn't be so hot that it's uncomfortable. If that's where your water is, then you're good.
NOTE: Bread baking can be difficult and unforgiving. Think of it as chemistry as much as cooking. For the most part bread recipes have to be followed exactly if what you're after is bread instead of mush or bricks. Experimenting is difficult because one ingredient--say a spice mixture with salt--can kill the yeast and you won't get anything but some not very pleasant tasting goo as result. Simple is the way to go. I've learned the hard way, throwing out mix after mix of dough.
That said, this recipe shouldn't give you too many problems if you keep the ingredients to a minimum. In the mixing stage, don't be afraid to add a bit of flour if the mix looks too wet, or a little more warm water if it's dry.
STEP 2: Mixing
Stick the bowl in the mixer, use the dough hook attachment, and turn it on low for 5 or 6 minutes. Add about half the water (1 cup). While it's going, use the spatula to scrape the sides and get the dough into the center. It will look very dry--too dry--for a minute. Add a little more water, and keep the dough moving off the sides of the bowl. You shouldn't need any more than 2 cups of water to 3 cups of flour. Keep some extra of each handy, but don't use it unless it's really not coming together.
This is where the stand mixer makes things easier. It does all the work, and I just stand there shoving the spatula along the bowl walls. The dough should eventually come together in a thick doughy--heh--lump. Let the mixer go for a few minutes after this, using the spatula to bend and shape the dough, otherwise the lump just spins around the bowl and doesn't do any more mixing.
When it's done mixing, you should have something that looks like this on the end of the dough hook:
Pull the bowl from the mixer and toss in a bit of flour to thinly coat the dough. Roll it around--use your hands, and it should end up like this:
Stick it in the very slightly warm oven with the light on. You can transfer it to a ceramic bowl, but I usually do the first rise in the original stainless steel mixing bowl.
Set the timer for an hour, and get back to your story. Write. Write. Write. You're done for now.
STEP 3: The timer goes off.
We're done with the first rise. My bowl of dough looks like this, and yours should--hopefully--look similar:
The top of the dough might be a little crusty. Don't worry about it. Don't scrape it off. It won't be a problem. We're just going to fold it into the mix where it'll soften up.
For next step, we need to get the dough away from the sides of the bowl without sticking, and then we're going to punch it down. Take half a handful of flour and sprinkle it around the edges. Then lift away the dough. It should all come away neatly. Let it roll in the dry flour to coat it.
Let's punch it down, which involves pressing the dough, folding it in half, and pressing it again. I use my open hands and fists to punch the dough. You don't need to get all Ultimate Fighting on it, but you do need to work it, roll it, folding it, and pressing it together.
I do all of this right in the mixing bowl. You can get the dough out on a flat surface if it's easier for you, but to me that's one fewer thing I have to clean up afterward. Do it in the mixing bowl.
When you're done punching down the first rise, it should pretty much look like we're starting over again. That's good.
Time for the olive oil--just a little. I pour about a teaspoon into a ceramic mixing bowl and use my hands to coat the bowl. Stick the punched down dough inside and shove it back in the oven for another hour.
Don't stand around the kitchen. Go write or something!
STEP 4: After the second rising
Oh yeah. Isn't that beautiful:
You're pretty much done now. Sprinkle some flour around the edges, pull it up and punch the dough down one more time. Now give it another light coat of flour to prevent sticking and slide the whole thing in a gallon ZipLock or Glad bag. Refrigerate until you're ready to use the dough. (Keep an eye on it. It will continue to rise even in the fridge).
This is enough dough for 4 dinner plate sized individual pizzas.
Quick Start Guide:
I won't go into the actual pizza making--saving that for another post. Here's the general idea:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (232 C)
Cut off a piece of dough around the size of a baseball
Use a rolling pin or just your hands (floured) to flatten it into a disk. Make it as thin or thick as you like.
Place the pizza round on a sheet of parchment paper (NOT waxpaper). I like to place the sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet without walls--basically a flat sheet of metal. This makes it easy to slide the parchment paper with prepared pizza off the cookie sheet and right onto the oven rack.
Add sauce, olive oil, cut green onions, pepperoni, cheese, whatever you want.
Place the parchment paper sheet with pizza directly on the oven rack.
Bake for 5 minutes, enough to allow the crust to crisp up a bit, then slide it off the parchment paper right onto the rack. I re-use the sheets of parchment paper--they'll turn brown with the heat, but they still work.
Total baking time is around 10-12 minutes for each pizza.
I'll follow up in another post with some interesting, fun, tasty pizza recipes.
If you have questions, comment below or email me.
Oh, hey. Turn off the oven light.
...and one of them is the Terminator.
I received this the other day:
Phytotoxins! Cool! Cool, if you're writing about them.
Here's a list of poisonous plants with the parts that contain the toxins and symptoms.
Anyone up for tea?
"An astounding batch of new deep-sea discoveries, from strange shark behavior to gigantic bacteria, was announced today by an international group of 2,000 scientists from 82 nations."
I've read about some of this research like the White Shark diving, but I think things like "giant, filamentous, multi-cellular marine bacteria" are going to be cooler discoveries for science.
Five frightening classic tales--all written by women--that should send a shiver or two down your spine.
FIVE CLASSIC GHOST STORIES: A HALLOWEEN TREAT FROM JUNO BOOKS includes "Let Loose" by Mary Cholmondeley (1890), "The Striding-Place" by Gertrude Atherton (1896), "The Lost Ghost" by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903), "Kerfol" by Edith Wharton (1916) and "Spunk" by Zora Neale Hurston (1925).
Download now: http://www.juno-books.com/