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Eve Dallas is a terrible cop.

There, I’ve said it. I thought it the first time I read the series and as I wind my way through for the third time, it still strikes me as true. It’s not her ability to solve crimes that are at issue. As a detective, she’s very good, as she is written to be, and solves the crimes, gets her man/woman and throws them ‘in a cage’ at the end of every installment. This is her job, both as a detective and as the main character of an ongoing series of books. She’s entertaining which makes her fun to read about. She is an excellent example of a strong female character, one who has strengths aside from being able to beat up bad guys and being bitchy.

But gods in dark little holes, I’d never want to meet the woman myself. She’s a stone cold bitch who misuses her authority like nobody’s business. She browbeats damn near every person she meets from receptionists whose only crime was being there to the people she interviews. She is always using threats and harassment to get information she wants without a warrant and acts like people who want a warrant are the scum of the earth who do so as a personal slight to her. In the book I just finished, Holiday in Death, Eve thinks she knows who the killer is and makes his life hell for several days while she tries to pin the murders on him. She knows in her heart, which she admits to in the book, that she knows it’s not him, but has a personal reason for wanting it to be him anyway. She bullies him, uses illegal, warrant-less means to dig up dirt on him, threatens to destroy his life with information she knows about him and is eventually forced to let him go. In another scene she fails to indicate her change of lanes while driving, hits a cab and when the cab driver comes out and calls her on it, pointing out that her lights and siren were not on and that she didn’t use her indicator, she threatens him with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer and a few other things. And the cab driver was right! What makes it worse is that the people around her praise her for this kind of behavior and think she’s ‘iced’.

Eve Dallas is a bit of a Mary Sue. She’s a very readable and pretty entertaining one, but it can be annoying and distracting at times. I’m not going to lambast authors for writing wish fulfillment into some of their work. The idea that authors should avoid this at all costs is pure silliness. What’s the point of building a whole new world and creating new characters if you can’t have some fun with them? I don’t mind that Eve Dallas, Sookie Stackhouse, Bella Swan and any other female lead you want to add to this list, happens to be seen as hot by the male lead and maybe one or two others. That’s part of the fantasy. Men do it too, writing male leads that have women throwing themselves at him all over the place. Fine and dandy, but for the love of chocolate chip cookies, be subtle about it! You want to avoid readers rolling their eyes as much as possible. A few characters wanting to hump the female leads leg is fine, but when more than half of the men in the series want to hump their legs, you’ve gone to far. Balance is key.

And that’s what’s happened to Eve and her use of her authority. I want her to use it, I even want her to misuse it on killers, jerks and really annoying people, but she doesn’t. She’s a complete bitch who throws her weight around with pretty much every person she meets. We’re talking 90% here. No, I’m not kidding, she’s that bad. Yeah, she’s had a rough life and all, but it doesn’t really come back to bite her in the ass like it should. Instead, people throughout the series praise her to the hilt for it, which starts to get old if you read too many of the books back to back, which I keep doing. It starts to become book after book of Eve worship. She always talking about how she’s protecting and serving the people of NYC, but we really just see her abusing them most of the time.

Do I love the books? Yep! Do I think they could be better? Well yeah, but what book couldn’t be better? Eve has a lot going for her as a character and it outweighs her annoying parts. That’s one of the joys of reading books you love that have flaws. You get to find out why you love it anyway so you can make your own writing more compelling.

Write on~

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in All About Writing

 

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The softer side of Dragoncon.

2013 badgeI’ve been to a number of conventions, anime conventions, small SciFi cons, a gaming con or two and last year I went to Montreal Comicon. This was my first Dragon*Con and it really was unlike any other I’ve ever been to. It had its similarities, as all fan conventions do, but it was also quite different. Everyone knows it’s huge, filling five downtown Atlanta hotels to the brim, pretty much every other hotel in walking range and there are attendees scattered all over the city, from those who live in the area or stay with friends, to those who choose to stay in hotels farther away but accessible via the MARTA system. In 2012 52k people came to the con and this year, I was told by a staffer that they expected 60-65k. It sure felt like they hit that number on Saturday.

In terms of sheer size, it’s one of the biggest fan conventions in the world. I won’t lie, I’m not fond of large crowds. I don’t like going to concerts unless they are classical in nature, I don’t go to crowded bars, I avoid large parties, hate sporting events and try to stay home on Black Friday. And yet I went to Dragon*Con and loved it. I’m hoping to go back again next year, and someday want to be there as an author on a panel. (squee!) So how can someone so against crowds love this event? Well, I avoid the big stuff for the most part, and stick to the smaller panels. Not because I’m trying to avoid crowds, but because this con is so big that it has a ton of panels and many of them are pretty specific and niche. I spent most of my time in these smaller panels because these were the things that interested me the most, and it was like being at a small convention until you went outside to swim upstream like a spawning salmon to your next panel. We went to a few big ones, cast panels for the Walking Dead and BSG, which were in big ballrooms and had hour long lines. And there are plenty of those to be had. What you hear about Dragon*Con is how big it is, how crazy the costumes are, that there’s a big parade and huge parties every night. This is all true, but there’s a softer, quieter side to the con that few talk about. Not because it’s bad, but because it IS quiet and no one thinks that’s exciting. Unless, like a lot of us geeky people, you’re an introvert. You could easily spend the con going from one giant crowd of fans to another, hit the big dances and parties and have a blast if that’s your thing.

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If it’s not, you can have just as much fun on the softer side and never run out of things to do. This is the first convention I’ve been to that had me booked almost all day in one panel after another. We would get up at 7:30, get breakfast at the food court and be in the first set of panels for the day at 10am and not stop until the last panel at 10pm. I went to panels like ‘Magic and Mayhem: Witches in Urban Fantasy’, ‘Space Opera Then, Military SciFi Now’, ‘Down and Dirty Marketing for Authors’ and ‘Dragon Sex!’. Yes, Dragon Sex!. Let me explain that or this is going to turn into a very different blog. Dragon Sex! is a panel about the dragons of Pern from Anne McCaffrey’s best selling series. Apparently this panel started many years ago to answer questions for authors of fan fiction who submitted their work to fanzines. Yeah, remember those? While fanzines didn’t last, this panel did. You can ask anything you want about dragons mating and how their riders are affected and I mean anything. There was a discussion on green riders and who they had sex with, if you know what I mean. It’s held on Saturday night at 10pm and was the single funniest and most entertaining panel we saw.

And that’s one of the things that makes Dragon*Con so different from the other cons I’ve been to. It’s run by fans and doesn’t have corporate sponsors, unlike all the other big ones. Nothing against the sponsored cons, those are great too, but that does change the atmosphere a bit. The fans who run this shindig get to pick what panels to present, who’s on them and what to talk about. There are no outside sponsors to think about, no need to get approval or worry about offending the sponsors, or the sponsors customers. And Dragon*Con doesn’t court guests, guests court Dragon*Con. If you are famous in the genre as an author, actor, artist etc, you apply to be a guest. Dragon*Con wants guests who want to be there, not people who have to be there. (Apparently, George R.R. Martin will never attend because he hates it.) And the guests who come are also fans. I’ve never seen so many ‘guests’ at a con in all my life, from those who are known by a few fans to the very recognizable, they are all there. Again, without corporate sponsorship, Dragon*Con can have everyone and anyone who wants to be there, and a lot of people want to be there.

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If you have ever thought of going, but are put off by the con’s size, give it another look. Yes, Saturday is a crush, but only in the halls, and 90% of the people there are awesome. My husband and I sat next to a random con goer for lunch in the food court, ended up chatting with him the whole meal, as with any other con you’ve ever been to. It’s a giant club and everyone there is into what you are on some level. But be warned, getting a hotel can be hard..

 

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Gluten Free Hazelnut Meringue Ganache cookies

I’ve been playing with this meringue for the last month now and I just keep making it. I originally found it as part of a cake recipe that I made and was struck by how good the meringue was all by itself. Frankly, the cake was a bit of a pain in the butt to make and I did it twice. The cookies are much easier and can be eaten alone, or with a decadent ganache filling! Bonus, this is a low sugar recipe and each cookie sandwich is only 200 cals. Win, win and win!

The only drawback to these is that they are time consuming, so plan accordingly. Better to make them the day before you want them and on a day when you won’t need your oven. The meringue will sit in there for 3 hours, but they will not need any attention other than turning the oven off once. Still worth it!

Ingredients:

Meringue:
1 Cup Hazelnuts, roasted (I bought them raw and roasted them myself the day I made this.)
1 Tablespoon coconut flour
1/3 Cup Truvia baking blend (or 1 Cup regular sugar)
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt if using unsalted nuts

Ganache:
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
6 oz unsweetened baking chocolate chopped
1/3 Cup Truvia baking blend (or 2/3 to 1 Cup regular sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 oz Frangelico (I used one little sample bottle, like you get in hotel mini bars)

Parchment paper, jar cover, marker and a 2 greased cookie sheets


Undress your nuts (take the dark brown papery cover off of them) and put them in a food processor. Process until it looks like corn meal.


Add to it 1/2 of the sugar, the coconut flour and salt. Pulse once or twice just to get it all mixed up.


On the parchment paper, draw circles with the market and a jar top. My jar top was just over 2.5 inches across and I got 24 meringue wafers, which is what I based my calorie count on. You can make them as big or as little as you want really, but the larger ones are more fragile. Basically, you want a generous inch of uncooked meringue thickness or the cookies will just fall apart on you. Put this sheet INK DOWN on the greased cookie sheet. You want there to be enough butter on the sheet to hold the parchment paper down. I had to use two cookie sheets.


Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Now whip the snot out the egg whites! Okay, maybe just whip them to soft peaks, then add the other half of the sugar and THEN whip the snot out of them! Once they get firm peaks, fold in the nut mixture, until fully incorporated.


Preheat the oven to 250. Spread the meringue on the cookie sheet in the little circles. Try to keep the thickness about even through the whole cookie and between the cookies. These do not spread out like regular cookies, so if you want even cookies at the end, they need to be even in the beginning. Put these in the oven, preferably on the same rack, and bake for 90 minutes. At the end of 90min, turn the oven off and leave them in there for another 90min. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN FOR THIS 3 HOURS! Apparently, the world will end if you do, so just don’t. It is written.


After three hours, take them out and let them cool for 20-30 min before you mess with them. Now to the ganache!


Chop up the chocolate and put in a mixing bowl. In a small sauce pan, combine heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Slowly heat to a boil, stirring to keep from scalding the cream. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate, stir with a spatula and let sit for 10 min. Using the paddle, mix the chocolate until smooth, then either let it sit until it cools, or put it, paddle and all, in the fridge for 10-15min to cool. Pull it out and mix on medium or so until it starts to thicken. Lower the speed and slowly add the 2oz/small bottle of Frangelico. Otherwise, you will wear the Frangelico. (Yes, I’ve done that before, but it was years ago. Mostly.)


While the ganache is chilling or mixing (it has a better social life than I do), pour your meringue a drink! Peel the cookies off the parchment paper and brush the bottoms with more Frangelico or chocolate liquor. I used creme de cacao because I only had the little bottle of Frangelico and it went in the ganache. YUM! This adds moisture and flavor. While awesome, the meringue cookies can be a little dry, so this helps.

Don’t let the ganache get too thick or you’ll break the cookies trying to spead it. If it is too thick, just put the bottom of the bowl in warm water to melt it back down again. I try for the consistency of greek yogurt. It will thicken as it sits, but should smooth out if you just mix it for a few seconds again. Put a dollop on a cookie, spead, and add another cookie. You should have too much ganache unless you go nuts with it, so don’t be stingy, but the chocolate is powerful. Try a blob of this stuff in a cup of coffee when you’re done cooking. Mocha delight!


Voila! Cookies sandwiches! I put these in the fridge overnight to get them set, then took them out the next day to warm.

 

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Clean your Coffee Maker!

Today was coffee maker cleaning day. Yes, that means what it says, I spent time fully cleaning my coffee maker to with in an inch of its poor life. Why you ask? Because coffee residue will build up and the coffee you make will progressively taste more and more bitter if you don’t. I’m not a fan of bitter coffee, I like it rich and smooth, so I take time to clean the machine. In fact, I have quite a little ritual to make sure my coffe stays tasting as good as that first cup I made when the maker was new.

My daily routine: Before I make my first cup of the day, I rinse the carafe and the top then rinse out the basket the filters rest in. I never leave the maker on but turn it off as soon as the water is done going through. Leaving it on will just cook the coffee and make it taste terrible unless you are at a coffee house and the stuff is turned over very quickly.

Weekly: I wash the carafe and filter basket with detergent and water. I wipe down the burner, inside, outside, the spot where the basket rests and run a full pot of hot water through, just for a hot rinse.

Once every month or two: This is a little more involved, which would seem a little annoying to most people, but we don’t have a dishwasher. I AM the dishwasher so I just do this while washing a sink load, so it doesn’t take much more effort and the results are worth it. I wash the carafe and basket, then fill the reservoir with hot water and just a touch of detergent. I run that through the system for a few moments, to clean that part, then use a toothbrush and scrub out the reservoir. Rinse. I ad a little vinegar to a cup of water and run that through. This helps to clean out any soap, stains, left over odd flavors and such. Vinegar is a wonderful thing. Rinse again and then run two full pots of clean water through the whole thing. Voila, a perfectly clean coffee maker! Yes, it seems like a long process, but the few times I’ve done this solo, while not washing dishes, it only took about 10 min or so.

“But I have a Keurig!” You say triumphantly. That doesn’t mean the machine can’t get guncked up by old coffee, it just means there’s less to clean. Anything that coffee goes through or sits in should be cleaned regularly, so that spot you put the little cup in needs a good cleaning as much as any other coffee machine.

If you use a french press, the same applies. Clean that bad boy regular like. And for the tea drinkers, you should do this too, but you have less to clean. I have a wonderful steeping screen and I wash that in detergent once a month as well. It has the exact same problem as coffee, oils from the leaves will build up on the screen/tea ball and make the tea taste more and more bitter. If you have a dishwasher, just toss it in there once in awhile and you should be fine.

Happy drinking!

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Food, On a Personal Note

 

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On Having Lists

As writer and a dyslexic one at that, I am all about organizing, categorizing and filing. I have piles and lists and scraps of paper with important tidbits written on them. I have notebooks, and binders, folders and loose leaf paper by the sheaves. It’s something we do naturally as humans, we find ways of categorizing things, putting them in groups for easier assimilation by the computers in our heads. And it’s a tricky thing, because the slot we put things into isn’t always the ideal one, but we do our best, and as long as we remember that this is a tool and not a hard and fast rule, we’ll do okay by it.

My husband and I watched Avengers again this weekend, second time for him and third time for me and I was struck anew by the excellence of the movie. I commented that this movie is now on my top ten list of all time favorites and he agreed. It was a throw away line in a way because while I was sincere, the meaning of what I had said didn’t really sink in until I was laying in bed this morning, luxuriating in warm husband and warm blankets.

How would I really make a list of my favorite 10 movies of all time? What criteria would I use? Over all excellence of story telling? Most compelling characters? Most immersive? Could I count whole trilogies as a single entry? Star Wars and Lord of the Rings would make my list, as would all the Indiana Jones movies and right there I’ve used up nine slots and there are other movies I would just have to add. The Dark Crystal, The Dark Knight, and The Last Unicorn come to mind, so how to choose? Heck, I would toss Gladiator on there too if I had room simply because I love so much about that movie that I re-watch it regularly. And the beleaguered Sucker Punch as well. Honestly I like everything Zack Snyder has done. When it comes to mood and sheer artistry, that man is amazing.

See the problem I’m running into now? Too much good stuff to choose from. So maybe I’d have to break it up by genre and pick my top 10 that way. But what about those movies that straddle the line? Like Starship Troopers, which yes, I love because it’s awesome. I could put that in Sci-Fi or satire. I guess, since my satire list would be light and Sci-Fi brimming with entries I could put it there, but is that fair? Aren’t I playing games with the lists now? And they can’t really be definitive because tastes change, new movies come along that shuffles the whole list around and just time of year can effect how I’d rate them.  Star Trek IV is still my favorite Star Trek movie and sometimes I forget about it because it’s so old.

So in the end, I guess I don’t have a top ten, I just have a list in my head of movies that I love. I’ll call that enough, because for me it really is. Putting them in order is less important than being able to articulate WHY they are on the list in the first place. And yes, Inglorious Bastards is on my list too. My husband likes Kill Bill more, but I think Inglorious Bastards and Django are better. I mean come on, any movie that can make a scene of people drinking milk so tense you can’t breath has got to rank. And they killed Hitler! (fan girl moment)

I can tell you that I am old enough now to follow directors and writers and here’s my list. Nolan, Tarantino, Whedon, Snyder. I’ll see anything these guys touch, even tangentially. Somehow this post went off the rails there. Sorry, but it is Sunday after all. Stay tuned for meringue cookies later in the week. And my flash fiction, which will have the word Hitler in it. There, all tied together, even if the knot is super messy.

And Chinatown is a terrible movie.  Just terrible.

 

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Bicycle seats weren’t made with lady bits in mind.

I was reminded of this fact last night. When I joined my gym, I had been biking around the neighborhood for the last month or so. My bike has one of those really big squishy seats with the short…protrusion. That made my first round of spin classes a little less traumatic, since I was far more used to the tiny torture devices they put on exercise bikes and expect us to use.

I was reminded painfully of that fact. I took my first spin class after a seven month hiatus and my lady bits are not pleased, and my butt isn’t speaking to me right now. I had completely forgotten how awful they are. By the end of the class, I stopped doing the sprints altogether and just focused on staying on the bike til the end of class.

Men generally have much smaller butts than us women, which accounts for the extra trim width of the seat. And they have a muscle running from the…bum button to the base of their…man bits which acts as a cushion between the seat and their hipbone. Girls don’t have that muscle. Nope, just a bone and lady bits. With all our weight on that tiny seat, which do you think suffers? Exactly.

There are seats out now that are made by Schwinn and I’m going to get one, bring it to class and install it on my bike of choice for the duration of the class. At the end, I will replace said torture device for the next sap to use. I’m already there to beat myself into a quivering sweaty mess, I don’t need to kill my ability to sit for a week while I’m at it.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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Raw Milk > Vitamin C

I started drinking raw milk late last year, some time between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It took a tiny bit of getting used to, it costs more and I can’t get it at my regular grocery store.

But it is worth it! Since I’ve been drinking it, I feel so much better. I drink more milk, get hungry less often and I haven’t had a full cold or flu all winter. It’s better at cold prevention than vitamin C. Normally I get sick at least twice for a good week because of my husbands job. He spends his days in an office which is bad enough, but he also teaches other engineers how to use engineering software a week or two most months. Those other engineers come in sick all the time, being very generous with their wonderful diseases. So he brings it home, and we get to content with the little viruses for a few days. We can feel it coming on a day or two after exposure, a vague feeling of unwellness, fatigue, a slight fever. We have this for a day or three and then we’re good. No runny nose, coughing, sneezing, aching, stuffy headed misery for a week. Now, I’ve had to have days like that four or five times this year, but it beats the hell out of being sick for four or five weeks this year.

I’ve always been pretty healthy, but there was a notable change in our health this year when every year before that I would get sick at least once, but usually twice. And the Hubby usually gets sick far worse, loosing days of work to this nonsense. Part of it is recognizing it early and taking precautions, such as taking a day off to sit at home eating, sleeping and watching movies, so our bodies can fight it off. That helps a lot. better one or two days down, than a week or more of misery. We also let the low fevers rage without medicating. The body is trying to kill the virus and they do that by cooking them out, let the fever go!

But even with all that, this year has been clearly far more disease free. How does raw milk help you ask? Part of it is that raw milk has live bacteria and enzyme that take up residence in the digestive track and help out there, making you far more resistant to other nasties. Those new tenants also break down the milk far more efficiently so your body can actually use whats in the milk. The other part is that raw milk is very high in Vitamin D, which we are low on in the winter months. Pasteurized milk kills the good microbes and homogenization changes the molecular structure of the milk, making it far harder for the body to absorb the good stuff in it.

And the benefits of milk fat are enormous. It helps cut down on the amount of fat you store in your belly, mine is noticeably flatter now, it’s a good fat that the body can use for energy, skin and hair moisture and it has a lot of the vitamin D the body needs and calcium.

Pasteurizing made sense when we didn’t have refrigeration and bad stuff got in the milk, but it’s become the way to go, even though it isn’t really necessary anymore. If anything, it allows the dairies to be less clean because they are just going to cook the milk anyway. The farm my milk comes from is clean, has only grass fed cows that are the older genetic lines, and their milk is amazing. Pasteurized milk just tastes gross to me now.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in Just to be Random

 

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