Monday, October 26, 2015

The annual Epcot pig-out...

Pikachu Skull!

Much as I like to pretend I attend the Epcot International Food Festival every year, it was more apparent than ever, this year, that I attend a food & wine festival. To put a finer point on it: It's the Epcot Food, Wine, & Beer Festival.

Drunks all over the place. They wear matching t-shirts so they can find one another in their stupors.

Not only were there plenty of drunks in the park, it was a school holiday. Yay! So, not only were there tired (many sleeping, a few screaming--but can you blame them?) babies and toddlers, the park was arun* with school aged kids in their princess dresses and Star Wars apparel.

It was a gloriously typical day at Disney World: crowded, hot, and buzzing.

I arrived with my handy, annotated printout, ready to eat.

So low tech

And this year, I brought some plastic storage boxes and wax paper for leftovers.

The foodie kit

It didn't work all that well. The boxes were too large to fit easily into my purse, and of course they had to go in sideways. But I only brought home the leftovers of a chicken sausage with polenta, and some duck. In another box, I brought home a candy and a cheesecake (neither of which looked like their names suggested) to eat at home. I think I'll skip out on this step next year. Not worth it.

So...what did I eat? Let's get started.

First stop, Scotland! Yes! I was looking forward to more haggis with neeps and tatties (mashed rutabaga and mashed potatoes). We also got the potato pancake with smoked salmon, the seared scallop with spinach cheddar gratin and the Tipsy Laird, a whiskey soaked cake. Oh, my! It was all scrumptious!

I think that's my ghostly hand in the bottom right of the picture. Anyway, the description of the haggis this year said "traditional," but at the booth, it said "vegetarian." So, I'm thinking I still haven't had true haggis. It was so yummy, with just a tad bit of liver taste to it. Reminds me of scrapple. Love me some scrapple. The spinach cheddar gratin was so-so--cheesy with a grassy aftertaste; I wouldn't eat it all by itself, but it paired nicely with the scallop and bacon crumbles.

The smoked salmon was a bit rubbery, but tasty, and the potato pancake was, I'm sorry to say, bland. I make potato pancakes with garlic salt, so that's the problem. I like a spicy potato.

The Tipsy Laird was fabulous! It was topped with a raspberry and included a bit of raspberry jam at the bottom of the cup. Because Hubs doesn't like raspberry, I had to eat most of it. I know. Awful. <snark>

After Scotland, I wondered if I was going to be able to eat much of anything else. I did my best!

Next up was Dominican Republic. We had to try the souffle de yuca, topped with "griddle cheese." We also went with the pescado con coco--seared grouper, pigeon peas and rice, with coconut sauce-- and the caramel flan with rum-roasted pineapple.

That mushroom-looking thing on the left is the griddle cheese.

I had high hopes for this meal because I was reminded of the Puerto Rico booth from last year with its fried plantains and caramel flan with the chocolate crust. Dominican Republic appears to have taken Puerto Rico's spot this year and it was a great disappointment.

The yuca souffle was akin to unseasoned mashed potatoes. The "griddle cheese" on top of it, which I can only describe as a cheese pancake, was wonderful, however. The pigeon peas and rice tasted like the Spanish rice you can make out of a packet you get at Publix and the grouper, well, it was fish, so...not much to it.

The flan...what can I say. It had a condensed, stringy texture to it, not at all like I remember last year's treasure. Maybe stringy isn't the right word...rope-y. Like thick ropes of pudding...soft pasta! That's it. It was like eating hard bland strips of pudding with a slight pineapple taste. I didn't like it. So sad.

On to Canada! Oh, Canada! We skipped the filet mignon with invisible (and un-taste-able) truffles a la last year and went for the chicken sausage with creamy polenta and Minus 8 onion jam.

Can you say nom nom? Nom, nom! The sausage was spicy as all get out. Woot! And the creamy polenta was sweet. I tried to eat it all, but I was already starting to get full and I knew I had a lot more to sample. As to the Minus 8 onion jam. Didn't like that at all. It made me shudder. What the heck was that? Apparently Minus 8 is a brand of vinegars. That explains it. Luckily, this "jam" was off to the side so I didn't have to eat it.

Next stop, Ireland! Yay. This year we passed on the lobster and seafood fisherman's pie. It's hot, and creamy, and not special enough to take up room when there is so much else to eat! But I can't not have the warm chocolate pudding with Irish Cream liqueur custard. OMG.

Hubs never eats any--let's the princess have it all! It is so gloriously delicious. I don't recall it actually being called "pudding" before and it was much more liquid than I remember it being before, so I wonder if it's changed. No matter. Still a warm, chocolate, divine hug. Love, love, love.

Thank you, Ireland. I am forever grateful.

Then we did Brazil. We had the escondidinho de carne, also called "Little Hidden One," a layered meat pie with mashed yucca. (So, shepherd's pie a la America--with beef instead of lamb.) Note that in Brazil we got yucca, while in Dominican Republic we got yuca. I'm pretty sure they're the same thing. They certainly tasted the same--as in...not at all. But the meat--almost certainly ground beef--had a bit of spice to it, reminding me of spaghetti sauce, actually.

Shepherd's pie in a cup

We also tried the pao de queijo or cheese bread. It was...weird.

Imagine cheese, a white, mild cheese like parmesan...baked as a bread. You bite into it. The top is fluffy, light and airy, the bottom, gooey cheesy, and the bottom crust...crusty. Bland, vaguely cheese-like.

This is not a Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit.

After we went around once or twice, we went back to Brazil to get the cocada, or coconut candy. I was expecting something like...candy. But this is what I got:

I took it home to eat later. Naturally, I assumed that once I bit into it, there would be something candy-ish about it. Maybe there's a creamy center, or better yet, a chocolate inside! But there wasn't. It was a coconut ball. A big ball of coconut. I tried melting a Dove dark chocolate on top of it, but Dove dark chocolates don't melt well and I only ended up with a hot ball of coconut with a hot Dove dark chocolate on top of it.

Of course I ate it anyway.

It was about this time that I saw a couple with these trays, designed to hold your food and wine samples. The wife was kind enough to let this stranger take a picture of hers. 

Next, China. I wanted to try the duck. I like duck. I had it once before in a Turducken at Christmas some years ago. This duck, alas, was no Turducken. It was "Beijing roasted duck in steamed bun with hoisin sauce." First, I'm, apparently, not a fan of hoisin sauce. And the duck was not juicy and tender as I'd anticipated. It was a bit dry, and its taste was completely overpowered by the sweet sauce.

blurry picture of duck in hoisin sauce and steamed bun

The steamed buns in China are just weird. They look shiny and smooth and their texture is doughy. They're tasteless, at least once you've had a bit of hoisin sauce.

doughy shrimp with tasty noodles

We also had the black pepper shrimp with Sichuan noodles. The shrimp, as opposed to being crispy fried in a breading, was doughy with breading. But it was still good. And the noodles? Excellent. Just like the lo mein I get at the local Chinese place. Too bad I couldn't eat them all. Maybe I'll get Chinese next weekend to make up for it.

Then we headed to New Zealand to try the venison. I've had venison once or twice and thought it was very tasty. But this venison was not. This was "seared venison loin with wild mushroom marsala sauce and kumara dumpling."

That thing, under and to the right of the dry, tasteless hunk of meat, that looks like a steak fry is the dumpling. Kumara is similar to a sweet potato, a root vegetable. Its dumpling here was bland.

We also tried the lamb meatball, because we never try the lamb, because I claim to not like lamb. But since this outing is supposed to be about trying new things, we tried the lamb.

Unfortunately, this was a lamb meatball and so tasted like a meatball. An Italian meatball. I think I got a slight aftertaste of lamb, but it was really hard to tell. It was sitting in a bread cup of some sort. We were way too full to try that. So we pretended it was a shortcake shell for making strawberry shortcakes. Dessert gone wrong.

We stopped off to get a pastel de elote con queso or sweet corn cheesecake, to go, from Mexico. It was in a creme brulee cup and topped with whipped cream, but I smashed it into my plastic storage case anyway. When I got home, the whipped cream had turned to...I don't know...curdled cream. And the cheese cake tasted like a condensed hard pudding of creamed corn. I didn't like it.

Finally, we asked for some directions and found the Cheese Studio. We intended to try one of their goat cheese offerings. We decided on the Le Bonne Vie goat cheese served with Craisin bread instead of the sweet goat cheese penna cotta, figuring the former would be more...cheese, as opposed to something made with the cheese.

As it turned out, that particular morsel was part of a trio of artisan cheeses. From left to right: Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese with berry port compote, the aforementioned goat cheese with its impressive hunk of Craisin bread, and Karst cave-aged cheese served with honey.


First things first. Karst is a landscape formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks. It's also a kind of cheese...I guess. Here is some for sale on the Internet: it says Karst is an American Original cheese. It was very mild, dense, somewhat dry and went well with the honey.

The blue cheese was so incredibly strong I can see why a person would want to mix it up with some sauce a la blue cheese salad dressing. I could only take two small bites. Powerful, moldy cheese it was. The berry compote was sweetly delicious.

And now for the goat cheese. Honestly, I didn't expect it to be that much different from any other cheese. I was wrong.

Goat cheese tastes like a petting zoo smells.

That's all I'm going to say about that.

That was it. That was all I could eat this year. We went on the Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros, as usual.

And, as I whined about last year, Maelstrom is gone! The Frozen ride might be open next year. There was an exhibit in Norway, tying the movie Frozen with that country, showing authentic artifacts and how they were used in the film, probably in an effort to make it okay that they took away Maelstrom, an authentic Nordic adventure, and are replacing it with a fantasy cartoon caricature movie and product tie-in ad.

Screw you, Disney.

Hypocritically, I saw this dress in one of the shops and told George that if we had a granddaughter, I'd totally be buying it. He begged to differ.

Seventy bucks.

And I took a picture of Thor.

Actually King Olaf II, patron saint of Norway. But still. Thor, guys.

Okay, the last few photos that must be shared!

I tried to take this picture of the Mickey-as-a-chef shrubbery.

No angle worked.

And then I caught some very friendly birds while resting outside one of the bathroom areas.

So cute! And then there was this:

The coolest person at the park!

I had a good time, but couldn't eat very much. Such a shame. Maybe next year.

*I invented that word: arun.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The self-pubbers guide to changing your mind (and Yetis)...

The good life
photo by Brian Sawyer via Flickr

Okay, first--I don't really like that word. Self-pubber. I don't even like self-published. It's an old term from days recently past when corporate publishers held all the cards and self-publishing your book meant going to a printer and getting a garage filled with boxes of your books.

These days, we're all publishers. Some of us even have our own imprints. Some of us look at this gig as a professional undertaking. And I, for one, have no problem sharing the field with people who don't take it all that seriously.

I don't have a problem with sloppy covers, stilted prose, typos, bad grammar, and poor formatting. I just don't care. It's none of my business how much or how little you care about those things. Hold up a moment.


It would appear that I've gone off on a tangential rant. Back to business...

Here's the thing. I went to the Florida Writer's Association conference last weekend and had a BLAST! (You know it was great if I'm using all caps.) And I feel another tangent coming on. I have to say it:

Always Magnolia took First Place in the women's fiction category of the Royal Palm Literary Awards on Saturday night. Woot and all that. It was also the third highest scoring published book-length entry (tied with two others). So, yay me.

I have to say, I was glad that they did the whole top five scores published and unpublished, because Always Magnolia, as it turned out, was the only women's fiction title to make the finals. It was good to know that I didn't just skim by the minimum score required to be a finalist and win by default.

And Wayward Cat Finds a Home was First Place in the children's chapter book category. Yay me again!

I suppose I had gotten to a point some time ago when I felt like I didn't need to spend the money on conferences anymore. I felt like I had it all down, you know? I know everything I need to know, now I just need to practice it. But I got quite a lot out of this conference. Some of it was stuff I already knew, but clearly needed to hear focus on again.

And I had a wonderful AHA! moment. That AHA! moment has led me to a very big decision.

Drum roll please...

I'm going to take Story Runners: Awakening out of print some time in the near future.

Why? Because the title is wrong. And the beginning is wrong. And there isn't enough oomph in the book to start a series. The first book in a series has got to be special. It's akin to the first chapter of a book. It's got to grab the reader and make her want more. I honestly don't think I did well enough with this book. There are some very good reasons that I failed and I understand them. So, I think I can go back in and fix a better job.

And that's where this whole thing gets fantastic.

I can do that!

I can take my book out of print, change the title, rewrite it, and put it out again. Just like that. Easy peasy. Because it's all mine. I own every bit of it. I don't have to beg anyone to do it. I don't have to suffer through a bad book because I don't have any rights to it, or any control over it.

If I fail. I can fix it.

I think the biggest thing I've learned from this is that, I can fail. It's okay to fail. It's not the end of a career if one of my books tanks, or if it's done all wrong. It's just a matter of making things right.

The big question I had about it, though, was, how to do it. Turns out, it's not that difficult. Simply unpublish the book from all of your distributors. Do what you have to do with it. Make it very clear, both in the front matter of the book, and on the book's new pages, that it was formerly published under that other title. Use a new ISBN. (And if you purchased your own from Bowker, list the previous title as 'out of print' there.) And voila. You've got the old book, revised or not, under a new title.

Do you have to use a new ISBN when you change the cover of your book? No
Do you have to when you reformat, or make changes to the text? No... unless those changes to the text are major, in which case you ought to issue a Second Edition and yes, use a new ISBN.
Do you have to use a new ISBN when you change the title of your book? Yes. Absolutely. Even if the cover is, in all other aspects, the same.

I'm not sure when I'll be taking Story Runners out of print. So, if you want to read it the way it is, by all means, get it soon. And, if you have any suggestions on how to make it better, I'll listen. But under no circumstances will I be adding a Yeti. Maybe in a later book in the series. And even then it won't be called a Yeti, so you Yeti enthusiasts won't be satisfied. So, just forget the Yeti for now. Okay? I mean it. No Yeti.

Heads Up!
Next week I'll be posting my latest Epcot International Food & Wine Festival blog! I took a look at last year's entry and noticed that the foods I was too full to eat last year will be available this year. So I will definitely be getting the duck, and the venison, and the garlic whatever it was this year!

I'll see you next week, fatter and more satisfied (food wise) than ever before!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Year of the Office: Writing is hard

Kerouac, the cat by Fellpe Miguel via Flickr

Professional Author: Okay let's get to work.

Artiste: Fine. What have we got to work on?

PA: We've finished the outline for the new women's fiction title. Write some of that.

Artiste: Ugh. Do we have to?

PA: Well, we could write a chapter or two on the new Downtown Divas Romance.

Artiste: I'm not in the mood for romantic comedy. And anyway, we haven't worked out that thing yet. You know, that thing?

PA: Maybe we haven't worked it out because we don't need it. Or maybe if we just start writing, it'll come to us.

Artiste: But I don't feel like writing that.

PA: Well...write some backstory or world-building on that paranormal thing we wanted to write.

Artiste: You know that was your idea. You're the one who wants to write something that actually sells. You're all about the bottom line.

PA: Seriously? Why the heck do you think we're sitting here in this fabulous third-floor office in Historic--

Artiste: --also your idea.

PA: --Downtown? We wanted to be professional about this. We wanted to write more books.

Artiste: Look, I'm an artist. I don't want to write something just because it sells.

PA: <smacks head> As long as it's a story you like, there's no compromise of our integrity.

Artiste: I do like the idea...but...

PA: It's the sex thing, right?

Artiste: You want us to write sex scenes.

PA: People like sex!

Artiste: I just don't feel like tackling that right now. I'm afraid it'll make us feel dirty. And anyway, you said people like romance, so we wrote that romantic comedy. Uh...hello? Are we famous yet? Just because I write a paranormal sex romp in no way guarantees the success you're counting on.

PA: We've been over this already. We're writing a paranormal romance. I know we are because we're thinking about it a lot and the story is coming together in our head. But, okay, not today. What else can we work on?

Artiste: What's the point?

PA: WHAT? What's the point? It's what we do!

Artiste: But why do we do it? To what purpose?

PA: <sputtering> It''s...who we are. We've been writing stories since elementary school. We wrote our first novel in middle school.

Artiste: Uh, hello. I don't mean to be rude, but that was all me. You didn't show up until 2012. I've been toiling away here, for too many years to count, so I think I know when we're having an existential crisis.

PA: We don't have time for that. We're in the office! We are professional now. We work even when we're sick, when we don't have any inspiration, when we're so depressed we're weeping into our Diet Coke.

Artiste: I'm sorry. I think we have writer's block.

PA: We don't believe in writer's block! Writer's block does not exist! Remember? We made Facebook posts and Tweets about it. About how we're professional now. Getting through the procrastination that we call writer's block is simply a matter of writing! Whether we feel like it or not.

Artiste: I'm just not there. Nothing inspires me. Nothing grabs at me. And you know as well as I do that if I'm not excited about the project, the reader won't be.

PA: Uh, well, number one: There won't be any project for readers to diss if we don't--

Artiste: --I can't believe you're bringing up that one-star review thing! You know how upset I've been about that.

PA: Oh, get over it, already. And number Two: the only way for us to get excited about a project is to work on it! Come on! Butt in chair! Let's go!

Artiste: Our butt is already in the chair. Nothing's happening.

PA: Write anything! A poem.

Artiste: You know we have to be really, really depressed to write poetry.

PA: A short story!

Artiste: We haven't had an idea for a short story in months.

PA: Just start writing and something will come to us.

Artiste: I don't think you are fully grasping my existentialist pit of despair.

PA: No. I got it. You feel like you're a tiny voice in a maelstrom. You feel alone and abandoned. You feel like no one understands you and no one cares. You feel like you'll never be successful at the only thing you're really good at--that it's possible that you're not really all that good at the only thing you're good at. Part of you feels like you are under appreciated--that life isn't fair--and the other part feels that you get what you deserve. You feel like you're going to die having never been read--really read, like, widely.

Artiste: Thanks for laying it all out there. I feel so much better.

PA: Sarcasm?

Artiste: I realize you're too professional to delve into the intellectual's true artistry.

PA: But I'm right aren't I? About all of that?

Artiste: Yep. I think you nailed it. I just don't see the point in writing, anymore.

PA: So, we're going to get a job at Walmart?

Artiste: Maybe we'll go back to school.

PA: Oh, for the love of Grumpy Cat, not that again!

Artiste: Woe is me. Woe is I? Woe are we?

PA: Okay, how about this? How about we accept that we will never be successful while we're alive. But just think. Once we're dead and buried, somebody might discover one of our books. Camelia, for instance--a masterpiece, if we're allowed to say--

Artiste: --We're not supposed to think that highly of ourselves.

PA: That's our artiste talking.

Artiste: Uh, yeah.

PA: As I was saying, once we're dead, we could be discovered.

Artiste: Couldn't we just Tweet something super offensive to a whole lot of people and create a Twit-storm? Then we could be famous and read widely in our lifetime.

PA: You want to go with the no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity ploy?

Artiste: You're right. We're too nice. The only sorts we'd feel comfortable offending are writers and I'm not sure that would generate the Tweets.

PA: Look, you're stepping over your bounds...entering Professional Author territory. Let me worry about marketing.

Artiste: Why bother? What's the point of going on?

PA: I just told you! After we're dead, we're going to be famous! So, get our fingers on the keyboard and let's write something worthy.

Artiste: After we're dead...hmm. That might just be morbid enough to spark something...

PA: See, all we need is a little push. This office is totally worth it.

Artiste: Don't you miss working in our pajamas?

PA: A little. And by the way, blogging doesn't count as work.

Artiste: Of course it does.

PA: No. It's not work. We're still not working.

Artiste: We are. This totally counts.

PA: You can keep going, trying to up the word count, all you want. It doesn't count.

Artiste: Does so!

PA: Does nah-ot...

Artiste: *&$#