Thursday, September 30, 2010

Doing Good Work

Author Swati Avasthi (Split) is conducting an online auction of books, manuscript critiques, and other good stuff to support the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Among the many items up for auction is includes a set of "The Bloodwater Mysteries" written by me and Mary Logue, and manuscript critiques by several well-known authors, agents, and editors.
Check it out! This is a great way to help out a fine organization, and maybe score something good for yourself, too!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Fly Agaric

This morning I came across a patch of about fifty of these beauties (Amanita muscaria). Some people have been known to eat them for the hallucinogenic effects. I've never met anyone who wanted to try it twice.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mushroom Soup

It has been a great fall for mushroom hunters here (Minnesota and Wisconsin). Here's a "hen of the woods" (Grifola frondosa), also known as a maitake. I've found several of them this year. This specimen weighed about seven pounds, which translates to a big pot of intensely flavorful mushroom soup.

Hen Soup

2 pounds fresh hen-of-the-woods (maitake)

¼ cup finely minced shallot (or onion)

2 tablespoons butter

1 quart water plus 1 quart homemade chicken stock (you could use all water)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup milk or (gasp!) cream (optional)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil



Cut up the mushroom, dividing it into two piles. Pile One should include all the raggedy bits. Pile Two should consist of the nicer bits—small whole “caps,” nicely diced pieces, etc. Things you want to see in your spoon when you eat the soup.

In a medium-size pot (a three or four quart pan with high sides) sauté the shallots and mushrooms (Pile One only) in butter. Don’t be afraid to let the mushrooms brown. Brown is good!

Add the thyme, pepper, and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for thirty minutes.

Pour the whole mess into a blender and pulverize it. Give it a good sixty seconds. You want to get it to the point where it will pour through a strainer. Return the mixture to the pot. (Don’t bother with the straining—you pulverized it sufficiently, no?)

Heat a sauté pan REALLY HOT. Add olive oil. It should start smoking almost immediately. Throw in Pile Two (the nicer mushroom pieces) and let them cook for a few minutes without stirring—you want them a little crispy on the bottom. Turn off heat and add a ladle or two of the blended mixture. Stir it around to deglaze the sauté pan, then pour it all back into the pot with the rest of the blended mixture. Simmer for about ten minutes.

Add milk or cream, if using. Salt to taste, then cook on low heat just long enough to bring it up to serving temperature.

Serve, with garnish.

The garnish is mostly to tell your guests that you have been paying attention, and to interrupt the unrelenting brownness of the soup. A little chopped parsley is sufficient. Maybe some crumbled bacon. If you want to get fancy, a dollop of crème fraîche is sure to impress.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blank Confession Video: The Final Chapter

I had a lot of fun making these three short videos. I learned a lot about what works, and even more about what doesn't work. I also learned about the painful reality of working within a budget. Like most authors, I'm paying for my own book trailer. Of course, I have no idea whether it will make anybody buy a book, and I probably never will know. Good thing it was fun to do!
If you haven't seen the first two parts, either scroll down a few posts, or click here and here.
I'm working now on a different sort of book trailer for The Big Crunch, which is coming out in January. It's going to have animations, clips, more stupid jokes, and best of all, I am NOT going be on screen.
One more thing - I want to thank Max Selim, who organized, directed, and edited the Blank Confession videos, and Nick Grady, who did the camera work. Max has some cool shorts posted on his YouTube channel. Check him out!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Here are my two favorite "one star" reviews of my book INVISIBLE from I love the internet!
1.0 out of 5 stars HORRIBLE, July 13, 2010
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Invisible (Paperback)
HORRIBLE PACKAGING! The book was jammed in this small box! the pages are bent and curled, the cover is crumbled and creased! it was awful!
1.0 out of 5 stars Invisible, March 5, 2010
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Invisible (Paperback)
This is a review about the company in Colorado that sold me the book. I have been ordering books for years on line and this was the first time that it took over 15 days to get to me when it usually takes less than five. I will not order from them ever again and want my comments noted.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blank Confession Video - Part Deux

The battle to bring BC2 to the tiny screen has been fierce and long. We had do deal with actor meltdowns, the gaffer strike, a missing Best Boy, uncooperative aspect ratios, insanely complex bit rate issues, and an epic legal battle with a lawbot named Bork over miniseries rights. In order to get our PG13 rating, we had to edit out the vampire sex and overdub certain off color remarks made by one of the characters. We also took out the Quran burning and the Marlboro Lights product placement. Censorship. Bah!
If you have not viewed "Blank Confession Part One," please do so now lest you miss the heavily nuanced elements in Part Two.
"Blank Confession Part Three" is coming soon, whether you want it to or not!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Like Hate Love

The new trade edition of Sweetblood went on sale last week, triggering conflicting pleasure/pain receptors in my hippocampus which, you should know, has nothing to do with higher education for semiaquatic ungulates. The cover of the new edition features candy-colored lips and pointy teeth against a deep purple background. It looks delicious. I like it. I hate it. I like it. I hate it. I like it. Somebody stop me, please!
Thank you!
Some history: The first edition of Sweetblood,
way back in 2003 when there were only a gajillion vampire novels (as opposed to today's kahunkabazillion), was a graphic designy image of a twenty-something woman with tasteful blood spatters across the cover and the tagline "A Vampire Novel." It was an okay cover, although I thought the tagline to be slightly deceptive inasmuch as there are no "real" vampires to be found in the book. Still, it was about vampires. Sort of.
Anyway, I figured as long as the cover encouraged more people to look at the book, it was okay. I liked it. I sort of didn't like it. It was a book cover. Whatever.
A couple of years later, the book was issued in small format paperback, and the designers took a different tack: this time, they used a photograph of a young model who perfectly represented the character I had in mind when I wrote the book. It suggested a goth-like, vampire-ish story about a character, and I loved it, I loved it, I loved it, despite the clunky typography. How often does that happen? Hardly ever.
Back to the new cover and the love/hate thing. From an author's point of view, there are three things a book cover should do:
1. It should look good.
2. It should sell the book.
3. It should be true to the book.
The new Sweetblood cover, IMHO, easily meets condition #1. It looks stupendously lickable. I think it will accomplish #2 as well - at least I hope so. As for #3...I dunno. I think most people who buy the book based on the cover will be expecting fangs and blood. Some of them will be disappointed.
I think the neck-biting promise made by the cover takes away from the story. Imagine yourself sitting down to watch, say, "Eat Pray Love" after being told it was a movie about carnivorous alien invaders. The whole time, you'd be looking for flying saucers and waiting for Javier Bardem's lips to peel back and reveal an extra set of jaws. Kind of distracting.
On the other hand, being told that "Eat Pray Love" was about an alien invasion is probably the only way I'd ever pay to see it.
Like. Hate. Love.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's Heeeeere...

After months of rigorous casting and set-building, hundreds of rewrites, filming under the most treacherous conditions imaginable, and a lengthy negotiation with Pixar over the use of proprietary CGI effects, "Blank Confession: The First Sequence" is now available for viewing. Parts Two and Three will be released over the next few weeks. The 3-D version will be released in selected theaters only in Botswana and the Falkland Islands. An extended Director's Cut is in the works, and we have sent promotional packages to select members of the Academy.
Suitable for viewing with or without popcorn.
Blank Confession (the novel) will be published on November 16, 2010, by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.