Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Writer's Block, Crazy Baking and the Zen of Ramen

I'm still working my way through the inbox of horrors. I am making good progress, but what is more important is that the rate it was filling has slowed markedly. That's a relief. I don't mind helping out others where I can, but for a couple of weeks there I was seeing no progress in getting my work done at all! That doesn't mean that everything is smooth sailing. That's why I was doing all of that cooking and baking during the heat wave. I had some things I needed to work out in my head, and there were some recipes that I wanted to try.

I'd been thinking about snacks that I miss from Philly of late. During long days waiting at the hospital, I really missed the soft pretzels from Philly. They are relatively fat free, low calories (if they are only topped with mustard) and really cheap. There isn't any equivalent out here. My Dad shipped us some recently after I mentioned this. They were a welcome treat on days where there would be many hours between breakfast and lunch. The heat also reminded me of how much I missed Italian Ices  or as it is known in Philly, Water Ice. I decided to try to make both treats, so that I could have them anytime without spending a ton of money on shipping. They turned out quite well. The pretzel recipe is a gourmet version, so it is a bit more buttery than the Philly pretzel, but it is very good. The Italian Ice was very close to what I ate in Philly, but my palate has changed. I don't like dishes that are that intensely sweet. A bit more lemon zest will solve that. I also did another batch of croissants and made a batch of twice baked souffles. There will be videos for these dishes. I just have to have the time to edit them.

What could possibly be on my mind that required that much flour and butter to work through? My writing is annoying me. I have discovered that Jon was right about writer's block. It's caused by the subconscious knowledge that something has gone wrong in the story. The problem is figuring out what's gone wrong. Then comes the terrifying process of figuring out how much has to be re-written. I say terrifying, because sometimes the whole manuscript must be chucked in favor of starting anew. In this case, I am trying to start a novel that had been a script. That should be very easy. The entire story is finished. The characters have been alive in my head for quite some time. There shouldn't have been a problem, but I couldn't get anywhere with it for weeks after deciding to write the book. I realized after I had run out of baking sheets to bake on that it was an issue of point of view.

I typically write my fiction in either first person point of view or from a limited third person point of view. For example, the Soldier's books are all from Rik's point of view. Thus, they are written in first person. The Surrender books and the Ensnared books alternates the point of view between the lead characters. It's a comfortable zone for me to tell my stories. The reason I haven't been able to start this book is that neither of those points of view works for this story. In a film, the audience can see other characters reacting to the lead characters without the lead characters knowing they are being observed and possibly judged. This story calls for a number of supporting characters observing and judging without being seen by my leads. That cannot be done from a first or limited third person point of view. I realized that I had to do the all seeing or omniscient point of view. Immediately after figuring that out, I wrote my first sentence of the novel, The Proposal. I also realized that I could keep the very cool opening that I had in the script. I had a few pages written without really thinking about it. It was glorious! And I had a whole heap of snacks to boot. What is The Proposal about, and why have you never heard of this script? That will be for next week's blog. I'll have an excerpt ready along with some bookfair discounts to tell everyone about. It will be worth the wait, believe me.

Speaking of the Solders books, my talented cover artist, Adrianna Ferguson, Did a really cool and funny blog on how she does those amazing covers. It is very interesting, and it can be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbp5xm8R2VQ

Zen and the Art of Ramen

Since the lovely lunch I had with Digital Manga team member, Joel, I have become more obsessed than ever about making a real bowl of ramen soup. Forget about Cup of Noodles or Top Ramen with it's pack of sodium infused death. I mean real ramen made from scratch with fresh noodles with broth made from bones simmered for many hours. I was crestfallen after the lunch with Joel. I understood that the heavenly broth I had at that shop was made with roasted pork bones. I've never made pork stock. Heck, I'd never seen pork soup bones anywhere – not even in my amazing ethnic market which has the chicken feet. And then in the circular for Top Value Market, I saw a sale for pork neck bones. I realized that would be perfect for a great unctuous stock. I got a big pile of them for less than five dollars. When I told Joel about my plan to attempt ramen broth, he suggested I watch Ramen Girl (above).  I remembered Anthony Bourdain talking about that film during the Hokkaido episode of No Reservations. He described it quite accurately and without derision but doubted the heroine's addition of corn to her ramen. He found out that this was common to Sapporo ramen. I was surprised that Joel suggested what was a chick flick to me. I don't watch them as a rule, but I was intrigued. It was the tale of a young woman who is dumped by her boyfriend shortly after arriving in Japan. In despair, she finds herself in the local ramen shop. The soup makes her so happy that she decides to learn how to spread such joy. It was quite charming. You can see the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GYSwiaNz2o Tampopo  was a better film, but they both were good at exploring how the mastery of something that seems so simple can put a whole life in order. Tampopo was sybaritic in its celebration of the pleasures food can bring while being really funny and touching. You can see the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbp5xm8R2VQ Meanwhile, I've made and incredible pork stock. It's like jelly, it so full of marrow collagen goodness. Ah, but this is only the first building block. Next, I must master the art of cooking pork bellies.

For that and the big pre-bookfair blog is next week,

Stay tuned!

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