Monday, November 29, 2010

Reading, Signing, and Talking About Writing

Several authors (including me...) and editors from the Thin Ice anthology by Level Best Books will be talking about writing, both short and novel-length, as well as reading from our short stories and signing copies of the anthology this Thursday, December 2, at 6 pm at:

River's Edge Fine Gifts & Home Accents/Ipswich Party Shop
15 Market Street

, MA, 01938

Join us! Wine, cheese, and other refreshments will provide preprandial sustenance. I can vouch for every story being a good read, despite each being very different from the next.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bouillabaise. What do you think of? A rich fish soup? Something involving bouillon cubes? Lots of small portions of very expensive fish and shellfish? ("I'd like a pound of the local haddock, and one of the wild salmon. And two pounds of the mussels. Those are cherrystone clams? OK, two pounds of that, too. That comes to WHAT?") A broth that is more like a stew, featuring garlic, home-grown tomatoes, red wine, shrimp stock, saffron, olive oil, and more?

Well, I created this Sunday dinner treat for two friends we'd invited over for the first time. Patience and Phillip: world travelers, fellow Democrats, word mavens, very fun conversationalists. Managed to pull off the dinner, which included garlic-sauteed green beans, local salad, crusty bread. Got compliments. Finished with Patience's apple crisp (ooh, she peels her apples...) and ice cream.

But what was I thinking when I was savoring the very rich, thick, flavorful soup base? Hmm, you could hide some poison among the poisson. Nobody would ever know. Oh, these mystery writers! Better look for that soup in one of my next books or stories.
In the meantime, here's an approximation of my recipe, adapted from both Julia Child and the New Basics cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

Max's Bouillabaise
(serves 8)

1. Scrub and rinse 2 lbs each mussels and clams. Skin and cut 2-3 lbs fresh fish (different kinds) into 2-inch chunks. Keep all seafood cool.

2. In olive oil, saute 5 chopped leeks, 2 peeled and chopped carrots, and 2 chopped
celery stalks until wilted.
3. Add 5 cloves
minced garlic and saute for 1 minutes
4. Add 3 c chopped tomatoes, chopped canned whole tomatoes, or frozen local tomatoes, along with 1 qt fish stock, 1 c red wine, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp dry thyme leaves, ground black pepper, a pinch of saffron.

5. Simmer 20 minutes. Let it cool a little, and then food process until roughly blended (not pureed).

6. Reheat the broth, add the shellfish, and cook covered 10-12 minutes until the shells open. Transfer the shellfish to a warm platter and keep warm.
7. Add 2-3 lbs fresh fish and a pound of scallops.
8. Cook just a few minutes until the fish and scallops are opaque, and transfer fish to the platter.

9. Serve a portion of seafood into each large individual bowl, and then top with the soup, fresh chopped parsley, a piece of toasted French bread spread with al pesto sauce, and a dollop of red pepper rouille.

And did you know the name comes from the Occitan language? Wikipedia tells us, "Occitan is a Romance language spoken in Southern France, the Occitan Valleys of Italy, Monaco, and in Val d'Aran in Catalonia, Spain, the regions sometimes known informally as Occitania. It is also spoken in the linguistic enclave of Guardia Piemontese (Calabria, Italy). It is an official language in Catalonia (known as Aranese in Val d'Aran).Modern Occitan is the closest relative of Catalan." I bet Lauren Rousseau knows that.

What's your favorite dish to hide poison in, fictionally speaking, of course?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Crime Bake 2010

Crime Bake was better than ever this year. Hundreds of writers (and readers) listened to authors talk about the craft. We attended master classes, seminars, author breakfasts, networking sessions at the bar, and even the Vampire Ball.

We Thin Ice authors did a group signing of the anthology as lots of fans passed their copies down the line.

I caught up with old frie
nds and made new ones, even meeting another author, David Carkeet, who has written about a Linguistics professor and who went to the same grad school as I did (IU at Bloomington).

Dennis Lehane inspired us with something along the lines of, "Of the writers who started out when I did, the ones who succeeded did not whine, did not complain. They were determined to make it, and they did." I took that to heart, even though the agent I pitched to was not overly enthusiastic ("It's not really grabbing me. Send me five pages when you can...").

Now it's back to the revision job. I have some ideas for making Lauren's life more conflicted, darker. Should help.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On Silence

I am accustomed to silence. I have been a Quaker for 21 years. We sit joined in silence on Sundays, only occasionally broken by a message someone among us feels moved to share. Not everyone is comfortable with this form of worship. At one time I brought someone to Meeting who fidgeted his way through the hour. He'd been raised a high Episcopalian, and church for him meant somebody else creating an hour full of sound and activity. (Photograph of Amesbury Friends Meeting worship room by Ed Mair.)

At home, we hold hands before meals for a moment of silence, that for me is always filled with blessing and gratitude, and that I usually want to continue for longer than my hungry partner does.

When I walk, I don't listen to music or news through earbuds and I rarely walk and talk with others. While it's not exactly silent, I have the birds and rustling leaves to cushion whatever thoughts might arise out of the quiet solitude. I treasure my long walks out on Labor in Vain Road, a hilly wooded route on a dead-end road whose end opens up to the creek and the salt m

Silence is perhaps most valuable when I'm writing, though. I live with someone who is fond of playing music from his large and eclectic CD collection pretty much all the time. We also both like to listen to NPR news and talk shows.

But I find that I have to turn it all off (and ask him to turn the music volume down) when I want to write fiction. I need to hear the characters' voices, to be able to heed their thoughts and intentions. For this, it ha
s to be quiet. Preferably I'm alone in the house, but living with a self-employed person, that doesn't happen very often. I'm fortunate to have a lovely office of my own with doors that close tight, though. And I use them!

What about you? Do you need quiet for your creative endeavors? Do you prefer a bustling noisy surround?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Publication Getting Close

Level Best Books has a new web site that's clean, clear, and lets you order Thin Ice directly from them. Check it out.

Thin Ice
launches in 10 days at Crime Bake, the New England conference in Dedham, Massachusetts for mystery writers and readers. We'll have a group signing on that Saturday afternoon, with all the authors sitting in a row signing their story page of the anthology. It'll be fun. And two weeks after that is the reading/signing event in Ipswich. Exciting times!