Of Pies and Petulance

Tomorrow has the distinct honor of being one of my very favorite and very least favorite days of the year, all at the same time. It’s easy to love Thanksgiving: the food is good, the family is usually tipsy enough to play nicely, and the main activity of the day plays at my natural strengths (eating and not moving, naturally).

Why is it, then, that this is one of my least favorite days? Mostly it’s because I make pie for Thanksgiving, and pie is a tricky beast. It’s also because it’s impossible to see my whole family, and Thanksgiving is a lot less fun if you only get to spend it with half your loved ones. Boo.

Anywho, back to pie. Whoever coined the phrase “Easy as pie” was a nefarious brigand, because pie is not easy. Pie is insidious. Pie is tricksy. Pie eats my brain every freaking year.

I have yet to make a pie that did not leave me swearing like a sailor and chucking measuring cups across the kitchen, because pie. is. hard. The fillings don’t tend to bother me. Custard pie filling is a cakewalk, you just mix eggs and milk with some seasonings and call it a day. Fruit pie filling seems pretty easy too, though I’ve only ever experimented with forest berry filling.

No, the bedevilment comes from the crust. Pie crust is awe-inspiringly difficult. It takes skill just to put it together, and then it takes decades of training to handle it into resembling anything close to how a pie crust should look.

I’ve talked to so many women who assure me that all I need is the right recipe, but humbug is all I have to say to that. Even if the pie crust is made from Play Dough and a toddler could handle it with ease, making a wad of pie crust dough look like pie crust is tough.

You need a temperament that is at ease with rolling it out flat no matter how long it takes, a temper that won’t flare when the dough sticks to the rolling pin and rips, and inexhaustable patience as you try to transport your paper-thin crust-flap from the counter to the pie tin without tearing it.

You need artistic aspirations to shape the outer crust with a fork or finger, and divinely-appointed mastery of the elements in order to cover the pie with another crust-flap (without ripping it. You see, if you’re making the kind of pie that gets covered on the top with crust, you can’t just try again if the crust rips, because it gets bits of berry and stuff on it).

If you know me (or have been reading my blog for any length of time) you’re perhaps acquainted with the idea that patience is not really numbered among my virtues, nor is the ability to fail gracefully. As you can imagine, making pie therefore takes on an almost mythical height of difficulty.

A height I have to tackle every year for Thanksgiving, because my mom is a fool for my custard pie. No matter how heinous they look, my mom assures me they’re the best pies she’s ever eaten and for that reason I make them every year. I shield her from the carnage as much as possible, but she can always see the touch of crazy in my eyes afterward, which, I suspect, is why she tells me she likes the pies so much.

I’ve actually surprised myself by how much I’ve written about pies just now. I had no idea I felt this strongly, but apparently pies are my Pandora’s box. Ye have been forewarned.

I hope you all have an excellent Thanksgiving and that, as you wallow in your serotonin-drenched stupor tomorrow, life looks good and problem-free if only for a little while.

The Twilight Redux

OK. Stephenie Meyer. Twilight series. Let’s do this. I devoured the entire Twilight series in a week and half (which, once you’ve seen the heft of the books, you’ll realize this is quite an accomplishment.) I enjoyed my time with the books, but they will never make any of my favorites lists.

It’s not that they weren’t enjoyable. They were fun to read, and Meyer did a good job creating a world for readers to get lost in. My issues with the series probably stem more from the vampires of her world and the length of the books more than they do with the way she wrote the books.

The vampires in Twilight borrow a bit from Anne Rice’s vampires: they’re ridiculously good looking (even more so than Derek Zoolander) and very attractive to humans. They also drink blood, they’re crazy-fast, and they’re extremely strong. That’s about where the similarities end.

Meyer’s vampires are a dash teen magazine pin-up, a tad My Little Pony sparkle, and thickened by about as much menace as a newborn kitten. She’s distilled all the horror and menace from the good-guy vampires until they’re nothing more than really awesome super-human creatures who sparkle like glitter in the sun and have great sex. For pete’s sake, they don’t even have fangs!

Really, she’s made vampirism entirely too desirable. The vampires can go out in daylight (like I said, they don’t burn in the sun. They sparkle), they don’t sleep in coffins, they can refrain from drinking human blood, and they’re ludicrously wealthy. They can perform amazing acts of strength, some have super-powers (like mind-reading and the ability to see the future), and they almost all find vampire mates and live happily ever after.

As you can see, there’s really no reason to not be a vampire (When the main character’s vampire boyfriend repeatedly tries to convince her to not become one, you as the reader have the same reaction she inevitably does: Why the heck not?!)

The only sinister characters are the bad guys, whose eyes are red because they drink human blood. These are also bestowed with unerring self-control, however, so there’s very little menace there unless they just really feel like eating you. You can’t even say they’re ruled by primordial thirst, because even when the bad guys are really thirsty, they’re still able to just say no if they have to.

In a good vampire novel, the vampires should all be sinister, if for no other reason than that they’re some bizarre undead creature who feasts on blood for sustenence. For Meyer to turn that concept into a lifestyle we should all be lucky to lead is indicative of how much liberty she’s taken with the genre.

I’m not a huge fan of the shift, honestly. I like the struggle between Louis and Lestat (In Anne Rice’s books) to discern some kind of ethical code for their kind. I love the clear conflict to reconcile morality with an existence that’s defined by a pervasive need to end lives. The vampire genre needs that struggle to balance out the immortality and physical attractiveness.

Meyer’s vampires are my main problem with the series, but my secondary reaction to the series was that it was just plain too long. I’m certain that the whole story would have been much better served were it cut in half. There were too many strange curve-balls at the end that were unwelcome and out of place, and way too many passages that existed solely to drag out the story.

This is just my personal reaction, however. There are some people who are convinced that the whole series is too short. I just am not one of them. I feel like the series would have been much more powerful as a trilogy, or maybe even as an action-packed two-part book.

There were just too many world-shattering calamities, life-changing problems, and battles-to-end-all-battles for me to take it seriously once I got to the end. It’s the same problem I had with 24: No one is that unlucky. If you throw that much calamity at one character, some of your audience is eventually going to notice and the curtain of believability will be lifted.

If the author/screen-writer spends too much effort drawing a story out to fit length parameters, I can usually be counted on to notice and it makes me too aware that I’m watching/reading a work of fiction. Once this happens, I can’t submerge into the story the way I’d like to.

Now that I’m certain you’re all bored to tears and wishing I’d stop typing about this insipid series any longer, I will stop. Please tell me what you think, though. If you disagree with me about the Twilight series, please do let me know. If you agree, share that too. If you’ve never read the series, let me know how you feel about toast. My comments section is your comments section, capisce?

Quantum of Hero-Worship

Oh my tail feathers, heavens to Betsy! Have you ever had one of those weekends that was awesome, intense, yet relaxing in just the right way? I did. I just did, in fact. If we’re being entirely truthful, I’m still trying to wake up from said weekend, which means that all the work I just did has been done while half-asleep. The cough syrup bottles all warn against operating heavy machinery while drowsy, but they never say anything about operating blogs, do they?

Part of the reason I’m so bleary-eyed this fine Monday morning is that I had a rare bout of insomnia on Saturday night that resulted in me getting a whoppingly atrocious 1 hour of sleep. I couldn’t fall asleep for eons, and then, when I did, I woke up an hour later and laid awake with my eyes closed until Wes woke up and went to church.

Oy, I was a zombie yesterday. A zombie who read (and finished!) the Twilight series from 7AM clear through until 5PM with only a few bathroom and lunch breaks in between. I think I spent a grand total of an hour away from the couch yesterday. It. Was. Awesome.

In addition to conquering the Twilight series, I also accompanied my fantastic husband to the movie theater to see Quantum of Solace. It was a fun little date and, for the most part, we enjoyed the movie. I think I’m going to have to see it again at home, though, before I form a cogent opinion about it.

You see, I was ever-so-slightly (read: very) irritated while we were watching it because we had the severe misfortune of sitting in front of a row of teenage boys, all of whom were deep in the throes of James Bond worship. It was a very trying experience.

Every time Bond did something, we could hear a chorus of adolescent hero-worship behind us. It got a bit extreme. For example, they started ooh-ing and ahh-ing when Bond wasn’t even on screen. The camera zoomed in on a lizard in one shot, and the boys behind us started saying, “Oh, cool. Look at that lizard!” (in the interest of full disclosure, they had the same reaction when the camera zoomed in on a dog, and also when Bond walked down a staircase.)

I was sorely tempted to turn around and remind them that it wasn’t a James Bond lizard/dog/staircase (?), so they were excused from thinking it was the coolest thing ever.

Le sigh.

In retrospect, I am now convinced I’m going to have to see the movie again without benefit of a constant cacophony of over-stimulated teenage boys, because as of right now my memories are dominated by a cloying feeling of annoyance.

As regards the Twilight series…You know what? I think my thoughts on the Twilight series merit their very own post because I have strong thoughts and they are many. I guess this means stay tuned…?

In the Wake of Brownies

At 9:27AM this morning, mere minutes before I had to run out the door and drive to work, I wrote the concluding sentence of my first novel. I hit the save button, dashed out the door, and told everyone within earshot that I was done.

There were high-fives (including four from my very supportive husband). There were brownies (and they were delicious). There was even wine (thanks to one of my very beautiful friends who graced us with her company for dinner). For all intents and purposes, we celebrated the heck out of the conclusion of my first novel.

Truth be told, though, the reality of what’s happened today still hasn’t really even sunk in yet, and I don’t think it will for yet awhile longer. I mean, I wrote a novel. Tt’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was old enough to envy my mother her publications (she’s a writer as well, and a very talented one at that. I come by my writing skills honestly).

It’s just crazy. It’s nonsense. It continues to dwell comfortably in the halls of “maybe someday” and has yet to hop, skip, and jump onto my list of things that have really happened during my life.

Tomorrow begins the editing, and there will be a lot of it. As a writer, I have a bit of a blindspot and that blindspot is the physicality of my characters. I do a fairly decent job describing where my characters are and what they’re doing, but when I’m writing I tend to forget to mention what they’re wearing and what they look like.

Tomorrow I’ll start working on fleshing out my skeleton of a book with some strategic details, and maybe tie up a loose end or two that I just know are floating around out there somewhere in the ether.

After that, maybe I’ll try to get it published. I’m going to have a few friends read it first, friends who will tell me if it sucks or not, and if they reckon it’s worth a try I might just do it.

Who knows? Maybe if I get published I’ll celebrate with more than brownies. I guarantee you this much, if I get published there will be steak.

Until then, I’l just continue to putter around with my story, tweaking and re-wording, until I can get up the courage to allow someone other than Wes and my NaNoWriMo friend to read it. Also, thanks to everyone who wrote a comment of congratulations, those made me smile so wide it was almost painful, but in a really good way.