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Feb. 20th, 2012

alan dare

Florida vs. Maryland, grocery stores

I know everyone is probably tired of hearing about it by now, but I still am just flabbergasted by the grocery stores in these parts.

Grocery stores are odd because they're still very much regional, despite the best attempts of Wal-Mart and Super Target to change that. When I was a kid I didn't think Florida grocery stores were so bad. Florida is dominated by Publix. And Publix looks very nice. Their stores are clean, bright and pretty, their ads are some of the most attractive grocery store circulars around (in part because they are so minimalist--hardly anything is on sale, really, but there is plenty of room to give you a recipe), and I still maintain that their bakery makes some of the best indulgently crusty-outside, fluffy-inside, delicious bread of any grocery store.

The only other grocery stores I saw were usually in the south. Piggly Wiggly? All I can say is oof. The first time I got an indication that perhaps Publix wasn't all that was visiting my friend in Cincinnati. We were making tom kha gai, and we went to a Kroger. I was skeptical that we'd be able to get the true ingredients to tom kha gai in a Kroger. I had to go to Dong-A to get them back home, and Florida has a sizable southeast Asian population.

But Kroger had everything, the coconut milk and the appropriate chile peppers. Even lemongrass. My reaction was something like, "What the hell?" Why did I have to go to a specialty market for this? Who in Ohio really needed lemongrass more than me? I also happened to notice that their Florida oranges were cheaper than in Florida. My friend told me Kroger was based out of Cincy. Fine, I thought. Maybe this is just their showpiece grocery store.

But no. The grocery stores alone are worth getting my foodie butt out of Florida. If you're living on really common sale stuff you probably could live anywhere. But if you want good food, dear god, this place is heaven. My before-work lunch this week has been salmon wraps, comprised of teriyaki wild salmon burgers tucked in a whole wheat wrap smeared with half an avocado, with a few halved cherry tomatoes and a touch of salt.

SO GOOD.

I could never have afforded those ingredients for daily meals back home. And for every $100 you spend you get 10 cents off gas at the store gas station. Plus sometimes there are coupons and double points. This week my grocery bill was easily 25% cheaper than it would have been at home AND I paid 3.05 a gallon to fill the tank.

I've also noticed there are hardly any fast food restaurants around. There are plenty of local independent places to get a meal for $5 or so, but I don't even know where the closest McDonalds is right now. My town has 3,000 people, plus more in the surrounding countryside, and zero fast food restaurants. I can't imagine Orlando having 3,000 people unserved by a fast food restaurant... I hope this never changes! The local food culture is very strong around here, especially from the Pennsylvania Dutch. The food stores are heavy on egg noodles, donuts, pretzels, pretzel bread, potato bread, potato chips, any kind of dairy products, any kind of seafood, pork products, especially sausages and bacon, sauerkraut, apple cider, and root beer. Makes me think I should start a farm just to keep from getting fat...

I feel compelled to go on about this because since I've wanted to move to Maryland I've heard a lot about how Florida is SO cheap and Maryland is SO expensive because Florida has low taxes. But so far that is nonsense. At least, out here in Washington County. (Most of Maryland, as I well know, has rather expensive housing, so there is that.) Yes, I will pay state and county income taxes here, but food, gas and insurance are much cheaper which easily offsets that. (Property and sales tax are about the same.) (And for me, entertainment is also cheaper, as there are a lot of inexpensive or free museums, AND all the county library systems appear to be open to any state resident, whereas Florida libraries are restricted by county.)
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Jan. 16th, 2012

alan dare

Moving day looming...

I haven't really had time to talk to anyone so I'm doing a blog post when I have a free moment.

WE HAVE SO MUCH STUFF AGHKHKGHHH WHYYYY.

This is one cram-full 900+ square foot condo. It will be so awesome to have a fresh start in a house more than twice the size, AND I get to supervise the moving in, so I can establish some better habits. Like, the filing system Dade had going wherein important papers are stored, jumbled, in plastic bags in a cabinet with the art supplies? Gone.

Dade and I are both equally messy, but in different ways. He is the kind of person who doesn't mind throwing things in a closet in a mess, never looking at the closet again except to throw something else in there, and then buying the same item twice because he forgot he already had it, because it's been in that messy closet for 10 years. I'm the kind of person who might let the messy closet sit for a year or two, but one day I'll suddenly go, "OHMIGOD THAT CLOSET I CAN'T STAND IT TODAY IS THE DAY!!!"

But I, on the other hand, am the one who tends to leave apple cores and chocolate wrappers around. I also am the one who will put something really important in a place I THINK is obvious at the time, but ends up becoming a huge problem because it actually wasn't obvious. "WHERE ARE MY KEYS?" So I can't get mad at him for his foibles. Still, it's nice to really declutter and organize everything for once in our lives, and to have a house I doubt we'll grow out of, even with Dade's hobbies and our book collection.

It's just been taking for-EVER. I've been easily spending 10 hours a day, every day, on cleaning out, organizing, packing, Goodwill trips, Ebaying the better items, etc, for two weeks straight. I haven't properly touched writing in over a month, thanks to the nasty colds we had, Christmas, and now this. I miss writing SO MUCH. I don't remember when I've ever gone over a month without having time to be creative.

But I'm also SO EXCITED. Only two weeks left. AHHHHH!!!

Dec. 14th, 2011

alan dare

Writer's Block: B.Y.O.B. Holidays

What is your must-see holiday movie? One random answer will win a $50 Amazon gift card. [Details here]


The Shop Around the Corner! I'll admit, I totally have a hardcore crush on Jimmy Stewart in this movie.

Also, Love, Actually, which satisfies practically every desire in a Christmas movie: romance, humor, tearjerkiness, cheesiness.

And I have a soft spot for the Santa Clause movies. If they're on, I'll watch 'em.

And, not a holiday movie per se, but I always have a yen to watch Auntie Mame at this time of year. It does have a Christmas scene!

Dec. 13th, 2011

alan dare

Asheville

Last week I visited my parents in Asheville (actually north of Asheville) for the first time. It's so NICE up there! I never want to go home when I go to the mountains. We had a very low-key Christmas. Basically no one has any money for presents, and it's kind of nice that no one has any money all at once because it takes the pressure of everyone entirely. We decorated the tree, decorated cookies, and I basically relaxed and didn't think about my career or house much at all, which was exactly what I needed.

Of course my mom made delicious food every day, local sausages with mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meat sauce, Indian food (including my sister's contribution of a poor man's gobi manchurian--fried cauliflower--that was DELISH), and my favorite, the falafel wraps with tahini-garlic sauce and other toppings and sweet potato fries. Who needs takeout, man.

Asheville also happens to have the most AMAZING (the name does not lie) food store I have ever been to, Amazing Savings. It's like, expired health food store rejects, except, most of the stuff hasn't even actually expired yet, and, it is REALLY GOOD stuff. For instance, I got Green & Black's 70% dark organic chocolate chips for $1.99 a pound. $1.99 a POUND for organic chocolate!? That is crazy! I came home with a bag the size of a child's head for $7. And chip-esque things are 99 cents a bag, buy two get one free. At that price you can try any chip-esque thing you've ever been curious about, from wasabi popcorn to hemp chips. I got some kind of strange corn item--they are like, big unpopped looking kernels but they're soft and they taste like Fritos. Kombucha for $2! And the freezer section! Why can't I live near something like this!?

Hey, this is Livejournal, I can take a really long paragraph to talk about food bargains, right? ;)

More highlights:

--I got to hang out with Beth Revis and Stephanie Perkins! They are both rad and I'm so glad they live around Asheville because now I know I'll see them at minimum once a year.

--It snowed! My parents' house is like, the BEST weather watching house ever because it has a big ol' open living space with a ton of windows looking on the mountains and we got to watch the storm come in and the rain turn to snow. I've never seen that before.

--I had super-nice seatmates both ways on the plane, especially on the way there. Allegiant allows you to buy your seat for $11 (which is what I always do, I love you 20A) or otherwise have open seating so I could sit there and watch everyone go by and wish for a cool person and both times I got chatty artsy folk. The girl on the way there was practically a long lost family member, she was a bird artist like my sister and we both were toting around these BOOKS, mine was "The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Endangered Languages" and hers was "Born to Run" on the long-distance running Indians of Mexico, and we were chatting about, you know, the healing power of foods and yoga and homeschooling...

--Aww, I love Asheville.

--On Thursday the rain had stopped, and the temperature sat about at freezing in the morning and we walked down to the river, a pretty steep huff where I once nearly passed out coming back in warmer weather, but this time? I felt awesome. Now I'm home and JEEZ, this must be one of the warmest falls I can remember. We've barely had any cold fronts and when they come they only last one day! I want my cold weather back!

But if all goes well, we're moving Feb. 2nd, sooo, I'll have it soon enough...

Nov. 16th, 2011

alan dare

Dream

Occasionally I have a dream so silly I have to record it in my blog for posterity...

Last night I dreamt I was my character Det. He was accompanied by his wife (who was not his "real" wife, if you can call a fictional character that), who didn't really have much of a name, face or personality in the dream, she was just there like background dressing. They had time travelled back to about 1910, and the sky was full of experimental aircraft, like hot air balloons with bicycle attachments and awkwardly shaped canvas planes. Det went into a shop to buy an elaborate music box, and the proprietor was also aware of the time travel, and very concerned with the state of J. K. Rowling in 1910.

"She wouldn't have been famous now, of course," she kept saying. "She was poor at this time."

Finally, Det-me, irritated with the saleswoman's preoccupation with J. K. Rowling instead of selling him a music box, snapped, "J. K. Rowling wasn't even BORN at this point."

At the end, a lovely music box in an elaborately-worked silver case was purchased, and...okay, as if this dream wasn't completely inexplicable already, Det said, still rather testily, "Well, the next time Cricket magazine comes out, I want to see Cricket wearing his red sweater."

Then I woke up. Initially confused. But all day I keep thinking about that strange line about Cricket's red sweater and dying of laughter.

I also had a dream earlier in the week that Esmerine was in love with my character Syri. I woke very confused, like, wait, Esmerine is with Alan. But Syri is with another mermaid. Who is that? Why did I write two stories with mermaids? It took me a moment to remember Syri is with a perfectly human girl named Maria and the story in my dream had no bearing on any actual novels. It was so vivid! I'm glad I've been having character dreams, though, even weird ones, because my dreams have seemed mostly turned off for the past month or so, and I hate that!
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May. 9th, 2011

alan dare

Magic Under Glass contest! (x-post)

Cross-posted from Blogspot!

The Magic Under Glass paperback will be available in three weeks! And I recently got my first official paperback in the mail. It is pretty! It has a Between the Sea and Sky teaser inside!

So, I want to have a contest for FANS of Magic Under Glass. All of you guys who have read the book and talked about it have my gratitude. But what can I give you? I can't just hand out paperback copies because obviously you've already read it. But I can give out an extra-special copy. So, the grand prize winner of this contest gets:

--A paperback copy of Magic Under Glass laden with sketches of all the characters and handwritten notes about the writing and research and maybe a couple of hints about what happens in Magic Under Stone!
--AND you will receive a hardback of Between the Sea and Sky when I receive them. (Which will probably be a little bit before the release date in October but I can't guarantee that obviously because it isn't up to me.)

There will also be a runner-up prize of a signed UK copy of Magic Under Glass with a sketch of Erris and Nimira in the front AND a Between the Sea and Sky hardback when the time comes.

How do you enter?

Well, there are two ways. Write a review of Magic Under Glass and post it your blog that mentions the paperback is coming out May 24th (if you don't have a blog, I'll also accept Goodreads or Amazon, in which case you don't have to mention the release date), OR if you have already written a review, make a post that mentions the paperback release and links back to your old review.

OR if you aren't the reviewing sort, you can create any kind of show of love for Magic Under Glass: fan art, fan fic, animation, movie, collage, doll, performance art, Erris-trapped-in-clockwork mime on a street corner, WHATEVER.

Post here and link to what you did. I will select my favorite 20% of these reviews or fan creations and randomly draw the grand prize from among them. I will randomly draw the runner up prize from ALL entries.

Other details:
1. Contest ends May 31st so you have the WHOLE MONTH.
2. International entries are welcome! However, it is really expensive to ship overseas and I am kinda poor, so international winners will have to choose between having the first prize shipped now, or both prizes shipped around the release of Between the Sea and Sky.
3. Can you enter with a less-than-positive review? Yes. I don't want people to start freaking out about their reviews having critical comments. Thoughtful reviews are always appreciated even if they are mixed.
4. Can you enter more than once with say, a review and fan art or whatever? Well, sure! That would be awesome. You are welcome to enter up to three times with a review and/or different fan works, and I'd be surprised if anyone wanted to enter more than that anyway...

Mar. 18th, 2011

alan dare

Some wistful food memories

I was just having this conversation on Twitter about food and ethical food and blah blah and was reminded about something that was a HUGE part of my life as a kid that I rarely think about now because it is such a product of a bygone era. Food co-ops.

I mean, there still ARE food co-ops, I think my mom still belongs to one, but the way they are run has certainly changed as communication technology has improved, and now grocery stores have a lot of healthy food so I've never felt the need to belong to one. But when I was a wee little thing, my mom ran an organic food co-op so we could get healthy food (produce and dry goods). She used to get a list of what was available each month and how much it cost (this was probably on the phone, I guess) and because this was before the internet, of course, she would have to call every person in the co-op and read them the list and figure out how much everyone wanted to try to fill a case. Sometimes it might be like, there are 12 packs of strawberries in a case and people only want 6 packs of strawberries but my mom really wanted them so we would have a TON of strawberries. Or whatever it was. Other times maybe we just couldn't get the strawberries. After she figured it all out, she'd call back and place the order.

I remember when she got a fax machine to make some of this easier, at least she could get the list via fax and send it back, and some of the other co-op members may have had fax machine access so she wouldn't have to spend ages with THEM on the phone anyway.

Then we would have to get the food off the truck. It was a big semi that sometimes we had to meet in a parking lot early on, and then later it would come to our driveway. (We lived on dirt roads so I assume it had something to do with road accessibility...many of the roads were later paved.) The schedules might change, sometimes we had trucks coming before sunup and other times in the evening. But when it came, the garage would be FULL of produce boxes that had to be distributed. All these other women would come and be weighing and counting and dividing produce for hours while we kids ran around and played. I recall the excitement of my friends coming over on a cold winter night, running around in the woods and blowing puffs of visible breath (a rare thing in Florida) while the food was divided. Sometimes things we were excited for didn't come. You might have to wait another month, or maybe you'd just never get to have them. But it was a big social event, of a rather charmingly old-fashioned "women joining and working for the good of the community" nature.

My memories fail me a bit but at many points we had two co-ops going, one for produce and one for dry goods, and sometimes other women would take over the job of one or the other so we might go to someone else's house. The dry goods one was always exciting because you might get things like natural spritzers or cheese puffs!

Then of course, that was a lot of our food for the month, so we had to make sure we ate the fragile stuff first, and some always got thrown away, but my mom was good at making do with things.

As a kid it was just a part of life; I didn't think about it much. All I knew was, my mom spent days on the phone sometimes, semis backed into our driveway at 6 am, sometimes I helped count out zucchinis or whatever, usually I was just running around with my friends while all this went on, and then I enjoyed the food. The apples that came off those trucks were so good and crisp that I'm sure I was as spoiled for apples as any kid in Washington state. Potatoes, too, the big fall russets with their hearty skins, the rich golden Yellowfin and Yukon Gold and a couple times even nutty purple potatoes which I wasn't to see again for years. Summer berries. Big jugs of apple juice. When I went to second grade, the only year I wasn't homeschooled, I was surprised (as with SO many other things: I was baffled that most 7 year olds didn't know about homeopathic medicine) that other kids didn't get their food from trucks and had never seen blue corn chips in their life.

Sometimes I forget what a hippie kid I was, but I certainly haven't forgotten how good fresh organic apples taste, so it's no wonder I grew up a foodie who gets simultaneously stressed (because so much food is bad for people and/or planet) and excited (because you never know what you might find, like my recent haul of clearance coconut milk ice cream!) by grocery stores...

Mar. 6th, 2011

alan dare

Animals!

On Monday we went to Sea World. I'd gotten some really cheap tickets months ago and being the incredible hermits we are (as if we weren't already hermits, getting an Xbox for Christmas just did us in) we never did go during the coolest months. Suddenly it was like, SPRING BREAK IS COMING! AND THEN HEAT! We must use the tickets!

Sea World has the loudest music of any theme part I've been to. Like, "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" loud in certain places. Also I find the whole trained animals thing very weird and squicky. My favorite part is the puffins and penguins and seals and sea lions, and one very handsome toad who was looking out at me with a very similar expression to Oskar. We were there for a few hours and done. But Dade had never been, so that's another thing checked off our "before we move away" list.

There aren't many things left on the list...I guess that's fine as long as we have the Xbox.

Today I went birdwatching with my sister, something I have never actually done before. It was fun! Like those "how many animals can you spot?" picture books of childhood, except real. Unfortunately we didn't see any spoonbills or anything really special, until the SANDHILL CRANE BABIES. It was a whole little family, two parents and two babies. The babies look like oversized fuzzy orange ducks with wading legs. One baby fell behind and the parent went back and rounded it up. It was so darn cute, of course I wanted to cry. Cute animals always make me weepy, at the mere thought of how vulnerable nature is. I'm not cut out for the brutality!

I also had a little financial good luck. I had a dream a couple weeks ago that Steve Jobs had died and Apple stock was down a lot so I bought some in the dream and then it went up. When I woke up the big market news was Jobs' medical leave of absence. Close enough, right? I bought some Apple stock, it went up, I sold it. Then it went down again, so, perhaps in that gambler's rush, I bought it AGAIN and sold it again when it went up after the iPad 2 reveal. It might go up more but hey, I know better than to really gamble when my money is running semi-low. Still, I made $200 in less than two weeks. Not bad for a few clicks of a mouse. Okay, and some sleepless nights because I kept waking up early to monitor Apple news before the market opened. THAT'LL keep me from too much short term investment!

All right, back to staring at an open Word file. I wrote 10k in a week and I've outrun my brain again...

Feb. 27th, 2011

alan dare

Memories of Lisa Madigan

What a week!

There was good news and bad news on a professional front. Really excellent news for a dear friend that will go public soon.

And, we lost Lisa. *sigh*

I met Lisa exactly once. We were at ALA and I got a Mermaid's Mirror ARC and was terribly excited to read it, and we made plans to have dinner together. We were in a cab on the way to an after-hours shindig in Georgetown and Lisa said she thought she was too tired to have dinner with me. She apologized for being so "old" and I assured her it was no big deal, we'd run into each other at something else.

=( Well, now it makes perfect sense that she was too tired for dinner. She had cancer even if she didn't know it. I went on to a delightful dinner with some more of my favorite people, and Lisa emailed me after ALA to apologize again.

She was so sweet. During the Magic Under Glass cover issue she was one of a handful of people to email me directly to say:

"Jackie, obviously I've been totally wrapped up in my own stuff (!!!) the past few days, but I wanted to drop you a note just to say I hope you're hanging in there during this online tempest in a teapot."

She had JUST won the Morris award. But she still took time to drop me a note. Another time she sent me a little hanging mermaid which I put by my desk. She was sweet, but she also had teeth. Some of the subjects to emails she sent me are "Your fabulosity", "Hi cutie!", and "I might be a suspicious bitch, but..." She also wasn't above sending a message that said, "I might be overstepping my boundaries, but..." and then giving me some helpful advice. Real friends do overstep boundaries when they need to, once in awhile, don't they?

I talked about this on my Blogspot, but I don't think I said it here. Dade's mom died of pancreatic cancer. Right before I found out Lisa had pancreatic cancer too, I had a vivid dream where Dade's mom visited me and told me she was all right, full of joy and even humor, and looking out for us. I'd never had a dream like that before even though she died many years ago. It brought me a great sense of peace about Dade's mother's death, many many years later, that I had never really had before. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but now I can't help but wonder if she really was looking out for me, knowing I needed a glimpse behind the veil just then.

Lisa, I hope wherever you are, the mermaids are singing.

Feb. 3rd, 2011

alan dare

Flying into winter!

On Saturday I am flying to Branson for a writer's retreat with 20+ other writers, which is going to be nuts, I'm so excited. This is a sample forecast for one of the days we will be there:

Monday Night and Tuesday
Bitterly cold. Partly cloudy. Lows around 4. Highs in the lower 20s.

Ohmigosh. I'm going to see REAL WINTER. 4? I have never been in 4 degree weather in my life. In fact the coldest weather I've experienced was inside the walk-in freezer at Chamberlin's. There was one morning on our trip to Maryland in 2009 where windchill probably brought the temp down to the teens, but... I've also only seen snow twice and by the looks of it, there will be snow everywhere. Snow on the ground! Snow falling! I am going to try not to seem too ridiculously excited. Floridians are so weird. I know everyone else is sick of snow, it's like if someone from the desert came to visit and was just like "OHMIGOSH GRASS! TREES!" for days.

Anyway. I'm excited about snow and other writers, but I'm having trouble packing because I don't have very many clothes suitable for highs in the 20s, let's face it. Or real snow. I have nothing waterproof. I don't own any ugly but practical coats, just cute ones. And of course I don't have to go outside, but also I don't know how efficiently heated our retreat house is. Sooo that's been fun. But I think I've got it figured out. Thank goodness that I occasionally thrift a mostly useless piece of cold-weather wear.

Ahh, so excited. I even get to fly in with jessica_shea so the fun starts at Orlando International, which is definitely a nice perk. The plane/train/whatever TO something is usually when the excitement is just exploding, and yet it's also usually quite boring.

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