The Return of #FoodPorn: Friday Night Dinner!

So we all know that dinner is hard work, particularly when you’ve been ultra-busy, you’ve gotten home late, and you’re feeding a family of five. It can get hectic, ’cause everybody is HANGRY and they don’t want to wait. The first option is to go to boxed foods — quick to prepare, marginally decent taste, pretty cheap.

NOPE.

While I do occasionally succumb to the “let someone else do it” mentality, I also like to feed my family real food, and I’ve learned how to do it fast. This past Friday, I did just that. I made a beautiful, comfort-food dinner that went from grocery bags to plates in right at an hour.

Go ahead and try it…you know you want to.


The Menu

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Ain’t that a pretty plate? What’s on it is:

  • Chicken Kiev (a modified version)
  • Buttered Spinach
  • Macaroni & Cheese

All made from scratch. Yup, in an hour. Ingredients first, then process.


The Ingredients

Here’s a shot of the ingredients. It really isn’t as much as you think. And the flour is missing, ’cause I’m a dork and forgot to grab the tin.

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Chicken Kiev

  • 3 large (thick) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (I used seasoned bread crumbs, others use panko. Your choice)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Buttered Spinach

  • 1 lb fresh spinach, washed well
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Mac & Cheese

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 2 16 oz bags shredded cheese (I use Italian Blend & Mexican Blend)
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • milk
  • salt & pepper

Links above send you to the individual recipes. Just in case you want them.

Also note, I’m cooking for a crowd. You can always modify these recipes to feed less people. Just drop your ingredients proportionally so you always have the right  blend of flavors.


The Process

Here’s what time it was when I started:

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  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Start the water to boil for the macaroni. Pull out a ginormous skillet and add about a half-inch/inch of your favorite oil [I used a well-seasoned canola]. Set it to medium-low.
  • Beat the eggs well and pour them into the macaroni dish. Add 1 1/2 cups milk and half the cheese. Salt and pepper it, then stir it up really good. [A word of advice: use a teaspoon or so more salt than you expect to use. Trust me…the noodles need it.] Stick it on the counter.

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  • If the water is boiling, throw in the pasta. If not, cut up the butter for the chicken and and stick it somewhere warm to soften.

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  • Throw the spinach into a collander and rinse it well. Then drain it and rinse it again, particularly if it just came out of a garden. Dirty butter tastes funky.

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  • Do the pasta thing now if you haven’t already. Boil it 10ish minutes.
  • Is your butter soft? If so, great. If not, stick it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. You want it squishy, not melty. Then dump all of your filling ingredients into the bowl with the butter and mash it up really well. I used to fork to squish, then a spoon and my fingers for the stuffing.

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  • Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise from the side. You want them relatively thin and evenly-sized, but thick enough to stuff and bread. You need a REALLY sharp knife for this next step, otherwise you’re going to mutilate your chicken. [I prefer this method to the pounding/freezing/wrapping nonsense. It’s faster and tastes just as good.]

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  • Use the tip of the knife to slice a pocket into each chicken breast half from the side. You want it as deep and wide as possible without slicing through the other side of the meat. If it happens, it’s okay. Don’t panic. Just be careful how you stuff them.

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  • Stuff roughly 1 tbsp of butter into each breast, making sure to fill the pocket. Keep the butter away from any cuts or openings so they will seal themselves and keep the buttery goodness inside.
  • Wash your hands really well so not to transfer bacteria.
  • Rinse the spinach one more time for good measure.
  • When your timer goes off on your pasta, pause whatever you’re doing (if you’re playing with the chicken, wash your hands) and drain the pasta well. Dump it into the prepared dish and stir it up. Add the remainder of the cheese and, if it appears thick and lumpy, a little more milk to make it creamy. Shove that bad boy in the oven and forget about it. Doesn’t matter if the oven isn’t completely to 400 yet. It’ll get there.

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  • Lay out your bowls for the eggs, flour, and bread crumbs. Beat the eggs really well (I mean beat the unholy hell out of these suckers. The better beaten they are, the better they stick to the chicken) and pour them into the dish.
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Why yes, I did steal my daughters’ IKEA plates for this.
  • One at a time, roll the chicken pieces in flour (shake off excess), dip in egg (careful not to layer it on too thick), then roll in bread crumbs and set on a dry plate. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
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This is messy work, y’all.
  • Wash your hands. If you have Clorox Clean-up or some other germicidal cleaner handy, move everything and clean your counter. Empty the dredging bowls and squirt ’em too. Salmonella isn’t something we play with in our house.
  • Check your oil by dropping a single drop of water into it. If it sizzles, it’s ready. Which by now, it should be.

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  • TIME CHECK!
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Not bad…not bad at all.
  • Carefully place the chicken pieces into the hot oil using tongs. Try not to scrape off the breading or pierce the meat. Only place as many as your pan will comfortably fit — mine holds 3 at a time. Set the timer for 4 minutes.

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  • Get another pot and shove your spinach into it. Don’t worry about it all fitting into the pot. It’s gonna shrink up A LOT.
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See? Mine doesn’t fit either.
  • Set the heat under it to medium. The water still in the leaves from the rinsing will be sufficient to let it wilt. Stir it occasionally, making sure to bring the top leaves down into the pot so they can steam, too.
  • When the buzzer goes off, flip your chicken. Set it to another 4 minutes, but keep an eye on it. If it gets too dark too fast, turn your heat down and reduce your time to 3 minutes.

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  • Once the majority of your spinach is wilted, throw it back in the collander to drain off the excess water [there won’t be much]. Return it to the pot with the butter and other ingredients and turn it down to medium-low. Let that cook (remember to stir) until the butter is melted, then turn off the heat and just let it do its thing.
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Same Spinach…different consistency. Shrinkage is real, y’all.
  • Remove the chicken pieces from the oil and let drain on paper towels. Be careful not to squeeze them too hard or the butter pockets might explode. We don’t want that. Yet.
  • Add the next/remainder of the chicken and cook as above.
  • Check on your mac and cheese. By now it should have a nice, golden-brown crust on top. Yank that gooey goodness out of the oven and put it on a heatproof surface to cool. If you have grease on top from the cheese, dab it away with a paper towel.

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  • Flip the chicken. Get your plates ready.
  • Wash up. You really shouldn’t have a huge mess, and dinner will be much more satisfying if you don’t have to deal with it afterward.

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  • Remove the last of the chicken from the pan and cool.
  • Plate up your food and serve. Check out the time, too.
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One hour and seven minutes. BAM!
  • Congratulate yourself on a job well-done.
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One more time, ’cause it’s gorgeous. And look at that empty sink to the right!

NOTE: If you don’t like the idea of the frying, you can always bake the chicken – 350 degrees for about an hour, turning once. You want your inner temperature to register at least 165 degrees, otherwise you run the risk of uncle Sal coming to dinner, and he’s not invited.

So there you have it. Dinner in an hour. Now go forth and create magical foods!

 

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Bad Decisions, Social Justice, and the ConCarolinas Kerfluffle

Yeah, so everyone has heard the nonsense going down over ConCarolinas, right? If not, let me catch you up in three sentences:

  1. The ConComm invited John Ringo to be a special guest and he accepted.
  2. THE WORLD EXPLODED – meaning the mostly-liberal, mostly-welcoming regular ConCarolinas crowd freaked the absolute fuck out over this guy’s historical behavior and some not-so-far-fetched hypotheticals stemming from it.
  3. Some people got pissed and others withdrew from the con.

That’s where we are right now. There’s a lot of contention in the air, a lot of angry statements floating around that people may come to regret later, and a whole bunch of speculation on what’s actually going to happen in a month and a half.

Let’s pause for a minute and remember something: We’re all writers. Being writers makes us the poster children for overactive imaginations, right? Right.

Chasing hypotheticals is kind of what we do.

[ASIDE: This is not a political post. This is not a post dedicated to righting the wrongs of the world or condemning anyone for what they may or may not have done, or what they may or may not do. It’s my opinion, for the whole two cents and bad headache that it’s worth.]

Now, let’s get back to that Special Guest.

Personally, I have no opinion of the guy. I don’t know him. I’ve not met him. I’ve read a couple of his books, and I’m “meh” at best, because I’m not a huge fan of big military sci-fi. Yes, I’ve read all the stuff on the internet about how he portrays his characters and how he doesn’t deny that his own beliefs line up with theirs. It’s more or less conjecture at this point. At least, for me it is, because I haven’t witnessed it firsthand. I honestly don’t give two shits about him being a republican. I choose to form my opinions of people once I’ve actually been in a room with them and witnessed their behavior for myself.

Is it possible he and his fans (who, according to credible human sources, tend to be loud, rude, and exhibit racist/misogynist behavior) could come in and raise unholy hell in the middle of a usually friendly and even-keel event? Absolutely. But that’s true of literally anyone.

I admit, I’ve played through a hundred different scenarios involving as-of-yet fictional people doing dumb shit which requires me to step up and verbally bitch-slap them. I’ve played out the hypotheticals that could potentially lead to someone ending up in jail or the hospital. Or both. Again…writer. It’s what I do.

Keeping this in mind, I’ll be going into ConCarolinas weekend wary, but professional. This is my career, damn it, and I refuse to give anyone enough power over me to make me walk away from a chance to further myself professionally and spend time with my friends. Neither this man nor his followers have any sort of pull or control over me. So what if there’s a chance there could be an altercation? I’m willing to take that chance, because to me, my presence and my ability to stand up for myself and the people I care about will be more effective than walking away. Why? Because I don’t have the same social pull as the man the con world is currently rallying against. Because my actual VOICE and my ACTIONS will speak louder than my absence.

Which brings me to my next point:

A very dear friend of mine felt so emotionally threatened over this announcement that she has withdrawn her attendance. I completely understand her decision, because this wouldn’t be her first racism rodeo, were it to happen.

Her action was based on previous personal experiences with this person. It’s not arbitrary or unjustified.

I support her decision, because she’s doing what she feels is best for her. I will always be there to support her, no matter what, because I love her. Do I wish the situation were different and she was still going to be there with me? Yes. Absolutely. I would love for any resolution which would guarantee her a seat beside me. But that isn’t the case, and it’s her decision to make.

Which brings me to my third point:

Someone else made the statement yesterday that basically amounted to “you can’t be everybody’s friend and if you’re not resigning in solidarity, then you’re not an ally.”

That pissed me right the hell off.

See, I’m usually pretty quiet on political and social issues. I’m not a political creature. If I were, I’d be in politics. I’m a freaking writer. I use words to entertain people. Well, mostly myself, but anyone else who happens to come along can enjoy them, too. I’m also not the type to use my books as a sociopolitical platform. That isn’t what I do.

Do I have opinions? Oh, yeah. Loads of ‘em. But I choose to conduct myself in a more or less professional manner because my opinions should have absolutely no bearing on my book sales.

So a fellow author piping up and telling me I’m suddenly not good enough because I’m not pissed off enough? Yeah, no. Bullshit.

Why am I required to be outraged just to satisfy the outrage of others? Why can’t I just be a good person? When did being a good person go out of style? Because let’s face it…some of these “allies” are just as horrible as the people they’re fighting against. I’ve seen truly deplorable behavior on both sides, and when you’re reduced to squabbling like pissed off children, you don’t get anywhere. I don’t play those silly drama-llama games. I’m an adult, and I intend to present myself as such. I’m going to fight for what’s right, but I’m going to do it rationally and reasonably.

Yeah, we could all resign in righteous fury, but you know what’s going to happen? The ConComm will invite new guests. Because here’s the secret, snowflakes… we are all replaceable. And if we aren’t there to defend our territory and our people against a potential attack, those who replace us might not be so quick to do it. While we might feel that the ConComm has made a bad decision by inviting someone who could potentially upset the balance we’ve spent years crafting, there isn’t much we can do about it besides follow the rules and behave ourselves as we always have.

So no, I will not be resigning in solidarity to appease someone else’s outrage. As I said, my words and actions will have more impact than my absence. I will defend myself and my friends with every breath I have, should the situation require it. I will always champion the person who needs one.

My friends come in all flavors [insert awful joke about licking people here], and if I spend all of my time being angry and upset over all of the injustices of the world, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else. I have to choose my battles and how I fight them. I have to decide what works best for me while still conveying my point and protecting others.

This is a battle I choose to fight head-on.

Dear People Without Kids…

You know, it truly amazes me the things I hear while out in the wild. Humanity never ceases to astound me with its unintentional ignorance, cluelessness, and constant comic relief. In the wake of another holiday season gone, I find myself reflecting on the utter insanity I’ve witnessed in the last ten or so days. I’ve watched good friends pitied for not having children. I’ve watched other good friends ridiculed for using their pets as surrogates. I’ve watched still others point and laugh at those of us who do have children as if we’ve developed some sort of plague.

I started writing the following awhile back, but never got around to posting it for the simple fact that it didn’t feel right at the time. Now it does, because it perfectly explains everything I want to say to all sides…even if I am saying it to those of the childless persuasion.

Dear People Without Kids:

It’s okay to not have children. Really, it is.

For those of you unable to have children for whatever reason, you do have my sympathy and I completely understand if you’ve attained pet-parent status. It’s wonderful that you’ve opened your home and your life to a critter or three, because critters need love, too.  I was a pet parent until recently as well, and I loved my little furbaby as much as I love my human babies. I miss her so much it hurts, even all these months later.

To those who don’t want children, I applaud you for knowing what you want and making it reality. It takes guts to go against society’s expectations and do your own thing. If we’re perfectly honest, I’m a little jealous of you. I envy your freedom. I miss the days when I could go where I wanted when I wanted and stay out all night. I miss being able to watch what I want on television. I miss not dreaming the Doc McStuffins theme song. I used to be able to do the things you do.

Sure, I have to schedule alone time with my husband and arrange for care of my children just to go to work or take a nap. My days consist of runny noses and sticky fingers instead of hors d’oeuvres and martini glasses; finger paints and sandboxes instead of shopping days and coffee shops, and trips to the playground instead of the bar. I know those things don’t appeal to you, and that’s perfectly okay. I used to be like you, rolling my eyes at the people who would tell me how wonderful motherhood was. Even my own mother used to tell me, “It’s different when they’re yours.”

But now that I’m here, they’re right. It is different. And it’s not all bad. I have the three most beautiful children in the world. I might be biased, but it’s true. I also have unconditional love, hugs and kisses, giggles, snuggles, and the privilege of seeing the world through innocent eyes. For me, those things make giving up my freedom worthwhile.

I’m not saying you have to drop what you’re doing and jump on my bandwagon. Quite the opposite, really. I’m saying there are advantages to both sides, and no matter which side of the argument we end up on, it’s the right side. We can live together in harmony. It doesn’t have to be a battle for superiority.

I do have one request though: please be patient with my girls and me. They’re not always going to be quiet, and they aren’t always going to be clean. They’re going to throw down in public and they’re going to get on your nerves. But I’m doing the best I can, really. I’m still pretty new at this and don’t have all the answers. I don’t need condescending comments vaguely directed at me for daring to have a child who makes noise. Contrary to what you may think, they are people. They can hear you. And they do have feelings. That behavior doesn’t help the cause of the childless, and I’m likely going to rip you a new one for being a d-bag to my kids. I really don’t want to do that, because I know you aren’t always so mean. You’re probably just having a bad day and I’m frazzled and overly sensitive. It’s a toxic combination.

So let’s just agree to disagree on what the best course truly is.

Don’t pity me for having children, and I won’t express sympathy over your lack of children. I’m proud of you for going your own way, and I’d appreciate the occasional pat on the back from you for raising children who aren’t serial killers (yet. The jury may still be out on one of them). Just know it takes all kinds to make this crazy world go ’round.

Houston, We Have a Problem.

[Warning: Anger and Profanity Ahead. Lots of profanity. If my mother is reading this, she should probably stop right here.]

Another school shooting yesterday. That makes how many this year?

Oh, that’s right. 18.

EIGHTEEN SCHOOL SHOOTINGS.
IN THE FIRST FORTY-FIVE DAYS OF THE YEAR.

That’s one every 2-3 days. Following that estimation, we’re due for another one tomorrow since the third day is a Saturday.

But according to this country’s administration, half of the internet, and gun enthusiasts everywhere, we don’t have a problem. No, not at all. Not even a little bit. It’s perfectly okay that children are dying in horrifying ways at the hands of their peers.

How is this NOT a problem? How are our children’s lives so fucking insignificant that we can’t admit that there might be a little bit of an issue?  What’s it going to take for our lawmakers to finally admit just how wrong this is?

Now I don’t normally open up my big, opinionated mouth and fly off the hip about anything (yeah, right…y’all know me better than that), but right now I’m hurt, angry, and scared. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is let my daughter go to school this morning. After she ran off toward her classroom, totally oblivious to danger, I got back in my car and I cried for an hour. Even now I keep wondering if this morning’s hug could be the last one.

But I’m done worrying about stepping on toes. Fuck all y’all who say we don’t have a problem.

Ahem.

So the first thing gun nuts did after this happened was to start screaming about their second-amendment rights. Let’s review, shall we?

AMENDMENT II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,
the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

First and foremost…most people squawking right now aren’t part of a militia. They’re individual citizens who think it’s okay to own an AR-15, Uzi, or other assault-grade weapon for fun.

Now, I agree with part of the above statement — taking away the right to defend oneself is going too far. The solution is not to remove all firearms. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Let me explain something, first.

There are currently two firearms in my house – a pistol and a .45 muzzle loader. Both belonged to my father. The pistol is a six-shot revolver, by the way. Simple, but effective. There’s also a box of hollow-point bullets to go with it locked safely away. I, personally, have never fired either. I know how, mind you, so if you come into my house without asking you take your life into your own hands because (1) you don’t know where in the house they are, (2) you don’t know where I am, and (3) you don’t have a clue if I’m going to be in a bad mood or not.

You see, my Daddy was a huge hunk of Grade-A, USDA Certified Country-Boy Meat, and he taught me well when I was very young. Though I haven’t used that firearm knowledge in years, it doesn’t mean I don’t still have it. I have great respect for firearms, and to a certain extent I fear them. They are capable of causing great damage in the hands of the wrong people. They can save lives as well as take them away. I get that.

I live in South Carolina, so weapons registration isn’t a requirement. My guns aren’t registered. However, they can and will be very easily if the PEOPLE IN CHARGE so decide that it needs to happen. I don’t have any problem at all taking them in for registration. If that’s going to save even one life, then it’s worth it to me.

Back to my point.

In a perfect world where they could all be gone in the blink of an eye, yes…I’d love to see guns go away for good. But this isn’t that world. It’s the real world.

So no, I don’t think it’s fair to remove firearms from the hands of law-abiding citizens completely. I do, however, feel that some change is necessary. And not all of it has to do directly with the right to bear arms.

Now for the part of this that’s gonna piss people off…

NO CIVILIAN NEEDS AN ASSAULT WEAPON. Period. End of discussion. They were made for the specific purpose of killing PEOPLE. And it seems, more recently, CHILDREN.

Someone told me one time he uses an AR-15 to hunt because he has coyotes near his house. You can kill a coyote just as easily with a single-barrel shotgun. If you’re a bad enough shot that you need high capacity rounds, then you probably don’t need to be playing with a gun. If you have a “collection” of weapons (as in three or more on display), that collection needs to be under supervision and locked away from the hands of those who don’t own them.

BUT.

But… but there’s more to it, yes. Registering weapons and limiting the availability of certain types only solves part of the problem.

Yes, people kill each other with more than just guns.

If you want to keep people from killing each other, you’re probably going to have to just kill everyone on the planet and be done with it. If I so choose, I can kill a person with a pillowcase. Or a frying pan. Or a car. Poison. Kitchen Twine. A toothbrush. A bomb. A brick. A baseball bat. A spoon. My bare fucking hands! The possibilities are endless. Human ingenuity is an amazing trait. We, as a species, have the ability to manufacture tools from common objects to get any job done. That’s how the industrial age started.

Did you know it takes 5 psi to crush a windpipe and effectively suffocate someone? My mother could do that one-handed. Yeah, it’s THAT easy.

I’m a writer. I know these things.

BUT IT HAS NO BEARING ON GUN VIOLENCE. None at all. Apples and orangutans. I can’t go into a school with a baseball bat and a sword and do the same amount of damage as I would with an assault rifle. I might injure a couple of people…even manage to kill one if I catch an artery. Even then, the other sixteen are still alive.

But there’s a bigger problem than the gun nuts and their impinged rights.

Our Government.

The assholes driving this flaming shitshow don’t care. Not even a little. They got paid already, and they have no conscience. And that useless, lumpy bag of dicks we’re supposed to call a president has exacerbated the horrors of a corrupt government with every breath he’s taken in the last 16 months. That idiot never should have been given the kind of power he has, and the sooner it’s taken from him, the better.

Our legislators – so far removed from real life so not to be personally affected by any of this – offer empty condolences, pretend to pray, and go right back to quietly stripping the people of their basic rights while waving a red flag in front of things that should ultimately be non-issues.

Who the fuck cares what bathroom someone uses or what color my neighbor’s skin is or what direction he faces when he prays? I certainly don’t.

We all bleed red.

Case in point: CHLDREN ARE FUCKING DYING AND YOU’RE LETTING IT HAPPEN, YOU IGNORANT TWATS. Those children and their grieving families are innocent. They’re not to blame for going to school and trying to become something more.  They aren’t in the wrong for being young and joking with their friends. They should be worrying about history tests and prom, not lockdown drills and final messages to their mothers from a closet.

They’re cattle in a killing field right now because our lawmakers are uncomfortable with the truth.

That truth is ugly…lax laws lead to massacre and the NRA fighting against protective regulations lines it up to land squarely in terrorist territory.

No, we can’t stop all gun violence in this country right now. But doing nothing isn’t gonna make it better. Inaction perpetuates the violence. Using black market trading as an excuse is a stupid argument. It’s a cop out, and even suggesting that illegal activity begets inaction means you’re a fucking idiot.

One more time for the people in the back: SUGGESTING THAT ILLEGAL ACTIVITY BEGETS INACTION MEANS YOU’RE A COMPLETE FUCKING IDIOT. Do with that what you will.

Yeah, people still commit crimes. But by this flawed logic, the police should sit in the station playing canasta because their presence isn’t a deterrent to thieves. Hospitals should shut down because people will always continue to get hurt.

Which is insane.

Now, the solution… we take baby steps. There has to be common ground before real change happens. Forget the loudmouths at either end of the spectrum. They’ll still be standing on the sidelines screaming offense no matter what you do.

Here’s how this should go down:

  1. Both sides take a breather, have a glass of water and a sandwich, and CALM THE FUCK DOWN. ‘Kay? Can we do that? Good.
  2. Find the source of the problem, be it mental health, firearm education, more stringent acquisitions, limitation of allowable firearms, or a combination of these and other factors yet to be decided.
  3. Civilized discussion. Again, it’s a stretch…but it’s what needs to happen. Whether we agree with the opinions or not, they need to be heard and taken seriously on all sides. Being civilized is the only way to reduce the risk.
  4. Accept now that both sides have to compromise. In order to make this work, we have to come together as a community and sort out what portions of the issue need regulation and what can go on as is.
  5. Write regulations that are fair to both sides – which allow the retention and use of firearms but protect innocents from slaughter. Create education programs. Tighten up acquisitions. Limit availability of assault weapons.

The one thing both sides need to remember going into this is that firearms are powerful. They’re a huge responsibility, and not everyone is qualified to own and operate them. You don’t get a driver’s license without first exhibiting your ability to operate a motor vehicle. You can’t fly a plane without proving you won’t crash it. You can’t practice law unless you KNOW the law. You aren’t a surgeon because you want to be; you’re a surgeon because you train extensively for it.

It’s going to take time and effort, and those of us who know change is necessary continuing to loudly demand change. The solution will not be instant, but it’s there, waiting to be discovered.

And don’t talk to me about arming teachers as a solution. Those poor souls have enough on their shoulders without having to worry about a handgun in a kindergarten classroom. That’s one more burden they don’t need, and makes the classrooms LESS safe. Besides, when the guy with the AR comes through the door blowing everyone to shit, the teacher is going to be too busy herding the kids into a dark corner or closet to unlock a box, flip the safety, and go find the bastard doing it. That’s ludicrous and you’re an idiot for thinking it.

“But now isn’t the time to talk about the laws…”

Fuck that noise. Right now is exactly the time to talk about it. While emotions are high and it’s fresh in everyone’s minds. While we all know the horror of wondering how many CHILDREN survived that unimaginable atrocity. While we remember who we’re fighting for.

But “don’t tread on me”!

I’ll stomp all over your motherfucking face if it means my daughters stay safe. And when I’m done, you’ll beg me for more, bitch.

#Romance Writers are Not Beneath You

Of all the things I have in mind to write about now that I’m reviving the blog, this one got shoved to the forefront. A comment was made in a writing group on Facebook the week before last that nearly set my hair on fire. Someone asked a question about why it takes so long to write a novel.

Most of the responses were decent enough – day jobs, families, every writer being different, etc.  Then there was one…

“Romance novels take like a week or two. I’d guess most others take a few months.”

My initial response was less than professional. I immediately wanted to tear the guy a new asshole in thirty different ways. I wanted to point out all the issues with that statement and how obnoxiously untrue its implications really are. Then I walked away from the internet, took a breath, and remembered that people tend to talk out of the sides of their necks.

My actual response was a suggestion that unless it was meant jokingly (there’s another issue here…we’ll address it in a minute), then it was highly offensive to actual romance writers. Of course the guy came back immediately with the “I’m just joking around” statement, but the damage was already done.

Contrary to what the internet troll community seems to believe, romance writers are not just horny ho-bags sitting behind a computer looking to get laid. We aren’t sleazy barflies. We’re not strippers or hookers or any of those ridiculous stereotypes the internet has built around the concept of “romance writer”. Nope…we’re hard-working women (and men, because I know quite a few men who write fabulous romance) with families and morals and a very keen understanding of human nature.

We’re the woman next door, or in front of you in line at the grocery store. While some romance writers base their books on their experiences, most of us don’t. Most of us are dreamers who love the idea of a happy-ever-after. We create ideal relationships as we would love to experience them, and then we share our dreams with the rest of the world so they can fall in love with us.

But it’s really more fundamental than that… forget that we’re romance writers. We’re still writers.

Here’s the thing, kids… writing any book of quality is hard work. It doesn’t matter what the genre is, if you’re going to write a story that has a plot and substance beyond sex (another point for down the post), then you’re going to be doing character and world building, plotting, planning, and research.

Being that I write in multiple genres, I can honestly tell you that writing romance is harder than writing speculative fiction. When you’re playing with human emotion, you have to get it right, and there’s no room for error. Your characters have to be believable, relatable, and consistent. People read romance for the emotional value and gratification. They read it so they can experience what the main characters experience. They do it to fall in love.

Yes, some people prefer Erotica. Erotica is a totally different animal – the focus of the story is on the sex, not on the relationship. In many cases you get both (hence Erotic Romance — which, by the way, uses sex as a plot device to further the romantic relationship), but the primary motivator of the text is explicit sexual gratification. Humankind has proven more than once that you can have sexual gratification without emotion, and you quite often find that emotionless dynamic in erotic literature. I know many, many authors who write erotic literature, and yes, they do finish books in a couple of weeks.

By book, we’re usually talking 20,000 word or less novella. Single scene, no through-story. One and done. That’s their market and they write to it. There’s very little that changes in sex. Tab-A, Slot-whatever, repeat, repeat, repeat. They just find creative ways of framing the act. I can tell you from experience, writing sex is much easier and faster than following an extensive plot.

There’s nothing wrong with that, either. It gives readers the opportunity to explore new scenarios without diving into lifestyles they know nothing about. It also offers that gratification in a safe and secure manner, in the privacy of one’s home.

But erotic literature isn’t what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about romance. Yes, they are different things. Pretty much any writer of either will agree.

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Back to the point…or points, as this post would have it:

Point #1: “Writing Romance is Easy.”

This pisses me right the hell off every time some asswipe says it. It isn’t easy, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either not doing it right, or an idiot. It seems there are a fair few who had this brilliant idea that “hey, I’ll write a romance novel and get rich”. Uh, no. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way in most cases. Yeah, there are some who got extremely lucky, but to expect that every time is insane. Romance is the largest literary market out there, which means there are a LOT of other books and a LOT of other authors to compete against. That means you can’t just write a bunch of crappy slush and shove it onto the shelves. In order to make any money at all, you have to write GOOD romance. Which ain’t easy, kids. And it takes a hell of a lot longer than a week.

Point #2: “Writing Romance is Fast.”

Hmmm…nope again. Sorry. While yes, everyone writes at different speeds, there does need to be some real thought behind the words. (See point one about slapping out slush.) Slapping out a poorly edited book is going to do awful things for you as a writer, for the market itself, and for the genre as a whole. I’m willing to bet a large portion of the reason romance writers are frowned upon by others is that there are so many who DO push out unedited slop just to make a buck. I’ve stopped being nice in reviews about that, too. And yes, I DO review.

But back to the idea of “fast”. Everyone is different. Some people can push out a novella in two weeks or so. I can’t. I also don’t know anyone personally that can. But I an my local contemporaries write much slower than a stay-at-home-mom who has two kids in grade school and six hours a day to sit in front of the computer uninterrupted. I have a day job, small children, and other obligations. My time is limited. My process is also much different than hers. I think very hard about every word that goes onto the page. I’m not a “write it all first and edit later” kind of person because the typos will run me up the wall and across the ceiling. While process plays heavily into the end product, the end product still has to have substance to stand up in the market.

Point #3: It Ain’t All About the Sexy, y’all.

Your focal point is what dictates whether you’re writing romance or erotica. Yes, romance can have sex and erotica can have plot, but there’s a very clear distinction between the two. As I said above…it’s emotional vs. physical. Some of the best romance novels I’ve ever read don’t have explicit sexual content. Hell, some of them don’t even have sex. You don’t have to have physical activity in your work to tell a satisfying story. They’re two very different things. And while neither of them should be denigrated by anyone, there needs to be a bit of education among the masses. There’s nothing wrong with writing either, and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with erotic romance. And anyone who wants to say otherwise can kiss my lily-white ass. Please and thank you.

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So that having been said, next time you decide to let fly an aloof and insulting comment about romance writers, think twice. We aren’t stupid. We practice our craft just like any other writer. We take pride in what we do. And you’re likely to end up as the next adulterous prick in one of our books.

In Memoriam

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Last week, the world lost a truly special soul.

I had the good fortune to have Brenda in my life for fourteen years. My only regret is that we didn’t become such good friends sooner than we did. She had the biggest heart, and I am so very honored to be able to call her a friend.

Her funeral was this past Tuesday, and there were so many things I wanted to say – things I wanted to tell her family – but I couldn’t do it. Just the thought of voicing everything in my head and heart brought me to tears. It’s hard to express in words how much I love her and how much I’m going to miss her.

I’m also not much for eulogizing. But these are things that need to be said. So bear with me. I’ll try not to be too long-winded.

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The first thing I was told when I came to work here was simple: “Don’t trust Brenda.”

But nobody could tell me why. I was young, and at the time we had split factions around here. It was kind of a warzone and I was stuck in the middle, everyone hanging around to see which way I’d fall.

I don’t play those games.

Over the years, Brenda and I became friends. Tentative at first, but friendly toward one another. Most of our conversation was superficial, and then one day we had a real conversation. You know, one of those conversations where you really get to see who someone is.

Then one day not long after that, we were good friends. Somewhere in those light conversations about movies and comic books and music, that trust grew. It happened without my knowledge

One afternoon I took her home – this was before I became her regular ride – and we got into a really heavy discussion. I don’t remember what the context was exactly, but it had to do with some racial issue. I made a comment about fair being fair regardless of what someone looked like or what they believed. Brenda just looked at me, and after a minute she said, “You really believe that, don’t you?”

Something changed that day, and shortly thereafter I stopped thinking about her as a coworker, or even a friend. She became family. She and my mother grew into a very tight friendship. She gave my mother the unconditional love she never had from someone outside our family, and though they only had a couple of years together, I’m thankful for that time.

She had this light about her. You always knew exactly where you stood, but even when she was telling you to get the hell out of her office, she was doing it with a smile. She made everyone’s day better just by being in it.

As it turns out, over the years I found she was one of the very few people up here I could trust, and I did so implicitly. She was my rock at work, a beautiful friend with a big heart and a lot of love to give. It never mattered what was going on with her; she always wanted to know what was wrong with us. She took care of us.

I tried to take care of her. As I write this, I feel like such a failure because she’s gone. I know, logically, there’s nothing I can do for a massive heart attack. But I tried. I wanted her to be here so much longer.

I can never remember a time when Brenda wasn’t here. She’s always been a quiet constant in the next office. She had a true passion for her job, and she loved this place. It’ll definitely be an adjustment, and one I’m not looking forward to.

Rethinking the Thinking

So I tried to mothball this thing awhile back and if we’re perfectly honest, it didn’t work. I have too many thinks and logging into the website is too exhaustive a process. That means I’m just going to start talking here again.

I know…you missed me and you’re thrilled. Right?

The End of an Era

Hey, y’all…

So you know how sometimes people hit a wall? I’ve done that. For the last six years, I’ve been moonlighting as two different people, not that any of you weren’t already aware of that.

The problem with that, however, is that I’m splitting my attention too many different ways, and it’s not healthy, and I’m not getting anywhere. So that having been said… I’ve made a decision. I’m going to consolidate my efforts. Siobhan and I have come to an agreement that we can’t take away from each other anymore. We have to go back to being the same person before it kills us.

This will, at least for the time being, be the last post to this blog. Everything is migrating to my website at www.SHRoddey.com as we speak. This blog will remain, as there’s lots of good stuff here. It’s also being copied to the website so I can keep everything in one place.

Thank you all for being part of this experiment, and please drop in at the website from time to time.