Monday, May 11, 2015

Zella's Wild Rice

Occasionally, I feel compelled to make a recipe or project that one of my characters comes up with. It's my way of making sure what I wrote in the text actually works. One day I'll get around to making Arden's tomato pie again so I can take pictures and write it down. It's quite wonderful, kind of a light deep dish pizza.

This is the wild rice dish that Zella Thula makes for the Metavanya family's Imbolc party in my work-in-progress, Arrow of Entropy. It only has six ingredients, because not much fresh food is available in early February (Erany in the Meloran calendar). When I wrote this into the text I needed to make sure that the ingredients she used could be found in the pantry of the northern highlands. The preserved lemon is the extra touch, a little luxury item from Vanora. I think this particular jar of lemons was Faron's little gift to Rassa, a peace offering, perhaps. Rassa keeps fresh herbs growing in in the kitchen windows all year, so Zella would have had plenty of fresh rosemary to snip and add to her dish.

There are two other recipes mentioned in this passage of the book, and I hope to make both at some point so I can write them out. One is a poppyseed bread, and the other is a cranberry relish. Seeds and dried fruit are traditional Imbolc foods, so I'm going to utilize them in all three dishes.

This is a simple recipe, but I am enjoying the results. It's sweet, savory, and a little nutty, an unlikely combination reminiscent of the two characters who inspired it.

I dipped a spoon into the pot on the stovetop and offered it to him. “Here, try this. I feel like it's missing something but I can't figure out what.”

“Wild rice, currants, roasted pumpkin seeds, what else?” Rassa asked before taking a bite.

“Shallots and rosemary,” I replied.

He swallowed and said, “Salt and acid. When you feel like something is missing, it's usually acidity. We have some preserved lemons in the cupboard. Those cover both the salt and the acid so I think if you mince them up and toss them in it will be perfect.”
-- From Arrow of Entropy

Zella's Wild Rice

1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
1/2 cup currants (or raisins or cranberries)
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp minced preserved lemon
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 shallots, sliced thinly

(all measurements are approximate)

Place the rinsed wild rice and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes, or until rice is tender.

While the rice is cooking, toss the rosemary, lemon, and currants together in a bowl and allow to sit so the flavors mingle.

Caramelize the shallots in a dry skillet, adding a tablespoon of water at a time if the shallots become too dry or stick. When they're soft and browned, remove them from the heat.

Toast the pumpkin seeds until lightly browned.

When the rice is finished cooking, drain the rice in a colander. Dump the cooked rice into a serving bowl or casserole dish. Add the currant mixture, shallots, and pumpkin seeds, and combine.
Clockwise -- wild rice, rosemary, preserved lemon, shallot, raisins, raw pumpkin seeds

Minced rosemary and preserved lemon.

Preserved lemon and rosemary mixed with raisins/currants.

Sliced shallots.

Nearly-caramelized shallots.

Toasted pumpkin seeds.

All together one last time before the big mingle.

Everything tossed together. The dish is complete!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Snippet: Sand into Glass

I sit up and press my right ear against Aucra's sternum. Her heart is steady, unchanging. She is clockwork, but I wonder if her gears are made of glass or of metal. If she is glass, I can reshape her with just a little heat and stress. I feel the buzz of her voice in her chest. I have no idea what poison she whispers to me, and I don't care.

“You present yourself young and beautiful,” I say, “but you are neither. You are Time, as old as the universe, and as twisted and deceitful. You are responsible for far more murders than I am. You are the worst mass-murderer in all the universe. Every single living thing falls to you eventually, and you savor it, drink up every bit of that death and then piss on the next generation while waiting for it to come of age so you can drink again. While you're waiting, you take little sips and kill off the fragile young and the accident-prone and the infirm to keep your appetite from fading. You are a murderous abomination, and it's no wonder you have fallen in love with someone just a fraction as loathsome as yourself. I will leave your love unrequited, because I am better than you. I do not kill for my own entertainment. No matter what I am better than you, and I will win. Watch me win.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sand into Glass

I am going to die here. The rage in my soul has finally defeated my mind and now I'm on trial for a crime I'm not certain I committed. Atalor is a festering pit of a city and it has declared me its most reprehensible victim. 

My name is Arden Masiona. Yes, those Masionas, the perpetually magical family headed by the immortal Time Child, Bethel Masiona. I am mundane, however. I'm the only non-mage in a family of extraordinary people and they've never let me forget it. No... I can't acknowledge my heritage anymore. I am no longer part of my own family. Rage has rendered me an exile. 

Time wants to claim me, but I am not hers to claim. I am an apprentice of the Desert, a child of eternity, a prisoner of my own soul. I am the Glassmaker, and Atalor is where my story ends. 

Sand into Glass is a stand-alone prequel to The Crystal Lattice and falls 6th chronologically in the Malora Octet.

My seventh baby has flown from the nest. Arden Masiona's story unexpectedly became personal for me partway through the first draft, so I'm a little nervous about introducing both him and my psyche to the world. I've always created art as a means of coping with pain, and this book exemplifies that. It took me three years to complete the first draft, but now it's not just a draft, but a completed book. I had a little trouble leaving Arden's headspace when I switched over to writing Zella's story, Arrow of Entropy, and you may see why as you get to know him.

This book isn't a typical epic fantasy. It does take place in a fantasy world, but it ends up being an intimate glimpse into the mind of a very troubled person, who is on trial for a crime he's not sure he committed. If you've read The Crystal Lattice, then you've already met Arden, but in that story he only hinted at the darkness lurking in his own soul. I won't say more, because this is Arden's story to tell, not mine.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Character Interview: Sefa Metavanya

By the request of one of my readers, I have with me today Sefa Metavanya. Sefa first appears as a minor character in The Crystal Lattice, but he is fairly prominent in both Sand into Glass and Arrow of Entropy. It is difficult to interview him without giving away too many spoilers, but I'm going to try.

Good afternoon, Sefa. Let's start at the beginning. What was your childhood like?
Sefa: Huh. Starting right out with a hard one, aren't you?

Just tell me what you want. You don't need to go into detail.
Sefa: All right, then. I was born in Lina but I mostly grew up in Watulya. I had an older sister who died when I was six months old, and that set me up for a lot of childhood stress. My father ended up walking out on us when I was still a toddler so my mom raised me on her own. I was mad at my father for a long time for leaving me, but now I'm more ambivalent because he explained to me why he did it. Won't get into that now. Anyway, I didn't have a lot of friends because my lightning talent displayed early and frightened away most of my playmates. I spent a lot of time reading. I did have a couple friends, but they lived in Lina and I didn't see them much. They were the younger children of Barchal Vun, who was the closest thing I had to a father when I was growing up.

Magical abilities, especially the likelihood of becoming an Emergent, tend to run in families. Are there other Emergents in your family, or are you alone in that regard?
Sefa: There is a long history of Emergence in my family. My mother is Aerlya Metavanya, the clairvoyant Emergent. Nearly everyone in my father's family is an Emergent. My daughters are both Emergents. Uli is a mimic and Catta is a metal mage.

Were you and your daughters trained by the Aulor Bethel Masiona, then?
Sefa: I was, but my daughters weren't. I wasn't about to send my girls to Bethel after the brutal education he put me through. By the time they were old enough to train, I found a better option for them. Bethel's brother Rassa moved to my village several years after Kirad Pass and after I watched him transform my sulky little brother into a healer Emergent, I decided my girls would be his next students.

Your little brother? Do you have other siblings?
Sefa: I have three younger half-brothers. I'm not going to talk about them, so don't ask.

Can you tell me a little about where you live?
Sefa: Sure. I never felt like I belonged with the Watulya Efi. A few years after my Emergence, my wife and I were having trouble finding a place that would accept us. I'm mostly-Efi and she was Toli, so our marriage was seen as distasteful in most places. We heard about this beautiful lake in the Alata Highlands, north of Argenor, so we went up there and scouted it out. It seemed like a perfect place to settle, but we didn't want to live there alone and be stuck entirely self-sufficient so we invited some other families similar to ours and soon we had a settlement. Rye Lake, the name of both the village and the lake. Other misfits trickled in from all over Melor and now we have a village with a population of about 250. Most of us are mixed-blood and we have a large number of mages and Emergents. This has led to some interesting combinations. For example, my younger daughter is married to a man with a Drey father and a Toli-Mero mother. I think in a couple generations Rye Lake will blend into an entirely new race, a conglomerate of all the other races in Melor. I love it here. The winters are brutal, especially for a southerner like me, but the summers are wonderfully mild and we have a spectacular view of the Athuals over Rye Lake right in our front yard.

Do you mind explaining the goggles to me? I'm a little unnerved by interviewing someone whose eyes I can't see.
Sefa: Sorry about that. [pushes goggles to top of his head] They're corrective lenses so I wear them all the time. My vision is terrible and I'm light sensitive, which is why they're tinted.

I wasn't expecting your eyes to be gray.
Sefa: They weren't before my Emergence. I used to look a lot like my mother - brown eyes and auburn hair. Rare coloring for an Efi, but Watulya Efi are a bit different from Efilon Efi. Now I have gray eyes and white-blue hair.

The last time I saw you, you were visibly electric and we were warned not to touch you or we'd be shocked. Now you look more approachable. Why is that?
Sefa: Well, I have two states and you must have seen me in my charged state. If you touch me when I'm charged, you'll get electrocuted. I'm normally not like that, but I turn into a bundle of static energy when I'm wound up. Normally I'm like this and I'm fairly normal, at least as normal as an Emergent can be.

Do you have a best friend?
Sefa: Two right now, actually. They're both completely insane, but that's what I love about them. Exi Achay and Rassa Buananor. It's a little funny that I get along so well with Rassa because I'm not fond of either his brother or his nephew.

Nephew... Arden or Theron?
Sefa: Arden, mostly. I've only met Theron twice and he's decent enough. Arden's the one I'd be perfectly happy never seeing again. Bethel, too, but he keeps showing up around here looking for Rassa.

What talent would you most like to have?
Sefa: I'm not interested in possessing another magical talent because the one I have is troublesome enough, but there are some skills I would like to learn. My younger daughter is a blacksmith and she's actually taken me on as an apprentice. I'm not very good at it yet, but I'd like to be. I also find Rassa's skills as both a luthier and a musician fascinating, but I suspect my innate electrical energy wouldn't allow me to do either without unintentionally destroying something.

What is your most treasured possession?
Sefa: My daughters. I certainly don't possess them, but I do treasure them.

What is your greatest fear?
Sefa: Losing another person I love. I know it's inevitable that someone close to me will eventually die, but just contemplating it makes me feel ill. I also fear the tremors that have rattled the universe on occasion the last twenty years or so. I'm not sure what they are, but they can't be good.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?
Sefa: I have hobbies, but they're not that interesting. I read everything I get my hands on. I like to hike up in the mountains. I have a little cabin up there. Lately I've been zapping rychan because their population has gotten out of control and they don't have enough carrion to sustain their numbers.

Zapping rychan? That seems like a strange thing for an Efi to do.
Sefa: Remember, I'm a Watulya Efi. We're forest guardians like the Efilon variety are, but we also understand that sometimes we have to kill things for their own benefit. I'd rather zap a few rychan to keep their numbers down than watch the beasts slowly starve to death.

I just have one final question before I let you get back to work at the forge. What was the last gift you gave someone?
Sefa: Seriously? That's an oddball question. Physical gift... I gave Exi a piece of jewelry a week ago. Non-tangible gift... I told another friend that he needed to stop denying that he was in love and just go for it. That bit of advice seems to be doing him some good for the moment.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Depression and Sand into Glass,

I'm releasing Sand into Glass on May 6th. I'm a little amazed that I finally completed it, given what I've been through in the last two years, but finishing this book became therapeutic for me. I had to experience my own PTSD and depression in order to understand Arden's. The triggers for our illnesses were much different, but the thoughts and physical symptoms he and I experienced were similar. I realized when I finished the first draft that there was no way I could have written the last quarter of the book if I hadn't walked through the darkness myself.

Mental illness turns you into a liar and forces you to fake being a functional person. Some days it's impossible to fake your way through life, especially the days when depression renders it laborious to breathe and it becomes overwhelming to think through the steps it takes to make a peanut butter sandwich or pour a glass of orange juice. It's a horrible thing to go through, waking up to the feeling that whatever you used to be is dead and your soul has been replaced by a wraith. Basic tasks become overwhelming and exhausting.

I wish I hadn't needed to trudge through my own personal abyss in order to understand Arden's, but my experience gave me a perspective on his situation that I never could have experienced otherwise. We both experienced the desperation of the sunlight being just out of reach no matter what we tried to climb on. We both found that even though we thought we were at the bottom, there was still a little deeper we could dig and with every level the sunlight got farther away.

I was gradually able to pull myself out of the hole my mind had dug, and once I reached the surface I found myself in a creative burst that I'm still experiencing. I finished editing and published my oldest baby, The Crystal Lattice, finished writing Sand into Glass and am about to publish it, and I'm 44,000 words into Arrow of Entropy, the final book in both the Emergence trilogy and the Malora octet.

Right now I'm giving Arden a hug because I put him through a lot. He's resilient, but even resilience has its limit. His story can be bleak, but juxtaposed against that bleakness are both love and hope. My beta readers fell in love with his story, and I hope you do, too.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Holding Sand in my Palm

Closer, closer, drawing ever closer.

I have in my hands a proof copy of Sand into Glass. It's a mess because my PDF conversion decided to take a block of about 50 pages and change the formatting so the first character of each paragraph was a different font. I've fixed that error and now I'm reading through to make sure all other errors are corrected. Once that is done, I'll try again with the PDF upload and hopefully I can do that one little thing I've been waiting three years to do -- hit the "publish" button.

I am going to die here. The rage in my soul has finally defeated my mind and now I'm on trial for a crime I'm not certain I committed. Atalor is a festering pit of a city and it has declared me its most reprehensible victim.

My name is Arden Masiona. Yes, those Masionas, the perpetually magical family headed by the immortal Time Child, Bethel Masiona. I am mundane, however. I'm the only non-mage in a family of extraordinary people and they've never let me forget it. No... I can't acknowledge my heritage anymore. I am no longer part of my own family. Rage has rendered me an exile.

Time wants to claim me, but I am not hers to claim. I am an apprentice of the Desert, a child of eternity, a prisoner of my own soul. I am the Glassmaker, and Atalor is where my story ends.