Story notes to self

Here be two story nuggets I need to put somewhere I can’t lose them. This way I can come back to them when I get the itch to do a short story later this year (which will happen, it seems to be an annual, seasonal kind of thing like hay fever)/

First, one about a young woman, poor and desperate,  who lives in a land where passing ghosts freeze solid in the winter and brave hunters harvest the souls for…I dunno what, but I know this will be somewhere near the beginning:

The music of winter rolled across field and forest during the dark months.  Snow and ice crunched loud underfoot, tree limbs rattled and cracked to pieces, and bitter storm winds howled their harsh melodies down every chimney while snow whispered rippling descants around the walls.

Everyone huddled close during those long, cold months, and they sang their own songs, long stories of winters defeated and warm summers to come. They sang of hopeful things, knowing the wild music was the sound of survival.

When the skies cleared and the the ice moon shone down bright on a still, silent world, the night air turned so cold it froze the dead and the living alike.

Sometimes, when that stillness held the wilds hostage, a careful listener would hear the rare, delicate chime of spirits shattering against snow.

Then there’s a short story in the Rough Passages universe that I know will start off with this gross little bit:

The black, furry thing by the side of the road was the size of a refrigerator, smelled like a landfill, and had entirely too many flies buzzing around it for Jane’s comfort.

“Hey, Janie, look!” Her sister poked it with the trash stick. The thing squelched and deflated to half its original size with a soft, messy noise, and the stench of decay made Janie gag.

“Ew, Megan, what are you doing?” She backed away fast–too fast.  The shoulder of the road was narrow, she wasn’t watching her footing, and her heel slipped off the graveled edge onto slick grass.  She flailed for balance, then desperately flung herself forward onto hands and knees.

She landed with a jolt of pain, but it was better that than sliding ten feet backwards into the muddy weeds at the bottom of the ditch. Her sweaty, filthy, too-large leather work gloves saved her from scraping her hands raw, but her knees stung through her now-ripped jeans.

They were wet, too. Blood? She got to her feet.  Oh, no. Not blood.

She brushed at the sticky, yellowish ooze. Her stomach lurched, and disgust prickled all along her skin. “Megan, it’s a good thing we’re family, or I would kill you. First you get caught shoplifting like a juvenile delinquent and blame me so we both have to do community service, then you pick trash duty of all the ungodly things under the sun, and now look at me?”

“What?” Megan kept her eyes on the dead thing as if mesmerized by its ugliness. She poked at it again with the stick. “I wonder what happened to it.”

“Stop it! Who cares?” Janie got to her feet and caught Megan by the arm. “Come on, we’re way behind the rest of the crew already.”

“Who cares?” Megan jerked loose and dug in her heels.  “It’s huge. We can’t just leave it here.”

“Yes, we can. We’re supposed to leave road kill for the crew with the shovels. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

The last part came out in a shriek as Megan pulled off her work glove to lay her palm flat against the thing’s hairy side.

It gathered three legs under it and lurched upright, dangling half of a fourth limb, dripping fluids, and sending the swarm of flies into angry flight. When it shook itself, bits of fur, flesh, and gravel flew in all directions. It wobbled unsteadily  down the steep slope into the ditch and disappeared into the tall grass at the bottom.

Janie shrieked again. “THAT WAS THE GROSSEST THING EVER! GROSSER THAN YOUR HOME BIRTH VIDEO. OH. MY. GOD. WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?”

Megan was staring at her own hand. “Uh. I’m not sure, but I want to do it again?”

Unfortunately,  I have no idea what’s going on with these two, beyond Meg rolling unexpectedly into a power that animates dead things. Oh, well. More will come eventually, I’m sure.

Until later!

 

Titles ready for their stories

I’ve been doing title research for my Work In Progress novel because its working title is nothing to make hands reach for the buy button.

None of these quite fit it ( or so I think at this point, I could be convinced, feel free to make a case) but titles can’t be copyrighted anyway,  so I lose nothing by sharing.

If any of these speak to you, grab and create.

  • All The Days In Darkness
  • A Handful of Tranquility
  • Chasing the Whirlwind
  • The Heart Of the Wise
  • In the House of Mourning
  • A Crackling of Thorns
  • The Heart Is a Trap
  • Her Hands Were Chains
  • What Wise Hearts Know
  • Sagging Rafters, Leaking Souls
  • Like Clouds After Rain, The Days of Trouble Come
  • Break the Golden Bowl
  • Cut the Silver Cord
  • A Wheel Broken At the Well

Toaster Scones.

That’s what I call them. They’re essentially drop biscuits with pretensions, but they do have the fat-rich tenderness of scones rather than flaky layers, and they keep well enough to reheat in a toaster for a full week. So, toaster scones.

There’s a story of how they came to be. Of course there is. Skip past it to the recipe if you’re goal-oriented.

Once upon a time I made blueberry muffins for every special occasion–where reasons like “Tuesday” or “I had a rough work shift” counted as definitions for “special.” When I got tired of chewing on muffin papers, I bought half-sized loaf pans and made “muffin loaves” instead. I can still whip up a batch of those in less time than it takes to pre-heat the oven.

During this same long-ago time biscuits were my go-to for ordinary occasions when I wanted a bread with supper but had none in the house. Not just any biscuits, tho. See, biscuits require cutting. Rolling. Counter cleaning. UGH. I am a lazy baker. SO LAZY. So of course I made drop biscuits instead. Stir, plop & drop. Tasty & easy.

One day I decided to make muffins and discovered I had no eggs in the house. Tragedy! All my muffin recipes required eggs. The disappointment was crushing, but I decided to make biscuits as a consolation treat. Any port in the storm, any bread in a pinch.

I know, muffins are NOT just biscuits made with eggs, just as scones are not merely biscuits made with cream. Still. They’re all baked goods that spring from the same roots of flour, baking powder, salt & fat, therefore they all live in the same compartment of my brain.

Anyway. In this episode I had no eggs and aimed for drop biscuits….and somewhere along the way the inspiration light bulb went off. I COULD HAVE MY BISCUITS AND BLUEBERRIES TOO! In practice it didn’t quite work. They were entirely edible but Not Quite Right. It took learning scone recipes and tweaking proportions here and there to come up with a reproducible, predictable result. Here it is:

Prologue:
375 degree oven or 400 if I’m in a hurry.
parchment paper on baking sheets

1. Mix together
2+ c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4+ c. sugar if I’m adding fruit

2. Work in 1/2 c fat (butter, cream cheese, plain yogurt or some combo of same, whatever I have in the fridge) I usually go with 4 tbsp butter and a scoop of plain yogurt) I work it in with my fingers, some people use forks or pastry cutters.

3. stir in at least 1 c. of fruit or shredded cheese

4. Add 1/2-3/4 c milk & mix until it forms into a dough.

Sometimes it’s more like thick batter. The more fat I use in step 2 (or if I’m making Cheesy Toaster Scones) the more solid the result at this point. If the dough is workable by hand, I form it into a long log 1/2″ high and cut into triangles like scones. If it’s gloppy (fruit ones are usually gloppy) I plop it on the baking sheet like drop biscuits.

5. Bake 20-25 min at 375, 15-18 min at 400 —
until just browning on top. Cheese ones cook faster than fruit ones, sometimes as much as 5 min faster.

Blueberries, pitted tart cherries, dried fruits, leftover applesauce, shredded cheddar cheese, feta cheese & assorted herbs, shredded smoked mozzarella & chopped basil…I’ve made a lot of different versions of these. They were all delicious. There’s variability on the rise, so sometimes I have to cut them in half to toast up later, sometimes not. Either way, they are extra-delicious when toasted to a crisp brown finish.

That’s it in a nutshell. The next adventure will be seeing how much almond flour I can sub in without screwing up either flavor or rise. Spouseman wants to cut back on carbs and I’m all for upping fiber & protein content where I can.