Vampires Don’t Suck Again

Okay, pun intended, let’s get that out of the way real quick. After you are done groaning, check out the trailer though. I have been anti-vampire ever since a certain series of books and some subsequent WB shows debuted. Of course, there was one notable exception. Now there is another! Check out the trailer below! It comes out right around my birthday too, so maybe I can get my wife to splurge for IMAX!

 

Time, Tablets, and Titilation

Wow, it has been a few months. I have been busy, doing some really great things. Obviously, I haven’t spent as much time writing as I would ideally like. I plan to let go of some of my extra commitments later in the year, to hopefully allow me to concentrate on other important things more, such as writing!

In the meantime,  fitting at least some writing time, and handling work tasks means being efficient. At one point, I advised people that they would never be able to completely give up the laptop for a tablet. I am really wanting to do just that though. My current tablet is not quite up to replacing my laptop completely,  but I find myself wanting to shed my bulky laptop as often as possible.

With the upgrades in Google Drive and the office apps there, I really find that my tablet can handle my writing needs much of the time. In fact, in a pinch, even my smartphone is a capable platform. I can also do research, listen to music, stay apprised of important work communications,  and even watch adorable pet videos on Netflix.

Making Soft Pretzels at Home

CompletedPretzels Making those soft, buttery mall pretzels is really easy to do at home. It is a fun recipe for the kids to help make, and a great snack for them too! These can be great for movie night, or game day.

 

 

 

 

 

Making the dough

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve 1 package (or 2¼ teaspoons) of yeast in 1½ cups of of warm water and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir in 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of bread flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Continue slowly adding 2 more cups of flour until the dough comes together. Kneed until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place in a bowl sprayed with nonstick spray, and then spray the top surface of the dough to prevent it from drying out. Cover and let rise for one hour.

 

CutInSections

Prepare your Factory/Cut the dough

Preheat an oven to 450º (230º C).

In a small baking dish, combine 2 cups of warm water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. This helps to give the outside that brownish, crunchy texture. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Note in the picture to the right, I have a little assembly line set up.

After the dough has risen, roll into a log, and cut into 12 pieces.

 

RolledOutRoll out the dough

Roll each section out into a three foot long rope. The pretzels will swell quite a bit when baking, so don’t worry too much about making them too thin.

 

PretzelShapeRoll each rope into that familiar pretzel shape. Push down on the ends a little to get them to adhere to the pretzel body. Dip into the baking soda water, and place on the parchment lined baking sheets.

 

 

 

Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. While cooking, melt the butter and prepare your surface for  adding the topping(s).

BakingSheet

 

 

Top and Serve

Once they are done, brush with melted butter, and top with coarse (Kosher works) salt, or other desired toppings. We love cinnamon and sugar as a topping as well!

FromTheOven

 

 

 

 

It makes one dozen pretzels.

CompletedPretzels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe

1 package (or 2¼ teaspoons) of yeast

2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1½ cups of warm water

3 cups of all-purpose flour

1 cup of bread flour

2 cups of warm water

2 tablespoons of baking soda

2 tablespoons of melted butter

2 tablespoons of kosher (or other course) salt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google Drive as a Tool for Writing

Writing on the go, to me, is just called writing. I am always on the go. I have an active life, and I am busy with many things. Therefore, an important part of any tool for me is portability. I have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop that I use for writing. I prefer my desktop over everything else, but I have the others because life has other demands for me. One big thing I looked for in my writing tool is the portability, and the ability to work across multiple platforms.

Google works well on my windows desktop and laptop, and also works via apps on my smartphone and tablet. One drawback to the android app is that spell-check does not work. This can be an advantage sometimes, when I need to keep writing and suppress my need to constantly edit as I am writing. As it is, I switch to the desktop or laptop for final edits, and access to the spell-checker.

Another great tool inside the online version of the Google word processor program is the ability to research topics. I can highlight a word, and then go to the tools menu and select research. This will open up a side pane with relevant links. This is nice when I am doing some quick research for a story I am writing. It can be distracting, as I do have a tendency to love research.  The word processor offers all of the basic formatting features I need, and allows for the exporting of documents in commonly used formats, so that I can port it over to Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Word as needed.

The spreadsheet also comes in very handy. I use it to keep a “plot workbook” as I call it, with my notes for each chapter, POV, and character and place notes. This helps me to keep ideas, and to re-orient quickly when I resume working on a particular story.

In the future, I hope to band together with some other authors and publish an anthology.  Google Drive allows me to collaborate easily with others. I believe it is even now possible to track who made what specific changes to a document.

It took me a while to settle on my writing tool. I do not like to post public criticisms, so I will not mention specific software, but I did try many. I tried dedicated writing apps, designed specifically for writing stories. I tried various combinations of software in conjunction with cloud storage, I even tried some popular note-writing apps to see if they would work out for me. Google docs is what I ended up coming back to.

I remember reading a review of an app, and it really resonated with me when the author of the article stated that power users often like more simple app interfaces, whereas newbies usually like “flashier” apps. I am not sure about the power user versus newbie distinction, but I know that I do appreciate a simple interface. Google Docs does provide that simple interface that I appreciate.

One more great thing about using the Google Docs on Google Drive, is that Google Docs do not count toward the space limit. In other words, you can have an unlimited amount of Google formatted documents on Google Drive.

You Already Failed Your New Year’s Resolution, Now What?

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Setting and achieving goals is an important part of therapy, and also very important in everyday life. As a therapist, I have to be able to help people set and achieve goals. As a writer, of course my goals are about making sure I fit writing into my life.

There is something motivating about starting fresh. When I was in public school, I can remember the start of every new academic year would begin with my proclamation that I was going to be more organized and do better in school that year. I graduated high school with a 2.79 GPA, so you can guess how that went.

Similarly, I think there is something to the new year that welcomes setting new goals and trying to achieve new things. Many people set resolutions for the New Year, but New Year’s Resolutions are notoriously not followed through upon. If you have already failed in your New Year’s Resolutions, then don’t give up! You can still do this, and here are a few suggestions to help you.

Is Your Goal Realistic?

It is important that goals are achievable. Losing twenty pounds a month may be hard. When the going gets tough, the tough grab a milkshake and watch How I Met Your Mother re-runs. Make sure your goals are actually achievable, or you are setting yourself up for failure. There is something intrinsically motivating about setting goals. There is also something intrinsically motivating about a achieving goals. Keep your long term goals high, but consider re-evaluating your short term goals to be more realistic. You can celebrate each small victory, which will be motivating as you continue toward your long-term goal.

Make a Public Commitment

When we make a commitment to other people, we are much more likely to follow through on it. My wife and I have been encouraging each other to eat healthy, exercise, and lose weight. It is motivating for both of us that we get encouragement from each other. It is also helpful knowing that we will hold each other accountable for achieving our goals.

Consider a Further Breakdown

I alluded to this above, but consider making short term goals that use the “baby steps” mentioned in the film, What About Bob? One gentleman I knew came up with a goal that he would exercise before opening a beer after work each night. He started by walking around his living room. Then each step was only slightly larger than the last. Since each step was only a bit bigger than the last, it was easy to stay motivated and follow through. The last I heard, he was up to several miles.

Reward Yourself

People all work for positive reinforcement, recognition, and rewards. This is something that sounds true for kids, but do rewards really work for adults? Think of it this way, would you still go to work if you did not get paid at all? Probably not. Consider rewarding yourself with a trip to the coffee shop, a new CD, or whatever works for you. It can be incredibly motivating to know that you get to go to have a coffee because you worked so hard for it.

Most Importantly, Never Give Up

If a goal is important to you, then keep working toward it. Avoid the all or nothing type of thinking that often leads to abandoning a New Year’s Resolution. Just because it didn’t work out for you one week, does not mean that you have to let go of the idea of meeting your goal. It may be time to re-examine the goal, come up with more baby steps, or find some way to motivate yourself some more, but don’t allow yourself to give up over one small defeat!

Wherein I Muse that ALL Fiction is Fantasy

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I have thought recently about some of the principles that I believe in when it comes to fiction stories and genre. I am not speaking about genre in the more traditional sense. When I go to Amazon, I realize that if I go to the Fantasy section, then I will get results that reflect books having to do with magic, mythical creatures, swords, and the like. I am speaking in this post more to the general idea of a fantasy. A fantasy is something created in one’s imagination. Something that has not actually happened. See how that fits into fiction? Fiction is a story that never actually happened, created from someone’s imagination.

Of course the next question you have, after accepting that premise, is, “So what?” I hear you. I notice many writers and readers get caught up in the “reality ” of stories. In science fiction, I have seen some argue about whether or not space travel in X manner (notice I dodged the argument by using a variable instead of mentioning a specific method.) Some people only want to write or read those science fiction stories that reflect realistic technology. My take on it is that it is called science FICTION for a reason . If it was real, it would be called a science textbook.

What I see many authors gloss over these days, however, is what I call internal consistency. This applies to everything that is created within the story. It applies in many ways, and it requires the writer to be somewhat cerebral. Before he became delusional and arrogant, M. Night Shyamalan created the Sixth Sense. He created certain rules that he followed throughout the movie. For example, anything the dead interacted with in the physical world was red. After the surprising ending, one could go back and see all of these rules in place throughout the movie. I remember seeing an interview with him, where he described going through scenes and looking for discrepancies in the color scheme, sometimes finding a problem right as they were starting to shoot.

This, to me, is internal consistency, and is very important to me in the stories that I enjoy. I want stories to be consistent with the rules created in that world. If this is a story where the ghosts cannot speak to the living, then I do not want to catch a ghost talking to a living person, unless there is a development in the story that accounts for this. I don’t want to see a character that acts wildly outside of their established personality. Internal consistency, in my estimation, is critical in any fiction story. As far as whether or not certain elements are realistic? It is all fantasy, which is not real by definition.