Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Next Big Thing

I've been tagged by author Beth Barany to post about my Next Big Thing (here's her post). So, this is what I'm working on:

What is the working title of your next book?
Super Sargasso

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It's a collection of three stories: one novelette and two shorts. Two have been previously published, and I've been wanting to put the third out there for a while now. 

What genre does your book fall under?
Supernatural horror.

How long does it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Hard to say! I tend to write story drafts much more quickly than novel drafts, which makes sense. So, total first-draft time for all three together would be, maybe, two months?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The first story, All Hope Lost, has some similarity to Charles Stross' Laundry Files books, but with a less lighthearted tone. The second story features the writings of Charles Fort, and is inspired by him. The third has more of early Stephen King vibe.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I'll go with the novellete, All Hope Lost. Janelle Monáe would make a fantastic Dana Cay.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I love reading and writing about paranormal phenomena and the Lovecraft mythos. All three stories are informed by that love.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The stories pay tribute to noir fiction, pseudo-Lovecraftian creeping horror, and Charles Fort's wonder at the world's paranormal happenings.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Three stories of supernatural horror, paranormal weirdness, and pretentious dog owners: All Hope Lost, Recondite Curiosa, and Purse Dog Apocalypse.

Tag, you're it!  Next week, check out Missy Lynn Ryan for her Next Big Thing.
EDIT: Now Shelby Patrick is in on the fun, too! I'll post again next week when Missy and Shelby have their "Next Big Things" up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New monthly feature, and other news

Good news: I've been asked to write a monthly column for Writer's Fun Zone on Writing and Fitness. My first column, Dealing with Winter Blues, is up now.

In other news, Beth Barany tagged me for The Next Big Thing. You can read more about that here, tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Roasting Coffee!

The husband and I are both coffee drinkers. He introduced me to the bean years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. While we've always bought whole-bean roasted coffee and ground it ourselves (he's a bit of a coffee snob, and he introduced me to that as well), we decided to take it one step further. So now, we're dipping our toes into roasting coffee ourselves.

Turns out it's a fairly cheap hobby to get started on. All you really need are a popcorn popper (this is the one we're using), some green (unroasted) coffee beans, a metal colander and some Mason jars for storage.

We ordered our beans from Sweet Maria's. Since we're just getting started and don't know our coffee preferences yet, we ordered the 8 lb. random sampler. About a week and a half later, we had a box full of 8 lbs. of unroasted coffee from varying parts of the globe. Eager to dive in, we picked one of the one-pound bags and got started:

It's hard to read, but this is "Java Sunda Pitaloka"
What's nice about Sweet Maria's is that you can visit their site and find out where your coffee came from. So, we measured out a little under a half a cup, per the Sweet Maria's instructional video, popped it in the popper, and started roasting.

According to their directions, coffee starts to be drinkable after approximately three minutes of roasting, once you hear the "first crack". Total roasting time, even for dark roasts, isn't supposed to be much longer than five minutes. We decided on a slightly darker roast, browning the beans until "second crack", which occurred after about three and a half minutes. We took it a few seconds longer, to about three minutes, forty seconds. Then we poured out the beans into a metal colander, shaking them to separate the chaff (and there was quite a bit of chaff). Once they cooled to room temperature, we placed the beans into a Mason jar to sit overnight. You're supposed to let the roast sit for several hours to bring out the flavor.
The final product

Next morning, Tom ground and brewed the coffee before I awoke. (Side note: apparently electric grinders, like the kind we have, are the worst for grinding coffee. They don't provide the desired uniformity of pulverization. If we progress in this hobby, we'll be investing in a burr grinder.)

What surprised me was how light/weak the roast was, compared to what we buy at the store. Granted, you're supposed to measure the grounds and water precisely, which we didn't, so I'm not sure how far we were from the "ideal" mark. The coffee was drinkable, but far too light. Next time I'm going to take the roast to about four and a half minutes and see what that does. Another fun fact: roasting coffee for different lengths of time brings out distinctive "flavor notes". I'm interested to see what a darker roast does for the flavor.