Monthly Archives: November 2012

brownies for a cloudy day

The clouds have come in, rank after rank of them, all similar in shape and size, hundreds of them like a herd of sheep leaving only a few bits of blue left in the sky. Gone chilly, a stir of wind in the dead leaves of my grapevines. I hope for rain.

So I think this is a good time to share my version of brownies. No regard for calories or cholesterol, best eaten in large quantities by those about to go clear gutters before a rainfall, or maybe chop up some firewood.

3/4 cup melted butter, gently stirred with 12 Tablespoons of good cocoa powder and allowed to cool down to room temperature. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 350 F.

4 eggs beaten with the gradual addition of 2 cups of regular white granulated sugar until thick and pale in hue.

Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the eggs, then fold the cooled cocoa mixture into the eggs before gently folding in 3/4 cup of flour sieved with 1/8 tsp of baking powder. I hate crunchy bits in a brownie, but if you like walnuts now is the time to add about half a cup’s worth, you benighted soul.

Bake in an 8″x 8″ oiled and floured pan in oven for about 40 minutes or until center is set, and cool for about half an hour before you cut. Enough for six woodcutters or two college students.



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Hope you had a fine Thanksgiving

            Day after Thanksgiving and I’m full of scraps of conversation, images of friendly faces, the memory of good food and plenty of it. We had seventeen around the tables, not folk who would normally have been hanging out together, which made it all the more fun. At my end we had a librarian, the owner of a bookstore and my agent, stories lively and snarky, with plenty of laughter.

            Turkey brined with soy sauce, maple syrup fresh ginger and garlic. Ham with pineapple and cloves, onions in several modes, parsnips kumquats and pears baked together. The classic string bean casserole prepared expertly by our neighbors, with their home-grown beans. Fat home-made rolls to tear open and slather with butter. Mashed potatoes, salad with pomegranate seeds like tiny jewels. Quarts of gravy. Cranberry sauce. Then a lemon meringue pie by our neighbors, two pecan pies, two pumpkin and a pair of apple pies from our own trees. No one left hungry.

            Nice to have a long room that we can make over into a dining hall! The cats received the giblets chopped up for dinner, and so they were happy too. I’m ready to pull up some cats for a day spent in a long winter’s nap….


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the three questions

         Shelly Lowenkopf asked everybody in the writing workshop to consider overnight a series of questions, and return in the morning with the answers.

            One, what do you want?

            Two, what part of the cathedral do you come from?

            Three why do you write?

            I wasn’t entirely sure that I heard the second question correctly, but I decided I didn’t care, that it was too good a question to chance my having heard it wrong and getting a correction. So here  are my answers.

            One, I want power to make people see and feel – thus to change their thinking – to change their acts.

            Two, I come from a dark part of the cathedral which is why I know light when I see it.

            Three, I want my love for certain things to make a goddamned difference.

            The workshop happened a couple of years ago, but I am content with these answers today.

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report from the new world

After a hectic beginning to my free e-book promo days on Amazon when I suddenly realized that the tweets I had scheduled weren’t going out, I cobbled things back together. (The problem with Hoostuite wasn’t their problem, I believe. My husband discovered loose wires in my mouse — actual breaks as well, which may go to explain a lot of disturbing events with my computer use of recent. It is a mystery but I am thinking cats again….)

Here are my best stats from the two day promotion:

Night Must Wait 11/12/2012

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72 Free in Kindle Store 

              #4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Literary Fiction

I came in right after A Tale of Two Cities, one of my favorite books of all time…

So thank you all, friends and readers! Onwards and upwards!

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Free download!

On Kindle   “a master work of fiction” NIGHT MUST WAIT historical thriller of Africa free download!

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gender and identity

         I was invited yesterday to talk about Women Writing for Women on a panel at a writers event in Ventura.

         I’ve always regarded my gender as a pleasant accident even while priding myself on my androgyny. Indeed I have rather avoided participating in ‘women’s’ events. I’ve worried that the presentation smacks too much of a ‘here come the cripples’ attitude, as if women aren’t good enough in their own right to compete with the rest of humanity.

           In my work I’ve been more conscious of being half Chinese than all female. I would like to think that while I’m proud of and enjoy my sex, my sex is a private matter. I fancy that my work would be equally strong and little different if I’d been born male. I think my sexual orientation would have been homosexual then….

         Prejudice is rife in all our lives, but complicated and confused. I’ve been denied a job for being half Chinese, I’ve been cursed out for being a ‘honkey’, I’ve been threatened for being a nigger lover, and spat at and struck for being Japanese. This last actually was a mistake since I’m not Japanese but Chinese, but that hardly matters. Ignorance is the partner to abuse. The point of my litany is that if  people want to attack you, they will find something they hope to turn a weakness. Color of hair or shape of your nose, accident of gender or sexual orientation.


         I’ve been told females need female role models.  I don’t think so. I believe we all need female role models, male role models, transgendered role models, gender fluid role models… you get the picture.

         I grew up in Africa on books like Fire Hunter by Kjelgaard, Dumas’ Three Musketeers (which incidentally was my Chinese mother’s favorite childhood book,) all of Gerald Durrell’s books that I could obtain. My greatest personal hero as a teen was T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia. He was what I wanted to grow up to be, and I never thought his sex mattered.

         The one area in which, in my experience, the genders differ is taste in porn. Ones sex can’t get enough however unrealistic, the other wants situational, character-driven sex. But even here there are cross-overs. Generalizations require fudge factors, huge ones; good thing, since I like fudge.

         I hate to disappoint you – I don’t write porn (which is a specialty in itself )– so what do I think about writing as a woman for women? First I’m not sure I am a woman. I’m gender queer and gender-fluid. That doesn’t stop me from being married to a man and having a child.

         Woman as a single thing, a restricted pattern, does not exist.

But should we argue to break the trammels and chains of patriarchal oppression? Let’s be honest it is as much women who limit women as it is men. Biology can impair all sexes with its influence on temperament. Maybe freeing everyone is a worthy goal.

         But in the end we write for humankind, no less.

         In my other career I am a painter in oils and I have no sex. I was never aware until my gallery owner Frank told me, that there were patterns of composition the pundits call essentially feminine. Guess what, I hardly ever happen to use them. I apparently have what they term a ‘male gaze’.

         Any limitation of the ideas women are supposed to like is dangerous, foolish and leads us back to stereotypes. Louisa May Alcott reported that she was startled at the boys and men writing fan letters to her about Little Women. You might be amazed to know how many men pick up a Harlequin, or a chick lit book so long as no one is watching… so there’s a stereotype we should break! For my part I love Max Brand westerns and war stories and non-fiction descriptions of battle. Let’s not shape our art to the box, let’s break that effing box to bits. We need the right to read as well as the right to write anything the hell we want.

         Toni Morrison says she doesn’t write –ist novels. I’m with her. We need to honor all the genders that we are – gender queer, gender fluid, intergender, transgender. After all, to write to fit an audience smacks of condescension. 

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