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June 23rd, 2009

I see that rolanni, who started this whole SFF Writers' Day thing, is making note of her influences and plans on sending thank you's to the writers that helped her. Good idea. I'm not sure I can pull it off, though, but I'll try. First, Isaac Asimov, whose life was almost entirely open in his writings and biographies, was a great influence. I am nowhere near as smart as Asimov, but I have always seen myself as one of the smart people in the room, and Asimov taught me that it was okay to be smart. His writing didn't shy from the big big plots, which I love. Second, Douglas Adams. I learned about rhythm and tempo reading his works. I learned that a writer didn't need to tell a joke to be funny. I learned that writing is a painfully difficult process to get right. Third, Terry Pratchett. Sad that two of my top three are satirists, but my way to pop culture and history as always been through satire. My impetus for learning about the sixties came from wanting to get the jokes in Tom Lehrer songs. Pratchett showed me to create real people, even when they look and feel like caricatures. Fourth, F. Paul Wilson. Wilson taught me, through the book Nightworld, how to scare the crap out myself and launch nightmares. This book bullied me all the way through. Repairman Jack taught me how to keep a character constant but still grow, a little bit, with each adventure. I'm basing this list on the amount of shelf space these writers take up. These are the people I'm reading the most. On a personal level, to Stephanie (not a writer but my first reader/editor/kicker-of-butt), Kirsten Lincoln, Tina Connolly, Mischa DeNola, Camille Alexa,Jay Lake, Damon Kaswell, and most of the Wordos of 2005-2007, thank you for the encouragement, kicks in the butt, challenges, and advice.

Things I learned today

1. Never promise Stephanie to have a tuna noodle casserole ready when she gets home from work without checking the pantry first.

2. Bechemel is a bitch.

2a. The Joy of Cooking may be a compendium of cooking knowledge, but telling me to scald the milk and make sure my roux is cool before adding it isn't helpful.

2b. Read vital instructions like "Bake bechemel for 20 minutes or until thick" before putting the pasta on the boil.

3. Tuna noodle casserole tastes better if you put the tuna in the dish.

4. Bread crumbs are not as simple as toasting a couple of slices of bread, removing the crusts, cutting them up, and sending them through a few bazillion pulses in a food processor.

4a. The croutons hiding behind the paper towels are not really smirking at you once you've put the thing under the broiler.

5. Despite being raised in America, cheese sauces are not bright orange.

Hopefully these lessons will help other cooks out there, or at least make those of you who know how to cook laugh at me.


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