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Writing Snacks with Jennifer Willis

Jennifer Willis is one of my best friends; she’s also a terrific writer who helped beta-read An Oath of Dogs. Jennifer knows how much I love to snack while I’m writing, so she gave me a few recipes. They were so great I wanted to make sure to share them with everyone!

Like me, Jennifer’s got a new book out. Hers is the spicy, funny science fiction romance Mars Ho!, which  combines reality tv shenanigans with a lot of in-depth research on what it takes to send people to Mars. It’s my recommended beach reading!


I have a tendency to snack when I’m writing — especially if I’m not doing a timed writing session, like a pomodoro — and my snacking habits over the years haven’t always been the healthiest. I’m looking at you, Goldfish crackers. Also, not all of my favorite snack foods are appropriate for writing productivity. In case you’re wondering, salsa and keyboards do not play nicely together.

So I’ve gotten a little creative in the kitchen to satisfy my snacking urge while also keeping myself fit and focused. Note that Wendy Wagner’s roasted garbanzo beans have been an important mainstay of our writing sessions, and you should absolutely give those a try, too.

The first of the goodies I’ll share here is a blueberry kale smoothie. Don’t look at me like that! Kale and blueberries absolutely go together. My sister surprised me with a Nutri Ninja last December and the blueberry-kale concoction has been one of my more successful experiments. A regular blender would also work, so you don’t need fancy equipment.

Ingredients*:
(* I’ll go ahead and admit that when I’m cooking, I rarely measure anything.)
Frozen blueberries: about 2 cups
Kale: 1 leaf (minus the stem)
Water: about 1 cup
Agave/honey: to taste

Note: you can use fruit juice instead of water, and then skip the sweetener. Cocoa powder also makes for a yummy addition.

Blend this all together. Drink it. Easy.

The second snack secret I’ll share is one that became quite popular with my Call of Cthulhu RPG group. It’s homemade kettle corn. This one probably falls in the “not as bad as real junk food” category and is also my go-to during football season. I use a pretty beat-up Stir Crazy to make mine, but I’ve also had success using an old pot for popping.

Ingredients:
(Again, sorry I’m bad with measurements. Use your best judgment)
Coconut oil: about 1 tablespoon
Popcorn kernels: six handfuls (I prefer white popcorn to yellow, but either will work)
Sugar: a bit less than half a tablespoon (use however much you think you’d like)
Salt: to taste.

Heat the oil in the Stir Crazy or pot. Combine the un-popped kernels with the sugar in a separate container. I sometimes add a little curry, cayenne, and/or paprika to the mix. Once the oil has melted, add the kernels and sugar simultaneously and make sure everything gets spread out. Wait for everything to pop; if you’re using a pot, shake it occasionally to ensure even heating and prevent burning while the corn is popping. As the popping frenzy slows down, remove from heat, transfer your kettle corn to a serving bowl, and add salt to taste.

If you have leftovers, you can enjoy the kettle corn for another day or two past “popping day.” Just zap it in the microwave for about fifteen seconds first.

An admitted sci-fi nerd and urban fantasy fan, Jennifer Willis is the author of the Valhalla urban fantasy series and the MARS science fiction romance series. When she’s not hiking, knitting, baking, star-gazing, or reading like a fiend, she spends her time bringing enchantment to the world. She is also the writer behind the Northwest Love Stories feature in The Oregonian and has a byline in the BASF award-winning Women Destroy Science Fiction! from Lightspeed.

Free Bookplates!

That’s right: FREE!

I’ve had these glorious stickers designed by the very talented graphic designer (and fellow fictioneer!) Andrew S. Fuller, and they’re just perfect to use as a bookplate.  So if you live far away and would like to add my signature to your copy of An Oath of Dogs, this is the perfect opportunity.

All you need to do is email me (at wendy at winniewoohoo.com) something that shows you pre-ordered the book and to let me know what address you want your signed sticker mailed to. You can even cc the whole thing to penny.reeve @ angryrobotbooks.com to make sure your preorder gets counted toward our donation drive for Freedom Service Dogs of America!

Cover reveal for An Oath of Dogs

I’m beyond happy with the fantastic cover art Joey Hi-Fi has put together for Oath.  It’s not easy making a world of forests and lumberyards look high tech and science fictional, but he’s captured the tone of the book perfectly. For the first glimpse, check out the post on Tor.com.

Along with showing off the terrific cover, that post kicks off a special project my publisher is doing: For every pre-order of the book, Angry Robot will donate a dollar to Freedom Service Dogs of America, which helps connect veterans with service dogs. It’s a fantastic cause, and I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to help them raise a nice chunk of money!

An Oath of Dogs

Snowstravaganza!

Here in the Portland metro area, we’ve gotten slammed with winter weather. As people who spend most winters cheerfully sloshing around in the rain, it’s been a difficult experience. Schools have canceled more than seven days of classes. Last night our beloved light rail derailed! And worst of all, the snow has turned into chilly crisp days with no cloud cover. WHAT IS THIS BLINDING BALL OF LIGHT IN THE SKY???

I think this disapproving squirrel speaks for us all.

IMG_2283G

In memory of a paradise on wheels

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

This isn’t my usual kind of update. It’s not about me, or my work, or even about publishing. It’s about the loss of a very good friend: the Douglas County library system.

As it says in my biography, I grew up in a remote little town in SW Oregon. We didn’t didn’t have our own library (or even a grocery store, for that matter), but every two weeks a pair of librarians drove into town on the bookmobile. The bookmobile connected half a dozen tiny towns in Douglas County, sharing books from the full-sized libraries in bigger towns.

On bookmobile day, the truck parked outside the school, and almost everyone in town came to visit. It was a great place to hang out and chat with our neighbors. School always let us out to spend as much time as we liked checking out books, and I often checked out a stack over three feet high. In fact, during summer vacation, I would sometimes check out more than a hundred books at a time. My tiny school had limited resources, but the bookmobile opened the doors of the world to me.  Through it, I learned how to learn on my own, and I learned to love the written word with all my heart. I do not exaggerate when I say that the biggest influence on the course of my life–and of course on my writing–was the bookmobile and its terrific librarians.

But my relationship with the Douglas County library system didn’t end there. My first quasi-work experience was volunteering at the Reedsport Public Library, cleaning and shelving books and organizing donations. And years later, as a single mom on food stamps, that library was once again my lifeline to the world. My daughter became a book lover as I read her dozens of books a week and took her to storytime.

Today I learned that in 2017, the Douglas County board of commissioners will vote whether or not to dissolve the library system. The bookmobile is long-gone, a legacy of the county’s deep losses after the collapse of the timber industry. Hours at all branches have been slashed and slashed. This year, citizens attempted to save the library with a desperate bond measure–which failed.

I feel as if a dear friend has been put on hospice care. I mourn not just the wonder and joy that the library brought to my life, but to an institution that brought whole communities together and opened the doors for generations of Oregonians. A community with no library is untethered from the wisdom of humanity and the treasure-house of civilization.

Headed to ORYCON this weekend!

If you’re in the Portland area this weekend, don’t miss out on Orycon, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention happening down at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront.  I’ll be doing a few panels and I’ve got a reading, too.

Here’s my schedule:

FRIDAY:

4 pm, Douglas Fir room — The Fine Art of Description (panel)

SATURDAY:

1 pm, Sunstone room — Essential Elements of Horror (panel)

6 pm, Salon A room — Reprints

7 pm, Salon A room — Tabletop, Recent Favorites

SUNDAY:

11:30 am, Hawthorne room — Reading

And of course, Sunday afternoon Powell’s is hosting its tenth annual Sci-Fi Authorfest at its Cedar Hills Location. The event starts at 4 pm, and I’ll be there with my Pathfinder novels.

I hope to see a lot of people this weekend!

Hugo Nominations have opened!

Wow, is it really award season again? Last year’s award season was chaos and pandemonium, but I have high hopes that this year, the science fiction and fantasy community will have a friendly discussion about their favorite genre. If you had a membership to WorldCon last year or have a membership this year, you can nominate work. Awards can make a huge difference in a writer’s career, so get out there and nominate the pieces you love! For more information, visit the MidAmericon’s Hugo award site.

I had a lot of short fiction come out this year, but most of it was horror, so it’s not a great fit for the Hugo awards. Of course, I did work my butt off in the editorial world, and one awesome fan site recommended me as a nominee for Best Short Form Editor (Thanks so much, Nerds of a Feather!). I guess I am eligible!

Seriously, the editorial categories of the Hugo awards often get very few nominations or votes, but editors do a lot of heavy lifting in this field. If you love a magazine’s work, give their editor a shout-out when you make your nominations! And if you like a book, you can often find its editor listed in the acknowledgments at the back of the book. I’d love to see short form editors like John Joseph Adams, C. C. Finlay, and Scott Andrews get recognized this year, and I adore the work of long form editors like Liz Gorinsky, Nick Mamatas, and Paizo’s own James Sutter.

Let’s make the Hugo Awards a celebration this year. It’s not really about who wins–it’s about how much we love SFF!

The Powell’s Column

It’s a rite of passage for every SF/F writer, especially those of us in the Pacific Northwest: signing the legendary column in Powell’s Gold Room. For a measure of the artifact’s true awesomeness, here’s a photo from the Powell’s Tumblr. Yes, that is Douglas Adams’ signature. And Peter S. Beagle’s. And Ursula K. LeGuin’s. Neil Gaiman has particularly epic piece of art he added to the column a few years back.

So when a group of us local writing gals met up with an out-of-town friend—the talented Tex Thompson—we knew we had to take her to see this holiest of all landmarks. You can’t help but feel the presence of the great ones when you’re standing next to their scrawled messages. Elizabeth Scarborough left her email address! Brian Froud drew a fairy! I mean, how cool is that?

Staff in the Gold Room were just as geeked out about it as we were. Over the past few years, one of the staffers has stepped up to advocate for the preservation of the post, and Powell’s is going to install a new UV-protective plexi covering that will help keep the signatures fresh for future generations. If you look closely, you can see the ghostly shapes of previous signatures, now nearly lost in time.

But the signatures of our little gang are bright and shiny  (and right next to Wesley Chu‘s autograph! What a great place to be!). I’ve been waiting to sign the column until I felt like “a real writer,” but with a lot of chocolate under my belt and in the presence of awesome fun friends like Tina Connolly (who hadn’t signed either, even though she has like four books out and a Nebula nomination and is basically my hero), Alex Renwick (who already signed the column like a total pro, because that’s how she rolls), and Tex, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Squee!

powells column
Photo by Arianne “Tex” Thompson, who rocks.