flash fiction inktober 2019

October is the best. October means fall and embracing my goals witch aesthetic (I don’t have the wardrobe yet, but I’m coveting pretty hard). It means I can go outside again without melting or getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.

It also means Inktober. And now, to me, it means flash fiction. Last year, I challenged myself to write a piece of flash everyday using a list of writing prompts I had collected combined with the official Inktober prompt list. Having the two different prompts was helpful in kicking off idea generation — there is an immediate constraint, which makes my brain switch into problem-solving mode.

So here’s my plan this year: 25 pieces of flash in the month of October. I’m taking this weekend off, since we’re going out of town, and I’m also giving myself one day off a week. That also means I get 6 ‘skips’ for the Inktober list, if one of the prompt words doesn’t particularly strike my fancy. Otherwise, rules are the same as previously.

Here they are again if you want to play along. Feel free to adjust to fit your own goals and brain.

THE CHALLENGE

  • Write a piece of flash fiction daily for the month of October — 31 first drafts for 31 days. (Although like I said, I’m doing 25.)
  • Each flash fiction piece should be <=1000 words long and must contain an arc/plot/conflict (vignettes and slice-of-life stories don’t count).
  • Try to go two to three layers down from where your brain first lands with the prompt.
  • Share the piece (or even just your favorite line): to your blog, to a kind friend, to an internet rando. Let someone know about the work you’re doing!
    • If you post it to social, tag it with #flashfictober.

BONUS POINTS (Even though I’m still not keeping score.)

  • Make your piece <100 words (still has to have conflict!).
  • Try out some genres you don’t usually write in.
  • Try writing some poetry!
  • Include the Inktober word somewhere in your piece.
    • Extra house points if the word is tied to the theme of your piece.

[2019 inktober]

  • Triple point score if you also do Inktober the way it was intended! Illustrate your flash, if you’d like. Keep it ink, and don’t get stuck on ‘perfect.’

Last year, I did my flash piece as the first thing in my workflow and found that it made my subsequent words easier to write. I had already unstuck myself, gotten into writing mode, and given myself permission to be experimental and to forget about perfection.

Remember, this exercise is about process and iteration. Try things, play around, unleash your creative energies. Reboot your creative brain. And let me know how it goes!

croissants, pt 3

Since there’s no way I can keep eating six croissants each weekend without literally dying, I froze half of the last batch of croissants I made. Stuck them in the freezer on a quarter sheet after shaping them, then stored them all together in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. I was curious whether or not they would hold up, but then, you can buy perfectly good frozen puff pasty, so worth a shot.

I’ve discovered that the ambient temp of our kitchen makes it so that proofing baked goods takes at least twice as long as expected. Last time, when I made croissants, I proofed them overnight after taking them out of the fridge for approximately eight hours (in an off-oven to protect from croissant-stealing cats), and they still seemed a little under-proofed. Which seemed ridiculous, but pastries don’t lie.

Anyway, all that lead up to say, Adam and I forgot about the frozen croissants for about a week and rediscovered them last night. We set some out at around 6p to defrost and proof overnight so we could have them for breakfast.

Then we forgot about them again.

I went to go make lunch for myself, started making some tea, and then thought OH SHIT THE CROISSANTS.

They had been proofing for something like 17 hours at that point. SEVENTEEN HOURS. They had developed a bit of a skin, but actually looked okay? So, needing lunch anyway, I baked them up, and they turned out… surprisingly well.

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The edges are a little dark, but that’s never stopped me before. Nom.

They caught a bit, because I was distracted by reading a book, but the structure of the interior was the best it’s been so far. Still not perfect (nothing’s perfect, of course), but much more airy and open and honeycombed than previous batches.

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Yeah, look at that crumb structure.

Here’s to happy accidents, I guess?

pawpaw pepper sauce

Pawpaw season is here again! Our kitchen is once again overrun by this delicious and short-lived fruit.

(At some point, I should probably give a little rundown of what pawpaws are since most people aren’t familiar with it. Add that to the list of things to do…)

When we first moved in, I made a large batch of pawpaw butter, which I then handed out to family and friends. Last year, we were not particularly prepared, so we just processed a lot of the fruit and froze the puree. This year… This year, I have PLANS.

I gave a whole mess of fruit to a friend last year and he made a delicious pawpaw liqueur with it. It was sweet with some ripe fruity notes, but finished like buttery caramel. I want to try my hand at making it. I started an infusion today using frozen puree, and I’ll do another one with fresh. I’m curious how they’ll compare and how the puree holds up with storage.

But since it looks like we’ll have a lot of fruit again this year, there’s still room for experiments. So today, I made a pawpaw pepper sauce.

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Peppers for days.

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dinosaur ranching

The hubs and I recently started playing ARK: Survival Evolved, a survival crafting adventure game where you tame dinosaurs. It is unforgiving, but, you know, in a fun way.

Highlights of our first session include:

  • A small army of tamed dodos!
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Two of the dodos are named Dodger and two of them are named Mogs because I thought the first of each had died when they hadn’t. In my defense, all the previous ones got eaten. …which doesn’t sound like much of a defense now that I say it.

  • …that were quickly eaten by wild wandering dilophosaurs. (Womp womp.)
  • Taming a pair of parasaurs!
  • …that also quickly met their end. RIP Hellyeah and Ruby. Hellyeah died trying to defend Adam against a school of piranhas when he overzealously jumped into some water chasing after an oviraptor he wanted to tame. Ruby died trying to protect me against titanoboas (Fuck you, titanoboas.)
  • Taming a triceratops!
  • …that died trying to defend us against another trike we were trying to tame and who was mad at our efforts.
  • I got chased up a mountain by two titanoboas (seriously, fuck you, titanoboas), ran out of stamina, and threw myself off a cliff to escape. And then died from falling, obvs. (Adam talks about this on episode 217 of Coffee with Butterscotch, starting at about 18 minutes in.)

I feel like there’s a pattern in there…

ARK is primarily billed as an online multiplayer game.* You can form up tribes and go to war against each other or try to carve out a peaceful settlement for yourself, though good luck going that route if you’re playing on open servers. Hubs and I play on our own private server so that we can hang out and game together without having to worry about randoms intruding into our space and fucking up all our shit. (As though dinosaurs fucking up all our shit wasn’t enough to begin with.)

Here’s what we learned so far after we muddled through our first few sessions on dino island.

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This seems effective.

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unexpected car expense

I took my car in for an inspection yesterday, and got a call this morning that there is a part that needs to be replaced. (He told me the part, of course, but I promptly forgot it because my brain is a sieve when it comes to car stuff.) Unexpected, but also not. My car is something like ten years old. That it hasn’t needed more maintenance up to this point is a minor miracle, really. Especially since it handles the bulk of our road trips to various parental units.

But when someone says to you “It’s not technically a safety issue because it’s not completely broken yet” and it’s about a car part that seems important for general car-ing…

croissant, the first

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I made croissants for the first time this weekend! They ended up being underproofed, womp womp. But the good thing about baking trial and error is that your errors are often still pretty tasty, and these were no exception. You can’t go too wrong with butter and dough.

The recipe I used this go around came from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer and Martha Rose Shulman. It was a pretty straightforward, two-day affair. I found croissants intimidating before because they seemed involved, but there isn’t too much active time. Most of the time was resting and chilling.

This was also my first attempt at laminated dough, and it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. I should have let the dough warm up just slightly before rolling and cutting and shaping, because the butter was a bit too cold and cracked during that final stage. And my folds weren’t as neat as they could have been.

I’m prepping for another attempt this upcoming weekend. This time, I’m using Dominique Ansel’s recipe from Masterclass (if you’re curious, here’s a referral link). This one requires prepping a levain, so I started that process as well. I’d never made a fermented starter of any kind before, so that in of itself has been fascinating.

I can feel the mild obsession creeping in. A flurry of baking approaches.

read it: this is how you lose the time war

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I read This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone in slow bites and didn’t want it to end. This book broke my heart in the best way possible, and then put the pieces back together again.

It is a story about two assassins, Red and Blue, from different factions waging war across worlds and through time. Red and Blue communicate through letters that they leave each other in moments in time. Rivalry and enmity turn into fascination and eventually an impossible love.

What a beautiful, beautiful book. I feel exactly the way the best books should make you feel: delicate, raw, full.