Speculative Fiction Author from South Florida

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There are two paths in my life:  words and food.  Not wanting to choose one or the other for the rest of my life, I aim to do the best I can in both.  And my goals in life are not only to become a published author but achieve success in the food and hospitality industry.  South Florida, with its abundance of tourists and snowbirds, is the best place I can see to achieve both.


Least Favorites from Food & Wine 2016

In my last post I talked about the food and drinks I loved from the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT. This is about the foods I didn’t like. It’s a shorter list this time.

Loaded Mac and Cheese (Farm Fresh) – Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some mac and cheese. It’s one of my favorite foods on the planet. I had a plate of pasta covered in cheese sauce, bacon, and jalapeno peppers. What’s not to love? Admittedly I still wolfed it down, but the dish suffered from a major fail: It didn’t have enough cheese.

No, that’s not my pro-cheese agenda talking. There was enough cheese to coat the pasta but not enough to bind it all together. Without that the water from the cooked peppers and grease from the bacon loosened up the mac and let it fall apart on my fork. The flavors didn’t mesh together as well either, instead random bits of pepper and bacon with little cohesion. Folks, don’t skimp on the cheese.

Korean-style BBQ Beef AND Roasted Pork Lettuce Wrap (South Korea) – These dishes were split between both of us, but all we could taste was salt. I’m hoping this was just the result of someone having a heavy hand with the soy sauce that day, because I was excited about Korean BBQ and kimchi. Turns out “cucumber kimchi” is actually code for “pickles” and the kimchi on the pork was also bland.

Beer-Braised Beef with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes (Belgium) – Belgium is a regular kiosk at the festival and I was hopeful when I saw something on the menu that wasn’t a waffle for a change. This sounded like a tasty dish in theory, but it’s not one that can sit under a heat lamp for very long. Gravy doesn’t tend to keep for long, so by the time I got my braised beef the sauce had turned to slime. The texture ruined it for me in a way that not even cheesy mashed potatoes could save. It’s a damn shame.

Golabki (Poland) – Bland filling wrapped in overcooked slimy cabbage. Maybe it too sat for too long, maybe I just don’t like stuffed cabbage. Your mileage may vary.

Overall this was a great trip. There aren’t many pictures of the food because we were too busy eating it all. I gained about seven pounds that I’m still trying to work off. Definitely worth it.

My Favorite Things from EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival 2016

One week from yesterday was my 26th birthday. Since I’m lucky enough to share this birthday with my boyfriend (he turned 36), we made a big celebration of it. The result was a three-day trip to Walt Disney World so we could eat and drink our way around the World Showcase at EPCOT.

This was our third consecutive Food & Wine Festival and it gets bigger every year. We stuffed ourselves silly all three days and there was still a long list of food and drinks we missed! If you like food at all, you need to put this festival on your bucket list. (The same goes for their Flower & Garden festival in the spring. It’s very similar, with flowers and topiaries everywhere and a focus on growing fresh food.)

A little disclaimer here: I like food, I usually know how to prepare it, but I still don’t have the proper vocabulary to talk about it like a proper food critic. This is especially apparent when I talk about alcohol.

Here were some of my favorite things:

Berbere-style Beef Tenderloin Tips (Africa) – Seasoned beef tips with a tomato/onion/jalapeno relish on a bed of pap (think polenta or grits.) These were on the menu last year and I was excited to see them come back. I was lucky enough to get this right off the grill. The jalapeno gave this just enough spice to be noticed, but still palatable to someone who isn’t a massive chllihead like I am. I had this with the Simonsig Pinotage as recommended, but last year I had the Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz. I preferred the Jam Jar, but I’m partial to sweeter wines.

Barbacoa Enchilada with Jalapeno Margarita (Mexico) – Well seasoned beef smothered with a tortilla and mole sauce. Can’t go wrong with that. Like the tenderloin tips from Africa this had minimal spice that isn’t about to burn your tongue off. But if you like more spice, get it with the full-sized jalapeno margarita on the rocks.

Greek Yogurt Vanilla Cake (Greece) – Despite it being a shameless plug for Oikos, this was an enjoyable dessert. The cake was more on the dense side, but flavorful. The ouzo wasn’t nearly enough to give you a buzz, but its presence was noted. That’s more than I could say for boozy desserts in certain other pavilions (looking at you, Scotland.) All topped off with a whipped yogurt/whipped cream mix that balanced out the tartness of unflavored Greek yogurt pretty well.

Lobster Roll and Chardonnay (Hops & Barley) – I approached this one with caution. Not too familiar with the traditional New England-style lobster roll, I expected something closer to seafood salad on a roll. I’m glad I was wrong. This has enough mayonnaise to it so the filling binds together, and that’s it. The recommended pairing was La Crema Chardonnay, and I can’t argue with it.

Bunratty Meade Honey Wine (Ireland) – I first learned about the dangers of mead at a New Year’s Eve party with some friends. It’s too sweet, too smooth, and it’s too easy to get yourself in trouble. Mead is wonderful stuff. Thankfully, you won’t have to worry about that with the ~4oz of mead you’re given, and it’s hard not to walk it all off. Just sip and enjoy.

Citrus Thistle (Scotland) – I’m not usually a fan of gin, but it works in this drink. The grapefruit and added herbs balance out the gin perfectly. It’s like drinking a garden, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Soon I’ll post about the dishes I didn’t quite like.

So, There Was an Election.

The results of that election were far short of ideal. Then again, considering our options, “ideal” was never going to happen. We were caught between Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of shady politicians, and our new cartoon-in-chief Donald Trump. While each candidate had their enthusiastic fans, many knew by the time primary elections were underway that the US had fucked itself over.

Jay Dee Archer posted his response to the US election the other day, and I wrote the following in response. I think it deserves a place here:

Not thrilled about it either, but I realize the only reason he got elected was that Clinton is seen as less trustworthy. I’m not sure that perception is wrong. Honestly I can’t trust either one of them and voted third party. He’ll probably be out by the next election as long as the Democrats can get it together and not put all their strength behind a candidate that’s as sketchy as she was.

I doubt it’ll be an easy ride for the Republican party either. They do have a majority in our Congress but not quite enough of one to pass their laws easily. And Trump and the rest of the party have been at odds for so long I doubt he’ll be their rubber stamp. It’s candidates like this that illustrate the need for the checks and balances system that we have.

I’m focusing on the positives. The strongest third party we have didn’t get the required vote percentage for federal funding but they DID quadruple their votes over last term. So that shows people are getting tired of the two-party system we have. There’s a Libertarian candidate near me that got 33% of the popular vote in his local district. Not enough to win obviously, but a third of the vote for a third party is huge.

Our legislators are more diverse after this election. There’s a Muslim-American refugee woman in the Minnesota state legislature: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/ilhan-omar-america-first-somali-american-muslim-woman-legislator-is-elected-a7406391.html

So, there’s some good to be found.

The Too-Common Reminder to Back Up Your Work.

It happens to everyone at some point. You spend time creating something, and then it’s gone. Now that’s happened to me. A few years back I tried my hand at writing comic scripts, and made several months’ worth of strips for a webcomic I eventually wanted to produce about working in a restaurant kitchen. It was somewhat based on my own work experience and was going to be hilarious, at least in my own head. I had it saved on a website called Scripped, along with a graphic novel script I was also writing.

Now Scripped is gone, replaced with WriterDuet. My Scripped login does not work. The link I sent to a select few to see the comic no longer works. My comic is lost.

I should know better. Aren’t we always talking about backing up our work? The GN script is saved on my Google Drive. I even have a hard copy somewhere. For some reason I never did this with the comic.

The upside here (?) is that I thought about rewriting it anyway. As I said, it’s a few years old, and I’d like to think my writing skills have grown since then. It could have done with some polish. Now, I don’t have a choice.

Authors Answer 85 – Authors Aren’t Perfect

What’s something you can’t do to save your life?

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

I know what you’re thinking, authors can do anything. They’re so amazing at everything they do. They have limitless abilities and are pretty much superheroes or idols. Right? Well, we may be almost perfect. We do have flaws. Okay, I’m kidding. We’re real people who have our talents and, believe it or not, things we just can’t seem to do. This week, we discuss our lack of talent.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 85 – Is there something you can’t do no matter how many times you try?

Allen Tiffany

Correctly spell “available”.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’m sure there are lots of things that I just can’t do no matter what, but the first thing that came to my mind was “fighting games”. You know games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter? I’m absolute rubbish at them. That’s not to say that I’m fabulous at other kinds of games, but fighting games in particular…

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In Defense of Dog Ears.

So perhaps this is a bit of literary heresy. Some will take it as a cautionary tale if they’ve ever considered lending me a book. But I will admit, I dog-ear pages in books and feel no shame.

I didn’t realize this was considered a bad thing. It’s a habit I picked up from my mother, who has rapidly-filling shelves of paperbacks, every one of which has those little floppy ears. Then I found comments and memes hinting at books being sacred little things that should stay forever unsullied by destructive humans. “There are two kind of readers: Those who use bookmarks, and monsters.” A high school friend once was angry at me because I was reading a book I borrowed from her and opened it too much.

Don’t get me wrong. I obviously love books. They’re little, self-contained adventures that sit quietly on my shelf until I’m ready for them. Must those adventures always be clean? When I read a dog-eared book (of which I have many, thanks to my mother constantly needing new reading material and being a much faster reader than I), I don’t see destruction. I see the history of someone else going down the same road. When I see a well-worn book, I see comfort.

Obviously if you’ve got a limited-run, first edition autographed copy of, say, The Hobbit (or insert the title of your choice here) you don’t want that one going through unnecessary wear and tear. But if your library is anything like mine, you have few if any such books. Odds are they’re mostly inexpensive trade paperbacks.

What do you think? Do you require bookmarks when reading or do you mark your territory? Or do you exclusively read ebooks, and this discussion is irrelevant?

Authors Answer 84 – Unusual Author Talents

Check out my talent.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

I was going to call this Stupid Author Tricks, but I don’t want David Letterman to get angry at me. If you think authors just write, you’re wrong. They also have some interesting talents! This week, we share our talents with you.


Question 84 – Do you have an unusual talent? What is it?

Linda G. Hill

I can lick my own nose. I’m incredibly fast at licking other people’s noses too. Mostly my family… strangers don’t take too kindly to it.

Gregory S. Close

I’m older and less fit now, so I don’t know if I still have this talent, but in my younger days I could do a pretty mean vertical jump from a standstill.  I enjoyed startling my friends by suddenly jumping to some seemingly inaccessible window sill or ledge.  Unfortunately, I did not also have super strength, spider silk with the tensile strength of steel, amazing agility…

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Authors Answer 83 – Author Quirks

Quirky enough?

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

June is the month you get to learn a bit more about the authors. You’re going to find out some interesting facts about them. You see, authors are people, too. They have their quirks, idiosyncrasies, and talents. This week, you’ll learn something unusual about the authors.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 83 – Can you tell us one quirky fact about yourself?

Allen Tiffany

I scored in the 7th percentile on English GRE. I was not an English or literature undergrad, but I applied to a big state university’s Graduate Creative Writing program. They accepted me based on my publication record to that point, but asked me to take the English GRE “just because”. I agreed, did not study for it and got creamed because so many of the questions were about all the literature most English undergrads have already read. Nonetheless, to the best of my knowledge, I’m one of their more successful…

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Authors Answer 82 – Cover Art

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But really, people do judge books by their covers. A great cover can sell a book. It’s important to have well done cover art. Authors who are traditionally published usually have it done for them by the publisher. But a self-published author has to commission the artwork from an artist themselves and pay for it. Or maybe some authors do it themselves. So, how did we get it done?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 82 – How did you get your cover art done?

Linda G. Hill

So far that’s a secret. The artist who has agreed to work on my cover art doesn’t want anyone to know until the novels are out. Stay tuned!

Gregory S. Close

I spent a lot of time researching this, and months browsing DeviantArt and other sites for a quality freelance artist.  I finally settled on Mike Nash. …

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