NaNoWriMo Final Report: Victory!


I actually crossed the finish line two days early, late Monday night. Woohoo!

Things I learned, in no particular order:

  • For me, the most important part of writing is making decisions. Writer’s block is often just the fear of making decisions. Be Bold!
  • I have a bit of a depressive personality, which I mostly manage through self-care. Writing dark, morally ambiguous, cynical stories is not good self-care
  • Writing can and should feel good. If it doesn’t, maybe I’m writing  the wrong story. That’s not to say that it will always be easy, or always flow freely, but it will be feel right and good.
  • I need to simplify characters, starting with a couple of broad roles (this time, I used the four classic temperaments and role within the classic “five man band”), so I can differentiate them early. Complexity will come from the interaction of roles and their interactions with other characters
  • “Surviving in nature” shows are good inspiration for nonviolent action and peril scenes (Dual Survival, Remote Survival, River Monsters, etc.)
  • I still need help with plotting. The Hero’s Journey (especially Christopher Vogler’s simplication of it ) and Kenn Adams’s Story Spine (aka “The Pixar Story Spine”) are good guides to keep me on track.
  • Back to characters, to keep myself from making the same characters over and over and muddying them up, I made cards, shuffled them, and randomly drew for role, temperament, etc. I didn’t bind myself to the results, but I used them to get myself flowing.
  • The key is making decisions, being bold, and not being afraid to try something new, to go against the mold … especially the “white male antihero solves problems by beating up the right bad guys” mold. 🙂
  • Nightwish makes some great writing music

NaNoWriMo Update

I’m close,  and I’m a little ahead of schedule, but I feel like I’m cheating a bit.

I started one novel,  got about 20,000 words in,  and realized it want going to work.  I’ll be able to salvage some of it, but not much.

The rest han been a second book that I truly believe will capture what I love about The Manticore and the Woodcutter’s Daughter. I’m quite excited and confident about it,  but I don’t want to jinx it by taking to much about it now.

Vegan @ Disney: Tusker’s Buffet 

What can I say about Tusker’s that hasn’t already been said? 

Vegan Disney World has a good review and a virtual tour (the tour is from 2014, but not a lot seems to have changed).

Well, I can talk about how much fun my 3 year old daughter had. She’s always been afraid of mascots,  and we thought she wouldn’t want to interact with Donald, Daisy, Mickey & Goofy. But the cast members were so patient and engaging that she opened up to them,  growing more confident with each character.

The food was good, with plenty of vegan options on the buffet. A chef gave me a tour of the buffet to show what was and wasn’t vegan. 

The foods was great, especially the plantains, samosas, and roasted potatoes.

The desserts all had dairy ingredients, so they brought me some vegan cookies at the end of the meal. They were good, but not at the level of the rest of the food. But honestly,  the fried plantains were so yummy I didn’t even need the cookies. 

So, thumbs up for the food and thumbs up for the character experience. 

Movies You Must See: The original HIGHLANDER

Although it’s been overshadowed by a stream of crummy sequels, an awful animated series, and a quite good in its own way TV show, the original 1986 Highlander starring Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, and Sean Connery deserves a serious watch.

It’s the first movie I’d seen about immortals that really addressed the issues that come with being immortal. The central love story between Connor and Heather, is poignant, moving, and powerful.

And although it does hew to the myth of redemptive violence, it does at least show Connor’s disillusionment with violence, his understanding that war – even a clan skirmish – is pain, loss, and suffering.

Even for an immortal.

Although his body heals from all wounds, he carries the scars from violence with him into the present day.

But that isn’t to say that the film is all grim. The dialogue is frequently witty, especially when Connor speaks with some of the less cultured police investigators. And of course Sean Connery is Sean Connery.

There’s a real operatic feel to many of the scenes between the immortals, especially when Clancy Brown’s Kurgan is involved.

And while Highlander is still a product of its times, its gender roles are pretty progressive for a mid-80’s action film. Brenda and Heather are both much more than just damsels or trophies.

I don’t want to say too much, since Highlander is so much better the less you know about it going in, but please, give it a watch. It is well worth your time, and one of the best movies to come out of the 1980’s.

Meat-Free Mondays: Quick and Lazy Vegan Chili Burgers

Regular readers know how much I love burgers. They may also be getting an idea of how much I love chili. So I thought I’d combine the two.

Now, all my recipes are vegan, but they’re not typical foodie recipes. I like quick and easy – even lazy – recipes that can be built around canned or dried staples and whatever fresh ingredients we happen to have. I’m not buying 10 different fresh vegetables to make veggie burgers, and I don’t expect you to.


  • 1 can fat-free refried beans (check the label, but all of these I’ve found have been vegan. The “vegetarian” refried beans simply replace the lard with vegetable oil. Fat free beans just omit the lard altogether).
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 1 can corn kernels, drained
  • 1 package of chili seasoning (mild, hot, or whatever). Or you can use chili powder and cumin to season it to your taste.
  • 3 cups oatmeal (can be old fashioned or quick oats)
  • Olive oil


  1. Mix the refried beans, the pinto beans, and the corn together.
  2. Stir the seasonings in at this point for easiest dispersal. If you forget, you can put them in later with no problem
  3. Thickly coat a large skillet with olive oil and start heating it to medium-high (about 6 out of 10 on my stove)
  4. Slowly mix in the oatmeal, about 1/2 cup at a time. I used just a little less than 3 cups, but you may need more or less. Feel the consistency with your hands. You shouldn’t need to add liquid to this recipe.
  5. Shape into burgers.
  6. Fry up the burgers on the skillet. Give them about 3 minutes on each side to get nice and “seared,” then cover them and turn the heat to low. You can eat them then or keep them on low for up to an hour without any damage.
  7. Serve them on buns or toasted white bread with vegan mayo, ketchup, and Tobasco sauce (if you need extra heat).

This recipe made 8 burgers, about 1 inch thick by 3.5 inches in diameter (I didn’t measure them exactly). This many big burgers would easily take 2.5-3.5 pounds of ground beef, in my experience.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Vegan @ Disney: Spice Road Table

If you like Mediterranean food at all,  you power it to yourself to stop of in”Morocco” the next time you’re at Epcot. Make reservations at the Spice Road Table. 

I had a great available to me on-menu: delicious hummus and olives for an appetizer, and a wonderful veggie sampler for my entree, including

  • Hummus fries (similar to falafel, but subtly different) That were perfectly crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside,  with just a hint of spice
  • Vegetable dolmas (grape leaf wraps) with a savory and slightly sweety taste from the pine nuts and pumped raisins on top
  • Couscous with a delightfully rich flavor
  • And plenty of warm pita bread

I left feeling quite full,  and I’m a big eater (literally:  I’m 2 meters, or 6’7″, tall).

The mint tea was delicious: very light and refreshing after a warm day of park walking.

Our waiter, Saleem, was amazing, and made sure our 3 year old had familiar food.

Final word:  don’t miss it.  This was the best of the restaurants for service and flavor, and it had some amazing competition.

Lindsey Stirling: Because You Need Dubstep Violin


Lindsey Stirling first broke on YouTube doing covers of video game and movie themes, like this great Legend of Zelda medley:

Or this Lord of the Rings tribute: 

Since then,  she’s produced albums full of original material, some with guest vocalists (like Lzzy Hale on Shatter Me):

And now she’s even spreading on soundtracks of her own,  like the recent Pete’s Dragon remake:

So now you know. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite videos,  the live public performance of Master of Tides:

Meat-Free Monday: Vegan Thanksgiving Part 1: the Basics

I’m the only vegan in my family, so a big tofurkey extravaganza is not in the cards.

That’s okay:  I’m honestly not sure how to cook that, or if I’d even like it.

But I can certainly have more to eat than green beans (ick) and green salad.

I’ve been doing some investigating, and I’ve found a bunch of recipes.  I’ll start with some traditional fall and Thanksgiving foods that can be made vegan with just a few ingredient swaps,  often as lottle as using vegan margarine instead of butter:

  • Oven slow-baked sweet potatoes with vegan margarine, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Who needs casseroles?  Bake them until the juices bubble out a beautiful caramelized brown.
  • Baked acorn squash, again with vegan margarine, brown sugar, and cinnamon 
  • Butternut squash with maple syrup drizzle
  • Vegan pumpkin pie
  • Katherine has found and modified a Thanksgiving – ish skillet dish that uses dried cranberries for sweetness and cinnamon for Autumnness. We just ate version 1.0, and it was good. Version 2.0 will include squash or aweet potatoes, and promises to be even better. 
  • I’m working on a crock pot cornbread dressing recipe.  We have limited oven space and a lot of people to feed, So we’re having to get creative with cooking methods

Vegan @ Disney: Liberty Tree Tavern

Not pictured: the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  I’m really bad at food photography.

We went to the Magic Kingdom two days during our Disney World trip. On the first day, we ate at Cinderella’s Castle. But that’s an expensive, once-per-trip (at most) expedition. We went with something more low-key (and less expensive), The Liberty Tree Tavern.

Like Cinderella’s Castle, Liberty Tree had a few great vegan options on the main menu. We had corn fritters for an appetizer, and I ate the “Vegetarian Proclamation” sandwich. It was amazing, just filled with seasonal vegetables like squash and zucchini and mushrooms. The entire flavor was just too good. I said “I want to just stay here and eat more of these sandwiches all day. I don’t need any more rides.”

Needless to say, we left and did more rides. But the sandwich was just that good.

This isn’t a very expensive meal by Disney standards, but you will need reservations. There just isn’t really any way to get a walk-in.

Just Keep Swimming. ..

It’s official:  America has elected the most unqualified, racist,  sexist demagogue in recent memory. 

White supremacy reigned last night, add the man with the KKK endorsement took the Presidency. 

So what do we do? 

Don’t panic (I’m working on that one myself). There are chances every day to build back the bridges Trump’s supporters are trying to burn,  to make this a country for all of us, not just straight white Protestant males and their wives.

In the words of Dory, “Just Keep swimming.”