19 February 2015


Taken from the recipe first published by the New York Times. Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

I mixed everything yesterday at 4pm and let it sit all night. I must've put it into the oven at about 11am this morning, so it didn't sit the full 24 hours. Somewhere else I read to let it sit about 12-16 hours, which is what I did. And I didn't do the towels this time. I shaped the dough into a ball and let it spend its last two hours on a lightly-floured cutting board, and dropped it into the French oven that way. I have a 3.5 quart Le Creuset French oven, and it came out just fine. (I think the recipe calls for a 6 or 8 quart.) So easy and amazing! Bon appetit! 

(I removed the knob on the lid of the French oven and replaced it with a nub of aluminum foil, just to be safe.)

No Knead Bread Recipe

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

18 February 2015


I'm not sure if the moment for Nineties nostalgia has passed quite yet, but I'm going to keep it going in my little corner of the internet for just a little longer (i.e., as long as I want.) I've had to hear about the Sixties for most of my life, so a little love for the Nineties shouldn't hurt anybody (any more than, say, a Slap Bracelet would.)

Over the last few weeks I've gotten quite a few Nineties 'jolts' from unexpected places. Most of them came from '20th anniversary' something-or-others. Movie and CD re-releases, TV reunions, like Jimmy Fallon's SAVED BY THE BELL skit. The best came from Heidi when we were discussion something on Netflix that had been described as 'quirky.' She said, "...everything in the Nineties was 'quirky.'" And she's absolutely right. I mean, just look at Cake, which was basically OK Go before the internet created them like some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy/quirk Frankenstein, right?

And she's totally right. In a way, it felt like alternative culture had finally entered the mainstream, probably right around the time U2 did. With THE JOSHUA TREE they burst out of their little patch of real estate on alternative radio, paving the way for the moody surge that followed. (Remember when they were just a 'quirky' little band from Ireland? (So, maybe that descriptor doesn't hold up to bands originating in the Eighties.)) U2 recorded their next album, ACHTUNG BABY, in Germany (quirky) and shifted their influences from Americana to industrial/electronic dance (extra quirky.) That tour saw Bono adopt multiple persona (The Fly, Mirror Ball Man, MacPhisto) and prank-calling sex lines and local politicians from stage. (The White House would NOT take his calls.) The even quirkier PopMart tour came later in the Nineties. The electric spectacle included Golden Arch and giant lemon mirror ball set-pieces.

Between the fall of communism and the election of Bill Clinton, the stage had been set for a new wave of idealism to replace Eighties Gen X cynicism. Silent protests gave way to activism and social and political involvement on a much broader scale. The environmental movement swelled--Al Gore had just published EARTH IN THE BALANCE and 'tree sitting' became a thing. Rock the Vote got young people to the polls in greater numbers. In 1992, youth voter turnout was twenty percent higher than it had been in the previous twenty years, in in 1996, Rock the Vote registered over 500,000 new voters. 

Somewhere, I saw the definition of a bluesman as one who is a '...prisoner of hope.' And that's what the Nineties did to make. Take my Gen X cynicism and add two parts idealism, and you get what's described above. And I suppose that blind idealism has been the source of some of my happiest moments and greatest successes, both personally, professionally, and artistically. So I put this little playlist together to give me a little jolt of something I'm fighting to hang onto when the cynicism and sarcasm start to overwhelm the blue light of hope that fades in a dark corner of my mind. Hope it does something similar for you.


24 January 2015


Sir Michael of Mehalek tagged me in a ten question blog hop known as the LIEBSTER AWARD. So I'll answer the ten questions then nominate a few other people.

1. Where did the idea for your current Work-in-Progress (WIP) come from? 

Interesting question, because this one's been with me for a while. Probably since 1998. I was leaving UNIVERSE OF ENERGY at Disney's EPCOT, which was sponsored by Exxon at the time. (Could still be, haven't checked it out in a while.) On the way out, they had a bunch of stuff about tiger conservation, and I had an idea about a researcher in Siberia realizing that the subject of his study was hunting him. I know, it's brilliant.  Calm yourselves.

Fast-forward to 2015, and I have a LIFE OF PI meets THE THINGS THEY CARRIED thing going on. It's about a veteran of the war in Afghanistan coming to terms with his PTSD as the magic of Dia de los Muertos unfolds around him. So this book has been 17 years in the making, and I am very happy with the way it's developing.   

2. Quote a favorite line from one of your favorite books.

There's a lot that comes to mind, most notably the always-quotable Kerouac, but nothing that jumps out as a 'quotable line.' Sorry. I wish I had a favorite line that I could whip out at parties, but I don't. Does that disappoint anybody?

So here's my Kerouac quote: My witness is the empty sky. 

Now I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of my OWN quotes as a favorite. After all, I wrote it. Most of my 'quotes' come from passages people have highlighted in the Kindle versions of my books, and I get a kick out of see what they did or didn't dig.

My favorite quote is one nobody's highlighted yet:

Here's how I'll tell you what I think—if you see white smoke then you know I picked a new pope. And if I'm drinking a Snapple then you know I don't give a shit. 

Fucking brilliant.

3. Now quote your favorite line from your current WIP. 

How about this, without any context at all:

I know horse shit when I smell it and this is horse shit.

4. What unique challenges has your current WIP had that your previous ones did not?

The fact that this has evolved over the last seventeen years is a unique problem. I finished a few drafts, sent it out to agents and editors, then put it in a drawer. And I'm glad I did, because this book is the most ambitious thing I'd ever attempted, and I'm really happy with the way it's going. The Beatles couldn't have attempted REVOLVER on their first outing because the ideas were too big, the sound too ambitious. That's where I'm at with this.

Of course, your natural inclination is to ask Is this your REVOLVER?

Fucking-A right, it is.

The ideas are bigger than anything I'd ever attempted. I'd gotten close with some of the stuff in REVELATIONS, but the setting and scope of this blow REVELATIONS away, and I love that book. So if you haven't read and reviewed it yet...


5. If you saw your main character at a party, how would you react?

This is a great question, because Heidi and I returned to Yucatan after I'd written a draft of this and it freaked me out a bit. Imagining my characters out there in the Mexican scrub made me a little nervous, because it had never occurred to me that by writing them, I'd made them real.

I'll never have the chance to encounter one of my main characters at a party. But if you've ever been to a party with me...

6. Who would play your main protagonist/antagonist if your current WIP were made into a movie?

I'd always imagined Paul Walker as Ben Collins, and that's all I'll say about that.

And I imagined Danicka Petráková Prochazka as Mila Kunis, of course. Who else could play this Slavic femme fatale?

7. What are your biggest inspirations for writing?

My wife, Heidi Ruby Miller, got me into this, and one of the biggest reasons I keep going with writing is that it lets me live many lives with her instead of the one I was given.

8. Summarize your WIP as a haiku.

Life gives us one shot, 
We squander it by living
As if it never ends.

9. What role does music play in your writing?

Music is the heartbeat of what I write. In essence, it drives me when I've lost my way. By knowing the themes of what I'm working on, I can construct a playlist that accentuates the emotions of the novel. If I get lost in the story, the music I've chosen can bring me back into it.

10. What’s one thing you’ve learned about the craft that you wish you had learned earlier?

That it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks.

Tagging Lana Hechtman Ayers, Jay Massiet, Stephanie Wytovich, and Matt Betts. Your turn. 

22 January 2015

MIX TAPE: The Dream of the Nineties!

Was talking to Mikey Rega (of the concert t-shirt debate fame) and I was telling him a little about PORTLANDIA. Not sure whether or not he'd seen it, I sent him a link to the season one intro.

But I had been in a bit of Nineties nostalgia mode prior to this discussion. Has something to do with the idea of, "...it was twenty years ago today." A few weeks ago, I dug out PJ20 and listened to a bunch of old shows. Then I Googled pics of Lisa Bonet from A DIFFERENT WORLD. (Damn, girl.) All of it got me thinking what WERE the 90s and why do I care?

I turned 20 in 1994, and I know that has a lot to do with it. It was a golden era for me, as I'm sure it is for most twenty-somethings. I had killers jobs--whitewater raft guide, record seller at National Record Mart, bookseller at Waldenbooks, seller of Timberland boots, Guess jeans, and Oakley shades at American Outfitters, where I met the lovely Heidi Ruby. I am also keenly aware that my current age has finally given me perspective enough to realize the passage of time makes any era distinctive. Because news and pop culture are fluid events, eras tend to blend until we get enough distance to stand back and take a look at the collective material from the culture rather than a snippet or two.

So, how do I define MY Nineties?
In no particular order: NORTHERN EXPOSURE, Patagonia clothing, Tevas, the Alice in Chains three-legged dog cover, Nalgene bottles, SUPERUNKNOWN, PULP FICTION and its amazing soundtrack, beaded necklaces, Baja shirts, THE CHRONIC, Bill Clinton, Woodstock '94, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Lemieux, Jagr and the Pens, Drew Barrymore's Guess ad, Adam Sandler, Mudhoney, Structure, FREAKS AND GEEKS, Sony PlayStation and JET MOTO, Kurt Cobain, Silverchair, THE X-FILES, the Jennifer Aniston ROLLING STONE cover, OJ, coffee, SEINFELD, CLUELESS, THE LION KING, Netscape and Lycos, this Chicago Blackhawks jersey I loved and can no longer find... I could go on, but why?

I suppose one of the things I find most inspiring about the time period is the way some of these artists have continued to pursue art on their own terms, shunning the corporate ideals and commercialism that has reared its ugly head in some of the current era's art with seemingly greater frequency. (I know the money was present back then too, but Pearl Jam's fight against Ticketmaster is an important symbol, to me at least, of idealistically pursuing creation over money.) If nothing else, it gives me great pleasure to see MY heroes subtly rising through (with?) the ranks of Mileys and Pharrells to their rightful places as creative icons and veterans of a vicious industry. Maybe it's more a Gen X thing than a Nineties thing, but as somebody engaged in creative pursuits, I believe the ideals of that era are as important to me now as they ever were. Writing is about a fierce independence and living on your own terms. I feel like those are Nineties ideas.

Here's a little of the music I missed the first time around. (And it takes us back to PORTLANDIA.) Been loving Sleater-Kinney's new album. But here's a little taste of some older stuff to get you in that mode.

Sleater-Kinney - Live @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, USA, 30-04-2006

Source: Soundboard
1.     What's Yours Is Mine 
2.     Jumpers  
3.     Rollercoaster
4.     Sympathy 
5.     Oh!  
6.     Modern Girl
7.     Get Up 
8.     The Fox  
9.     Step Aside
10.  Let's Call It Love  
11.  Entertain 

Check it out here: http://livebootlegconcert.blogspot.com/2013/04/sleater-kinney-live-coachella-valley.html