Friday Fatigue: Working Uphill

Today I am very slooooowly trying to add words because fatigue has set in. I did quite a lot this week, however. So it’s lunchtime, which always feels furtive and illegal in this particular month. Fusilli, tuna, capers and rocket salad. Also peaches in syrup:

 

I’m fueling up before the next batch of work so I’m also writing this blog post to keep track of my progress.

  1. I submitted the Alaya Dawn Johnson article after addressing peer review comments and revising bits of it.
  2. I submitted the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie article.
  3. I’m now powering through peer review comments/rewrites/edits on my Angela Slatter + Yangsze Choo psychogeography paper. Got confirmation from the Project leader and editor that I don’t have to change errything and can defend some of my choices. That was a relief! She’s surprisingly easy to work with and I say this with a chuckle because I was absolutely terrified of her when I was a PhD student at the school. Anyway! Onwards to powering up for these edits;.
  4. I hit 40k words in Rosemirror and am now halfway towards 50k words!
  5. Got my Regency horror story up to 3k words!
  6. Grading and doing the supervisor thing.
  7. Steady work on monograph proposal.
  8. Survived a meeting though I’m still upset about that. I’m not upset about the news, what we have to do, or what our esteemed chairperson told us. I’m upset by the shenanigans that happened after she left. But I mean it’s basically the same bs on a different day so what else is new.
  9.  Got enough sleep for most nights though my sleep sched is slightly off because of being upset. Anyway I also decided that I should wake up between 530-630am most mornings because that extra 30-90 mins of sleep? It counts.

Right. Now back to work on the Psychogeography thing, and Rosemirror.

And here’s the snazzy meter for Rosemirror. Going according to schedule. I write fiction as a warmup to writing academic stuff. Sloppy writing indeed. I seriously doubt these hot air blowing sorts write as much. Nor do I believe they write/research/edit methodically/daily in the manner of my creative cohort who juggle both academic work AND creative writing. I know who my tribe are — we straddle both kinds of writing.

46370 / 120000 words. 39% done

Academic Fight Club Thursday: Psychogeography Edition

Having waited rather impatiently to receive my peer review feedback for the psychogeography article I submitted in January — I emailed the editor and found out they’d sent it to me on May 10 (the day after elections, clearly the mail server was down), and that revisions are due by the 15th of June. It’s a good thing I submitted the other thing due on the 15th of June a couple of days ago. But there’s also the matter of the paper that I’m writing for the July conference. That’s due on the 15th of July also, although I’ve already stated I don’t want to be included in their conference publication. We’ll see how it goes — I already asked for an extension there. I mean FFS 15th of June is Eid and I had THREE papers due on that date.

Argh. It’s all happening right now. I’m simultaneously irritated but also delighted in a sense because I need the distraction from the untenable work situation. Also, I welcome the intellectual challenge.

This psychogeography article had the dreadfully condescending peer reviews I’ve come to expect of Australian peer reviewers in general. Words like “sloppy”, “indisciplined” etc while at the same time engaging rather intelligently with my ideas. So I will ignore the condescension, and focus on the positive comments. I was rather excited by the extensive comments by what looks to be a rather informed psychogeography scholar especially since it’s my first Psychogeography paper. So I’ve already done up the table of changes and powered through six of those requests.

Hah. What did I say about not pissing me off? I am a machine right now.

Anyway, I also got a revision request from a pro magazine for a horror story that’s been at the #2 spot in slush for ages. Also am on board to making changes there. Well at least something is happening rather than nothing — and at least it wasn’t a rejection.

Onwards and upwards. I’ve got articles to submit this year. And dear arrogant, condescending anonymous peer reviewers. Thanks for pissing me off while at the same time giving me intellectual fodder. Fight me. I’m gonna do this so fast now.

Cream of Carrot Soup (and a quick tuna and pasta salad)

Quick and Easy recipe here. I made it in a jiffy yesterday while making my chicken in cream sauce with the leftover pan-fried chicken of the previous night.

Ingredients

2 Carrots chopped any way you like
1/4 cup of chopped red onions
1/4 cup of cooking cream
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 Massel “chicken” cube (It’s actually vegetarian but I like the flavour and it’s MSG-free)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cumin powder
A pinch or two of grated ginger (optional)

Instructions

Boil carrots with onions till soft, throw in the rest of the ingredients except for the cream + seasonings. Blitz in blender, add cream. Stir gently and season to taste.

Top with a bit more Italian parsley.

Makes 2-3 servings depending on how hungry you are.

*

Mine lasted two servings. Had it today as a starter for pan-fried salmon with dill, capers and a bit of the lemon cream sauce of the other night over mash (no butter) and a quick vegetable salad. A very satisfying dinner.

Thinking of making oven-roasted tomato soup one of these nights. There’s a recipe for it in the Faerie Magazine but I’ve also made it before. Tip from old acquaintances: roasting tomatoes with garlic and balsamic vinegar is heaven. Never fails. Imagine that gorgeousness blitzed into a soup!

I cook daily these days but they’re relatively easy meals to prep.

Example: I’ve already made tomorrow’s lunch.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of fusilli
1 can of tuna in olive oil
dill
capers
a sprinkle or so of extra virgin olive oil
two dashes white pepper
a splash of balsamic vinegar

No Directions Needed

The only cooking that happened was the boiling of the fusilli. Everything else was just stirred into the pasta. Yum!

Tomorrow I’ll make a quick vegetable salad w/ carrots and capsicum for prerequisite vegetable intake.

Why so many carrots? I accidentally ordered two bags of carrots last weekend when my groceries got delivered so it’s carrots all the way for the rest of the week. But I’m really enjoying them so am not complaining. Maybe I’ll order two bags of carrots again next time ;P

ps: People should piss me off more often, clearly. I finally got off my ass and edited, revised, formatted plus submitted the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie article I completed last year. Ha!

Faeries Visiting Me At Work

This arrived at work today, the first magazine for one of my birthday presents to myself this birthday month: a Faerie Magazine subscription.

 

 

I also bought the Faerie and Mermaid handbooks by Carolyn Turgeon (And Grace Nuth et al for The Faerie Handbook) of Faerie Magazine and they are exquisite but I shan’t be reading those until my birthday.

I am very glad the magazine was in my pigeonhole today, because I am still sad, demoralized and disheartened by work-related matters that happened yesterday. I am daily reminded this is not a good environment for me and that I will never be enough. But one needs a job, and a salary — and as far as salaries and other job perks go, I really can’t complain. So, keep my head down, do my job. Besides those things people chase after like promotions and whatever imaginary carrots on the stick help them feel superior would likely bring me no joy. I’d rather be engrossed in my passion projects and I don’t need fancy titles to have faith and joy in myself. My sleep schedule was a bit wrecked because of what happened yesterday but thank God I fell asleep by 1:10 am (sez fitbit) and woke by 6am. That’s the latest I’ve been up in three weeks. Usually I am comatose by 11pm but mostly by 9-10pm. So I am currently operating on 4 hours sleep. At least being upset by work did not keep me up all night this time. There’s hope for me yet. There were times when toxic machinations caused me not to sleep for over 48 hours. I’m determined not to let work kill me. So focus on the small things and try not to be seduced into Stockholm Syndrome again. It’s good to be compassionate but also know when to call a rusty spade a spade.

I continue to be productive– I was pissed off enough yesterday that I delivered my Alaya Dawn Johnson article ahead of schedule. I’ve submitted three academic articles this year, and one chapter. I’m fixing to deliver another this week and submit my NK Jemisin paper next week. And there’s the monograph proposal which — I get cheels of terror and excitement every time I think about it. So there’s that. People at work can devalue and pass over me as much as they like. I know my worth, I know my value, I possess my own personal power. And I will work extra hard to ensure these things are not diminished.

In other news, whatever stage of bereavement happens after the first three months of alternating between grief, dazed denial, numbness and actually thinking you’re happy because you’re numb and focusing on the small things? I’m in it. I was going to stay at same hotel this time around for my birthday, mostly for self-care. But I couldn’t do it. The future is uncertain and I don’t want to deplete my savings. And I keep thinking about the terrible fight I had with my Dad over the phone the first time I stayed there. He kept wanting me to spend my birthday with him. We did have a belated birthday celebration together last year. I didn’t know it would be the last. I am going to miss my father my whole life.

So. I’m just going to do the self-care thing low-key. I’ll be working — and working out. And now, back to work.

Listening to: Eye of the Needle — The Divine Comedy

Visual Log of Things Cooked/Consumed Lately: First 5 Days of June 2018

Since I am no longer using the food delivery service (although I still have 14 point something Prime points so I’ll need to figure that out at some point), I’ve been cooking even more lately. However it does not seem to have reduced my writing productivity. Rather it’s been energizing and inspiring me so I must be doing something right. Anyway, it’s the fasting month which is always rough for me. No matter how many times I tell people I can’t fast because of very valid health reasons, someone or other has to be a nosy jerk. I basically do my best to avoid people all month because of this.

I’m going to keep doing this visual series to keep me motivated and because it’s nice to have a visual record of these things.

Beef Stroganoff with Noodles, parboiled vegetables, nectarine, decaf cappuccino
(A working lunch.)

Chicken in Cream Sauce with peas over potato mash, carrots and tomatoes
(not in picture: Cream of carrot soup seasoned with italian parsley and cumin)

Herb-Crusted Salmon with Lemon Cream Sauce on Mashed Potatoes
(Hey, I had to get my fix for the week since I’m no longer ordering! I had a lot of fun making this and will definitely make again. Soon.)

Ayam Masak Lemak Cili Api, Kacang Buncis Goreng w/ beef and oyster sauce, Sambal Belachan
(So damned delicious. I put daun kunyit and daun pandan in my masak lemak. Plus, calamansi lime juice, calamansi lime peel and cherry tomatoes in my sambal belachan. Best sambal belachan I made, ever. I used some of it to make my kuah rojak yesterday)

Portobello Bun Burger
(burger patty made from scratch w/ onion, parsley, paprika and worcestershire sauce, a pre-workout breakfast)

Creamy Scrambled Eggs, Caramelized red onion, portobello mushrooms, Adventist Bakery 7-Grain Bread
(A post-workout lunch)

Listening to: Blue Moon — Chromatics

Monday Rosemirror Draft Zero Check-in #1

I’m going to post these check-ins every Monday, hopefully. I have a target to finish Draft Zero of Rosemirror by the end of July so that I can revise it at leisure in August and then have September-October free for short fiction and monograph. I’ll still be working on articles and the monograph regardless but it would be good to hyperfocus on it. In November I finish the story-arc of Masks of the Apothecary.

So anyway, woohoo I reached 40k words today 🙂

40341 / 120000 words. 34% done!

I have a lot of other updates to make but right now I am very full from awesome dinner, very satisfied with my progress, and very sleepy. Going to work a bit more on my Regency horror in Sesen story, and then sleep.

Listening to: Rue de cascades: Naomi — Alessandro Simonetto

Friday Night Cooking Adventure

I’ve decided my sleep-schedules and internal clock have been efficient enough that I’m allowed to wake up at 630am on Saturday. Especially since a bit of cooking happened yesterday. Since I quit the delivery app, it became necessary to do meal prep for the following week. So I’ve marinaded and frozen about 6 chicken breasts in a paste I made out of: garlic, parsley, salt, extra virgin olive oil, pepper, smoked paprika and balsamic vinegar.

My original plan was to make different marinades for the different breasts but it was getting late, and I was tired. Besides the marinade yielded a really tasty chicken meal for Friday night dinner and I was really pleased with it. I call yesterday’s dinner “piccata-ish” because I made a Chicken Piccata inspired sauce but added some light cooking cream instead of butter, and just used stock.  There was a slight mishap because the gas went off while I was cooking and I bellowed in panic at the gas man, which resulted in my gas being wheeled up within 10 minutes. That was a record (sometimes it takes them an hour, I should bellow more!)!

This was a bit more lemony than I wanted but it was my first time making it and I can adjust the taste next time. It looks brown because I wasn’t so diligent with the sauce and it dried a bit, causing the need to add more stock. Still, it was extremely tasty and  the entire meal came to 610 calories (inclusive of chicken, sauce, mash and parboiled vegetables) which I thought was quite respectable.

Here’s a picture. Not very photogenic but it’s home-cooking! 200 grams of chicken (I was under-caloried and extra protein was required) over half a cup of mash (made w/ 1/2 teaspoon lowfat dairy spread + 1 dessertspoon light cooking cream + salt + parsley flakes):

I feel this time around I’m making smarter food choices and learning to count every ingredient I cook really does help me. I went from struggling to eat under 2k calories everyday to trying to eat beneath 1900 calories everyday and now I’m struggling to eat up to 1800 calories everyday. Ha! I try not to underfeed myself but the thing is I feel very satisfied with the meals and the thing is — this food plan is not about starving yourself but to make sure you’re not hungry and by making smart food choices. I’m okay with that. At least these are things I can control about my life: what I put in my body, and what time I sleep/wake up. I told myself I’d do these two simple things to make my life better. And so far, it seems to be working. Good, because it needs to be working for the long haul.

I deleted the earlier post because I promised myself that v.2 of this blog wouldn’t go to that place where I whined about people or things. That’s another simple thing I want to change about my life. But I can say that the piccata thing happened because I’d ordered a chicken piccata for yesterday’s dinner. This was before I cancelled all the meals. Heh.

All’s well that ends well. I’ll make a proper piccata next week maybe. And my first try at making a herb-crusted salmon fillet. Thanks for the cooking ideas, I guess. You know us cooks.

Some Chicken Piccata recipes for reference:

Listening to: Hollywood Dream Trip — Syrinx

Rainy Day Writing Update

I’m sick and feverish today, having caught the flu from someone or other. So I allowed myself to sleep in until 6am today since it’s a public holiday, and it helped. Back to waking up at 5am tomorrow though, I think.

Despite this I got a lot done. Perhaps because I got extra sleep. Or maybe it’s just that staying away from social media’s helped me focus and be more peacefully productive! Also, decaf has become a thing since last week and I’m happy with the flavour of the decaf instant I chose (Boncafe). It has tiny amounts of caffeine that seems to agree with me in that I feel slightly more alert.

Onwards to the writing productivity report!

1. Today I wrote around 2500 words in Rosemirror. My goal is to hit 40k words by Sunday.

32820 / 120000 words. 27% done!

The aim is to write 10k words in Rosemirror per week till I hit my draft zero goal of 120k words. Then I’ll take a month or so off from novelwriting to rest my brain before I dive into Masks of the Apothecary in November. That’ll be my NaNoWriMo project this year.

2. On the academic front I’ve done more work on the monograph proposal and chapter I’d like to send to the editor by mid-June. I had to fulfill certain other obligations first but I’m on track for the proposal now. Chapters have been outlined, I’ve read most of the corpus and I know which bits from my dissertation I’m incorporating and how I’m expanding on the work. It’s sort of like writing another dissertation but not really because a monograph is a different beast altogether. I put together different monographs in the past but never completed them. This one feels more…focused? That makes me glad but also a little terrified of rejection.

3. I also started work on the Alaya Dawn Johnson article that came back relatively unscathed from peer review. It isn’t much work required and I already covered the bigger requests from Reviewer #2 who had some good insights. Hoping to deliver this week because next week will be all about the monograph, edits on the Malaysian Gothic chapter I submitted last week and I need to start writing the NK Jemisin paper I’m presenting in July.

4. My plan for May was to write two short stories for the #12for12in2018 challenge because I need to make up for not writing anything in February and March. Well, it turns out that the second May story wants to be a novella. 2nd May story is based on my #NightMarketDays twitter IF which I halted earlier this year because it seemed to want a larger canvas. I guess a novella would be that canvas. This one is based partially on my teenhood in Sungai Petani, Kedah so it is sort of YA! Yikes! Also based on my own music nerdery and the stories I wanted to write in fantastic landscapes surrounded by paddy fields. I read a lot of hikayats and traditional folktales in my teenhood and so this is definitely going to be a very Malaysian novella and it’s causing me to introspect about my life.

HOWEVER. This is not what I wrote today! Today I started my 3rd May story and it was a hop, a skip away from “What do I want to write today ah?” to actually hammering out a Regency-inspired story, set on Sesen. I mean, if you’re going to copiously rewatch both the movie and miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice this was bound to happen. And to be honest, I’ve been wanting to write some Regency stories set on Serolar since I was a teen. So I’m quite excited about this. So far, there are four Sesen short stories I’m working on this year. Two set on Serolar, one’s  a naval adventure set out in the Archipelago, and one more story set on Lusini I’ve yet to finish. I consider this a nice warm-up for November when I’m diving back again into the world of the Yrole Triptych!

And that’s today’s productivity update. I aim to do more!

Onwards to dinner: rice, sambal sotong terung pipit, stirfried french beans w/ beef, and maybe telur dadar (Malay omelette). I’m sick so I don’t think I’m bothering about being under 2k calories today. Got to keep up my strength.

As it turns out I’m sick enough that I couldn’t be bothered about cooking two additional dishes. Besides, with the addition of terung pipit (tiny eggplants that look like peas, ergo pea eggplant) and cherry tomatoes I figured I got enough vegetables there. There were more vegetables than squid actually. So, half a cup of rice, a third of a serving of sambal sotong and a slice (heel of loaf) of bread to wipe up that tasty gravy from the wok was good enough for dinner. And I’m under 2k calories! Phew! (I know I say I can have over 2k calories but the thought of having two cheat days this week made me feel quite miserable!)

I may yet make the telur dadar tomorrow. We’ll see how I feel when I wake up. Very sleepy now.

Listening to: At The Still Point — The Story

Halloumi and Portabella Sandwich

Today’s sandwich is unphotogenic (so no photos, just your generic sammich) but quite lovely so I’ll likely make again. Improvised based on what’s in the fridge. I used the oregano to bring out the delightfully Mediterranean flavour. I’ve become such a fan of the wonderful Halloumi.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive  oil (about a teaspoon)
  • Chopped yellow onion (about a teaspoon)
  • Halloumi cheese (a 25g chunk sliced into two)
  • 1 portabella mushroom (20g), sliced
  • 2 slices of tomato
  • a pinch of ground oregano
  • 2 slices of bread (I use Massimo’s wheatgerm enriched bread here in Malaysia)
  • 2 slices romaine lettuce.
  • Hunt’s Hickory BBQ sauce, 1 teaspoon (or the BBQ sauce of your choice)

Instructions

Heat pan, add the extra-virgin olive oil. I use a brush to brush the oil evenly across the pan. Add halloumi slices on one side of the pan, the mushrooms on the other. Add onions and tomato slices to the mushroom side of the pan. Remove Halloumi when golden brown on each side. Add oregano to the tomatoes, onion and mushrooms. Remove from pan when nicely done. Onions should be gently caramelized, tomatoes softened, and mushrooms should be done. Place lettuce on each slice of bread. Place the Halloumi on one slice atop the lettuce, pile the mushroom, tomato and onion mixture. Add a dollop of Hickory BBQ sauce, and cover with the other slice. Ta-da!

Listening to: These Creatures — Jean Michel-Jarre, Julia Holter

Laksa Johor and Mr. Darcy

For nearly two weeks now my life has been defined by waking up early in the morning, writing, doing housework, heating up Laksa Johor to eat while watching Pride and Prejudice.  It is the 2005 version directed by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfayden, Judi Dench, Donald Sutherland, Penelope Wilton, and Tom Hollander. The Janeites, literary critics etc do not like this movie but I love it more than the much-loved BBC miniseries for many reasons. The music, the cinematography, the chemistry between Knightley and Macfayden — and the breath of fresh air it lends to an old classic.

So it’s been really comforting to dip into my plate of Laksa Johor while watching 15-20 minutes of this every morning. It became my private, happy place. So when I finished watching the movie, I started watching it again! Who cares about the critics, right?

Today I finished my last 418 calorie serving of my Laksa Johor and feel bereft.

 

It was my first time making Laksa Johor. I used this recipe nearly faithfully (I used ikan kembung — wolf mackerel instead of ikan parang — wolf herring, because I couldn’t be bothered with the bones. I did not use the tamarind pulp and stuck to the asam keping for a souring agent, because I prefer the sourness to come from the lime/lemon. Also, I used lemon instead of calamansi limes!) and was beyond thrilled with the results. I made it a bit thick which means a little bit of gravy could go a long way and so it was the consistency it should be, like a Malaysian spaghetti bolognese you eat with your hands.

However, the conversation around Wickham had me cause to explore issues to do with class that’s really part and parcel of the text. The movie of course exaggerates the class distinctions by having the Bennetts be even more vulgar and that made me think about my own families (paternal, maternal) and how the class divide can alienate even within the same bloodline.  In this time of grieving, perhaps I may have made errors of judgement in reverting to being too trusting.

For now, going within, reaching within myself to bring out as much work as I can while healing my mind, body and soul is my main priority. I won’t have any publications for the next few months so I’m taking the opportunity to have a holiday from twitter and Instagram. I’ve disabled my Facebook for the same reason as most — privacy concerns. I’ll be back on other social media between August-November and will bow out again from November to mid-March 2019. I intend to spend the time fruitfully finishing my monograph, chapters and articles due, and Rosemirror. Bowing out from social media in November will better facilitate the work I intend to do on Masks of the Apothecary then. I promised myself that if I don’t have an agent for Watermyth by end of this year, I’m querying Masks of the Apothecary next year. To refresh your memory, this is the first novel in The Yrole Triptych, that Sesen trilogy I started writing so long ago, and then put on hold for the Cantata of the Fourfold Realms sometime in 2010.

I think I’ll be making more Laksa Johor while I’m at it! It’s actually easier for me to stay away from social media these days because the time I used to spend on twitter I’m now spending counting calories on my calorie tracker. 8)

(Although I still have batches of my rather amazing curry laksa so there’s that! Ask me how much I love all versions of laksa!)