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Smoky Writers and Everything After

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Welcome to the end of March! It’s almost, sort of, kind of spring!
And the past two months have been an absolute whirlwind.
Most of February was spent preparing for a big trip: Smoky Writers! This is the annual writing retreat in the Smoky Mountains that I go to every year, organized by a friend. Going on its sixth year, I love this retreat, but it’s always a bit of a mixed bag for me. Originally formed of folks from the podcast writing community, it has since grown to include a variety of successful writers. Everyone is lovely, and it’s always great to catch up, but I always get a stab of imposter syndrome, seeing how everyone has progressed in their careers when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.
I did get a reasonable amount of work done, clocking in about ten thousand words on a new novella and two hours of stenograph keyboard practice every day. But coming home, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut. There has been a lot of catching up at my day job from the trip, and with UB Con following right on its heels, I found myself completely exhausted and came down with a cold.
I guess I spent most of March recovering from adventures rather than having them. I did get to see a couple movies (Captain Marvel and the new release of Apollo 11 documentary footage) and my first concert in what feels like years. I visited a maple farm and researched buying a new car when I turn my lease in.
In terms of work, I wrote and have been editing a piece that is midway between flash and short story, and trying to catch up on Everyday Drabbles. I’ve been falling behind. My goal is to catch up to where I should be and put together the first ebook collection in April. I also went through my outstanding short story publication submissions, found a few stories that had either been quietly rejected or fallen through the cracks, and sent them out to new markets.
As we head into April, my goals are to continue to give myself time to work on creative projects, and push those projects to completion. And enjoy the nicer weather, of course.

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In which Hugh bakes some pies

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It’s the end of January!
And I realized that I haven’t just done a blog post in a really long time. I mainly fill this space with reviews, podcast reposts, publication announcements, and the odd bit of fiction, but I should probably be doing more to actually connect as a person and not a collection of projects and opinions.
So here goes:
This year, I had to extra goals beyond the usual: I wanted to bake more, and have more adventures. And while the dead of winter isn’t so great for the later, it is the perfect time for the former.
This month, I dipped my toe into making pies, and I made one that was successful, and one that was tasty, but also a disaster. Since I work at home, my baking tends to cluster around gatherings: parties, poker nights, etc. And the one with the easiest timing for me is my Monday night table-top gaming group. The only trouble is, one of the players is super lactose intolerant, so lots of things that I cold bake, he can’t eat. But I was going to make a pie, that he could eat, and it was going to be delicious, dammit!
Experiment one: Dutch apple pie

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Since I knew I was dealing with a dietary requirement, and because I didn’t want to do absolutely everything, I went out and bought ready-made vegan pie crusts. They came frozen in a pack of two, and were five-ingredients, so I was pretty sure I picked a winner. I also picked up apples and spices. The recipe I picked called for your typical pie apples, but Wegmans was out, so I ended up going with Ginger Gold apples. I wasn’t sure how they would do, and I was nervous.
They turned out to be great! They were sweet and juicy, and they stayed together well. They were also really tasty as slices, because I cut way too much. The recipe I used also called for a topping, but it was a piddly thing, just spots of brown sugar over bare apples. This would not do, not a bit. So I looked up a crumb topping recipe, made a few adjustments, and got it to come together! The pie turned out beautifully, but the weather turned against us, and my husband and I were forced to eat the pie ourselves. Tragic.
Experiment two: Blueberry pie

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But I was left with a second pie shell. Later in the month, we went to a brunch serving waffles, and we were encouraged to bring toppings. So, I tried my hand at blueberry compote, and tried turning the leftovers into pie.
The compote turned out well, but didn’t thicken up as much as I thought it should. This might have been because it was another vegan recipe, or it could’ve been because I went by the exact times in the recipe, and not by eye. But they were great on waffles, at least.
The next day, I baked the remaining pie shell, and added the leftover filling. Again, the filling was very wet, but I didn’t think anything of it, and put the finished pie in the fridge, wrapped in plastic.
It ended up not getting any thicker, a right soup of a pie. Worse, the bag leaked in my car. The latest arctic storm has caused me to turtle up, so I haven’t seen the damage in the light of day yet. Next time, I’ll have to make sure the pie sets properly, and take extra precautions while traveling.
So that was my adventure for the month, One good, and one bad, pie completed. Next month I’m going to be doing more shortbreads, and possibly something special for Smoky Writers at the end of the month. If you want to keep up with my baking in real time, I follow me on Instagram!

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