Cookies, More Cookies, and a Ghost

This past weekend, some writerly friends and I had a nice little writing retreat.  Or an extended slumber party, depending on how you judge such things. (We had two course cookie dinners….)

There were excellent chewy, salty, immensely chocolatey chocolate chip cookies provided by Barbara Webb, which barely made it to baked stage.  I estimate maybe 80 percent of the dough disappeared while in cookie ball form.

I made shortbread, two types!  One, a bizarre little nutmeg-flavored one that I snagged from the book Small Batch Baking.  They’re sweet and oddly savory and the first one you eat makes you go, huh, that’s strange.  The second one you eat makes you think, hey, I could eat more of these.  They’re definitely more-ish.

The other shortbread I made is a cobbled-together monster that I keep experimenting with in an attempt to get a truly chocolatey shortbread.  This involves melting semi-sweet chocolate into a fairly standard shortbread recipe, then grating in dark chocolate until it’s nearly dusty with chocolate.  Then I taste it*, and it… tastes like butter and flour, so I usually start chopping some more dark chocolate into jagged little bits to wedge into the dough also.  It’s kind of a mess.  Then I roll the dough out, cut it into diamonds or stars or rounds (the basic cookie cutters that are always accessible in my kitchen, unlike the fancy holiday ones which involve standing on a step stool), and cross my fingers.

The problem with chocolate cookies is that I always find it hard to tell when they’re done.  Easy to burn them.  And with these, I don’t even know how strong the chocolate flavor will turn out until they’ve had time to cool.  The despair of shortbread cookies: they’re one of the few that do not taste good warm.

These came out all right, but I think next time I’m going to plan ahead and actually buy some cocoa nibs.  And maybe trade out some of the flour for cocoa….

Anyway, full of sugar and with two chapters of the novel revised and rewritten, I headed for home.

I stopped in Sedalia, MO for a salad, and apparently picked up a ghost who wanted to go to KS.  A very strange moment.

I got into my car, hit the ignition, and all my electrical panels ran amok for long enough to make me think, I do not want to have my car break down in Sedalia!  Then it all stopped, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  I started off, and… the airbag sensor in the passenger seat triggered itself and said, oh, you have a passenger.  Airbag on.  Then the passenger seatbelt light came on and persistently stayed on, blinking and complaining that I was endangering my passenger by not ensuring they were belted in.

The passenger seat, of course, was empty.  Or looked that way.

Finally, to make the car happy, and remove the blinking red light from my peripheral vision, I pulled over at a gas station.  I belted in my invisible passenger.  The car was happy.

I drove home, and at a stoplight in Lawrence, suddenly the airbag sensor shut off.  I unbelted the passenger seat–still empty or empty again!–and this time the passenger seatbelt light stayed off.  So, I guess the ghost got out at that point.

Either way, it was a polite passenger, and didn’t object to me playing the radio very loudly. or cussing at traffic that refused to behave.

It makes sense, I suppose.  We hear all about the ghostly hitchhikers that end their rides with terror or death–the women in white who steer drivers into accidents, or send them to deserted ruins of homes way off the main path, leaving their chauffeur shaken.  But that can’t be all of the ghostly passengers.  Just the percentage we hear about.  The scary percentage we whisper about.  Maybe there are just some travelers who want to keep touristing around post death.  Inspecting our license plates and peering through windows at our splayed open maps for hints of our destinations and hopping a ride.  Silent companions who are just going the same way we are.

I’m still going to take my car into the mechanics to make sure the system isn’t gummed up.  I might or might not believe in ghosts, but I definitely believe in car repair.

Have a story snippet!  Still drafty, but kind of fun.

Despite her best attempts, Silene failed to convince either of her siblings of the need to flee. Delphine obsessed on the risk—that Harrow would catch them and make their lives worse—and Calyx preached, wait, wait at least until Aceline returned from the Ride. There was no point in seeking sanctuary if she weren’t there to grant it. And Calyx dismissed the young prince as if he’d never been healed, as if he were still the political non-entity he’d been since summersick struck him down.

So instead of arguing further, Silene retreated to her quarters—the small chambers near the gardens—and avoided everyone, only sneaking out to find food. She kept her dree ability tightly leashed, afraid of touching that raging presence again.

The air in the palace tasted sour and brittle to her now, like wet metal, and she couldn’t forget that there was this horrible… thing somewhere impossibly far and near at the same time. Like a mass of rats, united in hunger, slowly scratching through the walls, while the denizens of the palace walked about unaware.

Silene didn’t want to be a rat’s sweetmeat.

*I know, raw flour!  The danger!  I just can’t break myself of the habit of testing the cookie batter.  Even if the last bag of flour I bought came with a boxed warning on the paper–FLOUR IS RAW!!!!  YOU’RE GONNA DIIIIIIIE IF YOU EAT ME!!!  (I paraphrase.)

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Cookies, More Cookies, and a Ghost