Adventures with Words, April 1, 2024

Adventures with Words, April 1, 2024

Here we are at Sweet 16 and things have definitely been sweet lately. I’ve met goals, gotten outside to work in the garden and felt my winter-fed mental-miasma shift to spring fever.  

Goals Met – Update on the WiP

I’ve sent my query materials to Jenny Bartoy for her editorial review and feedback. The bundle is made up of the first 50 pages of the novel, a query letter, a synopsis and a list of search terms to use in finding prospective agents and comparative titles to use in my query.  By mid month, I’ll have feedback on the letter and synopsis and do revisions. The goal is to query at the end of the month.  

So what now?  I am continuing to refine and revise the manuscript so that it’s in shape to share with any agents who request a full.  I’m a little nervous about being ready and am doing lots of mental boundary setting to keep those thoughts at bay. Worrying about finishing in time, or about the manuscript being good enough, doesn’t get the work done.  To that end, I’ve been spending more and more time with my butt in a seat and my hands on the keyboard. I’m getting more and more excited about sharing this story with the world.. Which really is about sharing the characters. They are goofy, anxious, idealistic, loyal, brave and clever. I love their queer, nerdy, quirky selves.

And for those who have been following along for a while, yes I did change the names of my main two characters.  EJ is our protagonist and their new bestie is Bryson. The name changes are a result of feedback from early readers and I’m pretty happy with the results.

Our Daily Bread….

I haven’t bought bread from a store in a few weeks because I’ve been making it every 2-3 days.  Before you ask, it’s not sourdough. I got very discouraged about my sourdough bread because I couldn’t consistently get a light loaf worthy of sandwiches and toast. I turned to a recipe for sandwich bread that used commercial yeast. I’ve been making loaves from this recipe for weeks and I’m getting consistently beautiful, tasty bread. I’m feeling better about my bread making abilities and ready to introduce some sourdough back into our lives. I’m working from a book called Evolutions in Bread by celebrated Portland baking guru, Ken Forkish. He has two single-day recipes that include both levain (sourdough) and commercial yeast – a hybrid approach.  I just renewed with the library, so I need to get what I can from the book before I return it – and put it on my book wishlist.

If I’m not writing or working in the garden, I’m probably loafing around…

Another baking related book from the library I enjoyed is Baking Science by Dikla Levy Francis. This is the baking nerds textbook. I learned about why we want ingredients at room temperature in certain situations, what is happening at the atomic level when we add salt to our dough (the negative chloride ion from salt binds with the negative charges in gluten which helps the strengthen the bonds between gluten strands and gives us a more starchy, elastic texture) and what happens when we cream our butter and sugar together (sugar creates holes in the butter which expand with heat and create a more airy product).  Francis focuses mainly on non-bread baked goods, and helped me to understand why my pie crust works the way it does – the butter provides dough flexibility and the fats from shortening contribute to flakiness. There are some interesting recipes for cakes, cookies and other goodies I’d like to try eventually. This is another one I’ve added to my wishlist.  

Mid-Century, Modern

Speaking of baked goods…. I celebrated Pi Day as it was intended, by eating pie multiple times during the day, and encouraging others to do the same. Pictured above, a delicious slice of cherry pie from the beloved San Francisco Street Bakery, on my birthday. I really scored this year, birthday-wise. It’s always Pi Day, so there’s that, and this year it was a gorgeous almost-spring day and I had the day off (100% recommend doing that whenever possible). 

As for turning 60… I don’t feel old, except for after a long day of physical labor which I don’t recover from as quickly as when I was younger. I don’t feel tired of life (most of the time), I feel energized and curious and excited to see what I can accomplish. I don’t think I’ll feel truly old until I stop wanting to grow.

Front Yard Farm Updates

The Front Yard Farm has gotten some upgrades this year. Mol and I put a metal garden box together that will host the tomatoes this year. It’s a lovely sage green and if you’re interested, here’s a link to Epic Gardening where you can check it out. We also got a load of cedar chips to cover the cardboard of our paths and main traffic areas. The bright orange and the wonderful cedar smell are adding to the enjoyment of working outside.  

We’ve planted out the first round of seedlings – green cabbage, collards, kale, cosmos, yarrow and sage. The beans we planted a couple of weeks ago are coming up and Mol dropped pea seeds into the long bed with the brassicas. The red cabbages are coming along, I had to reseed twice.  The long bed had multiple bunches of garlic growing out of last years missed harvest. Mol pulled them up and we’ve replanted the individuals around the brassicas (hopefully they’ll repel aphids). 

Next up for the seedling trays are tomatoes, cucumbers, which means I need to get more seedling mix.

Epic Gardening, Birdies Raised Bed, Small.

Have a great month! Do the things that make you feel alive, spend time with the people who support who you are and who you want to be. 

I’ll leave you with another excerpt from IF ELEPHANT EARS COULD TALK:

Knuckles tapped the door. “Can I come in?”


He gestured to their bed. “Can I…?

EJ nodded and after a moment, sat down with him. They stared at their hands, flexing and relaxing them, waiting for him to say something.

“I haven’t had a chance to really sit down and talk with you about what happened.” He began. “How are you holding up?”

The gentle care in his voice prompted a fresh crop of tears, two of which raced down their cheeks before they could blink the rest away. “I’m … it’s hard. I’m mad and still kind of don’t believe he’s dead and I don’t know what’s happening with the park and…” 

They lost their battle against tears, turning to press their face against his chest. He wrapped both arms around them and held them while they sobbed. 

“I’m sorry, honey. It really sucks.” 

One thing EJ loved about their dad was he did a pretty good job of letting them feel what they felt without trying to push them through it, or argue against it. 

“I know it doesn’t help that everyone goes through this at some point. Losing people is a really terrible part of life. All of your feelings are valid.”

EJ changed positions and laid their head on his shoulder. “Thanks, Dad. I don’t know what to do now. Everything just fell apart without any warning.”

“Mmhmm.” He kissed the top of their head. EJ had a sudden urge to curl up in his lap, like they did when they were little. “You’ll figure it out, in time. Don’t try to rush through grief, it doesn’t work that way.” 

EJ closed their eyes and let themself relax into the warmth of his embrace. They couldn’t remember the last time they’d sat together, just the two of them, and talked. It’s my fault. I’ve been so focused on my stuff, I haven’t thought about hanging out with him at all. 

EJ partially disengaged to get a tissue off their side table. Dabbing their eyes and clearing their nose, they turned to face him and repeated what they’d said to Bryson. “I know I’ll be fine eventually.”

Fred looked toward the door as Georgia called them down for dinner, and EJ’s stomach rumbled loudly in response. Their dad grasped their leg and held a finger to his lips. 

“Shhhhh…. I hear something.” He whispered. 

On queue, EJ’s stomach rumbled again.

“Oh, no! It’s too late, the monster’s here! We’re doomed.”

EJ tensed their belly muscles in anticipation, knowing what would come next based on years of experience. Fred tickled them, starting in the middle of their body and eventually finding every ticklish spot. EJ was gasping for breath and laughing, wiggling around on their bed in a half-assed attempt to avoid his fingers. Fred was giggling almost as much as EJ when he stood, catching his breath. Sadness hadn’t entirely retreated but it’s grip had loosened. They hadn’t realized they’d missed their dad’s silliness. It was so common place when they were younger.

“I love you, Dad.” 

“Love you, too, kid. Let’s get down there before my stomach monster wakes up.”

EJ got up and slipped around Fred, dashing through the door. “You’d better hurry or I’ll eat everything.”

Making Contact

Here’s where you can find me online:

  • – my blog
  • @CKCombs_author – Instagram, BlueSky, and Threads 

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