Ronin Roundtable: Marc Schmalz

Late-breaking Green Ronin Publishing update: Director of Electronic Publishing Marc Schmalz talks about the making, posting, and selling of Green Ronin's hundreds of PDF products in this week's Ronin Roundtable.

Friday Night Dinner

Dinner Tonight: I'm on a kick and (assuming I don't mess something up) I'm planning a couple of dishes, including a pineapple-fennel salad with ginger-sesame dressing ( There will be leftover pineapple and I hope to make some of the brown sugar-roasted pineapple we had at Cookbook Club with that this weekend. I'm also making homemade pizza dough from the Williams-Sonoma recipe ( and from that dough a fresh arugula and proscuitto pizza ( Hello weekend!

Cookbook Club Meet-up #2

Tonight was the second meet-up of our Cookbook Club. Cookbook Club is like a book club but with food! This meet-up was originally scheduled for January but had to be postponed due to bad weather. We cooked from Molly Stevens' books: All About Braising and All About Roasting.

Dishes included: Braised potatoes and leeks, braised escarole and white beans, slow-roasted goat leg with harissa, onions and tomatoes, pan-roasted chicken, mustard-crusted roast potatoes, roasted fennel, roasted broccoli with kalamata olive dressing, ginger roast chicken and elbow macaroni with tomatoes and pan sauce, and a delicious dessert of brown sugar-roasted pineapple. Plus wine, tea, espresso, good talk and fun times. 

Also, because I arrived late and left late, I was on hand to take away the chicken carcasses for making stock and was gifted the leftover bottles of wine by our non-drinking hosts. Win!

Thanks to Bill and Laurie Rockenbeck for hosting this time.

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The Read More Books Project Finale

Time to post the summary of the one "goal" I set for myself over the last 12 months! In both 2009 and 2010 I managed to read 24 books. The goal of the Read More Books Project was to double that number. I met my goal in August, thanks in part to Chris being in Austin that whole time and largely giving up on TV watching in favor of evenings spent reading. Even after Pramas's triumphant return I managed to keep up on the reading program, though things slowed down as I hit the busy season of post-convention work, Green Ronin Summit, a couple of rounds of out of town guests, an unexpected surplus of bunnies, hosting Thanksgiving, Kate's surprise Sweet 16 party, and Christmas... did I mention I'm tired? Still, I was getting a little reading done, even if it was just audiobooking while driving back and forth to Kate's school. The Read More Books Project took an arrow to the knee when Skyrim entered the house, though, and over Christmas break the only book I've touched was one of the books I got for Christmas (Molly Stevens' All About Braising, which I'm planning to cook from for the next Cookbook Club meet-up in January). Even So, regular reading is something that I'm pleased to have added back into my routine and I'm going to pick it up again with enthusiasm in 2012. I have HUNDREDS of books I still want to read and more are coming out all the time.

So, on to the stats.

I read 75 books in 2011. The longest of these was Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay (which weighs in at 678 pages). I rated my books on Goodreads, which uses a 1-5 star rating. In some cases I would have given books a half-star if possible but in general rounded up if the book was better than the lower full star rating. Using that formula, I rated seventeen books at five stars, forty-six books at four stars, eleven books at three stars and one book at two stars (Greywalker by Kat Richardson, largely because Jim Butcher has spoiled me for other paranormal fantasy). Nine of those books were non-fiction (five of those were cookbooks or food-related), twenty-four were audiobooks, and I've read five books on the Kindle app on the iPad since August. I expect I will read more ebooks in 2012, especially since I can check out ebooks from the Seattle library and have them delivered instantly when they're available. Love that!

I went on a tear reading multiple books by the same author several times this year. I read nine books from Robert Parker's Spenser series, eight books from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, all four books in the Chet and Bernie mystery series from Spencer Quinn (author Peter Abrahams' nom de plume for his more light-hearted mystery series), four books from Dashiel Hammet, a trilogy from YA author Scott Westerfeld, and several other clusters of two or three books from a variety of modern writers. I find that I really enjoy this kind of binge reading, getting to know an author's voice and style and following developing characters through a series. Will undoubtedly be doing more of that next year as well.

Finally, my "top-ten" list of best books that I read this year (note: this top ten list goes to eleven). In no particular order:
  • Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  • Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • Tokyo Vice by Jake Edelstein
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • Griftopia by Matt Taibbi
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Habibi by Craig Thompson


Dueling Lasagnas

I subscribe to both Bon Appetit and Eating Well magazines and they both have recipes for butternut squash and mushroom lasagna but I'll be making this one. I'm sure the Bon Appetit recipe would be yummy, but the ingredients (including 3 15-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese; 4 cups grated mozzarella cheese; 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese; and 4 large eggs) make it a heart attack on a plate!
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For the first time in many years I'm hosting a full Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I'm quite excited. I expect to have 10-12 people and will be able to break out grandma's china in addition to my own wedding set. I don't have a huge family of my own to gather so I'm always happy when my friends will let me borrow them and theirs for a little while. My mom was here for the first Thanksgiving we celebrated in this house and she's going to come up again for this one.

I'm going over recipes and options. The first thing nearly everyone has said is "What can I bring?" and I'm struggling to not be greedy and try to do most of it myself. I have so many ideas! One friend is bringing her chocolate-pecan pie and some bread. Another has offered to bring some stuffing and create a custom cocktail for the event. Kate will make deviled eggs, her favorite, to contribute to the appetizers. Meanwhile, I'm going over my lists, clippings, cookbooks, and bookmarks trying to cull my options down to a reasonable size.

Since having appetizers consist of just deviled eggs would not live up to my standards, delicious though they may be, I'm also looking at other potential appetizers like this Tomato Tartlet recipe ( and this Caramelized Onion Dip ( both from Food and Wine magazine.

One thing I knew I wanted was a smoked turkey. Chris and I ordered a smoked turkey (from a place called, which now goes by for one of our early Thanksgivings and it was fantastic. I've wanted to do it again ever since, mostly because I'm too afraid of setting things on fire to try a deep-fried turkey, which is the only thing that intrigues me more. This year I've ordered a smoked turkey from Greeberg Smoked Turkeys ( which they describe as "an East Texas family tradition that spans four generations. It all started when my grandfather began smoking turkeys for family and friends in a corner of his dairy barn." Oh yeah, I'm in!

Since I'm not making a traditional turkey but my daughter and I are fiends for mashed potatoes and gravy, I've decided to make a separate batch of turkey stock ahead of time (using the Do Ahead Turkey Stock recipe at Bon Appetit: to use for gravy making on Thanksgiving Day.

Even though I have at least one friend willing to bring stuffing (or dressing in this case since it won't be in the bird), I want to have a little wild rice at the table since I'm a Minnesota girl, so I'm planning on making a recipe I've made several times before (and one of the only recipes of Bobby Flay's I consider part of my repertiore): Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing, which you can find at my old recipe index,

I haven't really nailed down vegetables, in part because I want to leave room for my guests. Seems like we need something with sweet potatoes (though maybe not with marshmallows), roasted brussels sprouts, or a crisp and light green salad. Or all three... I'm a glutton for Thanksgiving foods, I'll admit it.

Finally, the last piece of my Thanksgiving plan, in addition to chocolate-pecan and Kate's famous pumpkin pie ( is to make these decadent, to-die-for Baked Apple Dumplings with Cherry Butter and Apple Brandy Sauce because they really are THAT GOOD. I only make them once every couple of years and the time is right for these beauties. They're also good because they can be partially made ahead. Between making these ahead of time and having the turkey arrive pre-cooked and just needing to be warmed, I expect things to run quite smoothly.

I'm so, SO looking forward to Thanksgiving this year!

But what are they REALLY selling?

I recently received a piece of spam that I actually read. Sometimes I feel like I really need to know what "the other side" is up in arms about, I *want* to understand if I can. This spam cloaks itself in the "vote in this poll" supposed impartiality that is so common to push-polls and the like. Knowing that they were coming in with a bias and not really interested in what I really thought, I decided to go for it anyway and see what it is that these people were selling. Because yes, of course, they're selling something. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, there's a poll of sorts. Basically they offer half a dozen questions that give you the opportunity to blame Obama for everything bad in the country (or not) before offering up their screed in the hopes of selling you a book of what amounts to conspiracy theories. Or maybe I'm being unkind, maybe they've done the research that Matt Taibi did in Griftopia and they're just trying to educate people about how they're being taken by the oligarchy that's established itself in our democratic republic.

However, looking at the propaganda that's on offer once you finish their "poll" I can't help be see the extreme bias. These people praise "a few courageous individuals, from Ron Paul to the Tea Party movement" which makes me howl with laughter. Really? That broad range, that bipartisan group of truth-tellers? From RON PAUL to the TEA PARTY? That's where you draw your lines? Oh, for fuck sake.

But it gets better! These folks want to link "the incompetent attempts at social engineering by liberals in Congress—combined with the greed of Wall Street investment banks" to everything bad happening in America today. Even though by their own propaganda they admit that the major regulatory changes (Republican-led deregulation of banking!) that allowed the excesses on Wall Street took place in the REAGAN years, they only talk dates when Republicans held power ("In 1982 [atrocity X] happened...") and the only politicians named in their propaganda are people like Barney Frank, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. While the time period of 2002-2006 was prime time for the crap-fest they're railing against, where those scoundrels Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac held sway over less then half of all mortgages for example, Bush I, Bush II, and His Holiness Ronald Reagan are NEVER MENTIONED, let alone anyone from Congress who led the fight for deregulation. It's all about the "liberal social engineering" at the same time as they talk about mortgage refinancing hitting record levels in 2003 (when GW BUSH was President, the same man who encouraged everyone to "go to Disneyland" in response to 9/11... go shopping to keep the economy strong and show what America was about).

The propaganda feed goes on, talking about "During Obama's initial years in office, the number of workers unemployed for a year or more hit record highs," without any context. Obama took over when things had totally TANKED under Bush. He started with a penalty, he started in debt, with people desperately struggling. He *inherited* a LOT of trouble! Look at the trend since he took over...

I've seen a few Republicans who want to put all of Bush's two terms up against Obama "to date" as a way of saying that Bush wasn't so bad, as if somehow you can compare a guy who started out with an economic boom, a budget surplus, and two full terms in office with a guy who inherited a deficit, a couple of wars, a bigass recession, and a total meltdown of the corrupt and broken financial markets and has only made it through part of one term in office. Skew things much, guys? C'mon.

The bottom line is that by taking the "poll" you agree to sign up for their newsletter and other communications. They start to hard-sell you on their book before you ever leave the "poll" site: "We are beholden to no political party... are neither conservative nor liberal... and we call everything the way we see it." They telegraph pretty well their biases before you take their "poll" if you're 'net savvy or hold an opinion left of Attila the Hun, but if you're at all already inclined to think that Obama is taking the country in the most terrible of directions or that big business/big government is out to screw you and screw you *personally* you might take the poll, read the propaganda and think you've stumbled across someone who knows the "truth". They certainly sound confident, with all the names and numbers and timelines and promises of secrets that *no one else will tell you* (especially not that [Liberal] Mainstream Media)...

It's a boondoggle. It's a scam. It's the worst kind of slander and fear-mongering, taking just enough truth and muddying the waters by only ever mentioning hated liberal names in relation to the worst of the privileged, conservative party's deregulatory excesses. It makes me angry, because I know good, decent people who have fallen into this trap or one like it. I see them on my Facebook page, would probably see them at my church (if they hadn't scared me away from church a long time ago) or see them at my family's holiday table (if we ever actually talked about important things like this, if they didn't cringe from my questions about their beliefs and consider me one of "those people" they dare not talk openly to).

The whole thing makes me sad and angry. And no, fuckers, I'm not going to buy your fucking book. I can't do much else in the face of your vile opportunism but I can, at least, do that.

Book Swap

Yesterday I attended a lovely barbecue and book swap. There ended up being lots of books to choose from, including many I'd read already (and I'm not much of a re-reader) and several that were outside my wheelhouse (pagan how-to guides) but I still came away with four large volumes to dig into eventually.

I brought a recently read copy of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter; I also offered up our duplicate copies of LeGuin's The Dispossessed and Left Hand of Darkness and Matt Forbeck's Amortals (figuring someone else in the likely-geek crowd would enjoy it). Among the books Chris brought was a copy of a Magic: the Gathering anthology that he'd contributed to which was adorably snapped up by a sweet little 9-year-old geek girl who plays Magic and seemed quite excited by her score.

I decided to go out of my comfort zone on a couple of the books I picked up and try some more serious reading. I've been padding out my reading list with a lot of mysteries, thrillers, suspense novels, and easy-to-read fiction this year, so I decided to rescue a couple of non-fiction books from the table. I picked up Joseph J. Ellis' American Sphinx, The Character of Thomas Jefferson and a collection of Christopher Hitchens' essays called Love, Poverty, and War. I also selected a book I'd never heard of called Dance Night by Dawn Powell based purely on the fact that it was by a female author published in 1930. What little I know of literature of the early 20th century is dominated almost entirely by men, all the very famous male authors (Faulkner, Hammett, Hemingway, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, etc). Since making my way through Their Eyes Were Watching God earlier this year I feel like I should further educate myself on women writers from the early years of the century. So, Dance Night went into my bag.

Then, in the interest of not getting too highfalutin with my picks, I snagged a lovely slip-cased volume of Stephen King's The Green Mile, which I've also never read. I have a mixed relationship with King, I read and enjoyed his Bachman books (which include The Long Walk and The Running Man), The Stand, The Dark Tower and his On Writing is excellent but I've often felt he has trouble ending a story. Curious to see if the serial format of The Green Mile made a structural difference in the act of writing it that might change my feeling about King's endings... oops, there I go getting higfalutin again. I meant to say "Stephen King blood-gore-scary-horror-fun". Heh. Whatev'.

Anyway, fun barbecue that results in good food, drinks, a firepit and giant marshmallows AND several new books to read? Awesome!