On Shepard’s Pie and Dino Porn

Yes, I didn’t know there was such a thing either. And I ain’t talkin’ about the Shepard’s Pie, which you’ll get a recipe for below.

You might be asking yourself (I certainly would be) how this topic ever came up. Well, a few weeks ago a writer friend and I were discussing how we’ve learned there are quite a few authors who make boatloads, scads, literal buckets of money writing niche smut. Disclaimer here… I have no judgement about these writers or their readers. You do you. It’s nothing I am interested in doing, you understand. I’m just fascinated that Dino erotica exists. I didn’t believe it at first, I thought my friend was pulling my leg.

Go ahead, google it, I’ll wait. You can go incognito if you’re feeling shy.

Looking through the book blurbs, I determined there are a lot of scantily clad women back in the prehistoric era who get a workout. Most of the books are super-short, some 20 pages or less for your $2.99 spend. Maybe there’s only so much you can describe about dinosaurs and their sex drive. (And do their tiny little arms get in the way?) (I just don’t see dinosaurs as being cuddly afterwards either. They’re just so… reptilian.) (And you know, extinct.)

Now, about that page count. I write in a genre (YA/NA Dark Fantasy, might be edging over into Magical Realism) that usually needs a lot more pages than that to be taken seriously by fans of the genre. My books are all at least 275 pages in 10-point font. My current work in progress is 360 pages, looks like we are heading over the top of 400. Don’t worry, my characters are just gabbing away at the moment, as happens as you get to the end of draft one. I’ll fix it in draft two.

So, given all that extra time and effort crafting words and creating memorable characters… I have to ask myself as a writer who wants to make this her third career, the one she can retire comfortably on, maybe travel a bit… would I be smarter to write something, you know… less time-consuming? It takes me at least 2 months to write one, plus another month of rewrites, Beta readers and proofreads to make it better. Because my books are also technically Historical Fantasy set in Medieval Times, I spend hours researching facts so that no one gives me a 1-star rating on Goodreads and snarks that everyone knows they didn’t have lace-up boots with eight grommets in Medieval France in 1450. Anybody who’s serious knows they all only had six grommets until 1452.

Oh, I’m not kidding. I learned about the relentlessness of smart geeks when I worked on Star Trek Voyager years ago. All the writers knew there were plenty of fans who knew the ins and outs of the ship and warp drive far better than they did. Any time we got to a place where tech was needed, we’d just insert “Tech Speak Here,” and let the science advisors take it on.

So my sincere question of the week is: Would you write Dino Porn (or something else niche smut) for the money? Love to hear your take on this.

Now, on to Shepard’s Pie, which was on the menu for my folks this week. We’ve been dropping off extra meals now that Mom is back at home. Dad has only a small repertoire of dishes he can make for them. I really like Shepard’s Pie. I don’t make mine with lamb, as (clearly) was called for in the original recipe, because all the shepherds I know herd sheep, not turkeys or cows. This recipe serves 4, along with a nice salad. I recommend oatmeal-raisin cookies for dessert. You know, the ones off the Quaker Oats lid. Add a bit more oats than is called for if you like a firmer cookie.

Or if your favorite dinosaur bed partner does.

SHEPARDS PIE

½ large onion minced

1 T olive oil

1 pound ground turkey or beef

1 cup Frozen peas

6-8 Yukon small gold potatoes (or a couple of chonky Idaho’s are fine if that’s all you’ve got on hand.)

Worcestershire Sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

2 Tablespoons of butter, chopped into bits

Dash of milk

Peel your potatoes and boil. Mince onion and brown in the olive oil on medium. Set aside, and brown your meat in the same pan, pouring off grease as it cooks. Add back the onion when meat is done, and turn off heat. Add the peas straight from frozen, the residual heat will cook them perfectly. Season with a good dollop of Worcestershire and salt and pepper.

Drain potatoes and mash with the milk (I actually use a bit of the potato water too.)

Put the meat mixture into an 8×8 baking dish, and “ice” with the mashed potatoes. Dot the top with bits of butter. Put in the oven on broil until the tops of the potatoes brown and that butter sizzles. Serve hot.

Hot like your Dino friends.

On Nostalgia and Things I Could Do Without

Since I’m the middle of writing a new novel, I welcome distraction. Going for a walk or cleaning the fridge have new appeal. So does thinking about anything other than my new characters. In my mental wanderings this week, a few things popped up. Specifically; nostalgia for items that will never have a comeback, things that puzzle me as to why they exist (and I wish they did not), and finally, two secret cooking ingredients.

NOSTALGIA

I miss real keys to hotel rooms. You know, the ones that if you forgot to turn them back in, you could “put in any mailbox to return.” Part of the fun of staying in a hotel was those keys, the way they snicked the door open as opposed to the little chirrup you get now from the electronic ones. If you go into the way-back machine, there were even bigger keys to bigger locks that had teeth in them that looked like they could open a castle door. Those needed a hard turn and gave a solid thwock as it moved the heavy lock. You knew you were safe on the other side of those doors. Another thing in favor of the old-fashioned ones is that you could opt to hand it to the desk person on the way out, so you wouldn’t lose it, say at the beach. They’d put it in your numbered slot behind the desk, and pass it back with any phone messages that came in when you returned. I don’t know about you, but we regularly left things behind at the beach. Everything from hair ties to sunscreen would sift away into the sand. When the kids were young, it was the sand toys that went missing. I feel bad about that now, adding to the ocean plastic and trash problem with our inability to hold onto the things we brought with us. But you wouldn’t lose your room key back then, for sure, as it was living back at the front desk of the hotel. Now with its credit card size and disposable nature, hotel keys are easily misplaced and forgotten. Just as easily replaced of course by the machine they have at the desk, but in the end just not as satisfying as a real key. I will say I rather liked the waterproof plastic bracelets we were given in our last outing to Mexico that both opened the doors to the hotel and were also scanned at our meals. You couldn’t lose those either.

Another thing I am nostalgic for, in a pink hazy memory way for how it was, rather than the actual annoying reality are the Thomas Brothers Guides. Those in the know, raise your hand. If you lived in a large city, you HAD to have one of these or else wander, lost and doomed for the rest of your days. The Thomas Brothers Guide was a large, spiral-bound map book of every single address in the city. You went to the back, and looked up the address of where you wanted to go. It would give you a page number and grid letters and numbers such as G-20 for that address. Then you would go to the page number and look up G-20 on the grid, and somewhere in that square was your address. You’d figure out by flipping map pages how to get from where you were currently to there, and write down directions on a piece of paper. Party invites would include the page number and grid of the address you would need to find. If you were verbally giving directions, you’d say you lived in B-15 on page 82. I swear the seat-back pockets in cars were created specifically to hold your Thomas Brother’s Guide. Yes. I miss them. It was like a treasure hunt, and there was real satisfaction in successfully arriving at the destination using this technique.

The final thing I am nostalgic for (this week) is when movies at the movie theatre didn’t have ads. You heard me. No, really. You’d get your popcorn, grab a seat, and then watch previews, and then the movie. No ads. I really miss this one.

THINGS THAT I COULD DO WITHOUT

1. Infant Shoes. The ones people put on defenseless babies when they are still far from crawling, let alone walking. Yes, they are absolutely precious in that way that all wee things are. They are however, not needed. I’m guilty of having bought a pair of these once for a baby shower before I had my own kids. The cute factor got me. But when I had my own, I realized how impractical they were, as well as being pain-inducing if the kid had some on and was kicking you as you carried them.

2. Long, Dull Stories Before the Recipe. I don’t mind a few words like, “My grandmother made this for us when we were kids,” that’s fine. But OMG someone get these folks an editor! There are sometimes buttons for “skip to recipe,” but these stories are not that interesting. And most good recipe-folks are not good writers. Just saying.

3. Ads Before Movies at the Theatre. *sigh*

TWO COOKING SECRETS

1. Worcestershire Sauce. Yes I had to go look at my bottle in the fridge (sparkling clean, thanks to aforementioned avoidance of ‘staring-at-my-computer-screen,’ also known as ‘trying-to-write’) to spell that one correctly. Brits add all sorts of extra letters to their spellings. Extra U’s add special panache; colour and flavour. That aside, if you have a savory dish, I recommend you add a generous splash of this magical sauce, it makes everything taste better, and your friends will love it. Turkey Chili benefits greatly from this addition.

2. Buttermilk in Baking. This is a relatively new discovery for me, but after seeing several recipes using buttermilk in cakes, I have incorporated it into more things – when milk is called for I will add buttermilk instead. It’s wonderful.

Of course if you are vegan, don’t do either of these things. I have no idea what is in Worcestershire sauce, it’s a secret and could be boiled innards for all I know. Oat Milk will do almost as well for your baked goods. And it’s sustainable.

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