Tag Archives: Tituba

I’ll take it…

Old What’s Her Face kind of ate up any opportunities I might have had on Saturday. We still managed a nice date night, and I got one of the Lisa Burton interviews all scheduled. Most of Sunday was spent responding to interview requests. There are so many questionnaires out in cyberspace now that some of them have to produce a post. Thanks for all the reblogging everyone.

Yesterday morning, Tituba the sourdough told me she was ready to go to work. I built a standard, no recipe, dough. Water and flour to make a batter, palm full of salt, glurg of olive oil, about half a spoonful of starter, add flour until it looks like bread dough.

Sourdough is a symbiotic organism. The wild yeast raises the dough like you might expect, but it’s the bacteria that gives it that sour flavor. To make it come out right you want a long slow rise. Their symbiosis works like this: Yeast produces alcohol which bacteria loves. In return, bacteria protects yeast from mold.

Last night it was raised, but looking a bit blah. This morning it was blowing the lid off my bowl. I punched it down, formed a loaf and cleaned up the small Dutch oven I use for bread. Start rising all over again and turn my attention to other matters.

There are still some interview requests trickling in, and it’s to a point where I can let them stack up. I’ll get to everyone today, but I needed some quality time with my work in progress.

I have all four characters on the page now. Addressed some women’s issues from a historical (Or not so historical) perspective. This was mostly stage setting. She’ll round out her story later on after she gets comfortable with the other characters. My characters blew up a building, stole some gold, and one is carving a turnip/yam kind of thing for some reason. The main guy has made some heavy remarks about his father, which sets up something nice down the road.

I didn’t do a word count, but I’m finally over five-digits. That’s got to be pretty close to 4000 words one way or another. I could do more, but don’t want to get rummy over it.

My Apple Pencil needed a recharge, then I used it to make an updated blog banner. I think it needs to be a bit more Spring-like before I trot it out, so the snow sculpture remains for now.

I should still schedule my free days for Enhanced League, but the primo time for this title is the end of the month. That means I can put it off for another week, and I will.

Since everything is ready, I assembled and scheduled another LBR interview. That means I’m two weeks ahead, yay.

Tituba needed cut and fed so she’s happy to work again when I need her. This bread is nothing fancy. No free standing loaves, no French bread, just a nice Dutch oven variety. This is what I get with my leftover stew tonight.

Maybe I’ll turn my attention to some lightbulbs that need replacing. Then I can work up a shtick for an interview that’s already returned the questionnaire. It may have been a slack weekend, but today was pretty productive.


Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

Today’s word count = 0

I may dabble with a bit of micro-fiction after I post this. Today wasn't the productive day I had planned. There were a few commitments to some friends, and the old dog is fading. I spent some time just being his pal, like he has for me so many times.

Tomorrow isn't looking too good either. The mornings belong to my parents, and I won't sacrifice that. Weekends like this are why a bit of short form stuff is good for me. I get to keep writing, without having to worry about a giant character arc and three act structure. The format is just different, and I enjoy it as much as the long form.

We had date night tonight, finally. Two weeks ago I was sick, last week my wife went to Nevada. This weekend was our turn. It was nice to get away without dragging the kids along and just spend time together.

I may start drying out Tituba, the sourdough starter. I did less baking this winter than usual, but still made some fun things. My daughter isn't around much these days, and my wife is avoiding bread. Making loaves of fresh bread seems like a waste if I'm the only one eating it. I'll store Tituba in the refrigerator until it's time to wake her up next Fall.

Monday has something going for it. I'm off Monday, because it's a federal holiday. A quiet house may even let me work the next major arcana character into the Yak Guy Project. The next character is a few words away, but maybe I can get there.

We looked for tickets to see Deadpool, but they are sold out everywhere. If we get to go, it will be a different weekend. No big deal really, we still had date night.

Short post tonight. Maybe I'll have something to say before the weekend vanishes.


Filed under Uncategorized

Insect Invasion

It all started in late January. Things warmed up, and we were giddy with excitement. Idaho can be a cold place for a few months each year, but this year was going to be different. Then the bugs showed up.

They are tiny little black flies of some kind. Some people are calling them fruit flies. I call them black gnats. They were charming at first, kind of like the first robin of Spring. That was short lived. They’re everywhere now. This includes a glass of water, my beard, a cold beer, the air we breathe.

I originally blamed Old What’s Her Face’s* pointsetta. I’ve seen similar insects show up with the arrival of a new plant. Christmas ended and so did the giant pointsetta. The flies remained.

They are attracted to Tituba, my sourdough starter. At first, I had to pick one or two off the top with a spoon. Kind of gross, but cutting and feeding her involves throwing most of it away and just keeping a drop or two for the next batch. Then I opened the crock one day and a swarm flew out. I swear I heard Barry White music inside.

Saran Wrap doesn’t stick to crockery. Guess how I learned this. Tinfoil seems to do the job, but the little buggers still found a way inside. I was faced with possibly freezing the whole crock solid to kill them, or spraying the whole thing with Raid. Niether option sounded good to me. Sourdough starter freezes well, and comes back to life just fine. The freezer space is premium real estate at the Boyack house. Raid, well, just no.

Oh the indignity

Tituba, and her cute crock are safely nestled in a giant ziplock bag. She never complains, and is working hard to keep us in sourdough bread this winter. I have no idea how I’ll dry some to save for next year. Exposing it to open air will probably bring back the swarm. Maybe I could dry smaller portions out in the refrigerator.

She isn’t stylish right now, but there are no bugs.

As an experiment, I sucked all the air from the baggie. It’s probably a good thing I did, because it inflated like a balloon. Yeast fermentation gives off carbon dioxide. If that were added to the existing air in the bag, I’m sure it would explode.

I had my daughter cut my hair this morning. We got a nice visit out of the deal. Three different students complimented me on my beard. Don’t tell me it’s just professional curiosity. I’m convinced that it’s awesome. I left my daughter a $20 tip, because she needs it.

In other news, the cover reveal for Will O’ the Wisp is scheduled for next Tuesday. I also made landing pages for both versions and added the copyright notice to the North American version.

Then I opened a blank page and created ending data for every book I have out. Now all I have to do is add the purchase link for Wisp, and it’s a simple copy and paste to get the “also by this author” data in each book.

I also used an online service to update my sidebar with these tricky links that direct people to the correct Amazon store. Now I’m not begging people to initiate a special search so they can buy one of my books from their store as opposed to Amazon.com. If one of my international followers would test any cover and report back, I’d appreciate it.

Since this post is mostly food oriented, I scored some baby bay scallops at Whole Foods. I’ll sauté them in garlic butter, and Old What’s Her Face is making us some Ceasar Salads for dinner – baby bay scallop Ceasar Salads. (Heck with that chicken Ceasar stuff.) Fresh ground black pepper — yes please, it cammoflages the black gnats.

Tonight I’ll probably tackle another post for my blog tour. I’d prefer writing them all before I book it.

* Entertaining Stories; protecting my wife’s online identity since 2013.


Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

The return of Red Herring

I got to the writing cabin early this morning, and headed for my office. Lisa* was still rattling around upstairs and playing with her rabbit.

I spread my projects across my desk. One pile for Will O’ the Wisp; which needs a final pass and an edit for the international version. A second pile is my work in progress, The Playground, which requires a mountain of research. A half finished book called Maplecroft that I’m reading sat on the far corner. Finally, a list of 15 possible short stories and micro-fiction pieces I want to write. (One Macabre Macaroni is finished, and one short is partial.) Then I placed the bills in the middle of the desk.

Lisa brought coffee as soon as it was ready. She had her jeans tucked inside some heeled boots with a beige blouse and one of those cool endless scarfs. “Looks like your work’s cut out for you today.”

“Yup. Do you want to help with some of it?”

“Sure, what do I have to do?”

“My idea is to put out a book of short stories and micros for 99¢. The hope is that people will take a chance at that price and might buy one of my novels.”

“Okay, so what do you need?”

“There isn’t any reason my novel characters can’t make an appearance in these shorts. I need you to research women’s clothing. I have this stylish character that’s ready to take on a new adventure.”

Her eye units pixelated and her hand quivered. She moved herself onto the couch. “Are, are you serious? I may have to reboot.”

“I don’t see why not. You’re one of my favorite characters, and if someone likes your short story, they might like your novel. Find some outfits in your style, but not too many. It’s just a short story.”

She kissed me and ran to the front office. She actually made a noise that sounded like Squee. I started the trudge through my bills. I had to add a new vendor to my bill-pay and that always frustrates me. I was half way through a good tantrum when Lisa texted me.

“There is a Mr. Herring here to see you.”

What did he want? I bought one of his stupid products once, and he probably wants to sell me more.

A short, heavyset man with a red comb-over and rumpled suit wiped his greasy hands on his pants and offered it to me. “How ya doing. Red, Red Herring.”

I shook his hand and asked what I could do for him.

“I’m passing through, and wanted to see how my last package worked out for you. You was gonna write something called Jack O’ Lantern or somethin’.”

“It’s called Will O’ the Wisp,” I reminded him. “It worked out just fine, thanks. There are going to be a whole bunch of new problems though.”

“Glad you liked it. I don’t give no refunds though. What kind of problems?”

“Marketing, for one. How am I supposed to promote this story when the main character spends so much time on the wrong project? What kind of excerpts can I publish without spoiling something?”

“I don’t know nothin’ about no marketing. I sell my products and its up to you to use them. You bought the premier product, that I named after myself it’s so good. I’m sure it will mesmerize your readers. Now this week, I’m having a close out sale on minor ruses. Got any characters that you wanna confuse or mislead?”

“No, look, I need to figure out how to put a blog tour together and pre-write the posts. And I need to do all of that without spoiling the big surprises for my readers.”

Lisa put a perfectly manicured nail to her lip. “Um.”

“What? If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.”

“Well, it’s just that. I looked at your short story list as part of my research. There is one where some ruses and misdirection could be helpful.”

“I ain’t comin’ back this way for a long time,” Red said.

“I don’t even know if I’m going to write that one.”

“My ruses last a long time. You can use them in a couple years, and they’ll still be fresh.”

I turned to Lisa. “Take care of it for me. Make him sell you a bundle of some kind, and get the sale price.” I need to get back to work.

Lisa made the Dwarven fist salute, and I went back to my office. Every project has to start somewhere, so I decided to read Maplecroft. One less thing on my desk would force me to concentrate when I got to Will O’ the Wisp. And he says he doesn’t know anything about marketing. He’s walking out of here with my check though, isn’t he?

Will O’ the Wisp can wait a little while. I still haven’t heard from a few of the ARC readers. It probably doesn’t need much, the early reports have all been good. Finish my reading, work on some research, then tackle Wisp on the next lap.

I also managed this Bread. We aren’t eating all of the big round loaves, so I dug out my ancient cast iron bread pan. I used just a hint of sourdough starter on it, and it took two and a half days to raise completely. Hint: This brings out that wonderful sour taste.

The long rise also produced a beautiful blister crust that doesn’t show up well in the photo. It’s there, I promise.

*Lisa Burton is the main character in Wild Concept. She is a robot, and works as my assistant at the writing cabin these days.



Filed under Muse

The Science of Sourdough

Many readers have expressed an interest in Tituba, my sourdough starter. I started her sometime in the 1980s and really don’t know how old she is. One of the secrets is knowing how to put her away for long term storage. I used to freeze a small sample, but these days I dry the sample and refrigerate.

A sourdough starter is a wild yeast culture, but that’s pretty simplified. They really don’t travel all that well, and will eventually become a culture of your local wild yeast. That’s why I never feared adding other yeasts to the mix.

Active dry yeast is the hothouse flower of the yeast world. It will only last a generation or two under the crock environment. Its best use is to medicate an ailing starter, knowing it will all disappear and leave your wild beastie in place. I’ve added champaign yeast, brown ale yeast, and active dry yeast to mine at times.

The lifespan of one yeast organism is somewhere around the blink of an eye. I have no doubt that some hybridization occurred, but Darwinism leaves me with a decent starter. She was born in Nevada, and may be more of an Idaho wild yeast these days.

There is a microscopic war going on all around us. We want yeast to leaven our bread, but yeast is under a constant attack. The enemy here is mold. Tituba needs an ally.

Enter lactobacillus. This simple bacteria hates and kills mold with extreme prejudice. It loves the alcohol produced by the yeast as it devours the flour I feed it. I get bubbles that raise my dough, and the bacteria gets the waste product of fermentation, alcohol. (Every military in history thrives on alcohol.) The bacteria in exchange, keeps the mold at bay.

But wait, there’s more. Sourdough bread has a distinct tangy flavor. This flavor isn’t available to bakers who use active dry yeast. That’s right, it is provided by the lactobacillus.

Tituba is a symbiotic organism. She consists of both a wild yeast culture, and a colony of lactobacillus. She makes great bread too.

I baked my first loaf of the year this morning. It turned out great. I left it out overnight to ramp up the sour flavor. The house is usually cold enough at night, but this time it over proofed a bit. It was about to crawl out out of the Dutch oven when I got up. It fell a bit when I sliced the dough prior to baking. Still, it tastes wonderful.



Filed under Uncategorized

A Saturday Update

I managed a little writing time this morning. I didn’t get the word count I’m accustomed to, but it was good stuff. It included fairies and teeth getting knocked out. I’ve absolutely reached that Act II slog I hit every time. It’s time for all the characters to move and get closer to each other. This means research to make sure the new city is represented properly. Other writers will probably relate.

I built a loaf of sourdough bread around noon. This stuff raises slowly, and it’s best not to rush it. The sour comes across better with a slow rise. I laced this one with rosemary and olive oil, and it ought to be pretty good. Tituba, my sourdough starter awoke with a vengeance this year. Some years she’s slow, some years she’s fast. She nearly climbed out of her crock on Tuesday. I decided I’d better bake with her, before there was trouble.

Old What’s Her Face* and I went to Whole Foods for some upscale goodies, then went to dinner. We wound up in a pub environment called The Tilted Kilt. We’ve been there before, and both like it. Me for the beer and cute waitresses. My wife for the great food they offer. It’s also cheaper than many other places, and close to Whole Foods. It’s near the BSU campus, which is probably the source of the waitstaff. It was a slow night, and we almost had the place to ourselves. Good for us, not so good for business. They have a Scottish Ale, I particularly like, so I had two.

Now it’s time to finish up with Harry Dresden. I want to find out about Mouse, the dog’s, secret. After that I may return to The Twilight Zone.

I may wrangle some writing time tomorrow, but I also have to call my parents. I have research to get to as well. Then I need to start a beta reading project for a friend.

How was your Saturday?

*Not my wife’s actual name.



Filed under Uncategorized

Goodnight Tituba

It’s time to put my sourdough starter, Tituba, away for the summer. She performs pretty well in the summer months, but I don’t. There’s just too many other things to do. We made many loaves of bread together, but it’s time for her to sleep.

I dry her out and store her in the refrigerator.

Winter Housing

This is Tituba’s nice winter home. It stays on the counter all winter long.


Just lay down a little cellophane, pour a thin layer of starter on top and wait. In about three days it’s flint hard dry. Crumble it into tiny bits and put her into her summer home.

Summer housing

It may not look like much, but mummified Tituba is very happy here. Into the refrigerator she goes. See you next fall.


Filed under Uncategorized

Tituba Rising

Tituba, the sourdough starter, relaxed this morning. It was time to bake, or cut and feed. I did both.

This is what she looks like when she’s happy and ready to work:

Happy Sourdough, ready to work

Happy Sourdough, ready to work

All it really takes is a spoonful, but for my little Dutch oven, I usually use about a half cup. This is more a personal quirk than real necessity. I dipped my cup and sloshed it into my favorite Pyrex bowl.

I added some water and flour. This is all you really need for basic bread, but it will taste like crap. For me, salt is an absolute must. I also added a glurg of olive oil. Then I stirred the batch up and added flour until I couldn’t stir any longer.

I used all purpose flour, and do about half the time. It’s what Tituba eats, and readily available. I use sexy flours too, but not today. Semolina is my favorite. It looked like this:


Now it’s time to knead in as much flour as needed. Tituba raises better with what’s called a loose dough than a stiff one. I’ve made free standing boules, and they always manage to spread on me. They taste great, but with Tituba it may take another day of raising to get a stiff dough up to size. Pour a little flour on the counter, flour my hands and go to work. Keep adding flour until it feels right.

Because she's weird like that.

Because she’s weird like that.

When it feels right, I let it set while I wash the bowl and add a glurg of regular cooking oil. Then I tuck the bottom under while rotating the dough in my hands. When it forms a boule I wipe the top in the oil, wipe the sides and flip it right side up. Cover it and walk away. Time for Tituba to work her magic.

I left it for about five hours, then punched it down. This isn’t rapid rising dry yeast here, folks. Long slow rise times give the sour flavor. A night in the fridge works best, but I don’t have the time available. I have to work tomorrow. I formed the boule once more and plopped it in my Dutch oven; covered loosely so it can grow. In another four hours or so it looked about ready. With Tituba there’s always a bit of oven spring and I don’t want it to overflow. Then I have to cut it out of the mold, and it looks ugly.

This is what we get to have with dinner:

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Bread

The bread will be more sour tomorrow. I know most of the science here, but not why this happens. Different starters will give different results.


Filed under Uncategorized

Resurrecting Tituba

Bonus points if you guess where the name comes from.

I first called Tituba in the early 1980s. I had a recipe that involved a whole bunch of things that are actually unhealthy for her. It worked, but it was despite the recipe not because of it. I’ve kept her alive all that time through several different methods, and I’ve learned quite a lot in the process.

To start off she would need housing. I went shopping, but since this was a special project I didn’t want any old coffee can. I wanted something that spoke to me. Like a piece of art. I settled on this lovely crock. I was told it is a Boston Bean Pot, but this wasn’t its destination.

Winter Housing

I mixed up the recipe and waited for Tituba to come. The first lesson was about patience. She didn’t come quickly. My first baking efforts were pretty bad, also a lesson in patience. She needs time to work her magic.

She spends her summers in a mummified state these days. It wasn’t always that way. She used to have a cool Wisconsin Cheese crock with a latch. I placed her in the freezer for over twenty years. One year the crock broke. Now she goes through the mummification every year.

She spends her summers in a pretty jelly jar in the refrigerator. But today it’s time to bring her back to life. Time to move into her winter quarters.

Tituba's summer resting home

Tituba’s summer resting home

After a long summer she’s hungry. I gave her a quick batch of flour and water. I have more patience these days, and we know each other well. She needed a few days to get her strength back.

Tituba's winter home

Tituba’s winter home

I washed 90% of her down the sink. Don’t worry, it’s for the best. The tablespoon or so left is all we need to get up to full power. I gave her fresh food before I went to bed. Today she’s bubbling merrily and ready to go to work.

Happy Sourdough, ready to work

Happy Sourdough, ready to work

I almost lost her when I moved to Idaho. Every little region has it’s own wild yeast. Those from the high desert of Nevada are different than the ones here. This is why vacationers who take home sourdough starters are often disappointed. The yeast is local to San Francisco or Alaska, not Miami. You need to summon your own beastie.

I learned a long time ago that commercial yeast will preserve the environment in the crock until she gets her powers back. There’s a whole science behind this, and I might address it in a later post. Just think mold bad, yeast good. Commercial yeast does not survive more than two generations in the crock environment, or so the experts say. The commercial stuff’s like the hot house flower of the yeast world. Think of this like a hospital for sourdough.

I didn’t want to take a chance after my move, so I contacted my brother. I added a pinch of active dry yeast, and he provided three brewer’s yeasts. I remember that one was for a brown ale, and one was a champaign yeast, I’ve forgotten the other one.

I believe mutation and hybridization must have occurred. With yeast lifespan of an hour or so, there must be evolution of some kind in 30 years with that many generations. I don’t care, personally. Some of original Tituba’s still there, possibly some of the brewer’s yeasts too, plus wild Idaho yeast. but now she’s like Tituba with super powers.

I’ll show you what she does for me in a later post.

Yeah, it’s a writing blog, but there’s more to life than just writing.


Filed under Uncategorized