It was a busy week here in Julie Land, so let’s start with the most important thing: I posted my cheesecake recipe a few days ago. People always ask for cheesecake from me, and now you too can perform this incredible feat of magic by following this extraordinarily simple recipe. Seriously, it isn’t a big deal.
The other big news is I attended the Realm Makers Conference. It was a fun and very well-organized event and had the best banquet steak I’ve ever tasted. I have several pages of notes, but the thing that I keep going back to is the live editing class by Lisa Mangum. You can see a similar class with her from LTUE here. It was eye-opening, and also a little concerning. She aims for ten pages an hour when editing, which is forty hours for a book like mine. I’m no editor, but I do have to edit my own work before I try to get someone to buy it. That means there are at least forty hours after I get done with what I’m doing now if I’m aiming for high quality. It may be longer since I don’t know what I’m doing! I may have not spent that much time on Defiant… Writing is hard, y’all.
Speaking of Defiant, we are on to Chapter Eight! On this reread, this is my favorite chapter so far!
I am at a writing conference this weekend, so the obvious thing to do is post a cheesecake recipe here. Why? I make cheesecakes, and people enjoy them. They frequently ask me how I make them. There’s no secret – I think this is very similar to the recipe on a cream cheese box. I wrote down the directions as I did the process once, so you could have it officially.
The number one rule of making a cheesecake: relax. Everyone who asks me how to do this assumes it is challenging to do and there’s a high risk of failure. They clearly haven’t thought about my cooking skills. I have managed to make this cheesecake multiple times each year for at least fifteen years, and each attempt has been successful. Sure, there may be some slight imperfections, but if anybody complains, you take their cheesecake and eat it yourself.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
3-5 tablespoons butter, melted. Apparently, you can use margarine, but why would you do that to yourself. This is not the time to cut calories.
4 – 8oz. packages Philadelphia Brand cream cheese softened. I do recommend going name brand here, but any will likely work. If you get the low fat or low calorie or otherwise diet product, please don’t tell me and don’t tell your guests you got the recipe from me. You’re eating cheesecake. It isn’t diet food.
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour. I suspect any type will work.
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 – 21oz. can cherry or strawberry filling
1. Make sure you have a springform pan. This is important because once you make one cheesecake, people will want you to make more. You’ll leave the leftovers with them, either because you’re nice or you want to avoid all the unholy calories yourself. Either way, you’ll only get your pan back about half the time. If your sister still has yours, go buy a new one. The original directions say 9 inch, but mine is 10 and works fine.
2. Open up the cream cheese packages and put the cream cheese in the mixer bowl. Cover it with a towel or a plate and set it to the side so they can soften.
3. Set the oven to 325.
4. Start melting the butter. I’d always use a bit more butter than you think you need. Too much or too little and the crust may not attach properly, but you’re still going to end up with graham cracker, sugar, and butter so it’ll be fine. See the end of rule one if someone complains.
5. Make some graham cracker crumbs, or buy them. I make mine in the Ninja, but you can also stick them in a plastic bag and hop up and down on it. This is especially useful if you’re stressed. Either way, one sleeve is about one cup or a little more. More is fine. Nobody complains about too much cheesecake crust.
6. Mix the crumbs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the melted butter in a mixing bowl with a fork. It should be the consistency of slightly damp, fluffy sand.
7. Take this delicious mix and dump it in the springform pan. Smash it out with your palms, so it is packed down and flat. This is where the 10 inch versus the 9 inch pan starts to be noticeable. Just add more stuff!
8. Take some sort of oven-safe bowl or dish and add at least two cups of water to it. Set the dish on the bottom rack of the oven. This has nothing to do with the crust, but you’re probably waiting for the oven to finish heating at this point so might as well get moving. The water will help the cheesecake not crack later.
9. Put the pan with the crust in the oven at 325 for 10 minutes.
10. While it is going, you can get started on the cheesecake batter, but there’s no rush here as you’ve got to wait for the crust to cook and then for the oven to heat more before you can put it in anyway. Lick the fork and mixing bowl with the crust crumbs while you wait.
11. Onward and upward! So you have your mixing bowl with the cream cheese. Add the cup of sugar and the 3 tablespoons of flour. In theory, you should now be able to mix these ingredients together with a stand mixer until they’re “well blended.” I have never been able to do that. I suspect I’m not waiting long enough for the cream cheese to soften. There appears to be no effect on the final product. So just mash it all together for a bit. The instructions say medium speed on the mixer, but I’d start slow unless you want cream cheese flung about your kitchen. No licking the spatula yet.
12. Start adding eggs, one at a time. Or two. You do you. Mix well after each addition. You’re going to want to take a spatula around the edge of the mixing bowl to make sure you have everything in there. Stop the mixer before you do that part though. Also, I break the eggs into a bowl first, so I don’t lose the eggshell into the batter.
13. Somewhere in here, the timer will ding on the crust. Pull it out, and set the oven to 450.
14. Once the eggs are in, use the spatula one more time to make sure you have all the edges. Don’t lick the spatula yet. You still need it.
15. Blend in the sour cream and vanilla into the mix. Use that spatula again. We’re trying to get rid of any stray chunks of cream cheese that are hiding, though nobody will complain if one or two are in the batter. The batter should be smooth and pourable. Still, no licking the spatula.
16. Pour the batter on top of the crust in the pan. Use the spatula to get more out, as well as smooth it around so it is flat in the pan.
17. You’ll probably need to wait for the oven to heat up. Cover the batter with a towel or plate. You probably have other small or tall humans or animals in your house that will want to start licking things, so covering it is for their own good.
18. Once the oven is all warmed up to 450, put the cheesecake in for ten minutes. Don’t be hasty here; we really want the oven good and hot.
19. Carefully unplug the mixer and remove the blades. Collect all the items dirtied by batter. Lick all the things.
20. After ten minutes, reduce the oven temp to 250 for an hour.
21. After an hour, your cheesecake should jiggle slightly when it is shaken. There may be some brown spots around the edges.
22. Take a small knife and separate the cheesecake from the pan. Open the pan, and then shut again. We want to make sure the walls of the cheesecake aren’t attached to the pan. This will help prevent cracking.
23. At this point, your cheesecake is done, and you can throw it in the fridge to cool overnight.
24. If you’d like to do more to help prevent cracking, leave it in the oven (turned off) for another half hour. After that, you could put it on the counter for another half hour, if none of the humans or animals in your house would disturb it. All these things do is help the cheesecake to cool slowly and hopefully, not crack. It probably still will crack, and that’s normal. You’re going to cover it up with a topping anyway. And if anyone complains — see rule 1.
People have asked how much longer I’ll be working on my second novel, and the answer is, “I do not know, but I guess we’ll find out!” The second novel’s journey is very different from the first novel’s.
The first novel stewed in my brain for almost two decades before I finally got it all down on the page. That’s a lot of time to soak in everything, find out who the characters are, identify and fix massive plot holes, and come up with all the story.
On the second novel, I had an idea for a mountain which gave powers during the last Winter Olympics in 2018 (no idea why). I created a character, and some dragons around that idea for a writing class that March, and wrote a draft first chapter. Then I left it alone until late summer as the first novel was winding down. I updated the first chapter and wrote a few more before the Writing Excuses Cruise, but then got post-conference blah-brain and forgot how to write for a bit. In February, I finished the first draft.
With few exceptions, most people have to do a lot of work on their first drafts. Sadly, it does not appear I will be one of those exceptions. Go hard or go home, I say, so I decided to add two more Point of View (POV) characters to the story, which is a major rework.
Now that I count, I’ve only been working on this novel with any focus for less than ten months. In comparison to Defiant, that’s not a lot of time!
I’ve also learned a lot more since writing the first novel, so I feel like I have more to do in revisions. It is no longer a matter of only making sure what is going on is clear and that I haven’t misspelled any words. Now, I worry about character development and backstory, emotional beats, how each chapter begins and ends, the overall dispersion of information, and many other things. It takes a lot more time. I feel like I’m building the story in layers.
On the upside, I’m still having fun doing it, and I think the end product will be an improvement. The worst thing that can happen is I learn a lot of stuff, and the third novel is even better.
Work on my second novel continues, and I’m even working on some ideas for the third one. It’ll be set in space! In the meantime, we have Chapter 5 of my first novel, Defiant. We learn more about the magical powers of the Kort while Aida tries to get information.
You can find all earlier chapters here.
Work continues on my never-ending unnumbered draft of my second novel. Adding two more Point of View (POV) characters after the first draft has proven time-consuming. It is worth it though; I’m really proud of the story so far.
To answer a common question, the second novel is unrelated to the first. They recommend moving onto a different novel instead of a sequel, at least until the first novel sells. This way, if/when it doesn’t sell, you haven’t just spent a bunch of time on a second novel. It seems reasonable. This novel did not sell, so if I’d been working on a sequel, that would have been a lot of unsellable words. I won’t say wasted words, as I’m sure it would have been educational. But not optimal for my goals.
In last week’s chapter of this novel, we met the mysterious Kort and Aida met a hot guy. NOTHING could go wrong there, I’m sure.
You can find all the previous chapters here.
I’ve discovered posting these chapters is encouraging for my current project. I’m in the midst of revisions, which is somehow both exciting and a slog at the same time.
By revisions, I don’t mean editing for grammar and spelling. That will come much later. I’m going through and adding bits here and there to develop character arcs and fix plot holes and add all the emotion and detail I’m told readers want. I spend at least an hour a day working on it, and I think I see progress. It is just slow going.
In other news, someone asked me about my publishing plans. The very simple answer is I’m aiming to traditionally publish. The other option is to self publish, and those folks are amazing, but I’m not good at all the things one needs to be good at for that task. When I finish this next novel, after the revisions and beta readers and the boring grammar and spelling, I’ll query agents to see if they’d like to represent me. If someone agrees, then they’ll approach publishers to see if they’ll buy the book. It takes a long time.
In case you missed it, I’m posting the first novel I wrote here on the blog. Don’t worry – I’m still going strong on the second novel. I’m knee deep in revisions. All the revisions! If all goes well, you won’t be able to read my second novel here as I’ll get it published. For now, you can enjoy my first attempt at writing a story!
Last summer, I accomplished my goal to write a novel. I loved the process so much that I’m doing it again! In the meantime, my first novel has been hanging out on my computer as I don’t intend to publish it anywhere else. Some have asked to read it, though, so I’ve decided to post it here on the blog. Each week, I’ll upload another chapter.
Admittedly, this is a little awkward for me as my writing has improved and I know the next novel will be a much better read for you. But this is still a fun little story, and I hope you enjoy! Read Chapter One
Remember back in November when I wrote about receiving an Honorable Mention with a story called IMPLANTED DANGER for Writers of the Future? I’ve submitted that story to a few places since, and… it isn’t getting published. That’s okay, though! I was so pleased it did so well, to begin with. It was such a vast improvement over my very short dragon assassin story (Lady Assassin), and I learned so much writing it, I have nothing but happy thoughts. As happy as this cat and his toe beans!
As it isn’t going to get published, I thought I’d share it here with you. I hope you like it, but more importantly, I hope you see the improvement! Practice really does pay off for writing. I wrote this story as part of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive Class, and I recommend it if you’d like to level up your storytelling game. Read Implanted Danger