Feel free to share and/or use/amend it for your own purposes.

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To the Irish Government:

I have watched the ‘return to school’ plans develop over the past week with increasing horror and dismay and am now writing to ask you what the actual fuck the government thinks it’s doing.

The HSE’s guidelines indicate a 2-meter, masked distance between individuals is the minimum safe requirement, and that participants in indoors events are to be limited.

Evidence from the United States (see the Georgia overnight camp breakout) indicates that children are not immune to either acquiring or passing on Covid-19.

Covid-19 cases in Ireland are on the rise with some 10% of those cases coming from untraceable sources.

Pubs, where social distancing is difficult to enforce, are not opening.

What part of any of these facts could possibly indicate to the government that an unmasked, 1-meter-distant, 30+ person classroom/hundreds in a building, return to school is in any way safe?

How on earth can this government possibly take the stance that all children must return to school unless they themselves are extremely high risk, regardless of how high risk the people they live with are? How dare you potentially put a child in a situation where they might bring home a disease that could kill their mother? Their father? Their beloved grandparents? How *dare* you?

Did you, as a child, experience the death of a classmate? A teacher? Because I did. Seven times. Do you want to know their names? Do you want to know their ages? Do you want to know the way they died? Because I can tell you. I can tell you, because these things leave scars that last forever.

None of them were in circumstances I could possibly affect. Right now, though, we *can* affect them. How dare you force children into such dangerous scenarios, or force their parents to withdraw them from school with no guarantee of a school place in a post-Covid, vaccinated world? How dare you put parents in a position of having to choose between their children’s safety or their long-term education?

How *dare* you?

How dare you dismiss the health and well-being of the Irish people in order to create a pretense of things being Back To Normal?

Things are not normal. They *will* not be normal until there is a widely-disseminated vaccine. This government must recognize that fact and adapt to it rather than try to force a veneer of normalcy over a world that is wrestling with an unprecedented disease playing out in an unprecedented social structure.

Forcing children back to school will kill people. Those deaths will be on your hands. Even if you don’t feel it, the children who bring home disease to their families will. How dare you even risk the possibility that a child might have to live with that guilt for the rest of their lives? How dare you?

And even if our children come through it with no deaths–and they won’t–we don’t yet know all the ramifications of this disease in the long term. What we do know is already horrific. How dare you risk our children on your convenience? On the conviction that the economy must carry on as before? It needn’t.

A government’s job is to safeguard its people and to provide services that individuals cannot easily provide to themselves. It is the duty of this government to pay people to stay home so they and their children are not at risk, until science and medical technology have caught up to the leading edge of this horrible disease, surpassed it, and overcome it.

How dare you behave as if anything else could be of any importance?

Do your goddamn jobs. Put the health and well-being of the Irish people first and foremost, beyond any other consideration, and don’t force parents into impossible choices.

Furiously,
Catherine E Murphy

My husband is starting a new job on Tuesday (a promotion! Yay!), & upon hearing he was leaving, his coworkers offered the appropriate congratulations and speeches of woe, the latter of which included, “b..b..but…but…pecan pie…???”

So I’m making them a pecan pie, & have finally perfected my process for the recipe I invented several years ago. It is as follows, although it should be noted that I tend to make deep-dish pies, and for your average 9″ pie this should probably be cut in half. Or you should make two. Also an excellent option. :)

CATIE’S PECAN PIE
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp molasses
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/8 cup water
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups pecans, chopped

First off, spray a measuring spoon with cooking spray or something so the molasses will come out of it easily, otherwise you’ll be here all day. Don’t worry about being too exact with it, though. If it’s two tablespoons, ain’t nobody gonna cry. After some experimenting on my end, though, be a bit cautious in going too far over that, because molasses is a very strong flavor and can get a little sharp in the background of the pie.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the sugars, molasses, and water. Bring it to a low boil; we’re just trying to make sure the sugars aren’t crystallized in your custard. Okay? Okay. Good.

Put the pan aside to cool a little while while you make your crust & custard. And look. The custard? What I’m gonna describe is ever so slightly finicky. I know, I know, does it REALLY matter? But it does, because this keeps the flour from lumping. So trust me, okay? Okay. Good.

Put the flour in a medium-small bowl. Add the milk & vanilla. Whisk these 3 ingredients into a paste. It’ll only take a minute and the vanilla will make it smell good.

Break one egg in. Whisk it in completely before doing the next, and the next, and the next, and the last.

I know, I know. Does it REALLY matter? I’ve made this pie a dozen times. Tonight’s custard turned out better than any other I’ve done, because I used this process. Trust me. Trust me.

I’m assuming you already chopped your pecans up. If you didn’t, go ahead and do that. Or don’t, as you prefer. I actually like to chop about, IDK, 2/3rds of them? And then leave the rest verging on whole, for Big Chunks Of Pecan. Om nom nom.

Make your pie crust (go on, it’s not that scary. Give it a try).

Then pour the warm sugar mix into the custard, and listen, amis. Again, this is sort of a pain, but it’s the Right Thing To Do: drizzle it in while whisking briskly.

Obviously it takes longer that way, sure, of course it does. But you don’t want to cook the egg with the warm sugar mix, so go slowly. We’re only talking 2-3 minutes anyway, not, like, an hour. Enjoy the scent, bc it’s gonna smell SO GOOD. All that butter & molasses. Mmmm.

Then pour your pecans in & mix until they’re thoroughly covered. Do not, for the love of heaven, whisk them in. I keep doing that and then there’s goddamn pecans stuck in the goddamn whisk and nobody’s happy. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Okay? Okay. Good.

Oh, shit, I told you to preheat the oven, right? Right, go back up to the top and preheat it. 425°F, A Hot Oven. Et voila, by the time you get this far, your oven is preheated. Great.

Pour your pecan custard into the pie shell & put it in the oven. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.

REDUCE THE HEAT to 325°F. Bake for at least another 30 minutes, probably more like 45, until a fork inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool. Eat with whipped cream or ice cream, as you like it.

Ted says this is the best pecan pie he’s ever had. I hope it’s the best you’ve ever had, too.

I’ve had A Thought, and tweeted about it some, and now I’m going to discuss it with you!

My Thought was about how much transparency readers want. And…see, on one hand, writers feel like they’re talking about this stuff ALL THE TIME, and it’s information we all know, so it’s sort of hard to tell where the line between “I have told you this one thousand times and you are bored with it” and “this is completely new information to me!” lies. :)

And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! :)

So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))

Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.

Now, mostly I count my metrics by Amazon, because like it or lump it, they represent the vast majority of my sales (80 out of those 100 sales mentioned above are Amazon, so it’s literally 4 in 5, except when it’s more than 4 in 5. :)). So 5% of subscribers buy the Project Of The Month on Amazon in any given month.

Right now I’m gonna run the numbers for the release earlier this month, TIMBER WOLF, which is an Amazon-only thing. It’s done really really well.

I’d love to know how many direct sales you think “really really well” means. In fact, I’d like you to tell me in comments, but since I can’t pause this conversation and get that information from you right now, so I’m gonna tell you outright. :) In the 2 weeks since its release, I’ve had 1123 direct sales on TIMBER WOLF.

That’s 4 times the usual number of sales I have in a month. If it’s been a SPECTACULARLY good month, it’s only 3x my number of usual sales; if it’s a particularly BAD month, it’s 6x my usual number of sales, but on average, it’s 4x.

TIMBER WOLF hit #88 in Amazon’s “Bestseller paid sale” ranks at its peak, when it had sold about, mmm, 600 copies? So where I’m going with this is that it takes shockingly few sales, really, to make a ridiculous amount of difference in visibility for a book’s rankings, and those rankings are what show a book to readers I don’t have immediate reliable access to (ie, people who are not on my newsletter mailing list!).

Like, if 10% of my newsletter subscribers buy TIMBER WOLF, it’d impact my Amazon ratings significantly. If 30% did, even now, 2 weeks after release, I might hit the top 50 rankings. 60% might push it to #1, and 75% almost certainly would. 75% sell-through from my mailing list (which, let’s be honest, would be unheard-of levels of engagement for almost ANY mailing list) would double the # of sales since it went live.

So what I was asking on Twitter was, like: here are the numbers. Is knowing that helpful or interesting to you at all? Is that something you’d like me to talk about?

A series of picoreviews for things I’ve watched on streaming lately:

The Old Guard: Loved it. Want more. Fave bit: not the Romantic Speech scene, but its aftermath when it cuts back to them. Although the speech itself, and those characters, are wonderful. Solid movie, will watch again v. soon.

Warrior Nun: The pacing of the first 3-4 episodes is *terrible*. I feel as if they expected 6 episodes & got 10 and had to Fill The Time. But it evened out, and by the end I definitely wanted more.

My Spy: This was cute and sometimes very, very funny. The little girl, Chloe Coleman, is absolutely stellar.

The Lake House: I’d refused to watch this on the basis that it looked like A Crying Movie, but a friend who is a huge Keanu Reeves fan, INSISTED I had to watch it. So I asked here on Twitter if it was going to destroy me, and was told it would be ok, then read the synopsis on Wiki to be sure, so, ok, I’m watching it.

At about 15 minutes in, Ted blurted a total Princess-Bride-style, “JESUS, GRANDPA! What did you read this thing to me for?!” so I had to pause it and explain what was going to happen and then he was dubious but like ‘okay’ and he spent the rest of the movie giving me these suspicious ‘Jesus, Grandpa!’ looks, but it did turn out okay in the end and I liked it. Even if the timey wimey was super wibbly wobbly. :)

I have not yet watched Hamilton.

all right FINE after attempting EVERY POSSIBLE LEGAL METHOD & (let’s be honest) a couple of quasi-legal methods of streaming Leverage, i have BOUGHT NOT ONLY THE DVDS BUT ALSO A PORTABLE DVD/BLU-RAY PLAYER SO I CAN WATCH IT WHILE USING THE EXERCISE CYCLE, GOD DAMN IT

i feel that this is SOMEWHAT OVER THE TOP and should not have been A NECESSARY STEP for watching 12 YEAR OLD TV in THIS THE YEAR OF OUR LORD TWO THOUSAND TWENTY

i also bought The Librarians and Alias for good measure because IN FOR A LAMB, LADS, IN FOR A FRIGGIN LAMB

otoh the portable dvd/blu-ray player does open up our entire catalog of TV On DVD to watch, which means i might actually get around to watching the entire series of X-Files that I bought before streaming was really a thing, & it won’t pause while waiting for our network to work. and in fact, if i can hack it to watch our american DVDs i might even re-watch Highlander. SO THERE.

(i have entire seasons’ worth of Supernatural tweets to turn into a blog post, maybe, but also…maybe not… :))

ETA: in the time between starting to write this post and now (my computer froze up so I couldn’t post it), I’ve discovered that my old computer has a DVD player, so I’ve returned the dvd/blu-ray player & am using the computer, which has a much larger screen, to watch X-Files. Well. Two episodes, so far, anyway. :)