Testing the first RPG I’ve ever designed

All set up for testing the first RPG I’ve ever designed. FUN.

I have an hour ’til my playtesters arrive, and must work on the grant application that’s due today, but all I really want to do is make them more snacks.

Handmade artisanal chocolates, ready. Chips and locally-made salsa, go. Oven for samosas, pre-heating. 🙂

If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s feeding your people well.


Happy Saturday: games and press

Happy Saturday. 🙂 I started the day with exercise, after a good night’s sleep, and it really is amazing how much more able to cope I feel! 30 minutes on the treadmill, just walking at 3.0, and then I had my weekly appt. (started up again last week after a six-month hiatus) with trainer Liz at the Y. Feel good! Feel strong!

Heading into a weekend of intense work, as we are now only six days out from Feast launch, and there is SO MUCH TO DO. But I’m trying to stay balanced with the rest of my life too, which is, um, interesting.

I’m constantly trying to remind myself that publicity is like parenting and teaching — there’s always more you *could* do, but if you try to do it all, you’ll only exhaust yourself and make everyone around you miserable.

The trickiest part for me with publicity are the little repeated things, like posting a reminder about the giveaway every day — that’s surprisingly hard for my ADD brain. Much like exercise. Part of why I ADORE my current trainer is that she never has me do sets of reps — we do 8 of an exercise, then 8 of a different exercise, etc., and I almost never repeat an exercise session to session either. She has me work the same muscles, but in new ways all the time, which is SO much easier for me to cope with. I’d love to see her writing a column about that approach to exercise; going to try to talk her into it.

My daily publicity goal is generally either a) do one impactful thing, or b) do one hour of little things. I think that’s reasonable, and over time, it should add up in good ways. (Much like parenting. And teaching. 🙂 )

A Google Alert just popped up that NewCity listed our upcoming Deep Dish (with a book launch for Feast) in their Lit Top 5 (link in comments), which is very lovely, and a sign that yes, if you tell people about your thing, they may think it’s worth spreading the word.

Angelique Manchanda-Peres has also had a FB thread going on her wall, where she’s so kindly gushing about the copy of Feast that she ordered and which has just arrived, and has gotten a whole host of her (mostly Toronto, I think) friends super-excited about the book.

That’s that fabulous word-of-mouth that we all long for when we’re trying to get the word out, and if you see an indie project you like, please know that that spread the word like that is INVALUABLE. We can’t afford the publicity budgets of big publishers, so we really rely on hoping people like what we do, and that they tell other people about it.

Heather Rainwater Campbell arrived from Ann Arbor yesterday; she’s my remote staffer whom we decided to have come in one weekend a month, which I think is really helpful in various ways for both of us.

Yesterday afternoon, I got back from teaching, said hi to her, and then we settled in to a work session in the dining room. I wrote up (very quickly) the grant application for the Sustainable Arts Foundation and sent it off. I always waffle about which project to say I’m going to work on, but I went with the nonfiction work this time around, as that’s what I’ve been spending more time on. After that I….I’m not sure what I worked on. More time-sensitive e-mails, I think? There are a lot of them right now, trying to crank them out.

We ordered masses of Thai & Japanese food for dinner, really, for the weekend, so we can concentrate on getting a lot of work done and I don’t have to worry about feeding her or the family. We’ll also lay in some chips and make a big bowl of pasta for board games later tonight — a few friends are stopping by. (If you’d like to be on the board game party list, but aren’t, drop me a line.)

There are some things before that though! Heather and Kavi and I spent about an hour and a half on the basement storage space re-org project last night, and we made very good progress — I’ll give you a tour when it’s all done. But now the serveware for events is in one place, for example, and the disposables (compostable!) and the books, etc.

It should make it much easier for me to say, come home from teaching, take 30 minutes to pack up some bins and bags, and go do a Feast event in the evening. Esp. if I put everything BACK in the right places the next day. (The night of, I will probably be too tired. That’s okay.)

We were all really tired by 8:30, so gave up on work for the day and crashed. Today, I’m taking a break from Feast to work on other projects (though I may answer a Feast e-mail here and there). Right now, I have Heather familiarizing herself with Benjamin Rosenbaum’s Dream Apart RPG system; she’s going to do a play-through of a Jump Space RPG with me and some hardy volunteers @ 2 p.m. today.

I’m envisioning it as a 3-6 person game that will take 3-4 hours to play through, so the sort of thing you can walk into at a convention, with no prior knowledge. I’m not sure what the process will be for bringing it out eventually — do we do it ourselves through Serendib Press? Do we partner with an established game company? But we’re a very long way from that now — right now, what I need to do is write up the actual rules so we can do our play-through. Planning to work on that from 9:30 – 10:30 or so today, using Ben’s game as a model.

Then I switch to the Creative Capital grant, which is also due today. I haven’t written anything yet, but I’ve been talking it through with Kevin and Stephanie and Heather, thinking about what this project will look like. Well, I’m not actually quite positive WHICH project I’ll be applying for — but I think it’s the hybrid one where I am doing more editing than writing. Well, we’ll think about that in a few hours and make a decision.

And then 2-5, RPG-ing, which will probably be a mess this first time through, but I will learn a lot from the workshopping process, and hopefully the players will manage to have fun. I will feed them well, which should help. And then 5-midnight, break and board game.

Sunday morning, Stephanie is going to come over, and we’re going to go back to Feast work with Heather, specifically putting together an updated press kit, and starting to send it out to the PR list we purchased from a publicist. At 1, I go over to Forest Park to show some of the local makerspace team a possibility for a makerspace location. And then 2-5, relax. Anand wants to go swimming, so perhaps the YMCA again. Then Sunday dinner, and snuggles with the kids.

A busy weekend, fairly intense, but hopefully a good one. 🙂


How do you define the edge?

I’m watching Restaurants on the Edge, a new Netflix show where they save failing restaurants around the world. Less yelling and actual chef/owner re-training than when Gordon Ramsey does it in Kitchen Nightmares, more travelogue and cultural history. Just a little ways in, and I mostly like it, though the Derridean in me is slightly cranky about the title.

They’re making a play on words with ‘edge’ — the restaurants are on the edge of failing, but also exist on the edge of the world. And okay, having come up with the concept, I can see how hard it would be to resist! And so far, the show itself seems reasonably respectful of the people and the culture they’re visiting (Malta, first episode).

Lots of focus on local food, the skills of local artisans. I appreciate that (though @Joel Keller’s review for Decider did think it had the visitors dominating, and a feel of North Americans ‘strip-mining’ the local culture).

But it’s mostly the title that’s bugging me right now. How are you defining ‘the edge’? Who gets to be the center? I mean, any good post-colonialist would have to throw up her hands and say ARGH, right?

I want them to do an exotic travelogue style episode to some place in America early on, some place mostly populated by white people, just to counter the baseline assumptions you’ll be reinforcing otherwise. Somehow I don’t think they’re going to do that.

[goes to check episode list]

Hong Kong
Tobermory (in Canada — huh, okay, that’s something)
Costa Rica
St. Lucia


Looked it up a bit more — the hosts are all Canadian, so I guess that explains Tobermory.

Also a little weirded out now by sometimes it’s a city, sometimes a country… Which places get to be defined by something smaller and local, rather than their entire nation?

I wish at least one of core experts was visibly POC. You can’t always tell ethnicity by looking, of course, and Liberato might be POC? A quick googling didn’t make that clear. But they definitely lean white, and I would hope that if you’re putting together an ensemble travel show in this day and age, you’d at least think about that.


Last Day

Quick note that today is the last day to subscribe at the $10 / month level to my Patreon, if you’d like a treat package sent out to you in March. (US-only, sorry!) Will definitely be including Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolate bars (dragonfruit, citrus, white pepper, and white chocolate) in this batch. 

So many time sensitive tasks!

Gah! I woke up at 3:15 a.m., mind racing with time-sensitive things I had to do:


• tell Akbar to go ahead and book his plane ticket for the SLF (counting on the community to donate the remainder of the funds to reimburse us for it, which is a little nerve-wracking, but time is tight enough that I think it’s the best option. And we’re not so far off — $800 raised out of an estimated $1500 for the flight, and I just checked, and it looks like he should be able to find a flight for closer to $1300, so just another $500 to go). — DONE

• confirm Akbar’s hotel (CONFIRMED NOW) and book it (HANDED OFF TO KAREN TO BOOK NOW)

• confirm registration with ICFA (SENT E-MAIL)

• post again about the international initiative fundraiser (DONE)

• talk to Matt about the Portolan Project videos (DONE)

• I think I may want to actually find an animator who can do the opening to the videos; he threw something together for us, but it’s not working for me; it’s another expense I’d have to raise money for, though, so it may have to wait, unless I can find someone to donate the time / skill — should do a separate post about that at some point, but not urgent — (POST DONE)


• remind people about the 15-book Feast giveaway running now (worldwide, please do enter, link in comments!) — we are officially one week from launch, AIGH. (DONE)

• wash the guest room bedding and make the bed, since Heather will be arriving today from Ann Arbor (probably while I’m still on campus, since I get home @ 2:30), to work the weekend on Serendib Press stuff (IN WASH)

• remind folks that they have two more days to sign up for the subscription package of edible treats going out in April (US-only)

• finish decorating and wrap the four Dragonfruit Nebulae bars (dragonfruit, citrus, and a hint of white pepper)

• pour two more in the mold (I can only do two at a time, so it’s low effort, but takes a few days to get through several done)

• post the recipe for the Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolates AND the one for the jackfruit & chickpea curry from a month ago that is still waiting for posting!


• read and grade student reading journals; I’d like to get those back before teaching today (next in queue)


• do Sustainable Arts Foundation grant due today @ 5 (I leave for teaching at 10:30, and do have to shower and dress, so can I squeeze that in before then? we’ll see; if not, this afternoon, down to the wire, sigh.)

• finish prepping materials for RPG I’m running tomorrow for my Jump Space universe — I was tempted to cancel, but I cancelled the first one, and I think I could probably use a little downshifting in my brain — I was a little frantic yesterday morning too, and Kevin and I lay down for an hour midday for date lunch and watched Picard, and then spent an hour talking about the project idea (for the Creative Capital grant), and the latter was very helpful and the former got me breathing a little easier. So hanging out with friends for a few hours tomorrow and playing a SF RPG will, I hope, be fun and not stressful.

• do Creative Capital grant application due tomorrow (probably will have to work on that Sat morning, after giving Heather some things to work on)


• call to set up annual vet appointments for cats, they’re due for rabies vaccines

• call to get car repair from last week’s accident scheduled


• write a long post (or several) about the economics of being a writer, relevant both to the indie publishing thing I’m doing with Feast, and the SLF’s grant efforts

• write a long post (or several) about running for office and governing — something like “Ten Things I’ve Learned While…” Maybe host AMA’s on them, if I have the energy.


Whew. I’m sure there’s more too, but that was all bubbling at the top of my brain. I was seriously tempted to get up at 3:15 and just work on it all, but the bed was cozy, so I tried to sleep instead. Finally fell asleep around 5-ish, I think, got up at normal 7 a.m. Still not sure if that was the right decision — I could be 4 hours ahead on all this right now. But also probably much more tired…

Confectionery experiments

Confectionery experiments….ruby chocolate and dehydrated strawberries. The crunch of the strawberries is very fun.  Karina, was thinking of eating strawberries in Sri Lanka with you.


Quick reminder for US-folks that if you’re signing up for my Patreon to subscribe to the edible treats level, please do sign up by end of February, if you’d like to receive a treat box in March! I’m not positive what will be in there yet, but almost certainly the Dragonfruit Nebulae chocolates (I’ve ALMOST finalized the recipe), and probably the ruby-strawberry ones too. I’m thinking another batch of “I Plight Thee My Troth” (passionfruit, vanilla and rose) marshmallows too.

If you sign up after March 1, you’ll get your first box at the end of June. (So signing up in Feb is an excellent deal; signing up in March is much less so, signing up in April will go back to normal. Slightly unfortunate function of trying to do a quarterly product through a monthly service.)


LEAP YEAR giveaway: 3 days to enter!

LEAP YEAR GIVEAWAY CONTEST! A Feast of Serendib is my new Sri Lankan American cookbook, and the ebooks are perfect for referring to while cooking, using a tablet stand in the kitchen, or just browsing curled up on the couch. ($24.99 value!)

Just 8 days to launch, eep, and I’m trying something different for this particular Feast giveaway — we’re going to run this one for three days, because sometimes it takes a little while for people to see it. So Thurs / Fri / Sat., Feb 27-29, ending at midnight CST.

Enter on Facebook HERE!

ALSO, we’re going to give you more chances to enter — you get entered once for each of the following:

– if you LIKE the post
– if you post a COMMENT
– if you SHARE it
– if you TAG in a friend!

So you can enter just once, or enter up to four times if you like! (It’s all about building visibility for the cookbook; people can’t buy it if they don’t know it exists…)

We’re also giving away MORE books — 15 lucky winners (!) will be randomly drawn from the entries on this post.

AND we’re resetting the clock, so if you already won an e-book earlier this week, it doesn’t matter — you can enter again between Feb 27-29; a fabulous gift for a friend or family member. Sounds great, right? Here we go!


TODAY’S QUESTION: You’ve had a hard day, and you come home exhausted, wanting something delicious to eat. What would you love to have waiting for you when you get home? What’s your ideal comfort food meal?

Mine is a tie between two Sri Lankan meals — mackerel curry with egg, served over uppuma, or beef and potato curry with bread. Kevin once made me beef and potato curry to greet me when I came back home after a long plane flight — I walked in the door, caught the scent of the food, and almost burst in tears, I was so happy.


Stephanie will be tracking, and will randomly pick and announce the 15 winners on March 1st.

Enter on Facebook HERE!




1) ORDERING: You can order early copies of A Feast of Serendib (signed / personalized, if you like) directly from me right now, at www.serendibkitchen.com, or from my publisher, Mascot Books: https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/cookbooks/regional/a-feast-of-serendib/. The limited release paperback can only be ordered directly from my website. If you’re in the U.S., you can also add on my hand-roasted Sri Lankan curry powder.

A Feast of Serendib will be launching officially March 6, 2020, and we hope it’ll be widely available in bookstores and libraries. You can request it now from your local bookstore or library! Please do! It’ll also be available on Amazon US, UK, and Canada; you can pre-order it now online. If you’re planning to order from Amazon, pre-ordering or ordering on launch day (March 6!) would be super helpful for boosting its visibility on Amazon. Thanks!

978-1-64543-275-3 Hardcover (distributed by Ingram)
978-1-64543-377-4 ebook (on Amazon, etc.)
2370000696366 (trade paperback; only available directly from me, at Serendib Kitchen site; you can also buy the hardcover or ebook there)

2) REVIEW OR BUY IT HERE (reviews are hugely helpful in boosting visibility!):


Barnes & Noble


3) JOIN THE COOKBOOK CLUB: If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly: https://www.patreon.com/mohanraj. For $10 / month, you can subscribe for fabulous treats mailed to you! (US-only).

My personal FB page: https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/mamohanraj
Serendib Kitchen blog: http://serendibkitchen.com
Serendib Kitchen Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/serendib_kitchen/
Serendib FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/132029834135500/
Serendib FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/mohanrajserendib/

5) PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY starred review: “Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion), a literature professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, introduces readers to the comforting cuisine of Sri Lanka in this illuminating collection of more than 100 recipes. Waves of immigration from China, England, the Netherlands, and Portugal influenced the unique cuisine of Sri Lanka, Mohanraj writes, as evidenced by such dishes as Chinese rolls (a take on classic egg rolls in the form of stuffed crepes that are breaded and fried); fish cutlets (a culinary cousin of Dutch bitterballen fried croquettes); and English tea sandwiches (filled here with beets, spinach, and carrots). With Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, curry figures heavily, with options for chicken, lamb, cuttlefish, or mackerel. A number of poriyal dishes, consisting of sautéed vegetables with a featured ingredient, such as asparagus or brussels sprouts, showcase a Tamil influence. Throughout, Mohanraj does a superb job of combining easily sourced ingredients with clear, instructive guidance and menu recommendations for all manner of events, including a Royal Feast for over 200 people. This is a terrific survey of an overlooked cuisine.”


Thanks so much for your support! Indie publishing is absolutely reliant on word of mouth and the support of friends, family, and friendly internet acquaintances. 

— Mary Anne


Curry sauces at Whole Foods

Wandering through Whole Foods a few nights ago, I couldn’t resist pausing and taking some photos of the curry sauces on offer. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have some Serendib Kitchen sauces on offer? A girl can dream…

Maybe it’ll be Kavi who does it — Maya Kaimal’s website says, “Raised in Boston by a South Indian father and a mother from New England, she grew up in a multi-cultural home filled with delicious and diverse foods.”

Kavi’s Kitchen?