One of my favorite movies is the 2008 comedy/fantasy Stranger than Fiction. In the story, Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS agent who wakes up one morning and finds that a voice is narrating his life. Every swish of his toothbrush, every step that he takes, every experience he has is being narrated. Harold decides that he must be part of a story that’s still being written, he seeks help from Literature Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) for help. After asking him several questions, Professor Hilbert informs Crick that “the last thing to determine conclusively is whether you’re in a comedy or a tragedy”. This line has stuck with me since I heard it.
Personally, I’d classify my own life as a romantic comedy. And often a television sitcom (think Home Improvement). So, I’m very excited that my first book to be published will be a romantic comedy.
#PleaseSayYes is a light, sweet and I hope fun little novella about how social media can influence the search for true love.
With 3 young sons, my oldest Gerrod just recently married, and the younger 2 Jayson and Joey (see I told you Home Improvement) still in the dating game. I’ve seen how social media has changed the way couples meet and interact. Sometimes it’s crazy, sometimes it’s scary…and sometimes it’s a comedy.
So, my Valentine’s offering this year is my first published fiction #PleaseSayYes. The story of a sweet school teacher who would rather read romance than look for love, and a young business owner who admirers her from afar. Until, family, friends and social media take matters out of their hands. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think. It’s available for preorder right now and will release on February 13th in the Love Me Tender boxed set with a dozen other sweet romances for you to enjoy.
And if you haven’t seen Stranger than Fiction yet, you might want to buy it for Valentine’s. I’ll let you decide if it’s a tragedy or comedy, but it’s definitely a romance.
Rain has been pouring off and on for two days. My driveway is a small pond, the backyard is more than saturated, all of our plants look perky and happy, and so am I. As long as I know that my guys are all safe, and I don’t have to go anywhere, I love a rainy day. When I was a little girl, cold rainy days meant that my mother probably had a simmering pot of soup on the stove, meatball, chicken noodle or navy bean…meatball was my favorite… and more importantly, there would be warm cookies waiting when I got off the bus from school. My boys could count on much the same when they were growing up.
It’s funny how a rainy day makes me think of my mother’s cookies, or my own little boys walking in the door inhaling deeply hoping for the aroma of their favorite chocolate chip, peanut butter or snickerdoodle cookies.
I just finished a Valentine’s novella, that will be releasing next month, and I’m working on my 1920’s historical women’s fiction novel, and even while I’m writing, food comes up. Some of my characters love to cook, others eat in fine restaurants, others eat absentmindedly at their desks while they work.
As a former food writer, it’s not surprising that I love to write about the dishes my characters enjoy…or not. Some of my favorite research is looking for recipes in antique cookbooks, new cookbooks, online or perusing restaurant menus. Old restaurant menus can give you a real taste of the times, great descriptions and even prices. And antique recipe cards or cookbooks can tell you how differently we cook today. The ingredients, cooking tools, and terminology all can be clues to the era or region of a story.
Since I love both books and cooking, I have a ridiculous number of cookbooks. I have culled the number after a couple of recent moves, but I look for them whenever I’m in used bookstores, and people often give them to me for gifts. One of my favorites is The One Maid Cookery Book, printed in London in 1913. I found this in an antique store. The minute I saw the title I knew I had to have the book. One maid, I have no maid! Oh, wait, I might be the maid!
Another is The American Woman’s Cook Book edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, and published by Garden City Publishing Company in New York, 1943. This book was left behind in a house my husband and I rented years ago. It’s filled with information on table setting, entertaining, menu planning for every day, holidays, or a limited budget. The pictures are wonderful and set a real flavor for the time.
The rain seems to have slowed outside, and my husband and youngest son will be home soon. I think I’ll go get something warm in the oven. Today I think I’ll go with the chocolate brownies that are loved by Lucy, the main character in my Valentine’s romance #PleaseSayYes.
What are your favorite food memories? Do you use food to set the scene or add to the story when you write? When you read do you skip the food descriptions or do they speak to you? Can you be found sitting in the bathtub reading a cookbook like a novel? Or maybe that’s just me…
When I think of my favorite authors at work, I think of them toiling away in a darkened room banging out pages on an antique typewriter in total isolation. There may or may not be a cigarette on a long and a bottle of scotch involved, or a fine bottle of wine… It depends on the author. And, the truth is that writing is often a solitary process. But that is changing.
The internet and projects like NaNoWriMo, organizations like Romance Writer’s of America, and changes in the publishing industry itself are bringing writers together in new ways. Writers are reaching out to each other having write ins, offering support, sharing their experiences with traditional and indie publishing, even sharing financial information, things that were unheard of less than ten years ago.
In October, I was part of a panel of women writers at the InD’Scribe Conference in Burbank California. First of all, it was incredible to get to sit on this panel with legal thriller author, Rebecca Forster, Navy Seal Romance author, Caitlyn O’Leary, and paranormal author, Jenna Barwin, after all, my debut novella will not be released until February. But the panel was about mentoring, and both Rebecca Forster and Caitlyn O’Leary have been mentors on my fiction writing journey. And this is what I’m talking about, writers no longer hide in their writing caves darkened and solitary penning pages. They reach out to other authors and offer support, and share their experience. They come together in coffee shops to have write ins and bounce ideas off of each other. Writing has become a social event as well as an individual creative process.
As the Pro Liaison for the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America I had the ability to reach out to successful published authors, editors and agents to ask them to talk to our group online, and almost every one of them said yes, volunteering to share their experience and let us pick their brains.
When I stepped down from that position I took the idea to another level and started a little online group called #Charmed Writers where we write together and have mini conferences with authors and industry experts as well as other experts who volunteer to join the group and share their knowledge.
So, the image of a writer has changed. We no longer hide in the dark like vampires, we come out to write in coffee shops and restaurants. We form groups, friendships and working relationships. Some of the mystery may have gone out of the life of a writer, but the magic is still there and maybe stronger than before. If you’re a writer, find your tribe, seek out support, share your journey with other writers and readers.
Where do I write? Usually in my brightly lit family room at my desk, with the curtains open and a view of my orange tree, but sometimes friends join me at my dining room table, or I meet them at a local coffee shop, usually no whiskey, but occasionally there is wine involved. Where do you write? And how do you imagine your favorite authors at work?
When the calendar changes to September, the days begin to quickly change. The neighborhood kids walk to school with brand new backpacks and shiny lunch-boxes, and I can hear the morning announcements from the elementary school one block from my house. The leaves will soon turn oranges, golds and browns and slowly drift from the trees, and the air will turn brisk and nippy… okay, well maybe not here in Los Angeles, but it’s happening somewhere besides my imagination. Autumn is a time of renewal, exciting and fresh with lots of possibilities.
Passing Labor Day for me still means putting away my white clothes…although here in Southern California we never really put away our summer clothes… working on holiday projects and planning new menus.
I re-evaluate and update my goals for the year, and I remind myself to count my blessings, as we head toward the end of the year.
So now that Labor Day has passed and the days are moving quickly toward autumn, have you paused to take stock of your goals and count your blessings and do you put away your white clothes for another year (or is that just me)?
Before I began writing fiction I was a food writer. I thought I’d share one of my favorite autumn recipes with you.
Autumn Delicious Cake
1 spice cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 T cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a Bundt pan with cooking spray.
Combine cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Put cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, pumpkin water and oil into a large mixing bowl and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for 2 minutes. Spread half of batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with ½ of the cinnamon sugar, then top with the remaining batter spreading it evenly over the sugared layer, reserve half of the cinnamon sugar.
Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a fork or skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes, then flip onto a serving platter, sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar and cool completely. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.