I remember a National Geographic article from a few years ago, The Joy of Food, by Victoria Pope, offered an interesting observation.
“The sharing of food has always been part of the human story . . . ‘To break bread together’, a phrase as old as the Bible, captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, and provoke laughter.”
In creating contemporary fictional scenes, epic fantasy moments, or science fiction settings, food and the act of eating, humanizes a story. Our mouth waters with tantalizing narrative of baked goods and braised stew. Romance tickles when someone gently hand-feeds a morsel of food to a love interest. Intrigue is piqued while supping at the table of a wealthy nineteenth-century Duke. Warmth ebbs in our bones when characters share spit-roasted game around a campfire in the dead of winter. We smile when a normally dysfunctional family banters happily around a holiday feast, setting aside for a moment, that which keeps them apart.
Food can be a defining backdrop with apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Driven back to our hunter-gatherer forbearers, societies are demoralized with heart-wrenching memories of how abundant food once was. Haves and have-nots when food is scarce, polarize villages, communities, entire nations. Food as common currency is reborn. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy is an excellent example of this. S.M. Stirling’s Dies the Fire serialized life when the power went out—permanently. Christopher Nolen’s movie Interstellar, painted somberness from food-blighted, agrarian collapse.
Food weighs heavily when portraying communal tables, customs, folklore, and regional diversity. George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series is rich with culinary indulgence and subsistence living. Tolkien’s Hobbits are quiet, yet passionate diners. Elves are vegans, and dwarves—well—they’ll eat anything that isn’t green. Robert Jordan’s fourteen book Wheel of Time series has more eating scenes than grains of sand in the Wicked Witch of the West’s hourglass. Vampire feeding is a genre unto itself. Opinions vary on what Zombies find nutritious.
Science fiction poses a stronger challenge with respect to otherworldly beings, especially when writers have to define characteristics of sentient alien life. Babylon 5 was a jewel of multiple alien interactions, all with unique culinary customs. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow did a masterful job of characterizing alien beings by what they shared with pioneering visitors from earth. Hard-core Star Trek fans can cite Klingon fare as if reading from a menu. One of my favorite movies was The Matrix where human “copper-tops” dreamed of real food, but the few humans outside the matrix subsisted on something resembling watery eggs. Has all the body needs, amino acids, proteins . . .” The very sight of it made me gag.
Eating is the ultimate show versus tell enhancer. Here’s one in an old story I wrote that attempts to capture all five senses. A pungent smokiness wafted from the meat offering that resembled a hairless, mummified rat carcass. The skin crackled between her teeth and her eyes watered from its unsalted, campfire bitterness. It was like trying to eat a botched taxidermy job, or an Amazonian shrunken beast stolen from a museum.
A story lacking a good eating scene falls short in illustrating a fundamental anthropological trait, not to mention missing out on a lot of fun writing.
What’s my favorite eating scene? Have to turn the clock back to the 1963 movie adaptation of Henry Fielding’s classic novel set in the British eighteenth-century, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, where the handsome Tom and his dining partner wordlessly consume an enormous meal while lustfully gazing at each other.
That’s what I call eating.
A native of Wisconsin and Connecticut, DT Krippene deserted aspirations of being a biologist to live the corporate dream and raise a family. After six homes, a ten-year stint in Asia, and an imagination that never slept, his annoying muse refuses to be hobbled as a mere dream. Dan writes dystopia, paranormal, and science fiction. His current project is about a young man struggling to understand why he was born in a time when humans are unable to procreate and knocking on extinction’s door.
You can find DT on his website and his social media links.
I had every intention of writing a lovely post this month about all the cool stuff going on with my WW 2 Occupied Paris novel, The Resistance Girl. Honest I did.
Then the research on my next book shot the pants off that idea.
My deadline is right around the corner.
My book is written… mostly. Some bugs to work out. Re-read, check it over… you know the drill.
The research is overwhelming… so much so, I’ve got to cut this shorter than I like. I’m writing another book about Occupied Paris, but this time my heroine finds herself in a concentration camp. Two of them actually… emotionally, I’m drained. Mentally I’m exhausted.
My heart… broken.
I will never, never be able to understand why it happened, the horror, injustice, humiliation done to the victims of the Holocaust. But I’m determined to tell a story about a brave young woman who had a baby in a camp… and she survived. But she never knew what happened to her baby… until years later.
I’ve watched a million survivor videos… read so many books about the Holocaust… checked and double checked the timelines of the camps and what happened there down to what they ate, where the railroad tracks ended at camp, the blocks or barracks map… and I still have questions. I want to make it right.
No, I’ve got to make it right.
I owe to the those who died and those who survived.
So forgive me if I’m emotional this month.
We must never forget…
You can listen to The Resistance Girl on Spotify
Or search for Jina Bacarr and my ‘artiste’ page will pop up.
(Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger)
My husband, Will Zeilinger, and I co-write the thrillers of INTERNATIONAL MYSTERY SERIES, as E. J. Williams. Our tales transport the reader from 1962 southern California to various international locales. In the first new book of the series, STONE PUB, we find ourselves in County Cork, Ireland.
The first book sets the tone and is the foundation of all future books in a series. The main characters will appear over and over again. They have to be strong and memorable. The character must be able to grow and change through several books while remaining exciting and unpredictable. Keep in mind that you, too, will be living with them for some time, so you, as the author, must like them also.
As a couple, we often think back to people we’ve met or know, then we kick it up a little…or a lot. At first, it wasn’t easy to choose. We had so many. Then we realized we didn’t have to choose…we could combine, which made for powerful, strong, funny, and capable characters that can sustain the reader’s interest over the course of the series.
Supporting each other and valuing the ideas we each bring to the table make for great characters. Remember, the crucial thing is to write a good story. So stay tuned. There is more to come.
STONE PUB is the first in the series, and yes…we are still married!
Website: Janet Elizabeth Lynn
Website: Will Zeilinger
(Hover over the covers for buy links. Click on the cover for more information.)
Every author faces this last crucial challenge. You’ve already spent untold hours researching, writing and editing your book. Your title hits just the right poetic note. You’ve gone several tense rounds to find the perfect cover. All that remains is the book blurb, the opening salvo in the promotional war. This is the first (and sometimes only) chance to grab a reader and compel them to buy the book. And so, like click bait, you need to lure your reader with an honest but irresistible snap shot.
It’s an art, this writing of a synopsis that isn’t a synopsis, this sell copy that isn’t an ad. And for something that isn’t a science there are strict rules: you have to be honest – no misleading the reader. No spoilers or why bother to read it – which can be tough since the spoiler is often the most exciting part of the story. Keep it at 200 words or less and don’t make it one run-on paragraph. Use the proper keywords for your genre. Reveal something about the antagonist – readers like to know if they can root for the hero. This isn’t the place to relate the entire plot but you have to provide the zeitgeist, the feel of the tale. No easy task.
A lot of the writers I work with find this daunting and ask for help, which I am happy to provide. I think it’s difficult for the writer to step far enough away from their work to pick out the enticing, salient points and present them with the tension and intrigue that make for a successful blurb. To the author, all story points are important. I get that, but as an avid reader I know what works for me in a blurb. It’s not how much is said, but how compellingly it’s said.
I start with a deconstruction approach. It’s possible to distill any story down to bare bones. In his book Hit Lit – Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers James W. Hall provided the most distilled example I’ve ever seen. This is a beloved tale that we all know intimately: “A young girl wakes in a surreal landscape and murders the first woman she sees. She teams with three strangers and does it again.” It’s short, accurate and intriguing but would it sell the book?
I wouldn’t distill it down that far but it makes a great beginning. What if we knew something about the young girl – an orphan, a princess, a refugee? And what about the surreal landscape – gaping desert, oozing swamp, forbidding mountains? Then the three strangers – female, male, older, menacing, kindly? Is all this murdering spurred by necessity, thrills, defense, the three strangers or is it unintended manslaughter? And finally, what is the young girl up to – revenge, enlightenment, finding a way out of the surreal landscape? Flesh out those points, add some genre keywords, reference any kudos and you could turn those original 24 spartan words into a 160 – 200 word blurb that would peak curiosity and entice the shopper to buy.
If you can step away from the totality of your story and deconstruct the plot to the primary elements, then present those elements in a provocative way you can create an effective selling tool with your book blurb. BTW, that book Hall described? The Wizard of Oz.
I have a confession. I am a writer who hasn’t released a new book in over a year. There, I said it. I can’t believe my last new release was late 2019.
I will not lament about the ups and downs of 2020, nor will I use the pandemic as an excuse for not publishing a book. Instead of publishing a new book, I concentrated on completing a book, which I did. Truthfully, my plan was to release The Good Girl Part Trois last year, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, I reread it and realized it needed a little work. A little work quickly turned into a lot of work. I’m not complaining because I’m very pleased with the story. However, I’m a lot disappointed I let so much time lapse between releases. The extra time gave me some perspective and an opportunity to figure out a launch plan.
I listened to several podcasts and You Tube videos searching for a new release launch plan. In the end, I decided to try something completely different slow and escalating. I would love to land in a bestseller spot at the end of release day or week. To accomplish such a feat would take a lot more planning than I have. My plan takes patience. I look at it as setting my book up for long term sales.
First step in my plan, push the release date back. This was a difficult decision to make. After all, in Jann’s post as well as mine, I said my release date was February 23rd. Why the change? A couple of things…lack of time and a couple of amazing promotion opportunities. As it got closer to the middle of February, I felt rushed. Although I was going with a slow crawl release plan, I still felt rushed. The other reason was promotion slots.
I forgot it was difficult to book premium newsletter slots without reviews. Since I hadn’t finished tweaking the edits, I didn’t have time to secure additional beta readers. I was in trouble. Thank God, I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of free giveaways.
I was already considering making book one free as a lead in for the series. When these opportunities came up, jumped on them and made the first two books free. This got me to thinking, instead of trying to buy a lot of newsletter ads for the new release, I’m buying ads for the first two books. I’ll stagger them for maximum the exposure. Bottom line, I’m going to promote these free books like crazy for a month. Hopefully, this will lead to a lot of pre-orders for book three. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Second, reformat books one and two. I knew I had to upload the new covers which would only literally take a few minutes with Vellum. All I needed was the original file. Sounds easy, except for one minor detail, I couldn’t find the file. It wasn’t until I had spent a couple of hours searching my computer, that I remembered I didn’t format them.
Once I found the original files, I loaded them and in a matter of minutes the books were formatted. However, before calling it a day, I reread the books and made a few tweaks. That’s a joke. I re-wrote a few chapters. In the end, I added a few hundred words and modified some of the character behavior to match up with books three and four. This little task took about a week to complete. I didn’t stop there. I also decided to update the style of the book which led to another week of work.
I thought I was done with the first two books, until I realized I needed to update the print versions as well. If this was a new release, this step could have waited, but these were books that were already out. I took them down on Amazon, but I think they might still be up. This may sound bad, but I hope no one buys a print version until I get the new version uploaded.
Amazing how something which seemed simple turned into a major project. I wasn’t looking forward to reformatting the print books. Again, I was feeling pressured. I use Vellum and this turned out to the the perfect time to try their print version. In a matter of seconds, I had a print version of my book. It was nice, but I tweaked it with some special chapter headers. I like the file, now all I need to do is order the proof. I’m going to try to release the print version for book three on release day, but it might have to wait a couple of weeks. I need a break.
What does the rest of my release plan look like? A lot of ads. I already have a Facebook ad running, but I’m going to increase the spend and add another one. Funny thing, I mentioned two of the promotion events I’m doing are for free books. I set the books as free on all the platforms except Amazon. I was waiting a few days. However, someone must have requested a price match for The Good Girl Part One, because Amazon set it as free. As of this posting, it was #11 in Black & African American Romance and #14 Two-Hour Romance Short Reads. Seems like my plan is working.
Now all I need to do is finish the edits, format and continue with my launch plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Three books in one . . .More info →
Dan Rodin has once again transcended time...More info →
All that glitters isn't gold.More info →
For Gracie McIntyre opening a new-and-used book shop gives her more than she bargains for.More info →