Oct 262016
 

It’s a new school year for my kids–the time of year where many people, including me, are compelled to make fresh starts. And that is what I am doing. This past year I smacked into a mid-life “awakening” (we won’t call it a crisis – even though it has felt like that sometimes).

Do you know what I mean? That feeling that something with life isn’t quite right, but you’re not exactly sure what the problem is. That you need to change, but you don’t know how or even what to change.

I’ve read books and perused websites, even worked with a life coach. One thing that became very clear while I was doing research is that I’m not the only person who feels this way. A lot of people get the urge to move around the puzzle pieces of their life into a different configuration when they reach the middle of their life. The image above is the centerpiece of a vision board I did with my life coach, and it says a lot about how I feel right now.

I’ve been quiet on my website and social media over the summer as I’ve decided what, exactly, I want to do. Okay, I admit, that the plan is more fluid than exact, but you know what? That’s wonderful! When things are moving…they aren’t stuck. And who wants to feel like their life is stuck in a rut?

For quite a few years I have focused my social media and author platform toward my career as a culinary mystery writer. But there’s a lot more in my life than cooking and writing mysteries. So I’m going to start sharing more of my interests in the hope that maybe someone else will enjoy them too. A lot of things will be changing from the look of this website to the style of my newsletters. (Do you subscribe to my newsletter? I hope you do because the new format will be launching soon, and I can’t wait to share it with you!) I’m writing new books, but at a slower pace since I’m also focusing on my family, and uncovering tools to navigate through this mid-life reinvention.

Some of the things that I plan to share are on the new age-y side, or as I say…woo-woo. If that’s not your thing and you no longer want to follow my blog or get my newsletter, no big deal. Feel free to unsubscribe, because life is too short to spend time reading things that you don’t enjoy. If you stick around I hope you find something useful…or that makes you smile…or that gives you an aha moment. I’m taking the scenic route, instead of the freeway, through this part of my life. I can’t wait to share some of the stops with you!

 

 

 

Apr 082014
 

The last month has been very busy for me, between turning in a manuscript to my publisher, writing and editing a novelette and having some fun while my kids were on Spring Break. Lots of things going on, but I’ve still found the time to poke around the internet and find some things that help refill my creative well. I need lots of wood to keep the writing fire going! Here are some of the things that have caught my attention lately.

365 docobites – 365 documentaries in 365 days. Strangers’ short and shorter stories. Two film makers are traveling around the world, producing mini documentaries featuring interesting people they meet. The link takes you to the docobite about the Tandem Poetry writers, which is my favorite video so far.

Mindfulness Meditation: 8 Quick Exercises That Easily Fit Into Your Day – Getting your mind to slow down is a wonderful thing. These meditations aren’t the kind where you sit cross-legged and chant for an hour. Nope. These are easy ways to give your brain, which is thinking about 1,001 things, a break.

Karen Russell Donates Her Sleep – An interview with author Karen Russell where she talks about her new novella, Sleep Donation. I love seeing authors excited about shorter forms of fiction. Make sure to check out the website that accompanies the novella. What a fabulous way to give readers experiences beyond just reading the words in a book.

Have you found anything lately that stoked your creativity?

 April 8, 2014  Posted by  Inspiration Tags: , ,  1 Response »
Feb 062014
 

Most of my recent writing has had a definite foodie theme. When fictional characters cook they need fictional kitchens to cook in. So I spend quite a bit of time mentally planning out kitchens for my stories. I have to say, I wish I had the kitchen in the culinary mystery I am currently working on. It’s the big, bright and functional cooking space of my dreams. If I can’t have it, I may as well write about it, right?

All photos by Fawn Deviney for Boston magazine

There is always Pinterest for inspiration, but recently I found a magazine column that made me go “ooh”. Boston Magazine has a column written by Leah Mennies called Kitchen Spy. As you can imagine from the Spy moniker, the posts take a peek into kitchens, poking around refrigerators, pantries and bookshelves. These aren’t spotless, model home kitchens, though. The column lets you look into the kitchens of Boston area chefs.

As expected, chefs have some interesting culinary toys and pantry items. There are photos of everything from antique meat grinders to cheese boxes and muscat jelly. The accompanying interview always has explanations of many of the photographed items and gives a nice glimpse into the life of a chef. I can’t wait to see more entries in this magazine column. Each installment is a luscious bit of culinary eye candy.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.

Sep 032013
 

This is how most dogs search for minnows and other underwater treasures.

This is how Cooper does it.

I always call Cooper my writing companion. Now I’m taking life cues from him. Sometimes you need to take a different approach.

Summer brought about the usual sporadic blogging and social media contact that I’ve come to expect from the season. I’m a mom and a writer, but the scale tips heavily toward the mom side when the kids are home 24/7, as it should. I didn’t write a lot of new material, but I read many books on writing with subjects ranging from how to plot a novel to handling negative reviews. As often happens, all of the new knowledge bits collided and mingled to form something different and exciting.

Today was the first day of school for my kids. My outlook is shiny and new too, just like the school year. I’m going to take Cooper’s lead and do things differently. How can you know what works best if you don’t try new things? Have you decided to try anything new recently?

 September 3, 2013  Posted by  Cooper, General, Writing Life Tags: ,  8 Responses »
Aug 202013
 

It’s almost that glorious time when my kids go back to school and I can get back to a writing schedule. I have been writing over the summer, but in the expected bits and spurts that come from having a house full of people and no schedules. Word counts haven’t been high, but my creative well is full. I’ve met interesting people, observed some unusual physical characteristics and experienced several spectacular storms. Lots of material is rattling around in my brain, waiting to be reincarnated in a story.

To prepare for the writing rush I always experience when my kids return to school, I’m reading. Topping off those creative reserves and trying to make my life a little easier. Some of the books are new to me, while others I have read before and found them very inspiring. If you’re interested, here are my current “night stand” books. Click on the covers to be taken to Amazon to learn more about each book.


The Care and Feeding Of The Girls In The Basement by Barbara Samuel. Barbara is one of my favorite authors. In this book she talks about life as a writer and gives advice to writers based on her experience.


The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister. This is the follow up to one of my favorite books of 2010, The School of Essential Ingredients. The book is a wonderful example of culinary fiction with an intriguing cast of characters.


Fix, Freeze, Feast by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik. I can’t count the number of times I’ve written all day and realized when I was picking the kids up from school that I had no idea what I wanted to make for dinner. I’m hoping to have at least a few meals stashed in my freezer by using this book. That should make life easier!

Aug 072013
 

A very common piece of advice for writers is: Write what you know. Apparently the writing muses are telling me to write about storms. Last month we had a nasty storm pass through that left our yard filled with broken branches, our neighbors’ tree uprooted, the electricity out and similar damage to many other houses in the area.

Last night a line of thunderstorms passed through and the tree in our backyard got struck by lightning!

Around 5:30 a.m. the whole house lit up with white light from the strike while it sounded like something had exploded in the back yard. Of course our lights went out, then came back on. Well, some of them came back on. It took an electrician quite a few hours to sort that out. My family and I are all fine, but all of our phones and the garage door opener are toast.

The tree roots went underneath our dog kennel (Cooper was safely inside!). As you can see, one of the cement paver bricks that make up the kennel floor exploded with chunks ending up at least 20 feet away. There are bits of bark that exploded from the tree all over the yard too. The power from that one bolt of lightning was amazingly scary. So if you hear a thunderstorm approaching please take cover – and not under a tree!

 August 7, 2013  Posted by  General, Updates Tags: ,  6 Responses »
Jul 292013
 

Last night was the premier of the Food Court Wars episode, on The Food Network, that was filmed in my hometown of Midland, Michigan. For those of you who have never seen the show, each week two teams battle to win a one-year lease for a restaurant space in a mall food court. Of course there are challenges, along with coaching sessions from host Tyler Florence. In the end, the teams open up their concept restaurants in the food court for a day. Whoever makes the most money wins the episode and the coveted lease.

I knew from Facebook posts by a local restaurant that the show was coming to the Midland Mall, but I didn’t realize exactly when. So unfortunately I didn’t make it to the mall on the days the contestants were competing. When the first episode of Food Court Wars aired the Midland Farmer’s Market began posting on Facebook that one of their vendors would be competing on the Midland Mall episode. That vendor was Melania Paser (in the blue skirt above) from The Pie’d Piper. I’ve been buying her delicious pies, treats and hot pepper jelly at local farmer’s markets for several years. I love stopping to talk with her and to see what kind of interesting pie flavors she’s offering like Fuzzy Navel or BlueBarb (blueberry/rhubarb). My husband prefers her spicy pie creations like apple with Red Hots candy and a mixed berry spiced with chile peppers. The tangy, sweet and spicy pepper jelly she offers is fabulous on sandwiches, especially BLTs. By the way, if you watched the show, the Chicken Shawarma prepared without the time constraints and pressure of the show is fabulous and very tasty.

The very first time I met Melania she was wearing a brightly colored dress and a headband with a tiny, Pied Piper style hat on it. As a writer I love observing people, collecting in my mind bits of interesting personalities and physical traits to use as inspiration for my writing. That little hat caught the attention of my writer side, but her warm personality is one of the reasons going to the farmer’s market is so much fun for me. I hope the brush with Food Network fame gives her career a huge boost!

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.

Jul 022013
 

Raise your hand if you’re an Anthony Bourdain fan. If I am channel surfing on the television, it’s a pretty sure bet that I’ll stop on one of his shows if I spot it. No Reservations is his longest running series, but there is also The Layover and now Parts Unknown. By chance I ran across Parts Unknown a few weeks ago and I was instantly hooked. Classic, tell-it-like-it-really-is Bourdain, without all of the explicit language beeps on The Travel Channel shows.

You see, I find Mr. Bourdain inspiring. Yes, he is the poster child of bad boys, handsomely gaunt with a tumultuous past and acerbic wit. I’m sure many fellow writers have used him as inspiration for a character. The thing that draws me to his TV shows, though, is the other people. He has conversations with chefs and that is the key. He interacts. His literary background is apparent in every episode. He doesn’t dance on the pretty surface. He provides backstory and social commentary.

How many shows have you watched that are the equivalent of chef eye candy? The chef is introduced, maybe a few words are said about his/her background and then the show moves on to preparing recipes. Sure, as a writer you can pick up physical details for characters, maybe find some inspiration for recipes if you write books that include recipes like I do. But appearance is only part of a literary character. I actually tend to be quite vague about character descriptions, preferring to let the reader “do the work” and produce their own, unique version of my character in their minds. Bourdain’s shows are a mine of character personality traits. The eccentric chef who puts his restaurant in a hard to reach spot, so only the diners who really want to eat his food come. The community activist who trains impoverished youths to work in restaurants. The matriarch living in a remote village who pulls together a meal from the resources outside her door. Those are the types of stories I like to interweave into my own fictional stories.

Are you a Bourdain fan? What do you find appealing, or unappealing, about him?

Jun 242013
 

Sometimes it feels like the universe is working against you and sometimes the universe hands you a big, juicy helping of creative inspiration.

For the last two weeks I’ve felt like the universe has had a vendetta against my writing. So. Many. Distractions. This morning, the beginning of a new week, I woke up and realized I’ve actually been filling my creative “well” with images and stories that I can draw from when I write.

The man with symmetrical, matching tattoos on his forearms and calves interspersed with more random tattoos. What is the significance of the matching ones? The older woman who spends hours sitting on a towel on the end of the dock, whether it’s cold and windy or unbearably hot and sunny. Does the sun, the water or something else draw her out every day? Nik Wallenda walking on the “skywire” across the Grand Canyon. Is there some kind of genetic mutation that has driven seven generations of his family to risk their lives walking on tightropes? Spotting the first fireflies of summer cavorting outside my bedroom window last night. How amazing is it that a mere bug can produce light from within its body? Having a cherry tree filled with a bumper crop over the weekend and waking this morning to find all of the cherries gone. How many birds and squirrels did it take to eat all of that fruit so quickly?

Those are just some of the things that have landed in my mind over the last few weeks. Which ones will appear in future stories and which ones will ripen and turn into something new? I’m not sure, but that’s all part of the fun of being creative, isn’t it?

Have you found anything that has recharged your creativity recently?

May 202013
 

Early Saturday morning my husband and I took off for a little farmer’s market adventure. While we have perfectly nice markets in our area, they are of the small town variety. What I mean is, they are set up in parks or parking lots, with no permanent structures to house things like refrigerators or restaurant equipment. Farmer’s markets with buildings, especially in larger, more urban areas, are just different.

So, our first stop was the Oakland County Market in Waterford (metro Detroit). While my husband has been near the market when it wasn’t in operation, neither one of us have ever been there on a Saturday morning. I didn’t expect much, other than plants, since asparagus and rhubarb is about the only thing in season right now in Michigan. Well, there were a LOT of plants, as well as a lot of people. We decided to walk from a parking lot up the road since the main lot was gridlocked. The plant vendors outside offered some fascinating varieties of ornamental and edible plants, but I really started enjoying myself when we made our way into the building. First stop was a booth that had some luscious looking baked goods. My husband was drawn to a Creole Sweet Potato Bread. We chatted with the baker about it – a cinnamon streusel swirled through it, lightly spiced bread with a touch of paprika, an orange maple glaze – and decided to buy a loaf while we were munching on a sample of chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. As my husband paid I noticed a sign propped on the table. The woman had won one of the Cupcake Wars episodes on the Food Network! The bread was wonderful and I was so excited to meet April from The Cakeria.

At that market I also bought some fabulous, homemade baba ghanoush, a Give and Grow Mushrooms “log”, and a tasty cranberry scone. On the way out my husband and I stopped at Ned’s TravelBurger – voted the best food truck of 2013 by The Detroit Free Press. I opted for the sausage breakfast sandwich while my hubby figured it was late enough to order the Baja TravelTurkey. These burgers were so unique. Have you ever had an oblong shaped burger, served in a brioche hotdog bun? Well, I have now. . . and it was delicious!

 

Then we headed north and stopped at the Flint Farmer’s Market. This market is not in the nicest part of town, but it was packed with people too and had a nice variety of vendors. The building had everything from a meat market, to a cheese shop and mini bookstore. There we purchased freshly made tortilla chips and pico de gallo along with pitas topped with za’atar that were still warm from the oven (to go with the baba ghanoush). Outside there was a band playing, artists and even a man selling refurbished travel chests out of a vintage trailer. The scent of BBQ filled the air from two BBQ booths and the grill outside the Mexican taqueria.

Every vendor we chatted with was cheerful, some were rather eccentric and all were fascinating to me as a writer. You see, my third women’s fiction series will feature people who are vendors in a farmer’s market. So not only did I have a wonderful morning with my husband, I also came back with some inspiration for an interesting cast of characters.

Have you ever met someone at a farmer’s market who would be a great fictional character?

 

 May 20, 2013  Posted by  Inspiration Tags: ,  6 Responses »