Sunday, August 31, 2014

Celebrating in August with Watermelon

We have come to the end of another great summer vacation. Like most moms, I feel like I need my own little vacation right now. But it has been fun.

This week was my birthday. Because I have two boys on gluten-free diets, I usually end up making my own "cake." I use the term cake loosely because most times I don't feel like baking a real cake for my birthday. This year, I made a cake from a watermelon. I've seen the idea floating around on Pinterest and Facebook, so I adapted it for my own.

My recipe calls for a large watermelon, raspberries, pineapple, and strawberries.  I didn't frost it like I've seen others do. I just cut a big cylinder out of watermelon and decorated with fruit, sometimes using toothpicks. You can find other watermelon cake designs here on Pinterest.

This month, I joined a new critique group. I now have three author friends who meet with me every week on oovoo, which is sort of like skype. It's great to have a little deadline every week to keep me going. It's also great to have people telling me how I can improve during the early stages of my work.

Speaking of my work, I am well into my next project. People often ask me if I write an outline or just write by the seat of my pants. I do a little of both. I outline, but I change my outline as I write.  This is what my current posterboard outline looks like:

This time around, I'm using Blake Snyder's outlining method that's in his book Save the Cat. We'll see how it works out. Coincidentally, my outline is in watermelon colors. Did I mention that I love watermelon?

As you can see, I still have a few plot points to fill in on the outline, but I am well on my way.

It takes me a good 100 pages of writing until I start to get into a new book. I'm only about 65 pages in right now, so I still miss Elly and Maren from the last book. No wonder so many authors write series.

If you'd like to know more about the crazy events in my life, you can visit me on Facebook. I'd love to hear what's going on in your life too.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Based on a True Story

Sometimes people ask me how much of what I've written in a novel has really happened to me. That's a hard question to answer. A lot of the things in my novels have happened to me. They just didn't happen in the same way. For example, in Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale, one character works as a programmer at a library software company. I also worked at a library software company, but I worked as a technical writer. There are a lot of other examples like that in the book.

Like my characters, I have an autistic sister. I know what it's like to handle an outburst in a public place. On the other hand, my sister's disabilities are much greater than Grace's. My emotions are the same as my characters' emotions regarding their sister; the details are different.

The Prigel Family Creamery (photo by Baltimore Sun)

For the most part, the places in the novel are all real places. Cunningham Falls, Muir Woods, the Kennedy Center, and The Shamrock exist outside my novel. You can visit them yourself. The dairy store is based on the Prigel Family Creamery, a little ice cream shop I visited once in Maryland. The Cuban restaurant is based on one I used to frequent in Provo, Utah. I don't think it exists anymore. I invented the Silver Linings shop in my head, but I have been to shops like that around Sonoma County, California.

The Lake near Cunningham Falls

Cunningham Falls

I also share a lot of hobbies with my characters. Like Elly, I love to tap dance and take things apart. Like Grace, I enjoy musicals. And like Maren, I have studied art history.

Chapter 42 of Sense is probably one of the most autobiographical things I've ever put in my novels. It didn't happen to me for the same reasons it did for Maren, but we both ended up in the same place, so I wrote much of the chapter from my personal memories.

I have never had poison ivy, but conveniently my son has had two very severe cases--one of them during edits for this book. Such a helpful boy!

Then there were things I made up. You'll have to guess what those were.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream

I have a tradition of sharing a recipe from my books when each one comes out, and today, I am sharing a recipe from Sense and Sensibility: A Latter-day Tale, where some of the characters work at an ice cream shop.

We make homemade ice cream every summer on July 24th. This is my favorite recipe that we invented one day when my husband bought the wrong ingredients. We make it in a 4 quart electric ice cream freezer.

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream

Mix together:

4 cups milk
1 quart half and half
2 3 1/2 oz. packages vanilla instant pudding mix
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar (optional)
1 package peppermint patties, chopped or torn into small pieces

Freeze according to ice cream freezer directions.

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