The Next Stop on the Florida Writers Blog Tour

Creative Business

I don’t remember, now, if Sandi Hutcheson of (and the novel of the same name) found me first or I her, but I know we bonded over cocktails and Limoncello on my cocktail blog, Sips & Shots. I love reading the exploits of her dachsunds, Laverne and Shirley, and her three-legged Australian Shepherd, Pancho, as well as her carefully constructed observations on life that she shares on her blog. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, she’s happily settled her toes in the sand of beautiful St. Augustine, Florida, and is working on a new novel.

Sandi was kind enough to tag me for the blog tour.

Growing up I dreamed of telling stories. Stories that people wanted to hear, needed to hear, and wanted to share. I didn’t dream of being famous, I just dreamt of being heard.

Of course that was back before CD players were commonplace, much less the Internet as we know it, and now anyone can stake their claim to a few bits of server space and someone’s bound to hear you. Mission accomplished? Almost.

Between then and now I learned how wonderful it feels to share not just the entertaining bits, but to actually serve a purpose and give something away that they could use to better their own day to day lives. Which is why, when I wrote my cookbook, What to Feed Your Raiding Party, I was adamant that it couldn’t just be yet another cookbook on the shelf, but something targeted, something useful, and I feel like each I’m succeeding at that mission in my own small way.

But books are a little like potato chips: you can’t have just one.

I can’t speak for all authors, of course, but seeing the enjoyment my little cookbook brings to a new fan, and seeing what they make from the book on our community forum, is a heady thing. As are the occasional hugs and high-fives I’ve gotten from people at conventions when I introduce them to my work. And I fully admit: I’m greedy. I want more of that. So I’m certainly not stopping at just one book.

1. What am I working on?

In addition to the first sequel to Raiding Party, fans of my cocktails might be interested to know that I’m working on a printed collection of the “50 Shots of America” series with updated photos, illustrations, and more. I also have a novel banging around the back of my desk that can’t fully make up its mind if it wants to be strictly prose, a graphic novel, or something in between. Maybe one of these days it’ll tell me, huh?

2. How does my work differ from other of its genre?

My cookbook isn’t just a collection of recipes, it includes 5 comic “books” and a game system as an incentive to reluctant cooks. While there are many comic book or illustrated cookbooks on the market, and a smaller number but widely varied gaming cookbooks, my book is the first to combine it all, much less include a leveling system, so it’s a bit like I’ve forged my own path and I’m doing my damnedest to lead others down it, pied piper-ish though it may be.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because a story is no good if we can’t share it. In the case of cooking, the story is how much better off we are by putting our own hands into the food we eat, the fuel we provide our body to work with. It’s about making what some see as a chore into something fun and sharing skills that have practical value. Even in a zombie apocalypse, someone still needs to be able to cook!

The other stuff: the blog posts, the cocktails, the stories that have yet to be seen? They’re about brightening a person’s day. I don’t want to be so bold as to consider myself a teacher or inspirational–there’s a lot of weight to those words–but I do consider myself an encourager, a cheerleader, and a creative enabler. If we can access that creative side of ourselves a little bit each day it gets easier and easier to find it and when we’re being creative, in touch with our muse, often the daily grind doesn’t seem so bad.

4. How does my writing process work?

It all starts with an idea, of course, but usually I work best with a theme and a title. A good title helps me stay organized and on-track. For instance, I had the name of the cookbook written down two years before I started any real work on the book (a 2-year incubation period is pretty standard for me). Those two years were spent pondering and researching a few things here and there. I’d love to say I work in an orderly, linear fashion when putting a book together but really I’m all over the place. I have notes (index cards and stick notes) everywhere, pages of reference sheets, worksheets I create for myself (excellent for the different steps to get the recipes ready for formatting), binders full of sketches.

You’ll notice all of that is physical: while I love technology and computers, when I’m in the working stages of a project I like being able to put my hands on each piece and manually shuffle them around. Maybe when the Minority Report-esque holographic touch screens become standard for home use I’ll do away with my Post-Its and index cards, but for now they work for me. I also keep a notebook with me at all times for snippet jotting and so on.

I spent 2 1/2 years writing Raiding Party. Approximately 6 months of that was recipe development, and a year and a  half was drawing the comics, though they overlapped a bit and there was a health dose of procrastination thrown in at times. Only the two months at the end that were spent knee-deep in spreadsheets and page design were the concentrated, linear effort that I wish I could harness for the rest of the process.

I do the majority of my book selling at conventions where the gamers and comics fans congregate. While this method has some detractors (distinct hills and valleys in sales, the cost of travel), one of the best parts–aside from meeting buyers face-to-face–is meeting the other writers and artists at the shows. We spend a good amount of time behind our tables and it’s quite common to get chatty with your neighbors.

At ALT-Con Tallahassee this April I was fortunate to be neighbors with the lovely and vivacious Evelyn Rainey, who I’m tagging as the next stop on this tour. She is a teacher, writer, and bellydancer–among many other things–and she’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, comfort and encouragement just radiate from her being. Her first novel, Minna Pegeen, was published in 2011, followed by Bedina’s War, and Perky’s Books & Gifts, in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Her latest, The Island Remains, is due out this summer.

Not Even a Guilty Pleasure

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

This was originally written over a year ago, but these comments by Lena Dunham are still making the rounds in women’s lit circles. I still think the thoughts her comments spurred, however, are still important to consider.

While listening to the Fresh Air Weekend podcast, Terry Gross introduces the topic of chick lit/chick flicks as a contrast to Lena Dunham‘s main character in ‘Girls’ and to the creator herself. Dunham, while allowing that she figured writers wouldn’t appreciate such a “distillation of their thesis” of their work, and catching herself before she lambasted all chick-flicks with a pink poster, said

“It isn’t even fun to me in a guilty pleasure way…because I don’t see any of myself in it, because none of my, just none of my actions…have ever sort of been motored by the search for a husband, or wondering if I was going to have a family some day, or wanting to live in a really great house, or thinking it would be really great to have a diamond. . .There’s a kind of female character that doesn’t make sense to me.”

–Lena Dunham, on Fresh Air, 5/7/12

Wow, really? I fully admit that I had a knee-jerk reaction that bordered on offended. But it only lasted a second or three before I started to wonder about my specific reaction and the larger concept of relating–to people and ideas. Specifically those of the happily-ever-after sort.

As a genre, chick lit doesn’t get a lot of love from a lot of critics. And, yet, I find it hard to believe the books would have done so well and that people would still buy and read them if there wasn’t something relatable about the characters. After all, I read them from time to time, even when I was in my never-gonna-get-married-again phase. A phase that began before my second marriage ended and lasted through the first couple of years of my relationship with Mr. Road Trip.

You know, the guy who gave me a ring and I’m happily marrying in 535 days less than 6 months?

So… yeah. About the “I don’t see any of myself in it,” I think that maybe she’s not trying. Because it’s not necessarily about the person or the object–the carrot and the end of the string–it’s about the journey, the impetus. It’s about the wanting, that search in general, and anyone who cannot relate on that level, I kinda feel sorry for.

Even in my anti-marriage frame of mind, I still believed that there’s something somewhat pure about the dream of happily ever after. It’s one of those ideals that never goes out of style–I mean, really, who doesn’t want to find their own happiness at some point? Do people really go around looking for ways to ensure they are miserable?

Armchair psychology about self-destructive behaviors and self-sabotage notwithstanding.

It’s not about liking everything. Opinions are awesome, everyone’s got ’em, and there are plenty of things I don’t necessarily like, entertainment-wise (from the clips I’ve heard from the interview, for instance, ‘Girls’ doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, and that’s okay–I’m sure the show will do just fine without me watching it). But I can at least step outside myself, my small pocket of the world, and appreciate the larger concepts and relate that way.

Try to see beyond the end of your nose.

This blocking out of a style or idea is common in everything–it’s the downside to the natural pigeon-holing we do as human beings–even wedding-planning. Sure, it’s fun to snarkily riff on Bridezillas or My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, but I hope each bride recognizes that what drives those brides and grooms to what we see as a tire-squeal around the bend is the same thing that makes us contemplate DIY wedding flowers, punch rounded corners into every piece of wedding stationery, or the half-dozen other things we do in the name of bringing our idea and vision of our wedding day to life.

And here I am, come full circle. I went from the girl who dreamed about being married with all the trappings to a woman who wanted nothing to do with the institution ever again to the woman who’s happily engaged with her own, fledgling wedding blog. Pink background and all.

If you’re a regular reader of wedding blogs, chances are good you have no problem with the “search for the husband” idea. But if you ever did, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. And if not: share you’re favorite chick-lit read–I’m always looking for new books to add to my list!