Episode 17: Write My Story


In honor of it being November and many friends (and oodles of strangers) participating in NaNoWriMo I thought it was time we did a more-or-less wordless podcast. With the exception of the opening song and my bits of talking, the majority of this episode is purely instrumental, a perfect backdrop for writing, editing, or doing other things that require more concentration and less someone else’s words in your ears!

In this episode:

Write My Story—Air 5
There’s a Spy in My Martini—David Parker
Rough Sax—Mariners Lament
Lil’ Ray of Bossa—Terri England
Tidalwave—Jeff Bosset
Fire and Ice—John Gilliat
The Apes Party-Ape Surfin After Lunch
More Than Heaven—Ken Kurland
Mysteria—Rick Harris
Rainy Wedding—Dr Sounds
The Spiritual Subplot (Of A Tragic Action-Packed Romantic Comedy)—Shams
Love’s Journey—Donovan Johnson

And that’s us for another episode. We’ll be back in another couple of weeks with more great music to create to!

The Next Stop on the Florida Writers Blog Tour

Creative Business

I don’t remember, now, if Sandi Hutcheson of LooksGreatNaked.com (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.

Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

64 Arts

I’ve heard it’s a very good place to start…

Now that I’ve gotten that stuck in everyone’s head, how about we move on to our topic, today:

32 The art of telling stories

Do you consider yourself a good storyteller?

As bloggers, we tell stories with each post. Simply put, a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. Some masterful storytellers can tell a story by starting at the end and working their way back–but that takes a tremendous amount of skill.

Me, I can usually find a pretty good beginning (certainly better than the old dark-and-stormy-night trope), get in all the necessary details for the middle but by the end, I’m usually wrapping things up abruptly. I need to work on my endings.

This is probably why I found the comics for the cookbook more difficult to write and execute compared to my webcomics that can go on as long as they need to.

Even still, comics need a beginning and an end. The middle is fuzzy ground in humor, where the important parts are the set-up and the punchline. Still, a middle can draw out the anticipation a bit, so to overlook it would be doing yourself and your readers a disservice.

When working on longer stories–novel length, for instance–the best advice I’ve ever read was back in my NaNoWriMo days. If you ever get stuck, just ask yourself (or your character): and then what happened?

A fellow blogger that serializes her own stories, Miranda of A Duck in Her Pond, she could probably teach us all a thing or three about writing whimsical stories that keep us, the readers, asking just that question.

But now I have a question for you:

Who do you read when you want a really great story?


64 Arts

I find it incredibly synchronistic that the next art is what it is:

31: Bookbinding

For those who don’t know, I’m trying to wrap up the 2+ year project that is my comic book cookbook for gamers: What to Feed Your Raiding Party. Unfortunately I’m not quite to the binding stage of things, so today’s post is going to be brief so that I can get back to getting there.

As of this weekend I’d laid out the first 119 pages. That sounds like a lot, right? It is, but I think we’re going to hit or pass 250 because I’m barely through the recipes of Chapter 2 (of 5), so there’s still a ways to go.

On the subject of binding, though, I’ve always known how ‘Raiding Party would be bound and it has to do with the greater part of user experience.

Know what I hate? Having to prop open a cookbook to cook from it. Large, hard-cover books will usually stay open, at least after a few uses, but for soft-cover perfect bound books you pretty much have to break the spine (and risk pages falling out) to get it to stay open. Thing is, those soft-cover books are relatively inexpensive to produce (compared to hard-cover) and while still looking fairly professional.

I guess that’s why CreateSpace (the self-publishing arm of Amazon.com) only does soft-cover, perfect bound books.

You know those Jr League and church fundraiser cookbooks? Say what you will for their “professionalism” or lack thereof but they open flat and stay that way while I’m cooking.

Which is why the first printing of What to Feed Your Raiding Party will feature that same sort of comb binding to enable the book to lay flat without a spine to crack or pages to weight down. After that, once I’ve moved on to print-on-demand fulfillment, I’ll be going with Lulu.com because they offer a spiral-binding option that is still surprisingly affordable.

True, my books won’t be as easily available through Amazon as if I went with CreateSpace, but the user experience goes far beyond the sale.

Have you ever thought about the books you read and use and how they’re made? Are there any changes you would make to your favorite books to make them more user-friendly?

Random Appetites: Literary Libations


This is the first November in a number of years where I am not struggling for word count each evening or spending every Saturday at one local Library or another hosting write-ins, otherwise known as participating in (and acting as Municipal Liaison for) NaNoWriMo. I must say, the freedom is glorious.

Granted, I haven’t abandoned my literary pursuits, I’ve merely refined them a bit. But I feel tremendous sympathy for those who _are_ participating this year, which brings us to today’s Random Appetites.

It is a long-standing stereotype that writers are also drinkers: the more “important” the work, the more heavy the drink. Or so it would seem. I actually avoid alcohol if I’m trying to get something done, but will occasionally imbibe when a deadline is met.

One of my favorite books on writers and cocktails (and I think I’ve linked to it before) is Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers. Including quotes, brief biographies, excerpts and recipes it really is a must for the enthusiast of both writers and mixologists.

Speaking of writers, those who know me will not be surprised to find that I adore what I know of Dorothy Parker, she of the razor sharp wit and a healthy dose of snark. My fondness for her work grew when I found this little gem:

I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.

Doesn’t that sound like the perfect quote for me?
For more writing and drinking mixtures, check out this recent posts at Book Examiner: Pairing books with cocktails and happy writing, reading and imbibing!