Sunday, July 20, 2014

When Five Years Doesn't Seem So Very Long After All

In the past five years, I've written four books. I've had some low periods (really low periods) when I thought this day would never come. But as this dream unfolds, I am grateful for the many family members and friends who always maintained that it wasn't "if," it was "when."

So, here it is... One very persistent story idea that refused to leave me in peace. One agent and her assistant who took a chance on a dark, yet hopeful, story. One enthusiastic editor who convinced her editorial board that the book needed to be published. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Score: Universe 1, Mandy 0

Over the last several months, I struggled with two health issues in addition to, you know, LIFE. All along I had a conversation with the Universe that went something like this:

UNIVERSE:  Slow down.
ME: Too busy.
UNIVERSE: I mean it. Slow down.
ME: Uh-uh. Too much work and stuff…you know, important stuff.
UNIVERSE: You’ll regret it later.
ME: Whatever! Shut up and leave me alone!

So, I continued with work and more work. Found an agent and signed with her. Finished up edits to the YA book that hooked said agent. Started writing next book. Struggled with (ignored) health issues while working, working, working.

Finally, my bum shoulder (health issue #1) screamed out to be heard. After physical therapy, etc., the surgeon suggested ‘minor’ surgery to shave off a bit of acromion bone to stop the impingement. Minor surgery ended up being anything but. I woke up in recovery to find they’d clipped off part of my bicep and reattached the bicep to bone. Arm has been in sling for five weeks now, and was almost completely immobile the first four of those weeks.  I still have weeks of physical therapy to regain function.

In fact, most of this post is being typed with my left hand (non-dominant) only.

These past few weeks have been some of the hardest in my life. The Universe told me to slow down.  I’m not only slowed down, I’m at a standstill. And it’s uncomfortable. But probably the biggest blessing in my life. I have had unprecedented amounts of time to re-prioritize, to think through what I really want from life and work. One thing has really stood out: because I haven’t been able to type, I haven’t been able to work on my book. And I miss writing. A lot. And I regret all those months I whined about writer’s block and not having time, etc. I had time. I just didn’t take advantage of it.

Thank you, Dr. Furry… for removing part of my bicep and replacing it with perspective.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Starving for Details in a Novel or Movie

I’m a foodie – I love to cook, bake and eat; I collect cookbooks and leaf through them for fun; I visit more often than most websites.

As a reader and a writer, I find it fascinating when food is central to the plot. Is food plentiful or not, and why? Do meals reflect the state or region? Do the foods featured give us an idea of the character’s upbringing? Are meals used as a device to bring characters together?

I just finished reading “The Dinner” by Herman Koch. The entire book takes place at a restaurant over the course of a meal. Two brothers and their wives are the diners. The restaurant is quite posh and this provides tension, as one brother is wealthy and the other is not. I love how the book is segmented by courses, from aperitif to digestif. Of course, this is all background to a truly horrific story involving the couples’ sons but food is a central character in my mind.

Food plays a major role in every book I write. In FACING FIRE, the 16-year-old protagonist loses her sense of taste and smell because of a traumatic event in childhood. For her, food is about texture and temperature only. Eating is a chore instead of a delight. It affects her health and her relationships.

In the book I’m writing now, THE LAST SUPPER, the protagonist is a cook in a Louisiana prison in the 1950s. She’s obsessed with creating the perfect last meals for death row inmates. The planning and preparation of these meals helps her avoid the trauma of her father’s death and the execution of his murderer.  This same character is also worried that she relies too much on her senses of taste and smell, and that her other senses will suffer if she doesn’t exercise them more.

When there is no mention of food (or meals or hunger) in a book or movie, I find it quite odd. Food is such an important part of the human experience.

Do you have a favorite book or movie where food is a leading character or where food is noticeably absent?