Month: January 2016

Cooking Up a Book Takes Perseverance

Writing a book calls for a recipe of careful planning mixed with blood, sweat and tears. And don’t forget to stir in confidence, persistence and stubbornness.

And just when you start to get excited, thinking you are onto something, someone tells you the batter looks kind of funny. Why is it that weird orange color? There are no oranges in this recipe!

So you mix and stir and mix some more. This time the recipe will be perfect…won’t it?

Fingers crossed
On a wish and a prayer, you pop the doughy mass in the oven (which in this case takes the form of an email to an editor or agent you think might have interest) and then there’s the inevitable wait, wait, wait and wait some more while it bakes.

What will the finished product look like? A lopsided mess? Or will it, perhaps, take shape and form while it’s baking, rising to the perfection you know in your heart it can achieve?

But even if it looks good, what about the taste? What will the critics think?

And then self-doubt moves in. “What do you know?” the little voice says. “You didn’t go to culinary school. Your degree is in marketing. You don’t know how to cook. In fact, you have no business wearing an apron or being in the kitchen! Just because you made one pie years ago, which your mother and father said was delicious, doesn’t qualify you as a chef. And yes, I know your friends and coworkers all rave about your cooking, but they have no professional experience in the kitchen.

What will it be this time?

What will it be this time?

Looking for love
Still you hope and pray someone, anyone will give you a word of encouragement. Just enough to keep you going another week or day or minute. But the words you crave are few and far between because…well..because everyone else is dreaming up their own recipe and waiting for it to come out of the oven like you.

Ding! The oven timer (and believe me, my email ping, indicating an agent, editor or contest coordinator has responded to a submission, sounds just like my oven timer) has rung. What will it be this time? With shaky hands you open the over door and peer inside, pull the pan out and look it over with a critical eye. Looks and smells okay to you. The dough has risen. One taster even remarks on that. But most of the others agree it wasn’t ready to come out of the oven yet. You should have added extra flour or a bit more sugar.

With heavy heart, you tweak the recipe, which takes weeks and months until you don’t want to fiddle with it anymore. Because the more you fiddle, the more you’re afraid you’ll end up ruining the inspiration for it, which got you excited about concocting the darn thing in the first place.

But finally, finally, it’s perfect and ready to go back in the oven.

You wipe a sweaty hand across your brow and with churning stomach and a dollop of courage, reach for the over door again.

This time, you tell yourself. This time’s a real winner. I just know it.

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Hold the Coffee, Please!

Somewhere around third or fourth grade I discovered I didn’t like coffee. My mother, who made us breakfast every morning before the school bus arrived, had a creative brainstorm. Instead of serving our usual hot chocolate, she poured coffee-cocoa into our cups. Of course, she didn’t tell my sister or I, so one large mouthful had us racing to spit it into the kitchen sink. From that moment on, I couldn’t stomach the stuff. Still can’t. Neither can my sister. (Or for that matter, my husband. So maybe it’s not the coffee-cocoa. Hmm.)

Tea and me
Tea, on the other hand, had me at hello.

There’s nothing like a warm cup of hot water steeping with my favorite cinnamon or vanilla tea (I prefer Bigelow, and no, they didn’t pay me for the free advertisement:), a couple of Stevia’s added (no payment there, either) and a bit of honey.

There’s only one flavor of tea I don’t like: peppermint, because c’mon, who wants to drink toothpaste?

My tea kettle and extra large tea mug waiting to be filled.

My tea kettle and extra large tea mug waiting to be filled.

As a child, tea was a staple at every meal in our house. The kettle was always brewing, and there was usually at least one used teabag, wound around a spoon, squeezed dry, when I did the dishes.

My first cup was none other than Lipton, sweetened with at least two lumps of sugar and served as sun tea in the summer. I drank it for years and never thought to try a different brand or flavor.

And then I left for college and went through a dry spell. Tea was not as cool as coffee and didn’t go as well with a cigarette either.

Chai tea love
But college was where I tried a chai tea latte for the first time. “It’s what they drink in India in place of hot chocolate,” the friend who introduced me to the brew said. After my first sip, I was gone, lost in a land of ginger and cardamom, two of the most prominent flavors, along with steamed milk. Yum.

One of my early jobs after graduation saw me enjoying copious amounts of green tea, which is said to contain antioxidants. I must confess my reasons for drinking it had less to do with its medicinal effects and more to do with budget, as it was offered free at the restaurant where I ate lunch daily.

Tea with sisters
There were tea parties over the years for showers or special occasions, and I’ve sat in dozens of tea rooms. One of my first managers took her department of all women to the Ritz as a holiday gift. That might be one of the first times I tried and overdosed on brewed tea. Although it takes a few minutes longer to make and is messier to clean up afterwards, brewed loose tea leaves provide exceptional flavor.

In grad school, I met an exotic, new friend from Russia. During study sessions at her house, she brewed loose tea from China. It might be my imagination, but I seemed to think clearer after a pot.

I invested in a special teapot to brew my loose tea after that.

Tea for two
And then I was pregnant and spent my time carrying a barf bag and holding my nose. That’s when I discovered vanilla tea or it discovered me. I don’t remember how I added vanilla to my favs, but it still tops the list today.

They say your body chemistry changes every ten years. I don’t know if that’s true or it’s just my taste buds, but right around forty I suddenly needed to kick it up a notch. Cinnamon, with its spicy, tongue-stinging flavor quickly moved up the top ten list becoming numero uno.

A friend recently made tea brewed from ginger root. She sliced a piece of fresh ginger and boiled it in a pot. She served it with honey and I must admit, I didn’t miss my normal two packets of Stevia.

I’m not alone in my love of tea. It’s the most popular drink the world over. As a writer, it pairs exceptionally well. Stephen King’s a tea drinker. So was Jane Austen and just about every other English writer. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

My sentiments exactly.

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Does an ‘M’ on Your Palm Mean Riches?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a knack for the mysterious–astrology, handwriting, dream interpretation, hypnosis, ghosts, tarot reading, prophecy and so on. I call it my “hidden” talent because I don’t draw on these skills for my day job. But when a friend texted me a link to an article the other day on palm reading, I found myself coming out of my psychic closet.

The article claimed if you have an M on your palm, you would be blessed with wealth among other things. Of course, everyone who read the article was probably checking their palm for the M, wondering why they had yet to receive their windfall.

Some palmists say the letter 'M' in the center of the palm indicates wealth.

Some palmists say the letter ‘M’ in the center of the palm indicates wealth.

To those of you who live in America, I have a prediction: You are wealthy–probably wealthier than 99 percent of the world’s population.

Which brings up a good point. How can a sign on your palm possibly measure something like wealth, which is subject to interpretation?

The answer is it can’t. But it can provide an indicator. Let me explain.

Palm Reading 101
For those who might be newbies, here are the basics. There are three major lines on a palm:

  1. Life Line – This line starts above the thumb and runs around its base to the wrist.
  2. Head Line – This line starts with the life line or slightly above the life line and runs horizontal across the hand.
  3. Heart Line – This line starts on the opposite side of the hand as the life and head lines, usually running horizontal above the headline. Sometimes these lines touch or cross; sometimes they don’t.

Then there are other important lines, such as the fate line, which usually runs vertical up the palm, ending under the middle finger or the ring finger and affection (or marriage lines) which run under the little pinkie.

There are also a whole host of other lines, such as the Rings of Saturn, which run around the wrist, or the Girdle of Venus that circle the ring and middle fingers.

And finally, there are special marks, such as crosses and stars that represent a variety of interpretations, depending on the spot in the hand where they appear.

I might also mention each finger represents a different area. For instance the pointer finger is leadership and ambition and the thumb is logic and will power. The shape of the hand and the length of the fingers all have meaning, too. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the hand you use the most (which for most people is the right hand), records events in a person’s life or what others see on the outside. The lesser used hand records the internal impact of those same events.

Confused yet?
The point is these elements work together to tell a story. The M interpreted as wealth is actually composed of three lines: the head line, heart line, fate line and life line. (See my crudely drawn picture.) The theory is if each of these lines are strong, chances are you will be wealthy, because you will have a successful career and the mental and emotional capacity to earn a good living or marry well.

There is logic to this palm-reading thing after all.

Now if I can just find the sign indicating I’ll publish my book.

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