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THE THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE

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If I could go to the gene store and pick my husband out nice new genes, I would because the ones he got through no fault of his own aren’t the greatest. This fact sent him to the cardiologist last fall who basically told him he was running with a loaded gun and a pair of scissors. Well, that’s not completely true because Mike wasn’t even exercising, but needless to say Dr. Wise (how can you NOT believe a cardio guy with a name like that) impressed upon Mike that he needed to make some life changes. 

Being a good wife, I thought I’d go see Dr. Wise too, and Mike and I would weather this aging/life changing stuff together. By the way, if you could buy new genes, you’d want mine, or more accurately the ones my mother gave me. I was certain, Dr. Wise would look at my blood work and consider me a wonder of nature. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen because of a little thing called family history and my dad’s two, count them, quadruple by-pass surgeries. The good doctor acknowledged my great genes but put me on a low dose of Crestor to be on the safe side and said to stop my hormone therapy. OUCH!

This sent me running to MY doctor, the amazing Dr. Jill Mcloughlin, menopause doc extroidinare, because if you don’t like what one doctor is saying, you don’t bother with a second opinion. You just keep looking until you find a doctor who’ll give the answer you want to hear. What the lovely and talented Dr. Jill told me was, weigh the small risks of taking estrogen treatment (there’s a correlation for when you start treatment that makes it more okay than other times) but forgoing estrogen treatment was up to me. The very best thing I could do for myself was to lose weight. DOUBLE OUCH!

The thing is I LOVE food. I love to cook and eat out, and I sit at a computer A LOT. And here’s the great big BUT, I want write and publish LOTS of books and be around to see that. So I’m making life changes. I haven’t jumped on the exercise band wagon YET, but I have cut back on portion size. I noticed that when I was depending on WEIGHT WATCHER frozen meals (and deserts,) my weight actually went up or at best stayed the same, so I’ve stopped those. Light on the protein. Light on the carbs. Heavy on the veggies seems to work for me.

What started out as something to do for my husband, has ended up being something I’m doing for myself. And it’s really nice to go at this life changing thing with someone you love, someone you like to compete with. Do we look like Barbie and Ken? No and don’t hold your breat on that one. But, if we exercise and eat right, we just might be around for each other for a very long time.

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TO ALL THE HATERS-HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!

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I’m stepping out of the literary closet to say–I’m writing a romance! Not only am I writing a romance, I’m reading A LOT of romance, and the more I read, the more I am amazed how what a bad rap the genre has amongst the group who claims to be “the masses.” Most of those “rappers” are probably tucked in bed with a book and a flashlight or a Kindle, reading love stories like crack, but too embarrassed to admit it.

Why should they be embarrassed? More than half of the stories are well researched, complex, multi fascited plots and the other half is fluff and fun. You see the cover of THE SPY IN HIGH HEELS

and you know exactly what you’re getting, the same with the covers like GABRIEL’S INFERNO.

If you take romance out of the publishing industry, if you banned it, blotted it out altogether, the PUBLISHING INDUSTRY would likely fold, doors close, case closed. Not to mention the rioting women and men (so I hear although I’ve never met any men who avidly read the genre) taking to the streets demanding their fix of love stories.

PLEASE TELL ME what is so wrong about love stories and their HEAs (happily ever afters) that makes the haters, well, hate? Are the stories perfect? No, but name one that is. Like any other stories, their characters are flawed, they are challenged, and in the end love reigns over all. What the hell is wrong with that?

Wanna know why so many authors want to write about THAT world? Because the real world is too damn scary. Or maybe they are finding the part of the real world that is worth loving, sighing over, savoring and writting down so you can savor it too.

If you too desire your own independence from the haters and this blog just hasn’t done it for you, check out the wise and wonderful Sarah Wendell’s website (see the very cool pic above) smartbitchestrashybooks.com/  and her Amazon page for self-help or at the very least self-acceptance for this very real force in, yes I’m going to say it–Literature.The genre is intimate; it’s like borrowing the author’s favorite pair of shoes or sharing their chocolate.

So on this Independence Day, my own independence day from giving a rats behind about what the nay sayers say about the genera–Here’s to love and HEA forevaaah!

Cheers! KIM

Everyday Ramblings about Tasty Food and Delicious Writing!

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CHANGED BY THE POWER OF CHOPPED

A while back, I stumbled across a TV show on Food Network called CHOPPED. The show is one part thriller, one part mystery, with a heaping portion of creative genius. Contestants are usually trained chefs from high dollar restaurants with an occasional food stylist or self-taught chef. My favorite episode is the Lunchroom Lady one where actual LL’s displayed talents they knew they had but either no one had noticed or the schools didn’t have the funds to allow them to spread their culinary wings.

Appetizer, entrée, and desert rounds are judged by NY chefs like Aaron Sanchez or Amanda Freitag, who are now celebrities, thanks to the show. There is the dreaded basket, a time limit, the bewildered look on the contestants’ faces when they open said basket. Then Ted Allen (of QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY fame), announces the contents, “You have teething biscuits, hot peppers, raspberries, and canned haggis. You must create an appetizer that will wow our judges or you will be CHOPPED! You have 20 minutes, GO!”

Aside from being as addictive as chocolate, the show has made me think of food differently. Already a foodie before I became a CHOPPED junkie, I am amazed at how the show permeates my own craft in the kitchen. If something doesn’t turn out, if I’m short on time, my mind invariably reverts to the show, and I go in to What Would Chopped Do mode.

Yesterday was such a day. I was preparing lunch for 40 folks at my husband’s office,  as a sendoff to a sweet Vancouver lady who is leaving for a stint in London. Suzanne wanted grits, so as if I were on CHOPPED, I prepared grits 3 ways. Shrimp and grits, roasted chicken with Boursin cheese grits, and Bobby Flay’s grilled grit cake with roasted corn salsa.

While most everything went right, just like on CHOPPED I was running out of time and didn’t have time to grill the grit cakes. WWCD? I fried the suckers, but they didn’t turn out, so I punted and took the other two dishes along with a great big bowl of corn salsa that was amazing with the tortilla chips someone contributed to the meal.

The great thing about the  CHOPPED mindset is you can apply it to just about everything in life. Especially writing. You have a certain amount of time. Be productive. Be creative. When you’re combing a crazy basket of stuff into a story, make sure your reader can savor each element in the story. Best of all, if something’s not working, take a deep breath, let go, and allow your creativity to take the story where it needs to go to create a delicious, cohesive dish. Bon appetit!

Everyday Ramblings About Tasty Food And Delicious Writing

THANKSGIVINGY STUFF

What food/writing blog would be complete without a diatribe on Thanksgiving?

For me, there’s so much stuff that’s richer than fat laden cornbread stuffing. The first thing that comes to mind is a picture of my daughter at four, dressed in her paper bag ear-of-corn costume she made at pre-school, a green construction paper plume for a hat, her long yellow hair as silks. The other thing I think of is the acorns and other Thanksgivingy stuff the kids always put on the table until one year a little white worn wiggled out of an acorn and crawled across the table. It died a squishy death in a festive holiday paper napkin and squelched that tradition. I remember Austin’s kindergarten pagent and the awful cafeteria meal we parents stayed for and ate like it was fillet mignon because at the time, it was every bit as good as overpriced beef. I remember my mother who has cut enought oranges for ambrosia over the years to fill a mack truck, maybe two, and the food she fussed over so it would be perfect for us. I think of recipes, some passed down from her, some found in cook books, some made up that I’m happy to share with cyberspace. Most of all, I think about that intangible, un-nameable feeling about Thanksgiving that always feel like home. If home is where the heart is, mine is grateful for this and all my blessings. Happy Thanksgiving.

Everyday Ramblings About Tasty Food and Delicious Writing!

BRAVE WRITING

http://www.amazon.com/Good-Hard-Look-Novel

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on Boykin She Cook. I’ve been too busy checking my Email every five seconds or waiting for  the phone to ring with news from my agent about my novel she’s trying to sell. I’ve done a lot of cleaning and some writing on my new novel, but basically I’m in a holding pattern until I hear something, preferably good news.

One thing I discovered in this process is the true value of a great book. Not the dollars and cents kind, but the kind that is written in a clever way, a bold way. The only problem with reading that sort of book is when you’re done, nothing measures up to it and you feel the loss from its ending for some time. A GOOD HARD LOOK by Ann Napolitano is such a book.

As writers, we’re constantly reminded of the rules–cut the backstory, don’t have a million characters, stick to one point of view. And for god sake, if you break a rule, you’d better make it work or you might as well find yourself another hobby. A GOOD HARD LOOK makes made me hungry for back story. Right off the bat, I wanted to know why Cookie moved back to Milidgeville, Ga. from New York? What made her run to New York in the first place? I found myself reading for Cookie’s back story and her history with Flannery O’Connor.

Yes, Flannery O’Connor. The author actually had the literary balls to raise the literary giant from the dead and give her a heart and soul, a big Southern voice and a razor-sharp wit. While the reader is keenly aware of Flannery’s powerful presence, she is no more or less interesting or important than the other four characters who advance the story through their points of view.

The worst part of A GOOD HARD LOOK is that the story ended. But the great gift that comes with reading a book like that is it makes me want to be a better writer, a better Southern writer.

Boykin She Cook! Everyday Ramblings About Tasty Food and Delicious Writing!

SOUNDS A LITTLE PITCHY TO ME.

People ask me how I found Algonkian’s New York Pitch and Shop Conference , but I honestly don’t remember. I think I Googled something like circumvent literary agents and somehow there it was. An affordable three and a half day conference in the publishing Mecca of the world that would teach me how to sell my book. Best of all, after I felt comfortable with my pitch, I’d have four opportunities to sell my story to editors at major publishing houses.

So why is the pitch so important? If you’ve ever written a query letter, you know how difficult it is to say everything effectively in one page. The problem is, it’s just a piece of paper with words on it (or an Email) and agents get hundreds of those little pieces of paper every week. But when you pitch an actual editor face-to-face, it’s the difference between just picking something off of the menu and hearing the server’s enticing description of the nightly special. I knew enough about marketing to know a good pitch should do the same thing, but didn’t have a clue how to write a one.

Prior to the conference, I was guided  through the pitch writing process. In New York, Susan Breen,  a wonderful writer and teacher, led our group of 19 Women’s Fiction writers. The first day, she critiqued our pitches, made helpful suggestions, and briefed us on the editors we’d be pitching. She encouraged us to read our pitches, which was good because I suck at memorizing stuff.

The second day we sat down with one editor, pitched our project, and answered any questions she had. Afterwards, we reviewed our pitches based on the feedback we got from that editor. The third day we pitched two editors. By then all of us were more comfortable with the process. The last day we pitched one editor. Three of the editors let us know the day they heard our pitches if they were interested in reading our manuscripts, the other one we found out a few days later.

If you’ve read this blog, you know what going to New York to pitch my novel meant to me, but to come home with three out of four editors asking to read all or part of my manuscript was amazing. Even the dreaded query letter was easy to write after the conference; it was basically my pitch with a first paragraph that said I was seeking representation for my novel and named the three editors who’d already agreed to read my work. Out of 57 Email queries, 18 agents asked to read all or part of the manuscript and 6 asked for exclusives. In the end, I had three offers of representation and chose a wonderful agent.

Did the conference make my dreams come true? No, but without the conference, I’m convinced none of this would be happening. So if your book is ready to sell, let me recommend the New York Pitch and Shop Conference, with a saucy belief in your work and a side of hard work and perseverance. The desert that follows is delicious.

BOYKIN SHE COOK! Everyday Ramblings About Tasty Food and Delicious Writing.

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LESSONS FROM MY CHILDHOOD ABOUT WRITING

Me on the first day of kindergarten.

1. BE YE KIND.  Read  for your fellow writers and offer good, honest critique. It’s easy to look down on someone else’s work when you yourself are long passed the stage of development where everyone either longed to tell you get another hobby or just flat-out said it. Be generous with praise, but be genuine.

2. PLAY WITH THE NICE KIDS.  There was an unpublished writer I greatly admired. For a bunch of psychological reasons I won’t go into, I felt like such an idiot around her. This should have been a huge glaring neon red flag, but it wasn’t. One day I listened to her chew up one of our group members and hock him out; by now the alarms on the flag were blaring. The way she explained herself to me, she made it seem like she had a reason for what she did, but not a good one. I was so enamoured with this person, I remained friends with her. But my work suffered horribly and, while I read reams of her work, she’d Email me back a few minutes after I sent her mine and lecture me on how important it was to be “serious” about my craft. One day, I was her target. Let me just say, those red flags are there for a reason.

3. STICK UP FOR YOURSELF.  If you’re serious about writing, put yourself out there in critique groups. LISTEN to everything and fight the uncontrollable urge to defend your work. If the criticism is valid, it just is. Whether there is or is not a consensus about the issue, you might want to rethink things as objectively as possibly. But don’t be a pushover. When the critique is over, IF and only IF you are given the opportunity, explain your view or process. Discussing your work means you have to think about it on a different level. Amazing things come of this.

4. TEACHERS KNOW EVERYTHING. Not everything, but teachers have a bigger and better toolbox and they know how to use those tools. Best of all, they want to teach you how to use them, too. You will know you’ve had a really good teacher when you’re writing or critiquing someone’s work and hear your teacher’s voice  in your head. “More sensory detail. SLOW DOWN. Let your character stretch out a bit.”

5. CLEAN THE BATHROOM…AGAIN.  Sometimes writing is like cleaning the bathroom with I was a kid. My mom would always come behind me and, no matter how well I thought I done it, she’d find something I’d missed and make me do the whole thing again. When I finished the first draft of my first novel, I thought, “I’m done.” Be ready to write and rewrite and then rewrite some more to get noticed, and then, after you have an agent and hopefully a publisher, you’ll rewrite some more. Get used to it.

6. TAKE CARE OF YOUR PRECIOUS THINGS. With computers and their tiny vast minds, it’s easy to think of them like a piggy bank. When you need your work or a version of your work where you said something really cool and want to use it, you just give it a shake and there it is. As amazing as computers are, they aren’t fool-proof. Back your writing up yourself on disk. Use a back up service. Hell, print out the manuscript and put it in the safe deposit box at the bank incase the house burns down. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and just the frustration alone that comes with trying to recreate what you had or what you think you had is crazymaking.

7.  STOP PLAYING THAT $*%* GAME. Nobody every wrote a bestseller while simultaneously playing Spider solitaire or Skip-Bo or any of those free games on that gamehouse.com website. Sometimes games are a good distraction, the beginning of a ritual that leads to writing, but ultimately if you’re spending more time playing Be Jeweled than you are writing, you  might want to rethink your calling.

8. ROLLY POLLIES, FIREFLIES AND MUD PIES. When you’re telling a story, it’s easy to get caught up in the story line that takes you from point A to point B and all the way through the alphabet at break neck speed. Some writers write their first drafts like that and then go back and layer in the small stuff that makes the writing rich. Some people call it adding texture, but it’s a lot like noticing the small things like rolly pollies or fireflies or the design the wrinkles make on your protagonist’s forehead. What do her hands look like and why? Yes, it’s noticing the small stuff, but it’s also like cooking with your Easy-Bake Oven, tasting the batch of words, smacking your lips together, and knowing what the writing needs to make it rich. Chocolate is always good, but sadly isn’t always the answer.

9. GO FISHING. If you want to be a good writer and you’ve never been fishing before, GO. It doesn’t take much more than a cane pole, a line, a shiny brass hook, and a soggy creek bank to dig worms. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot about writing just dangling a simple line in the water. Sensory detail, order, pacing, and above all patience, which will come in really handy after you’ve written your novel and are ready to sell it.

10. TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR IMAGINARY FRIENDS. For those of us who don’t really care if anyone calls us crazy, we can freely admit we hear voices in our heads. Good writers honor these voices by writing down their stories. As one who has had as many as three protagonists telling their stories at one time, and as one who grieved during the time those voices went silent, I can say with certainty, they are a gift. They give us an understanding of our characters that can never be attained with process gimmicks, charts, or outlines. They give us  clean crisp dialogue and are windows into living breathing souls that exist only to have their stories told. So take good care of your imaginary friends. Talk out loud to them, and let your characters talk to each other. They allow us to do what we love. They allow us to write.