Why writing a book is like planning a dinner party

I’m hanging out with Esme at The Recipe Hunter today. Stop by for a little excursion into the joys of “research.”

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It’s a delight to be over here on Esme’s blog, and I’m going with the cooking theme. But since I can’t cook, this will be a half-baked analogy.

If you’re having a group of important people (like potential readers) over for dinner, it’s a good idea to have a handle on what you’re cooking up. Reading recipes and browsing images on the internet is a great first step, but it probably makes sense to check out the recipe yourself before you serve it to others.

Well, writing is the same way. Authors can collect amazing information online, and to be honest, there’s often no way around it, but trying things out ourselves provides invaluable inside knowledge that we can’t always get in other ways. I’d argue that the dish of details from first-hand experience is what deepens and enlivens our writing, and it’s the tasty meal that we want to serve up to our readers.

Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, calls these experience-collecting excursions “Artist’s Dates.” Basically, you make a weekly date with yourself to expand your horizons, culinary or otherwise. I’ve taken the advice to heart on several occasions:

Three books of the Dragon Soul Saga take place on old sailing ships, and sailing around the lake on a sunfish as a kid didn’t cut it. So, I packed up my husband and dragged him off for a tall ship sailing adventure. While the rest of the passengers were drinking rum and listening to pirate stories,…

(Continue Reading… The Recipe Hunter)

The Lover’s Moon

Lover's Moon

In my fantasy worlds, the Lover’s Moon ushers in the ripeness of summer. Fiddleheads unfurl on the mountain paths and the high meadow blooms with fireweed, toadflax, and pearl everlasting. In the villages, the lanes bake and the heat rises in liquid ribbons. It’s a moon of full-bellies,  bare feet and water warm enough for swimming, of golden hay and long lazy days.  On the sea, it’s a time of genial winds, promises of love, and sails billowing with sunshine.

For anyone romantic at heart, the full Lover’s Moon smiles tonight.

Jan Steen Revelry at an Inn - en.wikimedia.org

Jan Steen Revelry at an Inn – en.wikimedia.org

Excerpt from the Lover’s Moon, Eye of Sun
(Percy is going to create a little diversion)

The Crow’s Nest bustled with seamen, yardsmen, and scurrying serving maids. Caron crowded them into a corner, sharing a long table with men from the Gale Breaker and Seabourne. A few crewmen hoisted their tankards in a boisterous greeting. Edin had never patronized such a chaotic and raucous place. Seamen sloshed well beyond their cups, and he couldn’t tell whether they were getting along or apt to throw punches. Caron suggested the mash for supper, and he took the recommendation, barely able to think straight with all the noise.

The food hearty, he ate like a starved man. One of the crewmen sharing the long table leaned toward him. The skinny seaman sported a crooked nose and hair that might have been trimmed by a blind man in a stiff wind. “How’s yer mash? Good ain’t it?”

Edin pushed away his empty plate. “We’ve been living on old bread and watered oats, complements of your governors.”

“It weren’t fish, anyway,” the young man said.

“Percy got fish nigh up his gills,” a flaxen-haired man explained. “Name’s Hywel and that’s me brother, Malven.” He pointed to the beardless version of himself sitting across the table.

“Fish mornin’, noon, and evenin’,” Percy muttered. “Can’t tolerate it no more.”

“Quit cookin’ fish then,” Malven said. “Yer the blame cook.”

“Pull up somethin’ aside fish and I will.”

“Mutton would be good,” the bearded older brother said. “Hook us a good shank of sheep off Ramsey.”

Percy thought that worth a laugh and ordered more ale.

“Don’t mind the fish stew,” Hywel said. “Like it with potatoes. Good when they come in again.”

“Still fish,” Percy muttered.

“Good crab off Ross and Whitnee,” Hywel said. “Crab’s worth the work.”

“Still fish.”

“Crab’s not fish,” Malven said. “It’s crab.”

“It’s a sort of fish,” the skinny cook insisted.

“It don’t got fins, Perce.”

“Neither do a clam, ya idiot.”

“A clam ain’t a fish neither.”

Eyeing Malven, Percy downed his ale. “If it’s from the sea, it’s fish.”

“Lot’s from the sea that ain’t fish,” Hywel said. “Rocks and weed. Sand.”

“We’re talkin’ about fish, not sand!” Percy shouted with a grin.

“Just sayin’ not everything in the sea is fish,” Hywel said.

“If it come from the sea, looks like fish, tastes like fish, is fish.” Percy pushed back his chair, thumping into a bald warrior at the next table who growled and gave him a shove. Percy bolted up and faced the shiny-headed hulk. “Now, that weren’t necessary. We was just talkin’ about what’s fish.”

“And I’ve heard enough,” the man snarled. “Fish have gills. That’s how you know they’re fish.”

Percy’s face turned scarlet. He lifted the edge of the warriors’ table and spilled every tankard the length of it. Before Malven could stop him, he took an off-balance swing at the warrior who popped him in his crooked nose. Percy howled, grabbed a tankard, and smashed it into a bearded warrior’s cheek. The man shoved Percy so hard he flew off his feet, landing on the suppers of the Gale Breaker’s crew.

“He pushed me on ya!” Percy shouted, his arms protecting his face. “Blame warriors, wreckin’ yer supper.” The Gale Breaker’s crew tossed Percy back toward the warriors, but Hywel caught his arm and yanked him out of the path of a right hook that would have lopped off his head. A man from the Gale Breaker spun around and thundered a punch into the bald warrior’s belly and head-butted him in the face, breaking his nose. Another warrior with a puckered scar on his chin picked up a chair and hurled it at the Gale Breaker’s crew. The seamen erupted, climbing over tables and throwing fists at any warrior in range. The proprietor roared from the end of the room, but he was far too late.

(Coming in August!)

Crofter’s Moon

original images - pixabay

original images – pixabay

In my fantasy world spring truly arrives with the Crofter’s Moon. The soil warms and the old jenny plods before a hand-held plow. Seeds drop in tidy rows, and sprouts peek from the rich loam, tender promises of harvests to come. Neighbors emerge from their dark hearths, shuttered eyes thrown wide in their hunger for light. Hearts venture in celebration, seeking communion, another lean winter survived. The sun blesses faces and beats on backs as the endless cycles of all life wax and wane. There are chores to be done, but the world feels hopeful and alive.

The Crofter’s Moon shines its full face tonight. Enjoy the coming Crofter’s Moon. May your garden grow a bounty and of your heart flourish with love.

pixabay

pixabay

Excerpt from the Crofter’s Moon, Dragon Soul Trilogy

Brend’s shoulders rose in a shrug, and he stretched his legs out in front of him, his ankles crossed. “Do you remember what Conall said when he spoke to the lair’s riders? He said, in essence, that the choice to do nothing in the face of cruelty is no different than choosing cruelty itself. I’ve mused over those words since. Every time we look away from ruthlessness, poverty, corruption, and suffering, we’re allowing those things to flourish and grow. Are we saying it doesn’t matter to us? We don’t care enough? We stood by as a people and did nothing when the governors murdered your father. We saw dragons captured and tortured, Morfael exiled, skyriders banned. Then cruelty crouches on our own doorsteps, and we are suddenly outraged. If a child is beaten and we neglect to interfere, who are we to rail when the child grows into a violent man? If we fail to feed the hungry are we choosing to starve them to death?”

Earlin rested her elbows on the table. “You have too much time on your hands.”

“Maybe so.” Brend chuckled. “But reflection is good for me.” He shook her gently by the back of her neck. “I’m trying to choose the Belonging over fear, Earlin, and discover what that means for me. Do the same and you’ll find your way.”

Hungry Moon

pixabay compilation

pixabay compilation

In my fantasy world, the Hungry Moon ushers in the thaw. Days lengthen, trees blossom and nature knits an emerald coverlet over the wilderness. The blues and grays of winter surrender to a tapestry of fresh color, and the sun rolls around like an old friend. Yet, this is a hungry time, winter’s stores dwindling, the cellars and cupboards bare. The fields lie sodden and fallow, new crops a distant dream. The warming sun promises fiddleheads and dandelion greens, nettle and chickweed, wild pickings filling aprons for empty bellies. For the poor, it’s a thin, lean time, a cruel tease of the spring to come.

The Hungry Moon rises on March 23rd. Hang in there, spring will come.

flower-953553_960_720

Excerpt from the Hungry Moon, Eye of Blind

The hut warm, Starling listened to the timbre of Gallard’s voice, his feelings carried through the air. She heard the news as a faint echo, translating facts and events into an emotional unfolding, layered with nuance, thick, rich, and threaded with light. She barely saw bodies anymore, or faces, or remembered names. They comprised the trappings of essence. How else could she think of it? They glittered as if fashioned of stars.

She’d always called herself a Death Droom, and here she’d found there was no death. Merging with the dragons had fundamentally changed her. She no longer saw the faces of light descending so beautifully and peacefully to accompany the dying. Rather, she witnessed the infinity of soul, the stardust, color, and light that transformed but never altered. Spiraling circles of life, generation upon generation of birth and death, and yet the spirit remained unbound. The essence existed outside of form, vibrating in the void. She slowly became the World’s sublime song, losing a sense of her body and drifting more in otherness, oneness. At times, she believed she could walk through trees, dissolve into water, fragment and fly away on beams of light.