Michaeline: The Power of Writing

"Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases" says an old poster announcing a U.S. Public Health Service Campaign. "As Dangerous as Poison Gas Shells -- Spread of Spanish Influenza Menaces Our War Production"

It’s said that the 1918-1919 Spanish Influenza pandemic killed more people than WWI. https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/ Image via Wikimedia Commons.

I have to share this piece of writing with you. It’s a Reddit post about how a foreign resident in China is dealing with food and cooking during the lockdown because of the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak. 

National Public Radio (US) has an article on how the lockdown is affecting the lives of Chinese residents.  NPR reports that families in Wenzhou (a coastal city in China) have been told to stay indoors, and only send one person out every two days to pick up groceries.

The Reddit post does so much in a relatively small space. Redditor u/mthmchris explains how he and his partner are restricted to the apartment, and how the constraints in finding ingredients and the luxury of time have contributed to better cooking. There’s a brief reverie about the degeneracy of modern cooking, that he attributes to perhaps lack of time, especially now that he’s been living through a period of deprivation (although, not starvation) for the past few weeks. And then there are the dishes he’s made.

I suppose I’ve always been morbidly curious about “Robinson Crusoe” scenarios. So, it teases my imagination – what would I do if we were locked down on our farm with a COVID-19 outbreak in town? The post moves my sympathy for people who really are in the situation, it educated me, and taught me new things about the human experience. These are the things I would love to see my fiction writing do for people. Continue reading

Jilly: Menu Gourmand

In romance there are basically two kinds of series. The first, which Nancy discussed last Monday, focuses on a community: a family, or schoolfriends, or regimental comrades. In this kind of series, each book tells the love story of a different member of the community. It works really well in historical romance.

The other kind of series follows the adventures of one couple over multiple books and is a natural fit with fantasy and urban fantasy. That’s what I’m busy writing.

At its best, this kind of series is like a tasting menu from a really, really good restaurant. Delicious, ambitious, and not to be attempted by the faint-hearted.

  • Choose your cuisine.
  • Decide how many dishes you plan to offer.
  • Each dish should stand alone as a tasty, balanced, harmonious whole.
  • Every course should be delightfully different, offering contrasting flavors and ingredients but in a cohesive style.
  • The menu should flow, offering a natural progression leading the diner from piquant to savory to a delightful sweet finish and possibly some perfect petits-fours.
  • The content of each dish should be perfectly judged, leaving the diner neither over-hungry, nor sated too soon, but wanting more until the final satisfying conclusion.
  • The sum of the whole should be greater than each of the parts.

To whet your appetite, click here for the Land and Sea tasting menu from one of my favorite restaurants, The Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye.

In literary terms, this kind of story is exemplified by Dorothy Dunnett’s Scottish Historical Lymond Chronicles, or Karen-Marie Moning’s Celtic urban fantasy Fever series, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife books or more recently by Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy trilogy.

This is what I’m aiming for: something a little different, offering fine local ingredients combined with flair and executed with skill. If I get it right, hopefully my Menu Gourmand will be mouth-watering, memorable, and a treat worth saving up for 🙂 .

Elizabeth: Publishing Parties, Guinness, and Cake

As you’ve probably noticed, if today isn’t your first day visiting the blog, we’re currently in the midst of recipe week (of both the edible and creative kind).  So far our recipe ingredient lists have included romance, bananas, sweet potatoes, and a fallen angel – though not all in the same recipe.

I have two recipes today.  The first is courtesy of a book I read a few weeks ago by Judith Flanders, who I talked about in my last Author Squee post here.    A Cast of Vultures, book 3 in her Sam Clair mystery series, opens with the heroine Sam (an editor) waking up the morning after a night spent at a launch party for a new novel that included copious amounts of alcohol and, well, lots more alcohol.  She envisions that the publicist’s recipe for the evening looked something like this: Continue reading

Jeanne: Recipe for an Offbeat Romance

recipe-575434_640Recipe for Belial, Hell’s Chief Operating Demon

(and hero of The Demon Always Wins ((Book 1, Touched by a Demon))


  • 1 fallen angel with:
    • The face of a seraph
    • The body of an archangel
    • The arrogance of a demon who never fails
  • 1 wager—
    • Satan’s second-in-command vs. God’s chosen champion
  • 1 goal—
    • Seduce her into abandoning her beliefs
  • 1 prize—
    • a single, human soul


  1. Strip away wings
  2. Scent with vanilla and summer rain
  3. Gift with a voice like the strum of a lute
  4. Marinate in the desperation of the eternally damned
  5. Combine with the one woman in the world who can redeem him
  6. Simmer for 300 steamy pages

Accompaniments: Best served with scented candles, a glass of Syrah and some good, dark chocolate.

Yield: One sizzling romance with a feel-good ending.

This post originally appeared on  I Smell Sheep on September 9, 2018.

And now for a real recipe you can actually make and feed people: Continue reading