Michaeline: A Recipe for a Pantser

A warrior chef made up of kitchen items (her body is a wood stove, and she carries a mixing tub and a warming pan.

A pantser is always prepared to cook up anything her Girls send up from the basement. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

First of all, forget all that mise en place stuff. That’s for planners and for pansies. A pantser goes through all the cupboards, the fridge, and checks the garbage can just in case. The pantser gathers 20 or 30 ingredients, then dumps those on the kitchen table. Then, she sits and thinks for a minute or two to decide what looks good.

You can’t go wrong with baking powder. First thing, in a medium bowl or a ziplock bag, sift in some flour, some salt and a proportionate amount of baking powder. Don’t know the right amount? Just go with it; you’ll learn. Add in some other dry stuff, if you like, like cocoa or sugar. Be adventurous! Matcha? You betcha. Pulverised strawberry? Very merry!

In another bowl, you’ll want the wet stuff. It’s going to react with the dry stuff, so if you have gelatin in the dry stuff, don’t mix in fresh pineapple or kiwifruit. Use something else. Something without enzymes. Eggs are often good in anything. I like eggs. I don’t like separating them, but I like whipping them to a frenzy, and I like them in a lot of things that I’ve consumed. You’d be surprised by what eggs go with – consider adding some eggs. (Unless you’ve got an allergy. But you know that already.)

Now it’s time for the conflict! Continue reading

Michille: Recipe for Writing

Maple Glazed Turkey DinnerSpecifically, writing for NaNoWriMo. And I have discovered a couple of things while using NaNo to get back into the habit of daily writing. The biggest discovery is that I can’t do it without changing my routine. I have had some very successful writing days, which for me is about 3,500 words, but every one of those days this month have either started at 4 a.m. or the family is scattered so I don’t have to bother with dinner. I’m not a fan of getting up at 4 a.m., but I work full-time and exercise (and make dinner most nights) so there’s not a lot of free time in my day.

I was on a writing roll on Sunday morning. I got up early. Not at 4 a.m., but around 6 a.m. and everyone was still sleeping so I wrote about 1,700 words and planned to get back to it in the afternoon. But there was the planned 6-mile hike with my cousin, a trip to the grocery store, football which I combined with prepping some Thanksgiving side dishes, then dinner prep, dinner, and clean up. And THEN I could sit down again to write. The roll had turned into a lump and I struggled to put a couple hundred more words on the page, but was too tired to do much more than that.

Let me get back to my successful days. Continue reading

Nancy: My Recipe for a Delicious Romance Series

As Justine announced yesterday, this week we’re discussing recipes of both the edible and readable kind. As I’ve planned and written and moved toward release of my romance series this past year, I’ve put a lot of thought into what I like in a romance series. Here’s my favorite recipe.

Start with an ensemble cast of characters who each bring something good to the party. Use their interconnected lives to lead us from the story of one happy couple to the next, but be sure to let their individual qualities shine, even when it’s not ‘their book’. When done well, you’ll have me pre-ordering the books that finally give my favorite secondary characters their own romance, like the duke in Slightly Dangerous from Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn Saga series.

Add a generous dollop of inside jokes, memories, and friendly bonding opportunities. Make me feel like I’m in on all the fun even if I haven’t read other books the series, but feel free to repeat or build on these fun themes across books, providing fan service for loyal readers. Think the running joke of the terrible music created  by the Smythe-Smith Quartet (with the musician line-up changing for each annual performance) from Julia Quinn’s The Bridgertons series.

Sprinkle in a bit of past HEAs. Show me the couples who got together in past books, still together, still happy, still interacting like they did in the book of their own love story. It shouldn’t be so heavy-handed that having read those other books in the series is a prerequisite to understanding the current book, but it should be enough to tempt me to pick up those other books to find out how the settled couples found their own happy endings together. The books in Anne Stuart’s House of Rohan series always include at least a few of the happy couples, made up of reformed rakes paired with strong women, from previous books. These happy couples guide, advise, and generally annoy the bejesus out of the couple currently struggling toward their own HEA.

Mix all ingredients together into a multi-book series, pair with a good red wine, and serve over a long weekend with nothing to do but read!

And now, an actual recipe… Continue reading

Justine: Recipe Week at Eight Ladies

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Image (c) Shutterstock.

This week, in honor of US Thanksgiving, some of the Eight Ladies will be sharing their favorite recipes…and not just food recipes, either (although there will likely be plenty of that…see below!). Be sure to check in each day to see what sort of goodies we’re revealing!

I started thinking about recipes for the kind of books I like while discussing with Jilly some of my favorite romances. My recipe for a good romance includes competent women and men who DO things for them, plus a dash of community.

In the era of women’s rights and #metoo, I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to writing (and reading) romance. Not that I have anything against competent women who can do for themselves, who know their potential, and who go for what they want. In fact, I AM one of those women, trying to make a career out of writing while raising two kids, taking care of two pets, and managing a household with a husband who travels…a lot.

It means I DO a lot…from helping with homework to shuttling kids around to fixing leaky toilets and installing ceiling fans. And most of the time, when something’s gotta give, it’s me and my work. Sometimes, though, I just want another person to do the shuttling/fixing/installing for me, without me having to write a check.

That’s where my heroes come in…both the ones I read and the ones I write.

Without a doubt, I admire heroines that are self-sufficient, capable women. And I like it when their heroes understand, accept, and especially celebrate that. But in my mind, what better way to show your love for a lady than Continue reading

Michaeline: Happy Thanksgiving!

Hearty Thanksgiving Greeting 19th century girl in a dress and apron, harvesting very large pumpkins.

Thanksgiving — and writing time — can be whenever you say it is. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, today I’m at a community center about an hour away from my home, helping to prepare (and then eat!) a Thanksgiving feast. I’m not the boss; my friend M is in charge of that, and has everything totally organized, from laminated stuffing recipes to the table design chart.

In Japan, Thankgiving Day (US) and Labor Thanksgiving Day are nearly the same time, but they don’t often coincide — and even if we are lucky enough to have them fall on the same day, we have to work on Friday. So, a big Thanksgiving feast is in the cards, but a recovery day is not.

Even when everything is perfect, it’s not. So, we are doing it on a Saturday, near the holiday. About 60 or 60 people come — there are old folks chatting at the tables and little kids crawling around under the tables. . It’s a great chance to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a whole year, and they always have news I haven’t heard. This year, we’ve had four marriages in our group. One year, it was the Year of the Babies, with four babes in arms, passed around so parents could partake of the turkey.

Let me just bludgeon you over the head with a moral for a minute: even when things are perfect, they often are not. Writing is a lot like that, isn’t it? We have grand expectations about how it SHOULD go, but sometimes my best writing takes place when I had no expectations at all.

Like a good feast, writing takes planning. You’ve got to have writing materials, and it helps a lot to have a period of time set aside.

But like a good feast, it doesn’t have to take place at the optimum time — whatever that fantasy describes. It can take place three days early or two days late. It’s still good.

I’m wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you are on the time-space continuum or what you celebrate. There’s a good chance that the time is now.

Michaeline: Prep Work

Two women with plates of red Thanksgiving food. (Maybe apples)

The literary feast takes time and love to prepare properly. It should neither be rushed, nor left to boil away on the backburner. Give thanks to our muses, and let’s get back to work! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This week is Thanksgiving in the US. The Canadians are already done and possibly have finished digesting their Thanksgiving feast, and I know the Japanese don’t tend to celebrate Labor Thanksgiving Day with food. It seems to be more about napping. But the Americans are going to be busy with prep work.

The bird should be in the fridge already, slowly thawing. The shopping should be done. Cranberry sauce can be done up three days in advance to allow for the flavors to meld, and pies are tastier when they are at least a day old. Thanksgiving Day will be a blitz of baking, boiling, mashing and mixing, but the smart cooks will be doing what they can now.

Continue reading