Tag Archives: romantic comedy

Embarrassing Moments in Cooking

In my family, we have an incident we refer to as “The Troubles.”

Let me revise that. We have an incident I insisted my children refer to as “The Troubles,” after relentless teasing (of me) following said incident.

It happened like this: I made a beef stew. It wasn’t very good. There were leftovers. When my husband went to grind them through the garbage disposal, a wrenching whine ensued. The problem? The beef was so tough, the disposal couldn’t break it up.

Thus began months, nay, years of “Remember when…” storytelling from my offspring designed to embarrass me. Finally, I declared we would not speak of this incident again, except to call it “The Troubles.”

“The Troubles” aside, I’m not a bad cook now. I can make a pretty good stew, in fact, and lots of other things. Even things with French names. I can bake a cake (as long as it’s a recipe such as the one on the back of Hershey’s cocoa cans), make biscuits and whip up a decadent chocolate cheese cake from an Ina Garten recipe. Sometimes my kids even ask me for recipes or how to do something in the kitchen.

Back in the day, however, before I became more confident in the culinary world, I had many a cringe-worthy moment. Like the yogurt-marinated chicken cooked on the grill that could have been called Blackened Kabobs. Or the garlic mashed potatoes with raw garlic in them that should have been called Pomme de Terrible.

smartcookie2In my defense, in any mother’s defense, when you have three kids with picky appetites, you’re on a budget, and you’re pressed for time, well, things happen. Bad things. I ended up relying on a lot of ready-made ingredients, everything from the obvious (pasta sauce) to the quick cheat (frozen Asian vegetables in teriyaki sauce).

I’ve learned a lot over the years, and most of it came from watching the Food Network. I’ve watched since Emeril was on almost every night, and now my favorite shows are The Pioneer Woman and The Kitchen.

But I also enjoyed the shows where a team of experts would swoop in and help some feckless eatery owners renovate and refashion their establishments. Who doesn’t love a great turnaround story?

So, that’s the inspiration for my new romantic comedy, Smart Cookie. In it, sweet but clueless Sonja Garrett signs up to have her bakery featured on an “Eats 911” show, a two-day shoot she hopes will turn the tables on her failing establishment. But she’s the one who gets more than she bargained for as her longtime love starts questioning his involvement with her business, and friends, who’d helped her in the past, now share criticisms on-air that, while true, sting. In the end, love’s baked in the cake–but it’s a shock to everyone who gets the sweetest treat.

For a preview of this book, Amazon lets you take a peek at THIS LINK. I hope you enjoy! Get a copy (check if it’s free today)! Recommend to friends! Eat some cake!

Oh, and pen a review at Amazon if you do read it! Just a quick one-sentence review is fine, but the number of reviews on Amazon can help push any book into more recognition.

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Learn to Write Romance, Learn to Write

Cough, cough… There’s a lot of dust here. I haven’t visited in a while.

Okay, down to today’s topic.

I am happy to report that a new romantic comedy has hit the e-shelves by none other than yours truly — in this case, Libby Malin. Titled Aefle & Gisela, it tells the story of Medieval History Professor Thomas Charlemagne, who is so eager to slay his childhood reputation as “Timid Tommy,” that he takes a dare at a bachelor party and stops a wedding the very next morning.

Only problem — it’s the wrong wedding. A comic romp blended with biting satire (of academe), Aefle & Gisela should appeal to all my fans (yes, both of them!) who enjoyed Fire Me! and My Own Personal Soap Opera. It’s available for Kindle, Nook, and other e-reading devices. Please check it out and take advantage of the summer sale — it’s only 99 cents for a limited time.

I really enjoyed writing Aefle & Gisela. But if you’d told me ten years ago that I’d get so much pleasure from writing something as light as romantic comedy, I would have cried in your face. You see, I always wanted to be a Serious Writer of Serious Fiction that Serious People took Seriously.

But because I didn’t see myself being accepted into that club (yes, I know, Dr. Freud, I had a classic inferiority/superiority complex about writing), I didn’t bother to try getting in. I didn’t try to get published.

I couldn’t stop writing, though. It was my addiction. My beloved sister knew this. She’d been kind enough to read some of my stories over the years. She knew that’s what I had the “fire in the belly” for. So she suggested I try my hand at romance.

Romance? Why, shut my mouth, that should be a walk in the park for someone like me, who, after all, had spent years writing Serious Fiction that Serious People Would Take Seriously if I ever bothered to get any published.

So I got me some Harlequin romances, sat down and penned a quick proposal, sending it off to the editors, sure I wouldn’t have to wait long to hear back from them with a breathless “yes, yes, yes, we want this amazing, wonderfully written story even though it’s far, far too good for our humble imprint.”

I waited a long time for that note. In fact, I never did get it. I did get an impersonal but very polite thanks, but no thanks.

In a great display of magnanimity, I forgave those hapless editors, sure that my next effort would have them falling all over themselves to publish me.

Wah-wah-wahn. No dice. The Romance Goddesses, they no like me.

By this time, however, I became committed to learning how to write a romance novel, not just playing at it, but really figuring out what made them tick. I read Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz and bunches of category romances that I actually outlined in a marble notebook. I joined Romance Writers of America and became a member of their various email groups. I entered their chapter contests. I went to a state chapter conference.

From contest judges, I learned that my heroines were sometimes unlikable (when I wanted readers to hug them to their hearts) and that I didn’t need to use so many ellipses because readers understand from the context when dialogue is supposed to sound halting. I learned from one kind soul that I wasn’t formatting my manuscript correctly — not a deal-breaker if the story was terrific, but why distract an editor you’re trying to woo. And from one inept judge I learned that I used too many weak verb constructions (when she circled every “was” in my entry, incorrectly chiding me for using so much “passive voice”).

And I learned how encouraging it was to hear “attagirl” when manuscripts placed in contests and how comforting to get “so sorry to hear” emails when my latest proposals were rejected after initial enthusiasm from an editor.

The romance writing community, unlike some other writing communities, is an extremely supportive one. Writers cheer each other on and help each other out. They share information about editors and agents and trends.

In that community I became comfortable with myself, and I learned how to write. Not just romance. I learned how to let that voice inside me loose and get it to sing my song, not the Serious Fiction that Serious People would Take Seriously song, but my quirky, funny, sometimes bittersweet tune. I found my voice.

When I have the chance, I tell writing students that they should try to write romance if they really want to learn how to write. Romance has a formula (go look it up if you don’t know what it is — I’ve blogged about it), and it’s very hard to make characters real, a plot believable and a story compelling when readers know implicitly if not explicitly what the formula is.

Those of you who’ve read my bio know I went to a music conservatory, not a liberal arts college. Learning to write romance was my degree in creative writing. It was my Writing Seminars Program.  I highly recommend it for any aspiring writer — even those who have gone through a college writing course of study.

Now, hurry on over and get a copy of Aefle & Gisela! Here are the links if you missed them up above:

For Kindle, click here.

For Nook, click here.

For every other e-reading device, click here.

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