I learned to cook from my grandmothers, who’d learned from their mothers. They rarely measured anything, and used what ever they happened to have lying around the kitchen in the days when there were iceboxes and root cellars, and the milkman filled a metal box every morning.
Trial and error taught them how big the pillow of flour should be, when a pinch of salt was enough or if you needed enough to fill the palm of your hand. They could see and feel the right consistency, and tasted everything. Was the batter sweet enough? Did the meatballs have enough garlic? It taught me to be resourceful, to rely on instinct, my senses, my memory. I learned how to substitute ingredients when one ran low, and “correct” the seasonings.
That’s why I am called a panster. I hate planning, outlining, plotting a story. Like a cooking student who just wants to get to it and not spend time learning the nuances of handling knives, I just write. My journalistic and narrative nonfiction projects are short and conform to certain editorial guidelines and conventions. Why do more than jot down my references and sources?
When I write fiction, character sheets and plot points are stored in my very organized brain. The Journey was not outlined. Hot Chocolate Kiss was written in one sitting.
I followed a detailed outline for my fourth novel, a paranormal romance, but it interfered with my ability to let the characters loose until I allowed myself to free write then figure out where it belonged later.
When cooking I pull my trusty recipes off the shelf from time to time, but I generally find inspiration in Grandma’s hand scrawled instructions or yellowed news clippings, grease stained and spattered with who knows what, to cook up something delicious, using what ever I have on hand or in my head. And I write the same way.
Many people ask me where I come up with story ideas (besides dreams). Since I love being outdoors, I often find inspiration while hiking, boating, beachcombing, or skiing. Nature is so big, so fickle, so powerful that even small glimmers of light, sounds you can’t place, and, of course weather will often trigger an idea. Extremes–heat or cold, dangerous winds or currents, storms, wrap me in an experience that begs to be shared with readers. In The Journey, being on the water in a small boat, exploring coves, caves and snorkeling helped me craft those scenes to feel realistic.
I have a lot of current works in progress. I took surfing lessons in preparation for writing the summer sequel to Hot Chocolate Kiss, whose working title is Sex on the Beach. Hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, when it snowed in May, has given me plenty of material for the spring installment, Mudslide, and wandering through Salem at Samhain for Hot Spiced Cider. All the stories in my sexy seasons series are named for drinks, which Rick and Keela will share when their adventures are over.
Be sure to keep in touch for news about how they’re coming along.