I’m over at Word Whores today, talking about how inspiration can be found in the most prosaic of settings.
Month: June 2014
On Monsoon Rains and Sharing Creativity
Every morning when I start up my internet browser, the 10-Day Weather Forecast is one of the tabs that opens. This time of year I watch it very closely, hoping for the monsoon rains to start.
If you’re not familiar with the desert southwest, the monsoon rains are pivotal for us. If we’re lucky, they start in late June and then continue through August. It’s our wettest season – a relative term for most of you – and one we depend on to save us from becoming as barren as the Sahara. As the spring heats up, we dry out. June is hot, dry and windy. It’s not the gentle onset to summer that so many parts of the country have. It’s scorching. It’s when the fires start.
So, we anticipate the monsoons, hoping and praying for the cooling, drenching rain to arrive. In monsoon season, we have bright sunny mornings, clouds roll in by noon, heavy rain until about 4 or 5 pm, and then clear, cool evenings. I’ve learned that the monsoon’s begin when the dew point – the green line in the top graph above – meets or crosses the temperature, the red line. Sure enough, next week that green line finally rises up near that red line and – oh look! – RAIN.
It feels like a miracle poised to occur. A joyful, life-giving one that everyone can share in.
In what feels like a parallel to me, yesterday I talked on Twitter with this gal, Elizabeth Lane. She tweeted:
Straight up this review for @jeffekennedy‘s Ruby is the most fun I’ve ever had in the kitchen. I have tiny little pools of sauce.
— Elisabeth Lane (@elisabethjlane) June 26, 2014
Now, she had mentioned something along these lines before. Other people have made similar comments about Ruby, because the hero is a chef at a five-star restaurant in New Orleans. I get little notes along the lines of “Tell Bobby Prejean to make me a sandwich!” fairly frequently. Or they make noises about recreating a certain chocolate fondu scene. *ahem* I figured Elisabeth meant something similar, but when I saw this yesterday, I asked if she really meant it. She replied:
.@jeffekennedy Well…yeah. It’s what I do. My chocolate sauce needs work, but the cilantro and mango are genius. I’m as humble as he is 😉
— Elisabeth Lane (@elisabethjlane) June 27, 2014
So, a bit chagrined, I went and looked at her website.
OMG you guys! You have to look at what she’s doing. She reads romance novels and picks out certain meals to recreate and then blog about. I may be in love. Once I (belatedly, yes, I know) figured this out, I had to go back to Ruby to figure out which meal she’s doing. After all, there are A LOT in that particular story, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, if she was talking mango and cilantro, that was NOT the chocolate fondu scene. Instead it’s this one:
A small table in the corner under draping vines awaited her, lit with candles. A stand held a silver champagne bucket, and the maitre d’ poured a glass for her. The label was French and looked old, not one she recognized. The wine evaporated on her tongue, the sublime effervescence filling her head.
If she didn’t know better, she’d think she was being courted.
Course after course arrived, thoughtful, perfect presentations of the most succulent food she’d ever tasted, all on small plates. She began to feel like a pampered pet, coaxed into trying just a bit more. A popover, lighter than air, a hint of honey-butter perfuming it. A single oyster on the half shell, presented with a subtle sage breading that reminded her of Thanksgiving. Three sea scallops, sautéed to perfection, sweetly juicy and served each in a pool of its own sauce—one a piquant cilantro, the next a peppered mango and the final one a variation on the barely bitter chocolate he’d served that morning, strangely perfect with the salty counterpoint.
She inhaled the Caesar salad—the dressing exquisite, the anchovies aged in a smoky oil. When the waiter reverently laid the main course before her, a perfectly golden mini-soufflé of crab and nine aged cheeses, she heard a woman at the next table inquire about it, only to be told it was reserved for special customers. A heart carved into the crust, inlaid with a brush of cinnamon, confirmed it.
Prejean finally joined her, as she finished the soufflé. He gave her plate a long look and raised his eyebrows, the gold hoop winking. “Any good?”
Elisabeth says she’s focusing on the sea scalllops. Then the best part for me is, when someone else asked when this would go up, she said:
@_AJCousins @jeffekennedy I’m aiming for July 3rd. Maybe the 7th. I’m actually inventing things for this one so it takes a little longer.
— Elisabeth Lane (@elisabethjlane) June 27, 2014
Do you see? She’s INVENTING the recipe from my story! Because, well, she pretty much had to, since I totally made it up. Some of the meals in this story are ones I’ve had in New Orleans restaurants or elsewhere. Others are ones I looked up. Some are ones I fabricated because they sounded delicious and sensual to me. And now Elisabeth is making it real, in a different way than I made it real. It’s like that rising dew point, that passes a certain threshold and makes it rain.
Finally, speaking of blessings from above and turning points, that starred Library Journal Review for The Mark of the Tala is finally available online, I love, love, love this review! Here it is:
Kennedy, Jeffe. The Mark of the Tala. Kensington. (Twelve Kingdoms, Bk. 1). Jun. 2014. 338p. ISBN 9780758294432. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758294449. FANTASY
As the middle daughter of the High King, Andi isn’t the warrior (that’s older sister Ursula) or the beautiful one (younger sister Amelia has that sewn up), but she does have a distinct tie to her mother’s people, the Tala, that might change the balance of power in the realm. No one in the Twelve Kingdoms speaks of the dead queen or the Tala, so when Andi, while out riding, meets the mysterious Rayfe, she is stunned to find out that he is king of the Tala and that she is destined to be his queen. VERDICT The fairy-tale setup only hints at the depth of worldbuilding at work in this debut series. What could be clichéd is instead moving as Andi is torn between duty to her father and the pull of Rayfe and his kingdom. Andi starts out passive, in the shadows, and insecure but experiences great growth as the story develops. This well-written and swooningly romantic fantasy will appeal to fans of Juliet Marillier’s “Sevenwaters” series or Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown.
And it’s going to rain. Life is pretty wonderful. Happy weekend, everyone!
Grown-Up Fairytales and Sparkly Princess Castles
I’m over with the Wonk-o-Mance gals today. The have a very fun group blog where they like to discuss the intersection of romance and popular culture. So I’m talking about sparkly unicorns and fairytale princess castles. Of course.
Convention Organizers – What Not To Do
Today I’m over at Word Whores, talking about the worst convention I ever attended.
Accidental Gender Swapping in Fantasy
I’m over at Here Be Magic today, talking about the roles men play in my Twelve Kingdoms trilogy.
Four Stars from RT for GOING UNDER
The Honey Moon from June 13. I waited a bit late to get out there with my camera, but it’s kind of a cool photo anyway.
Full summer is here with all that brings – warm evenings outside, time spent in the garden or working on the patio. I’m getting a nice tan. And lots of plans to do fun things all the way past Labor Day in September. That always seems to be the way of it, looking ahead to the end already. Human nature, perhaps?
My mom and I were talking yesterday about a friend of hers with cancer, which she calls “the bad stuff.” She’s an irrepressibly cheerful person who refuses to dwell on the fact that the bad stuff has come back and her prospects are dim. My mom said that, when she feels blue, she reminds herself that she’s not facing that. I do the same thing, to focus on the moment, to enjoy my life so that shadows of future endings don’t taint what I have now.
But looking forward to future fun builds anticipation, too. Our end-of-summer plans involve celebrating my birthday, along with my aunt’s and stepdad’s. My late summer birthday has always been a bittersweet event for me. On the one hand, I love my birthday and look forward to it. Birthdays are a big deal in my family (obviously) and are celebrated with panache. As a Leo girl, I soak up my moment in the sun, unabashedly savoring the gifts and good wishes, all the petting, eating and drinking. But my birthday has also always meant that summer is coming to a close and that school would start again, usually within a few days. The two have been entwined in my head from my earliest days – the indulgence of my birthday with the ending of another summer.
I’m at another ending right now. I’ve hit 120,000 words on The Talon of the Hawk, book 3 in my Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. By tomorrow, it should be done. It’s a big ending, because it ties up not only this heroine’s story, but that of my other two heroines also. I’ve talked about how I’m past deadline and going long on this book. What that’s done is made me very focused on finishing. I’ve been pushing hard towards this goal and looking forward to completing this project.
But then… it will be over.
I’ll miss living in this heroine’s head, miss the world of The Twelve Kingdoms. For my readers, the adventure has just started – they’re reading book 1 and anticipating book 2. It’s a funny place to be. I have all the rewards of finishing – which are considerable – but also that twisted up bittersweet nostalgia that summer is drawing to a close.
All in all, good problems to have.
On Going Long
I’m over at Paranormal Romantics today, talking about going long on a fantasy novel.
Five Tips for Building a Successful Conference Workshop
Yesterday my lovely, smart and generous friend Darynda Jones gave the workshop for our monthly local chapter meeting. Giving presentations for small groups like this can be a great way to develop conference workshops. One of five I have to offer today over at Word Whores.
Hot & Sultry Summer of Romance!
If you live in or around New Mexico, stop by the Page 1 bookstore Saturday afternoon! I’ll be doing a very fun panel with Katie Lane, Celeste Bradley and Darynda Jones. The event may or may not include us reading from the raciest (hot and sultry – we deliver!) passages of our books, but dinging out the naughty words. There will be prizes!