Category Archives: Writing tips

Writing Food, Writing Love

Since I’m “sociable” these days in my expanding role as an online book marketer, I’m exposed to new sources of zany information. Take food, for instance (thank you, I will). Food holiday notices pop up often. Maybe I’m just hungry, but I’ve seen a ton of foodie goodness highlighted this month. To start with, April is National Garlic Month. Guess what’s in tonight’s dinner. : ) So far, I’ve encountered National Empanada Day and National Cheese Fondue Day. We’ve also enjoyed Beer Day and World Malbec Day. And I’m looking forward to Pigs in a Blanket Day and Shrimp Scampi Day. I had no idea such tasty fun abounded online.

Of course, what this really means for a foodie like myself is hunger. All day long. And the need to satiate that hunger. So, what does that have to do with writing?

Let me make the distinction that I’m speaking of writing about food within the context of a story. I don’t write as a food critic or food blogger, though I’ve investigated those avenues. After research and thought, I knew I much preferred incorporating my food love into novels and stories.

I grew up near and in Manhattan. One of my favorite things about the city is the availability of crazy-diverse food offerings around the clock. In my opinion, it’s one of the things NYC does best: supply an endless bounty of succulent bites.

Alaska roll and sushi yumminess

A large part of my existence in the Big Apple (see, it’s even nicknamed after a food), involved eating and dining out. While deciding whether to move to St. Augustine, a considerable factor was its gastronomy effect: could the town sustain me? After significant sampling of the local fare, I had my answer: a resounding yes. Thank goodness.

Cheese plate from The Floridian...a fave.
Cheese plate from The Floridian…a fave.

Given the enormity of my adoration, it made sense to bring this huge fixation into my writing. Food is one of my great loves (don’t worry, my hub is right there, too), so I had to blend it with another of my great loves, writing.

Writing about food creates ambiance, develops character, evokes setting, propels scenes …. Food plays a role in the bigger picture that is the story.

People think of food with a range of emotion. People relate to sustenance as a universal language. We connect to others through cuisine and cooking. The experience of food involves all the senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. The inclusion of these five items is critical to brilliant, captivating writing.

This food writing is not about sensory overload, though. It’s about setting a time and place, creating relationships between the character and the food, the situation, the other characters. It’s about bonding and enjoyment, craving and the simple truth of necessity.

In my first novel, Emerald Obsession, the lead character Lexy, much like myself (shocking), indulges in a variety of food and drink experiences. From the juicy, homey burger at Walker’s to the garlicky, piquant gambas at Las Ramblas, her emotions progress from consolation to camaraderie. A beer with a suspicious character in a neighborhood pub segues into a drinking contest and lends zip to her feisty attitude and competitive nature.

And in my forthcoming novel—I’ll call it simply TB for now—I have the cast meeting the newcomer in a seaside Caribbean locale over crunchy conch fritters and a crisp Turks Head beer, while breezes ruffle the palms overhead.

I hope my stories transport people somewhere exotic and exciting. Writing about food and the surroundings in which it’s shared is a great way to escape the everyday. Or to remind us how good it is.

So, friends, fans and followers, how do you feel when you read about food? Does that delight you and make you hungry, like me? Share your favorite foods and restaurants in the comment section. I’d love to hear what sets your taste buds zinging. One of my ABSOLUTE faves—which I was fortunate to have on a recent visit north—is my mom’s homemade lasagna!!! Check out the photos. I surprised her (not really) by having three servings that night. Whee … heaven! : ) Thanks for reading and sharing = caring.

Lasagne with Mom
Lasagne with Mom
Lasagne, pre-oven
Lasagne, pre-oven
Mom's best lasagne, after I got my hands on it!
Mom’s best lasagne, after I got my hands on it!

PS—If you’re in the St. Augustine area this weekend, 4/23/16, stop by the Annual Taste of St. Augustine for delectable nibbles from our local restaurants, a highlight of my spring. Be on the lookout for me and the hub.

Outside enjoying delicious St. Aug food

Sunlight through trees

5 Writing Tips for a Spring Refresh

Spring’s here, and I’m so glad. Signs of a refresh are everywhere: budding trees, longer days, spring training. Life reinvigorating itself. Noticing the new season’s changes made me take a closer look at my writing routines. And that prompted a question.

How do I spruce up my writing habits to better manage everything that needs doing?

That’s the rub, isn’t it? Every day in a writer’s life is about more than the words on the page. What happens when it’s time to refresh not only your words, but the habits that frame your writing? I’m sure you can relate. Like others in charge—of households, businesses, et cetera—now that I’m the boss (ha, I like that one), I juggle more tasks than just the basics. My time is split between doing what I love and doing what makes my business grow.

When I published my first novel, I went from simple wordsmith to: website designer, book marketer, blogger and social media content provider, office manager, accountant and help desk technician (yes, I’m awful at that last role).

With all these parts to play, often on a daily basis, how do you keep up? Especially when you have a day job and a life that requires at least marginal attention.

Since taking on these additional duties, I’ve struggled with how to make sure everything gets done, well and reasonably on time. Wearing several hats isn’t new to me, but being the boss is. I’m the one responsible for my business, and being in charge requires a heightened level of discipline.

Now that I work as a professional writer, I’ve discovered how to make my routine manageable.

Here are my top five strategies for organizing my writing and business habits:

1—Practice writing 5 days a week. Many sources (and famous writers) say to write every day. I’d love to, but that doesn’t work for me. Does that mean I’m a lousy writer? No. Will it take me longer than some to improve or get ahead? Maybe. But I’ve recognized my limitations, and for now, writing seven days a week rarely happens. I’ll still try, but I won’t beat myself up for missing a day. There’s enough pressure on, and all those other hats need wearing, too. As always, pick your battles.

2—Vary where, when and how you write. Sometimes I’m on my computer in my home office. Other times, at one of the coffee shops downtown. I type on my laptop outside. I grab one of my ever-present notebooks and write longhand, preferably in blue ink (blue makes me happier than black). I write in the morning, afternoon, evening and middle of the night, though not usually in the same day. The upshot: write when- and wherever you can.

3—Work with a critique group. I mentioned mine in my post, “Under Pressure.” I cannot stress enough the huge help those guys are, nor the support they give on many levels: sounding board for story ideas, insights into the writing business, founts of info and resources, and obviously critiques and camaraderie, which I absolutely need. Family, friends, loved ones…all crucial in life, but other writers? Sanity when you think you’ve lost it.

4—Make friends with a content marketing editorial calendar. Mine’s on the lean side at the moment, but it’s enough to keep me on track with the big-ticket items, like blogging and marketing. There’s nothing like seeing what needs doing in black-and-white (or blue-and-white, in my case) to keep me accountable. Hello, whiteboard, my old friend. You can add in dates for financial reporting, ordering supplies, whatever you need so you stick to a schedule. Here’s a calendar source to check out. I don’t endorse or use their products, nor get compensation for the mention, I just found useful info there. Find what works for you.

5—Embrace a To Do List. On a smaller scale, you’ll usually find me with my To Do List somewhere handy. My editorial calendar lives on my office wall, letting me see the month at a glance and know my basic tasks, while my To Do List drills into the down-and-dirty, like specifying details for a contest submission or picking up research materials at the library. When I feel overwhelmed, I’ll even write down something I’ve finished, just for the relief of crossing anything off my list. Yes, I’m one of those people. : P

So there you have it, a few things that keep me mostly on the straight-and-narrow. Do they work all the time? Hell, no. But they’re helping, for sure.

What about you, readers, writers, fans and friends? What are the writing and business habits that work for you? How often do you revisit your routine? I’d love to hear what keeps you motivated, so leave a comment below or shoot me an email. Thanks for reading and please share.