Friday Fast Five: My First Romance Novel, Writing Advice à la King, & the Most Amazing Salsa/Salad Ever

Yes, it’s Saturday. I understand. If I keep this up eventually I will need to do one of 2 things: change “Friday Five” to “Saturday Six,” or just get my sh*t together and post on Friday.

1. Vacations: After Lil’ G (our 2nd and last offspring) was born, the husband and I decided we wanted to provide something that was missing from most of our own childhoods: the annual summer trip. For three years running now, we kick off our summer with a few days spent a couple hours north at a hotel off the shores of Lake Michigan. We play on the beach, lounge and read on the deck, explore the odd little shops in the small downtown area, and go for long walks on the pier. The husband and I drink too much booze, the girls eat too much ice cream.  It is a glorious way to make memories and recharge our batteries. We’ve already booked our trip for next year, and I am already looking forward to it!

2: The One That Started it All: My reading material this vacation was also a little trip down memory lane. On a recent trip to HalfPriceBooks I came across the first romance novel I ever read. I was 13, and babysitting for a trio of boys who I can probably blame for early gray hair. After the heathens were in bed I noticed a paperback sitting on top of the t.v. The cover certainly caught my attention (keep in mind I was really into the show The Young Riders at the time):

The book had a stubborn redhead, a surly hot half-Cheyenne, and sex on a horse. What’s not to love? After that I cleaned my library out of Lindseys, which, if you read romance, you know – is a lot of books. Ignoring the dirty looks from the librarians who must not have approved of a junior high girl reading massive amounts of “smut,” I moved on to the the other big names of that era like Catherine Coulter and Jude Deveraux, then in high school I fell in love with EVERYTHING from Laura Kinsale. I know the man-titty covers get a lot of grief, and while I was reading Savage Thunder this past week I often found myself hiding the cover and feeling some of the awkwardness this mom describes in a recent post on Smart Bitches…but I will just come out and say it-if the book had the cover it currently sports (as seen on the HarperCollins page HERE) my 13-year old self might have passed right over it and flipped on the t.v instead, hoping to catch an episode of The Young Riders. Oh, what a world I would have missed.

3. On Writing: So not only did reading that first romance novel inspire a life-long habit of reading more romance novels, it also planted the seeds of aspiration to write my own. Along with lofty summer writing goals involving word count and BICHOK time (Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard for those of you not in the know), I have decided I will try and read a “craft” book a week. Lucky for me I have started with a great one. On Writing by Stephen King is a great read in and of itself, fascinating for the story King tells aside from the writing commentary. I knew I was going to love this book the moment I read the first line of the second foreword (there are actually 3 forewords in the book, the guy can do what he wants – this is Stephen King after all). King states, “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullsh*t.” If the book is short on pages, it isn’t short on great advice. It is loaded with gems any writer would do well to stash in their treasure box. Like this one, which I want to kiss him for, because I understand exactly what he is saying:

Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.

Then there’s this advice he passes on to us, from his boss at a newspaper job:

When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.

As I said, the book is full of this kind of good stuff, but you’ll have to read it for yourself. I do want to note one other thing though, King does a lovely job describing how he owes much of his success as a writer to his wife’s unwavering support:

Whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or a husband), I smile and think, There’s someone who knows. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is enough.

I am so very blessed in this respect as well. My husband has offered me nothing but staunch support for my writing. He makes me want to work hard to be worthy of his unwavering belief in my ability.

4.  Rejection: Recently I experienced what I know many, if not all, writers go through: the dreaded rejection letter. I know writing, like acting, is full of moments like this – moments people will say: sorry, but your work isn’t “right.” Whatever their reasons are, it still hurts. King talks about how he collected his rejection slips on a nail hammered to his bedroom wall. Many famous, talented, epic writers were told their work wasn’t “right.” The secret to their success is they kept on writing anyway, and so will I.

5. The BEST Summer/Salad: Let’s leave rejection behind and move on to happier things, like food. A few weeks ago I attended a picnic and tasted the most amazing dish. It was incredible, and though I stopped myself from going back for thirds, it wouldn’t have been too horrible if I did – the recipe is actually healthy.  I tracked the bringer of amazingness down and found out she got the recipe from Barefoot Contessa (whom I adore). If you want to wow your taste buds and make every person at a summer picnic worship you as a pot-luck goddess, you need to check this recipe out: Guacamole Salad.

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