Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Power of Food in Fiction...and a Yummy Praline Recipe!

We humans tend to love food. Big surprise, eh? Just writing this post makes me want to grab a little snack, a treat, a munch, and morsel, a smackerel, a goodie (see, so many terms of endearment!). Readers can form a subconscious yet strong bond to a novel and its characters through the use of food, do you agree?

What do Various Food Items Represent to you?
What would Chinese take-out every Friday night unveil about a character? Fudge ice cream? Filet Mignon? James Bond sipping a hot chocolate? I don’t think so. What if the hero in any given novel first sees the heroine holding a ball of cotton candy? Now take the cotton candy away and substitute it with crème brulee. Different, right?

I was reading my monthly Romance Writers Report when I stumbled upon an article on Food in Romance Novels that made me sit up and say, "Woohoo! I agree!" It made me think about my own novel. In retrospect, I’ve found a few passages in my YA contemporary romance that uses food to accomplish something (at least I hope so!).

Food in My Novel
Seventeen-year-old Sienna Owens is on vacation in Georgia when she meets Austin Dobbs, a sweet (and quite attractive) recent high school grad. While they’re on River Street, Austin convinces her to get an almond praline ice cream cone, because the best pralines in the world are on River Street, or so he claims (mmm, and I agree!). Austin seems to know everyone on River Street: the ice cream scooper at the River Street Sweets, the sample guy, even the saxophone player collecting cash in a hat on the street. When Sienna asks Austin how he knows so many people…

He flashes a dimpled smile that makes my knees all tingly and holds up his ice cream cone. “I just eat a lot of almond praline.”
I laugh and then lick my own cone, the cold sugariness taking me back to a time when everything about life was coated in numbing sweetness. I liked it better that way.

Tragedy recently struck Sienna’s family, and she is torn between wanting to move on and yearning to relive (no, redo) the past. Austin makes her feel carefree again. Alive. He’s the type of guy who eats pralines ‘n cream on a Friday night. It serves as a subtle hint I want the reader to pick up on about his character. You tell me, what does ice cream say about a guy (ha ha, this is totally my husband’s favorite food, so I really want to know!)?

So I guess I was using food—ice cream—to hopefully give readers a taste for Sienna’s longing to change the past as well as a glimpse inside the mysterious Austin. Always an elusive answer from that Austin, a man with a past of his own, as Sienna will discover.

Praline Recipe
And now for the recipe part. Anyone been to River Street in Savannah, GA? (Read my thoughts on River Street in my about me page). Much to my husband’s delight, I scoured the internet, pieced together a recipe (of all the recipes I researched and sampled, the recipe I use is most similar to this one onallrecipes), and did the trial-and-error thing to come up with…

Austin’s Pralines
2 cups               Toasted pecans (some broken in half, others whole)
3 T.                  Butter
1 ½ cup            White sugar
¾ cup               Brown sugar
!¼ cup              Evaporated milk
1 tsp.                Vanilla extract

1.      Toast pecans (on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet in oven 350 degrees for 4-5 min).
2.      Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
3.      Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk and vanilla in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring, and boil appx. 3 minutes (heated to 240 degrees F).
4.      Stir in pecans and remove from heat.
5.      Immediately put pan in ice bath for 10 seconds. Yes, strange. Do it.
6.      Beat with beaters until mixture develops a cloudy shine.
7.      Then spoon them out lightening fast (spoon onto prepared baking sheet). Let cool completely. Super yum!

Novels with Food Scenes:
Ever read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or seen the play? Odd, I know, but every time Scrooge eats his bedtime porridge, I want to dig into a bowl of that Cream of Wheat my dad (who has since passed) used to make for me growing up. See, powerful. Simply by taking a bite of porridge, Scrooge has reached into me, made himself a character I want to spend time with despite his not-so-likeable self. Such a rich guy eating mush? Intriguing.

In Jane Eyre, her teacher gives her a little “seed cake” and hot tea, symbolizing warmth and relief. What about pumpkin juice in Harry Potter? Or the Turkish Delight in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia that seduces children into following the wicked White Witch? In The Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, mother and grandmother Anya Whitson hordes food, stashing even the smallest amounts into her freezer for safe keeping. At one point, her daughter finds her ripping down wallpaper and cooking it for food. Anya’s relationship to food is tragic, to say the least, hinting to her daughter the truth of her heartbreaking past as a young girl in Leningrad during the Stalin Regime.

Me With a Praline, Being a Goofball

Actually, my husband made me laugh (he tends to do that) and then he snapped the picture.

I Love Comments!
If you could sit down with any character in fiction and eat something, who would it be and what would you eat? Have you used food in your writing? What is your favorite food and what does it say about you? 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Winner of The Keeper's Calling Giveaway!!

And the winner is (by random draw)...

Comment #11, Penny Freeman!

Congrats, Penny! You're signed copy of The Keeper's Calling is on its way.

Thanks to all of you who entered! I appreciate you coming to my blog. Happy weekend wishes to all!


photo credit

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Giveaway! Signed copy of "The Keeper's Calling"

Building on the last post (my interview with author Kelly Nelson), we're going to give away one signed copy of Kelly's novel, The Keeper's Calling! Here's what you have to do to enter:

That's it. Easy peasy! Then leave a comment below saying that you did it and you're in (please make sure I have a way of contacting you should you win). Contest will end next Thursday at midnight. I'll draw one of you at random and, POOF, free signed copy. I'll announce the winner Friday morning.

Good luck, and thanks!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Interview with Kelly Nelson, author of The Keeper's Calling

Today I’m super excited to post this interview with Kelly Nelson, author at WalnutSprings Press. Kelly’s debut novel, The Keeper’s Calling, is an adventure that will appeal to like, well, anyone. Seriously, young or old, male or female… You name it. Time travel, romance, magic, adventure--this book has a little of something for everyone. So, without further ado…

Welcome, Kelly! First off, what are you most passionate about, other than writing?

I love my two horses—Texas and Fancy. From the time I was three I wished for a horse on every birthday candle blowing, every first star I saw and every wishbone I broke. When I was 16 my dad finally gave in and bought me Misty, a thoroughbred mare and ultimately the mother of Texas. She had come off the race track and loved to run. More than once she took the bit in her mouth and ran full-speed down the canal frontage road while I hung on for dear life. She was a lot of horse and I learned through trial and error how to be a horseperson. I’ve owned her foal, Texas, longer than I’ve known my husband.

A horse lover! My three-year-old is horse crazy too. I find ponies everywhere: in my bed sheets, in the pantry, in the sleeve of my bath robe. She has a “savings jar” that she plans to use to buy a “rainbow horsie” named “Paint.”

Alright, this is random (but fun). Five of your favorite movies. Go.

I’m going to list one from each of the past five decades:
1960s  ~ The Great Escape
1970s  ~ Star Wars
1980s  ~ Raider’s of the Lost Ark
1990s ~ Titanic
2000s ~ Hidalgo

Several of those would make my top list, too. But Kelly, no Man From Snowy River?

So, why did you begin writing?

I simply wanted to see if I could—you know, actually put together 80,000 words and have them make sense and be interesting to read. I had wanted to write a book since I was 15 years old. Over the years I had started and abandoned two different novels. With my 39th birthday looming on the horizon, I figured I’d better get going on writing that novel if I wanted any hope of making it a reality.  

Published novel…CHECK! That has to feel great. On that note, what do you find most rewarding about writing?

The most rewarding thing is the feeling of excitement and exhilaration I get from knowing I created something. The year I spent writing The Keeper’s Saga was the happiest year of my life. My favorite step in the writing process is completing a novel and then reading it through from start to finish for the first time. 

A saga! Pretty please, tell us more.

I’m working on The Keeper’s Quest, an exciting sequel to The Keeper’s Calling. The expected release date is early November.

Hooray! I can’t wait. Kelly, how did you come up with the title?

I went through three titles before settling on The Keeper’s Calling. I had been coached by my writing mentor in the ACM Christian Novel writing contest to choose a title that hinted at the deeper meaning in the book. My main character faces the decision to either accept or reject the calling as a Keeper.

Tell us about your all-time favorite character (of your own creation).

This is a tough one, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be Garrick. He is a supporting character in The Keeper’s Saga. Garrick is confident, never backs down from a fight, super studly, and has a touch of a wild streak. In fact, I might write a book about him someday.

Studly indeed! Anyone who hasn’t read The Keeper’s Calling yet will know what we’re talking about when they do. And I, for one, would love to see that novel about Garrick.

Is anything in your book based on real life experience or purely all imagination?

There are several real-life threads running through the pages of The Keeper’s Calling.  I used my own home and location as the building blocks for my setting. My son and daughter attend Hillsboro High School, the same as Chase Harper in my novel. And when my editor requested I change the name of Chase’s twin sister to something more common of a 17 year old girl, I used my daughter Jessica’s name. Also, part of the lecture Chase Harper refers to in the first chapter of my book is the same one I’ve heard my husband give to my kids.

What is your favorite chapter or scene and why?

I love the scene in which Chase and Ellie first talk to each other. He is a modern teenager and she is from the 1860s, and yet, at the time they meet, neither one of them has figured this out. I love it that he thinks she is a bit crazy, while at the same time admiring her.

She never once turned around. Never said a thing. I grew tired of hiking after her with no plan. “Where are we going?” I finally asked.
She pointed up the canyon, and in a businesslike tone said, “I’m not sure where you’re headed, but I’m going this way.” Then continued hiking.
Pretty, but rude. I shook my head and moved forward, keeping myself one step behind her. “Why are you going this way? There’s nothing up ahead but a bunch of rocks and sagebrush. I spent all day coming down the canyon.” She kept walking and didn’t answer me. Frustrated and tired, I grabbed her arm. “Hey, we need to talk—“
Wheeling around, she slapped me across the face. My jaw went slack, and I loosened my hold. She yanked her arm out of my hand and pulled a pistol from her skirt pocket. I stared open-mouthed down the barrel aimed at my chest. She took a step back. “Mister, I reckon I owe you a debt of gratitude for helping me back there. But there’s something important I need to do, and I’ll thank you to let me be about my business alone. I do appreciate your kindness, but if you don’t mind, pull foot and find your own trail. I don’t care where you go, but don’t follow me. Or—or I’ll have to shoot you.”

Ooo, thank you for the sneak peek! And thank you, Kelly, for “stopping by.” For more about Kelly and her upcoming books, visit her website