Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Coreopsis in bloom. #garden #gardening #gardenerslife #gardenersofig #authorlife #authorslife #authorsofig #authorsofinstagram #writerslife

Frequently Asked Questions Series -- Why Did You Give Antoinette the Ability to Heal?

I'm asked this a lot.  Honestly, it was the one part of the story that I really worried about.  You see there's this (mistaken) belief that everyone with autism has some type of Rain Man-like ability.  They can sketch realistic pictures after a single glance.  They can pound out a Mozart symphony after hearing it once. 

The truth is that just as there is a range of abilities among neuro-typical people, there is also a range of abilities among those with autism. 

Because I didn't want to perpetuate that myth, I struggled with the decision to give Antoinette the ability to heal.  In fact, I almost didn't.  But for me, it can down to one thing: Antoinette’s healing ability isn’t about magic.  It’s about control.

One of the things people with special needs often face is a lack of control.  It can be extremely frustrating.  I see it in my daughter Grace.  She can’t control her own body.  She can’t speak. She can’t use a fork or a spoon to feed herself.  She’s thirteen and still in diapers.  Often, she gets incredibly upset over the things she can't do.   

Antoinette has similar challenges.  She's locked inside this body she can't control and she can't even voice her frustrations.  Add to that the incredibly scary fact that her mother is dying. 

I wanted to give Antoinette something she could control.  What she wants most in the world is for her mother (Rose) to live.  So I thought, why not give Antoinette the power to make that happen?  Antoinette can pick and choose who she heals.  Although she can’t say the words, “I love you, Mommy,” she can express her love for her mother by attempting to heal her, even if it’s at significant cost to herself. 

Ultimately, healing is an issue of power.  So many other things have been taken from Antoinette.  I wanted to give her power over the one thing that matter most to her--her mother's life. 

Repost from @tashaseegmiller using @RepostRegramApp - There are so many amazing contenders for the @womensfictionwriters STAR AWARD this year - I CANNOT wait to see who the finalists are! #wfwa #readersofig #awardwinningbooks

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wild #roses growing beside my house. #gardening #gardenersofinstagram #flowers #gardener #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #writerslife

For #MothersDay according to Jonathan one of the lessons I taught him was "not to say shut up to my family." Cracking up! (Here's hoping the lesson sticks!) #lifelessons #momofmany #specialneedsmom #specialneeds #writerslife #authorslife #authorsofinstagram

Frequently Asked Questions Series - Are The Recipes in the Book Real?

Yes, the are! 

One of the aspects of writing Peculiar Miracles that I enjoyed the most was including scenes where the characters worked with edible flowers.  I love to bake and I'm always looking for new and unusual flavor combinations.   Some time ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for lavender bread.  I tried it out, and I loved it! 

 Plus, there's something about cooking with flowers that elevates your dishes from something mundane to something special.  One think you do need to be aware of when cookie with flowers is that a little goes a long way--especially when using dried petals.  If you use too much, the flavor can be overpowering and your bread or cookies (or ice cream even!) will end up tasting like perfume. 

I frequently bake with lavender, orange blossoms, and rose water.  I use other flowers also, but those are the three I use most frequently, and I think their flavor is the easiest for people not accustomed to floral-infused food to get used to.  I'll share recipes using all of them, but today, I wanted to share the recipe for lavender bread that Lily makes for Rose. 

If you make it at home, let me know what you think!

Eden Farms Lavender Bread

3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 -- 2 Tbsp. dried lavender flowers, finely chopped, or 3 Tbsp. fresh chopped flowers
zest from one large lemon
juice from 1/2 of large lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat milk with lavender almost to a boil, then steep until cool, allowing the lavender to infuse into the milk.

Combine sugar and lemon zest in food processor until well blended.  

In the meantime combine flour, baking powder and salt together in small bowl.

In another bowl cream butter & sugar until smooth, then add eggs, one at a time, beating until light and fluffy, then add lemon juice.

Add flour mixture alternately with lavender milk, in three parts. Mix until batter is just blended, do not overbeat.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

Once the bread has cooled completely, drizzle with a simple sugar glaze or sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. 

Simple Glaze

1 cup Powdered sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 spoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp Almond milk or regular milk 

Combine the ingredients until smooth and drizzle over cooled bread.  

My motto: #bookish #books #writerslife #writing #reading #authorslife #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

#chocolate stash--essential for this #writer! #writersofinstagram #authorlife #authorsofig #authorsofinstagram #bookish #bookstagram

Frequently Asked Questions Series -- Is Eden Farms a Real Place?

The short answer is no.  I wish it were, but it's an entirely fictional place.  Basically, I dreamed up the type of place I'd like to live and wrote that.  I live in the suburbs, but I'm a country girl at heart.  I prefer open fields and white plank fences to sidewalks and perfectly manicured lawns. 

I knew I wanted to set the novel in Kentucky.  I’ve lived in the state my entire life.  The beauty of the land and the strength of the people have left their imprint on my writing.  I first thought of setting the story on a horse farm—after all, Kentucky’s known for horses—but it just didn’t feel right.  I was an avid flower gardener (I’m one of those people who can’t wait for winter to end so I can put my hands in the soil), and I began toying with the idea of setting the story on a commercial flower farm. 

Although I was already a gardener, I felt like I needed to know more.  I enrolled in the Master Gardener Certification program offered through my local county extension center.  The classes gave me the in-depth gardening information that I needed to write the book.  They also made me a much better gardener and enabled me to pass the information down to my children.  Most of them are now gardeners and understand ecological issues we’re facing like honeybee colony collapse!

I believe we're shaped by our environment.  We feel a pull to particular places, places that once we're there, feel like "home".  I already knew that Lily and Rose would be estranged.  So when writing Eden Farms, I wanted to create a place that left its mark on the characters, a place that Lily (especially) would miss.  A place that would call to her.  A place she felt she belonged. 

Finally, one of the things I wanted to explore in the novel is the way that life comes from death.  Gardening is a perfect example of that.  Compost is a combination of things that have "died" (banana peels, spent coffee grounds, paper, etc.) and broken down.  That same "dead" compost is the perfect nourishment for plants, providing them with the nutrients they need to grow.  

Eden Farms might be fictional, but if you want to add a little of its magic to your life all you need are a few flowers and a trowel! 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

#clematis in bloom. #authorsofinstagram #gardenersofinstagram­čî▒ #authorlife #flowers #gardening

Truth. #authorlife #authorsofig #authorsofinstagram

Perfect shirt for this boy. Now he has an excuse for raiding the pantry at midnight! #momofmany #writerslife #authorsofinstagram

Series Frequently Asked Questions - How Do You Follow Through on Ideas?

In my last post, I answered the question "Where do you get your ideas?" I wrote that we all ideas, and the better question is: "How do you follow through on ideas?"  That's the hard part.  Right now I have enough ideas for five or six more books.  Ideas are easy to come by.  Sticking with an idea and wrestling it into a novel isn't so easy. 

This semester I'm teaching Fiction Writing at Northern Kentucky University.  Several of my students have come to me with the same problem.  They have a great idea.  They start writing.  But then they stop.  So how do they keep going?

There isn't one simple answer, but rather a combination of things.  First of all, sheer will power.  You have to force yourself to sit down and do the work.  Even when you don't feel like it.  Even when the words won't come.  Even when the sun is shining and you'd rather be outside.  Even when it's pouring rain and you'd rather clean the toilets than work on your novel. 

Do.  The.  Work. 

Easy to say.  Hard to do.  But the truth is, simply by sitting at your computer and pounding out the words you're ahead of 90% of other writers. 

Second, you write it for the characters.  You have to care enough about the people you're writing about to want to finish their story.  If you don't care enough about your characters to keep writing, your readers won't care enough to finish reading. 

What you're writing needs to matter to you.  Don't worry about what's popular or what's selling.  Write about things you're passionate about, because writing a novel is like running a marathon.  If you're not passionate about it, you'll never make it to the finish line. 

Oh yes.  One more thing.  When all else fails, there's always coffee and chocolate!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Me too! #bookstagram #bookworm #bookish #writersofinstagram #book #writerslife #authorsofig #authorsofinstagram

FAQ Blog Series -- Where do Your Ideas Come From?

Another question I'm asked frequently is where I get my ideas.  There isn't one answer to this.  The truth is we all have ideas.  I think that creative people (writers, artists, musicians, etc.) simply learn to capture and then follow through on the ideas/thoughts that we all get. 

Creative people spend a lot of time in our own heads.  We're always thinking or day dreaming, lost in our heads.  Anything can trigger an idea.  It can be an image or a question.  I can be music or a line of poetry.  It can be a dream or a person you find interesting. 

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin sprang from two events in my life: the birth of my son, and adopting my first daughter.  My husband and I went through several years of infertility.  We had finally decided to pursue adoption when we found out that I was pregnant.  We put our adoption plans on hold as we awaited the birth of our son.  I was due May 22, 2003. 

In mid-late January, I started getting sick, and I started having what I thought were contractions.  The doctor dismissed them as Braxton-Hicks (false contractions).  I started losing weight and vomiting.  I was in constant pain.  Finally, I was admitted to the hospital in late February.  I was in pre-term labor. 

Doctors stopped the labor, but I was still sick.  I couldn't eat and I started having very high fevers.  I passed in and out of consciousness.  This continued for two weeks.  On March 12, 2003 my son's heart rate dropped and they did an emergency c-section. There, they discovered that I had developed peritonitis and was in multi-system organ failure.  They told my family I wouldn't survive.  My son was little, but fine. 

Obviously, I survived, and we found out that I have Crohn's disease (which is what caused my sickness).  After I recovered and adjusted to being a mom,  I started wondering what would have happened if things had turned out differently: What if I hadn't survived?  How would my son feel knowing his birth had caused my death? 

Grace in Nanjing China.
That was the genesis of Peculiar Miracles, but I didn't start writing yet.  The idea only came together after we adopted our daughter, Grace, from China unaware that she was severely disabled.  Unbeknownst to us, Grace was developmentally delayed, on the autism spectrum, had seizures, tuberculosis, and many other issues. 

It took me a long time to adjust to parenting a child with such severe special needs, but once I did I returned to the question I asked after my son's birth, but this time with a twist: What if a child like Grace lost her mother? 

You see, when you have a special needs child, you're more than just their mother.  You're their link with the outside world.  It's a terrible thing for any child to lose their mother, but it adds another dimension when that child has special needs. 

With that question, the character of Antoinette was born, and with her the story began to take shape. 

Inspiration can come from anywhere.  For me, it seems to spring from thinking about the difficult times in my life.  The things I don't understand. The things that make me ask, Why did this happen to me?  (Just so you know, I've never been able to satisfactorily answer that question.  The best I can come up with is: "That's life.") 

Truthfully, coming up with ideas is the easy part.  The hard part is following through on them.  In fact, I think the question shouldn't be "Where do you get your ideas?" but "How do you follow through on your ideas?"  And that's what I'll be talking about next time.

Beautifully written. Loved this #book! #writersofinstagram #bookish #bookworm #bookstagram