I don’t know why I’m feeling so sad about Michael Jackson. Okay, so his music has been around for most of my life and I could watch him dance forever. It’s the celebrity thing. I didn’t know him, I hadn’t even seen him in concert. They keep showing clips of him as that gorgeous little boy who forty years later morphed into the androgynous person with the sad, sad face. Such talent, such influence on our popular culture and such a sorry end. I’m mourning him as if I knew the guy – this is crazy!
Then I think of the people I’ve spent so much time with over the last months – the characters in the new novel I’m writing. They are figments of my imagination yet I truly feel I know them and will miss them when I write “The End” and their story is over. (BTW, I’m not at that stage yet. They won’t let me stop. I have a deadline to meet but they keep clamoring at me that they have things to do and reminding me I have word count enough left to let them do those things!) I am creating these characters in the hope that they will be real to my readers. Like celebrities seem so real to their fans.
So maybe it’s not so crazy that I’m mourning Michael…
When I was writing Love is a Four Legged Word, I had a lot of fun blithely making up recipes for my chef heroine Maddy Cartwright to cook over the course of the novel. Recipes included brownies, pie and muffins for humans as well as home-baked snacks for dogs. Then, after the manuscript had been bought by Berkley Sensation and was on its way to becoming a book, I had the idea of putting the recipes for Maddy’s creations on my website. Easier said than done! I had created those recipes for use in a work of fiction. Now I had to bring them to life! In my “day job” as a magazine editor I’m used to briefing a team of food editors and stylists to come up with the goods and top photographers to shoot the resulting recipes. Uh,uh. For this project, with a budget of zero dollars to pay expensive food editors, it was all up to me!
Pear and Pecan Pie version 3
I started with the triple-chocolate brownies that so tempt my cholesterol-conscious hero, Tom O’Brien. May I admit that the thorough testing I gave this recipe resulted in a two notch expansion of my belt? They are decadently wicked and totally in demand by my teenager’s friends. The healthy “pupcakes” so loved by my canine hero Brutus were no temptation to me – though they looked good enough for human consumption. But they were wolfed down by my panel of canine taste testers – an instant success. (Both recipes are on my web site.)
Next I decided to try the pear and pecan pie with honey glaze that Maddy is testing during a pivotal chapter in the book – the first kiss between her and Tom. I tried a pear pie with a shortcrust pastry. Okay, but nothing out of the ordinary. Would an ambitious young chef make something so pedestrian? And where did the honey glaze fit in? The pie had to have honey as an ingredient because Tom is surprised by the sweet taste of honey when he kisses Maddy. Finally I decided to make an easy, open tart using frozen puff pastry sheets that involved minimum effort. The honey gives a delicious edge to the somewhat bland taste of pears. But the pecans still had to go somewhere. After some experimenting, a crushed pecan toffee sprinkled over the top seemed to work and was absolutely delicious. I served the final effort with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert when friends came over for dinner. They liked it so much they asked for the recipe. So I figured that was the version, Honey-Kissed Pear and Pecan Pie, to put on the website. Phew! I don’t think I could have peeled any more pears…
I’ve still got several more Love is a Four-Legged Word recipes to devise and put on my website. Needless to say for the book I’m writing now, I’m making certain that I only feature recipes that I’m absolutely certain I know how to cook!
Yesterday, within the space of two hours, I was knocked down by one of life’s lows and then lifted right up again by one of its highs..
Kira and her brother Albert - she's in front
First the low. I brought my sweet, smart, nearly 18-years-old cat Kira home from the vet, knowing I was bringing her home to die. Even at her advanced age, she’s very sprightly, when she suddenly seemed frail I knew something was wrong. The vet said her lungs had nearly filled with fluid and it was amazing she was still alive. After an overnight stay that involved draining the fluid, some time in an oxygen box and a spell on a drip she seemed her old self again, demanding very vocally to come home. But the diagnosis is cancer and it’s only a matter of days before the lungs fill again and I have to take her back to the vet for her last visit… All I can do is cherish her and make her last days comfortable. Eighteen years is a long time to share with a little four-legged friend. I’ve had her since she was a kitten and will miss her terribly. I know I’m lucky to have had her for as long as I have – and happily I still have her brother. I won’t blog when she passes, I’ll be too heartbroken…
My little old lady
Now the high. My darling Kira was lying purring in the sun in the courtyard when a delivery came. My author copies of Love is a Four-Legged Word! The book is awesome, the pink foil on the cover a surprise and a lovely quote from best-selling author Julie James praising my book as “A delicious, fast-paced read.” Thank you Julie and thank you Berkley for such a beautifully designed book. And thanks to the delivery man for bringing that box of books at just the right time.
WHAT I’M READING NOW: Touched by the Devil by John Clarke & Andy Shea. Some research into the mind of a psychopath, to help give authenticity to a villain I am creating. This is a chilling book but very useful to a writer.