I Should Have Written A Cookbook

I’ve never been particularly brilliant about what I decide to write.  If an idea comes to me, and it won’t leave my head, I’ll probably try to write it.  Not the best market strategy.  My wonderful agent, bless her heart, took me on because she liked my writing.  I was working on urban fantasies back then.  She liked Fabric of Life and sent it out into the world of editors and publishers.  But Fabric of Life was a blend of fantasy, ghosts, and family relationships.  Editors turned it down because cross-genre, especially a combo of myths, ghosts, and Fates, couldn’t be stuck in any specific genre.  I read their comments and tried again.

My agent liked Fallen Angels, but sent LOTS of comments.  I rewrote it–over and over again.  It went from single POV to multiple POV until finally, she really liked it.  Off it went, and this time, editors wrote that it wasn’t true urban fantasy because I’d included a mortal, mystery plot with fallen angels and vampires, so no deal.  When I finally wrote a pure urban fantasy, Wolf’s Bane, too much time had passed.  This g0-round, they wrote that they liked the book, but they’d already bought too many urban fantasies and the market was glutted.   So…my agent let me put the books online.  Where they faced stiff competition, because there are a LOT of urban fantasies out there. Did I learn my lesson?  No.  I thought I’d throw myths in the mix, and that might appeal to readers.  Thus, Empty Altars and Spinners of Misfortune went online. Finally, my kind and patient agent said, “Enough’s enough already.  Try a romance.”  Okay, not in those exact words, but that exact sentiment.  And she was right.  (She’s always right).  And guess what?  It sold, and I got a three book deal with Kensington.

My point?  Lots of people told me to write what I love.  And that’s good advice.  I learned a lot and became a better writer.  But what I loved didn’t sell.  Writers told me that if I wrote a good enough book, I’d find a publisher.  I did write good books.  At least, my agent thought so, and she knows her stuff.  They didn’t sell.  Why?  Because markets do matter. I’m not telling you to write for a trend.  First of all, it usually doesn’t work.  By the time you notice the trend, it takes a while to write your book, and then it takes longer to market it, and by the time you do that, the trend has often passed.  Secondly, I still believe you have to be attached to what you write.  It has to appeal to you.  If you force yourself to write something you don’t like, readers can tell.  Another thing I’ve come to learn–what you love isn’t always what you’re best at.  Every writer has strengths and weaknesses.  You have to find your niche–the genre that makes your writing shine.  Working on romances made me think about developing characters and their relationships.  I added humor and found that I enjoyed it.  Romances made me grow as a writer.

All that said, I should have written cookbooks.  My dirty, little secret is that I sleep in every Saturday morning, then pad into the living room and watch the new, foodtv cooking shows until noon.  Yes, noon.  I sip coffee and eat donuts–Saturday is not about being healthy. And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.  Because I love cooking, and I love trying new recipes. My husband loves to eat, and he isn’t fond of repetition:)  Like me, he gets bored with the same-old, same-old.  So, I scribble on every recipe I’ve ever made, tweaking it to what we like.  If a recipe doesn’t have scribbles, I never used it.  And I have a file full of recipes that we consider keepers.

Cookbooks sell.  Every time I watch In The Kitchen With David on QVC, he has a cookbook author on his show, pitching her new book.  And people buy them, LOTS of them. *Sigh*  If only I’d known.  Instead of worrying about plotting and pacing, word choice and characterization, I should have been fretting about which herb to use and what ingredients blend best.

Oh well, I have more fun creating my own worlds than wrestling souffles, so I think I’ll stick to shifters and love interests.  Happy Writing!

on twitter: @judypost

But I had Natty Bumppo

My grandsons grew up with Harry Potter.  I bought them The Sorcerer’s Stone and read them a chapter a night.  During summer vacations, with no school, they’d beg for an extra chapter in the afternoon.  We went to each midnight book party and read the series together until Harry finally defeated Voldemort.  Somewhere in there, we went to see each movie.  It was bittersweet for me when the Harry phenomenon ended, because it pretty much parallelled my grandsons’ childhood reading years.  They’re teenagers now.  Too cool to go to a movie with me.  They’re on to other books and lots of assigned reading.  It made me think.  What did I read when I was a kid?

There have always been good authors who wrote for children and YA, but I really think that today’s readers have lots more to choose from.  And that’s good.  There are so many other options for them to spend time on–like X-Box, Playstation, and computers that they can easily bypass books.  But there’s nothing like losing yourself in a good novel.  My grandsons went from Harry Potter to Suzanne Collins’ Gregor series and from those to her YA novels, starting with The Hunger Games.  They read a fair amount of Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief series, too.

When I was in grade school, I read Laura Ingall Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods, along with the other novels in her series.  I missed the appeal of Nancy Drew and had to content myself with single titles until I hit middle school.  And then I discovered James Fenimore Cooper.  I fell in love with Natty Bumppo and read every book in Cooper’s Leatherstocking series.  His The Last of the Mohicans took my breath away.  No kid would read those today.  Cooper could easily take three pages to describe a forest.  But I loved those stories.  I loved how unassuming Natty Bumppo was as a hero.  Or at least, that’s  how I remember him.  When I finished those, I discovered Grace Livingston Hill and then Agatha Christie.  She began my love affair with mysteries.  But there was no series that I can recall that had a young adult as a hero or heroine.

When I started college, I took lots of English lit. classes, and there was no time for fun reading.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved (most) of the books I was assigned to read.  But they were part of the curriculum, and I was tested over them.  Not the same thing as browsing through shelves at a bookstore and choosing something that piques your fancy.

The thing is, if you’re lucky enough, reading is a wonderful part of growing up.  If you love it then, it could become a wonderful experience you can continue through life.  Today’s kids have an abundance of writers and books to choose from.  My grandsons grew up with Harry Potter.  Hopefully, that experience will encourage them to read for the rest of their lives.  Me?  I had Natty Bumppo.  And he was great!