A Full Plate

Lately, I’ve felt very frustrated as a series of circumstances out of my control have taken over my life. My goal has been to get my second book, “Fine Dining,” published in November. I’ve told everyone who’s asked that my book was coming out in November. Now, that possibility gets dimmer each day.

For one thing, working full time, 8 hours a day plus the commute, limits my writing and editing to mornings, evenings and weekends. But for the past few weeks, these small scraps of time have been eaten up by a full plate of other obligations: being available for a close relative who had major surgery, evening meetings of writer’s groups, a holiday bazaar where I hawked my first book for the whole weekend, a work event coming up one evening this week, a series of physical therapy sessions for my back and leg, not to mention the mundane everyday responsibilities of doing laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc. etc. etc.

My husband, however, helped put me at ease. First of all, he suggested I might, for once, decline attendance at a meeting. The minute I sent the email to my group that I would not attend tonight, I immediately relaxed. Something was actually removed from my plate. And although Stanley works much longer hours than I do and helps with household chores, he volunteered to stay with the recovering relative for several hours this weekend to free up more of my time.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I realize how full my plate is–but in a good way. I am thankful for a loving and caring husband who lends me a hand whenever he can; I am thankful for the wonderful recovery my relative is having; I am thankful for the books I sold at the holiday bazaar and the people who bought them; I am thankful for my writer’s groups where I can strive to hone my skills; I am thankful that I have a good job to go to every day with people I like working with; and I am thankful that my second book in my mystery series, “Fine Dining,” WILL be coming out very soon. Possibly November, but more likely December.

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Pumped Up to Publish

Getting ready to publish “Fine Dining,” the second book in The Trudie Fine Mystery Series is keeping me busy. I’m beginning to get feedback from my beta readers and seeing that I have a few scene changes and tweaks to work out.  Here I thought I had finished the book.

James Turner, executive chef at Blue 44 Restaurant in DC, has again agreed to contribute his talents to my book and has sent me six wonderful recipes to include in the back. I spent an eternity in the grocery store – well, actually  two grocery stores — buying all the necessary ingredients to test the recipes. Of course, James wants me to try them out, and as I’ve followed the recipe instructions I’ve been able to ask him questions like, “Should the gumbo simmer covered or uncovered?” or “How much stock do I use for the mushroom risotto?” So far, so good. The biscuits and the gumbo have been amazing! Only four more recipes to try.

Of course, even when you finish a book, there are many other details to attend to like the copyright page, the dedication, the acknowledgment page and that all-important back cover with just the right description to entice the reader to open the book. I’ve also solicited other authors for quotes that I can add to the back cover.

This is a feverish time, trying to get all the ingredients chopped and diced to blend them together into a savory and satisfying book. I’m thrilled with this dish and can’t wait to serve it to you.

O is for Overwhelmed

I’m sitting amidst years and years of a combination of memorabilia and junk thrown from the two drawers of my bedside table. I’m beginning to get one of my optical migraines, as my ophthalmologist calls them, where a kaleidoscope fans its way across my vision. I get these sporadically when I am stressed.

Today, I am stressed. Yes, I’ve thrown everything out of these drawers because I’m looking for a book: a large print paperback book of “Billy Budd” by Herman Melville. At least I think it was “Billy Budd.” I’ve already frantically searched the book shelves in the office, some two and three deep with books, all the while loudly vocalizing my frustration. I’m trying to find this book, that I know I have, to check the size of the print since I’m going to have my book published in large print.

I should be writing today instead of searching for this book. I should be preparing for an event tonight where I’ll be promoting my book.

So now I find myself on the floor surrounded by years of stuff: several issues of “Byline” magazine from 1995, four or five blank writer’s journals, a bag of about a dozen imprinted yarmulkes from my son’s Bar Mitzvah (Matt is 37 now); the sorority composite photos from my freshman and sophomore years in Delta Phi Epsilon at the University of Maryland; several bookmarks, pens, pencils and assorted paper; a spool of white thread and a spool of black thread with a needle stuck into each; an in-depth Horoscope that my friend Alma did for a writer’s retreat—evidently, my sun is in Cancer and my moon is in Libra; three completed Acrostic puzzle books and one New York Times Acrostic puzzle book, uncompleted; brochures from past forays into Jazzercise and Curves; instructions from the Cancer society on breast self-examination; books on various types of dieting; greeting cards from my kids that I couldn’t bear to part with; etc. etc. etc.

To top it all off are three wrinkled sheets of paper from a professional organizer I once listened to at a meeting. The title: “Organizing Exercises for Your Master Bedroom.”

Hah! I straighten out my stiff joints as I rise to my feet. I take two Ibuprofen (my migraines actually have minimal pain) and lay down for a few minutes. Stan brings up a box from the basement for me to sort out some of the books on the office shelves. (Men prefer to solve problems rather than listen to them). I’ll check online to see if my book should be 16 or 18 point font. I’ll try to get some writing done this afternoon. I’ll organize the mess of stuff I’ve thrown out of my drawers.

After all, I’ve been meaning to clean out those drawers for…ever!

I love TV cooking shows.

How else could I have learned how to smash a garlic clove with the side of my Santoku knife to easily remove the skin or to whip up a fabulous stir fry or frittata in just a few minutes or to stretch my budget by preparing, for under $10, a cassoulet one would find on the menu at a French country bistro? 

All right, so my meals are not always successful. My family will attest to that. In my husband’s words, “You’re experimenting on us again.” There was that time I made something called Spaghetti Slaw—not the best dish I’ve ever made and something my kids, now grown, won’t let me live down. And I will admit that Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals actually take me 45. And that sometimes there is more food on the floor and on my clothes than in the pot. 

The greatest lesson I’ve learned from cooking shows, however, is to step out of my comfort zone. Try new spices and new techniques. If I don’t have a particular ingredient, use something else in its place. Create my own gastronomic delights.  

Something I’m trying to do in my life as well. Meet new people, try new things, put myself out there, take opportunities, take a chance. But most of all, enjoy myself and all the tastes and smells and sounds in the world. 

And to think—I discovered all of this on cooking shows.