Meet Julie Seedorf

This week I have the honor of hosting Julie Seedorf, author of the Fuschia Minnesota Mystery series (also known as the Granny mystery series), the brand-new Brilliant Minnesota series, and the Granny’s In Trouble series for younger readers. She is also the author of Something About Nothing, a compilation of her newspaper columns. She is blogging today about Feeding her Dream.

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Feeding The Dreamer

I love to write. It is my dream job.  I have to pinch myself once in a while to make sure I am awake, because I love my career. I wanted to be an author for so long, but was afraid to try.  Lo and behold by chance, and I believe a little divine intervention, Granny Hooks A Crook was born. Cozy Cat Press offered me a contract. I was gifted a new career.

There is one thing I love along with my writing and maybe a tad bit more, and that is putting smiles on people’s faces with my fantasies. One of the reasons I concocted such silly tales and made up places such as Fuchsia, Minnesota was to take people away from their real world for a short time. Our world can be a gritty world to live in.

The smiles and comments of my readers feed my writing. I want to feed their smiles and laughter and lighten their load.

We all have hills and valleys in life and my characters are no different in that respect. Granny (Hermiony Vidalia Criony Fiddlestadt) may seem far out and very forgetful in Granny Hooks A Crook, the first book in the series, but what you see is not always what you get. If you follow Granny through the series you learn more about her life and those of her family and neighbors. You get a glimpse into her foundation and the experiences that make her the crusty, feisty old woman she is.

I didn’t realize until later in life I felt constricted by all the man-made rules we have to live with every day in our communities. I remember the days when people could choose what to do with their properties and their homes before HOA’s. Fuchsia is a community I would love to live in. Both the town and Granny are a little bit of a satire on our beliefs on aging and what should happen in communities. Anything goes in Fuchsia as long as it doesn’t conform to society in the outside world of Minnesota.

I don’t usually model my characters on anyone I know except perhaps Granny. She has tones of my stubborn mom who died at 93. At 90 years old she was still climbing her roof repairing it, much to my dismay. I didn’t understand my mom but after creating Granny and getting into her head, I wish I could go back and cheer my mom on. I want that grit.

I create characters I like and would like to know and hang out with in real life, even the sinister ones. Everyone has a redeeming quality somewhere, although I don’t always find it in my villains. Maybe my readers do.

I felt I needed to take a little break from my Fuchsia Series and so I created the Brilliant Minnesota Series. The first book, The Penderghast Puzzle Protectors, will be out within the next month.  I didn’t realize how hard it would be for me to write the first book in the new series. With the first book in the Fuchsia Series I had no expectations.

The Penderghast Puzzle Protectors takes place in a neighboring town to Fuchsia. Brilliant Minnesota is very different from Fuchsia but the characters are as quirky. Jezabelle Jingle has ties to Fuchsia with her niece Delight Delure. Jezabelle is feisty, sweet, not quite as cantankerous as Granny, and is very good at roping her neighbors into getting into trouble. It seems the founders of Brilliant left a puzzle to be solved and Jezabelle’s neighborhood is spot on for mayhem and crooked shenanigans.

I found when starting this book my heart was invested in my characters in Fuchsia. It took me at least until the middle of the book before I had a good feel for each character and knew what their personalities would lend to the book. I don’t write like many authors. I have an idea and I begin writing, never knowing where the story is going to take me. It always works out. I can’t outline first. I have to do it after to make sure things fit, because when I outline first it stomps on my creativity and I feel constricted as I do with some of life’s real rules.

I love getting to know my readers and I love getting to know authors whom I have admired for  years. I learn so much from all of them. Now I am working on my fifth Fuchsia Minnesota book, writing my column every week, Something About Nothing, and am enjoying life with my husband, my kids and grandkids and my two shysters, Boris and Natasha.

My advice is:  If you have a dream, don’t let it go, you never know where it may take you.

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Thank you, Julie, for the wonderful post. You can find Julie online at http://www.julieseedorf.com/. You can find Julie and her books on Amazon, too: http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Seedorf/e/B009WAAANQ.

Book Recommendation: Do Not Wash Hands in Plates

I recently had the pleasure of reading Do Not Wash Hands in Plates by Barb Taub, with photographs by Janine Smith and Jayalakshmi “Jaya” Ayyer. It’s a lighthearted story of three women-of-a-certain-age traveling across India together, eating, sightseeing, eating, shopping, and eating their way through cities and villages all over the subcontinent and enjoying (almost) every minute of it.

The women, friends from their university days, had experienced international travel together years before, when they met up in Luxembourg from three different points of departure in the United States. This trip was a bit different– this time they were meeting from two different international points of departure (Scotland and the United States) and one from within India. It was a little more difficult this time, admittedly, but the women finally met up (in the middle of the night) and their adventure together began.

From the vastly inconcise traffic rules (really “more like guidelines,” according to Jaya) and the closure of national monuments due to the arrival of a certain high-ranking American to bargaining with locals over the price of souvenirs and experiencing the open friendliness and generosity of the Indian people, this story took me on a journey I only wish I could have experienced in person.

I was laughing out loud before I even finished the introduction. Barb Taub has quite a way with words and her descriptions of people, places, and things were witty and evocative. Her ability to share the trio’s experiences with readers lucky enough to pick up this book is inspirational. Her writing made me want to call up a couple old friends and invite them to the other end of the earth just to see what would happen. I might still do that.

And if you like Indian food, you’re in for a treat. I’m a sucker for Indian food and this book had me drooling. It seems everywhere they went the women’s hosts were determined to feed them until they popped. Whether it was breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacktime, teatime, or any other time, the food was plentiful and delicious. Janine and Jaya have included some luscious-looking photos of the food they enjoyed on their trip.

My favorite part of the book, and undoubtedly Barb’s least favorite, was the illness which befell her while traveling. It was side-splitting in more ways than one. Want to know more? You’ll have to read the book yourself. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

I finished Do Not Wash Hands in Plates in just one sitting with a smile on my face and a lightness in my heart. I’m so glad Barb, Janine, and Jaya shared their experiences with readers. Their desire to showcase to the rest of the world the rich culture of India, the majesty of its landscape and, of course, its food has resulted in a book you’ll love.

You can find Do Not Wash Hands in Plates here (Amazon.com) and here (Amazon.co.uk).

If you’re interested in finding out more about Barb Taub, visit her blog at http://barbtaub.com/.

Until next week,

Amy

 

The Writer’s Life According To Jack Sparrow

As a fan of Jack Sparrow and as someone who has experienced all these feelings, this one makes me laugh out loud. Enjoy!

You Write Fiction

Yo-ho, yo-ho, a writer’s life for me…I think. Here are 11 gifs that sum up a writer’s life quite nicely.

sparrow4 When a new idea hits you.

sparrow6 When your cat mocks your new idea.

sparrow3 Writer’s block.

sparrow10 This chapter needs some work…

sparrow9 The cat’s on the keyboard again.

sparrow11 The first time someone asks about your book.

sparrow 2 When a friend/relative singles you out as a writer.

sparrow8 When you’re forced to socialize.

sparrow5 The one time you have company over.

sparrow7 When someone criticizes your writing.

sparrow2 When you get a good review on your book.

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Book Recommendation: Honolulu

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Ever since I read Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, I have wanted to read Honolulu. And I’m happy to report that Brennert did not disappoint.

Honolulu is the story of Regret, a Korean picture bride who emigrates to Hawaii for the opportunity not only to be free from the land ruled by the Imperial Japanese, but also to be free from the oppression suffered by women and girls in the Korea of long ago. Regret learns from an early age that she is inferior to her brothers (hence her given name), that her dream of getting an education is hopeless, and that her only path in life is a choice between spinsterhood and destitution or marriage in a culture where daughters-in-law are mistreated and humiliated by their husband’s families with impunity.

Regret’s decision to become a picture bride, much to her father’s mortification and dismay, is one that will alter the course of her life in ways she could not have imagined. As was the case with thousands of picture brides over the years, Regret was misled as to the social circumstances of her betrothed (she is led to believe he is handsome and wealthy, but…you’ll have to read the story to find out the truth) and as to the brutal realities of living on a tropical island during the early twentieth century.

The troubles which befall Regret as she tries to build her life in Hawaii seem almost insurmountable, and the story is told in a way that brings the reader straight into Regret’s home and into her thoughts.

I loved Honolulu. It took me a long time to read, but that was my fault–I started the book at the beginning of the holiday season and every time I picked it up to read, I was too tired to keep my eyes open for more than a couple minutes.

Regret’s story is woven into the history of Honolulu and the Hawaiian islands. It is a story of family, love, loss,joy, sadness, fear, resignation, contentment, racial injustice, poverty, and success. Though Honolulu is a work of  historical fiction, much of the story is a carefully researched commentary on the relations among all the different cultures and peoples struggling to live alongside each other in the growing city. Though Regret doesn’t always realize it at the time, she is part of the important events which shape the city of Honolulu into the modern place of mingled races and traditions it has become. Instead of calling the city a “melting pot,” Regret refers to it as a “mixed plate,” which is a Hawaiian dish consisting of different types of food, often from different parts of the world, arranged to complement each other.

I highly recommend Honolulu and I’m looking forward to reading another of Brennert’s works, Palisades Park. If you read Honolulu, I hope you’ll let me know what you think of it.

Until next week,

Amy

Decking the Haul

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No, I didn’t misspell the title. I wanted to make one more reference to the festive season we have just left behind while referring to the way I spent my Monday morning. See photo, above.

That white car belongs to my husband.

Here’s how it went down: my husband left for work before dawn, as he usually does. Twenty minutes later he called me and said, “Can you please bring me a flashlight? I’m in the driveway.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Flat tire.”

I hurried outside with a flashlight and found him using the air compressor to fill up one of his tires. “Where did you notice the flat?”

“At the end of the block. I’ve been down there trying to fix it in the dark. I couldn’t find anything I needed so I backed up very slowly until I got to the driveway.”

Long story short (is it too late?), he finished pumping up his tire then took my car to work. By the time he got there, I had sent three kids to school, cooked two pounds of sausage for two loaves of sausage bread, done the breakfast dishes, and made an appointment at the tire place. When I took the car in, they fixed it in a jiffy (here’s a juicy piece of information: did you know there is a sticker inside the rim of the tire that contains a UPC code and that can cause the tire to lose it’s seal when it’s cold? I didn’t.).

Afterwards I went to a store not far from the tire place to replenish my Christmas wrapping supplies. As I put my husband’s car in reverse to pull out of my parking spot, the car refused to move more than an inch or two. Uh-oh, I thought. I parked on something and it’s stuck under the car. I got out, looked under the car (because that makes me look like I know what I’m doing), saw nothing, walked around it to make sure all the tires looked full (ditto), and got back in to try again. After several more tries, I called the tire place. “Hello. I just left there and now my car won’t move.”

They sent someone right over. He tried moving it, too, I assume to make sure I wasn’t lying or just stupid. Nope, sure enough, the car didn’t move. He got underneath it and poked around. “I think the problem is the emergency brake.” What he said next was a jumble of words like “shoes, pads, e-brake, seized up, corrosion,” etc. Sounded to me like blah, blah, blah, blah.

Long story short (?) I had to wait for a tow truck so I could go the 2,000 feet back to the tire place. The tow truck driver’s solution: “Hmmm. I’ll have to haul’er ass-up.” See photo, above.

Just a short while after the car got to the tire place, the emergency brake shoes (or something like that) had been removed, the car would go forward and backward again, and I was on my way to the grocery store. The tire place didn’t even charge me for the second visit.

By now you may be wondering whether this story has a point. It does.

Here’s what I planned to do with my morning: get some words written on my work-in-progress, come up with an idea for this week’s blog post, update social media, and go to the grocery store. Obviously, Plan A went awry. Most of that didn’t get done, except for the trip to the grocery store and a blog post idea.

I’d been thinking recently about coming up with a list of New Year’s resolutions, but decided on January 1st that a whole list of resolutions just doesn’t work for me. Instead, I’m going to try to get better at finding the silver lining in unplanned and unwelcome events, to take things as they come, and to “make lemonade,” as they say, when things don’t go my way. This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals, but it means they’re flexible. If you’ve followed my blog for a year or more, you may recall that I had lots of resolutions last year.

Update: those resolutions were a miserable failure. The garage isn’t clean, the office isn’t clean, and none of my kids’ closet doors got replaced, among other things.

So I may not have gotten any work done on my novel or social media this morning, but I found more than one silver lining!

First, the tire didn’t go flat on a major highway, but instead on a quiet street when it was too early in the morning for traffic.

Second, I could have driven the car much further than a quarter mile from the tire place before realizing there was a problem.

Third, I sat in the car for a little while waiting for the tow truck guy. I had a book with me, so I was able to get some reading in! Note to self: always keep a book handy.

Fourth, I eventually got out of the car so the tow truck driver could find me. Standing in the freezing cold and whistling wind while I waited made me appreciate the eye-drying, moisture-sucking heat he had blowing in the tow truck’s cab. Also, I have a renewed respect for the work tow truck drivers do.

Fifth, when I was on my way back home and realized, too late, that my husband had removed the EZ Pass from his car, I quickly found six quarters and paid the toll with them. Silver lining? The change in my wallet weighs less now!

And finally, I began the day without an idea for this post. Now the post is written and I can get back to work on my new novel.

So here’s the takeaway for me: 2016 has a sense of humor and doesn’t care what my plans are. The best I can do is find the good when things go wrong. And there’s always something good.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2016 is happy and healthy for all of you!

Until next week,

Amy

Did you know? A beginners guide to reblogging on #WordPress

This is a great, informative post on reblogging for those of you who might need a primer. I know I needed one!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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I’m no technical genius and when I first started blogging, I needed to learn my way around the WordPress system. It is pretty much common sense and easy enough to set up. If you get stuck, there are plenty of helpful articles and forums that show you how to do pretty much anything. Just type the question into your search engine.

The one thing they cannot do, though, is answer questions you didn’t know you should ask. Over the past few days I have become aware of how many of those little tweaks and tricks we learn about, then just take for granted. Reblogging was one area I found frustrating for a good while. It is a simple process, the press of a button, until the button is not there…

1. Can’t see the reblog button?
This took me ages to work out! Many blogs, including this one, have their…

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