Wednesday, June 23, 2010
As you know, every story is about a central character (the protagonist) who wants something. It doesn't matter what they want, it just has to be important to them. You make this character likable or sympathetic or empathetic or whatever you want to call it, and this in turn, makes their goal important to the reader. But there's always someone in the story who gets in their way. This is the really fun character. The antagonist. The nemesis. The "villain." The Dr. Evil of your novel. As elemental as this concept is to storytelling, I have to tell you, I always struggle when it comes to discovering who my Dr. Evil is. Dr. Evil doesn't always operate out in the open. He/she works in sneaky and mysterious ways. He doesn't always wear black and tote a gun or make plans to destroy the world with his super powerful new laser machine. Sometimes, at least in my books, Dr. Evil is actually a really nice person.
In my first novel, Bunco Babes Tell All, I thought my land developer Ted Ferguson was Kitty's (my protagonist's) nemesis. He was slimy, greedy and he wanted to build high rise condos on the beach. Boo! But in truth, Ted was actually an ally of Kitty's. Kitty's true nemesis was her own mother. Kitty's goal throughout the story was to buy her grandmother's old house. Her mother wanted to sell it for mega bucks (and not to Kitty). Hence, she was the character most in opposition to my protagonist's goal. Slimy Ted was actually aiding Kitty in her goal. It wasn't until I realized this (on a second or third revision) that I was able to flesh that out in the novel. BUT... then I got to about 3/4's of the book and Kitty's goal changed. Although yes, she still wanted to buy her grandmother's house, she wanted to save the Whispering Bay Senior Center even more. Kitty's new story goal was much more altruistic than her original one, and voila! Ted Ferguson, evil land developer, now becomes Kitty's nemesis.
I had to scratch my head over this one because the story structure of one goal/one central nemesis didn't fit my manuscript anymore. Eventually, I had to let go of that kind of thinking. Story structure/acts/turning points- all that stuff is great, and I believe if you're writing genre fiction you have to have these familiar elements to make the story flow, but you also can't be married to them either. There have to be allowances for things in your story that don't seem to "fit". Then I watched the movie Star Wars again and thought, hey! Star Wars is kind of like Bunco Babes Tell All (stay with me here). Like Kitty, Luke doesn't have just one goal in the story. Initially, his goal is to rescue Leia. He sees the video of Leia asking for help and gets motivated by lust and the chance for adventure and goes off with Obi Wan Kanobi to save the princess. But... once he's "saved" her, his goal changes (also to a higher, more altruistic one) to defeat the Death Star. His nemesis remains the same (Darth Vadar) but his goal gets "upped" in the story.
With The Boyfriend of the Month Club, it took me forever (call me dense) to figure out who Grace's nemesis was. Grace's goal is to turn her book club into a boyfriend club where women can discuss the men they've dated. She's motivated by the fact that she's hit rock bottom in the dating world and she wants to help other women avoid the loser dating pool she's been swimming in. She's aided by the other members of her book club, who also happen to be her best friends. But two of the members (Sarah and Penny) are initially opposed to the idea of the boyfriend club.
“Seriously? I just don’t know about this whole boyfriend club,” Sarah said. “It smacks of disgruntlement.”
But Ellen, the fourth member of the group, is totally on Grace's side. She helps Grace convince Sarah and Penny to go along with the agenda.
"So we're really going through with this?" Sarah said.
“Of course we are,” Grace said. “It’s going to empower us!”
So imagine my surprise (light bulb above the head moment) when I finally figured out that Ellen was Grace's nemesis. Yes, she's totally on board the boyfriend club wagon, but she has her own agenda. Ellen, who teaches English Composition and Poetry Appreciation 101, wants to use the data they collect at the boyfriend club meetings to expand her masters thesis, Undressing the Romantic Hero in Popular Literature (isn't that a great title for a thesis?) into a book. Slowly but surely, she and Grace start butting heads and Ellen becomes Grace's greatest opposition to achieving her goal. The thing is, Ellen is a totally likable and sympathetic character in her own right, which I think makes her a really interesting nemesis.
But about 3/4's of the way through the book, Ellen is defeated and Grace wins. So the conflict should be over. But not really. Because with Ellen's defeat, a new and much stronger nemesis rises from Ellen's ashes. His name is Speedway Gonzalez and he's Daytona Beach's hottest DJ and a Tucker Max wannabe. Speedway uses the information from Grace's boyfriend club as daily fodder for his radio show, humiliating not just the members of the club, but the men they've "critiqued." Now Grace's goal changes. She has to shut down the boyfriend club and try to make everyone in Daytona Beach forget it ever happened. But Speedway isn't just going to roll over and die.
“Hey, Speedsters! This is Speedway Gonzalez, taking you round and round Day-to-na Beach. Guess who’s decided to come out and play this morning? It’s none other than the head honch-ess of the boyfriend club, herself, Grace O’Bryan. So, Gracie, first things first. Are you fat?”
“Yes, I am. I tip the scales at four hundred pounds. Thanks for asking.”
Speedway chuckled. “It’s not that going to be that easy, babe.”
And Dr. Evil (I mean, Speedway) is right. The final conflict between protagonist and nemesis should be a fight to the death. I have to admit, of all the antagonists I've written, Speedway is by far my favorite. He's not really bad you know, he just wants to make a living.
Monday, June 21, 2010
I'll be spending the afternoon cooking for the big UF/FSU baseball game. Go Noles! I really don't want them to leave Omaha with a loss to the Gators. Of course, being that it's Kevin's birthday and he's a Gator, I'm a little torn. Oh well. We'll see what happens!
This morning I'll be doing my volunteer work at Young Actors Theatre selling tickets for their upcoming smash musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. My youngest, Megan, is playing the lead role. Not that I'm prejudiced or anything but the show is going to be awesome. If you live in the Tallahassee area, this is your chance to get tickets. The box office opens today to the general public and tickets go fast, so get out your Visa or MC and give us a call. Here's the info:
Hold your breath because here comes thoroughly modern Millie! This magical Broadway musical is set in the roaring twenties when bobbing hair and rolling stockings was considered daring. With charisma and moxie, Millie Dilmount is a girl with big dreams from a little town. Don’t miss Millie as she taps her way into your heart in this Tony award-wining musical as only Young Actors Theatre can bring you!
Box office: 850-386-6602 Ext.2 (Open from 9:30am to 1:00pm Monday through Friday)(More information is provided on at youngactorstheatre.com)
June 25 @ 7:30pm
June 26 @ 7:30pm
June 27 @ 2:00pm
July 2 @ 7:30pm
July 3 @ 7:30pm
July 9 @ 7:30pm
July 10 @ 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Saturday, June 19, 2010
The exciting part is obvious. At this point, although I still have copy edits and final proofs that will have to be done on Boyfriend of the Month, I'm sick of 'em all. I've lived, breathed, slept Grace, Joe, Brandon, Charlie, Sarah, Abuela and the rest of the gang for almost a year now and it's time to move on. Kind of like a relationship gone stale. I want the excitement of fresh characters. People who I don't know yet, but am interested in knowing. Not that I won't miss the gang from BOTM. I love those people! I made them up, after all. But I can't do anything more with them. Their story is over. Kaput. Finis. I gave everyone who deserved it a HEA, and everyone who didn't deserve a HEA, well, I gave them the potential of one, because after all, I do write fun, romantic women's fiction (After 3 books and much soul searching, that's the tagline I've decided on).
So back to the new book. The idea for the story started long before I ever actually wrote the first chapter ( I have 10 pages, yay!) It started just like Boyfriend and the Bunco books did, with the idea of a place, a community. Which is interesting, because I think I write character driven novels. But setting is character too. It lives and breathes with a life of its own. Even though Whispering Bay (the town I set my Bunco novels in) is imaginary, when I close my eyes, I can see it. It has real streets and real shops and the people who live there have a very distinctive mindset about them. Kind of like when you ask someone where they're from and they say, "New York city" or "Two Egg, Florida" (yes, there is a town called Two-Egg- it's not too far from Tallahassee). Whether right or not, I already have an idea about that person, because where you're from and where you've been raised has as much influence over the kind of person you become as anything else, I think.
Before I ever thought of the concept of Boyfriend of the Month (or even thought of the title) the idea of Florida Charlie's (the tourist shop where a lot of the action in the book takes place) had already come to me. It had been germinating like a seed in the recesses of my mind and had taken root. Although BOTM is set in Daytona Beach, a real town, the novel's true "location" is Florida Charlie's. A tourist shop still stuck in the 1960s. A place that gave away free samples of orange juice and shipped citrus, and sold old fashioned gifts and had a corny mascot. A place that was a bit of a Florida icon in its day but had been brushed aside by the big tourism machine (you know who I'm talking about here- the little guy with the ears). I think the one character I'll truly miss the most when I completely leave Boyfriend is that shop. Funny, but true.
Which gets me back to the new novel. Tentatively titled Girlfriends are Forever (but that could easily change). The seed for this book started with the Race for the Rock. A high tech scavenger hunt that took place back in May in Bainbridge, Ga (just about 30 minutes north of Tallahassee). The prize? A $10,000 engagement ring, hidden somewhere in the city. The idea of it is so brilliant, it gave me shivers. And immediately got me thinking about this new imaginary place. A town somewhere south of St. Augustine. A town that claims that Ponce de Leon actually discovered the fountain of youth in their neck of the woods. A town that's kind of dyin' and needs something big to revive it. And revive the people who live there. And voila... Exploration, Florida was born. Not sure if I'm crazy about that name but I'm already in love with the town. And the people who live there. And I think that's good.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
“Flan,” Abuela blurted. “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. When your abuelo Pedro was courting me my mother used to make him flan. He couldn’t resist it. Make him a flan and he’ll throw himself at your feet.”
I had so much fun writing this chapter! The recipe Grace uses belongs to my mother and is also featured in the back of the book, but since you're reading my blog you get first dibs at it. So here it is, Pioneer Woman style:
Carmen Palacios' Flan de queso
Grace had seen her mother make countless flans in her lifetime. But she’d never actually made one herself.
“You know what’s funny, Abuela?”
Before Grace could finish, Abuela’s gaze went back to the television screen. “Eggs, sugar, evaporated milk…” When Grace didn’t do anything, Abuela shooed her with her hand. “You know what goes inside!”
Okay, so Grace has an unfair advantage because as you've just read, she's seen her mother make countless flans. But I'll tell you exactly what goes inside. Here it is:
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 8 ounce cream cheese, softened
dash of salt
Put all the ingredients in a blender. And mix.
Grace placed the remaining ingredients into a blender and whirled them together. She took a second to sniff the frothy liquid. The smell of vanilla wafted up enveloping her in familiar comfort.
Put the blender aside and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Measure out 2 additional cups of sugar and place in a skillet over med/high heat. This will make the caramel for the flan.
She set the stove for medium heat, then dumped two cups of sugar into a skillet.
“The secret to a good flan is to make enough syrup so that the custard doesn’t stick. Did you put in sufficient sugar?” Abuela asked.
Eventually, the sugar will start to dissolve. This is the part where you must have patience. The whole process only takes about 10-15 minutes but it always seems longer to me. Every once in a while, give the skillet a little shake. It's probably not really necessary, but it gives you something to do.
Grace gave the skillet a jiggle. Watching the sugar melt was her favorite part. The transformation from solid to liquid as the white crystals morphed into a lovely brown liquid caramel, all gooey and hot. As a child the temptation to stick her finger in the syrup had always gotten her a whack on the bottom. But it had been worth it each time.
He began walking her backward, his kisses turning her from a solid into a warm liquid caramel, all bubbly and hot and easy to slide around, just like the sugar in her flan.
Woops! That's from a much later chapter. But you get my drift...
So, back to the recipe. Place the melted caramel mixture into a Bundt pan or other pan with a hole in the center, making sure you coat as much of the pan with the caramel as you can. Be careful, the pan will get hot!
Let the caramel set for a couple of minutes, then gently pour the liquid egg mixture into the pan.
She got out the pan her mother used to bake the flan, set it on the counter and frowned. Something was missing…
“You need to make a bano de Maria. So that the flan doesn’t stick to the pan,” Abuela said.
A bano de maria is basically a larger pan filled with an inch of so of water. Place the Bundt pan inside the larger pan with the water. This helps the custard to "set." PS: the n in bano needs a squiggle over it but I can't figure out how to do it.
Place the entire set up in the oven at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until flan is brownish and firm. Test with a toothpick to make sure it's done. If the toothpick is still wet, it needs longer cooking time.
Take the flan out of the bano de maria and let cool to room temp, then refrigerate. When you are ready to serve the flan, set it at room temp for about 30 minutes, then flip it. This is what you get if your flan isn't cooked well enough or you try to flip it when it's still warm. Not pretty.
“Don’t forget to cool it well before placing it in the refrigerator,” Abuela said. “But when you’re ready to flip it, make sure it’s been at room temperature first. Do you have a plate to serve it in?”
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Last night's show just made me a little mad though. I know they try to hide the real love story (if there is one) because it doesn't make for as compelling TV as the loony fabricated stories they love to showcase. First, it was Justin "Rated R's" 2 mile trek on crutches to Ally's mansion last week. Yeah. I really bought that one. It's so obvious that he's there to promote his career as an entertainment wrestler and honestly, I don't blame him for tying to grab his 15 minutes. Ally doesn't mind either, but she'll pretend she does when the time is right, because after all, in her quest for true love, she's also getting paid some 300,000 bucks, so she'll produce just the right amount of angst to make us hate Justin even more. Which should only help Justin's career as a bad boy wrestler. Total win/win scenario for everyone.
But what I don't get is the Krazy Kasey storyline. His 1:1 date with Ally last night was beyond painful. It made her date last week with Hunter seem like a love fest. She has zip chemistry with this guy. So what does she do? Instead of giving him the boot, she tells him she can't give him a rose, but she doesn't want him to go either. Talk about mixed signals. Believe me, this is totally producer driven. What they're getting, I understand- It's the weird-guy-willing-to-do-anything-to-win-Ally's-love storyline. But what is Kasey getting out of this? I can only believe that the producers made him go off his meds for the show and he's not responsible for his actions. So to prove his "love" for Ally, Kasey decides to get a tattoo. Only when he goes to show it to her, Frank interrupts their one on one time. Kind of funny, if you ask me.
As for Frank, he started off strong, now he's getting the jealous/obsessed edit. Enough already.
And Kirk. Where did he come from? Every time you turn around, Ally's kissing him. He's getting the most "face" time with her (literally) yet they're not showing much else of him. He gets a 1:1 with her next week. In the previews, over dinner, he pauses and tells Ally he needs to tell her a secret. The look on Ally's face is priceless. Can't wait to hear what the big secret is. I'm sure it's something really stupid.
Roberto was awesome in The Lion King. He's adorable and seems to have the front runner slot.
As for Chris L? My favorite (if it were up to me to pick) but I'm afraid he's getting the Reid edit. (Reid, my most favorite bachelor by far on any season!) What's the Reid edit, you ask? This is the guy the producers make you fall in love with, then he ends up on the "friends" list. I think his date with Ally last night was pretty good, but it was choppy so it was hard to tell how real the chemistry was. Plus, he's being hidden most of the time. This is usually because he's either the "winner" and they don't want to show the chemistry too early, or they want to hide the fact that Ally isn't as into him as they want to make you believe. It's too early to tell. But I'll say this. I kind of don't want to Chris to win because I'd really love to see him as the next Bachelor.
Just please, let Kasey go the way of the weatherman (if one more guy sings to Ally with his guitar I'll puke). And for God's sake, let's hope Kasey's tattoo was a fake. Or that the producers promised him some primo plastic surgery to get rid of it.
Monday, June 14, 2010
And is it geeky or romantic of me to admit that I saw North and South again last night? All 4 delicious hours of it!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
In the eight months or so it took me to write TBOTMC I had to let a lot slide. Hence, I am now in a heap of not-so-nice disorganization, which drives me absolutely bat crazy. Not that I'm the most organized person, not by a long shot, but I've reached the point where I can't find anything and that can't continue.
So... stuff to do today. Clean house. Make a flan that will flip properly. And if I have time, try the banana nut bread recipe I found on Jenny Crusie's blog this morning (under the comment section) because coincidentally, I have 3 very ripe (past eating) bananas sitting on my kitchen counter top that I'd been wonderin' what to do with. Now I know.
Oh, and one more thing. Could the Glee finale last night have been any more wonderful? I had about 20 kids in the living room, snacking on chicken wings and chips, etc, watching on the big TV while Mike Geraci and I were snuggled together in the den watching... yes, the Glee season finale on another TV.
I have totally hooked Mike Geraci on Glee which is a hoot because every 5 minutes someone starts singing on the show, which I totally love, and ordinarily he wouldn't, but hey, it's all about execution and it works here, so that just goes to show that anything can be done. It just has to be done right. The best part of the night? Listening to the kid's laughing and screaming at all the great parts while we smiled at them while sitting on the couch in the den. Oh, and while I totally called Quinn's water breaking spontaneously (because on TV that's how everyone goes into labor, but in the real world - NOT) I missed the timing because I really thought they would have her water break on stage just as they were finishing their big number. I'm so glad the writers didn't go there.
Monday, June 07, 2010
Unlike Grace, who is a flan virgin (she's seen her mother make millions but has never actually made one herself) I've made literally dozens of flans in my lifetime. When I first started out, I never made enough syrup or ended up flipping it too early and getting a gooey mess. But that hasn't happened to me in decades. Except for the other night when I decided to make one and take pictures for my website. In my haste, yes... I prematurely flipped my flan and the picture below is the result. It still tasted good though! Watch my blog in the next week or so for a picture of a perfectly flipped flan...
Saturday, June 05, 2010
The first thing I did was story board my idea, which I have to give Mike Geraci a lot of credit for. I don't want to give it all away because part of the fun of the trailer are the "surprise" actors but he can really be brilliant sometimes, even if he forgets it almost immediately (Typical Electrical Engineer- kind of like the absent-minded professor).
So once I had a feel for my story and had acquainted myself with the Movie Maker program, I had to select some music. Music is so important in a book trailer. Not only does it serve as backdrop, it sets the entire mood for the clip. Since I'm making this trailer on air (not spending any money) I wanted to use royalty free music. This is the site I used. After listening to music for a couple of days, I narrowed it down to 2 tunes. Plain Loafer and Radio Martini. While I loved the name Radio Martini, I ended up going with Plain Loafer. It's funky, but not too funky, but mostly upbeat and happy sounding, which is exactly what I'm going for.