This week on Romance Writers Weekly, it was my turn to set the topic. As my mind is very busy with plans for a trip I am taking soon, to visit Belgium where my mother was born, I came up with this one:
Are you interested in genealogy? Have you traced your family generations back? If so, how far have you gone? And what fascinating stories have you discovered?
If you joined me from Leslie Hachtel, welcome!
As you might have guessed by the topic, I am interested in geneology. I find it fascinating to think of all the ancestors who have come before me, and love to ponder what their lives were like.
I haven't done a lot of research myself, but I have gathered what other members of my family have discovered together into a keepsake book. On my father's side, I have names going to the fifth generation back from myself, and on my mother's side, the sixth (If I'm counting right). My three-times Great Grandparents on my father's side were both born in 1793 (she was actually almost a year older than him, as she was born in January and he in December). The same grandfather on my mother's side was born in 1799, and I have his parent's names, but no dates for them.
As I mentioned, my mother was born in Belgium, and her family emigrated to Canada after World War II. Oddly enough, the legend is that the first relative on my father's side to come to Canada also came from Belgium, but he arrived here in the early 1800's. It's those sorts of stories that I find interesting. Maybe my parents are actually related many generations ago!
On June 1, we are making a trip I have hoped to do for a long time. My parents, my husband and I are going to visit the family still living in Belgium, in the Antwerp area. We've met a few of them over the years, as they have come to visit us. And my parents have been a number of times. But I've never gone, and while I wish I could have made the trip with my grandparents, better late than never, and I am really looking forward to it!
What family stories do you have to tell? Do you like looking back, or are you more a "forward to the future" kind of person? Let me know in the comments!
Now hop on over to the lovely Jenna da Sie and see what she knows about her ancestors.
This week on Romance Writers Weekly, we're searching for inspiration from the kitchen! Leslie Hachtel asks:
Is there any particular food that sparks your creativity? Why do you think it does? Is it associated with something like a memory?
As I write this is it Sunday morning, and Mr. C. is frying up bacon for a big brunch we will be having later. Now, I can't say that bacon necessarily makes me more creative, but that delicious scent certainly gets some juices going!
Coffee, wine and chocolate are often the go-to foods for writers, especially romance writers, it seems. But I can't say that I use any food at all as a prompt for my writing. Usually I sit down to my keyboard in the evening after dinner, and as I'm not much of 'snacker' my eating is done for the day.
But that's not to say that food doesn't influence my writing. Setting scenes around a meal can be a great way to set mood and tone. Robert B. Parker often wrote about food in his Spenser novels, whether it was a gourmet meal whipped up by his gritty hero or one shared with Susan and Hawk at a favourite restaurant. Meals can be tense and surly or warm and welcoming, and even the choice of food served can reveal layers of a character's psyche.
Smells (whether from food or other sources) are also an often forgotten part of description that can evoke deep emotions. Friendly smells like apple pie and fresh cut grass…seductive scents like a woman's perfume or a man's healthy sweat…grim odors like rotting flesh or discarded refuse. All of these help bring a scene to life in evocative ways. When I am revising my work, I often find myself adding scents to add that extra pop of description.
Does A.S. Fenichel use food to kickstart her writing time? Find out here!
As I mentioned last week, WHEN TIME FALLS STILL has been nominated for a RONE Award - one of the most prestigious competitions for independent authors. In order to make it to the next stage, Justice and Charlotte need your votes! If you enjoyed their story, please go to www.indtale.com and log in to vote. Thank you!
This week on Romance Writers Weekly, enjoy some Flash Fiction! For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it's a writing exercise where you are given a prompt of some kind and need to write as quickly as you can, without really thinking about it, and just see what happens. This prompt was set by A. S. Fenichel:
Okay, I have to admit. I set this week's blog topic for Romance Writers Weekly, and it might be a bit self-serving. My family loves to barbecue (even in the winter, although summer is much more fun, of course!) So I came up with this slightly sneaky way of discovering my new favourite recipe.
Summer is almost here, and with it barbecuing season. Let’s share grilling recipes!
I'm going to share two recipes from my favourite barbecue recipe book, 365 Great Barbecue and Grilling Recipes by Lonnie Gandara. I highly encourage you to pick up your own copy – there are so many great tastes in this book. (I am in not connected with this publication in anyway – I'm just a huge fan!)
Rosemary's Chicken Breasts
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
5 garlic cloves, minced (this is what the recipe calls for, but I usually put in 8 to 10, because we LOVE garlic)
2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried (I love rosemary, but rarely have it fresh, so usually double the dried amount)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Put the chicken in a glass baking dish.
Mix together the rest of the ingredients. Marinade will be thick, almost like a rub.
Spread over chicken breasts, turning to coat well.
Cover and marinate at room temperature, turning once or twice, for 30 minutes (I like to marinate it for a couple of hours in the fridge).
Remove from marinade and grill. You can use the reserved marinade to baste while cooking. To avoid flareups, I usually start with the breasts on a piece of aluminum foil, and put directly on the grill when they are partly cooked.
I have shared the following recipe before, but it's so good I can't leave it out.
4 pounds pork spareribs
½ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
3 tbsp crushed pineapple
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 garlic gloves (again, like above, I usually up the amperage on the garlic by triple or more)
1 tsp salt
Put the ribs in a shallow pan.
Mix the rest of the ingredients together.
Pour over ribs.
Marinate, turning occasionally, 1 to 2 hours at room temperature or up to 24 hours refrigerated. (sometimes, when ribs are on sale, I mix up multiple batches of the marinade, put the ribs in a heavy duty resealable freezer bag, pour in the marinade, let sit for an hour or so, and the freeze. When I want to cook them, I take them out the day before and let them thaw in the fridge. Presto – ready to cook!)
Grill ribs SLOWLY over a medium-hot fire (about 1 hour).
Feel free to share your favourite recipes in the comments. I would love to have new ideas for the summer ahead. And be sure to check out Jenna Da Sie, next on the blog hop. Let's see what she's grilling up!
I'm doing a double-take again this week on the Romance Writers Weekly Blog. I am the Production Manager at a small market television station, and one of the programs we produce is called QuizMe. Think of it as Jeopardy for elementary school children. We shoot fifteen half hour episodes over three days, and those three days are this weekend, April 22 to 24. So I'll be a wee bit busy, and won't have time to join the usual hop. But the topic was so interesting I didn't want to miss it, so I'm giving you another two-fer this week!
This week's topic is posed by Leslie Hatchel:
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about writing? Who did you learn it from?
I have learned so much about writing in the last few years (and am still learning, of course) so this was a bit difficult for me to narrow down. One of the simplest tricks I learned was to watch out for sentences that start with "There was…" For example:
"There was a house on the corner of the block, standing forlorn and neglected, hiding behind a ragged hedge."
I learned to get right to the meat of the sentence:
"On the corner of the block stood a forlorn and neglected house, hiding behind a ragged hedge."
So now when I'm editing I keep a wary eye out for "There was…" sentences and zap them where they stand!
Next week's topic was suggested by A.S. Fenichel:
Where is your favorite place in the world and why? Share some pictures if you can. Does this place wind up in your books? Feel free to share more than one.
See what I mean about it being fun and interesting? Mr. C and I love to travel, and we've been lucky enough to visit some amazing places. It would be hard to narrow down a single one, so I thought I'd share a few of my favourites in photos. Check them out below.
I do put locations I've been in my books. For one thing, all but one of my books have a tie to Prince George, my hometown. And the one that doesn't is set in Vancouver, a beautiful British Columbia city I lived in for a couple years and visit often. NO LIFE BUT THIS, my most recent release, is set mostly on the Portuguese Island of Sao Miguel, Azores. Mr. C's parents emigrated from there in the 1950's, and we visited in 2013. While it wasn't the best vacation (my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip our second day there and spent the two weeks in hospital) we did at least get a chance to explore the culture and island.
I'd love to hear about your favourite places to go. I may even find some to add to my bucket list! And once you've done that, be sure to hop over to Leslie Hachtel and see what writing advice she thought was the best.
It's time to take a break from writing on the Romance Writers Weekly blog hop. A.S. Fenichel asks:
When you're not writing, what do you do? Hobbies, passions, goals…
If you joined me from Leslie Hachtel, welcome!
Downtown is pretty precious in my world, as it is with most people. With a full-time day job, grown children that come to visit (yay!!), my own writing, the occasional editing project, and the necessity to cook and clean at least once in a while, I don't have a lot of time left to fill.
When I do, I can usually be found reading, and most likely a romance novel, though I do try and branch out occasionally. Each week in my newsletter I write a little about the books I'm currently reading (FYI: If you subscribe to my newsletter here, you get a FREE copy of my short story, The Life She Had Before.)
If I'm not reading, I'm usually hanging out with Mr. C. I'm not much of a winter person, so during the cold months I generally huddle inside. Now that spring is on it's way, we are taking the dog for long walks, and I can't wait for things to thaw just a bit more so I can get out in my gardens. I love to plant things and see them flourish, although I'm not much for weeding. And the warmer weather also means we'll be able to get out camping soon. SO looking forward to that!
What do you do when you have downtime? I'd love to hear from you! Leave a note in the comments, then be sure to hop on over to the instigator of this topic, A.S. Fenichel. You'll find her blog here!
So I didn't join the blog hop last week (I spent a romantic weekend in Victoria with Mr.C instead), but it was such a fun topic I didn't want to miss out completely, so this week you get a double dose of the Romance Writers Weekly Blog!
Last week, A.S. Fenichel asked: What can’t you live without? Tell us some things you can’t do without.
It can be coffee from your favorite shop or a pink tee-shirt. Whatever it is, tell us about it and why you can’t go on without it.
If we're talking about writing, the number one thing I can't live without is the Internet. I use it constantly when I am writing – looking up better words with an online thesaurus, or fact checking topics like "the world's most famous cello pieces." And my laptop would be number two. The flexibity to move from room to room, or even write outside, cannot be overstated!
When it comes to non-writing "things", it is harder to choose. I love my morning cup of coffee, but if I had to, I could live without it. Same goes for my after work glass of wine. I adore my e-reader for its ease of use and ability to store thousands of books, but reading a "real" book holds a special joy as well. If I try to think of objects that are irreplaceable, the first thing that comes to mind are family photos. We are a big picture taking family (maybe because both my husband and I work in television and are very visual people) and the thought of losing all those photos from when our children were small is heart-breaking.
What would you find it difficult to live without? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!
Now to this week's topic!
Jenna Da Sie wants to know: What do you do when writer’s block hits? Share some tips for our fellow writers.
Even if you're not a writer, it is easy to get blocked, to feel uninspired and blasé. Show of hands among you who stand in the kitchen at 5 o'clock each day and can't think of anything to make for dinner? Yeah, I thought so!
As a writer, the best way to unblock is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that getting words on the page – any words – is better than nothing. Nora Roberts is credited with saying "I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank page." And I truly believe this. Sometimes the only way through is to put your head down and keep going, no matter how bad you think it is!
So glad you joined me this week! Keep on hopping round the blog with the instigator of this week's topic, Jenna Da Sie.
By the way - Romance Writers Weekly member, Xio Axelrod,
recently became a New York Time Bestseller as one of the authors of
Hot on Ice: A Hockey Anthology!
We are all very excited and proud of her!
I have read a few of the novellas in the box set already, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Congratulations, Xio!
Today's topic on Romance Writers Weekly comes from – me!
Telling stories is as old as the first time a caveman came back from a hunt and told about the big one that got away. Every family and relationship has a story or two that gets told at every get-together. What’s that story in your family? What’s that tale that everyone loves to hear told over and over again?
Oral histories are precious and easily lost. Even if you don't consider yourself a writer, I encourage you to jot down some of your family favourites in a computer document or journal. I believe it is so important for the next generation to be connected to those that came before.
Every family has those special stories, some going back generations. For example, my father's ancestor settled in Nova Scotia in the 1700's. Legend has it that he married an Indian woman, and those of us with dark hair and dark eyes are throwbacks to her. This doesn't take into the account the multitude of other genes that have contributed to us from other members of the family, of course, which is what makes it a legend, I guess!
Most of our family's favourite stories make us laugh so hard tears come to our eyes at every telling. On my mother's side, her family emigrated to Canada from Belgium after World War 2. My grandmother's family was from quite well off, and hadn't been too happy about her moving across the globe to be the wife of a farmer. Their first house was small and primitive – but across the street was a large, lovely, well-kept home. So my grandmother took a photo of that and sent it to her mother, with the implication that was their house. I love that story!
My own mother is a creative, talented woman with a daring, adventurous side. She is often the subject of our family stories. Like the time she glued pearl beads to my young brothers' ears to play a trick on our conservative grandmother. Or, in the 1950's, how she smuggled a chipmunk to Belgium on an airplane. The story my own children love best is the one where she was snowshoeing along a road and a snowplow approached. She thought it would be fun to stand under that nice, soft spray of snow arcing off the blade of the blow. Yeah – it's not soft. It's hard, packed tight by momentum. It knocked her flat on her back and all my dad could see of her was the tips of her snowshoes and a mound of snow. My kids wrote lyrics to the tune of Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer to memorialize their favourite Gramma story.
Be sure to visit A.S. Fenichel next for a peek at her family stories. And I'd love to hear from you, too! You're invited to tell your own funny, poignant, well-loved family story in the comments. I'll be sure to read and respond to them all.
This week on Romance Writer's Weekly, we've been asked to blog about the story behind our name, and if we have a pen name, how did we come up with it?
If you joined me from A.S. Fenichel, welcome!
I do and I don’t use a pen name. Brenda is my real first name, and Margriet is my middle name. With a little bit of detective work, anyone can discover my full name (hint – check the copyright pages of my books!). I decided not to use my last name when I published for a couple of reasons. One was that it tends to throw people off, as it's rather unusual. I didn't want to scare people away from asking for my books at the store because they didn't know how to pronounce it! The second was more for my own sake – I wanted to keep my writing life separate from my personal life. In the world of social media, it just seemed to make sense. But I think if I were starting over again, I might not do that. Being an author is so much a part of who I am that trying to keep the two separate seems unnecessary now.
When I discovered once that one of my favourite authors used a pen name, I have to say it changed how I read her books. It wasn't that I liked them less, but somehow knowing her real name made me feel like I was in on a secret. I actually felt more connected to her. It's hard to explain, and more than a little odd, I know.
The next step on your hop is Marc Stevens. I am fairly certain he has an interesting story about how he got his name (because I know a bit about his creation), so be sure to check it out. But before you leave, why not leave a comment below.
What do you think of your own name? Do you like it, or do you wish you could change it? If you could change it, what name would you pick?
This week on Romance Writers Weekly, Leslie Hachtel ask:
If you could ask any author (living or dead) one question, what would it be?
Did you link to me from A.S. Fenichel's blog? If not, be sure to hop all through the links today and visit her, too!
Holy cow, this is a hard topic today! One author? One question? How the heck I am I going to narrow it down?
Years ago (before e-readers) if I wanted to discover new authors I had to – gasp! – go to the library and browse through the shelves. While romance and mystery were always my go-to genres, I also made it a personal requirement to choose one biography and one classic novel. While I usually enjoyed the biographies, the classic was often disappointing. Maybe I'm not sophisticated enough, but most "classic" novels tend to be heavy reading, with depressing subjects, and while valuable in their own right, aren't necessarily something I want to cozy up with on a Saturday night. However, it was because of this pledge to myself that I discovered "Pride and Prejudice" and the other works of Jane Austen.
I've rhapsodised about Jane Austen's brilliance in other posts. But in regards to this week's topic, I think I know what question I would ask her:
"What do you think of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy?"
I know, it's not really a writerly topic, but wouldn't it be fun to hear her take on this?
Want to take part in this week's blog? Leave your author and question in the comments below. And then be sure to keep the hop going by clicking through to Jenna Da Sie here!