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Are You Writing Still?

It seems like a simple question.  A flutter in conversation to see if my interests have stayed the same since the last time I ran into an old friend.  There’s not a tone, a smirk, or anything to lead me to the blabber which fell out of my mouth in the answer.  “Uh, yeah. I write.”  Followed by the avalanche of excuses, “When I have time. When I’m not baking.  Life is so busy, yanno?”  My poor friend waded through the insecurity vomit until she could get to the simple closing, “Oh good.”

What brought out this three-headed beast?  Why did I crumple into a hunched over gremlin like the thing on the Lord of the Rings acting like writing is “my precious”?  Stupid doubt.  Crippling fear brought on by almost two years of silence in my writing life.  You may have noticed with the blog having sporadic updates even though I resolved to do a book review a month.  That’s only a piece of it.  I can’t even scribble out a couple words to describe a cake on a regular basis.  This doesn’t even start to cover the fact my characters from my current novel and the potential one I’ve been dreaming about are stuck in ice. Frozen until I can break through my writer’s block.

I’m not sure how it happened.  A tragedy that rocked my world?  Being overwhelmed by the distractions I set up for myself to heal?  I don’t really know if it matters why.  All I know is that I punish myself on a daily basis for not getting back on the horse.  For instead letting it trample over my body and shit huge turds on my head.  Even this paragraph relies on a clichéd image because I’ve been out of practice for so long.

This is what writers do, right? And yes, that’s me being writerly, of course.

Why are you still readying this pity party?  Because I’m finally doing something about it.  I’m putting words on this page.  I’m signed up for the writers’ conference, I’m reading again, and I plan to finish the works I want to write.  However, this doesn’t help the sinking feeling that overtakes my mind when someone asks me the question, if I’m still writing.  I add the implication they’re saying I should give up.  That it’s never going to happen.  I’m wasting my time.  Even though the person never thought that at all.

What I need to realize (and hopefully you will too when dealing with your own insecurity) is the person asks because they’re interested.  Maybe even jealous you had the courage to try the impossible.  They want to live the experience through you.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have wasted the breath.  So how can I hate on myself when someone is praising me for trying?  The answer is I shouldn’t.  Instead I should do their question proud.  And keep writing.

(And maybe drinking…)

It was two years ago when I saw The Limousines in concert at The Hawthorne Theater in Portland.  Maybe enough time has passed to live down the embarrassment of letting blueberry vodka get the best of me.  Then again, maybe not.  It certainly hasn’t been enough time to forget about the horrible cookies I made to celebrate one of my favorite bands.

As it’s become somewhat of a tradition for me, I enjoy creating sweet tasting fan art to celebrate my faves.  Sometimes it’s a favorite book, or a favorite collection to flatter a pretty awesome author, or a pledge of devotion to The Airborne Toxic Event.  Since The Limousines rank up there in my list of faves, I was excited to create something special for that show in 2013.  Instead, what I created was a hot mess.

Don’t try to make me feel better by saying it was okay.  They really weren’t that bad.  Or that I have a lot more cookies under my belt now.  It doesn’t matter.  My “Love is a Dog from Hell” cookies were child-like at best.  I don’t even know if I’ll have the courage to add the link back to them because the embarrassment is too great.

When I heard The Limousines were going to be playing a festival seven hours from my town, I knew I had to be there.  Especially because their shows have been sparse, if any.  I bought the tickets, booked a hotel, and started dreaming about what cookies would do my love for them justice.

In the beginning it seemed like such a simple choice — the album covers.  I love doing things in three so their three albums were the obvious choice.  I should’ve looked a little more closely before committing to the design.  As I got into the piping I realized these aren’t normal two-dimensional covers.  They are filtered with shadows, depth, and other artsy things I couldn’t freakin’ replicate in a cookie.  I’m working with icing here people.  AND I’M. NO. ARTIST.

In the middle, I thought about quitting.  I may have whined about it.  There definitely was groaning.  “Why can’t this be easy?”  This was my chance to “wow” Eric and Gio.  I’ve given up on the thought about them being so smitten by the cookies they want to be my BFFs.  I’ve seen their Instagram photos.  Their friends are way too cool.  I’m out of the friend age range by about twenty years it feels.  Anywho, that part didn’t matter.  I wanted to show them something that made up for my past lameness.  What I had in front of me wasn’t doing it.  I was three hours in with only frosted color blocks to show for it.

I considering chucking it all.  Then I thought about an interview Eric did about the video “The Last Dance.”  It features a very detailed doll house.  (One I’ve even considered turning into a gingerbread house, but not right now.  It’s too soon.)  He talked about how he put every piece together meticulously and then set fire to the whole thing in the end.  He described it as being cathartic.

His story inspired me to keep going on with my cookies.  I iced lines, scraped off messes and played with techniques I’ve never tried before.  Even after my airbrush broke and made a mess on one of the cookies, I played around with the coloring by dabbing a paper towel on it.  I liked the effect so much I purposely did it on the other two.  I kept experimenting even though it could ruin the whole thing.  This is how art works I kept telling myself.  Because for some reason I thought The Limousines would appreciate me pushing myself more than the final product.

After nine hours on three cookies, I’m done.  (Actually there are nine cookies total because there are three of each.)  And I’m happy.  Would I have liked my airbrush to work properly or the piping to be smoother?  Of course.  The part I’m most satisfied with is I listened to all three albums as I gave the Limousine cookies the attention they deserved.

Sooo much better than the terrible dog ones.

Sooo much better than the terrible dog ones.

Edited:  Because Bestie had a hard time finding the original albums, I’m going to post them.  A little worried about how you can now compare.  Remember people, they’re cookies!

album covers

The Cover:   The cover is a hot mess in my opinion.  Sure, it has a stone in the middle to represent the Godstone which gives the lead character powers, but why everything else?  The colors are muted and dark.  Nothing commands your attention to sit down and start reading this book.  This might be the reason it sat in my Nook library forever without being touched.  What a pity too because this series is something special.

The Concept: One person every century is chosen by God to have a jewel gifted in their navel during their naming ceremony when they are very young.  The Godstone is the source or great power although there isn’t much information or instruction on what to do with it.  The people only know it’s to be used to fulfill some prophecy which usually ends up in the bearer’s death.  Even though no one is quite sure what to do with a Godstone, everyone wants it.  They also don’t mind killing Princess Elisa to carve it from her stomach.

The Peeps:  Elisa is a princess being married off in an arranged ceremony to strengthen two kingdom’s relationship.  She’s overweight, not very attractive, and the opposite of a born leader.  While this may seem like the set up for every main character ever, the way this one is written is quite endearing.  The details in the desert settings, the unique food, and religious interpretation makes this a unique read from her perspective.  It doesn’t take long to be endured to her plight.

The supporting characters changes throughout the novel with makes it even more interesting.  They are well developed in a short time what they are trying to accomplish.  I think this is what I enjoy the most in this story is you can appreciate what everyone is trying to do.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):  The spoiler is this is a trilogy.  But unlike other trilogies, I read up the other two to complete it.  I’m not one where that’s a given.  If the first book is okay, I’m not committing to two more.  This book had been chomping for the next ones.

In this book Elisa loses a lot.  Her first love dies and then her husband is also killed.  She is able to unknowingly summon the Godstone’s power to defeat the bad guys, but it doesn’t finish them off.  There’s still the threat about her kingdom rejecting her, rebuilding the damage done, and more bad guys are out there.  How can you not pick up the next books?

What I Cooked Up:  Although there were great food descriptions from interesting recipes they fixed, I wanted something to highlight the Godstone.  This was the star of the show.  To represent it, I made a thumbprint cookie and filled it with a blueberry preserve to match Elisa’s blue colored gem.

godstone

Koda Kookies

Once upon a time there was a baker who turned bands into cookies.  It’s been a while since I’ve ventured into that cookies-based-on-a-band world.  Usually, I kept my sights pretty limited to The Airborne Toxic Event.  Sure, I had that one brief post devoted to The Limousines, but let’s get real.  Those cookies sucked.  (Don’t worry Eric and Gio, I’ve got a plan to make it up to you.)  There was also my short glimmer of genius when I made Matt and Kim dance, but it was long ago and only lasted 30 seconds.  So when a client asked about cookies for one of her favorite bands, Kodaline, I wondered if I could live up to the challenge to magic happen.

Maybe I would be able to channel something great because they were one time an opening act for TATE?  Seemed like a stretch.  Or could I fall in love with their music to make the icing would flow from the fingers.  There wasn’t enough time to delve deep into proper fan obsession.  Or probably, and most realistically, I could create something because I’ve seen tons of fan love for them on my Facebook feed and understood how it important it is to them.  It was time to research.

I was lucky.  The client was hella cool and let me pick what I wanted to do.  This is a gift and a curse because what if you don’t live up to expectations?  What if your package shows up and they’re like “Meh.”  It needed to be something fun.  Some spectacular.  Something that truly screamed fan love.

I knew from the beginning I wanted to do the band.  (That’s what she said.  You knew I had to, right?)  As I’ve admitted before, I’m a terrible artist.  This would be no Mona Lisa on a cookie.  Luckily, they have pretty distinct faces.  And facial hair.  I thought I could make cookie renditions that pick up on the things which make each unique.  The accompanying cookies also needed to mean something.  There name had to be there, but what else?  Since they are from Dublin, Ireland and I love that damn city, those were a no-brainer.  And then I needed something for Courtney.  Something meaningful for the lovely lady who requested the tribute in the first place.  For her, I piped the song lyrics she loves the most.

This is how Kodaline cookies, AKA Koda Kookies, came to be.

koda 1

Now you can match them to their faces.  Or you could go look them up.  Yanno, give their music a try and say it was all because of Courtney’s cookies.

A comparison with artistic flare.

Our wonderful client Courtney delivered cookies to her fair princes in Boston.  The band recognized her lovely fan devotion with a public declaration.

Kodaline's Instagram Thank You

Kodaline’s Instagram Thank You

And they lived happily ever after.*  The End.

*I just watched the Cinderella movie and now I will talk in “narrator” always.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailCover Me:  The cover is pretty classic and makes even more sense when you read the forward.  The boot is a symbol for many things throughout the book.  Well, at least I looked at it that way.  It seems like the perfect cover for her story.

The new version is based on the movie and splashes Reese Witherspoon on it looking less glamorous than she usually is.  I guess this is a selling point to highlight the fact you can watch the movie too.  I deliberately bought the cover with the boot like I was proving something to myself about wanting to read it for the story it was and not the movie it became.

The Concept: This is Cheryl Strayed’s true story about hiking across the Pacific Trail to heal from her mother’s death.  Yep, that’s it.  Nothing really more.  This is one of those coming of age stories, but you’re in your 20’s.

The Peeps:  Cheryl introduces us to many characters in the book and they all have their own lives.  Hers is the dominant force and I loved how she exposed herself.  She dropped big details in short sentences and moved on through complex relationships in few pages.  I think this was an amazing parallel to the story she told about herself.  My favorites were the little acquaintance stories that just happened.  They weren’t really bigger than what they were, unless you learned more from it because it means something to you.  Such a great thing to read when you’re a writer.

I felt for her relationship with her ex-husband Paul.  Watching them fall apart was harder than the other familial relationships she left by the side of the road.  Cheryl’s love for him while betraying their marriage told how deep the damage went in her heart.

The relationship with her mother was the dominating force and shaped her person when she started on the trail.  I had a hard time getting through the first chapters because it was gut wrenching.  Still healing from losing people in my life, I had a hard time experiencing someone else’s broken spirit.  And yet, I understood it.  So much so, I encouraged Hubs to read the book when I was done.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):   She finished the trail.  But you knew that, didn’t you?  I think the thing I expected the most was Cheryl would meet someone on the trail who would mean something enough it would shape her future life.  You know, like a man she would fall in love with and marry.  (I think I’ve read too much fiction.)  Maybe I even felt a little unfulfilled when she reached the end and I didn’t know more about how good she would be.  I had to remind myself, it wasn’t my story, it was hers.

The thing I most appreciate about this book was Cheryl’s honesty.  Some scenes were so blunt, so raw, so unafraid to say it like she wanted.  I commend her.  It’s one of those examples where you tell yourself as a writer to be brave and scare yourself with the story you are willing to tell.  Hats off to you Cheryl Strand.

What I Cooked Up:  This was a hard treat to make.  I knew I wanted something to honor her “monster.”  It’s the large backpack she hauled through all those miles.  It started over-packed and weighed her down to where she was crippled by it.  As she went through the trail, she shed unnecessary pack weight, hardened to the process, and learned a simpler way.

It seemed the perfect thing to highlight with a cake that represents way too much.  I’ve nicknamed this “Monster Cake.”  It’s all my favorite things put into one dessert.  Not only does it have cake, it has layers of cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie, and is frosted in peanut butter buttercream. It’s so much, it might make you puke.  Just like Cheryl’s monster pack.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Fortitude in Fifteen

It’s time to roll out my resolutions.  I’ve been thinking about what I would choose for a while. A couple were easy.  One a no-brainer since I made no progress last year.  Another was something I should do to help my creative juices.  Then I stalled.  Stuck with wanting to do something meaningful.  And fun.  Because I’ve learned it has to be fun for there to be any chance it might work.

1.  Write a great book.

Here we go again.  I’m determined to meet this one this year.  Not only will I write the book, I will query the book.  Yep, it’s time to get back in the saddle again.  I need to make this more of a priority than I did in 2014.  I’m committed to attend the writers’ conference in August which means I better have something for the question “So, what’s your book about?”

2.  Complete one Baked Book a month.

Reading a book a month is a challenge when I divide up my time.  In 2013, I was proud to complete my resolution to read 25 books in a year and then I decided not to include a book resolution in 2014.  I read some books here and there.  (Who didn’t read Gone Girl in 2014?)  It felt a bit empty.  There was no structure, no result, no baked goodies to show for it.  Although I wish I could be like Bestie who goes through books like water in the desert, I need a goal.  And I think everyone would like some more Baked Books, right?

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

3.  Recover quickly.

Recently I watched some entrepreneurial videos from Barbara Corcoran about how to be successful. While she focuses on business, I think her advice easily fits into living in general.  A theme she carried throughout her videos was her focus on taking a hit and getting back up again.

This hit a nerve with me.  One exposed from recent wounds caused by people who shouldn’t matter.  Instead of moving past the initial hurt I felt in 2014, I threw major pity party where I bled out the situation over and over.  The dumb part was it didn’t make me feel any better.  I wasn’t more empowered every time I asked myself why it was happening again and again.  I was doing the exact opposite of what I wanted.

This is why in 2015 when I take a hit, I’m going to get right back up and head towards the next challenge.  There’s not enough time for pity parties or unimportant people.  Thank you Barbara for reminding me I deserve better.

4.   Pay it forward.

One article said the reason people don’t stick with resolutions is because they always make selfish ones.  I disagree.  However, I think it is important to pass along kindness anytime we can.  This year I’m going to challenge myself to do it on a regular basis.

5.  Do a Vlog.

This one probably scares me the most.  Ever since I saw John Green and his brother Hank doing their videos a couple years back, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  For someone else, that is.  Putting myself in front of a camera doesn’t seem like it would be that big of a deal with the amount of horrible photos I put on here.  But add “needing to say something interesting” and now we have a serious resolution challenge.

That’s it.  Pretty tough ones if you ask me.  I know I’m up for the challenge.  What about you?  Are you pushing yourself to be the person you want to be?  And if not, what are you waiting for?

2014 — Friend or Foe?

It’s the year’s end, which means it’s time for me to look back and see if I did everything I set out to do 365 days ago.  Why make you wade through a profound reflection when you’re probably chomping to get to the meat of the matter?  It’s time to dust off the resolution list and see what can be checked off.

1.  Write a great book.

Ugh, let’s start with the proverbial kick in the balls.  It was a rough road for my writing career.  2013 left me a little more mentally hurt than I thought and my imagination took the brunt of it.  I wrote a few words here and there, but I was no where near a book.

2015 looks better for this.  I’ve done some soul cleansing and mind stimulation through meeting people, reading again, and surrounding myself with artists (in concert, of course.)  These things have given me new life in this realm and I’m re-committing in the new year to meet this goal.

2.  Take a picture every day for the year.

Check!  That’s right, I did it.  Some days it was hard to pick the best photo.  Capturing the blue waters in Mexico, the energy surrounding The Airborne Toxic Event, the excitement from meeting Fitz and the Tantrums, the awe in the Chicago skyline, and any other incredible memories I had this year was more difficult than I thought.

Here's a small sample.

Here’s a small sample.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, there were some days where I was desperate for a photo at eleven o’clock at night.  Usually it involved me waking up one of my kids for a portrait or capturing the first thing to grab my attention in my living room.  I was also challenged in uploading the picture each day.  Some days I took the photo and forgot to post it.  Not to mention my difficulty in keeping on the correct day number count.

I’m pretty darn proud of the fact I stayed with it all year.  Who knew I could have that kind of attention span?  I also have 365 incredible memories documented in pictures on Instagram to show I had a pretty good time.  Feel free to live through my year again.  I know I will.

3.  Break through doubt.

It was an interesting experiment to have a blog post around doubt on the 5th of each month.  I think we all know I struggled meeting my deadline to have it up on the blog by the 5th.  What’s new?  Sometimes inspiration doesn’t come on a timeline.  Looking back, I’m glad I did it.  It made me re-think through some things I took for granted about myself.

It started out with what I thought it would be.  Stories from other people guiding us with ways they overcame their doubts.  In a few months it evolved into something where I looked internally.  I tried new challenges to prove to myself I have to take a step to start a journey.  I faced the harsh reality about still having a broken heart from my personal tragedy and I evaluated the importance of being brave with love, even when it hurts.  The feature became so much more than I thought it would.

I may still have doubts in my writing adventures, but there’s less insecurity about being fearful to try.  Because I came to realize confidence is all a state of mind.  And it’s worth fighting through the fear to get to the place you’ve always wanted to go.

4.  Send a cookie to The Airborne Toxic Event.

Done!  Twice!  Actually there was no need to send. I chose to hand deliver.  I didn’t get the personal request I think I may have been looking for originally.  Although I did get an Instagram shout out from Anna Bulbrook regarding liking the IO the dog cookies.  Oh, what does this happen to be right below?

anna insta

This put renewed wind in my sails and I fired up the oven for their Fall tour.  In San Francisco I delivered a package to Ms. Bulbrook’s hotel.  (Don’t be freaked out.  I was staying there too.)  From San Francisco, I focused on making another set for Hoogie from the support crew and those were delivered in Seattle.  Both sets garnered thank yous and checked off this resolution as completed.

HooGie

5.  Host a Delish open house.

The lessoned I learned about making a resolution around a business I have with a partner is get the sign off from your partner before you start making resolutions.  Bestie was horrified when she heard my plan last January.  I might have been a little over-excited in my resolution and needed a bit of grounded reality.

However, Delish did have forward progress and we’re happy with the strides we’ve taken.  We hope to have even more success in 2015.  I’ve learned it might be smarter to keep my resolutions to my personal goals versus business ones.

There you have it.  My year completed.  This list doesn’t take into consideration all the additional awesome happenings that didn’t have resolutions around them.  You might get the drift if you check out the Instagram pics for the year.  2014 kicked ass and in 2015 I plan on taking some more names.  Those resolutions are coming up soon…

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