Feb 1 2011

No Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Listen to fiction writers describe how we work, and you’ll think we’re all Rokus — those small black boxes that sit on your entertainment center and stream programs from the internet to your TV. Most writers will say we sit at our keyboards and type chapters that flow through our heads like scenes in a movie. This sounds easy, but it isn’t. To get to that point takes hard work.

And after we’re done with all the plotting and dialogue, description and pace, our protagonists still need to live and breathe. For this to occur, we must know them well. Authors build their characters in many ways – we cut out pictures of interesting faces, write in-depth histories we’ll never use, poke through our characters’ pockets, their closets, their refrigerators, create lists of hobbies and musical tastes.

Often we come to know our characters better than ourselves, but even then, we aren’t done. There is one more step we must take. For our character and her story to become as vivid for the reader as they are for ourselves, we have to convince the reader to climb inside our protagonist’s head. Continue reading

Jan 28 2011

Dodging Boulders

Rocks and Mountains

Before a storm there’s an energy in the air, a rushing through leaves and branches, an inevitability that hasn’t yet reached down and touched you here on the ground. Life’s big changes often start like this, but sometimes the seismic shifts in our lives begin with a trickle, a few grains of sand, a small pebble that rolls barely noticed downhill. Life’s busy; you’re hardly aware of the whisper of draining sand, but it continues, slowly, steadily, at the pace of erosion, until suddenly your mountain slides into rubble. I imagine many a dream, a career, and marriage have slid down that mountain, victim to our disregard. Status quo is so much simpler than change. Until you look up and see the boulders falling onto you.

When Jim and I were first married I remember thinking we were too happy, that it couldn’t last. But it did. We weren’t wealthy, but we were blessed with two apt and engaged boys, two bright and inventive girls, and with some major penny pinching, I was able to stay home with them full time. I shopped consignment stores, and refinished furniture, and took our good fortune for granted. Then a pebble bounced from overhead and landed at my feet. We lost our income. Times were tight and jobs were scarce so after a few months of looking for work, we decided to start a business. We faced a lean and nervous year, but strangely, what I felt was a sense of relief. Hardship had finally arrived, but the money problems we faced were the best kind of problem to have.

Then a rock fell. My father was diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, along with the myriad of health problems he already had. I became responsible for his care and finances, as well as his rental properties in another state. Life became physically demanding, but it was the emotional and moral stress that made it harder and harder to crawl out of bed and face the day. What kind of daughter would take her father to court and have him committed? What kind of daughter would obey her father’s wishes and leave him where he was, ill and alone? A bear-sized man who often fell down and couldn’t get up and now wandered, lost and afraid, in his own home? I was the one person he trusted to make the right choice. I did, but it wasn’t easy.

And then the big boulders began to hit.

Continue reading

Jan 28 2011

Pink Flirtini Recipe

Developed for “Sex and the City” actress Sarah Jessica Parker by a bartender at Guastavino’s in NYC. This is a pink, fruity, bubbly drink that does not have a strong alcoholic taste. It is easy to over-indulge with this fun concoction! Perfect for a girls-night-in or bachelorlette party.

by New Mom Kate


  • 1 fluid ounce raspberry vodka
  • 1/2 fluid ounce Cointreau liqueur 1/2 fluid ounce pineapple juice Continue reading
VN:F [1.9.9_1125]
Rating: 8.7/10 (3 votes cast)

Jan 28 2011


  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 T vanilla
  • 3/4 c sugar

Preheat oven and a 9×13 pan (half-filled with water) to 350 degrees.

Caramelize a small saucepan: Pour 1/4 c of the sugar into the pan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until sugar melts and turns into a golden brown caramel. This should be done slowly; it should take 20 – 25 minutes. If you melt the sugar more quickly, the taste won’t be as rich. Once the caramel is ready, swirl pan to coat.

Beat evaporated milk, yolks, white, vanilla, and remaining ½ cup of sugar in blender, just until mixed. Pour mixture into caramelized pan.

Place saucepan into preheated pan of water. Bake 45 minutes, then refrigerate.

To serve, remove top skim with fork and discard. Place serving plate over top of saucepan and invert. Caramel sauce will run, so flip quickly and make sure the plate is large enough or has a lip to contain the sauce.

VN:F [1.9.9_1125]
Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)

Jan 28 2011

Jim’s Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 bacon slices, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped onions (about 2 medium)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups long-grain, medium grain or arborio white [can make with 3 cups rice – if so, adjust the liquids]
  • 1 7-ounce jar roasted sliced pimientos with juice Continue reading
VN:F [1.9.9_1125]
Rating: 10.0/10 (5 votes cast)

Jan 25 2011


Family Portrait

Kathleen, Leigh, Matt, and Jim Muller on the top of Pike's Peak.

I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. I think I may be a writer, but I am too afraid to voice those words. I have nothing to go on, only a feeling, some terrible poems I wrote in sixth grade, a few decent essays in high school and college, and again, this tug to pick up a pen and write.

Perhaps even stronger than my need to write is the responsibility I feel as that wife, mother, daughter, friend. Writing takes hours a day; when I’m not physically putting down words, I am writing them in my head. What starts out as a tug turns into an embrace and I don’t feel I can be this selfish with my time.

So everything else, everyone else, comes first.

But at 2 am, the feeling isn’t a tug; it’s a drill sergeant shaking me awake. Characters flick on the overhead light in my brain and I can no longer sleep for the glare and the noise. They grab my hands and pull. Careful not to wake my husband, I slip out of bed and take a legal pad and pen downstairs. A couple of hours later, I have the beginning of a novel.

Continue reading

Jan 18 2011

An Apple Isn’t Just an Apple

Green Apple

When I first started my novel, I thought the keys to a good thriller were plotting and pace. Since both of these are my strong points, I felt I was set. I wrote the first scene and immediately realized I was wrong.

The scene had action and dialogue, a murder, a twist, but still, it felt dry and skeletal. In reading it over, I began to understand that the least interesting thing about a book is what the characters do. Why they do what they do is much more intriguing, and more fascinating still is how they are feeling when they do it.

Continue reading

Jan 18 2011

Critique: The Power of Compounding Knowledge

Open Door

One by one we come to the door and step in. We’re a motley crew, writers of children’s books, thrillers, southern literary, historical romance. Most of us are southern to the bone, but one of us was born in New Jersey and a couple root for the Red Sox.  We don’t agree on much, and that’s the point; one writer’s weakness is another one’s strength. We gather each Wednesday, sometimes as writer, sometimes as editor, and we cut and expand and sharpen and deepen until we’ve done all we need to carry on another week.

What we don’t do is gloss over our critiques. We are writers; we are committed; it is our business. But our conference room is also a kitchen table, so while it’s been the scene of sharp disagreements, it’s also seen its share of hands reached across the table and clasped tight. Writing is like that; you get to know each other quickly and deeply. As Adrian says, it is a naked business.

Continue reading

Jan 18 2011

Afternoon Tapestry

Mottled leaves drift and spin, brightly flickering through clear, brisk air as gravity and wind play their autumn game. Our children run and shriek, caught in the wind-blown excitement of the first Canadian front. Its currents whisper sweet promises of candy apples and ghostly costumes, holiday feasts and velvet dresses, cold cheeks, muffs, and cinnamon mingling with buttered brown sugar. And something more, I think, allowing a stillness to settle into my mood. On days such as this, children reveal truths so quiet and subtle they often go unnoticed. I resolve this afternoon, to listen.

Our youngest daughter, Lauren, searches through piles of leaves for hidden treasures. She brings her finds inside and lays them across the oak table in our kitchen. We peruse them one by one: a maple’s brilliant red star, a burning-orange crepe myrtle leaf, brown sycamore hands, a tallow’s purple heart and one simple green leaf now prized for so persistently holding onto its summer color. We delight in their variety: flocked and papery thin, brown-crackle thick, waxy, serrated, smooth, perfect oval. It is impossible to choose a favorite.

Looking up from the table, we spy visitors through the bay window, a quail couple we’ve observed since early spring. This time they’ve brought their brood. Heads bob and tails wiggle as they promenade through the yard. “Oh, cute! Look how many!” We rush to count – nine, eleven, twelve . . . twelve babies! “Oh, no!” One is going off on its own. Our hands flatten against the window panes and we hold our breath, but the mother quail is no slacker. With the crispness of a drill sergeant, she runs after her errant child and nudges it back in line. Our lungs fill with air.

Continue reading

Jan 18 2011

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee

Warm a 6-oz mug: fill with hot water and let sit while you make coffee

  • Make very strong coffee
  • Drain hot water from glass
  • Pour in 1 measure of Irish mist (1-oz)
  • Add 2 t sugar, mix
  • Fill to within ½ inch from top of glass with strong, hot coffee
  • Stir
  • Fill remainder of mug with whipping cream

Whipping cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 T granulated sugar

Combine all in mixer and beat on high until whipped, but not stiff.

VN:F [1.9.9_1125]
Rating: 9.4/10 (7 votes cast)