On Things That Go “Eww!” in the Night

I have The-Most-Disgusting-Dog-Ever.

Sure, Sneaky Pete looks adorable, and he is very sweet (and he did line up all his bones in a row ALL BY HIMSELF on the embarrassingly dirty carpet), but don’t let that fool you. He eats many disgusting things. He also eats things that aren’t particularly disgusting before he eats them, but are most definitely so afterwards. Last winter, we noticed an unusual uptick in the number of single socks in the laundry basket. In the spring, when the show melted, we found all the missing socks in the back yard, processed by Pete’s digestive system.  I was chastised for reporting on Facebook exactly what I had to pull out of the dog the other day, so I will spare you all.

But it got me thinking about gross things in general, which is apropos for Halloween.

I write romance, so there’s very little gross in what I write. I don’t particularly enjoy reading disgusting or violent things, although if it’s a small part of a good story that’s okay. But I have an 11-year old boy, and he delights in reading about stuff that’s gross, even more so when he can read it aloud to me while I’m making dinner.

Sometimes I wonder what it is about human beings that we enjoy things that are base, visceral, bloody. I Googled “humans gross” and “why do humans enjoy gore” and learned that I am not the only one who has pondered such things, but I still don’t have an answer.

I had a work colleague once who adored horror movies, the gorier the better. She would wait until her husband and kids were out somewhere and she had the house to herself, then turn off all the lights and fire up the DVD. *shudder*

I, as you have probably surmised by now, am not a fan. In high school I saw Phantasm on a disastrous first (and only) date. Can’t remember the guy’s name, but I still remember that movie. In college I saw Don’t Look Now, a 1973 scary-as-hell psychological thriller with Donald Sutherland. To this day, 30 years later, I still freak out just a little when I see a kid in a red raincoat. I tried to binge-watch Supernatural, which is a great show, but just couldn’t take it–after the Bloody Mary episode I couldn’t look in a mirror for a week.

I will admit, however, to having a strange fascination with vampires. I read and watch them all: Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Angel, and of course, Buffy. (Oddly, I have never been able to get into Anne Rice’s novels, although I have read a couple. Go figure.) I recently finished watching the first three seasons of True Blood–so good, but quite possibly the goriest, most disgusting thing I have ever seen on TV. Thankfully I was forced to stop because the remaining seasons weren’t free on Amazon Prime. I much prefer the way vampires died on Buffy–ashes, the outline of a skeleton, poof.

So what about you? Do you enjoy scary, gross, gore, or violence? Not so much?

About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

New Beginnings

I love autumn.

Cleveland Heights-20111010-00114

I love the back to school season–mostly because I’m only one in the family who doesn’t go back to school every year. I love the smell of the fall, the nip in the air, the fruits and vegetables that reach their peak, the brilliant colors on the trees, the beginning of hockey season.

To me, autumn is more a season of new beginnings than the spring. School is starting, which for teachers means a new crop of students. For students, there are new schools, new friends, new challenges. For athletic teams, the promise of a winning season still looms large, and anything is possible.  Yes, leaves are dying and starting to fall off the trees, but that has its own beauty as well.

This fall, these feelings of new beginnings are particularly strong because my first book is on its way to publication. This brings plenty of new challenges–having to surrender my book baby to the publisher and accept that my editor knows much more than I do about this business, for one. Forcing myself to come out of my introverted shell to market my book is another. I have never been one to toot my own horn, and I am always my own harshest critic. Things are largely out of my hands, which is always hard for a control freak like me, but it’s good. It’s a new beginning I always hoped I’d experience, but never truly expected.

And so as the leaves start to turn and the arguing with my kid over homework begins, I will surrender myself to the the season and let all the new experiences take me where they will.

How do you feel about fall? New beginnings, or end of summer?

About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

Cooking Historically

It’s food month here at HSG, a theme I can embrace wholeheartedly. I love food. I love to cook it, and I love to eat it. I like to read about it, and even write about it as well.

One thing, out of many, that I enjoy about historical romance is imagining what my characters eat, and the methods employed to cook it. In Victorian England, of course, there was no such thing as fast food, except perhaps for the pie man on the corner, and most foods were painstakingly prepared. Just baking a loaf of bread was a monumental undertaking, given the vagaries of coal or wood stoves.

In my first book, set in 1860s England, the heroine is a cook. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what kinds of things she would cook or how she would go about it, so I did some research.

To imagine what a Victorian-era kitchen would like like, take a glimpse at an actual Victorian kitchen,virtually untouched for a century: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2037644/Victorian-kitchen-remained-untouched-60-years.html.

The cookbook as we know it today was first popularized in the Victorian era, in response to the growing middle class and the increased need for servants, especially cooks. There were over 100 best-selling cookbooks and household guides published during the nineteenth century, intended primarily for the middle class. There were a number of celebrated cookbook authors, among them Eliza Acton; Isabella Beeton (whose Book of Household Management has been revised continually since 1861, even though she died in 1865); and Charles Francatelli, who at one time served as chef to Queen Victoria.

Many of these cookbooks can be accessed for free at GoogleBooks.  I can’t guarantee the instructions are easily translatable to modern times, however.  For example, the recipe for Turtle Soup in Mr. Francatelli’s book is three pages long, and begins, “Procure a fine lively fat turtle, weighing about 120lbs. . .”  The first instruction reads, “When time permits, kill the turtle over night, where it may be left to bleed in a cool place till morning. . .“  I think I’ll stick with the Mulligatawney Soup, thanks.

Do a search for Victorian cooking and you’ll come across a lot of sites.  Here are just a few:
* http://19thcentury.wordpress.com.  Browse and you’ll find a number of posts on cooking.
* http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/francatelli-bills-fare.php, which features a menu for each month of the year, taken from the 1861 cookbook by Charles Francatelli.
* This is a great site which features original articles from Victorian publications. http://www.mostly-victorian.com/cooking.shtml  In addition to articles on cooking from “Girls’ Own Paper,” you’ll find articles on beauty, fashion, how to host a children’s party, and a bride’s first dinner party.

I did try to cook a few things from a modern book (the name of which I have utterly forgotten) which featured Victorian-era recipes. My family was unimpressed–my baking skills often leave much to be desired, but my attempt at baking Victorian biscuits was worse than usual.  My son was fairly certain they’d be an adequate substitute for hockey pucks.

Are you interested in historical recipes?  Feel free to share your favorites!

 

About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

Writing Detours

I write historical romance. I love taking a break from the crazy modern world and immersing myself in another time. But of course, to be a historical author requires research, which I love. My husband calls me the research weasel, and he knows that within minutes I can usually find the answer to whatever question arises. Sometimes I suspect he does this in order to distract me, but never mind–it always works. It’s “oh, look, a squirrel!” for geeks.

albino squirrel

Anyway, my research wanderings often interrupt the flow of my writing, although I try to keep that to a minimum by doing quite a bit of research before I start. The heroine in my first book is a cook, which required me to find recipes from 1866. On rare occasions I made a few things, with mixed results. On the second page of the book I needed the heroine to mail a letter, which naturally required an hour of research into the English postal system in 1866. Then the heroine needed to take a train to Durham, which required two hours of research into train fares and timetables in, yes, 1866.  Now you might think this was not so important, and indeed, the stamp question really wasn’t, impacting, as it did, exactly one sentence in one scene. The train question, however, had an impact on what time of day she had to leave London, how long it took her to get where she was going, and how much money she would need, and it framed several scenes. In the end, I couldn’t find some of the answers, and I took a little bit of literary license because if I didn’t, I’d be flying to York to visit the National Railway Museum. Which would be awesome, but somewhat impractical.

When I sit down with a book idea, I try to anticipate most of the research questions I’m going to have before I start to write. This approach does give fewer opportunities for meandering, which is generally a good thing for one’s productivity. Sometimes I will come across a research question while writing, and I’ll put a question in brackets in the text, and will come back to it later. But some questions you absolutely must answer before you can keep going, and these are the ones that drive me crazy, because sometimes there is no answer, or not one that’s easily found. Do I spend hours researching, or do I just skip the scene and go back to it later? I am new enough to writing that I don’t have a method that works for me yet–maybe I never will, but perhaps that’s okay too.

So I am curious, writer friends. How much research do you do when you write, and at which stage in the process do you do it? How many squirrels do you chase?

About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

Summer? Meh.

I don’t love summer.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t. (My son read the title of this post and gasped in dramatic horror.)

There are definitely some things I like about summer–wonderful fresh local food, evenings on the patio with a cold glass of wine, lazy afternoons at the pool. I like that I occasionally get a vacation. I like that I don’t have to argue with the kid about homework, and I don’t particularly mind taking a break from hockey rinks. I’m very happy that it’s not snowing.

But other than that, summer feels much like every other time of the year, except hotter and with more bugs. I still have to work. Unlike other parts of the country, not everything is air conditioned in Northeast Ohio, including my house, so I spend much of the summer sweating and uncomfortable. And although I suspect this reveals more about me than I really ought to share, summer seems to me to be full of expectation, almost pressure. There’s a feeling that because it’s summer, something wonderful should happen. Sometimes it does, but when it doesn’t, there’s an odd sense of wastefulness–how could I have let it slip through my fingers?

Nevertheless, it’s summer and summer book lists are everywhere. Many of them contain relaxing, feel good reads, and so I feel compelled to add my own. Here are some great books that fit my summer mood, in no particular order and for no particular reason:

The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (also known as J.K. Rowling).  — I will admit I read this just because Rowling wrote it. I tried to read her other non-Potter book but couldn’t get through it. This one, however, is brilliant.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters. — A captivating debut novel set during the influenza epidemic of 1918, I actually read this one because of the cover. Seriously–Google it, then read the book.

Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis. — Full disclosure time: Mindy is my cousin (about 20 times removed), but I would love this book even if she wasn’t.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells. — There’s something about the steamy south that appeals to me in the summer.

Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. — See above about steamy south, then throw in magic and teenage angst.

The In Death series by J.D. Robb — I enjoy most of what Nora Roberts writes, but I particularly like this series. It’s gritty and dark, with wonderful, likable characters and some very steamy sex. What’s not to like?

The Heir, by Grace Burrowes. — Although I adore both reading and writing historical romance, I generally don’t read them in the summer–I save them for winter.  This one, though, is a perfect fit with my summer mood.

Which books capture how you feel about summer?

About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

Can’t Beat the Classics

It’s Movie Month here at HSG, and thus far the blog has been conspicuously lacking in mention of classic movies. I have always been a fan of classic films–this is undoubtedly due to my mother, who watched Thin Man movies with me in my infancy. I still love The Thin Man, and just about anything with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, or Fred Astaire.

Inspired by my son, with whom I have recently begun to watch every James Bond movie in chronological order, the other day I watched Charade on Netflix, with a 59-year-old Cary Grant and a much younger Audrey Hepburn. In addition to those two, the cast was a who’s who of talent–James Coburn, George Kennedy, Walter Matthau. It’s been a little while since I indulged myself in this way, and what struck me the most, besides the banter that you never see onscreen nowadays outside of Aaron Sorkin or Joss Whedon, were the funny little moments: Matthau doing squats while on the phone with Hepburn, for example. It was subtle, easy to miss if you weren’t paying attention, and very funny.

The movies were often beautiful, too. The opening scenes in To Catch a Thief are stunning, and I still remember watching Rear Window in college–Grace Kelly’s extraordinary face literally filled the screen, and every man in the auditorium gasped aloud. I do enjoy modern movies, but despite the technological advances in filmmaking, they seldom seem to capture beauty the way older films did.

Although I never really thought about this before, it occurs to me that I look for similar qualities in the books I read. I recently finished Julia Quinn’s The Sum of All Kisses, which has many of the same qualities as a classic romantic comedy. Her writing is quirky, lighthearted, sexy, and funny as hell. Eloisa James is poetic, with sometimes heartbreakingly lovely descriptions of places, people, and emotions. There is beauty and innocence, in their writing and that of many other talented authors, which makes a refreshing change from the fast-paced, non-subtle world we inhabit.

Perhaps by this post I am revealing that I sometimes think I was born in the wrong decade–or century–but I also think there are definitely times when, no matter when you were born or what world you inhabit, it is good to sit back and enjoy a simpler life, even if only for the time it takes to watch a movie or read a novel.

So what about you? Classic movie fan? Favorites?

 

About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

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