Friday, August 10, 2012

Cooking Up a Novel with Cindy Vine

C U @ 8
by Cindy Vine

Book Synopsis:  

Do your kids ever really leave?
Fenella Fisher and Suki Rabinowitz are middle-aged single mothers whose children have left home and started on their own lives and careers. But Suki’s son Josh is a cocaine-addict who supposedly fathered a baby on a visit to the UK; and Fenella’s daughter Kirsty has just been dumped and is feeling miserable. Fenella and Suki decide they need to step in to help their children and hatch a plan to sort out Josh’s mess and find Kirsty a suitable man, with some hilarious consequences. After interviewing prospective husbands for Kirsty at Waves Restaurant and Bar, they discover that a good man is hard to find.

Publisher:  Createspace
Release Date:  March 2012
Book Genre:  Chick Lit/Women’s Contemporary


How to cook up a novel

A Recipe for a novel
This recipe is for the most delicious, tastiest novel this century. You will certainly have all your dinner guests licking their lips, salivating and begging for more. Of course, you need to know who you are cooking up this delightful concoction for. If it’s only for you to eat, you can play around with the ingredients to your heart’s content, experiment a little, go into the dark side and wallow in there for a while, but if it is for many guests then you probably need to stick to the recipe a little more. Don’t deviate too much, otherwise the flavor might change and the aroma might be too pungent. The tastiest novel is not so much about the style or the perfect use of metaphor or beautiful descriptions of the way the clock ticks slowly, but about the story. And what makes a good story? Why, the plot and the characters of course.
Ingredients (This is what you need to shove into that chipped glass mixing bowl of yours!)
·         A huge dilemma/crisis/problem/conflict, the bigger the better. Not too convoluted, as the dinner guest might lose interest as the twists and turns require too much concentration and your guest gets lost and gives up. The dilemma has to be real enough to grab the guest so that they can connect with it, and not too far-out that they can’t identify with it at all that they lose interest. You’ll have to taste little bits every now and then to ensure you have just the right amount. This is the tricky bit. The plot has to unravel sequentially. Remember, your dinner guest is there to eat up your novel, not develop a stress migraine. You should stick to the basic format of a beginning, a middle and an end.
·         A good setting. If you think of anyone from a book or your life, they’re always in a context. They always come with a setting, a certain place and time, plus a whole lot of baggage clustered around them. Any character in your novel must have some sort of a backdrop. This makes them more believable. Rather than relying on interior monologues and streams of consciousness which could alter the flavor of your dish considerably, and slow it down somewhat, it’s often more effective simply to subtly slip in a telling detail about a the place where the character’s hanging around, and show how they interact with their environment.
·         A few sub-plots to build up intrigue and make your dinner guest cry out in ecstasy or horror. Either way, you want to get a reaction from them. You want them to feel it, that cornucopia of tastes, sensations. Little interactions and conflicts between some of your other characters, their interactions with the protagonist. This helps make it all the more real. Nobody has a week without any kind of conflict at all, however minor. Life is all about solving conflicts.
·         A point of view to manoeuvre your guest into the world you have created. Your guests are handing over all their sensory faculties to you. You have absolute control of them, and everything they experience is governed by what you choose to show or tell them. And to do this well, you have to decide whether you are going to use a first person, second person, third person, or multiple persons. Whichever point of view you decide with, you need to stick with. Swapping viewpoints is like hopping from red, to white, sweet wine, to dry, in one meal. You risk losing your guest, making them so inebriated that they no longer know if they are Arthur or Martha.
·         A few great characters and a mouth-watering protagonist. Without character, there can be no novel, no matter how great the plot. The best protagonist is someone we can identify with for the duration of the meal. What makes a character interesting is not how the world impacts on them, but how they impact on the world. This is how the character develops. Only describing things that happen to your characters make them one-dimensional. Making your characters do and say things in an engaging way, giving them reasons, motivations and conflicts is what makes them three-dimensional and more believable. You want your dinner guests to talk about your characters at other dinner parties.
·         Seasonings, add at your discretion, but do add some otherwise your recipe might turn out bland and leave your guests with no taste in their mouths. Some spice is always good, a little bit of sex to get the guests’ hormones going, action to give them a bit of an adrenalin rush; it tends to make the meat tenderer and easier to chew on. Salt and pepper are always essential. Good realistic dialogue, descriptions. A dash of herbs to add some color, maybe a slightly eccentric character with strange foibles. A bit of chili which could be suspense, humor or both.
Method of preparation (Knowing the order in which you mix the ingredients)
Prepare your chipped glass mixing bowl, your work space where you’ll mix your ingredients. First come up with the problem, the dilemma. Then add in the setting. Come up with some interesting characters. Write some character sketches first, know how they will think and act in different situations. It is only when you know how your character is expected to act, that you can introduce the element of surprise which definitely adds to the flavor of this recipe. Once you have your characters, add in the sub-plots and mix. Introduce the point of view and leave your concoction to stand for a while.
Transfer your concoction to a big black cauldron, and put it onto a slow heat. Stir carefully while cooking the ingredients, and slowly add in the seasoning, stirring after each type of seasoning is added. Stay vigilant and engaged, watching carefully that the liquid doesn’t evaporate so that your concoction is dried out and gets caught and burned out on the bottom. Do not let yourself get distracted from the novel you are cooking up.
Garnish and serve creatively on your best plates. The presentation is important, so check the spellings, punctuation, edit, revise and edit again. Your dinner guests will be back for more if you have taken care of their needs, which is flavor and presentation. You want them to leave satisfied, so that they tell other potential guests about the wonderful meal they had with you.
Cindy Vine is the author of C U @ 8, Not Telling, Defective and The Case of Billy B.  She lives at the foot of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with her youngest daughter.

A teacher, writer, mother - Cindy Vine was born in Cape Town, South Africa and has lived and worked in many different countries around the world. She currently resides in Tanzania at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Cindy has three children, two of whom have already left home. Writing and reading has been a passion of hers since she was a young girl.


Chapter 10

Fun-loving, creative free-spirited young woman looking for a life partner.  Travel, art and adventure are my middle names.  Conservative is out and not in my repertoire.  Control freak does not feature in my life dictionary.  Cheap and miserly are not welcome in my universe.  If you are intelligent with a sense of humour, a stable job and a six pack, then please contact me so I can get to know you.’
Suki had said short and sweet was better.  Men on dating sites couldn’t be bothered to read long diatribes; they were in too much of a hurry to meet their ideal woman.  So Fenella had complied.  With quite a bit of eye rolling and laughter, the two had bandied about words until they were satisfied.  “Leave it to stew for 24 hours before we check for any bites,” Suki had suggested and Fenella had done just that.  Twenty-four hours had passed.  Throughout the day Fenella had kept looking at the clock on the kitchen wall.  Since the invention of cell phones she had stopped wearing her watch.  In fact, she had no idea where it was or where she’d last seen it.  It had been a gift, she couldn’t even remember who’d given it to her.  It had been about a decade ago for a birthday, she thought.  Suki was late.  Before she left the day before she’d made Fenella promise not to open up Kirsty’s profile page and look at the replies.  She wanted to be a part of the action, which Fenella supposed was only fair seeing that this whole internet dating thing had been her idea.  Where the hell was Suki?  Fenella was just about to succumb to temptation and open up the webpage when the doorbell rang.
“976 replies!  I told you!”  Suki had an excited sparkle in her eyes.  She looked quite animated, Fenella thought, feeling less excited herself.  Well, maybe she was a little excited, but quite a bit apprehensive as well about the whole damn thing.  “So what we need to do first is delete the weirdoes and creeps.”
“I thought you said there weren’t weirdoes, creeps and psychopaths on this website!” exclaimed Fenella feeling rather naïve about that kind of stuff.
“Um, not really, well some but sort of.  They are far less weirdish and freakish on this site than on some of the other sites,” said Suki clicking on links and deleting emails at quite a pace.  “Yuck!  Yugh!  Ugggg!”
Fenella peeped over Suki’s shoulder only to see a picture of an erect penis filling her screen.  “And you were saying?”
“Some creepos still slip through, like that one.  So what we do is reduce these responses to our top few hundred.”
“Few hundred?  Few hundred!”  Fenella was in shock.  There was no way she was interviewing a few hundred young men.  “I’m not sure about this Suki.  I’m not sure if it’s worth it.  These interviews…I don’t think I can do it.”  Falling back onto her chair Fenella began to fan herself.  A panic attack seemed to be developing as the heat started from her head and seemed to spread down to her toes.  It was either that or a hot flush and the start of menopause.
Suki sat upright on the dining table chair glaring at Fenella with her hands on her hips.  “Do you or do you not want Kirsty to give you grandchildren and make you a granny?
For someone who wasn’t that tall Suki could be quite intimidating.  “I…er…do want Kirsty to have children one day.  But Suki, there has to be another way.  I can’t sit through a date with a few hundred men and interview them.  My school holiday doesn’t last forever and I don’t want to use it all up on…this!”  Fenella pointed at the computer screen.  If she didn’t go and fetch herself some ice water from the fridge she was going to self-combust.
Suki folded her arms and scowled.  “You may be right.  Logistically and time-wise to set up a few hundred dates is improbable.  You wouldn’t be giving each applicant the attention they deserve.  And if we do a rush job then we won’t get the best.  Let me think a minute.  We probably need more coffee,” said Suki draining the dregs from her mug.  Fenella had hardly touched hers.  Coffee was the last thing on her mind.  The last thing she felt like doing was pouring more heat into her already overheating body!
“You want that special blend again?”
“Yeah, that East African one again.  I love the taste, the aroma.  Can’t believe you never brought me back a bag!”  The truth was that Fenella had spent ages dithering about what to buy Suki.  It was so hard to buy a gift for a woman who had everything and was fussy to boot.  She often criticised Fenella’s style choices, although to be honest, baggy t-shirts and track pants were probably on the unflattering side.  After wandering around browsing for what seemed like hours, she’d settled for an ornately carved wooden box similar to the Swahili carved wooden doorways she’d fallen in love with.  It was always risky buying Suki jewellery as she tended to only wear pieces completely out of Fenella’s price range.  So a box it had been but in retrospect coffee would have been better.  Fenella hadn’t even thought about coffee as a gift.
With the coffee brewing and the machine making its happy sounds, Fenella joined Suki in front of her laptop at the dining room table.  “Any bright ideas yet?  Or should we just delete this profile?”
Glaring at Fenella Suki leaned forward to hug the keyboard protectively.  “No don’t touch!  No deleting, I have an idea as surprising as it may sound.”
Fenella gave an eye roll.  “Seriously Suki, covering up my keyboard like that.  How old are you?”
“Never trust a woman who tells you her age,” Suki countered.  “I know what we are going to do.  It’s perfect.  In fact so perfect, I think I should patent the idea.”
Fenella groaned.  This wasn’t sounding good.  It was building up to one of Suki’s hare-brained schemes she could tell.  “Okay, stop keeping me hanging in suspense.  What’s the idea?”
Suki gave a little shake of her shoulders and sat up straight.  “We,” she paused dramatically for effect, “Are going to set up a mass date.”
Groaning out loud Fenella held her head in her hands.  “Don’t tell me you are suggesting what I think you are suggesting.”
“We email our top few hundred, say something witty, hook them further.  A little saucy repartee.  Not all will reply, but many will and then we suggest a meeting.  We give all our short list the same date and time to be at a venue we pick.”
“A few hundred doesn’t sound like a short list to me!”
“Oh stop being negative,” Suki pouted.  “Then we casually wander among them and check them out.  We can take a notebook and make notes.  We might even strike up some idle chit-chat with some of them.”
“Are we going to introduce ourselves and tell them why they’re there?  Some of them might be pissed to find they’re part of a mass date.  I’m not sure about this.”  Fenella chewed on her lip.  Suki’s plan sounded very flawed to her ears.
“No silly of course not!  We’re not asking for trouble.  We check them out like we just coincidentally happened to be there at the same time.  They’ll think their date stood them up.  We can make up some excuse when we email the ones we liked later.  Do you think we might need a checklist for our prospects?”
Suki was on a roll and Fenella knew she would not be deterred.  This plan would go ahead even though Fenella had grave reservations about it.  “So where will we meet them?”
Suki threw her arms around Fenella, giving her a suffocating hug.  “I knew you’d come on board!  I was thinking that new restaurant/bar on the beachfront we’ve been going to.  Waves.  It’s quite big inside and should accommodate all our prospectives.  We should get the owner to give us commission as we’ll be increasing his business on a normally quiet week night.  Don’t look at me like that I’m just joking.  About the commission part, that is.” 
Fenella gave a thin smile.  She felt quite drained.  This reminded her of why she hated dating and was content to remain single.  It was just too much hard work and unnecessary stress.  No wonder people elected to stay in bad relationships.  “Let me pour that coffee.  You sure this will work?”  Suki nodded, grinning and humming to herself as she turned back to scroll through the responses to the ad on the dating site.  In a way Fenella was glad that finding Kirsty a man had made Suki’s other problem with that woman in Cornwall, take a back seat.  She felt bad keeping Kirsty’s news about Josh a secret from her friend.  But then again, she was sure that Suki had kept secrets from her about Kirsty she’d heard over the years.  Lying by omission.  It was something everybody did to protect those they cared about.


Patti Hultstrand said...

Welcome Cindy.
Come on in, all you peeps, and take a look at Cindy's new book. While you are at it, please drop us a comment or question.

Cindy Vine said...

Thanks so much for hosting Patti. Sorry I didn't pop in earlier but I found myself spending a week in hospital in Nairobi without any internet!

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