Category Archives: Living in a novel

Space Cadet in the Kitchen


Starving Teenagers Out To Lunch

I was a fairly successful cook once upon a time.  Now, my occupation as a fiction writer takes me so far out to lunch that it is hard to get all the way home for dinner.  Visual aides are helpful.  Like yesterday, I was physically present in my kitchen, but mentally lost in space, when a cloud of smoke roiled past the window.  I thought, whoa.  There’s smoke in our backyard.  Hmm, must be a fire.  Someone must be having a fire in our backyard.  Oh!  THE CHICKEN.   

My specialty is blackened recipes that you don’t find in restaurants: blackened muffins and blackened Rice-a-Roni are two that I serve frequently.  Achieving the carbon effect is not easy because my recipe calls for the cook to forget that they just combined all ingredients over an open flame.  Most people have trouble with the forgetting part when an open flame is involved and turn the stove off before obliterating dinner.  The recipe for blackened muffins calls for the cook to forget they placed a pan of muffins in a 400 degree oven.  Tricky because the smell of baking carbs pervades the house and one’s family must also be out to lunch for this recipe to blacken.  If only cooking didn’t involve so many little waiting periods.             

I also have this problem with the shower.  It’s not my fault that my bathroom is on the same floor as my computer.  And it’s not my fault that the amount of time needed for the hot water to get going is exactly the same amount of time needed to type one teensy weensy idea.  By the time I remember the running water, it’s as foggy as Scotland Yard in a scary movie.  Oops.  Gotta go. 

Five pounds of red potatoes were harmed in the writing of this post.


Filed under Cindy Jones, hazards of writing, Living in a novel, teenagers

My Bodice Ripping Love Affair (with summer reading)

Still Life: Teenager With Book

Summer ended today as the last of my four sons surrendered his Xbox controller, packed up his summer reading files, and entered Middle School peacefully.  Structure, discipline, and progress for all.  But before completely buttoning up starry nights and car trips, I want to confess my summer reading affairs and relive the attribute that made me fall in love each time.   

And then I will move on. 

While adjusting to the freedom of no homework and children who sleep all morning, I had a fling with literature.  The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman was indeed original, perspective-altering, and a teensy bit heartbreaking for an old-fashioned reader like me.  (Italy was great).  Walks With Men by Ann Beattie was edgy for my appetite, but her photo-realistic characters taught me things a writer can use.  Solar by Ian McEwan was way better than the NYTBR led me to expect, the potato chip scene alone was worth the read.              

While children were away at camp, I slipped off to Nagasaki for a week with David Mitchell and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, 800 pages of action and adventure with a Dutch Trading Company official in the year 1799.  This novel was recommended by my aunt who maintains 18 unread books on her Kindle, a good summer reading safety margin in my opinion.  

Husband slept in my reading light while I indulged in romance:  Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian–WWII with a Russian twist, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, a Young Adult writer to watch, and Dracula, My Love by Syrie James, who writes like a native of the 19th century, a book that goes both ways: romance with a Romantic hero.  Which leads me to Young Romantics by Daisy Hay, non-fiction I read for research, but include here because it was just so good.  Keats, Shelley, and Byron’s 1814 summer of love: mad, bad, and dangerous to know.                    

But the dalliance that most often made me sneak away, stay up late, and decline the society of real people was the Stieg Larsson trilogy:  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  I fell in love with Sweden, protagonist Mikael Blomkvist, and the gripping story that fulfilled all my summer reading desires.  

Goodbye novels.  We’ll always have the summer of 2010.

(Which books carried you away this summer?  I will be taking confession in the comment section of this blog). 


Filed under Book Review, Cindy Jones, Living in a novel, teenagers, The art of writing...

I Met Jane Austen’s Writing Table


My Son, Upstaging Jane Austen's Writing Chair

This time, last year, I went to England to meet Jane Austen.  I was nervous, and with good reason since I’d taken the liberty of writing about our relationship, even though we’d never met.  I ran the terrible risk of discovering I’d based my book on a deep misunderstanding .  Five years of my life could go down the drain.  

Not to mention what Agent would say.   

Flying to England, I’d considered myself in the same league as Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Price.  Upon landing, it occurred to me that neither Elinor nor Fanny would presume to write first, ask questions later.  I could already feel the sharp end of Jane Austen’s pen, and imagine myself exiled to Portsmouth.   Driving on the wrong side I asked myself how a lowly Mature Debut Author like me could presume to be freinds (I know) with a Sustained Supernova whose immortal blaze cuts across languages, centuries, and planets for all we know.  What was I thinking?       

I met Jane Austen’s front door.  She was not there.  

Jane Austen's Front Door in Bath (trash day)

I met Jane Austen’s crowded museum.  She was not there, either.  

The Jane Austen Centre

I visited Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral.  Oh, dear.   

But then we drove to Chawton. 

Everything in Jane Austen’s village is life-size or smaller.    

Standing in the simple room where the modest writing-table occupied a spot near the window, I felt My Jane Austen’s presence.  Not the celebrity icon, but the unaffected woman reined in by class, money, and gender.  The writer who nailed Aunt Norris while Mrs. Austen and Cassandra did chores.  Jane Austen was the person I had imagined: physically present at the little table, yet mentally far away, working in a universe of her own creation.  And this is what we both understand:  being stranded on a desert island is not a problem as long as you have paper, pen, and writing-table.    

Her writing-table is the most unassuming piece of furniture with the most impressive back-story I’ve ever met.


Filed under Agent, Everyone else's Jane Austen, Living in a novel, moment of clarity, My Jane Austen, My Jane Austen Summer