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Grocery Tourist

25 Sep

One of my favorite things to do when I am traveling is to visit grocery stores and food markets. I love looking at the different foods that are available, how they are displayed for purchase, the differences and similarities with foods I am used to at home. I notice differences in grocery stores even in different states within the US. Costco in Anchorage, Alaska is a world unto itself, with its “Alaska sized” coffee roaster. The selection of pastas, tomato sauces and other Italian foods in Philadelphia is huge compared to what we find in North Carolina. 

Since I am working on a book set in Spain right now, I found a photo I took on my last visit to Spain of the colorful spices for sale in the Santa Catarina Market in Barcelona. Santa Caterina Market was built in 1845 as a venue for the working people of the neighborhood. It was built on the former site of the Convent of Santa Caterina. During the period following the Spanish Civil War, when much of the country suffered from severe food shortages, Santa Caterina became the main food supplier to the towns on the outskirts of Barcelona, as people traveled into the city on the tram to buy food in this market.

Zoom in on the photo and enjoy the photos of the spices. The names are listed in English as well as Spanish and Catalan. 

When an Author Has an Urge for Something Different

30 Jun

“I love your books! When is the next one coming out?” Music to a writer’s ears, to be sure.

But what happens when a writer has the urge to write something different than her previous novels? Maybe a different genre, a stand-alone that is not part of an established series, or a young adult novel when the previous ones have been aimed at adults. Will her audience stick with her and her new adventure? Will she find new readers?

I am about to find out. The novel I am currently working on is a departure from my first three which were all mysteries involving Nara Blake, an adventurous young woman from the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Clare.

I am now on about the third revision of a completely different type of novel. Different audience — young adult. Different genre — historical fantasy. The two consistent characteristics are the connection to authentic facts in British history (as I did in Lydia’s Story), and a strong female protagonist.

Without giving too much away, I will tell you that I have taken some historical events of thirteenth century England and created a parallel magic world that explains some of the mysteries surrounding these events. I just can’t get away from the mysteries! Creating a world for a fantasy novel has been great fun as well as challenging. On the one hand, I have the freedom to let my imagination run wild. What if I could slip through a secret doorway and emerge in a castle and in another century? At the same time, a new world needs rules. If magical people can slip from one century to the next, how much do they know about each time and place?

These are complicated questions, but fun to exercise the freedom of working it out. As I have told my students, writing is exercise for the brain, and brains need workouts just like bodies do.

Many well known writers have been criticized for writing novels outside of their established mold. J.K. Rowling will forever be known as the creator of Harry Potter and his magical world, no matter what else she attempts as a writer. John Steinbeck endured criticism for not writing a follow-up to The Grapes of Wrath. And while I don’t place myself in either of their categories, I understand the fine line between pleasing an audience and exercising my creativity, which is what led me to write in the first place.

And if you love Nara and her adventures in my first three books, I am planning another one, which will probably take her to Spain to solve another mystery involving art.