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Savory Subjects: Finding Inspiring Content in the Everyday

by Robin W. Pearson


Savory Subjects: Finding Inspiring Content in the Everyday
Typically my days are filled to the brim, and I don’t mean with writerly activities like getting buried in the library stacks for hours, driving into the hill country to do book research, or gluing my fingers to my laptop for hours to pound out five thousand words.

No, I’m talking about starting my day with a hurried smooch from Hubby as he heads to his “office”—the desk in our family room. Greeting five grumpy little people who are not in the mood to read from Proverbs and the Psalms, let alone face algebra, AP literature, or Wordly Wise. Starting an Instagram post. Tracking down my globe-trotting oldest daughter who recently graduated college. Copyediting an email for Hubby. Chatting around the water cooler–cum–kitchen table with my oldest son about marketing life and the latest Wordle. Writing two sentences and deleting one on the Instagram post. Prepping dinner to deliver to my parents. Asking Hubby to check the Wi-Fi connection. Peeking at my lesson plans to compare what I didn’t finish last week with what I’m not finishing this week. Missing my mama’s second telephone call. Proofreading the elusive Instagram post. Laughing (instead of crying) with Hubby about the little people and our parents. Correcting long division problems. Peeking into Think Tank’s room to see what’s so funny about calculus and to keep his door open so we can laugh, too—not. Texting my sister about my parents’ appointments. Telling TD to sit down for the thirtieth time. Turning on the oven for chicken nuggets because it’s almost lunchtime. Explaining to my mama why I couldn’t answer her call. Closing my eyes over my Bible—not in prayer but to dream of the coffee I haven’t had yet.

More than half the day has scooted by, and I have yet to share the Instagram post, let alone type a single word in my work in progress, which my publisher eagerly awaits. I have a feeling many writers would look at this typical morning at my house and consider all those events interruptions. Totally understandable. Once upon a time, I did as well. But these days, this full-time homeschooling author-mama has another word for it: content.

Not convinced? Then take our stack soup, one of my family’s favorite and most complicated meals. So many specific ingredients go into preparing a batch of it: chicken, frozen veggies and chopped veggies, Ro-Tel, two different kinds of smoked sausage, tomato sauce, and other odds and ends. Those ingredients have to be diced, cooked, stirred, added in a specific order—stacked if you will—seasoned, and simmered. And because it’s so labor intensive, we only have it once a year, usually on the first really cold day of the season. But since we only have it once, I insist on doubling it.

Savory Subjects: Finding Inspiring Content in the Everyday
Now, what does my annual gargantuan vat of soup have to do with what my family’s cooking up on a daily basis? Everything. Our routine and that dish are both a mélange of ingredients, a great deal of work, love packed on top of love, bits of this which seem unrelated to that, lots of interdependent pieces and combinations that involve constant maintenance and tending to. They yield an overflowing bowlful of inspiration. The pile of onions or passel of whiny children might make an ordinary person cry, but not this writer. I’ve learned that one missing piece affects the outcome. Conversely, every added ingredient improves the result. And since it’s so yummy, why not have more, double the recipe?

Again—still—I’m talking about content.

Savory Subjects: Finding Inspiring Content in the Everyday
God called me to write character-driven, contemporary Southern fiction. Thanks to the family He provided me—all this living, breathing, loud content—I don’t have to travel very far to do character studies or google examples of family dynamics. There’s no need to search for the definitions of terms like “sandwich generation” when Hubby and I are squeezed between the same slices of Wonder Bread. Granny B’s personality came through loud and clear in A Long Time Comin’ because I’ve been listening to it my entire life; it’s near and dear and just as taciturn up close. Maxine and all her folks in ’Til I Want No More can burn in the kitchen because not only did my own mama bring home the bacon, she knew it tasted best fried in a cast-iron skillet, a pan she passed down to me when I married Hubby almost thirty years ago. Highway 85 isn’t merely part of the setting in my latest release, Walking in Tall Weeds. It’s a real, well-traveled road between our peeps’ grandparents’ home and ours. Their own great-grandma used to pick creasy greens not far from it.


Like many authors, I’ve rubbed my head in those rare spare moments and asked myself if I’m equipped to tell my stories. I’ve wondered how can I transport my readers to another time and place when I’m carting folks to soccer and youth group and the grocery store and over the hills to Grandpa and Grandma’s house? What’s so delicious about the everyday? Over and over, God continues to show me that He has provided all I need in this writer’s life, even rest, believe it or not. I don’t have to make do or concoct something from a list of terrible “ingredients.” Each piece is valuable. Usable. Necessary. Purposely intended for my particular bowl of soup. And altogether, it’s quite delicious.


Let’s stir the pot: how can you change your perspective and view interruptions as opportunities?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Savory Subjects: Finding Inspiring Content in the EverydayRobin W. Pearson’s writing sprouts from her Southern roots, her faith in Jesus Christ, and her love of her husband and seven children. All lend authenticity to her novels. After graduating from Wake Forest University, she has corrected grammar up and down the East Coast in her career as an editor and writer that started with Houghton Mifflin Company more than twenty-five years ago. Both her Christy Award–winning debut, A Long Time Comin’, and her second novel, ’Til I Want No More, have earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Follow her on her blog, Mommy, Concentrated, where she shares her adventures in faith, family, and freelancing.



ABOUT Walking in Tall Weeds


Savory Subjects: Finding Inspiring Content in the Everyday
From award-winning author Robin W. Pearson comes a new Southern family drama about one family who discovers their history is only skin-deep and that God’s love is the only family tie that binds. Paulette and Fred Baldwin find themselves wading through a new season of life in Hickory Grove, North Carolina. Their only son, McKinley, now works hundreds of miles away, and the distance between the husband and wife feels even farther. When their son returns home, his visit dredges up even more conflict between Fred and Paulette. McKinley makes it no secret that he doesn’t intend to follow in his father’s footsteps at George & Company Fine Furnishings or otherwise. Fred can’t quite bring himself to accept all his son’s choices, yet Paulette is determined McKinley will want for nothing, least of all a mother’s love and attention—which her own skin color cost her as a child. But all her striving leaves Fred on the outside looking in. Paulette suspects McKinley and Fred are hiding something that could change the whole family. Soon, she’s facing a whirlwind she never saw coming, and the three of them must dig deep to confront the truth. Maybe then they’ll discover that their history is only skin-deep while their faith can take them right to the heart of things.



Thank you, Robin!


Giveaway*

Leave a comment by answering Robin's parting question, and be enter for a chance to win a copy of her latest release, Walking in Tall Weeds.


*giveaway prize courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers. Giveaway subject to Tyndale House Publishers and Seekerville giveaway terms and conditions. US mailing addresses only.

Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction
with Beth Erin

Have you ever wanted to incorporate an unusual experience from your life into a story yet hesitated? As you read the following excerpt, I’d like to encourage you to be brave and honestly ask yourself, “Is my experience more unbelievable than facing off with a fearless hitchhiking mouse???” Read on then see what this author has to say about her experience…


excerpt...

Something tickled against Julia’s leg as she drove. She looked down but didn’t see anything. The cloth of her slacks must have shifted against her skin.

“What sort of house are you looking for?”

“Well, something with character and close to town.”

The tickle happened again. She shook her leg as Henry continued to talk. The tickle moved up to her knee. She glanced down, and her breath congealed into an unlocked scream in her throat.

On her knee, looking around as if it was the most normal thing to do, sat a tiny, brown field mouse.

“I’ve always loved the rock homes, or even barns people have refurbished to maintain the general appeal of Derbyshire’s countryside and architecture.”

Oh no! Henry! She had to keep him from knowing the mouse was in the car with them. After all, she’d promised to protect him. She focused her gaze forward and pushed words from her throat. “Rock houses? And…um…what do you mean exactly?”

He paused and examined her with those marble-like eyes. She forced a smile to encourage him, and with another hitch in the silence, he began explaining the beauty of the gray fieldstone homes sprinkled through the lush green hillsides the mouse moved an inch or two up her thigh. She held in a squeak but couldn’t keep her leg from jerking. Somehow, the little mouse completed a ninja move from the door handle to the edge of the dashboard nearest her window.

Stranger Than Fiction
And there it sat, staring at her with its round, black eyes, whiskers twitching as if it knew exactly who to visit next. Her stomach tensed. Her body froze. How could something so small be so unnerving?

Henry continued to talk, thankfully oblivious to the entire situation, but Julia quickly took inventory of the road ahead. One the right, the road dipped into a deep ditch. On the left, there was oncoming traffic.

Three cars.

When was there ever so much traffic on this isolated country road?

She gritted her teeth together.

When there was a mouse loose in her van and a mouse-phobic hero trapped inside, that’s when.

She examined the passing landscape. They weren’t going super fast, so maybe if she rolled down her window, she could just flick the mouse out.

Henry’s words came to a stop. She hadn’t heard one of them, but she conjured up another distracting question.

“How soon do you hope to buy a house of your own?”

He studied her again. “Like I said, as soon as possible. I’ve been saving a long time and had some solid success with my last few projects.”

“Oh, how wonderful. Which movies have been your favorite to write the music for?”

His wonderful voice filled the space again, and Julia reached over to roll down the window. Only an inch at first. The mouse didn’t move, just kept plotting.

Another inch.

His whiskers twitched.

Another car passed them on the left.

Another inch. Julia released her hold on the window button and began a stealthy ascent toward the furry rodent, but as the wind fluffed the back of the mouse’s fur, it took off…across the dashboard, stopping directly in front of Henry.

“There’s something about creating the unexpected and having others appreciate it that’s reward—”

Stranger Than Fiction
Yep. Henry saw the mouse. There was this moment of a stare-down between man and beast…well, not really. Could a little field mouse be referred to as a beast? From the expression on Henry’s face, maybe.

Julia tried to keep her gaze ahead and somehow prepare to vault in front of Henry should the little rodent decide to leap. She slowed her speed.

“In thirty seconds, I can pull over,” she whispered.

“It’s staring at me.” His voice rasped the words, his face frozen forward.

“I’ve never heard of anyone dying from a mouse attack. I promise. Twenty seconds and we’ll pull over.”

He’d gripped the armrests so hard his knuckles turned white. “I may have a heart attack in ten, because my pulse is playing a hard and fast drumroll in my ears.”

Julia accelerated. “Ten seconds.”

(shared with permission from When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham) 

author's note...

"I’d love to say this scene was fictional because the memory still causes an uncomfortable chill to move up my leg…a memory chill, I guess, but it wasn't. Thankfully, I was alone in my minivan on my way to work, but the entire scene played out pretty much like poor Julia sees it. And, of course, I’d was driving on the ONE STRETCH of country highway where I couldn’t pull over.

Needless to say, when I finally made it to work, I was still shaking…mostly with laughter, but shaking nonetheless.

What happened to the mouse? Well, you’ll have to read the rest of the scene to find out. Needless to say, the whole purse whomping incident was not exaggerated…and I’m sure there were some worried passersby who witnessed my madness too!" - Pepper Basham

further encouragement...

Just in case y'all might still be feeling a bit apprehensive about sharing your own experiences, you don't have to rely on only one example… I’ve collected several for your consideration!

“When the peacocks go on the attack in one of my books....yep, that happened to me at the zoo. Who would have thought..." (In Good Company) - Jen Turano

“A late-night skinny-dipping adventure off the coast of Akumal, Mexico, which turned into an unsettling experience when some guy walking along the beach spotted our swimsuits ... & sat down to wait until we came out, became an even more intense scene in my third novel, Altared." - Sharyn Kopf

“The family story that my grandfather ignored the rattlesnake under the table until he finished his fried chicken! Totally retold it in Still Waters!” - Lindsey P. Brackett

Stranger Than Fiction
“When my dad was in the army his troop was under attack so he and his friends jumped out a second-story window, landed and ran to safety. My dad landed on his feet (which is horrible for your body) and ended up with knees swelling to the size of volleyballs and damage there for the rest of his life. I gave the hero of my debut novel the same injury/cause.” - Jessica Keller

“In my first novel, Like There's No Tomorrow, with Ian the Scot and Emily the American... the part when Ian was nudged to pray for the person he hated, and how, after doing it and begrudgingly at first, over time, he felt a release from the hate and felt only compassion for the person. Based on a real-life experience of mine.” - Camille Eide

“This happened to me, and I wrote it into one of my contemporary novels.

I drove up to the drive-through window at the bank, removed the canister, put my transaction inside, and returned the canister to the Pneumatic Tube...then sat back and waited for the inside teller to greet me. She did not. In the meantime, cars on either side of me kept moving, which I thought was highly unfair. A couple cars pulled up behind me, and the third car back even honked, trying to “wake up” the teller I presumed. The longer I waited, the more impatient I grew. I even glanced back at one point and threw up my arms at the guy behind me. The grumpy driver did not respond.

After another minute or two, the speaker crackled and the teller said, “Are you just about done out there?” What? I imagine I gave her a dumb look, and that’s when it dawned on me! I had not hit the ‘send’ button. My canister had not even moved! Quick as a fly, I hit the button, shrunk down in my seat, and waited another minute. When the canister came back, I didn’t even bother to count the money. I just skedaddled out of the bank parking lot, hitting a curb on my way to the road. Halfway home, I glanced at the seat next to me. There was the canister!!! That poor, poor man who had been waiting behind me - not to mention the other customers!” - Sharlene Baker MacLaren


Whether your experience is hilarious or miraculous, scenes inspired by your life season stories with something precious and unique, YOU! Stranger than fiction moments are also a great opportunity to connect with your readers by sharing the real story in an author note or your newsletter or on social media! Embrace the outrageous story fodder God has blessed you with, writer friends! 



Have you used (or are you considering using) real-life stranger than fiction experiences in your stories? We'd love to hear them and your thoughts on the topic!


Stranger Than Fiction
Beth Erin is a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, and blogger. She strives to edify and connect with readers and authors at Faithfully Bookish and on social media. 


Beth also contributes to the Seekerville, Hoarding Books, and Diversity Between the Pages blogs. She is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories.

Hello from Insanity Central!



Mary Connealy checking in from the mad center of my universe
Hello from Insanity Central!
I've got a sweet 90-year-old mama who's ailing.

Hello from Insanity Central!
A new granddaughter who is just precious--but seems to think crying and eating are all there is to life! C'mon kid, Grandma's old and tired--you're six weeks old, time to start playing with us--and sleeping--and listening to sweet reason when Grandma begs you to settle down!

Add in Christmas, New Years, a book to write, a book to revise and a book to release...and...well...I am full of excuses for why I am scrambling madly through life these days.

The book to release is what I'm talking about today.

I wrote a gothic romance! Yikes.

Hello from Insanity Central!
This is the most fun I've ever had writing a book...and I've had many, many great times writing, so that's saying something.

Hello from Insanity Central!
Click to Buy
But I wrote this book YEARS AGO called The Devil's Nest.
I would sit in my computer room just off the living room and write and LAUGH OUT LOUD. I mean I was CACKLING!
And the children, would come and look in the computer room with such weird expressions, like they're thinking, "Just checking to see if you need us to get a net, Mom."

The title has been changed to Loving the Mysterious Texas (Garrison's Law book #5).
Think.........Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier meets And Then There Were None by Agatha Christy
Now how could that not be fun???
But the spooky old pirate's lair is called The Devil's' Nest.
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Enter the sweet, innocent maiden hired to gather and make order out of the old family papers that fill the attic....for historical reasons, she's told. But the truth is, an evil family KNOWS the pirate who built the monstrosity hid his treasure somewhere in this gothic mansion.
The search is over 200 years old ever since the wife he betrayed and battered, cast herself off the roof of the house, taking her secret to the grave.

As I wrote--back then--I would think, I have to make her go into the attic while she KNOWS a murder roams the spooky old house.
Add to that, I couldn't bear to have her be an idiot.
Why would she do that? Why would she go up there alone?
Only an idiot would go up there alone? If she goes up there alone she deserves to die just so she doesn't have children and weaken the herd!
Did I mention the hero was called away from the house?
Did I mention the hero might be the killer?
How about...the electricity is off? I don't think the idiot even had a candle!
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No reason to even deal, at this point, with her amnesia and waking up next to a dead guy. A dead guy who everyone thinks SHE KILLED. She can't remember but she doesn't think she killed him. Except the hero assures her most people want to kill Victor so she might have.
There might be a ghost.
Here's an interesting fact about amnesia in a character.
You don't realize it but, as someone who is a big believer in weaving in backstory a bit at a time, a person with amnesia...……...has no backstory in her own head.
Other people can tell her about herself.
But she can never have the constant small thoughts like, When the lightning struck it was terrifying, she'd been afraid of storms since the night her parents died.
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You can't do that.
Because she DOESN'T REMEMBER HER PARENTS.
She can't say, "I'm doing this because I've loved history all my life."
She can't think, "I took this job because I was desperate for the money because--"
Anyway, I found it so frustrating that I finally just had her get her memory back waaaay ahead of schedule just so I could STOP STUMBLING OVER THE STUPID AMNESIA!
If you want to write an amnesia story (and who doesn't) be warned. But also, if you do it, HAVE FUN!

Let's talk FUN.
What's the most fun you've ever had writing a book.
What made you laugh, what sent chills up and down your spine.
Do you make yourself cry? That can be fun!
Or heartbreaking...tricky.

Tell me about the most fun you've ever had writing a book and every comment gets your name in a drawing for an ebook copy of Loving the Mysterious Texan
Hello from Insanity Central!

Loving the Mysterious Texas

The ebook is up and will release in a week. The paperback will be there, too, but no pre-order available on ebooks. Weird!
Garrison's Law goes gothic.

Amnesia, murder, treasure and ghosts.
A woman wakes up next to a dead man with no idea how she got there, who he is.....who SHE is.
Grey Devereau drags a terrified woman out of his cousin's bed...his very dead cousin. It looks for all the world like she killed him. But then everyone who knows Victor wants to kill him eventually. Grey included.
Lanny Cole, the young woman hired to research the history of the Devereau family, can't remember a thing.
Grey steps in with an alibi and Lanny realizes that if Grey is her alibi, then she's his. She decides to trust him, but then she's suffered a head injury. So she's probably making one stupid decision after another.
And then someone else dies. And a hurricane cuts them all off from help. And then someone else dies....
And the rumors of ghosts and treasure can't be true. Sure Grey saw the ghost, in fact, he's pretty sure the ghost saved his life as a child. But he was upset at the time and he doesn't believe in ghosts.
Chills and thrills abound in an old island home built by a loathsome pirate. He's not a Garrison, but when he gets in trouble, he turns to his old friend Case Garrison for help.
Garrison's Law just got spooky.

And just to be thorough, let me include a mention of my MARCH release, book #3 of the High Sierra Sweethearts series

The Unexpected Champion


Hello from Insanity Central!
The City Man and the Wild West Woman take turns saving each other's lives in the high stakes conclusion to the High Sierra Sweethearts Series.
City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons' supposedly lost grandson. But now that he's out here, things have gotten complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She's not like any woman he's ever met--comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun.

When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don't have, both realize they've stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape.

When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won't stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other.

http://www.maryconnealy.com
Savory Subjects: Finding Inspiring Content in the EverydayStranger Than FictionHello from Insanity Central!

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