Lactating mice

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Potato starch probably doesn’t factor into your life very much, and that’s a good thing. Because if you know about the baking potential of potato starch, it’s because you’re riddled with allergies like me.

My name is Patricia Johns, and I’m riddled with allergies. Gluten, dairy and soy, to be precise. All the good stuff.

So in an attempt to start my own gluten-free baking (which won’t exactly save me money, but will at least make some edible bread possible), I realized that I needed to procure potato starch.

Now, this is not the place to learn how to make potato starch. You can learn here or here. But in researching how to make it, I realized that potato starch is some precious substance. It’s like getting the milk of a lactating mouse. It takes a lot of potatoes and a lot of patience to get a very small amount of starch.

This is the starch taken from four fairly large potatoes. (You’re looking for the whitish substance on the bottom of the plate. And that’s a salad plate.)

DSC03207So this week while not writing, this is what I’m doing–making potato starch. I feel strangely victorious after having milked a potato. ;)

 

If sperm whales had thumbs

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In an attempt to get my son to watch educational television, I’ve been watching nature shows around him, pretending that this is my first choice in TV watching.

“Oh, look! A show about sperm whales! This is amazing. Kiddo, don’t even watch this with me. Go do something in the other room. I can’t wait to watch this show all by myself.

Reverse psychology works wonders on this kid.

So, reverse-psychologizing away, I recently watched a show about sperm whales where they showed an actual sperm whale brain next to a human brain. It was massive, and much wrinklier, interestingly enough. I left me a little stunned. We tend to think of animals as beneath us, intelligence-wise, but when you look at those brains side by side, I’m pretty sure if sperm whales had thumbs, they’d be ruling us!

Sperm_whale_and_Bottlenose_whale

Then I saw this video of beluga whales playing with kids, and I’m convinced of it. Yes, there is a food chain, and yes animals have instincts, but I’m sure they have souls, too. Just ask a dog owner! You won’t win that argument.

But instead of arguing with people on the internet, watch this: (the fun starts at about :25)

Writers are cruel beasts.

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10616223_879442732083049_1262305916708674891_nWe really are! We have very little sympathy for our characters and put them through absolute horrors for your entertainment.

In sweet romance writing, there are a few techniques we use over and over out of absolute necessity:

1. Kill off the hero/heroine’s parents.
We only have so much space to tell this story, and having supportive parents around to help a character think straight can really get in the way of a quick paced romance.

2. Give the hero/heroine some horrific trauma in their past.
Everyone needs a hurdle, right?

3. Kill off the first husband/wife.
Just clearing space to make this story happen!

4. Kill off wealthy secondary characters.
Wills, wills, wills! They are very useful to a storyline.

5. Leave sweet little orphans on doorsteps and whatnot.
To tug at your heartstrings, of course.

6. Tear characters apart who truly and deeply love each other.
Sorry, folks, happy and balanced relationships don’t make a story.

7. Give someone a disfiguring accident.
To prove that beauty is more than skin deep. Could we do it in a less invasive way? Maybe, but you wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

Anyone checking out our computer search history would probably think that we’re sociopaths, but don’t judge us too harshly. At least we aren’t as cruel as the writers of old fashioned fairy tales!

Leave it to Beaver to keep me from working

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This summer, I had one goal: edit and submit a novel called SMOOTH AS CHOCOLATE.

That probably doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment given the amount of time I had–a whole summer! But it really was. Granted, when I’m alone, I can get that amount of work done in 2 weeks, but when I’m parenting at the same time with my 6 year old son off of school, it gets a lot harder!

I love spending time with my son, and who doesn’t enjoy summer fun with the kids? But kids demand a lot out of you, and the minute they sense you sitting down or focusing on something other than them, they have a list of requests:

Mathers“Can I have a snack?”

“Can I play Wii?”

“Do you know what I dreamed last night?”

“Is Grandma going to die because she’s old?”

“Will we hear things in Heaven?”

“Do you want to hear a joke?” (Warning: his jokes are long, convoluted and start with a chicken and a road…)

All of my writing needs to happen before about 4 pm, because that is when I end up mentally crashing (having bounced out bed at 6). If I haven’t gotten any work done by then, I can just give up because when I finally get some time to myself around 8 pm, my brain refuses to cooperate and I just stare at the page feeling cranky.

So when I tell you that I’ve submitted SMOOTH AS CHOCOLATE to the Harlequin’s Heartwarming line, it’s a big deal. A big, celebratory deal! :D

Someone suggested I celebrate with chocolate. There is a certain little boy in this home who would agree wholeheartedly!

Putting a face on it

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Art directors can’t read the author’s mind. So when editors ask us to give a visual idea of what our characters look like, they ask us to choose celebrities who most closely resemble our characters. This is a fun stage! I really enjoy sifting through internet photos looking for the perfect cast of my book.

For A FIREFIGHTER’S PROMISE, I chose Matt Damon and Patricia Heaton.

~~~

Deputy Fire Chief Matt Bailey, has one mission: to leave the town where a little girl died in his arms. He just can’t shake the memories, but when Rachel Carter comes into town with her adopted son–a baby HE found on the doorstep of the fire house–can he find the strength to walk away?

Matt_Damon_04

Teacher Rachel Carter swore that she’d never fall for another firefighter after her husband was killed in the line of duty. When Matt Bailey asks her to help him learn how to work more effectively with school aged children, pulling back is harder than she ever imagined… If only she weren’t helping him to get a job across the state.

patricia-heaton

This book is coming to a bookstore near you May 2015.

Yes, Ma’am

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I love being called “ma’am.” I find it respectful. I like it when a young person calls me “ma’am.” I AM older than they are. I AM a married woman. I AM someone’s mother. So when someone calls me “ma’am,” be it a young person or someone my age, I feel respected and valued.

Vaterländischer Verdienstorden an Ingrid Krämer

Not all women feel as I do. I constantly see women fuming over being called “ma’am” because it makes them feel older. They don’t feel respected. They don’t enjoy the old fashioned manners. They are left generally miffed after being “ma’am-ed.” The same old fashioned term that I enjoy so much leaves them with a much different feeling.

One of the hard parts of writing is choosing the perfect title for you book. Just like “ma’am”, everyone has a different reaction to those four or five words on the front of a book. There is no guarantee that your title will make it past the marketing department at Harlequin because not everyone is going to feel the same way when they look at your title–and your title is your first impression.

A FIREFIGHTER’S PROMISE is due out May 2015. I’m really excited to have a release date, and this means that this book is now rolling in the Love Inspired editorial department. They like my title, but I need to be on the safe side and provide a few other options.

Here are a few things that could go wrong:

~Another author has a similar title in the Love Inspired lineup

~The marketing department feels that the title gives the wrong impression

~The title doesn’t snag the right interest for that particular line

800px-Buch_Geschichte_der_Stadt_Duisburg_01

So keeping that in mind, I have prepared a list of possible replacement titles, and out of that list these are the best:

A FIREFIGHTER’S HEART

A FIREFIGHTER’S FAMILY

FALLING FOR THE FIREFIGHTER

So what do you think? Do you like any of these? Would they make you want to pick up a Love Inspired romance?

 

Exciting is in the eye of the beholder

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A writer’s life isn’t always terribly exciting, although exciting is in the eye of the beholder. I’m editing. To the outside observer, this doesn’t look like much–just a woman sitting at her computer. I get up and wander to the fridge from time to time. I stop and hang out with my son for a little while. Then I sit back back down and stare at the computer again.

It is exciting, though, because this is the last step before I submit SMOOTH AS CHOCOLATE with my heart strings and fingers crossed. This one will be sent to Harlequin’s Heartwarming line. You see, my writing is all about setting goals.

10527876_667102076706593_7045176062608857200_nFirst goal: plan the book

Second goal: plot the outline

Third goal: write the first draft

Fourth goal: edit

Fifth goal: submit

It’s the same with every book, and I give myself a timeline for each goal. I find that the secret to success is goal setting. An idea without a goal attached doesn’t go anywhere very fast. Writers write, but professional writers write with a goal.

So while you might see editing as the process of hacking apart a first draft, I see editing as my fourth goal (complete with timeline) which will allow me to move on to submission.

Which still might sound a little dry, so you’ll just have to trust me on this: EXCITING!

 

Sunburn

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I’m one of those people who burn. Badly. I wear sunscreen in SPF 60 or higher. When I’m driving and I forget to put on some sunscreen, the sun shining on my skin through the window actually hurts.

My husband is originally from Africa, and when we met he had no idea what I meant when I said, “I burn.” This was a completely foreign concept to him, and it was only after we were married that I got a really nasty sunburn on my shoulders. It swelled up, it blistered, about 2 mm deep of flesh slipped off. The doctor said it was a second degree burn and he gave me appropriate medication for it. My husband stared at me like I was some kind of alien, and ever after has been very cautious about keeping me in shade. Lest I melt.

When we walk together down a street, I’m on the shade side and he’s on the sun side. Before we go out in the summer time, I spend about ten minutes slathering up with sunscreen before we go out, and if I forget, we GO BACK.

This is an old meme, but it makes my point. I’m “the other one,” I’m just not Irish. ;)

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I’m enjoying my summer! It’s spent slathered up in sunscreen, hidden away in shade and air conditioning, and it’s been wonderful so far. Isn’t it lucky that my talents are in writing and not say… beach volleyball? It’s almost like God made me this way–a pale, creative type. Who needs melanin anyway? ;)

 

 

The closest I can get to dating…

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My friend has just signed up for an online dating service, and she invited me to fill out the forms with her. This is the closest that I can get to the dating scene (being married and all…) and it’s surprisingly fun! I envied her a little–not that I want to date anyone, don’t get me wrong–but answering all those questions, filling out lists, narrowing down exactly what she was looking for… That process is fun! I had to hold myself back from nudging her aside and taking over. (As if she’d let me… ha!) I’d make a good old-timey matchmaker.

“You and you. I’ll speak to your fathers. You’d do well together.”

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I would have to wait until I was an elderly woman with a hunch or something in order to really fill the role, but I think it would be perfect for me! It wouldn’t be nosiness if I was providing a service, now would it? ;)

If I could have a fun part time job, it would be working for a dating service. I’d absolutely love to make introductions. Everyone wants love, and I think everyone deserves it. But in this day and age, stumbling across that perfect match is that much more difficult… So if I ever decide to moonlight, you know where to find me!

And the minute I turn eighty, I’m going to let my hair go crazy and put up my shingle: Patricia Johns–Matchmaking and Fine Goat Cheese.

Because I also like goats.

Dressing up the paintbrush

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I came across this Momastery post, which encouraged me to no end, and since I’ve been telling everyone in my personal life about it, I wanted to share it with you, too.

Here is the premise:

paintbrush-master

We are told each and every day that our body is what we offer to the world. Actresses are torn apart for less than flattering photos, and then praised and patted on the head for losing baby weight in 6 weeks, even though it means that all those hours spent in the gym are NOT being used to cuddle, nurture or bond… Don’t even get me started on that one! Advertisements, movies, clothing stores… they all project the same message, that thin is success and anything less is failure. Our bodies are what the world wants. Toned bodies. Appropriately thin bodies. Young-looking bodies.

But Glennon puts forth a different argument. Our bodies are not the masterpiece, our lives are. Our bodies are just the tool that we use to love, create, work… Our lives–that beautiful mixture of relationships, longings, self-expression and worship–are the masterpieces that we are putting out for the world. Focusing on our figures is just dressing up the paintbrush. Yes, we take care of ourselves, but holding out our paintbrush as our “finished product” seems just a little silly, doesn’t it?

My figure is not Hollywood perfect, but it is beautiful. It’s round, it’s soft and it gives terrific hugs. This brain spins stories constantly. These arms can multi-task, hugging a small boy and typing with the other hand. These legs walk me all over town. This face expresses all the emotions that come reeling through me, and the lines around my eyes show you that I’ve smiled most of all. I love my body, and it’s beautiful. But more beautiful still is the life I lead and the love I give.

So let’s keep our priorities straight. It’s not about the paintbrush, it’s about the masterpiece. And that’s where my attention is going to be. <3

Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that YOU HAVE A PAINTBRUSH which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life- where others can see it and be inspired and comforted by it. – See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/07/06/body-masterpiece/#sthash.UGctjjNu.dpuf
Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that YOU HAVE A PAINTBRUSH which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life- where others can see it and be inspired and comforted by it. – See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/07/06/body-masterpiece/#sthash.UGctjjNu.dpuf
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