Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Jane Eyre Parody--Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards

I planned on coming home from the LDStorymakers conference and blogging right away about the good time I had—I bought 13 books and had all but one signed by their respective authors—and she was there, I just never ‘found’ her.

They’re all books I’m anxious to read and I wondered which one I should read and critique first. As it happened, I managed to get all of the books except one into my suitcase, and since it’s a 15 hour drive from Provo to my little neck of the woods, I enlisted the help of my passengers and asked them to take turns with the driving.

What did I do? Sleep? No way! I opened Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards and began the journey. Chocolate Roses is a Jane Eyre parody. I read Jane a year or so ago and wondered how closely Joan would follow the original. I’ve had people say that I’m cruel to my characters, but I’m mild in comparison to Charlotte Bronte.

I found Joan’s rendition engrossing from the first page. Chocolate Roses, is, of course modernized and Jane is Janie—an aging (meaning in her late twenties) and single LDS woman who co-owns a chocolate shop in downtown Tempe Arizona where she turns chocolate into artistic creations. Unfortunately, she samples far too much of her own work and it has settled on her hips causing the available men to shy away.

Tired of hanging out at single’s wards, Janie has opted to attend her local family ward even though doing so lessens her chance of ever finding a husband. I grew up in the area where this story is set—near the Mesa AZ temple. Joan was a lot more diplomatic in her description of the ward that we always called the “newlywed or nearly dead” ward, meaning that many of the people in that area have lived there for longer than some of us have been alive.

Every Tuesday at 9AM, the love of Janie’s life walks into her chocolate store and orders one chocolate rose and has it delivered to a private facility for the mentally unstable, and another, smaller chocolate that he takes with him.

It isn’t until he unwittingly moves into the small apartment next to her that Janie realizes he has a daughter, and it’s shortly after when Janie discovers that he’s married.

There are many similarities that one familiar with Jane Eyre would recognize; however, Joan has added a fun twist to the classic tale. Mr. Wentworth (not Mr. Rochester) and his wife were witnesses to a murder. On Roger Wentworth’s testimony, one of the culprits was put in prison and a woman accomplice spent some time in jail, but was let out early because they didn’t have a solid case against her. This starts a series of threats, kidnappings and attempted murder.

Chocolate Roses is beautifully written and I found myself immersed in the characters and their story. My heart wrenched with Janie as she struggled with her emotions and her love for an unavailable man. I heartily recommend it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Easy as Pie

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, and I’ve been anxious to pass the word on this easy one. It’s easy as pie. It’s a great recipe when you want a yummy dessert but don’t have much time—or when it’s hot outside and you want something cool—or when you just don’t have the energy to create something more elaborate. (You get the picture.)

Yogurt Pie
1 graham cracker crust
2 8-oz yogurts with fruit at the bottom, mixed
1 9-oz Cool Whip

Blend the yogurt and Cool Whip, then pour into graham cracker crust. Refrigerate.

NOTE: This is also good served as a frozen pie.

You can get creative if you have the time, and serve it with sliced fresh fruit with a little bit of sugar mixed in to make it sweeter and create a little juice. Use the same kind of fruit that’s in the yogurt.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Author Interview with Donna Hatch

Donna Hatch used to be in my local writing group--before she became famous. That's my current claim to fame--knowing several fun and popular authors. Donna fits that group. She is friendly, personable, talented (she also plays the harp) and ready for a good time--and--not only does she work hard at her own writing, but she has taken on the challenge and blessing of mentoring a group of teenage writers.

Donna, tell us a little bit more about yourself.
I guess I should say right off the bat that I’m a certified loon. Not only am I an author, which means I hear voices in my head and my characters are more real to me than most “real” people, but I am also the mother of six children. And yes, I did that on purpose!

You have a new novel out, and it's a fantasy. Can you please tell us a little bit about Queen in Exile.
The last surviving member of her family, a princess must place her life, and the fate of her kingdom, into the hands of a trained killer. But accepting her destiny and her own dark powers will mean losing the man she loves.

Where does your inspiration come from?
Inspiration can come from anywhere, a song, a movie, a secondary character in another book. Sometimes I can’t trace where the story actually began, it often just starts as a seed of an idea and then expands. I’ve yet to have started a story based on a dream, though ;-) But for Queen in Exile in particular – this is going to sound super lame – (cringe) but I actually was inspired in part by a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, I was one of those geeks who played that game. I’ve always been a fantasy reader, and I’m so glad technology is up to the level needed to produce a truly spectacular fantasy movie. The story itself for Queen in Exile came from somewhere in my heart, but the setting is more of a Tolkien-type world.

Some writers say that they have a story that has to be told, others say that the characters come to them and demand that their story be told… how does it work for you?
Both ways, I suppose. A character usually comes to me and tells me the main idea of their story, and then I go to work fleshing out both the plot and the characters. Once or twice, I’ve started with a concept, or a problem, and then found characters to deal with it. Really, my characters drive the story; the plot, or the problem, is just a hardship for them to overcome so that they can really grow and shine and ultimately triumph.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Be persistent. Most people have dreams of writing a novel, but never finish one. Most people who finish a novel never submit it, and most who submit, give up after a few rejections.
What is your favorite thing about writing romance?
I love the happily ever after. If a book doesn’t have a good ending, I feel like I’ve wasted my time because I read to escape my problems. I want to know good always triumphs over evil and love conquers all, not be bummed because all was lost. I also love watching the romance unfold and, of course, the euphoria of falling in love.

Okay, now for some random but fun questions:

Favorite food? pasta

Favorite dessert? cheesecake

Jeans and T-shirt, or designer clothes? Um, how about designer jeans and T-shirts?

Guilty pleasure? Chocolate! Okay, anything sweet and decadent. I have an equal opportunity sweet tooth.

One word that describes you? cheerful

Favorite flower? Pink rose

Favorite sport? Does snorkeling count as a sport?

Thank you, Donna for joining us. You can find Donna’s book, Queen in Exile, at Amazon, Costco, any Deseret Bookstore, all Barnes & Noble, and Borders. If you don’t see it on the shelf, be sure to ask them to order it for you and they’ll ship it to you with free shipping.

Be sure to check out Donna's website: http://donnahatch.com/ and her blog: http://www.donnahatch.blogspot.com/
She has two published historical romance novels, one that I've reviewed, "The stranger She Married" and also "Guise of a Gentleman." I'm hoping to get a signed copy of her latest two books next month and I'll have them reviewed sometime after that.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Springtime in the Sonoran Desert

It's been a while since I published--sorry about that. My router that helps me use the internet in my house got old and moldy--it quit working. When I called cableone, they informed me of that--when I called Linksys--they confirmed it.
We finally have a new one installed and here I am.
Now for the good stuff. I [we] recently celebrated my 34th wedding anniversary. We went to Mesa and stayed overnight and had a good time. I took some pictures of my favorite desert in the whole-wide-world and wanted to share.

Nice and green--we've had lots of rain this season.

I remember going to the desert with my family as a kid and listening to my grandma talk about how beautiful it was. I never quite understood it until I moved away (from the Sonoran desert). When I come back and see how beautiful and green it is--now I understand what my grandmother saw. The Sonoran desert is green and full of life.
And aren't the mountains lovely?!

It was getting dark before we arrived, but I think the Arizona sunsets are beautiful. Can't get away from the signs of civilization, but other than that, it's picture perfect.

This is a side view of Red Mountain from across the Salt River. For some, this might seem like more of a creek, but it's not a bad-sized river for AZ.

I couldn't help but be interested in this small camping trailer that looks like it's equipped with solar power. That's serious camping!
One last picture to share--and I didn't even include any of the lovely spring flowers. But, I couldn't leave this one out.