Jenn McKinlay's News #7
July 31, 2013Book News: It’s finally here! The release of Cloche and Dagger: A London Hat Shop Mystery, which came into my head during the royal wedding, is on August 6th! I love that it’s coming out right on the heels of the birth of Will and Kate’s first royal offspring, Prince George. It just seems appropriate.
Events: I’ll be signing Cloche and Dagger at the Poisoned Pen on August 8th @ 7 pm in Scottsdale. Other than that, I seem to have been booked for several speaking engagements this fall, so I’ll try to keep those updated on the events page of my website.
What’s on my mind?
The art of letting go. Yes, it is an art but not one at which I excel. Ask any of the poor boys I stalked in high school. They’ll testify, although thankfully not in a court of law, that I tend to be outcome driven, clutching my expectations so tightly in my fist that they wither and die like a bouquet of dandelions being strangled to death in a three-year-old’s pudgy fingered grasp. Hmm, perhaps that was not the best metaphor to use after mentioning stalking boyfriends but, meh, you get the idea. Outcome driven. Yeah, that’s a shmanzy-pants corporate term for “I want what I want when I want it!” This needs to be said at optimum whine and then you get the gist of how annoying I can be and why I was single for much of my high school career.
Fortunately, life is really good about smashing your expectations like it’s a high stakes game of whack-a-mole. A few clonks on the head and you start learning to duck and cover. Hopefully, you also start to get the bigger message from the universe, which is to stop being so consumed with your destination that you don’t enjoy the ride.
When I first started writing, I was obsessed, single-mindedly, doggedly, some might say psychopathically obsessed, with getting published. I kept a log of how much I wrote every day, hours clocked in and pages punched out, as if that somehow mattered. It did not. I had mental deadlines and pushed myself to submit to every agent/editor with a pulse and a few without. I would be published. I would bend them to my will. I would. I would. I would.
Hmm. That didn’t work out so well for me. I sort of forgot about all those important things like, craft, technique, skill, you know, silly little details like that. I tracked the market like a bloodhound. I whipped stuff out and submitted whatever was the flavor of the minute. Did you ever notice how fast a minute passes when you’re trying to be trendy? Yeah, this is from the girl who was still wearing banana clips when the 80’s were long over. Yes, I still miss them. But seriously, I pity the editors and agents on my mailing list.
Finally, I had to stop. Marriage and babies have a way of disrupting psychopathic single-mindedness (thank goodness)! Writing became that thing I did when the hooligans napped. It became something I did just for me, to keep my brain functioning on a higher level than nurse, burp, diaper change, repeat. And in that time, when I wrote to make myself laugh, to have grown-up conversation, even if it was only in my head, in a day filled with delightful but not exactly stimulating baby talk, that’s when I learned how to be a writer. Somehow, I had started living in the moment and letting the universe worry about the outcome. And would you look at that - getting published followed shortly thereafter. Surprise!
For me, that was the first lesson in letting go that stuck. I realized that once I let go of the outcome, the things that needed to happen -- did -- all on their own. Did I still have to work my butt off? Oh, yeah, but now it was and is a joy.
Now you would think I would take this lesson to heart and be all Zen master about the universe and letting go of outcomes. Not so much. I find I have to revisit letting things go almost daily. The hooligans are entering the teen years. I am trying to let them go a little bit each day to give them self-confidence and self-direction. When I watch them make mistakes, it is so hard not to rush in and fix things for them. But I know that they’ll be smarter and stronger if they are allowed to fail and adjust their expectations and figure out their outcomes on their own.
Likewise, I still have to constantly check myself and my expectations about the writing business. Publishers can push a book in everyone’s face and it will still tank. A self-pubbed book by a person no one has ever heard of can hit the bestseller’s list and stay there for what seems like years. Side note: bestseller’s lists make authors age at an accelerated rate sort of like dog years. This is that whack-a-mole portion of the business that none of us have any control over, even though we like to think we do. Your book comes out, you try to get the word out, but ultimately, I have no idea why some books succeed and books equally as good don’t. It is, as they say, a crap shoot and no, the dice aren’t shaved. At least, I don’t think they are.
As I mentioned, August brings the launch of a new series for me. Terrifying? You betcha-by golly-wow! I’d like nothing more than to see Cloche and Dagger hit the New York Times bestseller’s list. Do I have any control over this? No. Is there anything I can do to make it happen? No. Is it frustrating? Yeah-huh! But I have to remember that in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter and I have to let it go. Yes, this is my mantra when the crazy worm starts burrowing in my brain. Let it go! There are only two options in this business and they are to keep writing, keep trying to write a better book, or not. No matter what happens with this book’s outcome or the next book’s, I have to let it go. I do that by choosing to keep trying to write a better book.
Here's wishing you the tenacity to pursue your dreams with a fully committed heart, but also the wisdom to know when to let it go and let the universe take over. As always, thanks for reading my books – your support and enthusiasm is greatly appreciated!
Recipe: I’m working on a petit four recipe for the fourth Library Lover’s Mystery READ IT AND WEEP (Nov 2013)
Raspberry Petit Fours
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of milk
3 egg whites
Seedless raspberry jam
32 ounces confectioner’s sugar
2/3 cups of water
2 teaspoons orange extract
Garnish with candy beads or frosting rosebuds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch square baking dish and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, sugar and extract until fluffy. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, slowly add to the wet mixture, alternately adding with the milk until well blended. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks then gently fold into the batter. Pour batter into the baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Once cake it completely cooled, cut the cake into 1 ½ inch squares. Remove the squares from the baking dish and set on a large cookie sheet about two inches apart. Once on the cookie sheet slice each square into two layers and put a teaspoon of raspberry jam between the two layers.
In a large bowl combine the glaze ingredients. Beat until glaze is a smooth consistency. Now pour the glaze evenly over the tops and sides of each cake square. Make sure they are coated completely. Garnish the top with candy beads or frosting rosebuds or the garnish of your choice. Allow to dry. Makes 3 dozen.