I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti… and it was delicious. [a review]

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“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” by Giulia Melucci is the kind of book you pick up on a whim at a bookstore, because the title has to do with spaghetti, there is spaghetti on the cover, and there’s a promise of recipes inside… being written by an Italian-American woman, you assume there’s going to be at least one spaghetti recipe and, if you haven’t noticed by now, I have a thing for spaghetti.  Who doesn’t?

Melucci’s book, for me, is just as I described above- that impulse buy because it was about food and love and that was all I needed to know.  The recipes were an added bonus.  But here, just so you’re not left in the dark, is what this book is really about.

From failure to fusilli, this deliciously hilarious read tells the story of Giulia Melucci’s fizzled romances and the mouth-watering recipes she used to seduce her men, smooth over the lumps, and console herself when the relationships flamed out.

From an affectionate alcoholic, to the classic New York City commitment-phobe, to a hipster aged past his sell date, and not one, but two novelists with Peter Pan complexes, Giulia has cooked for them all. She suffers each disappointment with resolute cheer (after a few tears) and a bowl of pastina (recipe included) and has lived to tell the tale so that other women may go out, hopefully with greater success, and if that’s not possible, at least have something good to eat.

Peppered throughout Giulia’s delightful and often poignant remembrances are fond recollections of her mother’s cooking, the recipes she learned from her, and many she invented on her own inspired by the men in her life. Readers will howl at Giulia’s boyfriend-littered past and swoon over her irresistible culinary creations.

Okay, so it’s exactly what I described- food and love.  It’s also about a woman in the book business (!!!) who managed to cook delicious food using cookware she picked up at REI (a camp stove, wasn’t it?), and fell in love with as many men as she did types of pasta. (by the way, you will come out the other side of this book being a pasta snob and thinking you can make your own from scratch)

My favorite part?  She’s completely shameless about it all.  … her love of men and pasta.

The older me and my friends get, the more I feel the pressure to be “cool” about dating.  As if we’re somehow supposed to mature overnight to the ridiculous extent that an attractive guy checking us out is not cause for a breath check, but rather a dismissive look as we wait for him to approach.

Come. On.

Somehow getting more mature the more you date and not acting like a lovesick teen girl is an old wives tale and having just finished reading Melucci’s book (scratch that, I’m calling her Giulia), I think she’d agree with me.  Because no matter how bad the last heartbreak was, and no matter how not-so-prospective the next one looks, Giulia lets herself dream.  She can have the house and the names of the kids picked out before date number one and yes, she is a grown woman who gushes to her friends about all the details and the fantasy dream house she’ll have (with a gorgeous kitchen, of course), and I love her for that.  I love that she’s fearless in her love life as well as her cooking life. (homemade pasta from scratch? with no recipe? hats off.)

I also love that, although this is a memoir about “good food and bad boyfriends,” Giulia never digs at the exes.  This book does not read like a bad breakup song, but rather one woman’s story about all the relationships that didn’t work out (despite winning over the man’s stomach, no matter how delicate) and how she’s still hopeful she’ll meet The One.  But also, there comes a point where Giulia completely accepts herself, her singleness, and decides to be happy.  She stops waiting for Mr. Right, the big wedding, the picket fence, and just buys her own place.  She makes “fabricated” (factory made) pasta for her boyfriends and decides to save her homemade pasta for The One, enjoying it herself until he shows up.  She’s not shy about her love in any area of life and that’s the kind of woman I aspire to one day be. (also, I want to write about food the way she writes about food, because it sounds less like a meal and more like an old, dear friend who can solve any of your problems)

To wrap it up, I’m a fan of endings, and I particularly liked Giulia’s.  I try not to skip ahead, because I want the ending to be a surprise, and while this ending wasn’t exactly a surprise, it is, nonetheless, perfect.

Giulia’s recipes are interspersed throughout the book, tying in with the narrative at appropriate times.  She concluded the book with this recipe:

HOMEMADE PASTA
Flour
Eggs

I don’t know the exact measure.
I’m still trying to figure out the steps.

Five stars, you guys.  Or maybe five bites?  Five plates of spaghetti?

Until next time.
-Britt.

Check out Giulia and her book here.

And We’re Back…

… to our regularly scheduled rantings of a lunatic writer.

Kidding.

There’s nothing “regularly scheduled” about this blog and how I update it.  Oh well.

First off, congrats to the giveaway winners!  There was a giveaway running during my blog tour and the winners have been chosen!

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The winners have been contacted (those who won ebooks, your book is attached to the email; those who won paperbacks- I’ll need your addresses!), so check your inboxes!

For those who missed the tour, here’s the master list of everyone who participated.  If you just want to skip to the fun bits…

And I know I promised to tell you about my latest projects, but I’m currently in the midst of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I’m only coming up for air long enough to catch you up with the tour and to say this: The next book I publish will be a poetry collection, I’m working on a fairytale rewrite, and I have some cool Howl artwork to share with you later.

For now, I’m back to writing!  See you guys on the flip side… i.e., when NaNoWriMo is over.

Ta!
-B.

Howl Book Tour, Book Sale, Book Giveaway… lots of books.

Hey Guys!

For those of you who don’t know, Howl is currently on a little book blog tour this week.  For the master post that tells you which blogs are participating (reviews, promos, fun facts, etc.), check out this schedule over at Book Enthusiast Promotions.  There’s also a little giveaway going on at the moment (2 signed copies of Howl, 3 ebook copies of Howl, and 2 ebook copies of Star Fall), so feel free to enter when you check out the schedule!

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If keeping up with a blog tour just isn’t your thing, don’t worry; I’ll be recapping the highlights at the end of the week.  But just so you know, Howl is $.99 on Kindle this week, or if paperbacks are your thing, it’s 30% off on Createspace.  Just use code L3BDG29X at checkout. :)

I’ll be back after the tour is over to tell you about my upcoming book (hint: it’s not a novel), and fill you in on the latest novel I’m working on.  Until then!

-Britt

Can’t We Just Be Happy For Each Other?: Thoughts of Women’s Success

I’m not political.  Politics make my head hurt and I care more about what people are doing to/for other people, than what new laws are being passed. (thank goodness I have political-minded people in my family who keep me up-to-date)  To each their own, you know?  So that might make me late to the party on the whole Saira Blair thing, but here’s what I have to say about that/her:

WAY. TO. GO.

I don’t care what her political leanings are.  I don’t care that her dad is a Senator.  I care that she’s an 18 year old girl who just made political history.  I care that she ran a campaign from her dorm, while still managing to keep up in her classes.  I care that she contributed $4,000 of her own money to her campaign, because “I wanted voters to know I was serious.” [Washington Wire]

I care that she’s a woman who did something amazing, and that’s all you should care about too.

This two-faced acceptance of women needs to end. You can’t say, “We support women!  Women are movers and shakers!  Women can do amazing things!” and then, the second a woman pulls off an amazing feat, turn around and say, “I know we support women… but you’re not exactly what we wanted.”

It makes me think of that Meghan Trainor song, “All About That Bass” (yes, I am really late to the party).  I’m usually behind on pop culture (unless it involves Taylor Swift), so it took me awhile to hear Trainor’s song.  I thought it was cute and catchy at first.  But what caught my attention that wasn’t cute?

“I’m bringing booty back, go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that.”

I gave the song another listen and instead of hearing a pro!woman, accept-bodies-of-all-shapes-and-sizes song, I was hearing a song about curvaceous women having “that boom boom that all the boys chase,” as if boys aren’t also attracted to “them skinny bitches.”  It was just another example of, “We support women!… but only if you fit our idea of what a “real woman” is.”

And yes, Trainor does go onto say she’s, “just playing,” when she talks about the “skinny bitches” and how, “I know you think you’re fat.”  Wrong.  I have friends and relatives who are size-two, not a curve on their body, and do they think they’re fat?  Nope.  They think they’re beautiful.  They think they’re healthy.  They think, “Oh hey, I have this super cool body that can do super cool stuff.  Does it look exactly like everyone else’s body?  No, but it’s mine, and I love it.”

Why can’t we just be happy for women?  Why can’t an 18 year old girl become a lawmaker without people criticizing her political leanings or the fact her dad’s a Senator and clearly, that must be the reason she’s a success.  Because 18 year old girls can’t do anything without riding on daddy’s coattails.

Why can’t we have a song that lifts up all women, of every shape, size, ethnicity, etc?  Why does one standard of beauty have to tear down another?  There’s no validation to be had in tearing down women (or anyone, for that matter).  If you make yourself out to be a great person, but you have to tear down other people to look good, guess who’s really looking good?  Not you.

So ladies, if you’ve done something cool, congratulations.  Way to go.  You wanted to do something, or you saw a need, or you had a dream, and you did it.  You are an inspiration.  Here is that round of applause you may or may not have received, but most definitely deserve.  No strings attached.

-B.

Q: How much money do you make writing?

This has to be the #1 question I am asked.  Some people might lead with, “What do you write?,” but they’re quick to follow with asking how much money I make.  I get it.  You’re curious.  And no, I don’t mind you asking.

Some people ask because they don’t think writing is a valid career.  Some people ask because they know nothing about writing and are curious.  Others ask because they’re interested in writing/publishing.

Let me just back up and say (for anyone new here) that I self-publish all my books and I’m a crap self-promoter (2015 New Year Resolution, right there), so how much money I make is going to differ from how much money other people make, be they self-published or traditionally published.  There is no baseline when it comes to the arts.  Which only makes answering the, “How much money do you make?” question that much harder.

I, and maybe other artists do this as well, try to explain the process of putting together a book.  I used to think if I could explain the publishing process, followed by the promotion process (which I should not be allowed to talk about, ever), and then ease my way into explaining how royalties work, I could explain to someone how much money I make.  It’s not like I can say I make a salary of X, and if I were to add up how much money I made selling books in the past six months and then give you that number, it’d be a sad number people would shake their heads at.  (which has happened and I’ve since learned my lesson)

Over the summer though, while visiting family who haven’t seen me since I started publishing books and were genuinely curious about the whole thing, I finally came up with the perfect answer.  It’s one that doesn’t tell you how much I make in dollar signs, but as someone who didn’t get into writing for the money, it’s an answer that’s true to me.  It’s also one that perfectly sums up the whole publishing process and its relation to how much money I make.

Here we go…

I make enough money selling books to continue publishing books.

That’s it.  That’s the elevator-pitch of an answer I’ve been trying to come up with for years.  And it works.

The money I make from selling books goes right back into producing more books.  Sometimes, I sell enough books that I can buy stock images for a cover I’m designing and purchase a proof copy.  Other times I sell enough books that I can host a giveaway, commission an artist, or pay a book promoter for their services.  Yes, I like to invest money into my books, but for the most part, I like the fact the royalties earned from Book #3 are going to pay for the production costs of Book #4.  It’s a cycle I hope never ends.

So there you have it.  You now know how much money I make writing.  It’s not a lot, but it’s enough that I can keep doing what I love and to me, that’s all that matters. :)

-B.

Value As A Writer

This time last year, I was applying to writing residencies, poetry scholarships, and sending in submissions to writing contests.  I’d basically spent the year throwing myself into the self-publishing pool and attempting to swim, and I had decided it was time I was recognized for my talent.  Or rather, enough people had told me to broaden my horizons, make a name for myself, and “get out there,” that I bottled up all my hopes and dreams and sent them to strangers with the best intentions.

Guess what?  I was rejected.  Every. single. time.  One of my applications was even lost in the mail and later returned to me by a postal worker and yes, I may have cried, because I’d really wanted to win.  Sure, the opportunity I had applied for would have been amazing, but I basically just wanted to win.  Why?  Because I figured it would validate me and make me a “real” writer.

I’m a self-published author.  That means I do everything from writing the book to designing the cover and promoting the finished product.  I make books.  Yet for some reason, I’m not as legitimate as my traditionally published brethren.  Even they don’t get the recognition they deserve.  Hell, even people who land the New York Times’ Best Sellers list don’t really matter that much outside book circles anymore.  Now, success is measured by whether or not your book was made into a movie, and a good one at that.

For a self-published author, the odds of one of my books being made into a movie (or tv show- also considered “making it”) are next to nil.  I have a better chance of becoming fluent in a foreign language and if you know me, you know how bad I am with languages.  I’m pretty sure I could become a Victoria’s Secret model before landing a movie deal, which shows how nearly impossible it is, because I’m 5’5″ and would need serious knee/leg surgery to be VS Angel height.

So it’s virtually impossible for me to be a “real” writer/author by the world’s standards.  But I don’t particularly care about the world’s opinion as I do the opinions of those I meet.  Mostly because those are the opinions I’m going to encounter face-to-face, but also because there are a lot of people in the world and I long ago accepted I can’t please everyone.

The number one question I’m asked after telling someone I’m an author is, “How much money do you make writing?”  Some people ask out of genuine curiosity, but the majority need to know how much money I make so they can classify my writing as either a hobby or a career.  Because that’s all writing is.  It’s either that thing you do while you look for a real job, or it’s actually your job and “gee, wow, how cool! How can I get paid to stay home all day in my pajamas and write?”  At this point, I’m pretty sure that answer is something along the lines of “Sell your soul to the Devil.”

Apparently, writing isn’t worth it if I’m not making bank.  Apparently, I’m not a “real” author unless I have a contract with an actual publishing house, preferably one of the Big Five.  Apparently, people should only read the book once the movie trailer has been released… or after they see the movie.  … or never.

Establishing your worth in a world full of unique, inspired, artistic people is hard.  Actually, it’s more along the lines of tiresome, soul-crushing, and you may or may not abandon all hope and take a desk job that will steal your sanity in a different way.  I entered contest after contest looking for my worth.  I figured if I won an award, I could tell everyone I was more than just a writer, I was an award winning writer.  My writing wouldn’t be a hobby then, right? I’d be worth something… right?

A year later, and I almost missed the submission deadlines for those same writing opportunities I applied for a year ago.  It’s not that I don’t care whether or not my application gets there, it’s just that I’m no longer obsessed.  I don’t need a fancy award to tell me I’m a good writer, because there’s a girl in Wisconsin who buys my books and writes essay long letters to me telling me why she liked them.  I don’t need to win a contest, because my younger siblings think I’m cool and that’s about as validated as you can get.  My older brother brags about me.  Someone dressed as a character of mine for Halloween.  A friend wants one of my poems to be her next tattoo.  I’ve met so many wonderful, artistic, helpful, and kind people, which is something that would not have happened had I not continued to write.  You can’t win friends like these.

I’m going to keep entering contests, not to win the award, but to challenge myself.  I’m going to keep trying for amazing writing opportunities, because this is what I want to do with my life and I want to better my craft.  But above all, I’m going to keep writing.  For my friends, for my family, for you and your friends.  I’ll keep writing.

Because I’m a writer, and that’s what we do. :)

Onto The Next Genre!

By now, people are reading my latest book, Howl, and from what I’ve heard, they’re liking it.  Fantastic.  That’s my favorite thing to hear, right after, “WHY THE HELL DID YOU KILL MY FAVORITE CHARACTER?!?”  Especially at two in the morning.  Definitely at two in the morning and yes, I know… I really should stop answering my phone at two in the morning.

Moving on…

With Banewood over and Howl now out, it came time for me to answer my least favorite question of all time, “What next?”

It’s not that I don’t love starting a new project- I do.  But sometimes, I find myself not only starting a new book, but starting in a new genre as well.  Since my start back in 2012, I’ve gone from poetry, to mystery/suspense, to a YA urban fantasy, to straight up urban fantasy (no young adults to be found).  And even though I don’t feel done with Lis Santiago, Suki Teagues, and Havenwood, even though I have a sequel plotted and ready to go, I feel myself moving into new territory.  New, slightly scary territory.

A couple days ago, on Twitter and other social media sites I haunt, I asked this question:

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I wasn’t really looking for an answer.  Okay, maybe I was, but mostly, I just had this question rattling around in my brain and what is social media for if not to shout random thoughts into the universe, hoping someone will care, but not too disappointed when no one responds?  One woman- a fellow author- did respond.  Her answer?

“Yes. Both. Yes.”

The two books I had in mind to write were so completely different, I never thought I could write them.  Least of all at the same time, or even relatively close together.  One is an urban fantasy, a continuation of Havenwood.  The other is… scary.  But it’s only scary because it’s true, it’s relevant, and if my writing up until this point as been me putting my heart on the line for people to critique, then this book will be the rest of me.  Which is why I’d much rather stay in my little fantasy land, in Havenwood, with werewolves and banshees and ancient gods, because even if issues are raised and I’m putting thoughts and ideas out there, at least there’s a level of fantasy for me to fall back on.  At least there’s something for me to hide behind.

But that woman said “yes” to both, and I haven’t been able to get that “yes” out of my head.

So expect another Havenwood book (which will be my last urban fantasy for now), but expect to see something else from me as well.  It’ll be different, to say the least, and while I’m more than a little scared, I’m also excited to stretch myself and see just how far I’ve come with my writing.

Until next time,
-B.