A Little Beauty Goes a Long Way

I’m visiting my hair dresser today for my four-month touch-up. I don’t have much gray, but with dark hair it quickly becomes like a red cape to a bull. I look in the mirror and that’s all I see.

Romances are often about transformations, and I’ve read many make-over scenes, particularly in contemporary fiction. There’s the inevitable straightening of curly hair, a lightening with highlights, and often our little middle class heroine gets a designer wardrobe. Most contemporaries have stars too young to have gray, but the coloring of gray is a strong scene in Cher’s Moonstruck.

I have a scene where Laura, my leading lady, goes to a spa before a big party. I chose to leave her hair curly, because Fox, her hero, loves her curly hair. She’s always playing with her hair, and I use the way she wears it in each scene as a barometer of how she is feeling. I can’t wait for you to meet Laura.

One more point about romantic stories and hair as I move from the dryer to the stylist chair. I get so tired of contemporary heroines with waist-length hair. Who does that? Even the college girls I see every day on campus cut it at mid-back. My hair is shoulder-length and some days it’s too much. So next time you write about waist-length hair, get out the scissors!!!!!

The Uber Cookie: Can Your Characters Bake?

I don’t bake a lot. I cook, but my brand of cooking is generally Southern and simple. We eat everyday things like tacos, spaghetti, chicken tenders, that kind of thing. Occasionally I will go out on a limb and make homemade salad dressing. The other night I made homemade croutons. My fare is simple.

I don’t bake. It’s time-consuming, and since we could all stand to lose a few pounds, I just don’t mess with it. But tonight the kids wanted something sweet, and I hadn’t been to the store, so I decided to make some cookies. Below I want to explain the decision-making process that led to the creation of the Uber Cookie.

CookieThe original recipe was from the back of a bag of chocolate chips, and went something like this:

  • 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour (1st mistake — I used self-rising)
  • 1 tsp salt (left out — because I used self-rising)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (left out — because I used self-rising)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I used 1/4 of this)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (used about one cup)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (omitted)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (forgot)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (used about 1/2 that)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (left out)
  • Added 1/4 cup oil to make up for missing butter
  • Added 1/2 cup applesauce to make up for missing butter and add more sweetness

So, amazingly enough, out of a ten-item recipe, only one item I got right, and that’s the two large eggs. I plopped those cookies down on a baking sheet, sort of like drop cookies, and baked them. I left them a good distance apart, but once the batter heated up, the spread was on.

Was it a cookie? Was it a cake? Or somewhere in between? The consistency was almost like a dry cake or an airy cookie. It was sweet, but not too sweet. The best word that my husband could come up with was odd. The kids were fascinated with them. They were really excited that I made the cookies.

The next time you have a failure in your kitchen, think about it from your character’s perspective. I’m not a ditz. I know that to have something come out right you have to follow the recipe. I ran into trouble when I didn’t have enough butter, and I didn’t realize until I had already committed. The self-rising flour I thought would be okay to substitute. My daughter was helping, and she would have been really disappointed if I had changed my mind. So, yes, I knew I was in uncharted territory and they may not have been edible, but sometimes you’ve just got to experiment.

So how would an OCD character handle it? Throw the batter away when she realized she didn’t have the butter? Or go across to the neighbor’s and borrow it?

My husband ate a cookie, pronounced them odd, and we had a good laugh. But what if he were a jerk about it? What if I had been trying really hard and he had said I was worthless because I couldn’t bake simple cookies? Would that be the beginning of a drawn-out ugly fight? Would that be the beginning of a female character finding her self-worth again?

Or what about the OCD widower, whose former wife’s sister is a clutzy aunt who is taking care of the kids for the night and they make fun cookies and a huge mess in the kitchen? I could see a Lifetime or Hallmark movie starting with that.

I know. I’m an incurable romantic. How would your character handle a baking experiment gone wrong? Next time you’re stuck, think about it. How do you use your everyday choices in your character’s lives?