Monday, August 27, 2012

Shut Up and Write!

I named this post after a wonderful group that I found on  Joining this group has really been crucial in helping me to write my novel.  Writing is such a solitary activity and it is often helpful and motivating to be a part of a group that encourages this pursuit.  That is exactly what I found with Shut Up and Write!  We would gather together at various cafes throughout San Francisco to write in silence.  Writers tend to be a chatty bunch of procrastinators, so I thought that the name for this group was particularly clever.

Another group I joined to help on my writing and publishing journey was Bay Area Independent Publishing Association:  This particular group assists its members in developing knowledge and expertise in publishing, promoting and marketing their works.

In addition to joining these groups, I made one of the best decisions of my life over a year ago when I started my novel.  I decided to stop waiting!  To stop waiting for the inspiration to hit me, to stop waiting to feel perfect, to stop looking at other people who were living their dreams with envy and to start living my own dream.  The Night-Time Novelist gave me the idea to set up a certain minimum amount of words to write per day, and I came up with 400.  I found that my writing would usually get sloppy after 400 words.  Of course some days I would be able to exceed my 400 word quota, and some days I would barely just make my quota.

In fulfilling a daily writing quota, while working full-time, I had to make use of a quality that is often viewed in a negative light, bringing to mind a highly regimented, over-achieving type of person.  But there is a certain real beauty to this quality, and one that we should all strive to cultivate within ourselves.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tuna Fish and Spaghetti

In chapter two of my novel entitled "What's Wrong With Here?" Silvia goes to visit her brother Cosmo at his apartment in Philadelphia. While there, he makes tuna fish and spaghetti. My mom used to call this dish "poor man's crabs and spaghetti."  It was very popular in my household growing up, and I still cook it on occasion myself.


1 can tuna fish
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
3 cups marinara sauce*
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Add drained tuna and stir thoroughly. Combine tuna and garlic mixture and tomato sauce. Cook over low heat for one hour. Serve with spaghetti and grated Parmesan cheese.

Alternative Recipe


1 can tuna fish
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried or fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
1 teaspoon dried or fresh parsley
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatos
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat.  Add drained tuna and crushed tomatoes and stir thoroughly.  Add spices and stir.  Cook over low heat for one hour.  Serve with spaghetti and grated Parmesan cheese.

*Marinara Sauce

This maranara sauce recipe is handed down from my grandma.  In my family, sauce was always called gravy, and I believe this is common amongst many Italian-Americans.  Enjoy!


·         2 cans, 28 oz. each, crushed tomatoes ( used diced if you like
bits in your GRAVY-experiment)
·         1 large onion-minced
·         1TBSP minced garlic
·         1heaping tsp.or 1TBSP each of dried parsley, oregano, basil
·         Fresh herbs at end if available-basil, parley
 salt 1tsp.  pepper 1/2 tsp


·         Sauté onion, garlic, dry spices until they sweat.
·         Add tomatoes, salt, pepper. Simmer for about 1 hour or more, until
you like the taste of it.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to share with you all that this past Wednesday, August 8th, Olive Branches Don't Grow On Trees reached #1 in Amazon's humor category, and on this past Thursday, it reached #21 at Amazon free e-book store OVERALL!  Also, over 12,000 copies were downloaded in the past two days!

Monday, August 6, 2012

This Tale Grew Into Telling

The quote above from J.R.R. Tolkien resonated so much with me because I felt that it really spoke of my own process for writing my novel. My novel began with a description of a single character that I subsequently incorporated into a short story, which I shared with a writing group of which I belong.  My writing group responded very positively to the piece and a couple of the members encouraged me to make it into something longer. The story had only two characters- a young woman and her father- and for the story to grow into a novel, it seemed logical to make it into a family saga.

I wanted the book to have a of which I felt passionate, something that could sustain me all the way through to the completion of the novel.  Peace was the obvious choice as I am a passionate anti-war activist, and as it would be a theme that I could easily illustrate through a family story.  I am from a large family that has always been heavily involved in fighting, and the disharmony that exist within my own family is something that I always wanted to change.  I wanted to have a subplot in the story because I believe that having a subplot can greatly reinforce the theme of the book. I knew that to make this subplot work with the larger plot that it would have to be relevant to the stories theme which is peace.  The protagonist of the novel, Silvia, is a very restless young woman who is unable to stay in one place longer than a few months.  When she realizes that there is a connection between her own internal restlessness and her growing up in a chaotic, fight-filled household, her objective of creating peace in her family takes on a greater significance.

So I had a theme, a general plot and subplot, the main characters and a setting.  I now needed to develop a structure.  I got a copy of a book that I truly love called The Night-Time Novelist  This book caters to all of us who are not in creative writing programs and who need to work day jobs, and is loaded with very helpful, concrete instruction on the craft of writing a novel that follows the three-act dramatic structure.  I really like following this traditional structure and believe that novels that follow this sort of structure are much more accessible than non-traditionally structured novels.  The outline I created for my book followed this three-act structure, although I was careful not to make my outline too tightly structured, and to allow myself to deviate from it, thereby giving the story room to grow organically.