Tag Archives: chocolate

The Best-Selling Author Who Changed My Life

A couple of years ago I wrote a book. My publisher said they wanted it and then they changed their mind. My agent at the time told me if my publisher didn’t want it then no one else would, she couldn’t sell it.

‘Write me something I can sell,’ she said.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘Women’s fiction.’

‘Oh.’

Up until that time I’d written a novel about a sixty-something woman who was actually an energy being from another galaxy and two memoirs. I knew nothing about writing women’s fiction.

Shortly afterwards I interviewed a best-selling author. I’d interviewed her before, more than once. She’s a prolific writer. After the interview she asked me how my writing was going.

‘Hmm,’ I said. ‘My agent wants me to write women’s fiction and I’m not sure that I can.’

‘Of course you can,’ she said. ‘Come to my masterclass and I will teach you how.’

‘Masterclass?’

That’s how I found out about Fiona McIntosh’s commercial fiction masterclass, the masterclass that changed my writing life. I paid the money (it’s not cheap but it’s worth it), flew to Adelaide  and spent five days having my world turned upside down. Imagine this; you’ve spent a lot of money to be at a masterclass, you arrive on the first day and are surrounded by other keen writers, you await the pearls of wisdom that are going to drop from your teacher’s mouth and the first thing she says is this:

‘Nobody cares. Nobody cares about your writing. Nobody cares about your book. The world does not need your book.’

I felt as though I’d been slapped. I was a writer. I was special. I was a published writer. I was even more special. Of course the world cared. Of course the world needed my books.

I cried, I fought, I struggled and eventually I got over myself and remembered the rest of Fiona’s opening speech. She said, ‘The less I care the better I write.’

At the time I thought, Well that’s certainly not true, she researches her books impeccably, she’s written thirty best-sellers, she cares .

It wasn’t until I was deep into my next novel and struggling with a worrisome chapter that her words made sense. This chapter had to be in the book but I didn’t know how to approach it or how to make it work. Hell, I didn’t even know where to start. Then I remembered, ‘Nobody cares.’

It was if a weight lifted from my shoulders. Nobody cares. It doesn’t matter. This book doesn’t matter. This chapter certainly doesn’t matter. The world doesn’t need this book. Nobody cares. All the stress and worry of the tricky chapter disappeared. I began to write. The words flowed. The chapter sang. And all because nobody cares, not even me. Hooray!

Fiona McIntosh’s latest book, The Chocolate Tin, has just been released and she’s touring the country to talk about it. (You might have seen her in the latest edition of the Women’s Weekly.) She and I will be having a chat at a literary lunch in Noosa on the 25th of November. You can find the details here. And yes, there will be chocolate.

If you can’t make it to Noosa details of her other events are here.

And if you want to change your writing life then you can find out about Fiona’s masterclasses here.

But no matter what you do, whether you’re a writer or not, that simple lesson of ‘nobody cares’ may change your life.

Strangest. Cake. Ever

Is it a cake or is it a salad? I had thought the title of this post was going to be “I’ve never met a chocolate cake I didn’t like…until now.” But having sampled the “fruits” of my labour I must say I am surprised. When making the icing I thought I’d ruined two perfectly good blocks of very good chocolate, but no. When it all comes together the flavours blend very well. And no one will know, unless you tell them, that this cake is made with sauerkraut and mayonnaise!

German Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup  cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sauerkraut, rinsed, drained, squeezed dry and finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Icing

  • 360 g chocolate, melted
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans

Method

  • Cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to the creamed mixture alternately with water. Fold in sauerkraut, coconut and pecans. Pour into three greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 180° for about 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks; cool completely.
  • In a bowl, combine melted chocolate and mayonnaise. Set aside 1-1/4 cups for the icing. To the remaining chocolate mixture, add half of the coconut and pecans; spread between cake layers. Spread reserved chocolate mixture over top and sides of cake. Combine remaining coconut and pecans and sprinkle over the cake. Best stored in the refrigerator.

Kill Your Darlings – Part 1

I’m writing the second draft of my next book. And editing. At over 100,000 words the first draft is too long. So instead of being in the book I’m turning my darlings into blog posts. Seems I can’t kill them after all.

cadbury-biscuits-2

It’s embarrassing to be staying as a guest in someone’s house and to be stealing their chocolate biscuits.  Of course they wouldn’t see it as stealing. They were generous and hospitable, educated, erudite, warm, kind and old. One afternoon I had to escape the happy wedding preparations, if just for a few hours. The old man and I investigated river cruise timetables on the computer in his study. Every piece of wall space was hung with maps, masks and curios from time spent living and travelling overseas. Bookcases stuffed with mementoes, shelves laden with ephemera. So much stuff. His poor children.

“Why do you have so much stuff when you’re going to die soon?”

I imagined his kids having to sort though all these piles of dust. The agonising task of what to keep and what to toss. But if dad thought it was important shouldn’t we keep it?  Going home laden with memories from another’s life and duty bound to keep them – for what? For someone else to have to sort through them when they themselves died? Jetsam discarded when they left this world bound for another place where these things – they’re just things for God’s sake – were meaningless.

Thankfully the question stayed inside my mouth. Only just. I had to bite my lips closed to keep it there, safe, unsaid. What business was it of mine to question a man who’d lived a good life, an exciting life, a rich life and that the proof of this life was abundant. The physical reminders were everywhere, cluttering the large office into a small and claustrophobic space. If he needed such undeniable proof of what he’d done and where he’d been who was I to judge. This man was happier than me, richer than me, and – if I kept secretly eating all the chocolate biscuits – may well live longer than me.