Guest Post: Food For Thought by Barbara Venkataraman

If she can’t find out who framed her, she can kiss her dream job good-bye–and her law license too –Malice in Miami: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by @BarbaraVenkat

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

If you’re an adult, you’ve probably tried all the food there is to try in your part of the world. Oh sure, there may be some you don’t want to try, like stinky cheese or liverwurst, but there’s nothing new coming down the pike. Yes, someone cultivated orange cauliflower and purple carrots but they still taste the same. So why bother going to restaurants or trying new recipes? Because new combinations can create something unique. Take Mexican Mole Sauce, for example. If someone presented you with cocoa powder, peanut butter, onions and garlic, chopped tomatoes, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, chili powder, smoked paprika and vegetable broth all sloshing around on a plate and said bon appétit, you’d think they were nuts. But if they took those unlikely ingredients and whipped up a rich, fragrant mole sauce you would be licking the spoon and begging for more.

Similarly, there are a limited number of basic story plots available to us. In his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, Christopher Booker declares there are seven plot types: Overcoming the Monster, The Quest, The Voyage and Return, Rags to Riches, Rebirth, Comedy, and Tragedy. Other writers claim there are twenty plots, or thirty-six, but they all agree there’s a finite number. What’s a writer to do? New combinations, of course. Suzanne Collins’s inspiration for The Hunger Games came to her while channel surfing on television. On one channel, she saw people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two “began to blur in this very unsettling way” and the idea for the book was formed.  Creativity, simply put, is connecting ideas that may seem unrelated. 

I draw inspiration from real events by collecting interesting news articles. When I needed to come up with a plot for Malice in Miami, my latest Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery, I pulled out my stash of articles. From that pile I concocted a plot that included: pythons invading the Everglades; veterans combatting PTSD by hunting pythons; the sugar industry’s monopoly and how they damage the environment; the current immigration issues in the U.S.; birth defects caused by pesticides; worker’s compensation claims; a beautiful early-twentieth century mansion in Miami built by an industrialist; art theft of rare books and maps from university libraries; and Erin Brockovich. Turning all of that into a coherent plot was like weaving with invisible thread. It was tricky!

To put yourself in a creative mood, immerse yourself in art. Listen to music, visit a museum, read a literary masterpiece. You will be inspired. Sometimes, taking a page from one of your favorite authors and just typing it out can help rewire your brain. The key to creating is to remember there are no dumb ideas. Really. Just start spitballing ideas and then ask what if? Author Gregory Maguire looked at the classic The Wizard of Oz and asked: what if the wicked witch was just misunderstood? What if she wasn’t that wicked? What if there’s more to her story?

But don’t stop there. Once you ask what if, you have to ask what might happen next? Like spaghetti, throw it against the wall and see what sticks. (Honestly, I’ve never tried that but it sounds like fun.) Open your mind to possibilities, no matter how crazy or outlandish, and don’t judge, just let them flow. If you want a jumpstart, there are plot generators online. They’re like madlibs for story development. I get my best ideas in the shower and the pool. I call it my water epiphany. If all else fails, soak your head and let the ideas start growing. Speaking of unrelated things, I jumped from Mole Sauce to creating a unique plot, you can’t get more unrelated than that. But you really should try Mole Sauce, it’s the best! 

Reluctant family law attorney Jamie Quinn is loving life–and why wouldn’t she? Her boyfriend Kip is back from Australia, her long-lost dad finally has his visa and she’s about to start her dream job at an art foundation. But it all falls apart when Jamie is accused of stealing priceless art from a rare book collection. If she can’t find out who framed her, she can kiss her dream job good-bye–and her law license too. Meanwhile, Kip has problems of his own. Now an environmental activist, he uncovers a deadly secret–one that just might get him killed. Jamie’s in trouble, Kip’s in danger, and Duke Broussard has gone AWOL. How could Jamie’s favorite P.I. abandon her at a time like this?

Purchase Link – Amazon 

Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and author of the award-winning Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery series, as well as Teatime with Mrs. Grammar PersonQuirky Essays for Quirky People, and A Year of Shorts: Flash Fiction. Her books have won numerous awards including Indie Book of the Day, First Place in the 2016 Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Mystery Writing Competition, Gold Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Contest for Memoir, and Two-time Finalist in the Kindle Book Awards. She also co-authored Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four with her son Josh about his four-year quest to obtain posthumous pardons for The Groveland Four.

Author Links – Amazon Author Page – GoodReads

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September 2 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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September 3 – ThisIsMyTruthNow – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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September 7 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

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September 10 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

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September 11 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

September 12 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

September 13 – Dear Reader – GUEST POST

September 14 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT 

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