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Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Miracle of Google

A young man I know once said he thought Google was God: It sees everything and knows everything. I found his observation interesting, if somewhat irreverent. Certainly Google has become the go-to for almost anyone with a question.

Lately I've found I keep a window open on my desktop just for Google searches. My new work in progress is taking me places I need to understand much better, even including some where I've been and done. My main character, 16-year-old Marissa/Dulce, finds herself on a journey through the Amazonian rainforests of Bolivia, and even though I have been in those same rainforests, there is too much about them I don't know. Google knows it all.

What's the average daytime temperature in the rainforest? Google knows. What trees grow there? Google knows that too and can tell me whether the kapok, which is endemic to rainforests in some parts of the world, actually grows in Bolivia. (It doesn't, as a general rule.) What are forest remedies for topical infection? How tall is a mapajo tree? How does a pit viper hunt? What do you call the large-cat sound a jaguar makes? What airlines fly out of Santa Cruz, Bolivia? How do the jungles of southern Bolivia differ from the rainforests of the north? Google knows it all. Maybe there is something to the claim of omniscience after all.


As Dulce ventures farther and farther into her adventure, I will have a thousand more questions, and Google will be there for me, I love Google. Since my muse has gone rogue and begun to lead me on amazing side-road adventures I never expected to take, I am becoming ever more dependent on this marvelous modern know-it-all. It may never have a place in my heart or my worship, but Google will always have a place on my computer screen.


Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

When the Muse Revolts!

For some time now, I've realized my muse has A.D.D.  She simply cannot stick with a single genre, but jumps about trying out new things. Still, with the exception of MAGGIE RISING, she has stuck largely with relationship stories. Of my 14 books, 11 are standard romances, and a  twelfth is historical fiction with a strong romantic element,.The others are a family story with a minor romantic theme and MAGGIE, a paranormal mystery which proves my muse also likes to play practical jokes.

This time she has really gone bonkers. I find I am writing a Y.A. adventure tale, one set in the Amazonian rainforests of Bolivia. What?!

While I'm not yet ready to share much about the adventure, I will hint at how it begins. Here is the first paragraph of my current draft:


The baby won’t stop crying. She’s been at it for hours. Not that I can blame her. She’s probably no more excited about spending the night in an airport than I am. Still, if she could quiet down and go to sleep, that might make it easier for the rest of us—some eighty or ninety people who are all supposed to be on the flight from Santa Cruz to Lima, the flight which should have left Bolivia five hours ago but has now been delayed at least until morning. Not that this should be a surprise either. In my few years in South America, I’ve learned that travel schedules—like traffic lights—are mere suggestions. I don’t know if I’ve ever been on any kind of public transportation that actually left on time.


Guesses, anyone? Can you tell where this is going to go? While I'm not sharing any more about my teenage protagonist's story--at least, not at the moment--I'll readily admit I am having quite the adventure just following my wayward muse into this latest undertaking. I have a hunch that the more I let her wander, the farther she is likely to stray. The future should prove interesting indeed.



Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.





Sunday, June 26, 2016

Boys who Cook

When a mom is raising sons, she has to decide what kind of men she wants to raise. For me, raising men who cook was a top priority. (It's no coincidence that the romantic heroes in my books are often found in the kitchen.)

My dad always cooked. Although Mom usually did most of the cooking, Dad worked beside her--cutting up a salad, prepping fresh fruit and vegetables, chopping onions for the dish she was cooking. If Mom was the chef, Dad was the prep cook. When Mom was needed elsewhere, he could take over and run the whole show--which he frequently did. My brothers learned both by example and by being taught, invited into the kitchen and told how to help.

The family that raised my husband did not take the same approach. Though he is usually willing--and decades of experience have taught him how to throw a few kinds of meals together if necessary--Hubby prefers to bake goodies, his one great cooking expertise.

When our genetic mix produced sons, six of them, I was determined they would learn to cook. It worked well for most of them. The one great exception is the boy who took "Foods" four years in high school, but never really learned to cook anything.

My eldest can cook all kinds of foods, but like many men, he specializes in barbeque. His BBQ wins awards and gets him invitations to cook for crowds at parties and fund raisers. He's also a superior breakfast cook.

Son #2 is a chef. "Cooking is creation," he likes to say, "but baking is chemistry." While he largely leaves the baking to others, he subscribes to foodie magazines, watches the Food Network on TV, and experiments constantly with recipes. At the end of a stressful day, he unwinds in the kitchen, leaving his wife free to take on other duties such as helping the kids with homework.

One of his more enjoyable work conferences featured an onstage cooking performance and a meal prepared by celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Anyone who knows my son will not be surprised to know that he skipped a chunk of the conference to introduce himself in the kitchen and ask, "Do you need any help?" He spent the rest of the day working side-by-side with the famous chef and even helping in his onstage show. Teaching this son to cook produced not only a fine household chef, but a bold and polished showman who loves the kitchen.

Like his showman brother, our youngest watches the Food Network, studies recipes, and experiments with variations. He's the one who created a "flying pig" for Thanksgiving last year. You've heard of the Turducken--the deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck which is then stuffed into a deboned turkey and all of it stuffed with stuffing? The "flying pig" takes it one step farther with a layer of ham as well as some bacon in part of the stuffing. Talk about a gourmet treat! I felt rather smug when I saw what had come from teaching this son to cook.

Son #4, the one who spent most of three years living in Korea, has learned to prepare Korean food together with a number of other meals and can easily take over the kitchen if his wife is busy elsewhere or he just feels like it. So can Son #5, although he is generally less interested and tends to leave the cooking--except for the outdoor BBQ--to his wife.

It's been an adventure to see how my efforts to raise men who cook have produced such varied results--everything from the son who can hold his own with the best to the one who thinks micro-waving a hot dog is the height of culinary effort. It should also be mentioned here that I have one daughter, who is an excellent cook.

One never knows how parental teaching will play out, but I was gifted with cooks. My daughters-in-law, son-in-law, and grandchildren are glad I made the effort.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Grandchildren A to Z

When we were young and dumb and just beginning to plan our future life and family, The Waltons were on TV. Although we knew the romance of their situation was highly idealized, we liked the idea of a large, loving family with each member supporting every other. The Waltons had seven children.

Simultaneously we were cultivating the friendship of a man who became one of my husband's dearest friends, met my sister at our wedding, and eventually became my brother-in-law. His military family, while not ideal, seemed to have many of those same mutually-supportive qualities we had admired on TV. He was one of seven children.

It's easy to see where this is going and yes, by the time we were settled into our marriage and getting ready to start our family, we were thinking of seven children. It's fairly easy to see how that would go as well, but as I wrote earlier, we were young and dumb.

We even went so far as to decide our children would be closer if they were closer in age. Our eldest was barely twelve when our seventh was born. If we'd taken more time to consider, perhaps we would have organized matters a bit differently.

Now here we are, not a Walton clone in sight. Our children all have children of their own and our eldest grandchild, a handsome young man named Austin, recently married. Our family may be looking at yet another generation in the years soon to come.

We're human. Like other parents, we've made mistakes and I have to admit, I made some whoppers. While I have my regrets, I'm deeply grateful for my family. They have their share of mistakes, regrets, and differences as well, and that mutually-supportive vibe we looked for is quieted by distance: the seven of them are spread over six states. Still they make serious efforts to stay in touch and to back one another. They are all great people.

With the birth of our twenty-fifth grandchild last month--a handsome manchild named Zane, we now have grandchildren from A to Z. Most of them are too far away to know us well, but we are making the effort to see them as often as we reasonably can and we're trying to remain an important parts of their lives. The Waltons may have had a more idealized family, but they've got nothing on us.




Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest. 






Saturday, June 4, 2016

Confessions of a Carboholic

I love sugar! I know that does not exactly distinguish me from other red-blooded American women, but one thing does set me somewhat apart. I can't do the usual "chocoholic" binging--at least, not since the allergy developed.

Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Allergic to chocolate? How do you live?!" I wondered the same thing in the beginning, especially since it's not strictly speaking an allergy. It's more of a sensitivity, a sort of "Eat Chocolate = Get a Migraine" thing. At first I thought I couldn't live without the chocolate and occasionally indulged anyway. Now a thick slice of chocolate fudge layer cake looks like three days of misery. Suffice to say I'm no longer as tempted as I once was. I can still get away with an occasional chocolate chip cookie--if I don't push it too far, but that's the only chocolate fix I'm allowed these days. Still, avoiding chocolate doesn't save me from the rest of Sugar World.

If it's sweet, it's good to eat. At least that seems to be the way my psyche sees the world. I've sometimes heard people describe a certain dessert as too sweet or too rich for them. I wonder what they're talking about. To me, there's never such a thing as too sweet and too rich only describes certain billionaires.

If it were just the sugar, that would be bad enough, but I also crave almost any kind of baked goods. That includes cookies, cakes, pies--yes, all the super-sweet items you typically find at bake sales--but the not-so-sweet breads, rolls, and pastries too. If it's heavy on the carbs, it's destined to make me heavier as well.

I've discovered I can control the binging, but it takes quitting cold turkey, sometimes literally. Low-carb, high-protein diets work for me, but only after I beat that first two miserable weeks of craving and avoidance. Let's face it: My name is Susan and I'm a carboholic.

I'm coming to terms with the reality and learning just how common this form of addiction can be. It seems there are many closet carboholics among my relatives, friends and neighbors. I suspect some of you who are reading this may be hiding the same guilty pleasures and living in a constant love-hate balance with those delightful heavy-carb temptations and their siren-song aromas.

I know a few folks who've taken the plunge, declared themselves addicts, and sworn off every taste of anything made with sugar or flour. If you're among those brave souls, please accept my humble adoration. For now I'm content to hold that tiger by its tail and tease it until it turns on me. Hmmm... maybe there's a reason so many scenes in my books focus around kitchens and food. I'll think about that this evening ... while I'm baking.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 14 novels, all available as e-books. She loves her northern California home which she shares with her husband of 46 years and the two spoiled cats they serve. When she can't be with her seven children, seven great kids-in-law, and 25 grandbabies, she loves hanging with her fictional offspring, the children of her mind. She also loves hearing from readers. Visit her website at www.susanaylworth.com or find her @SusanAylworth, at .facebook.com/Susan.Aylworth.Author, or on Pinterest.