Perfectly Plated

I watch a lot of YouTube videos (like the Tasty and BuzzFeed Channels) and Netflix shows (The Great British Baking Show) on cooking. You’d think I would be a culinary expert by now. Naw. I’m still just an average cook.


When I was a kid, my parents had insisted that I learn to cook. I don’t mean throwing a frozen dinner into the microwave or oven. I mean baking a chicken, preparing rice, sautéing onions, baking biscuits—that sort of thing.

For my friends in Europe, I mean this type of biscuit.

Not this.

But I’ve never been very innovative in the kitchen. Not like my sister-in-law, who loves to experiment. (I’m going somewhere with this. Don’t worry.)

Anyway, as I mentioned, I watch a lot of videos featuring culinary artists—people who went to school to master the art of food preparation. Other than the taste of a dish, nothing showcases a chef’s artistry like a well-plated meal. What do I mean by that?

According to an article entitled, “A Basic Guide to Food Presentation” at (click here for it):

People eat with their eyes, and creative and thoughtful plating enhances both the look and taste of your food. Focusing on presentation also allows chefs to showcase their creations and demonstrate to guests that they’re getting their money’s worth.

The article from which that quote came from has great tips on color and contrast, choosing the right plate, etc. That’s why you’ll sometimes see chocolate drizzled on a dessert plate, or your entrée artfully presented with the vegetables tucked up nicely. (Unlike what you see in the photo below.)

My usual idea of plating. Get your grub on, y’all.


The real deal done by experts

I love that chefs go the extra mile to make a dining experience special and to make food preparation an art form. While I’m unlikely to drizzle chocolate on a plate anytime soon (I’d much rather drizzle it in my mouth), I am inspired to go the extra mile in what I write.

I’m not sure what the literary equivalent of plating might be. Perhaps it starts with a resolve to write the best piece you can.

Speaking of resolutions, onto the winner of Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s novel Dirt Cheap, which was discussed in this guest post.


The winner, according to the lovely random number generator, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Laura Bruno Lilly!

Congratulations, Laura! Please comment below to confirm!

Henry’s idea of plating—just candy in a bag, baby! (I hear you, Henry!)

Pillsbury biscuits from Tea biscuits from Tasty YouTube logo from YouTube. BuzzFeed logo from Great British Baking Show logo found at Plated desserts found on Pinterest. Other photos by L. Marie.

Check This Out: A Father for Bella

Today on the blog, I’m pleased to welcome your friend and mine, the wonderful Jill Weatherholt. Many of you know her through her blog, which you can get to by clicking here. Jill is here to talk about her second Love Inspired romance book, A Father for Bella, which made its debut on July 17. Click here to read a synopsis of the book. One of you will win a copy of this very book.


Jill is represented by Jessica Alvarez. Let’s talk to Jill!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Jill: 1. I once won a limbo contest while vacationing in Key West during spring break.
2. I have a fear of escalators.
3. When Derek and I first met, I asked him if he and his twin sister were identical.
4. When I work a jigsaw puzzle, I keep the box face down.

El Space: So lovely to see your second Love Inspired book. The cover is absolutely adorable! When you wrote Second Chance Romance [which you can get here], did you know that you were going to write Faith’s story, or were you leaving a second book open to inspiration? Please explain.
Jill: Thanks! I love what the art department did with the cover for A Father for Bella. They completely surprised me, but in a great way. No, since Second Chance Romance was the first book I’d ever written, I didn’t know at the time if I was capable of writing a second book. Obviously God had a different plan for me.

El Space: Yes! I love the setting—an inn in Virginia. Please tell us how you decided on that setting.
Jill: I’m happy you enjoyed visiting Whispering Slopes. Although I currently live in Charlotte, NC, I was raised in Virginia and it will always be home to me. The Shenandoah Valley, which lies between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west, is my favorite area in Virginia. I love the quaint small-towns sprinkled throughout the valley which make for perfect fictional settings that the Love Inspired books provide.

El Space: How is Faith like you? Different from you?
Jill: My heroine, Faith, and I are similar in that we struggle with certain fears. She’s protective over her daughter, Bella, and I’m the same with my loved ones. Like myself, Faith doesn’t open herself up to someone until she’s gained their trust. Our main difference is she has a child and I don’t have children. If I did and I were in the same situation where I’d lost my husband and my daughter’s father, I couldn’t see myself withholding photographs or other memories from my child, like Faith did.

El Space: How did you come to write for Love Inspired?

Jill: Writing for Love Inspired was a result of a last-minute contest entry. In March of 2015, I heard Harlequin had a blurb-to-book contest where the winners could possibly be offered a contract. I opened an old NaNoWriMo project titled, “Capture the Dream,” that had been sitting on my hard drive since 2010 and decided to enter. From April until July, I advanced through the stages of the contest, rewriting a horrible draft that ultimately became my first published book, Second Chance Romance. It was truly an experience I will never forget and one that I loved sharing with Derek. From the beginning, he’s been so support and encouraging. As you know, writing under contract can be quite stressful. I have my moments where I’m not the most pleasant person to be around, but he loves me despite my occasional meltdowns. And that’s why I dedicated A Father for Bella to him.

El Space: I enjoyed getting to know Joshua, the hero of the story. Thinking of your own books and the books to which you’re drawn, what are the ingredients of a good hero? Why?

Jill: When I created Joshua’s character, I wanted a man who had a wounded past and struggled with trusting women. Since his wife had left him for another man, I journaled a lot from his point of view in order to connect with his pain and the feelings of abandonment not only because of his wife, but also his father. When he’s in a position where he and Faith have to work together to keep the inn open, he realizes he’s developing an attraction for her, but he must resist, because he equates relationships to heartache and suffering. I love a hero with protective instincts, so I enjoyed developing the relationship between Joshua and Faith’s daughter Bella, too.

El Space: You also write stories for Woman’s World magazine. Why is a happy ending important to you?
Jill: Yes, over the years I’ve probably submitted twenty or more short stories to Woman’s World, all resulting in rejections. Finally, last December they bought a story inspired by my mother. I recently sold another that will be published in late August, also inspired by my mother. I have so much fun with these stories. There’s definitely a formula that the magazine looks for, but once I come up with an idea, I can usually get it written in a couple of hours. I can’t imagine ever writing anything that didn’t have a happy ending. At my day job, I see and hear a lot of the not-so-happy things that take place in and around my city, so as a writer and a reader, I need to feel good at the end of a story.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Jill: Currently, I’m working on book three, also set in the Whispering Slopes community. I also plan to continue submitting stories to Woman’s World magazine as well as venturing into writing women’s fiction.

Thanks, Jill, for joining me on the blog!

If you’re looking for Jill, you can find her on her website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

A Father for Bella can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart, the Harlequin Love Inspired website, and But one of you will find a copy of this book in your mailbox just for commenting. This giveaway is U.S. only though. Sorry. The next giveaway will be international, however. Look for that interview next week. Winners to be announced on August 13. 

Author photo courtesy of Jill Weatherholt. A Father for Bella cover from Goodreads. Second Chance Romance cover courtesy of Jill Weatherholt. Jigsaw puzzle image from Shenandoah Valley map from Woman’s World image from Hero image from Love Inspired logo found

Check This Out: To Live Forever

Hello! Today, my guest on the blog is the awesome Andra Watkins. You may know her by her equally awesome blog, The Accidental Cootchie Mama.


Andra is here to chat about her novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, which is historical fiction/paranormal suspense (Word Hermit Press). Here is a synopsis:


Explorer Meriwether Lewis has been stuck in Nowhere since his mysterious death nearly two centuries ago. His last hope for redemption is helping nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney flee her madame mother in New Orleans and find her father in Nashville. To get there, Merry must cross his own grave along the Natchez Trace, where he duels the corrupt Judge, an old foe who has his own despicable plans for Em.

Cool huh? The cover and book illustrations were done by Helen Rice. Two of you will win a copy of that very novel. Even cooler, huh? Glad you agree. So, let’s talk to Andra.


Meriwether Lewis

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Andra: I don’t wear underwear. I detest cilantro. My most embarrassing moment was peeing my pants in front of my second grade class. I stood my husband up on our first date, and I’m lucky he married me anyway.

18633602El Space: All righty then! Your book has a very intriguing premise. Please walk us through the process of writing a ghost story involving the famed explorer. How did you first decide to write the book? You introduced part of it through a short story, “Bad Deal,” which was published last year in the book Echoes in Darkness.
Andra: When a ghost tells you to do something, you do it, right? I’ve always admired Lewis, and I wondered what might happen if he were given the chance to rewrite his life by erasing its last few unfortunate months. Would he be remembered differently? Would he take that chance? Would I? That’s what got me started.

El Space: How is Emmaline like you? Different from you?
Andra: Well, my mother didn’t try to sell my virginity to the highest bidder when I turned 10, so that’s different. Ha.

El Space: Glad to hear that!
Andra: Em is curious about the world, and she craves adventure, in spite of her restrictive home life. I remember devouring books at her age, because it was the only way I could see the world.

El Space: Although you’re here on the blog, right now you’re actually walking the Natchez Trace—the site of Lewis’s death. That’s a 444-mile walk from from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville! You’re walking fifteen miles a day! What do you hope to discover on this challenging hike?
Andra: That I can do it, and that I can spend five straight weeks with my father [Roy] without killing him. I came up with this idea to give my dad, who’s almost 80, something to look forward to. An adventure in the twilight of his life. A few interesting stories along the way would be a bonus.

                natcheztracemap  sunken_trace

Natchez Trace Map and Sunken Trace

El Space: As I’m sure you know, one of famed author Jack Kerouac’s well-known quotes from On the Road is this:

70401The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

Do you agree? Disagree? If you agree, how does your writing show this?
Andra: I don’t think that sentence would be published today. It’s incredible. I’ve loved it for a long time. I hope my writing shows how much I value living life, how important it is for every person to live life instead of letting life live them.

El Space: How have your travels been inspiring to you recently?
Andra: I was in Spain recently, and we were joking about this walk being my Camino de Santiago. Everyone was calling it the Camino de Andra with many laughs. Laughter is always inspiring to me. I hope it will get me through the hardest mile.


Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage Routes

El Space: You write fiction, maintain a popular blog, you’re well traveled, and you’re a CPA. Obviously you’re good at multitasking. What advice do you have for someone who needs to juggle several activities, but wishes to avoid stretching herself/himself too thin?
Andra: You didn’t realize I used to be a stage actress? I’m good at looking like I can juggle things. The reality is I’m no better at it than the next person. I’ve become much better at saying no, and that’s a real key to balance.

El Space: What writing project are you working on now?
Andra: I’m working on a sequel to my Meriwether Lewis story, and I hope to get a book out of my walk.

Thanks, Andra, for visiting the blog! Take care of your feet!

Check out Andra’s blog, Goodreads, Google Plus, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. Andra is hosting a contest in honor of her novel’s release. Check that out here. For more information about Andra’s walk, go here. To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is available here:

Barnes and Noble

Comment below to be entered in the drawing for a copy of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis. Two winners will be revealed on March 7. When you comment, feel free to share something to encourage Andra as she walks the Natchez Trace. Or, describe a challenging hike you undertook recently. As always, thanks for visiting!  

Sunken Trace photo by Andra Watkins. To Live Forever cover and author photo also courtesy of Andra Watkins. Other covers from Goodreads. Camino de Santiago map from Wikipedia. Natchez Trace map from Meriwether Lewis painting from Wikipedia.