Marian Allen, a good friend and one of my very favorite writers, as well as a fellow member of The Southern Indiana Writers’ Group, invited me to participate in a “Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop”, and I took the challenge because I like food. I mean, who doesn’t?

Here are the Random Tasty Questions:

1) When writing, are you a snacker? If so sweet or salty?

I’m not so much a snacker as I am a drinker. Coffee with lots of real cream is my first choice. I custom-designed a coffee mug with the book cover photo of my latest publication, The Know-it-all Girl, on each side. I imbibe from that particular vessel to call to mind my accomplishment: writing and publishing the crazy story of my life! I also customized a mug with a much loved photograph of San Antonio’s River Walk, and I select that one when I’m editing the novel, River Walk Chameleon, if only to remind myself that the story is nearly ready for publication and while it’s taken me many years to achieve it, my goal is now in sight. To summarize:  I am inspired while writing, not by the “food” in the container, but by the presentation—the visual on the vessel itself.

My coffee mugRiverwalk mug

2) Are you an outliner or someone who writes by the seat of their pants? And are they real pants or jammies?

If I’m working on a novel, an outline is usually something I will sketch out in the beginning, but shortly after that, the seat of my pants takes over and I later discover the outline hiding under a stack of papers. Sometimes I’ve followed it and sometimes I haven’t, but the results are exactly what I’d been going for. I once had my own bookkeeping business, working out of my home office, and I found the routine of not having to get dressed for work, and no morning rush-hour traffic exhilarating! If what you’re doing works, why change it? So I write early in the mornings in my jammies.

3) When cooking, do you follow a recipe or do you wing it?

I have a stack of recipes about a mile high. Look in my filing cabinet and you will find an organized Recipe File with separate folders stuffed with magazine and online print-outs from A to Z—Appetizers to Zen Dog Snacks

One important thing every writer should keep in mind: People. Eat. Food. Include all five senses in your stories, poems and novels. Smell the Hungarian stew; roll coconut flan and crème brulee around in the roof of your mouth; capture the sounds of clinking silverware and crystal champagne flute toasts. Your readers will thank you and develop a craving for your next book.

4) What is next for you after this book?

After River Walk Chameleon goes live (RWC contains recipes for Cucumber Lassi and Gazpacho from a fictional first-floor restaurant), there is a YA novel on the table about Toby Torres, a middle-schooler who accidently conjures Grandma’s ghost. Grandma shares an old Butterscotch pie family recipe.

I am especially pleased to be working as a writing coach for a gentleman who is constructing his memoirs in Spanish. While interviewing him recently in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he introduced me to the Piñones, a quaint area with colorful kiosks on both sides of winding streets, serving local fast food. We stopped at Donde Olga, where we ordered Alcapurrias—fried ground beef filled fritters from the Caribbean made from a mixture of grated yautia (taro root) and green banana; and Bacalaitos Fritos—codfish dipped heavily in a flour-based batter and deep fried. Puerto Rico is definitely in my future travel plans!

5) Last question…on a level of one being slightly naughty and ten being whoo hoo steamy, how would you rate your book?

The Know-it-all Girl is rated “PG”, for it is the transparent story of my life as a Jehovah’s Witness, starting as a child and growing into womanhood, jumping through hoops of a tight-boundaried religion, and finding freedom only when I take religion out of the of “how to be a human” equation. While it is a transparent story, it isn’t a steamy one, although it could have been. I chose to write it with delicacy and self-respect, to make the book suitable for all audiences. But just wait for the movie version if you want steamy. Wait for it . . .

Me and my coffee mug

Sample from The Know-it-all Girl

After my first few attempts at fixing our evening meals, Jim grumbled saying this was not the way supper was supposed to be. It should consist of one meat and two vegetables.

I tapped a fingernail on his Melamine plate. “Well, there’s your fried pork chop next to a baked potato, and here’s your lettuce salad.”

“That’s not two vegetables.”

“What would you call it, then?”

“It’s one vegetable and a salad. A green salad is not a vegetable—it’s a salad,” Jim said. “My mother could tell you that. Why can’t you make mashed potatoes like hers?”

I picked up Jim’s knife and fork and sliced the potato entirely into two halves. I put one half on either side of the pork chop. “There you go—two vegetables!”

“We’ve had baked potatoes three nights in a row.” He threw both potato halves into the pink waste can, slammed out of the trailer and spun gravel as he rocketed his yellow Rambler out of its parking space. I could only imagine the neighbors, peeking through their glass louvers, knowing the newlyweds in the little pink trailer were at it again. (Yes, its exterior was pink, as well.)

The next day I emptied the trash and found a paper sack from Crider’s Drive In. Gosh darn it . . . he went out for a double Crider Burger and fries—my favorite!


At eighteen, I knew only how to make a mean pie crust and tuna casserole, which is why my new husband, Jim, complained about the variety, or lack of, on his dinner table back in 1966. I made tuna casserole at least once each week. Jim hated it. I loved it.

Add a medium-sized package of dried, curly noodles into salted,boiling water and cook until done. Drain noodles and set aside. In an oven-proof skillet, melt 1/2 stick of real butter, add a green pepper which has been cut into small pieces and an onion which has been chopped up into equally small pieces. Saute until soft, but not browned. Add a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and one or two small cans of tuna, preferably the kind that is canned in olive oil, after draining the oil. Add one large can of chopped tomatoes with the liquid. Stir thoroughly. Add the cooked noodles and stir into the previous mixture. Add salt and pepper to your taste, along with a teaspoon of dried thyme, and stir once again. Sprinkle a cup or two of crushed Saltine crackers on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for one-half hour, or until the mixture bubbles and is heated through. Allow to cool for five minutes, then dish it out and enjoy. A pre-teen can make this with no problem, and that’s exactly when I learned to make tuna casserole, thinking it would serve me for the rest of my life. Which it has!

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  1. marianallen says:

    Oh, I do so love tuna casserole! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Abby Cyrus says:

    Hey Joanna! I work for the Charlestown-Clark County Public Library and we are doing a book signing for local authors on Monday November 14th. I was wanting to know if you would be interested in being on the panel of authors! If you could shoot me an email to let me know if you are interested, that would be great! Sorry to contact you on your blog, I couldn’t find an active email for you!

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