In Maya’s Gold, Maya filled a casserole dish with burritos and took them over to her neighbor, Alice. This is the recipe I was thinking about when I wrote this section of the story – Mary Vine

Maya Valentine’s Burrito Recipe            

(Burritos, Old El Paso Sun Country Mexican Cookbook)

12 8-inch flour tortillas
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 16-ounce cans Old El Paso Refried Beans
1 large tomato, chopped
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 medium avocado, seeded, peeled, and cut in 12 wedges
Old El Paso Taco Sauce

Wrap stack of tortillas tightly in foil; heat in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Cook onion in hot oil until tender but not brown. Add refried beans; cook and stir till heated through. Spoon about 1/3 cup bean mixture onto each tortilla near one edge. Top with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and avocado wedge. Fold edge nearest filling up and over filling just until mixture is covered. Fold in two sides, envelope fashion, then roll up. Arrange on baking sheet; bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until heated through. Pass taco sauce. Makes 12 burritos.

The Writer’s Mind

Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of a writer? Is the author constantly preoccupied with stories to write? Writers are often called eccentric and maybe it’s because they can spend hours alone writing at the computer without the need to see another, wearing a bathrobe all day and mumbling to themselves.  I usually make it out of my bathrobe in the morning and do see others, but I know I can be in my own little world, not always paying attention, yet I can usually get away with it as I use my blonde hair to my advantage.

In actuality, the writer’s mind may not be much different than any other brain; however, sometimes something happens in the sub-conscious where ideas flow naturally or even seem to come out of the blue. Perhaps that is where talent lies for other occupations as well, not only can one have the skills but also the enjoyment that comes along with it to make one continue a project until it is finished.

But then there are those times when the ideas don’t flow, what many would call writer’s block. For example, when I’m not working on my work in progress what passes through my mind is below and it goes something like this:

Typing my story:
Sally walked along the sidewalk with her hand in her purse and her eyes on a smudge of dirt on the toe of her new Prada shoe.

Typing stops, I’m thinking:
I better turn on the radio for some background noise. There. Good song.

Typing:
Stopping, she took her other hand and wiped the dirt off her shoe.

Typing stops, I’m thinking:
I think I’ll have some walnuts. I’ve read they’re good for me. No, maybe some yogurt –  less calories. That was good. Now, what should I make for dinner? Okay, I’ll get some chicken out of the freezer. Then maybe vacuum the floor.

Finally typing:
She looked up into steely blue eyes above shoulders the size of a quarterback’s and let out a squeak – no, breath of air –  and stopped on her toes.

Typing stops, I’m thinking:
I better check to see if I got an email from my publisher. I’ll just skim over the other emails <laughs> and then get back to writing.

Typing:
“Excuse me!” she said, appalled she’d almost mowed down this man. She looked him up and down…

Well, you get the picture. Now I’m not obsessed with food and I’m of average weight, but the truth of it is, this is what can go through a writer’s mind if he or she doesn’t have a plan. If the writer doesn’t have a plan when she sits her behind on the chair, she can definitely waste her time.

Many writers say they don’t use an outline to write a story. I wrote four without an outline. Back in those days, I had a more leisurely schedule. My writing time has suddenly become more important since I sold a manuscript, then two, and I’d like to finish writing another one within the next year as this is best practice for my publishing house. Times have changed for me; no longer can I pursue the business of writing without a plan. It’s a different world than when I started out writing. I now need some sort of an outline to follow, whether I look at it step by step or not.  I also need to write down how much time I will spend reading email, twittering, face book, blog, and getting my name out there online. Currently,  no matter the size of your publishing house, you are expected to get your book out there on the world wide web.

Believe me, I don’t want to sit in my bathrobe all day typing, but have more of a balance. Yet, the time I do have to write needs to be as productive as it can be and for me that means a plan will have to be in place, so that my writer’s mind will flow naturally.

Maya’s Gold Available!

VIEW TRAILER

Mary Vine’s first novel, “Maya’s Gold” was released on September 24th, 2007 byBlack Lyon Publishing.

All famous mystery author Stanton Black wanted was to leave the flashbulbs of Hollywood behind. Hiding out in the wilds of northeast Oregon seemed like the perfect way to get over the attempt on his life while researching his work. His latest novel would draw on the history of his ancestors and the lore of gold country. Now, all he needed was a suitable tour guide. 

Special education teacher Maya Valentine was no tour guide. After the death of her parents, Maya has come home to Salisbury Junction for the summer only to have an ailing friend talk her into escorting Stanton around the area. As a pattern of crime around her and the newfound gold on her property leads to a real-life mystery, her relationship with Stanton turns to thoughts of romance. A romance too impossible to consider.

reviews of maya’s gold

The book has hit the shelves and the reading public has had nothing but kudos for Mary Vine’s work:

“MAYA’S GOLD… is intriguing, dangerous and romantic all at the same time. The relationship between Maya and Stanton was tumultuous at first and then sweet, which is very enjoyable. Well defined characters and superb dialog combined with a wonderfully descriptive setting made for one shiny nugget of a tale.” 
Bonnie Petros 
Coffee Time Romance

Communicating With Judge Judy

As a writer I’ve had to pay more attention to how people communicate and decided to check out nonverbal communication on television. This past week I viewed two back-to-back court hearings on Judge Judy where I observed some nonverbal communication styles in the courtroom. In the first part of the episode, Judy focused in on a multi-pierced, twenty-three year old man with a Mohawk hairstyle, who’d thrown bricks into the windshield of his ex-girlfriend’s car. Judy said, “She may think you’re handsome, but I don’t!” “Uncross your arms!” and “Put your arms at your sides!” The second part of the episode revolved around two high school boys/brothers who were accused of stealing money from a backpack. Judy commented on one boy’s poor eye contact and had to use a hand gesture to remind him to look at her. “Look at me when I’m speaking!” “Stand up straight!” Further, Judge Judy hates it when you are smiling at the wrong time. “Wipe the smirk off your face!”

Our clothing and personal appearance are important means of nonverbal communication. If you wear a Mohawk in Judy’s courtroom, she lets you know she’s not impressed. Many Americans consider a reluctance to make eye contact as rude, disrespectful, and hostile, and can demonstrate believability or dishonesty. Further, we avoid eye contact with someone we dislike. If someone has their arms folded after meeting you, it could mean that he is not enthusiastic about being around you. Through our facial expressions (smiling or a smirk at an inopportune time in this example), we reveal a great deal about our feelings and responses to other people.

Communication is 7 % verbal and 65 to 93% nonverbal. Judge Judy has to consider the whole picture when determining whether a person is guilty or not. The nonverbal expression and the verbal message must be considered together. The nonverbal message is more accurate and is usually believed over the verbal message. Watching Judge Judy helped me see that whether we like it or not, we are being “judged” by our nonverbal communication in every aspect of our lives. One can learn a lot about nonverbal communication by looking no further than your living room TV. Perhaps while watching your favorite show you can gain a few nonverbal communication ideas to add to the characters in your story.

Stereotyping

My Norwegian grandfather came to America with a large number of other immigrants in the late 1800s. Within America today there are still immigrants, many coming from different lands than in the 1800s and early 1900s. No doubt most of them come for a better financial future, the same reason for coming as those from my grandfather’s era.

Part of my job is to teach social skills to high school students within a high school of many cultures. The reason I decided to teach stereotyping as part of good social skills program is because I’ve heard too much of it at school this year. Violence can result from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, perhaps more so with teenagers who can be impulsive (sorry, I’m stereotyping here).

School is not the only place stereotyping takes place; let’s look at our books, what we watch on television and at the movies. To their credit, they have a smaller space to make information known, a shorter time slot to make a point. For example, mentally ill people in the movies are often a villain. All mentally ill people are not villains. Also, if the director wants to portray a character that is not the sharpest tack in the box, you may see a pretty blonde with wide eyes trying to understand a conversation. Yet, all blondes are not dumb. Another example seen in books, on television, or in the movies is if you want someone in the scene to be a tech whiz, you may describe a male with glasses and pens in his front pocket to portray this character. Not so often is the pretty blonde woman the tech whiz. As a matter of fact, on my way home from work last week I saw a van with the name, Geeks to the Rescue, embossed on the side. Perhaps Blondes to the Rescue would be their second choice for a name. 

 Sure, many don’t think too much about all this, don’t make a fuss about a blonde joke in front of a room full of people whether there is a blonde in the room or not. But it can be more serious than this. If I clump together a race or a country with certain traits, I could have a problem if I offend a person within that group, which is what I am trying to teach at school and what I am trying not to do when I write a story.

Writing Inspiration

What inspires you to write? Is it a place, a special setting, purpose, thought, or character? At one time I thought I had the perfect setting for a suspense story. For two years I worked in one of the state’s most haunted places. The building, built in 1906, had four floors and in its early years housed orphans and catholic nuns as caregivers.

People in the orphanage died over the years and according to staff report, mysterious things happened on every landing, but most often on the fourth floor which happened to be the old sleeping quarters.

During my time there, I worked with a team teaching eight behaviorally challenged middle school students on the first floor. Related offices were on the second and third floors, but the fourth floor was empty and falling to ruin. I did wonder why they didn’t make use of this fourth floor; my assumption is that it had to do with reports of haunting.

When I was hired, a psychologist gave me a tour of the fourth floor, such as it was. Looking around at the empty dark corners gave me an eerie feeling but that was the extent of my concern about being in the building.

Even though trusted staff of many years had a chilling story or two to tell about the building, the only thing unusual I experienced was that posters would never stick on a section of the wall in the classroom, no matter how hard I tried. I suspected the nuns didn’t want anything up there. Otherwise nothing untoward happened, so I suspected the “ghosts” didn’t want to have anything to do with behavioral students.

When I started to work there, I thought the building would inspire me to write scary or suspenseful stories, but that’s not what happened. All I really gleaned from working in a haunted building was how to write better descriptors of creaking floors and staircases, and how to better describe a large old building with tall ceilings and beautiful woodwork.

I still remember looking up the four floors of the building on my way into work each day and wondering about the fourth floor, but once I got inside my focus was on the students that I worked with, my mind was on making a difference in their lives. Sometimes writing inspiration doesn’t always come to you in ways that you would think.

Romance 101

Monica Moore of the University of Missouri did a study on flirting, spending many hours observing and recording numerous situations and learned there is an art to flirting. Her work included describing and understanding flirting and what role it plays in human courtship.

I’ve always wondered about flirting. After all it seems to me it is a negative thing to be called a flirt. To fight the label we females sometimes try to curtail our advances (except in private). I also remember having mixed emotions about it-was I wrong (too forward, or aggressive) to get in his “face?” Maybe so, but it sure felt good. So is it a right or wrong thing to do?….

Ms Moore states that it is simply nonverbal courtship signaling, and that it is helpful to males so that it is not such a burden to make the first move. Yes, a natural thing. She found that nonverbal courtship signaling, which she considers to be flirting, is a process that is a must and that “flirting may be the single most important thing a woman can do to increase her attractiveness.” I wish someone would have told me this way back when…….

Shut up!

At the beginning of Maya’s Gold, my characters, Stanton Black and Maya Valentine argued at the drop of a hat. I like to put that kind of verbal bantering in my stories, because I think it can add humor and, I hope, sexual tension. But in real life, I’ve always thought of fighting as a bad thing or something to prevent from happening.

I learned a lot in the Psychology class I took last spring. One topic I remember very clearly had to do with male female relationships and arguing. Psychologist John Gottman, who is known for his five-to-one-ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions in relationships, says that verbal fighting, whether rare or frequent, is sometimes the healthiest thing a couple can do for the relationship. In fact, blunt anger, appropriately expressed, seems to immunize marriages Gottman also states that, couples who start out complaining about each other have some of the most stable marriages over time, while those who do not fight early on are more likely to face the road to divorce.

What to do with the rest of us who can’t open up like Maya and Stanton? Maintain the five-to-one ratio, Gottman says. And that men should help with the housework, but that is another story.

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