It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Mark Spivak, who shares a little of his writing life.
MS: I go to sleep early and wake up naturally around 4 or 4:30 a.m. In my youth I spent a number of years in the restaurant business, at which time the pattern was reversed---back then, I’d probably be going to bed around 4 a.m. The current schedule works really well for me, since I find the early morning hours are the best time to work. My wife is still asleep, and there are no distractions. I still do a fair amount of journalism, so around 9 a.m. the email starts and generally doesn’t stop.
Basically, I’m working on and off from the time I get up until around 5 p.m., although the workday isn’t consecutive. I have the luxury of taking breaks, whether they’re for meals, shopping or working out, but I’m mentally focused on my current project(s) during that period. To tell the truth, I’m mentally focused on my current project(s) for all my waking hours, whether I’m actually working on them or not.
When a writer is working other jobs and struggling to become 100% freelance, he/she usually fantasizes about what the life would be like. Ironically, it turns out to be not very different from a regular job at all: at some point you have to get to your desk and stay there for 6-8 hours each day, even if the work sessions are intermittent. The key difference, of course, is that you’re doing what you really want to do and love to do.
It turns out that the parts of the day when you’re not actually working are frequently the most useful and productive. Daydreaming is a key part of being a writer. I find that thinking about my current plot and characters right before I go to sleep is an important part of the process.
We don’t have a land line at home, and I no longer own a smart phone. I pay no attention to my cell phone at all---the ringer is permanently off, and I might check it once or twice a day to see if anyone has called. I don’t send or receive text messages. I believe that it’s crucial to carve out a mental space that exists solely for the incubation of your plot, characters and fantasies. It’s hard to do that if you’re staring at a phone all day long, and if you work on a computer, as I do, you’ll have more than enough temptations and distractions.
by Mark Spivak
GENRE: Thriller (Culinary)
In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.
Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.
He perused Chateau de la Mer’s large and mostly incomprehensible menu. Changed every few weeks, handwritten in Avenzano’s elaborate cursive before being photocopied, it closely resembled an annotated Medieval manuscript. Finally, he acceded to the staff’s offer to prepare a tasting menu for him, accompanied by the appropriate wines.
He was presented with a sculpture of dried vegetables in the shape of a bird’s nest, filled with a combination of wild mushrooms and chopped truffles, bathed in an intensely reduced demi-glaze. The carrots, zucchini and peppers had been cut into paper-thin strips, intertwined and allowed to dry, yet retained a surprising intensity of flavor.
He consumed a dish of tomato, basil and egg noodles, bathed in a light cream sauce, perfumed with fresh sage and studded with veal sweetbreads.
He ate an astonishing dish of butter-poached lobster, remarkably sweet and perfectly underdone, flavored with sweet English peas and garnished with a ring of authentic Genoese pesto.
He was served a slice of Avenzano’s signature Bedouin-stuffed poussin---a turkey stuffed with a goose, in turn stuffed with a duckling, in turn stuffed with a poussin, or baby chicken, with a core of truffled foie gras at its center, covered with an Etruscan sauce of chopped capers, raisins and pine nuts. This dish had been the source of much controversy over the years, since it bore a close resemblance to a Louisiana terducken. It predated the terducken, however, and was supposedly inspired by a creation first served to the French royal court. For good measure, Avenzano had added influences from the cuisine of the Middle East.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Mark’s work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. He is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). His first novel, Friend of the Devil, is published by Black Opal Books.
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