Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writing a Novel is as Easy as Making Mac-n-Cheese

The problem with my claim is that I cannot make good homemade macaroni and cheese. The dish either comes out too thick and heavy and sticky, too dry and thick , or too stringy and tasteless.

My favorite recipe that I can more often cook correctly is called "Pioneer Macaroni and Cheese" from a 1954 Betty Crocker Cook Book (the ring binder version). The best thing about this recipe is that I do not have to make a sauce, b├ęchamel or whatever. I cook the macaroni, place it in a baking dish, dot it with cubes of sharp cheese (does these mean cheddar or Velveeta?), dot it with little blobs of butter, combine 3 cups of milk with two beaten eggs, and pour over the contents in the baking dish. Then bake.

Still, it's not creamy Macaroni and Cheese. The recipe for that kind is listed directly under this pioneer dish. (Did you know pioneers made mac-n-cheese? I didn't.) This presents a huge problem because I must make a creamy sauce to produce a dish that melts in your mouth and isn't chewy like the pioneer dish.

Sometimes I like something that's smooth and creamy and goes down easy, but sometimes I like something I can get my teeth into, something chewy and satisfying. And if I'm not extremely careful, I can't create either one.

See? The process of cooking is very similar to writing. If I'm not vigilant, my story will be too soft with no satisfying substance, or my story will be too heavy and hard to chew.

Maybe I should stick with making quiche. I can do that. My quiche is perfection, my husband loves it, and I have the knack down to a "T."

By some stroke of luck, I began writing Western Romance novellas we call 99Cent Dime Novels. I did not have the recipe for these, but my publisher, Rebecca J. Vickery did, and she encouraged me to write one. With the help and advice from the artist, the incomparable Karen Michelle Nutt, we  created alluring (not too sexy) covers using Jimmy Thomas photos.

I wrote four Dime Novels, and to my surprise and delight they were highly successful. I may never write anything that gave me as much satisfaction as these have.

Now, all four Dime Novels are available in one book titled Lone Star Dreaming-A Western Romance Collection. $2.99 for the ebook, $11.95 for the print.


Barnes and Noble:


The individual 99Cent Dime Novels are:
Angel and the Cowboy
Addie and the Gunslinger
Charlotte and the Tenderfoot
Kat and the U.S. Marshal

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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  1. I'm a fan of Celia's Dime Novels and I make a mean macaroni and cheese. I use the recipe on the back of the Muellers box, cut out and saved all these years. But I double the shredded cheddar cheese and sprinkle the top with paprika before baking. It is melt in your mouth yummy. You make the milky sauce while the noodles cook so its ready in a jiff. Best of all, its a sure-fire man and kid pleaser.

    Great post!

  2. Maggie--well, you're more of a Southerner than I am. You probably have making macaroni and cheese in your DNA. I watched a video of a man making the dish, claiming it was so easy a child could do it. No...not true at all. You had to melt butter and stir in flour....etc. And trust me, I can never do that right.
    I make good baked pasta though, using spaghetti. Even though macaroni is a pasta, it still is different.
    Thanks for visiting--and so glad to see you out and about.

  3. Lovely analogy, Celia - and I was quite fascinated with this recipe! I actually found a 'Pioneer Women's' recipe recently that was so good, I've made it several times. I had no idea what it meant or where it came from. I will certainly try this one.
    I do believe 'sharp' means mature (Cheddar) here. *Sigh* will we ever learn to speak the same language do you think? Or use the same measurements in cooking?
    Good thing we share the same tastes in reading, eh?
    Great post - very entertaining as always.

  4. Great analogy - even though I have never made macaroni cheese!

  5. I learned how to cook using that old Betty Crocker notebook type cookbook. Later, I added the McCall Cookbook and tose are the two I use the most. I've never made the mac and cheese from either one. LOL
    I love reading dime novels. For one ting, I can afford them. I love your work, Celia and I am happy to see that you have a book containing 4 of your dime novels in it. I know this book is going to be very successful, too.

  6. Celia, my mom made wonderful mac and cheese, but she didn't make it very often because my dad didn't like noodles except for spaghetti. She was a wonderful cook. I had to learn on my own.But what I've discovered is to just cook the noodles and cut up cubes of cheese and after I drain the water, I dump in the cheese and butter and little milk, then put the lid on it and let it set on the counter for about 10 minutes, stir and add salt & pepper. My family LOVES it. I rarely have time to put it in the oven and bake it, but I think that's what she did. As for writing, I think your dime novels are wonderful, and I've enjoyed writing some of those myself. It's different and fun, and I am thrilled for you to have yours in an anthology. I'm hoping to get my Christmas ones in an anthology soon. You will ALWAYS have one idea or another, Celia--and they're always good. I loved reading your excerpts.

  7. Lynette--a dear friend gave me a small cookbook one year she'd bought at Half-Price Books. It was very pretty, well designed, more like a novel or designer notebook. But it had been printed in the UK, so all the measurements were in the Metric system. I never told her..Actually I remember a scant few conversions, but's not easy.
    Yes, I like to talk to people who have the same reading tastes as I do. And thanks so much for reading my blog--I do appreciate it.

  8. Paula--never made macaroni and cheese? Well, I'm sure you're not the only one. It's a kind of staple food for families with children. It's just that I could never make it very well.

  9. You should see my Betty Crocker CookBook!I have duct tape along the spine and around the bottom edge. The thing is falling apart.
    I'm glad you like my Dime Novels. Those have made me so happy! But, it's time to go in another direction.

  10. Cheryl--I'll have to remember that. I still must take food to gatherings once in a while, even though I try very hard to break those ties. Can't do it. This dish should be the easiest to make, but it just never comes out right. I recognize a good dish of it when I see it, though.
    Yes, we're the Dime Novel Queens! Now, I'm thinking on which direction to go next. Right now...I have three new prints to sell. That should keep me busy for a while.

  11. Juts popped back to say I'm not a pasta fan, and I can't eat cheese! The staple for my family was Heinz baked beans on toast - and apart from burning the toast, you couldn't go wrong with that!

  12. Well, no wonder, Paula..Heinz Baked Beans. I love those! It must be a world-wide can of beans.

  13. Celia, I don't make Mac and cheese. Does that disqualify me as a southerner? But I have read all of your dime novels and they are wonderful. I think having them in a print book was a great idea and I hope the print will be as successful as the dime novels have been.