Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Please welcome romance author, Amanda Usen, to Over Coffee. Amanda is a writer, chef, and a romantic. She even brought us some fancy cappuccino to share with us. Isn’t that cup of cappuccino pretty—you almost want to frame rather than drink it, lol!

I love her thoughts on attitude and balance—a writer needs both to be successful.  Balance tells you when to step away and refill your creative well and the need to stay connected to your life. Most writers I know are balancing jobs, family, and writing. Balance keeps you from burning out. It helps when you have your own personal hero (who is also a talented chef) whispering balance in your ear.

Sia has been talking a lot of good sense about attitude lately. I don’t think an hour of the day goes by that I don’t ponder some form of that concept myself. In fact, in a recent e-mail to my agent, I typed, “Writing is such a head game!” It all comes from within. If, like me, you depend on outward signs of success to help you feel positive and triumphant, you might be in serious trouble if you want to be a professional writer. In fact, as my high school BFF told me last week, “I think if you wanted easy, you picked the wrong profession.” She also quoted Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, to me – a great book to read for writing inspiration.

How do you stay chained to that intangible creative force in the face of reviews, promotion, day jobs, demanding children and partners, edits, rejection and days when there are no words in your head? Coffee helps.  J  Some days it feels like too much pressure. I think that’s why Olivia, my heroine in Luscious, came into being the way she did. I am a hardcore pantser; my stories create themselves on the screen of my subconscious as I write. Olivia has reached her limit. Her marriage is over. She hates her job. Her two best friends have fallen in love with each other. She decides to quit, to give up on her current life, to go to Verona and tell her parents she doesn’t want to run the family restaurant anymore and to figure out how to pick up the pieces after she has a nice, wet meltdown in Italy.

Of course, it’s a romance – so her meltdown doesn’t proceed exactly as she plans. Also, I’m a romantic, so she has to rediscover her mojo with the help of one sweetheart of a hero, her divorce lawyer Sean. I depend a lot upon my own hero, my husband, to keep me from flying apart, too. He is the one whispering balance in my ear when I’ve been sitting in front of the computer for three days straight, trying to finish a story. Yes, you have to show up every day, but you also have to know when to take a break and fill the well. You can’t write when you’re tapped out. At least, I can’t. And it becomes progressively harder to break out of the chair the longer I’ve been sitting there.

The urge to check e-mail, check stats and rankings, tweet, Facebook or tackle the next item on the to-do list is nearly overwhelming…until I get away from it for a while. I get into the kitchen and start cooking. I go to yoga and reconnect with non-mental muscles. Recently, I went to LA to celebrate 40th birthdays with the friend I mentioned above. We ate and drank our way through her city, and I returned home full of positive energy for writing. Sometimes I have to get away from work to remember why I want to write in the first place. I can’t chuck it all and start over, like my Luscious character Olivia does, but I can force myself to take breaks from the pressure. The work isn’t going to go anywhere while I’m gone, and it is vital to my creative core to remind myself that there is more to my life than putting words on the page. I crave the pages, the external signs of progress and success, but when I lose sight of the other things that make up my life—cooking, children, exercise, reading, loving, sunlight—the words slow down, then stop. Balance, my hero whispers. Balance.


by Amanda Usen

Eat, play, love

Plain old ice cream just isn't going to cut it. To beat these blues, chef Olivia Marconi needs the good stuff: rich, creamy tiramisu gelato. And no place better to get it than Italy. 
But a fresh start is nearly impossible with Sean Kindred dogging her every move. She's been burned by his too-hot-to-handle antics before. Though there's no denying the man can still get her all fired up. 
Could a weeklong affair finally turn into something more lasting...or will it all go up in flames? 
Excerpt chapter

Since I never forgot what they taught me in school, I write what I know. Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite scenes in Luscious, where Olivia gets her groove back in the kitchen 
Excerpt 2 

There are so many things in life that can pull our focus from positivity.

  • Have you ever lost your mojo? Your balance? Your groove? How? 
  • And what did you do to get it back? 

Leave a comment below, for the chance to win a copy of Luscious.

Thanks for having me on the blog today, Sia. I always enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with a fellow attitude adjuster! J


Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers on the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America. They married after graduation in a lovely French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans. After enjoying the food and the fun in the Big Easy for a few years, they returned to Western New York to raise a family.
Amanda spends her days teaching pastry arts classes at a local community college and her nights writing romance. She’s a member of the Romance Writers of America ® and theWestern New York Romance Writers. When she’s not writing, teaching or baking, she can usually be found chasing the kids around the yard with her very own scrumptious husband.

You can find Amanda: Facebook, Website--be sure to check out her recipe page!


~Sia McKye~ said...

Amanda, welcome to Over Coffee. I'm so glad you're here. I loved your thoughts on balance and your special hero who whispers balance.

I really want to read this. I just realized this is the second of your culinary romances. I'm going to order both next week.

Gina Gao said...

This sounds like a great book. Nice post.


Anne Gallagher said...

Chocolate Cheesecake is fabulous for breakfast!!! And lunch, and dinner.

Sounds like a great book. Thanks Sia, thanks, Amanda.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Sia, Gina and Anne! I just poured a cup of coffee. Sia, thanks for having me here. Your blog is lovely and I feel quite at home on your pages, lol, pondering life and writing. I hope you like Scrumptious and Luscious - escapist fiction at its spiciest! Anne, if you don't have your own recipe for chocolate cheesecake, mine is on my blog. It's the one the heroine makes in Scrumptious. It lives up to the name of the book! Thanks for stopping by!

Jo said...

Balance is, of course, important in all walks of life.

I envy you going to the CIA, I would like to have gone there or to the Cordon Bleu.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo! Cooking school was fun, but meeting my husband there was the best! I'd love to study pastry in France...

readwriteandedit said...

Amen, Amanda. Balance is so, so important. It's so easy to get caught up in the writing both when it's going well and when we're struggling. Here's to perspective and knowing when to step back.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I'd love to be able to do pastry better than I do. Don't think I'd go to France to get that, but I will admit they do excellent pastry.

Ciara said...

Nice to meet you. This sounds awesome. Isn't it funny how we sometimes torture our heroines with what we are going through in life. Okay, wasn't thrown in a dungeon and wounded by a sword, but I'd broken my back and was stuck in bed. Same thing. LOL
Good luck with everything!

Anonymous said...

Readwriteandedit - good point. Balance is hard when the word flow...and when they don't!
Ciara - oh, man, seriously? A broken back sounds terrifying. I hope things worked out for you AND your tortured hero. :-)
Sia, I could really go for a croissant right now...

Na said...

Poor Olivia! I think many women can relate to what she's going through at some point in her life. There are days when things just aren't looking up. But for everything that goes down, there muyst be an up. Sean sounds like a hero and pretty cool occupation at that.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Great post. I kinda think if we ever managed to scale the tallest mountain to seek the guru's secrets about life and happiness, he'd say something about balance. Not just being able to balance, but being happy with our balancing act, rather than always worrying about that "something else" we should be doing. The book sounds ... what can I say?... luscious.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I lose my mojo from time to time. I can usually find it under the sofa.

Its great to meet Amanda and best wishes to her and Luscious. Wow! That's a word I don;t think I've ever heard.

Talli Roland said...

Oh, balance! I'd love to strike the perfect balance some day. I'm not sure it's possible, but cheesecake probably helps. :)

Thanks for the great post, Amanda. Hi to Sia!

~Sia McKye~ said...

@Susan-Damn those gurus anyway, lol! But you make a good point, being happy with the balance we have.

Balance is something that each of us define for our personal life. Not a one size fits all.

I thought worrying about something else that needs doing was normal, lol!

~Sia McKye~ said...

@ Stephen-You know when it's under the couch it's easier to get it if you lay on the couch and reach for it. Bet you never thought about that tho, lol!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Talli, I don't think *perfect* anything is achievable. I think it tends to change from day to day. Cheesecake, chocolate, and cupcakes are good tools to help. Oh, and good coffee and wine...

Speaking of perfect things--hows that baby doing? Is it playing soccer inside yet?