Baking a Book, Part 2

cheers to twenty sixteenTwo weeks ago I wrote a blog post about my obsession with The Great British Baking Show, my desire to take up more challenging baking recipes, and the parallels of baking and writing a book. I promised another post on the importance of proofing, and letting a book rest, but this is not that post.

This is a post about failure.

Last week one of my nieces and I spent an evening together. I announced, with some fanfare, that we were going to make a Swiss roll. Our chocolate sponge was going to be homemade, our frosting light with a hint of orange. My aunt goal was to create a big dessert that took effort, but paid off. Sort of a life lesson we could use as dessert.

It was, in a word, awful. My niece said the cake tasted like chocolate eggs. The frosting was WAY too sweet, and the orange took over. The entire cake was a failure. We are both dessert lovers, and couldn’t get through a slice. Awful.

After that attempt, I could be forgiven for never trying to make a sponge cake again. After all, I can bake. (These are one of my specialties, Highlander Cookie Bars. You’re welcome.) Maybe being a very good middle grade baker is enough. Maybe I’ll never be able to make a good sponge cake, or a pate a choux that doesn’t double as a hockey puck. Maybe excellent cookies, and great squares should suffice.

Or maybe I need to push myself, and try it a few more times. Maybe I should bake up, past my comfort zone.

This past November I had the great good fortune of interviewing Elizabeth George. She spoke about setting a goal every time she started a new project. She tries to top herself. She also reads books that she aspires to, rather than books that she might consider direct competition.

My baking disaster brought Elizabeth’s lessons home to me in a very meaningful way. I always try to write well. But should I try and write a Swiss roll? What does that even mean to me, as a writer?

I’ve spent a long time working on getting published. This year, I did that. Next year, Clock and Dagger will be released. I’m working on the third book on that contract now. I know that each book is better than the last, and my confidence as a writer is developing.

But maybe I also need to think about something outside my comfort zone, and start noodling around with ideas. Something for me, that I may or may not share depending on its success. I’m going to think about that a lot more in the coming weeks, as I start goal setting for 2016.

In the meantime, my niece and I are going to try another Swiss roll over the holidays. Vanilla sponge. Jelly filling. I’ll let you know how it goes.

For all of you, dear readers, I wish you the most wonderful 2016. Thank you for visiting the blog, and for being so supportive of my writing journey.

Happy New Year!


Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. Just Killing Time came out in October. Clock and Dagger will come out in August. As J.A. Hennrikus, she writes short stories. Julie Hennrikus runs StageSource, and is an arts advocate in the New England region.




8 thoughts on “Baking a Book, Part 2

  1. So sorry to hear about the cake fail, Julie. But if it inspires you to write something big, I say go for it!

    Now I’m wondering the wisdom of my son and I attempting a Buche de Noel tomorrow – also a roll cake, and something we’ve never tried. Oh well, there are always cookies if it fails. ;^)

  2. Last year at Norwescon I heard a panel talking about plot issues. And what I remember was this: Some novels are like juggling silk scarves, easy peasy. Others are like juggling five flaming batons. Figure out your juggling level and stretch up a little. Then a little more. Don’t just light yourself on fire right out of the gate and burn everything to the ground. Good luck with your baking, I can never get swiss roll to roll.

  3. Dang, I love that show (the irish version is nowhere near as good). I even bought Mary Berry’s baking cookbook, which is full of lovely things I’ve only read about in British novels, like simnel cake. But maybe it’s the English air or something that makes a difference for her.

    I keep a picture of one of my greatest baking disasters, just to keep me humble. It’s a big brown glob. But you never know until you try. Bake on!

    Hope your holidays are wonderful (with or without cake).

  4. Pingback: Read Up | Live to Write – Write to Live

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