August’s Prompt Contest Winning Entry

“SilverBill” Bill Tillman

Congratulations Bill Tillman, on winning our August prompt contest. Bill’s first short story is due out on Amazon Kindle in early September. Campfire Tales includes two tales from the Tohono O’Odtham (Desert People) nation, just southwest of Tucson in the Sonora Desert.

Here is the winning entry: A billow of French erupted from the kitchen area of The Blue Boiling Point Café. Lydia knew that meant one thing. Gérard, the executive chef, had boiled something to non-edible. The passionate Frenchman would now storm around his kitchen with red ears. The ears were always a sign of: MAD CHEF ON THE BOIL, as if painted on his barrel like chest.

Far worse the lobsters would be in a very snappy mode, endangering all the understudy chefs with possible loss of an important digit. It all started with moon eyed Michele, her heart was captured by bumbling Bérnard the busboy. Oh yes, Bérnard was indeed handsome and built like a Chicago Bear. Which in fact of a trail broken dishware, bent cutlery and such had earned him the name of Bérnard Bear. 

Now Gérard had spied Bérnard fiddling with the range knobs! The natural conclusion was that Bérnard had turned up the heat on the lobsters. Poor Bérnard had only wiped the knob because it was smeared with tomato paste.

“But, but, but Master Chef Gérard I only wiped the knob because it was covered in red tomato paste.” Pleaded Bérnard as he towered a foot above Chef Gérard and shuffled from foot to foot.

What! Someone has not washed their hands before handling food or cooking instruments! It had to Héctor, Chef Gérard’s cousin. Héctor had a bad habit of sampling everything by thumb when no one was looking.

“Héctor!” Bellowed Gérard, the executive chef. “What have you done to my precious lobsters?” Héctor looked panicked, his head swung from side to side looking for a place to escape. “Uncle Gérard I just turned down the water the poor lobsters were going to boil. I would not want it on my conscience to have murdered the lobsters.”

With a great sigh Gérard stood up straight and addressed his nephew. “Héctor, you did not turn the knob down or off. What you did was to turn to the right, thus turning the knob to maximum. Why you worried about the lobsters being boiled? The are not to be eaten unless they have been boiled to perfection.”

“This is how our customers want their lobsters, boiled and half shelled!” Gérard squeaked in the voice of one driven to exasperation. “This is not a shelter for lost lobsters, non, non mon ami this is where people come to eat famous Blue Boiling Point Café seafood cuisine.”

“I know uncle, but it just seems unfair to the lobsters. No one asked them if they wanted to be someone’s lunch or dinner. They have a right to live free of human cannibals.” Héctor pleaded with his uncle with hopeful eyes brimming with unshed tears.

“Héctor I am going to send you on a Lobster boat tomorrow, I want you to see the hard work it takes to catch lobsters. Then you can tell me what you think. Okay?” Gérard said gently to Héctor, he wanted him to understand about catching & eating lobsters.

Bill Tillman
Christian YA Historical 

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This could be you next month! Be watching for our prompts, usually found at the end of our Tuesday posts. Using the prompt, write a short, short story in our comments section. You can enter each week during the month, using that week’s prompt. At the end of the month, a winner will be chosen. The winning short story will be showcased in our final post of the month. 
We request that winners wait at least a month before entering another contest.

Food & Restaurant Critic versus Cookbook Author/ Prompt Contest Winner!

One of my favorite shows on the Food Network is Chopped, a reality-based cooking television series. Four chefs have short periods of time to create luscious meals from outrageous ingredients. Three judges from the world of food judge and critic their dishes on different criteria. Whoever doesn’t “cut” it is chopped or doesn’t advance to the next round. This sparked my interest in food critics.
Also, as the proud owner of a shelf full of books about cooking, I wonder how you would go about creating a best-selling cookbook. Who writes all the cookbooks we see at the local bookstore or on Amazon? Which would be the best career for the character in your next novel, cookbook author or critic?
The terms food critic, food writer, and restaurant critic can all be used to describe a writer who analyzes food or restaurants and then publishes the results of their findings. While these terms are not strictly synonymous they are often used interchangeably. Those who share their opinions via food columns in newspapers and magazines are known as food columnists.
Food critics and “restaurant critic” are synonyms, in practice. Both suggest a critical, evaluative stance that often involves some kind of rating system. The distinction, if any involves the range of possible investigation. “Food critic” has a more contemporary vibe, suggesting that restaurants, bakeries, food festivals, street vendors, and taco trucks are all fair game.
“Restaurant critic” is the more traditional title and can connote a more restricted sphere of operations — traditional restaurants, with perhaps those serving French cuisine being the exemplars. The internet has slowly become more important in forming opinions about restaurants. New generations of discussion forums and rating systems have become influential such as Mouthfuls, Yelp, and eGullet, as have some food criticism blogs like GrubGrade.  
For most of the past century, the most highly visible food critics have been those who have written for daily newspapers throughout the world and a few who have been restaurant reviewers for influential magazines, such as Gourmet in the United States. Television has become an outlet for many shows involving food or restaurant critics.
 A cookbook is a kitchen reference publication that typically contains a collection of recipes. Modern versions may also include colorful illustrations and advice on purchasing quality ingredients or making substitutions. Cookbooks can also cover a wide variety of topics, including cooking techniques for the home, recipes and commentary from famous chefs, institutional kitchen manuals, and cultural commentary. Anyone can write a cookbook, given they have recipes. How did the cookbook get its start?
The earliest cookbooks on record seem to be mainly lists of recipes for what would now be called haute cuisine, and were often written primarily to either provide a record of the author’s favorite dishes or to train professional cooks for banquets and upper-class, private homes. The first recipe books to be compiled in Europe since Late Antiquity started to appear in the late thirteenth century. About a hundred are known to have survived, some fragmentary, from the age before printing.
 Cookbooks that serve as basic kitchen references (sometimes known as “kitchen bibles”) began to appear in the early modern period. They provided not just recipes but overall instruction for both kitchen technique and household management. Such books were written primarily for housewives and occasionally domestic servants as opposed to professional cooks. Related to this class are instructional cookbooks, which combine recipes with in-depth, step-by-step recipes to teach beginning cooks basic concepts and techniques. In vernacular literature, people may collect traditional recipes in family cookbooks.
 Professional cookbooks are designed for the use of working chefs and culinary students and sometimes double as textbooks for culinary schools. Such books deal not only in recipes and techniques, but often service and kitchen workflow matters. Many such books deal in substantially larger quantities than home cookbooks, such as making sauces by the liter or preparing dishes for large numbers of people in a catering setting.  
Single-subject books, usually dealing with a specific ingredient, technique, or class of dishes, are quite common as well; with books on dishes like curries, pizza, and simplified ethnic food. Popular subjects for narrow-subject books on technique include grilling/barbecue, baking, outdoor cooking, and even recipe cloning.
Community cookbooks (also known as compiled, regional, charitable, and fund-raising cookbooks) are a unique genre of culinary literature. Community cookbooks focus on home cooking, often documenting regional, ethnic, family, and societal traditions, as well as local history.
Cookbooks can also document the food of a specific chef, cooking show chef, or restaurant. Many of these books, particularly those written by or for a well-established cook with a long-running TV show or popular restaurant, become part of extended series of books that can be released over the course of many years. Popular chef-authors throughout history include people such as Julia Child, James Beard, Nigella Lawson, Edouard de Pomiane, Jeff Smith, Emeril Lagasse, and Claudia Roden.  
So your character who needs an occupation can be either author or critic. Try a twist. How about a football player who writes a cookbook packed with his favorite pie recipes? Or a stay-at-home mother of triplets who is a blogging food critic of baby nutrition products? The food industry is evolving and your next novel can evolve with it.

CONGRATULATIONS BILL! YOU’VE WON THIS MONTH’S CONTEST! We loved the humorous story about cooks and lobsters. We will run the story on this Friday’s blog. Please drop us another email and tell us where to send your gift card. Make sure and watch for next month’s contest as we look at vacation spots…Where does the main character in your next novel need to vacation?

Today’s writing prompt: Josie reached into her great grandmother’s heavy plastic suitcase and wiped off the dusty book. Must be forty years old, she guessed, as she lifted it with care. The title read, “Cooking for…”


She plopped down on the horsehair sofa and buried her face into her hands. Captain Le Voi must think her a heathen. When would she ever learn to tame her tongue? She stretched out and laid her head against the bolster, her feet propped on the rolled arm. Mama would have a fit of vapors if  she were to walk into the library and take notice of her unladylike behavior, but what did it matter now. Jonathan Le Voi would be half way to New Orleans.

She hadn’t meant to call his character into question . . .

Horsehair sofa? Have you ever heard of the term? I come across it all the time when reading, but what is meant by it? What do you see when given such a description?

This sofa came to us just like this. It was given to us by an elderly lady. I can’t decide on fabric to have it redone in, and since I don’t have a place for it yet I’m in no hurry.

The type of upholstery on this sofa is diamond tufted.

Here is another semi-diamond tufted with channels.

This was one of my favorites. There is enough detailed work to give it character yet there is also a simplicity to it with its clean lines.

In my opinion, the fabric on this piece is absolutely hideous. And although I don’t have an after picture, you can trust me that the new fabric was just as bold and . . . awful. It definitely did not represent the era.

Now this one, I absolutely loved this one. And wouldn’t you know it, I don’t have any after pictures. It was redone in a white and blue floral fabric. A hundred and twenty dollar a yard fabric. I remember it distinctly because we had a difficult time telling the difference between the front and back of the fabric. The weave was that good.

If you look closely at the arms and legs you’ll see a creature. Can you tell what it is?

Here is another beauty. I think the customer’s choice of fabric worked with the dark wood. If you look at the feet you can see the tiny white wheels. They’re clay and fragile. Sometimes we get pieces in with wooden wheels.

Okay, so what about the horsehair sofa? The truth is all of those sofas had been considered as horsehair sofas at one time or another. Why? Well, during the 19th century horsehair was a common stuffing for upholstery. Here is a picture of a piece that came to our shop.

And, yes, it came to us exactly like that. If you look closely you’ll see a brown mess underneath some of the whit cotton. That was some of the guts of this sofa.

Here is the same piece after it was redone.

This isn’t a DIY segment. I’ve watched plenty of those shows and of course the professionals make it look easy. I’m not saying that there aren’t some easy projects, but I’ve seen chaos of wannabe DIYs. It’s not pretty. It’s kind of like asking a toddler to fold fitted sheets. Unless you’re one of those people who has a knack for details  you get what you pay for.

I’m not a historian of upholstery so it’s hard for me to tell you what kinds of tools the upholster used back in the day, but I can tell you that I have great admiration for their artistic skill, especially since I know how difficult it is with our many modern conveniences such as power tools.

We’ve taken apart furniture where the upholsterer not only used the old hammer and tack method, but also hand sewed the seams together.

Here, let me show you:

This has been partially stripped and the new deck has been put on. We now sew the corners with a sewing machine. The original fabric had been hand sewn. Each of those pleats had been tacked with tiny tacks. We used an air staple gun. Much quicker.

The insides are done.

Here my son is tacking the back. Even though we have modern tools, recovering furniture is still intricate and tedious.

Take a look at this chair. The new fabric is loosely laid up there so we can judge where we want the stripes to land (I will tell you right now plaids are the most difficult patterns to work with, silk makes it even more difficult) anyway, if you look closely you can see a bit of that plaid fabric attached to the outside wing. See it?

Ahhh, there it is. Hubs is lining up the stripes and pinning them to the chair, then he’s chalking out his pattern. I can’t tell you anything else about this process, not because it’s some ancient Chinese secret but because all the snips and clips and holding your mouth just so to make it all fit together baffles me.

This picture was taken by my daughter. She sewed up the white chair, but as you can see the plaid chair is next to it.

I suppose you’re wondering what other sorts of things we upholster at our shop.

Well, we’ve done dentist chairs and RV seats. These babies were one of the most difficult things I’ve worked on. They were almost grounds for severe discord in our household. I think I quit fifty times that week but hubs wouldn’t hear it. *g*

Right now we’re working on boat seats. Let me tell you something about vinyl, there aren’t very many second chances. Once you sew vinyl it’s pretty much a done deal or you have to start over. The sewing machine needle leaves holes and you can’t move the threads with a pin to fix the hole.

Here is something hubs did that really impressed me–

He custom made these from a customer’s drawn out plans.

Between my daughter, brother and I we have hundreds of pictures. Obviously you can tell my favorites are the antiques, of which I have a lot more pictures, but we do all sorts of stuff in our shop. We even fixed the bear head of a mascot costume. I’ll try and add the picture later today.

Upholstery is one of those trades that you almost need to apprentice at in order to pick up all those tricks. My husband is often telling me I need to hold my mouth just right. I’ve tried, it doesn’t always work. 

I have to work today, but if you have any questions, please ask, I’ll try to answer.


$10 Amazon gift card anyone? August Prompt Contest!

August is rolling to an end, and our monthly prompt contest is here! Write a short story, 500 words or less, using this month’s prompt and win a $10 gift card. Anyone can enter, published or unpublished. The only thing we ask is if you won before to please wait a month before entering again.

This month’s prompt is: A billow of French erupted from the kitchen area of The Blue Boiling Point Café. Lydia knew that meant one thing. Gérard, the executive chef, had…

Let’s see some creative, mind-boggling twists in your always wonderful stories! You have until Sunday night, August 26th at midnight to enter and we will announce the winner on August 28th. The story will be featured on our Friday post, August 31st. So enter today…

Cupcake Creator versus Coffee Shop Owner

 Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream.jpg

Cupcake creator or coffee shop owner or both? To me, these are careers that can include the best of two worlds, chocolate and hot tea. You couldn’t be a cupcake creator without chocolate somewhere and most coffee shops include hot tea on the menu. A raspberry-filled chocolate cupcake with a hot green tea latte with soy milk? Yum yum.

The origin of the cupcake can be traced back to 1796 in the cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. The recipe called for “the cake to be baked in small cups.”  The earliest documentation of the term cupcake was in “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats” in 1828 in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook.
Cupcakes have become more than a trend over the years; they’ve become an industry. Rachel Kramer Bussel, who has been blogging about cupcakes since 2004 at Cupcakes Take the Cake, said in 2010 that “in the last two years or so, cupcakes really exploded” with more cupcake-centric bakeries opening nationwide.
Cupcake Wars, a popular Food Network reality-based competition show, is currently in its sixth season. If you’ve ever considered being a cupcake creator or baker, this is the time.
Coffee shops or houses have been around even longer than cupcakes. A coffee house was reported open in Istanbul in 1555. During the seventeenth century, coffee appeared in Europe and triggered a flood of coffee houses. In the beginning, they were strictly for men and the site of political and social debate.
Coffee shops in the United States arose from the espresso- and pastry-centered Italian coffeehouses of the Italian American immigrant communities in the major U.S. cities. Coffee, music, and conversation were a mainstay in most coffee shops. Starting in 1967, Seattle became known for its thriving countercultural coffeehouse scene; the Starbucks chain later standardized and mainstreamed this espresso bar model.
Before 1990, true coffee houses were found only near colleges or artistic colonies. As with the cupcake, coffee houses are now a growing venue worthy of consideration for a career in ownership.
So we’re back to the question: Cupcake creator or coffee shop owner or both?
This week’s writing prompt: Celia stared at the bubbly froth covering her white chocolate caramel cappuccino and wondered why she ever…