Charlotte’s Take: The Calabiyau Chronicles by Diana S. Zimmerman

Hello, Readers!

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Today, I am sharing a book series review, as relayed to me by Charlotte, my 10 year old daughter.  The Calabiyau Chronicles is a series of books which opened the excitement of reading to my daughter.  When she was in the 4th grade, during her birthday month, she was invited to select a free book from a huge collection of brand new books that had been delivered to a classroom.  The way she described it, the selection of books was so enormous!

secret of the mists

My daughter searched through the piles of books, and emerged with her choice, KANDIDE AND THE SECRET OF THE MISTS.  The cover and the title are what attracted Charlotte to the book.  From my perspective, the book was glorious.  A fantastic cover, intricate artwork within, and written at a level which I was thrilled that my 10 year old daughter had chosen.  The book is fantasy, and features beautiful fairy-like creatures, winged and colorful.

According to Charlotte, SECRET OF THE MISTS was action-packed and exciting.  The most exciting part was when Kandide, the main character and heroine, arrived at the mists, and was attacked by the Garglan, a vicious, hairy creature with wings, sharp teeth, claws, and a long tail.  The Garglan also has creepy red eyes.  Kandide needed the help of wolves to escape it.

The Lady's Revenge

Her excitement about SECRET OF THE MISTS prompted me to purchase book 2 of the series, THE LADY’S REVENGE.  According to my daughter, THE LADY’S REVENGE is mysterious.  A princess, Tara, is captured, and frozen in a block of ice.  If the ice melts, she will die.  Kandide is in charge of making Winter, and so she changes the season to Winter again, keeping the ice frozen.  Kandide enlists the help of her brother to magically save Tara from the block of ice.

Masks of Deception

At the end of Book 2, Charlotte was so anxious for book 3…but it wasn’t released yet!  I had to pre-order it, and she was so thrilled when it finally arrived!  The title of Book 3 in this series, is THE MASKS OF DECEPTION.  This book, like the two other before it, features beautiful pictures throughout.  They are stunning.

Charlotte just finished reading it, and here is what she told me:  There is a war going on between Calabiyau, and the Banshee Kingdom.  She didn’t want to give me too many spoilers, but she did mention at one point, that the Fee’ have to enter the human world, and they get stuck.  This is dangerous for the Fee’ because in the human world, time moves faster and they age really quickly.  MASKS OF DECEPTION ends with “To be continued…”, which delighted my daughter.  We are hoping for a book 4!

It should be noted that there is a beautiful, intricate coloring book that coincides with this book series.  We also own the coloring book.  It’s truly lovely.

As a parent, author, and teacher, I was so happy to find a series of books which my daughter became so enthralled with.  I would also like to point out that when I reached out to author Diana S. Zimmerman about Charlotte’s zest for her books, she was more than happy to connect.  That means a lot to the readers who fall in love with characters and places of an authors creation.  Thank you for writing such a series for my daughter and other readers to enjoy.

Diana S. Zimmerman has a website for all things Kandide:  www.kandide.com

The Calabiyau Chronicles Series can be purchased on Diana S. Zimmerman’s website, or on Amazon

She can be found on social media as well:

Twitter:  @DianaZimmerman

Facebook:  Diana Zimmerman

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Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired By Our Books and Characters, Part 2

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Welcome back, Readers!

For today’s post in this series, I introduce author Carys Jones, with a recipe inspired by her novel, Dare To Dream, published by REUTS Publications.  Here is a blurb about the book, from the publisher’s website:

“Fourteen-year-old Maggie Trafford leads a normal life. Well, as normal as being crammed in a three-bedroom house with four siblings and a single parent can be, anyway. But despite being somewhat ignored at home, Maggie excels, earning top grades, a best friend who would do anything for her, and stolen looks from a boy in Maths.

It’s not until the dreams start that Maggie realizes “normal” is the least of her problems. Every night, she lives the same nightmare—red lightning, shattered glass, destruction. But nightmares are just that, right? No one believes her when she says it’s an omen. At least, not until the already mysterious pillars of Stonehenge start falling.

No longer alone in her fear, Maggie and the world watch with bated breath as one after another, the historic stones tumble, like a clock counting down. But only Maggie knows what it means: when the last stone falls, destruction will reign. And when the world ends, there’s only one option left—survive.”

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Here is Carys Jones, in her own words.

I chose a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes to represent the character of Maggie from Dare to Dream. In the book, Maggie is plagued by nightmares of red lightning which ultimately destroy the world, hence why I leaned towards a red dessert.

Maggie is a sweet natured girl with hidden depth (like a great cupcake). Whilst not rich she is intense.

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Dare to Dream is published through Reuts publications and is currently available from all online retailers – https://www.amazon.com/Dare-Dream-Carys-Jones/dp/1942111088/ref=la_B004AEJO7W_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472901951&sr=1-2

red-velvet

Red Velvet Cupcakes–As inspired by Maggie in Dare to Dream

What you’ll need;

  • 250 grams plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 100 grams butter
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red food colouring
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 175 millilitres buttermilk

 

What to do; 

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/325°F, and fill two muffin tins with paper cases
  2. Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a different bowl cream the butter and sugar together. Then beat in the food colouring and the vanilla extract
  4. Add the eggs and flour into the mix, beating continuously so that everything becomes a nice thick paste.
  5. Finally beat in the buttermilk and then spoon the mixture into the paper cases.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. To check if they’re done, pierce a cake with a skewer or knife and if it comes out clean then your cakes are done.
  7. Leave them to cool on a wire rack before adding the frosting.

 

For the Topping you’ll need;

  • 500 grams icing sugar
  • 125 grams cream cheese
  • 125 grams butter

 

  1. Mix the icing sugar, cream cheese and butter together.
  2. Whisk thoroughly until smooth.
  3. Carefully ice each cupcake (once thoroughly cooled)
  4. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles and red sugar if desire.
  5. Enjoy!

 

Carys Jones loves nothing more than to write and create stories which ignite the reader’s imagination. Based in Shropshire, England, Carys lives with her husband, two guinea pigs and her adored canine companion Rollo.

When she’s not writing, Carys likes to indulge her inner geek by watching science- fiction films or playing video games.

She lists John Green, Jodi Picoult and Virginia Andrews as her favorite authors and draws inspiration for her own work from anything and everything.

To Carys, there is no greater feeling then when you lose yourself in a great story and it is that feeling of ultimate escapism which she tries to bring to her books.

For more information about Carys please visit http://www.carys-jones.com or follow her on Twitter; @tiny_dancer85

Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired by our books and Characters, Part 1

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Welcome, Readers!

The photo above, shows a Great Gatsby-inspired meal.  From the website, it states: Waldorf Salad in a lettuce cup, and deviled egg, photographed in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. http://www.denverpost.com.  I think it’s a great photo, and really sets the tone for what this blog series is about.

Today begins a month-long series, where some of my writerly friends and I will be sharing a little bit about our books, and recipes and foods which are inspired by them.  I intend to share a new post each week of October, highlighting an author or two, each time.

Planning this series was meaningful to me.  Foods and customs help to shape who we all are.  When writing, it’s important to include those types of things, because it helps create character depth, and brings a more intimate knowledge of the story to light.  When I read a novel, I want to feel like I live with those characters for a while.  This blog series is an attempt to bring you, the Reader, closer to living within the pages of our novels.  Join us!

For the first post in the series, I introduce you to J.M. Frey, the author of The Accidental Turn Series.  Here she is, posting in her own words.

 

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Bevel Dom’s Questing Cuisine

by J.M. Frey

One of the most fun parts of world building is figuring out the cuisines of the world. What grows in this climate? What is their staple grain? How often do they go to market? What kind of growing season do they get? Do they trade with neighbors, or neighboring counties, or neighboring countries? Do the highborn eat the same foods as the peasantry? Who gets to hunt on what land, and what sort of creatures do they consider food-animals over pet-animals?

For my novels and novellas in The Accidental Turn series, I firmly established a world where bread, cheese, European-style fruits and root vegetables, and farmed meat were the standards of faire. But my rogue and roving heroes – Kintyre Turn and Bevel Dom – were more likely to live off the land. Venison, eel, dried fruit and nuts, and foraged potatoes were more their speed. And in a world were exotic spices were non-existent and everyone – everyone human that is – had a kitchen garden filled with the same herbs, Bevel kept a string of cylindrical tins attached to his sword belt, and the spice blends he’d wheedled out of centaur chefs and night elf kitchen maids were his greatest treasure.

In his seventeen years as a roaming sword-for-hire, Bevel developed several clever and ingenious ways to serve up road-rations and just-caught creatures to make them palatable to two hungry Heroes. Here is one of them:

Bevel, trying to break through the heavy atmosphere, hands one of the leaf-wrapped packages to me, and the other to Kintyre. Wordlessly, Kintyre holds it out to Pip, and Pip, equally wordlessly, takes it. I take my own from Bevel, accepting the temporary truce, and it is still hot; it singes my fingertips a little. It steams as I unwrap it, and I am pleased to see that it is a sort of roll made up of meat wrapped around dried fruit. It is juicy and delicious, and I realize how hungry I am on the first bite.

“We’ve been doing this part of adventuring wrong,” Pip moans around her own mouthful.

Bevel pinks again. “I’ve had a long time to practice. Luckily, Kin was willing to put up with my experimentation.”

 “And I’m lucky Bevel actually enjoys cooking and was willing to experiment,” Kin says around a mouthful. “We got sick of standard travel fare pretty quick.”

 

BEVEL’S SWEET MEAT ROLLS

  • Venison, pounded flat (rehydrated from salted jerky is fine, if you have the time to soak it for a few hours), at least the size of your hand.
  • Dried berries – plums, cranberries and raisins preferred – rehydrated by soaking them in whatever liquor you happen to have to hand. Soak them for at least an hour.
  • Some dried nuts, roasted in a pan over your cookfire, if you like.
  • Large, thick, non-poisonous leaves – an acceptable equivalent in the Overrealm would be Banana leaves. Tinfoil would also be acceptable.
  • A Centaur Sweet and Savory Spice Blend – the Overrealm equivalent would be cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, sea salt, white pepper, and thyme blended to taste.

 

Build up your camp fire in advance so that by the time you’ve prepared your rolls the embers are hot and cherry red.  Pour three handfuls of dried fruit into your travel cup and soak it with liquor – whiskey, sherry, or brandy work best. Wait until all the liquid has been absorbed into the fruit; while you’re doing that pound your cuts of meat flat and lay them on the leaves. Muddle and chop the fruit and nuts together, and spread a thin layer over the meat. Sprinkle with your spice blend. Roll the meat and fruit mixture like a scroll, fold the leaf around it (making sure to tuck in the edges to the fire doesn’t crisp them), and secure all with a bit of string soaked with water. Place the whole package on the edge of the fire, and leave for upwards of an hour, until the meat is at your preferred cooking level, or your companion is complaining of hunger. Serve with a trencher of bread if you have any. Potatoes, baked in the fire, work just as well.

Or, I suppose y0u could do it on the Barbeque, if you want to cheat.

*

J.M. is a voice actor, SF/F author, fanthropologist and professional smartypants on AMI Radio’s Live From Studio 5. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. She also has an addiction to scarves, Doctor Who, and tea, which may or may not all be related. Her life’s ambitions are to have stepped foot on every continent (only 3 left!) @scifrey | http://www.jmfrey.net/

You can find out more about Bevel Dom and The Accidental Turn series here.

 

Reflecting Back…Summer, 2016 Edition

Hello, Readers!  I thought I’d start off this post with a couple of songs that always seem to encapsulate this time of year for me.

Here’s Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/173302354″>DON HENLEY – THE BOYS OF SUMMER</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user38975022″>boris apaza</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Here’s another favorite for this time of year.  California Dreamin’ as performed by The Beach Boys:

Labor Day Weekend is always a bittersweet time of the year for me.  We have a lovely visit from family for a couple of days, then it’s back to school for all of us.  This morning as I write this, my third cup of is gone, and I reflect back on my sweet, yet at times bitter, Summer vacation.

For the most part, this was a fantastic Summer, as mentioned in a previous post.  I have a book coming out from REUTS Publications next Summer, and I now have a wonderful agent, Jessica Schmeidler of Golden Wheat Literary, who is absolutely fabulous.  When we had “the call”, it was as if all the pieces of my literary puzzle were somehow finding their way together, creating a more complete picture.  Like magic.  There is so much to look forward to!

Yet, in the paragraph above, I mentioned that this was a fantastic Summer “for the most part”.  This is because we suffered a loss, and that loss was felt not only by my family, but by the entire school community.  So, somewhere within this wonderful, magical summer, I also went through quite a bit of grief.  And now, with the end of Summer upon us and the start of school to begin, I find myself thinking about that loss again, wondering how we will get through that first day of school.  But we will.

Looking back, I learned (or, remembered…) a few things this Summer.

  1.  It might take a long time, but if you work steadily toward a goal, it will happen.
  2. I am capable of much more than I thought I was.
  3. Setting smaller goals and completing them keeps me on track.
  4.  Having Grit can get you through the hard times.
  5. When faced with tough times, family and friends help get you through.

As this new school year starts, my goal is to remember these little lessons.  This Summer was a good one for reminders!

How was your Summer?  What new goals might you have for Autumn?  Do you have any favorite songs for this time of the year?  Leave a comment!  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

A Writer’s Roller Coaster Ride, 2.0

roller coaster

Welcome, Readers!

Thank you for stopping by my Writer’s Block! A few years ago, I posted on the topic of the writer’s roller coaster ride. I had just entered a contest, and earned a spot in the mentor and agent rounds.  It was HUGE!!!  Today, I write about this topic again, this time through the lens of an author with a book deal.  The emotions I go through are detailed below, on this Writer’s Roller Coaster Ride I am currently on.  I love it, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!  Maybe you have experienced some of these on your own writing journey.

DISBELIEF:  As many of you know, the process of submitting a book to agents and publishers is filled with twists and turns, and a lot of disappointment.  When I received the offer of publication from REUTS, I almost could not believe it.  I had gotten to know the team a bit through the years, and I hoped deep down that my book would find its home with them.  When it finally happened, it took a while for it to sink in.

PRIDE:  This really speaks for itself.  When a writer gets positive feedback of any kind, be it from a critique partner, a literary agent, or a publisher, the pride swells.  And that’s okay!  Enjoy it!  Revel in it!  Get ready for the next steps in your writer’s journey.  The day I saw the official press release about my novel in Publisher’s Marketplace and on the REUTS blog, I knew it was really happening!  My heart swelled!  I love my publishing team at REUTS, and know that my book baby is in the best of hands.

SELF-DOUBT:  I think as writers, we are very comfortable with self-doubt.  We know it well, and consider ourselves friends.  I say that in a jokingly sort of way, but truthfully, writers see so much in the way of “N0-thank-you’s” that we sometimes wonder if we are up to the tasks in front of us.  Eventually we do grow more comfortable with self doubt.  Now, as an author with REUTS, I still have my own doubts.  I think about upcoming revisions and marketing my book, and wonder what those processes will be like.  But through all of the wondering, I know I have an amazing support system in place; my family, friends, and my publisher are all part of my cheering section.

TRUST:  Trust can be tricky for writers.  We spend so much with our stories and characters while we write them.  It can be tough to see their world as anything different than what we envision in our own minds.  But part of the writing process includes trusting people with our book babies. It’s through the eyes of others that writers can create a more complete, fulfilling novel for our readers.  Through the years, I have grown more and more comfortable asking for criticism and critique from people.  I write about that topic a little bit here.  I also get more comfortable with trust by helping others sculpt their own novels.  There is something empowering about that. (see below)

EMPOWERMENT:   The feeling of empowerment is also a tough thing for a writer, or any creative artist, to feel.  We are always looking for what’s wrong with our work so we can fix it.  Sometimes we can’t ever get to the point where we believe it’s any good.  When writers learn to trust themselves with the writing process, and others with advice as they help you sculpt your book into a work of art, that’s when the magic happens.  Your book takes on a life of its own.  With that magic, comes empowerment.  It took me a while to understand this, but it’s okay to step back, look at your novel, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

PEACE:  Peace for me as a writer comes and goes.  Self doubt rears it’s ugly head from time to time, but then fades away as my novel writing progresses.  Peace with the writing process comes and goes.  I need to remember to embrace it when it comes, and get excited when I meet little goals!

ANXIOUSNESS:  This is where I am currently at on this roller coaster ride toward publication.  As I write this post,  I am super anxious and excited at what lies ahead for my book baby.  I appreciative the incredible support system of my family, friends, and publisher, REUTS.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

I love comments!  Please feel free to comment below, or share your experiences with your own writer’s roller coaster ride.

My Post-Conference High

 

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Greetings!

I just got home from a writer’s conference, and it was a good one.  I thought I might share some of the awesomeness with you all.  First, a little bit of background:

I heard about the Lakefly Literary conference in OshKosh, Wisconsin on Twitter a few months ago, when one of my good Twitter friends posted about it.  My thought at the time:  Sounds like fun!  I wish I could go!

Then I went online, and read about the lineup of workshops and presenters.  I admit that I was not familiar with the presenters.  They seemed to be local to Wisconsin, and here I am in Northern New York.  But the workshops seemed to be just what I needed, especially the one about making a marketing plan.  Also, the price point couldn’t be beat.  But the final thing that tipped the cart for me was the fact that several of my Twitter friends would be there, live and in person, and what an opportunity it would be to meet face to face.

So I booked my conference and flight to Wisconsin!

The Lakefly Literary Conference is still pretty young, only in its 4th year.  It is small enough for an out-of-stater like me to feel welcomed, yet offers enough of what I was looking for to really make it worthwhile.

Ruth Percey, who runs the OshKosh library, puts the event on along with several other folks, and they really went out of their way to make sure that the offerings met our needs.  By the end of the conference, she knew me by name! I left there with a great feeling of accomplishment.  Being able to meet and hang out with authors and publishers is a special thing.  There were many opportunities to browse books of all sorts, and even have them signed.  New friends were made, and folks I had only known in the Interwebs suddenly became real people.

So here I sit, in my Post Conference high.  I look forward to using the information I gathered at #Lakefly16.  Feels good!

Anyone else going to a writing conference?  Have you been to any good ones recently?  Feel free to share in the comments!

 

Book Review: Hide The Elephant by Jonathan Dunne

EXTRA, EXTRA!!!  HIDE THE ELEPHANT RELEASES TOMORROW!!!

It’s not every day that this North Country Girl is afforded the opportunity to read an advance copy of one of her favorite author’s upcoming novels, so when Jonathan Dunne, author of Balloon Animals, Living Dead Lovers and The Nobody Show, asked me if I would be willing, I jumped at the chance.  I have interviewed Mr. Dunne a number of times (just click on the book titles just above for more information about him), and our conversations always have surprises in store.

What follows is my review of HIDE THE ELEPHANT, the upcoming release from dark humorist Jonathan Dunne.  I hope you keep an eye out for it.  It’s a real gem!

HIDE THE ELEPHANT by Jonathan Dunne: Expect The Unexpected

Any fan of Jonathan Dunne will come to expect certain things when he releases a new novel.  They will expect to be entertained.  They will expect to be startled at its many oddities.  And they will expect a dark humor that only Jonathan Dunne can deliver.  But if his new book has proven anything to me, it is that with Jonathan Dunne, the reader has to expect the unexpected.

I am a fan of Mr. Dunne’s novel’s.  I have been from the first moment I read a single page of his first book.  From Balloon Animals, to Living Dead Lovers, to The Nobody Show, I have grown accustomed to his dark yet unbelievably funny scenarios that split my sides from the laughter.  But in his latest work, HIDE THE ELEPHANT, Mr. Dunne shows us a side to his writing that I believe will further cement him in my arsenal of writer’s whose works are not to be missed.

Like his previous novels, Jonathan Dunne artfully pulls the reader into the world of his main character.  He does this by addressing The Reader directly in the text from time to time, which may seem taboo, but I find it charming.  You become part of the story in this way.  Also, like his other works, the setting is often something from way out in left field, but always in Ireland.

HIDE THE ELEPHANT has something different, though, in that the plot was incredibly sweet, almost heart-wrenching at times.  Our hero, Mick Munroe, is a zoo keeper, spending the better part of forty years caring for an Indian Elephant at the zoo.  When Altzheimer’s Disease begins to take its toll on Mick’s memory, he is forced into early retirement.

HIDE THE ELEPHANT tells the story of Mick and his elephant, Sinbad, as they escape from captivity; Mick’s captivity, in the form of senility, and Sinbad’s, in the form of literal bars.  With nothing to lose, they take off on an adventure across Ireland to find freedom.  And this Reader found herself admiring the way that Mr. Dunne mirrored Mick’s life with that of Sinbad’s.  It was beautiful to see how the two captives leaned on each other for support, through all of the tough times, lucid or otherwise.

This is not to say that humor is lacking in HIDE THE ELEPHANT.  There are plenty of places where poor Mick struggles just to get through the crazy thing his life has become, oh, mercy!  And his Snicker’s-eating elephant is quite delightful at times.  To put it bluntly, this book has something for just about everyone.

Not to be overlooked is my other favorite thing about Jonathan Dunne’s novels, which are his references to the places and character’s from his previous novels.  I really like the cameo of Arthur Lawless from The Nobody Show, as well as the mentions of other citizens of Old Castle and Limerick City.  These references pull The Reader further into the world of Dunne’s mind.  Brilliant.

In my previous reviews for Mr. Dunne’s books, I encourage the readers of my reviews to check out his work.  But this time, I would also mention that Jonathan Dunne has now shown that he is a writer who is evolving, embracing more sensitive issues, and doing so with finesse.  I look forward to my next Jonathan Dunne read, although after this one, I really can’t imagine what to expect from him next!