Thursday, December 30, 2010

So, I finished Wish Thief--now what?

What am I reading right now? Tempestuous (Lesley Livingston)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Holy twisty-turny plot drama!!
This is the third and final in the series; I seriously think each one got better.

Now, about WISH THIEF
1. I finished the story
2. Had some other people read it
3. Got feedback.
The verdict is in and it is (drum roll, please) "It needs more work."
I know, not a shocker, but it's nice to have people give their opinions to help you narrow down the many options for revision.

A month ago, I attended the national conference for the National Council of Teachers of English and listened to as many authors as I could. Susan Campbell Bartoletti talked about how she researches and collects ideas for her books as she writes, but she doesn't outline until after the first draft. So, that's what I'm going to do with WISH THIEF.

I've been looking at an outline of what I want in the story, and now I'm working at filling in the gaps. (And between you and me there is this one that is pretty big.)

Here's my current revision list:
Foreshadow the theme earlier
Add in some more minor scenes of the problem
Rework the time flow (here's the major one)

Funny thing is, I really like revision. Off to play . . .

Ahhhh-choooo. That's how I've been saying bye for about a week now :)

Monday, December 27, 2010


What am I reading now? Crescendo (Becca Fitzpatrick)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? From murder to steamy kisses to dumped in 50 pages. Hang on it's going to move fast.

The new year is coming right up. I mean right up! Am I the only one here who is a little surprised that 2010 was only half as long as a usual year? I know I needed a little more time to get things done.

So, it's time to start my list for resolutions. Here goes:

1. Eat less. Or eat less while reading. Or eat less chocolate while reading. (Yes, I know "less" is a relative term and of course I'll be unbiased and completely honest.)

2. Save money. Or save money by buying items on sale. Or save money by buying more books on sale. (I may have to double my book budget.)

3. Exercise. Or exercise daily. (Uh-oh. This one sounds serious. What to do? Got it.) Or exercise restraint daily. (whew)

I'll keep looking for a few more. How about you--are you resoluting this year?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Berry Tart

What am I reading now? Darklight (Lesley Livingston)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far?
Two things.
One: Love it that this book doesn't have a love triangle!!
And two: I'm just past the info dump that books in a series always start with. Here's a idea--why not include the info dump in a separate place, like in a forward, so the rest of us don't start the second book by hating the recap. Right, this comment is not specific to this book and the publisher made her do it and maybe someone bought the second book first and this will help them get the story.
Just sayin'.

Because my husband's family has diabetes sprinkled around here and there, I try to make a few things that cut carbs. Here's one of them:

Berry Tart
graham cracker crust (I know--sugary! but the rest of this is an improvement on carbs)
2 cups vanilla yogurt (I look for fat-free and low-sugar)
1 pkg sugar free white chocolate pudding (the little one)
1 cup water
1 package Raspberry Ice Crystal Light (the cup that makes 2 quarts of drink)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups frozen raspberries
2 cups frozen blackberries

Mix yogurt and pudding together and pour into pie crust and chill in the freezer just until the next step is done.

Combine water and Crystal Light, mix in cornstarch and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Remove from heat when it thickens and stir in frozen fruit. Pour atop pudding. Refrigerate.

Serving Suggestion: Surround pie tin with garland and taper candles as part of the centerpiece for your table or buffet. You'll love the pretty dark red color of this tart. Makes a nice alternative to pumpkin and pecan pie after dinner.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Baklava Bundles

So what am I reading now? Wondrous Strange (Lesley Livingston)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Just finished this one and will start the next in this series today--yeah, I liked it! The twisty turn of events near the end kept me guessing.

The holiday treats continue!
Baklava Bundles
1 roll Pillsbury crescent sheet
1 small can mandarin orange slices
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon soft butter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup honey
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Stretch crescent sheet and cut into 12 squares. Mix filling together. Place 1 heaping teaspoon in middle of a square and fold the corners into the middle. Pinch them together in a knot with a little water to secure, leaving the edges open to vent. Pinch new outside corners.

Bake for 12 minutes then cool.

Microwave syrup ingredients. Drizzle over bundles and top with orange slices.

Serving Suggestion: Enjoy these treats filled with Middle-eastern flavors while reading the story of Christ's birth.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Baked Chocolate Cups

Hmmm. Do you think I have too may recipes with chocolate? Yeah, me neither.

What am I reading now? Entice (Carrie Jones)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? I liked "Need", first in this series. Enjoyed "Captivate" more than the first. Really couldn't say I was sorry to see Nick leave the story. Enter Astley. Mmm and dangerous. Just starting this book--with high hopes.

Baked Chocolate Cups
20 ounces good chocolate (melt in microwave 30 sec., stir, 20 sec., stir, 10 sec., stir)
1/4 c. sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 c. softened butter
4 eggs (separate yolks and whites)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Vanilla Cream Sauce (recipe below)

Stir together sugar, flour and butter. Combine with chocolate, yolks and vanilla. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into chocolate mixture.

Butter 1-cup baking dishes and dust with cocoa powder. Pour in chocolate mixture and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Allow to cool a few minutes and invert on dessert plates. Surround with Vanilla Cream Sauce and sprinkle with raspberries.

Serving Suggestion:
Invite a few friends over. Turn on a little background music of your favorite Christmas songs. Relax and enjoy each other's company while nibbling on this smooth chocolate treat.

Vanilla Cream Sauce
1/2 c. sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 c. water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
Mix together and boil over medium heat for f5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla and dash of salt. Cool completely. Fold in whipped cream and serve.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Goopy Popcorn Balls

What am I reading right now? Last Sacrifice (Richelle Mead) Yes, I know it is a banned book. (In its defense, it was banned before it was even written!)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far? I have really enjoyed this series! In the last book: character reveals, crazy schemes, dangerous road trips, unlikely allies, betrayal, passion, gunshot and the world of the dead. Not exactly the ending I imagined for Rose, but it seems right for her. Oh, and put "Bloodlines" on the wish list.

Here's the next holiday recipe installment.

Goopy Popcorn Balls
1/4 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Popcorn with kernels removed (3 batches microwave or 2 batches hot air)

Stir constantly. Bring the first four ingredients to a boil on medium heat. Continue stirring until it reaches soft ball stage.**

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and pour over popcorn. Let it cool a bit then butter your hands to form the balls.

Serving Suggestion:
Add a bell ornament to your Christmas tree and watch "It's a Wonderful Life" while eating goopy popcorn balls.

**I don't use a candy thermometer. After the carmel becomes thick, I put cold water in a mug and drop some from a teaspoon. Then I roll it into a ball and lift it out of the water. If it flattens a bit (but doesn't drip off my finger) it is ready.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Minty-Chocolate Indecency

What am I reading now? Peasant Queen (Cheri Chesley)

Annnd . . . how do I like it so far? I like Krystal's personality: spunky, resourceful, caring. She's stuck in an engagement to the town idiot, but considers her options and makes a choice that will be hard, revealing her courage and strength. She doesn't actually get to put her choice into action. Because she's kidnapped. Yes, there is a love story in here--with a few glitches.

Here's a great recipe for all of you who like hot chocolate.

Minty-Chocolate Indecency
6 cups milk
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag white chocolate chips (if you use milk chocolate only use 1/2 bag of these--too sweet!)
scant 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
sugar to taste (1-2 tablespoons)

Whip cream and cocoa powder to stiff peaks. Add sugar to taste.

Combine milk, peppermint extract and both bags of chips, Warm over low head and stir constantly until melted and combined. Do not boil.

Serving Suggestion:
Turn off all the lights, except the ones on the Christmas tree, and serve hot with chocolate-y whipped cream on top.
Happy Recipe Countdown to Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let's Do 'Launch'

What am I reading now? Matched (Ally Condie)
Annnd . . . how do I like it so far? Finished it in two sittings--kinda hard to put down. Okay, I didn't really try to but I'm sure it would have been. ;) Since I'm not a masochist I did the easy thing and satisfied my curiosity. Read. Read. Read.

I attended two launch parties for friends with new books out. Ally Condie's party was at the Provo Library with a packed house, standing room only.

Ally's book, Matched, was listed on the New York Times Best Sellers list for chapter books for Dec. 19th. Woohoo! It couldn't have happened to a nicer person.

So, have you read the book?

You should.

It starts off with wonder and adventure for a girl on the verge of adulthood. (And you know there is a 'but' coming) But she finds that the life she thought she would have, a life that would be perfect, isn't possible in her world. In fact, there are things she discovers and mysteries that change who she thinks she is, who her family members are and how she fits into her society. No spoilers here. Read it.

Also, Cheri Chesley had the launch for her book, Peasant Queen. This is the next book on my bedside table.

What is on your list to read next?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Teachers' Book Club

What am I reading now? Agent in Old Lace (Tristi Pinkston)
Annnd . . . what do I think so far? I'm in the middle, so I'm dying to know what happens with the romance and is the danger she is in going to peak soon. It's a little tense right now.
By the way--Tristi Pinkston is hosting an absolutely huge contest over on her blog to celebrate the release of her new book, "Dearly Departed." A new prize will be offered every twenty-four hours, books, jewelry, perfume, movies, and the grand prize is a free night's stay at the Lion Gate Manor in Lava Hot Springs. Visit Tristi's blog for rules and more details.
(I'm giving the Kindle app on my phone another go with this book. It is kind of weird turning pages every 3 or 4 paragraphs, but it is great that I always have several books in my purse. Stuck in the doctors office? Read. Waiting for a family member? Read. Happiness!)

So, we started a really fun thing this year. We have a book club class for teachers to get familiar with Young Adult literature generally, and Utah authors specifically. Sixty people joined the club--how fun is that! We will have 7 sessions this year, and we've already had two.

In each session, we talk a bit about improving literacy instruction, discuss the book in small groups, have a fabulous dessert and have a Q&A with the author.

In September, Chris Crowe came to our group to talk about his book "Getting Away With Murder". I had never heard the story of Emmet Till before, and was intrigued by the tragic and pivotal role he played in the Civil Rights movement.

In November, Lisa Mangum gave us the inside scoop on writing "The Hourglass Door." It's a fun twist on science fiction and time travel. It was the second time I had a chance to read it. The first time was just for enjoyment. The second time, I read to consider the story from the perspective of the target audience. Yes--I think girls 14-16 (or anyone who like YA) will love this.
The lesson for this session was about how we make reading plans to increase our understanding while we read. Click here for a copy of the Alpine Reading Process Chart to use to think about reading purposes and plans.

Here's a sneak peek for what's coming for us.
January: "Matched" by Ally Condie
February: "Wolves, Boys and Other Things that Might Kill Me" by Kristen Chandler
March: "Wings" by Aprilynne Pike (I know we're stretching the 'Utah Author' thing but she has connections here)
April: "Wrong Number" by Rachelle Christensen

Ooh, I can hardly wait for each of these discussions! There is nothing better than great books, awesome people and lots of chocolate to make an enjoyable evening.