Saturday, April 30, 2011

This Week in Food: Tres Leches

I've skipped a few "weeks" here, I know, and I'll probably skip a few more with moving and everything. (It doesn't follow that we're not eating, just not as much time to experiment for reasons you well know.) We've gotta dwindle down our food supply!

Alas! Tres leches, or Three Milk Cake [Tres = three, leches = milk (in Spanish)]. It comes from the Latin American region of our globe, and it is absolutely delicious!

This isn't my photo - I forgot to take my own - but it looks the same.
Wait, who am I kidding, their photo would be so much better than
 mine anyway!

Here's the gist: combine heavy cream, condensed milk, and evaporated milk, and pour mixture over a sponge cake - let cake absorb. Top with whipped topping and serve chilled. Variants include cream of coconut instead of condensed milk and some even add Dulce de Leche as a fourth milk. Despite the (ahem) healthy contents, the dessert is deceptively light...and dangerously good. To give you some idea, it has a sort of custard/flan type flavor.

Happy eating...and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Now, if you haven't read The Maze Runner (you can read my review here) and have even the slightest hope of doing so, I might suggest you stop reading this.

Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Ready? Here goes.

It's taken me a few days to figure out what to say. On the one hand, I couldn't put this book down. But on the other hand...(I have five more fingers, yes, I know) it took more of an apocalyptic turn.

The Scorch Trials picks up right where The Maze Runner leaves off. The boys (and Teresa) are safe and being cared for by the strangers that rescued them. Except the sense of safety lasts maybe two pages before you're thrust into yet another mind-boggling, unending sense of hopelessness with the realization that this "safety net" was all a ploy, just another part of the Trials. There is something even greater, something more dangerous, they have to endure - all in the name of saving the human race from total destruction.

Their next mission: to walk north 100 miles to a new "safe-haven". Sounds easy, right? Well, maybe I should mention the 100 miles is across barren wasteland scorched into oblivion by solar flares, equipped with magnificent electrical storms with no place for you to hide, unbearable and blinding heat, and diseased zombie-humans on the prowl.

I don't feel I can give an adequate review beyond this point. Mainly because I'm not a fan of zombies and I hate being scared. That being said, this book wasn't the kind that left me waking up in the middle of the night thinking every shadow was a zombie (and, consequently, making me attack my dog). No, no, no. Despite fearing whatever monstrosity lurked on the next page, I simply HAD to turn it ("click" for you Kindle readers). I had to know what was going to happen next. With all the unanswered questions, thrilling pace, plot twists, I had to go on.

Needless to say, by the end I was exhausted, worried I was going to slowly mutate into a zombie. Well, not really. But, if you like dystopian/zombie/apocalyptic novels, definitely give these a try. Even though this particular blend isn't my favorite, I'll still read the third and final installment of his series, The Death Cure which will be released October 11, 2011.

Happy reading!

***If you like YA Fantasy, check out my book, GAIA'S SECRET. The sequel is coming soon!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

UPDATE: The Big Move

*cues 2001 Space Odyssey theme (also known as Sprach Zarathustra, op. 30 by Richard Strauss)*

First of all, if you haven't clicked on the above link, you should do so. Now.

Second. WE'RE MOVING IN A MONTH! *looks at calendar* *sweats*

Some of you might recall us saying we weren't leaving for the dry, cactus-strewn lands of Arizona until August. (I'm fully aware of the insanity of moving to a desert in August, thank you.)


I got an awesome job. And it starts June 20th.

Aside of the time crunch, we believe it has worked out for the best. This way, Ben and I aren't embarking on "new roles" at the same time. Ben graduates end of May with a Magna Cum Laude in Biological Sciences (SO proud of him!...can't believe how fast it's gone by), we pack up our POD, and drive to our apartment first week in June. He starts Dental School end of August.

We'll be living in Glendale, AZ - 15 minutes northwest of Phoenix - and already have our new address, so if you'd like it, let us know! We'll also have a guest bedroom/bath and LOVE visitors. Seriously. The refrigerator will be stocked and even if you only want to sleep there, we're fine with that, too! Did I mention how much we love visitors? We also understand if you'd like to restrict your visitation rights to the winter months. Neither of us blames you.

Until then, let the chaos begin! And please forgive us for any delay in responses. I assure you, it's only temporary.

*Did you know that Strauss's Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, written in 1896, was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical treatise of the same name

Friday, April 22, 2011

Samson & the Cone of Shame

Think YOU had a bad day? He just had his "boys" removed :(


Ms. Tahereh Mafi, author of the upcoming novel SHATTER ME, has some great things to say on writing series.

You can read about it here:


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Your MC Lives a Parallel Life...

...and it's through you.

A little over a year ago I read The Writer's Journey:  Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Volger. Perhaps some of you have heard of it or read it for yourselves. It was an interesting book that focused on the parallels between the journeys of our fictional "heroes" and our own. At the time, I thought the concept was simply interesting, nothing more. Of course, at that point, I was at the starting line, squinting my eyes through the shadows of an unknown forest, preparing for what "could" happen. Even though sections of the dirt trail were hidden behind monstrous trees and thick underbrush, I could still follow its general direction. And, I packed my backpack accordingly: Camelback, granola, trail mix, poncho, extra socks, GPS, and two cans of OFF. Mosquitoes? Just try and bite me! What I failed to see was the abrupt turn in the trail, you know, the one that leads through a dark cave and into forbidden lands where monsters and armored foes carrying battle axes dwell?

I should've seen it coming. I mean, come on, Christopher Volger warned me.

In his book, he talks about the archetypes you meet (ie hero, mentor, threshold guardian, shapeshifter, etc). But, what I want to focus on is the journey he talks about. Each stage is in bold.

The Ordinary World. It's where you (and your MC) came from, that safe (and boring) state of being in which your subconscious drips like a faucet in your ear saying, "There must be something greater." You can't shut it off, and it prevents you from ever being satisfied. Drip...drip...drip...

Then, you get the Call to Adventure. That idea pops into your head. Wait, no. It plants itself in your head, wraps thick roots around your brain and refuses to leave. You can't stop thinking about it, nor can you stop thinking about the wonderful people you just met in your head. (Don't worry, you're not schizophrenic.) Oh yeah, sure. It seems exciting at the time. "There IS something more!" You say. 

But then you dwell on it and...Refusal of the Call. Self doubt creeps in. You tell yourself you don't have what it takes, you're overwhelmed. You don't have time, nor the skill--what were you thinking? Maybe you've even started outlining your plot and you drowned in the details. You compare yourself to the masters and think, "Who the heck do I think I am, trying to write a book?!" But that idea still lingers in your head, pommeling against your skull, and, for those of you reading this, it has probably won over your fears (and given you a massive headache).

You Meet with a Mentor. You've decided you're going for it. The nagging won't stop and besides, you're tired of the ordinary world. But, you need support. You need guidance, encouragement, and training, and you may find all of that through blogs, critique partners, writing workshops, conferences, reading, etc. 

All of that enables you to Cross the Threshold into actually writing your story. (Go pat yourself on the back for being so prepared.)

(And, for all intensive purposes, let's exchange the word "writer" with "fighter".)

Test, Allies, Enemies. It's not as easy to categorize as it seems. The lines may be blurred. People you thought were allies turn out to be enemies, and vice verse. You fight little skirmishes along the way--with yourself, with others. You meet other fighters, talk to other fighters, trying to make sense of what's next. You trudge through the murk and mire, holding that sword (manuscript) in your hands (sometimes others salvage it out of the mud for you)...and, voila! You've done it! You're so happy. You wrote a book and out world, here you come!

And you're feeling pretty good about yourself, too. You've made some friends, learned so much you didn't know (and, hello?! Finished a book!). So, you continue on your Approach to the Inmost Cave, head held high, beaming from ear to ear. 

You poor, little sap you.

The Ordeal.
They were waiting for you on the other side. You didn't see them coming, but they were there, hiding in the weeds, blades glimmering in the sun. And that gigantic, scaled dragon breathing fire? Yeah, he's real. But there's no turning back now. You already put yourself out there and your escape is sealed. Those that accompanied you are watching, giving advice all the way. Some of it's helpful, like your ally saying, "Go for the dragon's underbelly!...That's it. Good move!" But some of those "fellow fighters" you thought were allies, actually turn on you. "You know, I never told you this before, but you really look ridiculous with a sword. I'm a little surprised the dragon hasn't eaten you yet." Or, "You're an embarrassment, your movements are stiff and formulaic. Go back to where you came from and let us experts handle the rest. Next." Their taunting hurts you worse than the huge gash on your leg where the dragon clawed you. 

You hope to make it out alive, because if you do, you'll attain your Reward. Whether it's finding an agent, getting published, or simply having a product you're proud of, there's a sense of fulfillment. You made it...alive. You've got battle scars--heck, you may even be missing an arm--but you're alive.

The Road Back to your ordinary world is different. You may encounter some more skirmishes, but those are nothing compared to the battle you just fought. You found out who your real allies were along the way, too. Besides, you got what you came for, and that will help you deal with the rest.

You're a changed person now, you've been Resurrected. You've gone through the gauntlet, and you've come out a new man with a new perspective (and less appendages). Your skins as impenetrable as body armor and what you've learned is invaluable.

Now, you can Return with [the] Elixir: your final product. And, your life will never be the same.

See, you're not so different from your MC, are you? 

How do some of your paths resemble that of your MC? Are there any "dragons" that took you by surprise? And, how did you survive/are surviving "The Ordeal"?

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

It seems I've been on a "dystopian" kick lately and need to fix that so I don't turn myself into a conspiracy theorist. That being said, I intend to go straight to this book's sequel, The Scorch Trials, before switching genres. But first, let's talk about The Maze Runner.

Thomas wakes up in a elevator shaft. His memory has been wiped clean; he can't remember his age, where he came from, or his family. All he can remember is his first name. The elevator stops, the doors open, and the story unfolds.

He's trapped in the heart of a maze with other teenage boys, some of which have survived there for a couple years. There are four "doors" that lead from their Homestead into the maze. Every day, a select group of boys, called "runners", runs into the maze in hopes of solving it. And, every night, the "doors" close--their only protection from the monsters that dwell inside the maze. The Maze Runner follows Thomas and his inexplicable need to be a "runner" as he struggles to solve the puzzle before the monsters kill the lot of them.

This book held me captivated to the very end! The pacing was so perfect it was borderline tiresome, and Dashner's world-building was incredibly thorough and "believable". If I could compare this to anything, I would say it's like a cross between Ender's Game and Lord of the Flies. download the sequel! Where's my Kindle? :)

***If you like YA Fantasy, check out my book, GAIA'S SECRET. The sequel is coming soon!

Iron Fey Announcement!

Oh, I'm so happy! Ms. Kagawa announced this week that, prior to the last installment of her marvelous Iron Fey series, she will be releasing an e-novella. This one will be told from the perspective of our favorite Puck, and will be entitled: Summer's Crossing.

To be released this October. (The Iron Knight will be released in November.) Go check the good news out for yourself!
Summer's Crossing

Thanks Julie!
*twiddles thumbs in anticipation*

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Writers' Conferences and Such...

For those of you that have been, you know how excellent they are. For those of you that haven't, you should at least try and go to one. Yesterday, I attended the Reno Writers' Conference. It is a "smaller" conference, but the upside of that is the environment is more intimate (not to mention, they're more affordable) and there are more opportunities to talk with the speakers (ie agents/editors/etc).

At this conference, we had some awesome speakers like Chuck Sambuchino from Guide to Literary Agents, and agents Gordon WarnockLindsey Clemons, and Verna Dreisbach that made themselves available for a session of questions from the audience (thank you!). (Which, by the way, if you're reading this, chances are you also read agent/editor blogs. And, if you go to conferences, you'll be surprised at some of the questions agents are asked. A quick internet search would solve a lot of them...)

I know, I know, we can find everything on the internet these days. But nothing compares to meeting people face to face. And, what I find to be the most valuable aspect of attending conferences is the encouragement I gain. Meeting other writers is difficult. Let's face it, most of us are hermits. We don't make ourselves readily accessible to meet others in general, let alone find other "hermits" to conspire with (unless you're lucky enough to meet great people through blogs and forums!). But at conferences, you meet all sorts of writers that are at different stages in the game. You're unified in your struggles, unified in your passions. You're motivated by those around you, all striving towards a similar goal. You glean inspiration from their hope. The speakers share their journey, and you are reminded that there truly isn't one way towards publication, if that is your goal. And, they remind you to enjoy the journey. You have to. The publishing industry moves at "glacial speed", so if you aren't enjoying the ride there, you'll freeze to death. Well, not literally, but you get the point.

Here are four "take-aways" from the conference that stuck with me that I wanted to share with you:

1) No matter what happens, always remember why you are writing.
2) Are you feeling frustrated about writing lately? That's okay. Remember this: "People that don't have any ambition aren't frustrated". (Thanks David Stipech!)
3) Do not put all your eggs in one basket. The first question a prospective agent will ask you is: "What else are you writing?"
4) You want to know how to get published? Write. Your success as a writer is directly proportional to the amount of time you spend writing.

For those of you that have attended a writers' conference, what are some of the things you learned and how were you encouraged?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Familiar" is a Lame Adjective

This is my motto for the week. And now, I'll explain.

First off, I must say this: editors are incredible human beings. No, really. They are. I think they should get a special place in heaven. They see things we can't, point it out in a coherent, constructive, concise way, and then teach you how to prevent it from happening again. What you do after that is on your head.

Secondly, I've decided that in order to be a writer, you must truly be a masochist. I mean, how many people do you know want to get beaten senseless, and then actually enjoy the broken bones and bruises? Yeah, thought so. We are an odd bunch.

But the grounds for this post is brought on by one of those fabulous creatures called an editor. Everyone says "show, don't tell", and you may sit, minding your own business, typing away merrily, wondering exactly what that means. You may even think you have a good grasp on the concept. I thought I did. Lesson learned: never assume you know anything. Ever. And certainly don't over-use lame adjectives like "familiar", which I have done.

When you use a word like that, particularly in your first chapter when readers don't know anything about your MC or setting, familiar means nothing. Familiar to what? And why should you care? This is a wasted opportunity. If I tell you a door is familiar, that's it. I've told you. You have no emotional tie to that door or understanding of that memory what-so-ever. It can't possibly be familiar to you. But if I tell you that the gargoyle knocker on the door hangs lower than I remember, and I never liked how its iron eyes follow me everywhere, you've suddenly experienced it yourself. It is now familiar to you, because I've shown you how it's familiar. If I tell you someone has a soft, familiar voice, again, I've just told you. But what's familiar about it? How does it make the MC feel? Does it elicit any memories? By noting the elements that are familiar and the effect it has on the MC and/or supporting cast, the reader is suddenly able to relate and make that observation their own.

Now, these are just a couple examples, but I feel that every example helps. Even though we hear the concept of "show, don't tell" all the time, it is still important to remember how valuable of a tool it is. It's how we pull readers into our story. It's how we make them care about our MC, understand who he/she is, and believe that he/she is real. It's how we make them have no choice but to follow our hero/heroine into the next chapter, and every subsequent chapter. And it all starts with something so simple, yet so difficult to master. Little words like "familiar" aren't always lame words to use, but they can be wasted opportunities to develop your characters and the setting around them.

How do some of you battle out the "show, don't tell" problems?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Some Irresistible and Stylish Awards...

A big "thanks" goes out to Christine Arnold for passing on the Irresistibly Sweet Award, and to Sari Webb for handing me the Stylish Blogger Award! But now, I guess  I'm supposed to mention seven things about myself.

Hmm...(stop yawning!)

1. I need at least one cup of coffee every day to function.
2. I never experienced an allergic reaction until last summer...when I purchased (and used) Costco's body wash.
3. Cold and rainy weather is my favorite climate. Did you know that I'm moving to Phoenix this summer?
4. I'm not Italian, but I wish I was.
5. All my life I was insecure about my height of 5'9". Then I met my 6'5" husband (the love of my life).
6. I've played the piano since I was 5 years old. Classically trained. But I can't write a piece to save my life.
7. My love for my dog has extended itself to all creatures. If I find a bug in the house, instead of killing it, I put it back outside.

NOW! The important part. Paying it forward! These are some blogs you guys should definitely check out--they discuss all of our favorite things. Like writing, writing, and more writing!

I'd like to pass on the Irresistibly Sweet Award to Sari Webb at Confessions of an Aspiring Author. She posts a lot of interesting blogs about writing and publishing.

Also, to Beth Polluck at Of Muses and Meringues. She blogs about my three favorite things: writing, traveling, and food.

 And, I'd like to pass on the Stylish Blogger Award to Becky Wallace at What's your thought on that? She's always got a great attitude and blogs a lot about the writing process.

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