Friday, December 18, 2015

Taste of Magic Blog Hop

It's the 3rd Friday of the month and that means Taste of Magic!

Something literary and something culinary.

You can join in the fun here!

For my literary this week, I decided that I would go with something a little different. I'm going to share the two books that I bought for all my friends as gifts this Holiday Season!

In no particular order, I bring them to you:

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and break the cycle once and for all.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Both debuts and both kept me up ALL NIGHT. If you rob me of sleep, I am going to be sharing your books! So, so very amazing. I had to spread the love and the best way to do that is to gift, gift, gift.

Now, on to culinary.

One of my favorite things about Christmas was the trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house. All the cousins, aunts, and uncles spending the day together. Grandma's cooking and baking.

My grandma has been gone for 15 years now. I still have moments where I miss her so much it's a physical ache. So, every year I pull out her old recipes and try to create a little of that magic.

I used to eat these until my stomach hurt because she only made them once a year. (I'm trying to sub coconut oil for paraffin wax this year because it doesn't seem healthy to consume that wax - even though I've been doing it for decades.)

Grandma’s Buttercreams

1 lb. confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
½ stick of butter
¼ c. cream (scant)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt

Knead until creamy. Make balls and chill until hard.

Melt together ½ lb semi-sweet baker’s chocolate and 1 inch off box of paraffin wax.

Dip balls in mix while hot and put on wax paper. Refrigerate to harden.

One of the best things about Grandma's old recipes: simplicity. You just cannot beat simple and tasty!

Hop on over to Alexia here and B.E. Sanderson here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Taste of Magic Blog Hop

I'm participating once a month in Alexia Chamberlynn's Taste of Magic blog hop!

Something literary and something tasty (okay, culinary).

Click the link above to join in on the FUN.

For my literary, I decided to share one of my favorite quotes. It's from The King's Buccaneer by Raymond Feist.

"Fear holds us and binds us and keeps us from growing. It kills a small piece of us each day. It holds us to what we know and keeps us from what's possible, and that is our worst enemy. Fear doesn't announce itself; it's disguised, and it's subtle. It's choosing the safe course; most of us feel we have rational reasons to avoid taking risks. The brave man is not the one without fear but the one who does what he must despite being afraid. To succeed, you must be willing to risk total failure..."

When I read this, I was at a crossroads in my life and fear was holding me back. These words resonated deep in me. I left the safe path, leaping out into an uncertain fate. It paid off in ways that I didn't even think were possible.

The quote hangs on my fridge as a reminder to always be brave; in life, in love, in friendships, in writing.

And now for my culinary! I went back and forth on which recipe to share. I'm vegetarian and I cook a minimum of four nights a week. It's still HOT here in SoCal so we haven't been able to make soup. I think I made soup three times last "winter" because we never did breakout the sweaters, sweatshirts, or jackets. So I've decided to live vicariously through all of you who are living where it is cold enough to make yummy soup!

The great thing about this soup (aside from the flavor) is the versatility. Swap out vegetables you don't like for ones that you do! Make your own broth from scrap vegetables if you're inspired (Thug Kitchen has an excellent recipe for it!)

Jenn's Veggie Bean Soup (eat your vegetables!)
olive oil, 1-2 T
shallots, 4
sweet onion
garlic, 4 to 6 cloves
crushed tomatoes (throw two or three ripe in the blender or just use canned)
carrots, chopped
vegetable broth, 4-8 cups depending on how much soup you want
kale, 1/2 bunch
broccoli, 1 head chopped
delicata squash (works just as good with butternut! or both!)
zucchini, 2 medium chopped
yellow squash, 2 chopped
green beans (if you use fresh, two handfuls; if canned, one can)
cannellini beans (or any bean you like the taste of)
2 bay leaves
any fresh herbs you have around (I usually add thyme, sometimes rosemary; marjoram works well)

Pro Tip: if you are low on time, chop/slice thin because everything will cook faster.

Throw the shallots, sweet onion, and garlic cloves in the food processor while you chop the carrot. Toss the carrot in a large soup pot with the olive oil. Cook for five minutes, then add your shallots/sweet onion/garlic. Sautee that for another five. Add the fresh herbs if you have any (it tastes phenom without as well so don't sweat it if you don't have anything). Then, deglaze the soup pot with just a little bit of veggie broth, scraping the bottom of the pot.

Pour the veggie broth in. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, and delicata squash. Medium high heat for 30 minutes.

Add the broccoli and kale, cook for another 5 minutes.

Toss in the green beans, cannellini beans, and a pinch of salt. (Your house should smell amazing by now) Let that simmer for another 5 minutes while you're heating up some bread to serve with it.

This should serve 8-10 people. There is only two of us so we eat it for two nights, then I freeze it and we have leftovers for another night or two. It's a great soup to load up on the vitamins if you feel a cold coming on!

Do you have any favorite quotes or recipes?

Be sure to hop on over to Alexia's entry here. And B.E. Sanderson's entry here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

#PitchWars Mentee Bio

I am participating in Pitch Wars, hosted by the fabulous Brenda Drake! The Mentors wrote their bios and now the Mentees are following with ours.

Some fast fun facts about me:

1) My favorite TV show is Xena. Yes, the Warrior Princess.

2) I am a vegan. I married an omnivore. I have never cooked meat for him (or anything with meat in it) in the 8 years we've been married (or the 2 years we were together before marriage). I cook all my meals from scratch and I don't do "fake" meat. (Because, gross) I don't push my lifestyle on anyone, but if I invite you over for dinner, know two things: you will get a meat free, delicious meal and you will spend the evening laughing your ass off. (See # 3)

3) I'm known for making everyone laugh and for my own laughter. I love playing practical jokes, even when they backfire on me. (#still funny) I always go for the joke.

I live for laughter. It's like applause to me.

4)  I worry about everything all the time. I worry about my mom. I worry about my husband. I worry about my pets. I worry about my brothers. I worry about my friends. I worry about my Crit Partners. I worry about all of you. I worry that I'm going to get sick. I worry that you are going to get sick. I just worry. It's who I am. It's also what I do. Worrying is my "thing."

5) I have 4 brothers; 3 older, 1 younger. I am the only girl.

My Brothers and my Daddy at his wedding

I wanted a sister so bad that I used to dress my little brother up in dresses. When we worked in television production (on separate shows), I kept a framed picture of him in a dress on my desk and showed it to everyone. He would frequently call me and yell, "I thought you took that picture down!" to which I would reply, "Oops. I'm putting it away now..." and then not do it. Because I am the older sister.

Drew in a dress. Even my big sister smile is evil.

6) I live for NFL football. Specifically, the San Diego Chargers. Pretty much all my memories growing up are retold by seasons. (example: My grandma was diagnosed with ovarian cancer during the 1995 season. Her first chemo treatment was scheduled for the morning of our playoff game against the Colts. She made sure she was at the stadium by kick-off. Diehard, much? Yes, that's us.)

7) Everyone knows my dog. EVERY. ONE. I will walk her and people that I have never met come up to us calling my dog by name because they met her when my husband was walking her and fell in love. They tell their friends, co-workers, and family members about her. This is an almost daily comment: "I was just telling (insert friend, co-worker, family member) about Lily! I said, we have the SWEETEST pit bull living in our neighborhood!" My dog has been changing people's minds about the breed for 8 years now. She's amazing.

Lily on the right. Her 'boyfriend' Bubba on the left.

8) I'm allergic to cats. They are my worst allergy. So, naturally, I own 3.

9) I have a non-profit that is booked year round doing FREE Humane Education presentations throughout L.A. Unified on various animal topics. When people say 'do something you love and it will never feel like you worked a day', it's really true. I don't feel like I'm working when I'm educating - whether it's students in the classroom or adults through educational tables. It's fun and rewarding and it sure doesn't feel like a 'job.'

10) I know the writer who wrote "I am the danger!" (actually, she wrote that entire episode of Breaking Bad...and probably most of the lines that you quote because she's THAT talented).


My CP Melissa PAINTED this for me.

I am subbing a YA Fantasy that is Grisha Trilogy meets Julie of the Wolves with a sprinkle of Native American mythology.

If you want to read my inspiration for the story, click here.

To get back to Darci's blog, click here.

Thanks for dropping in to read about me! Good luck to all the Pitch Wars mentees!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015



I am getting ready to participate in Pitch Wars, one of Brenda Drake's fabulous contests. In honor of that, Melissa Wideen had the idea that we should all share our inspirations if we so chose. Here is the inspiration for my YA Fantasy, The Protector:

These mountains have always held magic for me. We've been coming here every summer since I was born. My great grandfather loved to camp here and we pass on that tradition. I feel the spirits of my family members who have passed when I am here. It's such a magical place.

My first book was written in these woods. A YA Fantasy about a girl who finds a journal, binding her fate to the trees. She has to solve the riddles in the journal (my dad and I wrote the riddles together and they lead to actual places!), collect the items, and perform the ritual before the Sorceress who is draining the life out of the trees has enough power to release her one true love (and evil villain). My MC is human and the elves are less than thrilled that their fate rests in her hands. But that one hot elf totally believes in her. He champions her. He will give his life to protect her. In the end, she saves them all. Because Girl Power.

It was no surprise that my heart, so fully entrenched in these mountains, in this river, in these pine trees, in those high mountain lakes, would return here for another story.

Wolf Track

The Protector started with this: a wolf track in the mud.

I spotted it when we were backpacking into one of the high lakes. It was the size of my hand. (Stop a moment and look at your hand. That is a HUGE paw!) I showed the ranger the picture for confirmation. He asked that I never say where it was found. There is a hatred of wolves in that area. A blind hatred driven by ignorance. He didn't want anyone with guns up there hunting. It's illegal, but it doesn't step men because there aren't even any consequences for shooting a wolf. Not when you claim you thought it was a dog. Or a coyote. Not even when the wolf is radio collared and you don't have a valid hunting license, but race to the store to purchase a backdated one...

But I digress. It started with a wolf track in these mountains that I love so much.

Lolli and Doc walking on the fire road.

It continued with my fascination over the way people view this apex predator. They either blindly hate him or blindly love him. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. No common sense approach. Either demon or angel. When the truth is neither. He is simply a wolf. A complex creature who has complex, deep relationships that mirror our own. A creature who has to hunt to feed his family.

The first version of the book was Magical Realism with ranchers as the villains. Too political. I knew it was political when I wrote it. I was angry. I spewed it onto the page. No one would have touched it - and I got that feedback enough that I decide to keep the best part of the story (my wolves and my MC), but set it in a different world at a different time.

Such a varied terrain for my character to wander
I kept the mountains that I love, but I pushed them back in time because I love the medieval era and thought it would be fun to play with. I could have a Kingdom that was selfish and greedy and poisoning the land, much like we are doing with our environment today. One that had it's own illogical reason for wanting to slaughter wolves. AND  I could also play with how wolves were viewed in those times - sadly, it's not much different than how they are viewed now.

River running through a meadow.

The setting brought my characters to life and the words just rolled right off my fingertips. Auria was meant to be in these mountains, but in those times. She was meant to fight the constraints of society - hers in the mountains and those in the Kingdom.

My MC and her pack den here (in the book).
 This story was meant to be a Fantasy all along.

Daddy fishing at one of the high lakes.
Sigh. These pictures make me want to throw my dog in the car and drive back to Oregon.

This is MY inspiration for my story. I can't wait to hear yours!

(Disclaimer: My books has wolves, NOT werewolves. No one changes into a werewolf. No one changes into a wolf. A warrior might be chosen by The Creator for the honor of having his spirit return in a wolf once he has died in an epic battle, but that is the only way that one may become a wolf.)

Doc's very first fish. Lily (my dog) would like a taste.

The dog loves these mountains too.