Sunday, September 28, 2014

Doing the Bandana Split!

It seems like forever since I wrote a blog post! I'm going to blame it on a job I started three weeks ago that has taken over my life. I have a tendency to throw my whole heart and soul into things, especially when I'm working with kids (I'm at an elementary school), but yesterday I realized that I'm burning out in a hurry and I've got to pull back and do other things besides work. SO, I'm going to get this blog post finished that I started a month ago! And this week, I'm determined to get back to writing my YA novel. I'm never completely happy unless I'm writing, so getting back on top of my novel should improve my outlook on life.

Thus, without further ado, let us proceed with my post on the Hushland Bandana Split! Now, you may think you read that title wrong, or that my fingers stumbled over the keys as I typed. But, no--it really is a Bandana Split. This comes to us from the wonderfully creative and wacky world of the Free Kingdoms in Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz series. I have to gush for just a moment. Brandon Sanderson is one of my all-time favorite authors. I got to meet him once at a writer's conference, when he signed my copy of The Alloy of Law. (High-pitched, girly squeal!) His level of creativity and perfect pacing, involving plenty of action, is exactly the kind of thing I love to read. When you combine that with the laugh-out-loud humor of his Alcatraz series, you have the perfect storm! (Seriously: people give me weird looks when I'm reading these books, because I can't stop laughing and tears are running down my face.)

In the third installment, Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia, Alcatraz visits the home of his birth, the Free Kingdoms. Things are a little different than they are here in the Hushlands, and Free Kingdomers often don't understand our Hushlander culture. Thus, at an ice cream shop modeled after an old-fashioned 50s malt shoppe where the waitresses wear red stripes and proudly serve their version of Hushlander fare, Alcatraz finds himself confronted by a Bandana Split: an unidentified flavor of ice cream served in an actual bandanna. (I hope it didn't recently inhabit someone's brow...that's just nasty!)

As I contemplated how to recreate this exotic dish, I remembered a recent visit to Puerto Rico, where we stopped at a little ice cream place that served all kinds of creative flavors. (Including rice and beans and garlic...really!) I've long wanted to try my hand at creating some of these unique flavors at home (just not the really weird ones).

Thus, in homage to Mr. Sanderson's creativity, and to the Free Kingdomers who fight against evil librarians everywhere, I present my own version of a Bandana Split with CocoSpud Ice Cream!

A Hushland Bandana Split!

CocoSpud Ice Cream

1 medium sweet potato
3 cups coconut milk
1 cup coconut cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Wash the sweet potato and prick it a few times with a fork. Microwave it on high for about 4 minutes, then turn it over and microwave 4 more minutes until the sweet potato is tender. Allow to cool.

Once cool, peel the sweet potato and place in a food processor or powerful blender. Add about half of the coconut milk and process until the mixture is completely smooth.

Blend in remaining coconut milk and other ingredients, mixing well. Pour everything into an ice cream freezer and process according to the manufacturer's directions. The ice cream will still be soft at this point, so put it in the freezer for at least 4 hours or overnight. (However, don't forget to taste-test first! ;-)

The ingredients I used for this project.
To serve, clean a bandanna well with dish soap and rinse thoroughly. Dry it in the dryer without a dryer sheet (unless you really like the flavor of dryer sheets). Knot two opposite ends of the bandanna, then tie the remaining two ends together and tuck them underneath. (See the illustrations below.) Place the bandanna into an elongated dish to give it a firm base.

Scoop rounded mounds of CocoSpud Ice Cream into the center of the bandanna. Top with whipped cream and cherries and serve! (Just don't tell your victim...I mean patron...what's in the ice cream--it's probably better they don't know.)


Peel the cooled sweet potato and puree it so you don't have chunks.

Process the ice cream mixture according to manufacturer's directions until it is thick. Then freeze for several hours to firm it up for scooping.

Prepare bandanna by knotting two opposite ends.

Knot the two remaining ends together...


 and tuck under to create an elongated "bowl."

Friday, August 22, 2014

That's Amore!

My husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary recently with a fancy Italian dinner, complete with mandolin music playing in the background. It reminded me of a book I read awhile ago: The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum. It's a time-travel romance, a little off my beaten genre path, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. In fact, I'm reminded that I need to get back to reading the third and final book of the series.

The romantic interest in The Hourglass Door is a handsome time traveling Italian. What better way to win the heart of an Italian man than through good cooking? (Not that my husband is Italian: he just likes to eat the food!)

I prepared several traditional dishes for my anniversary dinner, but I was most proud of the tiramisu I made for dessert. I've often drooled over photos of tiramisu, with its custard and ladyfinger layers, but I've never tasted it because of the coffee traditionally used to prepare it ... I avoid coffee like the plague. The good part of making your own Italian dinner is that you can substitute ingredients to your own taste and style. And so, I present my Mormon Tiramisu. It's best eaten with Italian crooners softly singing in the background and someone you love by your side!


Mormon Tiramisu

1/4 c milk
3 egg yolks
3/4 c sugar
8 oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
3 c mascarpone cheese (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp vanilla
24 lady finger cookies
3/4 cup hot chocolate, cooled to lukewarm
2 tsp cocoa powder

1. Use a double boiler, or 1 large pan with a smaller pan that will fit on top without falling into the larger pan. Fill the large pan, or the bottom of the double boiler, with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together milk and yolks in smaller pan, or top of the double boiler. Whisk in sugar until well combined.
3. When water is boiling, reduce heat to medium-low (keeping water to a low simmer) and place smaller pan on top of larger pan. Cook and stir the egg mixture for 10 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese with mascarpone cheese and vanilla. Beat well with an electric mixer. Once the chesses are smooth and creamy, slowly add the egg yolk mixture and mix well, until smooth.
5. Prepare an 8x8 baking dish, or 2 bread pans, by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.
6. Pour about half of the hot chocolate onto a plate. Dip lady fingers in chocolate, sugared side up. Don't allow them to sit very long in the liquid, as they will quickly soak it up. The top half of each lady finger should remain dry.
7. Arrange the lady fingers side by side in the prepared dish. Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture (or 1/4 of the mixture, if using bread pans) over the lady fingers. Add another layer of soaked lady fingers and cover with remaining cream cheese mixture.
8. Put cocoa powder into a fine-meshed strainer and gently shake over the dessert to add a dusting of cocoa powder.
9. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
10. To serve, slice into 9 even portions and place each on a plate.

I was surprised and pleased to find both mascarpone cheese and lady finger cookies at my small-town grocery store! I found the cheese in the specialty section, near the deli. However, it was rather expensive. I wasn't ready to empty my pockets for the whole 3 cups called for in the recipe, so I substituted more cream cheese for half of the mascarpone. I think it still tasted fabulous, especially if you love cheesecake, like me! The lady fingers were located on the cookie and cracker aisle, and one package was just the right amount for this recipe.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dive Into Atlantis!


I've been really excited about a new series that arrived this week on the middle grade shelf: The Gates of Atlantis! Each book in the series is written by a different author, much like the Spirit Animals series, or 39 Clues. It's interesting for me to see the different spin each author gives this very imaginative world.

I had the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy of the final book in the series, Battle for Acropolis by Mikey Brooks, and I've been waiting anxiously for the book to be released so I can share my excitement about it with the rest of the world! 

From the very first page, this book reeled me in: hook, line, and sinker! It starts out with a bang when Talon accidentally sets fire to the library, using magic power he doesn't understand and can’t always control. His emotions do more than run away with him whenever he’s upset: they cause terrible things to happen. Orphaned since birth, Talon knows he doesn't belong in a “normal” life with his foster parents, and agrees to run away with his foster sister, Hattie, in search of Hattie’s grandmother. What they find is a magical city under the sea that desperately needs their help to win a civil war.

For me, the best aspect of this novel was the growth of the main character. At the start of the story, Talon is a lonely kid with a surly attitude. I had to laugh every time he got annoyed with Hattie’s nonstop chatter. But through her easy acceptance of his strange magical power, and her resolve to be his friend, no matter what, Talon slowly comes around and turns into a strong leader that the other Atlantian kids can look up to.

I thought the characters were very strong and easy for kids to relate to. My personal favorite was Willy, the friendly truck driver who helps out Talon and Hattie. I also admired Hattie for her optimism in the face of incredible odds. It gave the book a positive undertone, driving home a message of perseverance and commitment.

The food scene I picked from this book takes place early on, while Talon and Hattie are on the run. They spend the last of their money on breakfast at a truck stop. Nearby, a friendly truck driver is eating the Grand Slam breakfast: pancakes, sausage, eggs, hash browns "you name the breakfast item, and this man had it." With their meager funds, Talon and Hattie can only afford a couple of eggs with toast. Talon asks for his to be scrambled. Lucky for Talon, Willy the truck driver has a big heart and later shares his leftover sausage.

My kids can be picky eaters (highly unusual, I know), and one of my girls refuses to eat scrambled eggs...unless they're cooked "Grandma style." Her grandma has a special way of blending together the eggs with cheese and milk to create the perfect combination!



Grandma Style Eggs
serves 6

12 eggs
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

1. Crack eggs and empty into a large saucepan, making sure you don't drop any shells in. 
2. Add milk and sprinkle with cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper. 
3. With a spatula (pancake turner), stir everything together until yolks are broken and ingredients are well combined. 
4. Cook on medium high heat, stirring frequently, until eggs are set.
5. Serve with toast and sausage. Add pancakes and hashbrowns for the real Grand Slam!

Add grated cheese directly to the pan with the other ingredients.

Use the flat end of the spatula to stir the eggs as they cook.

Eggs are set when they are no longer runny, but aren't completely dry.






Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Dreamkeeper Tour













I am so pleased today to be part of The Dreamkeeper audiobook tour! I have long admired the author, Mikey Brooks, for his skills at producing and promoting some fantastic books. I look up to him and hope I can be like him one day.

First of all, don't forget to check out the GIVEAWAY
at the end of this post for a chance to 
WIN some fantastic prizes!

I was privileged to review the second book in the series, The Dreamstone. My daughter is an auditory learner, and she prefers audio books to the printed variety. For kids like her (who may struggle with reading the traditional way), this series is an excellent choice for hooking them on books! It has action, magic, strong characters, and life lessons all rolled into a neat little package that is sure to please any middle grader. Beyond that, the audiobook is a quality piece of work. The narrator was expressive and highly skilled. He gave a distinct voice to each of the characters that fit them perfectly. It was a pleasure to listen to!

The Dreamstone picks up right where The Dreamkeeper left off. Parker and his friend Kaelyn must go back to the world of dreams to rescue Parker’s mother, who has been kidnapped by the wicked Queen Mab. They find the dream world in disarray, with dragons attacking willy nilly. Their friend Gladamyr loses his power to shift, and they have no idea where Mab’s wandering realm is located. It seems the only way to unravel all their problems is to visit the Crystal Table once again, but what price will the table exact this time?

With each book the author releases, his writing quality gets better and better! I've read all of his middle grade books, and I thought Mikey Brooks really hit his stride with this one! All the characters are solid, with real problems they’re struggling to overcome, like Parker’s anger at his estranged dad. Through the course of events, he learns how to begin the forgiveness process. I love it when a character grows and becomes a better person by the end of a book, and I found myself cheering for Parker and Kaelyn as they made the difficult choice to stand up for what’s right, pitting themselves against the more popular crowd at school. Moreover, their friendship continued to grow and develop in this novel, and I can’t wait to see where they’ll go from here.

The plot was well-paced and flowed naturally from one hurdle to the next. The only problem I have with this series is that the author likes to end on cliff-hangers, leaving us poor readers begging for the next installment! (Do I hear an evil laugh?) 

Kids aren’t the only ones who will gobble up this series faster than a plateful of pastries. In my mind, it’s right up there with Fablehaven, Far World, and the host of other National bestsellers that have graced the middle grade shelves in recent years.

As I pondered how I could bring this book to life in my kitchen, I remembered the taste testing scene with Mab, about halfway through the book. To prepare for her Majesty’s banquet, servants offer her various trays of pastry for inspection. She brings each to her lips and tastes it briefly. If she pronounces them “adequate,” the servant can breathe a sigh of relief. But woe betide the servant who offers an unacceptable pastry, as does one poor soul with a tray of fruit covered tarts.

I wouldn’t like to be the chef in Mab’s kitchen, with my life on the line depending on my skill in pleasing her. But I have a delectable recipe for banana cream pie that I think even Mab would have to pronounce “excellent!”

Banana Cream Pie Fit For a Queen

Delicate Pie Crust
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
5-6 Tbsp ice water

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
2. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening, using a pastry cutter or two forks, until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3. Gently stir in ice water (being careful not to add chunks of ice), just until flour is moistened and becomes dough. Add more water if needed, 1 Tbsp at a time. Do not work the dough too much.
4. Turn out onto a floured surface and use a rolling pin to gently "push" the dough into a circle big enough to fit over a pie plate.
5. Fold the dough carefully in half, then in half again. Lift onto the pie pan, placing the center of the dough in the center of the plate. Unfold the dough and press gently into the pie pan. Trim the edges, fold under, and crimp into desired design. Prick the dough on the bottom and sides of the pan several times with a fork.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before filling.

Banana Cream Filling
1 5oz package instant vanilla pudding
1 3/4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
2-3 ripe bananas
1 Tbsp powdered sugar

1. Add vanilla pudding to milk and beat well for about 2 minutes. (Follow directions for Pie on the package.)
2. Whip 1 cup of heavy cream until stiff. Fold gently in with pudding mixture until thoroughly combined.
3. Slice bananas into bottom of cooled pie shell until banana slices cover the entire bottom of the pie.
4. Pour pudding mixture over the top of bananas and spread evenly.
5. Place pie in the refrigerator and allow to set up.
6. Meanwhile, beat additional 1 cup of cream until stiff. Add powdered sugar. When pie is set up, cover with whipped cream. Garnish with additional banana slices and serve.

A pastry cutter is a quick and easy way to "cut" shortening into the flour. When your mixture resembles coarse crumbs, you're ready to add the ice water.
The less you work a pie crust dough, the more delicate it will be. When rolling, think of pushing the dough outward in the direction you want it to expand, rather than rolling back and forth as you would with other kinds of dough.

To make a fancy edge, trim the dough so that it hangs over the edge of the pan about half an inch. Then fold the dough under to make a nice smooth edge. Press your thumb down on the dough with the thumb and index finger of your other hand pulling up on either side of your thumb to create a fluted edge.
Prick the dough before baking to prevent it from puffing up in the oven.
Will this pass the Mab Test?!

About the incredible narrator, Anthony Bianco:

Anthony Bianco is a professional actor living and working in Denver, Colorado. He is a native Oregonian and has been acting and storytelling for the past eighteen years. He received a BFA in Acting with a minor in Shakespeare Studies at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. Anthony then went on to receive his MFA in Acting from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Anthony moved to Denver five years ago and has worked for three seasons with the Denver Center Theatre Company, one season at Colorado Shakespeare Festival and most recently appeared as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities.



What have you enjoyed most about narrating The Dream Keeper Chronicles?

Bringing the mythology that Mikey has created to life. There is a sense of innocence, wonder, and possibility on the world of Awake and Dreams. Our dreams are one of the nearest things we still have to magic. And discovering the story has helped remind me to continue to look for the magic in the world around me.

How did you go about finding a distinct voice for each character?

Many times Mikey provided some kind of description of the character that would inform the choices I would make. Age, gender, body size/ shape. I imagine how the voices sound when I am reading and do my best to apply those changes when I get in the booth. I would like to think that all of the choices that I made were informed by the text. I did my best to fully imagine what Mikey created and trust that when he is satisfied with the result I have done my job. 

You work as a professional actor; do you find your profession helps you in narrating books?

I find it incredibly helpful. The fact that I am not in front of an audience doesn't make a lot of a difference to me. The act of storytelling is the same no matter what the medium. Many of the skills needed: articulation, breath support, vocal flexibility, emotion (to highlight a few) all come into play when recording. When you are in the booth you have to be hyper aware of every movement and sound. Even though nobody can see what you look like, any extraneous movements can cause sounds which can be picked up by the mic. It is essential to have the physical and vocal awareness to keep those sounds to a minimum. At the same time you can't allow that to keep you from bing expressive and energized when telling the story. It can be a tricky balance sometimes. But the years of training help to balance those factors.

Is there a character in the book you related to the most and why?

I think Gladamyr was the easiest to relate to, even though he is a Dream keeper. I love the tortured heroes. Plus, Gladamyr's powers are the coolest! Many of my favorite fantasy characters have been Shape-shifters or have had an ability similar to Gladamyr. It probably appeals to the actor in me, being able to shift and morph would be like the ultimate costume change.

If you were to dream up a nightmare what would it be?

Absolutely terrifying. Probably something similar to Minion, a monster made from a swarm of spiders. When I have nightmares they are the worst. I am usually being chased by a dark formless, shifting shadow (not unlike Gladamyr now that I think about it). There are always lots of teeth and it is fast; constantly changing throughout the dream. The worst nightmares know when to change and get worse when you think it can't get any worse. 

How do you manage to smoothly accentuate the “voice” of the different characters? 

Breath, breath, breath. You can't transition from voice to voice without the proper breath support to fuel the instrument. If it sounds smooth it is a combination of quality editing and quality vocal control by the narrator.

How did you become a book narrator? Did anything specific prompt you to undertake this career?

A friend encouraged me to pursue it. He made the transition from actor to narrator full time and thought I would also be good at it. So, he gave me the initial push. I haven't been able to make that transition fully, though. I am still working and auditioning for gigs in both careers. As well as working at a coffee shop and doing odd work as a ranch hand and landscaper to make ends meet. I am still at the beginning of my narrating career, but what has prompted me to continue to pursue it is the flexibility to create my own hours, work from home, and the complete artistic control of the storytelling.


About the amazing author, Mikey Brooks:


Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of the best-selling middle-grade series The Dream Keeper Chronicles, The Stone of Valhalla, and The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works full-time as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’ (www.emblazoners.com). You can find more about him and his books at: www.insidemikeysworld.com
 
Check out the books for yourself!

The Dream Keeper

The Dreamstone





Thursday, July 17, 2014

All For One...

One of my favorite classic adventure novels is The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. I love the bond of brotherhood between the 3 Musketeers and D'Artagnan! I love the sword fights and the action! I love the devious plots and the twists and turns! It's just my kind of book.

When my daughter decided to host a murder mystery party for her birthday this month, I couldn't resist the lure of writing the script for it myself. Because her birthday falls on Bastille Day, she is obsessed with all things French. Using a Dumas novel seemed a natural for the backbone of the mystery game. I chose one of the later novels in the Musketeer series, The Man in the Iron Mask.

It took me about a week to pull it together. I tried to design the game so that it can be played over and over again, with a different culprit each time. I wrote character dossiers, made playing cards, and figured out the rules. I was working on finishing it and printing everything right up until the party started!

The guests all arrived in fantastic costumes, and I had a blast taking their pictures. I think they all had a good time, interrogating each other, and "dueling" (using dice) to discover everyone's secrets and solve the four mysteries woven into the game.

I originally intended to serve "French" foods for the meal (French fries, French bread, etc), but because I spent so long writing the game, I didn't have time to cook, so my fabulous husband came to the rescue with several boxes of pizza (teenagers like that best anyway, right?). To integrate it properly into the game, we explained that France had recently conquered Italy and stolen their food.

Most of the guests were surprised to find the game was based on a classic novel. I don't think they realized that musty old "classics" could be such fun! Turning a novel into a mystery game was a great way to introduce a new book to young readers and bring it vibrantly to life. I may dabble in more of these adventures in the future!

Vive la France!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chocolate Cake Indulgence

I wrote a post awhile back about taking a vacation into books. Since then, my little brain has been churning away, and it occurred to me that there are a lot of references to food in books. Since I love cooking, and I love reading, it seemed like a union made in heaven! What better way to bring the fantastic world of books into my real world than through a doorway in my kitchen? Sound like fun? Come along, and let's step inside a book.

I recently read Matched by Ally Condie and loved it! Throughout the course of the book, Cassia learns how to become independent from a government that controls everything: down to the type and amount of food you eat! If I lived there, I'm sure I would finally achieve that optimum thinness I've been striving for my whole life.

At the beginning of the book, Cassia goes to her Matching banquet, where she will find out the identity of the person the government has decided she will marry. Since this is a special occasion, Cassia and her parents are served a delicious meal described as "...a dance, as though this is a ball as well as a banquet." (What an awesome description!) The crowning jewel of the meal is the chocolate cake with fresh cream.

Since we don't live in that strait-jacket society, we can eat chocolate cake whenever we want! (As evidenced by the size of my waistline.) But you might want to serve it at a fancy dinner to get a real feeling for the book. (After you've read it, of course--which I highly recommend!)

Whenever I need chocolate cake for a birthday, special occasion, or that midnight chocolate craving :) I pull out this old family recipe. It makes a cake that is moist and spongy without being too light or too heavy. Add a dollop of whipped cream, and it's heaven on a fork!


Matchmaker Chocolate Cake

1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp baking soda
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9"x13" baking pan.

Mix together buttermilk and baking soda. Set aside. In a large, separate bowl, combine flour with sugar, cocoa, and salt. Beat in oil, eggs, and buttermilk with a mixer on low speed. Add boiling water and mix well.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50 or 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool, then serve with freshly whipped and sweetened cream.

To grease and flour a pan, use a paper towel to spread shortening all over the inside of a pan. Then add about 1/4 cup of flour. Tilt and tap the pan until the flour glides over every surface with shortening. It will stick to the shortening and keep the cake from sticking to the pan! Discard any extra flour.

Add baking soda to buttermilk. If you don't have buttermilk, just stir 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice into 1 cup of milk.


Test the cake to see if it's done by poking the center with a toothpick. If cake batter clings to it when you pull it out, the cake needs to be baked longer. If the toothpick comes out clean, you know the cake is done!


Monday, June 9, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Special thanks go out to


for roping me into this blog tour today. :) We were both involved in a fun book fair last week with a bunch of other cool authors. I have downloaded a copy of her novel and placed it in my queue of books I need to read!

A lot of the writing process goes on "behind the scenes," so today I'm giving a little backstage tour. Along with authors all over the world, I am answering the following questions about my writing methods:

1) What are you working on?

I'm in the outlining stage of a YA futuristic steampunk. While I'm sure the premise will change as I actually write the book, here's my elevator pitch so far:

Avilene is the Academy's brightest and best, on the fast track to becoming a world leader in the commonwealth that governs the solar system. When she protects her best friend from being kidnapped by a renegade airship crew, she is taken instead by the enemy. But the enemy is not as vicious as she has been led to believe. As Avilene uncovers the Starpathia's mission to free children from government tyranny, she is faced with a choice: stand with the freedom fighters, or betray them and return to the arms of the commonwealth that raised her.

To see some of the images that inspire me for this novel, check out my Pinterest boards.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I like to mash things up, mix genres in ways that are uncommon. Most steampunk is historical in nature, but my novel will take steampunk into the future, so there will be a mixture of technological style. The commonwealth has glitzy, futuristic toys, and the crew of the airship Starpathia is covered in coal dust.

3) Why do you write what you do?

At heart, I think I'm still a kid myself, because I've never gotten over the wonder that science fiction and fantasy create. I want to believe in dragons and wizards and airships and laser guns. Because I can't actually step onto the deck of the Starpathia, I do the next best thing: I write a story about it.

4) How does your writing process work?

Historically, I've dived right into writing when I got a good idea, battling my way through the entanglements that always appear in the plot and characters as I try to fight my way to the ending. But I'm in the process of changing it up, because I believe that using an outline will make my writing faster and better. So, I've counseled my muse to be patient while I come up with detailed plot points and work on world building. My muse isn't very happy about this, but I've told her she simply must wait her turn.

Some of the resources that have really helped me shape a process for outlining that I can live with include the following:

Dan Wells' Story Structure (a video on YouTube in 5 parts)
2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron

***
And now we come to the point where you realize how dismally connected I am, because I was never able to find bloggers (not already participating) to pass this tour along to. (I'm still open to suggestions. Anyone?  Anyone...?)

So, the "buck stops here," as they say. But you can visit the other author I'm aware of that is hosting the tour this week, C. Michelle Jefferies.