08 August 2014

Chocolate Fix: Cinnamon Toasties

There is a bag of chocolate chips in my pantry in severe danger of being exterminated. Or... I might break down and make a family favorite. Cinnamon Toasties.

Now, they're not 100% chocolate (I know, shocking isn't it?) but they are just so darned good it's hard to eat just one. And they have chocolate chips IN them. In the world of "almost chocolate," these little items are hard to beat. And they're ridiculously easy and quick to make. Always a bonus.

photo by Boyd Lythgoe

Once upon a time this recipe had no chocolate chips. It had raisins.

You should have seen the horrified expressions on the faces of my children when I shared that little historic tidbit…

My big sister used to make it (with raisins) when I was little. I don't remember when she decided to use chocolate chips instead, but it was a game-changer. When I moved out on my own—and out of state—I could not get the recipe to turn out right. It wanted to be flat and dry, so I experimented, and now it is wonderfully cake-y. And cinnamon-y. And, of course, chocolate-y.

Enjoy.

÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷÷

Cinnamon Toasties

3 cups flour
1½ cups sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1½ cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. melted margarine
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan.

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Blend in remaining ingredients. Turn into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Drizzle with an additional ¼ cup melted margarine. Combine ½ cup sugar with 1 tsp. cinnamon. Sprinkle over cake. Bake 10 minutes more. Cut into squares and store in air-tight container.

01 August 2014

Picture This!

Welcome to the Friday Feature of the Fantasy writers group, A Drift of Quills! We Quills get together once a month to chat up aspects of reading and writing. This month we're choosing a picture we think best represents some person, place or thing in one of our works. I don't know about you, but I love seeing the pictures that have inspired my fellow authors in their writing. Sometimes their choices are surprising, and at others I nod my head madly and say yes, yes! So—wanna see what we're envisioning? Read on!



The character Crow, from my novel As the Crow Flies, is the obvious choice for this endeavor, so I'm going with him. When I wrote the book, I didn't have a picture sitting by my computer to prompt or inspire me, but I had a very strong sense of him. In fact, I didn't have a picture to represent Crow until after I started a Pinterest board for the novel. Crazy, right?

I found one fine-looking fellow, then another, then... my daughter came to me one day and said, "MOM! I know the perfect guy to play Crow! Colin O'Donoghue!" 

It turns out she was right:
(image courtesy of FanPop.com
from the television show "Once Upon a Time")
"An alley appeared below me, but it was not so wide that I couldn’t make the jump, and I took it with a quivering thrill in my heart. No wings, no strings, an unmeasured height—and the certain knowledge of the cobbled street below. That dizzying leap on the run was one of the few ways I could ever get close to flying." (excerpt from "As the Crow Flies")
Crow's companion, Tanris, began life as an image in my head too. And oh, what a chore it was to search through gazillions of pictures of men to find just the right one! Alas, someone had to do it. Alan Van Sprang didn't have any trouble at all filling out the requirements of "tough, weathered, capable." And look, a shaven head, too!
(image source unknown, from the film "The Immortals")
"That was the Tanris I had come to know and appreciate over the years of our association, a man like myself, quick-witted and not confined to the obvious. He had come up with the perfect answer to our utterly impossible question, and at that moment I cheerfully hated him." (excerpt from "As the Crow Flies")
And here we have the Kerdann Moors that our heroes had to cross in search of the dragon's egg:
("Eerie Irish Countryside" from imgur.com)
"We’d come down out of the mountains without any incident and traveled east across the Kerdann Moors for days and days, shrouded in constant fog and mist. I had begun to doubt these parts guarded any kind of civilization at all. Even Kem had disappeared completely. Our supplies were so reduced that Girl rode one of the pack horses, silent as a sack but wonderfully obedient, doing whatever Tanris required of her, wrapped in an air of quiet, hopeless misery." (excerpt from "As the Crow Flies")

Last, but not least, I want to leave you with a teaser for my current work in progress, which is laboring under the working title of "The Sharpness of the Knife." This is the fortress, Heaven's Gate, where our young protagonist, Sherakai, unwillingly spends some formative years:

(image of Brunella fortress courtesy of Bed & Breakfast Lunigiana)

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

KRISTIE KIESSLING
Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark

I have always loved deep forests and mountains. It seems natural, then, that when I began to write stories I would set them in such green and mystical old places of the world. Some of the most inspiring images in my head are things I have seen in this world: the ancient woods of Wales, the deep canyons and caves in Pennsylvania and Arizona. There are wonders to behold in our very backyards that strike me as otherworldly. 

. . .  (Read more!)


~   ~   ~   ~   ~


PATRICIA REDING
Author of Oathtaker

A reader recently asked me, if Oathtaker was a movie, who did I see playing the characters? For me, the real difficulty in this question is knowing that whatever celebrity names and faces I choose, someone will not like them. It is amazing what strong feelings we have about celebrities, either because of their past work, or possibly as a result of the bits and pieces we hear about their private lives . . . But I will give this a shot, nonetheless.

I thought I would start with my main character, Mara . . .  (Read more!)

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Do you like seeing the author's idea of who fits as models for the characters in their stories?

If you could choose someone to represent the mage Ammeluanakar (Melly), who would it be?

25 July 2014

Win a Copy of Scrivener

Here's a deal I had to share with all the writers reading my blog...

Out:Think Group is giving away a copy of Scrivener to five lucky winners. Scrivener, in case you haven't heard of it, is the bomb-dot-com when it comes to writing. Novels, technical works, short stories, memoirs, blogging—you name it, Scrivener can handle it. Beautifully.



Written by writers for writers, available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, I've waxed poetic about it before here, and a little bit (down toward the bottom of the post) here. The more I use Scrivener, the more I like love it. It organizes, helps outlining and/or storyboarding (or not!), formats manuscripts for things like e-book publishing or print books, helps you keep track of things with labels and tags, has a search feature too fantastic for one sentence, and cartwheel-inducing revision abilities. It slices! it dices!

Okay, not really, but it certainly makes slicing and dicing—er, editing—easier. I mean, how brilliant is dragging-and-dropping entire scenes? Can your fancy-schmancy text editor do that? And can it keep copies of web pages for research? Pictures? Video?

Yeah, baby, that's what I'm talkin' about.

Don't believe me? Check it out right here: Scrivener at Literature and Latte.

And then dash over to Out:Think to jump in on the Scrivener Giveaway. The contest ends July 30, 07:00PM AMT, and prizes will be awarded August 04, 07:00PM AMT.

Literature and Latte also have an excellent collection of video tutorials in addition to a walk-through included with the application and an extensive forum that includes help for Scrivener and other Lit-and-Lat applications.

If that's not enough for you, please be sure to visit these websites:


And don't forget to check out Tim Grahl's marvelous Out:Think website too! Tim Grahl has helped thousands of writers build a successful writing career. "Are you ready to thrive as an author?"


18 July 2014

Follow Me to AR Silverberry's Digs!

Author AR Silverberry is interviewing me over on his blog as part of a series to introduce the authors of the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. Here’s an excerpt:

How do you approach crafting a novel? 
I sneak up on it and tackle it when it’s not looking! 
Actually, each of my novels has started with an idea—a scene, a character, a “what if.” I jot it down, let it burble around in the caverns of my imagination for a while, then add a little more. I tend to gravitate toward characters more than anything as a starting point, and fleshing them out is a great way for me to develop the setting and the plot.
Keep reading! 


04 July 2014

The Freedom Conundrum

"The Freedom Conundrum..." Sounds like it could be the title of an exciting thriller, doesn't it? (Must add it to my list of ideas!) It's the first Friday of the month—and Independence Day, to boot! What better day for A Drift of Quills to talk about what freedom means to us individually and how the topic figures (or not!) in our novels? It's not all about baseball and apple pie, though. Joining us today is guest poster, author Raymond Bolton. Please give him a warm welcome!


RAYMOND BOLTON
Author of Awakening: The Ydron Saga Vol. 1
Raymond's Website

Freedom is a difficult concept to wrap one's mind around. It doesn't refer to things one is permitted to do. The possibility that permission can be revoked implies constraint, and constraint implies license. One who is licensed is on a tether and tethers can be yanked, or tied to something. On the other hand, lack of all constraints whatsoever leaves open the possibility of trampling on the rights or freedom of others, and such acts lead to consequences. Consequences, of course, are tethers. So are laws. And since we live within a society, and society is governed by laws, it begs the question how can anyone be truly free?

I think Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn began to approach the essence of it when he stated, "Someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free." True freedom, then, is somehow tied to desire or ambition, because ambitions and desires are also constraints. In fact, all of the major philosophies and religions teach us to shun all things worldly, for isn't the attainment of paradise—however you perceive it—the ability to walk forward into the world without constraint and without fear? In fact, fear is the ultimate constraint. It is that which prevents us from acting. It stems from desires and is that which binds us most.

In my debut novel, Awakening, Prince Regilius awakens to a nightmare. His head is filled with visions of murder and carnage and attempts are made upon his life. As the world he thought he knew unravels before his eyes, he learns what is happening is not accidental. These visions are the result of blossoming talents. He has been engineered by an alien race to combat the Dalthin, a predatory alien species that enslaves worlds telepathically, and as his mind begins to open, he finds himself exposed to the predators.

Furthermore, by himself he is powerless to avert the impending holocaust. He has only been designed to perceive the Dalthins' presence, not engage them. In order to avert the threat, he must unite his people. It is then, when his mother murders his father, that the land descends into chaos and his task may prove impossible. Faced with slaying the one who gave him life in order to protect his world, Regilius seeks a better way. Eventually, it is only by freeing himself of both his fears and his ambitions, that he will stand any chance at all of succeeding.


~   ~   ~   ~   ~

YOURS TRULY
Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
My website (You can use this link or the menu at the top—whatever sizzles your steak!)

Freedom...  As tough to grab onto as a cloud, but weighty as the earth itself. As Raymond pointed out, it's a difficult concept to pin down.

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." (Nelson Mandela)

Right away we see that freedom does not, cannot, exist by itself. With it comes responsibility. While an individual is free to make his or her own choices—that freedom is ours inherently—those choices birth results. Consequences. Amazingly, we have the freedom of reaction, no matter what the situation.

“Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.” (Jean-Paul Sartre)

In my book, As the Crow Flies, the fiercely independent Crow has his physical freedom taken away, and when it is restored, it is conditional. His world, as he sees it, is set off its course. He is determined to right it. He wants to fly again, unfettered, unrestrained.

However, the task is not something he can do on his own, (much to his dismay). Those who accompany Crow on his journey suffer their own lack of liberty in one form or another—the consequences of choices made by others. In seeking his freedom, Crow learns that the path is not linear. The precious freedom he treasures is far less tangible than he imagined, and costs in ways he never expected—ways that few of us take the time to consider and appreciate.

I am grateful for this time I have to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made on my account, whether by statesmen and soldiers, my parents, or my friends. Grateful, too, for the reminder to take stock of the ways in which I preserve the freedoms I've been given and respect those of other people. 


~   ~   ~   ~   ~

KRISTIE KIESSLING
Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark
Kristie's Blog 

I love the 4th of July. Not just because of the BBQs or the fireworks. In fact, my dog hates the fireworks, and runs to me for comfort. Her fear is a reasonable thing and though she doesn't understand, she points to one of the reasons we send those rockets skyward. The colorful explosions inspire us and are a visceral reminder of the noise and smoke of battle. We oooh and ahhh, but the cannon-loud "duds" that made me cover my ears as a child, while designed to be beautiful, also make me soberly recall those who have gone before.

Thankfully, because of men like my father and uncles and my oldest brother (and probably yours, too) most of us will never know these fears up close. The honorable men who journey to foreign soil to hold tyranny at bay go to protect their families and their homes and something we can't see or touch. I don't know what it was like for them to be under the guns, on the shores, in the trenches though I have heard tales both frightening and humorous. My keenest imaginings are merely a shadow of what occurred there. How then can I be so touched, so moved by celebrations across the nation? The practical application of the sacrifice of these good men is that I am free. Free to write, to speak and to dream up whatever mayhem I can conjure. What they put on the line for freedom, their very lives, I see as the ultimate expression of love.

"No greater love has any man than this--that he will lay down his life for his friends." Sounds like sacrifice, but that is precisely the point. It is the deepest sort of freedom to let go of fear and do what is right because it is right. This truth shapes my life. It intricately shapes the characters I create. My heroes fight to preserve freedom and they struggle against oppression. They do it because I have seen it in action. We are in this world together and we must stand up for those that are not strong enough to do so for themselves. That is the hero's call. 



~   ~   ~   ~   ~

PATRICIA REDING
Author of Oathtaker

Patricia's website

As today is July 4, it is appropriate to give thought to the concept of freedom. What is it? What does it mean to me? How does it play into my fantasy novel, Oathtaker?

Dictionary.com defines freedom in several ways including “exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.” and “the power to determine action without restraint.”  

Often you will hear children say that they want to be grown-up so that they may do as they please. It seems a common misnomer—that adults get to do what they want. The truth, I think, is that parents restrain their children so that their children will learn what it is like to live within certain restraints when they are adults. We all are subject to external controls—on a constant basis, from the speed at which we may drive, to—well, you get the picture. But outside of those restraints, which we as a society have determined are appropriate through those who govern us (whether or not we like who won the vote), we do have the power to determine our actions. What we all too often forget is that on the other side of our freedom is our responsibility not to impinge upon the freedom of others. 

The history of the world is a story of people seeking to be, fighting to be, free. Each person, every age of a nation or people, plays the battle out anew on the world’s stage. Oddly enough, however, even as we try to live free of the restraints of others, we all too often try to restrain others. We do not want our parents to tell us what to do, but we might well like to steer our parents toward doing what we would like for them to do. Replace the word “parents” there with spouse, children, friends, employer, neighbors, government, and you will see what I mean. Now consider what is the cost of your freedom on others. In short, if you act in a manner that causes an expense to another (over which they have no control), then you are infringing upon their freedom.

The idea of “freedom” and the struggle to attain it is a key theme in Oathtaker. The story tells of a special sect of people, the Select, who have carried the words and ways regarding the value of life and freedom down through the ages and to all corners of the earth. The Oathtakers help to protect the Select because, as you might expect, there are those who seek to destroy them. As in real life, those who seek to destroy the Select do not do so because they want freedom for themselves. Rather, they act against the Select because they want to be in control—they do not want freedom for others

So, on this July 4, as I think on my gratitude for those who fought for the freedom of this nation and her people (my father, my son, and so many others), I will ponder on what freedom is and means to me. I will be introspective. I will ask myself what, if anything, I do that results in a cost to others over which they have no control. Just as I should be free, so too should my family members, friends, neighbors, and so on. Indeed, if we all gave a little more thought to the cost others pay for us, I daresay we would all be freer.
~   ~   ~   ~   ~

What does freedom mean to you?

What is your most important freedom?

Within the fantasy genre, what book and character(s) first comes to mind when you think of "freedom"?






02 July 2014

I'm a Semi-Finalist!

As the Crow Flies is a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s 2014 Kindle Book Awards,  Sci-Fi / Fantasy category!


How exciting! The Top-5 Finalists in each category will be announced in September 2014. Good thing I'm not in the habit of chewing my nails...

If you haven't got one yet, be sure to pick up a copy of As the Crow Flies at any of these retailers:  Amazon, SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKobo or iTunes

27 June 2014

Good, Clean Reading

This might come as a shock to you, but I love fantasy books (and movies!).

There was a time when I could pick any fantasy book off the shelf and not have to worry about over-the-top violence and gore, sex, and foul language. I miss those days...

All is not lost, though!
The Fantasy & Science-Fiction Network  (FSF Net) is dedicated to helping fans find the very best fantasy & sci-fi books for children and adults (both young and old) which do not exceed a PG-13 rating.
On the website you will find author profiles, reviews, interviews, and various articles of interest to the fantasy or science-fiction connoisseur. The group also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and (new!) Goodreads.

Be sure to go visit, like, follow, share, and participate!

I will be sharing more groups and sites like this in the future—stay tuned!

You can also pay a visit to my own list of Flinch-Free reading recommendations: Read these!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~
Have you got a go-to site for finding clean fantasy and sci-fi reads?

What are some of your favorite (clean) fantasy and sic-fi books?