Author Marketing from a Farmer's Market

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Between by Vienna Teng.

 The farmer's market is awesome, delicious, and as it turns out, a fantastic place to learn. It is full of bustling people all wanting the same thing (food). And there plenty of vendors offering some variation as the stall next door. There are green beans for $2.00 a lb at almost every stall. Sure, people gravitate toward the 1.00 lb for green beans, but price isn't everything. I was willing to pay top dollar for what I thought was the best of the market. It wasn't until my second trip back from this small wonderland paradise that I realized I was subconsciously absorbing what could easily be applied to authors, or any other kind of promotion. I was learning who the best sellers were and how they were accomplishing their jobs so well. From the street performers alone I learned a lot about how to present yourself and sell a product (any product, including you) effectively.

  • Have fun, and let it show. And believe in yourself/your product enough to let it show. Among the performers with tin cans and instrument cases open hoping for a spare buck, I could tell in a heartbeat the ones who were confident or having fun. Even the performers who seemed like they were off in their own worlds had a strong appeal. Because they were into it, and were inviting you into their world, into something they thought was very cool. Now on the other hand you of course had the guilt factor, of things like small kids who were put up to it by their parents for who knows what reason. They didn't look like they were having fun, and it showed.

  • Do something exceptional. Whether this was the cookie stand that was selling raspberry cookies (that were to die for) or the guy playing the didgeridoo. There was a guy there professionally sharpening knives. I saw people do straight up double takes, and conversations as we passed of people either remembering him or asking for a business card so they could bring their knives to him there or at their store later. There was also bicycle jewelry and non-dairy ice cream made with nuts instead (honest to goodness. And it tasted fantastic. I suppose this could also be said about something with free samples). There were candy cane beats were sold at only one stand and sold out within an hour of the market's opening. This applied equally well to blackberries. There were only three stands that sold them, and the one that offered the most for the lowest price was sold out by the time I walked that way again. These places, the unique ones, the ones I thought offered something special, those are the ones I remember, and the ones I'll be going back to.

  • Give the people what they want. Corn. Dude, the first people to sell corn before anyone else's harvest was sold out faster than you could blink.

  • Be personable, and be yourself. There was this honey guy. Now he wasn't the only honey guy there, but trust me, he was THE honey guy. He never seemed to be short of people (neither was it ever crowded, interestingly enough. Kind of like Goldilocks). He was the most open and friendly man at the market. I asked question after question and he answered them all without a hint of anything but patience and  generosity. And being a writer, you know I asked some mighty weird questions.

    Some people in the market called out like old fashioned bazaars, but it wasn't really very effective. If anything, it made me want to hedge away for fear that if I made eye contact they would reel me in like a fish with no way to extricate myself nicely. This guy called out like the rest of them, but his approach was completely different. I swear, he sounded just like Sam selling his onions from the book Holes. "Honey! We've got the good stuff here, folks. Try our honey butter!"

    Notice he didn't say it was the most amazing honey on the planet. Such a large claim is a tough order to fill, and often sounds like hyperbolized boasting. He said it was the good stuff, and let that be the draw, and it sounded like just enough of a truth to dare me on. And then here is the most important part… He let the product speak for itself. And oh my goodness, it was good. You could tell from other people's reactions to that little squirt of honey honey butter on a cracker that he wasn't lying. That proof of what he was claiming was genuine, that was genesis word of mouth, because it wasn't something he could generate on his own. That is the most important part. Sure, he was able to draw me in, but in the end, the product he was offering was what was real, and that is what sold me. You have to believe in your story/product enough to let it stand on its own.

    He also was never condescending of inquisitive people who just came for a sample and left. He offered it freely all the same, and it was that openness that made him both memorable (and approachable). Maybe they didn't have time, or money to buy it then. Or maybe they didn't like honey, but they thought they would try it for a friend of theirs. Did his open manner help? You bet it did, because I recommended him to at least two people telling them they specifically had to buy from him and no one else. You make an impression no matter what, so make sure you're remembered for all the good reasons.

  • Offer something different. There were a couple coffee stands, but only one of them looked like an iron train car and had tables in the shade. There were almost a dozen musicians, but only one harpist, and only one bohemian band. And of course the rocking didgeridoo guy.

  • Appearances matter. Look professional and you will seem more professional. There was a small group at a tiny table under a tree offering to write free customized poems (and perhaps even were accepting donations for something important) but because they were on a tiny table with only "Free Poems" handwritten on a piece of small poster board, I didn't know anything about them or their purpose. So I didn't approach. People that looked down or seemed predatory I also kept away from. Again, refer to the first observation about the performers doing something so absorbing and cool that they are drawn to you. Like, how could you be so into something and have it *not* be awesome? Invite them in instead of invade.

  • Be your own kind of different. In other words be you. On leaving the farmer's market I stopped at one last stand and picked up a "gourmet" popsicle with both strawberry and basil inside. It was really quite good. They sold popsicles, and they knew it, and were proud to of it. They owned it. And it was something you could just tell. So whether you are comfortable creating sketches in the margins of your books for your readers quietly and meticulously, creating a strong web presence, or even just a website, make it yours.   My mom is a talker and can approach complete strangers in a grocery store. That gene skipped me (in a big way). But I have a deeply creative side that I love to show. Play to your strengths. Make the things you love work for *you*. You do not want to be the performers where you can tell they are having no fun. Because you can tell those ones, very very easily. And it will translate to your product. If you don't believe in yourself, then how can be what you are selling be any good either?

Now go out, go forth, and sell your honey!

Feature Fun Friday - Interview with Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Blue Milk by Juno Day.

A beautiful, fascinating, and a bit haunting interview with the award-winning author of mesmerizing The Book Thief. You don't want to listen to me. You want the video.

A New Recipe! For the book For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Library of Congress by Trevor Rabin [National Treasure soundtrack].

Are you ready? It's recipe time.

If you haven't picked up a copy of For Darkness Shows the Stars (isn't that the most thought-provoking title? Love it!), you really should. It's a great read, and you'll appreciate this recipe a lot more.

Cause guess what you guys? I've done another first. Several actually, with this book recipe.

1. I've never created a book recipe that was "inspired by" and not specifically mentioned in the book.

2. I've never invented a recipe for something I did not at least have a familiar understanding of before.

I told you this recipe was very likely one you've never heard of before (not unless you happen to be Maori). It made for one heck of an adventure during testing since I had no idea if I was getting it right or not!

Before I tell you what it is, let me give you some secret tidbits delving into the world of For Darkness Shows the Stars.

The first thing I picked up on were the stars Elliot mentioned. Scorpius, Pegasus, Phoenix and others. It piqued my interest. These were all stars in the southern hemisphere. That was new to me. I contacted Diana to ask her about it and found out Elliot's island was inspired off of New Zealand, and in fact makes several subtle allusions to her (Elliot's) Maori heritage.

Ideas started to sprout in my mind. Wheat plays an important part of the story (I won't tell you what, but it happens in the first chapter), as does the sea. Because of their fear of technology, they have been very isolated to their close group of islands for some time. That plus Kai being an explorer made the sea a strong and natural choice to blend together, since it was also very representative of Elliot and Kai themselves. So sea... Salt. It was obvious. Wheat and salt...

And because of their aversion to technology, I wanted this to be a very traditional recipe. To tie in even more, I thought it would be freakishly cool if I could find a traditional Maori recipe for what else but bread? :) And there I found Rewena Paroa.

Now you might be stopping here going "Wait Heather! You tricked me! Bread is EVERYWHERE. Of course you know how to make it! I will spit on your grave for this." But what makes this bread different is how it is made. Instead of yeast (they didn't have it back then) they used fermented potatoes as a levener to make the bread rise.


Yes, we are using spoiled, gas-passing potatoes to make bread.

Stop staring at me like that.

It's good. (And if you think about it, it is genius of the Maori).

This is a way of making bread rise I've never heard of before. And neither has just about anyone in North America, apparently. Trust me, I checked out every fancy-pants artisan bread baking book in my library system (we have a very big library). The idea behind it was there, but not using potatoes specifically as a levener. It gives the bread a tangy, almost sour dough-like flavor. It's delicious.  Ready to get started? :)

First step. Plan three days in advance. This honestly was the hardest part because I had to think far enough ahead of when I wanted bread to start the rewena. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get the ingredient list first.


1 medium-large potato, cut into cubes
1 C. Water
1 tsp. Honey
2 C. Flour

Pour the water into small pot and add cubed potato bits. They should be covered by the water, but not by too much. If not, add a little more (more is better than less in this case). Boil until soft. DO NOT ADD SALT. This will kill all of the little buggies you are trying so hard to develop. :)

After they are tender when stabbed with a fork, turn off the heat and let the water cool down until it is luke warm. It should not take too long with this small amount of water. Once you can stick your finger in it without wanting to yank it out but feels comfortable instead, then you should be ready.

Take a potato masher, or fork, or any other utinsel of doom you desire to make this as smooth a mixture as possible.

Add the flour to a container (a clear on here is good. That way you can see when bubbles start to form). You want this mixture to be able to breathe, but you also want it covered (covered = more warm. Warm is your friend. Because it fosters new friends). :) That means either loose plastic wrap/aluminum/wax paper-(with rubber band) or one that has a lid placed loosely over it. Mine had a hole in the top. ^_^

Pour in the potato mixture. Stir in the honey, and cover with a lid.

Set in a warm place (I put mine in the window sill) for about three days. Give or take. This is up to your buggies.

Every day, stir in one tsp of sugar or 1/2 C unsalted water (alternate between the days). This feeds them.

 (on a water day)

I added water to the original pot, scraping the potato goo off the sides, and poured it into a separate bowl and left it on the counter, using that whenever I needed. If it developed more buggies to help the Rewena along, all the better. Any bad stuff would be cooked out in the oven, so I wasn't worried.

Then it starts to do cool stuff.

Yay! Little bubbles! Wait for it...

Bubble bubble, toil and trouble! Lots of little bubbles. And some bigger ones. Oh yeah.

NOW we're talking!

After you begin to see bubbles popping up all across the mixture and it is looking sticky yet liquidy, you are pretty darn close. Also, when you smell it, it should have a tangy odor to it, but not unpleasant. Almost like bread dough or sour dough, but a little different. My first time round it definitely did not smell like that. It should be a pleasant but slightly unusual, yet smells like something you would want to eat eventually.

The more bubbles the better. Especially good if you can see it all through the mixture.

If you can get more than this, even better.

Next step. The BREAD.

Rewena Paroa

4 C. Flour
2 tsp. Salt
1/4 C. Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Fresh Rosemary (fresh is worth it)

Put flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Stir together. Make a well inside the bowl for the Rewena.

Pour in the Rewena mixture. Sprinkle the baking soda on top.

Add the oil and rosemary. Mix together.

 Hello, little potato piece! My, don't you look dashing! :)

 Knead. Lightly if you want a fluffier loaf, more heavily if you want a denser one (you will be making gluten the more you knead it).

Set in a warm place for it to double. Two things I discovered in this process. Leaving it overnight does a fantastic job. But if you are pressed for time, sticking an electric hot pad underneath it does a good job of it as well (cover the top with a warm, damp cloth either way). Just remember to turn the hot pad back on after the automatic shut off. :)

After forming into a whatever shape you want your bread to take, sprinkle on top with sea salt to taste. (You were wondering when I was going to be adding the salt part, weren't you?) ;)

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown, roughly 30-40 minutes depending on the oven. It should sound hollow when rapped.

Eat warm or cool. Bon appetite!

*of a note. Every Rewena Paroa recipe I found (all three of them), it was straight up potato and bread. The rosemary and olive oil were my additions. I liked the flavor they added, and I figured after a post apocalyptic event and hundreds of years in the future, the recipe might have changed a little bit. :) I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did!

Something Tasty This Way Comes

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Freedom by 12 Girls Band.

This is a surprise I've been keeping inside for far too long. I was hoping for a couple of other things to come together, but after reading Diana Peterfreund's latest blog post, I can't push it back any more. It's just too good not to share.

Diana's latest book, For Darkness Shows the Stars, has gone into a SECOND printing. This is HUGE guys. This generally means that a book has sold enough to earn out the money the publishers paid up front for it and that the author can start making royalties on it.

This is especially good news for books that do not get a lot of marketing push and have to rely on word of mouth alone to survive.

This book is one I waited an excruciating year and a half to read. A post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion? It was SO GOOD. I loved Elliot's character. Goodness, I loved that girl. She is  someone I would love to have as a close friend, a best friend. She is incredibly strong, but not in any of the normal, sword-wielding, "kick-butt" ways, which was refreshing and original and incredibly real. Instead, she is strong by standing still (seems like a contradiction. It's not); like a rock against the storm. You'll understand when you read it. 

Here is a taste of what this story is about. Elliott was in love with Kai, the mechanic's son on her father's estate for years. But when he asked her to leave the island with him she couldn't, because the people on her estate needed her more. Four years later her estate is on a knife's edge of ruin because of her family's opulence. They are forced to rent their land to some explorers, among them a now almost unrecognizable Kai. He acts both cold and cruel, determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go. But they both have secrets. Elliott is not the obedient, demure luddite Kai believes her to be and Kai's secret could bring their entire world to its knees. 

It is so rare to read a love story of second chances. It is what drew me to it to begin with, but then having them be complex characters with multiple desires and dreams sealed it for me. I loved it. I devoured it. Like Austen, this will put you through the emotional wringer, but like Austen, there is a grin-worthy ending. I recommend it highly. 

And BECAUSE of that, I have a surprise for you all. I've invented another recipe. I can guarantee it is something you've never heard of before. :) It's coming tomorrow.

Monday's Muse, 59th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Brothers Under the Sun by Bryan Adams [Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron soundtrack].

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

Someday Dancer by Sarah Rubin.

A young teen in 1959 South Carolina has one dream, dancing on stage in New York City. Unfortunately, Casey's family is dirt-poor, with no money for dance lessons or much else. Her father died fighting in Korea, so her mother and grandmother, both of whom she loves dearly, must work. She can only watch from a tree limb as her rich, snooty, bullying classmate (dubbed Miss Priss) takes ballet classes. When New York City Ballet's School of American Ballet announces auditions, the Priss is certain of acceptance, while Casey must work after school for the bus fare. Once in New York, she is overwhelmed by its size and teeming population. Her lack of formal training and the ballet master's astute eye lead to a referral to the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. Casey loves the movements, takes classes, rehearses and soon dances with the company. Rubin, a debut author, describes the Graham style well but falters in her depiction of New York. Casey may not be the best tour guide for readers, obsessing over dance and family instead of geography, but she does learn to embrace both new friends and Miss Priss. Both Carolinians see their single-minded obsessions quickly--almost unbelievably--rewarded. Dance fans will enjoy the up-close look at a legendary dance troupe.--Kirkus (June 1, 2012).

Shiva's Fire by Suzanne Fisher Staples.

Staples, who wrote about the life of a Pakistani girl in Shabanu (1989) and Haveli (1993), offers a story set in India and brushed with mysticism. The heroine is Parvati, born during a devastating monsoon, who is destined to transcend her poor village beginnings to follow the extraordinary life of a classical dancer. The girl, who remembers everything from her birth on, is born the day her father, the maharaja's elephant keeper, dies. From almost her first moments, she is aware of the dance of life, and as she grows older, her dancing sets her apart from others in her village. Parvati's life is saved when a guru, a great master of Indian classical dance, recognizes her talent and takes her to his school in Madras. Then life begins anew for Parvati, who must dedicate herself to the religious and societal responsibilities that come with carrying on the lineage of dancers. The story's mystical underpinnings are infused with romance when Parvati meets the maharaja's son, and they learn how closely their destinies are intertwined. The injection of a romance in the final quarter of the book might not have worked in less-capable hands, but Staples makes this element seem like a natural evolution. One of the book's strengths is its vivid depiction of Indian life. Using language the way artists use paint, Staples writes with brilliant detail and mixes magic realism with hardscrabble poverty as she tells Parvati's story. A unique offering.--Ilene Cooper, Booklist (March 15, 2000).

The Kayla Chronicles by Sherri Winston.

A refreshing departure from YA books' tendency to emphasize underprivileged teens of color, this novel, set among well-heeled African Americans, rolls together gender politics and a friendship rift into a buoyant, thoughtful comedy. When Kayla is steamrolled by stridently feminist Rosalie into auditioning for their elite high school's hip-hop team, intending to expose discriminatory standards of beauty, something unforeseen occurs: Kayla actually makes the cut. To her surprise, the almost-15-year-old finds a sense of empowerment in dance, but Rosalie remains contemptuous of both the "hoochie-mama" dancers and of Kayla's decision to join them. The widening gap between the girls touchingly illustrates the shifts that can rock adolescent friendships, while memorable scenes, such as one in which a dancer matches Rosalie line for line in a Nikki Giovanni—recitation smack down, will win exuberant supporters for Winston's inclusive message: "Why settle for being just one type of girl?" Kayla's family tensions are underdeveloped, and some readers will feel shortchanged by the lack of dance specifics. Still, few recent novels for younger YAs mesh levity and substance this successfully, and while some of Kayla's concerns are specifically African American (such as whether using hair-relaxing treatments constitute buying into oppression), her smart, gently self-mocking voice will transcend racial lines to hit home with a large number of young women. --Mattson, Jennifer, Booklist (February 1, 2008 vol 104, number 11, p52).

Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher.

Ruby Jacinski, 15, quits school and works at a meatpacking plant to support her ailing mother and her sister. Her life changes dramatically when Paulie, a handsome young man with a terrible reputation, takes an interest in her and encourages her to pursue a job at the Starlight Dance Academy. There, she can earn a lot of money, get her family out of debt, and live a more exciting life by dancing with lonely men. For someone who loves to dance, the job is a dream come true, but Ruby soon learns that it comes with a price. She lies to her mother and tries to avoid the constant hustle and manipulation from both the customers and her coworkers. As she continues to turn to Paulie for protection and advice, she gets caught up in the seedier side of Chicago's poor Back of the Yards district. This is a unique look at U.S. social history. Ruby is tough, strong, and determined, but maintains the innocent and idealistic dreams of adolescence, thus endearing her to readers. The grittier side of Chicago nightlife and the harsh pressures on wartime youth to mature quickly are well delineated. This intriguing story is well paced and well researched.—Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL --Kimberly Monaghan, School Library Journal (April 1, 2008 vol 54, issue 4, p140).

The Stone Goddess by Minfong Ho.

In this historical first-person narrative, Nakri Sokha, a 12-year-old girl living in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh in 1975, has her world shattered overnight. A day that starts with Nakri's classical dance class ends with heavy bombing. By the next morning, the Sokha family wakes to find their city taken over by communist Khmer Rouge. Nakri and her older sister, Teeda, are sent to one refugee camp, her older brother to another. Her father, a teacher, is taken away by the Khmer Rouge and killed for being too educated while Nakri's mother is forced to stay behind with her younger brother. Readers follow Nakri and her sister to the work camp and watch painfully as they struggle to overcome the starvation and physical abuse. Nakri manages to keep herself alive, but Teeda dies from malaria. When the Khmer Rouge is dismantled four years later, Nakri reunites with her family and they flee to America. When the family settles in Philadelphia, Nakri, through her love of classical dance, is finally able to process her tremendous grief as she adjusts to the strange excesses of American life. Ho's (Maples in the Mist, 1996, etc.) narrative, arranged in four compact parts, manages to cover a lot of ground, but never strays from the intimacy of Nakri's strong, but vulnerable, voice. Teeda also shines as Nakri's idealistic and talented older sister, though the other family members lack emotional depth. The author takes on this shocking slice of world history with the appropriate amount of detail and sensitivity for a young audience, but the difficult subject matter makes it better suited for more mature readers.--Kirkus (February 1, 2003.

When the Stars Go Blue by Caridad Ferrer.

Soledad is about to graduate from a Miami performing-arts high school and is weighing her options for a future dance career. Jonathan, a classmate and musician, has had his eye on her for the last four years and finally makes his move by inviting her to join his all-male drum and bugle corps to perform as Carmen on their summer bus tour. Romantic feelings influence Soledad's decision to join the corps but issues with Jonathan's family and a Spanish soccer player traveling the same fair circuit threaten the budding relationship. Soledad is a self-assured, feisty Cuban-American teen with a strong drive. She lives for dance, so it doesn't ring true for her to pass up an opportunity to join a dance company to be with a boy in a drum corps. The relationship between Soledad and Jonathan is thin at the beginning of the book, but the plot picks up when the soccer player enters the scene. This twist will hook fans of romance, and the book satisfies with a climactic ending.--Shawna Sherman, Hayward Public Library, CA, School Library Journal (June 1, 2011, vol 57, issue 6, p116).

Aria of the Sea by Dia Calhoun.

On the island of Normost, in the kingdom of Windward, 13-year-old Cerinthe Gale is a folk healer who dreams of being a dancer. When her mother falls ill, Cerinthe fights to save her — but fails. She blames herself for her mother’s death, gives up healing, and decides to pursue dance. Cerinthe travels across Windward to audition at the School of the Royal Dancers, which accepts her even though she is a commoner. It should be the beginning of a brilliant future, but Cerinthe feels an emptiness she can’t identify. A disagreement with a young man, a conflict with a cruel teacher, a rivalry with an aristocratic classmate, Elliana, and a meeting with a mederi — a healer with magical powers — add to her anguish. When the rivalry between the two girls causes a terrible accident, Elliana’s life hangs in the balance. Cerinthe faces the same awful choice she had faced with her mother: Should she try to heal Elliana herself or hope that the mederi arrives in time? Only the song of the Sea Maid holds the answer.

Ever by Gail Carson Levine.

 When Kezi's mother's life is threatened, Kezi's father bargains with Admat, god of oaths, to spare her, but he is unprepared for the consequences: he must sacrifice Kezi, instead. Kezi finds hope in Olus, the Akkan god of the wind, who loves her and determines to save her. Together, Olus and Kezi face seemingly insurmountable trials, but if both succeed, they will be deemed Champions in the Akkan world and become immortal. Levine has crafted a mythical realm where a god's pottery, thrown in frustration, causes earthquakes; Olus' winds herd goats, dictate prophecies, and carry loved ones to safety; and magical potions have the power to change the characters' fates. The story is filled with suspense, action, and challenging philosophical questions: Would one truly wish to be immortal? What is the price of following a deity's commands? An action-packed love story set in an elaborate, challenging world, this richly imagined story will engage fantasy and romance readers alike. --Bradburn, Frances, Booklist (April 1, 2008, vol 104, number 15, p39).

Feature Fun Friday - Defiance Book Trailer by CJ Redwine

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): World in Front of Me by Kina Grannis.

It's not quite a month out, but I seriously can't wait any longer. This is a book I've been waiting for since I first heard the deal announced. Cover? Gorgeous. Author? Hilarious and wonderful. Story? Gimmie. It's DEFIANCE by CJ Redwine, and this is the book trailer. Oh, and ignore that release date at the end. It lies. It comes out August 28th!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Mario Kart Love Song by Sam Hart.

I had a beautiful plan for a post today. That has been pushed back, because of THIS.

Now, I'm a fairly tech savvy girl, and my sisters love to show me things on the internet, so I feel I've been decently well traveled traipsing through the back alleys and secret streets of the world wide web. I get a happy grin on my face at least once a week, but nothing like this.

I was literally jumping up and down, clapping my hands like I was five because nothing has pummeled me as being so cool and simply wondrous as this in a super long time.

I don't even know how to desribe it (it may be the childlike wonder still reeling inside me). It makes music. Click the squares or drag your mouse. And no matter how off it sounds and how much you think you've screwed it up, it turns into something cool.

Maybe it's not as awesome as I think it is, but I'm happy, and I wanted to share it with you.

*goes back to clicking*

Adventures in the GEEKIEST Ice Cream EVER.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Howl by Florence + The Machine [yes, this was planned. :)]

I am a lover of many things. Desserts among them. And there is a place (a magical place, really) that is is one of the coolest, geekiest places you can go for these two fixes. It's called Sub Zero. And they make ice cream... with liquid nitrogen.

*waits for the geekery to sink in*

I am totally serious.

The first time I ever heard of it, my eyes went wide. And then I did this.





And it tastes just as good. Because it's loaded with SCIENCE. It's cryogenically frozen ice cream for heaven's sake! Where is Beth Revis when you need her? It's a mite expensive (no worse than Coldstone) but a new location opened up close to me, so I *had* to go again. But I didn't want to do just any regular old ice cream. I wanted to turn mine into a homage for a book. Did you expect anything else? :) And what better place to start than incredibly awesome Howl's Moving Castle?

First of all, it had to be flamboyant. And just a little bit out there. But hopefully have enough cohesion that offered something both utterly delectable while staying true to the fun and richness of the book (and of course the character) of Howl Jenkins.

I decided on three different ice cream flavors (custard of course. I can't imagine Howl wanting anything less) - cake batter, blueberry, and a dash of lime. Then I mixed in cheesecake chunks and strawberries. Off the wall? Most definitely. Tasty? Boy, I sure hoped so. (I was going off his personality. And his wardrobe. Man, that boy does love to dress).

So they gathered the ingredients. Look at all that goo. ^_^

Then comes the liquid nitrogen, piped over from a vat that looks like it could have been taken straight out of a bond movie.

Doesn't that just look freezing?


 Yummy science! He's turning my liquid goo into ice cream.

Magic science.

And how did it taste? Reeealllly interesting. You could taste all of the flavors and they all melded one on top of each other. The cake batter and cheesecake pieces really helped hold the other flavors together. They went a bit heavy on the lime. I would take that back next time. For a first try though, I thought this a great success. One member of my group said it felt like a flavor shovelful to the face. Another family member said I'd invented fruity pebble ice cream. I thought it was different and yummy. This just means I get to go back and try and make it better. I think I've found a new addiction hobby.

Are there any books you think I should try and tackle in ice cream form? :D

Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Book of Iona by Bruno Coulais [The Secret of Kells soundtrack].

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 bestselling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Published: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Pages: 320
Current Amazon Rank: #25,911

Author's Website: Anne Ursu
Want it? Find it here.

The First Line:

It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel, fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric poems. It was the sort of snow that transforms around it into a different kind of place. You know what it's like--when you wake up to find everything white and soft and quiet, when you run outside and your breath suddenly appears before you in a smokey poof when you wonder for a moment if the world in which you woke up is not the same one you went to bed in the night before. Things like that happen, at least in the stories you read. It was the sort of snowfall that, if there were any magic to be had in the world, would make it come out.
And magic did come out.

My Take:

As you can see, I added more than the first line. Much more, in fact. I honestly couldn't stop, because I wanted you to see what kind of world Anne Ursu builds with this story and how it draws you in. Tell me you don't want to read the next page after reading that.

This is a story about a girl named Hazel, and her friendship with a boy named Jack. They do everything together. Jack doesn't mind that she is a girl. They talk and draw and play together, helping each other through their problems. And they each have them. Hazel's dad and mom are divorced and Jack's mom draws herself away from everyone at unexpected times. Hazel's mom does her best to get by for them, but Hazel has had to move from her private school to this new one where the teachers do not seem to understand her and the other kids torment her. But she doesn't mind, not too much at least. Because she has Jack. That is, until the day something happened when the snow fell and Jack stopped talking to her.

I do not want to give away too much, but I will say that this is a retelling of The Snow Queen. Or perhaps a better way to describe it is as an extension of that lesser-known fairy tale. I loved this book. From the language that positively begs to be read aloud (and is one of the best ways to determine the best MG books, in my opinion) to the characters and setting, it is immersive. You want to be lost in it. References to A Wrinkle in Time, The Golden Compass and Jack and Hazel's own "shrieking shack" are so original and done so seamlessly that feels instantly both timeless and at the same time utterly new for this generation. When you get to the fairy tale, let's say you had better be up on your fairy tale primer. There were references to Anderson's fairy tales that even I failed to place, and I loved that because it made the characters even more real. So when I got to the matchstick girl, I was rooting for her in more ways than one.

But don't get me wrong. This feels like a complete and original story. It is not an episodic checklist from one fairy tale to the next. Hazel goes into the woods to find her friend and things start to blur. And can I say Hazel is one resourceful little girl? She absolutely rocks. I would love to have her as a role model for my kids. This story is both light and deep. You will not always be happy, but you will not always be sad, either. It is a story to sink into. I did not find my way out easily.

The Final Word:

Such a wonderful gem of a story. Hazel is an amazing character for both boys and girls, but also surprisingly for adults. You will take away a whole additional layer the kids might not see in this book of friendship. A beautiful story, cool and fun. What more could you want?

(by the way, this cover? Hardcore LOVE)

Monday's Muse, 58th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): New Life by O+S.

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
Video Games.

Epic (see also Saga and Edda) by Connor Kostick.

Where fantasy and video games meet, there is Epic. In a society where violence is banned, people must settle their disputes in Epic, at the same time that they are trying to stay alive in order to accumulate wealth and status in both the game world and in reality. Impulsively, Erik creates his new Epic character to be female, and spends all his allocated start-up funds on beauty and attitude for Cindella rather than weapons, but something tells him that this is the way to go. She and his friends’ characters use a succession of unusual methods to save Erik’s father from exile and to challenge Central Allocations, the representatives who run the game, and thus, the society. Believable and realistic characters take readers through a thought-provoking story that juxtaposes a simple life working the land with the technology of a society simultaneously operating in a virtual world. Frequent turns of events that teens will know are coming, but not exactly when and how they will play out, keep the story moving along at a steady pace. There is intrigue and mystery throughout this captivating page-turner. Veins of moral and ethical social situations and decisions provide some great opportunities for discussion. Well written and engaging, Epic will easily draw in avid readers and video-game players. Appealing to fans of both fantasy and science fiction, it is destined to see limited shelf time.–Dylan Thomarie, Johnstown High School, School Library Journal (May 1, 2007, vol 53, issue 5, p136).

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline's first novel is old wine in new bottles. The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it's free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival's great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday's obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS.--Kirkus (May 1, 2011

For the Win by Cory Doctorow.

Doctorow is indispensable. It’s hard to imagine any other author taking on youth and technology with such passion, intelligence, and understanding. Although perhaps less urgent than Little Brother (2008), this effort is superior in every other aspect: scope, plot, character, and style. Set in the near future and in locations across the globe (though primarily China and India), the story involves a sweeping cast of characters making a living—if you want to call brutal conditions and pitiful wages a “living”—in such virtual-game worlds as Svartalfheim Warriors and Zombie Mecha. Many of them, like 15-year-old Mala (known by her troops as “General Robotwalla”), endure physical threats from their bosses to farm virtual gold, which is then sold to rich First World gamers. Then these brilliant teens are brought together by the mysterious Big Sister Nor, who has a plan to unionize and bring these virtual worlds—and real-world sweatshops, too—to a screeching halt. Once again Doctorow has taken denigrated youth behavior (this time, gaming) and recast it into something heroic. He can’t resist the occasional lecture—sometimes breaking away from the plot to do so—but thankfully his lessons are riveting. With it’s eye-opening humanity and revolutionary zeal, this ambitious epic is well worth the considerable challenge. -- Kraus, Daniel, Booklist ( vol 106, number 17, p84).

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde.

A near-future teenager trapped in a full-immersion virtual reality game finds herself racing the clock to beat non-virtual death in this plausible, suspenseful outing. Safety precautions come to naught when a group of anti-fantasy do-gooders breaks into a games arcade and damages the equipment. Stranded in "Heir Apparent," a game in which she, as the illegitimate but designated successor to a medieval throne, has to claim and keep her position, Giannine discovers that she can only escape real brain damage, or worse, by finishing the game within three "days." Vande Velde (Being Dead, 2001, etc.) keeps readers in touch with the outside world with substantial but not distracting subplots, surrounds her bright but amateur gamer with magic implements, allies or rivals with unknown allegiances, and other standard game devices, and creates a believable plot line for the game to follow. Though Giannine is repeatedly (to her vast annoyance) forced to start over after being "killed," she learns from her mistakes, survives increasingly tricky, sometimes hilarious, challenges, and wins both crown and life at the last possible moment by not only overcoming opponents, but by using newly developed diplomatic skills to win allies. It's riveting reading for experienced gamers and tyros alike.--Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2002).

Erebos by Ursuala Poznanski.

When 16-year-old Nick gets a package, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. The package contains the mysterious computer game Erebos. Players must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.

Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur.
This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany where it has become a runaway bestseller.

Z by Michael Thomas Ford.

The First Rule of Torching: Cleanse with fire. Josh is by far the best zombie Torcher around—at least, he is in his virtual-reality zombie-hunting game. Josh has quickly risen through the player ranks, relying on the skill, cunning, and agility of a real Torcher.

The Second Rule of Torching: Save all humans. But luckily for Josh, zombies exist only in the virtual world. The real zombie war is now more than fifteen years in the past, and the battle to defeat the deadly epidemic that devastated his family—and millions of others—is the stuff of history lessons.

The Third Rule of Torching: You can't bring them back. Charlie is the top-ranked player in the game. Since all the players are shrouded in anonymity, Josh never expects Charlie to be a girl—and he never expects the offer she makes him: to join the underground gaming league that takes the virtual-reality game off the screen and into the streets. Josh is thrilled. But the more involved he gets, the more he realizes that not everything is what it seems. Real blood is spilling, members of the team are disappearing, and the zombies in the game are acting strange. And then there's the matter of a mysterious drug called Z. . . .