Monday, January 25, 2010

Ninety-Nine Days!!!

We are down to TWO DIGITS till Spells comes out!! I haven't checked in a while and went to my site to check this morning and was like Holy Cow!! Less than a hundred days! It feels so close and so far all at the same time! Mostly It feels weird that we are almost into the second month of 2010. Heck, it feels a little weird that it is 2010 at all. Twenty Ten! Hello!

Anyway, ARCs of Spells have begun circulating and showing up in book bloggers' mailboxes, and I don't want my lovely blog readers to feel left out!! So I wanted to let you guys know that there will be three Spells ARC giveaways coming up in the next month! Starting the week before Valentine's Day, I will be giving away an ARC here (because I love giving away a romantic book for Valentine's day!) and then I will also be providing an ARC to my two main fansites, for the younger crowd, and Late Bloomers for the late teens and up crowd! We don't have details yet, but keep an eye on the blog and I will be putting the contest up soon!

Also, I am doing my first writers conference next month! One of my awesome Utah writer friends, Jeff Savage, is coming down to hang out with me . . .er . . . I mean be the keynote speaker, and it looks like a pretty good line-up! So if you are looking for a one-day writers conference in the greater Phoenix area, I'll be at this one.:D (You can find details here.)

2010 ANWA Writers Conference
"Start Write Now!"
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Best Western Dobson Ranch Inn
1666 South Dobson Road
Mesa AZ 85202-5699

So yeah, I think that's all my news. Oh, wait! Wait! I sold Basque rights to Wings and Spells last week! Long-time readers may know that I have a romance novel (that seriously needs to be totally re-written, but that's a whole other story) set in Basque and I have done tons of research on the area and am so exceptionally stoked about this!!! Basque is a fascinating language. So yeah, very happy.:D


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Suck.

It's been almost two weeks. I apologize. My husband is in bar prep. Six nights a week. Plus studying and homework most of the day. That leaves me with my children . . . . ALONE!!! :D

Nah, it's really not that bad, it just means I have very little spare time and what I have has been going into keeping the house on the verge of being squalor. So we do not live in squalor!!! . . . quite.:)

So I am going to steal a page out of James Dashner's blog-book, since he is the world's laziest man (hehe, wuv you!) , and just give you a random list of ten things. Ready? Go!

1.) My mother made me a nightgown. It is gorgeous! It is dark purple and goes from shoulder to just touching the ground. And it has sleeves so that I can get up and walk around in the morning without getting dressed and still be decent since . . . .

2.) My brother-in-law and his wife are moving in with us this week. Yay!! I love having people living with us! I get to cook for more people! But I don't have to change their diapers! It's almost better than having a new baby!! Almost . . .

3.) Spells arcs are starting to be circulated!! They were all over the place at ALA Midwinter this last weekend and so reviews should shortly follow. I am scared. And excited. But mostly scared.

4.) However, to buoy my confidence a little, I got a wonderful, incredible, fabulous blurb from the newly minted NYT Bestselling author Carrie Jones, of the killer pixie novels Need and Captivate!! And because I am super mean and also want to show off my new Spells page of my website, I am going to make you click and scroll in order to read it.:)

5.) My kids are undergoing some rather intense academic testing. I worry for them! But hopefully this will put them in the same school and on the same schedule next year. *crosses fingers*

6.) I found a dark chocolate bar with lavender and blueberries. So full of WIN!

7.)My gym decided to give in and start Zumba classes. I am a happy girl.

8.) I got a P.O. Box. I feel all professional and special now.:D Now I just need to get my business cards printed (with the P.O. Box on them!!) so people will stop looking at me like I am an under prepared amateur when they ask for a card and I don't have any. *puts business cards on the to-do list*

9.) I'm out of wheat. In Utah you can get bulk white wheat at Wal-mart . . . or pretty much anywhere else. (You can probably get it at the corner gas station :)) Here? Not so much. I made my last five loaves of bread today (that's a normal batch) and I expect it to last less than a week, especially with my two new move-ins. I better start doing some research.

10.) I got a new van over Christmas. Did I mention that? It was because our other van died--we didn't actually want to get a new car till the Spring--but I love it and every time I drive it I feel like a spoiled brat. Also, the doors open and close when I push a button on my keychain and my two youngest kids are convinced they open when they yell "OPEN!" at them.:D

And that's me!!


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Chocolate, Chocolate, and More Chocolate!

Just FYI, this has absolutely nothing to do with books.:D

Okay, this entry is a little late, but super picture-laden. One of my very favorite Christmas traditions in the Pike household is making hand-dipped chocolates. I learned the basics from my fabulous mother-in-law, and I've kind of gone overboard with it over the last few years. But hey! No one has complained yet that I made too many kinds of chocolates.:) But Carrie Ryan wanted me to take pictures of the process, so if you find the following totally boring, blame her.:D

I'm going to start with my favorite, which is pinoche. (Pin-oh-chay.) (Lots of people say Pin-osh, and they are welcome to, but the recipe we finally found that we liked the best insisted that the pronunciation is pin-oh-chay, and who am I to argue with the most perfect recipe on earth?) Pinoche is a brown sugar fudge that we make really soft so I actually have to freeze it to get it out of the pan and then re-freeze it after I've cut it in order to keep it from dissolving when I dip it in chocolate. Frozen pinoche looks like this:

Then I dip it in melted chocolate and the irregular pieces look quite ugly. But they are sooooo good.

And once they are dipped and thawed, they look like this, with the soft, brown sugar/mapley centers barely hard enough to not drip out. Mmmmmmmmm.

The next easiest is truffles . . . actually, they are probably the easiest. But I like the pinoche the best, so it gets to be explained first.:D Truffles are actually super simple. I think they are best that way. The key for truffles for me, is to use European chocolate. They really melt in your mouth that way! So in my truffles, I use melted chocolate, scalded cream, and a touch of vanilla. That is it. Period.

Oh, and that bowl on top of a pan? That is me being too stubborn/cheap to buy a double boiler. Works like a charm!So I get those three ingredients mixed and I put it in the fridge until it hardens enough to scoop into balls. I have a teeny little scooper just for this purpose!

Then, like the pinoche, I have to freeze them in order to dip them without them melting to pieces in the warm dipping chocolate.:) (I'll show you a pic of them dipped in a second.)

The really tricky part of making chocolates is making my flavored creams. I make them out of fondant from scratch so there is much boiling and stretching.:D Basically I boil the snot out of a mixture of sugar, cream, sugar, Karo syrup, and sugar. Then I lay out parchment paper in 9x13 pans and pour the boiling hot liquid into them.

Usually this works like a dream. This time one of my pans cracked under the pressure.

Then I have to cool it to the perfect temperature. I can't let it get too cold or it will crack, but if I don't let it get cold enough, it won't set up. I'm finally getting a feel for it.

After it is cool, I plop it into my bosch. (You can do this by hand, but it is way, way hard.)

Then I use my dough kneading attachment and stretch the fondant for about ten minutes, at which point it changes. Seriously, check out this before and after. It always excites me!

Cool huh! Then I flavour and color it and scoop it out into perfect little sherbet looking balls!

Then freezing the centers again, so they can be soft inside the chocolate, but hard when I dip them.

And when they are done they look like this! With all kinds of interesting splatters to differentiate between the flavors!

I also dipped several kinds in white chocolate this year, but totally spaced getting pictures.

So there are my chocolates!!! Wish I could give a few to each of you, but pics will have to do.