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Archive for the ‘Cupcakes’ Category

The Liar SocietyCover Me:  The only part about the cover I really feel is the hair.  I love hair.  I love pink hair even more.  I’m not sure which private school has the naughty school girl Halloween costume as their uniform, but this girl wears it well.  And maybe that’s what sells books.  For me, it did not.  It was the promotional low price offered by the publisher.  If you go now, you might get the steal of a deal price.

Concept:  Kate’s best friend Grace died a year ago in a fire that was ruled an accident.  When Kate receives an email from her dead friend, her suspicions it was something more sinister are revived.  Kate is determined to find out who killed her best friend.  It’s a great concept.  Sucks you right in from the moment you realize how wrecked Kate is after Grace’s death. 

The Peeps:  Kate is good main character to follow along.  I like her mix of obsessed detective and broken person.  She’s racked with guilt for not saving her friend and wants to believe her friend is still somewhere to be saved.  Side characters include: Seth–the next door friend who’s in love with her, Liam–the mysterious love interest she’s not sure she can trust, and Maddie–the friend she lost when Grace died.  They each do a nice job of moving the story forward and uncovering another layer about Kate.   

The Ending (spoiler alert!):   Kate finds an underground secret society is responsible for her best friend’s death and their continuing power keeps it ruled an accident.  This also means Grace is really dead.  I hoped for Kate that somehow Grace was still alive, but it was nice to see it didn’t happen.  That would’ve made me hate it because I like the fact bad things happen.  People hurt.  And good doesn’t always deserve a happy ending.

The Roecker sisters do a nice job of building suspense in this mystery.  The middle sagged for me a little bit and I got a little bored going back and forth with trusting Liam or not.  I also don’t think the story went along with the tag line under the title of “You’re only as good as your last lie.”  Kate doesn’t make a living out of lying.  She uses it more to continue the investigation.  That all being said, I liked this book.  It kept my interest and the end made sense.  It gave a nice example of showing a sympathetic  main character, building suspense, and keeping the intensity up.

What I’ve Cooked Up:  A common visual written are the pearls Kate inherited when Grace died.  It’s a little creepy because now that I think about it, I think Grace wore them the last night she was alive and some how Kate gets them.  Anywho, Kate wears them all the time.  This is my cupcake likeness to our main character, Kate.

The Liars Society

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Anna Dressed in BloodCover Me:  The cover is cool.  It’s the gothic, emo, edgy, I’m-such-a-badass-for-reading-it type of cool.  How could any young adult refuse this cover?  (Or any middle aged Young Adult writer wannabe who loves it dark?)  It’s beautiful with the many shades of grey melting into each other and highlighted with bright drops of blood red.  The book was recommended by The Spinster, but the cover seduced me like a long haired boy wearing black eye liner.

Concept:  Cas hunts ghosts.  He inherited this responsibility when his father was killed by one.  His newest target is Anna Dressed in Blood.  She has the reputation for killing dozens of teenagers and homeless people who venture into her home.  Things are going as planned until Cas gets the jerk jock killed, buddies up with friends he didn’t want, and falls in love with the murderous ghost.

The Peeps:  Cas is a strong lead character with wit.  I enjoyed the ensemble cast including Cas’ mother who has a nice role in trying to keep him normal.  The description of Anna and her dripping blood dress was fabulous!  I mean, love the creepy in her description.  Pretty hot.  I see why Cas was smitten.  Especially when she tore a boy in two pieces.  Awesome!  Beyond that, I really don’t have much to say.  This might not be a good sign for the strength of the peeps.  Cas’ humor was appreciated and the casual style of Ms. Blake’s writing was enjoyable.  But I wasn’t too invested in the problem of Cas being in love with the ghost.  Even though I knew it couldn’t last forever, I wasn’t too upset one way or the other.  The book was more propelled by the thriller aspect than the peeps in my mind.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):  The ending was my least favorite part.  After creating this fabulous mystery about evil Anna, Cas and his buddies “fix” her to being a good girl half way through.  I was kinda wondering where the mystery was after that.  Well, it was dropped in with Cas’ father’s murderer lurking in the attic.  Although, the suspense of looking for his killer was one I was in for, I was not down with the answer.  I thought for sure it was going to be linked to his father’s old friend or some twisted thing with his mother.  But instead it was some creepy voodoo dude we never heard about before.  WTF?!  Where did he come from?  Oh, he’s attached to the famous ghost killing knife?  Double WTF?!  Maybe it was me.  Maybe I missed something earlier in the book which should have made it obvious this was coming.  I saw the voodoo aspects, but the villain having no connection wasn’t my fave.

Also, once again, the book is set up for the sequel.  I will say, at least in this one, the problem of this book is resolved.  Thank you.  This criticism of the end didn’t deter me from liking it.  It was a fun read with some parts I really enjoyed.  My noted point above was something to keep it off my “I love this book more than anything” shelf.

What I Cooked Up:  With my New Year’s resolution being to work with fondant more, I thought this would be a perfect time to try something totally different from what I’ve done before.  Anna is topped on a cupcake with her blood soaked dress.  The image of her black hair swirling was too sexy to pass up.  Hopefully her cupcake represents the beauty in the darkness of the character.

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The Name of the StarCover Me:  You may disagree, but I find this cover ho-hum.  The Jack the Ripper feel is evident with the shadowy character in the top hat, but it doesn’t “wow” me as some of the covers nowadays.  There isn’t anything that stands out to make me hate it, even though I’m not a fan of the title, but there is nothing to draw me in either.  It was the book jacket (or the small synopsis for us Nook users, now called by me “Nookers” with the same connotation as “hookers”) which was the thing that landed me hook, line, and sinker.

Concept:  Right after Rory arrives in England for school, some wacko starts mimicking the Jack the Ripper killings.  He uses the same locations, same dates, and same murderous styles as the ones from 1888.  This was such a cool concept, I couldn’t wait to start this book.  It was the one I used as the reward for finishing my own WIP and it kept me working through some long nights.  Who isn’t totally intrigued by Jack the Ripper.  (Which is something the author hits on in the book quite well with funny spoofs and television sensationalism.)   To say my expectations were high is an understatement.

The Peeps:  Aurora, known as Rory, is a character I was able to read through but I didn’t connect well with her.  She didn’t have the strongest voice I’ve read lately and fell flat in some areas.  There were a lot of surrounding characters as well, which gave the impression of “character soup.”  There were the set of classmates, the ghost-busting crew, and the different ghost friends.  Uh, yeah, I said ghosts.  None of them were noteworthy.  The one who stuck out the most to me was the character quoting the Smith’s songs because I thought it was such an odd reference, like maybe I wasn’t as old as I thought if the kids today were still listening to the Smiths.  But no, it was the kid who died in the 80’s who was channeling Morrisey.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):  My saddest moment was when I realized the murderer was a ghost.  All real fear vanished, which was probably the opposite of what the author wanted.  I wasn’t into the part about being able to see dead people.  From the beginning, the book reminded me a lot of Deception with its boarding school environment and ability to channel the dead.  Major differences, Deception not trying to sell me Jack the Ripper and I liked the main character more.  In this story, I found myself skimming several times through areas of description trying to find some action.

A major thing I didn’t like was the point of view shift to omniscient to give another scene from the story.  It kinda feels like cheating.  Ninety percent of the book is from Rory’s point of view until we need some other little details like finding a body, recovering some surveillance tapes, building suspense with a news network, and scaring the public with a message.  It was weird to jump a few times and then go back to first person like nothing had happened.

Overall, the book was good, but not the best.  Maybe I had too high of expectations.   Or maybe with my growing collections of YA’s read, I expect more.  What I did learn was by using a well-known character like Jack the Ripper to draw a reader in, you also bring a high bar.  If you don’t deliver with the known figure, the character could be the thing that kills the potential of the novel.

What I Cooked Up:  I’d like to call this Death by Cupcake.  Here we have an innocent vanilla cupcake with a sweet dollop of vanilla buttercream.  That is before the sharp knife cookie of the Ripper starts to slice away.  The strawberry guts are punctured and pulled out in honor of our killer.

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Cupcake Wars

Most people are aware cupcakes have taken over the world.  There are no more bakeries, there are only a slew of “cupcakeries” lining every street.  Even in my small town, there are four shops that specifically sell cupcakes.  My girlfriend with the rockin’ colored hair (now a bright purple) and I have been sampling from each of them to see who has the best ones.  We purchase a set while on the clock at our regular job and involve our boss on a three judge panel.  What we found in the last month are the cupcakes in this town suck.

In answer to our feeling of superiority over the other bakers who have come up short, we’ve decided to find recipes to make our own concoctions.  My friend started with a ginger cupcake topped with a green tea frosting (because of my recommendation for something different.)  She made a double batch of what ended up being very expensive cupcakes.  She brought them to work, shared with her staff, taste tested with me and then opened herself up to the feedback of the floor. 

It was very interesting to see the room transform into the overly critical French judge from Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.  Some people liked the interesting take of the cupcake and enjoyed the chopped pieces of crystalized ginger in the cake.  Others like the uniqueness of the bright green colored frosting with the subtle hint of green tea.  But then there were the others.  People who spit it out in an overdramatized motion acting like a king who had been poisoned.  Another cried out “that’s disgusting” without a second thought of the baker standing right in front of them. 

It reminded me of the behavior sometimes found on writing boards.  A generous person brought something to the party they had spent time on and poured their heart into.  Feedback was requested.  Of course, you hope the world says it’s great, like something they have never tasted (or read) before, but you are okay if they give you something to tweek it to make it better.  But when people are rolling their eyes, grabbing their throats, and rushing for water, you feel a little deflated.  Different from writing boards, the cupcake creation followed someone else’s recipe and isn’t as personal as a novel which required six months of your life.

My first experience with a critique from a writing board was two years ago and, honestly, before I was really ready.  Some people were nice and tried to help a flawed recipe.  But there were others who were down right brutal.  I remember one famous comment was “I hope your main character dies so I don’t have to read any more.”  Sure, it stung.  And then it made me question if I was cut out for this writing world.  But after a little while it became funny and now it’s something that fuels my continued education to become a better writer.

Did we learn from our taste test with the green tea and ginger?  Sure.  It’s too unpredictable to be a staple recipe.  Like with writing, you have to decide when you are going to edit a work or leave it altogether for a new project.  So we’ve moved on to another recipe, the Irish Car Bomb, and I’m prepping it for tasting in between writing paragraphs on the WIP.  I have hopes it will be better received.  I know it won’t meet everyone’s taste and I’m okay with that.  I just want it to show some progression.  But if nothing else, it’s great practice.  Because even with a bad batch of cupcakes hitting the trashcan or a novel that has to be shelved, there are many things learned to make the next one irresistible.

Guinness cake with Jameson's Irish Whiskey ganache

Bailey's Irish Creme butter cream on top

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A favorite thing to do at the end of the year is mentally or physically list through accomplishments.  For agents, it may include how many queries in ratio to clients picked up.  For authors, it may be a list of books read in comparison to the resolution made at the beginning of the year.  For me, the clock striking midnight on December 31st is a listing of the “shouldas.”  I know this is an exercise in futility, but it’s my nature to want more.  After a month of letting the new year sink in, it is much easier now to see the successes in 2010. 

My other favorite thing is to document my experiences in photos.  Yes, I obnoxiously have the camera every time I do anything to make sure I never forget anything.  Can you imagine when a book of mine gets published?  I’ll be down at the Barnes and Noble every day taking pictures of the book on the shelf, people walking in the area, and the chick buying it at the register after I have browbeaten her in the aisle.

Here’s my 2010 year in review of new things I tried, discovered, or that have enhanced my life:

I bought a book on how to make cute cupcakes.  This was one of my first batches and it’s been crazy ever since.  Even this weekend, I am commissioned to make more.  I’m not sure if this was a blessing or a curse.

I fell in love with the lemon drop martini.  It’s been my drink of choice and many o’ nights practicing the Porter’s recipe at home.  You can’t say I’m not willing to sacrifice for my art.  (Last night…maybe a little too much.)  Also, made it a priority for more “Girls’ Nights,” which Carrie helped with greatly.

 

Toad the Wet Sprocket at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland.  I saw them my freshman year of college in 1993 at the Hollywood Palladium when I worked security rubbing down people as they entered concerts.  I was excited just to see them again, but when we had a chance meeting with Todd the guitarist in a bar around the corner afterwards, the night exceeded any expectations. 

This concert was followed up by Vampire Weekend with Hubs.  With expectations of meeting the band, Hubs cornered the lead singer Ezra at our hotel for enough time to say hellos and scare the hell out of him.  No photos because I was trying to be respectful of his privacy.  Screw that next time, I’m getting the picture.

I was fortunate that Mr. Carnell asked me to read his book and give my opinion.  Not only was it (and still is) incredibly flattering, it was a great experience.  It helped me see the story writing process from a totally different view.  We had great conversations about story structure, plotting, and characters.  He was nice enough to even give me a “shout out” in the Thank You section (something I look at when my confidence waivers.)

Got my eyes lasered!  (Please ignore the hideousness of the picture.)  After two years of saving in my HSA by not letting my children go the doctor (don’t worry, no broken bones or blood), I was able to get my vision corrected.  BEST DECISION EVER!

I was exposed to many new things this year–Trunk Bar, Karaoke, and Beer Pong.  They did add liveliness to the year and some great performances.

Facebook influenced me in 2009 to start writing.  In 2010, it connected me with some old friends whom I missed.  On a trip back to California, I was able to connect with several old friends and made my life richer.

How could I not mention the million pictures Alex and I took together?  For some reason, I find the most entertainment taking self portraits with Alex.  She’s a good sport, a lot of fun, and a great singer at karaoke.

No year would be complete without my amazing family.  The kids are super funny and give me some of the best memories.  My husband has been supportive of my disappearing act every night for two to three hours as I work on my book.  It’s a very difficult process to be married to someone who writes, let alone that person being me.

Overall, a pretty successful year.  The goal this year is the same as last — query, get an agent, work towards publication, and write another book.  I know I’m in a better position with a new book, a new query, and a new understanding of the business.  And while working towards my ultimate goal of being an author, I resolve to appreciate the every day accomplishments before waiting until the end of the year.

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As I mentioned before, the end of the year brings the reflection of another year passed.  While there have been successes this year, I have the tendency to focus on the near misses and all-out fails.  Listing through all of them would only serve as the main course in a buffet-style pity party.  Instead, I’m going to make references about the title I chose.  (Snicker away at all the dirty jokes that have already come to your mind.)  And yes, of course, my husband’s involved dropping his pants.

This year brought an introduction to cupcakes and cake balls.  Although you have already seen the phallic symbols of the cupcake, the name cake ball is just as bad.  But I’ve opted for cookie balls (no better in name.)  I have followed a couple of the recipes from the book with marginal success, but yesterday I attempted to go out on my own.  I wanted to make a zombie head.  Well, it sucks.  The kids think it’s funny with pink hair (that’s suppose to be a brain) and I’ve tried to add embellishments to jazz it up, but this sucker is dead (pun obviously intended.)  But, I’m not going to let that failure get me down on balls.  Instead, I am in the process of making some sugar-coated ones for my team as a gift into the new year and for a friend who needs a little reminding she is something special.

The kids played T-ball this year.  It was Girl’s first introduction to a sport and my son’s recovery from the wrestling failure of last year.  It was so cute to see them geared up in the team uniform and topped with a baseball cap.  We endured some windy afternoons, frustrated screaming of “ready position,” and even crying during a game.  I actually said the line “There’s no crying in baseball” to my son. But,  they didn’t give up.  They practiced on weekends and had a smile at every game.  We even attended the year-end pizza party where the coach encouraged them to come out again next year.

No balls dropped in the constant juggle of home, work, and self.  There was struggling times with Hubs going back to work and adjusting to the kids back in day care, but we got through it.  We had more adventures this year (concerts, parties with friends, karaoke) than in the several past ones.  Still marginal success in the work world with being able to bring new ideas to a corporate environment and not hating my job.  All around it’s hard to not say it was a success.

I guess the crystal ball falling in New York will symbolize the same thing it does every year, hope on the horizon.  We make the new year for what we strive and remember the past one the way we want.  Good things are coming up…I can feel it.  And no, this isn’t a continuation of my husband’s joke of dropping his pants.  (But I’m snickering for you thinking it–pervert!)

Just in case you wanted to see how bad “Zombie Pop” sucked.  The redemption is in the background.  The kids refuse to let me throw away the zombie.

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The Answer…

I did have some smart people who guessed.  I also had others to whom I suggested I could add a couple donut holes and take it to a whole new level of pervy.  Ewwwww….

 

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