Baking Therapy

Greetings, and welcome to this edition of  Friday Rambles. Did everyone have a great holiday?  Mine was quieter than expected due to snow and ice; we stayed home instead of driving out of state to visit family. Given how busy my life’s been the last six months, that was an unanticipated slice of heaven. I sat in front of the fire most of the day and wrote (I’m working on Matt Archer 3 at the moment, in addition to thinking through a serial novel I plan to launch in the second half of the year). After weeks of stress prepping for Christmas while in the midst of my busiest time at work, a day with nothing on the docket was just what I needed.

But what if those little moments of rest don’t come? How can you maintain your sanity in a society that is perpetually getting busier, faster and more complex? For me, I go old school.

My grandmother always said she was a terrible cook, evidenced by the fact that the rest of us fought over the last piece of fried chicken or spoonful of black-eyed peas like a band of ravening wolves. Modesty was her motto, and even if we argued the dinner was magnificent, she’d find some flaw to point out. See, Grandma was a perfectionist (gee, wonder where I got that personality trait), and did all of her cooking by hand. For big holiday meals, she’d spend twenty minutes chopping up five onions at the kitchen table. She didn’t know the trick about how to slice the onion into strips and dice it quickly, and no food processor was going to invade her kitchen. No, she carefully cut those onions up, one section at a time, into uniform pieces no matter how long it took.

This is also how she made pies.

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she’d mix and roll out her pie crust from scratch, make the chocolate pie filling…from scratch…and whip the meringue (she cheated here, using an electric hand mixer instead of stirring, thank goodness). Grandma would bake pecan pies and caramel pies and cobbler, too, all of it from the basic ingredients. I didn’t even know what canned pie-filling was until I saw it in the baking aisle at the grocery store when I was in high school.

Thanksgiving Pie

A Chocolate Meringue Pie I made for Christmas Eve dinner.

Grandma taught me to bake, and once I got the hang of it, I never looked at boxed mixes again. There’s something so therapeutic about working flour and Crisco into dough that’s still dry enough to be flaky without falling apart, fighting to roll it out so that it doesn’t crumble and carefully transferring it from the baking parchment to the pie dish. Baking is chemistry, artistry and magic. Whether it’s cookies or a double-crust apple tart, you have to  work with your dough, through trial and error, to figure out the little quirks that will make it perfect. And there’s gratification in the end-result–a well-made pie doesn’t last very long.

Books are like that, too. It takes an author a lot of time (and some chemistry, artistry and magic) to create a novel, and the end result–if the story is done right–is devoured quickly, but with great enjoyment.

What about you? Do you love baking? Hate it? Any other holiday stress relievers to share?

It’s Finally Here! Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge

Greetings!

::Looks outside:: Well, no massive volcano has erupted in North Texas, so I guess I can send out this post!  🙂

Now, for an announcement. 

IT’S MA2 RELEASE DAY!!!!

 

Matt Archer Blades Edge 800 Cover Reveal and Promotional (3)I’m super excited to announce that Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge (MA2 for those playing along at home) is now available as an eBook from Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords! (UPDATE — MA2 is now available at Barnes & Noble!). Other retailers, along with the print version, will be added soon, too.  What better way to celebrate the (not) end of the world and the holidays, than by releasing a book? And, yeah, I’m totally dancing like Snoopy about this. 

Blade’s Edge marks a change in Matt’s life. This book was tougher to write than Monster Hunter in a lot of ways. Matt’s older (almost 16), a little more jaded and has Big Things to deal with and overcome. In some respects, it’s my Goblet of Fire — Matt, like Harry Potter, is tested beyond his limits and has to find his way out on the other side. It also marks a change from a younger YA tone (suitable for older MG readers, so 11+) to a more true YA tone (this one is appropriate for readers 12+).  Books 3 and 4, which will come out in 2013, are firmly PG-13 YA.  Since I’m a parent who’s pretty vigilant about what my kids read, I want to be upfront about this. As Matt gets older, so does his story.  I just want to put that out there with the hope it’s useful information.

Bringing a book into the world takes a village, and a lot of people made this one happen.  I want to send a special shout-out to my husband (who read multiple drafts, held my hand when I nearly quit and generally keep my crap together) and to my dad (who taught me to read and helped bring Matt to life).  My beta readers–Lindsay, JR, Jeanne, LaDonna, Elizabeth, Liz, Crash, Arthur, Maria and Becca–gave me a ton of advice…so huge thanks to them!! Finally, the military–particularly U.S. Army Special Forces–factors into much of this book. I want to take this time to thank all the soldiers who sacrifice so much for our country. To you, I give my most humble appreciation.

And the biggest thank you of all?  To my readers, of course! Matt Archer: Monster Hunter got a ton of support, retweets, raves and reviews from y’all, and it meant the world to me. I hope this new installment exceeds your expectations and I’m hopeful you’ll continue on this journey with our intrepid monster hunter.

Now for a little launch fun!  I have a GoodReads giveaway running right now. Two lucky entrants will win signed copies of both Monster Hunter and Blade’s Edge! Check it out via the link below. In the meantime, thank you for all the support, and let’s go hunt some monsters! 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Matt Archer by Kendra C. Highley

Matt Archer

by Kendra C. Highley

Giveaway ends January 04, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

 

Enter to win

 

The Next Big Thing — Matt Archer Blade’s Edge

It’s Friday Rambles time on Monsters and Mayhem and today I’m participating in a fun author blog hop called The Next Big Thing. I was tagged for this exercise by the super-talented Teresa Frohock  (if you haven’t read Miserere: An Autumn Tale, what are you waiting for?!), and I’m excited to participate.

So, what’s my next big thing?  I have a sequel to Matt Archer: Monster Hunter coming out!

What is the working title of your book?   Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge

Where did you get the idea for the book?  I originally wrote the first book as a short story for my son that grew into an adventure tale about a teenager who fights monsters. The deeper I got into the “mythology” of the tale, though, I realized I had a series on my hands. But with all the “I love vampires” fiction out there, I thought it would be fun to have a straight-up “I’m going to kick demon butt” book aimed at YA readers, particularly the guys.

What genre does your book fall under? Young Adult Paranormal/Adventure

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Matt:  The younger version looks a lot like Joel Courtney from Super 8, but as he matures over the course of the series, he grows into someone more like Liam Hemsworth (at age nineteen).  If central casting can find an amalgam of those two guys, the movie for MA2 would be set!

Uncle Mike:  I’ve known who would play Uncle Mike from the get-go—Michael Trucco. His character on Battlestar Galactica, Sam Anders, partly shaped Uncle Mike’s personality.  It doesn’t hurt that Trucco looks almost exactly how I’d picture Uncle Mike.

Ella:  I need a redhead with a great smile and a somewhat no-nonsense attitude. Rachel Hurd-Wood fits the bill. She’s lovely, but the look in her eye says, “I might just be up to something.”

Mamie:  She’s easy – Hailee Steinfeld. There’s just something about the way she played Mattie Ross in True Grit that screamed “Mamie” to me. She’s tough, smart, strong-willed and goes her own way.  Mattie is certainly stronger and more outgoing than Mamie, but at the core, they are very much alike.  Plus, Hailee can rock a pair of pigtails!

Master Sergeant Schmitz: This might sound odd, but after seeing JGL play a cop in The Dark Knight Rises, I realized that Schmitz sort of resembled Joseph Gordon-Levitt in my head. He’s not a perfect match, but close, especially the mannerisms and the nervous energy.

Will:  He’s the tough one. I need a big, dark-haired kid who looks like he has it all, but doesn’t have a huge ego about it. I need a guy who would give his best friend the shirt off his back, the keys to his car…and help him hide a monster’s body in the woods.  And so far, I haven’t found the perfect actor.  Any thoughts?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Wow, lets see:

Saddled with a supernatural knife–and its consciousness in his head–Matt Archer’s fight against monsters, demons and other nasty creatures goes global, making his double life as a normal teen even more difficult than before.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  Self-published (late December/early January release)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first iteration took me about six-seven months, but the editing, rewriting and polishing has taken much longer. I actually finished the first draft in late 2010, and here it is, two years later, and I’m finally wrapping it up.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? People have compared it to Percy Jackson, but the mythology, level of “darkness” and age level is fairly different.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Primarily my son, and other tween/teen guys who weren’t interested in YA paranormal romance…but who wanted a fun adventure to read.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? There are really big revelations about the nature of the knife itself, along with some significant family drama and more romance in this book than in the first (Matt has a girlfriend!). There’s still a lot of adventure, including a few trips to India and Afghanistan to take care of some really freaky monster infestations. Matt has to grow up a lot, and it’s tough for him.

Next up, I’ve tagged five awesome authors to participate and tell you about their Next Big Things:

Kari Ramadori writes all kinds of cool stuff, include YA, middle grade urban fantasy, and science fiction.The first book in her Olivia’s Realm series, Olivia’s Field (Olivia’s Realm), is out now and later installments are on the way!

RebeccaHenderson is a YA writer I met through Crits for Water. I had the opportunity to read her wonderful YA From the Tea Village. She used her experiences living in China to write a gorgeous work about a young girl from a rural village seeking higher education. It comes out next spring — be on the lookout!

Sarah Gilman is a paranormal romance author with a thing for wings–Angels. Her debut novel, Out In Blue (Return To Sanctuary) is an amazing, romantic, sexy read.

Elizabeth Hull (writing as C.N. Lesley) is a romantic fantasy writer who is also one of my first critique partners from our days at OWW. She’s been a constant friend and teacher as I began working on the Matt Archer series. Elizabeth’s debut novel, Darkspire Reaches, is coming soon from publisher Kristell Ink. I read this novel in beta version, and it’s amazing. If you like sweeping romance, magic and Wyverns, add this to your “to read” list.

Kelly Jo Crawley   is a fantasy writer who just made her NaNoWriMo goal of 51,000 words in November! Whew, that’s a lot of words for a busy mom with a full-time job, but she made it!  She blogs about life with her kids and is a really fun follow on Twitter! Get to know this awesome lady!

Well, that’s it for me!  Until next week, stay safe and keep watch for monsters. : D

YA Bound Blog Tour October 22-27

 

YA Bound Blog Tour — Come Join Us!   Matt and I will be visiting with a number of great blogs from October 22 — 27. Check it out! There will be great prizes (a Nook is up for grabs!), so don’t miss out!

 

October 22:

 

October 23:

 

October 24:

 

October 25:

 

October 26:

October 27:

Book Nerd Canada

 

Cut Scene: Mamie’s Nickname

Greetings All!

It’s Friday Ramble: On the Road Edition. I’m traveling for work this week (and trying to get a new Matt Archer short story launched, but more on that next week), so I thought this might be a good time to present a cut scene from Matt Archer: Monster Hunter. If you’ve read the book, you know that Uncle Mike calls Mamie “Daisy May.” Well, the story behind her nickname hit the cutting room floor, but I’ve always liked it, and I thought I’d share it with you. Cheers!

***

A knock on the door interrupted us.  Mike stuck his head in.  “Hey, Daisy May, can I talk to Matt a minute?  I’m staying for dinner; we’ll have a chance to visit more then.”

Mamie nodded and drifted off to her room.  I sat up and put the pillow back on my bed.  “You never told me why you call her Daisy May.  Or why you don’t have a nickname for Brent.” I didn’t want to talk about the monsters now.  I wanted to pretend everything was normal.

Mike laughed.  “Well, that’s one way to start a conversation.  When Mamie was born, I had just come back from a stint at Fort Carson.  I mean, literally got off the plane and drove to the hospital to see her.  I wanted to bring a huge bouquet of pink roses, but I couldn’t find any.  The best I could come up with was a bunch of half-wilted daisies from the grocery store.  So, to make up for that, I brought them into their hospital room, acting all dramatic, and said ‘Daisies for my little Daisy May!’  Dani cried her eyes out, and Mamie’s been Daisy May ever since.”

“How about Brent? Does he even have a nickname?”

“Oh, that’s not a safe story for you to hear,” Mike said with a sly smile.  He was daring me to ask again.

“I killed a monster last night.  I think I can deal with Brent.”  Not exactly true, but so what.

Mike got that hard look in his eye for a moment.  Then it faded and he grinned at me.  “You have to swear on a stack of Bibles not to tell Brent I told you this.  When he turned seven, he told me if I ever called him anything but Brent again, he’d run away from home.” He sighed happily, lost in a memory.  “You were so little you don’t remember, but I used to call him Pickle.”

“Pickle?”  I started to laugh.  “What did he do to deserve that?”

“When he was two, he went through a phase where all he wanted to eat was sour food – green grapes, pickles, lemonade, and so on.  To get him to eat chicken or hot dogs, we had to bribe him with pickles.  I told him if he kept eating tons of pickles he’d turn into one.  Then one day I came over and Dani looked like she couldn’t decide whether to murder me or cry.”

“What happened?”

“Brent came out of the kitchen, with his face and hands scribbled all over with green permanent marker, and said, ‘See, I’s a pickle now, Unca Mike!’  I nearly wet my pants, laughing.  Your mom wasn’t amused, but the nickname stuck until Brent vetoed it.”

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