Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I am Not a Juicy Hermit Crab

I hate being squeezed. Hugs are one thing, squeezes another. Emotions squeeze so tight; they don't stop even when there's nothing left to squeeze out. It's a break at the press, then back to it again.

Ever since April, when I went to the Storymakers Conference, I felt different. Something changed for me, that weekend. James and I both had an experience during one of the conference workshops that I won't share because it's one of those things that are better left to marinate in the sauce of privacy, but it was one of those life-changing things, something you know you'll never forget.

I've struggled since then, with life here as I know it. There are people I care about and love, but I desperately want a new space to grow. I'm a hermit crab who is being squeezed into hermit juice, shell cracking yet holding strong, and there's no new shell as far as the eye can see.

need to get out.

My sister is moving; the one who lives three minutes from me. She'll be moving two hours away. Not far, and not across the country, but still--underneath, I kind of believed that if you don't take something for granted and are thankful for it every day, that it would stay the same.

Yeah, I didn't really believe that, but something deep within me hoped. Our daughters adore each other. Karen is the only thing that has anchored my tether to our city, the only thing pulling at keeping me here.

Now, I'm adrift.

Pulled and tossed by the waves, each one washes over my head, pretending to be kind by washing off the salt from my eyes, but leaving more deposits. Soon, I will weigh too much and drown.

I find myself crying during the week far too often.

Some may say, "You sound depressed." You'd better believe it. I'm tired of pretending I'm not. I'm fighting against it every day, the squeezing, seagulls pecking at my shell, snatching bits of me because I'm bursting at the seams.

I need a new shell.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Felt Food Giveaway Winner and Consolation Prize for All!

The winner of the Felt Food Giveaway is:

Blogger Julie said...

http://www.etsy.com/listing/40192140/queen-of-hearts-linzer-cut-out-cookies love these
December 8, 2010 7:39 PM

An email has been sent, and you have 48 hours to claim your prize! Congratulations!

For all of you who didn't win, you are in luck! Karen at The Whimsical Gourmet is extending her holiday discount this week only. Get 10% off any size order in her shop by entering the code PISTACHIO at checkout. This offer is good through Saturday, December 19th.
Thanks to everyone who entered! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tristi Pinkston's Merry Month of Miracles Giveaway!

Make sure to enter my handcrafted play food giveaway that ends tomorrow night!

Tristi Pinkston is having a Merry Month of Miracles month long giveaway to celebrate her new book, Dearly Departed. Head on over and be sure to enter! There's a cool prize every day, and a few big ones you don't want to miss out on!

Go here: Merry Month of Miracles 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

GIVEAWAY! Adorable, Handcrafted Play Food by The Whimsical Gourmet!

***Comments are now closed. The winner will be announced Monday morning at ten o'clock, and the wintner will be contacted and given forty-eight hours to respond.

Thank you for entering, and good luck!

Guess where I've been?  

Ok, I won't make you guess. I've been working on my manuscript. My goal for NaNoWriMo was to finish a first draft for the FIRST TIME EVER, and I did it! Though I didn't officially win NaNo because I used a partially-written manuscript to start with, I achieved a goal that I seriously doubted I'd ever reach. 

Man, it feels so good!

Now, I'm going to let my book simmer and wait to be edited. Simmer. . .mmm, reminds me of soup. Soup, rolls, take-out, holiday party food--I'm hungry! Let's have an online holiday party! I'll bring the food! How would you like some no-calorie takeout with your choice of shrimp. . .  

Chinese Shrimp or Tofu Lo Mein Take Out Box and Fortune Cookie Set - Felt Play Food

. . .or tofu?

Chinese Shrimp or Tofu Lo Mein Take Out Box and Fortune Cookie Set - Felt Play Food

Mmm. . .perhaps with a side of crab rangoon and sweet-and-sour sauce?
Crab Rangoon with Sweet and Sour Sauce - Felt Play Food

If you're in the mood for breakfast, how about some light and fluffy pancakes with eggs, bacon and sausage?
American Pancake Breakfast Set - Felt Play Food
We'll even dip our own strawberries in chocolate for dessert! (The shells are removable and perfect to dip over and over if you like chocolate as much as I do!)
Felt Chocolate Covered Strawberries with Removable Chocolate Coating - Felt Play Food
Karen of The Whimsical Gourmet (who I also claim as my very talented sister) hand-crafts these adorable sets, plus more, for her Etsy shop. I have been privileged to see these way cute toys in person, and they're even better than the pictures!

So, drumroll, please. . .

Karen is giving away one of her handmade sets to one lucky reader of this blog! It gets even better--the winner gets to pick between two of them!  The prize winner will receive their choice of either the Felt Sandwich Set with Nacho Cheese Chips. . . (How fun is that tomato and bag of chips?)
Felt Sandwich Set with Nacho Cheese Chips - Felt Play Food
Felt Sandwich Set with Nacho Cheese Chips - Felt Play Food
Or the Deluxe Sushi Set. (I just love the little tube of wasabi!)

Deluxe Sushi Roll Set - Felt Play Food
Deluxe Sushi Roll Set - Felt Play Food

Either one would make a perfect Christmas gift--if you can bear to give them up. If you like these, you'll want to check out the picnic basket, egg rolls, gourmet pizza, falafel, raspberry tarts, and everything else Karen offers!

The giveaway begins today, Saturday, December 5th, and ends Saturday, December 11th, at 11:59 Central Standard Time.

To enter: Please leave a separate comment for each entry. For example, if you're following my blog, leave one comment saying "I'm following your blog", and if you share on Facebook, leave another comment with that information. If you combine your information into one comment, that one comment will be treated as one entry.

Entries: There are six ways to enter, which mean six chances to win!

1. Follow my blog, I am a Pistachio

2. Post about this giveaway on your blog and link back to this post.

3. Visit The Whimsical Gourmet and leave a comment about your favorite
    item. ( http://www.etsy.com/shop/thewhimsicalgourmet )

4. Follow The Whimsical Gourmet on Twitter @thefeltgourmet 
http://twitter.com/thefeltgourmet  and tweet this giveaway RT -insert some creative message about giveaway-

http://tinyurl.com/yjtj3oj   Leave the link to your tweet in a comment

5.Like The Whimsical Gourmet on Facebook 

6.Share this giveaway on Facebook and leave the link to your post in a comment

The winner will be chosen by Random.org. (This means though *I* will still welcome all bribes, especially books and chocolate, the website will be an impartial judge and will not listen to any of my whining about how great so-and-so's Grandma's holiday fudge tasted.) 

IMPORTANT! To qualify, if you do not have your email address on your blogger profile or it's private, leave your email address in your entry comments so we can find you if you're the winner.  

The winner has 48 hours to respond after they have been announced and contacted. If the winner is not heard back from, the next winner will be randomly selected, and they will then have 48 hours to respond.

**********************Special offer for my blog readers!*****************

The Whimsical Gourmet is offering a 10% discount to the visitors of this blog, I Am a Pistachio, for the duration of this giveaway! Use the coupon code PISTACHIO at checkout.

Good luck, and happy shopping!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Coincidences in Writing, or Oh My Gosh, You're My Long-Lost Twin!

Over the past few months, I've been doing a lot of thinking on this subject.  What brought my attention to it in the first place was a book that I acquired from a free box of LDS fiction. Someone had graciously brought the box to church, and I dove in before another girl there, with arms already full, could snag all of them.  I couldn't blame her, though. On Black Friday I'm as timid as a nun in a bar, but put free, clean books out and I'd tussle with the best of 'em.

First, I looked for names I recognized from Storymakers.  I managed to get a Rachel Ann Nunes and a couple of J. Scott Savage's works.  The others were chosen by publisher, then by cover.  (Don't judge--I was speed-grabbing, here.)

I picked up a book with a neat cover. I hadn't heard of the author (not surprising since I live in the Midwest), but the back cover looked promising.  I like suspense, so it got added to the pile.

Once I started reading, I knew I was in trouble.  It seemed like every other page there was foreshadowing of some connection between the characters.  For example, the mafia boss's long lost son (let's call him Junior) appears out of nowhere and wants a job, so he's employed to kidnap this 18-year-old high school girl (we'll call her Lisa).  The guy--SURPRISE!--turns out to be FBI (saw that one coming a mile away).

That's only the beginning.

Junior has a partner (Bob) who's working to protect Lisa's father (Larry), who the mob guys are after.  Larry left years ago, and Lisa never knew why.  She has some angsty teen problems as a result, but is at heart a good girl.

Lisa and her mother find out that Larry is still alive.  Cue Lisa's parents running to try to save their daughter, the bad guys running after them, and the good guys always one step behind until the end, where they're (predictably) one step ahead.  In the end, not only do we find out that FBI partners Junior and Bob are stepson and stepfather (assigned to Junior's mafia boss father's case together, no less), but that the last big bad guy who shows up in the end is--get this--some rich dude that Lisa's mother was engaged to years ago!  Of course, he is shown what a catch he missed out on!  The bad guys get their bums handed to them royally, and everyone else hugs at the end.  Oh, and not only was Lisa a less-active member of the LDS church,  Junior was an active member, and since she had just turned 18 (and a couple of weeks away from finishing high school) she was fair game to start a relationship with.  Everything was tied up into one big, happy, perky, pink bow with ice cream and blargh on top.

I closed the book in disgust. I wanted to poke my eyes out.   The premise had so much promise, the author a great imagination with some cool moments, but all I wanted to do was rip the book into little shreds and throw them in a moat filled with piranha fish. I was a little bothered by my strong reaction, because being a writer, I look forward to the day I get published with both excitement and trepidation.  I'm hoping the golden rule applies to writers--treat others' books like you want your own to be treated. It would bother me a lot if someone had that big of a problem with what I wrote, so I let my feelings melt and simmer down for a month or two until what was left consisted of exactly what bothered me, condensed, strong, and unmistakable.

The boiled-down result? Coincidence.

Writers like to evoke a strong emotional response.  We revel in being creators of our worlds, pulling the puppet strings of our victims readers.  If we can touch your soul, make you care about creations from our brains, make you feel, that is the highest compliment there is to a writer--at least to this one.

Coincidences are neat things.  In real life, coincidences happen that we'd never put into writing fiction, because they would come across as too coincidental to be believable!  However, because of the mystery of coincidences, we writers are tempted to put them into our books.  "Wouldn't it be so cool if Aunt Shelley turned out to be her niece's adopted baby's birth mother?" Well, maybe.  Then again, maybe not.

The thing is, when we write coincidences, they're not coincidences, but contrivances.  The reader knows this.  They can't be true coincidences because we, as writers, make them happen. So, for a coincidence to be believable, we have to provide a way for the reader to suspend disbelief and believe that the coincidence is the real deal.  I think one of the best ways to do this is to write strong, well-rounded characters that leap off the page and become real to the reader.  It's hard to argue storyline with a character that your mind and heart is attached to in some way, a character who feels like a real person to you.

Coincidence can also, in some cases, be an excuse for laziness.  It's a lot easier to think up a coincidence than to do the work in weaving the story together, which can involve bringing in more characters and angles, which isn't necessarily an easy thing to do.

I hope to learn the ins and outs of writing coincidences myself.  In my current manuscript, there is something that happens in a different town that makes the reader question (at least I hope) if the unlucky thing had to happen for the 'coincidence' to happen, or was it just rotten timing and would have happened another way at a slightly different time if circumstances were different?  It's a tricky thing to work in.  I want my readers to end up being so immersed in the story that they can't stop to question why I put something where I did.

So, it may be a great idea for a single girl to run into her true love literally, with her car, while he saves a cute puppy's stuffed toy from getting run over--or it may not be.  Just go over your choice several times, and if it still sounds like a contrivance than a coincidence, scrap it or approach the idea from a different angle.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blog Tour Book Review: Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner, and Win a Book or Kindle!


Author: Tamara Hart Heiner

Published: 16 November, 2010

Genre: YA Thriller

Pages: 265

About Tamara Hart Heiner: Perilous is her first published novel, and she wrote it many years ago when she was bored in study hall. They’ve both come a long way since then. She now spends her time running around her house chasing three kids and trying to sneak to the computer when they’re not looking. She has a wonderful, supportive husband who appreciates the fact that she enjoys cooking as much as she enjoys writing. Not that she has time for that, either.

Author website: http://www.tamarahartheiner.com/

Back Cover

Jaci Rivera has plans for her sophomore year: go to regionals with the track team, make the honor roll, and eat too much pizza with her best friends, Callie and Sara. Her biggest concern is Amanda, the pushy girl who moved in a few months ago.

What she doesn't plan for is catching a robber red-handed, or being kidnapped. The desperate thief drags her and her friends 2,000 miles across the Canadian border. They escape from his lair, only to find that he has spies and agents watching their path home, waiting to intercept them and take them back.

Then Jaci finds something out about her family. Something which irrevocably connects her to their kidnapper, and makes her question their chances of escape.

My Review 

Ms. Heiner sure knows how to start a story!  After I read the beginning where a body is discovered, then went back in time before the crime was committed, I kept hoping the beginning was wrong and the corpse was someone else--or a terrible joke.  There were some awful things that happened to the girls that weren't glossed over, but were honestly and skillfully dealt with while not glorifying them with graphic violence.

The writing was tight and enjoyable, and there were very few mistakes throughout, which contributed to making Perilous a book I could immerse myself in.  The biggest problem I had was a minor detail--but a major pet peeve of mine--the phrase "I could care less" when it should have been "I couldn't care less" was used two times. Though this could have been a part of both characters' speech patterns and a teensy thing overall, it still bothered me.  

Ms. Heiner is gifted in her ability to write descriptive scenes--never too much or too little.  I was drawn into the story and it transitioned well from scene to scene.  I found myself holding my breath at times, racing through the pages to find out what was going on.

I did wish I could have learned more about the characters lives at first, that would have made it easier to remember which girl was which. I had a little trouble keeping them straight for a while, and the story would have had more emotional punch if I had gotten to know them better. I hope we get to find out more about the villain in the next story since we didn't know that much about him.  I'd like to know more of the reasons he is so feared; he sounds like an extremely interesting character.  There is also one specific coincidence that seemed a little over-the-top to me as well as what felt like too much nonchalance at a rather shocking revelation, but overall, Perilous was a great read.

There were a lot of loose ends that will lead us to a sequel.  I felt that the story, though it did get wrapped up, should have been wrapped up a little more.  I finished the book feeling sure I was missing part of the ending.  However, I imagine everything left unresolved will be addressed in the upcoming sequel.

Out of the thousands of books I've read in my lifetime, this is one that will be easily remembered.

I'm very much looking forward to reading more from talented author Tamara Hart Heiner. 

To read the first page of Perilous, go here: Perilous Excerpt

To pre-order for the fantastic price of $12.95 with free US shipping and handling go here: Pre-order Perilous  or you can find it on Amazon.com in Kindle form, available for download right now, for $4.99.

Would you like to win a signed copy of Perilous?  Don't have a Kindle but would give up your chocolate stash for one?  Put your Hershey bars down and read on to find out how you can win a Kindle you can smother in chocolate kisses read new favorite books on!

Blog Tour Contest Details

From Tamara Hart Heiner, herself!
(Ok, I swiped it from her website.)
(I hope that's ok.)
(I'm lazy.  Sorry, Tamara!)

So, here are the details to my ultimate blog tour contest.

1) There will be two book giveaways. Signed copies of Perilous, of course. All you have to do to get in on that action is make a comment anywhere in the blog tour. The drawing will be completely random. Of course, the more comments you make, the more chances you have of winning.

2) There will be a Kindle giveaway. This WON'T be random. Kindles are kind of a big thing, so I'm going to make you work for it. The giveaway will be point based, in other words, whoever has the most points at the end of the blog tour wins the Kindle. The contest will run until Dec. 15, at which point all hopeful winners will email me at tamara at tamarahartheiner dot com with their points and their proofs.

Here's how you get points:
+1 for each comment on the blog tour
+1 be a follower on my blog (old or new)
+1 retweet
+2 blog about the blog tour
(You prove all of those by emailing me the links.)
+5 purchase the book; ebook or paperback, doesn't matter
(Email me the confirmation number of your purchase.)

Oct. 15 David J. West 
Oct. 18 Nichole Giles
Oct. 19 Talli Roland
Oct. 20 Guinevere Rowell
Oct. 21 Mary Gray
Oct. 22 Frankie 
Oct. 25 Mary Greathouse
Oct. 26 RaShelle Workman (interview)
Oct. 27 T. Anne Adams
Oct. 28 Valerie Ipson
Oct. 29 Ann Best http://ann-jen.blogspot.com/
Nov. 1 Christy Dorrity http://www.dearestdreams.com/
Nov. 2 Chrstine Bryant http://www.ckbryant.blogspot.com
Nov. 3 Rebecca Blevins http://www.iamapistachio.blogspot.com/
Nov. 4 Kathryn Magendie (guest post) http://tendergraces.blogspot.com/
Nov. 5 Annette Lyon http://blog.annettelyon.com/ (interview) and Jaime Theler http://www.jaimetheler.blogspot.com (review)
Nov. 8 Jennifer Daiker http://jennifer-daiker.blogspot.com/
Nov. 9 Carolina Valdez http://carol-in-print.blogspot.com/
Nov. 10  Elizabeth Mueller http://elizabethmueller.blogspot.com/
Nov. 11 Christine Danek http://christinedanek.blogspot.com/
Nov. 12 Elle Strauss http://ellestraussbooks.blogspot.com/
Nov. 15 Niki http://wool-n-nuts.blogspot.com/
Nov. 16  Lynn Parsons http://lynndeniseparsons.blogspot.com/
Nov. 17 Danyelle Ferguson http://www.queenoftheclan.com/
Nov. 18 Elana Johnson http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/
Nov. 19 & 20 Sarah McClung http://babblingflow.blogspot.com/
Nov. 22 Suzanne Hartmann http://suzanne-hartmann2.blogspot.com/
Nov. 23 Marsha Ward http://marshaward.blogspot.com
Nov. 24  Tara McClendon http://eyefeathers.blogspot.com/
Nov. 29 Courtney Barr http://princesscourtneysbarr.blogspot.com/
Nov. 30 Tristi Pinkston http://www.tristipinkston.blogspot.com/
Dec. 1 Cheri Chesley http://cherichesley.blogspot.com/
Dec. 2 Karen Gowen http://karenjonesgowen.blogspot.com/
Dec. 3  Melanie Jacobson http://readandwritestuff.blogspot.com/
Dec. 6 Kristie Ballard www.thiscrazywritingthing.blogspot.com
Dec. 7 Melissa Cunningham http://melissajcunningham.blogspot.com/
Dec. 8 Arlee Bird http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/
Dec. 9 Debbie Davis www.debbiesinkspectations.blogspot.com
Dec. 10 Taffy Lovell http://taffyscandy.blogspot.com
Dec. 13 Sheri Larsen http://writersally.blogspot.com
Dec. 14 Joyce DiPastena http://jdp-news.blogspot.com/
Dec.15 Diana Miezcan http://diana212m.blogspot.com/

*I was sent an e-book for the purpose of review, and have not been compensated in any way for my opinions.*

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I've Found the Secret! (No, Not on Oprah!)

My kids were sick a week ago last Monday. I wasn't glad for them actually being sick, but it meant I could cancel school and could work on something else.

I chose Professor and Lion's room.

The room had a peculiar odor--as anyone who has a boy with a room can attest. Stuff was jammed under the beds, cracker crumbs danced near the bookshelf and by the wall, dirty clothes lounged with everything else. It was a stew that would make an ogre proud.

I gingerly climbed walked in there with a Sam's Club box of black trash bags--the big ones. I enlisted the boys' help since they were too sick to focus on school, but not sick enough for their bodies to lie still. We took everything that was a toy and stuffed them into the bags. We filled nearly three! Another bag was stuffed with trash, and several loads of clothes were extracted from the piles. I felt like an archaeologist--"Oh, look! These were the pants you wore last year! Remember when you wore those sneakers?" It was bad enough that the "too small shoe bag" was half full before we called it quits.

It took around six hours that day and another hour or two the next (not to mention sweeping enough dirt to plant a small garden--what the heck?), but all the bags of stuff were taken downstairs, leaving the boys' wooden floor gleaming in the afternoon sunlight. They were left with a few things on the bookshelf in the closet.

Every day since then, if their room is clean, they're allowed to go downstairs and get one toy out of the bags. If anything is left on the floor it goes back downstairs. They've been very careful to keep things where they belong. The funny thing is that they're very choosy about what to get, because they don't want to mess up their room again. Having the toys gone makes the room much easier to keep clean. I never, ever thought my boys could keep their room immaculate for over a week! It feels weird even typing the word 'boys' and the word 'immaculate' in the same sentence!

The magic with this method is that the agony of deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is taken away. The kids didn't like putting everything in the bags, but the knowledge that they could take their favorite things back out made it far easier. When they're done taking what they want, the bags will be gone through a final time by me and donated/thrown out.

A word of caution: be very careful what you promise. The day after this happened, Lion proclaimed "Hooray! Now all we have to do is keep it clean for 30 days and then we earn Mario Party 8!" A dim memory floated to the surface of my mind like a bubble that has been trapped at the bottom of a pond--the memory of a promise I made sometime last year, a promise I was sure would never be fulfilled. A promise that doesn't have room in our budget at present.

Well, the clean room has been going strong for 8 days now with no signs of stopping. Professor and Lion are more than a little proud that their room is the cleanest room in the house.

I'd better start checking Ebay.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In Which I Float Up to the Sky, Collapsed

I walk into the church gym. Lining the left side of the wall are people talking, stretching, or waiting with glassy-eyed looks--they must have had a long day.

These people are strangers I have known for several weeks now. The shy girl inside me (or maybe she just wants to get on with it) propels me to the right side of the room, where I stretch and wait among two or three people until the beat starts thumping. I walk up and take my place at the front, as close to the middle as I can get just before the black line, the line we have all silently agreed we would not cross. Something about it screams "TOO CLOSE!"

Two dancers on stage, clad in pink, blue, and black, are so fit they hurt my eyes. Colored lights shine above them, taking me back to my teenage years and the dances where I didn't rest for hours. How I wish I had that stamina today.

The beat pounds through my body, screaming "MOVE!" to my arms and legs. They have no choice but to obey. Following the dancers on the stage, I wave my arms and shimmy. My feet step and glide, I spin and slide like a million bees are chasing me.

I ignore the people who might be watching me shake what my mama gave me (plus a lot more) because most of them, like me, are too busy grooving and gasping to notice anyone else.

I dance, I sweat, I break for the water bottle: samba, rinse, repeat. A spark of rebellion, hidden deep, comes out to play as I substitute my own arm movements for a few of the ones demonstrated. Is it truly rebellion, or do I just like Egyptian arms? Strange, but freeing for this follow-the-rules girl. The leaders don't seem to mind.

Shakira sings "The pressure is on, you feel it/But you've got it all, believe it. . ." I try to breathe while spinning, my soul opens to the universe. I yell "Whoohoo!" several times and laugh quite a few more.

This is the way to get a runner's high without running.

This is the way I come alive, while dancing.

This is the way I'm tightening my body, exchanging fat for muscle.

This time I jump a little more, spin a little faster, a little tighter in my movement. I push my limits, I break through that barrier for the high, and as adrenaline floods my body I'm so happy I nearly cry. Somewhere inside me is a dancer. And she's ecstatic.

This is Zumba.

Monday, September 6, 2010

There's a First Time for Everything!

Today is my first guest post, and it's over at the awesome LDS Writers Blogck! I wrote about my recent experience about finding writing advice in the scriptures.

You can find the post here: Rebecca Blevins

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cotton Candy and the Bronte Sisters

Yesterday morning I started my goal of writing a thousand words per day.  I got up earlier than I normally do, and sat down at my laptop with a squirming one-year-old who forgot that he should still be sleeping.  I placated him by balancing him in my lap, and began to work.

The subject of cotton candy came up in those thousand words.  I tried to remember exactly how the fluffy candy tastes and feels in my mouth, and the fact that I couldn't remember bugged me to no end.  "Well, it's too bad that I can't get that stuff around here," I muttered.

Later, after James came home from work, I went grocery shopping.  (I will leave out my adventures in the hurricane-like weather we had, that included me getting soaked to the skin in five seconds flat and sloshing around Walmart in my drenched sneakers.) At the first store I went to, they had shipments of special purchases that had just come in.  My jaw nearly dropped to the floor when I saw small tubs containing mixed colors of pink and blue cotton candy (the same colors as I put in my manuscript) for a dollar each.

Never in a kazillion years had I ever thought I'd be buying cotton candy for "research".  I even *gulp* took that as a teensy bit of a sign.

I took a couple of pinches for the sake of my manuscript (sounds like I was doing snuff, huh), and the kids blissfully stuffed their faces with the rest.  Even Bean smacked his lips and screamed when I put the container away. 

No doubt they hope I'll be writing piles of doughnuts, snack cakes, and Hershey bars into my book soon. 


Now for the second part of this post:  I saw this video somewhere and got a huge laugh out of it.  This is a "commercial" that's a minute and a half long for Bronte Sisters Power Dolls.  If you ever wanted to see the beloved Bronte sisters as action heroines, here's your chance! 

My favorite part was the Brontesaurus.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: Defensive Tactics by Steve Westover

Defensive Tactics

Author: Steve Westover

Published: August 8th, 2010

Genre: LDS Fiction, Suspense, Romance

Pages: 256

Back Cover

IN A WORLD OF CORRUPTION and moral relativism, how far will you go to protect the ones you love?

PAUL STEPHENS HAS IT ALLa wonderful job at the FBI, a potential new girlfriend, Emily, and a great apartment.  Even when Jimmy, a friend from his past, unexpectedly ends up on his couch, Paul manages to keep it together, despite Jimmy’s eccentric ways and sudden interest in Emily.  But when a plan to arrest a corrupt judge puts Emily’s life in danger, Paul is forced to make decisions that put everything on the line.  And with Jimmy along for the ride, anything can happen as they race to save Emily.

FULL OF SUSPENSE, ACTION, AND SURPRISES, Defensive Tactics navigates the maze of burgeoning relationships and the rigors of investigation to ultimately show just how much the bonds of friendship can endure.

I have been acquainted with Steve and his family for many years, so I’m excited for the opportunity to review his debut novel!


The author has a great imagination, and his characters were fun to read about.  Paul was my favorite character. Although he was a bit on the stuck-up side at first, he grew on me.  In my days as a single woman, I would have been quite taken with Paul!  He's strong, noble, does what he feels is right, and takes no thought for himself when defending those he cares for.

I cheered Jimmy on and was rooting for him to find himself and be able to come to terms with his tragic past. Some of his antics and quirky sayings made me laugh out loud.  I sensed that underneath his charisma he was a very complex character, and a whole book could have been written from his point of view, delving further into his personality.  I also wondered what happened with his old girlfriend, but perhaps that's being saved for another novel.

There is a sweet, touching scene between Emily and Jimmy where she urges him to confront the demons from his past.   The prologue shows the tragedy that turned Jimmy into the shoddy, wisecracking mess that he is, but I feel there would have been even more emotional impact on the reader if that information had been saved and revealed to us as Jimmy shared with Emily.

Emily, at first, was too perfect for me to find her believable.  However, as the story progressed and she struggled with life-altering decisions, she showed more personality and I really enjoyed her character. I appreciated how she was a strong, independent woman who retained a lot of femininity, a quality that is lacking in much currently published fiction.

One thing I need to mention: the book would have benefited from a thorough, professional edit.  There were enough errors that they interrupted the reading flow and pulled me out of the story.  However, I was able to set them aside and get back into the plot.  *Edit: the author assured me that many of the editing errors were resolved with publication of the hard copy.  I reviewed the electronic version.*

Without giving too much away, there is a cool action scene that I loved because I really saw Emily's character and quick wit shine as she battles the bad guys.  She was calm, collected, and efficient.  She made me hope I would be at least one tenth as capable in such an emergency!

The storyline with the corrupt judge was interesting, and kept me guessing.  There were a couple of places toward the end that had me figuratively biting my nails!  Agent Rick Stark is a fun character, and I'm still wondering what kind of guy he will turn out to be in the long run.

What I enjoyed most about this book was how the main characters all grew and changed in various ways. They all had to search deep inside themselves to find out what they were willing to do (or weren't willing to do) to maintain their personal standards.

Overall, I found Defensive Tactics a quick, intriguing read that earns its place in the world of LDS-themed fiction.

Visit Steve's website: Steve Westover  and blog: Westover Writes to learn more about the author and his current projects.

*Disclaimer*  Other than a free, electronic version of this book for the purpose of review, I have not been compensated in any way for my opinions.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Battle of the Yucky Bugs!

We've been battling fruit flies lately; they're pesky, evil little bugs that dive-bomb us at every opportunity.   I feel like a special ops agent sneaking around the kitchen to assemble a salad!  The darn things catch one whiff and they turn into produce-seeking missiles. The military really should explore that option. 

These nasty bugs aren't like regular fruit flies; they are almost sticky, crawl a lot and are sluggish when they fly.  Years ago, my mother christened them "Yucky Bugs", and the name, well, stuck.

This morning, the kids were covering their juice glasses with their hands, trying to think of ways to get rid of the Yucky Bugs.

Lion was the first to pipe up. "Maybe we could take all the fruits into a jar, and the fruit flies will get in the jar, and we can take spiders and put them in the jar with the fruit flies, and the spiders will eat them."

Professor liked the spider idea.  "What if we capture some spiders and take them inside, put them near the fruit, then when the fruit flies get near the fruit they'll get caught in a web?"

Lion sat there eating his scrambled eggs, scanning the counter for weapons.  "We could slice the watermelon in half, then the fruit flies will go in and we'll close it and trap them inside."

Professor shook his head.  "But then we couldn't eat it!"

Lion thought for a second.  "Yeah, that's true."

Princess just sat there eating her breakfast one-handed, since she wouldn't remove her palm from the top of her glass.

Bean was blissfully eating toast, unaware of the dire straits we were in.

My cheering section hurrahed from the table as I quickly emptied out the fruit bowl and filled it with hot water, drowning five flies.  My children joined me in shouts of triumph as I yelled out the number of how many I killed.  I shook my head at cries of "I want to do it!" while I smashed fruitflies with a paper napkin, fighting the urge to hurl all the while.  (My biggest fear about learning to drive wasn't that I'd be in charge of a ton of metal hurtling at 70 mph, it was continuing to watch the road and not get sick when a bug splattered on the windshield.)  I didn't want to chance little bug legs, wings and smashed innards wiped anywhere I might find them, so my volunteer extermination squad was out of luck.

Finally, most of the fruit flies were vanquished. Our juice glasses and salad bowls are safer now. 

Peace reigns.  Especially now that I've cleaned off all the counters and the bugs have nowhere to hide. 

A Yucky Bug was just crawling on my shirt and glasses, no joke.  He is no more.  E's bleedin' demised.  He has joined the choir immortal...if there is a choir down there.

He is an ex-Yucky Bug.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Love and Dating Escapades #2: Scott

For the first installment in this series, go here:  Love and Dating Escapades #1: First Crush

When I was around thirteen years old, we moved from Springfield Missouri to West Valley City, Utah.  For a newly blossoming teenager, Utah was like stepping into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory--if you replaced the candy with boys.

I wasn't horribly boy-crazy, meaning I didn't think about them every second of every day, but I had my fair share of crushes.  I also kept to my no-dating-until-I-was-sixteen rule.  I could have dated earlier, since my mom told me that she would let me choose.  Smart thing for her to say, since she knew that I followed the rules to a fault.  In fact, the first time I had ever heard of a "pity party" was one I was invited to by my fifteen-year-old friends who were missing MORP (prom spelled backwards, girls asked guys) held a couple of days before my sixteenth birthday.  (We had a blast, especially since one of our friends was such a fluffy-headed gal that she thought potatoes came from some kind of animal.  Seriously!)

When I was fourteen, one of the boys I had a big crush on was in my ward, an older brother of one of my guy friends.  Scott was sixteen, and I was completely gaga.  I knew there was no hope for us, since he treated me as a friend, and was dating the older sister of one of my friends.  She was a sweet girl, cute and blonde.  Talk about a triple threat--but she wasn't a threat since I wasn't even remotely in the picture.

Scott's family had an extra ticket to go see the Christmas Devotional at Temple Square, so his mom invited me to go.  I adored his mother--she was both classy and fun.  So, I went.  I got to sit next to Scott, who I was all too aware of, and noticed that he put his hand on his girlfriend's knee during the devotional.  She was still fifteen.  After the devotional was over, sometime in the next few days Scott's mother asked me if  I thought what her son did was appropriate.  I told her "no", and she agreed with me.  I wondered why she asked me.  Maybe to find out how I felt about being the third wheel on the pew.

Ah, the sweet innocence of youth.  

For some reason though, Scott and his girlfriend were extra nice to me.  I loved to dance, so they invited me to go over to her house so they could teach me to swing dance.  Since Scott lived right by me and she lived about a mile away, so he offered to pick me up.

I was so excited!  It would be my first time riding in a car with a boy.

When I only had around ten minutes before he was supposed to arrive, I couldn't stand the anticipation anymore--I went outside to wait in front of the carport.  I walked around, grasshoppers jumping in my stomach.  Then the unthinkable happened, about two minutes before my watch said he should be there.

I don't know what I had eaten the night before, but I'm guessing it was the equivalent of a big batch of homemade, unsoaked, fully cooked pinto beans.  I was a pressure cooker that had nearly reached its limit.  I didn't need a bathroom, but I did need a quiet space where no one would visit for a few minutes.

I thought about waiting, but decided not to.  Wait and then what?  Try to sit tight in the car and hope a bump in the road didn't prove my undoing?  Wait until we got to her house, then run to the bathroom and risk someone hearing or invisible trails following me out?  No, that wouldn't do at all.

So I quickly ran to the back of the carport and...well, you fill in the blanks.

When the strength and caliber of what had just transpired hit my nostrils, relief flooded me head to foot.  Thank goodness I didn't wait!  I turned to walk back up to the front of the carport--and froze.

Scott had just arrived, and was coming up the driveway on his bike.  No car, no air-conditioned windows separating him from the air in my yard.  I was confused, disappointed, and horrified all at the same time.

I flew into full-on panic mode.  This can't be happening.  Oh please, please don't come any closer!

I walked over to meet him, hoping to stop him before he hit the invisible wall.  He smiled his gorgeous smile and said, "I couldn't take the car because...(insert reason I forgot here)...so I thought we could ride our bikes."

Recovering at the speed of light, I nodded.  Anything to get us out of there as soon as humanly possible!  "Sure, that'll be fine." 

I hurried to the carport post where my bike was chained.  Please, oh please don't follow me!

He did.

What was I supposed to say?  "Um, I'm sorry, you have to stay there because I just proved how much of a lady I am not!"  Right.  Totally uncool.  So I tried to get my bike loose as fast as I could.  My fingers turned to thumbs as I fumbled, but I finally got it and pulled my bike up to where Scott had stopped, a few feet from me.  

 I swung onto the bicycle and we set off.

I will never forget what a great guy Scott was.  Not only did he pretend to ignore the noxious cloud hanging in my yard (I guess he could have not noticed, but I doubt it!), but on my birthday he took my bike and put new tires on it.  I had wondered about the lame excuse he gave me for needing to borrow it the day before.

His mother raised him well.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sharing Villainy

Back at good 'ol Storymakers 2010, J. Scott Savage spoke about how to write interesting villains.  The presentation fascinated me, and I've spent time since then thinking about my favorite villains.

My favorite villains all have several things in common.  But since I've been to Storymakers, I've been learning to show instead of tell, so let's take a look!  (For those of you with short attention spans like me, I've kept all videos far less than a minute in length.  If you already know the character, feel free to skip them!)

 Yzma from "The Emperor's New Groove" is quite possibly my favorite villain.  She shouldn't be likeable since she hasn't even a flea-sized bit of love in her body and tries to kill Kuzco. However, her tarantula eyelashes and pointy elbows make me laugh, and who can resist a villain who has a weakness for keeping eye candy (known as Kronk) around?  Yzma cares nothing for anyone except Kronk--and I bet the instant his muscles show signs of atrophy she's outta there.  Yet, she has enough personality and humor to be quite memorable.

Yzma: scary beyond all reason.

  This is my favorite scene from the movie, only 30 seconds but it sums Yzma up quite well!

Next up is Coach Sue Sylvester from the hit TV show Glee.  I love the roller-coaster ride Sue takes us on.  She's funny, but so cruel in her dealings with Will and the Glee kids that she's oh-so-easy to hate.  (Legalize cane lashings, anyone?)  Then, we learn she has a sister with Down Syndrome, and we discover Sue's tender side.  I begin feeling sorry for her and want to like her, then the next scene she's bitterly heartless again.  Oh yes, Sue, I hate your emotional roller-coaster but I ride it anyway--the thrills are just that good.

Not my kind of Cheerio

Here's a good example of Sue's hate for Will's hair.  Vicious!

The ultimate villain (in my eyes) is Dr. Horrible.  I rooted for him against the insufferable hero Captain Hammer.  I felt Billy's desperate need to be someone, to get into Bad Horse's good graces.  I agonized with him over his unrequited love for Penny.  His singing voice?  Awesome!  Then, when his dastardly plan backfired and hurt the girl of his dreams, he buried his pain and used his sorrow to his advantage.  Dr. Horrible could have used that terrible incident to turn things around and do good, but he didn't.  Nope, he used his giant mistake to further his own world-dominating dreams.  Jerk.

I hold a P.H.D. in Horribleness

This clip is from Bad Horse, head of the League of Evil.  Dr. Horrible would do practically anything to get into Bad Horse's good graces. 

I know there are other, more evil villains out there.  Darth Vader, Voldemort, Hannibal Lecter.   But for me to really want more of a villain, to feel something for them, I have to identify with them somehow.  My favorite villains have to have a great sense of humor, and not be pure evil.  They have to have something in their life that helped influence them to be that way.

I believe that's why Heath Ledger's Joker was so good.  We got small glimpses that showed us he wasn't born a tortured soul, but became one.  We didn't know all the whys, but his twisted mind made him even scarier--because he rejected any sparks of humanity he might have once had.  The Joker is not one of my personal favorites though, because he makes my stomach churn and I feel sick when I watch him.  I guess I prefer tamer villains.

When it comes to writing the children's fantasy I have in the works, I'm thinking a villain who tugs at your heartstrings before stomping on them will make him (or her) more appealing to my readers.  At least, that's how I feel about it.

That about sums up this glimpse into my favorites list.  Who is your favorite villain, and why?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We Create Divinely

There is something common among all creatively-driven people.  I have found it exists among the painter, the writer, the sketcher, the dancer, gardener, welder, photographer, sculptor, knitter, musician, and scrapbooker, to name a few.

Jillian Michaels uses it as she helps people battle obesity.  Bode Miller feels it as he straps on his skis.  I'm sure Martha Stewart sighs in satisfaction with her possession of it as she pulls together the perfect summer picnic.

Is 'it' perfection at their skill?  Possibly--but not wholly.

Is 'it' pride at being among the best in the world at what they do? Maybe a little.

What could 'it' be? 

Drive.  Drive and passion--they go hand-in-hand.

Drive sounds like such a common thing--but is it really?  What binds us to our passion and keeps us working at it when we feel we fall short?  What keeps us at it when we succeed?  I've pondered this a lot until I came to this realization:  because we're children of God.

It hit me not long ago that the drive to explore our passions is actually a spiritual desire. The journey to becoming like God is an integral part of us.  He created us, our world, everything we have and create with.  Many of us have the goal to become like our Heavenly Father.  We are made in His image, and part of that is the drive, the passion to create like He did--like He does. 

It is never a selfish thing to make time to work on those things that interest us.  It is never a bad thing to learn something new, as long as our and our family's needs are met--and by met, I don't mean running ourselves ragged to give them every single thing they wish and desire. 

It is a worthy, god-like attribute to work on those talents the Lord has blessed us with. Not only should we try not to feel guilty in pursuing those things that feed our spirits, we should actively seek them out. 

Hobbies and interests we delight in help to stave off depression--whether it's stamp collecting or going on nature walks.  If we don't feed our bodies or give them water, they will suffer.  If we don't feed our spirits, they will too.  If you believe in God, you would most likely agree that it's important to read scripture, pray, and do good to others.  However, I think sometimes it's easy to deprive ourselves of our interests and passions because of the fear of not being good enough.  Satan uses our fears to keep us depressed and unhappy.  We may not be good enough to water ski barefoot--but if we never try, how will we know it's time to dream about something else?

Sometimes we find that it's easy to deprive our souls.  Why?   Because it feels so good to express ourselves that there has to be something bad about it. When I don't feed my spirit by expressing myself creatively, I suffer.  I don't think about it much, but the absence of something is definitely noticeable.  My family suffers, my whole outlook on life is affected.

When I make time to do some of the things I love, my soul benefits.  Everyone around me does too, because creating something helps me love myself. 

Finding my passions and exploring them with drive and creativity also helps me consume less chocolate.

As Martha would undoubtedly say, that's a good thing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

How to Lose Weight FAST!

  Here is a way I've discovered to drop inches FAST!  The only thing it might cost you is pain medication.  Oh, and I suggest doing this over a weekend so that your spouse can take care of the children.  Believe me, you will not be in any shape to.  But it's all worth it in the name of beauty, right?

  Go somewhere that's very crowded, oh, sometime in the middle of the week.  That way you'll have a couple of days to see if you're lucky enough to contract the "Magic Weight-Loss Virus". Timing is VERY important, because you won't want your spouse to miss work to take care of you.  Because he or she will definitely have to, or your children will be left to watch Quest for Camelot endlessly, eating cereal all day long out of dirty bowls, convinced that you are dying.


  After a few days of your exposure... let's say Friday, live it up.  Go to your sister's birthday party, have a great time with friends, because you'll soon be hanging onto those fun memories from your bed--actually, you'll be nearly hallucinating, so you won't be thinking of much else besides pain, your Mommy, plot points of another book you want to write when you should be hallucinating about the one you're currently writing, and oh...publishers. 

  At said party, you may feel your throat getting sore.  Not to worry, it's only the promise of better-fitting jeans you're feeling!  Have another small helping of three kinds of ice cream to soothe your throat.

  About two hours later, your throat will begin to melt. Have another helping of three kinds of ice cream (just make sure they're small scoops so no one thinks you're totally gross), and why not throw in some cake?  After all, this will be the last thing you will eat for a long while.  May as well enjoy it.

  Now you'll be in for a real treat.  This is where the magical weight loss happens.  Not only will your throat be swollen and filled with balefire (if you're a Wheel of Time fan you'll get this reference, if not--oh well.), you won't want anything, not even to swallow your own saliva.

  Next, you'll begin shaking. You'll swear you've lost all your clothes and are laying on a dogsled in the Arctic in the middle of winter.  This works to your advantage--you get all the benefit of calorie burning without hypothermia.  Win-win!

  The tough part is the pain, but it will help you on your weight-loss journey.  All the groaning and twitching from freezing, and the pain from ice picks in your back and thighs burn several hundred calories an hour.  You may take Extra Strength Tylenol, because it will help to keep your temp steady at the 102-103 degree zone, while stopping your twitching long enough to get scattered sleep.  You don't want to be awake ALL the time, that would thwart your weight loss.  You know, the importance of cortisol and all.

  HOWEVER--DO CHECK YOUR TEMPERATURE WHEN YOU START FEELING HOT.  Because it may turn out that the two blankets, a comforter, sheet, socks, hot water bottle and heating pad turned on high may be a leetle bit too much once the Tylenol takes you down a bit.  After all, 105.3 is getting up there--weight loss is important, but not to the point of having to change sweaty sheets.

  You will know you are at the height of this wonderful program when you can't surf the internet on your laptop, sit up for more than a few seconds, lay down reading, keep your eyes focused on anything, or care if your kids were running around naked on the rooftop and were abducted by aliens.  In fact, you might be grateful for the peace and quiet.

  After a weekend of this, you should have lost 3-5 pounds.  It's hard to be accurate, say, if your husband changed the batteries in the scale and now it's registering everyone two pounds heavier, and your brain is fried from fever which makes the math too hard.  So you're guaranteed to lose 3-5 pounds.  Or more.  Or less.

  A nice, lingering effect is that your throat will stay sore for a while afterward, making you think twice about putting those M&Ms in your mouth.  You will probably think three times then only eat half as many.  Which is good, especially if your husband got a family-sized bag when he made a Walmart run with the kids on Saturday.

  **Disclaimer:  these statements have not been evaluated by the Fleshy Divas Association.  Use at your own risk, return to sender.  Address unknown.  No such number, No such phone.  Etcetera. **

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Storymakers Trip Overview--Or in Other Words, Suffering From Withdrawal Symptoms!

  Storymakers--*sniff, sniff*.  I want to go back RIGHT NOW.  RIGHT NOW, DO YOU HEAR?

  That was one of the best events I've ever gone to.  It was life-changing.  I'm already seeing a big difference in my writing, and in my mind and confidence as well.

  I got to meet so many wonderful people I knew online, and some new friends: Kimberly, L.T. Elliot, DaNae, Dedee, Tristi, Annette, Elizabeth, Brillig, Kazzy, Sue, Terresa, Elizabeth, Aimee, Danyelle, Wendy, Keith, Don, Tobyn, and on and on.

  I'll give you a brief overview.  Sorry, no pics yet, they're in James' phone.

  Thursday morning we left for the airport.  Three of our children had Grandma stay with them, Bean came with us.

  It was my first time on a commercial airplane, and I discovered one thing--I like mild turbulence.  James thought I was a bit off my rocker because of it.  I think the actual exchange went like this:

 James:  "You actually like this?"

 Rebecca, noticing the mild bumpiness again now that James mentions it: "You mean the turbulence?  Yeah!"

 James: Shakes his head at his crazy wife.

  Seeing the Rockies from the air was a spiritual experience, and I admit to shedding a few tears.  I got some great pics of them too, all in James' phone.

  Bean traveled well.  We were supposed to have a mid-size car, but since Enterprise was out of mid-size cars due to BYU commencement, we got a free upgrade to a shiny, black Ford Expedition.  It was nice, and by the time I got into the SUV for the last time before we returned it, I had figured out how to climb in gracefully.  The other times?  Not so pretty.  My behind, showcased by the black door frame, must have made a lovely target.

  The event on Thursday at Borders was so fun!  I admit to being pretty nervous at meeting bloggers in Real Life, but they were all so lovely, friendly, and sweet, and I felt right at home.

  The workshops at the conference were spectacular.  I didn't enter any contests as I wanted to attend the most basic workshops to improve my skills first.  Next year I plan to enter, though!

  All the presenters and people in charge were incredible people and did amazing jobs!  I thoroughly enjoyed the bit of visiting time I had with Annette Lyon, Julie Wright, Heather Moore, Candace Salima, Karen Hoover, and others.  Julie was so sweet and encouraging to a young, aspiring author that it brought tears to our eyes.  I'd bet that she doesn't know how much that must mean to the girl she was speaking with.  James and I just watched the girl blossom while Julie was talking to her.  Julie is an incredible example and I hope to get to talk with her again someday.

  It was totally worth it to stay at the hotel.  I ran up and downstairs so many times with Bean I lost count.  James and I traded holding him, and Bean did really well.

  He did so well, in fact, that while he was army-crawling around the hotel room on Friday, he disappeared around the corner leading to the bathroom.  James went to check on him and I knew that the "oh no, Bean" that came out of his mouth could only mean one thing.  I winced as I said "Is there blood?" because I already knew the answer.  After hearing James' "Yes." I walked around the corner to find the words Red Rum drawn on the mirrored panel closet door in blood.

  Well...ok, there were no actual words.  But it did look like something small had been murdered there.  Blood was all over the carpet, and Bean had been merrily playing on the mirror while his finger dripped, not even crying.  He was only drawing in his blood, nothing to worry about, right?

  I had to actually nurse him so he'd let me hold his finger to stop the bleeding.  We figured that he must have slid his finger down the mirror panel at just the right place to slice it.

  Bean was pretty wonderful through the workshops. We sat at the back of every one to enable a quick getaway, but he gave nary a peep until the very last workshop on Saturday, and at the closing ceremonies.  He even fell asleep on Elizabeth Mueller's shoulder on Friday night at the Shaun Barrowes concert, and James and I got to dance.  That was very romantic!  Thanks again, Elizabeth!

  We also got to visit with Shaun for quite a while.  He is incredibly talented!  We're hoping to work the details out for him to visit our hometown.  He does musical concerts with high schools to promote the importance of music in schools.

  When it was all over, I was so worn out both physically and emotionally, but I would have done it again in a heartbeat.  I learned so much, and met so many wonderful people!  It was very hard to leave the hotel.

  Saturday night after conference was over, we went to Alpine to visit someone who was James' Teachers Quorum Adviser years ago.  He and his wife are lovely people. 

  Sunday we went to Temple Square and the Church Museum, but only got to stay for 45 minutes or so before we had to leave for our flight.

  Now, all I want to do is work on my book, so I'll leave you with some wise information:  if you want a warm, melty Lindt 85% (I'm hardcore, plus it has much less sugar) dark chocolate bar, leave it by the side of your laptop where the fan is blowing.  Gooey.