Tag: chocolate

Chocolate, Writing Retreats, Unnerving Moaning and More!

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This weekend started in the best possible way. A friend messaged me on Facebook saying, “You have to get a copy of The Guardian today! There’s a special supplement on the Best New Children’s Books Summer 2017, and The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is in it!”

And ahhhh! It was true:

I honestly can’t think of any better news to inspire me as I work on my edits for the next book in the series, my MG spies-and-fairies book (in which Aventurine, my fiery dragon-girl, takes a turn as the sidekick while Silke, her fabulously clever best friend, is the heroine of her own story).

Unfortunately, between school holidays, family holidays, and a really unfortunate series of M.E./CFS crashes, I’m not as far ahead in those edits as I’d hoped to be by now. So I’ve taken the radical (for me) step of planning an actual writing retreat next week for the first time in four years. The last time I did this, I booked a lovely bed & breakfast in Ludlow, England, and wrote 7,000 words in 2 days, which is HUGE for me. This time I’m taking a 3-day retreat instead of a 2-day one…and I’m not staying in a B&B after all because all the ones I looked at in Ludlow were booked up.

But! A really generous friend has offered me a place to stay, even though I’ve warned her I will be a terrible houseguest, since I’ll spend the whole time surrounded by spread-out manuscript pages, alternating typing/scribbling and moaning unnervingly through the walls. Luckily, she’s a writer, too, so she gets it. ;)

I will be bringing two VERY large boxes of chocolates along with me – one as a thank-you gift to my hosts, and one to fuel me through the edits. Chocolate will get me through to my deadline! I am determined!

Oh, and: I finally have a firm publication date for my adult romantic fantasy novella, Snowspelled – September 4th! (I’d finished all of the edits on this one a few months ago while I was waiting for my MG spies-and-fairies edits to arrive, but I didn’t have a firm pub date for it until now.) The gorgeous cover (with art by Leesha Hannigan, whose work I love) will be revealed on The Book Smugglers next Thursday (at about the same time that the pre-order links go up online), and in the meantime, you can read the jacket copy, add it on Goodreads – and if you’re a book blogger/reviewer, you can contact me now to get an e-ARC immediately!

Even if you’re not a book blogger/reviewer, if you are a newsletter subscriber, you’ll get the chance to win an early review copy in my July newsletter. Just sign up here.

This week I’ll be working intensely on my edits, petting Pebbles, and, let’s face it, drinking a lot of hot chocolate. Good luck to you guys with all of your own goals! :)

Disasters, Hot Chocolate Strategies, And an Opening Chapter


Alas, yesterday’s hot chocolate experiment was such a disaster, I’m not even going to report the fine details here (except to say: TEN CARDAMOM PODS IS DEFINITELY TOO MUCH)! On the upside, though, my 8-year-old has volunteered to join with me in the experimentation process, making his own search for a new favorite hot chocolate recipe – and I have to admit (with mingled pride and envy) that his own hot chocolate experiment yesterday was FAR better than mine! Still, we’re both planning to do some fine-tuning today with our next round of experiments when he gets back home from school.

(If you want some context for this quest for hot chocolate perfection, check out the blog entry I posted this weekend. I WILL come up with a perfect pair of new recipes, I swear it!)

And check out this fabulous piece from The Guardian that was forwarded to me by Joanna Murray! The writer, Felicity Cloake, rounds up lots of different hot chocolate recipes using various approaches, then offers her own favorite recipe. I don’t think it would work for me because of how little I personally like milk chocolate – but if you do like milk chocolate, you should definitely check it out! And I loved reading about all the different methods.

In more chocolate-themed news, it’s one month exactly until The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart comes out in the UK – and in celebration, you can read Chapter One on my website now! I really hope that you enjoy it. :)

Of course, you can pre-order the book now, using this handy set of links (thank you to my website-designing husband for that! :) ) –

– and if you’re in the US or Canada, while you have longer to wait for the final book, you can enter this Goodreads giveaway for an ARC, too. Good luck!

Now I’m back to plotting out my next attempt at a perfect cardamom hot chocolate. Please wish me luck!

Hot Chocolate Recipes and Obsessions


Readers who’ve been keeping me company for the last few years might remember that when the Kat trilogy was re-released as a boxed set, I declared its publication day (October 7, 2014) to be Hot Chocolate Day. In the week leading up to it, I posted one hot chocolate recipe after another, including guest recipes from friends. (There was Hot Chocolate One: the Original Comfort Recipe; Hot Chocolate Two: Vegan Perfection; Hot Chocolate Three: Witch’s Chocolate; and then, on Hot Chocolate Day itself, Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate.)

Of course, hot chocolate was never actually mentioned or drunk in the Kat books – I just like hot chocolate, so I thought Hot Chocolate Day would be a fun way to celebrate the boxed set. (And artist Sally Jane Thompson even drew a beautiful sketch of Kat drinking hot chocolate for the occasion!) But not entirely coincidentally, on October 24, 2014, just a few weeks after Hot Chocolate Day, as I was lying in bed in the dark waiting to fall asleep…I suddenly jerked upright, grabbed my laptop, and wrote the first 450 words of a new book – a book about a fierce dragon girl driven by her passion for chocolate (and a pot of enchanted hot chocolate that gets her into trouble in the first place!).

Sketch by Sally Jane Thompson

It was, of course, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart…which is being published in the UK in just 33 days (and in the US/CA 3-1/2 months later).

So. It seems like time to start work on a few new recipes!

My personal cooking goal over the next couple of weeks is to come up with one recipe that I really like for cardamom hot chocolate (something I’ve been curious about for a while) and one recipe I really like for chilli hot chocolate (my fiery dragon-heroine’s very favorite kind!). (I know how she made it in the novel, of course, but that was based on eighteenth-century chocolate-making methods, and I’m not working with all of the same ingredients, so I’ll have to make my own recipe a little different.)

Today, I made my first attempt at a cardamom hot chocolate, and it was really yummy – but I think it could be even better. And my public vow is to return to this blog within one week, maximum, to report on a version that I love.

(Today’s experiment #1: I poured a cup of milk into a small saucepan along with 6 bruised – i.e., cracked open – cardamom pods and a scattering of cinnamon. I turned the hob to the lowest heat possible and let it all simmer together for about ten minutes before adding in 6 squares of 70% dark chocolate and whisking it regularly for the next five minutes. It was really lovely! I love the heat that the cardamom gives to the flavor, and the combination of cardamom and cinnamon was really nice. BUT I also thought the flavors could be stronger. I’m going to be putting in more cardamom pods next time and more cinnamon and maybe letting the whole mixture simmer longer, too.)

Of course, this means I’ll have to make a lot of hot chocolate over the next several days.

What a pity, right? ;)

Happy chocolate-drinking to all! And I’d love to hear about any of your own favorite hot chocolate recipes.

The Final Countdown…

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So, we’ve reached that Final Countdown that so many parents experience every year…the last five days of school before winter holidays! And I’m trying to get a 30,000-word freelance project first-drafted by Friday (as well as buying the kids’ Christmas presents while they’re safely out of the house, of course)…so, personally, I am REALLY feeling that countdown right now!

(Luckily, I managed to hit my target of 2,000 freelance words this morning, so I am feeling – tentatively – like everything should work out. Oh, please don’t let me be jinxing myself by saying that!)

But there are other kinds of countdown going on here, too – because it’s less than one month until Patrick’s first book comes out!

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb

In honor of that ticking clock, Patrick is holding an awesome giveaway on his blog, offering up not just a signed hardcover copy of the book (which is also beautifully illustrated by artist Jeremy Holmes), but also a really fun mug inspired by the book AND a bar of Omega Dragon Chocolate from our favorite chocolate shop here in Wales. If you’re in the US, UK, or Canada, you can enter the giveaway – and no matter where you live, you can follow that link to read the first chapter of the book.

And speaking of books coming out next year…the digital ARCs of Masks and Shadows are up on Edelweiss now! If you’re a book blogger or a magazine reviewer, you can request an e-ARC there. And if not…well, the real, final book is coming out in less than four months now! Wow. As soon as I get my paper ARCs, I think it’ll be time for me to start holding some giveaways, too…

Good luck with your own countdowns this month!

This Week’s Love List


1. Hamilton: the Musical. I discovered this through the cast recording, and WOW.

So, for context, I’ve always liked musicals, as a genre, without feeling a great urge to watch or listen to them all that much…except once, when I was 12, when one hit me like a lightning-bolt: The Phantom of the Opera. It was soooooo romantic! And historical! And thrilling! And oh, did I mention over-the-top romantic??? I’d never come across anything like it before. I was OBSESSED. Every single day, for months, I came home from middle school and put on the records. I had every line memorized. For my next birthday, my mom took me and my best friend to see it live at the Pantages theater in Toronto, and I was enthralled (even though I noticed, with great outrage, every single line that they had changed from the original London recorded performance). I saved up all of my babysitting money through the next year to buy another ticket and go watch it again with my younger brother.

Eventually, the obsession faded – although, come to think of it, I do wonder now whether that early love affair with Phantom might have contributed to my later academic path, studying opera? But regardless, I never had another musical hit me with that kind of titanic force…until now.

When I was 12, I listened to Phantom every single day, breathless with amazement. Hamilton is a very, very different musical from Phantom. It’s sharp, scathing, explicit, and brilliant. It’s very, very funny. It’s deeply emotionally true. But it makes me breathless in the same way Phantom made me, at 12. It makes me feel creatively excited and inspired to do my own writing! And now, at 38, I’m listening to Hamilton every single day, just like I used to listen to Phantom all those years ago. Pretty soon, I’ll have all of the lines memorized. I wish so badly that I could watch it live! But the cast recording is AMAZING. You can find it on Spotify or buy it anywhere that sells music. I LOVE it.

2. The West Wing. Yup – only 16 years after it first came out, I’ve finally started watching The West Wing! (I’m SO in touch. ;) ) And of course I have become completely addicted. I’m nearly at the end of the second season (I was going a lot faster before I discovered Hamilton!), and I am already considering whether I should buy the full seven-season boxed set one day rather than rely on Netflix to have it forever. I can already tell that I’ll want to re-watch for all the character development and relationships. And again – SUCH good writing!

3. This one is slightly cheating – but I just discovered this chocolate mousse recipe tonight, and while I haven’t had a chance to make it yet, I can’t wait. Mmmm. It has been far too long since I ate chocolate mousse! (And I love chocolate EVERY week, as you guys know.)

What about you guys? What are you loving right now?