Sunday, March 27, 2011

Interview with "Cookbook Fetish" cookbook reviewer!

Welcome Julie Wallace, cookbook blogger and host of Cookbook Fetish!

Overwhelmed by her cookbook collection, each week Cookbook Fetish tries recipes from a single cookbook and writes about her experience. And the photos are luscious.
Let’s talk to Julie and see how “reviewing” cookbooks work.

Amber: How do you choose a recipe to cook as a sample from a cookbook?

Julie: First, I browse the book and see what catches my eye and my tongue or imagination. What recipe tickles my fancy? And what is my fancy, anyway? 

Generally, though, as I'm reading I make a list of interesting recipes, then narrow it down to the 3-5 that I will cook and write about. I try to get a cross-section of recipes: an appetizer, a main dish, a dessert or some combination like that. I feel this gives the reader a better understanding of the essence of the cookbook.

And, unlike a lot of food blogs, I don't post many recipes due to copyright issues. It takes a lot of work to type each and every recipe out exactly as it's written in the book, or to chase down the publisher or writer for permission to use the recipe.  Some recipes you'll be able to tell how to prepare the dish based on what I'm writing, while with others you may need to get a copy of the cookbook for yourself. 

Amber: What about the literary aspects of a cookbook?

Julie: Funny you should ask that. I just picked up a copy of a decidedly literary cookbook: Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes. It is a parody, complete with recipes and recipe instructions written in the style of authors Jane Austen, Raymond Chandler, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Graham Greene and others. Literature and cookbooks go together very well.

I can't tell you how many lovely meals I've had with a novel of some sort for a companion. I also couldn't begin to count the number of cookbooks I've poured through, eating up every word to learn techniques or savor the flavor vibrating in the descriptions. In the course of a long day, I can easily devour an entire novel - why would a cookbook be any different? 

Amber: How is reviewing a cookbook different than a review of other books?

Julie: Books tickle the imagination. If you're reading a novel, you are actively participating in the formation of the story, albeit the story is in your head. You see the characters and the locations - even if you've never been to Istanbul or New York or Savannah before. The same is true with reviewing cookbooks, except I get to literally try out the story the chef is telling through recipes. For example, I recently reviewed the Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook. Tupelo Honey Cafe is in Asheville, North Carolina and prides itself on organic, local ingredients, even maintaining an organic farm just outside of Asheville to supply the restaurant. So the story of the cookbook weaves in and around these fresh ingredients as well as imbues the reader with a sense of location: there are photos of Asheville through the years as well as quotes regarding the town.

Amber: What Cookbooks would you recommend for a basic cookbook collection?

Julie: Everyone needs one basic cookbook that covers everything. For that purpose, I'm a big Joy of Cooking fan and, despite the messy history the book has, and rely on it often. I learned to cook vegetarian using The New Laurel's Kitchen. For exploring the complexities and possibilities of flavor, check out The Flavor Bible - simply reading the various combinations makes my mouth water. Also, if your favorite restaurant has a cookbook, go get it and see if you can recreate the dishes you've enjoyed while dining. Above all, get cookbooks that truly excite you!

Amber: And one more question everyone is asking: You share a name with a famous cook and a famous cooking blogger. Yes, we’ve all read and seen Julie and Julia. So, do you feel that your blog will be confusing to foodies :o) ?

Julie: (Giggles.)

Check out Cookbook Fetish
Recent cookbooks include the
I Hate to Cook Book
& The Grit
And don't miss
Red, White & Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables 
  Backstage Pass: Catering to Music's Biggest Stars.
Leave Julie a comment.
Tell her about your favorite cookbook.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Taos as Muse, Revisted


This week I'll be back in Taos, New Mexico for my 6th Yoga as Muse Workshop and Retreat.
To celebrate while I'm off renewing and reviewing, I'm re-posting part of last year's interview with Jeff Davis.

Welcome back, Jeff! This week I want to ask you about your book, Journey from the Center to the Page.

Jeff: The first section of the book introduces readers to what I call The Four Preparations:

          • Write with intention
          • Show up and shape time
          • Stoke the writer's fire
          • Ride the wave of concentration

The second second section helps writers learn to pay attention to different creative faculties - imagination, deep memory, intuition - in tandem with very specific facets of craft - imagery and detail, syntax, metaphor, dialog. I hope that writers experience craft in a whole new context.

The third chapter consider emotional crags - writing the truth, dealing with the inner heckler, writing beyond trauma.

And the fourth section addresses a variety of issues from revising to forming writers' groups to teaching Yoga as Muse in the academy to engaging Yoga As Muse for artists and dancers.

Each chapter acts like a sort of shapely essay (I hope) that interweaves a topic relevant to a writer with clear examples from writers as and specific yogic tools and philosophies. Several chapters include specific exercises that help writers begin the practice.

Amber: Can you learn this practice from a book?
Jeff: Although I had doubts, several writers email me from around the world to tell me how the book works for them. A writer last week emailed me to say that the book helped her finish her first novel. That's rewarding to me.

Yoga As Muse specifically is a way to help writers and artists become aware of their embodied mind's nuances so they can become their own muses. They don't have to wait for some mysterious muse to show up each blue moon wearing angel wings and blowing a golden trumpet. Those inspired moments - like a Miles Davis impromptu solo - require a lot of practice. Yoga As Muse offers that practice.

Amber: Tell me about the Yoga as Muse.

Jeff: The workshops and retreats immerse writers in this work. They typically focus on a specific theme relevant to writers (and sometimes artists) such as compassion or truth. I always ground the workshops and retreats in readings from contemporary writers. It's crucial for writers to read and to learn to read as writers (that's my old teacher talking, but it's true).

In the mornings, we practice yoga and also have Yoga As Muse sessions that generate new writing from the yoga. In the afternoons, we share our writings and discuss facets of craft. We usually conclude with a celebratory reading by the participants. What's beautiful about these events is that inevitably first-timers arrive with some secret trepidation: Is my writing good enough? Do I belong here? I'm no good at yoga. Usually, that stuff gets dispelled within the first 15 minutes.

Every one - including me - is a beginner who learns from everyone else present. Aspiring writers and writers who have published multiple books attend and support each other. Non-yogis and yoga teachers alike show up.

Thanks Jeff, for offering your work to writers who will benefit by bringing yoga into their writing and taking their writing to the mat. Namaste.

Photograph of Jeffery Davis in Taos by Amber Polo
Photograph of Amber Polo in Taos by Jeffery Davis
Photograph of Amber's window in Taos by Amber Polo

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How NOT to Shop in an Independent Bookstore

This week I'm reprinting a blog post from my favorite bookseller, Joe Neri. Joe (Bookseller/Bluesman) and his wife Kris (Bookseller/Mystery Paranormal Author) operate The Well Red Coyote Bookstore in Sedona, Arizona. 
How NOT to Shop 
in an Independent Bookstore
by Joe Neri 
You would think that browsing a bookstore is pretty easy. Walk in the door, find the books that interest you, and browse. You might be surprised, however, at what Kris and I encounter when we open the doors for business each day.

Based on our real experiences, here are some suggestions for how NOT to shop at an independent bookstore:

1. Don’t tell us how much you’re going to miss Borders.

2. Don’t tell us that you just got a Kindle for your birthday.

3. Don’t only look for books by James Patterson and Danielle Steele. Believe it or not there are literally thousands of good authors, encompassing all genres, who actually write the books with their names on the covers.

4. Don’t ask for paper and pen to write down the titles and authors of wonderful books you discovered by browsing in our bookstore, with the intention of buying them online. Especially don’t use our high quality (i.e., expensive) business cards and/or bookmarks to do so.

5. If you must do #4 above, please don’t steal our pens.

6. Don’t use your cell phone’s internet connection to check online availability and pricing for books you find here.

7. In fact, don’t use your cell phone at all while browsing in our bookstore. Your need to be “connected” at all times doesn’t quite fit in with the ambiance we’re going for (why do people think they have to shout into cell phones?)

8. Don’t ask us to research a book, of which you don’t know the full title or the proper spelling of the author’s name, taking up half of our counter space with your notes on scraps of paper, and preventing other customers from getting service, if you don’t intend to buy the book from us.

9. Ditto for phone requests. If you can’t find it yourself on Amazon, don’t ask us to help you.

10. Don’t pretend to browse when all you really want is to use our restroom. Just ask – we won’t refuse your request to answer nature’s call. Just don’t take any of our books in there with you (the “George Castanza” syndrome).

11. Don’t take books from our shelves and randomly scatter them around the bookstore. Unlike the large chain stores, our talent is our knowledge of books, not our need to pick up after you.

12. Don’t hide your empty Starbucks containers or banana peels on our shelves or under our chairs or tables. If you have trash to dispose of, just ask us where to put it.

Of course, the above represents an extremely small fraction of our daily experiences. Most are with the wonderful book readers and book lovers that make owning an independent bookstore worthwhile and satisfying.

But, someday I’m going to write a book. Retail – gotta love it! 

Thanks, Joe.

Now if you authors want more advice from a bookseller 
read Kris Neri's posts
She's not shy (either) telling authors how to work with booksellers.

Joe Neri combines years of business experience with his lifetime love of books (along with the added touch of his blues band/songwriting creativity) as co-proprietor of The Well Red Coyote. Originally from New Jersey, Joe is an escapee from the asylum known as Southern California. He has been in love with the Southwest for most of his life and is now living his dream in Sedona. Joe's a proud founder of the Sedona Book festival. His band is Blues Dawg.
Find more of Joe's blogs
Kris Neri is the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Award-nominated author of the Tracy Eaton mystery series, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN, DEM BONES' REVENGE, and REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES' SAKE. Also recently published is her new urban fantasy, HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE. Her other books include a standalone suspense novel, NEVER SAY DIE, the short story collection, THE ROSE IN THE SNOW. If there's anything Kris loves as much as writing, it's reading, and sharing her love of books with others. Now that she's realized her dream of living in Arizona, she enjoys meeting her new neighbors and sharing her love of books and writing with the customers of The Well Red Coyote.
Shop their virtual store   
for Sedona books 
and the latest Kris Neri hits.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Arizona - Location Location Location

This photo shows the diversity of water and cactus. 
Behind me are snow covered mountains! 
 In January I represented Arizona on Annette Synder's Blog Tour of the U.S. Fifty Authors from Fifty States. Here's a slightly different version of that post.
     Clear dry high desert air, canyons, cactus, casinos, cowboys and 360 degree mountain views. Arizona’s open spaces opened up a mountain of creativity for me. Before Arizona, as a librarian, I only wrote bibliographies and computer manuals.

      Like many Western states, Arizona is filled with folks from other places. And that alone offers the seeds for fascinating stories. I’ve lived in eight states and each had its own character. For me, new places always changed my life story and it works the same for my characters.

      On a deep visceral level, I love to drive down a straight road in sunshine with high mountains on both sides. My special spiritual place is a spot at the base of Bell Rock in Sedona where I know I’ve lived before. Can you tell why I write fantasy?

      In my stories, I bring interesting characters to Arizona, set them in a foreign environment, and see what happens. Just like a time travel fantasy.

      My first novel, Romancing Rebecca places a New York intellectual property attorney on a plane and sends her to Sedona. This no-nonsense black suited lawyer is called the most unromantic woman in the world by her romance author clients. Only in Sedona could this fish out of water change in a few weeks. Wearing long goddess dresses, eating Godiva chocolates, and crying at romantic movies, she falls in love with a sexy trance channeler and one of his dark entities.
(Picture of my hangar)
         This photo shows the building where I rented a tiny office 
(complete with ghost) 
to write during my house renovation.
How close to home do I get? Flying Free is set in my own Arizona neighborhood. This residential airpark is one of 500 in the U.S. and we live a lifestyle not well known to many people. To this aviation addicted community I bring a Texas advertising woman who must learn to fly in order to restart her life financially and emotionally. My meddling neighbors (actually their fictional clones) aren’t about to let her take care of business and go on her way. Neither is a vegetarian pilot who falls for this meat industry advertising exec.

   This photo shows my neighbors at the 
Flying Free book launch party
in the hangar attached to my home

Arizona has a little of everything and a lot of mountains and open spaces. And I get to wear cowboy hats and boots to the grocery store (The real cowboys and Indians don’t’ give me a second glance.)

       I feel truly blessed to live in this grand state. Thanks Annette, for letting me represent Arizona!
To find out more about my books, 
in and out of Arizona, 
visit my website.
Follow authors from other states 
This week stars GEORGIA!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why I Write Fantasy - Rebecca Ryals Russell

Welcome Rebecca Ryasl Russell, author of YA and middle grade fantasy!

Amber: Why do you write fantasy?
Rebecca: Growing up I read one fantasy book after another and watched every episode of Lost in Space, Star Trek (every episode at least 3 times), Star Wars, anything Sci Fi. I devoured Lord of the Rings, every Anne McCaffrey book written, the Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks, I loved the Dark Tower series by Stephen King and read many of David Eddings series. In fact, it was while finishing a David Eddings book the concept for my first book was born. It then took me thirty years to finish writing it. I love writing Fantasy because of the room for invention. World building is so much fun I could just keep building and populating worlds. Does that give me a ‘god’ complex? Only on paper.

Amber: Why do you think readers love fantasy?

It is my belief that readers love Fantasy because of the escapism is provides. Fantasy as a genre has grown in popularity for that reason. Not only does Fantasy provide spectacular worlds to visit but the reader can wield a sword or crown, wings or breathe fire.

What other genre allows so many fantasies to be borne out by the reader? And for those who enjoy Romance, it lends itself perfectly to the Fantasy world in a wide variety of ways. The reader can easily be the Princess finding her Prince or Faeries and Elves. And dragons can be good or bad, helpful or not. Not only that, but in the Fantasy world any kind of magical creature, Mythological or newly created, can be born and used.

Amber: Tell me about your YA series.
Rebecca: Seraphym Wars has been a trip to write. Although it took me thirty years to finally sit down and put the words to paper, the story went through so many evolutions it wasn’t really even the same story by the time I finished. I chose to go the evil dragon route and incorporated the apocalypse and Revelations from the Bible as well as pulling actual news accounts for the evil committed by the dragon-demons. I couldn’t imagine worse evil than I have found in the daily news. 

Then I created a world that is Steampunk because Narciss, the head dragon and ruler of Tartarus (Mythological Hell) suppressed technology to control the planet’s population. The planet is predominantly primal forests full of dangerous creatures designed from Mythological elements. But in the farthest corner of the globe away from Narciss sits an enchanted island. After the Great Shuddering, the arrival of the dragon-demons on the peaceful planet of Solsyl, the Majikals who had been living all over the planet migrated to this island. 

So now what remains of the Elves and Faeries, Dwarves, Mermaids and other creatures I designed live on the island with a Majikal shield around it. This is where my main character, 18-year-old Myrna leads the other six Vigorios. These are the teenaged demon hunters prophesied to defeat the demons in the final battle between the Seraphym and Demons. On the island they will train with the Majikals and finish assembling the army. But just because something is prophesied doesn’t mean it will come to pass. And that is what the Vigorios are finding out.

Amber: Would you write Fantasy, even if no one read it? 

Rebecca: Yes, absolutely. I write it for me. If others want to read my books that’s awesome, but I’m the one that has to be happy with the story first.

Rebecca Ryals Russell lives in a Victorian house on five acres with her family. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log House on the property. She is a fourth generation Floridian. She was born in Gainesville (Central Fl), grew up in Sunrise (South Florida), lived in Orlando (Central Fl) and Jacksonville (NE Fl) before settling outside Lake City (North Central Fl). 

The daughter of a school principal and school secretary, for fourteen years she taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. She had several students’ works published in anthologies.  Her main interests are her four children and hubby of 35 years, writing, drawing, gardening, movies, reading.

As a Young Adult and Middle Grade author she has only just gotten started. Her debut book comes out April 2011, then nearly every month another book is slated for release.

Seraphym Wars Series: Odessa releases April 1, 2011 from MuseItUp Publishing
The MG series Stardust Warriors Zarena is scheduled for July 1, 2011 from MuseItUp. 
This is a MG version of the Seraphym Wars story. 

Other releases for next year include: Stardust Warriors Jeremiah scheduled for September 1, 2011; Seraphym Wars Prequel Conscientia November 1, 2011; a horror story Don’t Make Marty Mad October 1, 2011; and Stardust Warriors Laman due out February 1, 2012. I’m waiting to hear about Seraphym Wars Book 2 Harpies and Stardust Warriors Books 4 and 5, Mercy and Magaelbash
All books will be available on Amazon, Smashwords, as well as many other sites.

To find our more about books by Rebecca Ryals Russell  
And her blog for additional information about writing,
random ramblings
and anything that strikes her funny bone.
Rebecca also participates in a grog (group blog)
Teen Word Factory
written by a group of MG/YA Authors, 
who write about how to write for teens, 
NaNoWriMo, interviews and more. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why I Write Fantasy - Mik Wilkens

Welcome Mik Wilkens, speculative fiction writer and author of The Silver Cage
Amber: Why do you write fantasy? 

I write both fantasy and science fiction (mostly space opera), as well as other types of speculative fiction, but fantasy is my favorite because of the freedom it gives me to create worlds and characters without limitation. Fantasy is wide open because of all of the different subgenres within it: high fantasy, urban fantasy, fairy tale fantasy, historical fantasy, dark fantasy, etc. You can put almost anything into a fantasy story: cars, faeries, guns, dragons, werewolves, vampires, even starships. There's really very little you can't do.

Amber: Which subgenre best describes your new novel, The Silver Cage?
Mik: It's mostly a blend of fairy tale fantasy and high fantasy. When I say “fairy tale,” I don’t mean the traditional, short folk tale written for children, often with a moral at the ending. Rather, I use the term as defined by Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien in his essay “On Fairy-Stories.” Tolkien said that fairy tales are not stories about fairies or other fantastic creatures; rather they are about the interaction between humans and such beings. He believed that through the use of such tales, an author can help the reader experience a world that is consistent and rational yet completely strange.

David Conner, a sensible, modern-day businessman, is the human who interacts with the fantastic creatures in The Silver Cage. He acts as a guide for the reader as he explores the magical world he finds himself in, investigates how and why he ended up there, and uncovers the layers of intrigue that surround the lives of the world’s creatures.

Amber: Who is the ideal reader for The Silver Cage, children or adults?
Mik: The Silver Cage is aimed at adults, but it doesn't have any mature themes or content that would keep it from being enjoyed by older children. Several people who don't normally like reading fantasy stories have really liked the story, so you don't necessarily have to be a fan of fantasy fiction to enjoy it.

Amber: What are your favorite fantasy novels?
Mik: The first fantasy novels to really make an impression on me were those in Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series.
They inspired me to try writing books of my own. They also taught me the importance of having a logical magic system in a fantasy story. Rather than just having some intangible force called “magic,” there needs to be a source of the power and rules that the characters have to follow to use that power. That idea was one of the driving forces behind The Silver Cage.

I really love Anne Rice’s vampire books, as well. I read Interview with the Vampire in 1976 when it first came out, long before the rest of her vampire books were written and before vampires became such a popular subject. I absolutely adored that book, and I read each of the other books in The Vampire Chronicles series as they came out. Since then, I’ve read them all way more times than I can remember.

I also like Mercedes Lackey's books, Roger Zelazny's Amber series, and The Death Gate Cycle books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

Amber: Why do you think readers love fantasy?
It's a wonderful way to escape the troubles of the real world, meet fascinating characters, and explore imaginative worlds.

Amber: Would you write fantasy even if no one read it?
Definitely. The truth is, I don't have much of a choice. When I'm in a writing mood, I can't not write. If my muse sends me a fantasy story, like it or not, that's what I'm going to write.

Mik Wilkens' debut fantasy novel, The Silver Cage, is available at and other leading e-book distributors. Her science fiction novella The Price of Conquest will be released in 2011 by WolfSinger Publications. She's currently working on several other writing projects, including a fantasy novel starring greyhounds, which she plans to use to raise money to help retired racing greyhounds find homes. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband, a pack of retired racing greyhounds, and an ancient, three-legged demon in a cat suit.

The Silver Cage LazyDay Publishing The Price of Conquest, SF novella, 
 due 2011WolfSinger Publications Find out more about Mik Wilkens 
and writing blog Writing Blog Mikreations