Tag: Book of the Week


Friday Favorites: Minnesota Authors!

This pretty much sums up how I feel about this week

I sit here writing this on a gorgeous sunny Friday morning with a mug of Irish breakfast tea. Not a bad way to end a week, and Holy Cats, what a WEEK! Some pretty cool stuff has happened the last five days, and here are my favorites:

Meeting Beth Hautala!

I was fortunate enough to meet Middle Grade author Beth Hautala this past Monday at the very first Brown Bag Lunch at the Brainerd Public Library. Beth kicked off the Brown Bag Lunch Author Series by talking about her wonderful debut novel, Waiting for Unicorns. Her novel is a heartfelt tale about 12-year-old Talia who, having just lost her mother to cancer, goes on a trip to the Artic with her whale-researcher father. In the ice and snow of Manitoba, Talia learns the truth about love, wishing, and saying goodbye through the magic of the “Artic unicorn”–the narwhal.

I loved Beth’s lyrical writing style and beautiful characters. Meeting her was fantastic, and I wish her much fun and success!

(And don’t forget I’ll be at the Brainerd Public Library on July 13th from 12-1 as a part of the Brown Bag Author Series! End of shameless plug)



Of course, this was one of my absolute FAVORITES of the week. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet (and I don’t know how you couldn’t have with so many amazing people sharing, liking, posting, and retweeting the video. THANK YOU!), here it is in all it’s literary glory!!! 😀


Book of the Week: Shelterbelts by Candace Simar

I’ve been waiting to read this book, and the wait was TOTALLY worth it. Candance Simar–author of the award-winning Abercrombie Trail series–is known for her love of historical fiction based on the Norwegian immigrants of Minnesota. While Abercrombie Trails focused on the pioneers and Sioux Uprising, Shelterbelts takes place just as World War II is ending.

Tia Fiskum, the old maid of Tolga Township, yearns to retain her hold on the family farm after her shell-shocked brother returns from World War II. The neighbor she hopes to marry chooses a town girl for his new wife.The Potato King listens to the radio preacher and prays for a miracle. Eddy Root fears a return to the asylum. A German war bride struggles to find acceptance in this tight-knit Scandinavian community. Woven throughout is the man who walks lizards, a grieving father, a disillusioned pastor, and the neighborhood gossipmonger. Shelterbelts chronicles the life of a community struggling to return to normal after war. This is a story true to history of those difficult times while rich in the complications of the human spirit.

Candace is one of those authors whose characters take hold of you and don’t let go. I am really enjoying the novel, and learning a ton about the time period and Norwegian culture (being Irish and Scottish in Northern Minnesota is a bit of an oddity. I’d never even heard of lefsa before we moved up here 😉 ).

Even more exciting: Candace has graciously accepted an invitation to be interviewed right here on The Open Book! Stay tuned for the first-ever guest star on my blog! 🙂


Word Count

Drum roll please…979. Poop. I was shooting for 2,000. While I didn’t reach my word count goal, I do feel like all 979 of those words are keepers. I feel pretty good about what I wrote, and spent a lot of time reworking the chapter I scrapped last week. So, by next week, I should have two new chapters. Yay!

I’m going to keep my word goal at 2,000 words for next week. I am NOT one of those super-fast writers like my friend, Katie. She can whiz through chapters at lighting speed. I’m more like George R. R. Martin. It’s gonna take a while. But that’s the point of my keeping count of my words: to increase how much I write every week. Wish me luck!

Happy Friday!



Friday Favorites: Springtime in Minnesota

All I wanted to do all week is lay in a hammock and read!

This whole week has just been absolutely gorgeous. While I would have loved to spend every second in the sunshine, I mostly stayed in my homework chair, diligently hacking away at my final project. I’ve also made a fair amount of progress on the sequel, though late-night reading cut into my writing time just a bit. My book of the week has kept me up reading waaay later than I should have been, so my alarm in the morning was even less welcome than usual. Luckily, this week’s warm weather inspired some delicious iced drinks that have kept me fueled up and energized.

I worked as a Barista through high school, college, and even a bit when we first moved to Minnesota. In other words, I know my way around fancy coffee and tea drinks. During that time, I experimented with flavors and learned how to concoct delicious drinks at home for a fraction of the price you’d pay at a coffee shop (as a Barista, you scoff at paying for coffee). This week, I brewed up two fabulous drinks–one tea based, one coffee based–that will keep your taste buds happy, no matter your preference!


Sweet n’ Salty Caramel Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is the perfect summer drink. Oooooo, do I love it. And this homemade brew is the best I’ve ever tasted. My secret? Instead of using traditional ice cubes which water down your drink, I make coffee cubes. All you have to do is brew a small pot of coffee and let it cool for a bit. Then pour the cooled coffee into an ice cube tray. Freeze over night. The next morning, you have caffeinated cubes! They are a girl’s best friend.

To make my Sweet n’ Salty Caramel Iced Coffee, you need a caramel coffee syrup. The one I recommend is Madhava’s Salted Caramel Coffee Syrup. Made with agave nectar (so it is low-glycemic and oodles healthier than high fructose corn syrup), the caramel flavor is OUT OF THIS WORLD. When I opened the bottle the first time, I was tempted to just guzzle the syrup. Fortunately, I decided to add it to my iced coffee instead. The best part of all this is the whole bottle of syrup will only set you back about what ONE iced drink costs at a coffee shop.

Here’s what you do:

1. Brew a pot of coffee the night before (my little coffee maker brews about 5 cups at a time)

2. Pour coffee into large mason jars. The mason jars should be about half-full with just coffee.

3. Refrigerate overnight.

4. The next morning, pour in about a 1/2 cup dairy or non-dairy milk (if desired). Add a Tablespoon of Salted Caramel Syrup and stir.

5. Add enough coffee cubes to chill, lid your mason jar and give it a shake. Stick a straw in your creation and sip pure bliss.

*Note: If you get a craving and didn’t refrigerate coffee overnight, you can totally make this recipe with fresh, hot coffee. It will just take more coffee cubes to chill it down to the right temperature.*


Iced Mango Green Tea with Frozen Berries

If your cup of tea is more, well, tea, then I’ve also got a drink for you! I love sipping tea any time of year, but a nice glass of iced tea in the summer is especially refreshing. My favorite iced tea is an organic mango green. The nice part is this particular tea is also decaffeinated *gasp*. So, if you want to chill out without getting buzzed up, this is the perfect spring treat. Loaded with fruity mango and slightly sweet from the frozen berries, it is sure to put a smile on your face!

I usually tend to sprinkle some organic Xylitol (a natural sweetener–what Shane calls my “Hippie Sugar”–that is derived from American hardwood trees) on top for an added bonus. Perfection!

*Note: If interested in trying Xylitol, use an organic brand that specifies the sweetener was derived from North American hardwood trees. Otherwise, it is most likely coming from GMO corn. If you aren’t sure, go to your local Co-Op and ask about the brand they carry.*

Here’s what you do:

1. Bring 6 cups of water to boil. Remove from heat and add mango green tea leaves(I usually do 6-7 teaspoons of loose leaf tea in 6 cups of water, but you could also do 6-7 tea bags if that’s how you roll).

2. Let steep about five minutes–any more than that and the tea will be CRAZY bitter–and remove the tea.

3. Refrigerate (if you have the time and self-control), or add a handful of berries directly from the freezer. I use whatever is on hand, but find that a mix of strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries is my favorite. Of course, frozen mango is a no-brainer.

4. Sprinkle in a little Xylitol or other sweetener, and sip! At the end of your drink, make sure to eat all those berries! 🙂


Book of the Week: The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

I love, love, love graphic novels. When I saw this one on display at my library, I snatched it up right away. The title alone makes me giggle. Soon after I cracked open the pages, it was evident that I would be doing a lot more giggling as I read my way through The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. And though the book delivers as much sardonic humor as the title suggests (the narration reminds me of Roald Dahl–whimsical and poignant), it also provides social commentary on the dangers of conformity and what life can be like if we dare to be different.

Here’s the synopsis provided by the publishers:

On the island of Here, livin’s easy. Conduct is orderly. Lawns are neat. Citizens are clean shaven-and Dave is the most fastidious of them all. Dave is bald, but for a single hair. He loves drawing, his desk job, and the Bangles. But on one fateful day, his life is upended…by an unstoppable (yet pretty impressive) beard.

The characters and artwork are so engaging that I’ve been staying up past midnight (a shockingly late hour for me) devouring this book! Whether you are a graphic novel nut like me or have never picked one up before, give The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil a try!

Pairing Suggestion

A delicious homemade iced beverage, a pair of sunglasses, and a hammock

Happy Friday!


Friday Favorites: Local Edition!

If the past few weeks have taught me anything–and boy have they taught me a lot–it is the awesome power of local. Being an independent artist (and YES, I feel pretty cool writing that. Though to be clear, my visual artistic talents are basically limited to stick figures), it is gratifying, humbling, and inspiring to realize the incredible local support that exists for aspiring writers. It was not something I expected to find when we moved to the Northwoods. So, that got me thinking: how many resources and artistic organizations exist in our communities that we don’t know about? There are probably resources at your finger tips that you aren’t aware of that could help make your passion a reality.

So, for this Friday Favorites post, I thought I’d share a little more about some of my favorite local organizations, booksellers, and people that have made my writing career (SQUEEEEE! I get to say career now 🙂 ) possible. My hope is that perhaps after seeing so many great resources available in my local area, maybe you’ll be inspired to seek out opportunities in your own town!

RiverPlace Press


My publishers are definitely at the top of this list. Big shock, I know. I love the fact that RiverPlace is right in Minnesota, and is run by two of the best people in the world. Because RiverPlace is a local press, I was able to really form relationships with Chip and Jean, and had a lot of say in the design elements of the novel as well as the editing process (something that does not often happen in the publishing world). Seven Stones was truly a team effort, and the support I continue to get from RiverPlace is unheard of.

Smaller, independent publishing houses and presses produce quality books and promote local artists. If you search for publishing options in your area, you might be pleasantly surprised!

Blue Cottage Agency

Needless to say, I am a huge fan of Krista and her team! She is helping me promote myself better and reach a wider audience. Usually when you think of “agents” or “publicists” you may imagine they all work in swanky skyscrapers in New York City and are far too busy and important to see you. Krista does have a pretty swanky office, but she represents Minnesota authors right from downtown Brainerd. And she is completely 100% fabulous.

Local Booksellers

I could spend hours in a book store–just ask my husband. Local book stores have always been favorites because they each have their own feel and often carry books you can’t find anywhere else. I am proud to say that MY book is on the shelves of several local book stores in Bemidji, with more to come thanks to Krista! Since early March, I started contacting the independent booksellers in town and they have been awesome! If you want to support your local economy, independently owned businesses are the way to do it. Thanks to Big River Scoop, Kat’s Book Nook, Harmony Co-Op, Accidentally Cool Games, and Book World for supporting Seven Stones!

Region 2 Arts Council

I think I made it pretty clear with the last few posts how much I appreciate the Region 2 Arts Council. 🙂 The fact that they offer grants that open doors for local artists is huge. The crazy thing is that I never really knew about any sort of art grants before moving to the area. I was applying for school scholarships at the time and thought maybe there were similar funds for writing. I asked the reference librarian at my local library about art grants, and she directed me to the Arts Council. If you have a project that is on hold due to lack of funds, check out what grants or artistic groups are available in your area.


YES! YOU ARE MY FAVORITE! None of this would be happening without you. By reading my blog, spending your hard earned money on my book, liking my posts on Facebook, you are supporting my dream of being an author. You seriously have no idea the power you have as a consumer, and by buying local you are using your powers for good. Thank you. I love you. 🙂

Book of the Week:


It has been a while since I’ve encountered a good writing guide, and I’ve heard some really great things about this one. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer seems like it offers tips for writers of all levels. I’m personally looking for strategies on making and keeping writing schedules and always in search of inspiration. I plan on curling up on Saturday with this book, my big fluffy blanket, and a pot of Irish Breakfast tea.

Happy Friday!