Haunted Dollhouse

Get ready, it’s almost here!

Check out this haunted dollhouse.

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Trick or Treat!  We’re waiting for you…

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My friend (to your right) dieted a little too much this year.

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Candy anyone?

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Yes, I’m talking to you little girl.

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Please don’t step on the flowers!

 

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Pick a room and spend the night with us.

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How about a little treat?

 

Have you been “Booed?”  This is fun!  Our daughter and her family were “Booed” for the first time last year.  This involves making up gift bags, placing them at the doors of friends/neighbors with a note attached, ringing the doorbell and running! There are lots of fun things for Halloween already on sale, be creative and conjure up some fun.  You can use candy, but we preferred not to use edibles. My grandson and I packed little bags with Halloween projects for three families in his neighborhood.  When it started to get dark, he did the running and we strolled along behind him.

For details go to http://www.beenbooed.com/ for details.

Woohoo…….what fun.

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BOO!!!

This is a great time of year to tell stories and read.

Hot cider, donuts, a big fuzzy blanket, and a good book are the ingredients for the perfect Halloween potion.

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Tea for Two…or more

     IMG_1139At the top of my list of favorite things is having tea with friends either at home or at a tearoom.

No matter season, time or place, there’s nothing like a warm cup of tea and a good friend to feed your soul.

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I first fell in love with having tea in storybooks and then was bitten by the bug over 25 years ago when I was a volunteer tour guide at Baker Mansion in Altoona, PA, and fund raising chair for the Blair County Historical Society.  Although I planned and enjoyed many different events, a series of summer tea parties was my favorite.  With no kitchen facilities we had to transport everything we needed, including fine china and silverware, to the mansion and then lug all the dirty dishes home.   It was an ordeal but well worth it.

Our adult teas included full tea service and an entertaining program.  My favorite of the season was a children’s tea served on the front lawn of the mansion with covered chairs and pastel tablecloths.  The menu was especially fun including cookie cutter sandwiches, gummy fish swimming in Jello, and cupcakes baked in ice cream cones.  The tables were decorated with antique soda fountain glasses with floral arrangements provided by the Blair County Garden Club.  Guests were serenaded by 13-year-old, harpest Rachel Eardley.  At 13 she already played like an expert.  I remember looking down the long, half acre lawn to see a daddy holding his little girl’s hand as they approached.  I nearly broke my leg running down the hill to meet him because I was thrilled to see a daddy escorting his little girl to tea.  He was the only dad there that day.  We concluded the event with a magician and sent everyone home with full tummies and smiles on their sweet faces.Bell wedding dress

Built in 1844 by iron master Elias Baker the mansion is open for tours and special events.  Reputed to be haunted, the mansion boasts the wedding dress of Anna Bell, of Bellwood, PA, that supposedly moves while enclosed in an airtight case.  I spent many an hour sitting in that room, but the dress never honored me with even a slight tap of a wedding slipper.

I make it a habit to visit every tearoom I can find, among my favorites is Tilly Mint’s in Souderton, PA (northwest of Philadelphia, Buck’s County) which is as English as you can get.  Although modest in terms of decor, Tilly Mint’s stands out with exceptional service and the most varied and delectable treats I have personally experienced.

Owner, Trish, British expat is happy to share stories of her homeland and tea with her mother who gave her the nickname of Tilly Mint.  Patrons and owner alike correspond with family and friends in England.  Trish proudly displays pictures of the newest Royals, George and Charlotte, that were sent to her personally by Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
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An especially unique experience was having tea at Meadowbrook Farm, the estate of the late J. Liddon Pennock, Jr, (1913-2003) a renowned Philadlphia florist and landscape designer.  Mr. Pennock is best known for providing the florals for the Trisha Nixon wedding at the White House.  The estate is now maintained by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society who welcome visitors for tours of the house and grounds.  The big surprise for us was a retail nursery on site.  The house is English Cotswold dMeadowbrook-image-garden-loweresign with the original furnishings still in place.

Our tea was served in a beautiful garden room by Chef Brenda Board, whOliver-and-Company-Tea-Room-3-640x426o at that time was catering teas in historical buildings in and around Philly.  We were not only impressed by our surroundings (after finally getting there because we got lost) but by the wealth of knowledge Chef Board had to share.  Did you know there is such a thing as a tea sommelier?  After completing culinary school, Chef Board returned to school to study tea.  She made me dizzy with what I didn’t know about tea.  Brenda presented an exceptional gourmet tea of a unique combination of sandwiches and desserts.  When in the Philly area, try to spend an afternoon enjoying this beautiful estate.

twinings3     If you are a Jersey Shore fan you must visit the Twinings Carriage House Cafe & Tearoom on the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May.  You can dine outdoors on the tented patio or in the original horse stalls.  I know, that sounds unsanitary but there is no evidence horses ever lived there.  The carriage house is full of character and so unique it looks like an architect’s idea of the perfect carriage house with glossy wood and iron fittings rather than the over 100 year old building that it is.  A member of the Twining family personally visited from England and guided the opening of the tearoom nearly 20 years ago and it continues in popularity with wonderful teas and culinary treats.twinings 4

You’ll have trouble leaving the carriage house withtwiningsout making a purchase in the gift shop…but it’s Cape May and we all need a little token of our visit.

Cape May has boasted the top five restaurants in New Jersey for years and now they can claim the Carriage House Tearoom as one more jewel in their crown. This beautiful little town is the perfect destination to celebrate special occasions.  Stay in one of the many B&B’s, take a horse and carriage tour through the town, and be sure to stop for tea at the Carriage House.  Don’t forget to tour the Emlen Physick house while you’re there, I promise it’s worth your time.

 

 

I consider myseltea merchantf very lucky to have several fine tearooms within driving distance. Tea Merchant 101 located in Duncansville, PA, is a more contemporary tea room with literally over 100 teas to chose from.  Owner, Joe Doyle, offers a light tea on the premises or you can purchase any of his teas to savor at home.  Joe also offers tea accessories and gift baskets.

 

         If you are a lover of all things Victorian, then Bell Mansion Tearbellmansion3oom, in Bellwood, PA, is the tearoom for you.  Owned and operated by Pamela and George Wertman this is definitely the place for tea for two or special events such as showers and birthday parties.

     George’s chicken salad is the best!!!  Their tea selection is vast and worth trying a different tea each time you visit.IMG_20140329_143246

     The Wertmans were kind enough to host a launch party for my first book, Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet.  We had a wonderful time with the mothers and daughters who attended.  Pamela encourages her guests to wear one of her fancy hats and chose their own teapots.  In addition to hostess extraordinaire, Pamela is a talented pianist and surprised me by playing the theme from Somewhere In Time at the event.  Her music was so incredible I had trouble holding back the tears.IMG_20140329_145507

     The Wertmans now offer Bed and Breakfast accommodations on the second floor of the mansion. Keep this in mind when you have too many guests and not enough bedrooms.bellmansion2

     If you don’t have a local tea room where you can buy interesting teas, then I suggest looking for Twinings and Stash brands.  If you cannot find them in your local store, go online.  I love all the different flavors, but am an Earl Gray lover at heart.  Time and time again I chose Lady Gray or Earl Blue.

     There are several things I am an obnoxious snob about, one of them is scones.  Many times I have been told that scones can only be made one way…of course that being the favorite of the speaker.  Well, I’m here to tell you after a month in England and several weeks in Ireland, there is absolutely NOT only one way to make scones.  Every town I visited had a different type of scone.  They run the gamut of rolled and cut, dropped, or in a round cut in wedges, sweet and savory in every flavor you can dream up.  The most surprising thing to me was the best scone I had was on the Virgin Atlantic plane on the way home…go figure, probably commercially made and frozen.  Who cares, it was delicious.

     Many Americans say they don’t like scones.  Yes, they can tend to be a bit dry sometimes and not very flavorful.  I personally think the problem is we Americans don’t do it right.  Scones are meant to be pared with clotted cream, butter, lemon curd and/or preserves.  The terms clotted and curd seem to scare Americans…okay, call it Devonshire cream and lemon pudding. Don’t let a term ruin a new experience.

    After literally years and dozens of recipes I finally found the scone recipe I like best and even my husband (one of those scone haters) likes.  I share it with you below, but I encourage you to test as many recipes as you can until you find your favorite.

My Favorite Scones

2-1/3 c all-purpose flour

3 T brown sugar

2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1/2 c butter

3/4 c dried fruit of your choice

2-3 T grated orange peel.

8 oz sour cream

1 egg yolk, beaten (save the white for brushing tops)

1 T water

1 T coarse sugar

     Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl stir together dry ingredients.  Using a pastry blender (I use a food processor because it’s much faster) cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add dried fruit and orange zest and toss until mixed. Make a well in the center of the ingredients.

     In a small bowl combine sour cream and egg yolk, add all at once to the well in the flour mixture.  Using a fork, stir just until moistened.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Quickly knead by gently folding and pressing dough until smooth. Divide dough into two equal parts and shape into 8-inch rounds approximately 1/2 inch thick.  Cut each round into six wedges.  Place wedges one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Brush tops with a mixture of egg white and 1 T water.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

     Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from baking sheet and cool or serve warm.

Mommies and grandmothers, take your favorite little girls to tea or have a tea party at home.

You’ll be starting a new tradition you will all enjoy.

Last but not least…here’s a special little craft project for tea lovers.

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Tales of Tails

IMG_1093The lazy, hazy days of summer have caught up with me!  All I feel like doing is reading.  A perfect day for me is one spent under the pergola with a good book and listening to the hummingbirds buzz around my head.

I pulled out another one of my favorite childrens’ books, Brambly Hedge, Summer Story, by Jill Barklem.  If you have never experienced her books, I highly recommend you run right out and get one – OR – let your fingers do the shopping on the internet.

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Ms. Barklem is a British author and illustrator with incredible talent.  As a child she suffered an eye injury that prevented her from having an active life so she turned to art and books.  Her stories are about the Brambly Hedge mice who live in the bucolic world of the English countryside.  When reading you forget the characters are mice and feel like you are a member of their community.  The mice are too charming for words and the illustrations exquisite.

As much as I love her stories, I find myself spending more time studying her drawings.  The detail draws you in like a seek and find game.  I’ve tried to show some of her work here, but for better pictures google her.

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You can purchase her books individually, but I particularly like, The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge.  This book includes her four seasons books, as well as a conversation with the artist and studies of her art in progress.

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If you’re into sewing or crafts, you will enjoy The Brambly Hedge Pattern Book, which includes patterns and instructions for making the mice.  I’m considering making my dollhouse a mouse house…hmmm, do I really need another project?

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I wonder how Emerson would feel about living with a few mice in her house?

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Share these wonderful books with the ones you love!

 

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Don’t forget to encourage your middle-graders to read the Emerson’s Attic Series.

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Please visit the Blue Velvet book trailer.  Copy and paste into your browser:   https://www.youtube.com/embed/Jf_AkD1nG2g

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the trailer and the books.

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Collecting

IMG_0814The definition of a collection is pretty general in any dictionary.  Simply put, a collection is the action or process of gathering items of like kind.  I’ve read that having three or more of any similar object is considered a collection.  At any rate, collecting is one more way families can enjoy time together.  Pick an item of interest to all and start collecting.

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Postage stamp collecting is one of the best known hobbies.  Did you know it began at the same time stamps were first issued, and by 1860 thousands of collectors and stamp dealers were appearing around the world.  Stamp collecting is a less popular hobby today but it is still estimated that about 25 million people enjoy the hobby in the United States and 200 million worldwide.  Whew, that’s a lot of people not to mention stamps.

Some people collect memories in the form of matchbooks and napkins from favorite places, ticket stubs to concerts or movies, and most importantly photographs of family and friends.

I once did a bug collection for extra credit in biology.  Poor Mr. Yoder, I think he was sorry he ever suggested it.  His office was hidden in an obscure part of the school (probably to hide from students like me) where I would pop around the corner and stick my head in to see if he was there.   My sudden appearance startled him many times which hopefully was the reason for the look of disdain on his face, which equaled my feeling about the subjects of my collection and the process of mounting them.

Summer is the perfect time to start collecting…bugs, rocks, butterflies, fossils, and in the case of little boys just about anything that wiggles, hops or squirms. What mother of a boy hasn’t put her hand in a pocket on wash day to find something she would have rather not.

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Plan ahead for a leaf collection by identifying and preserving leaves this summer for school in the fall.  Start teaching your children to cook and make a notebook or special box for their favorite recipes.  The possibilities are limitless!

 

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Whatever you decide to collect, make it fun!

 

Copy and paste the link below into your browser to see my new video for Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet.

https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=313b437fb0a5648f!31325&authkey=!ADgGKEu8XzRN0xA&ithint=video%2cwmv

 

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Kids in the Kitchen

I don’t know about you, but I change my recipes for the seasons like I change the clothes in my closet.  Summer is just around the corner and it’s time to think about easy, fun recipes.
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Thinking about this reminded me of the time our daughters, then in junior high school, made Peanut Butter Tandy Cake.  Call it what you will Tastycakes, Tandy Kake or Kandy Kake…my recipe calls it Peanut Butter Tandy Cake.   Yes, they are just like the ones you buy at the store.  I didn’t know there was a controversy over the name, to me, they always were and always will be Tandy Cakes (see the tweet below explaining the name change).

 

At any rate, when I got home…from wherever…the girls were upset because they had done something wrong and the end product was not like it was when I made the recipe.  It only took one look at the baking sheet to realize they had forgotten to add the baking powder.  However, in my opinion, they made it better.  Their Tandy Cake was EXACTLY like the original except cut into squares instead of the traditional round shape.  Without the baking powder the cake layer stayed low like the Tandy Cakes we all know and love.

tandy kakeThis picture shows the recipe with the baking powder.

Without the baking powder they are about half this high.

Peanut Butter Tandy Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease or use baking spray to coat the bottom of a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan (pan must have sides).

Cake Ingredients

2 c flour

2 c sugar

1/2 c oil

1 c milk

4 slightly beaten eggs

2 t melted butter

2 t baking powder

1 t vanilla

Mix ingredients together and pour on the well-greased 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  DO NOT OVER BAKE.

Peanut Butter Topping

While cake is baking, mix together:

3/4 c smooth peanut butter

1/2 stick melted butter

3/4 to 1 c powdered sugar

When cake tests done, remove from oven and immediately spread peanut butter topping

over the entire top of the cake while it is still hot.

Place in refrigerator or freezer until the peanut butter has hardened.

Chocolate Icing

When cake is cold, melt two 8-ounce Hershey bars in a double boiler on top of the stove.

Spread the melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer and return cake to the refrigerator until chocolate is set.

Before serving bring the cake to room temperature and cut into 2-inch square.

Enjoy, with or without the baking powder!

Is It a Tandy Kake or a Kandy Kake?

By

That’s Tandy Kake to you, sir

We knew there was a reason we were following Tastykake’s Twitter feed! Today they’ve revealed the answer to a mystery that’s been nagging us for YEARS. Why did they change the name of our beloved chocolate-covered peanut butter mini-cakes from Tandy Kakes to Kandy Kakes? Honestly, we’ve had arguments with people about this very subject, people who refused to believe they were ever called Tandy Kakes. People who made us question the validity of our own childhood lunchbox memories! Today, Tasty Baking Company solved the mystery in 140 characters (or less).

Via Twitter:

“Tandy Kakes were changed to “Kandy Kakes” to avoid confusion with the Tandy Candy Co. during the 1970s.”

Thank you, Tastyake, for making us feel whole again! We don’t know who this Tandy Candy Company is (or was, since we can’t find them via a google search), but we are going back to calling them Tandy Kakes, just because we can.

If anyone else has any burning Krimpet or Koffee Kake questions, they will be answering them via Twitter: @TastyBakingCo.

 

 

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Don’t forget your summer reading list!

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Build Your Own Library

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I first learned about roadside libraries from a cousin who sent me a few pictures and hooked my curiosity.  What a wonderful example of being neighborly!  The premise is simple, build or buy a weather-proof box, erect it close to the sidewalk or road in front of your home, and fill it with books.  TA-DA…you now have your own free library.  Post a sign telling passersby to take a book and leave a book.  Don’t fret if a few books go missing without replacements, just remember you made someone’s day a little better.library2Since the first one in Hudson, Wisconsin, the simple, yet profound idea of sharing books via these little structures has spread across the U.S., Mexico, Canada,and Europe.  The Little Free Library goal is to build more libraries than Andrew Carnegie, who built 2,510.  That goal shouldn’t be hard to reach considering how many of us love to read and love to share.

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This truly is the perfect project for the entire family.  Now’s the time to plan and build your library so that it’s ready for summer.  How big, what color, where to put it?  Fancy smancy or plain Jane, it doesn’t matter.  Let everyone help.  Go wild and crazy with your design and be sure to let the kids help.

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This old British phone booth has to be the ultimate roadside library.

These pictures evoke memories of warm summer days under a shady tree reading, talking to neighbors over the back fence and

riding a bike aimlessly along a country road.

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Wouldn’t it be fun to mark each book with it’s original location?

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How thoughtful to add a chair for a weary traveler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to check with your municipality or zoning board to be sure you’re allowed to erect such a structure.

Here are a couple sites you might like to check out:

littlefreelibrary.com and shareable.net

Send me pictures (emersonsattic@gmail.com) of your library and I’ll post them on my blog and FaceBook.

Happy Reading!

Once Upon A time

When I think of fairy tales I think…once upon a time…however, this one started with “Tucked in a lush valley between two snow-capped mountains was the village of The Tales.”  I love fairy tales but never did I think I would meet the author of one.  In reading The Weaver by Kai Strand, iKai - windowt only took a few pages to realize I was being pulled into a real, live, fairy tale.  Kai’s writing is truly reminiscent of the greats.  Her style flows easily, the characters are likable and there’s a valuable message for finding one’s destiny.  The Weaver is a delightful story containing all the elements of a good fairy tale; a sweet little girl trying to achieve what she feels is an unreachable goal, a clever little blue creature, and mother as magical as any fairy Godmother.

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The first thing that caught my eye about Kai was her first name.  I guessed wrong, it does not mean sea in this case.  Here’s how she explained the meaning to me.  “My name has a funny story behind it. It’s my middle name. Pronounced like the letter, K. My mom wanted to spell it Kai saying that was the Swedish way (her heritage.) My dad said that was weird. So she spelled it Kae (really, not much LESS weird, but whatever.) I’ve always spelled it Kai because I liked the weirdness. So when I was rooting around for a pen name, I thought, “Oh, duh!” So I googled Kai Strand and got a lot of Swedish men. <–Maybe my mom would have known that if Google existed when I was born. Oh well, again, I like the weirdness of being the only female Swedish (decent) Kai Strand, too.

Kai’s volume of work is daunting.  She didn’t stop with children’s books, but kept moving up the years to young adult.  Follow along with me as I get to know Kai better.

Q:  Tell us a little about yourself.

A:  Thanks for having me, Kathleen. First and foremost, I’m a wife and the mother of four. I’ve been telling stories my entire life, but I’ve been a published author for just over four years. I write middle grade and young adult and just had my tenth title published. Publication day is still as thrilling as the first time around! Personally, I’m addicted to pizza and—thank goodness—I’m a compulsive walker (allows me to load up on the pizza). Handling raw meat and running into a scorpion gives me the willies. I’m a Mozart fangirl and have been caught wandering the aisles in the grocery store singing his Requiem. In Latin. Aloud.

Q:  When did you start writing and why?

A:  It was between the release of books 4 & 5 in the Harry Potter series. My daughter and I had plowed through the first four books during the summer. When the kids went back to school, I was left alone with my Hogwarts withdrawals. It was then I decided to entertain myself by creating a world of my very own. That book, though not my first published book, later became Beware of the White.

Q:  Where’s your favorite place to write?

A:  It varies depending on the kind of atmosphere I need. I mostly write at home in the quiet while my children are at school, but sometimes I need noise or activity around me so I go to a coffee shop or the library. Then other times I just need to be out of the house, so I’ll go to a park and write next to the river or staring at the Cascade Mountains.

Q:  When I read The Weaver I felt a definite classic fairy tale quality to your work. What made you decide to write in this style?

A:  I’m so glad you did. Not all of my books have that feel, but all The Weaver Tales do. The Weaver came about when I was poking around my head for a writing idea. I was staring at the website for my critique group and thought to myself, I’m so glad we don’t all live in the same town. I’d feel completely inferior if I lived with all these talented storytellers. Oh, my – there’s an idea for a book. Since I’d decided to set the story in a village of storytellers, it felt natural to add the old world, fairy tale feel.

Q:  You successfully write for the middle-grade readers and young adult readers, which came first and do you have a preference?

A:  Writing for middle grade came first. I added young adult simply because an idea that was better suited to teenaged characters struck me. I think my preference is whatever I’m writing at the time. I love writing for tweens because it’s such a formative time of life. Kids are truly discovering who they are and books can help shape them, teach them, open their minds to new possibilities, let them know they aren’t alone. Writing for young adults is fun because there is no limit on what subject, content, even the language I use. Though I don’t like to write inappropriate behavior or speech, I like that I can if the story requires it. Plus people who read YA are very passionate about their books and become truly invested in the characters.

Q:  What are your goals in writing?

A:  Writing is my profession, so my goals are mostly attached to my livelihood. Be able to earn enough to assist with mortgage and utilities, buy an occasional mocha and attend a movie now and again. In five years maybe even have more disposable income to go on a ‘research’ trip. Otherwise, I hope my writing impacts readers intellectually by making them stop and think, and/or emotionally with a character’s journey living within them on some level.

Q:  What is your favorite thing about writing? What do you like the least?

A:  Any and all contact with readers is the most rewarding thing for me. I love classroom visits where I have good conversations with students about books. I love signing events where I get to meet my readers. I love reader email and when they stop by my Facebook page to say how much they enjoyed a book or how excited they are for an upcoming release.

Least of all…editing. Ugh! Especially between the second draft and when I get to work with a critique partner or editor. Those passes when I’m alone in the story again and again is never as exciting as the first draft (LOVE the creation phase), it is all very tedious for me.

Q:  Who are your favorite authors and why?

A:  Maggie Stiefvater – for her beautiful use of the English language.

Jonathan Stroud – for his humor.

Cassandra Clare – for her compelling story lines.

Q:  Describe an average day for Kai Strand?

A:  It’s frightfully boring. Promotion, exercise, writing, cooking, reading or television. Nothing glamorous.

Q:  What do you like to do in your spare time?

A:  That’s a little more fun! Central Oregon is a beautiful place and we have tons of BLM lands and great trail systems, rivers, and lakes to enjoy the beauty from. So I spend a lot of time outside.

Q:  Where do you go from here?

A:  My next book is a young adult speculative fiction and the final book in my Super Villain Academy series. It’s scheduled for release in June. I’m really excited for that series to be complete. Unlike the Weaver Tales, which are each stand alone stories set in the same fictional village of The Tales, SVA is a trilogy with an over arcing storyline that you have to read in order and comes to an exciting conclusion in Super Bad (SVA#3).

 

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Kai’s books are available on Amazon.com

Drop by Kai’s blog at Strand of Thought to learn more.  Very clever use of your last name Kai!

Please leave comments by clicking on “comment” under the date upper left of the blog.

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Visit me at http://www.kathleenandrewsdavis.com

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