Sunday, December 23, 2012

Top Ten Christmas Gifts as a Child

I made my debut into this world during the mid-1950s. Needless to say, no adapter or USB cable ever found its way under our Christmas tree. But regardless of the fact that we had no electronic gadgets, I did receive several gifts that left lingering traces of some unforgettable memories. I would love to revisit some of them with you, if you care to come along.

Although I've seen all the old snapshots, I don't really have a concrete memory of any Christmas before I reached the age of five. That year, my parents loaded us up into the car to visit the grandparents and numerous other relatives back in Tennessee, which was several states away. I don't remember the trip, but I do remember worrying that Santa would never find us there! I needn't have worried about Santa. It was my cousin Virgil who turned out to be the problem.

I should first explain that my parents always made Christmas a joy-filled occasion. They didn't spoil us with all the toys we begged for, but taught us to entertain ourselves through playing and interacting with one another. I don't remember ever being disappointed with their philosophy and the resulting lack of playthings, but it did make the toys I received more memorable.

The year we went to the grandparents was not a disappointment, either. Santa, for some reason I cannot fathom to this day, decided to leave me a rather large drum. A very cheaply made, but awesome to my young eyes, drum. The prospect of pounding that drum throughout the house brought me no small amount of joy because I was very enthusiastic about any kind of music long before the age of five. Unfortunately, I never managed a single resounding bang on that drum, because before I had time to pick it up, cousin Virgil decided to sit upon it. Virgil is my age, but even at the age of five he was a stocky young man, and his bottom went right through my fascinating new toy.

I fared much better the following year. My parents spent countless hours making the most wonderful doll accessories. In our house, the girls always received a doll for Christmas, whether we wanted one or not. I no longer have the clothes my mother sewed for my doll, nor the wardrobe, complete with copper hangers, that my dad constructed out of cardboard boxes and wood-grained, stick-on shelf liner. He even put real hardware handles and hinges on the doors. But I do still have the doll bed he made for me down in the basement. How I managed not to destroy it is beyond my comprehension.

It was probably the year after the doll furniture, about the age of seven, that I received a fantastic gift from Santa. Please understand that at that time, it didn't matter who constructed the gift, or whether it was home-made or store-bought, we attributed all of them to Santa. Or at least I did. I've always been a staunch supporter of the jolly elf in red. But that year he outdid himself. My siblings and I each received a large cushion. Yep, that's right. A cushion. Mine was the middle-sized one, of course, being the middle child, and I remember that it was covered in corduroy, although I can't remember the color for sure. I think it was a dull gold. My mother had purchased some heavy foam pads, and my dad cut them to size, and she then stitched a sturdy cover for each of them. I used that cushion all the time, and had a blast doing so. It's a wonder I didn't kill myself, or at least break a few bones, with the stunts I dared with the assurance that the cushion would keep me safe. I dropped, upside down, out of trees, where I hung by my knees until swinging free and falling to the cushion, which waited below. I shot down steep staircases atop that cushion, hanging on tight until I came to a stop on the concrete floor below. I found the courage to perform handsprings and flips as long as the cushion was there to catch me. I don't remember how long the cushion actually lasted, but I loved it more than anything that could have come from a department store at that time.

You probably noticed in the photograph above, I also received Tammy and Pepper dolls, but that was several years later. My mother would not allow me to have Barbies, so this was a compromise that we both were okay with. A neighborhood friend had a mother a lot like mine, so we would get together and make clothes for our new matching dolls. If any had survived, you would all understand why I don't make doll clothes for my own 
daughters. Ugh!

I've never had a disliking for dolls, but I was a bit of a tomboy, and wanted toys that afforded me more fun than a doll. So the same year I received the fashion dolls, I also asked for and received a baseball bat and glove. I still have both of them, although the glove is buried in a box somewhere in the garage. It's a left-hander's fielder's mitt, or I think that's what it is called. I spent countless hours playing catch with my good buddy, George, after school and on Saturdays. It was much better time spent than playing with dolls, you can be sure.

By that time I was more into big kid toys, and I remember receiving my first pair of roller skates. These were the kind you screwed onto your sneakers with a strange looking key. Unfortunately, we lived on a rather steep hill, and I never found the courage to skate down it, but I spent a lot of time rolling back and forth across the basement. Fortunately, for my backside, I still had my cushion at that time.

The following year I tried something much more daring. I asked for, and received, a pocket knife. It was absolutely beautiful, with a brown and cream swirl in the handle. I loved that knife, but it didn't last long. When Christmas break was over, my mother warned me to never take the knife to school. She said if I did, it would disappear. Did you know my mother was part witch? She somehow not only knew I took off for school with that knife in my pocket, she made sure it DID disappear. I had hidden it in my pants pocket before putting on my coat, gloves and hat. We weren't actually allowed to wear pants to school in those days, but we could wear them under our dresses for the long walk to and from school, as long as we took them off upon entering our rooms. 

It was nearly a mile walk to the elementary school, and I checked my pocket several times to be sure the knife was safe. But when I got inside and went back to the cubbies to remove my boots and pants, the knife had disappeared. To this day I have no clue as to where the knife ended up, but I never got it back.

The following year I received a pogo stick, something I had wanted for a long time but my mother feared. She knew me so well! Even though I couldn't skate down our hill, I found that I could jump up and down the hill with a little practice. Soon my friend and I were having pogo stick contests and doing all kinds of tricks. I embarrassed myself greatly by jumping backwards up the neighbor's back steps, and then falling through their storm door. My dad had to pick the glass bits out of my backside, and my mother confiscated the pogo stick. Shortly after she took it to the basement, one of my brother's older friends decided to play with it and broke the spring.

The second best gift I ever received for Christmas was my record player and 45 records. There weren't forty-five of them, that was the speed they operated at. I no longer have the player, the only electronic gadget I ever received as a child, but most of the records are still with me today. Songs like Chapel of Love by the Dixie Cups, and Baby Face by Bobby Vee are some of my favorites.

But my number-one-all-time-favorite Christmas gift ever was my cookie cook book I received when I was twelve. I still use it every single Christmas, and have done so every year. It's filled with wonderful recipes that I share with my own children, even though some of the pages are in very sad shape. Santa certainly out-did himself that year.

I hope you have as many fond memories of Christmases past as I have. None of the gifts I received were elaborate or costly, but perhaps that is one of the reasons I cherished them so much and remember them so well. 

Happy Reading and Happy Holidays!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Little Christmas Poem




It was practically Christmas and throughout the city, the only one stirring was one busy kitty. She’d planned many days for a holiday treat. One special and sweet for her children to eat.

When she knew beyond doubt that her babies were sleeping, as midnight was striking, she softly went creeping. Her kitchen was waiting with spicy supplies. She got right to work on her tasty surprise.

She scanned through her recipes searching with interest. Then found what she wanted while checking her Pinterest. She gathered ingredients fresh as new snow and mixed them together into a stiff dough.

As her rolling pin spun and she hummed a low tune, she flattened the dough, and then picked up her spoon. She carved a round head, added arms and two legs. To give it a luster, she brushed it with eggs.

Soon the air came alive with the scents of her baking. The gingerbread man in the oven was waking. Bright cinnamon eyes and broad licorice smile were getting quite warm on that cooking stone tile.

The mama cat put on her new oven mittens. With visions of joyful sounds from her kittens she opened the door to remove the small man, but squeaked in alarm when he jumped from the pan.

“I’m alive!” he exclaimed as he leaped to the table. “I’m off to explore the world now that I’m able. I’ll go far and near as I take in the sights. The Great Wall of China, the rare northern lights.”

She cried, “It’s a tasty confection you are, nothing more. I’ll stop you before you’re halfway to the door.”

He laughed as he shouted, “You’ll never catch me!” Then he tripped on the rolling pin, snapping his knee.

But the cat needn’t worry, her children were ready. They stalked the small morsel with steps slow and steady. They gobbled him up from his head to his feet. Then returned to their beds and dreamed dreams wild and sweet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Ten Favorite Holiday Cookies

One of our favorite holiday family traditions is the baking, decorating, and consuming of cookies. The season simply would not be complete without the special time we spend together in the kitchen, either mixing up dough or whipping up icing. And even though I’m often tempted to do most of the work when the house is empty and relatively quiet, I force myself to leave some of it for the kids and grandchild to share.

I’ve composed a list of some of my favorite staples to get us through the holidays. Some of these are not necessarily holiday fare, but I reserve them for this time of year so that they will remain just a little bit special in the memories my children will hopefully pass down after I’m gone.

Decorated Sugar Cookies – I used to absolutely hate making sugar cookies. I just couldn’t ever make them come out right. I would either roll the dough out too thin, or else the kitchen would be too hot, or I would bake them too long. Something always interfered, and the finished product never quite measured up to my expectations.

Then I found a recipe I really like, and I became a little more skilled with my Mammy’s old rolling pin, and now I look forward to making these. I also found a recipe for a very simple filler icing, so all I have to do is pipe on the decorator icing outline, and let the kids fill with all their favorite colors and designs.

Another great find were some large cookie cutters. I have a tree, a snowman, an angel, and a candy cane that are about four to five inches long. They make huge cookies, but it also simplifies things for little hands to decorate and have fun.

French Lace Cookies – These aren’t specifically holiday, but they are so rich and so special that I only bake them on rare occasions. I especially like to roll them into a tube after they cool just the slightest, and then if you want to make them even more decadent, you can add a whipped filling of some type.

Shortbread Cookies – I like shortbread cookies because they aren’t so sweet, and are a nice break from all the other rich offerings of the holidays. Many years ago I found a cast iron mold at a garage sale – it was $2.00, so I couldn’t pass it up. It’s a beautiful mold of the alphabet, and each letter has a toy or animal incorporated into its shape. The mold makes 26 cookies at once, each about an inch square, so it’s a quick and time-saving method of baking my favorite shortbread recipe. The little ones love these, and they practice spelling ‘words’ with the letters.

Holiday Spritz – The spritz cookie dough I use is fairly similar to the shortbread recipe, so this is another very simple and quick cookie. My sister bought me a battery-powered cookie press years ago, and this works great for these colorful little jewels. I like to use greens and reds for the dough, but you can customize your colors to match your decorations.

Zucker Hutchen – little sugar hats – These are a little more time-consuming, but well worth the effort. They are simply bite-sized bliss. Sometimes I don’t add the little ribbon of decorating icing, because I’m not a huge fan of its overpowering sweetness. It does add to the festiveness, though, and the kids love it, so I guess you should experiment on your own and see what works best for you.

Butter Horn Cookies – These are one of my all-time favorite cookies. But I can’t say they’re my favorite to make, although none of these are what I would classify as difficult. Butter horns are basically petite crescent rolls, but the dough is very flaky and they are filled with a meringue and nut mixture that melts in your mouth. They are just so yummy!

Chocolate-Coconut Candies – Another of my favorites and should probably be noted as number one on my list. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with coconut in any recipe. My younger daughter calls these my coconut bon-bon cookies. They are made with mashed potatoes, and a few other ingredients, and are a colossal mess to construct, but the outcome is divine. I dip them in the dark chocolate, but they are very pretty if you choose to use the colored melts. I just don’t care for the taste of the melts or the almond bark as much as I do the melted chocolate, so I always use the real thing.

Coconut Chocolate Meringue Bites – Did I mention that I’m a huge fan of coconut? These little bar cookies will melt in your mouth. They’re full of chocolate, coconut, pecans and brown sugar. I would definitely recommend you save these for the adults in your house, so make lots of sugar cookies for the little ones to decorate and eat while you indulge in a few of these.

Cranberry Drops – My husband has many fond memories of the cookies his grandmother made for him, so I always have to add a couple of her recipes to my Christmas baking list. Besides, cranberries are an integral part of my earliest holiday memories, so I have to include them. Add that they are a healthy addition, and it makes perfect sense to bake a few dozen of these for a bedtime snack with a glass of milk.

Applesauce-Raisin Cookies – Another choice from my hubby. But I have to admit, these are always a great addition to any gathering. These simple drop cookies are filled with raisins, nuts, brown sugar and applesauce. Not too sweet, but quite substantial.

So now you know how I spend part of my days during the holidays. I know some of these probably freeze well enough to make them ahead, but part of the fun is messing up the kitchen and listening to the kids laugh and bicker while they steal cookies and ask me when the next ones will be ready.

I imagine most of these recipes would be available on-line, but if anyone has trouble finding one they’d like to try, just shoot me a note. I’ll gladly share.

Happy Reading (and Baking)!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, December 3, 2012

New Acquisition for Musa Publishing


Musa Publishing Announces Deal With Author Gary K. Wolf For Third Roger Rabbit Novel

 Musa Publishing, an independent digital-first publisher, has announced today that they will publish Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? by author Gary K. Wolf, the third book featuring Wolf's iconic character, Roger Rabbit, and the denizens of Toontown.

"When I first got a submission in the inbox from Gary K. Wolf, creator of Roger Rabbit, I must admit that I didn't take it seriously. After all, why would such a well-known author be coming to Musa?" confesses Musa Editorial Director, Celina Summers. "But after I read his submission, all my doubts were erased. No other author in the world has that distinct narrative voice. Rather quickly, we accepted two novels from Gary—The Late Great Show! and Typical Day—and Gary became part of the Musa family. But even then, I never expected he'd bring us a Roger Rabbit novel. "

Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? is the culmination of a twenty year wait for fans of the world that Wolf first created in his 1981 Hugo-winning Who Censored Roger Rabbit? The third installment in the series has been promised to fans for a long time but never released. Now, with the 25th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on the horizon in 2013 and  and confirmation of a completed Roger Rabbit 2 script by director Robert Zemeckis last week stirring up excitement among Roger Rabbit fans, the collaboration between Wolf and Musa is coming at a significant time.

"I could easily have published Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? through a major print publishing house. Instead, I choose to make this the first book of the Roger Rabbit series to be published digitally," Wolf states. "That decision evolves directly from the way I work, from the core philosophy of what I write and why I write it. I always push the boundaries in my writing. I invent worlds that nobody else ever thought about. I create unique characters and situations. I try to always be at the forefront of my craft. That includes the way my writing is presented to my readers. Digital publishing is clearly the future. It’s the way books are headed, so I’m heading that way, too."

With his first book at Musa, The Late Great Show!, released in October and his second novel, Typical Day, coming out on December 7, Wolf is no stranger to the Musa system. "I especially like the way Musa has taken digital publishing into areas that I never thought of. Using proprietary software, I’m able to interact with them electronically in real time. My editor, the publicity department, the art department, and everybody else involved with my work all have instant access to everything I submit. And vice versa."

Wolf isn't the only well-known author bringing his works to Musa. USA Today bestselling author Sharon De Vita has a multi-book deal with the publisher, and her romantic mystery The Estrogen Posse has been increasing in sales since its release in October, 2011. Science fiction up-and-comer Gini Koch's serial—The Martian Alliance—is being published by Musa, along with new and backlisted works from well-known authors like Cindi Myers, Vella Munn, Helen Hardt, and Julia Bell. In addition, Musa is responsible for the Homer Eon Flint project, where the entire body of work of this lost American science fiction author is being saved from crumbling 1920s pulp magazines and disintegrating newspaper copy and published as e-books.

"Even two or three years ago, it would have been thought impossible to lure these writers to a small, young publisher," Summers explains. "But because of our author-friendly policies and transparent business model, small publishers like Musa are able to release books like Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? digitally, with both a better product and prices far below what traditional publishers set for their e-books."

Both Summers and Wolf are optimistic about the prospects for Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? The novel reunites all the old fan favorites—Eddie Valiant, his fuzzy sidekick Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman, and Roger’s va-va-voom mate Jessica, who continue their madcap human and Toonian adventures. This time, Eddie is hired to bodyguard for Gary Cooper and Roger Rabbit, the stars of a new movie that's been receiving dire threats—shut down the film or else.

"Musa is thrilled to publish the next installment in the Roger Rabbit world," Summers says. "Toontown and e-publishing are destined to work well together. Gary has such an innovative mind. He takes risks daily with his fiction—he enjoys taking creative risks. He can do that comfortably at Musa because we encourage all our authors to reach further, to attempt things they normally wouldn't. E-publishing is all about trying things that traditional publishers might be uncertain about."

With the release of Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? set for November of 2013, Musa and Wolf are poised to gratify millions of Roger Rabbit fans across the world. The entertainment franchise is worth over $500,000,000 and the fandom is as eager as ever to follow their beloved Roger Rabbit and Eddie Valiant into new adventures—including e-publishing.

"Digital publishing is the wave of the future, and I’ve always been a wave of the future kind of guy," Wolf states matter-of-factly. "For me, going digital wasn’t in any way a last resort. It was a necessity."

Gary Wolf is the NYT Bestselling author of numerous book, articles, and short stories including Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?, Space Vulture, and The Late Great Show! His movie credits include Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the three Roger Rabbit cartoons Tummy Trouble, Rollercoaster Rabbit, and Trail Mix-up, and—coming in 2014—screen adaptations of his science fiction novels The Resurrectionist and Killerball. Awards for Wolf’s work include the Hugo Award, British Science Fiction Award, SF Chronicle Award, and 4 Academy Awards. Wolf is an avid Yoga enthusiast and lives in Boston where he is a full-time author, screenwriter, lecturer, entertainment consultant, and consummate “grown-up kid.” Look for his next Roger Rabbit installment to be released November, 2013 by Musa Publishing.

The Late Great Show! and Typical Day are available through Musa Publishing,, and e-tailers worldwide.

More information available from Musa Publishing at and .

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo, Anyone?

It's finally here. November 1st. The beginning of a month of frantic writing all over the world, as brave souls attempt to pound out 50,000 words toward a rough draft. Once again, I will join their ranks. Once again, I will possibly fail to finish. But that won't stop me from making the valiant effort to accomplish something dramatic.

If you break it down into daily increments, it really isn't that daunting a task. When the muse is working, it's quite feasible to produce 2,000 words a day. But what does one do when the muse simply isn't there? 

Don't give up. Don't let distractions pull your attention away from that screen. Even if you lose your train of thought, keep going. Keeping your brain in a creative mode is the important idea here. As long as your thoughts are flowing into your fingers, and your fingers are capturing those thoughts through the keys, you can succeed. The danger, at least for me, is to become distracted to the point where your creativity comes to an abrupt halt.

So turn off the television. Lock the door and set the phone on mute. If you get stuck in the middle of your planned project, don't let it bother you. Keep going. Let your fingers type a favorite recipe. Or fill the page with song lyrics. Anything to keep going. Then when the ideas start flowing again, you will be ready for them. The danger lies in walking away from the keyboard and becoming involved in something else.

I have set a goal of 2,000 words per day for myself. I know that's more than the breakdown figures, but this allows me to take one day off each week, if I so choose, to fill with other commitments without feeling guilty or falling behind. It seems that once I start slipping, it's easier to give up completely.

So I wish all of you the best of luck, and will see you back here in one month. I may drop by a time or two just to give an update and see how others are doing. But I have to limit distractions as much as possible, because I know myself. Once I give in to the temptation, I'm sunk. I've returned all my library books, finished up my reading on the Nook Color, and have sworn off all the forums for Nano in an attempt to make this year one I can be proud of.

Actually, I already have accomplished one major goal this year. I signed up for the 2012 Reading Challenge, with a goal of 100 books, and I finally reached that goal last week. I wanted to be sure I had that under control before the beginning of Nanowrimo. 

Happy  Reading (and Writing!)


Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Walking the Dog by Linda Benson

I'm finishing up my list of dog-centered books, and it's been a very entertaining trip. The timing is working out well, too, because at this moment my son is watching an old Elvis movie in which the King is piloting a helicopter over the Hawaiian Islands. His chopper is currently filled with a charter of dogs, and his only human passenger just spilled an entire box of doggie treats in the floor. Chaos is ensuing, but I digress.

My final read in the dog-lovers  genre is Linda Benson's YA/MG novel, Walking the Dog. The story certainly didn't disappoint me, but, tell me, who could resist this face?

When I saw the cover, I knew I had to see what was inside. Here's a short blurb to whet your appetite:

Jared is smitten when his teacher seats the new girl, Sophie, right next to him. Even with the scar running up the side of her face, Jared thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the entire fifth grade. But why did she transfer here so late in the year? Rumors say something bad happened to her.

Jared and Sophie become friends while walking the guidance counselor’s new puppy, but when his parents object to this arrangement, Jared fabricates a series of elaborate lies to meet Sophie on the sly. But little brothers can be pests. First Petey lets the orange cat loose at the animal shelter where Jared and Sophie have been secretly walking the dogs. Then Petey turns up missing. 

And Sophie's past finally catches up with her.

Ms. Benton has written a very enjoyable story featuring two young people who are each struggling with their own issues. Jared is dealing with feelings of guilt that center around his younger brother, Petey. Then he voluntarily takes on another load of guilt by going against his parents' wishes with regard to Sophie. I try to avoid spoilers, so you'll have to read the book to see how he handles those feelings.

Although Jared is the main character of the story, Sophie holds her own as a secondary player and I found myself rooting for her from the very beginning. Her life is one that is all too familiar with many young people today, and I couldn't help but fall in love with her gritty, persevering attitude. My only regret is that she didn't venture out farther on the proverbial limb and become more vocal in her denouncement of the treatment she had been subjected to. But one of the reasons I enjoy reading so much is knowing that all authors add their own unique voice to their work, and I respect and admire Ms. Benson for keeping Sophie true to character.

Walking the Dog has a lot going on in it for such a short read. Ms. Benson did a great job of maintaining several different microcosms throughout the novel and keeping each one separate, but at the same time allowing them to overlap enough to keep everything cohesive. I think it would be quite easy for even the youngest readers of middle grade fiction to follow the story with interest, but varied and contemporary enough to hold the attention of the upper end of the age range as well. 

Walking the Dog is Ms. Benson's fifth novel and her third with Musa Publishing. I find her writing to be smooth and uncluttered, and I sincerely appreciate that ability in a fairly new indie author. I have already added two more of her novels, The Girl Who Remembered Horses, and Six Degrees of Lost, to my ever-growing list. I hope we'll be seeing many more offerings from Ms. Benson, and I wish her well in all of her writing endeavors.

Happy Reading!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Wolven by Di Toft

As I stated earlier, my October reads so far have been canine-centric. That's a good thing, because I love dogs, but Wolven wasn't quite what I was expecting based on the cover art.

The main "dog" character in this tale is actually a creature called a wolven, which is a little difficult to describe. He appears to be a dog, but can morph into a human boy and has telepathic abilities. I was expecting a light, silly read filled with calamitous adventures focused around a boy and his dog. It started out that way, but soon became something I wasn't expecting.

I don't want to include any spoilers, so I'll simply say that had I read this book at the recommended ages of 8-12, I would have had nightmares for months. Admittedly, I'm still a chicken when it comes to the horror genre, and don't watch scary movies at night, alone, but this book had some rather frightening scenes. In contrast, it was also sprinkled with some hilarious descriptions that made me laugh out loud, especially the description of one villain's mouth and its similarity to a cat's behind. But the bad guys in this book were exceedingly bad, and I worried for a while as to where it all might end.

Having said that, I still found it to be a well-written tale and a great read. Timely, too, since Halloween is quickly approaching. But my suggestion is that you read it for yourself and make your own decision.

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review: Little Dog, Lost

Life has been busy lately, so blogging, and writing in general, has taken a temporary back seat. I've also been working  on my Reading Challenge 2012 commitment, so my writing time has been spent reading what others have written. There are just so many hours in a day.

I'm all the way up to the nineties in my book challenge count, so I'm hoping to reach my goal of one hundred books ahead of time. Then I can devote more time to blogging and working on my next novel. Of course, in the middle of trying to finish the one, ideas have begun crowding into my brain for the next one. That can be very distracting, if you're as single-minded as I am.

I have read some very good books lately, though, in my non-productive time. Several of them feature one of my favorite animals, too. I'm speaking of dogs, and even dog-like creatures.

While perusing the choices at my friendly neighborhood library, I discovered Little Dog, Lost, by Marion Dane Bauer, and the title, paired with the charming cover art (by Jennifer A. Bell) was irresistible. I had to bring it home.

I don't recall whether or not I've read any of the many books Ms. Bauer has written, although the odds are good that I have read at least a few because she's been rather prolific and successful as an author. But this one, small book has convinced me that I want to read more of her offerings. It is delightful in every way.

The cover art is adorable and says so much all on its own. A happy scene of a park with blooming flowers and butterflies flitting about. In the background, life is happy with ice cream sharing, dog-walking and bicycle-riding. Even a bakery - who doesn't get a happy fuzzy while gazing at beautifully-decorated cakes?

And in the foreground, a complete contrast to all the sunny happiness, is the most pitiful little dog you'll ever encounter. Everything about him screams out sadness. And the only one with a clue to his misery is a tiny bunny peeking out from the colorful flowers. Are you crying yet? It gets worse once you open the cover.

The book is written in verse, and I think that is a very clever tool the author incorporated, because it serves as a way to encourage reluctant readers to pick it up. The same as graphic novels, the layout of the pages makes it more appealing than pages filled with print. There are also several pages of illustrations sprinkled inside, which earns it additional bonus points to young readers. But the story itself is well worth the short time needed to read it.

The story itself is a bit predictable. As the title tells us, the little dog is lost, but his sorrowful tale begins long before he actually becomes lost in his new neighborhood. He escapes the confines of his yard and can't find his way back. But he isn't the only one lost. The author does a wonderful job of showing us we can be exactly where we've always been, and still be lost. It's a sweet, endearing story of loneliness and longing, and love fulfilled. It works well as a read-alone, but I think it would be lovely as a read-aloud for a class of 3rd thru 6th graders.

I'll be back again - hopefully in a more timely manner than I've managed lately. But I still have several books remaining on my list, and I hope to succeed at NaNoWriMo this year - which I've never managed to complete before.

Happy Reading!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Never Too Old to Learn New Things

It may be true that we're never too old to learn new things, but I, for one, find it much more difficult to learn as I continue to age. I still retain the capacity to learn, but figuring out the tools with which the younger people are learning is giving me fits. My three-year-old granddaughter can figure out video games that dumbfound me.

Today, however, I did learn something new, and useful. It's probably been around for some time, but it is new to me as of this date. I'm speaking of the ability to check certain books on Amazon for specific word usage. 

This knowledge may be of no consequence to many people, but as a parent who likes to stay in tune with my young reader, it's invaluable. I read a lot of middle grade and young adult books, and when I find something that I think will appeal to one of my kids or young friends, I recommend it. But I may be in the middle of another book when my son brings something home from the library, and I like to know what he's reading.

Recently I read an MG book that had quite a few expletives tossed in - for flavor, or shock factor, or just to make it seem more realistic - I don't know the reason. I didn't find them so shocking that I wouldn't want my kid to read the book, but it did surprise me a bit. I was under the impression that slang curse words that are easily recognizable were mostly frowned upon for MG. Running across one or two interspersed in the text won't stop me from reading, but it does sort of make me cringe. And when I stop to cringe, I'm pulled out of the story, and that isn't such a good thing.

While at the library this morning, I talked with one of the children's librarians about a book that did not contain any foul words, but I thought it was definitely more in the YA age group that MG. There wasn't a single character, living or dead, under the age of fifteen, and the dead kids were relating some exceedingly graphic stories of how they died. Perhaps that isn't anything to be concerned about, but the tone of the book just didn't resonate at MG.

The librarian thanked me and said she would read through the book to make a determination, and then pulled a YA book up on Amazon. She showed me how to look inside the book. This is what made me do a little happy dance. It doesn't work with all books, but there is a feature on many of them that allows you to check for certain words in the text. She brought up one rather spicy slang word, and it brought up a hundred and one instances where that word was used in the text. It also showed exactly where each instance of that word was used, so that one could see the context of how it was incorporated. She didn't even type in the really bad word, but I saw enough to know that there were a lot of instances of that one in there, too.

I'm not complaining about the words in YA books. I'm simply excited to know that I have a way of checking out the context of books before I purchase them. Sometimes excerpts and reviews don't give us that.

Perhaps I'm just an old, behind-the-times reader who has little to look forward to, but I like learning about new technology - when I can understand it. This is something that even I can do.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week ahead. Check out this little gem on Amazon if you haven't, and let me know if it helps you.

Happy Reading,


Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'm Featured Today on the Euterpe Blog Giveaway

Just wanted to remind everyone that I'm the featured poster on the Euterpe Back-To-School Giveaway Extravaganza today.You can get there by clicking on this link.

For simply leaving a comment on the Euterpe's post - not here - you have an opportunity to win an ebook copy of Michaela's Gift in the format of your choice.

But in addition to that, I have some other fun prizes that might come in handy at this time of year. The prizes included are:

A lockermate magnetic dry erase board with 3-way mirror (plus pen)
4 mini notebooks or memo pads
a packet of brightly colored staples
a rope eraser
4 metallic gel pens
4 glitter gel pens
3 glitter glue sticks
8 pack of markers
a pencil box to store it all in
a box of Bottle Caps
and six beautiful magnetic bookmarks

So hurry on over to the Euterpe blog and leave a comment. It will only take a moment, and you could win it all.

Happy Reading,


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Euterpe Blog Back to School Extravaganza

I’ll be away from my computer for much of this week, but I wanted to stop by for a quick message about a great and fun opportunity for readers out there. The Euterpe imprint for Musa Publishing is conducting a giveaway promotion that includes free books, fun posts, and an assortment of exciting prize packages. To read all the news, just click on this link.

There are special blog posts all week on the Euterpe blog site. I’ve listed the schedule below, and even though I am late for yesterday’s post, if you go to the link I have provided, you should be able to backtrack and find it, and register for the prizes.

Monday, September 10th, Summer Adventures by Mindy Hardwick. This post includes a prize package provided by Ms. Hardwick.

Tuesday, September 11th, My Summer Vacation by HL Carpenter, and Back to School with Kaitlin Bevis.

Wednesday, September 12th, School Days by L. K. Mitchell. Includes another prize!

Thursday, September 13th, My Dog’s Tail by yours truly. I’ve included a prize pack that includes a few items that Michaela might have used in her art creations.

Friday, September 14th, New School Year Top 10 Rules to Live By, by Dusty Crabtree.

I believe most, if not all, of the above giveaways include either an author ebook or a physical copy of their book, as well as the other prizes listed. In addition to these Euterpe blog posts, there are also several guest blog posts included. As follows:

Monday, September 10th: Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing by Martina Boone: The Things That Travel With You by Jennifer Mason-Black
Wednesday, September 12th: 
Muse, Rant, Rave by Melinda Collins: Stacy York's Top Ten Teen Movies by Margaret Lesh (includes a prize pack)
Friday, September 14th: 
Myth, Magic, & Mystery by Susan Sipal: Ye Olde Caves of Nottingham by Sharon Ledwith (includes a prize pack).

And if that isn’t enough to keep you busy for a while, there’s more! Euterpe is also giving away two awesome prize packages. This is an opportunity for each member of your book club to receive a free copy of a novel, including a discussion guide and a Skype interview with the author. The giveaway is conducted through Rafflecopter, so it requires a few keystrokes on your part, but that’s little cost when you consider the possibilities it can afford you. The two novels included in these giveaways are Stained Glass Summer, by Mindy Hardwick, and Persephone, by Kaitlin Bevis.

So if you want to sign up for the chance to win any of these great prizes, simply follow the link I provided near the top of this post. It will take you directly to the Euterpe blog.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review of First Frost by Liz DeJesus

Way back in 1953, a song was introduced in the pop charts entitled Young At Heart. Frank Sinatra crooned the lyrics, and he must have worked his magic, because according to Wikipedia, it became a million-selling hit. Pretty impressive.

In case you aren’t familiar with the lyrics, I will tell you that the song begins by telling us that fairy tales can come true. That’s a pretty exciting idea for many young girls, because who doesn’t want to live a fairy-tale life? Hmmm. Interesting question. But before you make any snap judgments about it, perhaps you should look into the life of Bianca Frost.  She could give you some ideas about a fairy-tale life that you may not have considered.

Bianca Frost, by the way, is the heroine in Liz DeJesus’ latest YA release, First Frost. Here’s a little information about Liz.

Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico.  She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi'er Publishing, October 2007) and The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 31st 2011). Liz is currently working on a new novel.

Author's Links:

Also, in case you haven’t read all the great interviews and reviews Liz has already received regarding First Frost, I wanted to include her book blurb so that you can get a better idea of what the book’s about.

 For generations, the Frost family has run the Museum of Magical and Rare Artifacts, handing down guardianship from mother to daughter, always keeping their secrets to “family only.”

Gathered within the museum’s walls is a collection dedicated to the Grimm fairy tales and to the rare items the family has acquired: Cinderella’s glass slipper, Snow White’s poisoned apple, the evil queen’s magic mirror, Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted spinning wheel…

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Frost wants none of it, dreaming instead of a career in art or photography or…well, anything except working in the family’s museum. She knows the items in the glass display cases are fakes because, of course, magic doesn’t really exist.

She’s about to find out how wrong she is

Hmmm. When many of us think of fairytales, our thoughts turn to beautiful princesses, handsome and dashing princes, and, of course, a happily-ever-after. To make it interesting, we have to throw in a villain, of course, but one that can eventually be overthrown so that all ends well. At least, that’s what Disney has taught us.

Whether good or bad, over the years, fairytales have lost most of their gruesomeness and are much tamer than the stories the brothers Grimm first produced. That makes them much more pleasant for bedtime reading to our young children. But with First Frost, Ms. DeJesus has restored some of the fright factors in her tale. Her characters are not at all the stereotypical puppets one often expects in a fairytale, either.

I enjoyed this tale quite a bit. Bianca is a reluctant heroine, and those are often the best kinds. She’s tired of being a slave to the family business, and often resents her lot in life. After all, she’s a teenage girl, and wants a little excitement and variety. She should remember the old saying about being careful what you ask for, especially when there may be witches in your background.

I loved the character of the prince. I don’t want to give anything away, but he was a pleasant surprise for me, and Ms. DeJesus did an excellent job of painting vivid word pictures of his rather unique personality.

I also learned quite a bit in reading First Frost. Ms. DeJesus referenced several old tales that I had either forgotten or was not familiar with, and it was a nice addition to the story.

I will warn, however, that her villains are capable of quite unscrupulous behavior, and sometimes their actions bring about rather chilling results, so this isn’t something I would recommend for younger readers. Also, there is some offensive language that, although probably typical of a YA audience, I wouldn’t encourage for the younger set. She has listed the genre as YA, and I just don’t want any of my readers to get the impression that since it’s fairytale based that it would be a good choice for the younger readers.

My very favorite aspect of this story is the way Ms. DeJesus has showcased the power of love. She has tied the main characters together with heartstrings that are almost overwhelming at times with their sheer strength. I commend her for the way she accomplishes this with her word choices in the critical scenes. And she doesn’t limit these feelings to just Bianca and her prince, but has left us with no doubts that Bianca is truly the princess of this fairytale, and most definitely deserves her happily-ever-after.

I wish to thank Ms. DeJesus and Rachel Marks for allowing me to be a part of this blog tour. I don’t consider myself an official reviewer, so I don’t ever rate the books I choose to review. I do, however, limit my reviews to books that I would personally recommend to a friend.

Happy Reading,

Cordelia Dinsmore

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is a Creative Writing Class Worth It?

Labor Day weekend was a busy place around my old farmhouse. My husband and I undertook the task of tearing off more than one-hundred years' worth of siding and replacing it with concrete siding. We've been doing all the work ourselves, and it's turned out to be a huge labor of love, and sore muscles, and near tragedies. Several weeks ago my spouse made a poor judgment call, and discovered the hard way that his aging body doesn't mend quite as quickly as it used to. He also learned that climbing to the second floor level to remove siding, without arranging for someone to hold the ladder, is not the smartest choice. Fortunately, we don't think he broke anything of major importance, although his right arm hasn't recovered fully as of this date.

We hope to finish the siding by the end of this month, and then we can move on to the next project. We are in desperate need of a second bathroom, but we will be calling in some professional help with this one. We're also waiting for a professional to come out to seal and stain our new deck. We hope the drought breaks soon so that we actually have something green to enjoy while we sit on our new deck in the evenings. 

I did leave my husband to his task on Monday, to make a quick trip up to a local college. I had been invited to speak to a small class on mass communication. It was an opportunity for some young adults to learn a few details about epublishing, and affording me a bit of experience in public speaking in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. 

The class was very impressive. They were respectful, attentive, and asked pertinent questions while expressing interest in the answers I provided. Their questions revealed that they had given thought to the information they were seeking, and not simply a way to pass the time so they could get to their next class. It's been many years since I spent time in a classroom, and the experience made me miss those days. Then the instructor invited me to stay for lunch, and we had an engaging conversation that made me wish even more that I was once again part of that life.

So now I'm looking into a creative writing class. I've never been a part of one, even though I've always known that it would probably be a helpful addition to my education. It's hard to go back to a college campus and not feel that tug.

What I could use from any of you reading this, is some information. If you've participated in a creative writing course, what did you gain from it? If you're a writer, did it further your career? Was it a total waste of time, or did it help you in unexpected ways? I'd really like to know before I invest the time and funds.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm currently in the middle of Kepler's Dream. Haven't made a final decision on it yet, but the characters are quite interesting.

Happy Reading.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Half-Baked Characters

Our local news station ran a story last night that I found quite interesting, and more than a bit surprising. It seems that many of the libraries here in Kansas have a well-kept secret. Perhaps I'm the only patron that hasn't run across this little gem, but I spend quite a bit of time in the children's section of our local library, and I don't know how I've missed it.

I'm talking about collections of cake pans that are available for check-out, much like you would check out a book for a limited lending period. You may know the types of pans I'm referring to; the character pans like Spider Man, or Cookie Monster. 

This is a wonderful idea! I have purchased a small number of those pans over the years - just a few months ago I bought the large Wonder mold because my granddaughter wanted a Barbie Princess cake for her 3rd birthday. If I had known it was available for check-out from the library, I could have used the money I invested in the pan on other things. It's not likely that I'll use it again, because next year I'm sure she'll want something completely different.

The idea of checking out cake pans from the library may seem odd at first - but it makes a lot of sense. Libraries are known for their collections - books, of course, but most libraries I frequent usually have several display cases strategically placed around the building, where they store permanent or travelling collections of all sorts of interesting objects. The variety is endless. The library I most often borrow from has a collection of dolls and a collection of paper-weights. They also have several display cases where they switch out the collections on a monthly basis.

I understand why the cake pan collection may not be stored in a display case, but I wish they kept it in an area that was at least visible for the average patron. I saw on the news story where one library kept them in bags on a carousel hanger, much like the audio books. Of course, some of these libraries have amassed pans that number into the hundreds, so I can see where they might not have floor space to adequately display them. But I didn't even know they were available, so at least a sign, maybe in the children's area, or even someplace in the baking books section, might be helpful.

I can't wait to go check them out and see what's available. I'm going to let the kids pick out the ones they want, and then help them bake their own character cake. Before we even bring the pan home, though, I think we'll find a book or two that features their particular character. While the cake is baking up their favorite character, we can read the book together and plan our decorating strategies.

Check out your libraries and see if they offer this unique twist to learning. It's sure to be a lot of fun, and can save you quite a bit of money. Or, if you have an old collection of character pans that you no longer need and are taking up valuable storage space (you know those things are difficult to store with their odd shapes) why not ask your library if they would be interested in starting such a program. 

Hope you all have a blessed day. And if you bake someone interesting, please come back and let us know. I'd love to see the outcome.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Do You Like A Good Treasure Hunt?

Several of the historical fictions I’ve read lately have been a bit on the glum side. That’s not a problem, because the stories were centered on the lives of children who could have actually lived during the time depicted in the story. The tales were depressing because of the harshness of life at that time in history. But there was hope and victory for the children who persevered.

A few days ago I finished a historical adventure tale that takes place in modern day, but which references historical events and places. I’m not sure of the exact genre such a tale falls into, but it was certainly a fun read.

The title of the novel is Gasparilla’s Treasure, and is written by Scott Clements. I’m in no way an official reviewer, but I think that many MG readers would enjoy this one. Here is a short blurb:

Trip Montgomery has no idea what is in store for him when he finds the dusty old trunk hidden under the floorboards in his mom’s attic. The trunk reveals a series of mysteries that send him on the greatest adventure of his life. Will his best friend Josh and his new friend Sarah be able to help Trip solve the clues that lead to the greatest treasure ever known to man? Or will Trip’s obsession with the treasure drive him deep into the disorienting dreamland of his great grandfather Pappy?

The tale revolves around three young friends, Trip, Josh, and Sarah, who must find and follow clues to a legendary treasure left behind by the pirate, Gasparilla. Trip’s grandfather insists that the treasure is real, even though Trip’s mother is fed up with the quest that has caused her so much grief.

Trip’s mother isn’t the kids’ only roadblock. The school bully and his thugs cause all kinds of havoc while the trio of treasure hunters deciphers the clues that are scattered around the historic town of St. Augustine, Florida.

There were many aspects of this tale that I found enjoyable. Mr. Clements weaves a riveting tale for anyone who loves a good treasure hunt. His characters are all believable and interesting. Each of the friends has distinct personality traits that make them engaging and fun. I admit to not checking every historical reference, but each of the ones I did check proved to be accurate.

The story arc was well developed and smoothly transitioned from scene to scene. The characters moved along in an orderly progression in their search for clues, and the clues and minor characters were presented in interesting and unique ways. I found the history teacher to be rather predictable, but enjoyable, nonetheless. Many readers will enjoy him, I predict.

The setting made this especially entertaining because of all the historical tidbits that were interspersed within the storyline. Forts and landmarks dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors were brought to life for the reader to explore, with a splash of fun facts thrown in to add texture to the setting.

I liked the way Mr. Clements shows us how much Trip loves and cares for his ailing grandfather. Although this is a tale of adventure and fun, it’s also a story of family and the lengths a young boy will go to in order to fulfill his grandfather’s last wishes. Although, based on the ending paragraphs, it just might be possible that Trip’s grandfather may be around for the next adventure.

This is a very entertaining read from a first-time author. There were places where I personally think the writing could have been tightened up quite a bit, and perhaps a slightly heavier hand could have been used by a skilled proofreader. However, it shows much promise for additional interesting reading to come. I’m looking forward to the next installment of these three likeable kids.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Are You a History Buff?

(sigh) I never did well in History class. In fact, my first B in college was in American History. It isn't that I don't appreciate history, or don't find it interesting. I simply could never keep track of dates, places, or names. Unfortunately, I'm still like that today.

However, I do love to read historical novels. This week I've read two that I thoroughly enjoyed, even though they were rather heavy on the serious side.

Bread and Roses, Too, by Katherine Paterson, is a story of a young Italian girl during the Industrial Revolution. It also features a young boy whose path crosses with Rosa. Ms. Paterson paints a vivid picture of the hardships the children and their families faced during that time. She goes into explicit detail of the strikes in the mills of the Northeast, and the harsh results of those strikes.

Eventually, many of the parents decided that their children would be safer - and at least be fed - if they sent them off to be fostered in other towns and cities. Jake - the young boy who fortuitously crosses paths with Rosa, ends up on the wrong train, and he devises a plan to pass himself off as Rosa's brother. It results in a very uncomfortable situation for the young girl.

I liked the attention to detail that Ms. Paterson instilled in this work. She did an excellent job of making history interesting to me, which is an awesome accomplishment. Her characters were well-developed and I could almost taste the cabbage stew. Overall, it was a lovely story and I highly recommend it.

The other book I just finished is Storyteller, by Patricia Reilly Giff. Ms. Giff is a talented wordsmith, and this story had me captured from the very beginning.

Told in alternating viewpoints, Ms. Giff takes us from present day back to the eighteenth century. Elizabeth is sent to live with an aunt while her father goes to Australia on business. Elizabeth seems to do everything wrong, and things don't begin too well when she arrives at her aunt's house. Then she finds a drawing of a young girl who closely resembles  Elizabeth. 

The young girl is Zee - an ancestor who lived during the time of the American Revolution. As Zee tells her story, we discover that the two girls have many similarities in behavior. Zee was forever forgetting to close the gate on the goat pen, or leaving the hen house door unlatched. 

As the two stories unfold, Elizabeth finds a common bond with her aunt - they both want to find out what happened to Zee. They enlist the help of another relative, and he is the one who discovers Elizabeth's talent for storytelling. 

This is a touching story, and clearly portrays the pain that two young girls, separated by two hundred years of history, share and overcome. Both of these authors have a knack for bringing out the strengths in their characters, and revealing their weaknesses in realistic ways.

If you're interested in history, I highly recommend both of these books. 

Happy Reading!