Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Reviewer, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Mind Games Release and BOOK BOMB!!!!

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Today is the day! Mind Games, book three in the Cassie Scot series, is available in ebook format. I am once again calling upon my loyal series followers who plan to purchase this book to do it TODAY to help boost the Amazon sales rank through the roof!

Buy now (ebook)

You can also help by getting the word out there. I cannot stress enough how it helps for one reader to tell one person he loved a book. Putting it out there on social media is great too.

If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, you definitely want to start with the first book….

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Book 1)

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Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

Buy now in print, ebook, or audio…

Mind Games Virtual Book Tour

But wait, there’s more! I’m doing a virtual book tour for Mind Games over the next three months. As part of the tour, I am giving away a $100 Amazon (or Barnes and Noble) gift card. You can sign up at any of the stops or by using the rafflecopter entry at the bottom of my tour page:

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Mind Games Virtual launch party:

PLUS, I’m doing a virtual launch party tomorrow, April 16, at Bitten by Books. There will be another $50 Amazon Gift Card giveaway (not connected with the $100 giveaway). You can get extra chances to win if you RSVP here.

Notes on other editions:

Those of you holding out for print, it’s coming! June 15, 2014 is your day. Sign up for my mailing list and I’ll be sure you don’t forget. :)

And YES! This will be an audiobook too. I do not know when, unfortunately, and literally will not know when until the day it is actually released, which will be as much a surprise to me as it is to you. To get the whole story, check out a blog post I wrote last week on Audiobook Release Dates.

Book Blurb:

Beware your heart and soul…

Evan broke Cassie’s heart two months ago, and she still doesn’t know why. She throws herself into family, friends and her new job at the sheriff’s department, but nothing helps. The only thing that finally allows her heal and move on is the love of a new man, mind mage Matthew Blair. Cassie finds him…irresistible.

Matthew may also be the only one who can help keep the non-magical residents of Eagle Rock from going crazy over the murder of a beloved pastor’s wife. It looks like a sorcerer is to blame, but while Cassie tries to figure out who, others take matters into their own hands. With tensions running so hot, a single spark might set Eagle Rock ablaze. Book 3 in the Cassie Scot series.

 

Audiobook Release Dates

I am so excited that many of my readers are choosing to listen to Cassie Scot’s story! I myself am an audiobook reader (almost by necessity) and it gives me great pleasure to present these books to you in a format you can listen to while you drive, work, or relax.

I DO plan to have the entire Cassie Scot series record in audiobook format — have no fear!

BUT … I don’t know when it will happen. More than that, I CAN’T know when it will happen.

Here’s the quick and dirty version of how it all works:

1. When my book is listed on Amazon (and not a second before — it doesn’t matter that I have the manuscript read weeks or months in advance), I may then list the book on ACX and invite narrators to audition.

2. I choose a narrator. I hope to use the same narrator for the entire series, but it may or may not be possible. Whether it is or not, it then takes the narrator some amount of time to record it, and she may have other projects demanding her attention first. So I have to wait.

3. When the recording is finished, I have to listen to the whole book and request changes (if necessary). This usually takes me a week, because it is tedious and I can’t sit down and do it all at once. (There is also inevitably a moment when I really wish I could rewrite a sentence or two. :) )

4. After the narrator has made corrections, I approve the book. At this point I STILL do not know what the exact release date will be. I can’t request one. I have to wait while…

5. ACX undergoes a quality control process. This takes “up to four weeks” (but usually not that long).

6. In the end, I never know the release date of an audiobook in advance. I learn the release date as it goes live via an e-mail saying, “Congratulations! Your book is now available on Audible.com!”

7. If you want to be one of the first to know about the release of my next audiobook, sign up for my mailing list. I will turn around and send you an e-mail as soon as ACX sends me theirs.

I truly am sorry that I can’t give you a date and let you mark your calendars. Oh, but in a perfect world! :)

Thank you for your support … and for your patience.

TV Review: Sleepy Hollow

I have a new paranormal fantasy show!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :)

I saw the previews for this show last summer, but I hesitated to watch it for two reasons. First, and most importantly, it’s on FOX. They like to cancel things. In fact, I only decided to watch the show this weekend, after learning that it had, in fact, earned a second season.

The other reason I hesitated (though not as important as the first) was because I had trouble seeing how they were going to turn a tiny little short story into the basis for a long-standing TV series. The answer is simple: They take serious liberties, throw in a few other myths and legends, add two dynamic lead characters, and shake well.

I love Abbie and Ichabod. Abbie is a black policewoman … Wait! Did I just say the female lead is black? Why yes, I think I just did. Someone quick, give me another example of a black woman starring in a TV show that isn’t almost entirely about black people.

So, kudos already. But I don’t want to get hung up on skin color, because the truth is that Abby is a terrific lead character with a complicated past. She’s tough without being the cliche kick-ass heroine. She’s smart and feisty and scared.

Ichabod, meanwhile, has been asleep for a quarter of a millennium. (Yes, that part was from Rip Van Winkle, more or less, not The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Let’s not split hairs.) He was a spy in the Revolutionary War on special assignment from George Washington. He’s sharp, honorable, has a great English accent, and as a man out of time is easily sympathetic.

I see lots of possibility for both characters to develop as we learn more about their pasts and as they learn more about whatever is going on

And there is a lot more going on here than a headless horseman — aka Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The end of days may be coming, and there are hints in the very first episode that the show’s creators have a seven-season arc. Here’s hoping they get to show it!

Movie Review: Frozen

I have been anxiously waiting to see Frozen for at least three months, but as I have trouble getting to the theater, I was forced to wait for the DVD. I saw glowing reviews, my five-year-old’s friends at school couldn’t stop talking about it, the whole family was psyched. This weekend, it was even available in a Redbox! (At least when we reserved it early enough on a Friday morning.) The whole family sat down to watch and as we did, I had one fleeting concern: Had all this hype set my expectations too high?

Yes.

There are a lot of good things I could say about this movie. In particular, I have to applaud the strong underlying moral (“What do you mean you’ve known him less than a day?”) and the fact that true love does not boil down to a kiss. In fact, for a princess movie to break the mold on these two things alone takes a lot of courage and has me applauding, both as a parent and a a rational human being.

But … and maybe there was no way this movie ever could have met my over-inflated expectations … but I thought the beginning got off to a slow, clunky start. I did not think that Elsa was nearly as well developed a character as she could and should have been in order to pull the ending together (I also thought she was by far the more interesting sister, even though she got much less screen time), and I found the musical aspect of this story annoying. Actually, I’ll just go ahead and say it — I’m sick of Disney musicals. Some of the songs are better than others (of course), none of them are familiar (and for some reason with music, it takes some repetition to truly enjoy a song), and I felt like the songs were being used in lieu of true plot or character development instead of as a way to accompany those things.

My five-year-old thought the movie was okay. I could tell she was thrown because like everyone else in the family, all her little friends at school have been talking about this movie and she wanted to love it with them. In the end, I had to have a talk with her about how it’s okay to form your own opinion. You don’t have to love something just because everyone else does, and if you like it you don’t have to like it as much as everyone else does.

A lesson that even us adults sometimes have trouble with. :)

Bottom line: I didn’t love it. It was good, but I’m not joining the Frozen fan club.

Book Review: Eternal Rider

Eternal Rider (Lords of Deliverance, #1, Demonica, #6)In this book we branch away from the Demonica books into the stories of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They’re not evil really, not unless their seals are broken. Unfortunately, Pestilence’s has. Now his brothers and sister need to stop him from destroying the world.

This is the story of Aries, whose seal ends up in the body of a human female, Cara, an animal healer who heals a hell hound early in the book. I liked Cara more than a few of the recent heroines because she wasn’t a cookie cutter. She was a bit softer, although she did end up getting the sassy attitude. I could have done without that. I’m starting to think that we’re confusing strength in women with either manly traits or else the ability to sass.

Regardless… I like the new turn this series is taking. You can’t start here. I know it says “Lords of Deliverance #1, but really, start with the first Demonica book and work your way forward. This is a branch. You can probably follow what’s going on if you haven’t read the prequels, but why would you do that?

Aries and Cara don’t entirely thwart the coming apocalypse in this book, so there is more to enjoy… I continue to recommend this series to fans of super-steamy (hard core) romantic fantasy.

Rating: 4/5
Title: Eternal Rider
Author: Larissa Ione
ISBN: 044657449X
Published April 1, 2011

TV Series Review: How I Met Your Mother

This series has a great setup. Ted, talking to his teenage children from the year 2030, reminisces about his days as a single man in New York before he met their mother. There are plenty of shows about single, usually career-driven 20-somethings fumbling through relationships, but between the setup and the chemistry of the group, this one worked better than most. I particularly appreciated the fact that two members of the group, Marshall and Lily, were an item from the start. It offered a unique contrast missing from many other such groups, although it did make things awkward when they started thinking about having kids. (Predictably, when they did have a son it never seemed to be much of a problem for them to get to the bar to have drinks with their friends anyway.)

Back in the first season, Ted falls hopelessly, not for the mom, but for the kids’ “Aunt Robin,” who he made a fool of himself over. She was clearly all wrong for him, but I enjoyed the ups and downs. I even managed to like Barney, although he took some warming up to. He’s creepy. He’s supposed to be, but he really, really, really is creepy.

This series had a good run. It often made me laugh, and I continued to enjoy the way the writers used the frame (of the father telling a story from the distant future) to tell stories in unique ways. It wasn’t always linear, but it was always well played. In fact, for a while this show was a close second to The Big Bang Theory on comedy, and for at least one season of watching both shows, I thought How I Met Your Mother managed to be better/funnier. (I can’t remember which season that was for either show, but comedies often have higher and lower points.)

But How I Met Your Mother did what I knew and feared it would do from the beginning — it lasted two seasons longer than it should have. Actually, I was willing to forgive season 8 if he really had met the mother at the end, but the last season — season 9 — was nothing short of a disaster from start to finish.

Season 9 took place over a weekend — the weekend of Barney and Robin’s wedding. Twenty-four episodes taking place (more or less) in forty-eight hours. There was not enough content to fill those 24 episodes, so there was a lot of flashing back and forward. The snail’s pace progression towards an event we had been anticipating for 9 years was frustrating, and the comedy was almost nonexistent. There were only a handful of episodes worth watching during season 9, all of them involving the mother.

But none of that was as bad as the two-part finale, which I watched this morning. I confess that after what I considered to be a long, dull season I was mostly watching out of nostalgia for the seasons I did enjoy, and to get a sense of closure. Now I wish I’d skipped it. I wish I’d skipped the whole last season.

The final episode of How I Met Your Mother was a travesty. It was worse than the worst thing I ever could have imagined. It undermined everything amusing about the show. The worst part is that the ending sort of made sense. It certainly explained a few things about the series that had been bugging me for years and almost made it seem like the writers were planning for this all along. But, and this is a big BUT, it was horrible.

IMHO, the final episode of this season broke the implicit promise laid out in the beginning. No, before the beginning, in the very title of the show. Granted, it became clear soon enough that the actual meeting of the mother was something that would happen at the end, but both in tone and in title it was clear that the show was about the life one leads and the and mistakes people make on the way to finding the right one. For some (Lily and Marshall) it is easier than for others, but I also appreciated the contrast of the not-always-perfectly-happy married couple.

But that’s never what the show was about. The whole thing, from start to finish, wasn’t even a comedy. It was a tragedy.

I have never been more disappointed in the final episode of a TV show in my entire life — and that includes the TV shows that got cancelled too soon and had to do a quick wrap-up.

Movie Review: Divergent


Note: I have NOT read the book this movie was based on. What follows is a review of the movie on its own merits.

Divergent presents us with a futuristic speculation: What if society were split into five factions as a way to maintain peace? And what if young adults were given aptitude tests to determine which faction they should call home? And what if someone discovered that she belonged to none of the factions?

This movie was entertaining. I found it to be fast-paced, action-packed, and generally full of crazy people jumping on and off of moving trains. The quality of acting was high and brought a lot to the movie. Shailene Woodley (Tris), brought a lot of feeling to the part. The supporting cast also did a nice job of playing their parts. They owned the story, which helped overcome some of the plausibility issues with the underlying plot. I was able to sit back and enjoy for two hours and twenty minutes.

I never felt like I understood how dividing people into five factions was supposed to ensure peace. I didn’t understand why they only got to choose once. I never understood who the “factionless” were, how they got that way, or what they did. I wasn’t clear on what many of the people within the factions did for a living, especially Abnegation and Candor. What does someone who values honesty or selflessness above anything else DO? They were apparently competing for political superiority, which in my opinion was about the only thing they could do, which sort of undermined the whole system in the first place. Doesn’t anyone go do a regular job… you know like doctoring or teaching or maintenance/repair? Who picks up the trash? Who delivers vegetables to the grocery store? Is this one big commune (because no one seemed to get paid)? And how does it help society to divide and define people by their favorite moral principle?

To be honest, I had trouble imagining how a person could be anything but a divergent, the way it was presented in this movie. I think it would have helped if they’d used mind-altering drugs in the first place. Maybe then, divergents could just be the ones the drugs didn’t work on. But that’s not how it was presented. Instead, divergents simply didn’t fit into one category, given a choice between sefless, honest, intelligent, peaceful, and brave.

I didn’t feel like this story added much to the classic scifi tale Brave New World, in which humans were classified from conceptions. In fact, they were grown in laboratories, their genes pre-selected, to ensure that they were perfect to serve the roles they were designed to serve. They were then raised in institutions, brainwashed from birth to follow the pattern. Divergent poses a similar setup but without establishing (or even suggesting) a plausible means of conquering human nature. In fact, the main character was raised inside a loving nuclear family. Presumably that’s the norm. Most children are supposed to choose to stay in the faction they were born into. but this undermines the idea “faction before blood” which they repeated several times. You can’t just say that. You have to implement it somehow.

The bottom line here is that this movie made for an entertaining Saturday morning at the theater, but it neither contributed to nor successfully challenged other notable stories in the sub-genre of dystopian science fiction.

I remain torn as to whether or not to read the book. My sense is that the issues I have with the movie would hold true in both formats.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5.

Movie Review: The Croods

This movie is available for streaming through Netflix.

This could have been a cute movie, but it wasn’t. Frankly, it was just too bizarre and often for no good reason. The whole thing was a bit of a farce, but not particularly funny. I also found the moral of the story to be heavy-handed to the point that it became trite.

The premise is that a family of cavemen stay in their cave all the time because it’s safer that way. Grug, the father of this caveman family, has determined that they should stay in their cave almost all the time so they don’t die. But when their cave is destroyed by an earthquake, they are forced out into the world and forced to accept new ideas.

This movie was not without its redeeming moments. It did get a handful of chuckles out of me (though not nearly as many as I suspect it was going for). Some of it was beautifully rendered.

But ultimately it was just bizarre. There was no need for them to make up dangerous creatures that would hurt the cavemen, but for some reason they decided to draw in strange beasts that never existed like mice-elephants. I found it… unnecessary and distracting. I was also never sure why Guy knew that an earthquake or volcano was coming and towards the end, I couldn’t figure out why one side of a crevice represented safety while the other represented death.

I’d say that I should have turned my brain off, but it’s not like I went into this movie expecting much.

To cap it all off, my kids didn’t even like this movie (5 and 8). Since they’re right in the target age range, their opinion is probably more relevant than mine, so here is what my 8-year-old son had to say:

“Because it was crazy and didn’t make any sense.”

Well, there you have it. I think his answer is better than mine. :)

This movie wasn’t awful, it was just bad. I don’t recommend it.

A Chocolate Tour of Kansas City

I’m a chocolate snob, which isn’t an easy thing to be at a grocery or department store. Top end on a store shelf will be Lindt, Godiva, or Ghirardelli (which is better for baking). For the chocolate snob on a budget these are good, solid, everyday choices. But one wonders if, perhaps, for a special occasion, there’s something more.

Kansas City isn’t the first place you think of for gourmet chocolates, but after spending a week doing exhaustive searches for the best chocolates nationwide, I realized that it was the place to start. It is, after all, my home. Or at least, it’s half an hour from my home. Most of the nationally ranked chocolate is scattered randomly across the US, with a noticeable pocket in New England and plenty of competition dotting the map from coast to coast. These chocolatiers will be happy to ship their chocolate to you, but shipping costs for chocolate are at a premium because chocolate is temperature sensitive. In fact, some chocolatiers refuse to ship chocolate during the summer months. It’s March now, an ideal month for chocolate shipping, but the bottom line is still that small samples of chocolate from each individual chocolatier is likely to average $50.

Hello hometown chocolate!

Kansas City Guide’s list of the best choclatiers is out of date. For one thing, Chocolaterie Stam does not seem to have a Kansas City location any longer. For another, their top picks at Annedore’s are no longer being produced.

Today, my family and I visited six local Kansas City chocolate shops. It was a delicious day! I bought samples of truffles and other recommended candies at each shop, but I spent most of the day trying the chocolate sea salt caramels, or chocolate sea salt turtles, at each location so I could make a fair comparison of the “best” chocolate in town. The combination of chocolate, sea salt, and caramel is both insanely popular (for a reason) and my personal favorite. Nearly every store recommended this type of candy as their best seller.

I have good things to say about every shop we visited, but because people like top X lists, here they are in order, based on the chocolate sea salt caramels.

(Insert drum-roll here.)

1. Christopher Elbow

ChristopherElbowRanked number one on several local guides, and located in the heart of Kansas City where they produce their chocolate for shipment nationwide, Christopher Elbow deserves every bit of its reputation. Though I could not find any Kansas City chocolatier on nationwide “top 10 lists” (yes, I like them too), the clerk at the store assured us that Christopher Elbow had recently been ranked #2 in the nation by Consumer Reports. I confirmed this at home – specifically, their 21-piece collection was given the coveted second place recommendation. When I performed further searches for Christopher Elbow I found them, if not listed among the top picks, then in the comment section where users said things like, “I can’t take this list seriously without Christopher Elbow.”

I will reserve judgment, never having tried the other shops on those lists, but I will say that if they’re better than Christopher Elbow, I definitely need to save money for a chocolate tour of the United States!

Christopher Elbow was my first stop of the day, and its dark chocolate sea salt turtle set a bar too high for any other shop to reach.

Their turtle was masterfully put together. The delicate chocolate coating sprinkled with sea salt surrounded soft, melt-in-your mouth caramel and finely chopped pecans. When I broke the candy in half to share with my husband (we had a lot of candy to eat in one day), the caramel formed a long, thin string that only gradually pulled apart. That’s how melt-in-your mouth this caramel was. The pecans were chopped finely enough to provide texture and flavor without overwhelming the candy or forcing you to take great big bites of whole nuts in between bites of chocolate. In fact, from beginning to end this was a consistent blend of the primary flavors. Since the caramel was so soft, the chocolate coating did not dissolve before the caramel melted in my mouth. The sea salt was sprinkled fairly evenly across the top, allowing me to enjoy the candy in several small, delectable bites.

Please note that this is a pricey store. The turtle was $3. Their bon bons were $1.75 each. (Note: they cost closer to $2.50 each if you want it in a cute box. I recommend bringing your own box!) 

The friendly clerks at Christopher Elbow recommended its chocolate drinks and mentioned that they offer discounts on “First Friday,” the first Friday of each month, including no sales tax if you pay in cash. We will be back!

2. Andre’s

 Andre'sAndre’s, near the Country Club Plaza, is more than a chocolatier. They are a bakery and restaurant as well. I plan to return to try some of their pastries. Since we arrived at Andre’s near lunchtime, we considered stopping for lunch but their limited menu (which includes two choices, changed daily) would not have suited our tiny tag-alongs.

Andre's2Andre’s did not have a turtle, but the friendly lady behind the counter recommended a chocolate sea salt caramel. This small, round, chewy delight contained the ideal ratio of chocolate to caramel. The caramel itself was soft, sweet, and delicious, and those two flavors blended perfectly. In fact, the only minor problem with the Andre’s caramel was that it was a one-bite wonder. The sea salt was not distributed evenly across the top of the beautiful candy, but instead placed in the center in a tiny ball. The net result is that if you want to savor the candy over more than one bite, you’ll sometimes get sea salt and sometimes won’t. Given the size of the candy, you could make an argument that it is supposed to be eaten in one bite and if that is your opinion, then Christopher Elbow has real competition. However, I feel strongly that candies should scale to individual bite sizes.

Andre’s was a little cheaper than Christopher Elbow, depending upon the candy. The ones made with pricey liquers were, of course, more expensive. Those were over $2 .Most of the rest were closer to $1.40 each (ballpark). They also sell a much wider variety of chocolates, pastries, cakes, and other sweets. I look forward to testing the truffles I purchased from them after I’ve had a chance to digest today’s chocolate indulgence!

3. Annedore’s Chocolates

Annedore'sComing in third place, on the chocolate-caramel combo at least, was Annedore’s, a beautiful little shop near the Country Club Plaza. They were all decked out for Easter when we arrived and aesthetically speaking, this store took the prize with its rich mauve walls, elegant chandelier, and innumerable displays of chocolate bunnies in various poses.

Unfortunately, it came in dead last for customer service. This was our fifth stop of the day, and up until we arrived at this shop our pronouncement that we were on a “Chocolate Tour of Kansas City” was met with varying degrees of enthusiasm (or at least amusement) from the clerks and staff. Most were excited to be a part of it, and took pride in suggesting their best chocolates. Not so at Annedore’s. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing rude or unprofessional about the service we received here, but the woman working there had my eight-year-old saying out loud that she “seemed pretty sad.” (Unfortunately in an awkwardly loud voice that the aforementioned sad woman could overhear quite plainly!) Still, though I could not say it aloud I must admit I agreed with him. I don’t know about you, but regardless of the quality of products at a store, customer service makes a difference. Enthusiasm and pride make a difference. Annedore’s was my least favorite stop of the day. I did not have fun there.

Nevertheless, their chocolate sea salt turtle was the next best after Christopher Elbow and Andre’s. The caramel was nearly as soft, the chocolate of comparable quality. The biggest reason that their candy came in third was its size – it was too big. Which meant that the chocolate to caramel ratio was off – a big hunk of caramel wrapped in a thin layer of chocolate meant that the chocolate flavor dissolved away, leaving only the caramel and nuts. Each bite was a less complete experience.

For the cost conscious among us, I will also add that Annedore’s is less expensive than Christopher Elbow. Their prices are right at the same level as Andre’s. (About $1.40 per truffle.)

4. Panache Chocolatier

Panache2Its chocolate caramel may not be high on my list, but my family had more fun at this stop than any of the others, bar none! We wandered around the chic store for a few minutes, looking dubiously at their chocolate popcorn, chocolate-covered oreos, and chocolate-covered cornflakes before we told the man and woman behind the counter that we were on our “Chocolate Tour of Kansas City.” When we said we had set out to find out which chocolate shop was the best, the young man rose to the challenge! He immediately went in the back and brought out samples of their truffles and chocolate-cove

Panache

I feel the need to stop here and say, wow! Chocolate-covered cornflakes? I couldn’t believe how good these were. I mean, cornflakes, right? But they were mostly Panache’s smooth chocolate with just a bit of crunch. A nice texture variation and my biggest, most pleasant surprise of the day. I would go back to Panache for those cornflakes alone.red cornflakes. Then he started bouncing around the store, overwhelming us with all the awesome chocolates he had to sell us.

Every shop recommended their caramels, and Panache was no different. I suppose chocolate and caramel is just one of those easy combinations that people love, regardless of where they are. And Panache’s caramel was fine. I think it is very accurate to call it a “caramel,” however, rather than a “chocolate sea salt caramel,” because their high-quality caramel is firm, meaning that the thin chocolate coating melts away well before the caramel begins to soften. The result is that you get a quick frisson of chocolate followed by a long, leisurely excavation of caramel.

The prices at Panache vary depending upon what you go for, but overall I found them slightly cheaper than Christopher Elbow’s, right on a level with Andre’s and Annedore’s, if not a hair cheaper. Their caramel cost $1.25, the bag of cornflakes $6. They have lots of great gift possibilities in a wide range of prices.

5. Laura Little’s Candy Kitchen

(Note: I apologize for the lack of photograph. This was our sixth stop of the day, we were tired, and we just plain forgot to take the camera out.)

This little shop located in Prairie Village, our last stop of the day, was also our most affordable. We left with just as much candy as we did from anywhere else, but at a fraction of the cost. This store makes all its own candies and fudge, and the size of its selection was second only to Andre’s. We could, of course, only sample a small fraction of what they had to offer.

Laura Little’s does have a turtle, but it does not contain sea salt. I will stop right here and say that it really needs it. I only discovered sea salt as an addition to chocolate a few years ago, but whoever came up with it was brilliant. He or she should go right up there in chocolate history alongside Johannes van Houten.

Laura Little’s did have a chocolate sea salt caramel (no nuts), and as the price was so reasonable, I gave that a try as well. This candy was nice and big, the kind you can really sink your teeth into. A lot of the upscale chocolatiers miss the value of that satisfying, sink-your-teeth-in feel. This was no delicate little chew, but a real mouthful, even if you have a big mouth. The only downside was the quality of the chocolate which, while good, could not compare with the high-end shops we visited.

6. Chip’s Chocolate Factory

Chip's2Chip’s Chocolate Factory, located in the Crown Center shopping mall, has long been a favorite of ours for the mouth-watering fudge that they make right in front of you. The store is never short of kids watching the master of fudge throw chocolate ribbons high into the air like a chocolate acrobat.

Chip’s does not rate as one of Kansas City’s best for chocolate and I can understand why. While their fudge is amazing, I found their chocolate to be subpar and overpriced. Their truffles are 3 for $4.99 and the rest of their candy is sold by weight, $4.75 for 4 oz. 

Their turtle was not good. I won’t go so far as to say that it was bad, because it’s really hard to make halfway decent chocolate, nuts, and even low-quality caramel taste bad. But please, don’t go to Chips for the candies. Go for the fudge. In fact, don’t go anywhere else for fudge. It’s awesome!

But back to the turtle, which I must reluctantly describe for you. The caramel was stiff, too chewy, and not smooth. The chocolate might have been okay, but it melted away in an instant, leaving only the inferior caramel and so many whole almonds that they fell out of the candy, leaving me to eat the salted almonds by themselves. (Not that I dislike salted almonds, but that’s not the point of a turtle.)

***

The bottom line is that even my last pick on this list of caramel-chocolate combos is a worthy store. Kansas City may not rate nationwide (at least according to most lists) but we have a great variety of delicious chocolate right here to enjoy!

Life Cycle of a Novel: Pausing for Breath

There comes a pint in every rough draft, when you’re racing madly for the finish line, when you have to pause for breath. Or at least, I do! Actually, this usually happens three times — once at about 25k words, once at about 50k words, and once again just as I’m about to finish.

The reason? Something has changed from the outline. Something that maybe just seemed like a clever add-in at first but which grew to the point that I couldn’t just slip it in. I have to consider it from every angle, possibly do some new character sketches, and then go back to make spot changes so that the story more or less works.

I get upset when I have to pause for breath. Even now that I’ve done this more than half a dozen times and I know the pattern, I get upset with myself for not being able to rush ahead. But inevitably, after the pause, I realize I did the right thing.

This week I paused for breath. I wrote almost no new material, and in the end I changed only a few lines of what I had already written. But I feel more confident moving forward that I know who my characters are and what they need to do.

Writers sometimes get too caught up in word counts, and I am no exception. But creativity is not a process you can measure quantitatively. My progress for the week was not 0 words written. It was literally immeasurable.