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

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cassie Scot Cover Reveal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming April 25, 2018!

A big thank you and shout out to all the bloggers who took part in my cover reveal:

Books are Love

Gourmet Meals in a Box? Home Chef Review

A few years ago I had never heard of them, but now they’re everywhere: Companies willing to deliver everything you need to prepare your own culinary masterpiece.

These companies cater largely to working singles and couples who want to play in the kitchen on the weekend. (Their deliver schedules universally favor weekend chefs.) That is not me. I’m a work-at-home mom with two kids (9 and 12). Sometimes I think I live in the kitchen. I certainly know how to cook, at least to a point. So why did I decide to give this a try?

Put simply, I’m in a rut. I cook the same basic meals on a rotation, and I usually opt for cheap and fast. When I do work up the motivation to try new dishes, especially fancy new dishes, something usually goes wrong: bad recipes abound on the Internet, and high-quality ingredients, when readily available, often sit right next to temptingly cheaper options. Sometimes, they are hard to find at all.

Many of these services advertise a monetary savings compared to the grocery store, but I don’t believe it. Even if you choose the best quality, freshest, organic ingredients, and even if you take into account the ability to scale quantities, I don’t believe there’s a real monetary incentive.

But money is not the only value. Time is of value. Excellent recipes are of value. Confidence in the kitchen is of value. And pushing me out of my comfort zone is of value.

One last note: I am currently trying to lose weight using an intuitive, mindful eating approach. I observe that I am more satisfied when I truly enjoy what I’m eating, so that is an additional value I seek.

With all that in mind, let’s get started!

Home Chef (10-25-17)

My first foray into gourmet meal delivery services was Home Chef, which offered a $30 discount on the first order. Thanks! That did, in fact, help me click “buy.”

Selecting meals was easy. You simply log into their website, choose from a wide selection of choices, and make sure you have your order in place by the Friday before your scheduled delivery date. They had a lot of yummy looking choices, but in the end, I went with their recommendations.

Salmon with Green Goddess sauce was a fantastic dish that the whole family enjoyed. I make salmon at home all the time, and I don’t do half bad at it when I get a good fillet. (This is one of those cases where the quality of the product will make or break the dish.) The zucchini, on the other hand, is something I tend to do boring things with and am usually disappointed by the result. This zucchini was well flavored via white wine and fresh paprika. Roasted potatoes are a staple in this house, but the recipe made these even more convenient to prepare by cleverly starting them in a skillet, then baking them in the oven in a way that had both the salmon and potatoes coming out at the same time. The green goddess sauce was wonderful too, and an easy throw together.

As we ate, we considered the cost of this meal at the grocery store. With the first-week discount, it was clearly cheaper than anything we could have bought. But actually, given the high quality of the ingredients, it would probably be pretty close at full price – in this case. (I do not believe this is true of most of their meals.) Then consider the fact that it came to my door, packed in ice, neatly divided into little pouches, and complete with easy-to-follow instructions … yeah, there’s a value here. It’s definitely a yuppy value, but I grudgingly confess that I qualify.

Acapulco Steak Tacos were good too, although not as good as the salmon. The pico di gallo was the highlight of the dish, a combination of fresh tomatoes, shallots, jalapenos, cilantro, and lime juice that marinated while the steak cooked to let the flavors develop and that created a sort of garden fresh accompaniment to the steak. I did mess up by dobbing sour cream on my first taco, because in my experience, sour cream always goes on tacos. It does not go on these tacos. It obscures the flavors, weakening them.

As a value comparison, it’s a bit harder to justify these tacos. Even fresh and organic, I could purchase these ingredients at about half the cost. The only caveat is that I don’t know what was in the beef marinade. (It came already marinating in something.)

Again, this came with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. I will say that I have tried to make tacos similar to this before and failed. Most recipes say to cut the meat before you cook it and this creates strips of thin, tough meat. This recipe had me cook the steaks then cut it into strips, which worked out much better.

I would probably not order this particular meal again, but I can understand why it is a successful customer favorite and I’m glad I gave it a try.

Environmental Impact

I was a little concerned by the environmental impact of the shipping methods. I’m not sure if anyone does it better, but this si something I plan to look out for. They claimed the ice packs were “recyclable by reusing” but we didn’t need them for anything. There was also a great deal of insulating material that needed to be thrown away, although some of this did go toward our daughter’s egg drop project.

Customization

Number of servings: While you can choose dinners for two, for, or six people, it is worth mentioning that Home Chef packages their meals for two people at a time. They will send you two packages for the four-person plan, and three for the six-person plan.

*The recipes are written for the two-person package.* I had to double the recipe for my four-person family as the enclosed instructions were written for the two-person package, including amounts. If I have one complaint to make about this company, it’s this. For the cost, they should have sent a set of instructions that didn’t require me to do math in my head, detracting from the ease I mentioned above.

Delivery frequency: Shipments must have a $50 value. I had no problem with this requirement, because it would be hard to justify their shipping costs for cheaper deliveries.

They will, however, ship you food less frequently than once a week, if you like the services but maybe can’t afford quite so much every month. They’ll ship them every two weeks, or three, or four, or let you put a pause on your account indefinitely, welcoming you and your money back whenever you’re ready. 🙂

Sustainability: Each dish has a use by date, specified on the web site so you can plan accordingly. The salmon, for instance, needed to be used within three days. The steak tacos within five. You can choose to have your meals delivered on Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday depending upon your needs.

Overall Impressions

I was surprised by how much I liked this program. I’m still having trouble justifying the expense, especially since I’m not exactly the target market for this service. But as much as I try to cook excellent foods, I’m a cook, not a chef. You want meatloaf and mashed potatoes? I got your meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Cookies? I’m awesome at cookies. And nice hearty soups are no problem either.

These meals were things I wouldn’t be upset to be served at a sit-down restaurant. Yes, I still had to cook them, but they were easy and convenient, and created few dishes.

I felt pampered, just a little bit, using this service.

So yeah, I think I could try this again. But I plan to try a different service first, because I’m the kind of girl who likes to shop around. When I finish, there will be a side-by-side comparison.

Next up – Plated!

The Irony of Isolation #HoldOnToTheLight

 

Growing up, I never felt like I fit in. I still don’t. Every day remains a struggle, with that demon we like to call depression whispering lies into my ear.

“You’re a failure.”

“Nobody likes you.”

“You have nothing interesting to say.”

And on and on … these are some of the tamer lies my demon likes to tell. He can get downright nasty, especially when I let myself stop and listen.

“You are alone” is possibly the most insidious lie that depression demons like to tell. It’s horrific because humans are, first and foremost, social animals. Infants deprived of love have died of it, but it doesn’t end there. We continue to need to feel love and connection throughout our lives.

Yet it is a lie. How can we be alone when so many of our demons are telling us precisely the same thing? That’s the irony – that we are not remotely alone in our feelings of isolation.

Writing, for me, began as an escape. I imagined my way out of loneliness, away from the kids on the playground I watched from a distance, and often into outer space where I was a princess with magical powers. (Yes, I’ve always mixed my genres!) Eventually, the escape itself became its own dream – that of becoming a “successful” author.

What a terrible career choice for someone who needs regular infusions of positive reinforcement! I sit around for days, weeks, even months on end without getting any feedback at all, not even in the form of a paycheck. Yet, when I backed away from writing a couple of years ago, I sank into the worst depression I’ve ever experienced in my life. It didn’t help that when I tried to explain my troubles, the reaction was something along the lines of, “You’ve published seven, almost eight books and you think you’re a failure? Oh my God!”

Sorry. Didn’t mean to step over other people’s far worse problems!

But let’s face it: Again, I’m not alone on this. I am not the only writer who feels the disappointment that can only come from a lifetime of hard work meeting lackluster results. I am not the only writer who struggles with infrequent positive reinforcement intermingled with heartbreaking criticism or downright rejection. And I am not the only writer to lose hope, resulting in a lengthy period of burnout.

It wasn’t until I heard the words, “I don’t consider myself a success” coming from a New York published author with over thirty books that I realized how not alone I really was.

Depression and anxiety (another of my demons) are always lying. And like the worst sorts of lies, they tend to be rooted in a kernel of truth. Overcoming them is a daily challenge that begins with a simple truth:

You are not alone.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

Frequency Season 1

Image result for images frequency

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: Pass on this one.

Frequency is a one-season CW show which originally aired in 2016/20177. It has been cancelled, although it isn’t entirely clear why because despite what I’m about to say, it got a fairly positive audience reception. They apparently released an epilogue to provide closure, which is a decent thing to do although I didn’t feel like it ended on a cliffhanger. The ending barely hinted at more conflict to come.

So why am I not feeling the same positive energy as others on this show?

Logic problems.

Time travel is becoming popular again, which is fine. As a long-time scifi fan I’m intrigued by time travel and have considered its myriad implications. Is time travel all part of a single continuum in which everything that has happened, has already happened, meaning time travelers can’t change the future? Or does every minor change spark a new reality, making it impossible for time travelers to truly find their way home again? How does it work? Why does it work? I’m not talking about quantum physics here; I just want to know that there are rules, that they make sense, and that the show is working within them.

This show begins with an intriguing pilot episode that sets up the rest of the series. A woman, fumbling with her old HAM radio, finds herself talking to her dad 20 years ago. And as they both figure out that this communication is real, she tells him he’s going to die the next day. Forewarned is forearmed and all that, so he survives. But at a cost …

There was a serial killer called the Nightingale who had killed a few women back in 1996 in the original time line. Somehow, when dear dad survives, that all changes — the Nightingale has now been active for 20 years and worse, he’s going to kill her mom in a few months in the 1996 timestreame.

Sounds pretty good, right? I thought so! The race is on to save her mom and mend personal relationships that were also torn asunder by these events. Over the course of the season they follow leads, sometimes changing the timestream more — sometimes with more serious consequences than others.

So the problem, without giving away the ending for those of you who want to try to figure out whodunit, I feel like I need to say that the show never satisfactorily explained the key point:

What changed when dear dad lived? How did his survival cause the dramatic new path for this serial killer?

Not only was this not answered, but it became clear within a few short episodes that it never would be. They forgot, as they chased down this that and the other lead, that this was a TIME TRAVEL story, not just a parallel police procedural running in two different decades. This means that ultimately, even though I did work out who did it, the ending was unsatisfying and senseless. It didn’t help that they paused mid-season for a chat with a crazy prisoner who also claimed to talk to a different time who claimed that you had to “chop it off at the trunk” — ie killing a person was the only way to make real, effective changes in the timelines.

Ummm … clearly not?

I’ve forgiven many a fantasy and scifi series for bungling science now and again, but when a show can’t even stay consistent throughout a single 13-episode series, particularly regarding its defining characteristic, we’re done.

GOLD MEDAL WINNER — Kaitlin’s Tale

Kaitlin’s Tale took the GOLD in the contemporary fantasy category of the 2017 Global Ebook Awards!

The judges at the Global Ebook Awards have been extremely enthusiastic about the Cassie Scot Series. Every book in the series has won a Global Ebook Award. (Some have received other awards as well.) So I’m super excited to announce that Kaitlin’s Tale has joined its companion novels. 🙂

 

Haven: Season 1

Haven

4/5 stars

I started watching this show with my 11-year-old son a few weeks ago and we’ve been enjoying it a great deal. He might be enjoying it more than me, but then, a lot of the show’s tropes are fresher for him. 🙂

You’ve got your basic cop/paranormal drama set in a small town in Maine. FBI agent Audrey Parker goes to investigate a suspicious death in the first episode, then stays when she sees a newspaper clipping of a woman who looks eerily like her. Perhaps the mother she never knew?

The paranormal element manifests in a string of strange abilities that various members of the community possess. They call them “troubles” and the people who have them “the troubled.” More often than not, these aren’t good things. People die — often unintentionally. Audrey has to try to find out who’s responsible and help them get their trouble under control.

In my opinion, the first few episodes of the show are tedious. There are also a few head-scratching episodes in there that just don’t make sense. But don’t give up! By the end of the first season, the show develops an arc, begins to demonstrate depth, and develops several intriguing mysteries.

I recommend this show to paranormal/fantasy fans.

T Minus 6 Days to Launch!!!!

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And the countdown begins …

Kaitlin’s Tale will be available in 6 days, on Monday, May 16. The initial cost will be $3.99 (ebook). The print launch comes in July.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping all my friends and family and fans and strangers who thing “Huh, that looks good!” and people who read the first Cassie Scot book but got sidetracked and may not know all the rest are out and really just anyone and everyone (this is an example of a run-on sentence — you’re welcome) to come to my LAUNCH PARTY Monday night.

Special guests: Kaitlin Meyer, Matthew Blair, Evan Blackwood, and Cassie Scot Blackwood

6:30-8:30 if you’re on the east coast
5:30-7:30 if you’re in the middle with me
4:30-6:30 if you’re in the mountains
3:30-5:30 if you’re out west
2:30-4:30 if you’re in Alaska
12:30-2:30 if you’re in Hawaii

Non-US citizens, I hope you can figure it out from there. You are, of course, welcome.

Amazon Giveaway

CassieScotAmazonGiveaway

Madison’s Song LAUNCH — with PRIZES!

I’m celebrating the official launch of Madison’s Song with four (4) book tours!

My own tour gets started today with a terrific review from Cassandra, Lost in Books.

The tour includes a $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway + chances to win signed copies of Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Here’s the full schedule…

Madison's Song VBT Banner

PLUS, I’m doing three (3) book BLITZES today. My book will be featured on about 100 blogs around the web, and there are 3 different chances to win a $10 gift card.

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Madison’s Song Ebook Release!!!!

Available TODAY in Ebook format ….

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Buy Links

Blurb

Her voice is enchanting; his soul is black…

Madison Carter has been terrified of Scott Lee since the night he saved her from an evil sorcerer – then melted into a man-eating monster before her eyes. The werewolf is a slave to the moon, but Madison’s nightmares are not.

Despite her fears, when Madison’s brother, Clinton, is bitten by a werewolf, she knows there is only one man who can help. A man who frightens her all the more because even in her nightmares, he also thrills her.

Together for the first time since that terrible night, Scott and Madison drive to Clinton’s home only to discover that he’s vanished. Frantic now, Madison must overcome her fears and uncover hidden strengths if she hopes to save him. And she’s not the only one fighting inner demons. Scott’s are literal, and they have him convinced that he will never deserve the woman he loves.

Themes

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From the Author

Madison’s Song is a stand-alone spin-off to the Cassie Scot series … but what does that mean?

Well, to be blunt, it means I have a new marketing tool – a way to interest new readers without having to worry about whether or not they’ve read the prequels. That was always a challenge for the Cassie Scot series, which grew so much in each new volume that in some ways the four books told one complete story. You don’t have to have read the Cassie Scot series to understand Madison’s Song – I even hired a new editor to make sure!

It is even worth mentioning that the tone of Madison’s Song is very different from the tone of Cassie Scot. Madison’s Song is darker, grittier, and more adult. It may resonate best with a slightly different audience.

HOWEVER …

Read the Cassie Scot series first, unless you’ve got a really good reason not to. The first Cassie Scot book is even 99 cents (at least for a couple more weeks). You’ll understand Madison a bit better, and probably be more invested in what’s happening to her.