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As the mother of a family of struggling readers, I can relate to the constant fight to get kids to read. I have five children. All of them suffer from some type of mild learning disability, (yay, heredity) and I have spent hours upon hours trying to find books that would persuade them that reading isn’t torture. I get it. Reading is hard for them, and while I sympathize, I know it’s also important.
It wasn’t until I was doing some homework with my youngest son that I stumbled upon an idea that changed everything. We were trudging through his reading homework,(where most of my gray hair comes from) and he started working out how much more he needed to buy a game he wanted. He was stalling, and I knew it, but when we started reading again, something unexpected happened. It was as if all the wires in his brain that tangled up when he read, somehow unwound. Something about the math had given his brain a chance to reset.
We owned a game shop at the time, and later that week, I saw my son and his cousins playing a strategy, battle game where they rolled dice and added and subtracted points. That’s when the idea for Battle Books hit me. If I could somehow incorporate this method of dice rolling into a book I could peak his interest, and help his brain reset to continue reading at the same time. Throw in some monsters and swords and now we had an interesting story.
I’m not a doctor. I can’t tell you the science behind it, nor can I guarantee that it will work for you child. However, as a parent of a kid who struggles, I know that you’re always on the lookout for something that makes your kid want to read. . . or at least not whine quite so much. It’s my hope that THE VANISHING is that book and that they want to keep discovering new battles and adventures with each new Battle Book as it comes out.
Please follow this link and pledge to our campaign, as a way to preorder this new type of book. If you click on the K in the left-hand corner, it will take you to the main page.
Fruit and Cream Cheese Pastries
These pastries are light and have a great combo of chewy and flaky– Like if a danish and a turnover had a baby. These can be simplified even more if you use a store-bought fruit sauce, but I really hate our local grocery store, (my motto- if I can’t buy it at Costco don’t I really need it) and I tend to cook on a whim, so homemade fruit sauce is like a staple in our house. It’s great to turn plain pancakes or waffles into something festive, throw on top of cheesecake or angel food cake, or even just as a quick version of homemade jam, but again, totally optional.
1 package of frozen puff pastry- thawed
1 egg (optional if you want to use an egg wash)
2- 8oz packages of cream cheese (room temp)
¼ cup of powdered sugar
Lemon zest from one lemon, and about a Tablespoon of the juice.
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Fruit Sauce (if using homemade, if not, buy pie filling in the can or just use fresh fruit)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen strawberries (I used whole, stemmed garden strawberries I had frozen)
½ cup white sugar
½ cup water
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Then use a sheet of parchment paper if you have it, since they are a bit messy. Actually, I always forget to buy parchment paper, so I used a Crisco- greased, pampered chef stoneware bar pan, but I had to scrape off any sauce that ran over, so the next batch didn’t get a burnt sugar taste. It was a pain.
Follow the recipe below to make the fruit sauce, or just open the can of pie filling and skip to the next step.
Combined the frozen fruit into a pot. In a separate bowl mix the sugar and cornstarch to avoid clumping. Pour over the fruit and toss a bit to coat the fruit.
Then add water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir it well, and even constantly, as it gets toward boiling with a rubber scraper. It will thicken as it boils. If your fruit seemed to melt away in the sauce, just add a bit more fruit after it’s boiled. This is where using whole, frozen fruit and not over cooking help. Don’t let it stick to the bottom! It will burn and taste terrible. If you’re using different fruit and don’t have a tart fruit like strawberries, make sure to add a little lemon juice to give it balance. You don’t want it too sweet. After it boils and thickens, set it aside to cool a bit.
Get out your puff pastry. You purchase this in the freezer section, and then just leave it overnight in the fridge to thaw. This stuff is super versatile and makes everything you make with it look like you took hours- it’s the rice crispy treat version of baked goods.(If you’ve seen that commercial, you know what I’m talking about.)
Flour your surface and then take out one of the sheets. Lightly roll it out with a rolling pin, just a bit to compress the layers. Then, take a 4-inch diameter circle cutter, and cut out the shape. Lay it on the cookie sheet and then use a second cutter about ¼ inch smaller to score the shape. Don’t cut all the way through. If you’re like me, you probably don’t have all these nesting cutters, so I ended up using the outside casing to a chopper I had, or the on-the-go blender cup that came with my ninja blender.
I hated having to have so much dough wasted while I cut out the circles, so I started to cut out squares. You can get about nine squares out of each sheet with no waste and no rerolling. For the squares, I just cut them and scored them with a butter knife. Prick the insides shape a few times lightly with a fork. It helps keep the filling in place.
Blend the cream cheese and powdered sugar. It really needs to be room temp, or toss it into the microwave for about 10 seconds to warm it up, but don’t melt it. Mix the cream cheese first, and then add the powdered sugar to avoid lumps. Wash the lemon and add zest to taste. Then, put in the lemon juice and vanilla and blend well.
Drop about a teaspoon of cheese filling on each shape. The squares hold a bit more, another reason to skip the circle cutting. Spread it out a bit. Don’t go past your score lines though, because this is where it raises. You can mix the egg with some water and do an egg wash if you want, but I didn’t because it’s just another step, and although they look a bit pale in the picture, they were fine in real life.
Spoon about a teaspoon of fruit sauce over the cream cheese filling. They might run bit, but perfection isn’t necessary. Place in the oven (again 400 degrees) for 15-18 minutes or until the sides are puffed up and golden brown. Let them sit on the pan for a minute or two before moving to a cooling rack. Then grab the other sheet of puff pastry and continue the process.
When the pastries are cooled, you can take a ½ cup powdered sugar and a few teaspoons of water and whisk it into a glaze. Then drizzle it over the finished pastries. It makes them beautiful and tastier. If you’re a little nervous about your drizzling skills, put it in a Ziplock bag. Cut one end off, and use squeeze it in thin lines over the pastries.
I reposted this picture because I wanted you to see the how the glaze is drizzled. Lots of explanation, but again, not that hard. ENJOY!!
Are you a wader, or a cannon baller? Do you slowly walk up to the water, dip a toe in carefully, then wade in step by agonizing step, trying to get used to the cold? Or, are you the kind of person who would rather just get it over with, cannon ball in and take the cold all at once like a giant wave? Well, I hate cold, so when it comes to the water, I am definitely a wader. When it’s something I’m afraid of though, I just can’t take the torture of wading slowly. I run as fast as I can, close my eyes, and jump before I chicken out. “CANNON_BALL!”
This might seem like a strange way to start a cover reveal blog post, but I promise, I’ll bring it around. In my writing career, it seems like I am always having new experiences. This is one of the things I love about it, but also the thing that keeps me up at night chewing off all my fingernails. New is terrifying!
My latest nail biter is publishing, not only my first middle-grade novel, but my first solo self-published project. I love this book. Watching my kids struggle with dyslexia inspired me to write it, but also my son is my co-author. (More about that later.)
Love for the project does not make it any less terrifying, and it definitely doesn’t make the learning curve any smaller. So, for my first “learning experience” I knew I needed to hire a designer for my cover. I chose to go with a company called 99 designs because they offer a forum where tons of designers can offer up their vision of your book cover. I really didn’t have a definite idea of what I wanted, so it was a lot of fun to see each of the designs come in. Some I loved right away, some needed a few tweaks, and some not so much, but the level of talent was amazing. In the end, I had I think 41 designers and 118, designs.
Some of the designs were just small changes, like different font styles, but believe me, as someone who has a terrible time with decisions, it was HARD. I finally narrowed it down to my top 8, then 6, the three and finally chose a winner. (I literally closed my eyes to push the button.)
Besides the obvious visual aspect of choosing, I also had to weigh in the designers themselves. Since Battle Books has a bunch of books in the series, I needed a designer with longevity to give the series continuity. He also needed to be workable, prompt, and good at communicating, as well as being able to draw all his own art because we write about mythological creatures that don’t always have any stock art. The designer who made my design is named, Dragan Paunovic. You can check out his portfolio on 99 designs by following the link below. He is amazingly talented, and a dream to work with.
Thanks to everyone who helped with their input and advice in the early design polling, and thanks in advance for supporting this terrifying little dream. And without any more squawking, here is the beautiful cover.