Mayan Calendar

During every school visit I’ve done for Jungle Crossing, eventually students ask me about the Mayan calendar’s prediction that the world will end in 2012. I explain how that’s only one calendar of many Mayan calendars & reassure them that the world will continue. But I kind of like this answer better (a friend sent it to me on New Year’s Day):

Why I Write Middle Grade

I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy Spring Break with my 8th grader, I’m just saying that if I could’ve made her wear a burkha in the hotel pool, I would have. I’ve also learned that last summer’s bikini top should always be tried on before this year’s vacation. Okay, enough about my daughter picking up a sophomore in the hot tub…

My point is this: I spent many moments feeling wistful about my 10-year-old as she skipped down hiking trails, fell in love with stuffed animals in gift shops, and relished every new experience with exuberance. Every now and then she’d stop to bump pinkie fingers with me.
I know it won’t be long until she learns to roll her eyes, scoff with disdain, and attract the attention of boys at the hotel pool. Fortunately this came in the mail while I was gone:
A package of letters from 4th graders in Overland Park, Kansas! Dozens of adorable thank you notes with pictures. Several kids felt inspired to become writers, others loved Jungle Crossing, some “might” read it now that they’ve met me, a few can’t wait to get older so they can read my teen novels. I learned about their pets, their families, the imaginative stories they love to write. One girl told me about her favorite books, but confessed that she occasionally checks out Captain Underpants so she won’t look “weird.” Aw!
I almost cried with relief at the realization that because I write middle grade novels, I will always be able to hang out with sweet, spunky, spontaneous 10 year olds!

Chocolate Giveaway: Week #3

What better way to thank the Mayans for giving the world chocolate than a selection of Godiva? I will also be giving away a signed copy of Jungle Crossing and a bobble-head turtle!

Chocolate Tidbit: When Christopher Columbus’s son Ferdinand came across a Mayan trading canoe on August 2, 1502, he couldn’t understand why the natives scrambled after what looked like a bunch of spilled almonds. He didn’t recognize cocoa beans–and he had no idea how valuable they were! Or how yummy they tasted.

To enter this week’s contest, please leave a chocolate-related comment at: Good luck!

Chocolate Giveaway: Week #2

This week I’m giving away a signed copy of Jungle Crossing, a bobble-head tortoise, and a mouthwatering selection of Theo chocolate bars: Vanilla, Coconut Curry, Chai, Bread & Chocolate, Nib Brittle, and Coffee. If you’re ever in Seattle, a Theo chocolate factory tour is a terrific way to spend an afternoon. Free samples!

Chocolate Tidbit: The earliest evidence of the Maya’s use of chocolate comes from a ceramic jar dating back 600 B.C.E.
To enter this week’s contest, please leave a chocolate-related comment by October 5, 2009. Winner will be chosen randomly–anyone in the U.S. or Canada is welcome to enter.

Thank The Mayans for Chocolate Giveaway Week #1

Welcome to the Thank The Mayans for Chocolate Giveaway! To celebrate the release of Jungle Crossing, I’m giving away my favorite chocolates, a signed book, and bobble-head turtles (because they’re just too cute).
This week’s selection comes from The Chocolate Bar in downtown Boise, Idaho (here I am buying you chocolate!). The lovely chocolatiers have selected a box of hand-crafted customer favorites just for you. I’m also including a bag of chocolate bark from Dream Chocolate. And you thought Idaho was just famous for potatoes!

Chocolate tidbit: The ancient Mayans and Aztecs used cocoa beans like coins, trading them for marketplace goods. But you had to watch out for counterfeit beans–some folks tried to cheat by hollowing out cocoa beans and filling them with dirt.
To enter the contest make a comment at & tell me about your favorite chocolate. This week’s contest ends on September 28, 2009. Good luck!

Cooking For Publicity

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted a blurb in my newspaper about the Z’Tejas restaurant holding a contest for using chile peppers in a dessert. Oooh! I like to cook and one of my favorite desserts is a frozen chocolate cinnamon mousse–chile peppers could only improve it’s rich chocolatey goodness. AND I could name it after my upcoming middle-grade novel: Jungle Crossing…Chill.

Why not?

I excitedly told my husband. He said, “fire potatoes.” Okay, so my first attempt at modifying a recipe with chile peppers didn’t go so well. A friend had raved about her chipotle mashed potatoes. Great idea, I thought, tossing an entire can of chipotle peppers into the potatoes. My husband had invited a colleague for dinner. You can imagine the gasps of pain, the call for water… the months, years, sure to be decades of teasing about my infamous fire potatoes.
Fortunately, dark chocolate is more forgiving. I had to keep adding chile powders to my mousse. With each peppery increase I passed along tastes to my family. Even my kids liked it better than the old version. When I reached the right combination of heat and sweet, I typed up the recipe, emailed it to Z’Tejas, and forgot all about it. 
Until I got the call–Jungle Crossing Chill made the finals. Yay! Tomorrow I will be making my dessert on Salt Lake City’s FOX 13 “Live at 11:00” show with the other two finalists. 
I’ve always thought that book promotion should involve chocolate!