Authors

Almond Cake

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Almond Cake with glasses of almond liqueur–perfect for a book club discussion of my novel, Under the Almond Trees!

I love to cook. When I wrote Under the Almond Trees, it was important to me that the family had a special almond recipe. I used almond cake throughout the novel even though I had never even tasted it! This summer I vowed to remedy this lack and bake an almond cake. I found several vintage recipes, but decided to try a modern one. It was absolutely delicious. Here is the recipe:

 

ALMOND CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole almonds
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and slightly softened
  • 1 tablespoon almond liqueur
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Powdered sugar for dusting 

Directions:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of a round 8″ cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Put the almonds, sugar, salt, and almond extract in the food processor and process until

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This is a picture of the plate in the photo above. Family is everything! This plate was a gift to my grandmother from a Navy buddy of my father’s during World War II. The server in the photo above is a sterling silver piece given to me for my 1981 wedding by my parents. The little red glasses belonged to my maternal grandmother.

the nuts are finely pulverized. Add the butter and liqueur and pulse until blended. Add the eggs and process until thoroughly blended. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse just until incorporated, scraping the bowl once with a rubber spatula to be sure.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

 

To unmold, slide a thin knife or a small metal spatula around the sides of the cake to release it. Cover the cake with a serving platter and invert. Remove the pan, peel off the parchment liner, and turn the cake right side up. Wrapped airtight, the cake keeps well at room temperature for several days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months; bring to room temperature before serving.

If desired, dust the cake lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

About Writing, Narrative, Teaching Writing

Writing Exercise

anpencil4This week in a writing class, we have a fun assignment. Try it yourself!

*It needs to be one paragraph, exactly seven sentences. No dialogue.

*It should be the first paragraph or the last paragraph of a Young Adult novel, meaning the main character should be a teenager.

*It can be in first person, but you can’t use ‘I’ more than three times. It can be close third person, but you can’t use the character’s name more than three times.

*The paragraph must start with a long sentence and end with a short one, OR it can start with a short one and end with a long one.

Before you decide that I’m waiting for YOU to write MY assignment, here is a first draft of mine:

I love this computer, my dearest friend, closest companion, and hardworking colleague. Flipping open the lid, the screen lights up, notification icons blink. On Facebook, I stare in horror at a photoshopped picture of me, barely dressed, in the arms of some skinny nerd. Four of my closest friends have ‘liked’ it. Change to email before anyone sees me online. An English teacher didn’t get my final paper, some refugee in a third world country needs money, and no message from Thomas after last night’s wonderful date. I hate computers.

Put your paragraphs in the notes below! Feel free to offer me encouragement…

Authors

Author-go-Round: Me!

 

Ellen001IMG_0447Welcome to the third week of AUTHOR-GO-ROUND! This week it’s my turn.

My grandmother’s grandmother, Ellen VanValkenburgh, fascinated me from a young age. She left a tremendous legacy of strength for the women of my family, and she inspired my novel, Under the Almond Trees. On the left is a photograph taken sometime around the turn of the last century. I’m on the right, 100 years later, wearing the same brooch. Ellen died before my father was born, but here is how I imagine an interview with her might go.

Linda Ulleseit (me): Thank you for speaking with me, Grandma Van.

Ellen VanValkenburgh: What would you like to talk about today?

Me: I’ve always admired the story of you running your husband’s paper mill after he passed away. Was that hard emotionally? I mean was he the love of your life?

Ellen: (laughing) Such a modern idea! In my day we didn’t moon over our men. I did what I had to do to feed my family. I had two daughters then, you know, and a son on the way.

Me: Henry VanValkenburgh was your second marriage, though.

Ellen: That’s true. He was the father of my children, but Jacob… Jacob was my heart.

Me: The love of your life.

Ellen:If you insist. But we only had a short time together.

Me: Yes, true. Can we talk about your time in Santa Cruz? Did running the paper mill make you want to be in politics?

Ellen: Oh, I never wanted to be in politics, but when I tangled with the city over business matters it seemed foolish that women had no part in making decisions about how their city was run. Women couldn’t vote then, you know.

Me: Oh, I know. You fought hard for women to vote. I’m very proud of you for that. You even met Susan B. Anthony, is that right?

Ellen: (nodding) What an earnest face and genial smile she had!. Susan came to Santa Cruz at the request of her brother Elihu, a prominent man in Santa Cruz.

Me: And she inspired you to sue the county?

Ellen: Among others. But yes, I did sue in 1862. The law, after all, said a person born in these United States was a citizen and eligible to vote. Disappointing to learn that the law applied to Negroes but not women.

Me: But you persevered.

Ellen: Didn’t succeed until 1920. I was old by then.

Me: What a tremendous legacy to leave your children, though. What an inspiring life you’ve led.

Ellen: Well, I didn’t intend to be either a legacy or inspiring. I only wanted some say in how my city, and country, was run.

Me: Still, your niece by marriage and your granddaughter hold you in high esteem. As do I.UAT front

Ellen: That’s nice. Neither Nina or Eva were trying to be inspirational either. They just decided what they wanted and stuck to their guns until they got it.

Me: That’s admirable.

Ellen: Well, all right. I guess that’s so. (smiling) Share my story then with whomever you will. I hope they enjoy reading it.

Me: Thank you, Grandma Van. I’m sure they will.

Under the Almond Trees is available on Amazon here.

Also please visit these awesome AUTHOR-GO-ROUND authors:

Tracy Lawson www.tracylawsonbooks.com

Nina Day Gerard, www.ninadaygerard.com

Miracle Austin, www.miracleaustin.com

Connie Peck, conniepeck.wordpress.com

 

 

Uncategorized

Magical Realism

magic

I have long been a fan of authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Laura Esquivel, and Jorge Luis Borges. The way they thread supernatural and even magical elements into normal daily life, and treat them as expected events, speaks to me in a special way. In addition, readers have suggested that my flying horse books remind them of magical realism. As you can imagine, that made me beam! So when the opportunity presented itself to take a class in writing magical realism, I jumped at it. One of our first assignments was to mimic “The Wave,” by Octavio Paz, and show a love story with an inanimate object. Here is my story.

Lifelong Love

“Do you remember?” It’s how all our conversations begin these days. The washer and dryer hum in the background, and remnants of our shared past crowd around us in the garage. I sit in your driver’s seat, as I’ve done for more years than I want to count.

Deep within, you rumble, coming to life a little more slowly than yesterday, affirming our shared memories.

“When we met I was looking for something else,” I begin.

“A Cabriolet,” you scoff. “Probably pink.”

“Don’t judge,” I scold softly. Then I tease, “I did have a friend with a pink Tacoma.”

“A Tacoma is not a real truck,” you say, “and she was not a real friend.”

You’re right about both, but that’s not a memory I want to relive.

I was young and foolish when I first saw you. I’d been shopping for my first brand new car, and I’d never considered a truck. But you were more than a truck. All gleaming chrome and black steel, you towered over the other vehicles. And you looked right at me. I was lost. I always loved the bad boys.

Every time I turned the key in your ignition, we shared a new adventure. You took me soaring over the mundane, our love at one with the clouds. On the ground, we raced past those who struggled alone. Our strength was in being together. You gave me confidence.

“How do you feel?” I ask now.

“Everything’s rusting or seizing.” There’s a new creak in your voice that says more than your words.

Back then I washed you every week, changed your oil every three months, and took you in for scheduled maintenance. The rest of the time, you took care of me. Each time I slipped into your cab, I came home. It was more than the leather seats. I belonged. Now it’s my turn to care for you.

“Do you remember?” I ask softly. “When you used to whisk me away at the end of a hard day? When we sailed the ocean and flew over the mountains?”

You don’t respond.

As the years passed, we slowed together. With you I watched sunsets in the middle of the day and drove through moss-laden forests on the way to the grocery store. Life settled, but it was never commonplace.

Recently the sick times have been more frequent than the healthy ones. Each time you stay at the shop, I’m scared, both for your health and because I am alone. The mechanic takes good care of you, though, and you always come home refreshed and like new.

But now, you’re not so easy to fix. For awhile now I’ve hidden my concern from you. Somehow, though, I think you know.

“Will you remember? When I’m gone?” Your voice is barely a breath.

“Hush, you’ll feel better tomorrow.” I try reassurance, but you know me too well and don’t answer.

Our latest adventures are memories and dreams. Less active, maybe, but no less pleasant. I sit in your cab and close my eyes, and we are together, reliving old trips and taking new ones. This time it’s me who takes us to the lake of the beautiful sunsets.

“I love you,” I say.

You don’t respond.

I place a hand on your steering wheel, on a spot worn from my fingers. Maybe a trip around the block? Surely that would do us both some good. The mechanic said not to drive you, that your engine could seize completely. But I don’t understand the appeal of rusting and dreaming in a garage. I want to live with you again.

I put the key in your ignition. It jiggles, loose from wear. Your radio plays, my favorite station as always, and I bask for a minute. The starter grates as I turn the key, and you barely cough. The second time, nothing. Slowly, with great dignity, you carefully set me on my feet and dissolve into dust.

I curl my hand around your key.

Uncategorized

On Inspiration

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Waimea, 2015

 

Inspiration is a very personal thing. For me, it means whatever fuels my desire to click away from Facebook games and open my current Work in Progress. No one procrastinates better than a writer. Even though I love to write, my brain is tired from Real Life and it takes a great effort of willpower, or Inspiration, to begin writing for the day. Once I start, I get in the zone and can write uninterrupted for hours.

For my last two books, inspiration has come from the heart. UNDER THE ALMOND TREES follows three women in my family that I have always admired. Their stories rattled around in my head for years before I began the novel. My current piece is titled ALOHA SPIRIT. It is about the life of my husband’s grandmother. I love stories of real women contributed to the events of their times in very real albeit small and unknown ways. Setting  family stories down amid the historical fact makes me feel like I have a personal connection to well-known events.

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Carmen James in front of a plantation cottage, Honolulu, 1920’s

Recently, my husband and I stayed at Waimea Plantation Cottages on Kauai. His grandmother was born on Kauai, scant miles from where we were. Nothing is left of the sugar plantation where her father worked as a dairy man but grassy fields. The plantation cottage we stayed in was built in 1905. It retains the rustic feel of its plantation days. Sitting in the kitchen, I could easily imagine a young girl’s life.

Carmen James lived with her parents and brother on Kauai until her mother passed away in childbirth. Shortly after that, the family moved to Oahu, where Carmen’s father left her in the care of a Hawaiian family. He took his son and went to the mainland to find work. Carmen lived on a sugar plantation near Diamond Head. She spent her entire childhood in a plantation cottage similar to the one where I wrote three chapters of her story.

Even though I am back in California, I can still feel the ambiance of that cottage set between the ocean and the mountains. I am nearly halfway done with the first draft of ALOHA SPIRIT. May the memories continue to inspire me!

Uncategorized

Watch My New Trailer!

Today on My Crazy Corner’s YA Blogfest, Apryl Baker is featuring my new flying horse book trailer. Click on the banner below to check it out!

blogfest2

Contests!

2014 YA/NA Blogfest!

blogfest2October is the month for discovering fantastic new adult and young adult books! Click the banner to get to My Crazzy Corner where blog host Apryl Baker lists all the authors participating (including me!) There’s a hottest guy contest and a giveaway. Make sure you check back here on October 18 for the brand new first of its kind unveiling…no, you’ll have to wait.

Reviews

Great Review!

A great big Microsoft Word - Document4THANK YOU to all the bloggers who hosted my Back to School Blog Hop! It was quite a heady month, reading all those new reviews, and I enjoyed the interviews, excerpts, and character interviews, too. To finish off the month, I’d like to share a new review from Amazon:

 

Format:Kindle Edition
Do you have a strong female role model in your life? I’m not talking about household names in the fight for women’s right to burn bras, I mean the everyday type, an ordinary woman with extraordinary strength, who lends strength to others to push beyond their comfort zone and spread their wings. Linda Ulleseit’s Under the Almond Trees is the story of the true grit and tenacity of women who struggled to be recognized in the male-dominated world of the mid-nineteenth century on up to the mid-twentieth century. Some wanted to be recognized as capable of running a business, to vote, to be allowed to choose what life they wanted to live and to be allowed in flourish in careers afforded only to men.Ellen VanValkenburgh was forced to be an independent woman upon the death of her husband, yet, in 1862, women were not allowed to vote, run businesses or become much more than elbow dressing on a man’s arm. Who would support her family, if not her? Who would stand up for the rights of women to be considered citizens? Instead of waiting for someone to step up, Ellen did so, herself, imprinting her belief in the right to choose on the female members of her family. Her legacy is passed down through the generations, as was her support and advice, as descendants take up their own crusades for the right to choose the path their lives took.

Are you looking for an inspirational read with a true-to-life historical feel? How about something to inspire a young woman today? Linda Ulleseit has brought history to life through her characters, her vividly depicted world and the atmosphere she has created with her words. What we would consider as archaic thinking only changed because of ordinary women with the fortitude to stand up and buck the system, over and over. I was lost in this world, living it, and horrified to actually feel how these women felt. I didn’t feel the need to raise a banner to a cause already fought, but I feel an eternal thankfulness for the pioneers depicted by these brave women. An excellent read, well-written, from a powerful wordsmith.

If that doesn’t top off a great month, what does? If you missed any of the posts during my blog hop, or you just want to check out the other blogs, you can find a full list of links here.
Authors, Reviews

Back to School Blog Hop

Microsoft Word - Document4Happy September! If your local school district is like mine, you’ve already been in school for two weeks. Nonetheless, I’ve always thought of September as Back to School month. This September, my books will be featured all month on a blog hop. Listed below are the bloggers who will be participating. Links to their blogs will be live once their Blog Hop post goes live. So put away those math books and click over to some interviews, book excerpts, guest posts, and other goodies.

Welcome to my Back to School Blog Hop!

 

September 2: Charles Ray  **  Charlie Ray’s Ramblings         
September 3: Apryl Baker  **  My Crazy Corner
September 4: Victoriya Aliferchyk  **  Vik Tory Arch           
September 5: Connie Peck  **  Connie Peck       
September 6: Angela Fristoe  **  Turning the Pages
September 7: Karin Rita Gastreich  ** Eolyn Chronicles
September 8: Courtney Vail  ** Gotta Have YA                     
September 9: Keeley  ** Keeley Reads                               
September 10: Evelyn Ralph  **  Evelyn’s Blog    
September 11: Cheryl  ** Gwyneira’s Book Blog    
September 12: Vanessa Aere  **  Book Butterfly Reviews          
September 13: Tiana Lemons  **  Ethereal Book Reviews    
September 14: Linda Ulleseit ** Chicks Writing Rockin’ YA          
September 15: DelSheree Gladden  **  The Edible Bookshelf          
September 16: Judy Goodwin  **  My Writerly World       
September 17: Emily Thompson  **  Clockwork Twist            
September 18: Charles Ray  **  Charlie Ray’s Ramblings   
September 19: Mary Collins ** Good Books Never Die     
September 20: Lauralee  **  History From a Woman’s Perspective
September 21: Kira Tregoning  **  Fantastical Reads     
September 22: Susan Stec  **  The Grateful Undead
September 23: Cathy Dougherty  **  Catherine Dougherty                          
September 25:  Dianne Bylo  **  Tome Tender
September 26: Jeanne Bannon Repole ** Beyond Words  
September 27: J.L. Campbell ** Reader’s Suite
September 28: Audra Middleton  **  Audra Writes
September 29: Jonel  **  Pure Jonel Confessions of a Bibliophile                    
September 30: Linda Ulleseit  **  Books, Books, Books
Contests!

Win a Free Copy of My Book!

final coverToday UNDER THE ALMOND TREES is featured on the historical fiction blog Novel Pastimes.

There’s  an interview with yours truly then a question. Answer the question (it’s an easy one–your opinion) and you’re entered to win a free copy of the book. Pass it on!

DAY TWO interview is up on Novel Pastimes. Check it out. You know you want to.