A Pixie’s Promise Launch Party is TONIGHT at Porter Square Books, 7-9pm

Table display of Dianna Sanchez books

Dianna Sanchez reading from A Pixie's PromiseHere’s a little taste of what’s to come tonight. Before Halloween, I had a private party for my beta readers, critique partners, and wonderfully supportive neighbors. We had a blast, and I’m expecting tonight to be every bit as fabulous, pouring rain and election gloom notwithstanding. I’ll do readings, tell bad jokes, answer questions, and feed everyone cupcakes. I have gift bags for everyone who buys one of my books.

Before you come, PLEASE VOTE!!! If you have to choose between coming to my party and voting, VOTE. (You shouldn’t have to choose – the polls close at 8pm and my party ends at 9pm.) And if you come in wearing your “I Voted” sticker or with a photo of yourself wearing one when you voted early, you are eligible to win one of three giveaway prizes!

So if you live in the Boston area, I hope to see you tonight at Porter Square Books!

Dianna Sanchez reading to audience

A Pixie’s Promise is now available!!!

Copies of A Pixie's Promise in shipping box

They’re here and ready for you to read! At long last, A Pixie’s Promise is available for purchase on Amazon (eBook only until Amazon gets their act in gear), Barnes and Noble, and IndiePub. The eBook is also available on Kobo and iTunes. I recommend that you support your local independent bookstore, where you can order a copy through Ingram. My two favorite bookstores in the Boston area are Porter Square Books and Pandemonium Books and Games, both in Cambridge.

If you’d like a signed copy, my book launch party is at Porter Square Books on November 6th, 7-9pm. That’s right, Election Night, so please vote early and then come hang out and eat cupcakes with me!

Thanks to everyone who helped make this book possible, from my critique group partners to my young beta readers to Dreaming Robot Press, my magnificent publishers. And thanks to my awesome family, who inspire me and put up with all my writing shenanigans. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.

Readercon Schedule

Readercon is coming up in just a few weeks, July 12-15, 2018 at the Quincy Marriott, and I will be there and SUPER BUSY! Here’s my schedule:

FRIDAY

10am – I Love It! Now Rewrite ItSalon C – I’ll be moderating this panel and sharing all the gory details on the A Pixie’s Promise / An Elf’s Equations split.
1pm – Broad Universe Rapid Fire ReadingSalon A -Although I’m scheduled for this, I will likely step aside and let other folks read because I have a solo reading this year. But I will definitely be there in the audience, and if there’s time, I’ll have a piece to read.
4pm – Autographs – Come by and get me to sign your copy of A Witch’s Kitchen! You can also do this at various times in the Dealers’ Room, where I’ll be selling copies.
6pm – Witches in Legend and FolkloreSalon C – I’m hoping to discuss some of my inspirations for A Witch’s Kitchen, including the curandera tradition in my family.
9pm – Kaffeeklatch – Come chat with me about witches, cooking, kidlit, Kickstarters, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

SATURDAY

10:30 – ReadingSalon A – I’ll be reading primarily from A Pixie’s Promise, but I might just give a sneak peek at An Elf’s Equations! Have a request? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

Kickstarter has Funded!!!

Thank you!

Thanks to all our supporters for making my next novel possible. You all rock! And thanks especially to Corie and Sean Weaver of Dreaming Robot Press who ran the campaign, and to Bill Wolfe, my co-campaigner. You are the magic.

Stay tuned for more publishing info! The launch party for A Pixie’s Promise is scheduled for September 21st, 7pm, at Porter Square Books in Cambridge.

Cooking is Magic, Part 6: Play with Your Food

Children view robot birthday cake

Robot cake I made for Nora’s third birthday party, with working sugar cookie gears

Writing a novel can be long, grueling work. It took me two years and two months to complete my first novel. The second came in at just under a year, and it looks like the third will be more like six months, so I seem to be getting better at it. Still, it’s sometimes disheartening to pour months of work into something that people will read in a day or two. Sort of like spending hours on cooking a really good meal that your kids then inhale in ten minutes, fifteen if my teenager goes back for seconds.

So why do it at all? Simple: because it’s FUN.

Cooking your own meals and desserts means you have total creative control to do anything and everything you like. Your three-year-old wants a robot birthday cake with moving gears? Sure! Your ten-year-old is obsessed with dragons? Make a cupcake tower with dragon cookies perched on them. Launching your first novel? Make a cake that looks just like your book! I love cooking and baking challenges, and my children do, too. One of my great parenting joys is helping them to realize their own crazy ideas in chocolate and candy and fondant.

And yet… cooking is limited to the available ingredients. In writing, anything is possible. I can create a character who grew up on Mars and needs an exoskeleton to visit Earth, or a frog prince obsessed with baseball, or a village where everyone is a monster, but they’ll never admit it. Right now, I’m writing about a thirteen-year-old elf girl fascinated by math and programming who’s been roped into helping rescue a magical, sentient baby tree who’s been kidnapped by someone who basically thinks he’s a Norse god, all because the elf girl’s grandmother has a secret agenda. Whaaaaat? How does that even make sense?

Well, it makes about as much sense as making candy sushi or books out of marshmallows and graham crackers. And you know what, I love every crazy second of it, even when my plot goes sideways and I have to spend ages revising. i love creating whole worlds and the fascinating people in them who live and strive and fail and pick themselves up and keep on going. It was inevitable, i think, that I’d end up writing about a young witch with a flair for magical baking. And I love that I get to share these stories, not just with my friends and family, but with everyone, everywhere.

For some examples of the crazy, fun, wild things I’ve made, please visit my Facebook page. And for more about that young witch and her friend, the pixie who discovers she has more of a knack for magic than she ever imagined, preorder A Pixie’s Promise before the Kickstarter ends in just a few scant hours. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until it comes out in September.

Cooking is Magic, Part 5: Cooking is Where You Find It

Cooked wild foraged mushrooms plus roasted asparagus

Wild oyster mushrooms

Wild oyster mushrooms. This cluster was about as big as my head!

Today’s post was going to be about cooking and culture, but sometimes the universe intervenes and hands you something completely different. Yesterday, while out walking along the bike path, I found and harvested two different species of wild edible mushroom. Before I go any further, a warning: DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS UNLESS YOU HAVE BEEN TRAINED BY AN EXPERT!!! I can’t stress this enough, so I’ll say it again. DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS UNLESS YOU HAVE BEEN TRAINED BY AN EXPERT.

I have been studying mushrooms for over ten years now and training with a group called Mushroom Hunters USA, which is led by professional mycologists. We do mushroom surveys, in which we hike through a section of forest picking every mushroom we find, then bringing them back for study. The mycologists explain which are dangerous, which are edible, which are interesting for other reasons, e.g., used as a dye for wool, and which are just fun to look at. After a decade, I’m now confident enough to harvest just six foolproof species – that’s mushrooms that don’t look like anything else and are very safe to eat, and even those have a few caveats. So it’s rare indeed that I find two different edible species on the same day. In this case, I found oyster mushrooms and dryad’s saddle (also known as pheasant’s back), both growing on maple tree stumps.

Wild foraged dryad's saddle and oyster mushrooms

Dryad’s saddle or pheasant’s back (photobombed by the oyster mushrooms, gill side up)

I love foraging wild species, particularly things most people consider weeds. Quelites, also known as lamb’s quarters, are as delicious to me as spinach. Garlic mustard, an invasive species, is a fine addition to my skillet. Wild garlic and onions as well as wild sorrel are tasty additions to any salad. These all fall under the category of usufruct, one of my favorite words. Say it with me: you-suh-fruct. It means the legal right to use something found on someone else’s property or belonging to someone else. In other words, one man’s weed or infestation is my treasure. I have frequently offered edible mushrooms to the owners of the property on which I found them (including the oysters yesterday, which happened to be right behind a friend’s backyard). No one has ever wanted them.

Finding an edible mushroom gives me the same thrill as hooking a fish or tasting a surprisingly good wine (very surprising – I’m not at all fond of wine). And cooking with them is even better. It’s a moment of spontaneity, an opportunity to do something creative and new. This was the first time I’d found dryad’s saddles fresh enough to use, so today I cooked them for the first time using a recipe I found online. Warning: I set off the smoke detector frying them up. All worth it. The edges were tender and delicious, the inner parts a little tough. Next time, I’ll reserve the flesh close to the stem for stock.

This moment of unexpected spark happens all the time in my writing. I’ll come across something – an article on a comet swung out of its long ellliptical journey by Jupiter or a conversation with the caretaker of a Masonic museum or an NPR discussion of the history of marshmallow fluff – and that random discovery becomes a found ingredient, something I may throw into the writing pot, today or tomorrow or ten years from now. Every day is an opportunity for discovery and spontaneous inspiration.

I usually end my posts with a recipe, but this time I’ll leave you with instructions on wild mushroom foraging.

  1. Train with an expert. There are many, many books out there, but nothing beats first hand experience. Look up your local mycological club or chapter of Mushroom Lovers USA and sign up for a tour or a mushroom survey. Ask LOTS of questions. Eat only what a trained mycologist gives you.
  2. Now get the books anyway. It’s good to have backup when you’re trying to positively identify a mushroom. Most of the mushrooms you find won’t be edible at all, but it’s interesting to learn more about them. I recommend starting with Mushrooming Without Fear bu Alexander Schwab. Their first rule, never pick a mushroom with gills, is a good one, and I only break it for oysters, which are pretty foolproof. After that, find guides to mushrooms in your local area. You’ll find different mushrooms, and at different times of the year, in different regions. I have two or three guides specific to New England.
  3. Learn the distinguishing features, as well as the lookalikes. Morels have a hollow stipe (stem), false morels do not. Chicken mushrooms that grow on pine trees make some people ill, so I steer clear of those. Jack o’lantern mushrooms are a mildly toxic lookalike to chanterelles, but they glow in the dark (hence the name). Chanterelles have a distinctive apricot smell, and dryad’s saddle smells like watermelon rind. Pay attention to the tree you found the mushroom on or near. There are 20,000 species of mushroom, but only 400 species of tree, and many mushrooms only fruit in the presence of certain trees, e.g., chanterelles with oaks or maples, morels with pines. Oysters are a notable exception. They will eat ANYTHING: sawdust, compost, manure, even oil spills. But you’ll never find them on a healthy tree because they only eat dead matter. And that’s another clue, where they fruit: on dead wood, in the ground, on living trees. It’s a good idea to take a picture of the location where you found the mushroom.
  4. The first time you think you’ve found an edible mushroom, take it to an expert to confirm the identification. If you can’t bring it in person, get a spore print, take pictures, and email them in. There are many mushrooming groups on Facebook that will help with identification as well, but it’s better if you can speak to someone you trust.
  5. ALWAYS COOK YOUR MUSHROOMS. Many edible mushrooms are toxic when raw, such as the delectable morel mushroom. And mushroom expert Paul Stamets says that mushrooms have no nutritional value unless they are cooked. (Fun fact: if you leave a mushroom in the sun for an hour, it will produce your day’s supply of vitamin D, the only vegan source, in fact.)
  6. NEVER CONSUME WILD MUSHROOMS WITH ALCOHOL. Wild mushrooms tend to absorb more toxins from their environment, which can interact badly with alcohol.
  7. The first time you eat a wild mushroom, eat just a small amount. Some people have reactions to wild mushrooms, even after taking all the precautions.

If you like the idea of fresh mushrooms and varieties other than buttons, portobellos, and shiitakes, but you aren’t willing to risk wild foraging, you can also grow mushrooms from kits at home. There are several providers, but my favorite is Fungi Perfecti. Around here, you can often buy them at farmers’ markets. It is amazing fun to watch them fruit, and many kits will fruit several times, after which you can add the spent medium to your compost, and you may get even more. Enjoy!