Monday, October 31, 2011

Meet the Contributors: Michelle McLean - and a Guest Interview with Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

I am so excited to join all the amazing writers on this blog. Food and books = two of my all time favorite things :) The quick rundown on me: I write young adult novels, picture books, and non-fiction educational books (my first book, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers was released in Jan of this year). I currently have a NF book on how to write poetry and a picture book on submission and a novel in revisions with my agent (the fabulous Krista Goering) so I'm a little antsy at the moment :) In addition to my personal blog, I'm also a contributor over at Operation Awesome.

A few goofy facts: I have an overflowing bookcase in every room of my house (including the laundry room); I think my treadmill attracts spiders because the two times I got on it (in my current house anyway) a spider dropped down from the ceiling right in my face - so I don't touch the thing.

I am also excited to be able to share a fun interview with Sandra Ulbrich Almazan, who just released her novella Lyon's Legacy.

If you were marooned on an island and Pots & Pens granted your wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose?

It’s harder to choose a single book than food; for food, I’d say chocolate. I can probably find more nutritious food on the island, but there aren’t too many wild candy bars roaming around. If I was going to bring a book to read (not just to use as a survival manual), it would be the complete works of Shakespeare. You could read that over and over and see something new each time.

If you were serving one of your characters his or her ideal meal, what would it be and why?

When I read that question, Joanna immediately popped into my head and asked for sushi. It must be hard to get good sushi on a spaceship.

If you could borrow one person's zest for writing and/or life, whose and why?

I’d like to borrow my four-year-old son’s zest for life. He has such enthusiasm for things like Halloween, and he has a great imagination too.

Hot out of the oven: What inspired your latest book, and what ingredients do you hope make it a tasty treat for readers?

It was inspired by a friend’s story about a woman who heard the Beatles perform in the Cavern, a club in Liverpool where they performed many times before they became famous. I wanted to add a science-fiction twist to that, so I came up with the idea of a time traveler going back to the past to listen to a concert by a famous musician. I asked myself who she was, why she was there, and how she got there, and eventually I came up with Joanna, sent on a mission to get DNA and clone the musician. Instead of using the Beatles, I created a single musician who lived in Chicago in the early sixites to be Joanna’s great-grandfather, the man she’s supposed to help clone.

I hope my readers will enjoy Joanna, a science geek with an attitude; George, the geneticist she falls in love with; the spaceship they travel on; and the old-fashioned Chicago Joanna visits to complete her mission.

What's cooking? Can you share a bit about your next project?

I actually have a three-course meal in the works. The appetizer is “The Fighting Roses of Sharon,” a standalone fantasy story about three generations of women in a small town with an unusual annual ritual. Next comes Twinned Universes, the sequel to Lyon’s Legacy. Both of those are in the revision stage. Finally, I’m drafting a fantasy novel called Scattered Seasons, about a group of four women called Season Lords who must combine their various magics to protect their country.

Half-baked ideas: Not every idea is a winner. Written or not, what's the most ill-conceived story idea you've ever had?

I once wrote a story about a woman who wrote birth announcements for people who would become famous at some point in their lives; the announcements were supposed to be the opposite of obituaries. (She had some way to look into the future to predict what they would do.) But I couldn’t explain the concept clearly or fill some of the plot holes, so that story is staying on the shelf where it belongs.

Thanks so much to Sandra for hanging out with us today! If you'd like a copy of Lyon's Legacy you can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Be sure to check out Sandra's blog for more info on her and her books.

Recipe Time! Chocolate Cake in a Cup
This is one of my all time faves and my kids absolutely love it. It's very fast, very easy, and perfect for a chocolate lover :D It's especially perfect for Nanowrimo (which is coming up TOMORROW!!) since it takes about a minute to throw together and only 3 minutes to bake. Can't get better than that for a writer with a deadline :D


4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
dash of vanilla
dash of baking powder (optional)
handful of chocolate chips or nuts (optional)

Mix everything together in a big mug

Microwave for 3 minutes

Eat :D

I usually top it with whip cream or powdered sugar. You can also make a healthier version of this by using almond flour and Stevia in place of the regular flour and sugar. This is a fast, fun chocolate fix and fun to do with your kids. They can mix and cook everything themselves so it's a blast for them.



  1. Thanks for having me, Michelle! I've made that chocolate cake in a cup before, and it's pretty good!

  2. Michelle, I'm so impressed with all your undertakings. Wow! Prolific! Sandra, your book sounds really fun and quirky. Love that! And the cake recipe is something my four year old would get such a kick out of.

  3. So great to get to know both of you! Michelle-you must rid yourself of that treadmill. Yikes! Sandra, your book sounds interesting--love your inspiration and the sci fi twist. And I really must try that cake recipe with the grandkids...sounds yummy and fun. :)

  4. Ooooh next time I get a chocolate craving I am totally making that cake - yum!

  5. Cake in a cup! The genious of it blows my mind.

    We're so happy to have you with us, Michell. :)

    And Sandra, I'm so excited for you and book release. Greate interview!