August 2010

Well folks, it’s time for this year’s last Cheese-A-Topia post (I know, so sad). I am currently tasting as much cheese as possible to find more recommendations and I hope you’ll add some in the comments!

Obviously there’s tons more cheese around the country than I’ve mentioned this week, but there are a few more favorites I want to highlight:

Aztec Cheddar (hello gorgeous)

  • Blau Wein Kase – Flat Creek Lodge, Georgia. Flat Creek has some of the best flavor combinations and this cheese, washed in berry wine made on the premises, is my favorite. Also try their Aztec Cheddar, made with chiles and cocoa, for some seriously cool looking slices.
  • Grayson – Meadow Creek Dairy, Virginia. If you like (slightly) smelly, earthy cheese, try this award winner from Meadow Creek.
  • Barely Buzzed – Beehive Cheese Company, Utah. This cheddar is rubbed with a special coffee and lavendar blend, and the name doesn’t hurt either 🙂 While you’re checking out the Beehive offerings, also enjoy Seahive, rubbed with honey and sea salt.
  • Golden Greek – Ballard Family Dairy, Idaho. This halloumi style cheese is the perfect party or tailgaiting food; when heated or grilled, the flavor just explodes in greasy, gooey deliciousness.

Thanks for putting up with my cheese geek-outs this week! Happy eating.


Go west young…readers…and discover more cheese 🙂

  • Flagship Reserve – Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Washington. Another cheddar (there are just so many good ones!), the older the better.
  • Awesomeness in a can

    Cougar Gold – Washington State University Creamery, Washington. This cheese is sold in a can. Literally. But what’s inside is creamy and absolutely delicious. And I love that it’s made at a university creamery. Support the few remaining dairy programs, folks!

  • Any blue cheese from Rogue Creamery, Oregon. You can’t go wrong. My favorites are the Echo Mountain Blue, Smokey Blue, and Oregon Blue. Also, you can get Smokey Blue Cheese truffles from the nearby Lillie Belle Farms.
  • Up In Smoke – Rivers Edge Chevre, Oregon. A small round of soft goat cheese smoked while wrapped in bourbon-soaked maple leaves gathered from the farm. If that description doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will!
  • San Joaquin Gold – Fiscalini Farms, California. If you like aged, crumbly cheese, this one’s for you. I can find this one out in Iowa, so look for it near you.
  • European Style Goat Butter – Meyenberg Goat Milk Products, California. This butter made a huge splash at the conference. It’s clean, sweet, and delicious without any of the typical “goaty” flavor.

What others are your west coast favorites?

Interrupting this week of cheese to bring you…Linkfest!

Read this post from *Fiction Groupie* if you’re working on a query letter. Trust me. Do it now! (thanks Adventures in Children’s Publishing) And congrats to Roni on signing with an agent!

Are you back? OK. Also from AICP’s weekly roundup list, The Top 26 Places Your Book Should Be. So stock up on copies and get marketing!

Mystery Writing is Murder explains the “spaghetti bowl” method for deciding which characters are earning their keep and which ones should be cut.

Speaking of revisions (oh, endless revisions), Shannon points to this explanation of the three-act structure, broken into six stages.

Finally, a very important Link of Awesome for this week: August 26 is Youth Literacy Day (via Lara Zielin). Click through to learn how to get involved and how to donate.

The week of cheese continues! When you think “Midwest” and “cheese,” Wisconsin probably comes to mind, and for good reason. There’s some true cheesy fabulocity coming from that state. But there’re also some great local options in other states, too:

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin. Instead of making a list, I’m just going to recommend trying anything made by Carr Valley. Seriously, the cheese is that good. But, if you insist, my favorites include the 4 Year Cheddar, Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar, Bread Cheese, and Cave Aged Marissa.

Pleasant Ridge Reserve

• Pleasant Ridge Reserve – Uplands Cheese Company, Wisconsin. Any conversation about American original cheeses has to include this hard, nutty, complex cheese made only during the summer while the cows are grazing.

• Prairie Breeze – Milton Creamery, Iowa. A cheddar with hints of buttery-gouda goodness made right here in I-O-W-A. And it topped the year-old cheddar category at ACS judging last year. Enough said.

• Merlot BellaVitano – Sartori Foods, Wisconsin. There are several BellaVitano flavors and the Merlot is my favorite, although Raspberry is delicious too. A great, creamy cheese with just the right amount of flavor.

• Pumpkin Spice Chevre – Stickney Hill Dairy, Minnesota. Like eating pumpkin pie-flavored butter with a hint of cheese at the finish. So yummy, and puts me in the mood for fall.

• Ole Hickory– Homestead Creamery, Missouri. A smoked artisan cheese that won a gold medal at the World Jersey Cheese awards this summer. Also check out their Golden Glow.

Anyone have other recommendations from the Midwest?

Mmm festival of cheese

I’m off at my favorite work-related conference of the year: the American Cheese Society meeting. That’s right, I’m getting paid to go eat cheese. Lots of cheese. Lots of really really good cheese. So, to spread some of the cheese love, we’re moving off the writing subjects to feature some of my favorite cheeses from around the country. If you have some to add, please do so in the comments, and I’ll eat a slice for you!

If you live in the Northeast, you are a very lucky person, because there are some fantabulous cheeses in Vermont alone, not to mention the rest of the states. Some of my favorites:

  • Tarentaise – Thistle Hill and Spring Brook Farm, Vermont. Tarentaise is a hard, nutty, alpine-style cheese that has tons of mellow flavor.
  • Buffalo Wing Cheddar – Yancey’s Fancy, New York. If you like spicy cheese, this is for you. It may not be ideal for the “aged, artisan” folks, but I love what Yancey’s Fancy does with flavors. My other favorite is their New York Maple Cheddar, which tastes like a pancake breakfast (in a good way). Note: their green Wasabi Cheddar is only for the brave or those who don’t need their taste buds in the near future.
  • Herb Garlic Capri – Westfield Farm, Massachusetts. I love good flavored cheeses and this is a great combination.
  • Hand Dipped Ricotta – Calabro Cheese, Connecticut. This is amazing stuff, so sweet and creamy, and the Calabro folks are super friendly.
  • Cabot Clothbound Cheddar aged at Jasper HillCabot Creamery, Vermont. A past Best In Show winner (cheese, not the dog movie), this is one of those great crumbly, crunchy, old cheddars.

    Cultured Butter

  • Cultured Butter with Sea Salt – Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, Vermont. No, you read that right, this is butter, not cheese. But doyourself a favor anyway and try this butter (I mean, just look at the picture! Hello fabulous.). They ship nationwide and you will thank me.

Matt Myklusch is the debut author of Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation, a wild adventure with superheros, ninjas, robots, and much more. Thanks for visiting The Writing Cave, Matt!

Tell us about your journey to publication.

I started out writing screenplays because A.) I am a big movie buff, and B.) I foolishly thought that it would be easier than novels.  The standard movie script is about 120 pages, and I said to myself, “That’s way better than writing a book that could literally be ANY length. 120 pages is realistic!”  I didn’t realize at the time that it was actually harder to do more with less words and pages.

I wrote my first screenplay in college, and it was terrible.  A good idea poorly executed.  Mainly because I didn’t know much about writing.  But, I learned from it and kept going.  I wrote two more screenplays once I got out of school, each of them a little better, but I was overly descriptive and used way too much scene direction in all of them.  I always ended up needing more than those 120 pages that I was so focused on.  My wife helped me realize that the weaknesses in my screenwriting would be strengths in a novel, and I shifted gears.  I partnered up with a friend and wrote a book.  We weren’t able to sell it, but that experience gave me the confidence to write JACK BLANK by myself, and that’s the one I finally broke through with. 

All in all, a little over a 10 year journey from the first time I sat down to write that truly terrible screenplay back in college.

Well, this is one reader who’s glad you turned to novels! What was the spark that started Jack’s story in your mind?

It really comes from a love of comic books.  I was a huge comic book fan growing up, and I still am.  With JACK BLANK, what I wanted to do was showcase the comic book world that fired my imagine nation as a kid, and show it to an audience that hasn’t seen it before. 

In the comics, you have hundreds of heroes all running around the same city fighting an endless supply of bad guys.  It’s normal for people there to see super powered battles in the middle of the street on a random Tuesday.  That fully-developed super hero world really doesn’t exist outside of comic books.  In this novel, I wanted to create my own super hero world, and show people who might otherwise never pick up a comic book how much fun it could be.  That became the Imagine Nation, and the best way I could think of to introduce this place to readers was through Jack Blank’s eyes.

You’re working on the second book of Jack’s adventures, and you envision it being a trilogy. Any hints on what readers can look forward to in the future?

At the end of Book One, Jack still has some work to do if he’s going to become the hero he wants to be.  In Book Two, we’re going to follow him as he goes at it, trying to head off some very real Rüstov threats (without letting the rest of the Imagine Nation in on the secret).  I can promise more twists and turns along the way, as well as a deeper look inside the Imagine Nation as Jack learns more about the island and how it interacts with the Real World.

I can’t wait! You said on the Simon & Schuster website that you’d pick Indiana Jones over Han Solo for top fictional hero. Convince me 🙂

Here’s the thing…  With enough hard work, study, and whip practice, I could BE Indiana Jones.  Anyone could.  It’s possible.  Han Solo is cool, but no matter how hard I try, it’s highly unlikely that I will ever grow up to be a starship captain/space-smuggler (even one who dumps his cargo at the first sight of an Imperial transport).

Please note this is not a defeatist attitude on my part, as I clearly think that A.) it’s possible that I could still become a daring archeologist that fights Nazi’s, and B.) that I have yet to grow up.

Hmm, OK, I’ll buy the logic. Though I’d still rather have Chewbacca next to me as a sidekick.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

There is so much that can be said on this subject, but the big one, I think, is don’t give up.  You only fail at something when you give up.  If you’re still trying and you haven’t quit, then you haven’t failed, no matter how long you’ve been at it.  A screenwriter named Josh Olson wrote, “You can’t discourage a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, then you’re not a writer.”  I like that.  Life is going to present you with no shortage of excuses for giving up… the important thing to remember is that they are excuses.  Not reasons. 

Also, write for YOU.  Write the story that you want to read.  The one that you’ll have fun writing.  It takes a long time to write a novel, and if nothing ever happens with whatever you are working on right now, you better at least have fun writing it.  That’s what I did with JACK BLANK, and I think it made a huge difference in how the story came out. 

Very good advice. Finally, I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

I like melted cheese.  Because it’s gooey.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer questions, Matt! Find out more at the Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation website and facebook page, and follow Matt on Twitter.

Live from a hotel in Wisconsin Dells, it’s Linkfest Wednesday!

Adventures in Children’s Publishing provided this fantastic list of 10 tests your manuscript should pass before submitting to publishers.

Angela of The Bookshelf Muse was off on a fantabulous vacation (photos here), and in her absence left some zombies in charge of sharing nifty links for writers.

This week’s Link of Awesome goes to Bookshelves of Doom for directing me to the Nathan Fillion READ poster! *swoon*

Why not have two Links of Awesome? (this is what happens when I start reading mental_floss) A handy info-graphic explaining how to win Rock-Paper-Scissors every time (don’t show my sister).

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