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Seen & Heard:

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Frostfire, by Amanda Hocking
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Rochester's Amanda Hocking has done it again.

The New York Times best-selling author of the "Trylle" and "Watersong" series is releasing "Frostfire" on Tuesday.

This is the first book for her new young adult series "The Kanin Chronicles," which is a spinoff of her "Trylle" series.

"Its set in the same world, but you don't have to have read the 'Trylle' series to understand 'Frostfire,'" Hocking said. "I wanted it to stand alone, so if people weren't familiar with the other series, they could still dive in. This is about a girl named Bryn who wants to be a member of an elite guard for her tribe, and she won't let anything stand in her way. I sort of took some inspiration from 'The Three Musketeers' and a lot of the urban fantasy that is out now. It's modern day and set in present time, but it has a lot of sword fighting and things like that in it, so there is a lot of action in this but a lot of romance in it as well."

It also features some cameos from characters from the "Trylle" series, but "Frostfire" explores a world that was only hinted at in Hocking's first series.

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Hocking has had a pretty busy couple of months. She moved from her home town of Austin and got married a few weeks ago. I spoke with her after she returned from her honeymoon in Belize.

She first made headlines when she sold millions of copies of her self-published novels before she landed major publishing and film deals for her "Trylle" series. "Frostfire" is her eighth book released with her publisher and the 14th release overall.

As far as the writing process goes, Hocking says, "I always outline a lot so by the time I actually sit down and write, I already know where the story is going. This one is a three-book series so when I sat down to write the first book, I had a very defined outline for the first book, and then I have broad generalized ones for the second and third books. So, I know where they are going, but I don't have all the fine details set on them."

"Frostfire" comes out Tuesday, but on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m., Hocking will be signing books at Barnes & Noble at Apache Mall if you'd like to meet her and get your book signed.

Olivia Stellmaker

I also decided to check in with 13-year-old Olivia Stellmaker, who is in her second year of training to be a professional ballet dancer in one of the top ballet schools in the Canada's National Ballet School.

The school attracts students from around the world and only the top, and I mean TOP, young dancers are chosen to attend. How small/elite are these classes? When Stellmaker was first accepted, she was one of 50 of the more than 1,000 that auditioned for the school that year, and she has only 11 girls in her eighth-grade class from all over the globe!

I caught up with her in the final days of the performance run for Canada's National Ballet School and The National Ballet's "The Nutcracker," which ran from Dec. 11 through today. Stellmaker, who trained at the Allegro School of Dance for nine years before she began attending Canada's ballet school, said the amount of dancing she does varies in the performances.

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"It depends on the day and which cast you are in. Some days, I have just one show a day; sometimes, it's a double, and I have two performances a day, but I'm always dancing the same roles. In the first act I'm a poor girl, then a unicorn in the snow scene, and then in the second act, I'm a courtier," she said.

Along with her school work and normal dance classes, gearing up for the performances means a lot of practice.

"We aren't practicing anymore; now, we are just performing, and I go through it all in my head," she said. "But toward the end of practice, it would be every day for almost two hours."

Although this is her second year at NBS, and it does "The Nutcracker" every year, this was her first year performing it because an injury kept her out of the show last year. Yet, she said she wasn't nervous.

"I just don't get too nervous anymore," she said with a giggle, and then continued to say she has been doing this a long time. "My parents started me in ballet when I was 3, and then I just kept taking classes and kept loving it."

Thank goodness she loves it and is willing to work hard because once you get into a school like NBS, you have to work hard to stay in a school like NBS.

"For the students that are already in the school, they do a re-evaluation where you learn all of the combinations and then perform it on stage, and all of the teachers watch you and then they decide whether you will be attending next year," Stellmaker said.

The NSB provides elite dance training, academic instruction and residential care on the same campus. So when I asked her to describe how a typical day would be she said: "I'd wake up and get dressed and walk over to school, then have our first academic class, then ballet class for two hours. Then lunch, then the other four academic classes. Then an after-school dance class, which is either a point class, jazz class or character class."

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As for tips or advice she could give to anyone else who dreams of someday becoming a dancer, she said: "Work hard with what you have and practice hard, and just go for it. Audition, and if you don't make it, just audition again!"

I'm sure we will be seeing a lot from Stellmaker in the future.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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