Thursday, January 29, 2015

Picture Book Love & Randomness

I ordered GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY! all for me. I will read it to the kidlet (& often), but this picture book is going on my bookshelves. It has two of my loves: history and food. It's bright and colorful, and the illustrations are reminiscent of iced gingerbread cookies. Too adorable.

A recipe for gingerbread cookies on the endpapers. 

Our chubby baker, off to war. 

Continental Army soldiers looking like iced cookies. {nom, nom}

I need to look up how to pronounce these German words before reading this to the kidlet.

General George Washington!!!

And as if I needed anymore reasons to love this book, I present: The back cover!

I also love learning (at the ripe ol' age of 30) about a historical figure that I hadn't known about up until now, our German baker, Christopher Ludwick. According to the author's notes in the back of the book, there's still a foundation in Philadelphia {the Christopher Ludwick Foundation} that gives out grants to help educate needy children, as when Christopher died in 1801 he left money to pay for the schooling of poor children.

If you liked this post, then you should for sure follow Carter Higgin's, Design of the Picture Book. I have lusted over so many amazing picture books on her site (and she breaks down picture books WAY better than I). Thanks to her, it's also why I know terms like 'endpapers'. If you're a picture book aficionado, follow DotPB! You won't be sorry you did (you'll actually be quite glad!).

As for the randomness of this post, look at what I got from my co-worker, Jasmine! 

She was on a closet cleaning binge and when I pulled this out of the bag she brought in, I was ecstatic! I will wear this until it is nothing but a washed-out, tattered rag, scout's honor.

And in closing randomness, I added white lights to my inspiration board over Christmas. I love seeing offices w/lights in them, so for me, they're the perfect touch. It adds softness and whimsy, don't ya think?

What about you all? Any picture books you've fallen in love with lately? Or any bits of randomness you'd like to share? Let's hear it!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Let's Hang Out (In Which I Mean Your Books)

Though I haven't met you all in 'real life', I consider you my friends. If I knew you in real life, we would probably go out to eat every now and then, as meals w/friends is something I love looking forward to. Or we'd take a trip to the book store, or maybe even go to writing group together. What fun!

But sadly, we're spread out all over the place. So If I can't hang out with you all-- why, I'll hang out w/your books! Except I don't go out to eat all the time, or to the bookstore or writing group. Instead, I do things like laze around my house and go to work (boo). So...

Violet Storm got cold watching TV

We Hear the Dead, The Caged Graves, & The Eighth Day check out the hub's new wet/dry vac

Into the Fire got caught with the candle lighter... again 

An Absence of Light hoping I'll let her drive (sorry!)

Phobic terrorizing some defenseless picture books

Soul Cutter thinks I've been fooled into believing she's doing harmless crafts... (mm-hmm...)

Grunge Gods and Graveyards chillin' at work with me

Don't Fall trying to help me, uh... style my hair... 

* * * 

For those of you who haven't read Don't Fall (by Rachel Schieffelbein), it's a modern day retelling of Rapunzel. Yanno, just so you don't think I'm so weird, lol! Also, Meradeth Houston, author of An Absence of Light (the one who wanted to drive), has a great deal going on with Colors Like Memories right now: It's free!! 

So there you have it, me hanging with some of your books. And please rest easy, as no books were harmed in the making of this post. That red construction paper on the other hand... {Lexa, you need to have a talk w/your book!} ;)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sweet Reads: Philly Brownie Cheesecake & The Inquisitor's Mark

Last year I reviewed THE EIGHTH DAY, a really fantastic middle grade story by Dianne Salerni (I read it twice in the same year, so good). This year, I'm reviewing the sequel, THE INQUISITOR'S MARK (TED & TIM, hehe)! I was so looking forward to reading this book. But you know sometimes how you're super excited about something... and then it just doesn't live up to your expectations? =/ 

Well, that didn't happen here!! 

Mrs. Salerni has taken the world-building in this series and upped her game, making it even more intricate and interesting. I'm kind of in awe of the amount of planning this had to have taken! So in TIM, the gang is all here: Jax, Riley, Evangeline (well, some of the time, as she only exists in a magical 24 hour period once a week, poor girl), the Crandalls, & of course, the irascible Donovan twins. But we're also introduced to new characters: Jax's long-lost family who don't exactly have his best interests at heart. 

This book switches POV between Jax, and his cousin, Dorian. I liked Dorian and really felt for the poor kid. Because you always love your family, but what if they aren't exactly stand-up guys? I also like his POV b/c we got to see outside glimpses of how Jax appears to other people. And Jax will always be my main man. ;) 

Then there's Jax's best friend who also takes center stage. Billy is such a great character, really funny and a tad clueless, which only adds to his charm. Having these differing middle-grade characters is something that I really enjoyed. I just it think makes this book even more perfect for boy readers, as there's more than one boy character available for them to relate to. 
But boy, girl, (middle-aged woman): this series really will appeal to all ages. Promise! 

Might I share some fun snippets w/you? Yes? Awesome. 

Jax had heard enough. He yanked out his honor blade and stabbed the tip into the wooden desk. A moment later he remembered this wasn't really Taliesin's desk he was damaging, but it was too late to take back the dramatic gesture, so he went with it. "You! Chinless Wonder!" He pointed at the squirrelly Taliesin with his other hand. "Where is Adelina Emrys?"

* * *

"What d'ya mean, brownie?" Brownies were chocolate desserts cut into squares, not dog-faced, tailless rats. 

Evangeline came out of the restroom looking embarrassed. "Sorry. It climbed out of the trash can and startled me."

Riley waved a hand at the creature. "Shoo," he said gently. "Leave us alone."

The so-called brownie turned and scampered toward the kitchen, where Jax assumed it would chew on the food and leave poop everywhere.

* * *

Jax had never realized how much Riley's lineage made him the Transitioner equivalent of The Bachelor. For his part, Riley was looking back and forth between Sheila Morgan and Sloane Dulac as if one were a man-eating shark and the other a man-eating tiger. 

* * *

I love Jax's voice throughout the novel, and the first excerpt is a showcase of that. I also love when characters christen other characters with their own made up names-- I've done this a time or two in my own writing. And due to the dessert I'm sharing today, you've probably guessed the reason for the second excerpt. I swear no brownie poop went into my dessert. At least I think... ;) And lastly, Riley. I can totally see his appeal: tattooed, loyal, and cute to boot! You go, Evangeline. 

So, now for the Sweet part of this post. I don't always try to match recipes with elements from the book, but this time I did. You got to meet one of the brownies, a magical rodent-like creature and in honor of them, I went with this recipe:

Philly Brownie Cheesecake
1 pkg. (19 to 21 oz.) brownie mix (13x9-inch pan size)
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
3 eggs
2 squares Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Heat oven to 325

1. Prepare brownie batter as directed on package; pour into 13x9-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 25 min. or until top is shiny and center is almost set.

2. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Gently pour over brownie layer in pan. (Filling will come almost to top of pan.)

3. Bake 40 min. or until center is almost set. Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen sides; cool. Refrigerate 4 hours. 

4. Melt chocolate squares as directed on package; drizzle over cheesecake. Refrigerate 15 min. or until chocolate is firm. 

* * *

Oh, and the dessert from up top? Gone, baby, gone.

After the all-out Eighth Day war in Mexico, Jax, Riley, and Evangeline have gone into hiding. There are still rogue Transitioners and evil Kin lords who want to use Riley, a descendant of King Arthur, and Evangeline, a powerful wizard with bloodlines to Merlin, to get control over the Eighth Day. 

So when Finn Ambrose, a mysterious stranger, contacts Jax claiming to be his uncle, Jax’s defenses go up—especially when Finn tells Jax that he’s holding Jax’s best friend, Billy, hostage. To rescue Billy and keep Riley and Evangeline out of the fray, Jax sneaks off to New York City on his own. But once there, he discovers a surprising truth: Finn is his uncle and Jax is closely related to the Dulacs—a notoriously corrupt and dangerous Transitioner clan who have been dying to get their hands on Riley and Evangeline. And family or not, these people will stop at nothing to get what they want.

With suspense, action, and intrigue lurking around every corner, this fast-paced fantasy series will be a welcome addition for fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.

Amazon | B&N

Saturday, January 17, 2015

In Which a Call for Help Strikes a Chord

I saw this flyer and call for help through Kimberly Derting's blog post, shared via Goodreads. It immediately resonated with me, and I went right away and pre-ordered THE THIRD TWIN. It sounds like a great thrill ride of a book (plus, I love twin stories). And even if it had sounded like something I wouldn't enjoy, I would have still pre-ordered.

CJ's illness hits so close to home. I don't have cancer, but like countless others, cancer has certainly affected my life. My grandmother had a double mastectomy when she was in her thirties and I can still remember catching glimpses of the pits in her chest, and how horrified I was by them. She told us that she went in for the doctors just to see how bad the cancer was. Once they got in, they told my grandfather it was really bad and he needed to make the call. He told them to take them both. Grandma woke up very different than how she went under, but she was always thankful Grandpa made that call for her, as it saved her life.

When my mother got breast cancer she took chemo and radiation successfully. Then two years later she came down with pneumonia. Except within a few weeks, they realized it wasn't pneumonia, but rather cancer in her lungs. I'll never forget sitting in our living room and hearing the news and thinking-- not again. She died within a few months, at the age of forty-two.

I've recently made a doctor's appointment-- as now I'm in my thirties-- to talk about what I need to do for early prevention, just in case the genes in my family come 'round visitin'. I live in fear of leaving my child without a mother. When mine passed, she left behind an 18 yo, a 15 yo (me), and a 4 yo. I was the only one of my siblings up that morning, and I remember wondering: How do I wake up my brothers and tell them this? And how do you make a four-year-old understand his mother won't be there with a hug and a smile like every other morning of his life?

So, please, can you share the news of CJ's book? I can't imagine the joy of having a new book coming out being overshadowed by a terrible illness like this. So once again, anything you can do to share would be amazing. Through your own blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. And, please, feel free to use this flyer. And in closing, I wish CJ nothing but good thoughts, strength, a full recovery, and that THE THIRD TWIN goes out and makes its mark in the literary world.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything.

The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect—Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist.

As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer . . . or Alicia is real.

Amazon | B&N

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Three Things on a Thursday

1. I saw this article in Publisher's Weekly, and it really struck my fancy. I can just imagine ppl coming to see a cookbook author make some fancy appetizers while sipping wine and mingling. And I love that there will be a fiction food section. I am a sucker for novels that feature food, especially desserts. I bought The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake b/c I'm enamored of the title-- plus, I love lemon desserts. And this book, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, I want for the same reason-- awesome title and cake. I totally think these two authors should go on tour together. Similar, pleasing titles + they both have the same first name (Amy & Amiee). Someone get ahold of their publicists!

2. For those of you whom are SCBWI members, have you seen these book launch party pages?
Looks like a lot of fun. You can click on each page to view it in more detail. They make me think of an interactive scrapbook page. I really hope I get to do this someday! I don't think it's out quite yet, but sounds like it will be soon.

3. And how about the recently founded Indie-Visible? So far I've really enjoyed their articles, and it looks like if you're an independently published author (self-published or small press) then you can submit to be featured on their website. Free publicity for the win!

K, so that's all from me today, peeps! May life be lovely and filled with words!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Debuting: Michael Hanson and the Desolate Woods

It's always exciting when you see someone's about to publish a book. When I got notification that I had a new follower on Twitter, and I saw in their bio that they had a book coming out soon, I was curious. So I followed back, and checked out E.L.'s website to find out that 'coming soon' meant this month! 

Michael Hanson’s high school peers think he’s weird, at least in part because of the golden armband that’s been there since birth and grown as he grew. But he doesn’t let it bother him. He’s got two good friends, a loyal (if sometimes annoying) little sister, and two parents who love him. He’s figured out he’s adopted, but other than that, he doesn’t think there’s anything exceptional about him.

He’s wrong.

Just before his fifteenth birthday, the symbol on his armband begins to glow, and Michael starts waking up floating over his bed. Little by little, through the guidance of the winged beings Ethan and Izra, he learns who he is—a powerful immortal from the ancient bloodlines of Earth.

Together with his sister and friends Trenton and Anya, Michael explores a fantastic world of magic and unseen dangers, where a rogue immortal whose plans for gaining power and wreaking havoc threaten total destruction.

To fulfill his destiny and defeat Zaric, Michael will have to master his new powers and accept help from the unlikeliest of allies. If he fails, Michael’s immortality won’t outlast his adolescence.


I am a lover of all things good: reading, writing, traveling, food, movies, and chocolate!

And I absolutely believe that a good fantasy book should leave you feeling exhausted, like you took the journey yourself. 

I am a US Navy veteran pursing my dream of becoming an author. I have loved reading since before I could write my own name, and I started writing my own stories and poems early, completing an entire novel at eight years old.

I have been working on writing a series for a few years and was able to come up with this adventurous young adult fantasy series of the Michael Hanson journeys. I am very excited to bring you a new fantasy story that you will love and cherish!

Twitter | Website | Facebook

* * * 
Also, thank you for your service to our country, E.L. It's much appreciated!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cover Reveal: DRAWN IN

I always love cover reveals, but I love them even more when they're for friends. Sioux Trett is revealing the cover today for her novel, DRAWN IN. Woo-hoo!! Without further ado, here it is (and it's a good 'un): 

I love the forest floor pages with the writing, as well as that tag line. Big congrats to Sioux! 

Who says having all your dreams come true is a good thing?

Serenity Winters is taking the summer off. After her last year included crushing on the wrong guy (again), having her best friend move all the way across the country, and an unexpected loss she’s still not prepared to deal with, she deserves it. And a visit to see Maia in California seems the perfect getaway. Beaches, bonfires and boys? Yes please!

But Rennie’s dreams aren’t so easy to elude. Sketching what she can remember of them helps some, but her drawings are taking on a life of their own and the dreams they represent are starting to come true.

Enter Alex, who may or may not be perfect. (No, who is she kidding? He’s perfect. Great hair, plus he can quote Hamlet and Yoda? Come on!) But Alex has secrets of his own, namely a hidden ability to transport himself through time using a book as a portal. Could it be that both Rennie and Alex are being drawn in to the same mystery? They better find out quickly, because her dreams are getting louder. And they know her by name.

* * * 


Hi, I’m Sioux and I’m a writer. I’m also a reader (mostly YA these days, but other genres sneak in there occasionally). In my non-book-related time, I like to travel, see movies, cook (or at least rip lots of recipes out of magazines that I may or may not make), all things Disney, and most things Joss Whedon (with the exception of the really scary things that I can’t watch). Oh, and I may be addicted to Pintrest.

Website | Twitter

Sioux is also putting together a blog tour! If anyone would be interested in hosting her on the release of her debut novel, please email her at 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Author Stop: Stephanie Faris*

I love middle grade books (they dominated my fav reads of 2014) and so today I'm thrilled to welcome Stephanie Faris, author of 25 ROSES, so we can ask her some questions!

Stephanie: Thank you for having me on your blog today! I’m so excited.

1. What one BIG thing would you pick to happen to your book, if you could?

I’d love for any of my books to be made into a movie or TV show. It seems when that happens, you’re introduced to a much larger reader base and they follow you to your next book (and the next and the next).

2. If you could only eat three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Mexican food, pizza, and, of course, CHOCOLATE!

3. You just started a book club that everyone wants to be a part of (you read the best books & have the best snacks!). What is the name of said book club:

Naming things is always difficult for me for some reason! How about Chocolate and Chapters?!

4. If someone was going to give you flowers, what would you prefer?

My favorite flowers are gerbera daisies, but roses are always beautiful, too. How about 25 of them?!

5. What is a fav line(s) from 25 Roses?

I was out of the matchmaking business. I was out of the helping other people business, too. I just wanted to hang out, eat lunch, and talk about shows I liked and music I’d downloaded.


That's a great name for a book club actually! And I love gerbera daises too, though I can never keep them alive. =/ And remember, dear readers, one lucky commenter will win a $5 Amazon gift card. Please just remember to follow Stephanie at one or more of her social media links (winner announced 1/9 via comments).*
Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, both with Aladdin M!x. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.*
Mia moves from the shadows to the spotlight when her matchmaking plans go awry in this contemporary M!X novel from the author of 30 Days of No Gossip.

Mia is used to feeling overlooked: her perfect older sister gets all the attention at home, and the popular clique at school are basically experts at ignoring her. So when it’s time for the annual Student Council chocolate rose sale, Mia is prepared to feel even worse. Because even though anyone can buy and send roses to their crushes and friends, the same (popular) people always end up with roses while everyone else gets left out.

Except a twist of fate puts Mia in charge of selling the roses this year—and that means things are going to change. With a little creativity, Mia makes sure the kids who usually leave empty-handed suddenly find themselves the object of someone’s affection. But her scheme starts to unravel when she realizes that being a secret matchmaker isn’t easy—and neither is being in the spotlight. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Terrible Titles

{This has nothing to do w/the hop, I just think this cover is cute.}

I was tagged by the lovely Alison Miller to participate in the Terrible Titles Blog Hop. The rules are to pull up your manuscript and randomly stop while scrolling through. Whatever words/phrases your cursor has landed on will become your eight terrible titles.  

So here are my terrible titles from my YA dystopian that I'm currently revising:

1. Out His Nose

2. A Terrible Strain

3. Didn't Need Stitches

4. Past My Navel

5. Scrap of Silk

6. From His Hands

7. Maybe Goats

8. Chews on the Side

Oddly enough those last two weren't anywhere close together. *grin* And does anyone else think #6 sounds like it could be the title of either a risque romance or an inspirational romance? Heh! Thanks to Alison for the tag, this was fun! In turn, I'm going to tag Sarah Foster, Sioux TrettMeradeth Houston, and Rochelle Deans. Have fun, ladies!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014 Lookback & 2015 Goals

Here were last year's goals (and how I did):

1. Write two books: I'm a slow writer, so for me, that was pretty ambitious. I did write one book, and a short story, and got to 18K on my current MG WIP, which I'm hoping to finish in the 40-45K range. So I wrote one book, a short story, and got about halfway on another. Not too bad!

2. Read out of my comfort zone: I did a little, but not a lot. MG/YA's my thing, but I managed to read 19 books (out of 49) that were adult, ranging from historicals to romance to mystery. Which out of those 19 books, 6 were Marion Chesney re-reads, which aren't out of my comfort zone at all. I LOVE HER BOOKS!! I tried to read a non-fiction about dinosaurs (I love dinosaurs) but I only got a few pages in.

3. Focus less on social media: Not really. There were a few times I bowed out as I had things I needed to complete, but for the most part, I was as active as I always am. But honestly, the writing community is awesome, and I love building relationships through it.

4. Keep the house up more: So, so. My creative side works better when the things around me are orderly. But when you work full-time and then also parent, things pile up despite your best efforts. Thankfully I've organized things over the years to where a concentrated 10-15 mins of going through the house makes it where I can sit down to write at night without feeling twitchy!

5. Begin querying in Feb: I did! And I sent my last batch of queries in December. I decided to go by Writer's Digest's rule of thumb to send 100, even going over that a bit (106). Out of all that, my request rate thus far is: 7 fulls, 9 partials.

6. Stay positive: I will always believe that dreams do come true, but as for staying positive... some days are harder than others! My CPs had some moments of talking me off the ledge. =) When I started doubting myself, I'd give myself a few hours to be down (or a few days, depending on the circumstances-- like getting rejections for two fulls on the same day-- that one hurt!). And then I'd get optimistic and hopeful again and start dreaming about my one-day book launch party. Trust me, that baby is planned down to the T.

And now for 2015's goals!

1. Write two books.

Since I didn't hit this last year, we'll try for it again. *cracks knuckles*

2. Get an agent/publishing contract. 

So I know this is beyond my control, and we all know you shouldn't set those types of goals for yourself. But I can control how hard I work behind the scenes to lay the groundwork for either of those two things to happen. So this year I need to really focus on my work ethic. Is it more fun to surf the web and watch the latest book-to-movie adaptation? Sure. But that won't get me closer to my goal.

3. Relax about getting an agent/publishing contract.

I'm sure you're scratching your head about now. Here's the thing: I want the above ferociously. I'm sure most of you know exactly what I mean, as many of you do as well (go us!). Being a full-time writer is what I want out of life. And I don't have to be rich (ha, ha!). I would just love to eventually make enough to quit my day job. Which means I would also then be able to be a stay at home mom, which is another of my dreams.

You can imagine sometimes how much I'm despairing as I leave behind my writing, bundle up the kid, and lug the diaper bag out the door. I don't want to leave his care to someone else (though I have terrific baby-sitters). I want to do it. But it's not an option right now.

So here are these two desires mixing together and I feel like at times I'm just sitting still. I have all these wants and dreams-- so why can't I work faster? Why does it take so long for a draft to be written and revised? Why does my brain sometimes need two weeks to think on plot twists? Why aren't I writing right now? This very minute? What's wrong with me? Do I not really want it enough? Am I only paying lip service to my dreams? Is all this worry and anxiety and work for nothing? *stops for breath and to stuff a tootsie roll in my face*

Can you see why I need #3? I of course don't want to stop striving for #2, but I need to learn to cut myself some slack. All I can do is my best, while still enjoying life. My motto for 2015 should be: Work hard, but still have fun.

And lastly, but not least importantly...

3. Stay positive and believe dreams do come true!

Here's to everyone having a dream fulfilling & productive 2015! *raises diet vanilla coke and clinks glasses*

OH! And real quick before I go-- my favorite reads of 2014! How could I forget that? In no particular order, they were:

The Eighth Day by Dianne Salerni
The Screaming Staircase & The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
Three Times Lucky & The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
Grunge Gods and Graveyards by Kimberly G. Giarratano
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

Such great books, that all made me smile, laugh, and/or cry. Read them, you won't be disappointed!