December 13, 2013

Friday Flails: Crockpot Hot Chocolate, #PitchWars, Candy Crush, and Kelsmas!

Crockpot Hot Chocolate
It has been CUH-RAZY cold here this week. One of my favorite cold weather things is this hot chocolate recipe that you make in the crockpot. I make a batch and drink it all day. (I know, I know: #eatclean, #lowcal, #sohealthy.)

1.5 cups heavy cream
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups milk chocolate chips
6 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour all ingredients in the crockpot and turn on low. It takes about two hours to heat through.

My #PitchWars Team!!
I've been doing some serious flailing over #TeamMegan. I'll be doing a series of posts next week on how I chose my team, but here's a quick introduction for now.

I chose to mentor Tara Harte, who wrote HUNTER HIGH, a horror/humor/mystery mash-up about a girl who witnesses a zombie attack and is whisked off to a school where teens are trained to kill monsters. She pitched it as  "Veronica Mars meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer." So yeah, basically, there was no way I was gonna give her up. Her pages were filled with voice, and a perfectly hilarious one at that, plus there's mention of working with the editor of the school newspaper to solve a zombie-related mystery and really there's just nothing about this query that didn't appeal to me.

My alternates are Megan Grimit with BLOOD TRAIN, a horror novel about a girl who finds herself on a nightmare-infested train that no one has escaped in over a hundred years; and Ann Foster's YA urban fantasy STOP MOTION, about a girl whose romantic wish is granted, but it means the universe constantly resets itself around her, waxing and waning based on how often she kills the evil wraiths she's destined to destroy.

Go check these ladies out. Follow them. You'll love them.

Candy Crush
I somehow managed to avoid the pull of this game for months and months, but then my husband started playing and I just have this insane need to compete with him. I've been stuck on level 65 for two days, but he's cruised right past me to level 89. So. I hate everything. But tomorrow, guys, TOMORROW WILL BE THE DAY I SEE LEVEL 66.

Kelsmas
My buddy Kelsey Macke is doing an AWESOME set of giveaways on her vlog, KelsNotChelsNotLive. She's giving everyone great ideas for holiday gifts for writers, and then giving away her featured gifts to a lucky vlog viewer. Be sure to check it out! I've had a sneak peek of the gifts and they are sooooooo great. (OHPLUSALSO if you win and you want to share with me that'd totally be okay I mean I DID TELL YOU ABOUT IT AFTER ALL AND YOU PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE WON WITHOUT ME but whatever no worries we're cool.)


How was your week? What are you excited about today? 
Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!









December 11, 2013

Subjectivity.

I've devoted a post to this word before, but after the insanity that is #PitchWars, I thought it might be helpful to offer a little refresher.

Here goes.

What's your favorite movie of all time? WRONG. It's Tombstone.
I don't understand why Starbucks sells hot chocolate.
I can't believe some people actually think Mockingjay made any sense at all in relation to The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.
NFL Football is stupid. It should just stop after college.
Fall is the best season. Summer is too hot. Winter is too cold. And spring is just annoyingly indecisive.
Dogs are great, but cats are better.

So. If you disagree with any of the above sentences, does that make you WRONG? (I mean, aside from  number 1, of course. Because, obviously.) Since I only order coffee from Starbucks, or hated what Suzanne Collins did to Peeta in Mockingjay and couldn't stand the decisions Katniss made because THEY MADE NO SENSE, or think that the whole world should permanently be 70 degrees with orange-leafed trees year-round….does that mean that hot chocolate, Mockingjay, and all other seasons should cease to exist?

NFL football has millions of fans. (I have no idea why, because its rules are stupid and the teams are no fun and there's no excitement of a new freshman class and and and…) Plenty of people hate cats. There might even be like, one person, maybe, who doesn't think Tombstone is a good movie.

Just because I personally prefer one thing over another doesn't mean that every one else feels that way. It also doesn't mean that everyone who disagrees with me is wrong. Our tastes are just different. And that is OKAY.

Two people read the same book. One of them writes a glowing review, fangirls over the author, and writes poetry in the book's honor. The other uses the book as a doorstop and preaches its plot failures to everyone that will listen. Neither of them is wrong, and neither of them is right. Or they're both wrong and they're both right. Regardless- we all get to have our opinions.

You KNOW these things.

The trouble is, now something you've created is the subject of this subjectivity. There's no guarantee that everyone will love our books. We can't even hope that everyone will LIKE our books. It's a really difficult thing that we all have to find our own ways of dealing with--but the most important thing is to remember, this isn't about YOU as a person. You created something. You put it out in the world. People will respond to it however they like, based on their own personal preferences and experiences.

All we really have control over in this entire process is the product we create--we craft it, we send it out to critique partners and beta readers, we hear the feedback, we make the changes that we feel are necessary, and when we are sure that it's ready, we let it go and hope for the best. After that, the reader--whether s/he's a judge in a contest or a literary agent or an editor or Reader McSweetface at the book store--gets to form his or her own opinions about it. That's the way it works.

You can't be arrogant enough to believe that your book is above subjectivity. You're going to have your haters. You're going to have your fans. There's a tendency to forget all the positive feedback in light of a few negative comments--but don't judge your book's worth (or your own) on something as fickle as someone else's opinion. Let the readers do their job and you do yours. Keep working. Write the next book. Gain more fans and haters. Repeat.

Isn't it pretty amazing that you wrote a book and people are reading it and forming opinions on it?









December 6, 2013

Friday Flails- Six Dollar T-shirt, Say Something, Calendar Journaling, and #PitchWars!



Hello darlings!

I'm starting a new feature on this here blog called Friday Flails. It's basically just an excuse to tell you about the things I'm excited about at the moment. The things on the list aren't always going to be writing-related. (Actually they will probably most often not be writing-related.)

Now ON TO THE FLAILING.

First off, do you know this guy? Olan Rogers. Look him up on YouTube and
watch every single one of his videos. You're welcome.


Typewriter Love Letter T-Shirt
We know I love t-shirts. A cute shirt that incorporates writing? It's a must-have. This was on sixdollarshirts.com, and it was one of their daily tees, so it's not available anymore...otherwise I'd totally send you the link.


Say Something - A Great Big World
I'm mildly obsessed with this song. I find myself singing it all the time lately. It's so heartbreaking. But it's one of those things that happens in relationships all the time, right? No one wants to be the bad guy, even if you know the relationship is ending. So one person has to stand up and end it, knowing its better for both parties but also hating it at the same time.


Calendar Journaling
I'm afraid to post any pictures of calendar journals on here since they're not mine, but if you do a quick search on Pinterest or google images, you'll see what I'm talking about.

I used to keep a journal, and while I didn't necessarily write in it every single night, I would usually complete a few entries in it each week. I haven't written a word since early 2012. I think after all the writing I do now, I just don't have the energy to write anything else. A calendar journal just involves a monthly calendar, (like a standard calendar with all the days on one page), and you write in 1-2 things a day that happened. There are some really beautiful ones on Pinterest because people will use different colors and add their own artwork. I'm thinking this would be less daunting to keep up with, and I'd love the record of the year. I may start one in January. Do any of you do this?

#PitchWars
Oh. My God. When Brenda Drake asked me to be a mentor in the #PitchWars contest, I was so excited. I knew it would be fun, and I loved the chance to get to help someone get his/her manuscript ready for agents. YOU GUYS. I got 63 submissions and there are SO MANY GREAT ONES. It's so hard to choose!! I've narrowed it down to six, and I'm pretty sure I know which one I'm going to mentor, but I have no idea who my alternates will be. There's a lot of chatting among the mentors behind the scenes--and I want you guys to know that we're all pitching books to each other, trying to get someone else to pick up the ones we love. We're fighting for your books, and several of us are dying that we can only choose one. If you don't get picked, keep in mind that there are more great books than there are mentors, and the competition is REALLY tough. Ultimately, it all comes down to each mentor's personal taste, and the manuscripts we each feel most qualified to mentor. I'm so impressed with the quality of work out there, you guys. You blow my mind.

What are some of the things you guys are excited about this week?





December 5, 2013

Cover Reveal! SALT by Danielle Ellison

So you know how I've told you guys repeatedly that my editor rocks? That she (and the rest of my incredible team at Spencer Hill Press) helped me turn my book into something I never imagined it could be? That without her push, I would've given up too soon?

In case you weren't aware, that editor is Danielle Ellison. She's awesome, and I love her, and I'm so thankful she loves my book like I do.

And TODAY, Danielle and Entangled Teen are revealing the cover for her  book, SALT, releasing in early 2014! Check out the gorgeous cover, exclusive excerpt, and enter to win an eARC!

On to the reveal!



About the Book
SALT
Author: Danielle Ellison
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Penelope is a witch, part of a secret society protecting humans from demon attacks. But when she was a child, a demon killed her parents—and stole her magic. Since then, she’s been pretending to be something she’s not, using her sister’s magic to hide her own loss, to prevent being sent away.

When she’s finally given the chance to join the elite demon-hunting force, Penelope thinks that will finally change. With her sister’s help, she can squeeze through the tests and get access to the information she needs to find "her" demon. To take back what was stolen.

Then she meets Carter. He’s cute, smart, and she can borrow his magic, too. He knows her secret—but he also has one of his own.

Suddenly, Penelope’s impossible quest becomes far more complicated. Because Carter’s not telling her everything, and it’s starting to seem like the demons have their own agenda…and they’re far too interested in her.

Exclusive Excerpt!
 “Jealousy is cute on you, Pen.”

“Don't call me that,” I snap, pushing my coffee away from me. “And I'm not jealous.”

He leans back on the chair. "Sure. And I don’t think you’re adorable." I jerk my eyes up. He’s smiling. Screw this—this is so frustrating. I tap my foot under the table.

"We're stating the facts, right?" he says.

“Right,” I say.

I don’t have time for this. And what is wrong with this coffee? I feel like I swallowed a fire and it’s all just burning at my stomach.

“You look sick again,” he says.

The poorly—or perfectly—timed waitress comes back with Carter's coffee and a whole tray of drinks. Carter, obviously, flirts again. I don’t know if he’s doing it to get a reaction out of me, but I’m not going to give him one. I watch him and say nothing, but the whole time it feels darker inside my head and my stomach whirs. It’s more empty, and more full, and unsettled at once. The waitress turns to leave a when it happens.

The waitress coughs, as if she suddenly can’t breathe, and trips. She flies across the air. The tray spills all over a table of four. I gasp, horrified. Another waitress grabs her by the waist, trying to give her the Heimlich. The waitress coughs out the gum. She’s crying hysterically, apologizing to the customers dripping with water.

The weirdest part? As soon it happens, all the fury that was building up inside of me disappears. It’s calm again, normal. The change is so sudden that my fingernails dig into the table. All I can hear is the waitress’s cry. 

"I don't know what happened," she sobs over and over again. I close my eyes. Everything inside me is completely still. No storm, no clawing, no emptiness or fullness. In fact, I’m suddenly starving.
Carter's looking at me when I open my eyes. There's something unsettling in his gaze, something suspicious.

“I gotta go,” I say. He starts to say something. I don't stay long enough to find out what it is.
Somehow I just did magic.


About Danielle:
Danielle Ellison is from a small town in West Virginia. She spent her childhood pretending to fly and talking to imaginary friends. When she grew up, she finally flew away (in an airplane) and started traveling the world. She hasn’t stopped yet, but someday she may decide to settle in one place. Her real life friends would definitely like that; they would probably also like if she stopped talking to her characters out loud.

SALT comes out in January 2014, and then it's sequel. In October 2014, FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS (book one of the BOUNDLESS Trilogy) comes out. She's got a busy few years! 

Website/Blog/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads


Giveaway Details:

1 eARC of SALT International

a Rafflecopter giveaway

December 1, 2013

Author Photos!



I got really insanely lucky because one of my best friends, Bret (this Bret), married a super sweet, wonderful, funny, charming, and crazy talented photographer, Cilla, of Priscilla Baierlein Photography. Cilla started taking photos professionally nearly a year after Lauren was born, just as a little side job because it's something she loves. When she asked if I'd mind to let her take pictures of Lauren to help build her portfolio, I was like, "Sure!" because obviously who doesn't want a million pictures of their kids? But I wasn't expecting what I got. Her photos were incredible. Until I saw what Cilla could do with a camera, I never really understood photography as an art form. All the professional photos I'd ever had done were in a studio or a carefully staged session (like my wedding).

Basically, Cilla showed up with her camera and just followed us around. She directed a little bit, like telling us to go to the front yard or near a window or wherever the light was best, but for the most part, she just started shooting without saying things like, "Tilt your head," "Look this way," etc. (She does family photos for us every year now, and every time, I'm always like, "I have no idea how she got any pictures at all because we were in constant motion.) But every time, EVERY SINGLE TIME, she manages to capture moments so beautifully that it blows my mind. She is MAGIC.

It didn't take long for other people to take notice of her talent, and she was able to start taking photos full-time. I remember thinking how awesome it was that she found this thing she loved to do and figured out a way to make a career of it all on her own.

When I found out Between would be published, I knew I'd need a nice author photo for the back of the book, and Cilla's the only person I'd trust to take such an important photo.

A couple months ago, she took some pictures of me while she was doing our yearly family photo shoot.  The pictures were great. As always, Cilla takes gorgeous photos. But as I looked over them, they didn't really feel like me. (I was wearing a button-up shirt. Like a grown up. With a collar. And my hair wasn't dyed or anything.) Cilla and I decided that both of us got caught up in the idea of what an Important Official Author Photo was supposed to be, and Cilla was nice enough to be like, "Yeah, these really aren't you. Let's redo them. Wear your favorite t-shirt and we'll go to your parents' farm."

This is her busiest time of year, guys. It was INSANELY nice of her to offer to redo the photo shoot instead of saying just use one of the SEVERAL PERFECTLY FINE PHOTOS I ALREADY TOOK OF YOU.

So we did another round a week ago. And they are ME. I'm so happy with them. Here are a few! (Also, to anyone in Central Kentucky area, in case it's not clear, I cannot recommend her enough.)


That very last one is the one I chose to be The Photo. :) Thanks for putting up with a post filled with my face. Love you guys.