Monday, November 13, 2017

Easy and Delicious: An Author Mom's Guide to Fall Cooking

Busy moms (and dads) of the world unite! Idk about yall, but there is just something about the fall time that makes me want to spend all day in the kitchen. Maybe it's how  the cold, crisp weather is perfectly offset by the warmth of the stove, or maybe it's how good my house smells when I pull a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls out of the oven. Either way, nothing puts me in an autumn mood more than cooking delicious, fall-themed homemade meals for my family. Let's be honest, though. Between writing, working a full time job, and taking care of my daughter, this author mom barely has time to do the dishes on a regular basis, let alone cook a three-course meal every night! Who's with me? I bet there's a lot of us, doing our best to juggle all the things we have to do every day while still looking like super-parents (even if our outward appearances don't always match how we feel on the inside lol). But fear not! For this fall, I have decided to lend a helping hand to my fellow busy parents, whether you're an author like me or not (bc no matter what we do, we all get overwhelmed at times, and the holidays are no exception) by sharing some of my favorite dishes to make this time of year here on the blog. Every single one of these items are super easy to make so you can multi-task while you mix, cook quickly so you can either prepare them ahead of time or whip them together when you get home from work, and have been picky-princess taste tested and approved! I hope you enjoy them, and I would love to know which ones were your family's favorites! And if you have any easy-peasy recipes of your own you'd like to share, post them in the comments! I'm always looking for new things to try, and I'm sure others are as well. Happy fall and happy baking, yall!

Maple Glazed Chicken with Sweet Potatoes (i did mine with regular potatoes)

Pumpkin Alfredo

Rosemary pork chops

Photo credits to Yellow Bliss Road, Better Homes and Gardens, and Bake at Midnight

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Falling Leaves Bring Fantasy Reads: My Fall TBR Pile

If you know me, then you know that fall is my absolute favorite time of the year. The food, the holidays, the family gatherings, the weather, the leaves, the football games, the fashion: in fact, I don’t think there’s anything about fall I don’t like, and my tbr pile this month definitely reflects that. Here’s an inside look at the books I will be devouring faster than a piece of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner to get me in the fall mood.

1. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
If you can’t already tell by glancing at this list, fall is my favorite time of year to read fantasy books. After all, what’s more magical than the seasons changing from sweltering hot to cool and crisp, the leaves turning colors in the trees, and the days growing shorter while the nights grow longer? And this debut book with its autumn prince and seasonal faerie courts is giving me all the fall vibes! Plus, ravens are my absolute favorite bird, and this book is chock full of them. So, really, what’s not to love?

2. A Shadow Bright and Burning and A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess
A Shadow Bright and Burning is one of those fantasy novels that has been on my tbr list since the first second I saw it, but between writing, mommying, work, and my other want-to-reads (it’s an extensive list lol), I haven’t had time to pick it up yet. But with the recent release of the second book in the series, A Poison Dark and Drowning, I decided it was high time I started. With a heroine as bold and fiery as the gorgeous cover art suggests and an intriguing tangle of love interests all wrapped up in a fresh, new magical world plagued by an ancient darkness where sorcerers are set apart from witches and magicians for their unique ability to harness the elements, these books promise a read as perfect as the gravy on top of a Thanksgiving turkey with chestnut stuffing.

Photo credits to aitana_vini, forever and everly, and acouplereads

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Dark, Tragic, and Spine-Tinglingly Terrific: My Most Anticipated Reads for the Halloween Season

I love Halloween. It is far and wide one of my all-time favorite holidays, from the decorations and customs rooted in history to the candy and costumes. And nothing gives me more pleasure than curling up on the couch in a cozy sweater with a mug of pumpkin-flavored coffee and a spooky book. Want to see what's on my tbr pile this howliday season? Keep reading, then leave me a comment and let me know if you're as excited to read any (or all) of these upcoming chillers as I am!

1. Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula by @kerrimaniscalco
Yes, I know. Stalking Jack the Ripper has been out for forever, but with the recent release of Hunting Prince Dracula, I figured it was high time I started this series. A historical retelling centered around such creepy characters as Jack the Ripper and Dracula, with a main character whose intelligence is equal to her bravery while still being feminine, these are two books I can't wait to sink my teeth into! And can I just say how cool are these old black and white illustrations at the beginning of each chapter? Love them!

2. One Dark Throne by @KendareBlake
Any book that has the word dark in the title automatically makes my Halloween reading list, and this sequel to Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is no exception. I can't wait to see which queen comes out on top, though if truth be told, I'm rooting for Katherine lol. Poisoner Queen for life!

3. The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by @alexbracken
One look at the spookerific cover of Alexandra Bracken's latest masterpiece, and I was hooked! Literally lol I bought the book the same day at Target. I couldn't resist! It's so shiny. Plus, the plot is fresh, with characters you'll fall in love with instantly (even the evil malefactor Alastor), and has an aptly chosen Salem setting. So, really, this one was a shoe-in for my tbr this year.

4. Blackbird of the Gallows by @seemegwrite
I have been seeing this book around a lot lately, but I didn't know what it was until I read a post about it on Instagram and immediately added it to my Halloween tbr! With tragedies, a supernatural battle bt good and evil, and a harbinger of death, this book sounds full of chills and thrills. Plus, I've never read any of Meg Kassel's books, so I'm super excited to give this one a try!
Photo credits to wee reader, hafsah faizal, kate, deer tales, and shadowgod.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fathoms Below & Fathoms Above Giveaway Announcement

Calling all book bloggers and bookstagrammers! I had so much fun at the magic myth mischief event that I want to do more! So, I'm giving away 10 FREE ebooks of Fathoms Below AND Fathoms Above in exchange for a guest spot with review! If you're interested, just reply to this post or dm me by Friday October 6th.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fathoms Above Cover Reveal

It's here! It's finally here! Today, the cover for Fathoms Above, the second book in the Star Crossed series, was released, and I couldn't be more in love with it if I tried! The Ferris Wheel (an object that plays a VERY important part in Fathoms Above), the gold, the white lettering on the black: it looks so much better in real life than I could have imagined!

A huge thanks to Debra Presley and everyone from Book Enthusiasts and Buoni Amici Press who had a part in putting this event together, as well as all the book bloggers who so graciously participated in this event and made my cover look absolutely amazing! Click on any of the links below to visit these blogs and view the cover reveal for yourself! There's also an EXTENDED excerpt from Fathoms Above, and a giveaway for 5 free e-book copies of Fathoms Above and 5 signed Fathoms Below-themed bookmarks!'

Monday, March 20, 2017

Last Chance to Enter the Fathoms Above Giveaway

Don't miss out, Star Crossed Lovers! Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for an Advanced Reader Copy of my new upcoming Young Adult Fantasy-Romance Fathoms Above or a Books-a-Million gift card! All you have to do to get your name in the drawing is reply to this post with the god or goddess who you think will make their debut in this second installment in the Star Crossed series. This contest is open to all residents of the US, Great Britain, and Canada who are 13 and older. Good luck!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fathoms Above Research Sneak Peeks Part 2

Happy Star Crossed Saturday, everyone! Good news! I received the first draft of Fathoms Above back from my editor late last night and, minus a break this afternoon where I watched my niece at a pageant and went grocery shopping, I have been hard at work applying her noted revisions ever since. So many grammatical errors lol (I guess you just can't trust MS Word), but her notes always make me smile. I seriously could not ask for a better person in my corner.

Last week, I shared with yall a few sneak peeks at some of the book research that went into writing Fathoms Above. This week, I'm going to share some tidbits from my online research, particularly a little more about the myth retellings you'll get to read in Fathoms Above. If you read my last blog, you already know that two of these are Echo and Narcissus and Medusa. Another is Pygmalion. This story of the sculptor who fell in love with one of his own statues has always been one of my favorite Greek myths because of the poignant tragedy of their relationship. Or non-existent relationship rather, since a one-sided relationship isn't really a relationship at all, no matter how hard the more interested party tries to make it one. In the Star Crossed series, I took this myth a little bit further and made Pygmalion one of Pyramus's descendants. Though lucky enough not to fall in love with a descendant of Thisbe like Lee in Fathoms Below, Pygmalion was still unlucky in love because he fell in love with a woman who could never love him least, not without divine intervention, and in Fathoms Above, as Hermes tells Cather to help take her mind off of their doomed relationship, that's exactly what Pygmalion seeks. Here's a little snippet from this retelling to wet your appetite, along with the link to the original version of this myth.

“Are you cold?”
“A little,” she lied, turning her head enough to meet his gaze over her shoulder. “Would you…could you tell me a story to help me fall asleep? Maybe something from Greek myth that doesn’t have to do with my family’s curse?”
“Of course,” he agreed, like she had known he would, because he would always put her well-being before his own, even when he shouldn’t. Settling back onto the pillow, she listened to his breathing for a minute—in, out, in, out— before he spoke again.
“Not all of Pyramus’s brother Caius’s descendants were as unlucky as Lee and Leander. One of them, Pygmalion, never even met a descendant of Thisbe. Instead, he fell in love with, of all things, a statue.”
“A statue?” Cather asked, unable to keep quiet although she was supposed to be going to sleep.
“Yes.” Hermes nodded, his hair tickling the nape of her neck. “To this day it remains the most untraditional love story of all those that I have witnessed. You see, Pygmalion was a sculptor who lived in Cyprus in the second century. He was the best at his craft, able to give a life-like appearance to every one of his creations. Naturally, his success made him appealing to every woman of marriage age within the town walls. Yet his devotion to his art left him with no time to admire the beauty of any living creature. As the years wore on, and Pygmalion remained alone, with only his sculptures for company, he began to grow bitter. There was an empty hole in his heart that he did not know how to fill, until one night, while attending the annual Festival of Aphrodite, he saw a beautiful young girl dancing by the fire and understood.
“He needed a wife, a companion, someone who would fill his waking hours with laughter and love and give him the family he craved. He had spent so long shunning the women of, though, the city that he knew not how to talk to them. So rather than seek a real bride of flesh and blood, he did instead what he did best. He carved a statue in the image of what he thought the perfect woman should look like. It was an unparalleled work.”
“You saw it?”
“I did.” Cather felt Hermes’s hair brush her cheek as he nodded. “Michelangelo himself could not have done better. The statue’s skin was smooth from hours upon hours of sanding. Its body was slender, supple, clothed in an ivory toga that covered one shoulder and left the other bare. It wore sandals on feet that would never walk. Its wrists held unmoving bangles, and every toe and finger had been hammered out with exquisite detail.
“As real in appearance as the women in the village, the statue stood on her stone pedestal, proud and strong and gentle and divine. Her hair appeared to flow down her back in white ripples that reminded the artist of spilled milk, so he named her Galatea, which means she who is white like milk. Yet it was her eyes that captivated Pygmalion the most, for he had carved them so well that, impossible though it was, when he gazed into them, they seemed to be filled with life, light, and intelligence, and the more he stared at his creation, the more he longed for her to be real, to become a person of living flesh and blood, like him.
“Ignorant then in the ways that love can affect a person, I assumed the sculptor would come to his senses in a few days and sell the statue like all the rest he’d made. As the days went by, however, he only fell more in love with her, and, as love is want to do, it began to make him act a little crazy. He dressed the statue in real garments instead of the ones he had carved for her, adding color to her otherwise pale appearance, and put two sweet smelling flowers behind her ears.
“He purchased all manner of gems and sweets from the market that he thought she would like and placed them at the base of her pedestal. Instead of working from dawn until dusk as he normally did, the artist sat for hours upon end on a stool, engaging in one-sided conversations with his lovely creation.
“A full year went by in this manner, until Pygmalion had become so obsessed with the flawless statue that he no longer ventured from his home. I admit that I laughed at him on more than one occasion, and the people in his village whispered in the streets about how he had gone mad. But when the Festival of the goddess Aphrodite neared again, and the villagers began to work on preparations day and night outside his window, the sculptor got an idea. He would go to the Festival and pray to the goddess of Love to turn his ivory figurine into a real woman, one whom he could love and cherish for the rest of their days. And on the day of the Festival, that is exactly what he did. While everyone in the city was making their own offerings to the goddess of Love, Pygmalion left his home and traveled to the shrine that’d been erected in the city square in her honor. There, he got down on his knees and beseeched the goddess to answer his prayer.

Now, some of you are probably wondering: I have mentioned before that the Star Crossed series is a retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella. However, Cather doesn't exactly have a habit of losing a shoe when it's least convenient. So who is Cinderella then? Well, in Fathoms Above, you get your first glimpse at that answer, and the first look at my version of this classic tale. To write it, I took the original version of Cinderella, titled Rhodopis, by the historian Strabo (you can read it for yourself by clicking on the link under this paragraph), and combined it with some of my favorite versions of Cinderella from around the globe, including the most popular one by Charles Perrault illustrated by the Pinterest collage below. Will the slipper be glass? That I can't tell you. Will there be a prince, a fairy godmother, or a pumpkin carriage? Perhaps, though not in the traditional sense. What I can tell you, though, is that this Cinderella, or Sinderella, as she is so nicknamed in the series by Hermes, is an unconventional heroine who, like Cather, will dare to stand up against the deities of Olympus and do everything in her power to break another of their divine curses.

Want more research tidbits? No problem. As promised in last week's blog, here is a closer look at some of the main characters in the Star Crossed series, starting with the heroine, Cather Stevens.

For those of you have read Fathoms Below (and for those of you who haven't yet), you know that Cather is an average girl-next-door-type from the South who likes chocolate, cheerleading, history, and murder mysteries. She is logical, stubborn, and a little bit sassy, which at first made her a very difficult character to write, as I am driven more by my emotions than anything else. She doesn't have time for things like love and fantasy until her eighteenth birthday, when she discovers that things are not always as they seem and that she is not quite as ordinary as she always believed. This Pinterest collage is one of my favorites that I saved to my Star Crossed Book Research board, and at the time I wasn't even looking for it. Though at times I wanted to strangle her for her decisions (you will see why when you read Fathoms Above), I had a very clear picture in my head of exactly who Cather was and what she looked like from the start of my writing. So when I stumbled upon this collage while researching deities, I was ecstatic, because it encompasses her perfectly! Except for the green eye color, that's wrong lol. Still, it illustrates the rich brown color of her hair, her tanned skin, her Greek and southern heritage, her family's tragic history, even her love of sweets and simple girly things like makeup!

The other main character in the Star Crossed series is Hermes, the Bookkeeper and Messenger of the gods, and, at the end of Fathoms Below, Cather's boyfriend. (I can't tell you whether things will stay that way between them or not when Cather meets the descendant of Pyramus in Fathoms Above. You will just have to read and find out for yourself.) As the youngest and arguably most intelligent son of Zeus, Hermes was entrusted with upholding the star crossed curse that his father placed on all of the female descendants of Thisbe. Obviously, in Fathoms Below, that changed, and in Fathoms Above we get to see Hermes as one deity standing alone against the might of Olympus, risking life, limb, and his heart for the girl he loves. Of all the collages that I saved for Hermes to my Star Crossed Series Book Research board, this one is my favorite. It includes his wings, some maps (which I like to think helped him keep track of Cather's ancestors and document their whereabouts over the years), and the winged staff he carried in Fathoms Below. There's also a cool shot of a misty forest that reminds me of a scene from Fathoms Below when Cather went running and found Hermes lurking in the woods. As for the drachma, well, let's just say that in Fathoms Above you get to learn more about Hermes's powers, his past, and his family, including his father, Zeus.

Ah, Zeus: King of the gods, unfaithful husband of Hera, caster of the star crossed curse, and all around bad guy. Despite his divine good looks and immortal charm, Zeus is really nothing more than a spoiled, entitled little rich boy who wasn't happy with what life had to offer him. So, naturally, he overthrew his parents and the rest of the Titans, used Hera's feelings for him to elevate himself to power, had a couple of powerful kids who he proceeded to train as his own personal army, and set about crushing anyone who dared to stand against him, including his best friend. Needless to say, he isn't wild about the idea of a mortal breaking his curse, which is why he sends Athena to stop Cather before she can find and marry the last living descendant of Pyramus. Why, you may ask, doesn't he just stop her himself? After all, he does have an entire sky full of lightning bolts at his disposal that he could use to strike both her and Hermes down at any given moment. Let's just say that, when it comes to divine curses, things are always more complicated than they at first appear, even for the King of gods. And when it comes to love, well, it's not only the descendants of Thisbe and Pyramus who have suffered at the hand of the star crossed curse. One god or goddess had their life changed by it forever. Want to know who? Follow me on Instagram by clicking on the link below to go to my page, and stay tuned for a special giveaway contest for Fathoms Above that will be starting Monday, March 6. Until then, star crossed lovers. :)