21 December 2013

3.1415926 - or The Ultimate Pi(e) Recipe

I love pie. Cream pie, fruit pie, custard pie... Any kind of pie. And every year, for Thanksgiving, I make a TON of pies. A few years ago, I started inventing new pie recipes each year to add to our pie menu. (The Chocolate Walnut and Apple Cranberry varieties have become staples in our pie diet.)

This year, I decided to try something a little different. Something rich and creamy, and totally decadent. So I present to you: 3.1415926 or The Ultimate Pi(e)

19 December 2013

Book Blitz & Excerpt: CAMP CHRISTMAS by J.K. Rock

Camp Christmas banner
This is my stop during the book blitz for Camp Christmas (Camp Boyfriend #1.5) by JK Rock, Camp Christmas is a novella which is part of the Camp Boyfriend series and is free to download on the publisher website . While it is part of the Camp Boyfriend series it can also be read as a stand alone.

13 December 2013

Crock Pot Gourmet: Pumpkin Custard


I always make too much filling when I bake pumpkin pies, and I usually pour the excess into a dish to bake alongside the pie for a delicious, Baked Pumpkin Custard. This year, I decided to omit the pie crust altogether and try baking the custard in my Crock Pot instead. It was delicious and super simple, and this recipe will definitely be returning as a staple in our home. (It's nutritious enough - packed with all the lovely vitamins from the pumpkin - that I've even made it for a special breakfast treat!)

You will need: 
2 eggs
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (or 2 c. pumpkin puree)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
dash cayenne pepper (optional, but totally delicious!)
1 c. dry milk
1 c. water

Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and spices. Add sugar and dry milk powder. Beat until thoroughly combined. Slowly whisk in water. Pour into greased 2 1/2 quart crock pot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean.

(For a larger crowd, you can easily double the recipe.)


09 December 2013

Book Review: LITTLE CHICKEN'S BIG CHRISTMAS by Katie Davis

As we enter the Christmas season, and advertisers everywhere try to convince us that 'tis better to receive than to give, I present to you a picture book for toddlers that emphasizes the true, giving meaning of the season.



LITTLE CHICKEN'S BIG CHRISTMAS by Katie Davis (illustrated by Jerry Davis) is a cute picture book perfect for reading with your little one while curled up on the couch together by the Christmas tree. A sequel to LITTLE CHICKEN'S BIG DAY, this book tells the story of Little Chicken's anxious wait for Christmas morning. He's excited about one present in particular. Not a present from Santa under the tree, but a present he made for his mama. I love the message that the best part of the holiday isn't in what you get, but in what you give to others.

http://www.amazon.com/Little-Chickens-Christmas-Katie-Davis-ebook/dp/B00GPPSTRK/ref=cm_cr-mr-title
I received a review copy of this book from Katie Davis, and when I read it through quickly, I thought it was cute, but I have to admit I wasn't rave-to-all-my-friends impressed.
But then I sat down with my children and read the story to them. The sparse words allowed them to fill in their own observations on the story, and they noticed things in the illustrations (an expression on Little Chicken's face, or his untied shoelaces, for example) that I had totally glossed over. The read-aloud experience pushed this book from a four-star to a definite five-star rating in my mind. This is a perfect book for reading over and over again with your children. (Even my teenage son got into the fun!) The story may evolve and change as your child's ideas and interests mature, making it ideal for a wide range of readers.



And through December 12, every purchase of Little Chicken's Big Christmas  will come with a FREE download of a Write Your Own Story Coloring Book! It's the entire book as coloring book - a great gift in and of itself or to go with Little Chicken's Big Christmas. Just email your receipt to support@katiedavis.com and you'll be sent the link to download!
 

24 November 2013

Overcoming Fear and Learning to Speak Up



At the Last Supper, Jesus taught his disciples, to prepare them for his imminent sacrifice. And he told Peter “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).
Peter was offended. He insisted that his faith was strong enough that he’d happily follow Christ anywhere, even to the grave. Yet, not many hours later, when faced with accusations from the murderous mob, Peter denied any association with Jesus Christ. His faith wasn’t as strong as he thought it was, but this experience gave him the push he needed to allow his faith to grow, until he was ready to live as an example of Christ.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I’ve been taught over and over again to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with friends and family members who haven’t yet heard the good news, or those who may have wandered away from the truth. In fact, David O. McKay, the 9th president of the church, declared “Every member a missionary!” Nearly every week at church, I’ve heard my teachers, leaders and friends talk about the importance of missionary work. And over the course of a lifetime, that’s a lot of weeks!
To be honest, for many years I was more than a little bit uncomfortable with this charge.
Did I believe wholeheartedly that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would bring peace and joy to the hearts of all who embrace His teachings? 
Yes, without a doubt.
Did I want my friends and family members to be happy? 
Of course I did.
So I should be out in the world, preaching the Gospel to everyone who would listen, calling friends and family members to repentance, right? 
Well… :-/
When Jesus Christ was on the earth, He taught His followers that unconditional love was always the answer. He invited all to come follow him, but He didn’t pressure anyone or condemn those that didn’t immediately jump at His invitation. As a follower of Christ, I wanted to emulate his example of unconditional love for everyone, and I took the charge, found in Matthew 7:1 to “Judge not, that ye be not judged” very seriously.
Here is where my problem with the “every member a missionary” charge arose. If I pointed out the truths my friends and family were missing in their lives, wouldn’t that mean I was judging them? How could I reconcile the need to share the Gospel with the charge to love unconditionally, without judging?
I told myself that I didn’t have to “be a missionary,” because loving others was the most important thing, and if my friends were ready to hear the Gospel, they’d remember my example and seek Him without any prodding from me.
But then, several years ago, I attended a scrapbooking party with a friend. As I talked and laughed with the other ladies at the party, one of the ladies I didn’t yet know asked a question about what Mormons believe.
I honestly don’t remember what her question was, but I remember the uncomfortable silence that filled the room, as all of the Mormons in the group waited for someone else, maybe someone who knew her better, or someone who had served a mission and was more qualified, to answer her question. We’d been having so much fun, and no one wanted to turn the focus to our potential differences. We didn’t want to risk alienating this woman, if she didn’t understand our perspective or didn’t agree with the doctrine.
Finally, I found the courage to speak up and answer her question. That led to more questions, and we talked until well-past two in the morning. That first conversation led to many others. And soon, Tracy was one of my closest friends.
A few years later, when both of us had moved from the military base where we initially met, Tracy and I met up again at a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The location of the conference naturally led to more “What do Mormons believe?” conversations, and when Tracy introduced me to her group of friends, she informed them, “Veronica isn’t afraid to answer your questions, so feel free to ask her anything you need to know about Mormons.”
And she was right. I wasn’t afraid anymore. Because the more I learned about the love Jesus has for me, the more I wanted everyone around me to feel that same love and peace.
Like Peter, I had to be truly converted before I understood how to strengthen those around me.
The thought of “being a missionary” still terrifies me. Yet, when a conversation with a friend reveals that they’re struggling with an issue for which I’ve found an answer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s easy for me to assure them that the answer is there for them as well. When the Lord advised Peter to strengthen those around him “when thou art converted,” He wasn’t questioning Peter’s loyalty or faith. He was reminding Peter that it’s easy to share the love of Christ with others, when we feel that love within ourselves.
I’m still painfully shy in large groups, and I’m not likely to be the one to go knocking on doors, offering to share God’s message with total strangers, but I’m no longer afraid to share my faith with others. (Seriously. If you have questions about Mormons, please ask me. I’d love to answer your questions for you!) And when a Gospel principle that I’ve been struggling with clicks in my mind and I finally understand, I’m excited to tell my friends about the new and exciting truth I’ve discovered. Because I love them and want them to feel the joy and peace I feel.
That is what “being a missionary” is all about.

20 November 2013

Pitch Wars: Mentor Bio, Wishlist and List of Participating Agents

I'm so excited to be a mentor for Pitch Wars this year!

So why do you want me to be your Pitch Wars Mentor?

I write in all age categories of children’s literature, from Picture Books to Young Adult. My debut novel, TWELVE STEPS (a YA contemporary romance) is releasing via Swoon Romance on 25 March 2014, and my Middle Grade contemporary novel, LETTERS FROM HEAVEN, recently caught the attention of Super-Agent, Jessica Sinsheimer. (I signed with her in October of this year.)

As a co-administrator of Sub It Club, I’ve helped dozens of writers with polishing their queries and manuscripts, and many of them have gone on to find success in the query trenches and in online pitch contests like this one. In fact, one of my critique partners had an extremely popular pitch in last September’s Pitch Madness contest, spurring a bidding war between agents.

As I’ve been most recently focused on Middle Grade, completing revisions on LETTERS FROM HEAVEN, I’m accepting applications for MG manuscripts in Pitch Wars. As you may have guessed, Contemporary novels, like Jenny Lundquist’s SEEING CINDERELLA, Danette Haworth’s A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY, and Kathryn Erskine’s MOCKINGBIRD are my absolute favorite, but I’m open to most MG genres. I enjoy historical novels that pull me into a less-well-known era or setting in history and bring the past to life. Something like Caroline Starr Rose’s MAY B. And I like stories with an element of mystery or suspense that will keep me on the edge of my seat, my heart thumping as I watch to see whether the main character will make it through. Something like Margaret Peterson Haddix’s RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

I’m an incurable optimist, so I prefer stories with an upbeat outlook. If you write super-dark, serious books, I’m probably not the mentor for you. To be clear, I don’t shy away from serious issues. In fact, my MG novel, LETTERS FROM HEAVEN, follows the story of a twelve-year-old girl dealing with the aftermath of her mother’s death. But I love to laugh. And if you can make me laugh and cry in the same manuscript, you’re golden.


No matter what the genre or plot, I’m looking for strong characters, a great story, and a unique voice. If your Middle Grade manuscript fits the bill, you definitely want me as your mentor. :)

Submission guidelines can be found on Brenda Drake's blog, here.

Update: I've picked my fabulous team for Pitch Wars!! It was SO difficult to narrow down the fabulous choices to only one mentee plus two alternates, but I'm proud to announce Team Magic:
* Mentee: Super Jake, Not-So-Super-Freddy, and Me, The King of Chaos by Naomi Milliner
* 1st Alternate: Riding on Shoulders by Khyl Shumway
* 2nd Alternate: Miracle Meggie by Toni De Palma
(Watch for a blog post soon, where I'll introduce my team properly and tell you what caught my attention about their entries.)


The amazing agents participating in this year's Pitch Wars are:
Louise Fury – Bent Agency
Louise Fury represents young adult, middle grade, new adult, commercial fiction including romance, and select nonfiction. She’s looking for writers with a unique voice and an unforgettable story. She’s particularly drawn to stories with a strong protagonist. In young adult, she looks for manuscripts that are written with an unforgettable voice—this can be deep, dark and gritty or literary, lyrical and emotional. She’d love to find a young adult novel that has a bone-deep sense of danger that haunts her from page 1 and doesn’t let go of her for days. She wants delicious adult romances with creative plots, sexy liaisons and unique characters who sweep her up in their love story. She wants to feel something unforgettable when she read your pages; manuscripts that she can’t stop thinking about.


Suzie Townsend – New Leaf Literary 
“My favorite books are ones that keep me up all night with characters that I can’t stop thinking about long after I’ve finished.” Suzie Townsend represents adult and children’s fiction. In adult, she’s specifically looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens’ she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie  SUPER 8). She’s an active member of AAR, RWA, and SCBWI.



Nicole Resciniti - The Seymour Agency 
Nicole  loves discovering new talent and helping established authors to take their career to the next level. Do you have a smart, tight read she won’t be able to put down? A signature voice she’ll fight to represent? HEA’s are a must for romance. Mainstream suspense, thrillers, mysteries, YA and inspirational novels are welcome. A consummate science geek and card-carrying Mensa member, Nicole would love to find the next great science fiction/fantasy novel or action/adventure masterpiece.


John M. Cusick – The Greenhouse Agency  
What John is seeking: Fiction by North American authors, from Picturebooks and Middle Grade through Young Adult.  Particularly keen to see MG (and maybe YA) for boys. Fast-paced/thrilling/heart-breaking stories. Contemporary realism, historicals, speculative fiction, sci-fi and fresh fantasy, villains with vulnerabillity, bad decisions with best intentions, boldly imagined worlds, striking imagery, characters with histories, stories about siblings and about middle America.


Sarah LaPolla – Bradford Literary Agency
Sarah represents YA and adult fiction. On the adult side, she is looking for literary fiction, science fiction, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, and upmarket commercial and/or women’s fiction. For YA, she is interested in contemporary/realistic fiction that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of adolescence. YA sci-fi, horror, mystery, and magical realism are also welcome; and she would love to find a modern Judy Blume for the MG market. No matter what genre, Sarah is drawn to layered/strong characters, engaging narrators, and a story that’s impossible to put down. Sarah is not looking for: picture books/children’s, inspirational/spiritual novels, romance, or erotica.


Victoria Marini - Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency 
Victoria is looking for literary fiction, commercial fiction, pop-culture  non-fiction, and young adult. She is very interested in acquiring engaging Literary fiction and mysteries / suspense, commercial women’s fiction (romantic suspense, sci-fi, fantasy), and Young Adult (contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller and horror ). Above all, she is looking for anything with an engaging voice, compelling narrative and authentic characters.


Jessica Sinsheimer - Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
Always on the lookout for new writers, Jessica is  most excited about finding literary, women’s, and young adult fiction, and — on the nonfiction side — psychology, parenting, self-help, cookbooks, memoirs, and works that speak to life in the twenty-first century. Visit her company’s website for more details.

SECRET WORD: story

Pam van Hylckama Vlieg - Foreword Literary
Pam is looking for high concept young adult. Middle grade in these genres: fantasy, contemporary, literary. Romance in these categories: historical and contemporary. Genre fiction: urban fantasy, paranormal, and epic/high fantasy.

Quinlan Lee - Adams Literary
Quinlan Lee brings to Adams Literary her experience as a published author of numerous books for young readers and more than 15 years of business and project management expertise. She has been a part of the  Adams Literary team since 2008, representing clients in all genres from picture books to YA. 

Jen Udden – Donald Maass Agency
Jennifer Udden joined the DMLA in 2010. She represents speculative fiction, urban fantasy, and mysteries, as well as historical, contemporary, and paranormal romance. 

Emily Keyes – Foreword Literary
Emily is a particular lover of all types of young adult and middle grade books. She wants to represent the kind of stories that will resonate with kids for the rest of their lives. She loves strong voices and unique characters, not knock-offs or trend chasers. She thinks books are best when they make you laugh and cry. Emily is also looking for a select list of commercial fiction which includes fantasy & science fiction, women’s fiction, new adult fiction, along with pop culture and humor titles. She is not looking for poetry, short stories, picture books or anything that is not amazing.

Brianne Johnson – Writers House
She loves middle grade—bring on the whimsical, the imaginative, the dark/crass/wacky/hilarious. She’d love to find a historical MG that is also fun and exciting. She’d just love to find a beautiful, fun, thoughtful story that makes that first real step into adulthood seem brand-new, all over again. She’s also looking for exciting, high-concept YA novels (the creepier, the better!) as well as more beautiful, literary works that explore the coming-of-age theme. She tends to gravitate toward stories featuring offbeat, alternate-lifestyle protagonists who trailblaze their own weird and wonderful paths through life. Her adult list is narrower than her children’s list. What she’s really on the hunt for are juicy, well-researched historical novels. Her ultimate adult project wish list would include a romantic historical with some unique fantasy elements, a literary, Beat-like coming-of-age, a thrilling survival tale with well-researched, back-to-the-land details, and a dark, witchy, semi-realistic novel (think a modern-day Practical Magic or Garden Spells). She’s pretty excited about the New Adult category. She loves stories set in the counter-culture, quirky love stories with a stand-out hook, and subtle twists of fantasy or magical realism. The one link she has throughout the many genres she’s interested in is humor.


Carly Watters – P.S. Literary
Carly is actively looking for Literary and Commercial Fiction, World Literature, Women’s Fiction, Literary Thrillers, New Adult, high-concept Young Adult, high-concept Picture Books, and up-market nonfiction in Health, Wellness, Memoir, Humour, Pop Science and Pop Psychology. 

Molly Jaffa – Folio Literary Management
She focuses exclusively on middle grade and young adult fiction. She’s looking for books that challenge the reader intellectually and emotionally, from the high-concept and fantastical to the frank, fresh, and contemporary. She loves fiction set in another country, time, or place (real or imagined!) that opens up a rich new world for the reader to discover. "Stories featuring characters with strong passions, talents, or smarts – or characters in search of theirs – resonate with me." She’d also like to see: Contemporary YA that’s not afraid to explore complex social issues, historical fantasy, smart middle grade adventures, heartbreaking middle grade with beautiful writing, and good, old-fashioned YA romance.

Evan Gregory - Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
Evan Gregory manages subsidiary rights for the agency in addition to his duties as an agent and general office manager. 
He is accepting clients, for more information see his listing at the Association of Authors Representatives.

Stefanie Lieberman - Janklow and Nesbit Associates
Stefanie is actively seeking to represent writers offering fresh approaches to romance and young adult commercial fiction. She is particularly energized by manuscripts featuring strong female characters.

Rena Rossner - The Deborah Harris Agency
She’s actively seeking picture books, middle grade and young adult books, science fiction and fantasy for all ages (kids and adult) – in adult books her tastes skew more towards the literary, but she’s open to falling in love with something in any genre. She has a particular interest in Jewish-themed,  Israeli or biblically-related books.


Lana Popovic - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
At ZSH, Lana works closely with authors on a wide range of both fiction and nonfiction projects, and is committed to providing extensive editorial guidance. She is particularly interested in edgy YA, from gritty coming-of-age novels to contemporary fantasy and supernatural romance. She is also keen to represent thoughtful chick lit, literary thrillers, and well-crafted projects in the fantasy and mystery genres.


Natasha Alexis - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
Alexis is currently seeking works of literary and commercial fiction and nonfiction. As a fan of popular culture and cosmopolitan trends, Alexis is keen to represent YA and adult fiction with an edge and fresh point of view, especially works featuring women and people of color.

And the Fabulous Pitch Wars Mentors are:
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