28 October 2013

My Writing Process

I was invited to take part in this awesome blog hop about how writers write by my Swoon Romance sister author, Melissa Petreshock. She sent me four questions about my writing process, and I've tried to be concise with my answers... But you know me, I tend to ramble. It's a part of my charm. ;)

1. What are you working on right now? 
Right now, I’m in the middle of edits for my debut YA contemporary novel, TWELVE STEPS (coming 25 March 2014 from Swoon Romance), and finishing up revisions on my upper middle grade novel, LETTERS FROM HEAVEN.

In TWELVE STEPS, sixteen-year-old Andi knows she could be better than her sister, Laina, if people only gave her a chance. But when Andi's crush asks her to fix him up with her sister, she decides to stop waiting. The only chances she'll get are those she takes for herself. Andi devises a twelve-step program to wrangle the spotlight away from Laina and make it her own.

LETTERS FROM HEAVEN is about thirteen-year-old Missy Tuttle, whose mother dies from a brain tumor. Dad starts dating again (way too soon), her best friends have gone AWOL, and Missy has no one to turn to. But then a letter arrives, signed “Love, Mom.” When the letters keep coming, referencing events Mom couldn’t possibly have predicted, Missy realizes she’s receiving actual letters from heaven.


2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?
I’ve noticed, in a lot of middle grade and young adult novels, the parents are absent or basically invisible. LETTERS FROM HEAVEN centers around Missy’s changing relationships with her family and friends, in the wake of her mother’s death. Although it’s definitely the story of Missy’s journey, her parents are not absent. In fact, her mother is a strong presence throughout the pages of the novel. In TWELVE STEPS, Andi’s story also centers around her family relationships. (Specifically, it’s the story of her relationship with her sister, but Andi’s parents are definitely a part of her life.)

I grew up in a large, close-knit family, and my mom and dad were “the cool parents,” not because they let me get away with whatever I wanted, but because they were fun to spend time with, even though they expected me to follow the rules. Those close family ties are reflected in all of my novels.

3. Why do you write what you do? 
I write stories in a wide range of genres. From YA contemporary romance (my debut novel, TWELVE STEPS comes out in March 2014) to MG contemporary w/ a hint of magic (LETTERS FROM HEAVEN) to my fantasy picture books to the knitting how-to book I’m working on. But everything I write has one common theme: Finding beauty in unexpected places and looking beyond the surface to find hidden potential.

4. How does your writing process work? 
I’ve noticed that my writing process is different for everything I’ve ever written.

My first (still unpublished) novel was written almost as diary entries. Over the course of 3 weeks, I poured that first draft onto the page as if I was my main character… and I ended up with a full first draft with well-defined characters and lots of interesting events, but no real plot to tie the whole story together. I typed up my hand-written pages, printed it all out and literally cut and pasted scenes, moving things around until the plot emerged. (That’s when the real work of revising began!)

LETTERS FROM HEAVEN came in bits and snatches over the course of three years. It’s the most personal, and emotional, story I’ve ever written, and it took a lot out of me. Whenever a scene got too difficult to write, I’d simply skip over it. Instead of writing the full draft at once, I wrote it in layers, adding in the scenes I’d skipped and filling in gaping plot holes with each revision, until the full story had evolved on the page.

For TWELVE STEPS, I had to write an outline. I’m usually a “pantser” when I pick up my story pencils (writing “by the seat of my pants” instead of plotting out the details in advance), but Andi is a planner and a list-maker. In order to get into her head and find her voice, I had to step into the unfamiliar organizational territory of outlining.

And my latest, super-secret work-in-progress is coming in bits and snatches of conversations first. I’ll fill in the details once I get the story down in dialogue form. J

The only consistent element in all of my manuscripts is that my first drafts are always written by hand on plain, spiral-bound notebooks, with special pencils that I started collecting in third grade, specifically for this purpose. (I bought a bunch of pretty pencils from the school store and announced to my entire class that I wasn’t going to sharpen them until I was ready to write my first published novel. And when I finally sharpened them a few years ago, I knew I was ready to get serious about my writing.)

Look for these authors and their answers next week:

22 October 2013

Seven Day Fiance Blog Tour: Top 5 Things Angelle Wants YOU to Know About Cane

Rachel Harris' SEVEN DAY FIANCE is finally here! 


You can get it in your hands (well, on your ereader) right now! You don't want to miss this fantastic Contemporary Romance from Rachel Harris. Book 2 in the Love and Game Series, SEVEN DAY FIANCE can be read as a standalone. Check out all of the information regarding this fantastic novel and Rachel Harris below! Then, see what we have in store for you on this blog tour stop and enter to win an awesome SEVEN DAY FIANCE Swag Basket!


SEVEN DAY FIANCE Synopsis:

Angelle Prejean is in a pickle. Her family is expecting her to come home with a fiancé—a fiancé who doesn’t exist. Well, he exists, but he definitely has no idea Angelle told her mama they were engaged. Tattooed, muscled, and hotter than sin, Cane can reduce Angelle to a hot mess with one look—and leave her heart a mess if she falls for him. But when she ends up winning Cane at a charity bachelor auction, she knows just how to solve her fiancé problem.

Cane Robicheaux is no one’s prince. He doesn’t do relationships and he doesn’t fall in love. When sweet, sultry-voiced Angelle propositions him, he hopes their little game can finally get her out of his head. He doesn’t expect her to break through all his barriers. But even as Angelle burrows deeper into his heart, he knows once their seven days are up, so is their ruse.




I'm so excited to host the amazing Rachel Harris on my blog today to talk about Cane! As you know, I wasn't sure about Cane to begin with, but he totally took me by surprise. I never thought I'd be attracted to a bad boy, but Cane is so much more than meets the eye.

Cane Robicheaux. Y’all, I lost my heart to this man while writing Seven Day Fiancé. I’ve always been a sucker for the bad boy, especially when said bad boy has a hidden heart of gold. Cane has many layers, layers that shocked the country out of Angelle Prejean, and she’s here to give you a few tidbits on why Cane rocked her socks off so completely.

Top Five Things Angelle Wants YOU to Know About Cane

1.       Epitome of Bad Boy. Tattoos. Battered leather jacket. Motorcycle. Tempting dimples. Body like you wouldn’t believe. Seriously, Cane Robicheaux’s name is synonymous with the title bad boy, and the ladies of Magnolia Springs eat it up. The nights he’s behind the bar at Robicheaux’s, the restaurant he owns, they line up just for the chance he’ll flash those dimples their way. Cane exudes sex—sex and danger. And while Angelle has always been the good girl, doing the right thing, dating stable (read dull) men, you know what they say about opposites attract.     

2.       Hints at More. If it were only Cane’s looks that drew her in, Angelle would be fine—but it’s not. Though he tries his best to hide it away, it’s obvious that there’s more to the town playboy than meets the eye. Granted, she’s learned this through sly observations from afar…their one-on-one interaction has mostly consisted of blushes, squeaks, and mad dashes on her end. But by being best friends with his sisters, working for his best friend at the fire station, and giving horseback riding lessons to his precocious godchild, Angelle’s gotten glimpses of the deeper man beneath—and that’s the man that lands her in a pickle.

3.       Fiercely Loyal. Cane Robicheaux may believe commitment is a four-letter word, but he places the women in life on pedestals. Anyone can see that Colby, Sherry, and Emma mean the world to him, and when Cane turns that same charm on Angelle’s four-year-old niece, Angie’s heart goes all kinds of wonky. Oh, to be on the receiving end of such adoration by a sinfully sexy man…that’s the stuff of good girl fairytales, y’all.

4.       He’s a Musician. Need she say more? Though the restaurant comes first, on a rare night you can find Cane on the small stage at Robicheaux’s, entertaining the masses. His nimble fingers on the jazz bass guitar bring chillbumps to anyone within earshot—and then the man sings. What hot-blooded woman isn’t done in by a deep, raspy voice, and a pair of bedroom eyes? Angelle is every bit as susceptible to that potent combination as the rest of the female population.

5.       Responsible = the New Sexy? Isn’t there a rule that says commitment-phobic bad boys should also be deadbeats—deadbeats without layers and loyalty and child-whispering ways? If there is, Cane hasn’t heard it. With their parents’ deceased, Cane is the head of the Robicheaux clan, a role he takes very seriously. Managing the family restaurant, community involvement, and protecting his sisters at any cost…that may not sound sexy, but in reality, responsibility is hella hot. Especially when the man looks like him.


So there you have it, Angelle’s top five things she believes you need to know about our man Cane. These are just a few of the qualities that make him irresistible in her eyes...

What about YOU, fabulous readers? What qualities in a guy turn YOU into a happy puddle of goo??    


Rachel Harris Bio:

Rachel Harris grew up in New Orleans, where she watched soap operas with her grandmother and stayed up late sneak reading her mama’s favorite romance novels. Now a Cajun cowgirl living in Houston, she still stays up way too late reading her favorite romances, only now, she can do so openly. She firmly believes life’s problems can be solved with a hot, powdered-sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations.

When not typing furiously or flipping pages in an enthralling romance, she homeschools her two beautiful girls and watches reality television with her amazing husband. Taste The Heat is her adult romance debut. She’s the author of MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY and A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES. She loves hearing from readers! Find her atwww.RachelHarrisWrites.com.

Buy Links:


Links:


And now for the Giveaway! Go enter to win! 


20 October 2013

Bad Boys vs. Nice Guys: Who Really Finishes Last?

This week, we're celebrating the release of Rachel Harris' latest romance novel, SEVEN DAY FIANCE.

Rachel's Flirt Squad challenge for this week:
The unattainable bad boy is all the rage in fiction—YA, NA, and adult. What do YOU think the appeal is?
As a general rule, I prefer nice guys. A guy who respects his mother and looks out for his little sisters. One who is courteous and kind. A guy who reads good books and can hold his own in an intellectual conversation. I've never really understood the bad boy appeal.

Whenever I read a book or watch a movie where the girl ignores her steady, reliable "nice guy" best friend (who is always secretly in love with her) in favor of the dangerous bad boy (who will most likely break her heart once or twice before she manages to reform him), I want to slap some sense into the silly girl. Doesn't she realize that jumping into a relationship believing: "I can change him" is a recipe for disaster?

So when I read SEVEN DAY FIANCE, I didn't expect to fall head-over-heels for Cane Robicheaux. But Cane isn't your typical bad boy. Yes, he's got quite a reputation as a ladies' man. And he's got the bad boy look, complete with tattoos and a signature smirk, down cold. But he's not afraid to take his goddaughter to see the latest chick flick in the theater, and he's totally sweet to his little sisters.

And the more I got to know him, the more I realized Cane is truly a nice guy in disguise. A sexy kind of guy who you wouldn't mind bringing home to meet your family. And that's when he won my heart.

What about you? Do you prefer the nice guys or the bad boys? Why?

14 October 2013

Big News!! ... or How I Got My Agent!

This summer, I finished final revisions on the most difficult novel I've ever written.

LETTERS FROM HEAVEN is about twelve-year-old Missy Tuttle, whose mother dies from a brain tumor. Dad starts dating too soon, her best friends have gone AWOL, and Missy has no one to turn to. But then, a letter arrives, signed Love, Mom. When the letters keep coming, referencing events Mom couldn't possibly have predicted, Missy realizes she's receiving actual letters from heaven.

This story is so deeply personal that it took me a full three years to finish, as I had to give myself several months between each revision. In fact, last year, I gave up on it completely, certain I'd never find the emotional distance necessary to write the story effectively.

I wasn't sure if I was ready to share that much of myself with the world.

But my amazing critique partners wouldn't let me put it away forever. And so, when I started querying TWELVE STEPS, I pulled LETTERS FROM HEAVEN out of the virtual drawer. 

The goal was to have LETTERS ready to query by the time I reached the end of my query list for TWELVE STEPS. Yikes!
Then, just as I finished revisions for LETTERS FROM HEAVEN,I accepted an offer with Swoon Romance for TWELVE STEPS. And I gave myself permission to wait on querying "just until life gets back to normal."

In other words, I chickened out.

Luckily, Brenda Drake and Ashley Turcotte, wouldn't allow me to quit. 

Not ready to take the leap of faith required to query, I entered Pitch Madness. My top agent choices were participating, and the contest circuit worked with my first novel. It would work for me again.

But I didn't make it to the final round of Pitch Madness, so no agents saw my entry.

After a brief battle with self-doubt (where I forced myself to re-read my own blog post about how even phenomenal entries may not be selected for Pitch Madness), I decided to enter the Twitter pitch party #PitMad.

I knew at least one of the agents on my wish list (we'll call her Agent A) was watching the #PitMad feed. In fact, I chatted with her throughout the day, about various topics, but mostly Pitch Madness and #PitMad. Surely, she'd see my Twitter pitch tucked into my feed as we conversed. I waited all day for her to mention my pitch and request my pages.

Nope.

Of course, an agent not requesting through a Twitter pitch party is NOT the same as a rejection. The feed moves so fast, there's no way to even know if your agent crush saw your pitch.

But sometimes, it still feels like a rejection.

As much as I wanted a contest to make the introductions for me, the "easy route" wasn't so easy this time around.

And after all I'd been through with this manuscript, I couldn't put LETTERS FROM HEAVEN back into the drawer.

My first manuscript died because I was too afraid to query widely. I gave up on it before giving it half a chance. My second manuscript made its rounds on the contest circuit to find a home.

But this time around, I knew I had to take that leap, trusting wings to sprout in time to carry me to the ground. In other words, I had to query.

I was meticulous in my research. Because the story was so personal, I couldn’t bring myself to follow the common advice to "query widely." I knew I had to put myself out there, but not that much.

After weeks of research, I had a very select list of "rock star" agents, who were likely, I thought, to connect with my story. 

I started with just a couple of queries, to test the waters. I decided I'd write my next manuscript while I waited for responses, and by the time I got through my select list, I could be ready to start over again with the next manuscript.

But a week passed, and I had not heard from anyone. (Shocking, right? -- A whole WEEK with no response!)

And I was too nervous to write anything new. So I took a deep breath, sat myself at my dining room table with my laptop, and wrote out ten more queries to ten more rock star agents.

By the next morning, I had two requests. 

The only problem? You're generally supposed to include a synopsis with your full, and I didn't have one.

I spent the rest of the day frantically writing one (with the help of Ashley and Brenda, who dropped everything just to help me whip it into shape!), so I could send the requested pages.

Always have a synopsis ready, kids!

I sent off the pages.



A few hours later, Agent A tweeted: "I like books that make me a bad subway passenger--laughing, crying, throwing my Kindle across the train--well, maybe not the last one." 

But that couldn't possibly be MY manuscript. I'd just sent it to her!

Except... it was.  We'd spoken on Twitter, and she sent me a note to tell me that my book--my very personal, very emotional, very heartfelt book--had struck a chord. "Just so you know, I was crying on the subway. This is powerful. I feel for her. You've done a good job. So, again, whatever happens from here on out, I just wanted you to know that."

This didn't make me nervous at all. Not one bit. Nope. Not me. Cool as a cucumber.

The next afternoon, she asked if we could set up a phone call.

We talked for nearly two hours, about my manuscript and her ideas for it, about family and hobbies and everything else. And I wasn't even nervous! (This is huge, by the way! I have a severe phone phobia. I even have mild panic attacks when talking to my own mother, my husband, or my very best friends on the phone!)

When she offered representation, it took every ounce of my self-control not to jump up and down and scream YES!!!

But I had other agents with my work. And I'd queried each of them for very strong, specific reasons. I couldn't just write them off. So I emailed the other agents to let them know I had an offer. And within minutes, I had another full request.

Thus began the longest week of my life.

I always thought it would be awesome and amazing to be that writer with dozens of offers at once, but I quickly realized that the reality didn't fit the fantasy. How could I possibly turn down any of these rock star agents?

In the meantime, a few agents told me, "This manuscript is wonderful, with a lot to love, but it's not right for me," or otherwise passed. Yet, the rejection didn't sting.

Deep in my heart, I knew I'd already made my choice.
And now, I'm happy to announce that I've accepted an offer of representation from the fabulous Agent A -- Jessica Sinsheimer (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, LLC)!!!

Happy Book Birthday: SEVEN DAY FIANCE by Rachel Harris

Rachel Harris' SEVEN DAY FIANCE is finally here! 


You can get it in your hands (well, on your ereader) right now! You don't want to miss this fantastic Contemporary Romance from Rachel Harris. Book 2 in the Love and Game Series, SEVEN DAY FIANCE can be read as a standalone. Check out all of the information regarding this fantastic novel and Rachel Harris below! Then, celebrate Rachel's Book Birthday by entering the giveaway for an ecopy of Book 1, TASTE THE HEAT!


Isn't that cover pretty?? Read on and find out everything you need to know below! 


SEVEN DAY FIANCE Synopsis:

Angelle Prejean is in a pickle. Her family is expecting her to come home with a fiancé—a fiancé who doesn’t exist. Well, he exists, but he definitely has no idea Angelle told her mama they were engaged. Tattooed, muscled, and hotter than sin, Cane can reduce Angelle to a hot mess with one look—and leave her heart a mess if she falls for him. But when she ends up winning Cane at a charity bachelor auction, she knows just how to solve her fiancé problem.

Cane Robicheaux is no one’s prince. He doesn’t do relationships and he doesn’t fall in love. When sweet, sultry-voiced Angelle propositions him, he hopes their little game can finally get her out of his head. He doesn’t expect her to break through all his barriers. But even as Angelle burrows deeper into his heart, he knows once their seven days are up, so is their ruse.



My Thoughts:

As you know, I was pleasantly surprised by Taste the Heat the first book in this series. And so I begged for an early review copy of Seven Day Fiancéthe second book in the series. I have to admit, I was really hoping book two would be about Sherry, Cane and Colby's adorable younger sister (who was my favorite character in the first book). When I found out this would be Cane and Angelle's story, I was a bit hesitant. I liked Cane well enough in Taste the Heat, I guess, but it was only a "let's be friends" kind of attraction. And I didn't really like Angelle at all (I got totally jealous and overprotective of my "friend" Colby, when it looked like Angelle might have her sights set on Jason). A whole book about my two least favorite characters? Hmmm... But I loved Colby and Jason and Sherry. And the Robicheaux family is close-knit. I knew there couldn't be a book about Cane without a strong dose of his sisters. And that was enough for me to want to read the next chapter in their story.

WOW!!

I am so glad I gave these two a second chance! 

I fell in love with Angelle on page one. I realized that I hadn't really given her a fair chance in the first book. (I didn't know her well enough to judge.) Angelle is sweet, shy and unsure of herself - enough to invent a fake romance, just to prove to her family that she made the right choice when she broke up with her high school sweetheart. She's adorably awkward, and I wanted to jump right through the pages and give her a giant hug, to let her know that she had a friend.

But the best part of this book? The tattooed bad-boy who I'd already decided totally wasn't my type. Yep. First impressions can be deceiving. Cane is absolutely amazing! (Who needs a sexy fireman, when you can have a delicious restaurant owner?) He's smart, sexy and sensitive underneath his rough exterior. *swoon*

I started reading Seven Day Fiancé before bed, thinking I'd sample the first chapter, just to get a sense of what I could expect. The next thing I knew, it was 2am, and I had to force myself to turn off my Kindle to get some sleep before my alarm started buzzing at 4:30. - And yes, when that alarm rang, my first thought was "I have to see how this ends!" 


Butterflies and tingles from page one, clear 'til the end. (I can't wait for book three!!!)

Rachel Harris Bio:

Rachel Harris grew up in New Orleans, where she watched soap operas with her grandmother and stayed up late sneak reading her mama’s favorite romance novels. Now a Cajun cowgirl living in Houston, she still stays up way too late reading her favorite romances, only now, she can do so openly. She firmly believes life’s problems can be solved with a hot, powdered-sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations.

When not typing furiously or flipping pages in an enthralling romance, she homeschools her two beautiful girls and watches reality television with her amazing husband. Taste The Heat is her adult romance debut. She’s the author of MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY and A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES. She loves hearing from readers! Find her atwww.RachelHarrisWrites.com.

Buy Links:


Links:


And now for the Giveaway! Go enter to win! 



09 October 2013

It's Not You, It's Me: On Reading and Subjectivity

When you're a writer, the one thing you hear more often than any other is: "This is a subjective business." And I'll admit, sometimes it gets really hard to hear. When the rejections are pouring in, one after another, and you think you'll never find anyone to love the manuscript you've worked so hard to write, it's easier to think "There must be something wrong with me" than "I simply haven't found the right agent/editor for this manuscript." 

That fear and negativity is what caused me to give up far too soon on my first manuscript. After more than two years of fearful, timid querying, I let the rejections bring me down. I had a pile of no's, many of which were very encouraging (the rest were form rejections). But I convinced myself that all of the agents and editors who took the time to write encouraging, personalized rejections were just being nice. Because obviously, if there was so much to like in my manuscript, it would have been snatched up on the first round of queries, right? (Just so you know, agents and editors don't take the time to write encouraging letters of rejection to praise your writing if they don't mean it. Not because they don't want to be nice, but because they simply don't have time to do so with hundreds of queries filling their inboxes every day.)

Of course, we all know that giving up on my first manuscript led to the writing of my soon-to-be-published debut novel, TWELVE STEPS (coming 25 March 2014), so there's a happy ending to my story. But I recently finished reading a book that got me thinking about the subjective nature of reading all over again.

There's a book (no, I won't name titles, so don't ask) that all of my friends and acquaintances are reading and gushing over right now, all over the Internet. And the concept sounded intriguing to me, so even though I personally didn't care for the first title by this author, I picked up this new book and started reading. And it was okay. The idea behind the book was truly fascinating, and I liked most of the characters. There were even a few lines that made me smile all day long after reading them. There was enough to like about this book that, usually, I'd be recommending it to everyone, even though I wasn't 100% in love with it. (There were a couple of characters I didn't care for at all and some plot points that felt a little thin to me, but not enough to draw an "I hate this book!" out of me.) I enjoyed the book. Really. It was well-written and thought-provoking.

But I won't be recommending it to anyone, no matter how well-written it was. And the reason for my reluctance to recommend is entirely subjective and totally personal. Basically, it boils down to the language. This book was so full of profanity that I was seriously uncomfortable reading it. 

Now, before you jump into the comments to yell at me for having a holier-than-thou attitude or something, please let me explain. Yes, I know that profanity is perfectly realistic. I am fully aware that kids hear a lot worse in the hallways at school every single day. And I know that many writers and readers believe that the only way to show the reality is to dive right into it, headfirst. If that's what you feel you have to do, I'm not going to tell you that you can't.

But when I read a book where the f-bomb lands several times in only a few pages, I'm saddened by the fact that this is a book I can't recommend to my kids. Not because I'm trying to censor what they're exposed to (believe me, I've spent enough time at the schools to know they're exposed to as much or worse every day), but because they judge me by the books I recommend. A few months ago, my teenage daughter picked up a book I had been reading, and after a few chapters she put it away again with a sad shake of her head. "I don't know how you can read things like this, Mom. I have to hear it all day long at school. When I read, I like to take a break from language like that." And two days ago, my youngest daughter came to me in tears because she'd just listened to the non-Radio-Disney version of her favorite song for the first time. "Mom, I thought Disney singers weren't supposed to swear." 

And my kids aren't the only young folks who like to take a break from the profanity of the world from time to time, by the way. I've had several of their friends complain to me about it too. Yes, they might be the minority, but these are the people who look to me most often for book recommendations. I can't disregard their trust by recommending books I know will make them uncomfortable.

Which is exactly my point. Reading is totally subjective. One agent may love your story and your characters, but the best friend or the love interest is too much like the boy who crushed her heart in high school, and your story brings up painful memories. Another may adore every single one of your characters and be totally in love with the voice of your story, but when he went backpacking through Europe for a semester in college, the international spies he encountered were nothing like those you've depicted, so the story doesn't feel entirely authentic to him. And that editor you met at a conference may have just signed a deal for a book that's so similar to yours it would cause unnecessary competition between titles on their list. You never know what personal circumstances might make your book one that an agent/editor would enjoy enough to read but not enough to gush over for months and years to come.

When the rejections pile high and you're tempted to get discouraged, it never hurts to take a second look at your manuscript. Maybe there's something you can do to make a character more likable or a situation more believable. Maybe there's still room for improvement. But maybe not. If you are happy with the story as-is, and your critique partners (yes, there should be more than one - and your family members and best friend don't count) all think your story is the best thing since sliced bread, then it's likely you simply haven't found the right agent or editor. Don't give up! You may be closer than you think.

04 October 2013

Portabella Mini Pizza Recipe

Everyone loves pizza, right? A few months ago, I shared my recipe for pizza in the Crock Pot, which is absolutely delicious (and easier than you might think). We also love to have make-your-own mini pizzas for dinner when we're enjoying family movie night. When you make them yourself, pizzas are much more economical and healthier than delivery (and they usually taste better too)! And I'll share more of my favorite mini pizza recipes soon, I promise. But the last time I made mini pizzas, I started thinking about all of my friends on gluten-free diets. They deserve delicious movie-night treats too, right?

Presenting Portabella Mini Pizza!

For one pizza, you will need:

1 large portabella mushroom
1-2 Tbsp. cornmeal
1-2 Tbsp. pizza sauce (leftover spaghetti sauce works great!)
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella
Toppings of your choice (I used 1/4 red bell pepper, the mushroom stem, chopped, and 2 artichoke hearts)
Italian seasoning

Remove stem from mushroom and set aside. Wash mushroom cap and stem, and dry thoroughly. (It's best if you let it drain on some paper towels for an hour or two - these mushrooms can hold a lot of water, and no one likes a soggy pizza.) 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle 1/2 of the cornmeal on a baking sheet, and place mushroom (stem side up) on cornmeal. Sprinkle remaining cornmeal on top of mushroom cap. (This will help absorb the natural moisture of the mushroom.)

Spread pizza sauce on the mushroom "crust."

Sprinkle with 1/2 the shredded mozzarella.

Add toppings as desired, and top with remaining cheese and a dash of Italian seasoning.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice and serve.
*Note: For a Vegan version of this recipe, use a cheese substitute instead of mozzarella.

01 October 2013

Book Review: MY BASMATI BAT MITZVAH by Paula J. Freedman

It's always bothered me when people are defined by one characteristic, whether that might be skin color, religion, gender, ethnicity, or any other minor (or major) detail that is certainly a part of who that person is, but could never fully encompass all that they are. So when I saw MY BASMATI BAT MITZVAH on NetGalley, I was thrilled to see a character who is both Indian and Jewish, and who fully understands that she is more than just the sum of those parts. I immediately requested a copy for review, and Yay!! My request was approved.

The official blurb:
During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for "star") Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o--who might also be her boyfriend--and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

Tara is such a fully-formed, realistic character. More than just a stereotypical "kid struggling with her faith" or "girl who feels like she's on the outside because of her ethnicity." Her religion, her heritage... these are only a part of who she is. Tara is also creative and funny, and she kicks butt in the school robotics competition every year. And as she works to discover who she is and what she wants, her relationships with her family, her classmates, and her two best friends develop in ways she never expected.

** I identified with Tara on a personal level as well. I still vividly remember when I was a child, preparing for my baptism, and I realized that I didn't know if I believed the things that my parents did. Like Tara, I didn't want to make a commitment that I wasn't absolutely certain I was ready for. (The experiences I had in finding my own faith - a faith that didn't rely on my parents' beliefs, but that was fully my own - shaped me into the person I am now.)