Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Expanding Your Reading

    For a long, long time, I read children's books, then middle grade books, and then YA books in segments. I have blocks of my life where I only read that specific genre. In high school (until senior year), I thought it was ridiculous for me to read a middle grade book while I was 16. I was obviously much too mature to read something for a ten year old, and I didn't think I was mature enough to read to Adult books (apart from the classics that were assigned to me in school).
    Over the past three years, my view on this has changed. My senior year of high school when I interned for Audrey Press/ Jump Into a Book, my job was to read children's books and Middle grade fiction. I had to read these books with a critical eye, looking at the different aspects of the books and coming up with crafts. And I love them. Children's books are absolutely beautiful. I don't know when the last time was that you read a picture book, but man! Some of those pictures are just fabulous, and the stories are heart warming.
     Some of my favorite books are Middle Grade books: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, and the list goes on. Yes, the language is younger, but the themes and issues discussed in Middle grade fiction are universal, something we've all been through or can relate to. And the language can also be very beautiful.
      I've heard recently, since publishing a YA book, that adults think they shouldn't read YA books, that the topics are young, the writing's young, the ideas are below their mental level. But this isn't true: there are some absolutely amazing writers in YA world right now. Adults were once young adults; they can relate to the issues being discussed and maybe can find a character and say "man, I wish I'd been like this as a kid." Even though we mature, every aspect of our lives carry with us to define who we are. We just don't let go of our adolescent mindset. It's still there, just not at the forefront.
       In the past year, I've ventured into the adult genre. My first novel was Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, which I listened to driving back and forth between Maryville and Chattanooga. And it was fabulous. The narrative style is so interesting, and the characters are incredibly compelling. This summer, I experienced Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel. I don't normally go for the post-apocolyptic novels, but Station 11 was spectacular. There are so many strings that all connect at the end, and it's just mind-blowing. When I got the end, I just sat there thinking "Woah!"
     So I guess the point of this book ramble is to not lock yourself into a reading box. It's very easy for me to just stay in my little YA world, especially because there are so many amazing YA books coming out right now to try and fail to keep up with. But try and make an effort to expand your reading circle. If you need any recommendations, I'm HAPPY to give some out. Just let me know.

And if you want to start in YA, Ascension is a great jumping in book :D

Happy Reading,
     HER

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ascension Book Launch!

Woah, baby!! I just launched my first book, after eight years of hard, fun work! I still can't believe this--my book is out there in the world for everyone to read. CRAZY!! But this party wasn't your average book launch. I kind of considered this party a combination of my birthday (book birthday) and my wedding because if you think about it, this was my wedding to the publishing world! If you weren't able to be there, I'll paint you the wonderful picture! 
Part of the Aletha Press Team
     Ascension's book launch was hosted by Vienna Coffeehouse in Maryville, TN. Ascension and all it's many drafts were basically written there. All of our publishing meetings took place there. Vienna is Ascension's second home as much as it is mine. They were so gracious to host us, providing us "Blood punch" aka Italian soda and Hibiscus tea. They made sure everything ran smoothly, helped our jazz band settle in, and let us deck out the joint! I cannot thank the guys working that night enough. 
Let the Good Times Roll!
      Our decorator did an absolutely magical job! Our tables were decorated with mason jars filled with Hydrangeas and other purple flowers (my favorite color) as well as adorable yard lights serving as New Orleans street signs. They were so cute!! This lady is obsessed with chalkboard signs right now, so every sign was chalked, which just fit the theme wonderfully! But the coolest part was the big doors on which she blew up antique postcards from New Orleans. She found these from her grandmother, and they just tied everything together and set the scene! 
       A huge thank you goes out to our caterer Peggy Beck of Joyful Palate! She created an array of New Orleans cuisine--Ferdi Special po'boys, chicken and sausage jambalaya, & king cakes that were divine! The food couldn't have been better! 
      However, the music is what really transported us! From 7-9 pm, the UT Jazz symphony played a variety of wonderful jazz music that had my foot tapping the whole night, and of course, they ended with "The Saints Go Marching in." 
      My mother and publisher Valarie Budayr are really the two women who made this all possible! I'm beyond blessed to have them both looking out for me and guiding me through this process and this amazing night! I couldn't have done it without them. 
       But the biggest thank yous go out to everybody who came out to support me on Saturday night! I was extremely humbled and honored by the turnout that we had, especially in light of the week's events in Maryville and the crazy surprise storm that popped up just before the party! You all are the real MVPs--you're making my dream a reality! So thank you!! 
       I just have to say, Saturday night felt so natural. I was nervous to the point of throwing up in the hours leading up to the night. But when I sat down in that chair, with a sharpie in my hand, and a line out the door, I felt calm. I loved seeing each and every one of you there! I could not have asked for a better evening! So thank you so so much to everyone involved! 

     If you weren't able to make it out on Saturday, I'll be selling and signing books at Schriver's on Broadway THIS Sunday from 1-4 pm. Come out to see me, visit this lovely boutique, and check out Lula Roe designs! It's going to be a super fun day celebrating creative women! 

Love you all, 
                                   HER



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tea with Jane: Plum Cake

That's right. I did it! I ACTUALLY made Plum Cakes, and not to toot my own horn, but I think they were awesome! They turned out beautifully and were delicious! Though it's kind of funny to me that Plum cakes don't actually have any plums in them. But whatever! They did have currants and raisins soaked in Brandy and Sweet Red Wine (I got the cheap Barefoot kind) as well as almonds.
     The recipe called for one big spring pan with a removable base, but I didn't have one of those. So a family friend lent me four miniature spring pans, and I loved using it this way because it's much easier to give them away! You didn't think I was going to keep all four, did you?
      The baking prep was a little different. I had to butter the inside of the pans then cover the insides with parchment paper (that's key), and once the batter is in, you wrap the outside in two layers of tin foil. It said to tie it with a string, but I just scrunched it together and it worked just fine.
      Little bit of a note: for your cakes to be pretty and not have crusty edges, don't fill up the tin all the way. It bakes over and isn't as pretty. But that's just for aesthetic purposes.
      You can ice these, but I didn't. They were just as good without. With the spices used, I feel like this would be a great fall treat! Sooooo yummy! (And yes, I splurged and ate it)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tea with Jane: Rout Cakes

This week was by far the easiest week yet! I didn't have to use yeast--thank you, Self-rising flour! I don't really know how to explain Rout Cakes... They are kind of like last week's pastry in that they use currants. But they are much smaller and have much more flavor. I think they called them drop cookies.

However, the unique part of this dish is that it's flavored with Brandy, Rosewater, and Orange flower water. Now, I looked for Orange and rose water, but I'm not quite sure if they exist anymore. If they do, I was not able to find them, so if anyone knows of these antiquated ingredients, please let me know! But let me tell you, the brandy made quite the difference in flavor! It was super yummy. I added a little bit more than the instructed 1 tbls of brandy just because I didn't have the rosewater or Orange flower water. But I don't think it degraded it in anyway.

Apparently, the alcohol and the flower waters are very commonly used in British baking. This week, I'm going to try tackling Plum Cake, which I'm super stoked about, but also super nervous. So try your Rout Cakes! They're delicious!

Keep Baking,
     HER

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Book Festivals

    Over the past few years, I have become a book festival junkie! If I were not in school and could travel all the time without money being an obstacle, I would be going to ALL the book festivals. Unfortunately, I'm only able to make it to two in the fall season, but they're a couple of great festivals--The Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN and YALLFEST in Charleston, SC.
     If you're unfamiliar with these festivals, they are a little bit different. SFOB is a broad-reaching festival that covers everything from Kidlit to biographies. This three day festival is filled with panels and activities for kids. The street leading up to the capitol building is lined with book vendors and independent authors that culminates to Parnassus Book's HUGE book tent selling all the authors' books. I love this festival. It's well organized, has great street vendors for food (because a lunch break is necessary), and the authors are always wonderful.
    YALLFEST is a purely young adult/middle grade book festival. And I swear, it's like a rockstar convention. The first day, Friday, has what they call Yallcrawl, where they have different authors positioned in stores and restaurants around King Street, and they just sign books. The lines can become equivalent to amusement park lines. So if you really like that author, get there early! Saturday is a FULL day! You have jam packed panels, signings, giveaways, and so much more! The keynote and closing speakers are always awesome. But be sure to check their website because a few of the panels are ticketed or limited to the number of people they let in. This is something you plan in advance. Okay...this is something that I plan in advance. But I highly suggest it, or else you'll be all stressed out, and that's no fun.
    Book festivals aren't just fun events for readers (because believe me I fan girl. I was basically speechless when I met Richelle Mead--pretty sure I said something embarrassing, but I don't know...I might've blacked out a little bit). They're important networking events for aspiring/self/indie published authors. You can meet readers who may be interested in your work. Go up and talk to authors and make connections. If their agents are there, snag them for quick chat. This is your chance to advertise yourself freely. You don't need to pay hundreds of dollars for a booth that not that many people will visit. Just go up and talk to people. That's the important part.
     Plus, I can't tell you how cool it is to meet your favorite authors and have them sign your books. You get your pictures taken...it's literally so cool! But keep it together. Remember, authors are people too. We love meeting readers, but we also like personal space!

Here is a link to a definitive list of book festivals around the world. Check it out to find one near you!
https://www.everfest.com/book-festivals

Time for some more writing,
     HER 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Book Review Time: The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

I don't do book reviews very often, mainly because there are so many book reviewers out there who all do a wonderful job and cover an amazing scope of books that my reviews aren't really necessary. But I just have to talk about this one trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
I am two books into the trilogy (devoured the almost 500 page book in a few days), and I absolutely cannot wait until I can get to the bookstore and pick up the final installment. This trilogy just blows my mind! It's pre-modern, russian-inspired, high fantasy with monsters and magic and love and adventure and mythology. Just...wow! The characters are so clear, but trust in this book is faulty. Who are friends, and who are enemies? In a war torn world, who can tell? I just cannot recommend this trilogy highly enough. If you need an escape, dive head first into Leigh Bardugo's world. 
The first time I saw Leigh Bardugo was at the 2015 Yallfest in Charleston, and she was so impressive--very charismatic and funny. I honestly think her banter with Brandon Reichs made the whole night. And just meeting her made me want to pick up her book. Because someone that awesome is going to write good books, correct? 
So I read the first one over my spring break (in Charleston again haha), and I read it in two days. TWO DAYS. The night that I finished, I was on twitter and saw that some internet troll was attacking her jewish heritage, which is just infuriating. But she handled it like a queen, and when I tweeted at her about her book, she was so kind and tweeted back. I'm always going to remember that. Taking the time to acknowledge fans and readers--that's something worth spending time on. After I finish the Grisha Trilogy, I'm heading straight for her next series Six of Crows. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

My Magical Reading List

Need to add a little bit of magic into your life, whether that be light or dark? Check out this enchanting book list!!


The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray


Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare 


Beautiful Creatures Series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stool


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 


Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Evermore by Alyson Noel 


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling


The Night World Trilogy by L.J. Smith


The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater


Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink


Yes, I do have some favorites in here. You can probably assume a couple of them. But I also haven't read all the magical books out there! What are your favorites??? 

Let me know, 
      HER