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, 

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,

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!

Time for some more writing,

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, 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tea with Jane: Butter Buns

'Ello lovelies! This week's delicious treat from the wonderful mind of Jane Austen is Butter Buns, a rather plain roll mixed with currants and can be seasoned with either nutmeg and allspice, caraway seeds, or natural rosewater.
Again, this was a hefty process. I've officially learned what rubbing butter into flour means. You chop up the butter into pieces and literally rub the pieces into the flour until you've reached the texture of breadcrumbs. I'm kind of proud of myself for adding to my baking vocabulary. 
So anyways, you need to leave the dough moist, add just a little bit of flour so that you're able to knead it. I think I added too much. Oh well. Learning from mistakes. Then you make a well and pour in warmed milk mixed with egg yolks and fold it together. 
You let it rise for an hour (so I went to the gym haha), then form the dough into twelve buns and flatten them. They rise for another 45 minutes before they bake for 15 minutes. So seriously, it's the prep, not the actual baking. 

But CURRANTS! Let's talk about that...I honestly had no idea what these little fruits were. Neither did anyone at the grocery store haha. Thank you kroger for actually having them. Currants are like a form of raisin. They are dried, black, seedless grapes originally from Greece. They look just like raisins. And they're just mixed into the dough. 

So this result was this bun. Not my favorite recipe thus far. I think that falls to the Sally Lunns still. But they still turned out well, and have a pretty good flavor! Definitely worth a try! 

Ready for next time?