Favorite Fall Recipe: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

This recipe has become an autumn staple in my house. I first whip some up when the leaves change, then again in the form of a big double batch for Thanksgiving. It’s a favorite among friends and family—for both breakfast and dessert—so I thought this fall I’d share it with you.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

You'll need:
1 2/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar (it also works with Sugar in the Raw, or a half-cup of each)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1–2 cups chocolate chips (I use Godiva baking chips—one bag of milk chocolate, one bag of semi-sweet)
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 stick butter, melted
Cinnamon and/or nutmeg (for garnish, optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line 12 muffin cups with baking liners, or spritz the whole tin with cooking spray.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips. Mix thoroughly.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, and butter.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix just until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated.
6. Scoop batter evenly into the muffin cups.
7. Bake 20–25 minutes, or until your muffins are puffed and springy to the touch. Insert a toothpick and check for cleanliness if that's your thing (but be warned: your toothpick will probably hit a chocolate chip).
8. Turn out onto a cooling rack, or let cool in the muffin tin.
9. If desired, dust the tops with cinnamon and/or nutmeg.

Makes 12 muffins.

These are best enjoyed right out of the oven, but a quick 30-second spin in the microwave will recapture their earlier glory.

Happy muffining!

So apparently...

...I didn't post about my NaNo experience. Sorry about that. Life has been ridiculously crazy for the past few months. I think it's safe to say that I'm on a blogging hiatus until things are sorted out in my personal life.

Talk soon.

BOOYAH. Take that, NaNo!

I'll be back for a more in-depth post about the process and my experiences tomorrow. For now, I'm going to write until I actually finish the book (I'm at 50K words, but that doesn't mean it's done). Then I'm going to breathe again.

Cross your fingers I don't pass out before I type "The End."

The Books I'm Most Thankful For

So, there's this amazing contest going on over at Beth Revis's blog.

'Tis the season for giving thanks, and despite the craziness and emotional turmoil of the past year or two, I have a lot to be thankful for.

One of those things is the amount of progress I've made in my writing life. I'm super-close to starting to query ALL'S FAIR. I'm on track for my Secret NaNo, which isn't really too secret since I keep mentioning it on Twitter. I've made writing friends, gotten some amazing critiques, and have a few potential publishing ins that I plan to utilize as soon as I finish revising AF. I've been writing for ten years, but only taking my writing seriously for about two.

And I sincerely don't think I ever would have loved young adult books--and therefore writing--as much as I do if, back in middle school, my friend Corinne hadn't let me borrow THE SONG OF THE LIONESS quartet by Tamora Pierce. These books introduced me to the concept of a female knight and the genre of medieval fantasy, both of which are integral to ALL'S FAIR.

Alanna (SONG OF THE LIONESS), Daine (THE IMMORTALS), and Kel (PROTECTOR OF THE SMALL) were the heroes (sheroes) of my middle grade and young adult years, and bits and pieces of them show up in bits and pieces my own protagonist. Tammy's books impacted my life so positively, and Tammy herself has been such a role model for me (I can't tell you how amazed I was the first time I was able to approach her at Boskone and act like a person, instead of being overwhelmed with shyness and awe), that this is more than a contest entry--it's a true show of gratitude for the series and the author that pushed me onto this crazy YA fantasy train in the first place.

Thank you, tammypierce / tammy212.

ETA: I can't figure out why my padding HTML tag isn't working. I'm sorry for the bad formatting around the image. :(

On Buying Books

I'm going to get a package in the mail today.
When it arrives, my lovely fiancé will ask, "What's in there?"
I'll smile sheepishly and say, "A book."
And then we'll have the same conversation we always have when I get a new book: "Another book? Don't you have enough books? There are so many books in this house, and you haven't read most of them yet."

It's a valid point. There are SO MANY unread books kicking around, including but not limited to:
-STORYBOUND by Marissa Burt (ARC)
-FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King
-PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow
-All of Tamora Pierce's BEKA COOPER books
-All of Tamora Pierce's THE CIRCLE REFORGED books
-NIGHTSEER by Laurell K. Hamilton
-A GAME OF THRONES Books 1-4 by George R. R. Martin
-THE WALKING DEAD Compendium 1

(Which book am I receiving today, you ask? Why, that would be SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi.)

And lots and lots more. I even have a list of books I still need to read, and I've hardly put a dent in it in the 3+ years since I wrote it out.

So why buy them if there's no time to read them? Especially when I'm running out of shelf space, and they're piling up outside of the bookcases?

Because I love them. I want to read them. And I know I'll get to them--all of them--eventually.

And there will never come a time when I own enough books. There's just no such thing.

In my fiancé's defense, he did pre-order Jodi Meadow's INCARNATE for me. Now that's love. Kind of like when I buy him video games.

Secret NaNo

I decided in September that if I didn't finish revising ALL'S FAIR by the end of October, I wouldn't try NaNoWriMo. I haven't done it since 2006, I reasoned. What's another year?

A lot, apparently. There's this book, and it's been pounding on the door of my brain for a month and a half, dying to be let out.

I went through a bit of an emotional emergency/crisis/thing in the last week of October, and I didn't finish revising. (All is well now.) I've since extended my personal deadline to either the end of the year or, assuming I make it in this time, to the day Authoress Anonymous's Baker's Dozen submissions post.

But the book demands to be written, so I'm NaNo-ing. It's what I've dubbed a "secret NaNo." Basically, I'm doing it. I share the goal of NaNoers around the world of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. But there's a lot of other stuff going on, including revising, so I'm not going to beat myself up over it. NaNo is at the bottom of my priority list this month, and I may not make it. And that's fine.

But at least I can get some of this book out.

Since it's a secret NaNo, I won't be posting about my word counts or progress. If, at the end of the month, it turns out I made it, I'll share. But otherwise, you probably won't hear about NaNo again until next year.

But you may hear about this book. I'm in love with it.

Good luck to NaNoers everywhere!

Road Trip Wednesday: The Best Book of October

My entry for today's YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday is Jessica Day George's TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE.

From Amazon:

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one--other than Celie, that is--takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

I read an ARC of this book in early October; it just officially released yesterday.

TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE is a wonderful, quick read for middle grade fantasy fans. I liked the story and the characters--I may have to look into other books by this author while I wait for news about the next book in the series. I'd recommend it to any middle schooler or young teen, as well as the parents, teachers, and librarians who care about them.

The only thing about TUESDAYS that did not work for me is the title: while the description says that the Castle changes on Tuesdays, in actuality it seems to add or move rooms whenever it needs to, with no mention of Tuesday in the text. But, really, this is something I can live with.

I'm currently reading THE SHINING by Stephen King to reflect the Halloween mood I've been in since early September (my upcoming trip to 13 Screams will be epic), but it's not exactly a kids' book. :)

Critiques and Beta Readers

Thank you to everyone who participated in the revised logline critique round! The entrants received a ton of awesome feedback. Now I'm just going to sit back and hope someone decides to host a revision round for Authoress's round two entrants, because mine is in that bunch. (Don't feel like you have to look. It's not very good, for a logline.)

I've started seeking beta readers for ALL'S FAIR, because I'm close to finishing what I believe will be the last major revision before I start querying. I'm hoping it'll be ready in time for me to enter the Second Annual Baker's Dozen Agent Auction, but that might not happen. I'm aiming to start sending it to beta readers by the end of October.

I already have a couple of people lined up, but if you're interested in reading ALL'S FAIR and giving me some honest feedback, shoot me an email at blogjustjess(AT) Beta readers are not the same as critique partners--if you've already read AF this year, then you were a critique partner (as you know, I was looking for line-by-line feedback and corrections). For this beta read round, I'm more asking folks to look at the big picture stuff and let me know if the book works overall. If not, specific suggestions are welcome.

And that's all I'm going to say about my own book for now! I hope to get back to talking about regular-person things and widely useful writerly things, and talking about them more regularly.

More soon. :)