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Just Jess: Writing & Editing

words. books. life.

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. :(

New Pixar Trailer: BRAVE
I'm sure everyone has seen THE HUNGER GAMES trailer by now, but have you seen this one?

Ah... a main character who reminds me of my protagonist from ALL'S FAIR. Good stuff.

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. :)

You may now call me Snapdragon Sparkle Reins.
Get your own unicorn names from The Unicorn Name Generator!

My unicorn name is Snapdragon Sparkle Reins

Snapdragon is kind and caring.
She is as sparkly as the milky way,
and she casts mischievous spells.
Get your own unicorn names from The Unicorn Name Generator!

That's right.

What's your unicorn name? If you could pick your own unicorn name (as in, not the one the generator picks), what would it be?

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)gmail.com. 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. :)

19 Revised Loglines -- Posted and Ready for Critique
If yours is included in this group, please try to comment on at least a few others. I'll be going through and commenting on each entry this weekend.

Thank you so much to Authoress, Holly Bodger, and everyone in the writing community who participates in these kinds of critiques. In a field as competitive as publishing, it's amazing that we all find it within ourselves to help each other get ahead.

I love us.

Good luck to everyone seeking a spot in the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction!

ETA: Yes, this used to say "18." There is one additional submission due to an email glitch.

ETA #2: And we're back to 18 entries. The author of #15 asked that it be removed.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #19 (Lost Email)
A last minute entry from a lost email sent within the timeframe... the Internet must have eaten it. Bad, hungry Internet.

Title: Swimming With Tchaikovsky
Genre: YA Suspense/Magical Realism

In St. Petersburg for a cello competition, Sally watches her host father get kidnapped and starts seeing visions with clues when she plays Russian music. As she tracks the clues to the upper echelons of the police department, various thugs-for-hire appear on her tail, but her host family has given her more hugs than she ever got at home, and there’s no way she’ll let them find their father in a dumpster.

Read the original logline on MSFV.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #18
Title: Unwritten
Genre: Contemporary Fiction with Strong Romantic Elements

When pop superstar Katherine Hayes’ estranged mother launches a vicious smear campaign against her, the positive image she’s worked so hard for is tarnished. Now Kate must overcome the psychological effects of a childhood trauma to regain the respect of her fans and discovers success means nothing without the college professor who’s stolen her heart.

Read the original logline on MSFV.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #17
TITLE: Ravishing Midnight
GENRE: Adult Urban Fantasy

When Demon Control officer Rieve discovers that her transplanted heart is a demon’s, she uncovers the witches’ plot to use hybrids like her to eradicate the demons and sever their dependence on demon energy for stronger magic. Only the unique power Rieve gained from her heart donor can stop the witches, who don’t realize that destroying the demons will destroy their own magic, turning their plot into an all out apocalypse.

Read the original logline on MSFV.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #16
TITLE: Luminous Earth

Emory is the descendant of an alien god who took refuge on Earth, and the target of an interstellar army who plan on using her to restore their planet to its former glory. Cael is a soldier, convinced that capturing her single-handedly is his chance to prove himself. But when he ends up owing her his life instead, he faces a choice: keep fighting for a cause he isn’t sure he believes in anymore, or betray his home planet and somehow keep Emory safe.

Read the original logline on MSFV.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #14
TITLE: Unitus

LOGLINE: Teenage girl seeks to escape her dystopian society through alien abduction, but the alien she summons turn out to be a fierce warrior who wants to kill her.

Read the original logline on MSFV.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #13
Title: Drifting in Darkness
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal Romance, Suspense

Recent college graduate Darcia Daniels only wants three things: a job to pay the bills, the ability to control her psychic “disability” and her hot, new neighbor; and she’s willing to keep secrets to get them. But when she discovers her neighbor is keeping secrets of his own, she must embrace her psychic gift to decipher friend from foe.

Read the original logline on MSFV.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #12
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Charmingly wicked half-demon Meda is forced to hide from hell’s army in a school for demon-hunters--who mistakenly believe she’s a saint. Now she must figure out why the demons are after her (or, more importantly, how to make them un-after her) before her hosts figure out her goal isn’t world peace--just not to get ripped to pieces.

Read the original logline on MSFV.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #11
TITLE: Incandescent
GENRE: Romantic suspense

After crash landing a drug dealer’s plane, Jack stumbles into the world of Seely Davis, reclusive horse-whisperer. Jack seems to always be one step behind the dirty DEA agent that burned him and they’ll have to dodge bullets, avalanches and bombs as they fall in love - if only Seely’s past doesn’t cripple her future.

Read the original logline on MSFV.

Revised Logline Critique Round - #10
TITLE: The Forces of Heaven and Hell Alike
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

The demon Liam gathers souls on contract, but neither Heaven nor Hell know about his romantic relationship with the angel Mikael. When a battle for Heaven puts Mikael and Liam on opposite sides, the demon may lose the one being who has taught him good and evil aren't easily defined.

Read the original logline on MSFV.