Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brownie in a Mug

So I tweeted a post about my famous "brownie in a mug," yesterday (more specifically, teaching my daughter to make them so I have dessert on demand). It's not the first time I've talked about this (won't be the last), and I was asked about it, so I decided to post the recipe.

I don't even know where this recipe came from. I'm sure you can Google it and find others, but this what we do, and it's pretty great for when you have a chocolate craving.

Disclaimer: this is not a healthy treat, and it requires the microwave. . . .

Don't judge me.

I'm telling you: this is a desperate times dessert (and I find myself "desperate" about 2-3 times a week, now). ;)

So . . . without further ado:

In a small dish, add

1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp white sugar
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
a pinch of salt

Mix thoroughly, then microwave for 45-60 seconds (more for a cake-like consistency and less for more fudge) and . . .


You have a brownie.

Be Brilliant!

(And have a great weekend!)


Monday, January 19, 2015

On Getting The Words Down

I'm teaching a freelance writing class right now (day job = college instructor). It's my first time with this kind of course, and I wasn't sure about it because I'm not really a "freelance writer" (though I did write for publications through my internship and my first day job post-college).

Still, I'm finding there are a lot of similarities in freelance writing to a "writing fiction" career. Query letters, for instance. Rejection (I'm an EXPERT in rejection, you guys). The ability to ask good questions. An eye for storytelling. Writing skills, in general.

I was reading through some of the material for the upcoming week, and came across what is not a novel concept for writers, but where a line is distinctly drawn between dreamers and doers:

Getting the words down.

Stephen King said it's the story, not the person writing it. (It's the tale, not he who tells it.)

And while what's he's saying here isn't exactly the point I'm trying to make: it *IS* about the story, first and foremost. You have to get the words on paper. Above all else, the STORY must be written. Short form writing, long form, longhand or computer: it doesn't matter.

I am the LAST person who should be discussing this, because I come from a long line of perfectionists. I err on the side of the rational and organized. I like having a plan in place. I like my writing as perfect as I can possibly make it. But. . .

The thought of perfection will paralyze any writer staring at that blank page. (tweet that)

You won't get it right the first time. (I don't get it right the second or even third time.)

At least initially, you have to get over the idea of "perfect" and just get the words out of you, even if in the back of your mind you think the words are drivel.

I've said it before, but if you have to spew crap to get to "the end," spew it. Do whatever it takes.

Because words can always be fixed . . . but later, at the appropriate, appointed time.

When you first sit down to write, it's the story that matters.

Get those words down!

And, as always: Be Brilliant!


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Top 100 Free!

So THIS happened:

It was actually the result of a promo for The Guardian on Wednesday.

And while Cross My Heart spent many days in the Teen Top 100 store when it released, I've actually never broken the Kindle Store Top 100 (Free), so this was pretty cool to see. 

I fear it may have unleashed a monster, though. 

I am going to want to replicate this again, one day.

On the paid list. ;)


Also, a special shout-out and THANK YOU! to everyone who downloaded. I hope you enjoy it! 

*fingers crossed*


Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Wish I had something better to post, but the truth is I went down with the stomach flu over the weekend. 

It wasn't pretty. 

The rest of the fam. is battling illness, too.

Based on all the FB/twitter posts I've seen, we're not the only ones.

Stay healthy, you guys! :)

More later. . . . 


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Writers as Artists + Compensation for Work

I am so shocked and saddened by what's happened to YA writer Stacey Jay these last few days. Google it if you want the details, but the long story short is that she set up a Kickstarter to fund the sequel of her latest young adult novel--a novel her traditional publisher wasn't interested in pursuing.

She didn't ask for an outrageous amount of money, and it was going to take her about three months to write the book. Backers were going to get copies, etc.

And then the haters arrived.

Stacey has since retreated and pulled both the KS page and her online pages.

I feel absolutely horrible. I've known Stacey as part of the online YA community for about six years. She is one of the kindest, most hardworking authors I know, and she genuinely didn't mean any harm.

What I find most saddening, though, is this idea that writers shouldn't be paid for the time and resources it takes to create their work. The work is not just the end product, or what you get when you hit "Buy Now" when you select your latest book purchase.

No. That single book represents hundreds of hours of work--writing and revising and editing. TIME. For the Indie that also means paying for outside help, like editors and cover designers and formatters.

Confession: I work full time. I teach college writing and literature. 

Do I like it?


Would I rather be a full-time author? 


But I can't quit my day job. 

I wrestled with this during the "gold rush" era of digital publishing. I got in early enough where I wrote a book (Cross My Heart) that happened to resonate with people. I was honest with my sales numbers back then, and did what I could to encourage other writers to get their works out there.

But that was then.

Yes, I could have quit my job. I didn't, because I wasn't sure how this whole online publishing thing was going to work out. I had three strong years where writing would have paid my bills.

Things change.

This year, I could not have afforded to write full time. I have a mortgage and student loans. My family needs groceries. I have two kids who need things. . . .

I have to get paid, and that's where my day job comes in. I can't predict sales, so it's too risky for me to step outside the 9 to 5 world (with a family to support).

Unfortunately, the day job steals my writing time. I get MAYBE an hour a day to work on my projects. Because I can't put out projects as regularly as I'd like, it's hard to build momentum. You have no idea how frustrating this is (or maybe you're a writer with a family and day job, too. In this case, you know exactly how frustrating this is).

Even though I have more books published today, I made much, much less this year than I have in previous years. In fact, if you crunch the numbers, 

I made less than minimum wage this year from my writing.

I feel horrible for Stacey for thinking she offended so many people, when it was really just a few who took offense and vocalized. If they weren't interested in the Kickstarter, they didn't have to fund it. It's really that simple. 

Ultimately, we write for the love of stories and books and the joy (sometimes pain) of creating. We do it because we become better people for telling our stories. We do it because we hope that the world is somehow just a little better because of these stories. Writing is a calling. It requires passion. It's an art. The best writers are true artists. They make it look easy. And . . . 

I know I'm not alone. For every one author you see hitting the bestseller lists and raking in money and releasing book after book after book, there are hundreds of us waking up early or staying up late, writing in the dark, trying to get that next piece written. We take our royalty payments when (and if) they come, and we are eternally grateful to our readers and those who enjoy our works and spread the news.

My hope is that Stacey will take the short rest she so rightfully deserves, even if I hate the reason for it. I hope she emerges stronger on the other side, and that she's back in our company (and writing again!) soon.

That is all.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Working on the Ending

I have been so looking forward to 2015 it's not even funny.

I know I'm not the only one, based on the sheer number of FB posts and tweets telling 2014 not to let the door hit it on the way out. Something in the universe, maybe, that made it an exceptionally difficult year? I don't know.

I love all the metaphors for a new year: a blank page, an empty book, a clean slate, etc.

And yes, this is all true . . . to an extent.

But what these first five days of 2015 have reminded me is that a new year doesn't necessarily mean all of our problems have gone away. 

There will be some carry-over--

unfinished business and unresolved problems. 

And maybe I got too caught up in the idea of goals and resolutions and fresh starts (I prefer "goals" to "resolutions," but that's just me). Maybe I set my expectations too high. 

Of course I want 2015 to be the best year ever. (Isn't that what we all want?) 

But now that it's here it's just as important to remember the backstory is there whether we claim it or not.

What's done is done. What's past is past. But it's there.

So while I'm not sure I subscribe to the notion that one can "start over" with a new year--since problems don't magically disappear at midnight--I do believe in being "masters of the page." 

We can't start over, but we can always work on the ending.   

And there's a lot of hope in that. :)

Be Brilliant!


Friday, January 2, 2015

Today was a Good Day

I'll be honest. . . . 

2015 is off to a less than stellar start.


Today I am thankful for quiet afternoons with the kids and my mom. I had no idea how much I needed today. Because even when things aren't okay, they're still okay.

And I really don't tell my mom I appreciate her enough. She's not perfect, I'm not perfect, but I have a daughter, too (and she's not perfect), and today I just Get It.

Movie + Pizza + Tacos + a couple of chocolate-covered cherries = the best day I've had in a while. 

Am Grateful.