Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

So I posted my New Year's Resolutions last year, but I'm scared to even look at them, because I'm pretty sure I achieved zero out of however many I made. Still, I forge ahead with new goals for this year. Always the optimist!

2014 Goals and Resolutions:
1. Write a book. You know those crazy people who do nanowrimo and write a whole book in a month? I'm not one of them. However, I believe I can write a whole novel in a year. That's optimistic for me.

2. Publish a book. I think that was the one resolution I made in 2013 that I achieved. So I'm going to keep it for this year. I only have about 20 books written that need to be edited and published. I'm sure I can find one that's worthy of publication this year.

3. Blog consistently. I am going to try for 3 blogs a week. Don't know how long it will last, but I'm going to try.

4. Move in with my husband. Every time I tell someone I don't live with my husband, they look at me like I'm crazy. We bought a house at the end of 2013, but it's a huge project. So my goal is to live in it before 2014 is over.

5. Have a garden. I've been itching to do this for a few years now, but I don't have a garden space. At our new place, I will. I'm starting small, but anything is better than nothing.

6. Be more social. Not the kind of social that I've been doing (social media) but hanging out, going to see my friends in person. I'm going to try for at least twice a month, realistically.

7. Stay positive. This is a hard one for me. My mind tends towards the negative. But I've been trying to 'think positive' for a few months now, and it's starting to get easier. Onwards and upwards in 2014!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Disaster Chef: Lazy Crockpot Lima Beans

I started this meal how I start most of my meals: I had some time to cook. I didn't know what to cook. I went to the fridge and the pantry several times. I saw a package of beans I'd had for quite some time. I don't know anything to make with lima beans except succotash, so I went to Pinterest, like always. And I found this crockpot recipe from this blog. I had most of the ingredients, so I gave it a shot.

Let me just say, that when I'm cooking in the crockpot, it's because I'm being lazy. I don't want to have to cook stuff in a pan first. So I just dumped all the ingredients into the crockpot instead of doing all the prep work she requires in her recipe. I also added some frozen kale, shredded turkey (Thanksgiving leftovers come in handy) and a can of corn, since the spices gave it a southwestern type flavor. Also, I did not use precooked lima beans, so I cooked it a bit longer than she calls for.

Here's what I used:

1 pound dried baby lima beans, rinsed and soaked
2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
2 c./1 can chicken or beef broth and enough water to cover all ingredients (if uncooked beans, about 4 c. extra water will be required for cooking beans)
1 can crushed tomatoes/1 pint canned tomatoes if you do your own
1-2 c. kale, chopped (frozen or fresh)
1 can corn
1-2 c. leftover turkey or chicken (optional)
2 TBSP cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2-3 TBSP maple syrup

Toss everything in the crockpot, make sure it's all just covered with water, and cook 6 hrs on high or until beans are soft.
*A word about beans: To properly cook beans, they should first be soaked to remove naturally occurring toxins, as per Weston Price's directions. The night before you want to cook your beans, put then in a large bowl and cover with a good amount of water. I'd recommend at least twice as much as the beans or more, as the beans swell while soaking and you want them to be covered with water. In the morning, pour off the water, rinse the beans real quick, and throw them in the crockpot with new water. If you don't know who Weston Price is, you should. He wants you to eat lots and lots of butter :)

I added some Parmesan on top, because I add it to every soup, even when it doesn't go. I don't think the original recipe would have been enough for a meal, but with all the additions, it was a meal, not just a side dish, though it could serve as either. It's not my favorite, but I'd make it again if I couldn't think of anything else to make. Everyone ate it, and it didn't get complaints.

Recipe: 3 out of 5 spoons

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Renegades Release Party winners

Well, I saw some posts up around the web, but no one posted in the comments section, so I'm having a time tracking down my winners. If you posted about the release, please comment below or email me at lenahillbrand@yahoo.com or message me so I can get your prizes out.
For those of you who have already contacted me, your prizes should be on the way.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Traditions: Let's Get Sketchy December Daily

It's only the first week of December and I'm already getting behind on my December Daily album. But I did complete a few layouts. Here is one I did using a sketch from over at Let's Get Sketchy.

Some supplies I used: washi tape from We R, sticker from Making Memories, Letter Stickers from Basic Grey, Pen from Uniball, and a chipboard frame and background paper (unknown).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kindle Fire HD raffle with Graham Parke

<i>“I'm very polite by nature, even the voices in my head let each other finish their sentences.” – from Completely Flappable</i></center>
<img width=108px src="http://www.grahamparke.com/images/extrefpics/kindlefirehd178.jpg"><img src="http://www.childhelplineinternational.org/media/800/illustration_birdsonawire.png.ashx?width=225&scale=both&mode=crop"><img width=108px src="http://www.grahamparke.com/images/extrefpics/kindlefirehd178.jpg"></center>
Don’t you just hate it when you have a thousand little thoughts rattling around your brain, good for nothing but keeping you up at night? Ideas, worries, mental reminders for the next day? My voices can get pretty insistent, and mostly this is a nuisance, but sometimes it’s okay, when there’s a story idea or two among the ramblings. And rarely, very rarely, I get what I think is a really good idea, but one that I don't know what to do with.
For instance, a while ago it occurred to me that it’s probably not governments or big corporations that wield the world’s greatest financial power. I think it’s us. All the little people together. Then I started wondering what could happen if we all decided to set 1 month of our incomes aside towards fixing this place up a bit. How many of the world’s problems could we actually solve permanently? Half of them, maybe? All of them? That's a pretty cool picture.
But I’m a pretty dim light when it comes to implementing even small ideas, never mind the big ones. So I’m not sure how to get that ball rolling (heck, I'm not even sure where we keep the balls). But I can certainly start with myself. That’s easy enough (I’ve been in close contact with myself for years; I didn't have much trouble convincing myself.)
So, this December, all proceeds of all my novels will go to Child Helpline International. The CHI is pretty cool because they support toll-free child helplines worldwide and they help highlight gaps in child protection systems. They do all this on donations (click the image below for more information.)
<a href="http://www.childhelplineinternational.org/about"> <img src="http://www.childhelplineinternational.org/media/800/illustration_birdsonawire.png.ashx?width=150&scale=both&mode=crop"> </a></center>
But what does all this have to do with you? Well, I'm raffling off some prizes and giving out some freebees to boost the donation (expenses out of my own pocket, not the donation :P )
So what's in it for you, besides that warm, fuzzy feeling you'll get knowing the Xmas presents you’re buying include an automatic donation? Well, how about I give you the new edition to the award winning No Hope for Gomez saga completely free?
<img width=70px src="http://www.grahamparke.com/imagesv03/completleyflappable_eb2.jpg"></center>
And how about a Kindle Fire HD raffle ticket with every purchase while we’re at it?
<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CWQR21A"><img width=120px src="http://www.grahamparke.com/images/extrefpics/kindlefirehd178.jpg"></a></center>
Simply forward your receipt emails to nohopeforgomez@gmail.com to participate.
And now, on to the pitch. This is the bit where I try to convince you, using only my words, that my novels don’t suck (or at least, not too much.) That they won’t only tickle your brain, but they’ll actually make your life better, if only marginally. That they are, in fact, worthy donation material. Here goes (fingers crossed)...
<table cellpadding="10px">
<tr> <td width=130px>
<a href="http://amzn.to/1hvUHBb"><img src="http://www.grahamparke.com/imagesv03/nhfg_pb_sc.jpg"></a>
<a href="http://amzn.to/1hvUHBb">Paper: $6.08</a>
<a href="http://amzn.to/17u3aB5">Kindle:$2.99</a>
(uk <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Hope-Gomez-Graham-Parke/dp/9491919008">paper, </a><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Hope-Gomez-Graham-Parke-ebook/dp/B00G8ISLSG">kindle</a>)
</td> <td width="100%">
No Hope for Gomez!</h2>
<p STYLE="font-size: x-small;">
Winner of the Forewords Book of the Year Awards, featured on Kirkus Best Indie List 2011, IBA and USA Book News Award nominee.</p>
It's the age-old tale:
&nbsp;&nbsp;Boy meets girl.
&nbsp;&nbsp;Boy stalks girl.
&nbsp;&nbsp;Girl already has a stalker.
&nbsp;&nbsp;Boy becomes her stalker-stalker.
We've seen it all before, many times, but this time it's different. If only slightly.</td></tr>
<p STYLE="font-size: x-small;">
"Extremely witty writing containing keen insights into human nature." --California Chronicle
"Challenges the way we think about, and interact with, the world around us." --Kirkus Discoveries
"The antics in this book will leave the reader laughing. Graham Parke is a genius."--Reader's Favorite</p>
<table cellpadding="10px">
<tr><td width="100%">
Unspent Time </h2>
Warning: reading this novel may make you more attractive and elevate your random luck by about 9.332%*<p STYLE="font-size: x-small;">
(*These statements have not been evaluated by anyone of consequence)</p>
Permeating the cracks between the past and the present is the realm of Unspent Time. Time that was allotted but never spent. In this realm we find the stories that could have been true. Such as the story of the designer of the color scheme used inside your shoe, or the story of Goki Feng Ho: the Chinese art of decoding the secret meaning of car license plates.</td> <td width=130px>
<a href="http://amzn.to/18VspYV"><img src="http://www.grahamparke.com/imagesv03/cover_unspent_omni_eb.jpg"></a>
<a href="http://amzn.to/18VspYV">Paper: $6.08</a>
<a href="http://amzn.to/1dHixd1">Kindle:$2.99</a>
<a href="https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/138990">ePub   :  $2.99</a>
(uk <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unspent-Time-Graham-Parke/dp/9491919024">paper, </a><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unspent-Time-Graham-Parke-ebook/dp/B007EVPK30">kindle</a>)
<p STYLE="font-size: x-small;">
“Captivating. Each story fired up my imagination.” – Alan H. Jordan, author.
"Delightfully mad. Graham's vibrant characters shine from the first page." --Tahlia Newland, author.
<table cellpadding="10px">
<tr> <td width=130px>
<img src="http://www.grahamparke.com/imagesv03/completleyflappable_eb2.jpg">
<span style="color: #ff0000">Free with this event</span>
</td> <td width="100%">
Completely Flappable</h2>
<p STYLE="font-size: x-small;">
“He’s completely flappable!”
“Don’t you mean he’s <i>un</i>flappable?”
“Not really. He can very easily be flapped.”</p>
Gomez has never been on a date. In his 27 years on the planet he’s never been able to quite close the deal. For some reason, circumstances always conspire to make his meet-ups with women less than official dates. But now a blond German girl with freckles has moved into his building and he decides it’s time to get his act together.</td></tr>
If you've read this far, you're already my hero ;)
I hope you like my idea enough to join me in this fun adventure. Let's see how much we can raise this Xmas ;)
Kind regards,
Graham Parke

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Renegades 24-hr Launch Party (Book Giveaway)

Hello loyal readers and guests,

You might be a longtime reader who has been reading my blogs since the days of (ahem) Myspace, or you might have stumbled across this post or been lured by free book promises. Whatever your reason for stopping by my book release party, welcome!

The day has come at last...The Renegades Release Day! You can find the ebook for $2.99 on amazon starting TODAY. Or you can participate in one of the challenges posted on the blog all day to win a free copy.

Here is how it works: I will be giving away 24 books today. Winners will be randomly drawn from the participants of each challenge. They can be completed at any time during the day. Just post a comment letting me know which of the challenges you completed. Winners will be announced Wednesday, December 11, so check back to see if you scored some free books.

Up for grabs:
For all participants: ebook copies of
The Renegades
The Superiors
The Vigilantes
Because the Night, by Kristen Strassel
Redemption by Kellie Thacker
Healer by B.N. Toler
The Legacy: Fate by G.G. Atcheson

For US residents only (sorry, I'm a starving artist and postage rates are insane):
(1) Paperback copy of The Superiors (first edition), (1) Paperback ARC of The Vigilantes (proof copy), (1) Paperback ARC of The Renegades (available in January)
Must have at least 10 entries to win these, one of which MUST be Challenge 1.

Without further ado, here is...

Challenge 1: 
Post an announcement of The Renegades release on your book blog and leave it for 24 hours. Please leave link in the comments section.

Challenge 2:
Follow my blog (or leave comment, if you already follow, for one entry).

Challenge 3:
Stop by this blog and leave a comment on their promo post of The Renegades.

Challenge 4:
Google+ this blog post.

Challenge 5:
Share a link to this post on Twitter...you can do this once an hour if you like...

Challenge 6:
Follow me on Twitter (use the icon on my blog for quickest link).

Challenge 7:
Share this blog post on Facebook... Again, can enter this challenge multiple times if you want.

Challenge 8:
Like my author page on facebook here.

Challenge 9:
Like The Superiors Series page on Facebook.

Challenge 10:
Share my cover on Instagram with the tags #renegades #booklaunch

Challenge 11-13:
Share a link to any of my books on amazon...one entry for each. Click the links below to visit their amazon page, and share from there...pin, FB, twitter, etc.
The Superiors
The Vigilantes
The Renegades

Challenge 14:
Become a fan on amazon.

Challenge 15:
Become a fan on Goodreads.

Challenge 16-18:
Add The Renegades to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. This links to my author page, where you can scroll down and see all my books, and all all three to your shelf easily.
Add The Superiors to your to-read shelf of Goodreads. (If you already have it on your to-read shelf, or you've read it and it's on your read shelf, let me know in the comments section. That's an entry.
Add The Vigilantes to your to-read shelf (same as above).

Challenge 19-20:
Share The Superiors on Barnes&Noble (they have a button to G+, FB like, or pin, or you can 'add to list' if you have a B&N account).
Share The Vigilantes on Barnes&Noble.

Challenge 21-23
Pin The Renegades to a book board on Pinterest
Pin The Superiors
Pin The Vigilantes

Challenge 24: Free Choice challenge...creatively share my book in some way not mentioned above, and post to let me know what you did.

Please let me know what challenges you participated in by posting a comment!

Monday, December 2, 2013

December Daily Advent Calendar

I've been so busy getting my book out that I haven't been posting on Sunday, so I'm posting my usual Scrappy Sunday post a day late. I've been seeing advent calendars around town and on Pinterest lately, and I've wanted to make one for a while. So when I saw a plain craft one at Hobby Lobby, I couldn't resist.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the blank box. So just imagine it here.

Here was the next step. I got really lucky and found out my square punch fit the drawers almost exactly! It made it a breeze. Even without, you could use a paper cutter to easily cut out 25 squares. I used an old collection of Basic Grey paper I had, Blitzen collection, and one page of the Dasher collection. Then I used my circle punch to cut out a little spot on each square. I wasn't too picky about placement, as you can see! But I did the whole thing on December 1st, so I didn't stress about making it perfect. I inked the edges of each piece of paper with red ink from an Around the Block inkpad.

After I had that step done, which took several hours, I started to do the numbers and embellishments. I mod-podged everything on. I am not very creative, so at this point I went to Pinterest to find something inspiring. I found the toolbox calendar on this post helpful. I used her method of getting numbers from any source possible. I have tons of letter stickers, so I used number stickers off some of those sheets. I also used chipboard, some little tags I had from getting my car serviced (I never throw anything away, and once in a blue moon, that is a benefit!), cutout from Making Memories paper and 7 gypsies bingo card paper, an ATC from Paper Studios, Smashpads calendar tape, and 7 gypsies ephemera for the numbers.

Then I added embellishments. Again, I used a lot of stuff I've had for a long time. I didn't buy anything for this project except the box, which was great. I have a big bag of Christmas stuff, and it was nice to use some of it up, and a nice challenge, too. I'm not even sure where some of them came from. But some embellishments I used are:
word strips from Making Memories (Day 2, 24), We R Memory Keepers washi tape (6, 11), Spare Parts acrylic sticker (Day 20), Love Elsie (22).
Other: stickers, 3-D stickers, ribbon, bakers twine, tags, punchout snowflakes, copper word accent

The last thing I did was fill the drawers. It was so fun putting it all together. I put little candies in some of the drawers (See's Candy, our favorite), a few pairs of Christmas socks, some little presents like Lego mini figures, and a bunch of paper strips with tasks on them, like donate old toys to charity, sing carols with the family, take Christmas photos, visit Santa, etc.