12 Days of Christmas, 1 Day of Cooking

12 Days
Happy Holidays, my friends!

 

I’m participating in the 12 Days of Christmas event (hosted by the beautiful and amazing Cat at Reading and Things) where each day, a handful of authors and bloggers answer a holiday-themed question. So fun!

 

Check out the Facebook event page HERE for more holiday fun. And join me there TONIGHT, at 6pm CST, as I host some games and giveaways! Whoo-hoo! Here’s the schedule:

 

12 Days Schedule
Now, onto today’s question!

 

What is your favorite holiday treat and why?

My gut response to this question was COOKIES! Because I’m a child. Haha. But when I gave it more thought, I realized there was a Christmas treat that was actually really special to me. (Though it’s more of a dish than a treat, since there’s no frosting or sprinkles involved. Le sigh.) And this holiday dish is what I call my “Christmas Breakfast Strata.”

 

It’s an egg dish that I make every year on Christmas Eve and THIS IS SIGNIFICANT because, if you know me at all, then you know that I never cook. Or bake. Or step foot in my kitchen for any reason other than making coffee. My incredible husband is the family chef (for which I’m eternally grateful) so I rarely lift a finger when it comes to preparing food.

 

BUT…

 

Christmas Eve is a different story. I dust off my apron, whip up this tasty dish, and serve it on Christmas morning.
Christmas Breakfast Strata
(ingredients for 6 servings)
5 large eggs
6 tablespoons basil, thinly sliced
8oz goat cheese, crumbled
18 slices of firm white bread, crusts removed
6oz prosciutto, thinly sliced
4oz provolone, grated (1.5 cups)
¼ cup chopped green onions
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of melted butter

 

Instructions: Line bottom of 13”x9” glass baking dish completely with one layer of bread, cutting some slices to fit. Arrange half of the prosciutto evenly over bread. Sprinkle half of the goat cheese and half of the provolone over the prosciutto. Sprinkle half of the green onions and half of the basil on top of the goat cheese and provolone. Top with a second layer of bread. Layer remaining prosciutto, goat cheese, provolone, green onions and basil atop bread. Cut remaining bread into ¼” cubes and sprinkle over top. Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and salt in bowl.  Season with pepper.  Pour egg mixture over strata; press down on bread with spatula.
Drizzle melted butter over strata. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Let strata stand uncovered for 30 minutes. Bake for one hour.  Broil the last 30 seconds until top is brown.

 

It’s delicious, guys. Mmm-mm.

What about YOU?

Do you have any favorite holiday treats or dishes you look forward to each year?

*Release Day* RIGHT KIND OF WRONG is now available!

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The third and final installment in my Finding Fate series is finally here! I can hardly believe it! Three books in one year…phew! Haha.

SYNOPSIS

Sometimes wrong can feel oh so right …

Jenna Lacombe needs complete control, whether it’s in the streets … or between the sheets. So when she sets out on a solo road trip to visit her family in New Orleans, she’s beyond annoyed that the infuriatingly sexy Jack Oliver wants to hitch a ride with her. Ever since they shared a wild night together last year, he’s been trying to strip away her defenses one by one. He claims he’s just coming along to keep her safe-but what’s not safe for her is prolonged exposure to the tattooed hottie.

Jack can’t get Jenna out from under his skin. She makes him feel alive again after his old life nearly destroyed him-and losing her is not an option. Now Jack’s troubles are catching up to him, and he’s forced to return to his hometown in Louisiana. But when his secrets put them both in harm’s way, Jenna will have to figure out how far she’s willing to let love in … and how much she already has.

Right Kind Of Wrong

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Happy reading!

My #UtopYA2014 Experience + Giveaways

I talk about it every year. I squeal and dance the week before it comes. And I almost always do something ridiculously embarrassing once I’m there.

That’s right. I’m talking about UtopYA Con.

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I was fortunate enough to attend the very first annual UtopYA Conference three years ago, and each one since, and I plan to continue going every year for as long as they’ll let me in the doors.

Why? Because it’s my home.

Obviously it’s not my home home, where I eat and sleep and walk around in my pajamas at all hours of the day (although I do, in fact, DO all those things at UtopYA), but it’s my home in the sense that I feel welcome the moment I walk in the doors and I always come away recharged.

And my experience a few months ago at #UtopYA2014 wasn’t any different. 🙂

The people at UtopYA have a way of bringing my writer’s soul back to life. Not that it ever dies (passion is a beast like that) but sometimes it gets weary, worn down, and even a little blah.

Yes, blah.

BLAH is really the only word to describe the kind of rut I can slip into after several months of nonstop writing. I think all artists experience a weary soul from time to time. Creating is heart-draining stuff. It’s amazing and beautiful and the most satisfying thing on earth, but it’ll suck the heart right out of you if you let it.

And we artists tend to let it suck us dry. 😉

In the alleged words of Charles Bukowski: “Find what you love and let it kill you.”

Done and DONE.

But it’s a beautiful disaster, the mess of giving yourself over to the book you’re writing, and it’s absolutely worth the exhaustion. The trick is to find a place you can go to refuel once that creative well within you has run dry.

And for me, that place is UtopYA.

Whether you’re aspiring, struggling, or wildly successful at whatever aspect of the writing world you’re involved in (writing books, reading books, reviewing books, marketing books, modeling for books, making movies out of books, etc.) there is something for YOU at UtopYA.

It’s a place where every facet of the book industry is treated equally, regardless of what your background or future may hold, and because of this UtopYA is an oasis of learning, friendship, and positivity.

A Utopia, if you will. 😉

But more than anything else, each year I leave UtopYA feeling inspired. I return home truly encouraged to reach for the stars, grab them with both hands, and cling to them until we burn out together in a fiery storm of white-hot brilliance.

Yes. My dreams are that dramatic. It’s how I roll. “Dream big, die happy.” That’s my motto.

So for those of you who haven’t heard of UtopYA, you should definitely check it out HERE and go next year!

For those of you who have heard about UtopYA, but haven’t convinced yourself to attend, consider this your personal invitation, from me, to go to UtopYA next year and grab yourself some stars!

And for all of you out there who HAVE gone to UtopYA, well…you are my people and I love your guts. And can we all agree that Janet Wallace (the incredible mind and unstoppable force behind UtopYA) is amazing? I want to be her when I grow up.

And now…

ADVICE FOR NEWCOMERS!

1. Go to panels. You’ll be amazed by the knowledge of the panelists! Seriously. And you can ask questions and pick peoples’ brains. It’s a great way to learn.

2. Take notes at the panels. I really benefit from the notes I take each year. I make lists of book ideas, marketing strategies, and ways to cultivate my brand, etc. And when I come home, it’s like I have a fresh new agenda for “Chelsea Fine.” It’s very helpful.

3. Make at least one friend. Writing/blogging/etc can be a lonely business—but it doesn’t have to be! It’s important to have someone to relate to and, even better, someone to learn with. So don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. (Er… That didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean.)

4. Come say hi to me! Then you’ll have two friends. And once I’m your friend, you’ll never be able to get rid of me. I stick to people like eyelash glue on…well, eyelashes. (That crap is strong.)

** THE GIVEAWAYS **

My good friend and author of The Broken Trilogy, Carlyle Labuschagne, organized this awesome blog hop and all the many giveaways! There are tons of prizes so be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom so you don’t miss out! 🙂 And one of my books is included near the end. Whoo-hoo! Best of luck!

Chelsea Fine & Carlyle Labuschagne

Carlyle and me at #UtopYA2014. I love this girl!

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And finally, I will leave you with the rest of the poem credited to Charles Bukowski. Because passion truly is a beast. Enjoy.

“Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain from you your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you, and let it devour your remains.

For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.”

The Giant Sexball

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SEX SELLS.

Or at least draws attention in a way that made you click on this blog post.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a fact of life. We’re drawn to sex and nudity and all things naughty—including steamy, drop-your-panties, arch-your-back sex scenes in books. Specifically, New Adult books.

You see where I’m going here? Stay with me.

I like dirty monkey sex just as much as the next primate. I like to do it, watch it, read it…and I like writing about it, too. I’m a big fan of women embracing sex and feeling powerful because of it. BIG fan!

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the “new adult” category/genre was born!

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The NA pioneers pushed the boundaries of sex in their books, taking what was previously taboo in mainstream publication and making it an unapologetic—and usually pivotal—element in their stories. It was YA books, all grown up. High school, without the safety net.

Abuse, one night stands, pregnancies, STDs, and steamy sex scenes were woven into stories where the protagonist was just out of high school, or flailing through college, or on the precipice of adult life. The sweet, coming-of-age books we’d learned to expect life lessons and happily ever afters from, were suddenly riddled with rated-R reality.

AND IT WAS EFFING BEAUTIFUL.

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It was a movement brought on by readers who wanted to see their favorite YA characters grow up. They wanted the lost years between high school and adulthood; the years with more freedom, but also more consequences. Where mistakes mattered, love really could get lost, and horrifically abused skeletons walked themselves out of the closet.

READERS WANTED THE MORNING AFTER

AND NEW ADULT SURE AS HELL GAVE IT TO THEM.

Was there life after high school? Yes, there was. And it was filled with nonstop, uncensored, strip you to the bone…

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SEX?

Yes. SEX.

Then explicit sex.

Then lots of explicit sex.

The first NA writers weren’t afraid to include descriptive sex scenes in their stories, and to that I say BRAVO! We needed open-door material to make its way to the mainstream world of fiction. Sex is good. Sex is important. It should be written about, read about, and talked about. ALWAYS.

But unfortunately, many readers grew to expect sex scenes—graphic sex scenes—in their new adult books. And soon that expectation began to snowball. And with the momentum that the NA genre seemed to gain by the hour, that snowball suddenly became a giant SEXBALL.

AND THAT’S WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT: THE GIANT SEXBALL.

The early new adult books were, in my opinion, the NA ideal. College-aged characters, floundering in their relationships and their own identities as they tried to figure out their future, with powerful themes like:

  • becoming independent of your parents
  • overcoming trauma/abuse from your childhood
  • losing your virginity
  • figuring out what you want to do with your life

THESE were the story elements that set new adult apart from young adult and drew a line in the sand between NA and all other categories.

But that line barely had a chance to breathe before the GIANT SEXBALL rolled right over it, skating dangerously close to the erotica category.

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Am I being too dramatic? Perhaps.

But it seems like most new adult books these days are loaded with multiple sex scenes, all of which are pretty graphic, but only some (if any) actually drive the plot.

Yet NA authors continue writing gratuitous sex scenes and NA readers continue asking for—and expecting—more.

And thus we have created the GIANT SEXBALL.

** BUT HERE’S MY POINT: The problem with the giant SEXBALL is that, now, new adult novels which fail to incorporate numerous graphic sex scenes are sometimes criticized for falling short of “new adult” expectations. They are scrutinized for their lack of sexual content—regardless of the actual story—and that doesn’t seem fair.

Must new adult books include a plethora of explicit sex scenes to be eligible for fair criticism?

What are we doing here, people?

When did we get so demanding—so greedy—with our sexual content? What happened to the original NA ideal? The poignant coming-of-age books with a few teeth, a little bit of grit, and a large dose of reality?

We forged this incredible frontier where 18-26 year old characters (give or take) could go find themselves in a NEW ADULT world, and what have we done with it?

WE’VE SCREWED ITS HEART OUT.

LITERALLY.

We’ve saturated well-written and meaningful stories with more sex than necessary, and in doing so, we’ve created a monster:The insatiable expectations of readers. The skewed criticism of reviewers.

THE GIANT SEXBALL.

Is this what we wanted for NA? When “new adult” was first introduced, and we fought so hard to keep it alive, was this what we envisioned for our infant category? Young characters figuring out their future one sexual encounter at a time?

For me, the answer is no. Not because there’s anything wrong with graphic sex scenes in new adult books (hell, I have a few naughty scenes in my own NA books) but because there might be something fatal about including too many of these scenes in every. single. book.

If we continue producing sex-saturated NA novels, we might lose the opportunity for New Adult to be widely acknowledged (not to mention respected) as a category.

WE MIGHT JUST BE KILLING THE VERY THING WE GAVE LIFE TO.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s getting better. Authors are branching out with less erotic stories and testing the waters in other categories/sub-genres of new adult—-and some with great success! But even with all the best intentions of these brave writers, we’re still in a rather deep sex hole.

But that’s just my opinion. What do YOU think?

Do readers expect their new adult books to contain lots of sex? Are readers disappointed when new adult books don’t have multiple sex scenes? How do you see the future of New Adult?

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PERFECT KIND OF TROUBLE is finally here!

The Way To My Heart…Is Through My Feet

Alice in Wonderland shoes

It’s no secret that I love shoes. I’m a shoe-aholic, if you will. So you can imagine how much I love receiving a new pair of shoes as a gift. But folks, my good friend Krystal has outdone herself—and set the shoe bar pretty high. So high, in fact, that I’m pretty sure no other pair of shoes will ever compare.

“But why, Chelsea? What’s so special about these shoes from Krystal?”

What’s so special? Well for starters, she MADE them. Yeah. She’s that awesome. But to sum up all the other many factors that make this particular pair of shoes INCREDIBLE they are…

  • made from the pages of a book, a beautiful nod to my ultimate passion (and consequently my profession)
  • and not just any book pages, but the Tenniel illustrations from an amazing little book called Alice In Wonderland. It doesn’t get better than some Alice quotes on my feet. IT JUST DOESN’T.
  • and finally, they are heels. And high heels are like chocolate for my feet. BIG LOVE, people.

Just take a look at their magnificence!

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And did you see the pearls on the back of each heel? YEAH. Don’t be surprised if you see me wearing these babies at every book signing for the rest of my life. They’re THAT perfect for who I am and where my passion lies.

There really aren’t words to express how very much I LOVE and appreciate this gift. So thank you, sweet Krystal, for being my friend. For being my weirdo soul mate. And for making for me possibly the most thoughtful gift of my life. I love your guts!

 

Behind The Cover of Perfect Kind Of Trouble

SALE! Best Kind Of Broken is only .99¢!

BEST KIND OF BROKEN - CoverFor a limited time only, Best Kind Of Broken is on sale for only .99¢! And just in time for readers to get to know my Finding Fate characters before the second book, Perfect Kind Of Trouble, comes out! YEE-HAW!

(I don’t know why I just threw a “yee-haw” in there. I guess It felt like a “yee-haw” kind of moment. So yeah. YEE-HAW!)

Anyway… Join the love-fest that is Levi and Pixie’s sweet, sweet story. Hurry, before the sale ends! 🙂

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/mfdrhn7
B&N: http://tinyurl.com/n3dfryw
iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/m5czdf3

Spread the word, guys! Mwah!

Video Blog: UtopYA Awards (and Giveaways Galore!)

Giveaways, giveaways, giveaways!

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Howdy-ho, my lovelies! There are currently three—yes THREE—awesome giveaways going on for BEST KIND OF BROKEN! You can win a signed paperback, or an e-copy, or BOTH—if you enter all of the giveaways, which you should totally do.

 

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The first giveaway is hosted by Grownup Fangirl for a SIGNED paperback review copy of BKOB! Say whaaaaat? That’s right. Signed. Paperback. But it ends on Sunday, so enter now! 🙂

ENTER TO WIN A SIGNED REVIEW COPY OF BEST KIND OF BROKEN — CLICK HERE! (Just click on the “rafflecopter” link to enter.)

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The second giveaway is hosted by the incredible Jennifer L. Armentrout. I’m a huge fan of JLA. HUGE. My heart nearly stopped beating when I saw my book on her website and then I squealed like a little pink piggy. It was nerdy. This giveaway also ends on Sunday, so don’t delay! 🙂

ENTER TO WIN AN EBOOK OF BEST KIND OF BROKEN — CLICK HERE!

 

And finally, my amazing publisher. FOREVER, is doing a Goodreads giveaway! Whoo-hoo! You don’t want to miss out on this one, guys. Your chances are good. Enter, enter, enter! (Wow. That sounded pushy. Sorry. I just *really* want you all to win!)

ENTER TO WIN BEST KIND OF BROKEN ON GOODREADS — CLICK HERE!

Good luck, everyone! I love your guts! 🙂