win a copy of Asylum!

*Contest Closed*

My debut novel ASYLUM hits Amazon monday, and I’m giving away a FREE copy here!

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Here’s the official blurb:

After being found guilty of first-degree murder, sixteen-year-old June Foster is sentenced to life at Washington Pines Sanitarium.

June remains convinced that she was right to kill a man she knew was evil, but as time goes on in the asylum, she begins to question everything she knows. Or thought she knew.

As the events leading up to her incarceration are recounted, she begins to understand that the web she finds herself in is far bigger and stickier than she ever imagined. The warden of the facility, both violent and vindictive, is intent on making June’s life a living hell.

June’s previous boyfriend, beautiful turquoise-eyed Frank, is the only one she can trust. Or is he?

Caught in the middle of child experimentation with untested drugs, arson, and murders, June Foster is reduced to two options—accept the fact that she has gone crazy, or hatch an escape plan from the asylum to get her life back.

Set in America during the 1950s, Asylum is a book you will not be able to put down. The author pulls you along relentlessly in a page-turning thriller that leaves you wanting more with each sentence—to a mind-blowing and unexpected conclusion you will not believe.

*Contest Closed*

Want to win a free digital copy for your Kindle, Nook or iPad? Leave me a comment below telling me the title of your favorite book, and you’ll automatically be entered to win. Contest ends Friday, March 29th. 

And the winner is…

Bill! Congratulations Bill, I’ll be emailing you asap ;) Thanks everyone for entering!

 

charlie vs. target

I had to get them out of the house. Or maybe I just had to get myself out of the house. At any rate, I decided a trip to Target to get the one thing we needed (diapers) would be an excuse to get them up and moving.

I knew in the back of my mind this was a bad idea. Taking two grumpy, possibly-on-the-verge-of-getting-sick, possibly-on-the-verge-of-killing-each-other girls to a bright, shiny store with full of toys and candy and makeup?

What could possibly go wrong?

Everything. Everything could go wrong.

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It started in the parking lot. Charlie refused to come out of the car without her million-pound owl backpack, which contained a toy car, a maraca from Mexico, two bobby pins, a deck of cards, a sweatshirt, a bunny, a water bottle, five goldfish crackers, and a crumpled up picture of an ogre she calls Marcus. The backpack was too heavy, and she used up all of her happy energy carrying it from the car to the store. Then all that was left was the evil energy. The Mom-I-want-to-kill-you energy.

So there she was, 28 pounds of malevolence in a cherubic, Charlie-shaped body, ready to tear through Target with a vengeance. But, optimist that I am, decided to take my chances.

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We started on the toy aisle, so Lucy could pick out a birthday present for her little sister. Lucy played quietly with a ball and a baby. Evil Charlie grabbed a toy shopping cart full of toy food. Then a pretend car seat for a pretend baby. She had no energy left to carry these things, but in her mind she was not leaving the store without them. Then, she decided, the toy shopping cart would be great as an assault tank on the animal cracker display. One bash and the whole thing came tumbling down all over her. A nice employee came over to help us clean up.

The shopping cart had to go. But as soon as I tried to take it from her evil death grip, she let out the first Scream. (Side note: our Target is two stories. It’s huge. You could likely hear her Scream, with a capital S, all the way upstairs in the break room.)

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It was at this point that I kicked into survival mode. As in: survive this moment, then get the hell out of Target before someone recognizes me. I let her keep the shopping cart and push it to our next destination: the diaper aisle, maybe ten yards away. 28-pound Charlie was pushing her pretend shopping cart, clutching her pretend car seat, and lugging her 50-pound backpack, and she refused help.

It took us 10 minutes to get to the diaper aisle, because she had to stop at each display along the way and knock everything off at eye level. She set her car seat down to do this. She rested her shopping cart next to her, then grabbed everything she could reach and dumped it on the floor. Then when she was satisfied she’d done enough damage, she picked up her car seat and rolled her shopping cart to her next target (no pun intended). I trailed behind her; picking everything up and put it back as fast as I could. I didn’t try to stop her at this point—I was just trying to get to the diapers and go. I saw the evil churning behind her eyes. She was taunting me: just try to stop me mom, and I’ll the out The Scream again. You’ll see.

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We made it to the diapers. We grabbed a pack and kept moving. We were almost to the cash registers. I could see them: the Holy Grail. But then, to our left, a distraction: girl’s hair accessories. They’re on a giant rack, each one of them shiny and pink and crack-cocaine for little girls. Lucy examined them gently. Charlie rammed her shopping cart into the display and started throwing hair clips and headbands on top of the pretend food.

One item she didn’t throw in the cart: a pack of four rhinestone bobby pins in neon colors. This one she clutched possessively with her sharp talons. This one is mine, Mommy. For the moment, she’d forgotten about the shopping cart (which we’re not going to buy) and the car seat (which we’re not going to buy). She was fixated on the bobby pins, and they’re $3, so I’m just going to go with it and get the hell out. I started cleaning up her hair accessory tornado. I swept the shopping cart and car seat discreetly under a t-shirt rack for some nice Target employee to discover later.

“Nooooooo Mom! My shopping cart!”

This was good. She was only fixated on the shopping cart and the bobby pins now. She’d forgotten about the car seat. Two items—two items I could work with. I could negotiate my way out. And I could tell by the crack-cocaine glint in her eye that she was going to choose the bobby pins.

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“Char, you can only have the clips or the cart. Not both.”

Then The Scream came. She threw herself on the floor and started army crawling under the hair accessory rack. But the display rods were too low; she got snagged. She started kicking to get free, and tangled herself even further. One leg got stuck, and her backpack snagged on a rod. I was terrified she was going to impale her eye if she kept flailing. I grabbed her and yanked her free. She bolted to the shopping cart, ran and rammed it against the elevator, collapsing to the floor in a sob.

It’s at this point that Lucy stepped in—my saving grace. She approached her sister gently.

“Char, you can’t have both. You have to pick: the shopping cart or the hair clips. That’s what mommy said.”

Charlie snuffled and moaned. Snot poured from her nose. She looked up to her sister.

“Shopping cart.”

Okay. Shopping cart. We had a deal. I put the toy shopping cart in my own, attempted to repair the hair accessories display, and picked up Evil Charlie. Only she wasn’t Evil Charlie anymore, she was just tired, pitiful Charlie. She surrendered and allowed me to carry her—and her giant backpack—out of the store and into the car. We escaped with $9.99 worth of diapers and $12.99 worth of shopping cart.

It’s their new favorite toy.

Did I give into the tantrum? Absolutely. But it was my fault in the first place; I knew in my gut she would have a meltdown. So I chalked the $12.99 up to a lesson learned and went on my way.  Four years of being a mom and I still don’t have it all figured out. I don’t think it’s even possible to have it all figured out.

a release date!

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I have some very exciting news. My novel, my baby…has a release date! Head over to my author page to find out when.

This has been such a very long time coming and I can’t wait for you all to read it. Woo hoo!

-J

favorite budget-friendly beauty products

My idea of a perfect Saturday? Perusing the aisles of Rite-Aid, without the kids, finding a new favorite nail polish color. I’m boring, I know, but it’s the little things–a new lipstick, a new moisturizer–that keep me happy these days.

What I love about drug store beauty products is that you don’t have to break your bank to get a totally new look. It’s a tiny pick-me-up in your day that only costs $5. And if it’s the wrong color? Give it to a friend and try again. Here are my favorite recent finds, most of which you can find at a drug store near you.

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Maybelline Baby Lips is like your favorite chap stick, but with a hint of color. Stash one in your purse and you can forgo the lipstick altogether! $4

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Cover Girl is now making a fabulous knockoff of the famous Clinique Chubby Stick–for less than half the price. Lip Perfection Jumbo Gloss Balm comes in awesome shades and works just as well as the pricier version, but for $7.

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I just came across this J.R. Watkins Facial Cleanser this week, and already my skin is softer and smoother. Plus it smells great. $8.50

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This Sally Hansen eyelash curler works just as well as the $30 versions–but it’s only $6. Plus, it’s lasted twice as long as the bank-breaking version I bought on a whim last year.

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Ever get those tiny little bumps on the back of your arms? It’s keratin building up in your pores, and the alpha hydroxy acids in Amlactin lotion slough it all away. Summer-ready skin? Check. $16

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I’m loving the wintry shades of Revlon nail polish right now, especially Stormy (left) and Midnight Affair (right). $5

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A friend sent me this sample of 100% Pure coffee bean eye cream, and I don’t think I’ll ever use any other kind. It contains caffeine, so it instantly wakes up your eyes and de-puffs. Great for tired moms. $10

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Okay, okay. This Too Faced Lash Injection mascara runs at a pricey $21, but the tube lasts twice as long as the drugstore brands. Plus, it seriously looks like you’re wearing fake lashes. I don’t use any other kind.

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Another thing I don’t scrimp on? Foundation. Or, in this case, my daily go-to tinted moisturizer with SPF 20. Too Faced Beauty Balm leaves your skin soft and smooth, without looking shiny. It’s that dewey, fresh from the beach look. $32

What are your favorite beauty products of the moment?

Big News: ASYLUM, coming soon

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I have some exciting news! My debut novel, ASYLUM, is being released soon!

This book has been a long time coming, and I’m so thrilled that it will finally be available for purchase. ASYLUM is a young adult paranormal mystery–think Twilight meets Girl, Interrupted. Here’s the official blurb:

“After being found guilty of first-degree murder, sixteen-year-old June Foster is sentenced to life at Washington Pines Sanitarium.

June remains convinced that she was right to kill a man she knew was evil, but as time goes on in the asylum, she begins to question everything she knows. Or thought she knew.

As the events leading up to her incarceration are recounted, she begins to understand that the web she finds herself in is far bigger and stickier than she ever imagined. The warden of the facility, both violent and vindictive, is intent on making June’s life a living hell.

June’s previous boyfriend, beautiful turquoise-eyed Frank, is the only one she can trust. Or is he?

Caught in the middle of child experimentation with untested drugs, arson, and murders, June Foster is reduced to two options—accept the fact that she has gone crazy, or hatch an escape plan from the asylum to get her life back.

Set in America during the 1950s, Asylum is a book you will not be able to put down. The author pulls you along relentlessly in a page-turning thriller that leaves you wanting more with each sentence—to a mind-blowing and unexpected conclusion you will not believe.”

Excited? You can read the first chapter for free on my author website.

I’ll announce the release date in the next couple of days. Stay tuned!

xo

Jenny

11 minutes in the mind of Lucy

This is Lucy. She’s almost 4, precocious as hell, and talks non-stop. Like broken record non-stop.

Lulu

I’m an introvert. I need time and space to collect myself, but I have a yapping almost-4-year-old at my feet most of the time, chiming on about nonsense. So basically I haven’t collected myself in…almost 4 years.

I’ve tried to embrace it. I even tried to record it, but then I realized I’d have to sit and listen to the whole damn recording, which would be like having the almost-4-year-old yapping in my ear all over again. So then I tried to follow her around with the laptop, typing everything that she says. I got to 11 minutes before I gave up. I couldn’t write fast enough. But those 11 minutes were like gold, so here they are, for your reading pleasure.

Oh, and for reference, Char is her little sister.

Char

This girl.

Nudge is our dog.

Nudgles

This guy. Poor muffin.

11 minutes in the mind of Lucy Miller

7:20am

It’s part of a tampon.

Look, it’s a tampon sword.

A tampon sword is what I use. Yaaaaaaar!

Nudge, you say it like this: TAM-PON.

How does it feel like having tampons in your panties?

Nudge what are you up to little doggie? What are you up to Nudgles? I’m going to go see what that is.

Mom, can you find my Merida wig? Oh, there’s my tampon swordie. I get all this yucky stuff on the washcloth. Mom, look! It’s a washcloth! I have to go get Char.

7:27 am

Char, look! A tampon! Do you like it? I traded Char for the blue washcloth for the yellow washcloth. Bluuuuuuuuuuue! Yaaaaaaaah! She wants me. Nudge, I was sitting right there and you can’t stiff me!

Ruff ruff ruff ruff. Howwwwwww! Ow ow owwwww!

Oh yeah? Hey little dog.

Nudge growls.

Okay, just stay there a second Nudge.

Yelling from the other room, then quiet.

7:31am

Can you find the little curl that’s hanging in Merida’s eyes please? It’s ok. It has Velcro! See that little scratchy there? It means it has Velcro. You don’t have to worry Char. He wants his PJ’s on it’s cold!

Char cries, “No, no, don’t want Lulu!”

-end-

For the record: I blame her father.

 

chicken soup (a.k.a. flu season soup)

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When my mom was very, very sick from surgeries and chemo, my Aunt Johanna would make her this tummy-warming, cure-all soup. Most days it was the only thing my mom wanted, and the only thing she could keep down. Now that she is a stage 4 cancer survivor (!!!), we still make this soup when anyone is ailing. A cold, the flu, even the slightest sniffle is enough excuse for me to whip up a huge batch of this comforting soup.

In part, that’s where my belief in food as comfort came from (no, I’m not talking about emotional eating…though I have been known to make these cookies at the end of a bad day!) Watching my mom perk up when she ate something she liked (and at that point, eating anything at all) was a beautiful moment to witness. Food was just as healing as medicine. And nowadays, if someone is sick, or has had a new baby, or has suffered a loss, I firmly believe that bringing them a hot meal can make all the difference. If not the food itself, it’s the thought. A Pyrex full of warm soup says I’m thinking about you more than a card or a gift ever could.

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When my little girls have stuffy noses and don’t have much appetite, they’ll still inhale steaming bowls of this soup. But best of all, it takes very little time to make. When you’re caring for someone else, you don’t have time to make everything (or anything!) from scratch. But this soup begins with a store-bought mix, a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, and fresh veggies. All you need to do is throw everything in the pot and let it simmer. It’s not some secret brilliant recipe. But the results taste like it.

Another thing: it isn’t a brothy soup like something from a can. It’s thick and rich, chock-full of egg noodles, chunks of chicken, carrots and celery. If your patient needs nourishment, it’s all inside the bowl. You can tweak it as you like, adding different vegetables, more or less noodles, a bit of extra chicken stock. Make it the way your family likes it. And then sit back, turn on a movie, and settle in with your sick little patients and a warm bowl of homemade chicken soup.

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Chicken Soup (a.k.a. flu season soup)                                   Printable Chicken Soup

This soup is a creation of my Aunt Johanna. She’s a wonderful cook, and is quick to whip up a batch whenever someone is sick. To double the batch, use 2 packages of soup mix and more stock as needed. Freezes beautifully in Ziploc bags!  

Serves 8-12

  • 1 package Mrs. Grass Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup mix (available at Kroger stores or online at Amazon)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 package (6 oz.) egg noodles (add the full package if you like thicker soup with lots of noodles…I do!)
  • 1 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, shredded or chopped
  • 1 package baby carrots
  • 6 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Bring soup mix, water (Mrs. Grass mix calls for 8 cups), and chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Add noodles and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until noodles are cooked, 10-12 minutes or according to the time instructed on your package of noodles.

2. Add chicken, celery, carrots, salts and pepper. Stir and let simmer (covered) an additional 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.