Happy tears, Happy Valentine’s Day!

A few years ago…okay 6 years ago, when Brianna was just a baby, only 4 months old, we had something happen that’s horrible at any time but I think especially horrible when you’re a new parent with a new baby: we had a fatal computer crash. That was at a time when I kind of knew I should be backing up somehow, but the same options (Dropbox, Carbonite, SugarSync, Time Machine) weren’t available to me. Like any brand new parents, we’d taken a rather large amount of pictures of our precious bundle of joy…many of which were lost along with The Crash. We’d, of course, shared a lot of them with our family members, so we were able to get some of them back. But there were still some lost.

A few years down the road (maybe two) Josh had a coworker who had a hobby of working with older and crashed computers. Somehow, Josh ended up handing over our old computer to him (yes, we still had it) in hopes that he could do something with recovering the files (we gave him the computer, all we asked is that if he recovered the files, he pass them on to us). More years passed (now four) and we’d given up on and pretty much forgotten that computer, though we’d occasionally speak regretfully about the pictures we’d lost.

And then, last week, I mentioned that Josh had brought me a home a surprise that was so awesome, so wonderful, it made me cry. Maybe you see where this story is going?

I haven’t seen some of these pictures for six years. You’re damn straight I cried. And not only were there pictures, but a few videos as well.

Best early Valentine’s Day present EVER.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, her eyes still are that blue.

Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope you’re as lucky in love as I’ve been.

And to my husband: I love you. Thanks for being my best friend and an amazing father. Give our daughter a kiss for me.

Sasha’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

Months ago, I sent out a Twitter request for a tried and true Chicken Tortilla Soup. I’d tried a number of online recipes but never found one I liked. My long-time friend Sasha Knight, editor extraordinaire, came to the rescue and emailed me her recipe. It’s…fabulous.A? The recipe below is exactly as she sent it to me and she said I could share it with you. You should make it, it’s really delicious!

Chicken Tortilla Soup from Sasha Knight

This is the basic recipe, but I change it up all the time, add a little more of one thing, throw extra spices in, sometimes I add in zucchini or peppers. Just whatever Ia??m in the mood for. This is a good base though, and is good as is if you dona??t want to experiment.

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 3-4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I prefer thighs)

1 4 oz can of green chilis

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can of pinto beans (I use jalapeno pinto beans), drained and rinsed

1 can of corn, do not drain (I use mexicorn)

1 can of tomato sauce

2 cans of chicken broth

1 pkg or taco seasoning or 1 pkg of dry fiesta ranch salad dressing (I prefer the fiesta ranch, but I was told that ita??s hard to find outside of California)

2 (or more) whole jalapenos, puncture to allow flavor into the soup

1 bunch of cilantro chopped (minus stems)

1/2-1 cup of salsa (any brand, I tend to use chunky)

Tortillas or tortilla chips (optional)

Sour cream (optional)

Shredded cheddar and jack cheese (optional)

Avocado (optional)

How to prepare:

Put chicken in the bottom of the crockpot and pour remaining ingredients on top of it except for the salsa, tortillas, sour cream, and cheese. Stir and cook on low for 6-8 hours. The last 30 minutes, remove chicken and shred. Put the shredded chicken back into the soup and add the salsa. Mix well. Serve with tortilla chips or tortillas and garnish with sour cream, cheese and sliced avocado.

(AJ: I didn’t read the instructions totally right and added the salsa with all of the other ingredients at the beginning and this didn’t seem to hurt it. I served with grated cheese–mix it into your bowl and it gets a deliciously creamy taste. Top with tortilla chips and…yum! Also, I found Fiesta Ranch packets in the salad dressing aisle, but didn’t use that, because my husband doesn’t like ranch flavor.)

Because it’s Tuesday (Perfect Play giveaway)…

And Tuesdays are always a difficult day. And because we were talking about this cover today via email (again, for the one millionth time). And because Jaci is one of my best friends and I want to support her release…I’m giving away two copies of this cover…

Book Cover

I mean, two copies of this book. The book. The cover’s just a bonus. Well, I mean, the cover comes with the book, but the awesomeness of it is a bonus. What’s inside lives up to the cover quite…perfectly.

I’ll give away 2 copies, digital or print, your choice. I’ll even mail to international winners as long as the book remains available at the Book Depository (who makes mailing internationally so much easier). To enter, all you need to do is comment below and tell me, do you want digital or print (seriously, could it be any easier?)

Contest ends Thursday, February 10th @ noon Eastern. Make sure you comment with a valid email address filled in, so I can contact you. Winners will be chosen via Random.org. Everyone is eligible to enter and win, even if you’ve won something here before. No bonus points for drooling over the cover in the comments, but feel free to do so anyway.

Getting “The Call”

I’m going to give you permission for something, not that you need MY permission, but it might make you feel better to know that editors and agents really do understand…

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When you get The Call, whether it’s your very first or your tenth, it’s okay if you take a moment or five to be incoherent. If your emotions get the best of you, and you feel a little teary, or you want to be excited and babble and make absolutely no sense, it’s okay. We won’t hold it against you. Editors and agents know this is a big moment for a lot of authors, and we usually plan for this and follow-up with an email detailing the conversation. And even if we don’t, it’s okay to email later to tell us you were so overwhelmed with excitement, you missed some of the details, and would we just explain again. Honestly, we get it. This is huge for you, so take a moment to bask in it.

The only thing I ask is that you not make me listen to you throwing up because you’re so overcome (no, that’s never happened, I just wanted to add that caveat).

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