month of me- in review (nonfiction)

IMG_7876I’m so sorry it’s been two Tuesdays without a blog post, y’all. I’m in the final countdown of baby #3 showing up, plus we just had family visiting for my husband’s graduation, and there was soooo much going on! I thought I planned ahead, but goodness I guess not.

How have y’all been? I’m backtracking a little bit today.

For the month of April I decided to take a leap and break from my norm.  Before last month, I couldn’t tell you when the last time was that I truly read a nonfiction book. Maybe around two years ago? I really couldn’t be sure.

I don’t always adore nonfiction. I really appreciate encouraging books that help relate to you when you’re in a tough spot, or books that are refreshing to read to remind you of what’s important or… you know what I mean? But beyond that, I’m not a nonfiction guru. I’ve read a biography or two, but nothing too serious. I tend to stick to fiction.

April was going to be different. I realized that my list of nonfiction reads (mostly relating to motherhood) had  become exceptionally long, but they always seemed to get pushed to the bottom of my list. Instead of continuing to put them off, I knew it was time that I read at least one– two max– that gave me some of the vibes and spiritual guidance I needed in that part of my life.

(I understand that this might not relate to many of you, so if you’re still reading– thanks for sticking with me!)

The two books I chose were: Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist and Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough by Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly.

While these two were pretty similar, they were wildly different. I loved them both so very much, but the one I related to the most right now was Present Over Perfect. I don’t get super personal on this space all the time; it’s mostly for writing and reading adventures. However, this book was pretty personal, so hang on if you wish to keep reading!

In this day and age it’s really hard to be a professional of any kind that requires marketing. (See previous posts on marketing as an author.) You need a platform, social media skills, and so much more. And the thing is, lots of that work needs to be put in before you even have a book (business, blog, site, etc.) out there. So, a lot of the time, you’re putting in A LOT of work that you’re not really being paid for. Sometimes it might not seem like work to others, and sometimes it might feel more like a burden than blessing to you.

This book really brought that to the forefront. While there’s so much more to it, it was about being present. I tend to look at my to-do list of a clean house, blog post, IG post, a few tweets, lessons, and activities– and forget to just enjoy the moments that are presented to me.

I hate to admit it, but this book made me realize just how addicted I am to social media… and a lot of time, that social media isn’t worth the moments I’m missing.

Sure, social media is a great way to connect, learn, and grow in many ways. I love connecting with other authors and book-lovers and so forth– but I don’t have to be doing it all the time, to the point that I miss other important things.

“Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life.”

The other thing it can do is give us all a complex. If you don’t have as many followers or likes or consistency, you start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Is it a waste of time? Do you need to invest more time so you have an account equivalent to that other writer? Does this mean you’re not meant to be doing what you’re doing?

“In a thousand ways, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. When you allow other people to determine your best choices; when you allow yourself to be carried along by what other people think your life should be, could be, must be; when you hand them the pen and tell them to write your story, you don’t get the pen back. Not easily, anyway.”

When it comes down to it, we all have to prioritize and really take the time to slow down and enjoy the world that is closest to us. Maybe this isn’t a popular opinion, but it really is what radiated from the pages of this book to me.

This is why I might have missed the last two blog posts, and why my trackback thursdays haven’t been present as of late–because in the end it came more important to sit with family I hadn’t seen in almost two years than to worry about making a self-made deadline.

But don’t take that the wrong way. I love you guys. I’m getting back on track with it all. Thanks for your patience.

I highly recommend this book. Take some time for you and sloooooow down!

 

when to set a project aside

Writing is an amazing thing.

It allows you to get into character’s heads, creating them from nothing but your imagination. It allows you to bring new worlds or old times alive. It allows you to get all those pent up feelings out of your system. It allows you to really do something and feel accomplished.

Sometimes, though, a project isn’t cutting it. Many of these times you can push through and find a solution to the problem. You consult with your CP and brainstorm until your brain hurts and you finally get around that “block” you’ve been struggling with.

Those are the amazing times.

There are the exceptions, though, when you can’t find your way around the writer’s block. You’ve been stuck… and stuck… and stuck on this project for what may seem (or actually has been) ages and you feel like you are getting nowhere.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid to put the project on the shelf, because you don’t want to quit/give up. You’re afraid of stepping away and starting something new, thinking maybe the same thing will happen with the new project: you’ll start it, and then you’ll get stuck. You don’t want to create a pattern.

So you keep trying. And writing. And pushing, And prodding.

Still, you get nowhere.

This was me, my friends. I had been working on a project for about two years.

Yes. Let me say that again.

Two YEARS.

And I was so sure it was still going somewhere. I wanted it to go somewhere because it was such a good idea. It still is. But I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t get the layout how I wanted, and my characters weren’t progressing how I thought they would. Something just wasn’t right. It was lacking.

Finally, a good friend told me there was nothing wrong with shelving the idea. After a Skype session about how I had a new idea for a book, and how I wanted to write it but was afraid to step away from this other project, she said something:

“Write your new idea. Go back to your current project when you’re ready. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

After taking her advice, I have to say I feel such a relief. So, to follow up after all that, here’s some advice from me!

Write what’s calling to you.

Writing is hard work. It’s always going to be hard work, no matter what. Anyone who says anything differently is, well, dead wrong. In order to make it slightly less painful and a little easier on you, write what’s calling you. If you had an idea and started and you’ve been trucking away but you just can’t do it (I mean literally) then give yourself a break. Whether that break is for a short story, a blog post, or shelving it to work on a new novel– know that you didn’t fail. You can always go back to it.

Don’t be afraid of a new idea.

Let me first say that there is, of course, a healthy balance. If you are a chapter or few away from finishing your novel and you decide to put it aside to start a new idea because you’re afraid to finish your novel– that’s a whole different ballgame. But if you’re writing a book and you suddenly feel more pulled to write something else, you don’t need to be afraid of that. Write your idea down. Heck, write your new idea– you don’t want to lose it! Know that you are a writer no matter how many projects you have going.

Recognize a pattern.

The only word of caution I would put in here, is be aware. If you have written half of five novels and somehow can’t find the motivation to finish any of them, it might be time to reevaluate. Consider brainstorming with a CP, or finding a writing group that will keep you accountable, or make yourself write a synopsis or outline or something that’s going to get you to the end of a project. You don’t want to have all these unfinished books and wonder where you went wrong.

 

I can’t really say when YOU should set a project aside. Every writer is different. All I can tell you is that you should trust your instincts and gut when it comes to YOUR writing. Weigh advice, suggestions, new ideas, old ideas, and so forth with a grain of salt.

Above all, write for yourself. If you’re writing for everyone else, you’ll never get anywhere.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”Cyril Connolly

The Hate U Give book review

IMG_6904I had been looking forward to this book since way back when. I love being plugged in to the author/writing community on Twitter. While I’m not going to lay any sort of claim to knowing the author personally, I know someone who knows her– and that always brings books closer to my heart.

But this one, y’all… this one would have been there anyway.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

I read this book in 72 hours, and it would’ve been faster if I didn’t have to adult. The characters/setting was so vivid that I was pulled into every detail of what was going on. Starr was amazing with her torn life and decisions, and I loved every character. As in, no character was lacking story or personality. They all came to life.

This book is extremely relevant to current events, and one that makes you want to sit and think and discuss so many issues. No matter where you stand or what you believe– you should read this book.

it’s my party

Hey lovely people. Today is my birthday, and seeing how I mostly write about writing and books, I thought I’d take the time (as I did last year) to say hello and share a few things about myself.

After all, if one cannot talk about oneself on her birthday, then few things make sense. Right? Right.

17631997_10158544421455397_7634020482675049738_o1. At this
point, I have no idea what my natural hair color is. It’s somewhere between brunette and dark blond… at least I’d like to think it is.

2. Last year I  shared that I thought about writing picture books based off of things my oldest says, but I didn’t think I was cut out for it. Since then, I’ve written four based on my kiddos and have to admit I’m in love with writing them these days.

3. For the past few months I couldn’t tell you how many batches of different kinds of muffins I’ve made.

4. I am 32 weeks pregnant with my third boy. Yep. Third BOY. And  I am SO excited (and ready to be done).

5. I am the middle of three girls.

6. For the first time, I’ve shelved a true WIP. I was a good half of the way into writing a book and after two years of trying had to shelf it. As soon as I made that decision, I got a new idea and it is occupying my mind most of the time these days.

7. I have given in to living in Arizona. As my husband and I bought a house for our family here, I really have no choice.

8. My husband and I have been together (if you want to do it from dating-time) for ten years.

9. Initially I committed myself to one genre of writing, and have realized that I don’t need to do that. Writers gonna write what they NEED to write– and sometimes that’s all over the place!

10. We had our first 100 degree day on Sunday. It was depressing.

11. Just realized some of these aren’t really about myself.

12. My favorite color is YELLOW. It has been since I was at least three (just ask my parents). It’s the happiest of colors to me. Not a Taxi yellow, but a daisy/sunflower/pastel yellow.

13. We painted the guest room in our new house yellow, and I have dreams of making part of it my office at some point.

14. In about two weeks we have family visiting: my parents, in-laws, and sister-in-law as well. They are ALL staying with us.

15. I am an absolute control freak. I have my good days and bad days, but my husband likes to tell me to “do the Elsa” and let things go. Sometimes it works. Lots of times it doesn’t.

16. My favorite dinner is honestly what my husband is called our “European night.” Basically we get a bunch of gourmet meats, cheeses, a loaf of bread, some fruit, and (when I’m not pregnant) wine and we veg out with a movie or one of our favorite shows.

17. My favorite flowers are sunflowers and hibiscus. I intend to have them both in our new backyard eventually.

18. I love talking writing and strategy with other writers, but at the same time struggle. I recently became a planner, though I’ve always been a pantser.

19. Even though we have two boys and one on the way, as well as a doggie “baby” named Luna– I really miss having a cat.

20. I dream of having an Alice in Wonderland themed tea-party for a birthday party. Still. Someday.

21. I’m pretty awful at keeping up with housework when I have a good book idea brewing.

22. It’s a toss-up between coffee and tea for me during the day, but coffee is the only thing for me when I first get up.

23. I’m a genuine morning person and Monday-lover. Did I just lose you as a follower?

24. Keeping fresh flowers in the house really help brighten my days.

25. My favorite book I’ve read so far this year is a tie between The Hate U Give and All The Missing Girls. Nonfiction it has definitely been Present over Perfect.

26. I go back and forth between still thinking I’m 25 and just telling people I’m almost 30.

27. I’m genuinely okay with being in my late 20s.

28. Still attempting to make a splash with #Writerslifeapparel and loving it.

Everything Everything book review

IMG_6288EVERYTHING EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon was a book I kept seeing around Instagram, and honestly picked up once I saw the trailer for the movie (don’t hate). While I love YA, I’m not always a huge YA Contemporary person. I have had my moments with John Green and other authors and loved them, but overall I will admit I tend to stick with Historical Fiction the most.

However, one must always branch out. And I’ve made it a goal to do that more and more this year.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I loved the creativity that went into this book. All of Madeline’s drawings, diagrams, lists, etc– it adds so much to the book. I love books in any genre that take everything one step farther, and I really think this book did that.

The only negative thing I thought during my time with this book was how realistic some of it was. Of course that’s the fun of fiction, but books like these you have to wonder and question certain aspects of it all. Not saying things/situations aren’t possible, just saying I couldn’t decide how believable it was to me- even in moments I was immersed in the story.

No spoilers, but there was a twist that I was not expecting. And my goodness how it made my heart throb/break/beat. See what I did there? Now you hopefully don’t know what kind of twist it is!

I would suggest reading this before the movie (May 19) if possible. You won’t regret it!

own the word: you are an author

imageI used to say I was “just a writer.” That I “just write.”

Whenever someone would call me an author, I would humbly respond, “I’m just a writer. I haven’t been published.”

Somewhere in my mind was this idea that I wasn’t a true author until my book was published. Not until I could see it on Amazon or a shelf at Barnes and Noble. Only then would I be a real author.

Not before. Not now.

Right now, I just write and dream of being an author. I’m an aspiring author.

But what does aspiring mean?

aspire

to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value.

Do I long, aim or seek to be an author?

author

person who writes a novel, poem, or essay; the composer of a literary work….

Well, according to those definitions–no. I don’t aspire to be an author.

I AM an author.

If you ask if I’m a person who longs, aims, and seeks to write a novel, poem, or essay, that’s wrong.

I’ve already done that.

I’ve already written a novel. I’ve written two, actually, and I’m working on a third. I’ve already developed the words and sentences and chapters and characters and everything that goes into the literary work.

So, I am not “just a writer.”

(In fact, according to the dictionary, there isn’t a difference. A writer is an author. They can be simultaneous. If someone is in the business of writing books, he or she is an author.)

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been published. It doesn’t matter if you’re only halfway, or a third, or a fourth of the way through a piece of work.

YOU are an author.
You have come up with a beautiful, new idea. You are writing that idea. You are slaving away over every word choice, every twist and turn. You are getting to know your characters and bringing them to life. You are breathing the story in and out so others can one day do the same.

You ARE an author.
If you have queried a book that has been rejected countless times or you got an agent on your first try, you are an author. If you have gone on rounds and rounds of submissions, only to have to turn to another project, you are an author. If you have self-published and gone through the hard work of promoting your own story, you are an author.

You are an AUTHOR.
You have created a story, a life, a world out of nothing but words and your imagination. You have stayed up countless nights, lived off of coffee alone, and missed opportunities to make a deadline. You have sacrificed favorite characters or storylines for the sake of your art and stuck to your guns when you weren’t willing to sacrifice your hard work.

When you say you’re an aspiring author or you’re just a writer, you are saying that you are TRYING to be something, or you are MERELY something.

Don’t belittle yourself. Enough people are going to try to do that for you as time progresses.

YOU ARE AN AUTHOR.
Own it. Be it. Write it.

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Get your “own the word” tee in pink, blue, yellow, or purple ombre. Available in various styles and colors!

This post was originally posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog and has also been featured on Golden Wheat Literary‘s blog.

 

Originally posted May 2016. 

Dream Eater book review

IMG_5575Happy book birthday to K. Bird Lincoln’s Dream Eater! I did a cover reveal for this book a few months ago, hosted a post from the very author, and now I finally get to share my review with y’all!

Koi Pierce dreams other peoples’ dreams.

Her whole life she’s avoided other people. Any skin-to-skin contact–a hug from her sister, the hand of a barista at Stumptown coffee–transfers flashes of that person’s most intense dreams. It’s enough to make anyone a hermit.

But Koi’s getting her act together. No matter what, this time she’s going to finish her degree at Portland Community College and get a real life. Of course it’s not going to be that easy. Her father, increasingly disturbed from Altzheimer’s disease, a dream fragment of a dead girl from the casual brush of a creepy PCC professor’s hand, and a mysterious stranger who speaks the same rare Northern Japanese dialect as Koi’s father will force Koi to learn to trust in the help of others, as well as face the truth about herself.

I read through this book pretty quickly when I received it. I was very excited about the Japanese folklore inside, as I have little to no knowledge of it and was eager to learn and explore alongside the characters. Koi quickly drew me in with her hermit-like tendencies and desire to not touch anyone. It was easy to get sucked into what was going on, fast.

Kept entertained through the book, I only had trouble following sometimes as it was hard to figure out what was going on with Koi and the dream fragments from time to time. Once more, I also really wanted more character development from her sister, her father, and even Koi herself. Thankfully I know this is the first in a series, so I’m hoping more comes to life through more books!

My favorite part of this book was the descriptiveness. It was so easy to see Koi, the other characters, and the surroundings.

As Koi drew closer to accepting who she was and interacting more with those around her, it grew harder and harder for me to put the book down. Needless to say, I will definitely be looking forward to the rest of the series!

 

writing for quality over quantity: beware of the dreaded word count

IMG_4939These days, every genre has its requirements/preferences.

Adult Novels can be up around 80k, sometimes higher.

YA it’s good to be between 55k-80k.

PB you shoot for 28-32 pages, keeping it below 1,000 words so it doesn’t seem too long.

MG is safe between 20k-55k, depending on subject matter.

(Thanks for the info, Writer’s Digest!)

But the truth of the matter is, focusing on word count while you’re writing can throw off your groove. You’re afraid to add that subplot that the book needs because it will push you over that high number of word count. Or, you’re book is a little shorter and you’re worried that will scare away agents/editors/publishers. Whatever it is- it’s hard not to think about the word count.

So how do you do it? How do you write, submit, edit (and so forth) without worrying about the end number of words that will be sitting at the bottom of your word document?

Remember it will CHANGE

Word counts change with every draft, every edit, every time you sit down to look at your masterpiece. This is why it’s so important to have writing counterparts- your critical readers and writing buddies and critique partners and editors and fellow writers. If you do it all on your own, then your work is more than likely never going to be as good as it can be.

Keep exceptions in mind 

Books push boundaries. As readers and writers this is good to keep in mind. I’m not saying that you should be like Ulysses and have your opening sentence being pages and pages long, but it’s good to keep in mind that there are always authors who can push those boundaries/limits/suggestions and do it well. Maybe your MG is a little long, and it worries you– but it is all together and beautifully rafted. Don’t worry. Either someone will love it, or someone will help you tender it to the right word-length.

Just keep WRITING

Goodness knows that if you focused on everything that could go wrong, or everything that is wrong, or everything that you NEED to do to get your novel there– it would never be written. My first book I was so concerned with the chapters being the same amount of pages that it almost kept me from writing certain scenes, and almost made me write in things that weren’t needed. In fact, if you ask my editor, she’ll tell you these things were there in the first draft. Because I was SO worried about hitting a certain amount of words, that I lost track of what I was really writing.

As always, my final suggestion is to just keep going. Write what you have in mind, and then whether you need to add or cut- it’s going to be alllllll right.

All The Missing Girls book review

17308699_435957483418193_4427007164832455838_nI picked up this book of the recommendation of my agent, and I’m not sorry at all. I absolutely love crime/mystery/thrillers, although I don’t read them as often as I did in the days of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie (when I was younger). This book took me a minute to stick with it, but once it started tugging with clues and suspicion, I could not stop!

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all  down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love

I loved that this book was written “backwards.” At first I wasn’t sure. I thought, how is this going to work? But once I got pulled into it, it was such a cool way to read. When you got to earlier chapters, things continued to make more and more sense as the mystery unfolded. Not only that, but things from earlier in the book, but later in the timeline, became clearer, hoping me draw conclusions and call the killer.

Just so we’re clear, I’m pretty sure no one can guess the ending of this book. That’s why you should read it!

I gave it four stars on Goodreads, mostly because there were some parts where I wasn’t really sure it was helping the story, but overall this book was so worth the read. More than worth the read.

Go get it!

trackback thursday: remember the Alamo

 

ask-alamo-survivor-iStock_000024609914Large-E

photo credit: history.com

On March 6, 1836 For Alamo fell to Mexican troops after a siege that lasted around thirteen days.

The bravery and resistance of those at the Alamo made for the rallying cry, “Remember the Alamo!” The Texans went on to defeat General Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto in April.

Many months before this, Texans had driven Mexican troops out of Mexican Texas. About 100 Texans were garrisoned at the Alamo, and the forces only grew slightly when joined by co-commanders James Bowie and William B. Travis. On February 23rd, around 1500 Mexicans marched to retake Texas.

Over the next ten days, the armies engaged in many skirmishes with few casualties. Travis was aware that his men could not withstand an attack by such a large force; he wrote multiple letters pleading for more men and supplies, but they were reinforced by fewer than 100 men.

In the early morning hours of March 6th, the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo. After repelling two attacks, the Texans were unable to fend the Mexican Army off a third time.

“Remember the Alamo” created two sparks: a rush of men, wishing to join the Texan army, and a panic that led to many soldiers and settlers fled the new Republic of Texas, away from the advancing Mexican Army.

 

Honestly, when I think of the Alamo, I think of the movie that came out years ago… 2004… with Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton. I know, kind of pathetic. But it’s one place I would love to visit! Raise your hand (or leave a comment) if you’ve been there.

REMEMBER THE ALAMO!