NaNoWriMo Prep 2018

Last year was the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo after many years of wanting to but being too scared to.  I learned a lot of things during the process and managed to succeed in hitting my word goal.  I realized pretty early on that I was going to have some bad days where I didn’t get close to my daily goal (though I often tried to push myself to reach it) but I would also have days where the words would flow without issue and I would have a surplus.  Working a full time day job did impact my writing since there were some nights I had to force myself to even attempt to write and I know that this year will be no different.

I went back and forth many times in the last couple weeks wondering if I wanted to start a brand new story like I did last year or if I want to take one of my already started ideas (barely started) and expand on that. This was more of a struggle than I anticipated, but I eventually decided to work on an already started idea (though I will be completely reworking it because I don’t LOVE what I already wrote).

Thankfully those close to me understand that this will make me go virtually radio silent, but I’ve only done this once before and I know that I could have an entirely different experience than I had last year.  Still I feel I learned a few things during last November, such as the following.

  • I’m going to require caffeine, lots and lots of caffeine.
  • I really should not look at the daily graph, even if I’m doing well.
  • I cannot sacrifice sleep for this, I still have to go to my day job.
  • This is for fun, but remember that even fun can be stressful and cause anxiety.
  • Self care. Self care. Self care. (I cannot stress this enough).

So what exactly am I doing to prep? The biggest hurdle of prep for me so far was deciding just what I was going to do, but there are a few things I’m anticipating doing in the next couple weeks.

  • Outlining. I don’t love outlining, but it’s something that is incredibly helpful in this process.
  • Making sure that there is a food plan in place. No, I’m not kidding. Stress eating is a thing, wanting something quick so you can get to work is a thing. Last year there were nights I was so stressed out with the “I just worked 8 hours, I HAVE to catch up!” that I fell into the pit of quick food. I have to be careful with my diet anyways, so this was very unhealthy in many ways.
  • Remember that self care I mentioned? Have a plan in place for it.

My experience is likely not like everyone else’s, but I recognize that I easily get stressed and anxious. Last year I met my goal and I had a blast doing it, but by the end of the month I was exhausted and literally didn’t write anything for the rest of the year.  The end of November was both triumphant and a relief. Above all this year I need to remember that this is something fun, it’s completely fine if I don’t meet my goal every single day.  Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on getting that winner certificate, but I recognize that I can’t make myself sick while doing it.

Who else is getting ready for NaNoWriMo? What are you doing to prep?

Good luck!

Author Spotlight: Ellie Alexander

Earlier this year while browsing Booktube I was introduced to the Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander.  I was instantly intrigued as this series was set in Ashland, Oregon, which is a place near and dear to my heart.  I have many fond memories of Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare festival throughout my life, going to the Shakespeare Festival was a tradition for my dad and I. Needless to say, I was both excited and cautious when I picked up the first book in the series, Meet Your Baker.

meet your baker

This series centers around Juliet, who has recently returned home to Ashland, Oregon to help her mother at their bake shop, Torte.  Obviously murder and mayhem ensues and soon Jules is knee deep in the mystery.

I was pleasantly surprised by how vividly Ellie Alexander painted Ashland and how accurate the descriptions of this section of the city were.  After reading this first book I was completely hooked.  Her writing is descriptive and rich, with humor and playfulness woven in. While reading this book I was completely immersed, not just because of the story but because of how perfectly she painted the atmosphere of Ashland itself. It’s one of my favorite places so I readily admit I’m biased, but that may have also made me a harsher critic if it wasn’t as perfect as it is.

I immediately started collecting the next couple books in the series but as of yet hadn’t had a chance to continue (the TBR struggle is real). I added not only the books from the Bakeshop series to my wish list, but also her other series both under Ellie Alexander, but her other name Kate Dyer-Seeley.

This past week I got an email from my favorite local bookstore, Oregon Books, notifying me of an author event they were having. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when it was Ellie Alexander.  My internal fangirl did a little dance and I immediately put it on my calendar. I didn’t know what to expect, but was just excited that I would get to meet a local author whose work I truly enjoy.  The event was amazing, the intimate setting allowed us to have a great discussion about her different series, how they came to be, her writing process and more. If I didn’t already want to read everything she had written, this would have definitely made me want to. It was obvious that she puts some of herself into each story she writes and that serves to make her work more inviting and full of depth.  Listening to her talk about the places she writes about (all of which she has visited) made me want to visit them all, even those I’ve been to many times throughout my life. I was able to get books from a couple of her other series which I can’t wait to pick up.

I would have recommended her books before meeting her, but after meeting her and getting to spend time with her I want to recommend her even more.  If you are looking for a new cozy mystery, definitely check her out.  If a bakeshop/food centered mystery isn’t your thing, she has three other series available that focus on other themes.  There’s the Pacific Northwest Mysteries (her first series) which center around Meg, who wants to be a serious investigative reporter but ends up working for an outdoor magazine – even though she doesn’t know much about outdoor activities. Her Rose City mystery series centers around a floral shop in Portland, Oregon where our main character Britta works with her aunt Elin.  Last (but definitely not least) is the Sloan Krause Mystery series, set in Leavenworth, Washington with a theme of brewing craft beers.
scene of the climbnatural thorn killerdeath on tap

(All cover images link to the Amazon pages for the books)

Be sure to also check out Ellie on her website and her new youtube channel.

Happy Reading!

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox

Release: October 2nd

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Goodreads Link / Amazon Link

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. Kagawa’s writing is so beautiful and rich. This is not something I would call a fast read, but not because it was slow in any way. I found myself needing to absorb chunks of it before continuing. The descriptions were well developed and I felt each of the main characters (or semi-main) were well fleshed out with individual personalities.  Exploring Yumeko and Tatsumi’s personal relationship growing and forming was a joy to watch, even if you knew certain things had to happen that may affect it.  As each new character became more central it was wonderfully woven so that they seemed natural and weren’t out of place or unwanted. They all had their own journey to add to the story and I can only imagine where they may go in the next book.

This is the first time I have read one of Kagawa’s books and after reading this I definitely want to not only get the sequel as fast as humanly possible but I may pull out the few of her books I have on my TBR shelf and read them sooner rather than later. I was captivated by her writing style and just loved the pacing and language so much.

I could see some things within the story that other people may have issues with, but for me this was just perfect. I did not want the story to end and found myself not wanting to finish it simply so I could prolong it somehow. For me that is always a good sign but also a little heartbreaking because I need more.  I won’t lie, books set in Asian settings are some of my favorites, but this one was amazing.

The details and cultural/mythological references were so well done and well developed in the story. There’s just enough explanation that I immediately knew and could envision what was going on.

All in all this was one of my favorite reads of this year and I CANNOT wait for more in this story.  Shadow of the Fox is out today, so go pick up your own copy and enjoy the adventure.

Happy reading!