Writing Update: February

So if you’ve been following my blog at all you know that NaNoWriMo last year was not the best for me. It was my third year doing it and the first time I failed.

Yep, that’s about how I looked when I threw in the towel. For whatever reason I just couldn’t get myself to write as much as I needed to. I know part of it was the fact that November was so busy, but still, it was rough.

Since then I’ve been trying to get more organized and decide just what I want to work on. I have so many WIPs that sometimes I get pretty scattered. I’ve now gathered up all of my notebooks that contain scene ideas and character notes, so I know where all of them are. I’ve also moved all of my writing to one place where before it was in a few different places.

I think my next plan of action is to pick only a couple of my WIPs to work on. I know, you may be screaming at me to pick one and only one, but my use doesn’t work like that. It’s very very fickle and likes to change its mind. I do want to concentrate on only a couple though, so I need to decide which ones are the highest priority.

I’m also thinking about participating in Camp NaNoWriMo in April so that I can work on something existing and not have to wait until November. I’m still a little undecided on that as April is usually a busy month for me.

So that’s where I am, besides some light editing and streamlining I haven’t done a ton of writing, but preparation is a good thing.

What are you working on? Happy writing!

That Harlequin Feeling

What is ‘That Harlequin Feeling’? Harlequin has been doing extensive consumer research to launch a new campaign and redesign their covers – something that has been very exciting to see. I love picking up a Harlequin book and have fond memories of seeing both my grandmother and mother reading them before I myself started reading them. I was excited to receive their press release regarding the research they’ve done and are happy to share it with you. Make sure to also visit ThatHarlequinFeeling.com to watch the video and download two free ebooks!

Two years of extensive consumer research has reaffirmed what Harlequin has believed for 70 years: that reading a Harlequin romance novel makes women feel uplifted, inspired and empowered. As a result, Harlequin is launching That Harlequin Feeling, a new national campaign that celebrates the powerful and positive feelings that millions of readers get from Harlequin books.

“That Harlequin Feeling campaign is an unapologetic celebration of the happiness Harlequin brings to readers’ lives,” says Farah Mullick, Senior Director, Retail Business Development at Harlequin. “Harlequin romance novels have it all: hopeful fresh starts, dramatic family sagas, unexpected twists and turns. Readers feel a deep emotional connection to the characters and their happy endings.”

With two books sold per second worldwide, Harlequin reaches readers internationally in 32 languages. An innovator in the billion-dollar romance industry, Harlequin pioneered the series romance model. Harlequin Series includes 12 romance lines with recognizable branded packaging and a set number of books published on a reliable monthly schedule. Sixty-six original titles are released in print and ebook formats across the 12 Harlequin series every month. Each series offers a unique type of romance, from suspenseful reads to inspirational stories of faith and family.

Harlequin’s consumer research helped define the distinct characteristics of each series for readers and influenced new cover designs that communicate the incredible variety of stories. “The new look drew heavily on insights from thousands of romance readers,” says Tony Horvath, Creative Director, Series & Digital Publishing at Harlequin. “The results are contemporary, spontaneous covers that reflect what readers want to see in 2020. Similar to a movie poster, the book covers tell a story with one image.”

Harlequin is encouraging women in North America to discover That Harlequin Feeling by downloading two free ebooks from ThatHarlequinFeeling.com.

Happy reading!

Flashback Friday: Books I Loved When I Was Younger

We all have those books that hold a dear place in our hearts. Books that looking back may not be perfect but that we can reread time and again because of how much we loved them in our youth. I’m going to take a walk down memory lane and talk about some of the ones I loved and still love.

Nancy Drew – I read a lot of Nancy Drew as a young teen. I was voracious in my devouring of books so my mom suggested I try them out, thinking they would last me a while. Yeah, I read all of the original stories, the extended originals and most of the files books. I’ve now collected all of the originals and all of the filed through 100. These books are a product of their time and aren’t perfect, but in a lot of ways they are also timeless. I can usually pick up one if I’m in a slump and fly through it.

L.J. Smith – I may be somewhat revealing my age, but I read pretty much all of L.J. Smith’s books when they came out. The Forbidden Game trilogy (my favorite), Vampire Diaries (the originals, not the ones that were added on later), Secret Circle, Dark Visions and Night World (do not even get me started on Strange Fate unless you want to hear a mega rant). I now have two sets of the original cover editions of the Forbidden Game trilogy, as well as two editions of all the Night World books, including first editions and the new beautiful re-released ones. No, they don’t necessarily hold up as well to modern standards, but they all have such a dear place in my heart.

Anne of Green Gables – I was gifted a box set of the entire Anne of Green Gables series as a child, another gift from my mom, because I loved the TV series that was made (starring Megan Follows). I didn’t get to them until I was a little older, but they are a huge chunk of my adolescence. I have thought about getting a new set of books since mine are very battered, but haven’t settled on what exactly I want yet.

So there we have it, a very narrowed down snippet of books that I loved and still love. What are some of your old favorites?

Happy reading!

Discussion: To Keep or Not to Keep? Different Types of Book Collecting

If you’ve been on the internet at all in the last few months, I’m sure you’ve seen memes, videos and posts talking about Marie Kondo and her Netflix show, which was preceded by her popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  This has caused quite a ripple effect which includes a number of book bloggers, booktubers and others to examine their collections and initiate a purge (or at least make them consider one).

One of Marie’s quotes was taken out of context regarding how many books she likes to keep and sparked quite a…discussion by some who took it at face value. I think the important take away from the varying opinions, whether people agree with Marie’s methods or not, is that either way it caused people to look at their own lifestyles and possessions. I have been known to watch extreme organizing shows when I know I need a push to clean, not because my home is in disarray, but because it’s a motivational push.

That being said, seeing how those in the book community react to this trend, or even respond to it has been interesting.  It’s important to remember that there are many different types of book collectors and everyone is entitled to their own preference regarding their collection.

There are those who prefer to have copies of every book they have read whether they liked it or not, because it’s something they have consumed and has memories attached to it.  Others prefer to only keep a small selection of books which are their favorite and most beloved of stories and not own any others.  Then there are some in the middle (like me) who have a large collection of books, but they are typically books they have enjoyed and many that they will read again.  I personally do not keep books that I don’t enjoy, or if I felt the story was enjoyable enough but don’t really feel it has a place on my shelf I will let it go to a better home.

There is nothing wrong with any of these styles of collecting.  People are allowed to collect in any way that gives them joy (a key point that Marie made, over and over again).  Too often people react negatively when they see another person collecting in a way that is different than their own, I think people often lose sight of the fact that we are all individual and what may work for them doesn’t work for other people.

So, if you watch Marie’s show or read her book and suddenly feel the urge to go through all of your books to narrow your collection, then do it! If you don’t feel like you need to, then don’t.  I regularly go through my collection of both read and unread books and purge those that I’ve changed my mind on. Do what works for you and what gives you the most peace of mind when you look at your books.

So what’s your collecting style? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

 

Author Q&A with Tara Gilboy

UNWRITTEN ThumbnailIn 2018 I was given the opportunity to read an e-arc of Unwritten by Tara Gilboy.  Unwritten is a story about Gracie, who knows that she is a character from a story but doesn’t know much more than that.  Frustrated with a lack of information she takes it upon herself to find out more, which sets a number of adventures in motion.  Throughout the story Gracie has to face many facts and situations that teach her who she is.  She gets to learn more about her story and how it lines up (or doesn’t line up) with who she believes she truly is.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Tara and ask her some questions about her writing process, Unwritten and its upcoming sequel.  It was lovely to get the opportunity to communicate with her and I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more of her stories in the future.  Check out her answers below and make sure to give Unwritten a read before the sequel comes out!

Q| What do you enjoy about writing children’s books?
A| Everything! Middle grade novels are my favorite books to read, and I think that’s why I am so drawn to writing them. Most of all, I love the playfulness and freedom of writing for children. As children’s book authors, we can write about wizard schools and chocolate factories and talking animals and fairy tales come to life…. As long as we are telling a good story, we are only limited by the bounds of our imaginations. No concept is too far-fetched or magical. I also love how full of hope and wonder children’s books are. As adults, we get a bit more jaded, I think. And I love how children’s books focus, first and foremost, on storytelling. Child readers don’t put up with long passages of purple prose; everything unnecessary must be pared away. Kids want exciting, well-thought-out plots and strong characters they love (or love to hate).

Q| What inspired the concept of Unwritten?
A| Because of the premise of the book, people often assume I must have started with the “story-within-a-story” idea, but that actually wasn’t the case. At the time I started writing Unwritten, I kept having this recurring nightmare where some sort of supernatural entity was coming after me, and I had to pack up whatever I could fit into my car and run away. That dream was initially my starting point in the story; in the early drafts, the story opened with a stranger arriving in the middle of the night and telling Gracie and her mother that they have to flee. (I think my original opening line was “The pounding shook the house” as this stranger knocks on the door.) Later, as I continued working on the novel, I realized that in order for readers to feel invested in that moment, they needed to know more about Gracie first, so the scene got pushed back into what I think is now chapter four or five, and it eventually evolved into something completely different. But the origin of this story was me exploring who Gracie was running from and why. That same summer, I was spending a lot of time at my dad’s cabin in northern Wisconsin, and I would jog every day in the woods up there. I noticed the woods reminded me of a fairy tale setting, and I started thinking: “what if Gracie was trapped in a fairy tale?” In the early drafts of the book, Gracie actually did travel into the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty.

Q| What are some of your writing rituals? Do you have certain things you do before sitting down to write or brainstorm?
A| I always need some sort of caffeine: coffee in the morning, or tea in the afternoon. If I am stuck, the best thing I can do before I sit down to write is to read a novel I love for half an hour. It always puts me in the mood to write and gets the creative juices flowing. If I am writing, I am usually on my laptop, and when I’m brainstorming, I do it with pen and paper, on cheap yellow legal pads. I have a nice desk, but I never sit at it. I’m usually writing on my couch, often with my dog, Biscuit, in my lap.

Q| I’ve heard that Unwritten will have a sequel, how long of a series do you hope it will be?
A| At this point, I’m not sure! I just finished a draft of the sequel, which will be titled REWRITTEN, and I know I definitely have ideas for a third book. Based on what happens in REWRITTEN, there are definitely more stories I want to tell about Gracie. Right now, I hope there will be at least three.

Q| Will we be seeing the same characters in the sequel, or will we be introduced to new characters?
A| The main characters are all there, but we meet some new characters as well. Gracie and Walter are the main characters of the sequel, but two new characters also have a large role. I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything!

Q| Do you prefer to outline first, or dive right into your first draft?
A|  I used to not outline at all. I am a terrible outliner. When I outline, my writing suffers for it because I find I am always trying to force characters to do things that don’t seem natural for them simply because those actions work for my plot. So I used to write my first drafts without an outline. However, that takes a really long time, because when you write without an outline, you end up throwing A LOT of pages away and having to rewrite a lot. Now I kind of do a combination of writing and outlining. I start writing, then I might stop and outline the next couple scenes, write some more, make changes to my outline, write some more, and so on. I may have a general idea of where I am heading, but I usually don’t know my climax and ending until I get there. The climax of REWRITTEN came as a complete surprise to me up until the day I actually wrote it. There is a quote, I think by E.L. Doctorow, who says “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” That’s how I feel about outlining. It only works for me if I outline a teeny bit at a time. When I proposed REWRITTEN to my editor, I had to create a detailed outline of what the book would be about, and of course, most of it changed by the time I had finished the book. I was a little nervous to break that news to my editor, but thankfully she liked the changes I made!

Q| What are some of your favorite writing tools that you can’t live without?
A| Coffee, legal pads, and purple pens. I don’t know why, but I love writing in pretty colors!

Q| Do you have any other series or stories you are working on?
A| Right now I am focusing on REWRITTEN revisions, but I also have some other story ideas I’ve been playing with. I was working for a while on two stories: one was a YA about these kids who went to a school run by a group of philosopher-scientists, and the other was a historical middle grade about a mermaid. They’ve been sitting in the drawer for a while, but I hope to one day bring them out again. I’d also love to try writing some nonfiction.

Q| Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A| Read a lot, write a lot, and find a workshop group full of people you trust. It will be your most valuable asset as a writer. They should love your work but also push you to make it better. I have a very difficult time developing a revision plan on my own, and my critique partners are always helping me, by closely reading my work, suggesting what needs to change, and also helping me find the “gems” in my stories – the best parts that I can flesh out more and bring to the forefront. The people in my workshop group have become some of my dearest friends, and we are always cheering one another on, commiserating one another on failures, and chatting for hours about storytelling. They are the best! I don’t think I could have written this book without their support. It can be tough to find the right workshop group, though. My number one rule is this: you should always leave a workshop session feeling energized and excited to get to work on your revisions. If you feel dispirited and discouraged, something may be off about the dynamic of the group. They shouldn’t be giving only praise, but they should definitely be telling you what you are doing WELL along with what needs to change. And that’s not just because of ego or hurt feelings. There is no way a writer can successfully revise without being aware of what parts work well and resonate with readers. Those are the parts we want to expand on and strengthen.

TARA GILBOY HEADSHOTTara Gilboy holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia, where she specialized in writing for children and young adults. She teaches for San Diego Community College District and is the author of Unwritten and its sequel REWRITTEN, which is forthcoming in spring 2020. You can find out more about her at taragilboy.com.

Once again, a huge thank you to Tara for taking the time to answer my questions. Please make sure to check out her book and future projects! Happy reading!

Bookish Goals for 2019

I don’t know about everyone else, but 2018 went by super fast for me.  I felt like I accomplished a lot regarding reading and writing, but it was also a whirlwind.  This year and some of 2017 really felt like the first years I was back to being myself reading wise since my father died in 2013.

I ended 2018 with a total of 283 books read.  They were a balance between audio books and physical/e-books and I won’t deny that the ability to listen to audio books at work really allowed me to listen to more.

While I would like to read that amount or more in 2019 and really tackle my TBR, I’ve set my Goodreads goal to 100. I have some other goals that I am setting for myself with books in mind.

giphy

  1. Make decent headway on the physical books on my TBR – currently my physical TBR is, shall we say, a tad out of control.  I have 1.5 bookcases in my bedroom that purely contain unread books, plus a couple stacks.  I have made some progress on some of those far down on my TBR by listening to their audiobooks, but I need to concentrate more on this backlist more than I have been.  Last year only 58 of the 283 books I read were books that I already had a physical copy of, which is 20%.  If I truly want to bring down my physical TBR I need to up this percentage.
  2. Finish some of the series I have started – I have a good amount of duologies/series which I have started, but haven’t completed and in many cases I do own the other books. I’m going to strive to finish 5 of these active series in 2019.
  3. Continue to keep track of my books added to my TBR, books read and other stats in my bullet journal – this was the first year I tried out a bullet journal and I kept it very simple.  I had a page for books read, books added, and number of books per month as well as a couple other small graphs.  This really helped me curb my buying as I had a physical representation of just how much I was bringing in.  I made a goal to not add more books in a month than I read and I only failed that twice (one of which was my birthday month so…).
  4. Ahem, be better about posting here – this blog is new for me but I am really enjoying it; however, with a full time job that requires a lot of my mental energy, it can sometimes be hard to get myself to do anything on my time off.  I’m really going to make an effort to post more and be more regular about the content here.

And a bonus writing goal – I hope to once again participate in Nanowrimo in November.  I did it this year for the 2nd time and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did in 2017, I made a lot of progress and reached my goal.  I’m hoping to continue the trend for a 3rd time in a row.

So far that’s the main goals I have planned for myself and I will be more than happy if I can accomplish them.  What are some of your goals for 2019?

Happy reading!

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!

Anthology Appreciation

Not everyone enjoys anthologies, but they are some of my favorites.  I’ve always been a lover of the short story and that love was fostered by some teachers who also thought they were a great medium.  In some ways they can be more difficult to write as they must be much more concise and concentrated than a full length novel.  In this post I’m going to talk about a few I’ve recently read as well as some of my favorites.  All pictures of the covers will be linked to the book’s Amazon page so that you can pick them up if you want to.

Recently I was given the opportunity through NetGalley to read two anthologies which recently came out.  They were very different genres and subjects, but I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

Toil and Trouble CoverToil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft, which was edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood, included stories that represented a number of cultures, mythologies and genres.  My detailed review of each story is on my Goodreads so I won’t rehash that here, but I can say that while there were some stories I didn’t enjoy as much as others it was an enjoyable read.  It would be perfect for reading not only around Halloween, but anytime during the year.

The other anthology I received on NetGalley was Fresh Ink, which was done in Fresh Ink Coverpartnership with We Need Diverse Books.  Having already read Flying Lessons, I was super excited to be able to read this one ahead of time.  I wish there were more anthologies like these two as they explore topics and situations that often need to be explored and discussed by wider audiences.  Again, I didn’t love every story in this anthology, but it exposed me to a number of authors I had not previously read. That’s another great thing about anthologies, you get to read stories from so many authors who you often may not have read from before.

My True Love Gave To Me CoverI have a number of anthologies on my bookshelves, so picking out Summer Days and Summer Nights Coverfavorites is not always an easy task.  I have anthologies in different genres and with different subject matter, but I’ve chosen a few that I really loved when I read them.  My True Love Gave to Me and Summer Days & Summer Nights are collections which were edited by Stephanie Perkins. One has love stories based in the winter while the other is set during the summer (bonus, the story in Summer Days & Summer Nights by Perkins is a continuation of the story she wrote for My True Love Gave to Me and I LOVED them both).

Slasher Girls and Monster BoysSlasher Girls and Monster Boys and Unnatural Creatures both tackle Unnatural Creaturesdarker subjects and were both amazing. They are perfect to read closer to Halloween and each have a spooky vibe that I enjoyed immensely.  There are some stories in them which are definitely not for the faint of heart.  I especially loved that Unnatural Creatures was edited by Neil Gaiman.  A lot of the stories in these two anthologies had great twists and were very addictive.

Meet CuteMeet Cute is an anthology purely about the initial interactions between characters that lead to a romance, or the “Meet Cute.” There are some stories in this one that are absolutely amazing and each one leaves you wanting more, but in a good way.

 

Do you enjoy anthologies and short stories in general? Feel free to comment and let me know!  Happy reading!

Starting the journey…

For as long as I’ve been able to, I’ve devoured books. Every story is a journey, an adventure.  Some are amazing and can make you forget the toils of everyday life. Books are an escape.  The art of writing and the pleasure of reading are some of the things that have kept me going in dark or difficult times, and much of my free time is consumed by those two things (and my cat).

I’m a self confessed bibliophile, enjoying most genres – but some of my favorites are young adult, romance, fantasy, mystery and multiple sub-genres therein. I will usually try any genre if it intrigues me enough.  I’m a firm believer in the fact that there is no such thing as too many books, only too few shelves to hold them (my significant other I’m sure would disagree, but I get away with it because he has a fondness for me 😛 ).

Here’s to starting a new way of documenting and consuming books, because really, if I could read books for a living I would.  Sharing my experiences with books and giving opinions/commentary on them is a natural progression. Plus, my life has always found its way back to the written word, so this seems fitting.

What to expect? Reviews, talks about my favorites, exploring new genres and authors. That’s just a little, we’ll see where this whole thing goes.

Happy reading!