Monday, March 31, 2014

Books I Love: Fire by Kristin Cashore

I am a huge fan of Krtin Cashore. I loved her first book Graceling. It was a great story, and I recommend it to everyone. But something about Fire really spoke to me, and so It is my favorite book by her. It is a fantasy novel, and the main character, Fire, has the ability to read and control people's minds. It's an interesting concept, and I love the subtle romance between the Fire and her love interest. Everything about this novel is beautifully done from the writing to the plot line.

Have you read anything by Kristin Cashore? What did you think?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Six: Finally Saturday

1. This week my husband has been away on a business trip, and he is coming home late today. I'm so glad. While things went pretty smoothly, I still missed him like crazy. And I know I wouldn't want to do this long-term. I really admire single parents, it's tough to be the one that is on all of the time. Really tough. Fortunately, my kids were good this week--really, really good. Amazingly good.

2. How do you decide when to keep going or when to give up? I've been working hard on writing since 2008. That's six years. I love it. I want to keep doing it, but I'm starting to wonder if the sacrifice and cutting into time with my family is going to pay off. I don't want to quit, but I definitely think I need to find my balance.

3. I am listing about looking for some new books to read. Do you have any suggestions? I have a lot of author's that I love whose books are coming out over the next month or two, but in the meantime, I'm having a hard time. I am very much in a contemporary romance kind of mood.

4.  I grew up as the oldest of six kids. I had a conversation with one of my sisters about horrible things we did to each other growing up. I admit I was a big tease and sometimes it was cruel. I look back and there are things that I would do differently. And there are things I wouldn't change. I know I broke my mom's heart when I told her I wish I were an only child. I was 12. My mom had just had my littlest brother a month before, one of my sister's had just broken her jaw, and was getting ready to have surgery. And I had graduated from elementary school and wanted extra attention. But looking back I would never trade one of my brothers or sisters. They have all taught me so much.

5. I know that is sappy, so I'll try to come up with something more random to share. I'm having a hard time. It's Spring Break next week. I've got activities lined up for them all week long. This year though, I feel like it is our third spring break, since we've missed so much school for snow and ice and other nonsense this year.

6. Today it is drippy and gloomy. I love the sunshine. I never appreciated growing up in the desert where we would run out and play in the rainstorms because they were so rare. I love the green here and the way things grow, but on drippy days I miss the hot sun, the cool nights, the sounds of the sprinkler systems turning on as I head to bed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Books I Love: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I read this book shortly after it first came out. I got it at the library, and then I bought it, because I knew that I would read it again and again. I love Anna and I loved her love interest St. Clair. I loved the setting. I loved the conflict in the book, and basically I just loved the book. I also really enjoyed her second novel Lola and the Boy Next Door. And then as I've reread it, I've come to love it just as much Anna and the French Kiss

I think Stephanie Perkins does Young Adult contemporary really, really well. If you want to escape into a great love story,  (and it is clean), you should try this book. Her third book Isla and the Happily Ever After is scheduled to come out in August, and I'm super, super excited about it.  Have you read any of these books?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Five: Why Can't Winter Be Over?

1. In years past I used to be very goal oriented. This year, I keep wanting to write down my goals, but I put it off. I have made some goals without writing them down, and I'm definitely making progress. (Like updating this blog three times a week--not perfect, but progress). Part of it is that I feel overwhelmed with all that I want to accomplish and finding/making the time to make it happen. If I want things to change, I've got to do it.

2. I think I've figured out the spiral down for my main character Steve. And now I'm worried that it's too much or off. I don't know. I'm still thinking about it. I thought it through while I was showering and then I actually wrote it out. I still like it. But it feels preachy maybe. I don't want preachy. So I'm letting it sit.

3. This made me think of the times when I come up with plot solutions or twists. Usually it is when I'm doing something else that doesn't take a lot of concentration like exercising, showing or doing the dishes. The key to making it work is taking the time to write down the solutions that I've come up with. I need to do better at doing this.

4. This week the kids missed another day of school because of an ice storm. Frankly, I am so done with winter. I live in the South, which means mild weather, very few storms and hardly any days missed of school. At least that's how's it been the 14 years I've lived here. But this year is just throwing that assumption out of the window. It looks like we have a chance of snow/wintery mix (which means no school--we live in the south)  for next Tuesday again. It's the last week of March, we are usually hanging out in the 70s every day by this point. We have the shorts out and ready to go. This year I haven't even thought about it yet.

5. So this weekend I need to do some major cleaning. Spring cleaning kinds of things. I plan on getting a lot done, but we will have to see if that actually happens. I have three solid goals that need to happen, and hopefully from there we can get motivated to do the rest.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review of Home Matters by Julie N. Ford

Home Matters Updated

Home Matters by Julie N. Ford According to her mother, Olivia Pembroke was born to be a star. But how is she supposed to be famous when she can't even get a decent acting gig? Her lucky break comes when she lands an audition for a wildly popular home improvement show. Even though she has no design training and has never even held a power tool, she refuses to let that stop her. She's confident that her destiny is finally within reach. When her affections are torn between her heartthrob co-host and the irritating, yet somehow endearing lead contractor, does she continue to reach for the stars? Or does she design a new happily ever after? One that leads not to the fading lights of fame and fortune, but to a love that will burn forever.

My Review

This is a promising new series out by six different authors. The books are each connected by a character or characters from the previous book appearing in the next book in the series. This is a super cute premise where the girl gets a job on a home decorating show and falls in love with someone else working on the show. I was super excited with the premise. I love this type of show and thought the idea sounded really fun.

This is a clean romance, which I am always on the hunt for, but can have a hard time finding. While the book was clean, and cleanly written, I would have liked to see more actual interaction between the main character and the love interest. In the end they just didn't spend enough time together to really make the story work the way I wanted it to. The book is a great path of self discovery and figuring out who you are and what is most important, but it was a little bit short on the romance aspect. However, the rest of series is very promising. You should definitely check it out if you like home decorating repair shows, and look for more books in this series.

Updated Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect Romance Novella Series Enjoy this exciting new series of clean novellas by six critically-acclaimed authors. "Like a pebble tossed into calm water, a simple act can ripple outward and have a far-reaching effect on those we meet, perhaps setting a life on a different course—one filled with excitement, adventure, and sometimes even love."

 Book 1: Home Matters by Julie N. Ford
 Book 2: Silver Linings by Kaylee Baldwin
 Book 3: Righting A Wrong by Rachael Anderson
 Book 4: Lost and Found by Karey White
 Book 5: Second Chances 101 by Donna K. Weaver
 Book 6: Immersed by Jennifer Griffith

Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 3/31/14   Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Inspired Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 17, 2014

Books I Love: The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne

Hester Browne is one of my favorite authors. Her books are so much fun. She has the Little Lady Agency trilogy, The Finishing Touches, and, Swept Off Her Feet. All of her books are really good. All of them. But my favorite is The Runaway Princess. It is a sweet love story and I liked everything about it. Everything.

If you want to just really enjoy a love story (very clean) that is about getting swept off your feet and staying true to yourself, you will love this story. You should read it right now. I'm always looking forward to her next book.

Have you read any of her books? What did you think?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Five: Birthdays

1. First, as I was perusing the blogs I follow, this article really stood out to me. Here's What Plotting and Pantsing Both Miss: The Real Story. And it got to the heart of the matter with what I'm struggling with in my next novel. Steve's internal conflict. I've got Aimee's down. I know what she needs to do and how she needs to change. But not Steve. He's broken---he has to be for the book I'm writing. I know what happened to break him. But I don't get how exactly he's broken. I don't know exactly what he needs to do to change yet. I've got a lot of the surface detail ideas, but the story won't work without the bigger conflict for him. Hopefully, I'll figure it out this weekend.

2. Tomorrow is my birthday. I hate getting older. I certainly don't feel old, but I look at the big personal goals I have for myself, and I wonder if I'm getting any closer to actually reaching them. Am I improving myself and putting in the time that I need to in order to do it?  So that's where I'm at on that. I'm not giving up.

3. This week I've been thinking a lot about showing versus telling. I've read several books where it was tell, tell, tell. And hardly any showing. Oh!  I liked the story line, but there was always this distance between the main character and me. And I liked the plot lines. Then I started thinking about my writing, do I do this? Have I fixed the parts of my novels that slip into this? How do I handle flashbacks?

4. On the other hand, I've been really looking at the books that make it work, and draw me in. There are some really gifted authors out there that manage to pull you into a story and make it really work. I love picking apart a book and listing the things the author nails to get it right. Then I can look at my own writing and see what I can learn to improve it.

5. So this is a pretty random thing, but my daughter is reading some book on the Titanic for middle school.  I don't know why they are reading the book in sixth grade. It's boring, it was written fifty years ago and it feels like it. None of the teachers actually read the book before they chose it. And it's making the kids hate reading. Which is just stupid because there are SO MANY good books out there. They need to read something historical. Considering I taught sixth grade language arts for awhile, I could march in there and hand them a freaking list of better books.

But that is not what I was going to talk about--ironically there was a novel written about a big boat sinking because it was hit by an iceberg called the The Wreck of the Titan, and it came out about fourteen years before the Titanic happened. And I feel like we are watching a real life Lost unfold with the missing plane. How do you lose an entire plane?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Putting on a New Set of Glasses

This weekend I got a new set of glasses. It's been more than five years since I updated my glasses, and the lenses were extremely scratched. I am fairly blind without them, and I need the thinner lenses, which set me back about $500.00 whenever I do get glasses, and that is with insurance covering the frames and a portion of the lenses. So I'm loving Warby Parker, which means I can get new glasses much more often. But the metaphor to writing. I put on the new glasses and I was immediately shocked at how crisp and clear everything was. Then I started to notice that the mirror was a bit dirty than i though, and I can now see spots on my computer monitor that weren't there before. The glasses really helped me to focus and find new things. I remember when I was younger I got a new pair and I could see the trees on the mountains, which I'd never been able to do before. It can be life changing. Putting your manuscript aside and coming back to it is a lot like putting on a new pair of glasses. You are better able to see both the flaws and the good things about the story. I just reread the end of Lexy. It made me realize I needed to get back out there with the querying. It's a good story. A new perspective can really make a difference. Sometimes that means you need to step away from a project for awhile and focus on something else. Sometimes that means that you take a break (hopefully short) from writing at all and you come back refreshed and ready to write. I feel that way about Steve and Aimee. My Knight in Shining Armor book. I've had a break from writing, and it is so refreshing to be writing again. To be excited about a project again and to have all of those possibilities stretching out in so many directions. How do you gain perspective on your writing?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Books I Love: Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

This is another one of my favorite British writers. She writes primarily chick lit. She also writes the Confessions of a Shopaholic series and under Madeline Wickham. I've not read any of the books she has written under Madeline Wickham, but I did enjoy everything I've read under Sophie Kinsella. Some of her books I like more than others, but my very favorite is Can You Keep a Secret?

The premise of the story is that the main character, Emma, is on a business trip. The plane nearly crashes and she ends up confessing all of her little secrets (like the fact she lied about her weight to her boyfriend, and she killed her parents' goldfish and replaced it) to the man next to her on the plane. She also confesses she lied on her resume. When the plane lands okay, she's embarrassed, but figures she'll never see him again. Until he turns up the next day at her work, and is her boss.

It's a fun story, and the characters are great. I really love the voice in the story. Have you ready any books by her? What is your favorite?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Five: Winter, Winter Go Away!

1.  This winter has been crazy. My kids missed another day of school this week due to an ice/sleet incident and other districts are on a delay today because another storm like that rolled through. I'm glad we are below the freezing line and just miserable with wet, cold icky rain. (I never would have thought to say or think those lines.  I think we are up to nine days missed this year. And it's driving me a bit crazy. Somehow though they have managed to salvage Spring Break.

2. I think I'm getting older, or something. I've started falling asleep around 10:00 each night. I'm rarely up until 12:00 anymore. I used to pull late nights like until 1:00 all of the time. Getting up with my daughter so she can leave before 7:00 is killing me. I hate that school starts so early. Hate it.  Luckily my boys still don't start classes until after 9:00, but that also means my entire day is disjointed.

3. My first radar had to write a report on the saying March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. We had a good discussion about it and the weather, but all it really did was make me want to cry. I want spring. Really, really want spring to come right now. Right now.

4. For the first time ever (in my entire life), I'm assembling my own list of songs to write to. I've always relied on my husband to do this--and he's done an excellent job of choosing music that I like. And I listen to Pandora a lot while I'm working and now if there is a song that I love, it gets added to my list that I'm building on Spotify. The list is a bit different than my other ones, a bit more sweet and slow.  (And yes I've never put together a mixed tape even though I had friends do it all of the time. I've never purchased a CD for myself. I had friends who did, my husband does--he loves music and keeps up with it all, but I never did. I now hang my head in shame.)

5. I may have mentioned before, but I work full-time from home. I work for several different companies, because as a freelancer, it is important to have multiple income streams. And while I need to log a certain amount of time each week, only one of my jobs has set hours each day. The others I can work when I want to. I love the flexibility it givse me. I can run errands while the kids are in school (but then I have to work when they are home) and I can be home and working if they are home sick. It's great. But it's also frustrating to explain to people that I actually work at home. Like a real job. I can't drop everything to be on the phone all the time or babysit other people's kids or just relax. I work. So that's my mini rant!  I'm very grateful that I work at home, I love it. It's just tough to explain it sometimes!

Have a great week

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Outlining, Plotting and Planning

When I wrote my first book (which is very trunked), I wrote it out of order. I had a general idea of what I wanted to happen, and so I wrote whatever scene I felt like that day. And it ended up that I had to write all of the boring middle parts at the end of the novel. Plus I was going back and reworking so many scenes because things change when you write out of order.

When I wrote my second book, I had this awesome concept. It evolved and grew and i was so excited to finally be writing about it. I originally had the idea about five years before I started writing, so I had been thinking about it for a long, long time. I knew that I wanted to write it order from the previous book, so I did that, but anytime I was stuck I added in an explosion.

It took a lot of work to get the plot where it didn't drag and so that everything worked well together. A lot of work. I did two new drafts where I shifted, and then a complete rewrite, and then another complete rewrite where I got rid of about half of my characters. It made my novel much stronger, and it helped me to get ready to write Lexy.

With Lexy, I plotted before I started. My plot wasn't in a lot of detail. It was less than a sentence per chapter, and the book is only 30 chapters long. My entire outline took up one page. And I didn't stick with it exactly, as I wrote I realized that some things needed to be slowed down and take up more time, and that some things needed to happen earlier, and that I needed to add more conflict at this point in the plot or that point in the plot. I finished and my drafts were more focused on fixing emotions and showing relationships better. Totally different style of rewrites.

I look at the books I 've abandoned (but hopefully not for forever) and realize that part of the reason is that I didn't have a solid outline in place. While I started out more punster style, I am definitely much more of plotter. And this next book, I'm plotting both relationships and events and emotions, so that the book comes together really cohesively.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Books I Love: Love Letters by Katie Fforde

I think this was the first book I read by Katie Fforde, and then it was a mad scramble to find all of her other books to read them. The great thing about falling in love with an author with an established career, is that it takes you awhile to read through her list, and you get some really great books out of it. One of the frustrating things to me is that she has even more books out in the U.K. and I can't get them since they aren't out here yet, and I don't want to bootleg them. I have a handful of authors that I read that mainly write adult chick lit type of books, and the majority of them are British, but she is my favorite out of al of them.

This is the story of Laura, who works in a book shop that is closing down. She ends up taking on the planning of a literary festival and through it meets her favorite author. A romantic relationship begins, and it is just a good, fun read.  

I have enjoyed all of her books, but I definitely have favorites. Love Letters, Stately Pursuits, and Second Thyme Around. The other books are great too, these are just the ones I keep coming back to and reading again. Have you ever read Katie Fforde? What did you think?