Monday, June 30, 2014

Books I Love: Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

I've been a fan of Sarah Beth Durst since I read Ice, and when I realized I hadn't featured one of her books yet, i really had to stop and think about which one I wanted to choose. Honestly, it was a tough decision. She creates these haunting stories set against the best worlds. These are books that sweep you up into them, and you honestly feel like you are a part of the world that you are reading about. So honestly, read any of them and you won't be disappointed, plus it looks like three new books this year. Exciting.

Vessel is the story of Liyana, a girl who has been training her entire life to become the vessel of the goddess. She will give up her body and life so that the goddess can posses her, and it will bless her village and her tribe. She dances and performs the ceremony, but it doesn't happen. The story goes from there. It's exciting, and romantic and poignant. So worth reading. 

Have you read anything by Sarah Beth Durst? What did you think?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing Wednesday: Writing Consistently

One of the things that helps my writing the most is writing consistently. My best writing is usually done in the evening. For some reason, my ideas flow and I'm able to get a lot more done if I'm not utterly exhausted. But with my kids growing up, a set schedule is something that I can only dream about happening. Even my evenings aren't what they used to be as my kids stay up later, but still need to be tucked in at night.

By consistency, I mean taking the time to write each day on a regular basis. When I am consistent, I am able to accomplish more when I do sit down. It's like exercising. If I am running three miles a day, then it is easier to get up and run, no matter when I do it. While if I haven't exercised in awhile, the idea of running three miles is daunting, and my body fights me every step of the way.

For me consistency or writing every day is the key to being successful at writing. I'm not always perfect at this, but I am trying. What about you?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Books I Love: Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

I am a big fan of Lisa McMann. Her books are engaging, and they are quick reads. She's written a middle school seres, which I haven't read, and two young adult trilogies and a few stand alone novels. The young adult novels are horror/thriller type stuff, and really good. There aren't really gruesome, more creepy. I enjoyed the Wake trilogy a lot, and the Visions trilogy, but the book where scenes will randomly pop up in mind is Cryer's Cross.

This story is set in a very small town, that has experienced a number of disappearances. Kendell, the main character, has just lost her boyfriend, who disappeared, and is struggling to get over it when a new  boy moves into town. Then her best friend disappears. The tension is high throughout the novel.

I don't normally do creepy books, and I want to put the disclaimer out there that if you get scared when you are alone at night, then you might want to read this in broad daylight surrounded by people. Have you read it? What did you think?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Five: First Week of Summer

1. One week down, and a lot more to go. This week hasn't been bad. We hit the pool, rented a movie, and hung out. The worst part of the week has been the temperature. It's been close to 100 degrees every day, and when we wake up it's over 80. Yikes. We won't make it, because this is August weather, and if it is like this now what will it be like in August?

2. Chores. For some reason I am failing epically as a parent when it comes to chores. I did chores from the time I was quite small at home. The dishes, the bathrooms, the living room, mopping. And I remember thinking my parents were slave drivers. Somehow I haven't established a good chore routine with my kids, and now I desperately want to. I really, really could use some advice on how to set it up and get it going.

3. My plan was to start exercising this week, and stay on the schedule I wash on with sending my daughter off to middle school. It didn't happen. I think because I was staying up too late, because my night owl kids and husband were all staying up too late as well. My daughter would stay up until 1:00 or 2:00 and then sleep late, but not quite late enough and she's been a bit cranky. I think we are instituting bedtimes again next week. 10:00 pm for the summer.

4. Since we've been to the pool twice this week, I've managed to get sunburned. When I don't put sunscreen only face, I usually manage to avoid a sunburn, but when I do I always end up red and peeling. I don't understand why or how that works.

5. I have been craving donuts all week. We may go on a donut run this weekend.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Writing Wednesday: Studying Craft

If you are serious about writing (which I like to think I am), then it is important to study craft. There are lots of way to do this. You can go to conferences and attend some classes on craft. You can do more intense workshops where they work on your novel and really pick it apart. There is the MFA option. Or you can read books on craft.

Most writers do a combination of the above. One of my favorite books about writing is On Writing by Stephen King. I love it because it is by someone that has written a lot of very successful books. he is living the life of the writer, and I think his advice is really good. One of the things he talks about doing every day is reading.

I love to read, and I learn a little bit from every book I read. Sometimes if I can't stand a book, I'll go back and read it to find out what went wrong. It helps to see what isn't working.

And there are times when I'll reread a book to figure out what makes it work so well.

Sometimes I read a book where the writing isn't the greatest, but it still pulls me in, and keeps me turning the pages, and I try to pin down what works and why.

How do you study craft?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Books I Love: When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison

This is the story of Gemma, who is 37, single and struggling as a small business owner. She works as a personal chef and the story follows her as she visits different families. And of course there is some romance.

I really liked this. It is definitely chick lit and totally fun when you read it. I finished the book in about two hours, and it was the perfect escape that I needed. 

Have you read it? What did you think?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Five: Summer!

1. Eek! It's summer. I danced around the house after I put the kids on the bus this morning. My husband looked at me like I was an idiot. I'm torn on summer--lots less free time vs no more fighting about getting up and doing homework. Plus bedtimes are pretty lax in the summer. Today I'm celebrating.

2. Randomly, I just used up my first entire tube of Chapstick in my life. I've always lost the tube before it ran out, and I'm wondering how I managed not to do that this time. Very random fact.

3. With the shift in the schedule, it means it is a great time to look at my goals and my time and take the time to get my priorities in line. Although I really want to sleep later every day, I figure my body is used to getting up early, and I plan on taking advantage of that. I'm going to exercise every morning before the kids get up. Hopefully, this will mean a healthier me.

4. This weekend is Father's Day. I'm so grateful for my dad who's a great example to me. He is kind and patient and a great supporter. He introduced me to books and genres that I love, and taught me to think critically. I'm also so grateful for my husband, Rob, who is a great dad to my kids. He teaches by example, and he's super fun and goofy.

5. The last few weeks my husband and I have been debating back and forth about what to do with our youngest son Jacob. The school system we are in will let kids skip a grade in one subject, and his teacher suggested he skip second grade math and go up to third grade. In order to qualify he had to take a test and score well on it. Jacob did that, and I signed the papers. He is super excited about it, and I know he's mastered the things taught in second grade math, but he's so small physically. (He's about the size of a four year old) And he has a high pitched voice. And my hubby and I are worried that he'll be picked on or that he'll miss time with his class doing fun things. But Jacob is excited and super proud of himself. Super proud. So we did it, but we are still nervous.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writing Wednesday: Creating a Writing Plan

School is letting out this week, which means a major change of plans for schedule. But I think it is good to change things up a bit. It gives me a chance to recommit to my priorities and work out things that aren't currently working in my schedule. With my kids home, and trying to fit in extra hours on top of that, we are looking at a tricky schedule.

I'm a planner, and I like to create little schedules that I follow and lists where i mark things off. And then life happens and I don't accomplish anything that I intended. I find that life (with kids) works better when I'm a lot more flexible, and so my writing plan for the summer is going to be a bit more flexible in the hopes that it actually works.

Editing time is going to be pool time. My kids are finally big enough that they can swim by themselves in the pool. (We go to a pool with multiple life guards, so I can focus on reading, and just check on them from time to time). I don't want to take my laptop, and I could take my kindle (my hubby got me the must wonderful waterproof case), but I really want to run through edits on my manuscripts and not waste the free time that is granted by pool trips, so editing will fit in there. We'll likely go two times a week, so it should be between four to six hours to edit a week.

Writing time, I find that I'm still most productive at night. Even when the kids are at school and it's quiet. There is something about it being dark out, taking my shower so my hair's wet (weird I know) and putting my headphones one and writing. Unless I'm tired. So I'm planning on writing then, and maybe other times when I squeeze it in. It'd be great if I could become an early morning writer, but I honestly don't think that's going to happen.

So those are my plans what are yours?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Books I Love: Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

For some strange reason I hadn't heard of this book. I say that it is strange because it was so good, and I really try to keep up with the young adult books, especially fantasy. We went to the library as a family on Monday, and I found it randomly scouting the YA section, which I haven't done in awhile. I usually just request the new releases and put books on hold so I can zip in pick them up and leave. It helps that I'm within walking distance of our library.

Anyway, I picked it up on Monday, and I thought about it, but it wasn't until Friday that I picked it up. I had time to kill, while I waited for the technician who was installing cable for the summer. And I started reading. I didn't get any work done on Friday, and I realized that I didn't want to wait for the holds to come through to read the rest of the series, so I zipped by another (farther away) library and picked up the remaining two books in the trilogy. That's an advantage of finding out about a book after it's been out for awhile. And I finished the trilogy on Saturday. (Plus I squeezed in another book I'll blog about next week.)

This is fantasy more than anything, but contemporary and about immortals and magic. The main character is Nastasya, who is an immortal, and she's old, like 451, but she realizes that she's not happy, and she's trapped in the adolescence phase of her life. While this is classified as YA, and is sort of a coming of age story, it also felt older to me, like it would fit just fine in the adult section of fantasy. 

I liked the world building. I like the philosophy introduced. I like the main character and the secondary characters. I just really, really liked the trilogy. And I'm getting her other books to read as well.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Writing Wednesday: A Day Late

My new work in progress is set in a small town in Idaho. I'm basing some of the location on memories I had as a kid visiting my grandparents, but some of it is made up. Still I find myself researching the town and neighboring towns so that the things that I'm writing about are plausible. Every time I have a question, I pull up Google maps, look at the layout, see the pictures, and think about the things we used to do. It's been close to 25 years since i visited on a regular basis, but I can still remember certain parts of the town, like the pool and the park.

Other parts are a bit blurry, but still there, like shopping downtown or the very small "mall."  The town itself isn't really a character, but it does affect how one of my characters grew up, and it influences some of the decisions that they make now.

How does your setting play into your story?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Books I Love: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

I first heard about this book because of a blog that I was following. Robin LaFevers was one of the contributors and when I saw it at the library, I decided to check it out. I fell in love with the world building and the historical fantasy, and the characters. The book is really well written, with images coming to life on the page.  The story is about Ismae, who is the daughter of death. She ends up at a nunnery that worships death and is trained to be an assassin. There is a beautiful love story, and the second in the series, Dark Triumph  is just as good. The third Mortal Heart will come out in November.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?