NaNoWriMo Prep Time: Story Idea

It’s that time of year again! Time to get ready for the biggest and best writing month of the year — November!!! It’s countdown to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), friends!

If you have never heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s a one month writing challenge that surrounds you with a community of others who all want to write a novel. All you have to do is commit to (at least trying to) write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s the length of a very short novel (ex: The Great Gatsby).

I’m not going to spend any time talking about why you should or shouldn’t participate. There are plenty of other blogs and articles for you to read if you’re curious about that. I’ll just say that I love NaNoWriMo.

What I like most about NaNoWriMo is the built-in community aspect of it. Writing a novel is a lonely slog, no matter if you’ve never written one or if you’ve written hundreds. You have to get those words on the page in order to turn your brilliant idea into a book, and even experienced authors struggle with that. At least in November, I know there are millions of others who are writing alongside me. We’re all in it together and cheering each other on.

This post (and the others that I’ll post in the coming weeks) are focused on the prep work that goes into writing a novel. Since it’s officially NaNoWriMo prep time, and I am currently in the process of solidifying my own idea and getting it ready to write in November, I thought it would be fun to share a little about my process here on my blog.

Note: I’m not going to talk about what I’m actually writing in November. (I don’t usually talk about what I’m writing until after the first draft is done, except with my newsletter subscribers.) But, I will tell you about my process, with the obligatory caveat that process is personal and sometimes one person’s process changes from story to story. Basically, don’t listen to anyone who says you must do it a certain way or you are not a “real writer.” There is no “right way” to write. You do you.

Also, if you are not a writer and/or you’re not curious about writing process, then just skip these posts. My reading wrap-up and reading journal posts aren’t going anywhere. This is just a little additional content for folks who are interested.

Now that all that’s out of the way, let’s get started. The schedule for NaNoWriMo prep is as follows:

  1. Develop a Story Idea (September 12-18)
  2. Create Complex Characters (September 19-25)
  3. Construct a Detailed Plot or Outline (September 26 – October 2)
  4. Build a Strong World (October 3-7)
  5. Organize Your Life for Writing! (October 10-16)
  6. Find and Manage Your Time (October 18-24)

As you can see, this week’s prep task is to develop your story idea. If you’re anything like me, you have a million story ideas floating around in your head at any given time, and you’re probably thinking, “but which one do I choose?”

The answer for me is that I try to pick several that might fit together and then mash them all into one novel. I know that sounds messy and like it would never work, but here’s the thing: novels are long. (Shocking observation. I know.) They’re also complicated. They really need more than one idea to sustain them.

You need multiple characters, and they all have to feel like they could be the main character of their own story. You need a main plot and sub plots and character arcs and interesting world-building. You need stuff to keep you going when you get stuck. So, I say, the more the merrier when it comes to ideas.

But even if I’m planning on using more than one idea in my novel, how do I pick which ones to use?

One thing I like to think about is what sort of stories I’m really drawn to at the moment. Making lists really helps here. I make lists of my favorite “comfort food” movies. I write down everything I’ve watched or read lately that I just can’t stop thinking about. I think about the settings and tropes that appeal to me.

Then, once I’ve done that, I step back and have a look at all of it. I try to identify any commonalities or trends. I consider which, if any, of those things would work as a plot or a setting or a trope for the main character(s) that are bouncing around in my brain.

Or, sometimes (most of the time), I have a plot and/or setting idea already, but I don’t have my cast of characters figured out. In those cases, I brainstorm lists of my favorite heroes and/or heroines. I think about why I like them. Am I drawn to stories about outcasts and underdogs (ex: Katniss Everdeen)? Or do you I competence (ex: James Bond)? (Answers: yes and yes). I list my favorite ensembles and try to identify what they have in common (ex: are they mostly small groups of close friends, or found family, or actual families, or sports teams, etc.)?

Finally, I make sure to spend some time thinking about the elements of a story that make me auto-click or auto-buy. This could be genre, at a high level, but it is also more specific elements found within and across genres. As an example, one of the things I talk about in my reading recaps is that, while I love sci-fi and fantasy in general, I’m a sucker for an academy story. I also love training montages. (I actually love both of those things regardless of genre, but hopefully you get my point.)

A few months ago, when I realized that I was going to be wrapping up my Modern Fae series (at least as far as the current series arc goes), I dedicated one of my many blank notebooks to being the place where I keep lists like this.

This works for me because I love writing things in notebooks (and also I’m spending most of my time at home). You may prefer to keep lists like these on your phone or on your computer. It doesn’t matter where you put them, so long as they are easy to find when you need to add to them and you have a place to put new ones that you create. For example, we haven’t even talked about listing favorite magical creatures, or types of magic, or romantic pairings, or…. you get the idea. You never know what’s going to be helpful when it comes time to work on your novel.

This week I’m working on my lists in my spare time, and seeing what fits with the core ideas I have for the story I want to write in November. I’m trying not to get too bogged down thinking about specifics, but I did go on a bit of a tangent earlier in the week, trying to come up with names for my characters. At some point, all of these elements of prep start blending together and building on each other. But, for now I’m trying to stay at a high level and pin down the vibes I want for my story. Next week, we’ll talk more about characters.

Let me know in the comments if you’re planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year and if this is your first time or how many years you’ve participated. If you want to be buddies on the official website, here’s a link to my profile: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/emenozzi.

August Reading Wrap-up

August turned out to be another big reading month. I ended up reading six books, evenly divided between fiction and non-fiction. I also managed to actually write down my thoughts in my reading journal for nearly all of the books I read this month! Big wins all around! (Except for the writing. Don’t ask about how the writing went.)

What I read in August:

  • Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen — This was a cute historical romance that also has a mystery sub-plot. I enjoyed it while reading it, but have pretty much forgotten almost everything about it since then. The heroine is a fan of Jane Austen (who is alive and publishing in the year this story takes place), and when she is confused about what to do she often considers what her favorite Jane Austen heroines would do in her place. If you like historical romance in general and Jane Austen in particular, I recommend checking this out.
  • Write Novels Fast: Writing Faster With Art Journaling by Shéa MacLeod — At only 36 pages, this barely qualifies as a book, but it’s listed in Goodreads, so I’m counting it. I was in a bit of a creative slump when I picked up this book and needed some inspiration. There were just enough ideas in here to motivate me to dust off the notebook I’ve been using as my brainstorming / character building / plotting notebook for my Modern Fae series and get back to work. I’m not convinced the tips in this book are going to help me write any faster, but they did help me move past a creative block.
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami — I can’t remember if I bought this for my husband several years ago, or if my mom bought it for him because I said I thought he might like it. Either way, it’s been sitting on our bookshelf for a while. I decided to pick it up to see if it had any words of wisdom that might help motivate me to step up my running game. It turned out that it did. Plus the author made really insightful parallels between running and writing. So, that was great! My only complaint is that something about the narrative voice makes it sound like the author thinks that the audience for this book is exclusively men. That was super annoying.
  • A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine — I really enjoyed this follow-up to A Memory Called Empire. The story picks up shortly after the events at the end of the previous book. Even though that book could have been read as a stand-alone, it was nice to see what happened next. If the first book was, at it’s heart, a “whodunnit” murder mystery, this is mostly an alien-first-contact story. But, like the first book, there is a LOT of other stuff going on, including all the politics and struggles of those who find themselves trying to “do the right thing” within or in the face of a large and aggressive empire. Meaty sci-fi! Yum!
  • Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur — This was a pretty light and fluffy contemporary romance that was a very loose f/f retelling of Pride & Prejudice. I think I expected the plot to be a little more of an actual retelling than it turned out to be, so that was a little bit of a disappointment. Also, there wasn’t really any other plot besides the romance plot, which I wasn’t expecting. The romance plot was good, and I enjoyed the characters. I’ve just come to expect an external conflict in addition to the internal conflict in the contemporary romance books I read. It’s nice to see two characters falling in love, but I also want them struggling to accomplish something else, too.
  • Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch — This book was fantastic. My husband and I listened to it on our recent road trip. It kept us both engaged and sparked a ton of discussion. The audiobook narration was really easy to follow, even in places where the author/narrator is trying to describe specific uses of repeated letters and unusual punctuation. Though, it did help that I happened to also have a copy of this on ebook. That way I could look up anything that I wasn’t sure I fully understood from the audiobook. If you are at all interested in language and looking for insights into how informal communication has evolved through the decades, I highly recommend checking this out.

In case you are curious, I also updated the bookshelf overview page in my reading journal. I really like how it’s turning out. As a reminder, the colors on the spines represent genre, and the little hearts signify which of the books are romances.

It always feels like I’m reading a lot of romance, but if you count the hearts on the spines in the photo, I’ve only read nine so far this year. And that’s out of forty-three books read, total.

Also, wow! I’ve already read forty-three books so far this year! Only nine more books until I reach my annual goal of fifty-two total books read. I’m not going to change my Goodreads goal, though. I have two first drafts of two different novels that I want to finish before the end of the year (and I did not get much writing done in August). Plus the holidays are coming up. So I need to step up the writing and cool it with the reading, at least until after I get my work done each day.

What are you reading? Are you also doing the Magical Readathon in September? Let me know in the comments.

A New Magical Readathon

In case you haven’t heard, Book Roast created a NEW Magical Readathon! It looks amazing, and I am definitely planning on participating. You can watch her video here to get all the details and the links to the printable maps and info sheets that she created. The whole thing is based around a world that she built, not around an existing fandom. It’s incredibly creative! I love it!

The kick-off of this readathon is divided into two parts. The first part is called “The Novice Path.” There are seven locations along the path, each with a reading prompt. You need to complete two by the end of September in order to succeed and advance to the next event, which is going to start sometime in the spring of 2022.

The second part of this readathon is where you create your character for the spring readathon. There are a series of choices with reading prompts that help you define various aspects of your character. Specifically, where they come from and their heritage. Those have to be completed by April 2022 so that you have your character set and ready to go for the next Magical Readathon.

You can see in the photo above that I’ve penciled in the names of some books that I may read in order to complete the various prompts for both the Novice Path and to create my character. I’ll be writing the name of the book I actually read for the prompts I complete in pen after I’m done. I doubt that I will complete all the prompts for the Novice Path, but I definitely want to make sure to finish at least two before the end of September.

Did I mention that there’s a map for the Novice Path? There’s a map.

Seriously? Go watch the video. Book Roast clearly put so much effort into this, and it’s amazing, and you should definitely participate.

I also printed out the map and pasted it into my reading journal. My plan was to print out the book covers of the books I read for each of the prompts and paste them in next to the prompt once I’ve finished reading them. However, as you can see in the photo below, the book covers I printed out for my TBR books are a little too large.

I didn’t glue down those book covers, yet. I was just placing them to see how I liked them. Also, I may change my mind about which book to read once I get started. If I end up reading more than two or three books, I’m probably going to reprint the book covers in a slightly smaller size so that they fit better. Stay tuned for my September wrap-up to see what I read and how this page ultimately turns out.

I am so excited to get started with this readathon that I haven’t wanted to start reading anything new until after the first of September. Since I just recently finished reading the last of my in-progress books, my “currently reading” shelf on Goodreads is actually empty! I think that may be the first time that’s happened since I had a Goodreads account. That also means that I’m already working on my August Reading Wrap-Up, and I should have that posted before the end of this week.

Until then, go plan your Magical Readathon TBR and tell me what you’re reading in the comments! 🙂

August Reading Journal Set-Up

Tomorrow is the first day of August, and we’re having a rare overcast summer day today. Perfect weather for a little crafty time! So, rather than just writing “August” in the middle of the cover page and surrounding it with doodles, I decided to bust out my Tombow dual tip brush markers and a drawing tutorial video and get my reading journal set up for the new month.

For the image on the cover page, I used a drawing tutorial from Draw So Cute on YouTube. I’ve been using her videos to help me draw birthday cards to my niblings. A few months ago, in the process of searching for cute stuff to draw, I found this teacher appreciation video that featured books and tea. I bookmarked it to come back to when I needed a cute cover page for my reading journal, then I forgot all about it until it was time to draw another birthday card. That ended up being earlier this week, which was perfect timing for my August cover page.

On the opposite page, I went with my usual book list, but I added a little envelope to the bottom. Since most of the books I want to read are on my Kindle, I sort of forget that they’re there once they get bumped off that first page of books. I’ve realized that these little book covers that I print out for my “Outbox” page at the end of the month are a pretty good substitute for a physical book stack. But I don’t want to glue them down to the page and then have to print them out a second time (and waste more paper and toner). So, I figured out that I could just print a bunch of them and keep them in the folder at the back of my notebook.

Then I got the bright idea to make a little envelope where I could keep a few of the covers for the books I think I want to read next. This way, I can still read what I feel like reading by rotating covers between the little envelope and the folder in the back of my notebook depending on my reading mood. Then, at the end of the month, I’ll take the covers for the books I’ve read out of the little envelope and paste them onto my reading summary page. If this little process improvement works, then I’ll make a new envelope for next month’s book list page.

I struggled a bit trying to pick which books I most want to read next… At the moment, I’m not quite a quarter of the way into A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine. Since I most likely won’t finish it before I got to sleep tonight, that was an automatic addition to the envelope. I also recently remembered that I want to read Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen. It’s a Jane Austen-esque historical romance with a mystery subplot that has been hanging out on my Kindle for a while and sounds like it would be perfect for that mystery kick I’ve been on lately. The sixth Veronica Speedwell mystery made the cut for a similar reason. Then, all that historical romance reminded me that I still haven’t read The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan. So I tucked that into the envelope so that I don’t forget (again).

I made myself stop there for now. I have a bunch more covers printed out for other books that are on my mind. So, I may switch things up depending on what sort of books I’m craving this month.

This is what it looks like with the little covers tucked into the envelope:

And now my reading journal is ready for August! What are you planning to read this month?

July Reading Wrap-up

It just occurred to me that I never posted my reading wrap-up for July. I finished the “outbox” page in my reading journal days ago, then I just sort of forgot to post it. So, let’s talk about what I read in July.

If you remember from my June wrap-up post, I finished reading Spaceside by Michael Mammay in the first few days of July, but I counted it toward my June reading because I’d read most of it in June. Well, after I finished reading that, I went on to read the final (?) book in that series, Colonyside. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the first two books. I just didn’t feel like the ending of the last book was as strong as the other two. But at this point, a month later, I can’t remember why. I really wish I’d written my thoughts down in my reading journal instead of just telling my mom about them because she happened to be visiting at the time.

As a related aside, this reading journal is definitely turning into more of an art project than memory capture tool. I’m not very happy about that, but I’m also not doing anything to fix that problem, either.

After finishing Colonyside, I decided to read A Murderous Relation, book five in Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series, because my mom was visiting and I thought it would be fun to read it while she was here. It was definitely a fun read. The first paragraph of the first chapter had me laughing out loud. I don’t think this is my favorite of the series (I think that honor still goes to book two, A Perilous Undertaking), but enjoyed it and am excited to read book six.

Keeping up the murder mystery theme, I read The Ivies by Alexa Donne, next. This is a very solid thriller set in an elite boarding school, and I’m a bit of a sucker for that particular trope. There is a group of “mean girls” and one of them dies. The suspicion that it had something to do with who go early decision admission to which Ivy League college causes one of her friends to decide to play amateur detective. It was definitely a page turner and a very good first thriller novel from this author.

Then I started feeling the Olympic vibes (probably because I haven’t been able to watch any of it because we don’t have NBC). So, I picked up Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally. This is book eight in the author’s Hundred Oaks series, but I have read none of the other books. They are all contemporary YA romance, which isn’t really my jam. But this book featured competitive swimming, and I’m a sucker for a book featuring competitive swimmers, especially if they have their sights set on the Olympics. So, yeah. I grabbed this from my library. I enjoyed it and only had a few annoyed moments when the heroine did something that did not feel like something an actual competitive swimmer would do (diving in to race without warming up and putting sneakers on wet feet to walk around the pool deck after a race were the two biggest offenders). You could tell the author was not writing from personal experience (confirmed in her authors note in the end). But, overall, she did a pretty good job crafting mostly believable swimmers.

The second Olympic-related book I read was Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura. This one was another YA contemporary romance, this time about a figure skater and a speed skater. It was cute, and I enjoyed it, but I went into it thinking that the author was Japanese. She’s not, but her husband is, and her kids are bi-racial (like the teens in this book). Some of the Asian reviewers on Goodreads have expressed frustration with some of the representation. Also there’s a lockdown scene that takes place at the school. So if either of those two things are issues for you, maybe skip this book.

Finally, I finished a book I’ve been slowly working my way through since the start of the year. I read Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and did the journaling exercises. Instead of doing them one per day for twenty-eight days like it suggests in the book, I averaged about one per week since the beginning of January. I found this to be really useful, and as a result, one of the things that I’m committing to going forward is to continue to educate myself on anti-racism topics. Specifically, in addition to other methods of learning, I want to read at least four non-fiction books about racism and/or topics related to racism each year (which is about one per quarter, on average). It takes me longer to read non-fiction than it does to read fiction, which is why I’m going for one book every three months instead of something more ambitious.

And that’s what I read in July. If you have any suggestions on how I can be better about actually writing down my thoughts about the books I’m reading in my reading journal before I forget them, please let me know in the comments. Or, if you think I should just give in to the art project side of things and stop trying to force myself to do something that is just not happening, tell me that instead. Or just tell me what you’re reading and enjoying. I’d love to hear from you.

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

Taking a quick break to do the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag… This is a thing that happens over on BookTube, but I’m going to add my contribution over here on my blog.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2021: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021: Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (The Murderbot Diaries #6)
3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to: Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year: Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn
5. Biggest disappointment: Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds
6. Biggest surprise: Master of One by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
7. Favorite new (or new to you) author: Micaiah Johnson
8. Newest fictional crush: Stoker from the Veronica Speedwell series
9. Newest favorite character: the telepathic fox from Winterkeep by Kirstin Cashore
10. Book that made you cry: More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn
11. Book that made you happy: The Checklist by Addie Woolridge
12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received): I am still waiting on my Fae Crate special edition of Son of the Storm, and I expect that is going to be pretty fantastic. However, since I haven’t received it yet, I’m going to have to go with the special edition hardcover I purchased of The Space Between Worlds (see photo below).
13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? I haven’t made much progress on my “21 for 2021” TBR, yet (3/21 books read). So I should probably make an effort to read a few more of those before the end of the year…

What was the best book you’ve read so far this year? Let me know in the comments.

June Reading Wrap-up

June turned out to be a HUGE reading month for me. I read nine books!

What I read in June

I started off the month on a mystery kick. I got my mom into Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series because she (and I) liked Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series so much. She’s been devouring all the Veronica books while I’d only read the first one, and she’s coming for a visit soon, so I thought it was time to catch up. I read books two, three, and four in June. Of those, I liked book two (A Perilous Undertaking) the best (such good tension between Veronica and Stoker!) and book three (A Treacherous Curse) the least (too much unexamined colonialism). Book four (A Dangerous Collaboration) had a very exciting ending that made me want to immediately dive into book five, but I had to pause while I waited to get the next two books from my library.

I also borrowed two YouTube celebrity memoirs on audiobook from my library as a source of character research for my next Modern Fae book. I started with Lilly Singh’s How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, which was a Goodreads Choice Award winner in 2017. In addition to getting a lot of good info about what it’s like to be a YouTube superstar, I found myself really appreciating her advice about life and the self-employed career hustle.

I considered stopping after that one, but I had already downloaded Jenn McAllister’s Really Professional Internet Person, so I decided to listen to the first few chapters and see what I thought. Her book was a little repetitive in places, but focused more on what it’s like to be growing your YouTube audience when you’re in middle school and high school, which was really interesting. Neither of these women is exactly like I imagine my character, but their experiences gave me a lot to think about.

Somewhere in between devouring mystery novels and listening to audiobooks while washing the dishes, I read C. L. Polk’s romantic fantasy The Midnight Bargain and Addie Woolridge’s contemporary romantic comedy The Checklist. Both of these were really good, as I expected they would be. I really love the worldbuilding in The Midnight Bargain. And the characters in The Checklist were so full of life, I loved every minute that I got to spend with them…even when everything started to go sideways and made me super anxious. Addie did a great job crafting an ending that tied everything up perfectly.

As much as I liked those two books, my favorite of the month was The Space Between Worlds. This book blew me away. It is just so good. I mean, I’d heard it was good, but it was even better than I expected it would be. The plot is twisty, the characters are superbly crafted, and the worldbuilding is just off the charts excellent. I loved it so much that I searched out a special edition signed hardcover to buy so that I can add it to my “favorites” shelf and reread it in physical form. Seriously, if you like sci-fi and have not read this book, go get a copy immediately and start reading. I can not recommend it highly enough.

Just before the end of the month I managed to squeeze in one last book. Technically, I didn’t finish Spaceside by Michael Mammay until the second of July, but I read most of it in June, so I’m counting it. Here’s the thing about this series, it’s marketed as “military sci-fi” which is a genre that I enjoy (depending on the author), but the series is so much more than that. At their core, each book is really a mystery novel. The “detective” is a veteran soldier, and the mysteries he ends up getting pulled into solving involve the military, but the novels aren’t really all about guns and fighting and stuff like that. And the author is a veteran who writes about the military in what feels like a very authentic (and respectful) way. So, if you like sci-fi and mystery novels, you should really check out this series.

As for July, I am looking forward to reading Colonyside (which I already started) and book five in the Veronica Speedwell series (A Murderous Relation). I also plan to read A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine and Wild Seed by Octavia Butler for my Camp Book Club buddy reads. Even though I have a sort-of TBR this month, I decided to stick to the same simple monthly layout that I’ve been using in my reading journal.

I went with a red and blue color scheme for July in honor of Independence Day. I added some gold star washi tape and some silver dots (using my metallic Kuretake Clean Color Dot marker) to give a sort of fireworks effect. It’s not my best work, but it’s not bad.

I also got some new sparkly bookshelf washi tape that I couldn’t resist using on the “books read” page. And I printed out a couple of the covers for the books that I plan to read this month. I didn’t glue them down, though. I’m using that star paperclip to attach them to the page as a visual reminder of the books I want to read this month. That “books read” page will be a list, and I’ll glue the covers of the books I actually did read to an “outbox” page at the end of the month.

I’m still not doing a great job of writing down my thoughts on each book while I’m reading them, or even right after I finish, even though I added a pen loop to my reading journal. I’m going to keep working on getting better at that because I’m finding it really useful to look back on. My brain nearly instantly forgets the details of a book after I’ve read it. I remember the feelings I had while reading the book, but not the plot. That’s probably one of the reasons why I can happily re-read my favorite books. Writing down my thoughts helps me to remember the bits of a story that I don’t want to forget.

What are you reading in July? Are any of these books on your TBR? Let me know in the comments.

New Modern Fae Coming Soon…

Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve been working on a new Modern Fae novella that will be released on 25 June. You can get a copy for only 99¢ if you pre-order. You can also add it on Goodreads. And, if you want an Advanced Review Copy (ARC), there are 20 ebooks available on Booksprout.

Here’s the blurb:

Demons may be deadly, but dragons can steal your heart.

Seren was cast-out by her Elemental Fae kin because they believe that her magic is cursed. But that hasn’t stopped her from searching for a way to change the rules. So when the commander of the queen’s guard offers Seren the opportunity to do just that, she accepts, even though it means spying on the only Fae who has ever been kind to her.

Damir always wanted to visit his High Fae kin, but his responsibilities kept him close to his Dragon Fae clan and their brutal, bloodthirsty ways. When a new Alpha takes charge, killing Damir’s sire and threatening the lives of his wingmates if they don’t swear their loyalty. Damir realizes it’s time to convince his long lost High Fae kin to help, whatever the cost.

When Seren finds a lost High Fae prince wandering through the woods, she tries to warn him to keep away from her and her curse. But the Dragon Fae don’t believe in curses. As Seren tries to push him away, Damir realizes that she is exactly what he needs. Together they could find home, but only if curses can be broken and kisses from princes aren’t just the stuff of fairy tales.

June Reading Journal Set-Up

I think this month is going to be a rest and recharge month for me, which means I hope to read a LOT of books. Even though I have a mental list of books that I really want to get to this month, I am sticking with my no TBR policy and simple reading journal spread for now. Here’s my initial layout…

I got some new washi tape for my birthday. It’s the one on the left-hand page. You can’t really tell from the photo, but it’s a galaxy print with gold and silver foil stars on a black background. I like it so much that I couldn’t resist using it in this month’s spread, and it ended up inspiring my whole layout for the month.

After attaching that strip of washi tape, I added a coordinating foil star one over on the right-hand page as a sort of dividing line between my headers and my list of books read. Then I dug around in my sticker collection and came up with some little silver foil dots. I placed a few around the word “June” and doodled around them with my metallic silver dot pen to make them look a little more like stars. I added more stars using two of the stencils on my new Midori clip ruler (another birthday present). Finally, I filled in with a scattering of freehand star doodles to give it a Milky Way effect.

Here is a close up of the result:

So much sparkle!

This was a fun little creative art project, and it made me happy. Now I just have to figure out what I want to read next. I already finished my first book for the month, and I’m listening to another one on audiobook. So I’ve been scrolling through the books on my Kindle, trying to decide which one is calling to me the most right now. But I may pick something off my bookshelf instead because I’m kind of wanting to read an actual paper book. We’ll see where the reading mood takes me.

What are you reading this month?

May Reading Wrap-up and Birthday Book Haul

May was not a great reading month for me, but I did get a lot of awesome new books for my birthday! Read on to find out more…

Sad little monthly spread for May.

The first book I read in May was The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein. This is another novel in her Code Name Verity world, but it features different characters. I really liked Code Name Verity but never got around to reading any of her other books. So when my book club buddies suggested that we read this, I read the blurb and agreed. Turns out that it was good, but I didn’t love it. The pilot scenes and the scenes between Louisa and the old German lady she’s in charge of caring for were some of my favorites. The rest required a bit too much suspension of disbelief for me.

I also read Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui. I started on the first of the month, and it took me almost the next thirty days to finish it, which is a little embarrassing because the book is only 277 pages long. And I love swimming! I really enjoyed all the information about why swimming is awesome. Some of it I knew before, but there was a lot of new stuff as well. I definitely recommend this for folks who love swimming or who are curious about the benefits of open water swimming (especially in cold water). It motivated me to get into our local lake a lot sooner than I might otherwise have. The author did a lot of research for this and sites a lot of science, so it’s not just a series of essays with a some personal anecdotes thrown in.

Birthday book haul!

Here are the books I received (thanks, Mom!) and/or purchased for myself for my birthday:

  • Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — I met Suyi at Futurescapes a couple of years ago. We were in a critique group together, and I got to read the first chapter of this book and totally wanted to read more. When I found out that it was getting published, I was so excited! I can’t wait to read the rest of the story.
  • Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton — The blurb for this book gives me big “Brienne of Tarth” vibes, and I already know that I love Tessa’s writing and world-building. This is going to be epic.
  • The Dreamblood Duology by N. K. Jemisin — I have been wanting to read this since I finished the Broken Earth trilogy, and now I can! Hooray!
  • Drowned Country by Emily Tesh — I really enjoyed Silver in the Wood. (Seriously, if you haven’t read it and you like magical woods fantasy stories, go get your hands on a copy.) This is the second book in that duology. I am really looking forward to seeing what’s next for Henry and Tobias.
  • How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole — If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you already know that Alyssa Cole is pretty much an auto-buy for me. After getting a glimpse at one of the heroines of this book in the first book in How to Catch a Queen, I knew I had to read her story. Beznaria just leapt off the page and into my heart. I needed to read her love story.
  • The Checklist by Addie Woolridge — Addie is funny and smart, and I am just so excited to read her first published book! This rom com is already starting to get all the summer book buzz, so you better grab a copy and check it out for yourself.

What do you think? See anything in my book haul that is also at the top of your TBR? Let me know in the comments.

Next, it’s time to set up my reading journal for June…