A different sort of writing fuel

I did it!

Day 200 of running every day!

Back on the 15th of November I decided that I was going to try to run at least one mile every day for as many days as I could before I had to take a break. At the time, I was really trying to keep myself moving through the long dreary winter when the days are short and wet and I’d much rather stay inside with a book than go outside and get sweaty.

Once I made it through the winter, I wanted to see if I could make it to 100 days. Then it was half a year. And now that I’ve hit that 200 day milestone, I think I have no choice but to go for a full 365 days!

The side benefit of running every day that I didn’t realize before I started is it really feeds my writing brain. I don’t listen to music or podcasts or audiobooks or anything but the birds and the wind in the trees when I run, because I like to let my mind unwind and wander. And do you know what happens when my mind isn’t focused on anything in particular except keeping my feet moving? I come up with the best story ideas.

Sometimes it’s as simple as the answer to “what happens next?” Sometimes it’s a clever plot twist or a character motivation that leads the story in a new direction. Regardless, I’m always much more motivated to get back to writing after I go for a run.

Which is good, because before I left for my run today, I was completely unmotived to write. And very, very stuck.

I’m trying to get my brain back into a new project. It’s one I haven’t touched for a long time, and I’m really feeling that “I don’t wanna” inertia. Seriously, though, getting back into a project after you’ve been out of it for a while is the worst.

Now that I’m back and showered and feeling extra accomplished because I hit that 200 day milestone, I’m going to do what I do when I don’t want to go outside and run. I’m going to put my butt in my chair, open my Scrivener file, and make myself do something on this project for at least ten minutes.

I’ll let you know tomorrow how it went. And maybe tell you a little more about what I’m working on.

How about you? What’s getting you moving and keeping you motivated today?

Feels like Monday

It’s time for a mid-morning coffee break.

I don’t have a fancy espresso machine. Instead, I make my Red Bay espresso with my Rok and foam up some oat milk with my new cow-print foamer wand.

I’m off to a bit of a sluggish start today after taking the long weekend off.

I spent a good portion of the weekend reading (more on that when I do my May reading wrap-up post), hanging out with family, and reflecting.

Somewhere in there I had an idea. I had been thinking about getting more active on social media, specifically Instagram. I did some research. I started coming up with a plan.

Then, while I was taking my mid-morning coffee break this morning, I thought, “But I could just do this on my blog.”

If you’ve been following me on here for a while, you already know that I’m a writer, notebook enthusiast, and devourer of books. But did you know that I’m also a trail runner who is closing in on a 200 day running streak? Or did you know that the fifth (and last) book in my contemporary fantasy series is coming out later this month?

Nearly all my blog posts are about my reading journal and what I’m reading. But what if I branched out a little more? What if I also posted about my writing process? Or my deep thoughts while sipping my mid-morning DIY espresso? Would you hate it? Are you only here for the reading stuff?

So, here’s my weird little plan. I’m going to try to post every day in the month of June. Both here, and on Instagram. This one will be a longer, more thoughtful version of whatever it is I post over there. If you like the post(s), I hope you will engage (you know, like or comment, or both), so I get a better idea of what you like to hear about.

What do you think? Terrible idea? Good idea? Got any tips for making a better at-home cappuccino, especially when you’re using oat milk instead of regular milk? (And don’t say buy an espresso machine, because I don’t want one cluttering up my counter space.) Let me know in the comments.

May Reading Journal Set-Up

Is it nearly the middle of May already? Yes. Yes, it is.

Did I just finish editing and posting my May reading journal set-up video? Also, yes.

Better late than never, right?

Here’s the video if you want to check it out:

It’s short (less than four minutes)…

Since the video was late (and really short) this month, I’m adding an in-progress photo. This is the book stack list of books I’ve read this month, plus what’s currently in my TBR pocket.

So far, I’ve read three books: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, and Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn. I really enjoyed them all. This month’s reading is off to an excellent start!

After those I started two different sci-fi books.

The first is the companion novel in a YA space academy duology (Supernova by Kass Morgan). I picked up the first book a while back because “space fleet academy” is one of my favorite tropes and Kass Morgan wrote The 100 (which I never read but did watch and enjoy as a television series…at least for the first few seasons).

The other sci-fi book I’m reading is book three in an adult space opera adventure (Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon). The first two books were really good, and so far, I’m really enjoying book three.

How about you? What are you reading this month?

April Reading Wrap-Up

It’s time for another reading wrap-up post! I participated in both the Magical Readathon and the Tome Topple Readathon in April. I managed to complete all my “coursework” for the Magical Readathon’s Orilium Academy spring session, and I finished one tome for Tome Topple! So, I’ll call that a successful reading month.

Here’s what I ended up reading in April:

  • Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher (for the Orilium’s “Art of Illusion”) — I started the month with this fantasy romance. I really loved the first book in this series (Paladin’s Grace). This book is the second in the series and shifted focus to follow a new pair of characters, which I expected from the blurb. I really liked this new couple. One is another paladin from the first book, and the other is a new character we meet in chapter one. Part of the plot expands on the mystery plot from the first book, but the majority of this story pushed things in a different direction and ended up being more of a rescue mission. I really enjoyed it (though I think I liked the first one a tiny bit more than this one), and I’m looking forward to reading book three.
  • Deal With The Devil by Kit Rocha (for the Orilium’s “Psionics and Divination”) — This was a near-future sci-fi romance featuring the leaders of two bands of mercenaries who end up having to work together for plot reasons. Mercenaries are kind of hit and miss for me. These were super-soldiers with biological enhancements in a post-apocalyptic world. Neither of those things (super-soldiers or post-apocalypse) are my favorite. Still, I ended up liking this book. Not enough to jump immediately into the next one in the series, but enough that I might read book two at some point.
  • Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (for the Orilium’s “Inscription” and also for Tome Topple) — This book was so good! Epic fantasy at its absolute best! I ended up listening to this on audiobook even though I own the ebook and the hardcover. I had a bunch of spring cleaning projects to do in the second half of April, and the audiobook was available from my library, so I switched formats. I have to say, I’m really glad that I did because the audiobook narration is fantastic. Sometimes I find it hard to stay engaged in fiction when it’s being read to me, especially when the book has a lot of complex world-building like this one does, but the narrator (Korey Jackson) did a great job. I can’t wait for the next book in this series!
  • Drowned Country by Emily Tesh (for the Orilium’s “Lore) — This is a novella and a companion story to Silver in the Wood. I love the folklore and atmospheric, lyrical prose of these books. I also love the sort-of grumpy / sunshine pairing of the two main characters. This was a fast and very enjoyable read, and I highly recommend these two books.

Originally, I’d planned on reading Legendborn for the “Lore” prompt in the Magical Readathon because it was also a tome, and I thought I might be able to finish two tomes in one month. But I ran out of time. I might have been able to finish it before the end of the month, but I didn’t have enough days left in the Tome Topple Readathon by the time I finished Son of the Storm. So I decided to switch to Drowned Country (which also fit for the prompt and was only 160 pages long). Then, I started reading Legendborn as soon as I finished Drowned Country. I am LOVING it, so far. If you haven’t read it, yet, go find a copy and check it out. This is possibly some of the best YA fantasy that I’ve read in a while. But I’ll save the rest of my gushing until my next reading wrap-up post…

Now that we are officially in May, I’m working on setting up my reading journal for the new month. I’ll have that update posted soon (probably with a video). Until then, let me know in the comments what you’re reading this month!

Posting serial stories to Kindle Vella

Okay, slight diversion from my usual reading-related blog posts… I just realized that I’m wrapping up season one of my first serial story on Kindle Vella this week, and I never even mentioned anything about it here. So, I thought I’d let you know in case you want to check it out.

Petals and Runes is a YA romantic fantasy for fans of series like The Winner’s Curse and Girl of Fire and Thorns. A lot of the old-school YA tropes are featured. There’s a masked ball, an arranged marriage, a childhood love left behind, secret powers, political intrigue, and dangerous magical creatures. So if you like that sort of thing, I’d love it if you wanted to check out my serial. The first three episodes are free to read. Please give it a like and a follow if you enjoy it.

And now back to my regular reading-related content… 🙂

March Reading Wrap-Up

I did not read as many books as I thought I was going to read in March. I had wanted to read one for every line in my rainbow, but alas that did not happen. On the bright side, I really liked everything I read.

Here is what I read in March:

  • Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik — This book gave me serious Firefly vibes. There’s a crew of mercenaries. The Captain falls for the alien who hires them for a job. I enjoyed it, and I think I liked it better than I liked her Consortium Rebellion series. If you’re looking for some sci-fi romance that’s not of the blue aliens kidnapping Earth women variety, you should give this one a try.
  • The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay — This book was great. The author has become one of my auto-buy authors, and I think I liked this book even better than his first series. Currently, this is a stand-alone. I could totally see this becoming book one in a series (and I hope that it does). The voice of the main character had me laughing out loud. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was practically giddy when I realized that this wasn’t just a military sci-fi mystery novel. Another, somewhat unexpected genre has been sandwiched in here, and it’s done very well. This one is definitely my favorite that I read this month.
  • The Bounce Back by Addie Woolridge — Another REALLY good novel. Again, I think I liked this one even better than I liked her first novel. This book is funny and heartwarming, and there is so many wise nuggets about day jobs and sibling relationships and female friendships. I highly recommend checking out this book, even if you haven’t read The Checklist (but you should totally read that one, too).

If you want to watch the flip-thru video, you can check that out here:

I am still working on adding some background music to my April set-up video. Once I get that figured out, I’ll get that posted, too! Until then, happy reading!

April #MagicalReadathon and #TomeTopple TBR

April why do you have to be so full of events I want to participate in? The first few days of this month (and the last few of last month) have already been so jam packed with stuff that I’m late getting this post up. Somehow I don’t think that the pace is going to let up this month, on either the work or leisure side of the life equation.

Not only is April going to be the first Spring Equinox session of Book Roast’s Magical Readathon, but there is also going to be another round of Tome Topple, AND it’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I already had big (and I mean really big) writing plans for April, and now I have just added a boatload of reading as well.

Something is going to have to give in order for me to make that happen, but that will be a problem for me to figure out when I sit down to plan my month. Today we’re going to pretend like I have all the time in the world for ambitious reading TBRs. Ready? Let’s go.

When making my TBR for April, I started with the Magical Readathon prompts because I am super into the whole Orilium thing that Book Roast has created. In the process of picking books, I added a couple of chucky tomes (books over 500 pages) that will also allow me to participate in Tome Topple, which is happening in the second half of the month (15-28 April).

Part of me thought it might be too much to try to do both events. I considered skipping Tome Topple (again), but I have tomes that are piling up and desperately need toppling! I need the added incentive of this event to tackle those long reads. Plus, I kind of had to pick one long one for one of the Magical Readathon prompts, so there’s that, too. You’ll see what I mean when I get into the TBR, below.

Here’s what I picked out and why:

  • Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher — This is my buddy read book for the month, and it also fits the prompt of “book with a trope you like” to check off my “Art of Illusion” Orilium coursework. Judging from the description, I believe this book has at least three of my favorite tropes: a fake relationship, forced proximity, and competence porn! So excited.
  • Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — This is my “intimidating read” for my “Inscription” coursework. As I hinted at above, basically the only books I tend to think of as “intimidating” reads are the ones that are over 500 pages (aka “tomes”). Books considered “classics” and anything non-fiction can also be intimidating for me, but I don’t have any “classics” on my TBR at the moment, and I like to stick with sci-fi and fantasy reads during the Magical Readathon events. I was debating between this book and Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton, but ended up going with this one because I have it in both hardcover and ebook. Sometimes I’m picky about format with longer books.
  • Legendborn by Tracey Deonn — This is another tome that has been hanging around at the top of my TBR for a while. I’ve tried to fit it into my reading schedule for the last couple months and never quite got to it. Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t read it yet because it works perfectly to fulfill my “Mythology Inspired” homework for the “Lore” course. I’m don’t really have another good option for this prompt, so I’m really hoping I can manage to read two tomes this month.
  • Goldilocks by Laura Lam — This book “set in the future” was my pick for the “Psionics and Divination” coursework. But, there was a last minute change of plans this morning. Now I am pretty sure that I’m going to be changing this to Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha. My buddy read friends wanted to read that next, and it just so happens to work for this prompt, so I think I’m going to switch.
That thing on the bottom of the left-hand page is my “TBR pocket” where I’m storing all those book covers. I don’t plan to stick them onto the page until after I read them.

For those of you who are interested, I did film my reading journal set-up, but editing that is taking forever, and has been keeping me from getting this post up. So, that will be posted soon. Keep an eye on my YouTube channel if you want to watch that.

That’s all for now. I will be back very soon with my March reading wrap-up post. Until then, happy reading!

What’s On My Mini #MagicalReadathon TBR

I am very excited to be returning to the Orilium Academy for a little cram session that will determine my magical conduit and legacy!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go check out this playlist of videos on Book Roast’s channel.

There are two categories of reading prompts for this week-long readathon. The first set of prompts determine your magical conduit. I’m pretty set on getting a dagger, since that’s the conduit that is only available to the Mind Walkers (which is the house I was sorted into after completing the Novice Path). I also like the options that are open to everyone, but I only have seven days, so I have to be reasonable and pick only one.

The prompt for earning the dagger is to read a stand alone book. I just got The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay, and it just so happens to be one of the few sci-fi / fantasy stand-alone books on my Kindle. Which works out perfectly, because this was one of my most anticipated new releases of 2022, and I am super excited to read it.

The second category of reading prompts determines your magical legacy, and each house has there own set, specific to them. There are five legacy options for Mind Walkers. I eliminated the two that didn’t appeal to me right away: Psychic Plane and Multiverse. Collective consciousness and time travel are not my jam, even though the prompts for those would be super easy for me.

That left three options: Shadow Realm, Astral Plane, and Faewild Plane.

You’d think I’d go for the Faewild one, but the Fae in this world sound super scary, and I’m not sure if I’m brave enough for that one. Plus the prompt is to read a horror novel or a book with horror elements, and nope. That’s unlikely.

The Shadow Realm sounds useful, and appeals mostly because I always lean towards creating rogue-like characters. The prompt is to read a book with a dark cover, which sounds super easy.

Then again, the Astral Plane sounds like teleportation, which is probably the super power I would pick if I got to choose one. The prompt for that one is to read a book set in a different world than ours, which is basically all sci-fi and fantasy.

This is good because I still haven’t read my buddy read book for this month, Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik, and I have to finish that before Sunday. Luckily, that book happens to have a reasonably dark cover, and it’s set in a world other than ours. I can’t use one book to satisfy two prompts, but I can read the book and decide after I’m done which prompt I want to use it for. So that’s my plan.

If I finish these two books quickly and I have time for a third, I want to read Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco which also works for either the Shadow Realm or the Astral Plane. If I finish it, I’ll use it to fill whichever prompt I didn’t pick for Hunt the Stars. Or maybe I’ll use it to get a second conduit. It would work for either the wand (book with branches on the cover) or the staff (book from a series).

If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you think in the comments. And if you’re participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon, what’s on your TBR?

March 2022 Reading Journal Set-Up

We’re already several days into the month of March, but don’t worry. I didn’t forget about posting my reading journal spread. This post just took a bit longer than usual to write. You’ll see why in a bit.

I have been messing around with my friend’s Canvas lamp. (Side note: She’s awesome and you should go check out her art!). I saw an ad for the Canvas lamp (which is like a ring light that has a phone holder and clamps to your desk), and I was considering buying one when I found out that Zoe had recently received one as a gift. So she’s letting me test it out while she’s busy with other stuff. I have mixed feelings about it so far. I think I can take better photos without the lamp (the one above was taken with the lamp, then “enhanced” a bit on my phone before uploading). So if that’s all I am going to do with it, I can buy a cheaper desk lamp for my office. But…

I did play around with making a video flip-through of my reading journal set-up. You can check that out below.

It’s a little rough, but I don’t think that’s the lamp’s fault. 🙂

I think I need more practice if I’m going to make more videos like this. But I’m willing to give it a few more tries. If you want me to make more set-up and/or flip-thru videos, please let me know by liking my video on YT, and/or subscribing to my channel, and/or just leaving a comment over there or on this post. If there’s enough interest, I’ll do a March wrap-up flip through and a set-up video for April where I actually film the me-doing-art part.

If you watch the video, you’ll get to hear me talking about my plans for the Mini-Magical Readathon in March. I made a few spreads to help me keep track of my reading prompts and options. I have to read a minimum of two books. One to earn my magical conduit and another to determine my legacy. I’m putting off picking books to go with the prompts until closer to the start of the event (14 March).

In addition to participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon, I have a few other reading goals for this month. I didn’t make specific pages for these in my reading journal. I am just sharing them here for accountability, and so I can remember to report back on how I did when I do my wrap-up post at the end of the month.

  • Aggressively DNF! — I really need to stop feeling guilty about not finishing books that just aren’t clicking with me. Usually, it’s not the book’s fault, which makes it even harder to just put it down and pick up something else. The problem is, if I’m forcing myself to read a book that I’m not clicking with, it takes me at least 2x as long to read it, and I risk putting myself in a slump. So, this month I’m going to be aggressive about DNFing anything that I’m not enjoying. If it’s not a “hell, yes!” then I’m setting it aside and saying “maybe later.”
  • Read at least one non-fiction book — I have a stack of non-fiction that I want to get through this year. The trick is going to be picking one that doesn’t violate my “aggressively DNF” goals.
  • Read at least 60 pages of one book from my physical TBR (then finish or DNF/donate) — This goes nicely with my “aggressively DNF” goal. I set myself a sixty page evaluation point because most of the books in my physical TBR stack are around 300 pages, and if I’m not into a book by the ~20% mark, then it’s probably not happening. I don’t need to horde books that I’m not interested in reading anymore, especially ones I got from subscription boxes. So, the goal is to pick one, read 60 pages, and decide if I want to keep going. If yes, I’ll try to finish it before the end of the month. If no, I’ll donate it, pick another, and repeat until I find something that sticks.

So that’s what I have planned for March. What are your reading plans? Are you participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon? If so, which guild did you get sorted into? Any fellow Mind Walkers out there?

February Reading Wrap-Up — #FaRoFeb and More

Fantasy Romance February is over, which is a little sad, but it was a good reading month for me. I ended up reading a total of seven books! Not bad for the shortest month of the year, right?

Since (like last month) I read both fiction and non-fiction books, but (unlike last month) I read more than one of each, I’ll start with my favorite fiction and favorite non-fiction that I read this month.

Fave fiction of the month goes to Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher, which I already gushed about here.

Fave non-fiction of the month goes to Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters by multiple authors, edited by Jessica P. Pryde. I highly recommend checking this out, especially if you are a writer or a romance reader. But really anyone who consumes stories in any format or genre could benefit from the light that these authors shine on the myriad issues around how Black relationships are portrayed in books, shows, and movies. It really was some of the best non-fiction reading I could have selected for any month, let alone the month that is dedicated to both Black History and all things love (due to the mid-month Gal/Pal/Val/entine’s Day holiday).

Aside from those two excellent reads, my buddy read book for the month was the series finale, Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It was a solid culmination of this epic space adventure, but it wasn’t my favorite. I just wasn’t that into, and it nearly sent me into a reading slump. But then I jumped back into one of my favorite series and saved myself with Miss Moriarty, I Presume by Sherry Thomas. I cannot gush about her Lady Sherlock series enough. It’s so good, and it was exactly what I needed to pull me out of the looming reading funk.

I also read Newsletter Ninja 2 by Tammi Labrecque, which overwhelmed me with lots of excellent ideas (in a good way). Mentioning that book reminds me that I should probably say, if you like my blog posts, you might also like my monthly newsletter. Yes, shameless self-promo, but also, I’m not kidding. My newsletter is a lot like my blog posts, it just has different (newsletter exclusive) content, including updates on my writing projects and free stories. Like this one that you get in exchange for signing up.

Finally, I jumped back into fantasy romance because it was FaRoFeb, after all. I read Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper, which was cute and fun. I was really into the magic competition (because I love competition stories), though I was a little disappointed that the main character wasn’t participating as one of the witches in the contest. The world-building is very “our world, but with magic” (which I like), and I loved the little town of Thistle Grove (not least of which because it sounds like the kind of town that wouldn’t have been that far from where I grew up).

Then I picked up a newsletter freebie (The Duchess: Tales of Kelnore) from a fellow FaRoFeb author (Hannah E. Carey) who also writes Celtic-inspired fantasy romance, except I don’t think her books have magic in them. At least this prequel story didn’t. When I looked it up on Goodreads, there was only one review and it was 2-stars, but the low rating was because that reviewer was disappointed that the heroine has sex before marriage. After I stopped laughing, I signed up for Hannah’s newsletter and hit download. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed this little prequel novella, even though it would not be considered a romance (because the pair of characters who are in love don’t live happily ever after). But the story did it’s job in introducing me to this world of Pern Coen and making me curious about what happens in the first full book in this series (The Hunter: Tales of Pern Coen).

Possibly the most fun I had this past week was adding these books, plus last month’s books, to my 2022 virtual shelf in my reading journal, which is looking pretty sweet, if I do say so myself.

How was your FaRoFeb? Did you read any good fantasy romance that you recommend? I would love to hear your faves and recommendations in the comments.