What’s on my July TBR

I started to create a second half of 2019 TBR, but as I worked on the post, I realized that it is insane and way too ambitious. So, I’m throwing out that plan, and I’m going to take it month by month instead.

This is what I’m planning to read in July:

This month, most of what I plan to read are Hugo finalist novels and novellas.

I still have four of the novellas to read. Two of them (The Tea Master and the Detective and Artificial Condition) were already on my TBR. The other two (The Black God’s Drums and Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach) also sound great, and I’m excited to read them as well. Novellas are fun and usually fast reads. So I think I can get through these pretty quickly. Then, it’s on to the novels…

All three of the remaining finalists for best adult novel (Revenant Gun, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and Spinning Silver) were already on my TBR. The only reason I hadn’t read them yet was because I was waiting for library holds (or the Hugo packet, whichever arrived first). Of course, I also need to read book two in the Machineries of Empire series (Raven Stratagem) before I can read Revenant Gun. But, now I have my holds and my Hugo packet, and I own both Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun in paperback. So, I have no more excuses. Time to get reading. ūüôā

Besides all this Hugo reading, I’m still trying to stay on track with the 2019 Read Harder Challenge this month. Luckily, there’s some overlap between my Hugo reading and a few of the challenge tasks. Both Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun will satisfy Task #6 (Read a book by an author of color set in or about space) and/or Task #18 (Read a novel by a trans or nonbinary author). Plus, Dread Nation, which is a finalist for best young adult novel, will satisfy Task #2 (Read an alternate history novel). So, I may get to check off three tasks this month.

Finally, if I have time, I’d like to read book one in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice). I was planning to read this with my friend and her son this month, but I think he’s already way ahead of us. I also moved book one in Alyssa Cole’s near-future dystopian romance series (Radio Silence) up in the “to-read” stack. Plus, the cover of You’d Be Mine is calling to me. I think it might make for a fun book to read while enjoying the sunshine this month.

This is still a very ambitious TBR for July. We’ll see how I do, and how much rolls over into August. Did I mention that I’m also working on writing the first draft of book three in my Modern Fae series this month, too? Yikes.

What’s on your TBR for July? Are you planning on reading any of these books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Book Birthday to Dawn of the Fae!

Book two in my Modern Fae series is out today!

Check it out over on my website where you can read the first chapter, add it to Goodreads, and buy an ebook or paperback copy if you are so inclined.

Also, if you’re interested in watching me talk about this book, my writing process, my Camp NaNoWriMo adventures, and other writing vlog-able dispatches, I’m starting an “AuthorTube” channel over on YouTube.

If watching YouTube videos isn’t your thing, you can also sign up for my Newsletter or follow me on BookBub and/or Amazon to get book release updates.

If you’re only interested in my reading updates, stay tuned to this channel. I’ll have my June recap post up early next week. Brace yourself for some surprise new favorites.

TBRs and reading lists for the first half of 2019

I’ve been doing a LOT of reading and not a lot of blogging this month. I just opened Goodreads and my Google Sheets spreadsheet to log the seventh book I’ve finished this month, and I realized that I haven’t done a post on my 2019 TBRs. So, I thought I’d take a minute and write a post about my reading plans for the first half of 2019.

You may remember that one of my top five reading goals for 2019 is to put a dent in my backlog of purchased Kindle books. I don’t want to spoil my end of the month wrap up, but I will hint that I may be starting the year in the red on that goal…More on that after the month is over. For now, I’ll say that I decided that in order to get serious about this goal, I needed to pick six books and make a TBR for books I plan to read in the first half of this year. So I did. The lucky winners are the following books:

For anyone who has been reading my blog for a while, these covers probably look pretty familiar. When I scrolled through the 124 books on my Kindle backlog list, these were the ones that jumped out at me as ones I wanted to read first.

All but one of these are new releases that I purchased and then didn’t read right away (Vengeful, The Belles, Thick as Thieves, Brightly Burning, and Our Dark Duet). The last book on the list (The Queen of Blood) is book one in a now complete fantasy series. I’ve been meaning to read this book for at least two years, but keep putting it off. One benefit of waiting is that if I get into it I can binge the rest of the series. I already own book two.

The only problem with this list is that, in order to get to Thick As Thieves, I’m going to have to complete my re-read of the first four books in The Queen’s Thief series. I just finished my re-read the first one. Now I’m waiting for my reading buddies to be ready to get started on book two (and maybe do a brief chat about book one, first). But, that means I’ve essentially just added another four books to my first half of 2019 TBR.

Total TBR count so far for those keeping score: 10 books.

I also remembered that I signed up to judge the Romance Writers of America RITA awards this year. That means I have a panel of books assigned to me that I need to read and score by the 7th of March. Seven books in seven weeks. Unfortunately for you, this list is top secret. I’m not even going to add them to Goodreads. But I still have to read them, and that’s going to take some time.

Updated TBR count, including RITA submissions: 17 books.

I’ve also decided to attempt to complete the 2019 Read Harder Challenge. To stay on track, I’ll need to read twelve books in the first six months of this year. I’ve already finished three, and I have the rest picked out from books that I already own (or have out from the library) that meet one of the challenge tasks. Here’s a sneak peek at that TBR…

The tasks covered by these books are:

Total TBR count after all that: 29 books.

But that’s not all… As if that wasn’t enough “required reading” for the first half of the year, I’m going to a writing workshop in April, taught by a bunch of authors, agents, and editors who I admire. Unfortunately, I haven’t read books by some of the authors, and I want to make sure I do before the workshop. So, I’ve added the following books to my TBR:

I’ll probably shoot for reading one book by each author (Dan Wells, Ted Chiang, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Fran Wilde). So, four of the six pictured here. Which ones I read will likely depend on what’s available first at the library. And, there may be more I need to add depending on who else is announced as participating.

That puts the total TBR count for the first half of 2019 at 33 books. Or almost six books per month, on average. It will probably be almost exactly six books per month once you take into account the rule I’m putting in place about reading books I buy this year (more on that in my January wrap-up).

< cue nervous laughter >

Ambitious much? Yeah. This is maybe a bit crazy. But… Is it weird that I’m actually really excited to read all of them? And I don’t even mind that I’ve completely booked (so to speak) all my available reading time for the first half of this year. Right now, I’m pretty excited about this TBR. I guess we’ll see how I feel in a few months.

Now I should probably go make a tracker in my “BuJo” to keep track of all this reading…

September Reading Recap and NaNoWriMo Prep

September flew by. I read some books. I wrote a lot of words. I got the first book in my “Modern Fae” series ready to publish. I also finished the first draft of a prequel novella in that series. Oh, and it was my husband’s birthday. Phew.

Here’s what I read in September:

I started off the month with a re-read of The House With a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs. This book was one of my favorites as a kid. However, on my re-read, I’m not entirely sure why I liked it so much. The mystery is pretty weak, and there’s a lot of name calling. Plus I didn’t really like the main character. I know I read a LOT of books by John Bellairs as a kid. This is likely the first one I read, but maybe it wasn’t my favorite? Unless my tastes have changed enormously in the past thirty years (maybe, but I don’t think so), I honestly can’t figure out why I remember liking this book. Oh well. I’m still interested in seeing what they do with the movie.

After that disappointment — seriously, I hate it when a childhood favorite doesn’t live up to the memory — I read From Twinkle, With Love. This was another really cute book by the author of When Dimple Met Rishi. This author does adorable heart-warming teen romance between smart, passionate girls and sweet cinnamon roll boys better than any other YA author I’ve read. This is one of those books you read with a dopey grin on your face. I liked her first book a little better than this one, but only because I think the heroine’s character arc gets a bit muddled at points in this book. But this is still a really fun read, and I recommend it if you liked Dimple and Rishi.

While I was waiting for my library hold on Two Dark Reigns¬†by Kendare Blake, I read the second novella in this series,¬†The Oracle Queen. I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this novella, but it happened to come off hold, so I thought I’d give it a try. Boy am I glad I did. This is a really good novella, especially if you’re already into this series. I didn’t know why I should care about the Oracle Queens after the first two books. You’re always hearing that there aren’t any more because this one when crazy. Then, in this novella, you read what really happened, and you’re like, woah. I won’t spoil it, but I can’t wait to see how this plays into future books. But…if this doesn’t change the game in some way, I’m going to be very disappointed.

After that, I dove into The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. This new contemporary romance has been getting all the hype. After reading it, I think that hype is justified. The book features a heroine with high-functioning autism who hires an escort to teach her how to be in a relationship. (Note: this is also written by a woman with high-functioning autism, and I’m all about #OwnVoices.) It’s kind of a reverse Pretty Woman, but only at a very basic level. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a heroine like this before in any book, and I have to say, it’s refreshing. I really liked Stella. At times I also got really annoyed with Stella. I plowed through this book up until it got to “the black moment” with the obligatory break-up scene near the end of the book. When it got to that part, I closed my Kindle. It took a few days to get back to it because I was so frustrated and disappointed with how that scene was handled. Everything else about this book felt fresh and awesome, but that last bit, from the dark moment to the end, wasn’t as satisfying for me. I still highly, highly recommend this book. I still gave it five stars. I just thought things got a little out of character at the end there.

This month, I just scored a bunch more new releases from my library (Seafire¬†! Two Dark Reigns¬†! Yay!). This has been a big digital library loan year for me, and that’s throwing off my reading plans a bit. But it reminds me…if your library let’s you recommend books to buy, would you mind requesting that they add my book (Eve of the Fae by E. Menozzi)? It should be available on Overdrive, and I would love it if people could borrow my book from the library, because libraries are awesome and not everyone has budget to buy books.

Now that the book launch is over, I was planning on spending some quality time reading my pre-order of¬†Vengeful by V. E. Schwab. I think I’m still going to, but first I need to catch up on my NaNoWriMo prep. Plus I’m¬†trying to finish up two short writing projects that I want to get done before November. My new plan is to carve out a chunk of “do not disturb” time in the next few weeks, because I have been waiting for that book for a long time, and I want to savor it.

Speaking of savoring…I hope you are all enjoying the fall! (Or spring, if you’re in the northern hemisphere.) For me, fall means “back to school,” which as an adult, translates into reading and writing. In case you can’t tell, I’m already getting excited for NaNoWriMo next month. If you’re also planning on joining this fun writing challenge in November, I’ve posted a link to a bunch of resources I like over on this page. I’ll probably also do a post on my bullet journal writing tracker once I’ve got that set up.

Until then, happy October and happy reading, everyone!

Book announcement, cover reveal, and release date!

And now we will interrupt my usual reading-related posts for an important writing announcement…

Eeek! My book has a cover and a launch date! Check it out!

The cover was designed by Elizabeth Mackey. I think she did a fantastic job, and I hope you love it as much as I do. Definitely check out her other work on her website. She’s designed a lot of excellent covers.

I’m almost done making all my final changes to the manuscript. Which means…I have scheduled a launch date!

Mark your calendars. The release date for Eve of the Fae will be the 2nd of October! Pre-orders should be live on Amazon very soon. I’ll update this post with a link and post an announcement on social media once everything is live. (UPDATE: Pre-order here.)

So, make sure you’re following me on Twitter and/or Instagram and watch for that post. Plus, if you want access to be the first to know about book news, plus get exclusive giveaways, you should definitely sign up for my newsletter.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’re probably wondering why you’d want to subscribe to my newsletter. First thing you should know is, the newsletter is not the same content as the blog. This blog is primarily for talking about what I’m reading, random posts about my adventures in bullet journaling, and general life updates. Newsletter subscribers get exclusive updates on my writing projects, plus book recommendations, behind-the-scenes book info, and other content that I don’t share on the blog or on social media. Similar to the blog, I send emails once a month. I promise not to spam you with promo junk.

If newsletters aren’t your jam, I’ll also be posting book news on my Facebook Page. Please like and follow that page for announcements and other fun stuff.

And, since launches deserve celebration, I’m planning a virtual launch event! It will probably be via YouTube so you don’t have to be on social media to participate. I’ll probably do a Q&A and maybe even a reading. I’ll post details closer to the launch.

Now we will return to our reading-related posts…Stay tuned for my August reading update. ūüôā

November reading summary and December TBR

Well, I did it!

November was a very busy month with a TON of travel and very little stability (we’re moving, location TBD after the holidays). But, I still managed to push through and write 50k words in 30 days. Phew. I have to say, as cool as it is to have “won” NaNoWriMo again — this is my 6th win — the thing I’m most proud of this month is that I wrote every day. Regardless of how crazy life got, no matter what got in the way, I put my butt in the chair and typed. Even if it was just 79 words (my worst day: the day after Thanksgiving). Even if it meant that I had 6 days where I wrote at least double the daily “par” word count of 1667 words in order to catch up.

So, what do I have to show for it? I have just over 50k words of something that is starting to become novel-shaped. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has a (very weak) plot. It has one or two scenes that I’m particularly proud of and a TON of holes that need to be filled in. Gaping holes. Now, I just need to actually *finish* this first draft. But before I do that, I need to tinker with last year’s NaNoWriMo project so that I can send it out for a developmental edit.

Because of all this writing (and life) craziness, I didn’t read much in November. I finished one book. It was a really good book —¬†The Sisters of Alameda Street by¬†Lorena Hughes. It’s a family drama with some romantic sub-plots and an underlying mystery driving the story, and it takes place in Ecuador — a country I lived in for about two months back in 2008. I’d recommend it for anyone who liked My Brilliant Friend.

On my way to Thanksgiving, I bought myself an autographed copy of Kirstin Cashore’s new novel, Jane, Unlimited. I started it, but I didn’t have much time to read over Thanksgiving. I’m almost to the end of the first branch of the story. If you aren’t familiar with this book, it has a kind of “choose your own adventure” or Sliding Doors (though I haven’t seen that movie) premise to it. There’s a base story that sets things up and introduces the characters. Then there are five (I think) possible branches for what happens directly after that base story. Apparently, each of those branches is a different genre of story. It sounds really creative, and I loved her Graceling series, and the story has a lot of elements that I love (huge, creepy house on a private island, odd rich people behaving badly, lots of references to ocean creatures). I’m planning on spending the better part of my weekend curled up with this book.

I’m not sure what else I plan to read in December. I have a “kinda sorta” TBR list, but it’s basically just a list of the books I was going to read for the remaining Read Harder Challenge tasks. I have eight left to read. They’re mostly all books that I really want to read. Some of the ones I picked are really short. So, we’ll see how it goes.

More than anything, I have a lot of reading-related thoughts floating around in my head that I’m going to work on organizing into blog-posts for December. I have a lot of thoughts, folks. Especially about book buying and Goodreads and TBRs and life. So, stay tuned for more on that.

And, I know I don’t talk about writing a lot on my blog (on purpose). But, if you want to hear more about what’s going on with my writing, I’m starting a newsletter. You can sign up for it here. It will contain content that I don’t offer anywhere else on the internet (or at least newsletter subscribers will get that content months before everyone else). I’m shooting for a monthly schedule to be sent each month on or around the 15th, starting in December. This month’s newsletter may just be a giant photo of me watching The Last Jedi with my friends. Plus a few other writing-related tidbits. We’ll see…

Happy holidays, everyone!

Rosemary Contest Winner for Petals and Runes!

I just got back from the 2017 RWA contest. It was AWESOME! I got to meet so many people I only know from the internet. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. I learned SO much. The RITA awards and Golden Heart awards were so inspiring. The post-RITA dance party was a blast. And…possibly the best part: I’m coming home a winner in the speculative category for the YA RWA Rosemary Contest for my YA fantasy novel “Petals and Runes!”

All that awesome had to be counterbalanced with some less than awesome stuff… for example, I killed my phone. It died via the dreaded infinite boot loop on Thursday morning, leaving me with no social media or ability to text/call anyone for the remaining three days of the conference. Then, my flight was delayed by six hours coming home last night. But, even those inconveniences couldn’t put a dent in how much fun I had at the conference.

10/10 I would totally do this again. Already looking forward to next year!

#NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously

Yes, I am completely aware that it’s mid-July, and there are four more months until NaNoWriMo and The NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously. That doesn’t dampen my excitement one bit.

I’ve already set up my donation page to attend this year’s event. If you can attend, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most fun writing events I’ve attended, and I look forward to it every year.

Even if you’re not a writer or not able to attend this year, I’m hoping that you might consider a donation to support the NaNoWriMo organization (and my fundraising campaign).

If you’ve already donated, THANK YOU! Your name has been added to my “reward” list. I haven’t figured out what the reward is going to be yet, but stay tuned. I’ll make sure it’s awesome.

I know there are countless worthy causes out there hoping to get their hands on your charitable donation budget. Here’s why I encourage you to make (even a very small) donation to NaNoWriMo:

  • NaNoWriMo does inspiration like nobody else. It’s so inspiring that it’s been the catalyst to me writing 4 novels during past Novembers. With the magic and inspiration of NaNoWriMo 2017, I plan to do it again.
  • The money from donations is used to provide children and adults the encouragement, structure, and inspiration they need to achieve their creative potential.
  • Proceeds from the event will fund National Novel Writing Month’s free creative writing programs in hundreds of schools and communities around the world. For an example of what that looks like in action, watch this video:

So please, if you like my blog and want to support my writing while also supporting an excellent organization, click through to my donation page and consider a $5 or $10 donation. Anything helps. My goal is to reach $275 raised by the end of July. So, help me out? Pretty please?

In which I gush about @MadcapRetreats

It’s been a month since I attended¬†Madcap Retreats¬†Creating Worlds workshop with Tessa Gratton and Roshani Chokshi. I’ve been working on this post on and off since then, trying to find just the right words to explain how much I loved this writing retreat and how much I love the people I met there. Mostly, when I try to put my feelings about this experience into words, I just end up gushing and flailing and making incoherent noises that don’t translate well into a blog post. But here goes…

Back in November, I applied to attend both their¬†Creating Worlds workshop and their Writing Cross Culturally workshop. When I got the email that I’d been accepted, I actually started crying. I’m not even kidding. I was so excited to be attending that I think I emailed them back to accept my spot almost immediately.

I ended up getting accepted to both. Unfortunately, I could only attend one workshop due to budget and vacation constraints. So, I picked the Creating Worlds workshop. It was a little smaller, and I admit that I was a little intimidated about the idea of being in a house with 60 people I didn’t know.

As the anticipation built, I started getting really nervous. I had no idea what to expect. I knew¬†a couple of people from Twitter who had attended previously, but they hadn’t said much about it. About a month before the workshop, I connected with a handful of people who would be attending and we chatted about what to bring and coordinated on rides from the airport. A lot of people who were attending with me had already been to one of these workshops. I took that as a good sign. I should have realized then that this was going to be a world-changer for me.

I’m here to report, Madcap Retreats exceeded my expectations in every single way.

I¬†attempted to try to make a list of all of the awesome things about this retreat. I’m sure I’ll forget something, but here are 10 things I loved about this Madcap Retreat:

  1. Natalie and Tessa — Any list of things to love about Madcap has to start with these two, but especially with Natalie. Natalie Parker is the organizer of everything and mastermind behind Madcap.¬†Tessa Gratton is¬†an excellent teacher and rabid social justice pixie in the very best and most inspiring way. I have to admit, of everyone on this faculty list, I knew the least about these two going in. What a travesty! How did I not already know about these¬†two amazing individuals?
  2. The faculty — The other authors who were there to offer their knowledge were also fantastic. Roshani Chokshi is¬†kind, generous, and can take the most boring story detail and make it magical. Dhonielle Clayton is a really fun, tiny, fierce human packed full will a wealth of¬†publishing knowledge. Tara Hudson and Julie Murphy, who also joined us for a couple¬†days, were generous with their industry knowledge, really fun to hang out with, and so encouraging.
  3. The writers I met — A few of the attendees already had agents and/or published books. Most of us did not. We got to hear a lot about the novels everyone was working on, and there was not a single one that I wasn’t excited about¬†reading. Every single one of them sounded fantastic, and I wished they were available to read right now. The level of talent attending was both inspiring and a little intimidating (in a good way). I made new friends, and I got to talk about writing with writers in real life. Making writer friends over Twitter is great, but hanging out with writer friends in person is the best.
  4. The content — The workshop I attended was focused around “Creating Worlds,” something I thought I knew a thing or two about before I got on that plane to Florida. World-building is one of my absolute favorite things about writing sci-fi and fantasy and something I usually get compliments on from CPs¬†and beta readers. But, this workshop gave me so many more things to think about! I took so many notes and got so many ideas. Seriously, I left feeling like I’ve only been scratching the surface of what’s possible, but ready to dive in to improve all the worlds I’ve created.
  5. The location — So, I associate Florida with the absolute worst sunburn I ever got in my life. Plus,¬†Orange Beach is not the easiest place to get to from San Francisco. But, it turns out that Orange Beach is¬†not actually located in Florida. It’s technically in Alabama. And, hey! This location¬†was AWESOME. Excellent house. Right on the beach. Wildlife just outside (cranes, dolphins, elusive beach mice). Spectacular sunrises and sunsets, both somehow magically happening over the ocean. Warm weather. It was basically the best. I would do it all over again next weekend if I could, even though it meant spending nearly an entire day in transit both directions. That’s how good it was. (more location photos in this¬†photo album)
  6. The format — We had three pretty intense days, but they were broken up in a way that gave you time to absorb what you were learning, or decompress if you needed a break. We got started around 9am and went pretty much straight through until noon with a few 10 minute breaks. Then we had about an hour for lunch. Then we had another session after lunch. Then a big break in the afternoon. After dinner,¬†there was a “fireside chat” (optional) in the evening. I got¬†up at about 6:30 every morning because that’s actually “sleeping in” for me, and I love watching the sunrise over the ocean. And I stayed up way past my usual bedtime, going to sleep around midnight every night. I could have gone to bed earlier or slept in later, but I didn’t want to miss a moment, and I liked working on the world-building exercises we were learning first thing in the morning when the house was quiet. It was intense and a little exhausting, but totally worth it.
  7. The new writing tools — Holy 9-box convert, Batman! There were several writing exercises that I am definitely adding to my prep work for all my novels, but this character/plot arc tool was one of two things that really helped me figure out what needed revising in the novel I brought to work on at this workshop. The other enlightening thing happened as a side-effect from a writing exercise in Tessa’s class. I’ll talk more about that one in a future post. For now I’ll just say, I’ve taken writing classes and read a fair amount¬†of writing craft books, and I still learned so many mind-blowingly useful new things.
  8. Learning from #OwnVoices¬†— As anyone who’s been paying any attention to YA “book Twitter” knows, it is very easy to mess things up when you’re creating worlds, be they contemporary or fantasy. I am always¬†trying to educate myself about this stuff because I know enough to know there’s always so much¬†more to learn. That’s one of the reasons why I signed up for this workshop in the first place. Learning¬†from #OwnVoices faculty and fellow workshop participants helped me flag a few new potential blind spots and feel a little more articulate about some of the things I’d already figured out on my own.
  9. The food — Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much here. Basically, I assumed they’d have some, and I’m not a particularly picky eater. So, I assumed I’d eat some. I was fairly certain I wouldn’t starve. Oh how wrong I was. I think I came home several pounds heavier than I left. Natalie did most of the cooking, and everything was fantastic. Plus, the kitchen was basically in the same space as the presentation area. So, the delicious food smells meant I¬†was always hungry. There were also a ton of snacks that I normally never eat. I made bad food choices. I regret nothing. ūüôā
  10. Talking about my novel with other writers — This was possibly the one thing I didn’t even consider before attending but now don’t know how I managed to function without. Critique groups, my usual outlet for talking IRL with other writers, are usually for absorbing feedback about whatever section of work you submitted. Brainstorming and talking through your plot issues with other writers is a whole different beast, and I loved it! At first it was really strange talking about my novel out loud like I would talk about the plot and/or characters of any published book. But, talking through it with this group during the 9-Box exercise, and during my 1:1 critique session with Tessa and Roshani, was SO HELPFUL! I have no idea how I’ve functioned so long without having a writing buddy to brainstorm with IRL.

Bottom line: I can’t recommend Madcap Retreats¬†highly enough. If you’re serious about writing and on the fence about attending one of these workshops, go. Apply and go. You won’t regret it.

This photo makes me a little sad. I miss my new writer friends and am already thinking about when I’m going to do this¬†again. I will definitely be back.