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. 🙂

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. 🙂
  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.

Year in Review: 2016 Goals Recap

I didn’t accomplish all my goals this year. But, in Googley thinking (external perspective on what I mean by that here), that’s actually a good thing. It means I’m pushing myself. I feel pretty good about everything I accomplished this year. Not great. But pretty good. This sort of felt like one of those years where you work your butt off and don’t really see very much progress, but it’s all really important work that will pay off later. At least, that’s how I hope this turns out…

These were my 2016 (non-work-related) goals:

  • Swimming <– Total Score: 67%
    • swim at least 215 days out of the year (compared to 207 days in 2015) <– Score: 86%… I only swam 184 days out of the year
    • swim at least 400 miles (660k yards) total (compared to ~386 miles in 2015) <–Score: 94%… I ended the year with 374 miles total
    • drop time in my top five events, ideally trying for the following SCY goal times: <– Score: 20%…  I didn’t really race SCY this year, but I did race LCM Nationals and placed 9th in the Nation in 200m breast
      • 2:47.59 in 200 breast (current best = 2:51.65)
      • 1:17.89 in 100 breast (current best = 1:18.62)
      • 36.9 in 50 breast (current best = 37.75)
      • 2:55.36 in 200 fly (current best = 3:03.87)
      • 5:43.8 in 400 IM (current best = 5:59.11)
  • Writing <– Total Score: 83%
    • Finish my 2013 and 2014 NaNoWriMo drafts (both currently just over 50k words and about 60% done) <– Score: 50%… I should have revised this because plans changed when I got in to P2P and spent the first 4 months of this year working on “TLE” instead
    • Polish my 2015 NaNoWriMo first draft <– Score: 100%
    • Participate in NaNoWriMo 2016 as Marin County Municipal Liaison and write 50k new words in Nov <– Score: 100%
  • Reading <– Total Score: 70%
    • 50 books total (~1 per week) <– Score: 100%
    • Keep track of how many books I’m reading against the 2016 “Read Harder” challenge list <– Score: 100%… note how this does not say I needed to finish the challenge… 🙂
    • Read mostly books I already own and try to get my  to-read shelf (books I own but haven’t read yet) on Goodreads to less than 60 books (this list currently contains more than 100 books… ) <–Score: 0… Massive fail. I added at least as many books as I read this year… 
    • Write at least one blog post per week about what I’m reading and why (with photos) <– Score: 80%… I posted nearly 60 posts this year, which is more than one per week, on average. Not all of them were about what I was reading, but the vast majority of them were, and I did at least do a monthly review post through September.

Overall Score = 73%

I’m still working on goals for 2017. I am trying to make sure that I’m making them flexible, but specific enough that they keep me focused on what’s most important. For example, it’s unlikely you’ll see another “swim 400 miles” or specific goal times for races in 2017. I already know that competing isn’t going to be my priority next year, and not just because I’m now at the top of my age bracket. But more on that in a future post… For now, I’m just going to celebrate all I managed to accomplish this year, on top of working a pretty intense and demanding job with a ridiculous commute.

My #NaNoWriMo month in review

Well… I did it!

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner

Through sheer force of will and determination, I made it to 50k. On the days I wrote, I wrote like the wind. By the end of the month I was easily averaging over 1k words per hour. But there were days in there where I just couldn’t write, and it had nothing to do with the story.

Even though almost everything seemed to be conspiring against me to throw roadblocks in my way, I pushed through. Because, when it came down to it, I had been looking forward to NaNoWriMo all year. I freaking love NaNoWriMo. I know its not for everyone, but it works really well for me. I wasn’t about to let the election and everything else take my November novel writing tradition away from me. Sheer stubbornness does come in handy some times.

So, I made it to 50k and I did it one day early. I still have probably about 30k to go in order to finish the first draft of this novel, but for once I’m not coming out of the month drained. I’m invigorated and pumped to keep going. Right now I’m planning on writing ~1k per day through December so I can have this first draft done before the end of the year.

So, I suppose I could tell you a little about my novel now. Nothing too specific, yet. I am still working on it, after all, and I don’t like talking about projects before the first draft is done. But, basically, it’s a space opera influenced by a Jane Austen novel and by basically all my favorite sci-fi novels and movies. I don’t have any ideas for a title yet. I’ve given it the working title of “Sparks” because that’s the hero’s nickname for the heroine.

I know that’s not much to go on, but stick around. Assuming I finish with the first draft as planned, I’ll probably be looking for beta readers who are available in January/February. And, before I (officially) ask for beta readers, I’ll at least have a blurb written so people can learn more about the story before signing up to read and provide feedback. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll likely focus on fun post through the end of the year, including my usual “best of” posts, my year end summary, and my goals for next year. If you know of an Instagram photo challenge, or a book blogger challenge that you think I might like, let me know in the comments.

Happy Holidays!

#NaNoWriMo mid-point update

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

For those curious about my NaNoWriMo progress, we’re halfway through the month, and (as of this writing) I have just over 27k words. That puts me slightly ahead of the “peanut butter” schedule (1667 words/day). But, I’m about 10k behind the “reverse NaNo” schedule I’d intended to follow.

I had been doing really well on the reverse NaNo program, hitting most of my daily word count goals and catching back up if I missed the mark for a day. Then the election happened, and I couldn’t write. Last week was a rough week for writing. I wrote about 5400 words total last week and most of those were on Saturday and Sunday.

But, (knock on wood) I seem to be back on track now. I probably won’t hit my goal of finishing at the Night of Writing Dangerously coming up on Sunday. But I *might* be able to hit 50k before Thanksgiving. Even if I don’t, I’m still in a way better position at this point than I was last year — after which, I took a massive nose dive and had to claw my way to a win. I’m just hoping this post doesn’t jinx me like last year’s mid-point post did.

Regardless of when I hit 50k, I won’t be able to stop there. Right now, I’ve only written about a third of what I’ve outlined. I’m still building to the big drama at the mid-point. If I do the math, that puts the forecasted length of this book at 80k words, which sounds about right.

Which reminds me… I should really stop wasting word count on blog posts and get back to the word mines… 🙂

Happy Writing!