October Reading Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween!

I’ve got an unintentional red-orange theme running through the covers I’m posting this month. They look pretty together, right? Lots of good stories, too!
(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)


17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma – Going in, I thought this book was merely a ghost story, but it turned out to be so much more. Nova Ren Suma’s writing is gorgeous and evocative. She handles this subject matter with nuance and sensitivity (where it could have easily careened into overwrought territory) and I was completely engrossed. I love how the mystery of the missing girls unfolds, and I love how layered and complicated MC Lauren is (a liar? mentally unhinged? truly seeing these ghostly girls?). I love, too, that I was surprised by every turn of the page. Recommended if you’re into eerie but literary novels.

17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen – Another lovely surprise! I opened this book thinking I’d get a fluffy story about boy-chasing, but what I got was a complex contemporary about family, friendship, stereotypes, and (yes!) kisses. MC Claire’s voice is one of the most authentic I’ve read in a long time. She’s real and relatable and transparent (in a good way), and I totally would’ve wanted to be friends with her in high school. Speaking of friends — Claire’s are a complicated bunch. Initially, they seem like caricatures of the teenage stereotypes we’re all familiar with, but they’re not. Watching their connections with Claire change and evolve was fascinating, as were Claire’s relationships with her family members — her mom, especially. I highly recommend this one if you’re a (picky) fan of contemporary YA, like me.


The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan – Do not judge this book by its cover, y’all. The story is a bazillion times better. It’s a college-set (football!) NA, and it is hot, hot, hot. Honestly, it’s hard for me to objectively “review” this book because I was so onboard with MCs Anna and Drew, any flaws that may have fallen into the narrative flew right over my head. I will admit that I was skeptical through the first few chapters because there’s some pretty intense insta-lust going on, but as Anna and Drew spent more and more time together, their affection became palpable. They grew to adore each other, which made me adore both of them. There’s all kinds of drama going on in this story, but it wraps up realistically and satisfyingly. Can’t wait for the next book in this series!


Beautiful by Amy Reed – Ugh. This story was hard to get through — not because it isn’t excellent (it is), but because the MC, Cassie, is only 13 and she finds herself in some truly horrifying situations. Her life is just so, so sad, and my heart broke for her over and over. Beautiful is one of those books where you hope for more, more, more for the protagonist, but end up watching her crash into hurdle after hurdle. It’s agonizing, but unputdownable. Amy Reed’s prose is stark, frank, and arresting, and despite the gloominess of this novel, it concludes with a hint of promise. I look forward to reading more from this author.


11/22/63 by Stephen King – I read this book so I could cross another goal off my Thirty Before 35 list (read and review a Stephen King novel), and I ended up enjoying it even more than I’d anticipated. It’s the story of a modern man who’s introduced to a portal that leads to 1958 Maine. He uses it with the hope of changing the past, particularly the Kennedy assassination — he wants to stop it, rewriting history in the process.

This novel was a sloooow start, but I was expecting that because Jake (AKA George) has to wait several years beyond 1958 for the Kennedys to arrive in Dallas. He uses the time to research the assassination, hatch a plan to stop Oswald, and navigate life in an era without cell phones, the Internet, and GPS.

There’s a lot going on in this story, as Jake/George makes a life for himself in “The Land of Ago.” There are dozens of characters (Deke and Mike and Bobbi Jill and Miz Ellie — love them all!) and tons of tiny plot threads that (of course) make big splashes later.

Though 11/22/63 isn’t a horror story, it includes a nod to King’s It, as well as some graphic and brutal imagery. Conversely, there’s a romance involving a lovely woman named Sadie. Her relationship with Jake/George felt so sweet and genuine, despite the many necessary lies he was obligated to tell her. While I definitely liked the romance, there were a few references to sex that made me raise an eyebrow — hearing about “love making” from Stephen King is a lot like what I imagine hearing about it from my grandfather would be like.

All in all, 11/22/63 was fantastic. It scared me and it made me laugh and it made me think, a lot, about time and the butterfly effect and the consequences of our actions. I absolutely recommend it.

What’s the best book you read in October?

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Still working on 11/22/63 by Stephen King. This is one loooong book, friends. It’s super entertaining, though. Along with time travel and history and conspiracy theories, there’s a bit of romance. I’m moving right along, and hoping to finish before Halloween.

What I’m Writing: I’ve got more than 11K written in the new contemporary YA WiP I’m drafting. Its working title is Stars Like Dust, which is a line I borrowed from a Rumi poem, which is significant to the story for a lot of reasons. Plus, it’s pretty! This new story is challenging me in a lot of ways:

1. I haven’t plotted it. I am usually a very detailed plotter (my last WiP, The Road So Far, was plotted down to the gas station stops my characters made on their road trip) and it’s scary to just write, write, write without a set plan. That said, I know this story’s beginning-middle-end, and I’ve got a good handle on the main characters, so I’m hoping it’ll all work out.

2. One of my two main characters is from another country and while he speaks English well, he speaks it very formally and precisely. Still, he’s a teenage boy and I want his dialogue to flow naturally. It’s a fine line I’m walking.

3. I’m playing with writing small sections of the story in verse. I have never written in verse and it is super challenging. But… I’m kind of loving it. The bad thing? It takes me the same about of time to write 200 words of verse as it takes me to write 2000 words of good ol’ prose. Plus, the verse stuff is requiring TONS of tinkering. I’m still not 100% satisfied with any of it, but I hope I will be…

What Else I’ve Been Up To: On Saturday we went to the Pensacola Interstate Fair and it was so much fun! We rode rides, ate corn dogs and funnel cake, watched a rodeo, and saw Eli Young Band. One of their songs, Crazy Girl, is on my The Road So Far playlist, and seeing it performed live was awesome. And, it just so happens that go to a(nother) country music concert is one of my Thirty Before 35 goals, so I get to cross one more item off the list — yay!

  

What Works For Me: I recently read a post by Kat Zhang (for Pub(lishing) Crawl) about writing out of order, and I found it so helpful. Here’s an excerpt:

When I write out of order, I know “Okay, so I have Fun Scene A here and Fun Scene B here…now I just need to get my characters from Scene A to Scene B as quickly and efficiently as possible.” If the middle parts aren’t “Fun Scenes,” I should probably be either trying to get my readers through them as quickly as possible, or finding out some way to spice them up.

I’m jumping around while drafting Stars Like Dust, and even though my Type-A personality is unhappy about the chaos, it seems to be working. Kat shares some fantastic insight and awesome tips about why writing out of order is worth a try. Definitely check out her article! 

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

777 Challenge

The 777 challenge is one writer challenging another writer to share seven lines of text, seven lines down, on the seventh page of a work-in-progress. I was tagged by my friend Rachel (check out her seven lines — they’re fantastic!) and couldn’t resist jumping in.

I’m posting seven lines from my WiP, Where Poppies Bloom (summary HERE)…

Chloe made me a big sister—she made me me. She’s silly jokes and morning bed-head, peas hidden in linen napkins and Sunday mornings spent watching The Wizard of Oz. She’s races in the pool and petty arguments and endless laughter. Sometimes I want to remember, drown in my memories and never come up for air. And sometimes I want to ignite my memories with a lighter’s flame, so they smolder until nothing’s left but ash and despair.

Guilt is a vulture. Guilt picks me apart, bit by bit. Guilt never, ever flies away.

 

I’m tagging a few of my favorite writing buddies: Alison, Riley, MandieTracey, and Elodie. Thanks again for the tag, Rachel! <3

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Amy Reed’s Beautiful and loved it. It’s stark and gritty and disturbing, not to mention incredibly well written. I can’t wait to read more of her work! Now, I’m reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. One of my Thirty Before 35 goals is to read and review one of his novels (I’ve never picked up his fiction, if you can believe that) and I chose this one because there’s no movie adaptation to spoil the story, and because I like time travel and history. This book is dense, y’all, but so far, so good. Look for a review soon!

What I’m Writing: I made a mood board for my SNI and it’s now my computer’s desktop background. It’s so pretty! (Incidentally, I used the collage function in Pic Monkey to make this mood board because the site I’ve used in the past, Mood Share, appears to be no more. Lame.) I also did some title research and found (what I think is) the PERFECT title. And, I wrote a query-like pitch, which helped me focus all the ideas floating in my head into (what I hope will be) a compelling story. My agent gave the pitch a thumbs-up, so I’m getting busy with some serious plotting and a little bit of drafting.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I pulled something in my neck (sneezing, because I’m awesome) and I’ve been dealing with tightness and spasming muscles for the last week. I finally broke down and went to the doctor yesterday, and now I have some glorious muscles relaxers that are making movement slightly less than torturous. Yay medicine! Other than that…

  
Lots of cheerleading with my little lovely. I adore the above photo of my husband giving her a pep talk through the fence. <3

  
We also visited Sweet Seasons Farm to make our way through their corn maze (my daughter: “I’m a maze runner!”) and pick out a few pumpkins. Fall is so much more tolerable when it’s 85 degrees ouside. :-)

What Works For Me: Accountability. I have some awesome writing buddies who help me stay on track with drafting/revision goals. One of my CPs and I often exchange snippets of what we’ve recently worked via email. Not for critique, but for encouragement and inspitation. Knowing that I have to send a sample off to her at the end of the day really keeps me motivated. Plus, getting to read her samples is an excellent reward! I also have a trio of writer friends who I check in with on a shared spreadsheet. Seeing that they’ve written 1K+ or 2K+ or 3K+ words in a day makes me want to keep up with them. Nothing like a little peer pressure to fuel production!  

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen and I adored it. Awesome voice, plus a cleverly nuanced take on high school stereotypes and self-image and wanting more out of life. Recommend! I also read a super sexy NA, The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan, and I’ve gotta say… I loved it. Strong characters, dry humor, and a smokin’ hot college football player — yes please! Now, I’m reading Amy Reed’s Beautiful, which is stark and gritty and disturbing (the MC is 13 — holy hell!) but very well done.


My husband: “Why are you reading Avril Lavigne’s biography?”

What I’m Writing: I’m at a weird place, writing-wise. I’ve finished all of my beta reading commitments, I’m waiting on feedback from my agent on one manuscript, and I’m waiting on feedback from CPs on another. I’m mentally musing what I hope is going to be my next project (and I’m super excited about it!) but I haven’t actually written anything yet. I do have a first line in mind, and I’m paging through a nonfiction book for research, and I’m doing a lot of inspirational online image searches. This is sort of my process, I guess. I’m a slow, sort of muddled starter, but once I get drafting, I can move relatively quickly. Hopefully I’ll be there soon!

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Cleaning, exercising, hanging with my family…


Saturday we visited WonderWorks in Panama City Beach. It’s a really cool science museum and we had an awesome time. My daughter loved the Bubble Lab (obviously) and the Ropes Challenge, for which she wore a harness and tight-rope walked three stories in the air. I almost had a mommy-heart-attack!

IMG_6028Because I was super lame and didn’t send out Christmas cards last year (excuse: we were moving across the country), I’ve gotten my act together and ordered a bazillion to put in the mail come December. Above is one of the photos I used (from our little family photo shoot) because I think the sky is gorgeous.

What Works For Me: Writer friends… Mine are the best (no, really!) and they play a huge part in maintaing my sanity and lending me inspiration. Lately, I’ve been emailing/texting/tweeting/meeting for coffee (I still owe you, Amanda!) my writer buddies to chat about WiPs and reading and life and, particularly, the challenges of writing and being a mom and a wife and melding all of that together in a balanced, happiness-evoking way. Even when they don’t have all the answers, knowing that I’m not alone in the Writer Crazies is invaluable. <3

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma and whoa… It was a trip. The story turned out to be something completely different from what I was expecting and I am impressed. Such gorgeous writing! Now, I’m reading 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen, which is adorable. I recommend it for the utterly authentic voice alone. It’s so much fun being in Claire’s head!

What I’m Writing: I took some much needed time away from the first draft of my road trip book, The Road So Far, and now I’ve finished an initial round a revisions. This story is a follow-up (or a companion — whatever) so it was a challenge to weave in pertinent elements/information from the first story without dumping big chunks of backstory into the narrative. Hopefully I’ve struck a balance. If not, I’m sure my trusted and brilliant readers will let me know. :-)

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Listening to This American’s Life‘s new program, Serial, and *loving* it. From the website: Serial is a podcast where we unfold one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season. We’ll stay with each story for as long as it takes to get to the bottom of it. This season’s story is a sort of high school murder mystery/possible wrongful conviction situation and it is fascinating. Highly recommend!


We finally, finally, FINALLY had professional family photos taken! It’s only been six years. ;-) This was one of my Thirty Before 35 goals, and I’m super excited to cross it off the list. I’m also super excited about this sneak peek our photographer, Andrea Faye Photography, shared with me.


I found Autumn-colored M&Ms at the store the other day and thought cookies would be the perfect way to use them. I tried this recipe for the first time and they turned out so yummy!

  
Over the weekend we visited the Gulf Breeze Zoo, which is quaint and really fun. My daughter got a kiss on the hand from a giraffe!

What Works For Me: Taking inspiration from successful writers. This conversation between Lena Dunham (creator/star of HBO’s Girls, a show I adore) and author Judy Blume (the voice of my childhood) for instance (click the link for an edited transcript). So inspiring! Plus, book birthdays this week for two amazing books from two delightful authors: Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir and Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah. I’ve read them both and they’re fab!

  

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to.
And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Cristin Terrill’s All Our Yesterdays and loved it. Highly recommend! Now I’m reading 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. I’m not super far along yet, but the mystery is intriguing and the writing is gorgeous.

What I’m Writing: I’m still spending most of my work time beta/CP reading (aMaZiNg stories by Mandie Baxter, Riley Edgewood, and Alison Miller), but I have started revising The Road So Far (I’m happy to find that I still love it after six weeks away), and I’m thinking about my next project. Last week I asked my husband what I should write and his answer was REALLY GOOD. We’ve been brainstorming together (which is odd because he rarely helps me with writing stuff, but very cool too!) and I’m feeling super inspired.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: More of the usual…


I’m enjoying what’s left of Florida’s beautiful summer…

  
Watching Daphne and Daisy act extra cute…


And cheering on the sweetest little cheerleader.

What Works For Me: Visual inspiration. I use Pinterest obsessively and have boards for all my writing projects. I finally made my Where Poppies Bloom board public, though some WiP boards are still secret, like that of the story I’m musing now. Here are a few of the images I’ve pinned so far…

 
 

Tell me… What’s up with you today?