Thirty Before 35 –> Life List

(Read my original Thirty Before 35 post here.)

Sun

Tomorrow I turn 35. Yowza.

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know I set some goals two years ago, when I turned 33. I’ve crossed quite a few off the list, which makes me really happy. I’ve also stopped caring about accomplishing others. Others still, I’m hoping realize one day. And so, I’m giving myself more time.

Indefinite time, in fact. 

I’m going to revise my Thirty Before 35 list, and I’m going to start calling it my Life List. I’ll add to it occasionally, too, because surely I’ll come up with new goals as time passes. I’m excited!

So, here’s my Thirty Before 35 list as it stands today…

  1. Bake a Rainbow Cake.
  2. Sell a novel (or two!).
  3. Complete a 500 piece puzzle.
  4. Have a picnic on the beach.
  5. Read and review a Stephen King novel.
  6. Drink a Hurricane in New Orleans.
  7. Have professional family photos taken.
  8. Run Disney’s Princess 1/2 Marathon.
  9. Attend a writers’ conference or festival.
  10. Order a Stitch Fix box.
  11. See a musical.
  12. Plan and host a tea party with my girl.
  13. Make a quilt.
  14. Take an international vacation.
  15. Watch Friday Night Lights in its entirety.
  16. Complete a three day juice cleanse.
  17. Write a manuscript that’s not contemporary YA.
  18. Pass 2K Twitter followers.
  19. Read Speak (my most shameful YA gap book).
  20. Host a brunch.
  21. Master “Space-A” travel.
  22. Attend a writers’ retreat.
  23. Get a massage.
  24. Make Chocolate Babka.
  25. Add another child to our family.
  26. Visit Mount Rushmore.
  27. Master “Crow” pose in yoga.
  28. Go to a(nother) country music concert.
  29. Plant an herb garden.
  30. Teach my daughter to swim (really well).

And here’s my new and improved…

Life List

Stay tuned for updates. 🙂

Let’s Talk About #ThirtyBefore35

  (New to the blog? Read my original Thirty Before 35 post HERE.)

Sun

So. I turn 35 in exactly two months. Time to reflect on my successes and get real about my unfinished goals.

Let’s take a look, shall we? (Completed goals {in blue} link to more information about each individual experience.)

  1. Bake a Rainbow Cake. So much fun, and my daughter loved it. 
  2. Sell a novel (or two!). I still can’t believe this is real! 
  3. Complete a 500 piece puzzle. Super relaxing. I’m going to start doing more puzzles. 🙂
  4. Have a picnic on the beach. Dude. I wish I could do this every day.
  5. Read and review a Stephen King novel. Not too shabby, Mr. King. 
  6. Drink a Hurricane in New Orleans. *snort* This led to a night of Big Easy debauchery and a lot of fun. 😉 
  7. Have professional family photos taken. Damn it if I still haven’t had any printed. Soon!
  8. Run Disney’s Princess 1/2 MarathonSo, this isn’t going to happen. I’m way out of shape, and you have to register far in advance, which I have not done. But! I’m going to start running again after the New Year (no, really!) and I’d like to at least do a 5K before my birthday. 
  9. Attend a writers’ conference or festival. Baltimore Book Fest. 👍
  10. Order a Stitch Fix box. Ha! And then some!
  11. See a musical. Still hoping to do this on time. Surely there’ll be a musical to see in the DC area in the next two months… 
  12. Plan and host a tea party with my girl. I think I can make this happen, too. 
  13. Make a quilt. My cat naps on it daily. 😻
  14. Take an international vacation. I wish! Unless my husband has an epic surprise up his sleeve, this won’t be happening in the next two months. Hopefully one day soon, though! 
  15. Watch Friday Night Lights in its entirety. Best decision ever. #33
  16. Complete a three day juice cleanseDo I even want to do this anymore? Not really, but maybe I’ll give it a go just for the experience.
  17. Write a manuscript that’s not contemporary YA. I’m working on it! I’ve got a magical realism manuscript that’s about half done. Guys, non-contemp is so challenging for me! 
  18. Pass 2K Twitter followers. Again, working on it. I’m somewhere in the mid-1600s. 
  19. Read Speak (my most shameful YA gap book). Totally lived up to all the hype.
  20. Host a brunch. Maybe I can combine this with the tea party? 
  21. Master “Space-A” travel. Yeah, I don’t care about this anymore. I looked into it, and it seems like more hassle than it’s worth. *shrugs*
  22. Attend a writers’ retreat. It was amazing. I’m going on another next month!
  23. Get a massage. Again, amazing!
  24. Make Chocolate BabkaOh, I’m totally doing this in a few days! Jillian, the main character in Kissing Max Holden, makes it, too.
  25. Add another child to our family. A source of frustration. We’re in the midst of applying to be a foster family so, while this won’t happen in the next two months, it is in the works. 
  26. Visit Mount Rushmore. Again, I wish! One of these days…
  27. Master “Crow” pose in yoga. Working on it! Must. Strengthen. Core. 
  28. Go to a(nother) country music concert. I’ve actually been to three since setting this goal — yay!
  29. Plant an herb garden. Definitely doing this again next spring.
  30. Teach my daughter to swim (really well). Guys, she’s a little fish!

So, we’ll see how the next two months go. I’m determined to knock a few more items off my list. Those I can’t fit in before the dreaded 3-5 will likely become part of a new Life List… Stay tuned!

RSW – Update 9

RSW2

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself.

1.  How I did on last week’s goals.

1.1a.  Draft at least 30K words in my new WiP by summer’s end. –> Success!
1b. Revise The Road So Far. –> Success! (It’s with beta readers now.)

I’d been hoping to add more wordage to my WiP (sitting at just over 30K, but I was super lazy this last week. I read a lot, but the writing just wasn’t coming. Hoping to do better in the coming week!

2. Read 12 books by summer’s end. –> In progress. I finished my ninth book, All We Have is Now by one of my favorite YA authors, Lisa Schroeder. Loved this beautiful story about making the most of each day.

3. Get stronger. –> In progress. I cardio-ed twice and practiced yoga three times.

4. Explore a new place each week. –> Success! We headed to an outdoor amphitheater in Bristow, Virginia to see Toby Keith, who puts on such an incredible show. My husband and I saw him play something like ten years ago, and I’d totally forgotten how awesome he is live.

5. Cross at least two items off my Thirty Before 35 list. –> In progress. I’ve planted my herb garden, I saw (another) country music concert, and I’m working on #17 as I draft my WiP.

2.  My goal(s) for this week.

Apply beta notes to The Road So Far. Add some new words (just SOME — anything!) to the WiP I’m drafting. Read Mary Kubica’s Pretty Baby. Exercise. Hit the pool a few times.

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

I have to tip my chin to look up at him; he’s blue-eyed and russet-haired, strong-jawed and serious, but with a smattering of freckles that don’t match, like Converse with a tuxedo.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

Motivation. Ugh. I’m lacking it.

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

That they’re YA. Occasionally well-meaning (non-writer) people try to sell me on drafting their ideas (which is strange, right?) and often, those ideas are for books that would fall into the adult category. Um, nope. I have zero desire to write adult fiction. I love reading it and I have all the respect for those authors who pull it off, but I’m a YA writer through and through.

Are you participating in RSW? 
Don’t forget to link to your update below.

In other news… Big congrats to Tonja Drecker, lucky winner of last week’s Ready. Set. Write! prize package!

This week we’re offering our fourth giveaway — a fantastic writer’s care package assembled by Alison

Alison's RSW Package

Alison’s package includes: a “Be Inspired” journal with inspirational quotes and writing prompts, Jane Austen air freshener, sticky notes and page markers, “I like BIG BOOKS and I cannot lie!” bookmark, spiral index cards, WRITE journal/composition book, Werther’s Originals caramel hard candies, Paddy Wax Ginger Peach soy candle, Trident Island Berry Lime gum, spiral memo pad in a rainbow of colors, Sinful Colors Decadent nail polish, post cards with inspirational quotes, mini Ink Joy pens.

Giveaway open internationally, to RSW participants only.
To enter, click the link below!

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

RSW – Update 8

RSW9

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and myself.

1.  How I did on last week’s goals.

1a.  Draft at least 30K words in my new WiP by summer’s end. –> Success!
1b. Revise The Road So Far. –> Success! (It’s with beta readers now.)

2. Read 12 books by summer’s end. –> In progress. I finished Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, one of the grittiest, most intense YAs I’ve read. Think Courtney Summers, but with a gay male protagonist, set in the Bronx. Loved it. Eight books down, four to go! (In case you missed it, last week I posted my July Reading Wrap-Up. Find it HERE.) 

3. Get stronger. –> In progress. I hit our elliptical up once and practiced yoga four times.

4. Explore a new place each week. –> Yesterday we visited the American Girl store in celebration of my daughter’s 8th birthday (which is today!). We had lunch and cake, and got our shop on, which was tons of fun.

5. Cross at least two items off my Thirty Before 35 list. –> In progress. I’m working on #17 as I draft my WiP, and last week we finally got around to planting our herb garden — yay! We have rosemary, parsley, tri-colored sage, two types of oregano, and apple mint. Hopefully I don’t kill it all. 😉

2.  My goal(s) for this week.

Go back to my non-contemp WiP (even though I met the RSW goal I set for it, I’m nowhere near done drafting) and add more words — at least 2,o00 this week, to be specific. Read Lisa Schroeder’s All We Have Is Now. Celebrate my daughter’s birthday BiG tImE. 🙂

3.  A favorite line from my story OR one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

We sat in the sand and she freaking wept, these gasping, body-shuddering sobs that sucked the spirit out of me even as I held her close. After, she apologized, face flushed, eyes red, voice raw, and I had a very clear, very singular thought: I will never be the reason she cries.

4.  The biggest challenge I faced this week (ex. finding time to write).

Nit-picking The Road So Far. It was “done” days before I sent it to my (amazing) betas, but I couldn’t stop going over it, obsessing about the tiniest things. Finally my (incredibly wise) husband said, “You’re just changing happy to glad. Send the thing off already!” So I did.

5.  Something I love about my WiP.

The romance. Always the romance. ❤

Are you participating in RSW? 
Don’t forget to link to your update below.

In other news… this week we’re offering our third giveaway — a fantastic writer’s care package assembled by Erin

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Erin’s package includes: “Embrace the Journey” journal with cork cover, “Enjoy the Little Things” notepad, Ink Joy mini pens, 2 pack of “Write On!” mini notebooks, Scrabble pencils that say: jot, note, write, create, compose, and inscribe, “Do One Thing Every Day That Makes You Happy” pencil case, 2 packs of paperclips shaped like rabbits and crocodiles, manicure kit, Eos Fresh Flowers hand lotion, Revlon Fashionista nail polish (teal), David’s PomTango tea  (makes 34 oz.), Strawberry Fusion Tic Tacs, Cadbury Jelly Popping Candy chocolate bar, and Trident Very Berry gum.

Giveaway open internationally, to RSW participants only.
To enter, click the link below!

A Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Currently…

(Since I’m not What’s-Up-Wednesday-ing anymore, I thought I might go back to an old favorite –> “Currently…” I originally got the idea from Kate Hart, who snagged the idea from Amy Lukavics, who picked it up here. I’m planning to post every other Tuesday, and I think y’all should join me!)

Loving

Jelly Bellies (duh). Quilting. Florida’s warm, sunny spring. My planner. Emails with writing buddies and book besties. This milk frothing gadget. Sirious XM Radio. Uppercase book subscriptions. My emerging tan. This homemade mac-n-cheese recipe. Those times a person contacts me to let me know they’ve just read a book they think I’ll love. Chai tea. Essie’s spring colors. Fresh donuts.

Reading

Yesterday I finished recently-released Vanishing Girls, and I liked it quite a lot. I consider Lauren Oliver an insta-buy author and, as usual, her prose is enviable. I figured out what was going on in the story fairly early on (I’ve read a few other books in the last couple of years that have a comparable premise), so I wasn’t exactly surprised by the last 100 pages. That said, I recommend this one for its gorgeous writing and super complex characters.

Watching

Gossip Girl. Still. It literally takes me three days to get through an episode because I pretty much only watch while I’m folding laundry, or on the rare occasions I put on makeup. I’m nearing the end of season 5, though, and it’s the best sort of bizarre. **Spoiler Alert** –> Dan and Blair together? No way! Chuck ♡ Blair forever!

Listening To

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill — totally random, I know. I bought the CD my senior year of high school and listened to it constantly for months. I’ve just now rediscovered it, and I’m falling in love all over again. (Favorite: Tell Him)

Thinking About

Our summer move, and hoping it will be easy, easy, easy. House-hunting from afar sucks. Packing sucks. Leaving a state you love sucks. Moving sucks. BUT. I am incredibly excited to live near some of my favorite writerly friends, and in a place with a thriving YA community. Plus, it’ll be nice to be in a city with plenty of educational and culturally diverse things to do and see.

Anticipating

Notes from my agent regarding my latest manuscript, Stars Like Dust. This project was such a stretch, guys. Writing it was a challenge and a joy and I love the (sort of) finished product deeply, but I’m nervous about what others will think. Some days this story makes me feel excited and confident; some days it makes me feel insecure, like a complete hack. Aah, writerly angst… Something else I’m anticipating? Rock the Drop!

Wishing

That I’d made Daphne a quilt earlier! She loves hers, and we had a blast putting it together. My daughter picked out all the fabrics, and I did the sewing. Now that it’s done, I’m checking off another of my Thirty Before 35 goals — yay!

Making Me Happy

Beach days with my favorite girl. There are few things better than sitting back, sinking my toes in the sand, and watching my kiddo play in the surf.

 

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Thirty Before 35 Progress Report

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Happy birthday to me!

Last year (when I turned 33) I posted about how I suck at birthdays and generally fail at aging gracefully — mentally. I look great. 😉 Anyway, you can read all about it HERE if you like. The gist of that original post is that I wanted to create a part to-do list, part bucket list that makes me feel positive and accomplished and excited about the passage of time.

I’m happy to report that so far it’s working. I’ve crossed twelve of the thirty items off my list over the course of the last year. Now that I’m 34, I’m determined to knock out as many of the leftovers as possible. (Though there are a few I’m not sure I care about anymore, like #8 and #21. Oh, well. If I manage them, great. If not, whatevs.) So. Here’s where I’m at…

  1. Bake a Rainbow Cake.
  2. Sell a novel (or two!).
  3. Complete a 500 piece puzzle.
  4. Have a picnic on the beach.
  5. Read and review a Stephen King novel.
  6. Drink a Hurricane in New Orleans.
  7. Have professional family photos taken.
  8. Run Disney’s Princess 1/2 Marathon.
  9. Attend a writers’ conference.
  10. Order a Stitch Fix box.
  11. See a musical.
  12. Plan and host a tea party with my girl.
  13. Make a quilt.
  14. Take an international vacation.
  15. Watch Friday Night Lights in its entirety.
  16. Complete a three day juice cleanse.
  17. Write a manuscript that’s not contemporary YA.
  18. Pass 2K Twitter followers.
  19. Read Speak (my most shameful YA gap book).
  20. Host a brunch.
  21. Master “Space-A” travel.
  22. Attend a writers’ retreat.
  23. Get a massage.
  24. Make Chocolate Babka.
  25. Add another child to our family.
  26. Visit Mount Rushmore.
  27. Master “Crow” pose in yoga.
  28. Go to a(nother) country music concert.
  29. Plant an herb garden.
  30. Teach my daughter to swim (really well).

Cheer me on, okay? ❤

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: Since the month started, I’ve read Gayle Forman’s I Was Here (she’s a favorite author of mine and I loved this book, though I had mixed feelings about a few elements) and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (I guess I can see its merit, but this dystopian classic was NOT for me). Now, I’m reading The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, and it’s incredible so far. Thanks to everyone who recommended it during the 2014 YA Superlatives Blogfest!

  

What I’m Writing: I’ve made progress with Stars Like Dust (new words — yay!), and I’ve been working here and there on a mindless short story. More on my writing in Monday’s #WriterRecharge Update. Goal for this week: draft some more. At least 3K, hopefully.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I’ve had a busy few weeks! I traveled all weekend and had tons of appointments and shopping to knock out. Plus…

 
My girlie earned her way onto the Honor Roll (hence the giant celebratory cookie) and turned 7 1/2. Exciting week! 
Also, I posted on Instagram about my Favorite Fictional Females. From top to bottom: Hermione, Mariam and Laila, Reena, Lennie, and Bitterblue.

What Works For Me: Community… One of my Thirty Before 35 goals was to attend a writers’ retreat, and I finally did! I spent an amazing weekend in West Virginia with some lovely literary friends. We did tons of drafting, editing, brainstorming, chatting, laughing, and eating. Not only did the retreat give me the kickstart I needed to finish my first draft of Stars Like Dust, but it was excellent for my mental health. It’s amazing to spend time with smart, creative, like-minded people. Can’t wait to do it again! ❤ 

Tell me… What’s up with you today?

#WriterRecharge Update One

Writer Recharge FB

It’s February, which means it’s time for Writer Recharge!

Once again hosted by Alison Miller, Liz Parker, Elodie Nowodazkij Sara Biren, and myself, Writer Recharge is your chance for a four-week jump start in the middle of a cold, dreary winter. Set goals for yourself, check in once a week, and connect with other recharging writers. Find all the details HERE.

#WriterRecharge Update One

  • WRITE/REVISE – By the end of February I want to be done drafting my WiP, Stars Like Dust, and I’d like to have started addressing the revision to-do list I’ve made for it. –> I spent the week doing a read-thru of what I’ve got so far. And… I wrote new words for Stars Like Dust! It’s been awhile so it was a struggle, but I’m finally starting to reclaim my momentum. Just for fun, I started a short story, too. 
  • READ/REREAD – I’d like to read at least four books this month, at least one non-contemporary, and at least one a non-YA. –> I read two books last week: Gayle Forman’s I Was Here and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (checking my non-YA goal block). Now I’m reading The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (and crossing off my non-contemporary goal).
  • STRETCH – One of my Thirty Before 35 goals is to write something that’s not contemporary YA, so I hope to start brainstorming what that something might be. I have some vague ideas, but writing anything outside the realm of Real Life is a big stretch for me, which means this project is going to require a lot of musing. –> Still brainstorming…
  • SELF – I’d like to pick up yoga again. I’ve been slacking over the last several months, and I hope to practice at least twice a week. –> Success! I practiced yoga two times over the last week. Hoping to do three or four session in the coming week.
  • CONNECT – Ooh, this one’s easy! I’m headed to West Virginia for a weekend-long writing retreat this Thursday. I’ve never done one, and some of my favorite writing buddies are coming! –> Success! We had an amazing weekend. Perfect location, awesome company, inspiring conversation, and lots of productivity. Can’t wait to do another! 

  • FUN – My daughter and I are going to start a quilt this month. Even if we only make it to the store to choose fabrics… it’s happening. Baby steps. 🙂 –> We haven’t started yet, but we plan to in the coming weeks.

Participating in Writer Recharge? 
Head over to Sara’s blog to link your update post. 

2014 in Review…

Happy New Year!

2014 has been full of changes, hard work, and lots of fun.

This Year’s Highlights

JANUARY

Over the holidays, we moved across the country, from central California to the Florida Panhandle. I kind of love it here.

We welcomed a kitten, Daphne, into our family. ❤

Also, I began revising the manuscript I wrote in 2013, Good Girls, a story inspired by the Tim McGraw song of the same name. I blogged about Goal SettingGateway Books, and the Books I Read in January.

FEBRUARY

I made a Thirty Before 35 list (thirty things I want to accomplish before I turn 35 in 2016). I’ve crossed ten items off so far!

I made one of my *best* life decisions and started binge watching Friday Night Lights. I finished a month later.

I continued plugging away at my Good Girls revision, participated in #WriterRecharge, and blogged about the Books I Read in February. And… The Seahawks won the freaking Superbowl!

MARCH

We visited Disney World with some of our best buddies.

And saw a few Tallahassee highlights with my brother.

I blogged about How I’ve Found CPs, shared bits of Good Girls in a the Next Big Thing post, and talked about the Books I Read in March.

APRIL

We made our first trip to the Destin beaches. Florida is lovely in the spring.

I Rocked the Drop!

Good Girls was approved by my agent and went out on its first round of editor submissions. Honestly, I felt very good about it — high hopes. Additionally, I blogged about My Process, and talked about Books I Read in April.

MAY

We hit up a few minor league baseball games in Pensacola.

My husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary –sort of. He was deployed, but still… It was a celebration. 🙂

I started a new manuscript, The Road So Far, which has since become my favorite of all the stories I’ve ever written.

I shared the Love List I made for The Road So Far, participated in the Writers On Writing blog hop, and chatted about the Books I Read in May.

JUNE

My sweet girl finished 1st grade. ❤

We spent a week in Phoenix with my parents.

I started a rewrite of an old manuscript, Where Poppies Bloom.

Good Girls languished in Summer Submission Hell. I received lots of conflicting feedback (nothing I could apply to the manuscript) and decided to dive headlong into Where Poppies Bloom and The Road So Far. I co-hosted Ready.Set.Write with some other amazing writers, and raved about the Books I Read in June.

JULY

My mom and dad come all the way to the Panhandle to hang out with my girl and me (and, maybe, to enjoy our amazing beaches, too).

I finished my Where Poppies Bloom rewrite and sent it off to a few trusted readers for feedback before jumping back into The Road So Far.

I did more writing than blogging this month, but I did talk about the many fantastic Books I Read in July.

AUGUST

Such a busy month… My girlie turned SEVEN.

My husband FINALLY returned from Afghanistan.

I finished the first draft of The Road So Far, then dove into revisions of both it and Where Poppies Bloom. 

We traveled to Oregon and Washington to celebrate my brother-in-law Sam’s marriage to my new sister-in-law, Kacie.

I shared a bit about Where Poppies Bloom in a Wanna Beta? post, blogged about Mood Boards (and how much I love them), and talked about the awesome Books I Read in August.

SEPTEMBER

This girl started 2nd grade. How time flies!

I baked the most beautiful cake to ever come out of my kitchen.

After a long summer of being on submission with Good Girls, I accepted that it’s not going to be The One and, upon thoughtful reflection, decided that it might not be the right debut book for me anyway. While I’m very proud of it, it’s quite dark and perhaps not entirely reflective of my tone. So, I sent Where Poppies Bloom off to my agent. It was well-received (yay!), and is currently on its first round of submission. Cross your fingers! Furthermore, I blogged about Banned Books and the Books I Read in September.

OCTOBER

We had family photos taken for the first time since 2008.

I started a new manuscript, a contemporary YA called Stars Like Dust. I adore it, and hope to finish the last 10K or so in the coming months.

I also pushed through revisions of The Road So Far and sent it off to my CPs,  participated in the 777 Challenge, and shared the Books I Read in October.

NOVEMBER

My cutie pie wrapped up her first cheerleading season.

And I won National Novel Writing Month!

I shared the Love List I made for my NaNo project Stars Like Dust, and blogged about the Books I Read in November.

DECEMBER

I visited New Orleans with my husband — so fun!

And celebrated a lovely Christmas with my family.

In addition, I completed my revision of The Road So Far and sent it off to my agent for feedback. Here’s hoping she loves it! Also, for the 4th successive year, I co-hosted the YA Superlatives Blogfest, participated in the Terrible Titles blog hop, and blogged about the Books I Read in December.

What I Learned in 2014

1. I can work on more than one project at a time.

2. CPs who say “screw that person who didn’t get your story” are SO important.

3. CPs who say “nope, your story’s just not there yet” are even MORE important.

4. Procrastination is most often my head’s way of telling me a story needs more time to bake, and that’s okay.

5. With each and every manuscript, my writing really does improve.

6. Writing a story that inspires me is worth any risks involved (like the story I wrote this summer… the sequel of a book that hasn’t sold yet — yikes).

7. Having an agent I trust, an agent who believes in my work and says things like “it WILL happen” is golden.

8. Making my goals public is the best way to guarantee I’ll accomplish them.

9. Family is my go-to source for true happiness.

Goals For 2015

An aside: I know I shouldn’t make “sell a book” a goal because I have no real control over editors’ tastes and the current marketplace, but traditionally publishing my stories will forever be something I strive to accomplish. I will write my fingers to the bone to make it happen, so…
There it is.

Here’s to a wonderful 2014, and an even better 2015. ❤

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?