Monday, January 9, 2017

I Bit the Bullet (Journal)

To say that notebooks are my thing would be like saying that dogs have a mild affinity for bouncing tennis balls. I buy notebooks like I buy books: ravenously and in quantities that border on wholesale. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate used book stores and the library.

When I first saw bullet journals popping up on Pinterest I ignored them because I already journal, make daily to-do lists, track my runs with an app, and use Goodreads for books that I’m reading. Adding something else in just didn’t make sense, especially since I’m not a particularly artistic person.

Eventually I gave in to Pinterest peer pressure (but I won’t be handcrafting birthday goodie bags, dammit). I'm not doing it strictly by the books (ba dum tss) or using any type of specially-designed notebook, because if I'm going to stick with something, it needs to be on my own terms.

I'm using it to make my daily to-do list which actively replaces what I was using before, but otherwise the bullet journal is in addition to everything else. Because I’m a person who likes lists. They make my life feel tidy and organized even when it’s anything but.

Read #3 was awful. Just awful.

I'm only a few days into the bullet journal, but I'm liking it so far. It combines: 
  • my love of lists
  • bright pens
  • keeping track of the little things that happen throughout my day.
I still journal in my, well, journal, but I usually only sit down to do so at the end of the day, and the bullet journal is handy for jotting down a quick thought, story idea, or just something that happened that I'd like to remember.

Plus, I may not be creative, but come on this is kind of cute.

I hope that you all had a fantastic winter break and enjoyed your holidays. We spent our time being lazy, reading, and enjoying this bomb-ass fire pit that my parents got us for Christmas.

Have you started any new habits recently? Or do you journal regularly?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Coffee, Books, and Curse Words

Want to read my flash fiction piece Words in the Library? Great! Go to thestoryshack.com on Aug. 11, 2017. Yep, those guys know how to plan ahead. If you haven’t visited the site before, it features beautiful illustrations with each story, and it’s an honor to have one of my stories selected for publication with them. They also have a neat writing prompt generator that you can customize, so be sure to check that out.

Now on to more important things, like this absolutely perfect mug:

This was one of two gifts that I've already opened because, come on, friends open presents early right? These gifts from my two best friends absolutely kicked the butts of the gifts that I gave them. Did I mention that the book also came with a Starbucks' gift card? Coffee, books, and curse words. I am an incredibly simple person.

Other than work, it's these incredibly simple things that I'll be filling my time with over the upcoming winter break. See, I'm not really a Pinterest mom. I'm more of an oh-my-god-why-are-you-doing-that-please-just-go-outside-because-I-don't-care-if-you're-bored mom. Which is OK, because what I lack in crafts and a desire to lovingly construct elaborate elf scenes throughout December, I make up for with this simple love of books.

After snack and homework, before she jets off to play with her friends in the cul-de-sac or at the park, we have quiet reading time. Sometimes the little guy joins in, sometimes he plays with his rock collection, but it's a chance to have a quiet moment with my kids while we gently ignore each other and enjoy one of the few true joys in life: reading.

Also, do you enjoy YA books? Then visit The Starving Bookworm, who just so happened to give me that book (and homemade treats, because I know ya'll jealous). She recently wrote about The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which you should immediately add to your TBR list.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why I Run

Years ago I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. At the time I wasn’t a runner, but Murakami is undoubtedly one of my favorite authors, and so there was no question about whether I would read his running memoir. From what I can remember it was pretty good, but it didn’t have much of an impact on me otherwise.

I was a smoker. Super, duper overweight. Terrified of all things exercise.

Now, I get to call myself a runner. I’m in training for my first half-marathon and it seems like it’s a good time to pull Murakami’s running memoir back out and give it a second go.

But this also got me thinking about my own reasons for running. Health and weight-related issues are the reasons I started, but now they’re only part of why I keep going. Unlike other forms of exercise, like strength training or swimming laps or even yoga (the latter two of which I actually really enjoy), there’s a definitive freedom to running.

There are headphones in my ears. An audio book or maybe a podcast going. Myself. And sometimes this crazy kid:

For me, this is pure, beautiful freedom. Especially coming from my *ahem* very non-athletic background in which running was absolutely never an option. Sometimes I forego the headphones when I really feel as if I need to clear my head or I’m trying to work out a story idea, but for the most part, those earbuds are plunked firmly in there.

My love of running parallels my love of writing. At its most basic there is freedom. All this talk of freedom makes it sound like I’m trying to run away from something, but it’s more than that. Different. It’s freedom to expand my world and push up against its edges, to swallow up everything I see and reincorporate it back into something real and tangible.

Even if sometimes naps sound more fun.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my blogger friends in the U.S., and happy regular Thursday to everyone else.

I'm enjoying spending time with my parents whom I haven't seen for TWO YEARS. My dear, wonderful daughter decided to seize upon the opportunity to display my parenting skills, and leaned over to my dad on the ride home from the airport to tell him, "This song has 'mother fucker' in it."

Also, here's a reminder of how ugly these mother fuckers are before we cook them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New Release & Giveaway: Piper Morgan to the Rescue

My daughter recently hit the exciting stage of *dun dun duunnnn* chapter books!

I worried over whether my kids would take after my love of reading, especially with my husband’s deep love of gaming and the easy access to consoles and computers in our house (OK, I like gaming too). So after my daughter was born I did what any parent would do: I read and read and read to her.

Bedtime stories started when she was still an infant, and her brother joined in on the nightly ritual when he was born. When she headed off to kindergarten I started reading chapter books during bedtime, going through one or two chapters a night or even more when the book was especially good. And now?

Now she reads some of those chapters to me. I cling to this nightly ritual, even as she sets off to finish certain chapter books by herself. We’ve read a lot of a Junie B. Jones (who my daughter thinks is extremely naughty), Roald Dahl, and many of the Dragon Master books by Tracey West. There have also been the Monster High and Big Fat Zombie Goldfish books that have taken us in. It’s these nightly chapter books that got me so excited to discover Stephanie Faris’ Piper Morgan books.

As we’re about to start the Piper Morgan series, a new one is hitting the shelves! Piper Morgan to the Rescue is the third book in the series and I already can’t wait to get to it.

Piper Morgan to the Rescue

Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!

The author is a pretty cool person, too.
Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.

Still want to know more about this lovely lady? Find her pretty much everywhere on the Internet.

(Fun story, Stephanie, I used to live just a couple hours away in Memphis!)

Stephanie is also giving a way a free copy of Piper Morgan to the Rescue. What could be better than that? A free copy that also happens to be signed. Don't miss out on the chance to get your hands on this book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 11, 2016

With Great Querying Comes Great Rejections

If there’s any single aspect of being a writer that takes up more time than writing and reading, that aspect is probably querying.

Oh, querying. How optimistic you make me feel before you bangarang back around with a swift defeat. Writing requires resiliency, though. Rather, writing then attempting to be published requires resiliency.

Mostly because you’ll get plenty of non-writer friends saying things like, “JK Rowling was rejected, like, a million times,” or “Doesn’t Stephen King still get rejected? I read that somewhere.” Just pet them on the heads and say, “Shhhh, shush your beautiful mouth."

Rejections used to take a pretty hard toll on me. I’d need a drink, a nap, and then more drinks while I pouted and re-watched Parks & Rec for the hundredth time. How can you not be inspired to keep going when watching Leslie Knope? That woman gets shit done. If Leslie Knope can keep going after being recalled from the Pawnee City Council, I can keep sending out queries after rejections.

I would tally up the number of times the following have been collectively rejected, but that’s depressing so I’ll spare us all that pain. We’ll just put it this way: Rejections. Rejections for days.

Right now I’m not super busy with querying, but it takes up about half as much time as a part-time job. A quarter-time job, if you will. These are what I’m actively querying and submitting right now:

This is Now – novel
[This is totally just a pared down version of my query letter.]
This is Now is an 80,000 word new adult novel that follows Ina Wickham as she grapples with shaving those stubborn inches off of her waist and struggles to find her place in the adult world. 

Twenty-one-year-old Ina has spent most of her life trying to blend into the background. However, saddled with what her mother calls the “perfect birthing hips” and a height that teeters at six feet, standing out is all she’s ever done. Trapped in a sexless relationship, a nearly deadly trip to the emergency room drains Ina’s savings account and tensions rapidly rise in her cramped apartment.

Strapped for cash, Ina finds herself entangled in the world of alternative modeling where hiding is no longer an option. Tattoos and piercings, bright red lipstick, and shady weight loss tricks begin to dominate her life. As the fabric of her old life begins to unravel around her, Ina discovers the true cost of changing her clothes and she begins to wonder, is it worth it?

The Brothers Browne Lost and Found – short story
A quirky museum full of lost items gets just what it wants on its opening night – a visitor testimonial. The story of a lost and found item turns out to be bigger than anyone could have imagined.

The Longest Three Minutes – short story
Three minutes isn't much time, unless a life is on the line. So what happens when those three minutes are over? Not much happens for Gwen, but nothing is ever the same for Keith.

Are you querying or submitting anything right now?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What I'm Writing + NaNoWriMo Update

It’d be great if someone just plopped down a contract, shelled out a huge advance, and then asked me to spend my time leisurely writing the most spectacular novel ever. You know, if we’re talking about dreams.

But dreams only get you so far. Listen, I’m not knocking dreams. I think that they’re important to have, even when they’re maybe not the most attainable. But when they are? Hello driving force, let’s get to work. For me, that work is writing. And writing. And writing some more. Even if I can’t sit down to work on my novel every day (sorry NaNoWriMo, I’m doing my best!), I still make it a point to journal daily.

This is me multitasking pretty much all of November.

Right now I’m working on my novel, The Articulate Boy, formerly-titled Forgetting Home. It was interesting to watch my WIP title evolve from what was a very fitting name in the beginning to something that turned out to be totally off-base. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do outline. Thoroughly. Also, I completely admit that it’s a procrastination tool. I eventually hurdle over the fear that keeps me in the planning stage, but I definitely chill there for a while.

Super Awesome Summary
The Articulate Boy follows a family dealing with one life change after another. First Norma, Heather’s mother, moves in with the family after her rapidly developing Alzheimer’s makes it impossible to continue living on her own. David is on the verge of losing his agent because he hasn’t managed to produce a bestseller (or even a mediocre seller) in years. He’s in the process of adopting Josiah, his stepson, and his rocky marriage to Heather has him especially eager to complete the process as quickly as possible. Josiah, still getting over the death of his father, is soon faced with a problem that his whole family must deal with – his girlfriend’s pregnancy and the tension of being biracial in a mostly white community. 
You know what sucks? Writing summaries. #WritingTruths
Back-of-the-book blurbs suck, too.
If I could make a great story that brief, I would just fucking do it.

My short stories have taken a backseat to NaNoWriMo and mynew business venture, but I do have a really fun flash fiction piece in mind for when November wraps up. It involves life and death, who haven’t had sex in a few centuries, but still share a bed and a coffee maker.

What are you writing? If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, how goes the word count?

Current NaNo Word Count: 10,115
Days Left to Pull the Rest of This Novel Out of My Ass: 23