*I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.*
In this spicy romance by Sadira Stone, we first meet bookstore owner Clara after a pretty intense dream about her late husband, Jared. Jared died nearly a year ago in a biking accident. They started a bookstore together, and the main attraction of the store is a backroom full of erotica, both art and written word, hidden behind a locked red door. Clara screens every person who wants a look at that room, to make sure they aren’t the creepy type.
We meet one of her love interests, Nick, when he asks to get the key to the red door. Nick is a professor who needs to jumpstart his career again by writing a book about changing perceptions in beauty through the years, and he wants to use the many books in Clara’s backroom for his research. Nick, Greek in ethnicity, is immediately interested in Clara. The feeling is mutual.
But things become more complicated as Clara gets involved with another man, Doug, who is a recently divorced high school social studies teacher. He helps her with her failing business and is a strong shoulder to cry on when she feels upset or needs comfort.
She must choose between these two men, vying for her attention. One relationship is… [Read More]
This is the second article in the Writing Methods series. You can find the first article, about different outlining or pantsing methods, here.
Creativity can change. Things that worked for a long time might stop working. There are several things you can do to try and prevent this from happening, including controlling the environment you write in. It’s all about training your brain and finding out what works best for you.
Some writers work best with background noise, such as music or ambient noise. Others work best in complete quiet. If you are one of the former, experiment with listening to music while you write. Classical or instrumental might be a good place to start if you have never done this before. If you want to try something a little tougher, put on a playlist of familiar music with lyrics. The key here is it has to be familiar because anything new will draw your attention away from your writing.
If you don’t feel comfortable writing with music, you can go to a coffee shop, library, park, or other public place to work, depending on the level of ambient noise you prefer. Experiment with different places and times to see what level of ambient noise works best for you.
You can also experiment with ambient noise through headphones such as binaural beats (check out Brain.fm), nature sounds, or other ambient noise for creativity or studying from YouTube or websites like coffitivity.com, where they record ambient noise and play it back on an endless loop. You could also put on the radio or TV in the background, but this might be more distracting than helpful.
If you are a writer that likes silence, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs. Writing from home or in a familiar place where you aren’t likely to be interrupted is key for your writing methods.
Some writers feel most comfortable at home, with fewer distractions. Others like being around people in public places so they can people-watch or eavesdrop to get story material.
If you feel most comfortable at home, you have several options. You can…[Read More]
This book starts out with Patch and Nora together, but she demands pretty early on for him to tell her that he loves her and no matter what happens they will always be together. As an experienced reader, I knew that spelled trouble. Also, never promise things like that. You’ll never be able to keep it.
Sure enough, less than twenty pages later they had broken up over something stupid and trivial, although suspicious. Chaos ensues, with Nora doing everything in her power to get Patch back by playing games. She also keeps seeing her father, who is supposed to be dead.
The ending was a surprise for me, but… [Read More]
This is part one of a series about different writing methods. I will share different approaches you can try to unlock your creativity. This week I will talk about outlining versus pantsing.
Creativity is a fickle thing. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Many times, each project uses a different method. Experimenting is the best way to figure out what will work best for you and each of your projects.
This is the best-known writing method. When most people think of outlines they remember the detailed, paragraph-by-paragraph plan we had to turn in for research papers in school. The truth is, outlining can be as comprehensive or as sparse as you want it to be.
Some writers describe every scene in detail from the beginning through the end in a scene list. Others put these scene descriptions into a table that tracks the point of view, characters, timeline, and word count for each scene. Still, others fill out all the major plot points in a beat sheet, while some know only the beginning and end before they start writing.
For an example of a beat sheet, read Save the Cat or Save the Cat Writes a Novel. You can also use any number of beat sheets available online. A beat is a plot point. There are various methods and numbers of beats you could choose to plan. Some beat sheets calculate the approximate page number where something should happen depending on the target word count of the project.
Shop around and see if you can find a beat sheet or outlining method that might work for you.
So far, I have mentioned outlining methods that focus on planning out the plot. Some writers sketch out their characters in addition to, or instead of outlining plots. There are many techniques for building characters.
This is the final book in the trilogy, for now. Let’s just say Stanford left the ending in a satisfying way that wrapped up the major plot that spanned the first three books, so any new books in the series would tackle a new set of problems. It was satisfying but open-ended, which made me hope for more.
But some more things about the book: Alex and Flynn and their friend group have survived the bloody war in the last book with minimal casualties and some pretty big bombshells being dropped. Now, they are stuck with three sides to a looming war, the Azure Loyalists who want things to go back to the way they were with Attis as their leader, the Azure Rebels, led by Flynn and Alex, who want to overhaul the system and do what is right, and the Depths, run by Samuel, who want death and destruction and power.
There are some surprising deaths in this book and some twists and turns, not all of which I liked. At one point, Flynn told Alex that he needed her to be his moral compass. I didn’t approve of that. It made me feel as though the characters had become too dependent on each other, and some of the things that Stanford brought up in regards to Alex’s moral compass made me… [Read More]
Have you ever written something that you never planned on publishing? I start most of my articles this way. Sometimes I even start a novel that I have no intention of publishing because the real-life events I wrote about are too recognizable. I worry the people involved might realize I was writing about them.
Why would anyone write something with no intention of publishing it?
For one, it takes the pressure off and allows creativity to flow. Think about journaling. People write down their thoughts and feelings and lock them up, hoping no one ever reads them without permission. It’s a record for us to revisit all our painful and joyous times whenever we want.
Yes, most of my fiction has elements of truth, some more than others. Still, there is a reason I don’t journal as much as I write fiction. When I am journaling, there isn’t enough distance between me and myself.
What do I mean by “not enough distance between me and myself”?
This article is an update on events in my life right now, regarding to the theme of change.
Change is hard. It’s a huge part of my life right now and the uncertainty is driving me crazy.
For one thing, one of my favorite Facebook groups for writers closed down. The admins had too much on their plates and couldn’t keep up with it. My heart hurt to see it close, so I decided that I would take over as sole moderator. It’s a small group, only twenty-seven people, but it’s a huge responsibility since I have to respond and interact with everyone on a daily basis.
Another change in my life is getting displaced out of my room because I have to get the ceilings fixed from Hurricane Irma. I need to pack up all of my things and move them somewhere else out of the way and private but still accessible. I hate having my “nest” disturbed.
Getting the ceilings fixed sets into motion the process of…[Read More]
The Duff has a very sarcastic narrator. It makes the book very entertaining, despite the fact that the narrator is very secretive and treats her friends like crap throughout most of the book. It’s understandable why Bianca treats her two best friends like that, though. She deals with a lot of crap. It starts with her mother always being gone, her parents getting a divorce, her dad relapsing into drunken rages after eighteen years of being sober, and her ex boyfriend, who treated her like crap and was dating someone else at the time, is back in town, engaged.
She complains about everything, but it’s in a humorous and entertaining way. Bianca is an intelligent, smart-arse character whom I loved. She starts sleeping with the school’s notorious playboy, Wesley, who helps her quiet her brain and escape her life and problems. They start falling for each other and find that they have more than a no-strings-attached sexual relationship.
Both of them were written in anger after a harrowing argument with my mom. I harbored a lot of resentment and anger toward her, and I wrote those articles as a response. It was wrong of me to make those public, and for this I apologize. I’m talking to you, Mom.
I have a habit of thinking in extremes, black and whites, and vilifying or making heroes out of people. I was further encouraged in this way of thinking by my grandma, who has the same habits, especially in regard to how she thinks about others.
I want to give reasons I was in the wrong during those arguments. I also want to explain why my mom is awesome.
One of the main ways I was wrong is for publishing something written in the heat of the moment. It was also wrong of me to vilify her. I simply had expectations of her she couldn’t fill. We’re still struggling to figure out how to navigate the stages between the parent-child and the parent-adult relationships, as most mothers and daughters do around my age. I still have an idealistic view of the world and what my parents can and cannot do. I’m learning to see them as human and accept their limitations without faulting them for it.
Do you struggle to stay organized? Do to-do Lists just feel too plain and don’t motivate you enough? A kanban board might help you stay organized and get all of your responsibilities and goals done.
What is a kanban board?
This begs the question; what is a kanban board? It’s an organization system that helps you see at a glance what you need to focus on during the week and see what you’ve accomplished. There are three sections of the board: Goals, This Week (Do it Now), and Accomplished.
The goals section should take up half of your board. This is where every task goes at the beginning. You can color-code the Post-its to match the goals. On my board (above), purple is my writing goals, hot pink is schoolwork, orange is my internships, yellow is my critique group, blue is a newsletter, and pastel pink is miscellaneous things. You can do the same thing based on your goals.
This Week (Do it Now)
Move the Post-its here when you need to focus on them during the coming week. It should be the middle quarter of your board. It helps you to know exactly what you must do. You can move them around as needed. My “week” is fluid, and often these tasks are completed as needed because I have flexibility. If you crave more rigidity, then put the deadline in the corner of the Post-it and get the task done before it’s due.
Congratulations! You finished a task. Now you can move the Post-it to the accomplished section on the bottom quarter of your board. Not only does this give you a rush of dopamine, but also it’s incredibly motivating to see everything you’ve accomplished stack up.
Refreshing the Board
The board goes through cycles of being…[Read More]
In this book, the main character, Britt, finds herself stuck in the wilderness with two fugitives. She is on spring break with her best friend, Korbie, in the mountains. She hopes to encounter her ex and Korbie’s brother, Calvin. Unfortunately for her, on the drive up the mountain she misses a turn and gets stuck in a snowstorm and must find shelter.
Britt and Korbie hike through the snow for a while until they see a cabin with the lights on. They knock on the door and find themselves in the company of two men, Sean and Mason. Britt realizes something isn’t right when the cabin is dusty and hasn’t been stocked with food. She finds herself held at gunpoint and has to find a way to make herself useful in order to stay alive.
She has a map of Calvin’s that she secretly uses to guide them off the mountain, but things go awry when they encounter a dead body, someone kills Sean in cold blood, and Mason and Britt are stuck in the wilderness together facing a bear and the elements. Feelings between Mason and Britt grow, but she starts realizing he has been keeping secrets from her, so she makes a run for it.
With a whodunit twist, this story was… [Read More]
Rising Depths is the second book in the Vicious Depths trilogy by Madeline Stanford. It is a young adult dystopian fantasy that I have fallen in love with since I read the first book while it was still titled Like Hell on Wattpad. That was before Stanford took it down to self-publish the series.
Warning: If you haven’t read the first book, this review contains spoilers for that book. Don’t read ahead if you don’t want to know what happens in the first book.
Now that Alex has been exposed as a traitor and she and Flynn have escaped to the Azure, she is looked to by the residents to figure out a way to defend themselves against the oncoming slaughter the Depths are planning. The Senatus members and Seth are still locked up in the depths, and the Azure is split between loyalists for Attis’s rule and those who want a new order. Even the Sentaus have committed crimes, lied, and betrayed their own residents. Things escalate as incriminating evidence against the Senatus is found, Samuel starts sending threats to the Azure with Isaac’s body parts, and the war looms nearer.
There will be spoilers at the end of this review that are marked clearly. Stop reading if you want to know what happens by reading it.
Do you remember when The Hunger Games came out and for several months afterwards Hunger Games knockoffs were being published? This falls into this category. Sure, it was okay. But I’ve read better The Hunger Game knockoffs.
Set in a post-United-States-America, the government is a monarchy. If there is a royal princess born, she is married off to other royalty from different countries. If a prince is born then the whole country gets a reality TV show called “The Selection.” It is like The Bachelor; girls from each province are selected to compete for the prince’s hand in marriage.
This story centers around America, named by her mother after learning a bit about the histories of countries past. America is already in love with another boy before she is sent to The Selection.
Everyone has a caste in this book. The lower the caste the less food and money you have. If you marry a caste below the female becomes whatever the male is. America is in love with a six, a labor worker, while she is a five, a musician. Birth control isn’t available to the lower castes which results in large families that can’t feed all the hungry mouths. As a part of The Selection your family gets a large check during the time you are competing.
A lot of people in the writing-focused Facebook groups I am in have mentioned they’re depressed and don’t feel like writing. One of the most common questions asked is, “How can I get my creativity back on track?”
What I have found is the advice one person gives doesn’t always work for someone else. You must try many different things to find what works for you.
Here is a list of different tactics you can try to get your creativity back on track:
Take a walk, exercise, go outdoors, or run errands. Movement can help spark your creativity.
Photo by StockSnap via Pixabay
Take a hiatus. Take as long as you need. A hiatus can last from a few hours to years. I took one for four years, from 2013 until 2017. The four-year break gave me fire and passion to not give up on my writing. I was so tired of not writing that I needed to write.
Work on another creative task: baking, cake decorating, sewing, cross stitching, knitting, crocheting, drawing, sketching, playing an instrument, singing, redesigning a website, using Photoshop or graphic design software, or whatever you feel like doing. Often, doing another activity can kick-start your creativity somewhere else.
Set an amount of time you will allow yourself to feel blocked, then force yourself to get out of the slump. Don’t let it control you, but… [Read More]
It’s the third week of National Novel Writing Month. Writers around the world are thousands of words behind on reaching their goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Muses everywhere have gone on vacation and left no notice of when they will return. The NaNoWriMo slump is here.
How do we survive the slump week of NaNo? Here are some tips to get writing again.
Make a Catch-Up Plan
If you are thousands of words behind, it doesn’t help to try and catch up in one day. That’s an easy way to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Instead, pull out those calculators and figure out how many extra words you need to write per day to catch up by November 30th. Aim for that new goal every day.
Write Out of Order
Did your manuscript hit a wall? Do you not know what to write next? Did you write yourself into a corner? The easiest solution is to write out of order. Write the scene that happens later in the book. You know, the one you’ve been dying to write. Work your way backward from there. Or, rewrite the novel starting from the scene where you last felt inspired and create a new sequence of events. If you don’t know what to write next, spend some time reading through what you have, but don’t edit. This may help you figure out where to go next.
Be a Rebel
You can count anything towards the 50,000-word goal. I have counted journal entries, notes I’ve taken from articles or videos on writing craft, and this article. You can count grocery lists, homework, or social media posts if you want. It’s up to you. Make sure to type these up in a word document so you can verify your word count. You could also work on several different projects if writing out of order doesn’t help bring your muse back from his or her sudden vacation.
A girl quietly pads over to her window in the dark of night. She separates the curtain with a quiet swoosh and perches on the wide windowsill. She looks up at the lighthouse on the far shore. Its beam of light illuminates her room and face every other minute. The harbor is silent as she starts to think.
What is she doing here, all alone on a Friday night? She has no friends; people say she is too deep a thinker for them to understand. Or maybe she is just weird, for liking school as an escape from her home. She’s not one to stand out from a crowd, but nor is she one who blends in. Instead she is a part of a different crowd, one she has yet to meet.
She sits alone, hoping that one day she will find someone like her, maybe someone nearby, who sees her in all her beauty. Looking over the harbor she scans the water for any sign that she will find that one person.
As she sits in silent solitude, she hears a footstep followed by another and another. Her breath catches in her throat, as she sits silently, waiting for the steps to subside, hoping against hope that they would not reach the stairs before she could close the curtain, get into bed, and regulate her breathing.
Unfortunately, that does not happen. The steps go quickly up the stairs, thump, thump, thump. She struggles with the curtains. One sticks. As the curtain finally moves, she starts to hop into bed, but too late. The sliver of light that falls over her face makes her freeze. She is frozen when she hears her father’s voice.
“My daughter…what are you doing up so late?” He is genuinely concerned, but she hates these nights. The concern is suffocating, every question of worry pushing the pillow harder over her face, the air becoming thin and scarce. Every question of why she has no friends, why she is always alone and prefers it that way.
But that was the problem. She didn’t prefer to be alone; she was just searching for someone like her, and as of yet, she had found not one person she had even a remote interest in.
“I am just looking over the harbor, father.”
“Nothing more? No thinking, sulking, or in any way hurting yourself?
To each question, she shook her head and looked him in the eye. She never understood why he had to ask such things. She had never hurt herself, and though she had sulked she didn’t do it often. And she never saw why thinking was so bad. She was a morbid thinker sure, but she wasn’t annoying anyone else, so what was the big deal?
“Okay…well, good night.” He reluctantly walked out the door and looked back with every step until the door was closed. The girl waited until the footsteps faded and then crouched by the vent. She always listened to her parents’ conversations and she learned a great deal about what they thought of her, without all of the questions posed toward her.
“I’m really worried about her Ellen. What are we going to… [Read More]
Vicious Depths by Madeline Stanford is a wonderful YA dystopian fantasy novel. The ideas of heaven, hell, and purgatory are uniquely turned on their heads in the world Stanford created.
Everyone is given a red test score when they die, doled out by the rulers of the Azure. These rulers are called the Senatus, and they have a mission for a girl named Alex Muir. With a red test score of 50, Alex is one point away from joining the Azure. In order to do so, she must be sent to the Depths and spy on the ruler of the underworld, Samuel, to find incriminating evidence for the Senatus.
The more she gets accustomed to the depths, the more she likes it. She finds friends among the vivacious Megan and the soft-spoken Seren, the trusting Isaac, moody Patrick, and loving Everett. She also has a mutual interest in the mysterious and notorious Flynn Cooper, the only person immune to the Inflamers and the only person with a red test score over 40 to join the elite Ember Circle that rule the depths.
The relationships and characters in this book are [Read More]