Weekly Writing Update: December Week 2

Last Sunday, I listed 3 goals to be working on. In the week since then, I finished 2, plus another task that I decided needed doing, and have just started into the 3rd:

1. Remove NaNo fodder from 2019 NaNoNovel – This took a couple of days, but it’s finished, and now this draft can be filed away for a while.

2. Update Kindle version of “Pithea”, upload it to KDP, add Kindle version to Goodreads – This also took a couple of days, and now I have very little left to prepare for publishing my first novel! (Read the first chapter here!)

At this point, I decided that I needed to make a minor edit (which of course turned out to be some major work) to the paperback cover, which took about 45 minutes, but the cover should be set now.

3. Finish first revision of “Outcast” (book #2) – This particular goal is going to take a bit longer than the others. I’m already about 90% of the way through the revision, according to the math I did for a post back in August when I was last working on this revision. However, I hit on an idea some time in the last month for a way to cut out a character that I’ve realized isn’t very important to the story by giving the little bit that he does do that’s important to a bigger character, so I’m making that change before I go back to the rest of the revision. This is what I will be continuing with for the next week.

Book Review: Catching Christmas

Finished Reading: Catching Christmas
by Terri Blackstock

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Christmas romance

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Cab driver Finn Parrish picks up 80-year old Callie Beecher to take her to a doctor appointment. Callie is barely aware of what is happening, which leads Finn to be concerned about her and find out that the appointment was made by Callie’s granddaughter Sydney. A first-year law associate, Sydney is struggling to keep her job when the company is going through downsizing, and she has been saddled with a case that goes against her own ethics. As her grandmother’s health goes downhill, Sydney is stuck at work, and Finn is stuck helping Callie find a Christmas date for Sydney. As Christmas approaches, secrets are revealed and lives are changed.

Continuing my seasonal reading, I was looking forward to a feel-good Christmas romance, even welcoming some sap and cheesiness. What I got was a sad story with an emotionless romance and flat characters.

The book goes back and forth between Finn’s and Sydney’s 1st-person points of view, which I still don’t really get, but realize might just be Terri Blackstock’s style (the other book of hers that I read was like this too). Fortunately, most of the time it was from Finn’s POV, because at least him I could stand. His characterization was weak, as the type of person I thought he was supposed to be didn’t jive with how he talked and acted in the 2nd half of the book. But Sydney barely had any characterization. She was a weak female stereotype, despite stating once near the end that she wasn’t the weak type. But she let everyone walk all over her, and everything happened to her. She didn’t do much of anything herself.

Callie would have been my favorite character, as a cheerful, friendly woman who believed so strongly in God and Heaven that her only regret about dying some day was that her granddaughter would be alone. Except that she tended to say really mean things about other people, things that were laughed off because she’s just an old lady with no filter (fat shaming, for example). On a positive note, I would love to pass on the kind of legacy that Callie strives to, pointing others to the God that I serve even in casual interactions.

I don’t read pure romance novels all that often because, though I love a good romance, I prefer subtle, slow builds, and of course in a romance novel, the genre itself tells you that the male and female MCs are going to end up together. I’m okay with that to a point, but that makes it too easy for the author to get lazy. So yes, it’s clear that Finn and Sydney are destined to end up together, but at least make it make sense! They barely had any interaction in the first half of the book, and the romance that developed between them made no sense and was flatly written.

Between the cute cover, the promise of a “feel-good Christmas book,” and the other Blackstock book I read being pretty good, I was excited about this one. Unfortunately, I feel like I wasted some of my limited Christmas reading time on this book. Thankfully, it was short. I wouldn’t really recommend this book to others, but if you don’t have a problem with the issues I mentioned above and are looking for a Christian romance, you may want to give it a try.

Find out more about Catching Christmas

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: Claiming T-Mo (DNF)

Did Not Finish: Claiming T-Mo
by Eugen Bacon

My rating: DNF, no rating
Genre: Sci-fi

This book was really not for me. Based on other reviews, I think I can safely say that it was personal preference that led to me deciding not to continue reading this book. The style of prose is not my preference, and up to chapter 9, I was having a difficult time caring about the characters or understanding what I was even reading half the time. I also didn’t care for the child-bride angle, and even moreso, the description from her perspective of physical contact with her husband (it wasn’t exactly graphic, but still uncomfortable for me). I have decided not to continue, but perhaps someday I will try it again.

I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway.

Find out more about Claiming T-Mo

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The End of the Magi

Finished Reading: The End of the Magi
by Patrick W. Carr

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Biblical historical fiction

Cilka's Journey: A Novel

Myrad is the adopted son of a Hebrew magi in ancient Persia. After having a dream of a star in the sky that didn’t move throughout the night, Myrad is brought into the order of the magi, just in time for a massacre. Barely escaping, Myrad now must outrun his pursuers while also attempting to discover the meaning of his dreams about the star and the prophecy of the Hebrews Messiah that his father taught him about.

With Christmas looming, I loved the idea of reading a book about the advent of Christ from the perspective of the magi that visited Him not long after his birth. This book really hit the spot, easing me into the season. With great characters and some fun relationships, following the star with Myrad was an adventure that highlighted some important Biblical truths.

Myrad himself is a decent protagonist, young and inexperienced, learning everything around him along with us. He has a clubfoot, which gets in his way quite often. Walagash is now one of my favorite characters ever. And the relationships between Myrad and Walagash, Roshan, and Aban are enjoyable to watch develop along the way.

One of the main reasons for 4 stars, instead of 5, is that there was a lot of politics in the book, which is the main thing that caused the story to drag in parts. It does make sense, given the state of the empires in that region at the time. But it wasn’t terribly interesting to read the characters discussing it.

(Warning: the following paragraph contains spoilers.) What I loved most about the book, though, was that it went past the birth of Christ to the real root of Christianity–His death and resurrection. We see the rift form between those Hebrews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and those who don’t, because he didn’t conquer the Romans like they thought he should (or because he died and they left before his resurrection). And when the magi who stayed in Jerusalem even after the resurrection because they felt there was more for them there got exactly what they were looking for, they left changed.

For me in particular, the book really drove home the importance of trusting that God’s way is the best way, even when we can’t see what He’s doing. It’s a reminder that He can and does use anyone He chooses for his plans, even those people who think that they are worthless–even those people who don’t follow Him. We can only do our part and accept His will in our lives, and in this, we can have peace in stressful times. This has been really important for me lately.

While this book could easily be pigeon-holed as a Christmas book, it is so much more than that. I recommend it for all fans of Biblical fiction. In truth, I think it should be read by anyone who enjoys historical fiction or quest-driven stories, because the message contained within is important and should be heard by everyone.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bethany House for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about The End of the Magi

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Writing Wednesday: IWSG Dec 2019

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The optional question for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post is quite timely for me, and very close to the topic I was considering writing this post about anyway. Here is the question posed for today’s IWSG post:
Let’s play a game. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream?

With the impending release of my first full-length novel, I have started to dip my toe into marketing. I am the absolute worst person to be self-publishing, as I have 0 social skills and don’t know how to carry a normal conversation even in everyday life. Add to that a very small budget and every common writer insecurity, and well, all I can do is the best that I can.

Last Saturday, I took part in a Local Author Book Sale at the library in a nearby city. It was part of a holiday shopping extravaganza downtown. To participate, you basically have to have a book you can sell, so I qualified with The Triangle. I took some copies to sell and some items with which to promote my future novel “Pithea” in advance of its release.

I did hand out some promotional bookmarks and talk to some people who showed interest. But I think the biggest thing I got out of this event is an understanding of what to do better/differently next time.

There was a man at the table next to me, younger than me, who had something like 6 books to sell (mostly novella-length from the look of them). When he arrived and started setting up, he lamented how many things he had forgotten to bring (we loaned him our masking tape). He said he used to do events like this all the time, but has gotten busy with school recently and didn’t take much time to prepare for this.

With him as an example, as well as other authors I met or studied during the event, I commented to my husband that someday I’d like to be as confident as he was with the people walking by his table (though I’ll never be the talker he is), but that I’d never want to get to the point where going to an event like this is so run-of-the-mill or unimportant that I don’t still do my best to prepare for it and make it a great event.

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That’s me at my table with my pitifully meager display compared to most of the others. My husband insisted on the banner, which was a splurge for our tiny budget, but was well-received. I was dealing with imposter syndrome pretty heavily the whole day, and questioning why they even let me come to this event. But I was really glad I did. It was a huge step up from the only other event like this I’ve been part of, and yet, still small enough to give someone like me a chance to attend and learn.

All of that said, I don’t want to end this post without saying that I am not as disheartened as I may sound. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m definitely just starting out. I may never get to the point that I’d like to, regarding confidence and self-promotion, but I do know that I’ll get better than I currently am with practice. And if along the way, I can find an audience of whatever size for my books, people who enjoy the characters and their stories and want to know what happens next as much as I do, then I’ll be pretty happy.

For my fellow writers, what does your future writer life look like?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas TBR

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic this week is “Holiday Reads.” The intention was to list books that you love reading during the holiday season, so presumably books you’ve read before. However, until July of this year, I’ve barely read a book per year since my heavy reading days of the past (over 10 years ago). I do, however, love immersing myself in Christmas-related things during the holiday season, so I have already picked up some Christmas books to read over the next few weeks. I figured I’d just make today’s TTT about my Christmas season TBR then. Here are the 5 I’m currently planning to read (probably about all I’ll have time for before Christmas):

1. The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr
I’m currently reading this book. It is an interesting take on the “Christmas story” from the perspective of the magi and definitely doesn’t have a Christmas atmosphere like the others will, but I have been really enjoying it so far.

2. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
I got a paperback of The Christmas Box Trilogy, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to read all 3 before Christmas, so the first one is officially on the list, and the others are there if I get to them.

3. Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock
I read my first Terri Blackstock book a couple months ago and enjoyed it, so when I saw this at Half Price Books, I didn’t hesitate to grab it.

4. A Kauffman Amish Christmas Collection by Amy Clipston
Amish romances are apparently pretty big in Christian fiction. This is me dipping my toe in to see what the big fuss is about.

5. A Christmas Star by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer
My husband knew about my quest to find some feel-good Christmas books to read this season, so he picked this up in the used book sale section of our library recently. He also knows that I like Thomas Kinkade’s art.

Have you read any of these books? What’s on your Christmas TBR?

November in Review

This will be a pretty quick post, since reading took a backseat to NaNoWriMo and other very important writing tasks. I finished 5 books last month and DNF’d one.

Here are the books I read in November:
The Martian by Andy Weir (4.5 / 5)
The Passengers by John Marrs (3 / 5)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (5 / 5)
The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters (2 / 5)
The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal (4.5 / 5)

I did not finish: Claiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon (mini-review pending)

This list includes 2 ARCs and 0 re-reads. My favorite book from August was Anne of Green Gables. I finished 0 series, continued 0 series, and started 1 series. My ever-changing list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads, if anyone is interested in that. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Weekly Writing Update: December Week 1 (NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up)

(Before I get into this long update, one last time for 2018, be sure to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2019 – December 1st It’s also the very last NaNoToon ever!)

NaNoWriMo is over, and boy what a month it was. I spent pretty much all of my free time in November either writing for NaNoWriMo or working on “Pithea” for its upcoming release. Still, I came out on the other side with 82,750 words and, more importantly, a finished draft! This book will most likely be book #8 in the Pithea Series. But since I’m just about to publish book #1, and all of the books between here and #8 still need a lot of work, who knows what could happen by the time I get there.

I had some highs and lows during NaNo, but was more happy than not with what I was writing. I had some “Aha!” moments, which I absolutely love, even though they were mostly minor. Still exciting! I already know a lot of places that need work, but it will be a long time before I get back to it for revision.

I had hoped to leave myself with little to work on for publishing “Pithea” during November, so I could focus on NaNo, but being that this is the first novel I’ve ever published, I can say now how silly it was for me to think that would be the case. I managed to find a balance, though, and now I have only small details left to work on.

I now have a finished cover, the paperback interior is completely ready, and the digital file just needs updated to minor changes I made when finalizing the paperback interior. I’ve added the book to Goodreads (just the paperback for now until I finish the digital file), added it to Reedsy (read the first chapter here!), and the ebook will be available for pre-order on Amazon soon!

So with NaNo over and my attention turning not only to final publishing details, but also to working on book #2 so that it can be released in a timely fashion after book #1, I have a new list of writing goals, related to all of these things:

1. Remove NaNo fodder from 2019 NaNoNovel – Sometimes I’ll spend the first few days after November ends doing a quick clean-up of what I wrote–mostly removing things I marked as NaNo fodder and at least doing a quick spell check. This is usually better to do while the story is still fresh, and then it’s good to let it sit for some time. It shouldn’t take long, and is better done now than later (I know that from experience).

2. Update Kindle version of “Pithea” – As part of this goal, after updating it, I’ll need to upload the final version to KDP, proof it, and decide on when the pre-order should be available. And add the Kindle version to Goodreads.

3. Finish first revision of “Outcast” (book #2) – Going by what is widely understood to be acceptable word count lengths for books of its type, “Outcast” is currently quite a bit too short. However, the amount I’d have to add would basically be entire new story arc. Rather than stress about how to lengthen it right now, I’m going to finish with the revision of what is already there, and then send it to 3 people who were most helpful with revision of “Pithea” and ask them to read it and tell me what they think–if they think there’s a lot that could be expanded on, plot threads they’d like to see followed, etc. And then I’ll go from there.

NaNoWriMo Day 30

Day 30 writing badge

The Words: 633 words, which were written in a notebook while sitting at my table at the nearby library’s Local Author Book Sale today. I wrote now and then when there were no people in sight. I knew I was close to the end of the story and figured I could make use of the downtime.

The Story:  I finished storyline 2 today, which also finished the draft! There was some conversation that didn’t get written for storyline 2b, but there came a point where I was just repeating some of the same argument between 2 people. When it’s time to revise this draft, storyline 2b will be the first thing to get a huge makeover anyway, because I kept it super simple in a way that won’t work that well for a book. So I’ll have to figure out how liven up that storyline, and I can add anything else it needs in at that point anyway.

FINAL word count: 82,750

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
November 30, 2019
Be sure to check back tomorrow too, as there is often a final comic on December 1st.
The final episode of the NaNoMusical is perfect for the final day of NaNo. Be sure to watch the wrap-up!

NaNoWriMo Day 29

Day 29 writing badge

The Words: 415 words. I wrote a little during my family’s big Thanksgiving get-together today. I took my Neo and typed a little while my family was playing Codenames: Pictures.

The Story:  That small amount of words was for storyline 2, and I think I’m now onto the final scene for this storyline. Tomorrow, I’ll be gone all morning and afternoon, going to a nearby library for a Local Author Book Sale to sell The Triangle and promote “Pithea.” And in the evening, my family will probably be decorating the Christmas tree, but I expect to still have some time before midnight to get a little more work in and hopefully finish the draft!

Total word count: 82,117

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already:
November 29, 2019