Perfect Day for a Book

Alarm rings at 7AM – maybe 8. I like to get an early start to the day, but not too early. The sky outside is gray, the air is crisp, the leaves have begun to turn. There is nothing on the agenda for the day – at least, nothing terribly pressing. Maybe some laundry, or answering a round of emails. It’s a guilt-free “stay in your pajamas all day” kind of day.

I get out of bed and head down to the kitchen to make breakfast. After a hearty bowl of cereal, and maybe a banana, I brew my morning coffee – the first cup of the day. The tantalizing smell of fresh caffeine fills the kitchen. Early morning rain starts to tap gently on the windows.

Once more or less awake, I bring a blanket down to the living room, curl up on the sofa, and fire up my nook. I start a new book – probably a YA of some sort – and just sit there and read, read, read, until it’s done. I may take small breaks for some little chores here and there, make some lunch, play a rousing game of “string” with the cat, but mostly, I spend the entire day with a book, or maybe two.

That’s the perfect day for me to lose myself in a book. A rainy day, on the cusp of fall, with a strong cup of coffee and nothing else to do.

What is your perfect reading day?

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

 

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My Reading Routine

This one was suggested to me, and I thought it would be a cool thing to share!

So, I’ve mentioned in a previous post that during college I sort of fell off the reading wagon due to the extensive amount of academic-based reading that was required for my major. Reading became a chore for me, but since getting an e-reader, my reading for pleasure/leisure has been considerably enhanced. I aim to read at least 100 books a year, as you can see by my yearly reading lists on this site, though my goal this year is 110.

I used to read for at least an hour before bed every night, but that is no longer my standard reading ritual. These days, I do the majority of my reading at the gym – either on the elliptical or the treadmill. Occasionally, if those machines are full, I’ll take a crack at the bike. This is simple to accomplish, because I have a nook and can prop it up while I’m exercising. Sometimes, if I’m reading a particularly good book or only have about a hundred pages left and don’t want to put it down, I’ll even stay at the gym longer than originally planned in order to finish the book – thus, I end up getting an even better work out. It’s a win win! It motivates me to keep working out, and stimulates my brain all at once.

Some folks have mentioned to me that they find it difficult to focus on multiple things at once – reading while exercising included – so this might not be a realistic practice for others. I also listen to music at the same time, in order to drown out fellow exercisers who seem to enjoy having loud conversations across the room with no regard for others around them. Fortunately, it is the one “multitasking” endeavor that I actually succeed at. I quite enjoy my time at the gym because I get my daily reading in, and I tend to feel pretty good about myself afterward. As such, I go to the gym about 5/6 times a week, for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

Though that is where I get the bulk of my reading in, I do read at home – if I’m cooking dinner and have to wait for something to boil or cook, I’ll knock out a chapter or two. If I’m eating alone, I’ll opt to read during my meal rather than watch television. If I’m waiting to be summoned for an appointment, or waiting in line at the DMV, or something similar, I try and sneak in a small reading session. All those tiny instances do add up after a time, especially when my schedule is crammed and I feel like I’m not making a dent on my reading challenge based on my gym-time alone. I love reading while traveling and used to do so all the time, but I have developed an unfortunate tendency for motion sickness during long car/train/plane rides that I have to combat with anti-nausea meds that often make me sleepy. But, if I can manage it, I do try, because a good book can make a long journey far more enjoyable.

That’s pretty much it for my reading routine. I’m curious to know, from fellow avid readers – what is yours?

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If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

The Next Couple of Months…

…are very busy for me. I am going to be querying my next novel, my older sister is getting married in Vegas, it’s a busy/stressful time at my day job, AND I have jury duty. So, lots of fun stuff going on, but it’s becoming difficult for me to come up with ideas for 2x posts per week – and I don’t want them to come across like it was a “chore” for me to write them.

In order to combat this, and give myself some more structure… *drum roll* I’M DOING THEMED POSTS FOR THE REST OF THE SUMMER! Yay! So much EXCITEMENT.  So much WONDER.

There might be a few random unrelated posts scattered throughout, like film reviews or one-shot posts, but, for the most part, I’m going to be following a “book/reading challenge” theme for my upcoming posts! Such posts might include ruminations on “favorite poet,” “books that inspired me to read,” “reading routine” or “favorite book to film adaptations”! I’m not following a set list or anything, but you get the idea.

If you have any suggestions for posts, please drop me a line!

 

Writing Techniques: Feedback

There is one aspect of writing that I have always feared the most, and that is receiving feedback on my work. It’s a dangerous beast, one that can either make your spirit soar, or tear your heart out. Any time I send any piece of writing out for a fresh opinion, the butterfly factory never fails to start pumping in my stomach. And though it’s an integral part of the writing process, it also raises a relentless battalion of “What ifs?”

What if they don’t like it? What if they tell me I should change everything? What if they say I should just give up? 

Of course, the big one is the first one, and, well… maybe they won’t like it. So what? Not everyone is going to like what you write, that’s impossibly idealistic. And sure, a critique partner or editor or beta reader might tell you that there are things that don’t work, or things you should change, or things that need to be cut so others may be salvaged. But most of the time – if they’re truly trying to be helpful – they’re also going to tell you why they think that. They’re going to give you reasons to back up their criticism, whether you ultimately follow it or not, and it might help you realize flaws or recurring issues in your writing before it reaches a wider audience.

Basically, feedback – positive, negative, and the in-between – is vital, no matter how nervous it makes you to ask for it. And trust me, the very thought of someone else reading my unpolished writing makes my anxiety rocket through the ceiling, every single time, without fail. It’s natural – I’m certainly not the first to feel that way.  But without a handful of outside opinions to steer you in the right direction, can you really improve your writing, or recognize what can be changed for the better?

Though it’s not quite the same as a beta reader, I have worked on my current MS (YA fantasy) with a freelance editor who has been immensely helpful. I was terrified to do it – to have someone I don’t know look over my work – but once I received her feedback, I knew I’d made the right choice, and I’m so grateful she was willing to work with me. She pointed out inconsistencies, pinpointed areas that needed clarification, and advised me on certain tidbits that needed anything from a complete overhaul to some minor tweaking, and she did so in a professional way and had reasons to back up each point. Plus, she told me what did work, so it didn’t feel like a laundry list of errors being hurled at me. I didn’t feel torn down or attacked by her critiques, I felt inspired to fix what needed to be fixed, and I have much more confidence in the current, more focused version of my manuscript than the first one I sent her, all thanks to her valid guidance.

I also sent off my MS to be copy-edited my my godmother, who is a retired English teacher. She not only taught me the proper use of a semicolon, which has consistently eluded me, but sticky-noted and marked all of my errors and then explained them. Plus she gave me her overall opinion and impression at the end, so her feedback was doubly helpful! I’m super happy to have her in my corner, and her support means the world to me. Now, I can recognize recurring grammar pitfalls and tread around them instead of tumbling into them.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck finding a writer’s group in my area (maybe I should start one?) that has fellow YA writers, so mostly, I deal with my writing solo. I haven’t had a solid “workshop” group since college, and even then it was mainly for class. I don’t like inconveniencing people by asking them to read my work, an issue I need to work on, and I’d like to reach out to fellow YA writers online and build or join some kind of writing circle. But, in an effort to grab some fresh opinions, I’ve recently asked for feedback on my query letter from two friends of mine from college, whose work I’ve admired and opinions I value. And it was so incredibly helpful to have their feedback I can’t believe I didn’t think of asking them sooner. I’ve even asked one of them to take a look at the first few chapters of the manuscript, and I look forward to hearing back from him.

As someone with a history of (extensive) dabbling in fanfiction, and who has released an independent book, I’m not a stranger to feedback, though I am still looking to broaden my horizons before any future projects are released. Some feedback will be helpful to writers, some won’t – but it’s worth it to glean fresh opinions, no matter how fearful you are of what they’ll say. It’s still difficult, at times, to put myself out there – a feeling I’m sure that many writers share, because not all feedback will be glowing praise of your work. Some folks will gladly kick your ass rather than kiss it. But I firmly believe that constructive criticism is a necessity if you want to improve your skills, and write the best story you can.

On a side note, if you’re a fellow YA writer looking to possibly connect with a freelance editor, please drop me a line and I’ll let you know how I went about it!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Lucille

One of the proudest days of my academic career was being placed in the “advanced” group after a reading assessment in first grade. As such, I was permitted to read books marked with a daunting “5.” The most challenging books set aside for young, aspiring readers – the first small steps on the way to much larger feats, like The Lord of the Rings and To Kill A Mockingbird.

But before I would be able to tackle hobbits and other, more advanced literature, I had to grapple with a purple horse named Lucille.

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In retrospect, it’s very clear to me that 5-year-old Allie picked Lucille by Arnold Lobel because it was about a horse, and I’ve been an animal lover my whole life. But 5-year-old Allie should not have picked this book – she should have run far, far away, and made a different selection. And why is that?

Because I couldn’t pronounce “Lucille.”

You would think I’d pick a book with a title I could pronounce with my limited child vocabulary, but nooooooo, that would make too much sense. I’m half-sure I didn’t even look at the title when I chose it, I just saw a purple horse and was like, “YES, THIS ONE.” Kids are so impulsive. And stupid.

It was only after I got home, yanked the book out of my backpack, and scanned the front, that I realized I couldn’t read the title. And my stomach sank, because I knew at the end of the week I was going to have to read the book aloud to the teacher, and being able to read the title is a pretty big part of that. I was terrified I’d get demoted out of the advanced reading group, forever scorned by my classmates, mocked for my lack of knowledge. I’d never be able to look at horses the same way again.

I suppose I probably hoped that it was just the title, and the name didn’t pop up too much in the actual book… but that was not to be. And it’s not like I could just bloop over it, like they teach you at that age to do with words you can’t pronounce. It was like, 50% of the book. Should have watched all those reruns of I Love Lucy on TV Land when I was younger, but I was more of a Brady Bunch person.

So, what did I do? Did I ask my mom for help, which would have been the most logical thing to do? No, no. Stubborn Child-Allie had far too much pride, and that careless hubris was her downfall.

Instead of asking for help, I guessed. To be fair, I used the typically tried-and-true method of “sound it out,” and I was 100% certain that I got it right, so I didn’t bother double-checking with anyone who could, you know… actually read.

Therefore, I called the horse “Luckily.” Which, at least, is a real word. The rest of the book, after that minor snafu, was a total breeze. “Luckily” the horse has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s completely wrong, but not way out in left field. More like… on the third base line. Or in foul territory.

So, I went into my next reading assessment super confident that I was going to nail it… until I sat down in an uncomfortable plastic chair in front of my first grade teacher, Lucille in hand, and the doubts began to swoop in. My certainty wavered, then snapped like a brittle twig. So when she told me to begin, I just sat there, staring at that damn purple horse, and I said nothing for a long time.

Until I finally admitted, “Um… I don’t know how to say this.”

“It’s Lucille,” my teacher explained, pronouncing it perfectly.

And then I read the book through, cover to cover, and didn’t mess up once. No damage to my reading reputation was done by the gaffe, by admitting my weakness. I wasn’t placed in a lower reading level, I continued to foster an intense love of reading and literature, and in the following years, I moved on to bigger books about worlds in wardrobes, dashing heroes, clever young detectives, and a troupe of creative babysitters.

Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help, or to mess up a bit on an initial attempt. It’s okay to not know everything, especially if you’re five/six years old and only just learning to read proper books. You don’t need to hit a homerun your first turn at bat or score a goal your first time on the field. I might have struggled a bit with a purple horse named Lucille, but luckily, I learned from the experience – and to this day, I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t know how to pronounce a word, or can’t puzzle out a definition.

GIVEAWAY Time!

Looking for a new read? Like books that involve car chases, fire juggling, infiltrating a masquerade, a dash of the paranormal, and an exploration on the bonds of love and family? I’m hosting an Amazon Giveaway for kindle copies of my YA novel, I’m With You!

20 copies are up for grabs, and the giveaway ends February 9th, 2018. No cost or special requirement to enter!

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win, here is the LINK! (Amazon)

book cover

I’m With You is the story of fifteen year old Ciarán Morrigan and his little sister Remiel, who must flee their home and wealthy lifestyle in Kelvar City to escape their mentally unstable father. Along the way, they meet a band of misfits, including a fire juggler and a disowned heir to a car-manufacturing empire, who help Ciarán and Remiel evade the hired hands sent to track them down. But the path ahead is full of danger, and when Remiel’s darkest secret is revealed, will their new friends abandon them, or will the Morrigan siblings find the freedom and peace that they dream of?

Manga Monday #8: Sugar Princess by Hisaya Nakajo

Hisaya Nakajo’s shojo manga Hana-Kimi is, at this moment, my favorite manga series of all time. When I first finished it, I binged the Taiwanese drama adaptation (loved it) and eagerly picked up her next series, Sugar Princess, when it was released.

And, though it’s been a while since I read it, I remember two things about Sugar Princess.

1.) It’s about figure skating.

2.) IT WAS TOO SHORT.

Needless to say, #2 enraged me, because I recall being charmed by this series and drawn in by its potential, and was so disappointed to discover that it ended at 2 volumes and was left feeling incomplete. So, let’s see if I still feel that way, shall we?

~Reading break~

20171030_100702899317592.jpgYEP, STILL ENRAGED. I do understand that sometimes, creators no longer feel the allure of a particular story and decide not to force themselves to continue, and perhaps that was the case with this series. However, I really wish this series had a solid ending… even now, so many years later, I want to know what happened to these characters!

Sugar Princess follows determined eighth grader Maya Kuroniki as she embarks on a journey to become a capable figure skater with her reluctant partner/coach, tenth-grader Shun Kano. Will the pair be able to work together to soar to new heights, or fall flat on the ice?

Much like Hana-Kimi, this series has a bright, happy protagonist who is very dedicated to her goal, and cheerful almost to a fault. Maya definitely puts the “sugar” in Sugar Princess, but does so without being too grating or obnoxious. Her counterpart, the gloomy but meticulous Shun, is the typical “brooding” hero without being too morose or cruel. Their chemistry as a pair is evident, despite the series ultimately tapping out at 2 volumes, though there’s very little romance besides a few hints here and there. The supporting cast come across as somewhat underdeveloped – but, considering the length of the series, that’s not much of a surprise, though it is a bummer.

The plot is pretty unique, as it focuses on ice/figure skating and even attempts to teach some terminology about the sport, though it also features some standard staples for a shojo title. Boy/girl don’t get along at first, but discover they must work together to reach a common goal. Lead boy has mysterious past. Sabotage threatens to take down an ice-skating rink. You know… the usual drama. Nakajo does an excellent job of balancing the humor with the drama, making for a well-rounded story… well, other than the fact that is is unfinished. It’s especially a shame because I was really drawn in by Shun and Maya – they are similar to other shojo protagonists in their personalities and mannerisms, but each of them also felt incredibly distinct, and I’m still bummed that readers don’t get to see them grow as a pair both on and off the ice except for a 2-volume glimpse.

I remember that Nakajo’s artwork changed pretty noticeably over the course of Hana-Kimi, but the difference never bothered me. I’m a big fan of her art style and the way she draws characters and their expressions, and that rings true for this series as well. She also does an excellent job showing subtle moments via artwork – a portion of the story shows Shun hesitating outside the door to his sister’s bedroom, with no dialogue bubbles, and the atmosphere of the scene is portrayed clearly through the art. The skating segments are also drawn very well, showing shades of moves I’ve seen from skaters in the Olympics.

Honestly, this series is great for what it is, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless someone is a fan of Nakajo’s other works or has an interest in figure skating. Volume 2 does end on a note that feels as though it could be the end, though I’ve read that this series was, in fact, discontinued. There are a lot of dangling threads never tied up by the end, and several avenues left unexplored. Though Sugar Princess features a promising premise, a compelling lead duo, great artwork, and a balanced blend of humor and plot, it’s probably not worth getting invested in a short, if charming, 2-volume series that does not have a satisfying conclusion.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.