Book Corner

Book Review: What I’ve Done

Morgan Dane’s new client has blood on her hands—and no recollection of what happened—as the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling series continues.

Haley Powell wakes up covered in blood, with no memory of the night before. When she sees a man lying in the backyard, stabbed to death, she has only one terrified thought: What have I done?

Agreeing to take the case as a favor to her PI friend Lincoln Sharp, Morgan must scale a mountain of damning circumstantial and forensic evidence to prove her client innocent. Haley couldn’t appear more guilty: her bloodstained fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and she has no alibi. But Morgan can’t shake the feeling that this shocked young woman has been framed.

Someone out there is hell-bent on sabotaging her defense, targeting Morgan, her partner, and especially Haley. Someone who will stop at nothing—and whose next move will be deadly.

Definition of cozy mystery – “a sub-genre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. Cozy mysteries do not employ any but the mildest profanity. The murders take place off stage, frequently involving relatively bloodless methods such as poisoning and falls from great heights. The wounds inflicted on the victim are never dwelt on and are seldom used as clues. Sexual activity, even between married characters, is only ever gently implied and never directly addressed, and the subject is frequently avoided altogether.”

That definition sums up the Morgan Dane mysteries. Clearly, I like the character enough to keep coming back, this is my fourth time and there is a fifth story that I will read at some point but it is simplistic and though not entirely predictable, the author does a good job leading us down the path to a very probable solution.

Morgan is a defense attorney and I like how her character is learning about investigating crimes the same time as her readers. I like how she’s a strong female and has a level head about her but is still a female and does have physical limitations. Hence the reason for her love interest, Lance.

I also really like that Morgan is a non-traditional female in that she has lost her husband and is raising three small girls, lives with her grandfather and employs a rather interesting nanny. Nothing about her “family” is traditional, though more and more common nowadays and yet it works for me.

Though I personally prefer my mysteries to be a bit more gritty and messy, it’s nice to read a cozy mystery from time-to-time if for no other reason than to cleanse my rather disturbing palate.

If you’re looking for an easy, entertaining read, I would recommend the Morgan Dane series.

Cruise 20

Sailing to Northern Europe

Kevin and I will have been married 30 years in May 2020. And since we love to take cruises every year, we’ve decided to do something really different this go around.

We’re going to Northern Europe.

The only cruise line, well, aside from Norwegian, which is too expensive, that sails to that area is MSC Cruises. We’ve never sailed on MSC before so this will be many firsts for us. We’re not going in May, but we’ll go later in 2020.

It took a lot of toggling windows back and forth between the MSC cruise website and American Airlines, but after running nearly every scenario we could think of, we opted to fly into Amsterdam and drive to Rotterdam, which is where the boat will sail from. It’s about a 50-minute drive and luckily, they drive on the right side. It’s a straight flight from Dallas to Amsterdam, granted, a nine-hour straight flight, but still, it’s better than the other options we tossed around. We’ll leave from Springfield, fly to Dallas and then to Amsterdam. We’ll get in to Amsterdam at about 9ish AM, rent a car and drive to Rotterdam. Turn the car in, stay the night in Rotterdam then sail out the next day.

We’ll sail to Hamburg Germany, have a sea day after that, then sail to Paris, London, Belgium then back to Rotterdam. We’ll then rent another car, drive back to Amsterdam, check into our hotel in Amsterdam and spend the rest of the day exploring Amsterdam. We’ll fly home the next day.

We had initially thought we would take a cruise to the Mediterranean and we will eventually do that, but Northern Europe caught our attention because Brandon recently flew to Belgium to meet some online friends, (I won’t even tell you how nervous I was for him to leave the country and meet virtual strangers. Though, he said he had been talking to them for nearly five years online, the most nerve wracking part of his trip was hoping that someone would pick him up from the airport and be a real, legit, normal person. I’m happy to report everything worked out great and he had a fantastic time).

We looked through Brandon’s pictures when he got back and it was GORGEOUS. The architecture, the history … just everything. And that is when we started looking at cruises to Northern Europe. We didn’t even know there WERE cruises to that region until Brandon’s trip.

I’m beyond excited though. I’ve always wanted to go to London/Paris and I can’t wait to explore. There are a TON of excursions to choose from and we’ll probably just stick to the excursions where we walk around the cities and learn about the history. We feel like that is the best way to see the sights.

We also booked a balcony room! Kevin surprised me by upgrading to a balcony room our last cruise and I’m afraid I’m spoiled now.

I can’t wait to take pictures!

We have a whole year to plan and narrow down details, but for now, it’s a done deal. We booked our cruise and reserved our flights.

Gah! I’m so excited!

Writing Stuff

Dear Authors, What Do Readers Want?

Here’s another gal that has been helpful, lately. I really enjoy her videos. She’s approaching stories more from a reader’s perspective and I really think that a lot of what she talks about is super helpful to aspiring writers. It’s certainly helpful to me.

One of the most interesting comments from this video is the general agreement that not every interaction has to end in a romantic relationship, that a lot of readers just want the relationship to be platonic, to showcase more friendships. Actually, I would be down with that as I think that’s closer to real life. Though to be honest, can men and women JUST be friends? I know that’s an age-old question but truly, is it possible? Can a straight female and a straight male only be friends? Isn’t there always sexual tension? Actually, this reminds of a book I read recently that I gave five stars to: The Guy on the Right that started as friends and they ended up learning to love each other as the story went along. I LOVED that approach and I truly ended up caring about the characters largely because of this approach. (I highly recommend that book, by the way). This is a reader suggestion I can definitely support.

The comments about strong female characters also struck a chord. Just because a female is little and physically weak doesn’t make her a weak character as a whole. I tend to write about strong, sassy Amazon females who don’t take shit from anyone. (Gee, I wonder where I get my inspiration from). I also LOSE PATIENCE with female characters that consistently make stupid choices and yet “they are a strong female.” I guess you can have a strong female who is an idiot but that contradicts the strength of the character for me and I don’t care about her anymore. I want a physically and mentally strong female character who makes bad decisions and learns from them. And what is up with these “strong” females who act like total dweebs when they’re around their love interest? Gads …

I disagree with the comment about leaving clues for readers to figure out the plot twists. I mean …. okay … there should be some clues that point a certain direction but nothing turns me off more than knowing a 1/3 of the way through the book “who dun it.” I like Red Herrings, but don’t make them over the top cheesy, stupid or unrealistic. I want to be surprised, give me a twist ending.

I actually love enemies-to-lovers types of stories but I absolutely agree when the “hate” between the characters is not strong enough to warrant their interactions. I find myself often saying to myself, “you hate him for that reason? Geez, get a backbone.” I feel like these types of stories are harder to carry off because the reason they hate each other needs to be realistic enough to warrant the hate but also not so big they can’t get past it and develop feelings for each other. Challenging.

Anyway, Merphy has a lot of interesting points and I certainly learned a lot by watching her video. (Also, how CUTE IS SHE?? And I LOVE her hair!)

 

Writing Stuff

Write What You Want to Read

I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t have any ideas of what to write. I am one of those writers that fall into the first category that Jenna mentions in her video.

I get ideas at the weirdest times, usually when I’m driving or reading. But what I need to do and haven’t been doing, is writing these ideas down somewhere.

Never mind that I’m constantly carrying a pocket computer with me at all times that clearly has the ability to input something into it and then gives me the ability to read it later. (I.E. my phone). I am going to start getting in the habit of writing these thoughts down and stop being so lazy and thinking, “Pfft, I’ll remember it later.” This coming from the woman who doesn’t remember what happened last week, hell, the last hour. (How sad is it that I haven’t been already been doing this? I clearly have a few light bulbs burned out in my attic).

Jenna mentions music is her muse. Actually, that’s a very good point. I DO get ideas whenever I listen to music as well. Good suggestion. (My ideas when I listen to music? Sexy, dirty dance scenes. But it’s something at least, I guess!)

“Write what you want to read” is the line that really spoke to me in Jenna’s video. She is SO right. I think that’s way better advice than “write what you know.”

What do I know? Nothing much. I’m an idiot. But write what I want to read? Now I have some thoughts on that one …

What I enjoy reading the most is a hybrid of character-driven and plot driven stories. I want to get to know the characters, a relationship rich in back-and-forth struggles while simultaneously running from rabid bulls intent on impaling them on their sharp horns.

Thanks once again, Jenna, for the wonderful advice.

(Warning: salty language)

 

NaNoWriMo

Giving Up on NaNoWriMo (forever?)

So. I’m a loser.

I have given up on my NaNoWriMo project.

As usual, what happens always happens – I simply ran out of steam.

Here’s the thing. Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way. I’ve always prided myself on being a pantser – I don’t outline – it’s more fun to have my characters tell me where to go.

But clearly, this is the wrong approach for me because I get to the point in my writing, I’m like: “Wow, This really sucks. What’s the point? Where am I going with this?

And so and so on.

Please don’t think I’m bragging but I KNOW I can write. That’s never the problem. My problem is, I don’t have any idea where the story is going or how it should end.

And that’s a HUGE problem, ladies and gentleman.

I’m stressing myself out and life is too short for (more) stress. (Work is really stressing me out right. Granted, it’s self imposed, I care TOO much but that’s another blog post).

So. I give up. I’m a quitter. A loser. And I think I’m done with NaNoWriMo.

It’s like Jenna says in her video, every month should be WriMo, not just November, and she’s right. I’m one of those people who put so much emphasis on November and completing this damn challenge that I completely neglect the other eleven months of the year as far as writing. (Warning: Spicy language)

How stupid is that? (Don’t answer that question).

I’m giving up on NaNoWriMo. It was fun while it lasted but I think it has served its purpose for me. I learned a lot about myself doing the challenge and now I’m ready to get serious and actually WRITE. I can’t learn if I don’t WRITE.

And Jenna’s videos have really inspired me. I tell people all the time at work that I hate talking about something to death. Well, I’m doing that with my writing. It’s time to put some work behind my claims that I love to write.

Am I write? (see what I did there?)

I need to be patient with myself and keep searching for a story idea that I’m passionate about. And then I need to teach myself to outline. And then write something. All of this takes time, weeks, months, even, not 30 days.

I’m disappointed in myself, but certainly not surprised. This is a common habit of mine and you know what? It’s time to break that cycle and try something different because the way I’m approaching this writing business is CLEARLY NOT working for me.

So what’s next? I plan on continuing to post Jenna’s vlogs here. I’ve also found a few more writing vlogs that really ignite my flame as well as reader vlogs that I plan on posting here. I’d like to really get into book reviews this upcoming year, maybe do something with the reading group I started on Goodreads but never did anything with. I’m doing this for a few reasons:

  1. Reading never fails to spark the writer in me. I always get ideas when I read other people’s work.
  2. Writing book reviews is writing. It’s also teaching me what I like and don’t like about stories so I can incorporate this into my own writing.
  3. It will help me understand what readers like, don’t like, about a story and again, keep that in mind when I write my own stuff.
  4. I’m PASSIONATE about reading. If I can find a way to make money reading I’d be on that in a HEARTBEAT. Maybe someone will pay me to review books? (I really should look into that possibility).
  5. I LOVE talking about books. I’ve participated in a few online book clubs and I had so much fun with them. That’s why I would really like to start my own online book club so we can actually TALK about not only the stories, but the writing methods as well.
  6. Perhaps organizing a group of readers will eventually turn into beta readers for my own writing. I’ve learned from Jenna how important beta readers are and that is something I need to look into when my own writing reaches that stage.

Honestly, I’ve learned so much from just watching Jenna’s videos. I’m thinking seriously of becoming a member of SkillShare just so I can take some of her classes. She’s sassy, smart and calls it like it is. I respond to that type of personality.

Anyway, I have a lot to chew on and some new things to try for the upcoming year. I’m excited. To me, this excitement I feel is way more rewarding than writing 50,000 of utter crap.

To the rest of you doing NaNoWriMo, may your muse not abandon you. Good luck!

NaNoWriMo

Writing Process Sucks

The part where she’s laying on the bed, her knees drawn up to her chest and she’s screaming in frustration? Yeah, that’s me RIGHT NOW.

NaNoWriMo update: I’m at 14,432 words. I finished my prologue though it’s now so long that I’m pretty sure I could get two chapters out of it. I wrote nearly 1500 words tonight and that was PAINFUL. Not really because of the content, I knew where I was going with it, but because I’m having a hard time finding the mental energy I mentioned early on in this challenge that I knew I would struggle with at some point and that point is now.

I would take a night off but I really want the “update word count seven days in a row” badge. It’s all about the badges, screw the writing. This post is going to publish in the afternoon and by the time it go lives I’ll be at work and counting down the hours until I can go home but writing this right now? I’m completely brain dead and my eyes are slowly clos… ZzzZzZ

NaNoWriMo

Minor Characters Have Lives Too

I definitely need to work on subplots. I’m so focused on the main story that I forget the minor characters have things that are happening to them while the heroine is doing her thing.

Writing minor characters is never really an issue for me, but breathing life into them is.

And I totally agree, having interesting subplots really adds a richness to the story that wouldn’t be there without them.

Note to self: don’t neglect the little people (the minor characters).

NaNoWriMo

Have You Ever Written a Fight Scene?

I don’t think I’ve ever written a fight scene.

I’ve thrown a few fictional punches in my day, but … I don’t think I’ve written, or even imagined, a full-fledged fight scene.

So, Jenna’s advice is intriguing to me and now I want to write a fight scene. It sounds fun. And disturbing. And fun!

There are few people in my life I’d like to punch in the face. Maybe I’ll write a fight scene between me and these people. (Spoiler alert – I’m gonna win).

If you’re writing a story and need to insert a fight scene, here are some tips from Jenna.

NaNoWriMo update: Up to 10,969 words. I thought long and hard on my way home from work today. I’m now working on the project I was going to work on to begin with. I even have the first seven chapters “outlined” and I use that word SO loosely. I’m not even done with the prologue yet and I’m having so much fun with it. I don’t regret the writing I’ve done thus far; I’m looking at it like a warm up, if you will. And I think, in a way, that sort of works for me. I warm up my writing chops so when I get serious about something I’m primed and ready to go. This is another reason I really like NaNoWriMo, I learn so much about my writing self every time I participate and it reinforces, yet again, how much I LOVE writing. I’m not trying to brag (okay, maybe a little) but it’s such a high when my characters just sort of take over and I’m simply trying to keep up with them. If I could just teach myself to harness that creative energy into something organized and cohesive, I think I could actually do something with this hobby.

Baby steps.

NaNoWriMo

You’re a Writer, Own It

What makes you a writer?

I used to see this question around the Internet a lot “back in the day” (like when the Internet was first made available to the public) and the popular opinion back then was, “you’re not a writer if you haven’t had anything published.”

I used to get SO ANGRY when I read this because I desperately wanted to be a writer but aside from having an imagination, I’m also a realist. The odds of actually being published are slim to none. So I thought, why try? What’s the point? It’s never going to happen and I guess I’ll never be a writer.

WOW. What an idiot.

I now champion people who call themselves writers. If you have an imagination and you write stuff down, you’re a writer.

Period.

But for kicks and grins, I looked up what being a writer “meant”, and here’s what I found:

  1. You read, a lot. (ME!)
  2. You talk to yourself (no comment – okay, yes, I do this occasionally)
  3. You go into bookstores just ‘because’ (yep – though I haven’t read a “real” book in years – it’s all Kindle, baby)
  4. You write down your ideas (yes, and then promptly forget where I wrote them down)
  5. Every story you tell is ‘slightly embellished’ (maybe sometimes)
  6. You have a stack of unused notebooks and yet, you continue to buy more (yes!)
  7. You read everything (YESYESYES)
  8. People call you a Grammar Nazi (YESYESYESYES!!!)
  9. You’re a word nerd (YES!)
  10. Your phone is always on silent (I ABHOR talking on the phone)
  11. You’re constantly searching for ‘why’ (you mean you don’t?)
  12. You write in your sleep (actually – I nap on an idea and I wake up with a direction – it’s super weird – and helpful!)
  13. You prefer to be alone (YESYESYESYESYESYESYES)

These are just some fun things that writers may, or may not, have in common. The bottom line, if you write, you’re a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

NaNoWriMo update: I”m now at 8,895 and I HATE my story. The prompt I’m working from is dark, too dark, and I can’t bring myself to do what the prompt suggests, so I’m trying to dance around it and now my story has veered off like a golf ball that sliced to the right. I don’t think I’ll post it because it sucks. Royally. But who knows, I’m just allowing my characters to take charge of the mess that I’m writing now and we’ll see where it takes me.

This is precisely WHY I should outline my stories. I can write anything, truly, quantity has never been my problem. I can write circles around a laptop but it never goes anywhere. And then I get stuck, and then the story takes a breath on it’s own and before long, it’s jumping off the page and chasing ME around in circles. It’s the quality that I have a problem with. There is no direction.

I’ll learn, one of these years.

Super hard to force myself to write after work today. But I forced myself and trudged through. I can’t decide if I’m going to continue with this story, see where it goes, or just chuck it and start something new. Think I’ll sleep on it and see how I feel tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo

How to Stay Focused On Your Writing

I have discovered something about myself:

I have to have it completely quiet whenever I write (the washing machine noise in the background though .. !)

and

I have to have several windows up at the same time whenever I write.

I think better when I’m not thinking. Does that make sense?

Here’s how I write – I’ll write about 1000 words and then I lose focus. The flow slows down, my characters aren’t speaking to me and my mind starts wandering.

“I wonder what new videos posted on YouTube.”

“Oh look, no one has text me. I’m a loser.”

“I have an idea for a blog post – let’s start a blog post right this second that I have no intention of completing.”

“What is the weather going to be like this week?”

“I wonder if Uniform Advantage has any sales on scrubs right now.”

“I should really get on that podcast idea I’ve had for the past six months and not done anything about.”

“Just one more Jenna video.”

But here’s the weird part -it works for me. At first, I used to get so irritated with myself, “Gads Karen, F.O.C.U.S on the story.” But now, I understand that is how my mind works. I can’t handle outside noise but I need internal noise to focus.

When I don’t think about something, or how to get past a certain point in the story, I think about something else and the answer just comes to me. I need to give my subconscious a moment to handle what my lame-ass consciousness can not, I guess.

So right now? I have five tabs open, along with my writing open, on my laptop. Then I can literally toggle through and give my subconscious a moment to process what I’m trying to do in my conscious mind.

I too have always wanted to be a writer and I’m passionate about it in my mind, but then I sit down to actually do something about it and the lazy part of my says, “Nope, maybe next time.” I’m a writer in my mind but to actually make it happen … is too hard, mom! *whining*

But remember when I quit Facebook, cold turkey, so I could focus on the two things I love doing? Reading and Writing? Well, I need to make that sacrifice worth something, don’t I?

Here’s Jenna’s advice on how to stay focused on your writing. And by the way, I should have warned you ahead of time, but Jenna uses salty language, so if that’s not your bag, sorry. I happen to think she’s pretty freaking awesome.