Tuesday, December 31

2013 Goals Reviewed

Well, another year has gone by. I wasn't as productive as I'd hoped, but I'm still pleased with my progress. A lot of family matters came up this year, and there's no way to plan ahead for stuff like that.

Anyway, some of this will be a repeat from my halfway post in July, but I wanted to see it all listed together. Here is my original post, if you want to look at it. 

Writing:

--Finish A Highlander's Ransom: I did not accomplish this goal, although I did finish the first draft in October. I really wanted to have another novel completed by my birthday but I didn't (no other way to look at it). I'm trying not to beat myself up about it. Tomorrow is a new day and a new year, and I will rock it.

--Write a synopsis and query AHR: Obviously I didn't do this since I didn't finish the book.

--Read at least 50 books this year & keep up with my NTR shelf: I did accomplish this, and actually reached 70 books (as of yesterday morning). My NTR shelf is a bit out of control right now, but that's because I received a lot of books for my birthday and Christmas =)

--Write 500 words a day, or 2500 words a week: Ha, that's funny. One of my biggest weaknesses as a writer is my inability to write everyday. I really need to focus on how to fix this next year.

--Write and finish another novel (this includes writing a query letter and synopsis): Alright, this didn't happen either. Next year I will be better, I swear.

--Renew Celtic Hearts, RWA, and Romantic Times Magazine subscription: Yes, I accomplished something (spending money)! Although, to be fair, this is a big investment. These memberships aren't cheap.

--Order new business cards: I decided not to do this right now because  I haven't quite decided whether I want to be Natalie Murphy or Natalie Nicholas. I imagine I won't do this unless I 1). Get an agent/book deal or 2). Attend a conference.

--Buy domain name and create a website: Like the above goal, I haven't decided whether to be Murphy or Nicholas. I have bought the domain name for Nicholas, but Murphy was not available. I also haven't created a website, but again, I'm not sure whether I should yet. At the moment I think my blog is sufficient.

--Join Hearts Through History RWA Chapter: Decided not to do this after doing more research.

--Be a judge for the Golden Claddagh Contest: I was a judge for the contemporary category, and I subbed a few times for the historical category as well.

--Continue working on the Celtic Hearts Call of the Clans Newsletter: I did two newsletters for the group this year, but decided to stop because it took up too much of my writing time.

--Look at attending the RWA National Conference in Atlanta: This did not happen. We simply didn't have the money. Oh well!

Bonus Writing:

--I gained a new critique partner with Jena Lang! Seriously, love her. I've never felt more confident about my writing.

--Critiqued for Jena! She's very talented. Watch out, she'll be on the NYT best seller lists in no time.

--I was asked to be the Young Adult/New Adult coordinator for the Golden Claddagh Contest. It was very time consuming and stressful, but I managed. I'm not sure I would do it again (too much politics involved in what should have been a simple contest).

--I beta'd two books this year and critiqued one. I also helped edit and critique various assignments for some of my friends in university.

Personal:

--Continue to keep up on birthdays: Yep, I did this. People seem to love getting birthday cards in the mail, so this is something I will definitely keep up.

--Continue to work towards Green Card, SSN, and Virginia driver's license: I received my Green Card on July 5th; it was issued on July 1st. After that I got my SSN and driver's license no problem.

--Work on resume & find a job: I have updated my resume but haven't found a job yet.

--Go through the entire house and donate a bunch of clothes and other items: I did this and am in the midst of doing it for a second time. The first time we donated a "Jeep load" of clothes. It was approximately 12 giant garbage bags full.

--Train Powell: We attended a training class for Powell back in January/February. We're always finding new tricks to teach him.

Bonus Personal:

--We bought an elliptical in April. I managed to lose five or so pounds, but it wasn't enough. On July 8th I decided to start counting points with Weight Watchers as well as working out. Since then I've lost 40 pounds. I've hit a bit of a plateau the past month or so, but that's to be expected with the holiday season. I'm hoping to get back into the groove in January.

Other Stuff (some good, some bad):

--I got second degree burns in March from dropping a pot of boiling water on my hand. It hurt a lot and made my life difficult for several weeks. I later learned that I probably should have gone to the hospital, but at the time I didn't think it was that bad.

--Granny and Pawpaw had a bit of a tough time last winter. Granddad has also been having troubles. He's been in and out of the hospital several times this year. Then in October Granny had a stroke. She's doing okay now, but it was scary for a while there.

--I suffered all year with my arms. I did have a nerve conduction test in August, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong. I'm hoping to get more answers next year.

--My dad injured his back/shoulder and my mum's legs aren't doing that well. Although I'm not there, it is certainly stressful to be away from my parents during this time.

--We had a whole tax fiasco back in April when we went to file our taxes. It wasn't fun, but we got it done (on time)!

--My cousin had a bunch of testing done earlier this year. They thought it was MS at first, but now they've decided its fibromyalgia. Apparently my family has bad nerves ;)

--I planned and organized the family beach trip in August for eleven people.

--Sadly, several family members died this year. Although we weren't that close to them, we are close to others who were. We tried to be there for them as much as possible and even had them over to dinner several times to try and lessen their burden in anyway we could.

--I had a really bad head cold for three weeks in September/October. It really knocked me off my game.

--I went to my first college football game! Virginia Tech vs. Duke. We lost, but I had a blast! =)

--Powell injured his paw and required a vet visit. He also had a weird smell coming from his ears a few weeks ago, but the vet couldn't find anything wrong.

--I had a breast cancer scare in November. I found two lumps, but my doctor assures me there's nothing to be concerned about.

--My cousin announced her engagement! She's getting married on 
June 21st, 2014 back home. She has asked me to be her matron of honor (or El Conquistador of Honor) and she's offered to pay for my plane tickets! I'm hoping to go home for three weeks to visit with everyone.

--I planned and helped organize the Nicholas Family Christmas.

Well, I'm sure there's more, but these are the high points (and low points) of 2013. If I think of anything else, I will add it below.

It wasn't a super great year, but I look back at a lot of it with fondness. Hopefully next year will be even better!


Additional:

--My grandmother slipped and broke a bone in her upper arm over the weekend. 
Luckily my parents have been able to help her out.

So how was your year? Do you make goals for 2014?

Wednesday, December 25

Merry Christmas


I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas!

I'll be back in a few days to post about my 2013 Goals and my Goals for the New Year!
Hopefully I'll also have some pictures to post from all of our holiday events =)

Tuesday, December 24

Christmas Eve!


Merry Christmas Eve!

Today I'm busy baking cookies and other treats for tomorrow, and then we're heading over to my in-laws house for dinner and holiday celebrations. We're planning on making some more cookies, watching Christmas movies, and driving around town to look at the pretty lights!

I hope you guys have a great day!
Are you expecting a visit from Santa tonight?  ;)

Saturday, December 21

My Birthday!


Yep, that's right. Today I turn 24! Crazy!

We're going to Panera for lunch and then we're going to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner with my hubby's family. I might also try to go to Starbucks in there to write a bit, but I haven't decided yet.

What do you guys like to do on your birthdays?

Wednesday, December 4

Informal Hiatus

Hello everyone!

As you may or may not have noticed, my blog posts have drastically slowed down over the past few weeks. November was a terrible month for me, so I simply wasn't in the mood to come up with anything. Now, however, I'm so busy that I don't have the time. I'm trying to shake off last month's blahs while also balancing a full holiday season. Talk about busy!

Due to this, I'm taking an informal break from the blog from now until the end of the year. I will probably post here and there, but this way I don't have to stick to a strict schedule. I'm trying to dive back into writing while keeping up my workout schedule, as well as everything else in my hectic life. Those things come first right now.

I hope you all have a wonderful month!

xoxo


Friday, November 22

Links of the Week

Books & Writing:

--Sometimes The 'Tough Teen' Is Quietly Writing Stories. This piece was sad, but true.

--A Look At the Book Business From Inside. I thought this was interesting. He can't really complain about anything though, because he was a big wig pretty much from the start (at least from the start of this article).

--12 Mistakes About Grammar. I thought this was interesting--and true!

History:

--Five Pharaonic Statue Heads Found in Egypt. I'd be more alarmed/curious if they found these heads outside of Egypt. (Sorry, still tired this morning).

--Ancient City Discovered by Treasure Hunters. This is very cool!

Politics & Social Commentary:

--This Beautiful Short Film Shows Exactly What it is to be a Stay-At-Home Mom. Lovely.

Random:

--The City Turned Itself Into Gotham and Everything You Need To Know About Batkid. A lot of you have probably already seen this, but I thought I'd post it anyway. What a wonderful experience for everyone involved.

--Naked Dance-- Sweden's Got Talent. Hahahahahahahahahaha! I bet their mothers are so proud.

--Portraits of Unrelated Doppelgangers. Some of these work and some don't. Either way, very cool.

--30 Hilarious Street Posters. These are wonderful.

--These People Recreated Their Childhood Photos. Perfect. I just got inspiration for a wonderful gift. My cousins and I have some pretty amusing pictures from our past...

--Mom Photographed Toddler & Puppy. OMG THAT'S SO ADORABLE!

--While Their Kids Sleep, These Parents Pull Off Amazing Stunts. Damn right. Kids should have a childhood and they should have the freedom to imagine and dream. How can they do that if you don't help them explore new possibilities? Parents who deny their kids Santa or the Tooth Fairy because they "don't want to lie" to their children are dumb, IMO. I'm not talking about religious reasons, I'm talking about parents who simply don't want to encourage their children to believe in stuff like that. My response: What, you don't want your kids to have an imagination? Fun? A CHILDHOOD? You aren't worrying about lying to your children--you just want to take the credit for yourself. Part of being a parent is showing children the difference between a good lie (Santa) and a bad one. Its your job to prepare them for the outside world. If they have never been lied to, good or bad, how will they know the difference? End rant.

--17 Hilarious Pinterest Projects Gone Wrong. Omg, these are wonderful.

--The Happiest Penguin Ever. I feel like this most days. Everyone else is staring at me while I dance around in my own little world.

Wednesday, November 20

I Like Turtles


This is how I feel right about now. If someone asks me a question, my immediate response (in my head, thankfully) is something about my story (or Christmas, but that's beside the point). And since my story is a slow-moving turtle named Herbert...

I like turtles.

Monday, November 18

My Weekend: Christmas Cards & Holiday Decorations

Well, I did what I said I wasn't going to do until next Saturday: I decorated the house.

Now, before you all get your pitchforks, I didn't decorate everything. I did save the greenery until next weekend. That includes the garland and the Christmas tree itself. Arguably the two most important decorations (aside from presents, but I'm not that far gone yet).

Anyway, it all came about because I decided I should get a head start on Christmas cards this year. With how bad my arms are and how busy we're going to be starting today, I thought it was a good plan. Unfortunately, the cards I bought at the end of last Christmas were packed away with the holiday wrapping paper and ribbons (a good place, in my opinion, but not exactly accessible). My husband, being the helpful man he is, pulled out all of the Christmas bins for me. And really, what's the point of putting them back only to take them out again a week later?

That's how it happened. The bins sat in my spare room, taunting me with their glitz and glam. There really wasn't anything I could do to stop it. Before I knew what I was happening, I'd started to put small figurines around the house. Next came the stockings and my Willow Tree angels, and then my Christmas apron. It all went downhill from there. Between Saturday and Sunday, everything was out and the bins put away. I even managed to take all of the Christmas tree ornaments out of their boxes and prepare them for decorating on Saturday. Yep, I'm one of those people.

This weekend I also managed to get all of my Christmas cards finished. All sixty-eight of them. *dies* I have extras in case I forgot someone, but I'm really hoping that's not the case. My arms are killing me, but they're all done! I like seeing the neat stacks of envelopes ready to be mailed out the first week of December. =)

I also did some commonplace chores: I made a batch of hard boiled eggs, did some laundry, labelled all of the bins in my spare room closet, contemplated writing (no actual writing was done, but meh), and tidied the house. After the stressful events of last week (my arms were killing me so I didn't sleep much, and then Powell split open a nail on Tuesday, which meant an expensive trip to the vet), I needed something fun to do. I didn't get much done because of everything going on, so it was nice to have a productive weekend. An added bonus: my husband made oatmeal toffee cookies on Sunday. Yum, yum, yum! Now it's my turn to make cookies (I was too busy this weekend). I'm thinking sugar cookies and my mum's chocolate chip cookies!

What did you do this weekend? When do you decorate? As a Canadian, the natural progression is Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, so a lot of my friends and family decorate right about now. It gets messed up with American Thanksgiving in there, though.

Friday, November 15

Links of the Week

Books & Writing:

--14 Ways to Tick Off a Writer. Loved these!

--13 Examples of Bad Sex in Literature. Hahahahahahahahahaha!

--Being a Writer: Expectations vs. Reality. So true.

--Common Problems With Beginnings.

Entertainment:

--That Moment When You Realize... Hahaha, I love this!

History:

--Pregnant in Auschwitz. This was a good article. I really enjoy hearing these sort of positive stories during such a terrible point in history.

Politics & Social Commentary:

--What Should Have Been a Heartwarming Kiss on a Skating Rink Has Never Been More Chilling. This is a wonderful, poignant video. Worth watching.

Random:

--Mother Hearts Daughter's Heart Beat One Last Time. This is a very sad article so be aware. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. It is also beautiful, though, and worth watching in the right mood.

--24 Photos You Need to Really Look at to Understand. These are great =)

--Waitress Who Paid for Customers' Lunch Gets Surprise of Her Life. I adore Ellen.

--20 Weird Photos of Couples That Defy All Logic. This is so creepy.

--The 25 Most Awkward Dad Pictures Ever. LOL!

Science:

--The First Flying Car is Finally Here. How cool is that? Love it!

--Swedes Develop Invisible Bike Helmet.  WTF? This is insane!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 13

My Turtle: Part Two

Turtle. Dog.
Same thing.
That's how I feel about my story sometimes. What beast is this? Surely it's not my story! My Herbert would never be so cruel to me! And then I realize that it is, in fact, my story, even if it does look like a giant pile of dung half the time.

In other news, I did manage to finish a chapter I've been working on for a while. Now I'm tackling another chapter (imagine that). The work never seems to stop, but I keep crawling towards the finish line.

How's November treating you? If you're taking part in NaNo, how's it going?

Monday, November 11

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. Although it's also Veteran's Day here in the USA, the two are very different (from what I've witnessed). Unlike Memorial Day (and to some degree, Veteran's Day), today is not a day of celebration. There are no BBQ's or department store sales. There are no cheerful parades, or smiling faces. Today is a national memorial day, where we remember those who fought and died for our freedom.

As a Scout, I took part in dozens of memorial services for our armed forces. They were somber occasions, filled with tears and deep mourning. Every TV is tuned to the national service, and at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the entire country goes silent. Everyone stops to remember and to give thanks.

Today I proudly wear my poppy to honor those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives so that I may live.



Friday, November 8

Links of the Week

Okay, there are a lot of links this week, so let's get right to it!

Book News & Writing

--Most Famous Book Set in Every State. I'm happy to say I've read most of these!

--5 Habits of Motivated Novelists. This is geared more towards those taking part in NaNo this month =)

--Writing a First Draft. I really liked this article. People participating in NaNo will likely also appreciate the suggestions.

--JK Rowling: 'I was as poor as it's possible to be.' As if I needed another reason to worship the ground this woman walks on.

--The Frankenstein Notebooks. My husband showed this to me the other day. Isn't it neat?

--9 Ways to Write Smarter, Not Harder. I really liked this!

--Are You Making Time to Write or Wasting It? *whistles and backs out of the room*

--23 Famous Authors' Last Words. Who knows if these are real, but they're certainly entertaining.

--How to Write a Book Synopsis. Helpful.

--Five Lessons I've Learned From Working in Publishing. Another good article.

--Peter Jackson Unleashes New Song For The Hobbit. I actually really like it. It's not as good as Into the West or May it Be, but it's very nice =)

History

--Six Decades of the Most Popular Names for Girls, State-by-State. I found this interesting. I know people named Jennifer, Jessica, Ashley, and Emily who were born in those years. I also know a lot of Hannah's, Brittany's, and Ava's born in their popular years.

--The Least Popular American Baby Names (From 1880 to 1932). Ahhh, I loved these!

--55 Things Only '90s Teenage Girls Can Understand. It's sad that I'm putting this under "history" but it is, if you think about it (which I'm guessing most of you won't want to, LOL).

--Mystery of King Tutankhamun's Dead Solved After More Than 3000 Years. Hmmm, interesting. I'd be curious to see what other anthropologists and archaeologists have to say about this.

Politics & Social Commentary

--Photographer Puts Two Strangers Together For Intimate Photographs. I'm a bit meh about this the longer I think about it. The pictures themselves show how awkward they feel, in my opinion, but I do find it interesting that they felt closer to the other person afterwards. Then again, wouldn't anyone feel closer to someone they spent five minutes with rather than passing them on the street? Basic human nature.

--Those People. This article gives a very interesting look at what it's like to be those people.

--Movie Shows Photoshop "Body Retouching" Taken to the Extreme. This is shocking. Quite frankly, I thought she looked better without all of that makeup and fake hair.

--A Catalog That Believes Reality Can Sell Clothes Better Than Photoshop. Amen! When I was planning my wedding (and all of the events associated with the big day), I really wanted to see what some of the dresses were going to look like on real people. I had to pick out bridesmaid dresses for people with completely different body types, heights, and skin tones! Heck, I was terrified my wedding dress wasn't going to look right on me, but it all worked out.

Random

--The 23 Most Wonderfully Scottish Things That Have Ever Happened. LOL!

--The Proposal Seen All Over The Web. Okay, it's a bit long, but seriously, it's worth it. This guy gets top points. I didn't think I would cry, but by the end I was blubbering like a baby.

--The 33 Most Beautiful Abandoned Places in the World. Breathtaking.

--QUIZ: Modern Art or Children's Drawings? I loathe modern art with a passion, so I didn't do very well here. All of my favorites were done by children (go figure).

--Creative Mom Turns Her Baby's Naptime Into Dream Adventures. Very cute! This baby is quite accepting, LOL. Also, I think this mom might have too much time on her hands.

--16 Reasons to Root Against the Evil Canadians at the Winter Olympics. This made me laugh so hard. I do agree with numbers 11 and 16, but the rest are just hilarious. I'm a bit anxious to see how being a Canadian in the USA during the winter Olympics is going to go. (Bring it, 'Murica).

--10 Amazing Things Kids Have Said About Past Lives.  I'm not looking to get into a philosophical discussion on here. I think these are pretty neat. I don't believe a few of them, but that's okay =)

--These Kids Finally Say What They Really Think About Mom. Very touching =) What's sad to me is that these children and their parents clearly don't talk enough about their emotions and feelings. It shouldn't come as a shock to hear your child thinks you're awesome. Just my two cents.

--39 of the Most Powerful Images Ever. Warning, some of them are disturbing and sad. I still think it's worth taking a look at, however, I just wanted to let everyone know.

--Realistic Disney Characters. Love these! My least favorite is the last one.

--Watch a Teenager Bring His Class to Tears. These are good tears.

--13 Southern Sayings. Yep, and I live here. "Bless your heart" is VERY common. Everyone says it. Sadly, I've picked it up. *grumbles*

--Sleeping Stranger On Subway. I love this. It's also really sad that the guy mispronounced yarmulke. Seriously? Way to prove how sad our society has become.

Science

--This Awesome Dad 3D Printed a Prosthetic Hand For His Son. This is also courtesy of my husband. Isn't this so cool?

Thursday, November 7

My Turtle

Everyone, I would like you to meet my turtle, also known as He Who is Giant and Slow-Moving and Frightens Small Kittens, also known as Herbert (because I said so), more commonly known as my WIP, A Highlander's Ransom.



Herbert the Turtle was conceived yesterday during a conversation with my CP, Jena Lang. I posted it on Facebook, but for those who did not see it, here it is:
Jen: How's your writing coming along?
Me: My story is crawling. It might literally be slower than a turtle. Like, if you got a turtle to carry some bricks, that'd be my story.
Jen: LOL. My story is the brick being carried by your turtle.
Me: LOL!
So as you can see, Herbert and I are not having the best time of it. We are slowly trudging along, but I would rather pick him up and punt kick him into the middle of next week. Since that would hurt both myself and Herbert, I have decided to work with my rock-like turtle, even though he moves so slowly moss has grown on his shell.

From here on out, Herbert and I are at war against Time. It's me and my turtle against the world.

We're so screwed.


Tuesday, November 5

Writing Update

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

My writing productivity over the past week (or two) has been laughable. My schedule is already shot (I told you it was crazy and impossible) and I'm sick of it.

Enough is enough. Time to buckle down and get to work.

Friday, November 1

November Releases

Fate Forgotten by Amalia Dillin--November 5th
Mythological Fantasy

Since the gods returned Adam's memory six hundred years ago, Thor has been a scourge on his lives. But when Adam learns that Thor has been haunting his steps out of love for Eve, he is determined to banish the thunder god once and for all. Adam is no fool: Eve still loves the man she knew as Thorgrim, and if she ever learned he still lived, that he still loved her, Adam would lose any chance of winning Eve to his side, never mind liberating the world. But after everything Thor has done to protect Eve, everything he's sacrificed, the thunder god won't go without a fight. Not as long as Eve might love him again.

Which means that Adam has to find a new ally. The enemy of his enemy, complete with burning sword and righteous resentment of the gods. But in order to attract the Archangel Michael's attention, he needs Eve -- an unmarried Eve, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

It shouldn't be too difficult to find her in the future. Not now that he knows how to look.

*My Take: Yay, the next book is almost here! I can't wait to find out what happens with Eve, Adam, and Thor! Plus, this cover is gorgeous! I loved the first one, and this is no different =)*

Foreplay by Sophie Jordan--November 5th
Contemporary New Adult

Before she goes after the life she’s always wanted, she’s about to find the one she needs.

Pepper has been hopelessly in love with her best friend’s brother, Hunter, for like ever. He’s the key to everything she’s always craved: security, stability, family. But she needs Hunter to notice her as more than just a friend. Even though she’s kissed exactly one guy, she has just the plan to go from novice to rock star in the bedroom—take a few pointers from someone who knows what he’s doing.

Her college roommates have the perfect teacher in mind. But bartender Reece is nothing like the player Pepper expects. Yes, he’s beyond gorgeous, but he’s also dangerous, deep—with a troubled past. Soon what started as lessons in attraction are turning both their worlds around, and showing just what can happen when you go past foreplay and get to what’s real…

*My Take: I'm cautiously optimistic about this book. It sounds like something I'd enjoy, but the book only got 3 stars in RT. I'll try it out still. Hopefully it's good! Plus, the title makes me snicker, LOL.*

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean-- November 26th
Regency Romance

A Rogue Ruined…

He is the Killer Duke, accused of murdering Mara Lowe on the eve of her wedding. With no memory of that fateful night, Temple has reigned over the darkest of London’s corners for twelve years, wealthy and powerful, but beyond redemption. Until one night, Mara resurfaces, offering the one thing he’s dreamed of…absolution.

A Lady Returned…

Mara planned never to return to the world from which she’d run, but when her brother falls deep into debt at Temple’s exclusive casino, she has no choice but to offer Temple a trade that ends in her returning to society and proving to the world what only she knows…that he is no killer.

A Scandal Revealed…

It’s a fine trade, until Temple realizes that the lady–and her past–are more than they appear. It will take every bit of his strength to resist the pull of this mysterious, maddening woman who seems willing to risk everything for honor…and to keep from putting himself on the line for love.

*My Take: Omg, I'm so excited to read this book! I love this series so much. I've reread book one and I plan on rereading the second book so I'm all caught up before this comes out. The main difficulty will be not skipping to the epilogue to find out who Chase is!*

Crash Into You by Katie McGarry--November 26th
Contemporary Young Adult Romance

The girl with straight A's, designer clothes and the perfect life-that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind.

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look.

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

*My Take: This is another book I am jumping up and down to buy. I adore the other books in this series, so I'm very excited to read this one. Seriously, if you haven't read her books, you're missing out!*

So there you have it! This month is full of favorite authors. I can't wait to read these books. The real trouble will be...do I put them on my Birthday/Christmas list, or buy them myself? Hmm...

Thursday, October 31

Happy Halloween!

My mum drew these one year. Aren't they great?
Bonus points if you can name the Pixar characters and the movie!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Halloween! We got a costume for Powell (yep, we're those people), so hopefully I will have pictures to post for you next week! =)

Tuesday, October 29

My Weekend: Football @ Virginia Tech!

This weekend was pretty busy for me, but it was lots of fun!

As some of you likely heard through Facebook and Twitter, I went to the Virginia Tech vs. Duke game on Saturday. It was my first college football game ever! I'd mentioned to my in-laws that I wanted to go to one at some point, so when the opportunity presented itself, they bought tickets for us! My mother-in-law couldn't go, so it was me, my husband, my father-in-law, and my uncle-in-law. Our seats were wonderful (right by the home locker room, near the south end zone on the west side). We were row eight! It was great.

Look how close we were!
Our seats!

Since game day can be quite hectic in Blacksburg, we left Roanoke around 10:30am and made our way to the interstate. We arrived around 11:15 and found a parking spot right by the drill field. We walked around campus (it's gorgeous there) and looked at the bookstore. We then walked downtown and found a great little hole in the wall bar, The Rivermill, for our lunch. We were all had big, juicy burgers with delicious fries (they had a wonderful seasoning on them). After that we headed back to the Jeep, grabbed our special stadium seats, then made our way to Lane Stadium for the big game!



This wasn't my first time to Tech, nor was it my first time in Lane Stadium, but I had to hear all about how awesome it was--again. Apparently it's one of the hardest stadiums to play in due to the noise of the crowd. I smiled and nodded, but didn't really take the boys seriously. Well, I must revise my earlier belief. When you get 65, 000 fans all jumping to Enter Sandman... Holy s*it buckets. It was crazy! I've never seen a better entrance from any sports team. And then, to top it off, the crowd was loud during the game. Due to the structure of the stadium, the sound was directed at the field. I've been in stadiums before, but I've never heard anything like it. It was AWESOME.

Unfortunately, the game itself wasn't the greatest. We lost 13-10. Since Duke isn't the best school, it was a bit sad. At the very least it should have been tied, but our kicker makes me angry, LOL. I also strongly dislike the quarterback. You know it's bad when this Canadian starts yelling at the screen (or, in this case, the field) when our QB makes a dumb decision (which seems to happen far too often).

Anyway, it was still a wonderful experience. After the game, we headed back home then went out for some dinner. We didn't get back in until after 10pm, but it was so much fun!! =)

It wasn't the warmest day (the wind was brutal),
but we stayed pretty warm with our long sleeves and gloves.

*I was too distracted to take pictures during the game, but luckily I did get a few in before it started to fill up!*

On Sunday we ran some errands and relaxed. We also brought Powell to play Frisbee, and we invited my in-laws over for some yummy stew that Christopher made.

All in all, a great weekend =)

Friday, October 25

Links of the Week

Book News & Writing:

--The Importance of Reading Out Loud During Revision. I already do this, especially when I'm struggling with a particular sentence. What about you?

Politics & Social Commentary:

--Powerful Ads Use Real Google Searches to Show the Scope of Sexism Worldwide. This is insane! It's amazing how powerful a few words can be.

--Reasons the Rest of Canada Should Be Super Jealous of Alberta. And this is just politically speaking! You all know AB is my home province, so I can't help posting a few things about it ;) As you can probably tell from the link, we just had elections back home.

Random:

--5 Things Super Successful People Do Before 8 am. I have never been a morning person, so I guess I'm out, LOL. I do, however, exercise and plan out my day (I do this one the night before).

--New Line of Underwear Filters Out Farts. Yep, you read that correctly. This is... I don't even know what this is. Crazy, I guess? *shrugs*

--British Rowing Team Strips Down to Fight Homophobia. What an awesome campaign, and one sure to get a lot of attention. I'm not sure my husband would support me buying a calendar, however....

--21 Awesome Dog Breeds You've Never Heard Of. Adorable puppies are my weakness. Okay, most animals are my weakness.

I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!
xoxo

Wednesday, October 23

I'm on Pinterest

Yep, I took the plunge a few weeks ago and started using my Pinterest account. If you have one, add me!

Tuesday, October 22

My (Crazy) Writing Schedule

Now that I've finished my first draft, I've spent some time going over my schedule for the next few months. After spending an hour or two on it, I believe I've come up with six stages (and tentative deadlines!) for my novel. I have no idea if this plan is realistic or not, so I'm not going to be too heartbroken if it doesn't work out. I just need something to keep me going.

Below is a shortened version of my plan. I have a more detailed version in a Word Doc, but I didn't want to go into all of the nitty-gritty details on here.


Stage One: Completed October 16, 2013

Writing at Starbucks.
--Write The End on my first draft.

Stage Two: Now to November 16th (current stage)

--Flesh out entire manuscript.
--Make basic edits.

Stage Three: November 17th to December 1st

--Edit the entire manuscript!
--Send to my Alpha for an overall critique. Make necessary changes as they appear in my inbox.
--Send my query letter to a few people for critique.

Stage Four: December 1st to 14th

--Send story to my wonderful CP, Jen, for critique. Make necessary changes as they roll in.
--While I wait for edits I will tweak my query letter based on critiques.
--I will also begin writing my synopsis. I will attempt to finish it, but it will likely need to be changed after I receive my critiques.

Stage Five: December 16th to 31st

--Send story to my Alpha and Jen again for one last look. Make changes.
--Send story to beta readers! Make changes.
--While I wait, finish up synopsis and prepare to query.

Stage Six: Beginning of January (hopefully!)

--Query agents!
--While I go crazy over the state of my inbox, I will plot the other books in the series.
--Start a new story!

As you can see, this plan is quite ambitious (and quite possibly insane). Obviously I don't expect my beta readers to read the entire story in two weeks (although that would be fantastic), but this is just a general schedule for me to work off of. I'm not even sure I can finish fleshing out the story by November 16th, but I'm going to try my hardest to meet that deadline. If I don't make it, oh well! It won't be the end of the world, and at least I'll be that much closer to being done. That's the beauty of being an unpublished writer--I have the freedom to set my own deadlines.

What do you guys think? Am I crazy? Or will my insanity pay off in the long run? *winks* I'm not sure I even believe I can meet this crazy schedule, but I can still try, right? No harm in trying!

Monday, October 21

My Weekend!

Hello all,

Sorry I haven't been very talkative recently. I'm still fighting off my cold, and I've been busy writing my story.

Last weekend we ended up hanging around the house a lot. We watched movies, went out for food a few times (which sucked cause I couldn't taste, but it was better than trying to come up with something to make), and we lazed around.

Biscuits, fried ham, turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy,
and mustard carrots. Yummy!
This weekend was much the same, but a bit more productive. On Friday I had my husband's cousin over for a few hours (she had the day off). We watched THE PATRIOT while she did calculus. Aside from the math work (which I thankfully took no part in), it was fun =)

I also got my sense of taste and smell back finally, so I made our Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't go big or extravagant (there's only two of us, after all), but I did enough to count.

On Saturday we slept in, then we drove up to Granny & Pawpaw's for the afternoon. We hung out for a few hours, then had dinner with everyone for Granny's birthday. It was lots of fun =) Afterwards we drove home.

Butter tarts! They are a Canadian
dessert, very similar to pecan pie,
but without the pecans ;)
Sunday we spent a lazy day reading, playing games, and watching TV. I did do some laundry and I made butter tarts.

What did you guys do this weekend? I hope you had fun!

Friday, October 18

Links of the Week

Book News & Writing:

--Dracula Official Trailer. Omg! I can't wait to see this. I've been told this doesn't work outside the USA, so here's the YouTube version:



--How To Critique Other Writers. I thought this post was interesting. Always something to keep in mind!

--Ten Things I Need To Tell You...About Dreams Coming True. I really liked this. Hopefully one day ;)

--Queen Voices Concern That Children May Desert Books For Technology. I do adore the Queen.

--Study: Read Romance, Be Sensitive. This doesn't really surprise me much at all.

--Neil Gaiman On Libraries. I really liked this article. He makes a lot of valid points.

--New Breed of Librarian Emerges. This is so cool! I always had interesting librarians in school and in our community, but this would have helped a bit.

History:

--Archaeologists Further Knowledge of Palace of Sherwood Forest. Ahhhhh! You know I love my medieval history!

Politics:

--Twenty-Six Must-Know Things From the Throne Speech. I don't normally post political things on here, but this is for my Canadian readers. I like how it breaks down the Governor-General's speech so we don't have to listen to it--I tried and I almost fell asleep after the first minute or so, LOL. I know, I know, that makes me a bad Canadian!

Random:

--Halloween House (video below). My husband showed this to me just yesterday. I always like the houses with bright lights (I'm a bit like a crow that way: "Oooo, shiny!"). Anyway, this is a song I frequently sing to / about Powell: "Girl look at my puppy, girl look at my puppy, girl look at my puppy. He works out.... He's sexy and he knows it." Yep, I know my age is starting to show.


Have a great weekend, everyone! =)

Thursday, October 17

First Draft: Completed!

Yep, that's right, I finished my first draft last night! Yay! *dances around* 

I knew I was getting close, but I didn't realize how close until yesterday morning. I ended up writing 4000 words just so I could type The End! My first draft is complete at just under 70, 000 words. Obviously I have a lot to expand and revise (since I'm aiming for around 100K) but I needed to finish this first draft. It has been so long since Warrior Branded that I needed to get it down. I needed to let these thoughts and ideas out before I forgot them.

I ended up using a different tactic this time 'round, which seems to have worked well for me. I did what I'm calling a detailed plot outline for the rest of the book. Some scenes have full dialogue, character movement, and detailed descriptions of the setting, while others don't have as much. It helped me get everything down on "paper" without worrying over word choice and other nit-picky things. I kept stalling in the earlier chapters because I'd spend so much time on one scene that my brain didn't know what happened next. I love writing a clean first draft, but it wasn't working for me with this novel. I wanted to get it out there so I could breathe a bit easier.

The next stage is rewriting, fleshing out, and revising my story. I don't know how long it's going to take or what a realistic deadline is going to be. I'm going to sit down tonight and look at the numbers and the work ahead of me to try and figure something out. Personally, I would love to be done by the beginning of December and querying in January, but we'll see. I don't want to place unrealistic deadlines on myself. One good thing is that everyone else will be doing NaNo while I write/revise, so I'll have lots of people to talk to!

For today, however, I'm going to play around with WriteWay (my reward for typing THE END), and prepare for the battle ahead of me! Meanwhile, my puppy is sleeping away. He enjoys our days spent writing--it means more sleep for him! ;)


Wednesday, October 16

Weight Loss & Exercise Update

Hello everyone!

It has been a while since I've done one of these, so I thought today was as good a day as any =)

As some of you know, I've been very stressed recently. An extended family member died (my uncle-in-law's brother), and while we weren't close with him personally, we know his immediate family very well (we see them two or three times a week). My husband and I have tried to be there for the people we know and love, but there's not much we can do to help ease their pain. It's very hard to see them sad and know there's nothing we can do to help.

On top of that, the very next day Granny had a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. She's doing okay now, but she did spend a few days there having tests done. We're keeping a close eye on her.

Due to the stress and lack of sleep, I developed a bad cold. I'm still suffering through it, so I haven't been as active as normal. Sadly, that's reflected in my weight loss. I haven't weighed myself today, but as of Sunday I was at 32 pounds lost (I'm supposed to be at 33 lol). Not too bad, but I'm behind schedule and have been for about a week. I hate playing catch-up. I'm trying to give myself a break considering I'm still seeing results and my life has been full of stress, but you know how I am. Go, go, go, all the time.

Now that my cold is abating somewhat (I still can't taste or smell), I'm hoping to start elliptical again. Right after I post this I'm going to the spare room to start stretching! Since my diet hasn't changed throughout these past weeks, it's the lack of workout that has slowed my progress. I've actually missed working out, so that's fine with me. It's nice to see that my hard work actually has results.

So what have you been up to? How much weight have you lost before? I'm aiming for a huge number over ten months. I'm down three and a half months now; just six and a half to go! I figure slow and steady is the best way to do this.

*Update: I'm now down 32.5 pounds! Woot woot!*

Monday, October 14

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yep, today is Canadian Thanksgiving. My husband likes to tell people he gets two thanksgivings now. Unfortunately, due to my cold I won't be making dinner tonight. I'm hoping I feel well enough--and can taste!--tomorrow.

Friday, October 11

Links of the Week

Sorry I'm posting this so late! I've been fighting off a cold for several days and yesterday I lost. I woke up with a sore throat, a stuffed nose, and puffy eyes. It's just gone downhill from there.

Book News & Writing:

--26 Hilariously Bad Book Covers. Ahhhh these made me crack up. No wonder the romance, fantasy, and sci-fi genres have a bad reputation when these are thrown into the mix.

--The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Trailer. A new trailer! Yayayayayay! I know this could also fall under entertainment, but it is based on a book, so I put it here. Plus, my blog, my rules. Deal.

--17 Awesome Literary Halloween Costumes. I thought these were cute. I've always said I want to be a hobbit one year, especially when I have a baby or a toddler. My husband and I are custom made to create an adorable hobbit: both of us are on the short side with brown, curly hair. On top of that, I'm plump. Ergo, hobbit children.

--Goodreads New Policy Change. I'm not going to get into all of this on here, but I thought this article was interesting.

--Food Stamps, Welfare, Seven Kids, Oh My! I liked reading her article about how surviving on your art is possible, if you put enough time and effort into it.

--Dinosaur Erotica. Yep, you read that correctly. Read this article and then comment on my post to let me know what you think. Personally, my mouth dropped open in horror. How does that even WORK? If you go on Amazon there are some pretty entertaining reviews. I guess as a gag gift this would be superb. Maybe we'll get one for my brother-in-law for his birthday, LOL. Anyway, what gets me is that these women are making a solid living off of this stuff. Not just extra cash. They're makin' big bucks. GRRRRR! Must. Finish. Story.

--17 Misused and Made-Up Words. Honestly, I don't come across a lot of these very often. Perhaps it's because I went to university for English literature and more than half of my friends are writers *shrugs* Anyway, 7 and 8 do drive me crazy, though. As well, 5 and 6 are technically fine, if used correctly.

--7 Reasons to Write an Entire First Draft Before Going Back to the Beginning. I really like her points, and they make a lot of sense. I need to buckle down and get to it!

Random:

--25 Hot Guys & Kittens. Meh, I think someone put a lot of time and effort into this. Plus, I am a romance writer.

--Undeniable Proof that The Walking Dead and Toy Story Have the Same Plot. I thought this was interesting, and very true. Will anyone else watch the season premiere of The Walking Dead on Sunday?

--5 Body Language Poses That Can Sabotage Success. I thought this was pretty cool. I guess women do these more than men?

--Pitbull Puppy is Determined to Use a Treadmill. I love this video. He's so determined! Sometimes I feel that way about the publishing industry. I will try every angle to make this work, LOL.

--The 40 Cutest Things That Happened in 2012.   Awwwww.

--Creative Dad Takes Crazy Photos of Daughters. This is pretty cool. You can tell the girls have a lot of fun with their dad =)

Apparently I didn't have any history links lined up for you guys. Sorry! Sometimes I have a lot to post, and sometimes I don't have any!

I hope you guys have a nice weekend. I suspect I'm going to be chugging tea, sucking on cough drops, and investing in Kleenex stock.

xoxo

Thursday, October 10

Happy Birthday, Daddy!


Look how young we were!


Aww, look at that handsome smile!



It looks like he could be in a magazine! =)


 Our Father-Daughter dance. Both of us laughing and crying!


At my university graduation. =)

I love you, Dad! I hope you have a wonderful birthday. I'm sorry I can't be there to celebrate with you! 
xoxoxoxoxo

Tuesday, October 8

I Have a Bone to Pick...

Well, it may not be with you, the person currently reading this post, or it might. Who knows!

Either way, I have a bone to pick with some fellow authors/writers. Time after time after time I read Facebook statuses, Twitter updates, or blog posts that discuss how so-and-so doesn't read. Or they hate everything in their chosen genre.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Um, excuse me? What do you mean you don't read? What the fudge are you doing as a writer then? Writers need to read. It's not a decision, it's not a choice. If you're a writer, you read. End of story (hah, bad puns early in the morning). I know we're all different, but writers need to read, and they need to read constantly.

A lot of people claim they don't read when they're writing because they will develop the voice of the person they're currently reading. But the problem with that is, we're supposed to write constantly. When do you read if you don't read while you're writing? Now, I can understand if you don't read your genre while you're writing, because you don't want to accidentally borrow ideas etc... but you still need to read something. On top of that, how do you develop a voice if you don't read someone else's?

I'd like to think my voice is unique, but I realize that my voice is a mishmash of everything I love, including fellow authors. We learn and grow based on our experiences. I guarantee you my voice at eleven was not the same as my voice now. Why? Because I grew up: I experienced new things, I matured (in some ways lol), and I read. I read a lot. My voice will grow and change every day and every year of my life.

Writers require constant inspiration, and what better way to acquire this than reading? We want people to love our books, but how can we make them worth reading if we ourselves don't read? How do you learn character arc, plot lines, and whatever else you need to know if you don't read? How do you know what sells and what doesn't, if you don't read? Sure, you could read the blurbs of books, but that doesn't discuss the essence of the book, or what makes it amazing. Harry Potter was a unique idea, but how many publishers turned her down? Someone had to actually read the book to love it.

Which means, my friends, that you need to read if you want any success in this industry. Take it or leave it. This is just my two cents.

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