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Creatively Craving

I have a bad habit. I tend to start series and not continue them, even when I love the first book. It's been a long time since I read a new-to-me series straight through.

I'm sure some would argue that audiobooks don't count as reading, but I don't care. Audiobooks have been an amazing medium for rereading favorites, tackling books that have been on my TBR forever, and floating through descriptive fantasy that my brain would stumble through in text.

Anyhow, during these long months of (re)editing Book One, my brain hasn't often been drawn to reading for pleasure. This has been a pattern for me with editing before, but I'm not sure it's ever been to this of an extreme. I've only "read" four novels this year, but I've listened to ten audiobooks. I listen every day during my shower, but I occasionally slip in a chapter or two outside of it. (Like when I indulge in my other editing stress relief: playing Spelunky.)

The ten audiobooks have varied greatly in performance and my personal enjoyment. But each time, I was at least able to revisit a favorite or cross another book off my list. In the midst of all that, I found the Caraval series. I have my suspicions that I would not have enjoyed this series so much if I had first engaged with it in text. The fanciful descriptions would probably have slowed my already slow reading speed to a crawl. But as an audiobook, I am completely enchanted by this world and its characters. And it's been a while since I felt that way.

I find lots of enjoyment in so many stories and worlds, but I don't get totally lost in them very often anymore. In part, I blame my own writing. I have to stay immersed in my own world. That has to be my number one priority. But while I turn my passion into lines of text to edit, I've been feeling stifled creatively.

It started with a general feeling of something missing. Then frustration with how long it was all taking. Then the desire to be working on something - anything - else. And the idea of being more passionate towards everyone else's ideas than my own. Because in the end, while editing is important, it is not fulfilling creatively in the way writing, or even rewriting, is.

And it leaves me craving more.

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

So, I love to read. I really and honestly do. But when I'm in editing mode (as I have been for most of this year), I find myself not as drawn to reading for pleasure. Which means I've only read four print books this year. However, in the last few years, I have discovered a new passion for audiobooks. Want to reread a book you love but don't want to sacrifice your already limited reading time? Audiobooks. Want to get around to reading that series you've always meant to try but never floats to the top of your TBR? Audiobooks. Want to dive into a deep fantasy but are scared of tripping over the long descriptions? I think you get my point. I've listened to nine audiobooks this year. This was almost exclusively done during my morning shower. Time that might've been lost otherwise. I've also read seventeen manga. I wasn't sure whether I should do this tag. If I had enough to talk about. But you know what? Let's just give it a try.

Just as a note, I always hesitate to answer what is "the best". I don't know what is "the best" objectively. I can only tell you my opinions. My thoughts on books are both very personal and flawed.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2019? My two favorite books so far this year are Caraval and Five Feet Apart. Caraval, I did in audiobook because I thought the descriptions would be too much for me in text. And I actually really loved it this way. The decriptions didn't bother me at all. I loved the atmosphere of the book. And I ended up loving the romance, too. (You can read my short review here.) I'll get back to Five Feet Apart in a few questions.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019? This would have to be City of Fallen Angels. I don't know why it is taking me so long to read through this series (at least it hasn't fallen into the trap of me only reading the first book in a series), but I have loved every book so far.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to? I have a Goodreads TBR that is completely out of control. But because it's the first book to pop into my head, I'll say The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen. I fell really hard for Sarah's books in 2010 and 2011. Only a few of them (mostly her oldest books) have missed the mark for me. But I haven't read her four newest books because I am a slow reader and constantly trying to keep up with YA books that will be made into movies. To my delight, three of Sarah's books will be added to that list. Which means I'll finally read This Lullaby & Once and for All. And probably revisit Along for the Ride in audiobook. Have I said enough about audiobooks in this post? Okay, sorry.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year? I still haven't read my most anticipated book for 2018. So, I honestly don't know. I AM SO BEHIND!

5. Biggest disappointment? Please, don't hate me. It's definitely the Percy Jackson series. I don't, by any means, think of them as bad books. And I'm also well-aware that I'm not the target audience and haven't been for some time. But I always heard these books compared to Harry Potter. And while I knew it couldn't reach the all-powerful nostalgia level that lives within the books that shaped my childhood, I still expected... more. The writing is witty. I like Percy and Annabeth. And I like the idea of the books. (Short review here.) I probably will continue to listen to this series off and on because I want to see how it matures and I've heard great things about the diversity as the series goes on. But I probably will never love these books, and that kind of makes me sad.

6. Biggest surprise? I really didn't expect a book based off of a screenplay to hit me as hard as Five Feet Apart did. I mean, I loved The Fault in Our Stars, and this has the added forbidden love element that I just can't resist. But I almost didn't read the book, being that it wasn't the original story of the movie but written alongside it, instead. But you know, what? I loved it. Yeah, it might have gone a bit fast and could've had more detail. (And I'm aware that the book falls into some potentially triggering tropes.) But I just utterly fell in love with this book. As a person who has longed for love more than anything else in the world, I felt that sharp pain of separation like it was my own. No, touch isn't eveything. But when you're in love and in need of comfort, five feet seems like torture.

7. Favorite new author (debut or new to you)? I would really like to see what Rachael Lippincott (Five Feet Apart) would do with her own characters and story.

8. Newest fictional crush? If you read my Born to Dream entry, you'll know that I quoted The Sun is Also a Star. This is a quote from Daniel Bae, a passionate boy who believes in love at first sight and fate - things I've passionately believed in, myself, but have struggled with the last few years. The "insta-love", as they call it, aspect was intense in this book... even for me. But I do truly believe you could have an inner knowing of having found the right person as soon as you meet. As Daniel would say, “There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.” I don't often get crushes on book characters (that aren't my own) these days, but Daniel is as close as it's gotten for me so far this year. He inspires me. I saved many quotes while reading The Sun is Also a Star. And most of them are from Daniel.

9. Newest favorite character? Besides Daniel? Maybe Scarlett Dragna from Caraval? But also, probably Julian from the same, because I found him fascinating. And I feel like that's all I can say without spoiling anything.

10. Book that made you cry? Five Feet Apart. I'm prone to crying easily, but this book got me sobbing.

11. Book that made you happy? I don't really... get happy? But I really, really enjoyed Caraval and Howl's Moving Castle. And also, revisiting Melissa Anneli's book about the Harry Potter fandom (Harry, A History). All in audiobook form. So, I guess you can say that audiobooks in general have really lifted my spirits this year, through exhausting edits and health issues.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)? I've bought so many books this year. Book Outlet has been a gift and a curse. (But mostly, a gift.) If you mean physically beautiful... I picked up Sorcery of Thorns at my local bookstore a couple of weeks ago. And I am so into this cover.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? I'm currently reading All the Bright Places. I would also like to read Going Off Script, since I won that from a giveaway this year. There are also some ebook giveaways I've been ignoring for too long. (I'm a bad example. Read and review giveaway books, kids. We small authors need that.) But honestly, which books do I need to read by the end of the year? Magic Inc. Book One & Magic Inc. Book Two. I'm hoping to get both the new version of Book One and Book Two out by the end of this year. I'd like them to be out a lot sooner. But this has turned into a much bigger project than I imagined.

Hopes and Dreams

It's hard to hope if you don't allow yourself to dream.

I turned thirty on Tuesday. There was no big emotional crash, just the usual post-socializing exhaustion. In some ways, it was a relief. I'd been dreading thirty for an entire year. I felt like I'd been living it. Now, I've crossed the line. Now, I just have to accept it and hope that my thirties will actually be better than my twenties. Perhaps a low bar, unless you compare it to everything before.

There are a lot of things I hope for my thirties. Finding my one true love. More energy and opportunity to spend time with friends and family. For my writing to finally get out into the world and reach the right readers. But I also hope for a better world. I hope for healing. For equality. For compassion. I hope for my own healing, too. I hope to grow more in my own compassion - both for others and myself. One is a lot harder than the other. I hope to not be at war with myself as often, or as violently. To forgive myself for the past the same way I've forgiven others.

When it comes to putting my work out into the world, I know I am taking the path I need to. Re-editing Book One was not part of my plan. And while it certainly hasn't been without its frustrations, I have found a renewed passion for my story through the process. The editing skills I've developed over the last four years are bringing my first book to life in a new way. I put so much into writing the beginning of Jane's journey, but there was a part of me that didn't feel totally happy with how it turned out technically. How it compared to other books. I think by the end of this process I will finally be completely proud of my first book. The story I lived and loved since childhood will finally be able to shine. And hopefully, lead readers deeper into the story in Book Two.

So, I'm hoping for a fresh start. I don't entirely know what the path ahead will bring. I still (quite admittedly) don't know what I'm doing regarding marketing. But at least I'll be proud of the books I'm selling.

Deadlines

I am not very good with deadlines.

Sometimes, it is hard to figure out whether my anxiety around a goal means I should push forward on the goal (conventional wisdom) or let myself off the hook. I'm very close to finishing the main re-editing on Book One. I wanted to get the last chapter of the book finished before my birthday on Tuesday, which I could possibly still pull off. But even after that, I will have to go back and re-do the earlier chapters I read through before I decided to edit and not just proofread the new version of the book.

So, the edits won't be totally done by my birthday, anyway. And I am getting so anxious. I don't think that completing the goal will make that anxiety go away. But it feels pathetic to get so close and just let it all fall apart at the end. I think to myself: I waited too long; I took too many breaks. I knew that getting closer to my birthday was going to mean more anxiety. But if I had pushed too hard earlier on, I know I would've broken down then. And I wouldn't be nearly as far along as I am now.

Instead, I got very close to completing a project that had grown in scope in the timeframe I gave myself. The only reason I had given myself this goal in the first place was because I felt like I had dropped the ball so many times in the last year with promised projects. Book Two is still not out. This new version of Book One turned into a much bigger - though still totally needed - project. I wanted to have something to show for all the work I've been doing. To have something "big" to announce before my birthday. I wasn't doing it for me. I was doing it to prove something.

So, I guess that's the answer right there. The re-edits will not be done before my birthday, either way. And I may not be feeling up to working for a while. I can't really prove my worthiness with completing a goal on a (self-imposed) deadline. All of that is temporary recognition, if even that. The important part is having two new(ish) books that I am totally proud of, no matter how long that takes.

Born to Dream

“We have big, beautiful brains. We invent things that fly. Fly. We write poetry. You probably hate poetry, but it’s hard to argue with ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate’ in terms of sheer beauty. We are capable of big lives. A big history. Why settle? Why choose the practical thing, the mundane thing? We are born to dream and make the things we dream about.” ― Nicola Yoon, The Sun is Also a Star

~

I'm turning thirty in a month. And I'm sure most people don't feel thirty when that birthday comes around, but I've barely lived outside my room since sixteen. I didn't experience many things teenagers typically did. First dates, first kisses, school dances, learning to drive. Graduation. College. Jobs. Some of those things didn't really bother me. Others bothered me a lot. And still do. Because none of those things have changed.

I think I've forgotten how to dream big. When I was a child, I was passionate and imaginative. I knew how to hold dreams of magic and romance, even in spite of the intense pain I was living with in reality. I believed in miracles and soulmates. I was my Jane Roberts. Innocent dreamer. Now I'm actually more like Chaz Parker. Still very compassionate. Wanting great things for those I love. But jaded. Damaged. Cynical. Miracles and soulmates still exist, but not for me. Magic and love never found the real me. Dreams of magic faded to a feeling of being trapped in reality.

Writing used to be like magic for me. I could create anything my heart could yearn for and put it into words. Make it almost real. And while I knew I had so far to go in writing skill, I was certain that I'd get there. That I was meant to share the stories, the characters, the words in my heart. And that it would matter. Maybe not to billions of people. But to many. I believed in my dreams.

Years later, I self-published my first book. Now I'm scared that nothing I write will matter to anyone. I don't know how to reach for the stars anymore. They aren't any farther away than they were when I was a child. In fact, I'm taller than I was then; I'm much further along. But that space between seems far more unreachable. Gravity holds me trapped to the earth. An inescapable fact instead of something I could bend through fiction.

I had to drag myself through Book Two. I had to cut myself open when I most wanted to hide and escape from myself. When I finally finished the book, things kept popping up to delay me from releasing it. Artist switches. Formatting issues. And now, deciding to re-edit Book One. And I've accepted it. Eventually welcomed most of the changes. Sometimes life has to redirect you to get you where you need to be. I'm quite resistant to change, but I do still believe things happen for a reason. The books will both be better for the shifts and changes when it's all said and done.

But I miss writing. Not editing. Not revision. Writing. I got a taste of writing Book Three during my first delay. And I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I felt more free and fully connected to writing again. And it's strange that in Book Three Jane is going through what I am right now. A loss of belief in herself. A disconnect with her own magic. That's what brought me to feel more connected to myself. By facing my true feelings. My dark night of the soul.

I want to dream again. I want to believe again. I want to find the Jane to my Chaz. The bright spark to light up my own belief again. Maybe it's still somewhere inside of me.

Synchronicity Cover Reveal



Synchronicity (Magic Inc. Book Two) (2019)

Tragedy has rocked Jane Roberts’s life. As she tries to help the Parkers through their loss, amidst increasing bullying and painful visions, Jane feels only one thing remains the same: she is still convinced Chaz Parker is her Soulmate. Her feelings are stronger than ever and maturing rapidly in spite of her young age. But there’s a new problem… Chaz has a girlfriend. Desperate to see into her destiny, Jane makes a mistake which pulls her future into her present. And it could change everything at Magic Inc.

Cover Art by Abigail Diaz

Fear of Shining

I've always loved shiny, sparkly things. Jewelry, crystals, glitter. But I've always been equally afraid of shining. Of putting myself in the spotlight. I may wear bright colors and unique jewelry pieces, but I don't want to be seen. I may want to express my creativity and tell my own truth through fiction, but I don't want it to be judged by the world. Even the most genuine human beings are full of contradictions. I want to be seen. I want to matter. I want my art to matter. But I also want to hide it and myself away where we are safe and (to a certain extent) stagnant.

I think comfort zones are given a bad reputation in the spiritual world, though. Everyone seems to love the line, "Nothing ever grows there." I don't agree with that at all. I've done all of my best work (inner and creative) when I felt safe enough to explore my own heart and mind. Not all growth is made in the outer world through outer experiences. That's a very extroverted way of thinking. Introverted growth is important, too. I could argue it's even more important. But sometimes you grow from experience and sometimes you grow from introspection.

However, there does come a time when you have to take the things you discovered and created in your safe space out into the world. Where it is definitely not safe. I'm heading towards one of those times now. In the next few months, I'll be releasing two books. I'm re-releasing Book One, hopefully to a larger audience. And I'm finally releasing Book Two, my soul-baring book forged in the flames of my own self-hatred. It is a very scary time for me. I don't know that all the work I've put into these books for nine years combined will even matter. I don't know if readers will pick through my shiny, broken bits of soul like magpies only taking what they want - good or bad - from it.

I have no grand stories of how "worth it" putting yourself out there is. I have only hopes and fears... and the inner knowing that this is what I was meant to do. And the time is nearly right.

Before You're Ready

So, I get that some people find the "start before you're ready" quotes motivating, but I don't think it's the right way to approach the problem. I think the real issue is that people are trusting their fear voice to tell them if they are ready, and the fear voice is NEVER ready. Because there is never a guarantee that everything will work out. That there won't be any struggle or pain involved.

However, there IS such a thing as being ready, and I believe it is very important. It's just that you have to dig through the fear voice of the mind to find the intuitive voice of the heart. Because that is where you will figure out if you truly are ready.

Most likely, especially for perpetually anxious people like me, you will never not be afraid of taking the next step. But when I've taken successful steps forward, it's because I knew somewhere inside that it was time and I was ready.

I think it's actually kind of dangerous to be telling people to start before they are ready. Just the same as it's kind of dangerous to rely on your fear voice to be the only guiding factor in your decisions. We are more than our fear voice.

Beyond Magic Inc.

I haven't gotten any writing or editing done this week, but I've been making notes, checking timeline events, and creating character profiles. Writing is about more than just writing. It's also having panicked moments of events not lining up and realizing you had it figured out already. And forgot to mark it down.

Looking over "The Timeline" also reminds me of the much bigger universe that exists outside of Magic Inc. and how much I miss it. I love writing the Magic Inc. series beyond anything else I've ever worked on, but I miss working on other pieces of the universe - on other stories, too.

There are so many characters' stories that blend together to make The Timeline Universe. And you only see peeks at a few of them in Magic Inc. I figured out so much of this before I even started writing Book One. And I feel like those stories have gotten ignored for a long time. I don't regret choosing Magic Inc. to be my main focus. But I wish I had more energy to devote to multiple stories without falling behind on my responsibility to continue Magic Inc. in a timely manner.